Tuesday, July 31, 2012

SAR #12212

Thievery is what unregulated capitalism is all about.” Robert Sherrill

Press Relations: Romney's press secretary has explained to reporters that before they can ask The Mitten a question they have to “kiss my ass...”

Hurry Up and Wait: Ignore all the people standing on the stage and making wild promises - the Euro's future will not be decided until mid-September when the German constitutional court says whether it will let Germany take part in the ESM. Without German money, there will be no ESM and thus no bailout. Which is not the same as saying the ESM would matter all that much anyway, except as another delaying tactic.

Nature of the Beast: “Republican Jobs Bills Won’t Actually Create Jobs.”

Terror Incognito:Pro-Israel groups are objecting to billboards in NY that show the progressive Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands over the last 64 years. They do not deny the truth of the billboards, they object to anyone knowing it.

Breakthrough! Banks are public utilities and should be regulated as such. Investment banks are not banks and should be regulated by the Gaming Commission.

Job Creation: JCPenny intends to create hundreds of thousands of part-time, unpaid positions as it converts customers into checkout clerks, by installing RFID chip reading checkouts similar to those now infecting grocery stores. They will be able to replace several cashiers with a single snarling clerk to herd the customers through the process.

Practice Run: Over 300 million Indians were without electrical power for several hours on Monday – luckily it was in the wee small hours of the night. On Tuesday afternoon an even bigger portion of the electric grid collapsed, leaving 670 million without power – right after the country's power minister claimed all was well and that India had one of the best power networks in the world. Can you say 'infrastructure'?

The Way Up Is Not The Way Down: Bear in mind that Mitt Romney has pledged to repeal what little financial reform we have left.

The Parting Shot


Lactarius indigo.

Monday, July 30, 2012

SAR #12211

The main thing we learn from history is that we don't.

One Upon A Time: Will last week's market enthusiasm for fairy tales carry on, or will reality creep in. Like the reality that Greece cannot be saved. Nor Spain. Nor the euro. Which is not to say that various European agencies and figureheads won't make claims and plans and promises; just that they are empty claims and plans and promises.

Shin Bone Connected To The... Will the American corn belt drought translate into another round of unrest, demonstrations and strikes like those of the Arab Spring? Hunger and desperation lead people to do the strangest things.

Summation: It's not that the thieves took over the financial world, it's that they've taken over not just the whole economy but the political system, too. They blew up our savings and our pensions and our futures, as they got away with the biggest robbery in history. Except for a few outsiders and mid-level dupes, we have not yet put the culprits in jail and we are unlikely to do so; they’ve bought the politicians, the policy-makers, and the courts. We are screwed.

Scorecard: On Sunday the US used six missiles to kill 'at least' seven Pakistanis between the ages of 17 and 70 – the working definition of 'militant'. The military spokesman held out hope that the count would go higher – making the killing more cost-effective – as the rubble is more thoroughly searched. The official added that other missiles had destroyed two militant vehicles. (sic)

The Stakes: This election is a question of the rich vs. the rest of us. Too bad we don't have a candidate.

Mirror Image: Now that global warming is here and acknowledged, we must quickly figure out who to blame. Why are we still doing nothing to prevent the worst? Because there are no simple solutions, no comfortable solutions. Cutting back today to help the next generation survive isn't a compelling argument. What's in it for me? The long-term forecast is not promising and our suicide pact with the fossil-fuel industry is the reason.

Clunkers: Since GM acquired AmeriCredit in 2010 and renamed it GM Financial, GM has come to depend on auto loans to customers with FICO scores below 660 – considered to be subprime loans – 93% of its Q4 2012 loans were to buyers with sub-660 scores. Guess who will get to bail GM out. Again.

Flaw/Feature: That noisy restaurant is noisy because the owners know the noise goads you into eating and drinking faster, talking less, and moving on. Next!

Denial Denied: Remember the deniers' glee when it turned out that there was not as much glacier melt happening in the Himalaya as the scientists had predicted in 2007? New data from satellites and on-the-ground surveys show that global warming that is causing Himalayan glaciers to melt. Not all, perhaps, but most – over 7,000 Himalayan glaciers have shrunk.

The Parting Shot



Saturday, July 28, 2012

SAR #12209

We are living in a dystopian novel.

All Over But The Shouting: Now that ECB president Mario Draghi has painted himself into a corner, how long do we have to wait to see if he's really got a a rabbit in his hat?

Our Leaders: Republican Eric Cantor, the House Majority Leader, refused to criticize Michelle Bachmann claiming that Hillary Clinton’s deputy chief of staff was a terrorist who had infiltrated the US government on behalf of radical Islamists. “I’ve always said we need to be a party of inclusion not exclusion,” Cantor explained. “We need to include all the paranoid nuts and certifiable idiots."

Poll Taxes: If in order to vote you are required to have a PennDOT ID and they charge $13.50 for the ID card, is this not a poll tax and are such taxes not forbidden?

Profits And Losses: During the Fukushima melt-down, a TEPCO subcontractor supplied its workers with dosimeters to monitor their radiation exposure, and – to prevent damage to them – encased them in protective lead sleeves. It was a safety measure – intended to save the company money while literally risking the lives of their employees. No, I don't know why I thought this was news.

Low Hurdle: US GDP growth in the second quarter slowed to 1.5%, beating expectations. And that's the good news.

Waiting, Waiting... A lot of politicians (and their pet economists and bloggers) warn that if the federal government keeps racking up deficits, inflation if not hyperinflation will crawl out from under the bed and eat the children. Yet the markets keep driving down the interest rates on government bonds. So what's going on? Deleveraging. Maybe the wise men don't have any pants on.

Act Surprised: The ECB (and other public creditors) may have to accept losses on the Greek debt they hold. May? Is reality just setting in?

Good Question: What sort of recoveryTM is housing having when it is taking builders a median eight months to find a buyer for their completed houses?

Quoted: “You can't have capitalism if the capital markets are dead.” David Stockman

Eurothanasia? If the euro is doomed, why not get it over with? What's the advantage – and to whom – that accrues from dragging it out? The people will suffer while the rich plunder the ruins, no matter if the euro zone falls apart this weekend of on some random date in the future.

Bio-terror: The US devotes 40% of its corn crop to ethanol production, feeding cars not people.

