Saturday, March 30, 2013

SAR #13089

Remember, Uncle Sam bailed out Wall Street, not vice versa.  Edward Sidle.

Sound and Flurry: President Obama has kicked off a PR campaign to return the focus to jobs and the economy by spending billions on improving US infrastructure (and take it off his plans to chip away at Social Security). Nice speech. Pretty words. Looked sincere. Don't hold your breath – where's he getting the money?

Once More: Yet another major study has concluded there is no link between vaccination and autism. None. Nada. Get your kid immunized today. No excuses.

Shrinkage: Increasing domestic energy consumption in Saudi Arabia will reduce the amount of petroleum available for export by 3 million barrels a day by 2020. That's a 30% reduction in their exports. By the same date, Chinese petroleum consumption is expected to increase by 6 million barrels a day. Where are the replacements for these 9 million barrels going to come from?   And don't say “from the US oil shale bonanza”, for by 2017 the US will max out in production and begin to decline. Mark your calendar, and get ready – the impact on the US economy will be... inconvenient.

The Good Life, Allegedly: Median household income in the US, adjusted for inflation, has dropped 8.4% since January 2000. The average real disposable income is lower today than it was in 2006.

Dick & George's Excellent Adventure: The unnecessary wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost the US over $2 trillion thus far, and will ultimately cost about $6 trillion. Plus the death and injury of our soldiers and their civilians. And most of the oil is going to go to China, anyway.

Interdependent Independence: In January, US net oil imports jumped 20% m/m.

Get Out Of Trial Free: The Monsanto Protection Provision of the Agricultural Appropriations Act, which protects producers of genetically modified seeds from litigation, was introduced anonymously to the appropriations bill. Secretly. Now, along with not permitting customers to know if they are being sold frankenfoods, the makers get a free pass for any health damage their tinkering with Mother Nature causes.

Overnight: United Parcel Service has 'agreed' to pay $40 million for door-to-door deliveries of illegal drugs ordered from online pharmacies.

The Way of the World: Lanny Breuer, former head of the DOJ's Criminal Division, under whose watch absolutely no Wall Street biggies were investigated for anything, much less tried, has accepted a job with the Wall Street law firm of Covington & Burling for $4 million a year. Moving forward, he expects to counsel the same Wall Street biggies on their bribery, money laundering, export control, securities fraud and whistle blower cases. 

Untold Riches: Total,Europe's third largest oil company, has managed to lose $1.65 billion on its Canadian oil-sands project. Cornucopia is not what it used to be.

When You're Right... Predictions made back in 1996 by climate scientists have been remarkably accurate, and there is every reason to expect similar accuracy in their frightening predictions for 15 and 30 and 60 years from now. The climate change now underway is “largely irreversible for 1000 years.” Merely to slow it enough to limit it to a 2ºC rise requires “an immediate cut of around 60%-70%” in CO2 emissions. Immediately. Today.

Spoiler Alert: Mississippi's Gov. Phil Bryant has nominated Terri Herring, an anti-abortion activist, to the State Board of Health.

Data Point: The real, inflation-adjusted incomes of the bottom 90% of Americans have increased $59 in the last 40 years. In the last 25 years, the income for the nation's top 10 CEOs as a group grew from $57 million to $616 million.

Porn O'Graph: In the deep blue, see...

The Parting Shot:


Friday, March 29, 2013

SAR #13088

The banks will be fine as long as the laws are not enforced.

Warning Label: The IMF's Christine Lagarde says the Troika's bludgeoning of Cyprus will restore the Cypriot economy to full health by 2020. Given her predictive success with the austerity programs in Greece, Spain, Ireland and Portugal, you've been warned. But this is still the out-of-town tryouts, the fate of the euro will be decided by Italy.

Initiation: Researchers believe they have found the remains of a human-Neanderthal hybrid. No, not on a college campus.

Parameters: Is there a meaningful difference between retaliation and 'imminent threat'? What is the deciding factor in a drone strike, religion or class? Why is is acceptable (sic) to use drones in the remote parts of the world, but not in, say, West Virginia or Sussex? If the US government was using drones to assassinate Americans, what are the odds they would admit it? Can we believe them when they deny it? Why?

Drive By Shooting: Observing the EU/ECB in various Eurozone crises makes abundantly clear that they are not following a plan – they are simply making things up as they go along.

School Solution: The IMF says the simplest way to combat global warming would be to stop the $1.9 trillion a year direct and indirect subsidies given to fossil fuel producers. The report also strongly endorsed levying “appropriate carbon taxes” on greenhouse gas emissions. These steps could reduce CO2 emissions by over 10% a year, reduce air pollution and associated health costs, and strengthen the finances of many poor countries, and they will never happen.

Next? Slovenia. Damn, this sure is a hard way to learn geography.

One Down: The man the US selected to be the next prime minister of Syria has been rejected by the military command of the Syrian Opposition Coalition, even though the US has been training and arming Sunni and tribal Bedouin Syrians to press the fight. Oh, and financing, don't forget the financing. Once again, we end up paying the band but not getting to name the tune.

Equal Opportunity: A woman who facilitated torture of al-Qaeda suspects and later helped destroy the videotape records of waterboard interrogations has been selected to be head the CIA's clandestine operations. It helps to know where the bodies are buried – or even to have helped bury them.

Listen Up! The federal deficit is shrinking. No, really: The deficit is shrinking. We do not have a deficit problem, we have a 'Republicans hate the idea of government' problem. That's why they are pushing the government (with Obama's encouragement) to cut government spending deep enough to cause another recession and to slash Social Security enough to cause widespread poverty among the elderly. They also want to hobble Medicare even though the rate of increase in costs has fallen significantly. We don't need to shrink the deficit, we need to shrink the Republicans.

Ah, Napalm In The Morning: Air traffic data, backed by off-the-record interviews, show that Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been airlifting weaponry via Turkey to support the Syrian rebels for over a year. The ultimate source is thought to be, of course, the CIA, as America prepares a replacement war for the one now ending in Afghanistan.

Quoted: “The greatest truth to emerge from the past thirty years of our nation’s retirement planning experience is that Wall Street, i.e., private financial services companies, cannot be trusted...”

Porn O'Graph: Heat sink.

The Parting Shot:


Alfonso Lombardi’s  Compianto su Cristo Morto, San Pietro, Bologna

Thursday, March 28, 2013

SAR #13087

"We're living in a totally artificial real estate economy." Robert Shiller

No Fracking Way, Man: Scientific findings show that wastewater injection as part of the fracking process was responsible for the 5.7 earthquake in Oklahoma in 2011, along with an 11-fold increase in seismic activity in the central US in recent years.

