Thursday, February 28, 2013

SAR #13059

What if bigger isn't better?

Dieting: Bernanke has assured Senator Warren that we will not have the too big to fail banks forever, because they “will voluntarily reduce their size.” He was unable to say exactly when this might occur because it was difficult to know when the banks will have gotten every last penny from every last one of us.

Knowing vs. Doing: There is, generally, more money in not solving a problem, as drug makers with their palliatives understand, than in solving it.

It's All Your Fault: The question isn't 'Is austerity necessary?' it's 'Who should bear the burden of the austerity?' Governments didn't get over their heads in debt without the eager cooperation of the bankers/investors/gamblers. They are as culpable here as they were in the mortgage market, and they eagerly ignored the obvious dangers in pursuit of profits. Why are the taxpayers the first in line to be shorn? The bankers/investors/gamblers who gave the loans were quite aware the government couldn't pay, but they were also really sure that the sheep were there to be shorn. Maybe, just maybe, the sheep should shear the bankers. After all, the money the bankers/investors/crooks have came from profits made off the taxpayers' labor in the first place. Maybe the austerity should start with the few, the rich, those yearning to grind us into the dirt. Why not start by cutting government debts by selectively lopping a few trillion off what “we” owe to them, the bankers, etc. Across the board, then make whole those who had no choice (pension funds etc.) and let the rich become less rich. Let those who want austerity have memories of having got what they so richly deserve.

None Of The Above: Italy's voters did what we all would like to do – they told the professional politicians to go away. The final result of the Italian elections won't be known for a while, it takes a lot of back-stage wheeling and dealing and Beppe's reluctance to play well with the big boys is going to make things difficult. Certainly the Germans are upset, so that's all to the good.

On Economic Justice: Who should get how much? Who deserves how much, how much money, how much hunger, how much health and how much pain? How do we decide?

Pull Up A Chair: Big Brother Ben Bernanke says we shouldn't pay attention to the polite ruckus going on behind the curtain, everything is under control, the economy is on track, and unemployment will fall to about 6% in only three or four more years. That's “a reasonable guess” he said, although exactly what's reasonable about three more years of high unemployment wasn't immediately clear.

The Future's Not What It Used To Be: There isn't going to be enough net energy for the economic growth we want; the future will be shaped by scarcity – not abundance.

Fleecing the Sheep: The insurance industry has just been given another handful of taxpayer dollars - Obamacare is the grift that keeps on grifting. Arkansas has been given the federal okay to provide health care coverage for more than 200,000 of the currently uninsured. Yeah. But not through Medicaid. Nope, through publicly paid private insurance. Boo. Will this be good for Arkansans? Yes. But it will be far, far better for the health insurance industry, hospitals and the medical industry. It will cost the taxpayers far more than Medicaid, which in itself costs more than a true single-payer national health system would.

Sin-Be-Gone: Pat Robinson says that you should pray over any second-hand clothing you get – like from a thrift store or your big sister – to drive out the demons that hide out in them. And mom worried about grass stains.

Upstairs/Downstairs: In the last 25 years, while the average worker's inflation-adjusted pay has dropped, the wealth(sic) of African-American households has plummeted. Never something to talk about in polite society, the gap between the wealth of whites and what passes for the wealth of blacks has tripled. And despite all the Republican rhetoric about hard work and all that jazz, the big determining factor in wealth in America is skin color. Charter schools ain't gonna change that.

The Parting Shot:


Wednesday, February 27, 2013

SAR #13058

Corruption has now become so routine in Washington... "

Buzzards, Circling: Make no mistake, the sequester is not about spending cuts. At $85 billion, the amount involved is less than 3% of a $4 trillion federal budget. The President has already proposed more spending cuts than the sequester would guarantee. And both sides of the aisle in Congress are eager to gut Social Security, Medicare and rest of the social safety net - as long as they get 'cover' - which the sequestration is supposed to deliver. All so they - our politicians - can deliver Social Security to the loving care of Wall Street.

Asked and Answered: Who lies the most, the Right or the Left? Yes.

Vintage Acts: The US Housing Market is in recovery. They say. But the 90+ day delinquency rate is stuck at three times 'normal' and homes in foreclosure are stuck in the 3.75% range ('normal' would be closer to 1.25%). And these grand results stem from $46 billion in stimulus poured into housing banks. And by investors looking for quick gains. Yes, " House prices haven’t risen this fast since the housing bubble." but that's not necessarily a Good Thing. Meanwhile, loans taken out after 2008 are all accelerating into delinquency - and they were the initial steps of The Recovery. And the later vintages are following 2008 (which has a 24% delinquency rate and climbing); 2009 at 10% and climbing, 2010 at 5% and climbing.

Footnote: The US/NATO command in Afghanistan has discovered that last year's victories over the Taliban were a tad overstated and that instead of the previously reported decrease in Taliban attacks, such incidents increased. Victory, however, remains certain.

Independence/Interdependence: US demand for oil in January fell 1.7% y/y to the lowest level in 18 years and 2% for all of 2012. Unemployment remains at 7.9%. Just as well, if China (up 3.9% last year) and India keep sucking up petroleum for a few more years there won't be any left for us anyway.

Reflections: Banks, which took nearly $450 billion in bailouts from taxpayers and still take $83 billion a year from us, reported $48.2 billion in profits in 2012, up 37%. More than 18 million homeowners have suffered through foreclosure, losing their homes and their futures. Mischief, thou art afoot, take thou what course thou wilt!

Silly Question: "Why is the luxury housing market recovering so well?" Well, it ain't the unemployed folks on food stamps, bucko.

Speak No Evil:A coed at the University of North Carolina faces expulsion for being “disruptive” and “intimidating” the individual who raped her – even though she has not named him. That she was part of a group of victims of sexual assault who alleged the school under-reported such incidents was incidental.

As Advertised: A study showing that climate change deniers tend to be conspiracy nuts is viewed as another conspiracy by climate deniers.

Noted: That cold draft whispering through the cracks in the US drive for energy independence is the increase in Middle Eastern oil imports last year. Despite an astounding 35% increase in US domestic production, the US imported more than 450 million barrels of crude from Saudi Arabia - more than in the previous three years combined - while Kuwait had shipped more oil to the US than in any year since 1998.

Porn O'Graph: Climbing to the top.