The Iron, Being Hot: Where did all these people saying we shouldn't consider banning automatic weapons now leave their brains. When better to talk about the godawful carnage committed with automatic weapons if not now, now while the blood is still wet, now while we're still revolted by the damage they allow a crazy person to do? “We should not be willing to be so passive in the face of what is obviously a fucked up system.” This was not an act of nature and God will not be mad at us if we do something about it. More likely the reverse.

It's Not Just Me: Most people waiting up to 10 years to buy a new car. Well, in my case it's more than 10 years. Way more.

The Parting Shot:


Taking it easy.

Friday, July 27, 2012

SAR #12208

It’s a tough time for facts in America.

The Tinkerbell Rally: ECB President Draghi said “"Within our mandate, the ECB is ready to do whatever it takes to preserve the euro.  And believe me, it will be enough." The markets believed him, although the statement is patently ridiculous. If the ECB, or the IMF, or the EU leadership had “whatever it takes”, why haven't they at least displayed a bit of ankle? A latter note suggested Draghi meant “after the ESM is funded”, which would be mid-September. Morgan Stanley summed it up this way: “Europe will get worse.”

Scoreboard: Unemployment initial claims dropped to 353,000, continuing the +/- 30,000 bounce. The government reported that June's durable goods orders fell 1.1% without transportation orders, and were up 1.6% when orders for aircraft are included. Pending home sales also declined – 1.4% m/m.

It's A Start: The former CEO of Anglo Irish Bank has been arrested in Dublin and charged with fraud. Two of his former senior executives were charged with the same 16 fraud counts. This would be more encouraging had he not been released on a paltry €1,000 bond.

Accessing Access: Both the Obama and the Romney campaign offices tell reporters (sic) what statements they can quote and attribute by name. The so-called reporters go along, for fear of losing access. What good access does under these constraints is a mystery.

And Then He Said: Former Special Inspector General for TARP, Neil Barofsky, has been telling stories out of school of late and capped it by opining that Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner should lose his job and be handcuffed... Geithner continues to maintain that the government does not now and did not ever know about the role US banks played in rigging the Libor rates for years. Or encourage them.

Playing Solitaire: Republicans in the House voted to freeze all “significant regulatory action” until the US unemployment rate falls to 6.0% or the first day of never, whichever comes first. As an added attraction, parts of the bill would make it particularly difficult for the SEC and the CFTC to operate. There is, of course, no chance whatsoever of this actually becoming law, but it'll give the GOPers bragging points come election season.

Calories Do Count: Scientists studying a hunter-gather people, the Hadza of Tanzania, have concluded that while their level of physical activity is much higher than Westerners, their metabolic rate was not significantly different. In other words, while exercise is good for you and important to your health, it is calories that count when it comes to weight. We are obese because we eat too much.

Clarification: The Mitten said – erroneously – that the weapons used in the Aurora shootings had been illegally purchased. This is not true, the weapons and the ammunition had been legally obtained. Obviously, what Romney meant to say was that buying such weapons should be illegal.

Non-Starter: Following Michelle Bachmann's anti-Muslim paranoid fantasies, one of Romney's “top advisers”, John Bolton.... Sorry, I stopped reading when they began to quote Bolton.

Hypothetical, Hopefully: If Romney wins in November by a margin smaller than the number of disenfranchised elderly, young and minority voters who couldn’t cast ballots because the photo-identification laws enacted by Republican governors and legislators kept them from the polls, would that be better or worse than Bush's 1 vote margin in 2000?

The Parting Shot:


Thursday, July 26, 2012

SAR #12207

It's the guns, stupid.

Motives: CFOs suspect that at least 20% of the quarterly earnings reported by publicly-traded US companies are fudged “in an attempt to influence stock price.”

Slip Sliding Away:The Greenland ice sheet is melting – 97% of it. And it is melting faster than at any other time in recorded history. The data was so startling to climate scientists that at first they thought there had been a mistake. Nope, NASA had the photos to prove it. The rapid melt has deepened scientists' fears about the pace and consequences of climate change.

Best Laid Plans: Under Pennsylvania’s harsh new voter ID law, about 20% of the state's voters do not have the newly required photo ID – but 98% of the state's registered voters think they do. In Philadelphia, 43% - over 400000 – of the voting population may be ineligible. Pretty much what the Republicans wanted.

Spade, Spade: Let's clear up this Bain thing. The whole and only point of private equity firms is to make money by buying a business and wringing every last cent out of it. Generally previous management was unable to return sufficient profits to the shareholders while operating the business, so the private equity firms set about dismantling the business, taking immediate profits where they can, run up as much debt as possible sell off the physical plant and then run off with the money. That's what they do. Do not criticize them; that's what they were designed to do. Their object is not to create jobs, it is to create profits, as large and as fast and as tax free as possible. That's what Romney did at Bain. He was good at it. It does not qualify him to be President of all the people.

Pogo Redux: Alaskans, those rugged outdoorsmen enamored of the pristine wilderness are trying to block rules intended to limit damage to the environment from ships. They say the rules will result in higher freight rates that would raise their costs and pricier cruises that will reduce the haul they make from cruise ship passengers. We can't afford to save ourselves.

The Way We Were:“In 2011, more than one in four private sector jobs were low-wage positions paying less than $10 per hour.”

This Just In! According to three NSA whistle-blowing traitors, the Agency is gathering information on every person in the United States.

Every Little Bit: Oil companies profits come to $375 million a day – including $6.6 million a day they rake in from federal tax breaks.

Onward And Downward: Demand for new U.S. homes unexpectedly dropped in June from a two-year high. Purchases decreased to a 350,000 annual rate, down 8.4% m/m as the median price fell 3.2%. Cheerleader-in-Chief Ben Bernanke says the housing market is showing a “modest” recovery”. Very modest.

The Parting Shot:


Myxomycetes sp. (And here.)

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

SAR #12206

The rich will win the elections, again.

Short Course: Spain is falling apart, its borrowing costs have climbed far beyond any rational hope of repayment, its stock markets have crashed, following the pattern seen in Greece, Ireland and Portugal and setting the standard for Italy. Germany has blocked the supposed deal made by EU leaders last month to bail out Spanish banks. The Catalonia region, following Valencia and Murcia, has come begging for help but the cupboard is bare. Europe is a disaster happening in slow motion; it started with Greece and has moved on to Ireland, Portugal, Cyprus, and now Spain – Europe is in “clear and present danger” of disaster.

