Friday, November 30, 2012

SAR #12334

The simplistic is seductive.

Can You Hear Me Now? Americans of both parties overwhelmingly want Congress to increase the taxes the rich pay and to keep their hands off Medicare and Social Security. Excuse me, Mr. Boehner, I think this one's for you.

Numbers, We Got Numbers! US unemployment claims fell from an upwardly revised 416,000 to 393,000, with 5.2 million drawing benefits despite GOP efforts to kick everybody to the curb. In Germany unemployment climbed for the 8th consecutive month, reaching 6.9%. Our government revised its 3Q2012 GDP number to 2.7%, a large increase from the previous guess of 2.0%. Nearly all of the upward push came from government spending and inventory restocking, while personal consumption grew at a sickly 1.4%.

Shaken, Not Stirred: The good news is that the Antarctic icecap is melting slower than thought. The bad news is that the Antarctic icecap is melting.

Demos Demonstrated: Romney adviser Stuart Stevens emphasizes that “Romney carried the majority of every economic group except those with less than $50,000 a year...” Which, he says means that “Republicans must be doing something right!” Unfortunately, the 'demos' part of democracy did them in – they would win, they say, if the electorate could be limited to well-off white voters. Fortunately, it isn't.

Getting There:As expected, AZ has joined the bevy of Republican states that are ceding control of their states' health insurance exchanges to the Department of Health. Quite why the Republicans want to help bring a nationally coordinated system into being is a mystery, like so many things the GOP folks do these days. They must see a down-side for the feds and the Dems, but it escapes me at the moment.

Past As Prelude: The US housing market has improved since 2009, 2010. But only a tad, and remains at recessionary levels despite the $30 trillion and counting that has been thrown at it. What would a real recovery cost? What will happen when Daddy takes the T-Bird away?

Enough Is Too Damned Much: The US government insures over $500 billion of assets sitting on the nation's coastal flood plains. For some reason – probably because the rich like their sea-side mansions – the taxpayers get to pay for repairing the damage storms and seas do to housing plopped down in inappropriate places. These are not losses caused by 'accidents' or 'unforeseeable events'. These losses are the result of exercising very bad judgment. Why the rest of us should pay for the rich or the foolish to live on a sand dune escapes me. If they couldn't get insurance from Uncle, they couldn't get insurance. Then they wouldn't be there costing us more money when we have to pay to rescue them and then rebuild their homes so we can foot the bill again and again. Enough. If you want to live in harm's way, fine. Don't make me pay to rescue you and don't make me provide insurance for you, whether you live in New Orleans or New York or anywhere in between.

'Twas Ever So: The folks that couldn't mange Hostess have asked a judge to let them pay themselves $1.8 million in executive bonuses for looting the company.

Going Down Is Going Up: Sales of repo properties will increase 25% this year, to 1.25 million. Many have been kept off the market for over a year as the courts and the banks wrestled with shady foreclosure practices – and a year sitting vacant is a guaranteed additional 10% drop in sales price, on top of the 35% that just being a foreclosed property costs. After two years the loss is about 60%. These properties will drag down the prices of other houses in the neighborhood, bringing expectations for the Case-Shiller index to a 5 to 10% fall next year, even as about 1 in 4 long-term foreclosed structures get bulldozed.

Porn O'Graph: Down so long, looks like up to me some.

The Parting Shot:


Thursday, November 29, 2012

SAR #12333

Riots seldom end well.

Chess: Tell Susan Rice that it's nothing personal. The Republicans will attack and smear any nominee for State who isn't John Kerry, because they think that Scott Brown could win Kerry's Senate seat.

The Sun Also Rises: Russia, Denmark, Switzerland, and Spain have joined France in announcing support for UN recognition of the Palestinian state, while Britain continues to 'consider' such support and the US continues to bow to Israel on this as on so many things. Israel has backed off its promise to topple any and all Palestinian leadership if the UN extends recognition.

Sand, Line In? Too bad the White House hasn't given the rest of us the same promise “that Social Security benefits won't be cut as part of negotiations” to reduce the deficit that Bernie Sanders (I-VT) says he's received. In that Social Security contributes neither to the deficit nor the debt, there is no reason the topic should even be under discussion.

Squeaky Wheel: Expect Congress to start second guessing the Corps of Engineers' management of the Mississippi river now that the lower levels threaten Archer Daniels Midland's business.

What Did You Do In The War, Daddy? Remember those pallet-loads of US currency that were shipped to Baghdad, only to disappear? Seems like the now defunct Kabul Bank helped nearly $1 billion slip away into the pockets of the gangsters that run Afghanistan "political elite". Not to be left out, Russia is reported to have sent "200 tons of cash" to Syria to help support Assad.

Pointless Question: Do American shoppers care how many Bangladeshi young women making 21 cents an hour burn to death as long as they can continue to get 'Always low prices, always,' and continue to 'Live Better'?

Slip Sliding Away: The EPA says that BP will be “temporarily suspended” from winning new contracts with the federal government. Temporary is the operative word, because BP is currently the Pentagon's biggest fuel supplier, and if the fuel supply is disrupted the wars will come to a halt. And the US isn't about to stop any of its wars.

Innumeracy: Average tuition and fees at public, four-year colleges have risen 72% since 2000, while average wages for 25-34 year old grads has fallen 14.7% in the same period. Want to talk about student debt delinquency?

Choir, Preaching To: David Cook says: It’s Time to Stop Killing in Secret. Actually, it is long past time to stop using murder to impose our will on the entire world, period. Obama is worried – a bit late – that there are no guidelines, not realizing that the guideline on killing people should be “Don't do it”.

One for the Gipper: Alan Grayson (D-FL), calling Walmart "the largest recipient of public aid", says he will be examining why such a profitable company's employees are paid such low wages that they are "forced" to sign up for Medicaid, food stamps and housing assistance. This amounts to a taxpayer funded subsidy for the retailer. "The taxpayer" he said, "is getting fed up of paying for these things when, Walmart could give every employee, even the CEO, a 30 percent raise and still be profitable."

New And Unimproved: John Boehner appointed 19 white males to chair House committees, no blacks, no women. Didn't he get a copy of the exit polls?

Porn O'Graph: Housing recovery reaches 1966 levels.

The Parting Shot:


Deceptive packaging.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

SAR #12332

Language is God's gift to liars.