The Parting Shot:


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

SAR #13057

Our greed and our willing stupidity define our future.

Mirror Image: It appears that the center-left has won the lower house in the Italian election, while the center-right will control the Senate. Sound familiar? Certainly the Italian electorate has rejected the German appointed proconsul and the entire European austerity program. Is this the straw that will topple the euro? No, but it will not be seen as a step in the right direction, although it probably is.

Quotes: “President Obama has revealed his real preferences in the current blame game by not calling for a clean bill eliminating the Sequester. . ..  The only logical inference . . . is that Obama remains committed to inflicting the ‘Grand Bargain’ . . . on the nation.” Republicans, on the other hand, “don’t care about the deficit.  They care about exploiting the deficit to pursue their goal of dismantling the social insurance system. They want a fiscal crisis; they need it; they’re enjoying it.” The two have the same goals – dismantling Social Security and Medicare - why can't they get along?

Chapter 47: The Mukhtar Army – a Shiite group with support from Iran – is leaving leaflets on Sunni households in Baghdad's Jihad neighborhood that tell the Sunni's to get out or “face great agony”. A democracy, blooming in the desert. Just as George, Dick and Donnie-boy promised.

Two Nations: The primary concern of 87% of America's wealthy is the deficit. Only 7% of the downtrodden care about the deficit in the least – they want jobs. Guess who gets to set the agenda.

Progress: Over a century ago, back in 1901, an American officer in the Philippines was sentenced to ten years at hard labor for waterboarding a prisoner. Obama insists that no American officers will be prosecuted for waterboarding prisoners. Oh, yeah, he said they shouldn't do it, but has granted blanket immunity. Carry on.

Conundrum: Americans traditionally got their health insurance coverage through their employment,but current data suggests that only 45% of the US workforce is covered by insurance from their employer.

Briar Patch: The US continues (its mostly illegal and certainly immoral) efforts to coerce Iran into abandoning its nuclear efforts by preventing Iranian crude from being sent to market. As a result, Iran is 1) keeping more of its oil in the ground, where its value increases, and 2) working to build refineries in-country to increase the value of their petroleum even more. This will probably work out about as well for the US as arming the Afghan mujaheddin did.

Marketing: A few hundred years of continuing failure at the celibacy thing has yet to have much lasting influence on Roman Catholic dogma. How much longer can this antiquated bureaucracy continue without coming to terms with simple biology, with the fact of sex and sexual imperatives? It is unrealistic to expect an organization that can't deal with heterosexual marriage or the existence of women as autonomous individuals could deal reasonably with homosexuality.

The Parting Shot:


Monday, February 25, 2013

SAR #13056

... and they lived happily ever after.

Echoes: Afghan President (and no-longer-American-lap-dog) Hamid Karzai has ordered all US special forces out of Wardak Province (near Kabul) for training and directing Afghan troops and irregular forces in the torture and assassination of suspected terrorists. Some reports say US special forces have also been ordered out of Logar Province. On Sunday a series of coordinated attacks in Kabul and outlying areas targeted Afghanistan's intelligence agency and other security forces. Anybody know how to sound retreat?

Press Gang: Former Obama White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said he was specifically told, as a condition of employment, that he was never ever to acknowledge the administration’s drone/assassination program. Obama continues to refuse to release the purported legal basis for letting him kill anyone, anywhere, without due process of law or oversight.

Ignorance Is Bliss: Senator Tom Coburn (R-jOK) says the Republicans don't want the government to be able to figure out who slaughtered the next bunch of kindergartners: "there absolutely will not be record-keeping on legitimate law-abiding gun owners in this country.”

Qualifications: Cardinal Keith O'Brein, leader of the Catholic Church in Scotland and Britain's most senior cleric has resigned after being accused of committing “inappropriate acts” over the last 33 years, following late night drinking sessions and by using night prayers as a cover for his “inappropriate contact” according to four priests. Last year's 'bigot of the year' won't be attending the conclave of cardinals to elect a new pope. Pity.

Some Are Less Equal Than Others: House Republicans insist that Native American women, LGBT women, and undocumented immigrant females have no need, or right, for protection from domestic abuse or rape under the Violence Against Women Act, calling such protection “unconstitutional.” Note that 65% of rapes on Indian reservations, which fall under Justice Department purview, are never prosecuted.

Logical Conclusion: A legislator in Montana has introduced a bill giving corporations the right to vote. Seems to follow Supreme Court rulings.

All Things Being Equal: Cardinal Roger Mahony says that covering up for pedophilic priests has given him an opportunity to undergo spiritual growth, “[T]his scandal is putting us, the clergy and the church, where we belong--with the excluded ones; Jesus was painted with the same brush as the two thieves…” Yes, but not with the same brush as pedophiles.

Fill In The Blank: Iran's Revolutionary Guards claim to have taken “control of an ________ drone's navigation system and brought it down”.

Asked & Answered: “What if the 9/11 Commission consisted of experts instead of politicians with their fingers in the wind, and what if the commissioners had too much integrity to write a report dictated by the executive branch? Americans might still be a free people. “

Marea Ciudadana: Tens of thousands of Spaniards took part in demonstrations in Madrid, Valencia, Seville and scores of other towns across the country on Saturday, protesting the hardships caused by austerity, the enormous unemployment rate, and the corruption that is endemic among their national politicians. They'd best get it out of their system because things are going downhill from here – downhill being more austerity, more layoffs, and more budget cuts. And more demonstrations.

Porn O'Graph: The essence: higher highs and higher lows.

The Parting Shot:


Saturday, February 23, 2013

SAR #13054

Do the math.

Take A Memo: Obama has sent a note to Congress informing them that he has sent 100 US troops to Niger to support French troops in Mali, with the mission to gather intelligence and share it with the French. The Americans will apparently be flying drones out of Niger, and not just over Mali. It's not an act of war. We don't do 'war' no more.

Assignment: Three minutes of truth. Put down the coffee, click the link and watch. Sure it's fiction, most truths are.

Been There, Done That: The Chairman of the Federal Reserve has privately assured investors that the rapid rise in the price of farmland and the double-digit rise in housing prices are not indications of another asset-bubble. Heck, at this point it barely qualifies as exuberance.

Because: The US has told Pakistan that letting Iran supply much needed gas and oil is 'sanctionable' under the global reach of US laws.