Now It Can Be Told: Data the ECB used to continue forcing austerity on Club Med countries was misinterpreted and actually not only showed that Germany has "been a major contributing factor to the crisis," but that "Senior economic policymakers in the European Union are either unaware of basic economic concepts or they are intentionally using misleading figures – to put it mildly – to force policymakers on to a course that suits their ideological preferences."

Brilliant: Fannie Mae and Freddi Mac have come up with a "new" way for delinquent borrowers to avoid foreclosure. They're going to let those who are 90 or more days delinquent pay less. No documentation required. Seems fair to me.

Supply & Demand: Why are natural gas prices climbing - from the mid $2.50 mark last summer to nearly $4.00 today - is the US is in the middle of a century-long shale gas revolution? Is there something amiss with the generally accepted propaganda?

Enlightening: Student loan write-offs increased more than 36% y/y in the first two months of 2013 as more and more college graduates fail to find jobs or are working as baristas and waiters. But loans to students continue to increase, even though the probability of the loans ever being repaid continues to diminish. Either the students or the banks need some remedial education.

Twilight Zone: Legislators in Kansas are likely to pass a bill requiring that people with infectious diseases (for which read HIV positive) be quarantined. It would be best to avoid Kansas, Toto.

Bird In Hand: China claims that in 2012 it discovered 1.54 billion tonnes of "crude oil deposits". Hooray! But only 270 million tonnes - 18% - of it can be recovered with existing technologies. Bummer.

Working For The Man: The ECB/EU/IMF has fired the head of the Bank of Cyprus - the country's largest lender, and a technocrat has been appointed to run the bank the way Brussels wants things done. What laws, if any, does the Troika have to follow?

Gag Me: Republicans are now claiming that marriage equality ‘is the new conservative position’ and that marriage, even between despicable homosexuals, is good for society. “I agree and I do love it when conservative and liberal ideologies converge on an issue, as they do so beautifully on this one,” claims former Sen. Larry Pressler (R-SD).

Making Haste, Slowly: CO2 emissions from burning coal in the US have dropped dramatically, while US exports of coal to places like China are increasing. Should the US take credit(blame?) for the American coal China burns? If not, why not?

The Pantry's Open: The House is considering new laws that would make Alaska "more competitive for investment dollars and increasing production. For which read tax breaks, giveaways and amnesty from environmental regulations. Why, if the US is becoming a major exporter of petroleum in the next few decades, do we need give the oilers even more loot?

It Is What It Is: Jim Greer, one-time Chair of the Florida GOP has been sentenced to 18 months in prison and 1 year of probation for money laundering and grand theft. Does that make him part of the 47% who are 'takers'?

Porn O'Graph: Pinpoint accuracy, more or less.

The Parting Shot:


Field Pansy, Viola rafinesquii

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

SAR #13086

Things often look darkest just before they go completely black.

The Dog Ate My Homework: The Fed and the OCC have told Senator Warren and Representative Cummings that they'll have to be happy with “two partial responses and only one full response” to the 14 specific requests they had made. They further explained to the legislators that the administration was too busy protecting Wall Street predators to be bothered with their nonsense.

Who You Lookin' At? President Muris is warning unnamed foreign parties not to meddle in Egypt's affairs. He is perfectly capable of sabotaging himself without outside help.

Shrinkage: Arctic sea ice is near its record minimum extent for this time of year, and has shrunk 80% from its 1980 extent. The 'missing' ice causes disruption in the jet stream path which in turn is responsible for the late-season extreme weather across the US. Yes, global warming in the Arctic is causing snow storms in the Carolinas; weather is a complicated beast.

Footnotes & Invisible Ink: The ACLU is demanding that Homeland Security let us all get a look at their copy of the Constitution, so we can see where they get the right to randomly decide who can and cannot fly, and can then pretend there is no list and that they don't know who is on it and most certainly they can't divulge the charges against the banned traveler nor who made them. The government cites the 'state secrets' doctrine that is in their copy of the Constitution, in tiny footnotes written in invisible ink.

Unclear On The Concept: Walmart is suing the UFCW union for conducting protest actions on company property. They'll be much happier if the pickets are several miles away in designated free speech areas, monitored by company drones.

Great Expectations: Natural gas in US goes for $4 per thousand cubic feet (mcf), it's $12 in Europe and $17 in Japan. The US may (note, may) be about to have an enormous increase in its gas supply from fracking, but even if it does, The Market says that the little piggies will go to there. So it will not be forever cheap in the US – it would rise to the level that yields the same profit it would bring in Europe or Japan. It would, that is, if it ever happened. But it will take at least $7 or $8mcf to make new fracking worth while, and with an 85% drop in production in the first two years, it will take ever more wells drilled in ever less attractive locations at ever higher costs just to break even. We're not going to have abundant cheap gas very long, and it will probably never be profitable to sell it abroad. It is, as Art Berman keeps pointing out, an improbable business model.

Good Enough: Republican Governor Walker in his continuing drive to demolish civilization in Wisconsin proposes to let school boards convert the entire public school system into for-profit charter schools at nearly $8,000 per child, using uncertified teachers with no educational background or training. He would also create a state board that could approve 'nonprofit charter schools' around the state and give charter schools sole discretion over budgets, curriculum, staffing and employment practices.

Freedom Of Choice: Democrats in Kentucky, under the impression that pandering to the religious nuts will earn them some votes, are seeking to override Republican Governor Beshear's veto of a ridiculously unconstitutional bill that would let anyone (presumably defined as right wing fundamentalist Christians) disregard any federal, state or local law that they pretend violates their religious beliefs.

Vigilance: Tennessee's Republican lawmakers are resting easier now, having determined that a new sink installed in the state capitol is not for Muslims to bathe their feet in, but just a convenience for the janitors' mops. They have to go around cleaning up after the Republicans after all.

The Parting Shot:


Trout Lily, under construction.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

SAR #13085

Someone has to keep rolling the stone up the hill.

All Your Money Is Belong Us: Laiki Bank UK sent its UK depositors the following "Your eligible deposits... are protected up to a total of 100,000 euro.”  Then in the small print: You no longer have any deposits over 100,000 euro “Any deposits over 100,000 euro are not covered.”

A Great Country: Some Democrats in the House have proposed funding the federal school lunch program to cover weekends and holidays. It is a mark of their generosity and concern that they recognize that the need to provide food to many poor students doesn't stop over the weekend. It's a mark of the country's short-sightedness that a) such a bill is necessary and b) that it will probably not pass. That's okay – those much maligned and woefully underpaid unionized teachers who are funding such support out of their own pockets now will keep doing it. Right up to the point the schools become private profit chartered charades.

Revisionist History: The hunger strike that the administration says is not happening at Guantanamo has, according to the administration, grown to include 28 of the 168 captives remaining at the concentration camp. Ten are being force fed through tubes, a process widely thought to be despicable when done to geese.