The Sequel: The people who made all the fuss about Mubarak last spring are back in Tahrir Square, trying to get President Mursi's attention.

Flexibility: Republicans like some tax cuts (for the rich) but not all (payroll taxes). But if keeping the payroll tax cuts will help cause budget problems for Obama, then they'll be for them. For a while.

Mother Will Kiss It & Make It Better: It seems unlikely that we, the current crop of Homo sapiens, will stop burning fossil fuels and having babies, so in the not too distant future the CO2 overload will require Mother Nature, as she has many times before, to cycle the planet into a new equilibrium. One that does not include us.

Ms. Scrooge:Ms. Lagarde says that no IMF funds will be 'disbursed' (to Greece, presumably) until the Eurozone “fulfills its commitments' and the private sector accepts haircuts on its Greek bonds.

Object Lesson: Finland, which does not follow a test-driven centralized educational model and does not test at all during the first six years of school, is ranked first in the world in terms of its education system. Guess whose child they're leaving behind.

Chicken/Egg: Global warming has made it possible for a large tanker to cross the Arctic from Norway to Japan, delivering a load of LNG, which will, when burned, cause even more global warming.

Tell Me A Story: CME Group says that 'force majeure' is preventing it from loading gold bullion, platinum bullion or palladium bullion at one of its depositories. 'Force majeure' frees parties from liability due to an event outside of their control.

Social Experiment: For centuries, Europeans (and Russia and India and lately a few US states) have provided 'foundling wheels' or their equivalent, where mothers who could not care for their newborn could anonymously leave the infant, assured it would be cared for. Now the UN has decided that the practice is evil, depriving the child of the presumed right to know its parents. Or to be abandoned in a dumpster.

Extra Credit: What does the fact that all of the most common investment strategies do not work say about the whole idea of 'investing'?

Echo: As we mentioned yesterday, the 'new' Greek deal "solves almost nothing" and isn't really a deal. It is a transfer of wealth from private investors in Greek bonds to the central banks of various European Countries while driving Greece further in debt.

Factoid: “Seniors on Medicare and Social Security did not cause the Great Recession, Wall Street did.”

Always The Bad News, Always: Consumer confidence is now at its highest since February 2008. Unsettling, at best.

As Advertised: Climate scientists, trying to scare the women and children, have repeatedly warned that the CO2 we're dumping into the atmosphere will leach into the oceans, making them acid enough to dissolve the shells of sea creatures. Turns out they weren't kidding. Just ask the 'sea butterfly' snail, which provides absolute evidence that increasing acidification of the ocean is (a) happening and (b) deadly. Since the beginning of the industrial era, our oceans have become 30 percent more acidic, reaching a level of acidity not seen in over 50 million years.

Same Donkey, Another Tail: The IEA's Fatih Birol now says that by 2035 the US will be importing only 3.4 million barrels of petroleum a day. If there's that much available.

The Parting Shot:


Rain, fog, espresso.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

SAr #12331

There are many types of freedom.

Leftovers: The EU and IMF have agreed on how to divide up what's left of Greece. First private investors get to take a haircut - “ public debt tender purchases of the various categories of sovereign obligations...” at prices “no higher than those at the close 23 November 2012." - and the ECB will give EU central banks up to €15bn already sucked from Greece made on Greek bonds. And Greece was promised €40bn k-December which it can then give to European central banks while going even deeper into chattel slavery debt. But, they emphasize, “This is not just about money.” Good one.

Waffle House: The US wants to keep around 10,000 US troops in Afghanistan…after formal combat operations in that country end in 2014, for training and counter-terrorism operations. But that depends on Afghanistan agreeing to both the size of the garrison and to granting them complete immunity for any and all recreational crimes.

Essay Question: On balance, has Wal-Mart been good or bad? Define for whom Wal-Mart has been good or bad and how you define those terms. Whose side are you on, anyway?

Marley's Ghost: Home equity lines of credit are back and are expected reach nearly $80 billion by the end of the year and climb to $104 billion in 2013 as banks and borrowers forget what happened last time in their rush for profits and purchases. Merry Christmas shopping, one and all.

Fiscal Fantoms: Anybody seen the bond vigilantes lately? Nah, me neither, but that doesn't stop the hypocrites who want to cut Social Security and Medicare and the taxes on the rich from wringing their hands and predicting doom.

riverrun, past Eve and Adam's: Four of the world's great rivers, the Colorado (US) the Yellow (China), the Orange (South Africa) and the Murray Darling (Australia ) are suffering from drastically reduced flows as a direct result of water extraction – mostly for irrigation. Climate change “will aggravate changes in river flows” but the real solution requires sharing water between humans and the environment. Good luck with that.

Through A Glass, Darkly: Morgan Stanley's 'pessimistic scenario' for 2013 is a global GDP plunge of 2% if governments and central banks don't keep handing out the honey money.

Clip and Save: The Supremes have blocked enforcement of the Illinois law that made photographing police illegal.

Four Degrees and Climbing: Humans must immediately implement a series of radical measures to halt carbon emissions or prepare for the collapse of society and the death of hundreds of millions. If that doesn't motivate you to demand that all burning of fossil fuels stop immediately, then we are all doomed. So, we're all doomed. Let's party.

All In Good Fun: Two former Florida GOP leaders and current party strategists admit that the GOP-imposed early voting laws were designed to limit Democratic voters, especially minorities. Former GOP Chairman Jim Greer maintains “The Republican Party, the strategists, the consultants, they firmly believe that early voting is bad for Republican Party candidates. They never came in to see me and tell me we had a (voter) fraud issue. It’s all a marketing ploy.” Which we all knew long ago.

Headline Only: “That Shortage of Skilled Manufacturing Workers is Really a Shortage of Employers Willing to Pay the Market Wage.”

Majority Rule, No? The Senate's Majority Leader, tired of the minority using 'The Filibuster' to thwart even discussion of any topic they are afraid of, is considering changing the rules to prevent filibusters from being misused in this way. He also may seek to require filibusters to be... well, filibusters. The Republicans say this would “take away minority rights...” and promise to throw a tantrum if they don't keep getting their way. Grow up.

Porn O'Graph: Fill in the blank.

The Parting Shot:


Laetiporus sulphures, Chicken of the Woods.

Monday, November 26, 2012

SAR #12330

Government debt is how we transfer tax revenue to the rich.

Doomed: If the Walmart workers were depending on Walmart customers to support them in their confrontation with Walmart Management, and they were, they were bound to be wasting their time, which they did and are. For the same reason we will do nothing about global warming if it inconveniences us or costs us money today, we will do nothing to perturb Always the Low Prices. It's a matter of religion.

All The News That Fits: The US denies a malware attack on France. That's not the news. The news is that the US had to deny it.

Repeat After Him: Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) correctly notes that “Social Security does not add one penny to the deficit. Not a penny.”

Back At It: Protesters and supporters of Egyptian president Mursi's power grab are back in the streets, as the country's senior judges describe his actions as an “unprecedented assault” on the independence of the judiciary.

All Ye Need Know: “Top Republicans Everywhere Are Breaking With Grover Norquist And Calling For More Tax Revenues.” Or, Running Scared.

Absolutely Positively Maybe: At the moment, funds to bail out Spain/Spanish banks have been promised by December 15th, if and only if the four nationalized banks fire 8,000 employees. That would amount to 30% of all bank employees in the country, which would be a good start if it was done from the top down.

Identification: When they talk about entitlement reforms, those are your entitlements being sent to the reformatory.

Datapoint: This year's budget deficit is $200 billion smaller than last year's, is $300 billion smaller than when Obama was sworn in, and ““has fallen faster over the past three years than it has in any such stretch since demobilization from World War II.”

Nomenclature: Apparently there is some need for a Breast Cancer Bewareness movement as concerns about over-diagnosis and over-treatment arise.

Quoted: “Until 1948, the territory of Palestine stretched from the River Jordan to the Mediterranean. It was inhabited by 'Palestine'. The violence that has afflicted the area ever since is the direct result of an event whose true nature our society seems determined to deny.”

Good Advice: John McCain says the Republicans should leave the abortion issue alone. A day or two late, but good advice.

Word to the Wise: Catastrophic damage from solar flares, prevention of. Or not. After all, $100 million to prevent an electrical/electronic Armageddon would increase the deficit.

What Flavor Hype Are You Buying? As the fracking shills keep hawking their boundless and groundless optimism, the questioning is getting more pronounced – 'Can natural gas live up to its advertising? The answer is no, no matter what historian Nial Ferguson says.

Asked & Answered: Do coal plants really kill people? Yes.

Prerequisites: Last August the Boulder and Colorado Spring campuses of UC created separate dorms where students with concealed-carry gun permits could have their shootouts. So far not a single student has moseyed over.

It's The Little Things: “If you believe the IEA, our energy worries are over...” Emphasis on the “if”.

En Passant: When evaluated on the same basis as public schools in the state, only 37% of Pennsylvania's charter schools would meet federal standards. But they make a profit, which is educational, no?

Porn O'Graph: In the pink.

The Parting Shot:


Going with the flow.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

SAR #12325

Borders are the history of violence made visible on our maps.

Headline Hopes: Sales of existing houses increased nearly 11% in October y/y, with a matching 11% increase in median price. This is eight consecutive months of y/y increases in home prices, which last occurred in 2005-2006. So why don't I feel reborn?

Just Sayin' If the 1%ers had their way, wouldn't we all be Gazans?

On The Homes Front: Nearly every metric in Spain is going the wrong way at present, housing, bank loans, independence campaigns. In Italy, new industrial orders dropped 12.8% y/y and 4.8% m/m, and the voters no longer support technocrat Mario Monti. The British want to leave the EU, France is now spelled with just two As, and Greece keeps bubbling away on the back burner.

Scheduling: We're not going to run out of oil; we're going to run out of affordable oil. Known reserves will last about 40 years at today's rate of use, but the middle classes in China and India are tired of bicycles. And those 'known reserves' are self-reported by some countries with motives to be less than forthcoming. Yes, 'some' means Saudi Arabia, first among equals. And when the IEA predicts an increase in oil production from 84 mbd today to 97 mbd in 2035, the increase is all in "natural gas liquids and unconventional sources", not conventional oil. And they are not the same things.

Cracks In The Wall: A majority of the English would favor a British exit from the European Union, which may give a more weight to London's calls for significant changes in the system.

Probabilities: Manufacturing is coming back in the US, manufacturing jobs aren’t

Datapoint: Less than 4% of the very rich are entrepreneurs. The rest passively collect their income from bonds, stocks, and real estate rather than from starting companies and creating jobs.

Step Right Up: Just when you thought the GOP might be willing to join the real world, Marco Rubio is running around pretending to believe the world was actually created in seven days, under the impression that makes him attractive as a presidential contender four years from now. One hopes the Republicans can do better.

Enough, Already: In some stores, when you walk past a mannequin, you're the dummy.

Just So Story: Which is sadder, that the US wants immunity for its troops for crimes they commit in Afghanistan after 2014, or that the US plans to have troops in Afghanistan after 2014?

Quoted: “There are, let’s face it, some people in our political life who pine for the days when minorities and women knew their place, gays stayed firmly in the closet and congressmen asked, “Are you now or have you ever been?” The rest of us, however, are very glad those days are gone.”

Recipe Exchange: Step by step, how private equity cooked Hostess' goose. Hint, it's not what you put in, but what you take out that makes Twinkies so rich.

Porn O'Graph: Rear window.

The Parting Shot:


Curtain call.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

SAR #12324

Yes, the US will become energy independent, but you're not going to like it.

Strategy and Tactics: At least 100 Palestinians, over half civilians and many children, have now been killed, and 840 injured as Israel undertakes to “flatten entire neighborhoods in Gaza. Flatten all of Gaza.” A majority of the city's 1.7 million residents are under 18, and all the Palestinians are guilty of is wanting to be treated as equals in their own land.

Slogan: “To reduce inequality, tax wealth, not income.”

Echo: Nearly 11% of Spanish banks' loans are in arrears, which amounts to about €182.2 billion, while bank deposits have declined 7.3% from a year ago. For scale, the bailout discussed for Spanish banks only comes to €100 billion, which is not going to save the bacon. The Spanish government continues to pretend that they need only €40 billion to cover the banks' capital shortfalls. Don't worry, be happy.