Size Matters: The UN, in the face of genetic proof that UN peacekeepers started the cholera epidemic in Haiti, has asserted its 'We're bigger than you are' based immunity to dismiss any and all claims from the over 5,000 victims. There's never a good time to be a Haitian.

Bliss: Rand Paul (Tea Potty – KY) says that the next time he sponsors the Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act he may well read it. Or at least the executive summary. Which is more than he did the first two times he sponsored it. Seems he doesn't actually know what's in the bill. So? No one in Congress has ever read the Patriot Act, either.

Civilization: The only wild bear in Switzerland was killed because he was a threat to humans. Well, that was the humans' opinion; they didn't ask the bear.

Briar Patch: The White House blog clearly and rather proudly says that Obama wants to cut Social Security by switching to chained-CPI for future adjustments. This would lead to a cumulative lowering of benefits, in perpetuity. And this is his position before negotiating with the Republicans. He calls it “balanced”, he calls the cuts “savings”. He's reading from a set of Republican talking points.

Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler: NOAA says that Louisiana faces the fastest rate of sea-level rise in the world. The seas are rising so fast that some current coastal restoration projects will be obsolete before they are completed.

Head Start: Texas state troopers will no longer be allowed to shoot immigrants from helicopters.

The Parting Shot:


Down by the riverside…

Friday, February 22, 2013

SAR #13053

Too bad we didn't know that "knowledge work" wouldn't work.

Receding Horizon: The European Commission says record joblessness will delay Europe's economic recovery until 2014, after shrinking by 0.3% this year after a 0.6% decline in 2012. They were mystified as to why there would be record joblessness, but blamed banks for not lending more funds in a stagnant economy.

Secrets of the Confessional: Reports in Italy allege that the Pope decided to resign  after learning that among the correspondence leaked by the papal butler were nearly 600 pages of a secret dossier documenting the the blackmail by outsiders of members of gay network within the Vatican. The Vatican “will neither confirm nor deny” the allegations.

Magic Act: While existing home sales are “edging higher”, the housing inventory is “at 13-year lows.” So where did the 10 or 11 million houses that were in the 'shadow inventory' go? The banks are still solvent, so they didn't write them down and sell them, and the bottom feeding investors who were buying up all the houses didn't have a business plan that included paying top dollar. So, where's Waldo?

Report Card: Goldman Sachs thinks the Spanish, Italians and French haven't suffered enough. Yet. They need “further consolidation” by which Goldman means greater austerity “will be required...” France, at least, is paying attention, imposing a spending freeze on defense, higher education and all the rest. That this will be hard on the little people and won't solve the problem is immaterial.

Apostasy: The reasons that Likudian Republican Senators are aghast at the idea of confirming Chuck Hagel isn't just that he said the unthinkable – that Israel should stop colonizing the West Bank – but that he simply isn't enthusiastic enough about the whole Israeli neocon-inspired American adventurism in the Middle East.

Cogent Argument: Louie Gohmert (R-TX) says that high-capacity magazines are essential because it will take “at least 50 rounds” to bring down government drones. Apparently he doesn't think a Biden shotgun will do the trick.

600 Pound Gorilla: A new study shows that in the last couple of decades capital gains and dividends have contributed more to the rise of income inequality than everything else put together. It's not that your pay sucks – it does, but that's not the real problem. The real problem is that all the money goes to the folks who own stock, get dividends and rake in the capital gains. Maybe we should tax their income the same way they tax our income.

Health Caring: Just think what a wreck our economy would be without the health care industry. It has added more jobs than any other industry in the last 20 years, and without it the US would have fewer jobs today than in 2000. And it is not the doctors or the nurses. It's the five admin staff for each doctor, filling out all that insurance paperwork. So hug a medical clerk today.

Porn O'Graph: It's not just Uncle Sam that's run up the debts.

The Parting Shot:130222

Thursday, February 21, 2013

SAR #13052

People always want a story, one with a happy ending.

Keeping Track: Caterpillar's rolling 3-month sales are down 12% in Asia and 11% in North America. Not really constructive.

Either/Or: Morgan Stanley reports supertanker charters to haul oil from the Middle East to China are down 30% y/y, Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries already cut output for five months, while Saudi Arabia says it expects to increase petroleum production to meet Chinese demand.

Clarification: Someone should tell Ghana's Cardinal Turkson that homosexuality is about sex and pedophilia (and the priesthood) is about power.

Delusional:Republicans are increasingly acting as if there's no way they won't be in the majority at least through the end of this decade, which means that they think they are in the driver's seat and will – deliberately and with great pleasure – let the sequester take effect and then they will shut down the government. And expect applause.

Unclear On The Concept: A Republican lawmaker in Missouri wants to make it a felony for any of his colleagues to introduce gun control legislation, because guns protect our freedom of speech.

Quoted: "If one machine can cut necessary human labor by half, why make half of the workforce redundant, rather than employing the same number for half the time? Why not take advantage of automation to reduce the average working week from 40 hours to 30, and then to 20, and then to ten, with each diminishing block of labor time counting as a full time job? This would be possible if the gains from automation were not mostly seized by the rich and powerful, but were distributed fairly instead."

Good Old Days? What Good Old Days? Median income has consistently under performed economic growth for the past forty years.

Gone, Fishing: Starting this May, the limit on the cod catch off New England will be steeply reduced in a last-ditch attempt to save some small remnant of the industry. The take from the Gulf of Maine will be cut 77% and that from the Georges Bank 61%. While a serious blow to New England fishermen, this will not affect US customers much; only 9% of the fish eaten in the US is domestically caught.

Good Intentions: There is a growing possibility that the efforts to slow foreclosures may result in simply postponing the inevitable and setting the market up for another peak of foreclosures in the future, driving down prices, etc. etc. etc.

Even Stopped Clocks: One-time presidential candidate Herman Cain says that American has a “severe ignorance problem.” Right on.

Coming Attraction: The video 'Death of an Imam' depicts what may be the prototypical assassination of a US citizen by his government. Warning: watching this video may cause the government to start tracking you. Oh, well, the government is already tracking you, so you might as well watch the video.

Too Much Information: Last year the Japanese bought more diapers for adults than for babies.

No Exit And Other Stories: Given the serious damage done to the peasantry in Greece, Portugal and Spain (and the serious damage the peasants are starting to do) the question are 'Why do they put up with the austerity' and 'Why don't they just leave the euro?' The answers are: Nobody cares what the peasants think. And the political leaders are doing just fine, as are their owners.