Guilty! Guilty! Guilty! We know, even if we pretend not to, that our life styles are the root cause of global warming. We buy stuff made and shipped and marketed in ways that generate huge amounts of carbon dioxide and we do not pay the costs our purchases will eventually exact. Because of the great time lag and the cumulative nature of the eventual disaster, our individual roles are masked. But our responsibility should not be. If a carbon tax will help diminish our sins, we should welcome one.

Reality Therapy: NYC Mayor Bloomberg, acknowledging reality, says that within 5 years there will be "cameras everyplace... whether you like it or not... Get used to it!” Unfortunately, he is right.

Levy: Obama has promised to continue US conscience money payments to Israel through 2027 and to raise the tribute from today's $2.4 billion a year to $3.1 billion now and to bump it to $4 billion soon. Detroit, meanwhile, has been turned over to the wrecking crew.

Trailer: The Office of Congressional Ethics (sic) has begun an investigation into “intentional campaign finance violations” in connection with Michele Bachman's pathetic posturing in the Republican presidential primaries, based on a complaint filed with the Federal Election Commission by former Bachman adviser Peter Waldron. “There are no allegations that the congresswoman engaged in any wrongdoing.” Yet.

Truth Will Out: The head of Eurogroup, discussing the events in Cyprus, noted that the “Cyprus rescue is the model for the future.” He was misquoted. Or misspoke. Or it was taken out of context. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

Vox Populi: While 96% of the people in Utah support protecting public lands for the benefit of all the people, some significant part of Republican Governor Gary Herbert's own personal constituency wants the state to 'assume' ownership of some 30 million acres of federal lands and make them available for exploitation by private interests for private profit. What's the point of holding public office if you don't get to do a little looting?

Shane: One of the more popular myths of late concerns the return of manufacturing to the US because of the enormous drop in energy prices thanks to the nation's return to energy independence. No fracking way. One: Energy makes up less than 5% of most companies costs. Two: You've been systematically misled about the future of energy resources in the US.

Porn O'Graph: Where the green went.

The Parting Shot:


Monday, March 25, 2013

SAR #13084

Who will be next for a trip to the barber?

You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet:Egyptian President Mursi says that the protests against the Muslim Brotherhood have reached the point where "If I am forced to do what is required to protect this nation, then I will do it. And I fear that I might be on the verge of doing it." He did not elaborate, preferring to let the nation's imagination do his work for him.

Been More Or Less There, Done Pretty Much That: The US is once again feeding intelligence, money and weapons to a group of Muslim revolutionaries, this time in Syria. What could possibly go wrong?

Germany Rules: Perhaps the misery soon to be visited on Cyprus is a feature, not a bug. Perhaps the intent was, and is, to make it clear to all that the politics of the core states (for core, read Germany) is primary and the destruction of peripheral economies is... peripheral.

Record Breaking: According to the IMF, there have been 147 banking crises since 1970. In not a single one of them were loses inflicted on all depositors. Until now.

Consequences: the Fed is printing money but that money is going directly to the banks and the banks are simply parking most of it with the Fed as excess reserves – drawing risk-free interest. This does not stimulate the real economy, but does prop up the banks, which have not yet written down their bad assets, which they keep selling to the Fed at 100%. Guess who gets to eat that pudding. As long as the Fed's new money is tied up in excess reserves, inflation will be dormant. Dormant, not gone. But there is generally a lag between 'printing' money and the onset of inflation. A lag. It ain't the fall that gets you, it's the sudden stop at the end.

Don't Worry, Be Happy: The UK government, sitting on natural gas reserves in storage sufficient to last a day and a half, has told the public not to worry, there's enough to keep heating the castles.

Bad Moon Rising: The Republicans have suddenly realized that upper-class whites are dying off, being replaced by the lower ranking hoi-polloi. So to shore up their deteriorating brand acceptance they have started wooing the poor. The motivation, this being politics, is the urge to win votes, to retain/regain their power. Their desire to tend to the needs of the poor is not part of the equation. It's not part of the Democrats' either, but they are still coasting on Roosevelt and LBJ. It's more like Dillinger robbing the banks - that's where the money is votes are.

Tomato Tamahto: For those of you playing along at home, researchers now say it was a comet, not a meteor that wiped the dinosaurs out. Check your insurance policies.

The Ins & Outs: Governor Rick Snyder, the former venture capitalist whose first priority in office was to slash business taxes, has now discovered that some taxes on some people are okay. To fix the state's potholed highways, he is nearly doubling gasoline taxes and hiking car registration fees by 60%. See, these are not 'taxes' they are 'user fees', justified by saying those who benefit (in this case from roads) should pay for them. Don't ya think the truckers are going to pass the costs on to everyone? And these taxes fees will be “an investment” in infrastructure. Unlike, say, education and other public services, which are just a drag on the economy.

Love & Marriage: Demand for oil in the US reached 20 year lows as seasonal gasoline prices rose to record highs. We have all the oil we can afford.

Porn O'Graph: Winners and losers, or Fröhliche Tage.

The Parting Shot:


Calm, for now.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

SAR #13082

'Nothing' is often the best choice. Barry Ritholtz

Better Late And Never: The NRC has decided to put off recommending that radiation filters be installed at 31 US operating reactors because the cost would be as much as $20 million a unit and the lives that would potentially be saved are just not worth that much.

Because They Can: Health insurers are planning to more than double premiums for many individuals and small businesses next year, as they take advantage of loopholes in the poorly written legislation. Not because they need to, but because they can, and see the increases as a way of raking in even more money via the government subsidies to their lower-income customers. But they have to hurry and gouge now because starting next year insurers will be unable to set prices or coverage limits based on an individual's health history, which is the rational basis for commercial insurance. Being unable to cherry pick and refuse those who might actually use their health insurance will eat into their enormous profits, so they want an extra helping now, built into the rates.

More, And More: Since 2000, the percentage of US households carrying any sort of debt dropped from 74% to 69%, but the median debt load of the 69% with debts grew by nearly 40% - from $50,971 to $70,000. And the debts of seniors has doubled.

99.9% Pure: Even though Texas has the highest percentage of uninsured citizens, its GOP leadership proudly proclaims an absolute distaste for accepting federal money to bring health care to its poor. They are out of step with chambers of commerce across the state and major corporations which would like to unload their healthcare costs on the government. But the influence of business on Texas Republicans is modest compared to their blind obedience to right wing evangelicals and Koch-funded Tea Party groups.

Maybe, Maybe Not: Nice to know that we're being protected (sic) from North Korean missiles by the tag end of Reagan’s Star Wars missile - defense system. Too bad it doesn't work.

Bigger Brother: The U.S. government is taking a cybersecurity program that currently 'scans' Internet traffic headed into and out of defense contractors and expanding it to include the country's private, civilian-run infrastructure. The administration hopes to bring the formidable overseas intelligence-gathering of the NSA closer to ordinary folks in the US, and 24/7 monitoring of your “email and other Internet transmission” is about as close as it's possible to get without moving in. The administration is also seeking to pretend that bludgeoning private companies into collecting and forwarding more information to the government is voluntarily. “We're from the government and we're here to help.”

Gone To Haven: Corporations have simply stopped paying their taxes For over 20 years, from 1987 to 2008, corporations paid an average of 22.5% in federal taxes. Since the recession, this has dropped to 10% -- even though their profits have doubled. GE is the worst of them – over 5 years its taxes consisted of $3 billion in refunds while making $81 billion in profits. Exxon Mobil paid less than 1% in taxes on its profits (largest in the group) and received both tax breaks and oil subsidies. Etc, etc. Welfare queens.

Porn O'Graph: All things considered.

The Parting Shot:


Auricularia auricula, Ear Jelly fungus.

Friday, March 22, 2013

SAR #13081

"How many small coffins will we need the next time?" Daily News

Barber of Nicosia: Plan C or D or whatever for Cyprus is to let the 100,000 euro deposit guarantee stand and then take 40% of everything over that. Then the EU/ECB/IMF would have to quickly throw up some (currently forbidden in the EU) capital controls to stop an immediate dash for safe havens out of the reach of Brussels. Making things better by making them worse - an old EU tradition.

Alfred E. Bernanke: The Chairman assures us that the events in Cyprus will be contained.

Ignorance Is Bliss: By voice vote, to protect the guilty, the Senate has barred the National Science Foundation from funding any political science research " not deemed essential to national security or economic interest..." See, that polysci stuff isn't reliable so we're only going to use it in the most sensitive and important areas.

Plus Ça Change: Of course Iran and Iraq are different; Obama's president now.

Why? The USPS, having been forced into near bankruptcy by the Congressional edict that requires them to pre-pay the next 75 years of their retirees health benefits 65 years early, is not being told by Congress (and the GAO) that it cannot try to cut expenses by suspending Saturday delivery. What did the postal service ever do to make Congress so angry at them? I can understand the Republicans – they think all postal carriers vote Democratic – but who is paying the Democrats to gut the USPS? Who is going to benefit? No, not the citizens.

Suicide Is Painless: House Republicans have named Utah's Chris Stewart head of the Climate Subcommittee. Stewart does not believe in global warming and, as a bonus, wants to disband the EPA.

Big Brother Bother: Banning assault weapons and super-sized clips is not the problem holding up a federal gun law. It's universal background checks. The problem is that the Republicans do not want the government to be able to track gun ownership. Never mind that legislation does not create any such ability - all it requires is that gun dealers record to whom each weapon is sold so that if that weapon is later used in a crime the ATF can track it by going to the gun dealer and searching, by hand, through the records. But this is about guns, so we're not going to let reality interfere with interfering with regulation.

Clarification: The CIA’s chief technology officer says that "we fundamentally try to collect everything and hang on to it forever.” Move along, nothing to see here, move along.

Breathing Spell: According to the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, there are no Americans currently on Obama's kill list. How many had been removed from the list, and the circumstances surrounding their removal were not immediately explained.

Through The Mirror: For reasons not explicable to the reality-based universe, Democrats in Congress are undertaking to free Wall Street from federal regulation.

Point Of View/Goal: No sense changing policies that aren't working. Unless, of course, the real policy is something else and it's working after all. The reason conservatives like austerity despite its "failure" is that it gives them cover for destroying the nation as we know it.

Keeper: Since over 99% of all trading in energy futures is speculative (another way to say 'gambling') why is it legal?

None So Blind: Everyone acknowledges that austerity has been a terrible failure in the UK. Everyone except the Prime Minister, who thinks the solution is “even deeper spending cuts” after the elections. Brits best hope someone other than George is running things then.

Spot Quiz: For five years now the quality of life in most of the EU has spiraled downward as social nets get slashed, unemployment soars etc. etc. Yet even in the worst hit nations the citizens have remained remarkably docile – even in Greece which is a certified basket case at this point. Why? Do they really hold out that much hope? Why?

The Parting Shot:


Lost & Found.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

SAR #13080

History is full of ideas that seemed good at the time.

Bottom Line: A single currency requires a level of political cooperation (and control) that simply does not exist in Europe. The end.

Follow The Money: French police have searched IMF chief Christine Lagarde's Paris home in connection with an investigation into her role in the arbitration between Credit Lyonnais and tycoon Bernard Tapie which ended up with Tapie getting a 400 million euro settlement from the bank. The cops were not looking for her coq a vin recipe. This one will be fun to follow.

Whose Bull? Every time some Republican gets hit alongside the head by homegrown reality and decides that at least his kid should have the right to get married or get mental health coverage or any of the rest of these road-to-Damascus ah-ha moments, we are supposed to applaud. The Republican conversion experience is way over-rated. The new-found compassion is always narrowly focused on their own family's misfortune and never seems to lead to the realization there are a lot of families out there with a lot of different problems that need both compassion and a helping hand from their government. Full immersion or forget it.

The Question: Why is Iran willing to suffer economic and political isolation for its nuclear program? 1) Because the US has never attacked a nation that had nukes. 2) See number one.

Or Else: Germany's finance minister says that Cypriot banks are insolvent and that if Cyprus doesn't toe the line drawn in Brussels its banks may never reopen – implying that if they don't agree to a 10% loss, they'll lose everything. Maybe. But maybe not if Mr. Putin sees an opportunity to make some mischief.

Dots, Connecting The: Button, button, who's got the button? If the you think the 'button' is what's going on in Cyprus... wrong. It is about Cyprus in only the most tangential way, the central object was to manipulate the perceptions of the German voters so they would keep Angela and all the little Merkels in power. Now the EU/ECB/IMF needs to come up with something that will change the world's perception of them as a bunch of incompetents. And while they are at it they'll need to find a snappy little PR campaign to con Europe's citizenry into trusting the system. Whatever the system is today.

Cliff Note: To save you from plowing through all the 10-year anniversary navel-examinations, the question asked is 'What lessons have we learned from the Iraq war?' There are only two: They lied. And they got away with it. The war was a premeditated crime. The Iraqi's have always known 'the truth' about Bush, Cheney and the American Empire. So have we, but we pretend not to.

Savings: In the mid-2000's the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors reduced funding for the county's medical clinics in order to save money. Visits to the county clinics dropped by 80,000. Visits to the county's emergency rooms increased by... 80,000. Emergency room visits are way more expensive than the clinic visits.