One Size Fits All: “My advice here is to be afraid, be very afraid.” Paul Krugman.

Penis Envy: It's as American as apple pie – slaughtering civilians with automatic weapons. We mow down 10,000 a year or so, but that's the price we pay so the mentally challenged can pretend they could one day take on the 101st Airborne. Is there a way to stop the massacres? Probably not, but banning all automatic and semi-automatic weapons would be a place to start.

More Lies: The businessman that Romney's add cites as having built his own business did so with over $1 million in government loans. The same ad had the deceptively edited “quotes” that maliciously make Obama seem to say things that he never did.

Keeping The Tigers Away: Pre-trial documents in a voters' rights lawsuit in Pennsylvania suggest that the state has no evidence whatsoever that any “in-person voter fraud” has occurred in the state, or that the state has ever been asked to investigate allegations of such an event, and that the state does not intend to argue that voter fraud is likely to occur. It seems unlikely that they will rely on the truth – that voter ID laws will keep potential Democratic voters from casting their ballots.

One Damned Thing After Another: Scientists suspect that the sudden emergence of bacteria responsible for an outbreak of Vibrio infections (gastroenteritis) in northern Europe is due to global warming’s effects on the Baltic Sea.

Hypocritical Oafs: The Republican version of a health care act would eliminate the ACA's Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, would prohibit any research into patient-centered outcomes (what other types of outcome could possibly matter?), and keep the NIH from considering any economic factors in studying healthcare. The Republicans not only want to privatize Medicare, they want to prevent the customer/patient from finding out what works, what doesn't and how much it should cost.

Spelling Bee: 'Freefall' S – p – a – i – n. “Freefall”.

Making A Dent In It: Harry Dent, who believes that demographics is destiny, sees the Dow falling to 3000 – a 75% decline – by 2020 as the “Baby Bust” generation leads economic trends downward: less home buying and less consumer spending just as their Baby Boom parents up their savings and cut their spending as they enter retirement.

Clip & Save: According to Zillow, “Home values in the United States have reached a bottom.” But then they add: “ Of course, there is still some risk...” Others remain doubtful.

Horse/Mouth: “Americans should lose faith in their government. They should deplore the captured politicians and regulators who distributed tax dollars to the banks without insisting that they be accountable. The American people should be revolted by a financial system that rewards failure and protects those who drove it to the point of collapse and will undoubtedly do so again.” Neil M. Barofsky, Special Inspector General for the TARP bailouts.

Best Friends Forever: Is The Mitten buying Twitter followers? If not, what explains over 100,000 new 'followers' signing up for his twits tweets last Friday – about 10,000 an hour. Over the weekend the tsunami slowed to about 1,100 an hour, and in the last day or so his numbers have even dropped a bit.

The Parting Shot:


Rudbeckia hirta – Blackeyed Susan

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

SAR #12205

We rationalize what our leaders do, for they are our leaders.

Up, Up And Away: After years and years of the nations of the world committing to reducing carbon dioxide emissions, in 2011 emissions increased 3% to an all-time high of 34 billion metric tons. Slow motion suicide. And who's the villain? The United States and China, as nations. The UK, Germany and US on a 'per-person' basis. But not me, I recycle.

Wrong Question: Those who understand the total dependence of the American economy on the continuing expansion of the debt loads carried by ordinary people ask, “How can Bernanke get the Banks Lending Again”. They really should be asking, “Are the people stupid enough to borrow even more?”

Over There: The French are abolishing tax breaks for the rich and increasing their taxes as the government prepares to spend money to give a boost to the economy. Ooolala.

American Taliban: In Lincoln, Nebraska, three paid-up members of the Our-Way-Or-Die wing of the We’re-Not-Crazy coalition invaded a woman's home, stripped her, tied her up, carved various slurs on her arms and stomach, set fire to her house and fled into the night chanting “Mathew Shepard was a fag!” Her crime – they thought she was a lesbian and they felt their gonads were in danger. Why weren't they down at the theater, slaughtering children?

Shorty: Spain and Italy, in an act of abject desperation, banned short selling, as they try to stem at least a part of the systemic collapse of the European economy. Finding a workable solution would have been difficult, but given the level of denial and delusion among Europe's leaders, there is little hope left that the rabbit can be snatched from the hat.

Whack A Mole: The American government, having failed in its efforts in Central and South America, is taking its War on Drugs to Africa. There will be lots of neat military equipment shipped to tin-pot dictatorships, lots of training for “elite counter-narcotics police” plus the usual training in interrogation techniques. Just what the Pentagon, DEA and private thugs-for-hire companies need, a 'new frontier' to invade and destroy, and lots of new people to kill in the name of progress and democracy.

Slim And None: Here's another Rose Colored Glasses bit of pabulum about how we can still avoid paying for our ecological crimes. It starts with us “standing up to Dirty Energy” and voluntarily reverting to 16th Century technologies...

The Rich Are Different: The Mitten is poster-boy for the rich, vis-à-vis taxes. They do not want us to know how they evade/avoid taxes nor how much it is they are not paying. "They are rich. They don’t pay taxes. They run the world. They really don’t want us to see how they do it." They have accumulated $32 trillion in hidden financial assets in various tax havens (and this does not include the value of real estate, private jets, yachts, artwork and jet skis).

Record Setting: Over the weekend The Mitten's main theme has been the repetition of a complete fabrication, which the MSM seems to be passively swallowing. There are not two sides to this issue.

Poor Babies: BofA, Wells Fargo and their ilk are being forced to "buy back' more and more crappy mortgages they palmed off on gullible investors, and say that it will harm their profits, perhaps for years. So?

Porn O'Graph: Going Dutch.

The Parting Shot:


What are you staring at?”

Monday, July 23, 2012

SAR #12204

History does not favor the clueless.

Shadowlands: Spain's Valencia region is broke, many of the rest will follow soon. By September Spain will be out of money and there is no Plan B-for-bailout. Spain will be kicked to the curb just as the IMF is now throwing Greece under the bus. It won't be pretty.

Steady As She Goes: The recoveryTM continues to build momentum; now only 43 states have fewer jobs than before the Great Recession.

Clues: Is there a point at which a climate system shifts so abruptly that we can point to it, draw a line and say 'there'? Or is it insidiously slow like the dissolution of affection before a divorce becomes inevitable? Perhaps some mathematical rigor would help: if event after event - storms, droughts, heat waves - happen that are two or three standard deviations from the expected norm, maybe then we could point to them and proclaim 'there!' Well they've happened and are still happening. Will the current series of exceptional events trigger even more and more serious climactic events? Perhaps. Sit back and watch, for it is far too late for us to do anything to stop them now.