Porn O'Graph: Inequality is not news.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

SAR #13051

Where did America get the idea it was the exception to all the rules?

Infiltrator: Citibank's employment agreement with Treasury Secretary candidate Jack Lew includes “a monetary award” if he accepts “a full time high level position with the” federal government or regulatory body.” Questions?

Collateral Damage: There are about 4.5 million orphans in Iraq today, 70% of them having lost their parents since the US invaded in 2003. Over a half-million of them live on the street.

Back From Irrelevance: The Simpson-Bowles charade has resurfaced, pedaling the same 'solution' that it couldn't sell the first time around – big cuts in Medicare, Medicaid and the social support programs along with lowering Social Security funding by rigging the CPI, all under the code-word of “reform” - and modest increases in taxes. Didn't pass the smell test then, won't now.

Prophet Motives: Part of the well-thought-out Affordable Care Act gives employers of low-wage workers the option of paying a $2,000 a year fine or providing the workers with healthcare coverage for $4,600 or more a year. Guess which they are going to choose.

Over There: The corruption scandal in Spain isn't going away, Spanish airline workers are on the first of a planned series of five-day strikes, auto sales on the continent tanked in January, and a lot of Cypriot bankers wish the Russian dirty money had never washed ashore. France's economy is unlikely to meet even the anemic 0.8% growth target. Unsurprisingly, only a third of Britons would vote to stay in the EU.

Piggy Bank: The big banks have nearly $300 billion parked at the Fed. Too bad they can't find something useful to do with it.

Situation Report: Until a fair part of the $8 trillion that magically appeared and not quite so magically disappeared in in the housing bubble. Until something comes along to replace the consumption demand created by that bubble, things are unlikely to improve. Thus Obama's mad race to get a new housing bubble underway. But don't be fooled; he's not concerned about you – it's big bank profits that make the world go 'round.

A Bad Rap: Homeland Security plans to improve its “situational awareness” to better insure “public safety”. For 'situational awareness' read 'surveillance and for 'public safety' read 'docility'. The program is called “Robotic Aircraft for Public Safety” - RAPS.

Is This The Party To Whom I Am Speaking? As the Dow hits record highs, margin debt on the NYSE does too. What could go wrong?

Simple Math: America's obesity epidemic can be traced back to small social changes in our snacks and snacking. An 'extra' 100 to 150 calories a day (3 small cookies or one can of soft drink) is 10 or more pounds extra a year. If you don't walk an extra mile and a half, that snack is going to settle in. And stay. Consuming healthier (and fewer) snacks could make a real difference in our child obesity rate.

Observed: “While N-methylamphetamine itself is a powerful decongestant, it is less desirable in a medical setting because of its severe side effects and addictive properties. Such side effects may include insomnia, agitation, irritability, dry mouth, sweating, and heart palpitations. Other side effects may include violent urges or, similarly, the urge to be successful in business or finance."

Porn O'Graph: Shaken, not stirred.

The Parting Shot:


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

SAR #13050

Austerity works, just not the way its backers claim.

Flag of Convenience: The hordes traipsing about Washington this weekend, protesting the Keystone XL pipeline, are missing the bigger picture. Yes, Canada's oil sands production is one of the most carbon-intensive sources of crude in the world, but coal-fired power plants in just the state of Wisconsin produce nearly as much CO2. Yes, mining of the oil sands should cease. So should burning coal.

Act, Caught In: European Commission Vice President Olli Rehn says that the economic recovery he's been predicting for the last two years hasn't happened because somebody killed the confidence fairy. So, a fairy story.

Two Out Of Three: Some of ex-cardinal Roger Mahony's sins of omission in not removing (and delivering to the legal system) pedophilic priests is now being laid at the doorstep of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, whose boss refused to allow Mahony to proceed. The Cardinal then in charge of protecting pedophiles, Joseph Ratzinger later became the very same pope who is now – as this news is leaking out – quitting as head of the world-wide conspiracy and, reportedly, seeking “legal immunity” from the Italian courts. Then there was the matter of those leaked documents a couple of months back, which may be the third shoe in this symphony.

De Minimus: Before the Republicans reach full throat ranting about the sky falling, remember there is just isn’t any evidence that raising the minimum wage reduces employment. The supposed cost in terms of employment from increasing low-wage workers’ earnings is a myth, while the increased income will show up quite directly at the cash registers.

Reality Challenged: Lindsey Graham (R-SC) claims that our nation's health care programs for the middle class must be slashed in order to keep from “destroying the military.” But if that's the trade-off, what is it that we're defending?

Interesting: A Federal Reserve study reports that weak demand, not taxes, is the main impediment to an expanding economy and increased employment. Just thought you'd like to tell Certain People.

Teatime Chatter: The co-CEO of Denmark's Saxo Bank suggests that the current decline in the economies of Germany, France, and Italy are just beginning and that once France enters a “full-scale crisis, it’s over”. Not just for France, but for the euro, which he describes as a political and not an economic project. “Right now we’re in one of those fake solutions where people think that the problem is contained or being addressed, which it isn’t at all.” And so on, and so forth. Doom and all that.

Pssst: There are currently 437 nuclear power reactors in the world and no permanent repository for high-level radioactive waste.

All In Favor: Here's the basic case for Obama's push for early childhood education. It’s fun, you learn things, you make it easier for Mom and Dad to earn a decent living, you begin the process of socialization, and when you grow up you will be better able to earn a decent living yourself. At that point, you will start paying taxes that return the favor, helping finance the retirement and health care of the generation that invested in your education. Obviously a socialist plot.

A National Mythtake: Let's face it, America ceased to be the land of opportunity some time back. We have become the land of the complacent. How else can the quality of our political leaders be explained? How else can our docile acceptance not only of enormous income inequality, but of the Patriot Act and Homeland Security and 24/7 surveillance be explained? Why else do attacks on women and scientists and logic continue unabated? Excuse me, someone's at the door. I'll be right b...

Porn O'Graph: Land, they're not making it like they used to.

The Parting Shot:


Memo?  What memo?

Monday, February 18, 2013

SAR #13049

Neither Congress nor the president has the power to create a legal justification for killing in violation of the law of war.