Only The Shadow Knows: The shadow – for which read unregulated - banking industry amounts to some $67 trillion. Is that enough to tip over the wagon? You betcha. Should it be regulated and supervised? You betcha. Are the politicians about to do so? Nah.

Escalation: If 2ºC didn't scare you, why does the World Bank think that describing a 4ºC world will have any effect? It's way past the day after next week, which is so yesterday, right? So what's next? More denial, of course.

Tribalism: The consensus, except for Mitt's view, is that 'identity politics' carried the day for Obama. It wasn't the economy. It wasn't the big-PAC money. Those who identify with Obama and the “we're in this together” Democratic tradition outnumbered the insecure and frightened white males. Case closed.

Your Defense Dollars At Work: Honeywell, a major defense contractor, is circulating a Do It Yourself kit telling others how to cozy up to the Obama administration in order to “break up union cohesion across the country.”

That Old Time Religion: Remember when the Heritage Foundation assured us that the Bush tax cuts would completely pay off the nation's debt by 2010.

Another Damned Thing: The private equity people are maneuvering to profit from privatizing the nation's water supplies. While there is a strongly negative public opinion about it, the vultures think that the increased need for revenues by municipalities and the cost of modernizing our decaying water infrastructure means that “the time is ripe” to pluck the low-hanging fruit.

I'll Gladly Pay You... Fannie and Freddie have borrowed $140 billion from the US taxpayer, and have no plan to explain how they might ever repay the money. Wasn't that generous of you?

Cautionary Tale: Teaching point: Petroleum producing companies only export the oil they don't use themselves. With that in mind, it is... interesting? .. that Saudi Arabia, having said it would rely on natural gas for power generation, now admits that last summer it burned more oil than ever before to produce the electricity to make life in the country tolerable. With Saudi population growth, this does not bode well for those on the far end of the supply chain. Like us.

Porn O'Graph: Homes, for the holidays.

The Parting Shot:



Monday, November 19, 2012

SAR #12323

Do you have the right to have a secret?

Winning Is Not The Point: Israel has four choices in the current 'crisis', but is considering only three, all of which they've tried before and all of which have eventually failed. The fourth – workable – option would be to honestly negotiate a two-state solution, but that interferes with Israel's view of its manifest destiny: a final solution to the Palestinian question. Too bad a few million Palestinians are standing in the way. Why now? Because the US election is over, Israel's leaders face re-election in January, it will serve as a warm-up for the war with Iran (or insure that there is one) and makes the question of UN recognition for Palestine moot for now.

Shelf Life: The buyers lining up to buy Twinkies shouldn't panic. The name will be sold off, they'll be made in Mexico and you can go on getting fat without buying them on E-Bay. The whole thing was a way for the investors to gut the company and blame the unions.

Tomorrow, If There Is One: Obama says he is “a firm believer that climate change is real... And as a consequence, I think we’ve got an obligation to future generations to do something about it.” But not now, Martha, I've got a headache fiscal cliff tonight. Instead, he wants to dither a bit longer listen to experts over the next several months and then conduct an “education process” about long-term steps to address the warming planet, without actually doing anything.

Walk, Don't Run: The US Embassy in Athens is telling US citizens of the non-white, non-Aryan variety to get out of Dodge before Golden Dawn beats them to death.

Politics As Usual: Democratic Senator Sam Levin says that UN Ambassador Susan Rice is suffering “one of the most unfair attacks I’ve ever seen.” While Senator McCain demands she go on TV and apologize for telling the truth as she knew it (and doing the job the Administration and Intelligence Community wanted done).

Heads/Tails? If someone flipped a coin and had it come up heads 300 times in a row, would you begin to think there was something wrong. If you are under 27 years old, you have never experienced a month that was colder-than-average. Not a single one.

How the Cow ate the Cabbage: When it came to the business of running a campaign, it was the former community organizer and not the business tycoon who had the more technologically savvy organization and made more effective use of its resources, including geek power, and who won. Which was the point of the exercise.

Words, Words: Newt Gingrich says Israel should keep “methodically killing people and taking out assets” without considering a negotiated settlement or the children. He wants to “end all this talk about the peace process.” It's worked so well for the US, you know.

More, Not Less: Social Security is not in danger of becoming insolvent any time soon; it will be able to pay full benefits until at least 2033. Then lifting the current payroll tax cap and applying it to all income would make it solvent indefinitely. End of story. So let's see what we can do to improve the benefits for everyone, now.

Inertia: Even if global warming were to stop tomorrow, many glaciers in the Himalayas would continue to melt and shrink for many years. But not to worry, global warming is not going to stop any time soon. No any time in the foreseeable future, either.

For Whom The Bell Tolls:The new National Defense Authorization Act – expected to pass Congress soon – bans the military from expanding its use of biofuels. Without this largely unheralded support, many biofuel projects are doomed. DoD had been trying to cut its dependence on petroleum in half by 2020.

If You Can't Beat 'em:About 5,000 police officers marched through Madird over the weekend, protesting cuts in pay and layoffs and apologizing to the citizens for not being able to arrest the bankers and politicians.

Porn O'Graph: Austerity works workers.

The Parting Shot:


A  golden dawn.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

SAR #12321

If it's not on the shelf, it's not a solution.

Thought Experiment: In all the goofiness about how great it is that mortgage rates are so damned low – now down to 3.34% for a 30-year mortgage - no one seems to wonder why? If the banks have so much money that they are nearly giving it away, are we sure this is a good thing? Where did the money come from? Aren't there better things to do with it? So grab a piece of paper and make notes as you figure out for yourself what this says about the economy, profits, debt slavery and our future.

Whether Forecast: So, what's really going to happen to the January 'fiscal cliff'? Nothing. Letting everything fall off the cliff would cause a GDP drop of about 5%. So it's going to be put off. Again. And Again. These are politicians we're talking about, whose specialty is doing nothing while bragging about their prowess.

Datapoint: The average life expectancy of poorly educated whites is actually falling.

Take a Deep Breath: The era of cheap oil is over. The 'shale revolution' is a con, a commercial failure camouflaged by frantic drilling of rapidly depleting, money-losing wells. The energy world where coal is “clean” and oil and gas companies will lead the US to a new era of energy abundance is an illusion. The real world is headed quickly into an energy/environmental/economic crisis we will not be ready for.

Golly Gee: New studies show that German-backed EU/IMF/ECB austerity measures are crushing, not saving, economies. But then, they were never intended to do so; the whole effort has been to, first,  save private investors bacon by transferring the debts to government bodies and then to make sure the peons in the PIIGS pay back every penny now owed to the governments of the Northern Tier. Nowhere was there much, if any, concern for the actual countries being "saved".

Runs With Scissors: JPMorgan Chase's energy trading division has been banned from participating in California's wholesale electricity market for six months (beginning in April 2013) for lying “submitting false information: to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Making Sausage: The USPS budget crisis, like the Social Security financial crisis, isn't real – both were invented to hide other problems. In 1970 Congress created the USPS, a quasi-public agency that was supposed to reap the benefits of the free market or some such nonsense. The only taxpayer funding involved is a piddling $100 million a year to cover mail for the blind and some limited official overseas mail. Nonetheless, Congress continues to consider the USPS as part of the 'unified budget' they are so fond of messing with. In 2002 it was determined that the USPS had been significantly overpaying into its retirement fund. But because the Congress uses those overpayments to help hide the deficit, they wouldn't let the USPS stop making these unnecessary set-asides. The USPS is now required to make annual payments of over $5 billion a year into a Postal Service Retiree Health Benefits Fund that they cannot use to actually pay retiree health benefits – because Congress needs the fig leaf. If this sounds like a con game, that's because it is. And they are going to con you out of having decent postal service.

Working For A Living: When adjusted for inflation, US wages have remained stagnat for over a decade, and have been on a "downward slope" for over 40 years. In purchasing power, the median wage is less now than it was in 1970.

How Big? There is no doubt that a social explosion is building in Europe. Over 300,000 Italians took to the streets in 100 cities yesterday, while protesters were in the streets in 100 French cities and 30 Portuguese cities. There were hundreds of thousands in the streets in Spain, while Golden Dawn continued to terrorize immigrants in Greece. Take notes, there will be a test.

The Parting Shot:


Dacryopinax elegans

Friday, November 16, 2012

SAR #12320

Are we creating a society we want to live in?

Echo: EU budget talks have collapsed, mostly because France was determined to protect its farmers from large cuts in subsidies. The 'final offer' budget for 2014 called for an €80bn cut (to €1,091bn) while Germany, the UK, Sweden and the other 'net-contributors' wanted cuts closer to €200bn. Absent an agreement, the budget will automatically revert to a 2% across-the-board increase – the European version of a fiscal cliff.

Oil Bidness: BP has entered into a plea-bargain deal with the Justice Department and will pay a record criminal penalty - $4.5 billion – and offer up two of its employees as sacrificial victims. A third employee, an actual senior manager – David Rainey, VP for exploration in the gulf – might go to jail for lying to investigators, Congress, and everyone else.

Re-Thinking: We all thought the Supremes had delivered the elections to the highest bidder. Instead, billions were spent annoying potential voters in six or seven states, to no avail. And if saturation bombing didn't do much good for candidates, isn't it time someone asked if spending 22 minutes of every TV hour spending advertisers' money might be a tad wasteful, too?

Datapoint: 14 million American homeowers are still in negative territory.

Too Little, Too Late: The Republicans have named – cue trumpets – Cathy McMoris Rodgers (R-WA) the conference chair for House Republicans. It is, they assure women everywhere, the number four top dog in the House. In the Senate, the Dems have 16 ladies while the GOP has but 4; in the House it's 58 to 20.

Damned Evidence: The IMF is slowly beginning to realize that ‘squeeze and hope’ is not working out, and that the main result of relentless austerity has been the transfer of Greek debt from the private sector to European governments (for which read 'taxpayers'). While calling this 'bailing out' the Greeks implies some sort of largess, no European institution has given away a drachma – they expect to be repaid. Ah, expectations.

Austerity Works! The euro-area has - surprise, surprise – fallen into recession again. Just like all those Keynesians predicted when the IMF/EU/ECB was running around preaching austerity. And enforcing it, Spain being the latest victim. Poor Spain, it really doesn't need things to get any tougher.

Score One for Morality: Pat Robertson points out that it wasn't Petraeus' fault. After all “hes a man” and even in Generals a penis overrules common sense.

All Together Now: Bernanke says he and the Feds have done all they can to get the economy moving again, but it's not his fault that American households are not doing their part and bankers are being too responsible. Uncle Sam wants you to get out there and pay more for a house than you can afford. Go on, what're you waiting for?

In A Country FHA FHA Away: The Federal Housing Authority is running out of money because it has been lending too much money to folks who can't pay it back. Right now it's looking at loses amounting to about $100 billion. With Fannie and Freddie essentially zombies, the FHA's demise will leave the field empty of any agency able to backstop mortgages. What happens to the housing recoveryTM then?

Comes the Dawn: There seems to be an elaborate experiment underway to see exactly how much austerity, how much unemployment, how much degradation a country can endure before a significant portion of the population turns to fascism.

65 Years of Wrong Don't Make A Right: The US says that despite wrongs on both sides, “Israelis have the right of self-defense” and Palestinians do not. Maybe it'll take their mind off bombing Iran.

Going to the John: Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) says a “scheduling error” explains why he skipped a Senate hearing on the Benghazi attack to hold a press conference demanding a Senate hearing on the Benghazi attack.

Porn O'Graph: Tell me about the rabbits improvement, George.

The Parting Shot:


Slow motion struggle for survival.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

SAR 12319

Cycles cycle.

Sand In the Wheels? Initial unemployment claims jumped to 439k, a 23% jump from last week's initial 355k figure. It will be blamed on Sandy's impact. Or Obama's, whichever.

Protesting, Protesting, Protesting: Anti-austerity protests by students, workers, unions and the fed up all over Europe poured into the streets today. In Milan things were violent, while trains stopped or ran slowly throughout Italy. There were no commuter trains in Lisbon. Madrid, Athens, Naples, Bologna, Barcelona and others saw 10,000's to 100,000's in the streets. Workers in France took part in demonstrations to show solidarity with workers elsewhere. International rail service was hit by strikes in Belgium. Austerity is not accomplishing anything but to tear at the fabric of society. Even the Jordanians are in the streets, protesting an increase in the price of fuel, demanding the PM's resignation.

One Good Turn: Pakistan has announced that it now has its own armed drone program. Let's hope they keep theirs closer to home than we do.

Almost Over: The US Conference Board says the miracle of the BRICs has begun to fade and will be followed by a dramatic slowdown in the next decade, but that's a happier picture than they painted for Europe. Germany was the designated winner, as France and Britain flounder and the PIGS sink slowly into the Mediterranean.

If, Then: If the US fiscal problem is that revenues are too low, and it is, then President Obama's $1.6 trillion increase on taxes for the rich and (tax dodging) corporations over the next decade is a fine place to start. That it's twice what Boehner offered in private in 2011 doesn't matter – that was then, this is now. Or right soon, anyway. Spending cuts and increases in middle-class taxes should wait until unemployment drops to 6% and the country's GDP is regularly hitting 3% - and no matter what the corporate CEO's hiding behind “Fix the Debt” say, Social Security must remain untouchable.

Nice Guys: After John McCain promised to “do everything in my power” to block any attempt by Obama to appoint UN Ambassador Susan Rice to replace Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, President Obama said, “Go ahead, punk. Make my day.”

Get That Education: Government financed student loans now exceed $500 billion, and now the kids can pay 10% of their discretionary income for 20 years and then let the taxpayers cover the rest. And then there's the hundreds of billions in government-guaranteed student loans that are going bad at rates above the typical graduation rate, so we'll be paying for education that they didn't even get.

Power To The People: Demonstrating one of the primary flaws of popular democracy, nine of Wisconsin's Tea Party legislators want to arrest federal officials if they enter the state intent on freeing the slaves implementing Obamacare.

Datapoint: A new Census Bureau report credits Social Security for keeping 27 million Americans out of poverty. Not SNAP (food stamps) or the TANF (needy family program that replaced AFDC when that program was gutted in the 1990's)– but Social Security. Now, it seems, is not the ideal time to start whacking away at this essential program.

and I'm here to Help: Rick Perry (you might remember him as one of the herd of wannabees) said that making the poor and unemployed pee in a a bottle was a “core mission that has been entrusted to us by the people...” Nice to know was the Governor of Texas' priorities are.

How Are EU Doing? Not well, the EUs combined industrial output fell 2.&% m/m in September

Porn O'Graph: The view from here.

The Parting Shot:


Red ink.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

SAR #12138

Making love, not war, will get you fired.

Status Report: House Speaker John Boehner insists that tax rises for the wealthy can't be allowed to happen. Obama insists that it must. “As long as Republicans persist in claiming to believe that lower tax rates will reduce deficits, nothing in Washington will change. Given their ability to deny both climate change and evolution, denying simple budgetary arithmetic is trivially easy.”

Proportion: Killing innocent people in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia and so on will get you promoted, but making love to a good looking woman is a violation of ethics? Let's all watch! Will the R's excuse King David for the 'crimes' they pinned on Bill?

Good Intentions: In a country that has no oil, no natural gas, and no coal, 100,000 well intentioned Japanese gathered to protest nuclear power.

Lets Make a Deal: If we raise taxes on the rich back to the marginal rate under Bill Clinton (remember those boom times?), add a measly 2% surcharge on the richest one-half of one percent of the richest, put a 0.5% fee on financial transactions, tax capital gains as income, stop invading countries at random, eliminate special tax preferences for oil and gas, price supports for big agriculture, tax breaks and research subsidies for Big Pharma, unnecessary weapons systems for military contractors, and indirect subsidies to the biggest banks on Wall Street, and end the Bush tax cuts on incomes between $250,000 and $1 million, we'd solve the “fiscal crisis”. And we would not have to raise taxes on the middle class, haven't cut Social Security, haven't cut Medicare, haven't cut Medicaid, haven't cut spending on education or infrastructure, and haven't had to throw the poor under the train.

Codetalker: Paul Ryan says he and Mitt lost because too many “urban voters” were allowed to vote voted. In 25 words or less, define 'urban' as used by Mr. Ryan.

Aide Mémorie: “The Democratic Party has received the support of the electorate only when the party, with absolute clarity, has been the champion of progressive and liberal policies and principles of government. The party has failed consistently when through political trading and chicanery it has fallen into the control of those interests, personal and financial, which think in terms of dollars instead of in terms of human values.” Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Pot/Kettle: Booby Jindal, the Republican governor promoting charter schools and the teaching of intelligent design in Louisiana, says the Republicans should “stop being the stupid party.” I agree.

Clarification: Official EU/ECB pronouncements about the fate of the euro, Greece, Spain, Portugal and so on are, by and large, simply not true. Their magic bag is officially empty, leaving only “debt forgiveness” or “more money” or “brute force” as possible next steps. Each carries serious consequences for many nations and many governments besides Greece. All lead to extensive pain and probable contagion. The Greeks will be forced out of the EU. Then comes Spain. And Italy. And..

Slow Learneres: Knowing it will kill us in the end, we managed to dump more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere last year than ever before. Go team.

Meanwhile: Seems there was, and is, a flood in Nigeria, too.

Trojans: A group of CEO's from America's biggest corporations are campaigning to "Fix the Debt." The intend to fix it on the backs of the poor and elderly, to the benefit of their boardrooms. "I'm from Wall Street, and I'm here to help..."

Twins: Like oil, coal is getting more expensive to produce. Like oil, the easiest to get coal went first. Now, like oil, we're well into the much harder to get, and, again like oil, it costs more to retrieve, more to process, more to transport. And just like oil, coal prices are rising and will rise more in the future. But price will be no object; we'll pay whatever it takes to burn the last scuttle of coal, while the global temperature soars.

Porn O'Graph: Net, net. Or, them that gets, keeps.

The Parting Shot:


Now leaving…

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

SAR #12317

Facts are for little people. - Nick Hanauer

Attention: You are going to hear a lot of talk about compromise as the 'fiscal cliff' approaches. Don't believe any of it. In Washington, 'compromise' has come to mean 'giving in to the other side' and they're not going to do that. Passively letting things happen, now that's another story. The CBO says that that's not a bad idea, either.

Shills Is Shills: The International Energy Agency, in a bid to become totally irrelevant, predicts that the US will overtake Saudi Arabia in oil production by 2017 and would "soon achieve self-sufficiency in oil and gas." Really, the US can double its oil output from 5 to 10 mbd in 5 years? It also sees OPEC production increasing by more than 10 million barrels a day by 2035, which presumes (a) a lot of happy Kurds and (b) that the US and Israel do not completely destroy Iran's oilfields in the next week or two.

Observation: Doctors Without Borders opened its first American clinic, in post-Sandy Queens. Any questions?

Carrot On A Stick: Every time the Greek parliament passes “the final austerity program” as dictated by Merkel and the three Stooges, something else comes along. This time, after cutting another 9.4bn euros in spending, they learn that the 31.5bn euros they need (and were promised) isn't on the way. Without that, they won't have the cash to meet Friday's bond payout date. Greek GDP, which fell 7% this year, is expected to fall another 5% net year, assuming there is a Greece next year. Now the

It's All My Fault: The president of the NY Fed says that “Spending decisions of the older age cohorts are less likely to be easily stimulated by monetary policy." by which he means that us old folks have been so impoverished by Wall Street's looting that we don't want to go into debt nearly as fast as the Fed wants us to.

Another Damned Ambush: You might have guessed that little good could come from a Senate committee dedicated to Homeland Security, but would you have expected them to be the entity Wall Street has chosen to strip regulatory independence from the SEC, CFTC, OSHA, FCC and, of course, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau? Homeland Security? Or just Joe Lieberman's parting gift?

Asked & Answered: Is the Bakken oil shale rival Saudi Arabia's Ghawar oil field in production? No, not until Ghawar runs out.

Self-Imposed Stupidity: The 'fiscal cliff' isn’t a crisis and it isn't about The Deficit. It is a political crisis brought on by the GOP's hissy fit when they didn't get their way on the budget last year and decided to take the economy hostage. The danger we face next year and perhaps the next few years is not that the deficit will be too large but that it will be too small - plunging America back into recession. That deficits are a good thing when the economy is deeply depressed has been repeatedly demonstrated to work, and austerity has been repeatedly shown to make things worse during economic downturns. It's not Greek. But we've had this discussion before and they – Boehner, Ryan, the GOP and the Tea Partiers – weren't listening then and they're not listening now.

Suspension of Disbelief:The American Petroleum Institute, which has spent millions fighting the Obama administration on regulations and given millions to Republicans in hopes of getting a better deal from Washington, has surveyed the election's results and declared themselves the winners. Works for me.

Porn O'Graph: Impactfulness.

The Parting Shot:


Last Hurrah.

Monday, November 12, 2012

SAR #12316

While money talks, it apparently doesn't vote.

Candide II: Wall Street has died and gone to heaven; Obama says he will betray the American people, gut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and deliver the money stream to Wall Street and the health insurance industry. And then take a bow for wining The Washington Post's Good Boy award. Remember, Nixon went to China.

Going Walkabout: Eight hours of talks over future funding for the EU ended in a deadlock, raising doubts about whether the summit on EU spending scheduled for the end of the month will go on as planned. Just as well, for Britain intends to veto any attempt to increase EU funding. Tough finding out what the austerity you've imposed on others feels like when it comes home to roost.

Definitely: Peter King (R-NY) has been the first to use 'mandate' in it's new meaning 'chutzpah', claiming that the thumping they took on November 6 constitutes a mandate for them to prevent expiration of the Bush tax cuts for the rich.

Sound Bites: Two things to remember about the 'fiscal cliff'. One, it is not a cliff, it's a slope with various bumps built in over a few months. Two, it is a self-inflicted creation of Congress, created by vote that can be postponed or dissolved by vote. We're not all going to start going barefoot come January 1st, but we are going to get very tired of the political histrionics, which will in the end signify nothing.

Spite: Murray Energy (and by 'energy' they mean coal), the folks who forced their employees to attend a Romney rally, has now laid off more than 160 of them because they did not vote for Romney Obama won. Is this legal? Probably not, but Papa John's, Applebee's, Olive Garden and Red Lobster are joining the parade . Will they get away with it? Ha, where you been, bubba?

A Great Disturbance in the Force: Unmentioned in the campaign, climate change has elbowed its way into the conversation. The National Center for Atmospheric research says that global temperature rises will be more severe than earlier thought and that the resulting floods, droughts, sea level rise and extreme weather will be more severe and would come sooner than expected. The IEA says our current emissions trend guarantees a 6ºC rise this century, and 6ºC is a guarantee of disaster after disaster, as we burn every last barrel of oil, ton of coal and flicker of gas we can wrest from the earth. Superstorm Sandy won't seem so super in a few years, so enjoy it while you can. Along the way, as species after species of animals and plants becomes extinct, even coffee is threatened, that's how bad it will be. Those who say we will now do something about global warming have forgotten what we did after Columbine, Virginia Tech, Tucson, Aurora....

When Wishes Come True: The Republicans wanted the deficit cut. Obama says he's going to raise taxes on the rich to cut the deficit. Now the Republicans are trying to explain (despite all evidence to the contrary) that this would slow economic growth, increase the deficit, drive 10-year Treasuries to 7%, and increase Global Warming. Oh, wait, they still don't believe in global warming.

Imagine... OPEC now pretends to know that a barrel of oil will cost $155 in 2035. Really? And and how much will bread cost in twenty years and who will win the Derby?

Unclear on the Concept: Florida's Republican Secretary of State said that the fact that people had to wait in line up to seven hours to vote early – after he cut the voting period from 14 to 8 days – showed what a good job he was doing, claiming the long lines show ‘people liked the voting hours’. Former governor Charlie Christ, a fellow Republican, said “the only thing that makes any sense as to why this is happening and being done is voter suppression.”

Points On Arrows: Apple, having patented the idea of “a rectangle with rounded corners,” is working on something called a 'triangle'. You've been warned.

The Parting Shot:


Saturday, November 10, 2012

SAR #12314

“This is not the country I thought it was.”  Ta-Nehisi Coates

Wages Of Sin: David Petraeus, the Hero of Something or Other, resigned as Director of the CIA either because he had an affair, or because he failed to keep his affair secret. Lockheed Martin fired its incoming CEO for “a close personal relationship with a subordinate”. Keep it zipped, partner.

Nice Guy, Finished At Last: As soon as Romney conceded defeat, his campaign canceled the credit cards issued to staffers – who had to come up with the money to pay for their hotel rooms, cabs, planes home, etc. There's a difference between being financially conservative and being a bastard.

Love & Marriage: The CBO notes that reducing the federal budget deficit will cause a decline in GDP and an increase in unemployment. This evil gossip will not pass muster and the Republican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith will consign it to the Index Librorum Prohibitorum.

Postmortem: There were not enough bigots and fools in rural America to push the “far too white” Republican party across the finish line. The small town America they pretend to cherish has vanished. Women, blacks, Hispanics, Asians, those of most and least education, and union workers overwhelmingly voted Democrat, and there were more of them than there were insecure white male southerners who were willing to vote against their best interests.

Jingoism: Sales of Japanese cars in China fell 59% in October, m/m.

Jobs Is Jobs: Foxconn – the beloved employer whose happy workers assemble Apple products in China – is rumored to be planning to open factories in the US, to get away from rising wages in China. Go ahead, make a joke.

No Easy Button: It is embarrassing that a nation that has been voting for over 200 years can't figure out how to do it. Florida's reprise of fumblism is a national embarrassment and Obama should live up to his off-hand “we'll fix that” comment. At least this time the various idiots and incompetents attempts to limit the vote and change the results after the fact can't make the rest of the country accept Justice Scalia's choice.

Ooo La La: French industrial output fell 2.7% in September, the central bank expects the GDP to fall another 0.1% this quarter and a “mild” recession (your neighbor loses his job) to close out the year. French industrialists are cutting back on their investments, as the government cuts back on its spending. Another poster child for austerity.

Say Goodnight, Gracie: ECB President Draghi, after saving Greece at least thee times in the last six months, now says the ECB is “done with Greece.” Greece, meanwhile, is self-destructing, with a 58% youth unemployment rate and an increasing fascist movement and no one sees any way out. Certainly the salary and pension cuts forced through the Greek parliament (at Angela's behest) are only going to exacerbate the problem. And it's not just Greece, Italian loan demand has fallen by half and Spain's unemployment is climbing towards 30%. But the leaders keep insisting on austerity. These are not rational people, they are true believers, willing to let the sinners die, and along with them, democracy in Europe.

Spoiled of War: About 10,000 Syrians a day are fleeing into Turkey, which is not really happy to be hosting over 100,000 refugees in overtaxed camps. The Red Cross says it can no longer cope with the crisis.

Laundromat: HSBC is shocked to find out that the subsidiary it set up on Jersey in order to avoid playing by the rules has customers who don't play by the rules – like drug dealers. And “prominent Texas attorney” Marco Delgado has been charged with laundering about $600 million in Mexican drug money. All alone, apparently.

Porn O'Graph: Focus.

The Parting Shot:


Friday, November 9, 2012

SAR #12313

It seems that sluts vote.

Voting: I escaped the frenzy and hid out in Europe, where acquaintances didn't understand why we let partisans run elections. I said the wine was quite nice and US elections are simply pro-forma. They asked why everyone wasn't required to vote. I asked for another glass. Athens? No, I didn't go there - I wanted to get away from austerity and its friends. Spain? Yes, but only to change plans planes.

Bigger Deal: Yes, the US had a storm, an election and another storm, but the real news is that worldwide Samsung smart phones are outselling those other ones.

Wiggle Room: John Boenher, describing himself as "the most reasonable, responsible person" in Washington, began the GOP obstructionism to any progress on the "fiscal cliff" by insisting that raising tax rates is "unacceptable" while Obama says he will veto any deal that does not raise taxes on the rich. Boenher claims the Republicans "will put new revenue on the table", by which he means they will propose new goodies ofor the rich on the (disproven) assumption that letting the dodge even more taxes will help the poor and "secure our entitlements." Secure in the GOP useage means cut, reduce, dwindle, diminish, and possibly privatize. But all is not lost; Boehner admitted the voters had finally gotten it through his head that Obamacare was "the law of the land" so instead of trying to repeal the act once a week, they will now try to 'improve' or 'extend' or - heaven help us - even 'secure' it.

Dream On: Now that we have Ms. Warren, what are we going to do with her? Pile on unrealistic hopes and then be disappointed - a familiar theme.

Once More, With Feeling: Senate Increased Majority Leader Harry Reid says it is time to reign in at least the most egregious mis-use of filibusters to paralyze the legislative process. Either this is the first thing the new Senate does in January, or it's gonna be minority rude rule for another four years. Reid also promised not to “mess with Social Security". Sure.

Tautology: When you buy a car on credit, that's deficit spending. You now have debt. But you created a job for the guy who makes the car. Same deal when your Uncle buys a whole bunch of whatever it is that Sam keeps going into debt for – it creates jobs. Anything that cuts spending cuts jobs. Would the lower taxes stir the 1% to create enough jobs to offset those lost by reducing the deficit? Nope. What we do know is that raising taxes on the rich (to lower the deficit) results in less jobs lost than any other measure. So if we must give the Republicans what they want, a lower deficit, let's do it by raising taxes on the rich.

Foreshadowing? Same-store sales at McDonalds fell 1.1% in October, after a 1.9% gain in September. This is the first monthly drop since 2003 and was spread across the US, Europe and beyond.

Reflections: The Justice Department has not put a single Wall Street mandarin in jail for ruining out economy and millions of lives, but 750,000 people were arrested for marijuana possession last year.

Which Way Out? The S&P 500 has fallen beneath it's 200-day moving average which is supposed to mean something bad is going to happen. Or has.

A Profit In His Own Country: Republican mail order guru Karl Rove claims that Obama got re-elected because he convinced voters not to cast their ballots for Romney. Duh? Rove, ever on the cutting edge of political insight, said this constituted vote suppression. “Fifty-three percent in the exit polls said on Election Day that Mitt Romney’s policies would only help the rich,” Rove said. “And they voted for Obama by a 9 to 1 margin.” Talk about dirty politics...

Daily Special: All of the drama and disappointment and demagoguery of previous year's budget histrionics will be revised and repeated in 2013, when once again nothing much will be done until Obama gives in. Again.

The Bigger Tent: “We need to welcome people who believe in different things than we do, like math and science. Just because we don’t believe in those things doesn’t mean we can’t get along with people who do. We want to send this message: math and science Americans are Americans, too.” What? Yes, yes, it's a spoof. A good one.

The Parting Shot:


A trail's a trail.