Is There An Echo In Here? California's energy market again seems to be the victim of price manipulation.

Dodge City: Republican Senator John Corynyn wanted to force the administration to explain in public its authority for the targeted killing of American citizens, but the Democrats prevented him from finding out where the administration got its double-oh-seven license.

What They Do, Not What They Say: The Democrats, party of the wealthy, can't get enough votes to even pretend to give a shit about the 98% who make less than a quarter million a year, so they're not even going to go through the motions of trying to raise estate taxes on hoards exceeding $3.5 million. The Republicans, party of the wealthiest, agree with the Dems on hiking taxes on the unfortunate 98%, killing the Earned Income Tax Credit and the child tax credit. Flying your horse to France will still be tax deductible.

Briefly: Overuse of deworming drugs led to widespread resistance among parasites.

Crimestoppers: Offenses reported on this month's financial crime blotter: Conspiracy (Barclay's and about a dozen other big banks, Libor). Price Fixing (JPMorgan). Fraud – inflating performance data (JPMorgan). False reporting to SEC (JPMorgan). Money Laundering, multiple counts (HSBC and at least a dozen others). Witness Tampering (HSBC. Fraud – false ratings on MBS (Morgan Stanley). Price Fixing (Visa & Mastercard). Tax Evasion (UBS HSBC etc).

Another Brick In The Wall: To go along with erecting barriers to women's health care, kicking the poor off food stamps, preventing hundreds of thousands from voting, and trying to gut Medicare, Medicaid and privatize Social Security, the Republicans now want to block the Labor Department from trying to reduce black lung disease in coal miners, for fear it would cut profits.

Bedfellows: China is paying $1.5 to $2 billion to buy the investment positions held by GM's pension plan in firms like Carlyle Group, Blackstone and CVC Capital Partners. Bain? No, Bain wasn't mentioned.

Dead Is Dead: The Environmental Prevention Agency is going to see how much it must relax its new standards for mercury, soot and other emissions so a bunch of new coal-fired power plants can spew poisons profitably into the air. If the object is to let Peabody Coal make as much money as fast as possible, why pretend?

Porn O'Graph: Wages & sin.

The Parting Shot:


Saturday, July 21, 2012

SAR #12202

Getting an education is not the same as becoming educated.

G'way, Kid, Yer Bother'n Me: The ECB says Greek bonds are no longer acceptable as collateral for loans. This will further cripple Greek banks and render Greek sovereigns reasonably useless in international finance.

Essay Exam: Can Arctic oil drilling be done safely? Define “safely”.

Endgame: Romney (a) has something to hide and (b) knows - or thinks he knows- what he's doing. He may be doing a strip tease - all the while knowing the promised 'gotcha' isn't there, or he may just be waiting until he's the official candidate and the R's will have to grin and bear it. Or he may have taken advantage of the tax amnesty in 2009, which would make him ineligible to serve as president. Nah.

Wasted Days And Wasted Nights: The Spanish bailout – despite advance propaganda – is not a cure-all. It's not even a cure-some. It certainly is not as first advertised. It is another round of “give the banks money and hold the taxpayers responsible for repaying it.” To quote German Finance Minister Schauble, “There is no direct infusion into the Spanish banking system. The European partners have a memorandum of understanding with the state of Spain and money is delivered to the state of Spain and guaranteed by the state,” Not only is Spain getting crushed, so too are Ireland's hopes of renegotiation. When's the disaster arrive? Spain's Budget Minister explains the current situation: "“There’s no money in the public coffers. There is no money to pay for public services." He went on to explain that if the ECB had not intervened in the secondary market, "Spain would have collapsed." Not too soon, but suddenly.

Blue Pencil: As the Libor investigation spreads, some wonder if Wall Street might start eating its own. Start?

Before/After: Since the 19070's revivals in the housing market have lead the way to economic growth. That was then, this is now. Now the rest of the economy will have to pick up before workers will risk getting screwed by the bankers again plunging into home ownership. And the economy isn't picking up, and you probably shouldn't invest too much in the housing industry's recent claims about roses.

Tyrants Are Us: Russia and China, vetoing a UN Security Council effort to urge an end to Syria's violence, continue to support Assad in his quest to kill Syrian citizens.

Crème de la Crème: The distribution of wealth in the US is so lopsided that targeting "the top 2%", while sounding politically correct, doesn't mean what you think it means. The top 2% includes individuals earning more than $200,000 a year and married couples making more than $250,000 - which while a lot, does not put them in the millionaire/billionaire class. Even the top 1% are paupers beside the to 0.1%. Sam Walton's six heirs hold more wealth than the bottom 42% of Americans combined, making each one of them richer than more than 20,000,000 of their fellow citizens. Know your enemy.

Buy, Buy, American Pie: For three years the consensus has been that the US economy was entering a robust recovery. Must be a very small doorway.

Porn O'Graph: Neither onward not upward.

The Parting Shot:



Usual prize to anyone who can identify this one.

Friday, July 20, 2012

SAR #12201

"We've given you people all you need to know..." --Ann Romney

Perversity of Markets: According to BofA, the drought now devastating the American heartland is a good thing, and farmers are in better shape than you've been led to believe. After all, BofA points out, the increase in prices means farmers may make more money because their harvest is poor. If food becomes scarce enough, sure some people will go hungry, but those who have money will pay anything, anything to eat.

Exactly My Point: "Markets Rise After Bad Economic News." Any questions?

The Roof Leaks: Existing home sales fell 5.4% in June. The NAR quickly whipped out the lipstick to claim “buyer interest remains solid," and complained – with a straight face - “inventory continues to shrink and that is limiting buying opportunities.”

Lies And Lying: The Romney campaign has released an astonishingly deceptive new ad, containing a blatant, flat-out lie. They tacked together snippets of words and sentences to make it sound as if President Obama said something he did not say, and then attacked him for saying it. How many “news” outlets will tell the public they are being lied to? If they do not, what is the purpose and function of journalism?

On The Numbers: Initial unemployment claims returned to the realm of reality last week, at 386,000 – putting the lie to last week's 350,000. Continuing claims, at 3,314,000 also missed expectations.