Crime Pays: Whatever moral force there once was behind the social agreement to obey the law out of respect for authority, it has been chipped away to the vanishing point. It is time to rename the JusticeTM Department something more descriptive, perhaps The Facilitators. Fraud, no matter how blatant nor how egregious is no longer punished. An outfit in Florida fraudulently foreclosed on over a million homes, and paid a measly $35 million in lieu of any criminal penalty. And the big banks – and their CEOs - continue to grow their immunity, being too big to fail and too big to jail.

All Or Nothing: They only uncertainty is whether the Arctic will be ice free in the winter of 2030, not just the summer. All the rest is counting deck chairs...

Gold and Ruling: Following last week's State of the Union address, Exxon prevented Comcast from running a climate change public service ad. The satirical spot, "Exxon Hates Your Children", had already aired on MSNBC and been viewed by nearly 200,000 on You Tube since early December. The ad urges Congress to eliminate fossil fuel industry subsidies

Willing Suspension of Disbelief: Raising the minimum wage is a very popular idea. But Republican leaders are opposed, supposedly due to a sincere concern for workers who might lose their jobs. If they were better at faking sincerity, I might believe them.

Shrink Wrapped: Last year's drought drove grain and feed prices to record highs, making it difficult for cattle farmers to make a profit. Modern medicine biochemistry to the rescue: drug salesman pushing Zilmax claim that it will allow feedlots to add over 30 pounds of meat to each carcass without increasing the animal's food or water intake. Can't wait to see that in the market, clearly labeled of course.

Quiz: Shortest all-inclusive answer wins the usual prize. The best thing Congress could do in response to global climate change is ___________ . Not quite as easy as it seems, especially if it has to be politically realistic.

Sweets Eaten In Secret: The handouts keep coming. Secretly. The latest is the deal (from last summer) that became public last week, in which the NY Fed specifically shielded Bank of America from billions of dollars in legal claims stemming from its fraudulent mortgage-backed securities business. The Fed declines to publicly defend, much less explain, its actions. After all, it's not your money, is it?

A Penny Saved: The GAO has added up the damage the banksters did to the economy, and so far it comes to $22 trillion. And Congress is all excited about the national debt at a piddling $16 trillion.

Poke/Pig Therein:Madrid's labor market reforms are unlikely to contribute to improved economic performance, despite austeritans' claims that by limiting wages and imposing 'flexible' working conditions, companies in Spain will become more competitive. Flexible in these terms means employment-at-will, which means low wages, few benefits and no job security. Spain's unemployment stands at 26%, but the bankers want more. It looks quite possible that civil unrest will pick up long before GDP does. All the politicians and bankers are doing is handing the jobs around, lowering the wages at each step. And if the Spanish gain a job or two this way, it will be because their lower wages took it away from an Italian, German, or Belgian worker. Solidarity.

Refinement: It is not the risks presented by climate change that are worrisome to business and political leaders, it is the inevitable consequences climate change will have on our economic system and its functioning... or lack thereof.

Porn O'Graph: What goes up....

The Parting Shot: 


Saturday, February 16, 2013

SAR #13047

Remember, the police armed and dangerous and they have matches.

Through Thick To Thin: While the extent of Arctic sea ice has been dropping steadily, the volume has been plummeting. 'Collapse' is the word used. It dropped 36% in the last decade and 80% since 1980. Put the coffee down and think about this for a minute.  This is not the story of the day, or week, or month, or even year, but may well be the defining story of the decade because it will accelerate the total disintegration of the Greenland ice sheet and the rapid release of vast amounts of carbon from the permafrost, and trigger the release of methane from... etc. etc. etc. We are headed toward a permanent change, with extreme and prolonged weather events such as drought, flooding, cold spells and heat waves.  “It is almost certainly too late to save the Arctic’s summer sea ice from near-total destruction. Let’s hope the same isn’t true for the biosphere.”

Ah, The Smell Of Napalm... According to a Wal-Mart executive, the retail giant's February sales to date are a “total disaster.” Their explanation is that the payroll-tax increases have lowered their customers' disposable income. Serious? Well, Wally makes up 2.3% of the nation’s GDP.

The White People's Party:Did you know that Romney-Ryan did not get a single vote in91 NYC precincts and 59 precincts in Philadelphia. Did you know they did not challenge these outcomes? They did much better in the South, where change is suspect and government is seen as an intrusive force. Except when its telling women to put duct tape on their nipples.

Understatement: Intel says it expects that customers will initially resist accepting their new streaming TV service that comes with a set-top box that will watch them while they watch TV. And if it doesn't recognize anyone in the room as a subscriber, it will not permit unpaid viewing. They really didn't say that, but it was implied in their claim the set would “recognize viewers” to “manage their accounts.”

'Like' This: Because Facebook could write off the humongous stock options it gave its executives, it managed to make $1.1 billion in profits last year without paying one penny in federal or state income taxes. And it's got another $2.17 billion in carry-forward deductions to use to dodge taxes with next year and for years to come.

Teaching Point: If you don't understand the enormous show of militarized police terrorizing southern California and didn't understand why they had to burn down the cabin with the Bad Guy in it, go back to sleep.

Unarmed & Dangerous: The Canadian government views protests against the oil and gas industry as a threat to national security. The national police and the Intelligence Service are guarding against “attacks” of civil disobedience by environmental activists such as blocking roads and buildings. People taking part in protests risk being mistaken for terrorists and treated accordingly.

Porn O'Graph: Slip sliding away.

The Parting Shot:


Erigenia bulbosa, Harbinger of Spring/Pepper Root

Friday, February 15, 2013

SAR #13046

What used to be sexual assault is now called pre-boarding. Col. Morris Davis

Reality Therapy: The eurozone's economic output fell 0.9%, even powerhouse (sic) Germany contracted 0.6%. Greece, Portugal and Spain were awful. (Greece's unemployment is at 30% & bets are again being placed on its exit from the euro later this year, Spain's inflation rate was over 2.2% in January and its retail sales fell over 10% in December y/y..) Even Japan joined in with a 0.1% drop in GDP. Another round of austerity is the oblivious solution.

Big, Bigger, Biggest: In the race to the top, too big to fail has been topped by RBS, which is "too big to prosecute." When was the last time a regulator or the Justice Department took a big bank to trial? Or found an actual person in charge of a big bank criminally responsible for his criminal behavior?