You Are There: Where's an Edward R. Murrow to lay waste to Paul Ryan, our contemporary Joe McCarthy? Ryan is a serious nutcase, as was McCarthy, and shares Joe's penchant for falsehoods, unsupported allegations with no actual evidence, failure to address challenges to his purported facts and fractured math. And no one ever challenges his credentials, his specific objectives. Too bad this isn't a movie, where there'd be a good guy...

Logic, Y'all: In Texas they seem to have discovered a connection between male colonoscopies and abortion. Don't ask.

The Parting Shot:


Crane-fly Orchid, Tipularia discolor

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

SAR #13079

Depletion never sleeps.

Time Out: The Cypriot parliament said no, so for now no one knows what'll happen but it's pretty unanimous that whatever comes next won't be pretty. That it will squash Cyprus is inevitable. Whether it will make much difference to Bonn or Brussels is another story.

Gutless Wonders: Democrats have betrayed not only Newton's dead children but those who will be killed next time and the time after – whenever some nut grabs an assault rifle and a 25 shot clip and heads off to kindergarten. The balance between dead children and gun nuts is very delicate, according to Harry Reid, but in the end the NRA and wild-eyed fear of the government win.

It Begins: The Russian Cypriot depositors may be loathsome folks, but dumb they are not; their billions (about 15 billion euro, minimum) will be gone as soon as their lawyers draw up the demands. This will, of course, destroy the Cypriot banks, which the confiscations were supposed to save, and without the financial sector, all Cyprus has is a few goats and two olive trees.

Easing Does It: The big danger is not the rate at which the Fed's balance sheet has grown – currently at $85 billion a month and approaching $3.1 trillion. Nope, the going up is just fine. If the Fed ever tries to reduce that by a couple of trillion dollars, selling those assets off best be done gently. Very, very gently. Most likely they'll just bribe the banks with higher interest rates on their reserves (and excess reserves), keeping the cash out of the consumer's pocketbooks. Ah, but then there's the higher interest rate goblin...

Follow the Money: House Democrats, ahem, Democrats, I say Democrats, are signing on to bills that would “expressly allow bailouts of our largest Wall Street banks,” and “impede legislation aimed at forcing the banks to break up.” They are also backing bills to deregulate derivatives (which are pretty much regulation free anyway). Vox populi and all that.

Unchanged Monotony: "Ryan’s budget is intended to do nothing less than fundamentally transform the relationship between Americans and their government. That, and not deficit reduction, is its real point, as it has been Ryan’s real point throughout his career." Ezra Klein

Executive Privilege: Last year the US Supreme Court ruled that a warrant or court order is required before the police can attach a GPS tracking device to a private vehicle. The Obama administration has over-ruled Mr. Chief Justice & Team and says no such paperwork is needed. Constitution? We don't got need no Constitution.

Sauce/Ganders: Turns out that a lot of those members of congress and members of business round tables running around worrying about The Debt and Living Within Our Means are members of the 'do as I say not as I do' brigade. Like the rest of us.

Curb Your Enthusiasm: The smarties who have gobbled up tens of thousands of houses in order to rent them out and rake in the dough while the price of the houses skyrockets had not planned on 50% occupancy rates. And these clever buggers also didn't understand that the people who got pushed out of their houses are not going to be able to rush in and buy another one next week. And that pretty much those who buy a house sell one, too. What drives demand for more housing and drives prices skyward is called household formation – which unemployed and underemployed folks don't rush into. Oh, and another departure from the business plan: rental prices are falling. Too many rental houses, y'know.

Bully's 'R' Republican: Now it's Louisiana’s Senator Vitter that is putting a 'hold' on an Obama nominee for nor particular reason other than to show off. Vitter says it's because of Secretary of Labor nominee Thomas Perez's “spotty work related to the New Black Panther case.” Real spotty. As in Perez was not involved in the case at all. Reform? Can I get a second for reform?.

The Parting Shot:


Wedgeleaf Whitlow Grass, Draba cuneifolia.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

SAR #13078

“Even if they get away with it, it sows the seeds of future dissolution.” Yves Smith on the Cypriot confiscations.

It Is Not About Cyprus: All politics is local. Frau Merkel is mot nearly as interested in confiscating Cypriot's savings as she is in being re-elected and to do that, she has to make the voters believe that Germany is not footing the bill for the bailout. Some members of Merkel's Christian Democratic - Free Democrat coalition oppose bailouts, so she had to make it look like Cyprus was being punished.

Motivation: On the Sunday talk shows both John Boehner and Paul Ryan admitted that there is no debt nor deficit crisis and acknowledged that they pretend there is so they can make the poor suffer the way God intended them to.

Blame Game: EU officials say that it was Anastasiades who insisted that the small depositors in Cypriot banks be “taxed” to support Frau Merkel's re-election, in order to protect the wealthy depositors and keep taking in the Russian laundry.  Has a certain truthful ring, doesn't it?

Headline Headline: 'Republicans Foil What Majority Wants by Gerrymandering.' Or democracy as a winner-takes-all undertaking.

Either/Or: The UN wants to bring electricity into the lives of the 1.3 billion folks who currently have none. The UN also wants to cut back on fossil fuel emissions in order to limit global warming to less than 2°C. Can't do both, probably won't do either.

Essay Question: Without using the word 'privatize', explain why Congress is making the Postal Service 'pre-fund' 75 years of its retiree health care costs (ie providing funds for the retirement health care of people that are not old enough to work for the USPS yet) in 10 years. You can note that the USPS would have made $100 million in profit in the last quarter of 2012 without this ridiculous burden.

Get A Life: Roy Blunt (Repulsive-MO) will place a hold on Gina McCarthy's nomination to head the EPA. He's got nothing against her, he just wants to harass the EPA for the amusement of his contributors. The 'hold' is another of the dysfunctional procedural rules that let the minority stymie the will of the people.

Lying For Fun And Profit: Dominican Republic police have confirmed that the three women who accused Senator Menendez of patronizing underage hookers have admitted they were paid to make these false claims. It'll be interesting to track the money back to some political figures. CNN, which featured dozens of stories based on these fabrications has, to date, not acknowledged the error or their eager gullibility.

A Little Off The Top:God's spokesman Pat Robertson says that if bankrupt families will send him “just $20 a month” he'll square it with God and they can still be 'partners' in his fleecing of the gullible ministry.

Defined, Refined: Capitalism, in contemporary use, is a term used to describe systems in which there are no capitalists. Democracy, in the current vocabulary, describes a a form of plutocracy in which the public will is routinely ignored. In the current system it is of extreme importance that we not be misled by science, rationality and an knowledge or reality. The goal is short-term gains and damn the consequences.

The Parting Shot:


Monday, March 18, 2013

SAR #13077

The only consensus on budget cuts is that someone else ought to take the hit.

Wait, Wait: We won't know until Tuesday if the EU/ECB/IMF raid on Cypriot bank accounts prevails, or if the tiny nation defies the Germans and chooses to go belly up. Well, not quite – it's going to go belly up anyway, but the whole thing will lead to a new definition of group punishment and the quaint idea of property rights.

Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid: The US says it has to spend a few hundred billion dollars to defend the country against the threat from North Korea. When you're running out of wars, any war will do. Let's hear it for defense spending, defense spending!

Degrees: Obama wants to both expand the scope of the Authorization for Use of Military Force and make parts of the global war on terror “permanent procedures” to continue the US global campaign against real and imagined threats. Obama's reign is accelerating the use of secrecy, repression, warrantless eavesdropping and indefinite detention, plus establishing and extending presidential assassination powers. Good thing the terrorist didn't destroy our way of life.

Family Man: John Boehner, speaking for the new gentler friendlier GOP, says that he would not change his opposition to same-sex marriage even if he were to have a gay child.

New World Orders: The IMF has told the Eurozone nations that they must abandon national sovereignty and move toward a transnational system that can decide when and how to extract wealth from taxpayers without the encumbrances of political processes. The new Single Supervisory Mechanism should, the IMF said, regulate all banks in not just the Eurozone, but the entire EU. And it urged adoption of an EU banking union under which the citizens of all EU nations would be jointly responsible for bailing out banks and their investors, bondholders, and account holders in any Eurozone country. And no, they did not suggest this be accomplished via any democratic process. And this was before the troika decided to punish Peter (Cyprus) to teach Paul (Russian oligarchs) a lesson.

The Future Is Overrated: The future is already here--it is just not evenly distributed.

Testing, Testing: The University of Tennessee is going to undertake fracking in the Cumberland State Forest, saying that contaminating the pristine 8,000 acres will allow them identify the environmental impact of the drilling. Plus, they say, it could generate enough money to pay to fix the environmental damage the experiment causes. Win-win.

Stop & Go: A US judge, misunderstanding the nature of our brave new 24/7 monitored world, has ordered the FBI to stop its "pervasive" use of National Security letters to snoop on phone and email records, ruling that the widespread tactic was unconstitutional. The government solution will be to get the same information from NSA (the elephant in the room), which doesn't bother with such niceties as warrants and notifications.

Jobs Jobs Jobs: It's the job of the future! A real growth opportunity awaits you in the home health care profession. Average wage is $9.70 an hour, plus food stamps and eligibility for the same Medicaid your clients are getting. Plus there's the possibility of long hours and unpaid overtime, and most certainly no benefits whatsoever. Apply today, especially if you are a minority female – we want to entrust our mothers and fathers to your willing hands.

Bonehead: House Speaker John Boehner, in the spirit of public service, says that “The talk about raising revenue is over” and there is no chance of raising taxes. On anyone. Presumably forever. And that efforts to find a compromise solution are “over”, while he admits, "We do not have an immediate debt crisis.” But he thinks talking about it may give him an opportunity to cut entitlement programs.

Porn O'Graph: Ah, there's the difficulty.

The Parting Shot:


Saturday, March 16, 2013

SAR #13075

Yes, it's a bull market, and I know bull when I see it.

Headline Headline: "Consumer prices soar, but inflation is in check." Yup, prices have their largest increase in four years and there is "no sign of inflation to trouble the Federal Reserve." Ah, wouldn't want to trouble Gentle Ben.

Most Wanted: Bankers, for committing the following and many more crimes and misdemeanors repeatedly - with impunity and immunity: money laundering for dictators, money laundering for drug kingpins, money laundering for terrorists, fraudulent bond issuance, multiple frauds related to hundreds of thousands of mortgages, selling the same item to several different people, charging for services not performed. And then there's JPMorgan and SAC Capital and no one ever goes to jail, yet they got a subsidy of $780 billion every year- which is about what the rest of the nation got as a stimulus package over 4 years.

Contest: What, exactly, have Ryan and the economists he cites gotten right these past, oh, five years?" Usual prizes.

Plastics: Get that education; they can't take that away from you. Hell, they don't want it, especially if it is a law degree. Only about one-third of law school graduates get full time jobs as lawyers. And this year's crop will be the largest ever. Imagine all the damage these youngsters will cause, wandering around with immense college debts and useless degrees. Hell, they'll probably sue someone.

Bonus Question: Why does an MRI cost $1,080 in America and $280 in France?

Devil/Details: Wall Street's welfare queens are the largest recipients of taxpayer largess – corporations take in nearly $100 billion per year. Penurious corporations like Boeing, IBM, Motorola, Dow Chemical, and GE. Corporations spend what could be R&D money on lobbying. Corporate welfare often subsidizes failing firms and certainly gets passed on to shareholders as dividends on 'profits'. End welfare for the rich!

Warm-Up Question: Why are oil prices so high if supplies are abundant? Hint: $2.4 trillion spent from 2005 to 2010 on petroleum exploration and development resulted in a decrease in the rate of oil production of 200,000 barrels per day.

Remain Calm: The administration is going to give all (and it's a longer list than you would suspect) US intelligence/super-police agencies “full access” to “financial data on American citizens and others who bank in the country”. What's 'full access' as opposed to the 24/7 level of surveillance we now enjoy?

Grated Expectations: All those hopes and prayers and plans for the Golden Years are slip sliding away. Back in 1990, only 11.8% of the 65 and over worked. By 2010 it grew to 17.4% and by 2020 – according to BLS data – it will be 22.6%. And it's even worse for the over-75 gang – From less than 5% working in 1990 the league of Walmart Greeters will double. When are you expecting to retire? Or rather, are you expecting to retire?

Pay To Play: The US war in Iraq has killed at least 189,000 Iraqi civilians directly and over 500,000 more indirectly and has cost the US taxpayer $1.7 trillion so far. Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan together run the tab up to $3.7 trillion, plus future decades of veterans' medical costs. Oh, and the increasing radicalization of the Middle East – there's a cost.

Point Of View: Conservative Senator Rob Portman (Reformed-OH), once a strong supporter of the DOMA now says he supports gay marriage because "we are all the children of God". That one of his own children is gay might have helped him see the light. He is the only Republican senator to support full citizenship for all Americans. Too bad some Senators don't have unemployed working class poor kids.

Animal Farm: Egypt's ruling Muslim Brotherhood, joining Iran, Russia and the Vatican, says it is all in favor of equality for its citizens, but warns that allowing a woman to travel, work and use contraception without her husband's approval, letting her control family spending and prosecuting husbands for raping their wives could destroy a society run by men - like Egypt, Iran, Russia, and that other place. Duh.

Porn O'Graph: Golf just isn't that inviting.

The Parting Shot:


Friday, March 15, 2013

SAR #13074

They’re called 'booms' for a reason.

Too Big To Flail: Not only are the behemoth banks too big to fail, but according to officials at the highest levels of the US government they and the people (okay, men) who run them are too important to the economy to be prosecuted, no matter what the crimes. But it's not done to protect the guilty, but to protect “the innocent shareholders.” Personally, I've never seen one, but I suppose there must be some. But most of the shareholders are part of the top 5% and innocent isn't a term that comes to mind when describing many of them.

In Summation: Unemployment in debt-crippled Greece rose to a record 26% in the last quarter of 2012, as austerity measures continues to drive the economy into “a deep recession.” [If 26% unemployment isn't a Depression with a capital D, I missed the memo.] In the under-25 age group, unemployment was 57.8 percent, giving them lots of free time to study social engineering in the streets.

The Easy Button: Here's a solution to the 'can the president kill citizens on US soil with drones' quandary: Pass a law that says the president can't kill US citizens. Period. Drones shouldn't enter into the discussion. Could even mention things like courts and trials.

Objects In The Mirror May Disappear: According to the US State Department there are no prisoners being held under “indefinite detention” at Guantánamo. First of all they are detainees, not prisoners. And no individual will be held “longer than necessary”, or forever, whichever comes first. And that's definite.

Chained Melody: Here's how “chained CPI” will work: Each year your Social Security benefit will be lowered by 0.3%. Cumulatively. After 10 years that'll lower your benefit by 3%, 6% after 20 years. And should you live to be 97, you'll have to get by on about 10% less. But you'll be proud to be a survivor of The Grand Bargain. If you survive.

Just Following Orders: Blackwater's manifold and egregious crimes have been given a pass by federal prosecutors because 1) they occurred overseas and 2) the were acting on behalf and at the behest of the CIA to do things the law prevented the CIA from doing itself.

An American Dream: No, not home ownership, homes ownership. Blackstone Group has gathered up $2.1 billion to buy up houses lost to foreclosure and rent them back to the folks who lost them to foreclosures and then peddle the bundled rental agreements as an adventurous securitization.

De Facto: Beppe Grillo, Italy's current political leader, says that northern Europe is eager to drop Italy from the eurozone "like a hot potato". There's also some suspicion that Italy might return the favor.

Keeping Score: The Air Force has stopped letting the public know about its drone strikes in Afghanistan (and it has never been forthcoming about drone strikes in other places, lots of other places), but not, not they claim, because some kooks are questioning the legality of randomly killing people. But, as Senator Lindsey Graham says, ““Sometimes you hit innocent people...” So far drones have have killed 4,700 people, some of them enemy combatants.

Foot Bone Connected To The... Genetically modifying plants so they can poison their main biologic pests is a good ides. Well, it was, until someone figured out that when the target bugs don't attack, the plants don't put out their natural defenses and so they succumb to other pests... One damned thing after another.

Losing Seasons: Canadian winters are significantly warmer and shorter than they were 30 years ago. During that time the temperature regimes and plant life of the south have marched more than 700 kilometers northward. The frozen north is leaving and won’t be back. Visit soon, before its gone.

The Parting Shot:


Thalictrum thalictroides, Rue Anemonie

Thursday, March 14, 2013

SAR #13073

If Americans understood what Republicans are doing with this debt and deficit hoax . . . they would riot in the streets and dismantle Wall Street brick by brick.” Rmuse

The Nightwatch: Reports are again claiming that Obama is telling Democrats that “they must be open to entitlement changes”. For which read, caving in to Paul Ryan and gutting Medicaid, Medicare and the Social Security System. Good thing he won by a goodly margin in November or he'd have to give away the farm.

Half A League... Elements of the US 82nd Airborne Division are preparing to invade Syria and (try to) take control of that country's stockpiles of hundreds of tons of chemical weapons. Just a few thousand paratroopers. To start.

Waiting For... The system has failed us. Thirty years ago they told us that 401(k)s were going to provide us with a comfy retirement. The evidence is in, and they have not, do not and will not. They have provided a rich flow of fees to the financial industry. And the failure to live up to the propaganda is, they say, our fault because we do not save enough. Out of what, our falling wages? Our unemployment checks? Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid were created for a reason. We cannot afford to retire. Given health care costs, we cannot even afford to live. We have a societal problem, not a financial one. None of us can go it alone. We must rely on each other. We do not need to destroy the safety nets, we need to strengthen them.

Old Whine, New Bottle: The new and improved Pope is an enemy of marriage and adoption rights for gay men and lesbians because it would “seriously damage the family.” Same old, same old.

The Market Speaks: “What the markets are clearly saying, however, is that the fears and prejudices that have dominated Washington discussion for years are entirely misguided. And they’re also telling us that the people who have been feeding those fears and peddling those prejudices don’t have a clue about how the economy actually works." Paul K, of course.

Asked & Unanswered:   What happened to a safety net that’s supposed to catch poor women and children when they fall?”

Doggy/Window:Oil industry lobbyists, conservative think tankers, and House Republicans (yes, redundancy abounds) are putting on a full-court press to kill the idea of taking the industry's tax breaks away and – even worse – taxing them for the global warming they are causing. How much are we talking about in tax breaks? In lives?

Hung Jury: Chris Matthews suggests that if we are ever going to learn the truth about how and who got the US to invade Iraq, someone would have to waterboard Dick Cheney. As appealing as it sounds, let’s not become one of the Bad Guys;  waterboarding is not the way to “learn the truth” about anything - I’d settle for a public trial for treason.

Another Thing: Medical experts are concerned that if stringent measures are not taken, antibiotic-resistant superbugs will pose a catastrophic threat to the world's population, reducing our health systems to early 19th century levels of ineffectiveness. It wasn't clear where this threat fits on the peak-oil / global warming continuum.

Dangerous Idea: "The courtrooms of America should be open to the public, so they can see and hear what is being done in their name." Why is Daniel Ellsberg a hero and Bradly Manning facing life imprisonment?

Jelly Beans In A Jar: How long before we understand that the catastrophic global warming we've been warned about is irreversibly here? That is, when does the world-as-we-know-it end? It used to be thought that when we achieved a 2ºC rise in global average temperature our goose would be cooked. At our current rate, we'll have guaranteed a 2ºC rise within the next decade or so. Now we're pretending that 3ºC will be survivable, even as we set our smokestacks on a 4, 5 or 6ºC rise in the next century – which most certainly will do the trick.

Advanced Economics: The U.S. federal government doesn't actually need to balance its budget. Ever.

The Others: Most Americans (56%) support using drones to kill people in those places they can't find on a map, like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Detroit and Yemen. It will take some terrifically boneheaded mistakes to sour the average American on the program – just killing Pakistani kids won't do the trick.

What Goes Around... The New England Journal of Medicine reports that the radiation from CT scans - done to detect cancer - is responsible for 2% of US cancer cases. All medicine comes with some level of risk, CT scans higher than most.

The Parting Shot:


Dacrymyees palmatus Orange jelly fungus

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

SAR #13072

A bubble reaches its maximum extent immediately before it bursts.

R-E-C-O-V-E-R-Y: Job openings, the 'hires' rate, the 'quits' rate and the separations rate were all little changed m/m in January. Don't let the cheering deafen you.

The Map Is Not The Territory: The 2013 version of Paul Ryan's assault on the social fabric of the United States: Repeal Obamacare but keep the Obamacare cuts to Medicare and the new taxes in the plan. Convert Medicare to a voucher system, giving profits to private insurance companies while depriving seniors of needed health care. Cut Medicaid to the bone and then prevent the poor from getting medical care by putting them in the loving hands of state-level grifters. Cut as many other domestic social programs as deeply as possible. Increase Defense spending in order to strengthen defense contributions to the Republicans. Simplify taxes by doing away with taxes on the rich and cutting corporate taxes (which nobody pays anyway) to 25%. Also include a rather stupid mandatory cap on total spending so in the next recession the government won't be able to help anyone. Continue to fund any and all wars under the table, like Iraq and Afghanistan have been. Same old same old. This is not “deficit reduction” it is an assault on the social compact. And it is Paul Ryan's attempt to save himself from the obscurity of being a losing vice-presidential candidate. Why is this treated as anything other than self-promotion? That Paul Ryan is the intellectual leader of the Republican Party says far more about the low state of Republican intelligence than it does about his presumed brilliance.

Asked and Answered: Could melting glaciers slow down climate change? No. Well, not much.

Fat Of The Land: Mississippi, number one in the obesity Olympics, has passed a bill prohibiting any city or town from requiring restaurants to post calorie counts or to otherwise appraise those who can read of the dangers lurking in their meat and three. And they're happy.

Other People's Money: As the Dow was zooming to new heights, so was margin debt, which is now at at the third highest level in history. Third to June and July 2007, just before... well, you know.

Fodder: The Congressional Budget Office has reduced its projection of cumulative Medicare 2011-2020 spending by more than $500 billion from its 2010 estimate. The Cat Food Commission asked for only a $60 billion cut in Medicaid over the same period. The CBO also lowered its estimate for Medicaid spending over the same period by $218 billion. But Paul Ryan claims that Medicaid is inefficient and its costs are out of control and that giving state political hacks control of all that money is the way to go.

On Getting Away With It: After the bankers' enormously long list of forgery, fraud, lies and negligence (putting a good face on things) cost the FDIC $92.5 billion, the government managed to recover $787 million.

Depends On The Definition: The 100-plus detainees at the Guantanamo concentration camp who are on a hunger strike are not, according to the Pentagon, on a hunger strike. They're just not eating – it's like a Weight Watchers thingy.

Bottom Feeder: The lawyer for a bunch of high school football louts who plied a young woman with alcohol until she passed out, then gang raped her, says hisclients are innocent because the woman never actually said no.

Horse, Mouth: "we’re not going to give up on destroying the health care system for the American people." Paul Ryan, Republican.

Flash! Eisenstadt v. Baird, the 1972 SC case that established the right of unmarried people to use contraception is “the single most destructive decision in the history of the Court,” according to the Family Research Council, which also says that “functioning societies” have never given single people “the right to engage in sexual intercourse.” No, that would have been Mother Nature's doing, some time earlier.

Porn O'Graph: A little off the top.

The Parting Shot:


Trillium sessile, Toadshade.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

SAR #13071

Things are often easier to do than to explain.

Immaterial: Building or not building the Keystone XL pipeline is a pointless argument. Either crappy Canadian tar sands oil flows to market through a pipeline or it will flow to market on long trains of oil tankers, but it will flow to market. The environmental damage from a possible pipeline leak is minor compared to the inevitable damage it will cause via global warming.

Mirror Image: One of the popular (with politicians) Social Security and Medicare 'reforms' is to extend the eligibility age. But that will lead to fewer lifetime benefits for the poor, who will end up paying for the extended lifespan benefits for the rich. Ought to be the other way around.

Perspective: During the worst of the Iraq war the US Army was going through less than 6 million rounds of ammunition a month. Homeland Security is buying 1.6 billion rounds – that's enough for 20 years of war at an intense pitch. Why does the order include hollow-point rounds? Why so much ammo for snipers? Why? To get a good deal on the bulk buy, they say.

Inheritance: Turns out that we've been dying from atherosclerosis for at least the last 4,000 years – without the benefit of french fries, hamburgers, smoking, booze and cable TV to clog our arteries. This suggests that atherosclerosis may be “an inherent component of human aging and not associated with any specific diet or lifestyle.” This does not mean the doctor is wrong about changing those bad habits – there's always heart attacks...

Minyan: Why are cardinals who have been implicated in covering -up for pedophilia in the Church not being banned from taking part in electing the next pope (or being the next pope)? Because without them, the Vatican couldn't field a quorum.

Bully: The US is throwing a hissy-fit, threatening Pakistan with Bad Things if it goes ahead with its planned gas pipeline link with Iran. The US says it wants to help Pakistan find “more reliable ways to meet its energy needs” than importing natural gas from its next door neighbor.

Hiding In Plain Sight: Some 60 large US corporations 'hid' $166 billion in profits – over 40% of their profits - in offshore accounts. This did not include any of Mitt's funds.

On Fear, With Loathing: Conservatives have been warning about high inflation and interest rate spikes for over four years, yet it hasn't happened. Every social program is, they claim, going to doom the stock market and kill business. It hasn't happened yet, but they keep saying it will. And the Dow climbs on and interest rates remain low and inflation is non-existent. But they continue with their dire predictions, not because they believe them, but because it gives them an excuse to implement policies that would further their ideological preferences – cut Social Security, slash Medicare, abandon the poor, the old, the sick. Screw the workers, bust the unions, fire the teachers, privatize everything. They are high priests, needing sacrificial offerings, but they obviously have no insight into the actual workings of the real world.

I'm OK, Are You OK? Heart attacks rise about 10% following the start of daylight saving time. They fall the same amount in October. Me, I get up in the morning.

Unbelievers: Americans are not only not saving for retirement, they don't think it's worth trying to do so. They believe health care costs will consume their savings no matter how much they save. They're pretty sure investment returns won’t be high enough to provide decent retirement income regardless of how much they manage to put away. The only piece of wisdom the majority share is the conviction that they shouldn't trust investment advice.

Porn O'Graph: What, Me Worry?

The Parting Shot:


Sycamore starter kit.