Sad Cow Disease: As farmers see their corn crop withering in the fields, ranchers are putting their cattle on the market now because they won't be able to feed them later. This is giving rise to the largest drop in livestock head-count in history.

The Other Half: Instead of raising intentional barriers to voters, Washington state has become the first to offer voter registration via Facebook.

Reaching For The Cure: In 2001, Portugal decriminalized possession and use of drugs, and moved those arrested for drug use from the criminal courts to special courts where each offender's situation is judged by legal experts, psychologists, and social workers. How has treating drug use as a public health problem worked out? Cut the number of addicts in half, reduced the number of sick people and overdose related hospitalizations and deaths. Crime rates have also fallen, as fewer druggies are committing crimes to support their habits.

Going For The Gold: Take your snacks - chips, crisps, candy bars - out of their packaging and put them in clear plastic baggies. Put black tape over any visible logo on your clothing. Spay gray paint over the logo and brand name on your trainers. There, now you're ready for the Olympic$! Plain brown paper wrapping, anyone?

Porn O'Graph: What I did on my summer vacation(s).

The Parting Shot:


Boletus frostii

Thursday, July 19, 2012

SAR #12200

I've never actually wanted to be a better person.

The Check Bounced: A 22 truck convoy carrying petroleum and other supplies for NATO forces was blown up in Northern Afghanistan. Obviously the US is not paying off the right Taliban bandits, or not paying enough.

Gullibility: Realtors (and a lot of bloggers) keep saying housing supply is tight – only a 5 month supply. They are full of crap mistaken. The real housing supply – including the 'shadow inventory' – is in the 8 to 10 million range, and will be increasing because foreclosures are on the rise again.

Everybody Does It: It’s getting harder to ignore the stench of the financial system

Democracy Inaction: The Brennan Center for Justice reports that upwards of 4 million potential votes will be aborted by the Republican-inspired voter ID laws, which will deprive primarllily the poor and elderly of their (highly theoretical) right to vote because of a lack of transportation and the fact that many of the offices that could issue the required IDs are only open once or twice a week and never on weekends. For example, in Texas, only 2 offices are available to issue IDs for 134,000 eligible voters – more than half of them Hispanic – in a 32 county area.

Back At It: Single family housing starts are up 53% from the housing bottom a few years back and up 6.9% from May and up 23.6% y/y. Homebuilders, at least, think things are picking up.

Rhetorical Questions: Are big banks criminal enterprises? Is financial crime the new normal? Do business schools breed crooks?

How Big Is Big? The IMF says the eurozone faces “a sizable risk of deflation” and suggests the ECB buy enough (?) sovereign bonds to lower the borrowing costs for bankrupt nations. In that Spain and Italy are part of the beggars' brigade and are theoretically the #3 and #4 sources of funds for the ECB, how's this going to work?

You Made Me Do It: The US says it is sorry that the oil embargo is damaging Iran's oil reserves, but had no choice because the Iranians would not give in to US bullying.

Big Government To The Rescue: Farmers in the Midwest are already crying about the high corn prices expected as the drought drags on. You know, government-hating Republicans who will soon be pleading for government money to help them over a hard spot.

Everything Is Local: Coal miners in West Virginia are damned sorry about global warming, but say that destroying mountains, the environment, and our collective future is the only way they know how to make a living.

Inconvenient Data: Arkansas finds that implementing the ACA Medicaid expansion would save the state $372 million over four years. After that the expansion would cost Arkansas $3.5 million of it's $4.7 billion budget, with the federal government chipping in $35 million (90%) of the expansion costs.

Kidnappers, Sort Of: Taliban inspired Pakistani tribal leaders in North Waziristan say they will not give Polio vaccinations to their children until the US stops killing them with drones. The theory seems to be that the US kills far more of their children than polio will.

Savings Plan: Denny Rehberg (Taliban-MT), chair of the House Labor, Health and Human Service and Education Committee, wants to cut $6.2 billion in spending on women's health, and allow employers to impose their moral/religious strictures on the women that work for them.

Point Of Order: Can you, as a parent, sue the US and/or the Defense Department for killing your children with a drone attack? Is there a court somewhere that is civilized enough to at least provide a hearing on the idea?

Porn O'Graph: Look Out Below Above!

The Parting Shot:



Wednesday, July 18, 2012

SAR #12199

The American public has a great distrust of evidence.

Just So Story: Mitt Romney again insisted he will not release additional years of tax returns, arguing he doesn't want to give President Barack Obama more ammunition, which seems tantamount to saying that his tax returns would contain such ammunition.

My Way/Highway: Chancellor Angela Merkel continues to demand more central control over the finances of EU member states if Germany is to fund further bailouts. She said that Germany had not altered its position at last month's summit and reiterated her insistence on “a new level” of joint oversight over the banks (and countries) seeking bailouts.

Reference Point: John “Learn to be an American” Sununu was born in Cuba, the son of Palestinian/Greek father and a Salvadorian mother.

What Do You Say After You Say You're Sorry? Europe's largest bank, HSBC has apologized for certain “lapses”, such as hiding more than £10 billion in concealed Iranian transactions, laundering billions of dollars for drug cartels, terrorists and pariah states, transporting billions in cash in armored vehicles for drug cartels; and allowing Mexican drug lords to buy planes with money laundered through Cayman Islands accounts. (None of The Mitten's accounts are known to have been involved.) Lapses. And odds are that HSBC is not the Lone Ranger here.

Experience: "If you’re a head of a large private equity firm or hedge fund, your job is to make money. It’s not to create jobs. It’s not even to create a successful business – it’s to make sure that you’re maximizing returns for your investor.” Who said this, Romney or Obama? And is it criticism or praise?

Footnote: In all the excitement over HSBC's laundering money for drug lords and terrorists, the National Association of Realtors quietly – and legally - goes about doing the same thing. After all, how else will US real estate remain at its current elevated levels?

What Could Go Wrong? Engineers want to spray crap into the atmosphere to slow global warming. Setting off a few hundred nuclear weapons would do the trick. Where do you get a permit to endanger the whole world?

Jobs, Numbers, Effects: The average monthly job gain last year was about 153 thousand. So far this year, we are trending below that. It takes somewhere between 80,000 and 125,000 to break even. We may be doing that, but we are not whittling away at the millions of unemployed. There is a good chance that America has reached its peak employment and that the future - especially with the global slowdown - bodes ill for the unemployed. How this plays out in terms of social stability, especially in urban areas, will be interesting to watch. From a distance.