The Wages of Sin: Here's a plot spoiler: In the name of prudent stewardship and ideological purity, Republicans plan to flush six or seven state's economies “down the toilet”.

Assigned Reading: “The power of government to imprison and to murder its citizens without due process of law is the certain mark of dictatorship. ... Dictatorship is government unconstrained by law.”

Diplomacy: A senior commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guards was killed Tuesday – apparently in Syria and apparently by 'Zionists'. At least it wasn't a drone strike. Was it?

Leadership: Virginia's governor has ordered all hourly state employees' work-week cut to 29 or fewer hours to avoid providing them with health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. The governor is a Republican, of course.

Tantrum: The non-stop Republican obstructionist bullshit over the President's choices for leadership positions is unprecedented and unprincipled and inexplicable. They resemble nothing more than a lynch mob. And these people want respect?

Porn O'Graph: Flatlined

The Parting Shot:


Thursday, February 14, 2013

SAR #13045

“Everybody wants a box of chocolates... and a long stemmed rose." Leonard Cohen

This Side Up: The top 1% got not only all of the income gains since 2009, they got 121% of the gains – by taking some away from the rest of us. While they were taking it all and then some, the bottom 99% of us had our income fall by 0.4%.

Footnote: While President Obama talked a lot about jobs and all that, it might be useful to keep in mind that “President Obama is apparently having his economic policy dictated by economists who do not seem to know how the economy works.”

Slip Sliding Away: Don't look now, but we're quietly slipping into a global police-state, complete with drone strikes, extraordinary rendition, torture (you really think that's stopped?), austerity for all except the very few at the top, government (and commercial) spying on everything we do, anywhere, anytime, and 'extrajudicial' killing of anyone, anywhere without appeal. For our own good, we're told. And most of us quietly nod our heads and accept this as the price of what passes for freedom. Or at least a chance to see the one more sunrise.

Bad to Worse to Worser: On top of a failed betrayed popular uprising, Egypt is running out of diesel at the same time it is running out of money. The cure, according to the IMF, is austerity. Given the state of civil(?) society in Egypt, a little bit of additional austerity may be like straw on a camel's back.

Angles On Pinpoint: A US/NATO pinpoint missile (drone) attack - the same kind that kill only their very carefully selected targets according to White House briefing papers - has killed ten civilians - five of them children - in Afghanistan.

Crimes and Punishment: Italy's former intelligence chief has been sent to prison for 10 years for allowing the CIA to abduct people off the street in Milan and torture them for four years in a series of secret prisons. The CIA's station chief at the time got a 7-year sentence in absentia. Twenty-five other Americans, mostly CIA employees, have also been convicted. pretty much their punishment is pretty much being unable to have their pictures taken with fake gladiators in front of the Colosseum.

Perks: When Benedict XVI wakes up on March 1st he will no longer be infallible. This gift from God goes with the office. Wonder if he'll lose immunity for all the crimes he helped conceal back when he was just Cardinal Ratzinger, in charge of the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith, where he made sure the Vatican stone-walled all claims of sexual abuse by predatory priests.

About Austerity: It is a Good Thing that the Greek economy doesn't depend on customer spending - 40% of Greeks have no disposable income to spend. Oh, wait...

Brotherhood: Sure, we had 'whites only' water fountains, but did we have rules that said blacks were not allowed to stand next to whites at bus stops? Because our good friends the Israelis claim that "Palestinians are not supposed to stand next to Jews." How long are we supposed to feel guilty about what Hitler and the Germans did to the Jews?

Let Me Call You Sweetheart: Big Pharma spends more buying politicians than any other industry - even the insurance folks, Big Energy and the Defense Junta. That's why our medicine costs so much. And they're not even using their money - they take if from your wallets and pass it on to our (more properly their) elected officials.

The Parting Shot:


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

SAR #13044

Americans are presumed innocent until droned...

Inquiring Mind: If wages are stagnant, household formation is at 20-year lows and unemployment is stuck near 8%, who is buying all these houses and driving up the prices? In our obsessive drive to re-inflate the housing bubble, aren't we in danger of... well, re-inflating the housing bubble?

Be Prepared: Pimco's Bill Gross is predicting the collapse of the American economy and global financial markets. It will be far worse than 2008 and it will probably happen this year. It will be our comeuppance for the massive Ponzi scheme that Bernanke has engineered for a grateful Wall Street. He points out that the Fed's massive cheap-money infusions have gone straight to finance and done nothing for the real economy. Well, he's certainly right about that part; let's hope he's wrong about the collapse stuff.

The Doctor Is In: An Indiana University artificial intelligence system diagnoses illnesses and prescribes treatment "significantly better" than human doctors. And for less money - 58% less.

Enough: Hundreds of Egyptian police are holding demonstrations to show that they no longer wish to be used in the political oppression of the citizens. Non-striking cops beat the crap out of them.

Me, Me Me! Senator Lindsey Graham wants America to understand how important he is, so he is going to place a 'hold' on the nominations of Chuck Hagel and John Brennan. It is just another Republican tantrum, embarrassing to watch and pointless - except it will get the Senator some publicity and that'll make him feel useful.

Against The Peace And Dignity Of The State: When the Senate renewed the Violence Against Women Act, 22 senators voted against offering women protection from ... well, violence. All 22 were (a) afraid the law would prevent guys from beating up lesbians, immigrants and Native Americans, and (b) Republicans.

The South, Rising Again: Republicans at the state level intend to conduct an experiment in austerity to prove that their moral indignation can be the basis for really bad economic policy. This has already been done. It's called Mississippi. Or Tennessee. Or Louisiana or Alabama and so on. Texas. These Republican-led idiocracies are proud to be low tax havens of with the resulting low public investment, low pay, environmental degradation, educational backwardness, high rates of unwanted pregnancy, poor health, and mistaken patriotism. But that's okay; let them that don't want none have memories of not having had any.

Q & A: Does Obama have the authority to kill Americans? Who could possibly give it to him? To claim Congress gave the President that ability assumes it was theirs to give. It isn't.

Fair Trial... Sure the government is eavesdropping on the conversations the 9/11 suspects have with their lawyers in court. That doesn't mean they're not going to get a fair trial before they're convicted.

Les_Misérables: North Carolina is cutting unemployment benefits from a maximum of $530 to $350 and cutting the duration from 20 to 12 weeks. That's a 60% reduction in the safety net and will thrown 17,000 citizens under the bus. The cuts will cause NC to lose $780 million in federal funding. NC's unemployment remains at 9.2%.

Because We're Bigger Than You Are: The Department of Homeland Security has taken onto itself the right to snach your electronic device and browse through its contents - if you are within 100 miles of a border. warrant? We're Homeland Security and we don't do warrants - we don't even need "reasonable suspicion". Assume the position.

Porn O'Graph: What's wrong with this picture?

The Parting Shot:


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

SAR #13043

Worrying does not, by itself, change anything.

Socialized Medicine: The Affordable Care Act’s closing of the prescription “donut hole” has saved over 6 million of America’s disabled and elderly at least $5.7 billion on prescription drugs so far. Ask them about the horror of Obamacare.

Meth Lab: There are dramatic increases in methane levels in the Arctic and there is no indication that this increase will slow . The highest concentrations are over areas now devoid of sea ice – and Arctic sea ice is declining at an exponential rate. The heat brought into the Arctic by branches of the Gulf Stream is clearly destabilizing methane hydrates on and under the seabed, increasing the danger that rapidly rising Arctic temperatures may lead to the abrupt release of large amounts of methane. Very bad things would quickly follow.

The Law: "In times of war, the law is not silent. War is not a moral wilderness... Throughout history, there have been codes that even the hell of war could not override." Someone should tell Obama. Targeted killing is a tantrum thrown by a greatly frustrated global military power that is helpless in the face of “asymmetrical” war. Congress and the public have given two presidents a free hand to prosecute a 'war on terrorism' as they see fit. In truth, we don't want to know about the renditions, torture and extra-judicial executions that are being done in our name.

Easy To Say: “Suppose, just for entertainment purposes, that we wanted to have a sane, rational, and even informative discussion about what to do about our public deficits and debt...

Fueling Unrest: Greece raised the tax on heating-oil by 40% in order to raise money to send to Frau Merkel. After EU/ECP/IMF-directed wage and pension cuts, many Greeks don't have enough money to buy the stuff, so consumption is down 70% from last year. To the common plea, “Why us?” the bankers answer, “Why not?”

Lowest Common Denominator: It is not the administration's kill list that is the moral failing, it's our enthusiastic support for the entire 'war on terror' that will condemn us.

Over There: Much to the displeasure of Google, Facebook, Homeland Security and NSA, the European Union has proposed a data protection and privacy law that would ensure rights that are “clearly enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights.” Don't get excited, those are 'fundamental' only in Europe.

Contributions: The Archdiocese of Los Angeles stole over $110 million from the cemetery maintenance fund to help pay a $660 million judgment won by 562 victims of priestly pedophilia.

Two Countries: Most of the United States has an institutional memory of military successes, of a nation of immigrants, a vibrant melting-pot forging a shared identity. And then there is the South; defeated in the Civil War and Reconstruction and by Civil Rights and Equal Rights and feminism. And it was never a melting pot... it was white and highly class conscious and it still views itself that way, as the inheritors of 'real America' by which they mean old-stock British values and evangelical Protestantism. Southerners are sour and suspicious and understandably hostile after having lost every important military, political and social skirmish for two hundred years.

Porn O'Graph: Yes, Government spending is the problem - the lack thereof.

The Parting Shot:


Monday, February 11, 2013

SAR #13042

"Every American has the right to know when their government believes it’s allowed to kill them.” Sen. Ron Wyden

Once Upon A Time In The West: 'Oversight' and 'Congressional Review' have come to mean 'rubber stamp'. But only after a well-scripted side-show, with clowns and all. witness the Benghazi hearings, the assault on decency (aka Hillary Clinton's day behind the woodshed), and the Chuck Hegel silliness (What Senators are owned by APIC? You, you, you and you, Sir.). And now I'm supposed to feel better because a handful of these guys are going to learn who the President killed, just a month or so afterwards, under the Murder, Incorporated version of democracy?

Oh, and a new secret court. Like the one that has rejected exactly 11 secret applications for illegal eavesdropping warrants in the last 30 years? By definition, secret courts violate the Fourth Amendment. Keep in mind the important point: the executive branch wants to execute people. You, maybe.

Quoted: “... the condition [required for the US to murder someone, anyone] that an operational leader present an ‘imminent’ threat of violent attack against the United States does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future.”

On Extrajudicial Murder: We aren’t known for torturing people any more. Under Obama we just kill 'em. Somehow, sometime, we fell asleep, as America still fights wars for no visible reason in distant lands. There is no longer an effective constituency for democracy within the American ruling class or its politicians.

Succinctly: “What’s happening with the American people where we seem to be killing democracy to thunderous applause?” Morris Davis, former Chief Prosecutor at Guantanamo.

Droning On: The UN reports that US/NATO aerial campaign in Afghanistan has killed hundreds of Afghan children, “due notably to reported lack of precautionary measures and indiscriminate use of force.”

Socialized Theft: Coal companies - those stalwarts of free enterprise that get all upset whenever the government tries to keep their employees alive - are not happy to have to pay 25 cents a ton for the coal they rip from public lands and seem to have been lying about how much they owe us at even that ridiculous price. Then they sell it for up to $35 a ton to China, meaning US taxpayers are subsidizing the world’s largest consumer of coal, which then turns it into global warming gases while making stuff for Walmart. Next, let's talk about lumber...

Asked & Answered: Is the current effort to rebrand the Republican party anything more than a skin-deep propaganda ploy? No.

Rah, Rah, Raytheon: RIOT - Rapid Information Overlay Technology – is social network mining software which lets “the US government and industry” gather literally trillions of pieces of information from cyberspace – from not only Facebook and Twitter, but from all of the net and networks and use it to construct “an entire snapshot of a person's life – their friends,the physical places they visit and their tracks through the web, their credit cards and their bank accounts– with a few clicks of a button. And use that information to predict what you'll do next. Think of it as Google for spies. Or the political police. But don't worry, defense contractor Raytheon didn't sell the technology. They “shared” it.

To-Do List: Fix the filibuster, ensure privacy, fix capitalism's inequalities, stop pushing global warming...

Good Question: Pointing out that there are 11 million people living illegally in the United States, and noting his fellow Republicans' aversion to any steps that would allow these immigrants to earn citizenship, John McCain asks, “What do you want to do with them?”