Poor Me...Shell says it cannot meet the EPA emission requirements set for drilling in the Arctic and wants the rules changed so it can make a profit from polluting the Arctic.

Democracy, Festering In The Dark: Republicans have triumphed in their crusade to keep the American people from knowing who's buying which politicians and what the going price is, defeating the DISCLOSE Act that would have required identification of those who spend more than $10,000 shopping for lackeys.

Enter, Laughing: How is it that bankers and traders can brazenly steal hundreds of millions of dollars from “segregated” accounts and suffer no consequences for doing so?  The same way they got away with forged documents, forged trades, forged bank statements, and global interest rate fraud. We don't have a problem with crime in our financial system; our financial system is an ongoing crime.

The Parting Shot:


After the rain.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

SAR #12198

Incompetence is a verdict, not a defense.

Late To The Dance: The US Federal Reserve has been aware of the manipulation of Libor rates at least since 2008, as apparently has the Bank of England. Does their silence constitute tacit approval and if so can Bob Diamond et all argue they were acting as agents of the government(s)?

Nutshell: The annualized US GDP growth rate is now 1.1% (Goldman), while the annualized growth rate of the US debt is 21%. We're gonna need more than a bigger truck.

What The World Needs Now... Ukraine has obtained a $3.6 billion line of credit from the China Development Bank to help it convert its power plants from relatively clean gas to deadly, climate warming coal – and to escape Gazprom.

The Odds: A survey of US companies by the National Association for Business Economics found that less than 25% of them planned to add employees over the next 6 months – down from 40% just three months ago.

Wasted Days and Wasted Dollars: Strategists from both parties say that nearly all of $4 billion that will be spent on the election this fall will make no difference in the outcome. The only votes that matter are a few hundred, at most a few thousand, in a handful of key swing states. None of the rest of us – or their spending on us - matter because we're not up for grabs.

Earnings Report: How much of the annual $870 billion in drug money gets laundered through banks? The big banks? Not all of it, certainly, some gets spent on bribing politicians, but much of it, undoubtedly. How is it listed on the P/L? Transfer fees?

Size Matters: Which is easier to disrupt, a pipeline or the Straits of Hormuz?

Bears/Woods: Was the price of gasoline rigged too? Well, let's see: The daily price for gasoline depends on oil price "benchmarks" which are based on data from oil trading firms such as banks, hedge funds and, occasionally, actual petroleum companies. The market is unregulated and relies on the honesty of the firms to submit accurate data about all their trades. If this sounds familiar, it should.

Nobody Likes Him: Less than 40% of Romney supporters support Romney. The great majority are simply planning to vote against Obama.

Wages Of Sin: Citigroup reported making $2.9 billion in profit during 2Q2012 - not bad for a firm that produces nothing, but simply skims off the top of the customer money that flows through its hand, when it's not manipulating markets or betting against its customers. It's like the big banks are collecting rent on America.

Job Prerequisites: Romney quit Bain because he realized after the fact that he could not handle both the responsibilities at Bain and the job at the Salt Lake Olympics while running for governor. If he can't tap his head and rub his belly while riding a unicycle and juggling swords, what makes him think he can handle being president?

One And Done: Without Congressional action (remember Congressional action, when Ds & Rs got together and passed legislation?) before the end of the year, the child tax credit (currently $1,000 a child) will be cut in half when other Bush-era tax policies lapse. But is this a policy - in our overpopulated, over-consuming world - that should be continued?

Commitment: Global warming is a prepaid phenomena. We emit the carbon gases today and get the heat 20 -30 -40 years later. Today's heat, downpours, high winds and so on are the result of greenhouse gasses emitted decades ago. What we're doing today ensures that 2040 - 2050 and on will be even hotter, drier, more extreme. Without much effort on our part, we will, by the end of the century, drive the temperature to heights not experienced since the Eocene, some fifty million years ago.

The Parting Shot:


Ductifera pululahuana (Exidia alba)

Monday, July 16, 2012

SAR #12197

Perfection is not a reasonable expectation. Plausibility is.

Bogus: The last couple of weeks have seen the rapid embrace of the idea that a housing recovery is underway because the supply has shrunk - but that depends on the definition of 'supply". If you count only the houses for sale on the market, yes. But there's lots of evidence that upwards of 90% of foreclosed houses are not on the market. Plus all the unmentionable but real houses that would be for sale if they were not so far underwater. Plus those deluded owners who are still waiting for prices to come back. The other factors regularly cited - deleveraging, demand for Treasuries, the rising stock market, consumer borrowing - are similarly based on a careful concealment of essential truths.

Playing Catch-Up: A 'confidential' EU plan reports progress on assembling the first €30 billion of the proposed €100 billion bailout for Spanish banks. What? You thought that was a done deal?

Who Have We Become? On top of secret renditions to secret dungeons around the world where the US tortured confessions out of prisoners, now we are supposed to be shocked to learn that the same bunch of upstanding defenders of American democracy and freedom have been extracting "confessions" from prisoners by drugging them with powerful antipsychotics that compromise an individual's ability to separate reality from fiction. Which puts them on an equal footing with their interrogators.

Doubletake: "Human Genome agrees to GlaxoSmithKline takeover."

Life As We Know It: A whistleblower claims that the National Security Agency has been "assembling" information on "every US citizen". Of course they are - have been for yeas. 'All of us' might be a stretch , but a goodly number of us have dossiers filed away, waiting...

When You're Right... Stephen Emmott, an Oxford University professor of computing, has gathered notice for stating the obvious: Overpopulation is the root of all of our planet’s troubles.

Biographic Notes: According to several 2000, 2001, and 2002 Bain filings with the SEC, Romney was CEO, President, sole director and only shareholder of the company. During those years Mr. Romney was paid an 'executive salary' of at least $100,000. Mr. Romney says (now) that he did nothing for that money, much like he accuses many civil servants of drawing their salary without actually earning the money. This is supposedly explained by claiming that Mr. Romney " retired retroactively" in February of 1999 and in June of this year he submitted documentation - under penalty of felony perjury - to the Office of Goverment Ethics claiming this as fact. So what was he paid for?

All Your Thoughts Are Belong To US: The FDA says that if its employees have had no disloyal thoughts, they should not be concerned that their superiors have built a database of over 80,000 emails to "outside parties" such as congressmen and journalists and my Aunt Molly.

A World Without: Overwhelming scientific evidence shows that coral reefs around the world are becoming "zombie ecosystems" not quite dead, but not functional in a biologic sense, and will collapse "within a human generation".

Traveler's Notice: According to Seattle police, goggles and bandannas are "protest paraphernalia" and can be "evidence of politically motivated vandalism."

Picture Imperfect: At a Romney fundraiser in Wyoming that featured Dick Cheney, taking pictures of Romney and Cheney together was forbidden. (Has Romney retroactively absented himself? )

The Parting Shot


Prunella_vulgaris.  Heal-All

Saturday, July 14, 2012

SAR #12195

The market has spoken, and it is rigged. – Simon Johnson.

Game On! Silvio Berlusconi, one-time Italian prime minister before he was dismissed by the EU/ECB/IMF, says he will give actual Italians a chance to put him back in office.

Running of the Bears: Capital has been fleeing Spain at an annualized rate of 50% of the nation's GDP. Obviously the 100 billion euro “rescue” won't cover the damage - 990 billion euros might, but that's a non-starter. No one has the slightest idea where that sort of funding will come from, certainly not from more unemployment and higher taxes on a dying economy. Maybe they'll have another summit.

Slogan: Invest in the Cayman Islands, it’s the patriotic thing to do.

Humor: Here's an article that explains why America can look forward to a future of "energy abundance." Put the coffee down so you don't choke.

Black and Gray: Romney says he had "no role whatsoever in Bain management after '99." Yet he told the SEC he was, in 2000 & 2001, the Chairman, CEO and sole shareholder of Bain. Oh, and they paid him $100,000 a year for doing nothing.

Terse: Russell Wasendorf Sr., CEO of the now defunct futures brokerage firm Peregrine Financial, has been arrested by the FBI and charged with making false statements to the SEC (memo to Mitt). Wasendorf wrote a suicide note claiming “"I have been able to embezzle millions of dollars from customer accounts...” Prosecutors say the fraud began 20 years ago.

Asked & Answered: Is Spain following Greece down the garden path? No. While doing the same things (cutting wages and social spending while raising taxes), they've been promised that it'll work this time. Italy hopes so.

Teaching Point: A statistical technique gives valid results only if the underlying assumptions reflect reality. In other words, even in economics, garbage in leads to garbage out. So go ahead, assume a cow is a sphere. Just don't try to milk it.

Supply, Demand & Budgets: Even as US and European demand drops, Saudi Arabia and other OPEC countries continue to produce petroleum far above their quotas - not because the market wants their oil, but because their budgets need the money. There's 'peak oil' and then there's 'peak citizen demands'.

Reminder: Social Security is full funded until 2038 with no changes whatsoever.

The Things They Carried: Unemployment, declining wages, poverty, foreclosures, student debts, inequality, price inflation, cuts in public services and social safety nets, poor roads, failing infrastructure and global warming.

Just Wondering: How can you support circumcising young males under the rubric of “protecting religious freedom” and condemn female 'circumcision' as barbaric?

The Parting Shot:

Ipomoea pandurata. Wild Potato Vine

Friday, July 13, 2012

SAR #12194

The real class warfare is not  Poorman/Richman, it's Beggarmen/Thieves.

Libor Of Love: Morgan Stanley estimates that 11 more banks will be fined for their part in rigging Libor rates, to the cumulative tune of $22 billion.

Under Penalty Of Perjury: Swearing to false statements on federal forms – say SEC filings – is a felony under Title 18 of the US Code. We bring this up because Mr. Romney filed SEC forms claiming to be “sole stockholder, chairman of the board, chief executive officer, and president” of Bain until 2002, yet he also claims to have left the company in 1999. He also filed forms with Massachusetts saying he owned 100% of Bain through 2002 and was paid $100,000 a year through 2002. But Bain says these forms “have little meaning, and are the result of legal technicalities.” Yes, and so is the crime of false swearing.

Globalization: The uniforms to be worn by Team USA at the opening ceremonies of the Summer Olympics carry advertising, were made in China and were purchased at Walmart.

Second Helping: The people in Washington have given corporations permission to put even less money into their already chronically underfunded pension funds. It's like putting a 97 pound anorexic on a starvation diet.

Numbers, Red Hot Numbers: The DOL reports there were 350,000 initial claims last week, a big drop from the previous week's 376,500. This was a 4 day week and the DOL said "onetime factors such as fewer auto-sector layoffs than normal likely caused the sharp decline...”

Light At The End Of The Tunnel: At the end of the day, the only thing that all the bailouts have accomplished is to transfer hundreds of billions of public money to private bankers, to no effect whatsoever on the economy, on jobs, or even on the banks stability. It all went from our pockets to their pockets. Where do we go from here? The only place left is the streets - that's why the US constitution includes the right to bear arms. That light? It's the peasants, with pitchforks and torches.

Summation: Spanish Prime Minister Rajoy has taken new steps to increase unemployment, by raising taxes and cutting spending in another pointless exercise in inflicting pain on Spaniards for the amusement of German bankers.

The Back Of The Bus: Wells Fargo “resolved allegations” that it stuck at least 34,000 blacks and Hispanics with higher fees and higher interest rates than were available for whites by dipping into petty cash and paying the DOJ $175 million. A harmless slap on the wrist, considering the number of lives ruined by the nation's largest mortgage lender.

Habit Forming: For the 33rd time House Republicans have voted to deprive 30 million Americans of their health care coverage. And for the 33rd time, it makes not a bit of difference.

Background Noise: US home foreclosure filings rose 9% Q/Q in the second quarter (and 6% over the same quarter last year) for the first time in two years. Across the nation, one in 126 houses had “at least one foreclosure filing” in the quarter. But Chase analysts say they expect house prices to rise 12% by 2016, so be don't worry, be happy.

Dilemma: Paul Krugman says there are but two possible outcomes for the Euro crisis: "Either the Germans have to accept something they consider unacceptable, or they have to accept something else that they consider unacceptable." If the US is to avoid "a full-on depression", he says "Somebody has to spend more than their income, and, for the time being, that has to be the government."

In Case You Were Worried: The 5-year statute of limitations for the crimes committed by Wall Street in 2008 is fast approaching.

The Square Root Of Minus One: So you are unsure what to invest in, so you hired a financial wizard who charges you only 1% a year to put your money in Swiss and Danish banks that charge you for watching your money. Don't you feel better already? Or do you have an arrangement where if he loses money on your investments, he pays you? Naw, didn't think so.

Just So: "Remind them of this, if they want more free stuff from the government, tell them to go vote for the other guy." Mitt Romney, at a fundraiser following his speech at the NAACP.

The Parting Shot:


Mascot, Wall Street

Thursday, July 12, 2012

SAR #12193

Hand wringing is remarkably ineffective.

One, Two, Three: First Spain said that holders of bank subordinate debt – mostly 'retail' citizen investors – would get wiped out as part of the ongoing 'save the bankers' bailout. Then the government hiked the VAT sales tax from 18% to 21%, effectively giving everyone a 3% pay cut now with more to follow. So, naturally, the riots have begun and the cops hit the streets firing rubber bullets. Slash spending, raise taxes, trample the people and provoke riots – it'll work the same way in the US, too.

Wait, Wait: Goldman Sachs cut its prediction of GDP growth for 2Q2012 from 1.5% to 1.4%, and two hours later cut it from 1.4% to 1.3%. Do I hear 1.2?

Blood/Stone: Scranton, PA's mayor said “we're broke” and put everyone on minimum wage. A Lackawanna County judge says no, you have to pay people what their contracts call for. So the mayor says “we're broke” and pays everyone minimum wage. Public employee unions have filed for a contempt hearing. Contract law? We don't need no contract law...

Corporate Citizens: Since 2001, the nation's largest corporations – Caterpillar, Chevron, Cisco, GM, Intel, Merck, Oracle, Stanley, United Technologies, Walmart – have been forced to retrench and lay off 2.9 million US workers. During that same period, they have hired 2.4 million people overseas. Coincidence, pure coincidence.

Playing It As It Lies: Former Republican Senator Lindsey Graham says that Romney's tax avoidance is legal and acceptable and everybody does it and it's just “playing the game.” I agree, and as soon as I can save up ten or twelve dollars, I'm gonna see about one of those foreign tax shelters, too.

See How They Run: Swiss 2 year notes now carry a negative 0.37 rate of 'return'. Gee, why would anyone pull their money from Spanish and Italian bonds paying 7%, just to pay the Swiss to hold their money for a while? Probably for the same reason folks are willing to lend Uncle Sam money for 10 years at 1.52% - which is effectively a negative rate of return. Not exactly inspiring a great deal of optimism.

According To The Script: Romney got the NAACP to boo him several times; his handlers are delighted. After all, the speech was not aimed at the people in the hall. Gotta keep your eye on the choir.

Waiting Game: BP says that the costs of protecting the Alaskan coast & seas from an oil spill are too high to make their planned $1.5 billion offshore oil project feasible. It was not immediately clear if BP was seeking additional drilling subsidies or a relaxation in safety standards. Or both.

They're Everywhere! Florida will release the names of the 180,000 voters selected to be deprived of their right to vote because, according to Gov. Scott, “Irreparable harm will result if noncitizens are allowed to vote.” Scott could not say exactly how many Democratic voters should be disenfranchised so that both of Florida's illegally registered aliens could be prevented from perverting democracy.

The Parting Shot.


Solanum carolinense. Horse nettle.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

SAR #12192

Money is essentially a matter of trust; how's that working out?

Size Matters: Republicans worry that increasing taxes causes the rich to desire less money and claim that lowering taxes on the rich will increase jobs because the rich will then have more money. But there are only a handful of 'rich' (either 0.1%, 1% or 10% of us, depending on who is counting and why) and a great big bunch of us – the other 99% - who are not rich. Cutting the tax burden on the rest of us, just a little bit, would produce more economic activity than cutting taxes on the rich. Simple multiplication. If the goal is creating more jobs, obviously the unrich are the place to start.

Never-never Land: Americans are turning to their credit cards to maintain their spending even without any increase in their income, nor any prospect of one. Naturally this is viewed as a positive for the economy.

Nose/Face: Those Republican Governors running around and blathering about rejecting Medicaid expansion are ignoring the fact that each dollar of Medicaid spending (most of which is federal money, not state) results in a $2 increase in the state's GDP - an as mjuch as 84% of the employment gains from Medicaid spending are outside the government and health-care sectors.

Shiftless: The BLS report on job openings show there are 3.5 officially unemployed people for every job opening. It's worse than that, of course, because the 'unofficial' unemployed probably outnumber those the BLS deigns to count.

The Option Play: States that opt out of Expanded Medicaid under ACA can refuse to cover low-income adults up to 133% of the federal poverty line, and could roll back their current Medicaid qualification levels without any consequences – except to the poor who would be without healthcare insurance, of course. And don't think it won't happen.

Spot Quiz: Mitt “nothing hidden” Romney will release ___ years of his tax returns before _____ 1st, 2012 .

Just So: “Modern international bankers form a class of thieves the likes of which the world has never before seen. Or, indeed, imagined. ...behind the world’s financial edifice lies a reeking cesspool of unprecedented corruption. The modern-day robber barons pillage with a destructive abandon totally unfettered by law or conscience and on a scale that is almost impossible to comprehend.”

Précis "Republicans Are Shockingly Hypocritical, Irresponsible, and Flat-Out Full of Crap on Medicare Cuts." To review: Since 2010, Republicans have consistently charged Obama with cutting Medicare, while they support (and originated) the very cuts they complain about.

Extra Credit: Can the euro be saved? Should it be?

Check's In The Mail: America's chief electronic spy says that NSA “would not read their personal email if a new cybersecurity law was enacted to allow private companies to share information with the government.” What he didn't say was that it was already reading all your mail, listening to all your phone calls and reading all those tedious twits you keep sending – but if NSA can get the info from 'private companies' they do not need warrants. Not that that's bothered them all that much.

This Is Where I Came In: Customer accounts at futures brokerage PFGBest have been frozen, and about $200 million of $400 million in customer funds has been Corzined. Not so much frozen as freeze dried.

Integrity: One out of four senior financial executives say that financial professionals such as themselves need to engage in unethical or illegal conduct to succeed, and 16% said they would commit financial crime if they thought they could get away with it.

Controlled Experiment: The UK has spent more on saving the banks in a year than it has spent on science “since Jesus”.

The Parting Shot:


Rhus typhina, Staghorn Sumac.