A Brief History: The Great Recession has accelerated the conversion of the American economy to jobs that are a combination of minimum-wage, temporary, part-time, and benefitless. Think Wal-Mart and Amazon as the models. This was not an accident. And the next round of automation will increase the damage, leaving workers in a take-it-or-leave-it workplace that the Robber Barons would have envied. The next few decades will be interesting. Poverty stricken, socially oppressive, but interesting.

Porn O'Graph: Methy, very, very Methy.

The Parting Shot:


Saturday, February 9, 2013

SAR #13040

If I do not understand your argument, is the problem with me or you? Demetrius

Austerity Are EU: European Union leaders have agreed to cut €34.4billionn from the next seven-year budget. The UK's David Cameron, having destroyed the British economy and Government budgets with his love of austerity, is delirious. But then he has been for some time. This is probably only a symbolic victory and lots of dissension is expected from France and the other victims.

Exception: The Republicans have added a footnote to their anti-Keynesian stance: Government spending kills job creation except for defense spending, which – unlike all other government spending - creates hundreds of thousands of jobs directly and millions of jobs indirectly and thus is untouchable.

Big Dog in the Neighborhood: Turkey's Prime Minster says that he understands the US opposition, but views Turkey's ongoing trade with the Kurds in northern Iraq is legal, important, and continuing. The folks in Baghdad aren't too pleased, either.

How's Investments? Both the number and the percentage of houses purchased for cash (no mortgage) have hit record levels. In California, over 55%; in Orlando 53%, Miami 45%, Phoenix 46%, Tucson 34%, Sacramento 34% and so on. This is way more than double the pre-crash ratio. Something's recovering, but it isn't the housing market.

Once & Future War: The residents of Fallujah are holding weekly demonstrations protesting the central Iraqi government. [Extra credit if you can insert Sunni and Shia in their proper places.] In Pakistan, 74% of the people say the US is “the enemy”. Can't fool everyone all the while, especially from a drone.

Want Fries With That? At least 80% of all antibiotics sold in the US are used to keep meat and poultry safe for human consumption. One side effect is that bacteria such as Salmonella are building up resistance to one or more antibiotics. Think about that when you bite into your next hamburger.

Don't Look Now: George-43 seems to be hard up for models.

Rings of Unemployment: Four out of five Americans know relatives or family friends who were laid off during the recession, if they weren't part of the 23% who were laid off themselves, and 26% had a family member lose a job. Forty percent of us have lent (sic) money to unemployed family or friends.

Biting the Hand: Fatih Biro, Chief Economist for the International Energy Agency – which makes its living from the fossil fuel industry – says that fossil fuel subsidies “are public enemy number one.” The $500 billion that fossil fuels rake in from subsidies world-wide each year make is difficult, if not impossible, for clean alternatives to compete.

Follow The Money: The impetus behind the Keystone XL pipeline can be traced to the Koch brothers, who stand to save $2 billion a year replacing their current Venezuelan imports with cheaper (and dirtier) crude from Canada's tar sands. It's win-win for Washington: they approve the pipeline and get Koch approval (spelled 'donations') and at the same time they are giving government help to the Koch boys (capitalistic socialism), they get to take a jab at the socialists in Venezuela.

Winners/Spoils: The NC senate has passed a bill firing all of the members of the state's regulatory commissions – Utilities, Coastal Resources, Environmental Management and the other leftie agencies. They're not doing away with the commissions, just clearing out the liberals so politically correct business-friendly pols can replace them. What are friends for?

Porn O'Graph: Stamping on job growth.

The Parting Shot:


Friday, February 8, 2013

SAR #13039

Energy first; everything else second.

Once More, With Clarity For All: "The Big Lie is that 'Social Security is going broke, causing huge deficits that will burden our children.' Social Security is not going broke. It has nothing to do with the deficit. The workers pay for it themselves. They can always pay for it themselves. If the costs of retirement rise as they are expected to, the cost of Social Security will rise.... about eighty cents per week per year. This is not a burden on the young. It is money they will get back with interest when they need it most. It is in fact the best deal that workers have ever had. Tell the people. "

Too Good To Miss:  “So God made a banker.”

Misery Sisters: At the current Eurozone budget meeting, Germany and the UK are pushing for everyone in the EU to adopt austerity programs similar to those that have already ruined Ireland, Greece, Spain and Portugal. France and Italy, with less docile citizens, want to maintain their budgets and use them to create jobs. Is it time to start placing bets on the date of the breakup?

Quoted: “The US faces a two-tiered system of justice that . . . all but assures more excessive risk-taking, more crime and more crises.” Neil Barofsky, former TARP Inspector General.

Forever Blowing Bubbles: Back in 2004 and 2005, house prices were running away at 8%, 12% a year. In December 2012 they rose at 8% (and higher in many regions). Back then it was a bubble. Today it's a recovery. Back then it was 'unsustainable', today it's... Today it's 'investors' buying up distressed houses in hopes of a quick profit – what used to be called flipping. Still is. Robert Shiller's not a fan says there is little reason to expect prices to return to their former levels.

God Will Know His Own: A Lutheran minister in Connecticut has publicly apologized for praying with Jews, Muslims and non-Lutherans at a vigil for Sandy Hook victims. It's a sin.

All In Favor: As the first crop of 401(k)ers reach retirement, they are finding out that they were another broken promise.  Most do not have near enough to maintain a decent lifestyle in their ground-down golden years. Most will depend on Social Security, which simply isn’t enough.  We need to remove the salary cap and push the rate up about 0.5% all-round. And then we need to increase Social Security benefits by at least 20%. The 401(k) experiment has been a disaster for everyone except the firms that collect the fees on them. The rest of us need to go back to caring for one another.

Road to Nowhere: Another week, another boring 366,000 in initial unemployment claims, here in the land of the Great Recovery.

A Sound Policy: Michigan Republicans, knowing it to be hopeless but needing to mark their territory, have introduced yet another law requiring women undergo a trans-vaginal ultrasound before having an abortion. Tennessee's cavemen have introduced a similar bill. In Iowa, nine Republican troglodytes want to define 'person' to apply from the moment of conception, and to make abortion at any point an act of murder. They say it will clear up any confusion and simplify prosecution of everyone involved.

The Parting Shot: