Friday, May 31, 2013

SAR #13151

Those living in the real world need accurate information, the rest get by on opinions.

Choosing Sides: Shi'ites and Sunis – who have been fighting over the family inheritance for about 1400 years – are killing each other with increasing enthusiasm in 1) Syria, 2) Iraq, 3) Lebanon, 4) all of the above and more. Before you get all high and mighty, remember Europe abut 500 years ago. Or Ireland, just last week.

Trading Secrets: Citibank, like GE before it, 'settled' FHFA's accusing Citi of 'misleading' Fannie and Freddie into buying $3.5 billion in flakey MBS. No admission, no public information about how much – or more likely how little - the settlement amounted to. They decided it is none of the public’s business. That's 2 for 2 so far for FHFA in its pursuit of 18 banks for over $200 billion in questionable MBS. Or more likely 2 for 2 for the banks.If you substitute 'fraud' here and there, you might wrongly conclude there was a crime here. Or maybe not.

Greetings: Your friends and neighbors have selected you 750,000 DoD employees to get sequestered one day a week off for the next three months – without pay. Hey, it's only a 20% cut in pay and they're all patriotic, right?

Boom Times: “Rarely has there ever been such an equity boom [built] on such quicksand.” Like in 1937. QE has been remarkably ineffective beyond driving up asset prices, the consensus is that QE has become “a dangerous addiction” that will be increasingly difficult to unwind. Globally the signs are for more tightening, at exactly the wrong time. Like in 1937.

Sending A Message: The Louisiana House refuses to repeal a 1981 creationism law that was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1987, “for symbolic reasons.”

Creepy Socialism: In 2011 the hated Obamacare socialized medicine saved patients and hospitals at least $147 million by permitting adult children up to age 26 to stay on their parent's health insurance. Fortunately the Republicans are going to save us from it, or die trying. I vote for 'die trying.'

Daily Data: GDP was revised downward, unemployment claims wandered upward, politicians continue to confuse posturing with governing.

Knee Jerks: Reacting to yesterday's report that in 40% of all households with children under 18 mothers are either the sole or primary source of family income, Fox's Lou Dobbs said that this was proof that American society is collapsing, Juan Williams said it would have negative consequences, specifically the disintegration of marriage, and Eric Erickson said nature intended for women to be subservient to men. Christian radio blabber said that women were not designed to be 'providers.' On what may or may not have been a different subject, Fox's John Stossel reminded us that no one died of starvation during the Great Depression and so we don't need the modern welfare state. Don't touch that dial clicker.

Number 2 With A Bullet: Actually it was a drone, but either way the 'number two Taliban leader in Pakistan' that the US assassinated yesterday has been replaced. They've got a deep bench.

Calendar: A wide coalition of European groups – "all citizens, with or without party, with or without a job, with or without hope" – will unite on June 1st to protest austerity measures imposed by the troika of all-powerful financial institutions that have led to unemployment, foreclosures, social inequity and cuts in health care and education, all in the name of a debt crisis that "once again privatizes profits and socializes losses, while demanding bloody cutbacks in return."

Future Tense:A neurologist from Oxford University says that one day science will be able cure people of religious fundamentalism. Better yet, it may be possible to cure people of the belief that it is okay to beat a child. Voting Republican was not mentioned, but research continues.

Bricks Without Straw: US personal consumption continues to increase as a percent of GDP while US manufacturing continues to decline. Neat trick.

The Parting Shot:


Honeysuckle.  Lonicera japonica.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

SAR #13150

Happy are those who believe; ideology is far more powerful than experience.

Perspective: To help you judge just how well the housing market is doing, let us remind you that if the house you paid $200,000 for in 2000 would bring in $275,000 after the real estate leaches get done and the taxes paid, you are breaking even. Inflation. And in real terms, that's about where we are, back to 2000 levels. Party responsibly.

Domestic Disturbance: Someone should remind McCain and Obama, the EU and Russia – as well as the immediate neighbors - what happens when you try to break up fighting spouses.

Over There: The UK's Conservative government has asked Goldman Sachs to take the lead on privatizing the Royal Mail. At the same time Cameron & Co. are taking bids on privatizing the UK court system.

Quitter: According to Ms Bachman, it took “a great deal of thought and deliberation” to get out while the getting was good and before the FBI and/or the ethics committee get through with her. She'll be hitting the speaker's podium along with Miss Sarah real soon. Serendipitously, these two headlines were (inadvertently?) listed back to back: Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN) will not seek re-election. And “Congress’s average I.Q. expected to rise in 2015″.

There Will Be A Brief Pause: Exxon, having promised to put $600 million into the development of “algae biofuels” - and chucked $100 million into the project to no end, has called it quits. Another miracle down the drain.

Changing Times: A Census Bureau survey reports that "A record 40% of all households with children under the age of 18 include mothers who are either the sole (63% - earning $23,000) or primary source (37% - family income $80,000) of income for the family." In 1960, women were the sole or primary source of income in just 11% of US households. Women's Lib didn't work out quite as well as planned.

What Could Go Wrong? Researchers report that GMO salmon can (and do) interbreed with wild trout, producing offspring that are highly competitive, fast-growing fish.

Just Shut Up And Die: A 5-4 majority of the Supremes think that if there is a high probability that an innocent person has been wrongly convicted, that person should have a chance to prove it – even if filing deadlines have passed. Justice (sic) Scalia is livid; to him actual innocence is not, in and of itself, enough of a reason to consider overturning a conviction.

Ain't Gonna Practice War No More: Every day, day after day after day, 22 US veterans commit suicide. The VA is unable to deliver adequate resources to help these wounded warriors and is apparently not addressing the psychic damage done to soldiers when they kill civilians, which given the nature of our current wars, is a daily possibility.

The Parting Shot:


Crown vetch. Coronilla varia

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

SAR #13149

Giving to the rich requires taking from the poor.

Perspective: The real scandal isn't that the IRS questioned Tea Party and Patriot applications for 501(C)(4) tax exemption, but that they approved so many of them.

Who's Watching The Store: Here's another story about Chinese hackers having their way with US defense secrets. Makes you wonder what our side is up to – we do have our own hackers, don't we? But if the Chinese pour billions into copying the hapless. ridiculously expensive and generally useless F-35, that'll be fair punishment.

Flexing Their Muscles: The IRS is investigating First Caribbean International Bank, a former Barclays property, in connection with tax evasion. Also named were the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and Wells Fargo. Down the Street, the Justice Department awoke from a long nap and coordinated police raids in 17 countries as part of their prosecution of Liberty Reserve for their role in international money-laundering via their digital money services. Bear in mind that Wall Street banks that admitted laundering billions and billions for drug cartels and dictators paid only a few pence in penalties, so don't get too excited.

Question Questions: According to CNN, “A majority of Americans still oppose the nation's new health care measure...” Actually, the survey showed that 59% of Americans support Obamacare, but CNN has been brainwashed by the Republicans into thinking that anything less than 60% is a minority. They've also failed simple math, much like those in the GOP. CNN got their desired conclusion by claiming that those who don't think Obamacare went far enough towards single-payer are opposed to the half a loaf we got.

Competition: The IEA says that if prices for natural gas rise to $5 per million BTU, coal will become a viable alternative. Which is too bad for the frackers, because by all reports they need nearly $8/mBTU to break even.

Woodshed: The other day Ben Bernanke went up the Hill and told the congresscriters that they, and not he and his merry band at the Fed, were the reason the economy keeps crawling along. Cutting the deficit, he explained once more with admirable patience, is the wrong thing to do. The declining deficit is not a sign the country is doing well but the result of the Congress (and President, but he didn't say that) doing nearly everything wrong – cutting when they should be spending.

Trees/Forest: Amid all the housing boosterism traipsing around it might be worth stopping in a shadowy doorway and looking up lumber prices on the old mobile. Then again, maybe they've found a way to build houses without using something as old-fashioned as wood.

Genuflect In Their Presence: The planet's top 8% of earners gather in at least 50% of all the globe's income. Inequality is not a national disgrace, it is a global disaster waiting to unravel society everywhere. For extra credit, make an argument justifying Luxembourg's $114,232 average income when actual human beings in Burundi make $271 a year.

What's That Smell? The US Postal Service is slowly being strangled by a Congressional mandate that it prefund 50 years of retiree health benefits nearly immediately. All of the USPS's budgetary shortfalls since this unrealistic requirement was imposed have been solely due to this act. It was designed to drive the USPS bankrupt so it could be privatized, and it is working. That the USPS is “rated the most efficient postal service in the world” is the major reason the politicians want to put it up for sale to their backers.

Housing Developments: Sales in California suggest that buying houses in order to flip them for a profit is back. Across the nation this spring prices are frothing upward – Case-Shiller says they're up more than 10% y/y nationwide, with some areas up more than 25% in a year. Sustainable, right? Can you smell the bubble? Some claim it's not a bubble because prices haven't reached 2006's ridiculous heights. Yet.

Porn O'Graph: To Infinity and Beyond!

The Parting Shot:


Patterns/Okeeffe #46

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

SAR #13148

Most ways to constrain population growth are less than benevolent.

Mix & Match: While Senator John 'The War Lover' McCain is posing for photos with Syrian rebel leaders, Russia is promising to deliver missiles to the Assad regime, and the EU ended its embargo on arms shipments to the rebel factions

Decisions, Decisions: The Republicans want Obama to authorize building the Keystone XL pipeline without considering any impact it may have on global warming. Excuse me, but is there any reason to reject the pipeline other than its impact on global warming?

Now they're just messing with us. Physicists have long claimed (and shown) that entangled quantum particles can affect each other even if they are light years apart. Now they have shown that that entangled photons do not even have to exist at the same time. Neat. Not time travel so much as inheritance.

Vocabulary: There is a word for this kind of market: Bubble.

Cost Plus: How safe is that bridge you're driving over? How high is high? How sequestered is common sense? We could fix 'em with $76 billion – about what we deliver to Ahmed Karzai in trash bags each year.

Stay Tuned: The Canadian Federal Court – the national trial court for legal disputes at the federal level – has ruled that Canada's 2011 federal election, in which Harper's Conservative Party prevailed, was characterized by widespread fraud and corrupted by an orchestrated effort to suppress votes. The Harper government's obstructionism, non-compliance and attempts to disrupt and derail the court hearings suggest the party “has something to conceal.” “Either senior leaders of the Conservative Party were directly involved in election fraud or they were astoundingly negligent.” This will, of course, have no effect on the powers that run the country.

Br'er Rabbit and the Briar Patch: The Obama administration has told the UK that if it chooses to leave the failing European Union it will not be permitted to suffer further humiliation and loss of sovereignty under the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.

Sin and Wages: When economists say “that 'we must pay for past sins', ask yourself who is this 'we' person and just which sins did 'we' commit? What did 'we' do wrong that necessitated punishment – or for that matter what did ordinary Greeks or 22 year-old Spaniards do that was so terrible? If someone must be punished then why not those who caused and profited? Ah, “I dream of a day when the only people who suffer from money-losing investments are the money-losing investors, whose only penance is lost money."

Liberalism Runs Amok. Arizona's Republican Governor, Jan Brewer, will be burned at the stake in front of the state capitol for threatening to veto everything the legislature passes until the GOP-controlled body accepts expanded Medicaid under Obamacare.

Fine Print: Researchers claim that NY will be fossil-fuel-free by 2050. One way or another.

Lonely At The Top: The ultimate rulers of the universe – the 100 richest people in the world – have sufficient income to end poverty. Four times over. Why do the rest of us continue to endure this absurdity?

Can You Hear Me Now?Danish high school students planted twelve trays with common garden cress, put six of them in a room with no source of electromagnetic radiation and six of them in a room containing two Wi-Fi routers. The cress grown in one room thrived, in the other room most of the plants died. Guess which was which. Oh, and did you know that Wi-Fi routers put out the same sort of electromagnetic radiation as your cell phone.

The Parting Shot:


Blackberries, on order.

Monday, May 27, 2013

SAR #13147

Repeat after me: "Emails are not private."

Good Question: Why should Apple have access to any US infrastructure – roads, railroads, airports, public airwaves, college educated workers and consumers who can read and write - if it refuses to pay its fair share of taxes?

Revised: Obama to meet with survivors of Guantanamo the tornado in Oklahoma drone attacks in Pakistan.

Heresy: One of the ways that would help the poor and get the economy moving again would be to simply give people cash. Don't think so? Why not, you'd spend it, wouldn't you? It's called demand and that's what's missing. Immoral? Yeah, and all that grocery shopping would be fattening, too.

Why, Oh Why?If there are 26,000 instances of rape and sexual abuse in the US military every year, why don't at least 20,000 of these so-called 'heroes' get dishonorably discharged every year - after they spend a few years in Leavenworth?

On Being Wrong: Received wisdom says that “an increase in bank reserves deposited at the Fed eventually feeds credit growth and thereby inflationary pressures...” But reality disagrees. The Fed “only provides liquidity... Only banks and shadow banks can create credit.” And if no one wants to borrow or meets the banks' criteria, no credit creation and thus no inflation. Stock market bubble, yes, but no impact on reality.

Herded: “...we’re left with a target that’s considered respectable because it’s what all the respectable people say, and is what all the respectable people say because it’s considered respectable.”

The Street Where You Live: With the housing recoveryTM now in its second or third year, or maybe not, at least 40% of those of us with a mortgage cannot afford to sell our houses – over 25% because we're still underwater and at least another 18% because what we could get would not cover the mortgage and the cost of selling the place. And if we're at break even, where does the down-payment come from for the next place. Or even the first-last-and-security-deposit for an apartment?

Definition:'Derivative' in finance, is a bet on whether or not another bet will win or lose. It is respectable, whereas cock fighting is not. Letting the too big to fail banks continue to gamble is called 'financial reform'. Democrats are paid to be for it, just like the Republicans.

Perhaps it's not China... Now computer security experts claim “a new wave of potentially destructive computer attacks striking American corporations, especially energy firms” is rooted in Iran, not China. Maybe.

Ill Windbag: Senator Tom Corburn (Moralist – OK), who doesn't want any aid for his constituents unless it is taken from somebody else in some other state, says that Federal Disaster Aid means that “people don't have to be responsible for what goes on in your state.” Meanwhile, Obama was wandering around Moore personally assuring victims and those who had lost loved ones that in the face of disaster Americans help Americans, which is against Coburn's religion politics.

Proud Texans: There's a new crime wave in Texas – the homeless hungry are being arrested for “disturbing the contents of” garbage bins.

The Parting Shot:



Saturday, May 25, 2013

SAR #13145

World War II resolved capitalism's last global unemployment crises.

Semantics: If you think the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the US-EU trade talks are about open markets and free trade, you've fallen for their propaganda. What these negotiations are actually about is manipulating regulatory issues in ways that could never stand examination in the light of day, and have as their goal the elimination of competition and free trade. All, of course, as a way of delivering money from your pockets to the coffers of multinational corporations. 'Twas always so.

They're Baaack! Mandiant, a private security company that helps companies and government agencies defend themselves, reports that Chinese Army hackers are mounting a new attack on the US electrical grid, which could put the entire nation's energy network at risk.

Picture This: Anthony “That Might Be Mine” Weiner, now a candidate for mayor of NYC, still has an image problem. Specifically on his campaign website, which carries an image of the Pittsburgh skyline.

Usual Suspects: Following the European Commission's antitrust investigation into the manipulation of oil prices, BP, Shell and Statoil have become the first to be sued for intentionally manipulating the benchmark price of Brent Crude.

The Old One-Two: Mexico, the headlines claim, has the world's second-largest percentage of obese people. Don't panic, Walmart customers in Tennessee assure the US of permanent hold on first place.

Fumbling Forward: Economic forecasts rest on the assumption that economies ultimately heal themselves (because obviously central bankers have not done so). Or that at the very least, over time economies muddle through. Time being the operative factor. The goal of central bankers is to stay in office until the passage of time turns them into effective leaders.

Revisiting Blaise: Pope Francis has changed the rules of the game; he says that ““The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone!” Good guys finish first, regardless of the baggage they carry, or don't.

Insult/Injury: The Medical Ethics Board of TN has found that Congressman Scott DesJarlais (R-TN), a physician in real life, had sex with some of his patients and tried to persuade at least one of them to have an abortion. DesJarlais paid a $500 “reprimand”. The Republican leadership are “happy to get this [the abortion part?] resolved.”

Cue the Twilight Zone Theme: Opposing a bill to lower the Kansas sales tax on food, state Senator Jeff Melcher (R, of course) explained that lowering the tax would be “encouraging the behavior of purchasing food and discouraging the behavior of purchasing anything else.” Like votes?

The Parting Shot:



Friday, May 24, 2013

SAR #13144

Being wrong is unavoidable, willful ignorance is.

Only In America: Among the 61 schools Chicago is closing is Crispus Attucks Elementary, where 48% of the students are homeless. Keep that in mind as you listen to the right praise Apple for not paying taxes.

Some Are More Equal Than Others: Not a single bankster has been arrested, much less convicted of fraud or grand larceny for taking part in the greatest robbery in history, yet over 7,700 Americans have been arrested for protesting the impune rapacity of the big banks.

Case Closed: Russian scientists studying global warming from a research station in the Arctic are having to evacuate the station because the ice it sits on is melting.

Comes The Dawn: Ken Rogoff – having tired of being poster boy for the economic excuse for pointless austerity – now says that “massive writedowns of debt” will be required to end the crisis in the eurozone. Can't bring himself to say “stimulus”. Meanwhile, long-term youth unemployment in Sweden is being blamed for four days of riots in Stockholm suburbs. With unemployment among Greek youth approaching 75%, Athens seems set for turmoil And Germany and France, supposed healthy economies, are “still in contraction” as output across the eurozone signals continuing recession. There are desperate folks in the US, too.

Wording:Military suffers wave of gay sex assaults... “ The gays aren't having much fun either.

Structure: The remarkable rate of unemployment and underemployment among recent college graduates suggests that today’s unemployment is not due to a lack of skills or educated workers. Maybe the problem is weak demand. Maybe someone should stimulate demand and get the cycle started again.

Pricking Thumbs: A USGS study says that frogs, toads and other amphibians in North America are likely to be extinct by 2033.

State of Play: Stimulating demand and creating inflation by giving vast amounts of money to Wall Street has not been as successful as the Fed thought it would be.

Picky, Picky: The Heritage Foundation claims “Most macroeconomic models agree that government “stimulus” spending crowds out private investment.” Doesn't this assume that money, once spent, disappears? That when the government spends a dollar on a new stapler, that dollar is gone, never to be seen again. Yet when I spend a dollar on a new stapler, the economy hums...

Quoted: “I am persuaded that big changes are coming to long standing global currency arrangements. “ Jesse.

For The Greater Good: The Republican campaign to starve the beast (i.e. Government) in order to make life better for the people continues, by starving some of the people and depriving the rest of essential services.

Other Duties As Assigned: Louie Gohmert (R-TX) says that the IRS should spend less time worrying about Tea Party groups violating the tax code and more time rooting owls out of the K-Mart sign in his hometown. Seems they are “mating like crazy” and disturbing the dignity of the state.

Porn O'Graph: Infrastructure, illustrated.

The Parting Shot:


Thursday, May 23, 2013

SAR #13143

Remember, this started with the Bush tax cuts.

Clear and Present Dangers: Why aren’t there more storm cellars in Oklahoma? Why do people smoke? Why are we so damned fat? Why don't we save for retirement? Why do we pretend global warming is going to happen to someone else, someplace else, some other time?

To Infinity and Beyond: Stock markets around the world began dropping when Bernanke said that quantitative easing will continue “in the medium term and beyond”, which ought to be a hint that things are not as rosy as the stock market would lead you to believe. It should also dampen the enthusiasm for the recent fall in the federal deficit – which should be growing now, to create jobs, not falling and cutting demand and thus increasing unemployment. So the Fed keeps feeding the fire in hopes it doesn't go out, while the real economy is experiencing something quite short of a recovery.

Nor Any Drop To Drink: UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon has pointed out that the world faces severe 'water insecurity' and warns that nations will begin to run out of drinkable water in the non-distant future. But don't worry, Wall Street is sure that when water becomes expensive enough, market forces will develop more sources and technological innovations will come on line to provide instant water. Or not.

One Size Fits All: Jaime Caruana, mouthpiece for the Bank for International Settlements - a global fraternity for central bankers- is once again urging nations to pursue higher interest rates. To fight inflation. Or to spur inflation. Or to create jobs. Or to protect the environment and promote peace and harmony. Being bankers, higher interest rates are always the BIS solution; it’s only the problem they’re supposed to solve that changes.

A Quote: “By 2018, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), there'll be more oil produced than cars can burn.” It'll be used to fuel flying pigs.

Sideshow: The Republican-controlled House frittered away another day passing measures that have no chance of becoming law. This week they played 'Let's Pretend' with a budget measure that cut Education, Interior and State funding even more drastically than the idiotic sequestration has imposed. Only war, the police state, and veterans escaped additional cuts, which tells a great deal about their priorities. As is also usual in such grandstanding, details were lacking, except for their intent to cut money for schools, health and the enforcement of child labor laws.

The German Miracle: Germany has not so much created jobs as stolen them from its neighbors, but insists that the Club Med countries failure to respond correctly to austerity illustrates the need for even greater suffering. Push will, someday soon, come to shove.

Prime Mover: “The humble shipping container is a powerful antidote to economic pessimism and fears of slowing innovation. Although only a simple metal box, it has transformed global trade. In fact, new research suggests that the container has been more of a driver of globalization than all trade agreements in the past 50 years taken together.” And they can be used to house displaced workers.

Porn O'Graphs: What's really going on.

The Parting Shot:


Ox-eye daisy. Chrysanthemum leucanthemum.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

SAR #13142

Were we a rational society, a virtue of which we have rarely been accused, we would husband our oil and gas resources.” M. King Hubbert

Guns, Sticking To: Both of Oklahoma’s Senators, Inhofe and Coburn, voted along with 35 other Republicans to deny federal funds to the survivors of Hurricane Sandy. Both of the weasels were on the podium today, demanding federal funds for Moore, Oklahoma's survivors. Inhofe says “it's different” - the difference being that it is his voters who suffered – and Coburn, softie that he isn't, wants the money for his constituents to be taken from other Senators' constituents.

Once More, Without Feeling: Russia claims it has killed a top Islamist terrorist. It was unclear if this was one of the top Islamist insurgents that the US has killed several times in Iraq and Afghanistan and at least once – by drone – in Yemen. Kill them all, Allah will know his own.

Proofreading: “Washington has all but abandoned efforts to help the economy recover faster

Education vs. Training: About 40% of graduates from 4-year colleges end up in jobs that do not require a degree, and less than 30% have jobs that are related to their majors. A lot of money got wasted, if getting a job in a particular field was the motive for spending all that time and money. Too bad there isn't a way to measure actual education, instead of job training efficiency.

Inquiring Minds: If you were wondering how well German-imposed austerity is working in Greece, it isn't.

Unclear On The Concept: Would be pundits want to know if the Moore tornado was caused by global warming/climate change. Well, yes; and no. Climate change has to do with climate; any given tornado (hurricane, flood, etc.) is a weather event. Climate change makes such events more likely, but does not micromanage. The increase in the occurrence and severity of these dramatic events is a consequence of global warming, and not as Gov. Christie says, the result of “liberal public radio”, which is not nearly that powerful.

Theory vs Reality: In the absence of a workable plan to end quantitative easing, what happens next?

Porn O'Graph: Highs & Lows.

The Parting Shot:


Grass flowering.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

SAR #13141

Don't let reality get in the way of a profitable narrative.

Time And Time Again: While it appears the White House consul knew in April of the IRS targeting tea party 501(c)(4) applicants, the GOP knew about the added scrutiny last July.

Be Afraid: The Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee are 'discussing' (that is, floating a balloon to see if they can get away with) giving the president authority to ram both the Trans-Pacific trade pact and a similar EU measure through without discussion or a chance for the proletariat to realize the damage these deals will do. Why now and why quickly? Because they are such great deals we need them immediately... not.

Equal Justice: Joe McCarthy wannabe Rand Paul says there is a memo proving that the IRS targets those who oppose the president. Mind you he hasn't seen it, but he's sure it's out there. Somewhere. Meanwhile, the FBI has arrested AR Treasurer Martha Shoffner, a Democrat, “for extortion”, and is investigating Republican Representative Michelle Bachmann's campaign finances.

Apple Without A Country: Apple figured out that if they could pile up their profits in subsidiaries that simply do not have a tax residence, they wouldn't have to pay any taxes, any where. Close, they came close: In 2011 one of three such subsidiaries earned over $22 billion and paid just $10 million in taxes. Immoral, but more or less legal.

Pruning: The question “Is there a stock-market bubble?” should have been “Is there a stock market without a bubble?” And the answer to the question Is Every Market Rigged? depends on your definition of 'every'.

Recovery Room: The reason for-profit hospitals have these absurdly fictional 'price lists' that nobody actually pays is that it allows the hospitals to write off 'charity' operations and services against their taxable income at those hypothetical prices. And they charge those prices to the uninsured, being reasonably sure they will not collect the ridiculous amounts and will also get to write those 'losses' off.

Small Bits: There's a meme making the rounds right now claiming that there has been no global warming in the last decade and that the future ain't what it used to be – and in fact the future will not even rise to 2ºC above the background noise. The problem is that it is all misleading. The ground surface temperatures may not have risen (except they have, massively in the Arctic, etc. etc.), or not as much as expected because the deep oceans have warmed a great deal more than expected. And that's a heat sink that will give back its heat for a long, long time. Think of it as warming a radiator. It also cherry picks the date range for temperature sampling “over the past decade” and ignores the longer sweep of history. Recent and temporary changes in temperature variations are masking the real accumulation of heat due to the greenhouse effect of increased atmospheric CO2. Don't get too excited – global warming didn't go away, isn't going away. It is just going to get worse, worser and, eventually, worstest, which will be about 5ºC to 6ºC by the end of the century because greenhouse gas emissions are rising at a far higher rate than had been predicted , and even a skimpy 4ºC rise would be a disaster.

Porn O'Graph:Better and Better?

The Parting Shot:


Spring Rush

Monday, May 20, 2013

SAR #13140

We are free, in the approved ways, to do approved things.

Going It Alone: The following 14 major US retailers have chosen not to join a world-wide consortium of retail chains that have agreed to a five-year commitment (at $500,000 a year each) to improve the safety and working conditions in Bangladesh garment factories: American Eagle, Carter's, Cato Fashions, The Children's Place, Foot Locker, Gap, JCPenny, Kohl's, Macy's, Nordstrom, Sears/Kmart, Target, VFCorp., and Walmart. Each of whom maintains that they can accomplish more by themselves. For less, of course.

Jokers & Thieves: Afghanistan's leaders, they of the weekly bags of cash, refuse to protect the rights of women and girls because under Islamic practice, they haven't any. In terms of women's rights, 'Islamic principles' is an oxymoron. Isn't time we found some way out of here?

Tied For Last: Syria is hopeless. It's ruled by a cruel and despicable bunch which is embroiled in a baffling uncivil war with several other despicable bunches, with little hope of a workable or understandable solution short of slaughter. The regime has turned to 'Vice & Virtue' police and is accepting militants trained by Hezbollah into its ranks, while the EU (most likely at US urging) is lifting its sanctions on Syrian oil – as long as it is the (or some part of the) rebels shipping the stuff, while the government hires al-Qaida thugs to keep their oil wells pumping and the Kurds are struggling to protect their interests (which may or may not coincide with the Turks') and Iraq posts tanks to protect other oil wells. Confused yet? Are you sure we can't just wall them off and walk away?

Tribal Areas: In Chicago, where teachers, parents and students are marching in the streets to protest the massive school closures ordered by the mayor, a judge has ruled that some schools cannot be closed because to do so would force children to “cross gang lines and endanger their lives.”

Bread & Butter: As usual, we return refreshed from Schaghticoke's Witengamot Farm, despite United's attempts to waylay the unwary traveler – on four scheduled flights they managed to be late six times and cancel once. United’s personnel were admirable in their attempts to keep me in fair humor. Changing planes at Newark is about as much fun as spending two hours of wandering aimlessly in your local Walmart waiting for a script to be ready. Food and service at El Loco in Albany and Bocca Bistro in Saratoga were excellent, as was the food, but not the service, at Amigos in Schylerville. The Tasty Owl in Saratoga was a nice find, as was the young lady there who sold us an ersatz but excellent port. Troy's Farmer's Market on a Saturday is a thriving place; go for the food, both prepared and the stuff you take home to prepare. As always, it is nice to be home and back online, although a week without wasn't nearly as painful as expected.

The Parting Shot:


Washington Park, Albany, NY

Friday, May 17, 2013

SAR #13137

Investments should not be based on any fundamental other than an educated guess as to which stock will be picked by everybody else; performance is not nearly as important as popularity.

Microwaveable Feast: The UN FAO suggests that one way to feed the additional billions of hungry folks that the expanding population coupled with the agricultural damage done by global warming over the next few decades will be to incorporate insects into our diet. They are nutritious, breed rapidly, are found everywhere and are very efficient at converting feed to food stock. And most importantly, they are not Soylent Green .

Factoid: If governments withdrew their massive subsidies to the oil industry, forcing the industry to pay the true costs of bringing its products to market, gasoline prices would be upwards of $12 per gallon at the pump. It may be corporate socialism, but a lot of it is rubbing off on the customer.

The Center Cannot Hold: Turns out the Earth's insides turn at differing speeds. Our core is out of sync, speeding up and slowing down relative to the mantle and the crust. It is probably important to know this, but scientists don't know yet how important or why and are pretty sure it won't change the price of coffee. Not as much as advertising does.

To Whom It May Concern: SAR is on a brief bit of recuperation & will be back full strength come Monday next. Or Or Tuesday.

The Parting Shot:



Thursday, May 16, 2013

SAR #13136

“Don't tell me what you value.. Show me your budget and I'll tell you what you value." Joe Biden.

Our Excellent Adventure: That 400 ppm at Mauna Loa (okay, it was only 399.89) is not Fahrenheit 451, the world is not going to burst into flames, or civilization come to a halt. Not immediately. It is just a reminder that the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere is higher than at any time in the last few million years and that the Earth is going to keep getting warmer and the Arctic ice is going to keep melting away and the power plants are going to keep on spewing until the Earth does burst into flames or civilization falls apart, because we are not very smart.

Curb Your Enthusiasm: BP's chief economist says that some predictions of the amount of production to be had from fracking "may be overblown". BP expect US tight oil production to reach about 6.5 mbd by 2030, not the 10 mbd frequently cited.

Bedtime Reading: Scientific evidence suggests humanity is slowly but certainly marching - well, driving and otherwise spewing CO2 while burning fossil fuels - towards series of disasters that could trigger mass extinctions. Scientific evidence also suggests that enough humans will “Scatter, Adapt, and Remember" enough to start the process all over again. If we haven't burned up all the fossil fuels. If we have, it'll pretty much be game over.

Proof Reading: The headline asked: 'Will Climate Change Make You Homeless?' It should have started with 'When will...' Last year over 32 million people were displaced by weather-related disasters. Stick around, you ain't seen nothin' yet.

Predestination:“The European Union is the new sick man of Europe. The effort over the past half century to create a more united Europe is now the principal casualty of the euro crisis. The European project now stands in disrepute across much of Europe.” Downhill, gathering speed.

Rainbow's End: The WSJ says that the end is in sight, assuming the goal is to get back to the employment levels we had when the Current Unpleasantness began. And assuming you can see the middle of next year from here.

Stopped Clock: It doesn't happen often, but Justice Scalia was right when he said (during the Supreme Court's 5-4 election of George Bush to be president) that there is no constitutional guarantee of the right to vote. Now two wild-eyed Congressmen think it is time to remedy that lack. The effort is doomed before it starts, because the universal right to vote is contrary to Republican ideology.

To Whom It May Concern: SAR is on a brief bit of recuperation & will be back full strength come Monday next. Or Or Tuesday.

The Parting Shot:


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

SAR #13135

Wall Street is more interested in success than achievement.
Yes, But: Barack Obama, he who the Republicans chastise for ever bigger government and uncontrolled spending, is actually the smallest government spender since Eisenhower. But isn't giving him credit for that sort of rather like praising Baradley Manning for sticking to his schedule?
Speed Kills: During the last 65 million years, atmospheric CO2 levels changed at the rate of 100 ppm per million years. We are doing it about 25,000 times faster. We have no idea where we're going, but we're getting there a lot faster than most folks suspect.
Average Averages: About 70% of Americans agree on almost every topic: Social Security, gun control, immigration reform, abortion, progressive taxation, public support for the disadvantaged, protecting the environment, and so on. The problem is that on any specific issue, the 70% is made up of a minority of one party and a majority of the other, leading to 'us vs. them' political divides. There doesn't seem to be much that a majority of both parties agree on, except that the other side is usually wrong.
Explicable: Research indicates that women who watch more TV have fewer babies. They're obviously not watching the right programs.
Antigonish: Over the past two or three years one of the biggest financial stories has been a very important non-event: Runaway inflation has not engulfed us. Inflation has not gotten out of hand. Inflation did not, in fact, even show up. Despite all the doomsayers, inflation is falling. To the puzzlement of many economists and even more politicians, over the last 20 years growth in the monetary base has not correlated very well with inflation. Bummer.
Sweet Revenge: Funny how those conservatives who don't want the government telling them what to do insist that the government tell the poor what they can spend their pittance on.
Garbage In, Garbage Out: The next time you rely on some official statistics, give a brief thought to this: about a third off all death certificates cite incorrect causes of death. Not though malice, but though a variety of bureaucratic and human-nature misadventures. And apply this lesson a bit beyond just 'the leading cause of death' discussion, too. Much of our beloved data is wrong and then, a la R&R, is anaylized by another set of fallible humans. We do not know near as much as we have the data to support our beliefs.
Cart, Horse: The answer is “austerity and tight money.” Now, what was the question?
G'way, yer bother'n me: Investors who were duped and/or conned out of their money by Barclay's participation in rigging Libor rates have been told they cannot sue the bank because they should have known the bank would lie, cheat and steal. The judge told the plaintiffs to go away and not come back.
To Whom It May Concern: SAR is on a brief bit of recreational absence & will be back full strength come Monday next. Or Or Tuesday.
The Parting Shot:
Jacks in the pulpit.  Or Jack in the pulpits.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

SAR #13134

One Thousand, One Hundred, and Twenty-seven.

Headline Only: "Guantánamo hunger strikers subjected to harsh new method of force feeding." I simply don't want to know the details, so I stopped reading before I got even more disgusted at our behavior.

And Then There Were None: Eurogroup president Jeroen Dijsselbloem, determined to put the square peg of austerity into round hole the the euro is going down, clings to the belief that troubled European nations must privatize everything, fire half the workers and insist that the rest live on bread and water undertake structural reform because it hasn't worked yet and that everybody but Bernanke knows that monetary policy won't work and that only Krugman has any faith in fiscal policies like actually spending some money to put people back to work. Unfortunately, this is not news.

Short Version: To Ron Paul's comment about "What No One Wants to Hear About Benghazi" is mostly that no one wants to hear Ron Paul going on about Benghazi. After a while we get pretty inured to the daily disaster proclamations from the Republicans and their right wing panic and impeach mongers. If you've got the little blue dress, show it to us. Otherwise go sit quietly in the corner.

Q & A: For the third time this year, the Greek government has resorted to emergency action to quash a strike - this one by secondary school teachers. A government spokesman asked, "What kind of teachers choose to go on strike at the most sensitive time for the students?” Probably the kind who have had their pay cut, hours extended, jobs threatened and retirement confiscated.

This Just In: 'Monsanto Has Taken Over the USDA.' Okay, so it's filler at this point, but it's nice to see it acknowledged, now that they've taken over the Supreme Court, too.

Yes, But: Senator Marco Rubio (Wannabe - FL) is demanding that the Commissioner of the IRS resign immediately, which would be a better suggestion if there were an IRS Commissioner. The office has been vacant since November, last year. Rubio's talking points will be revised.

Life In These United States: Gunmen shot up a Mother's Day parade in New Orleans, wounding 19. But nothing went boom so it wasn't terrorism, just another day in the park.

Relay Race: The Wall Street Journal, destroying any pretense of actual journalism and apparently misreading the calendar, published an op-ed that included every long-debunked myth and outright lie ever uttered by the climate denial camp. It concluded by calling for more CO2 emissions. And, no, it isn't April 1st.

Prizewinner: A man in Illinois has been arrested for misdemeanor animal cruelty after his sexually abused peacock died. Details were not available because there was a connection to a case involving a child.

Hush, Money: Here we go again, giving private international corporations veto control over the laws on states and countries. NAFTA on steroids is a fair description of the very secret and very scary Trans Pacific Partnership treaty, which also grants unidentified corporations, foreign and domestic, the right to override domestic laws on environmental health and citizens’ rights if such laws and rights stand in the way of profit. The same bunch of corporations want a similar US-European Union Free Trade agreement.

Porn O'Graph: Chained PCE inflation, or not.

The Parting Shot:


Lyreleaf Sage

Monday, May 13, 2013

SAR #13133

Yeast have an excuse.

A Day In The Life: Where does the line run between charitable non-profit social action organizations and partisan political activity? We're all sure that some 501(c)3 groups fall into the second category and so is the IRS. While the rules are pretty linent, using the charitable exemption to hide political actions and evade political spending limits should not be tolerated. Good for the IRS for doing at least part of its job.

Fun For All: The non-government side in Syria (we don't really know if they're The Good Guys) is losing ground to Assad's forces. Syria is being supported by Iran (rockets) and Russia (anti-aircraft missiles in case the US wants to play “no-fly zone”). Opposing the regime are a bunch of more-or less AL-Qeada Islamist guys with rifles, supported by Turkey, Israel and the US - not necessarily in that order.

Not A Bird, Nor Superman: The FAA says not to worry, they know what is circling over Quincy, MA, all night every night lately, “It's not a drone. It’s an authorized flight and we are aware of it.” And 'we' are not going to tell you what it is.

Testing, Testing: The German association of pharmaceutical manufacturers say that there is “no reason to suspect that anything irregular happened,” even though various Western drug companies tested experimental drugs on over 50,000 unwitting East Germans, back in the days when there was an East Germany. Some test subjects died. Money changed hands. It wasn't “irregular” at all, just business as usual.

Cutting Back On Carbohydrates: Citing the prolonged drought and late freezes, the USDA says this year's wheat harvest will be down 26% from last year in OK, 22% down in KS, and down about 10% nationwide.

If, Then, When: What happens when Pakistan has had enough of the US slaughtering its citizens and demands the US halt drone strikes? What could they do, what would the US do in retaliation? Stay tuned: The PLM-N party which just won the national election, has promised to stop US drone strikes in Pakistan.

Confirmation: A lawyer in Minnesota billed a client for the time he spent having sex with her. He rounded his fee up to the next higher quarter hour.

Lost In The Mist Of Time: Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has been urging community organizations, church groups and even health industry executives to help nonprofit groups that are working to spread information about the Health Care for America Plan and to enroll uninsured Americans in the program. Tennessee's Lamar Alexander says this is far worse the Reagan's Iran-Contra series of crimes in which the US secretly sold weapons to an enemy state (Iran) and used the proceeds to secretly fund an illegal genocidal war against the people of Nicaragua in support of American commercial interests. From a Republican viewpoint, helping the poor legally access healthcare is apparently a monstrous crime.

The Talking Cure:The G7 countries have agreed that tax cheats are cheating and must be stopped. Or forced to pay donate more to the politicians running the G7 countries– one or the other.

Ye Olde Trojan Terminal: Turns out that companies and government officials who used Bloomberg terminals to search for information were being searched for information by Bloomberg, which was tracking who went where to find out what and sharing that information with, at least, their journalists.

Looney Toons: In a fund-raising email, Rand Paul (Wannabe-KY) claimed that Obama is working with 'globalists' at the UN who have a secret plot to confiscate and destroy all civilian firearms and ban the sale of all semi-automatic weapons.

Porn O'Graph: Priorities, by region.

The Parting Shot:


Erigeron philadelphicus Common Fleabane

Saturday, May 11, 2013

SAR #13131

Austerity kills, so why do we tolerate it?

Distant Early Warning: Anonymous says that two 'elite' US military units in Europe have been placed on alert to respond to “a deteriorating security situation” in Tripoli. glad some of them are Marines; it's traditional.

Words, Replacing Sticks and Stones: Judge Edward Korman is not amused by the administration's attempts to evade his ruling that emergency contraceptives be made available over the counter. Period. No qualifications or requirements, age or otherwise. He said the administration was “acting in bad faith... for political reasons,” and called its arguments “silly,” “something out of an alternative reality,” “an insult to the intelligence of women,” and “frivolous”. He referred to Secretary Sebelius’ conduct as “improper” and called her decision on Plan B “politically motivated, scientifically unjustified, and contrary to agency precedent.” He also ruled against her motion.

Addendum: In reciting the ills of the GOP's “workplace flexibility bill” in yesterday's SAR, we neglected to point out that the bill lets – no, requires – that overtime pay be withheld until January 31st of the year following the year in which it was earned. Not only are they trying to kill overtime pay by letting the boss browbeat you into taking comp time, they're letting the boss hold onto your money for months – a tax free, interest free loan. What's not to like?

Observed: It is time to end the tax havens for the rich. Way past, actually.

Details Inside: “We are governed by outright morons.” In this particular instance, it's the Republicans (big surprise) blaming the administration for making across the board cuts in order to meet the terms of the sequestration, instead of picking and choosing where to cut. Never mind that the whole intent of the sequestration was exactly that: to make across the board cuts, without exception. Except for the things Republican big dollar donors do not want cut.

Asked & Answered: Does the health care industry (hey, it is an industry) respond to market forces? Why should it?

All Things Being Equal... Researchers from the LSE find that individual differences in skills and abilities account for only a minor part of our growing economic inequality. They cite “country specific effects” as accounting for the majority of the gap between rich and poor. This reinforces previous studies which have repeatedly found no correlation between differing abilities of people and the distribution of wealth. In other words, the rich are not rich because they are better at anything other than hoarding wealth – certainly they are not rewarded for their superior abilities, for they have none. The causes of inequality are found in a nation's ideology and the institutions that support that ideology, not in any basic difference between rich and poor.

Truer Words... “Financial activities tend to migrate from more-regulated to less-regulated sectors.” Ben Bernanke., who finally noticed.

More Democracy Inaction: Republicans, not wanting to play their usual role of filibuster bullies, decided to stymie Gina McCarthy's nomination to head the EPA by the simple tactic of not showing up for work. All eight Republican members of the Environment and Public Works Committee simply slept in, depriving the committee of a quorum and thus stopping all action on the nomination. Ah, the power of the democratic process.

Quoted: “The nation’s unemployment rate would probably be nearly a point lower, roughly 6.5 percent, and economic growth almost two points higher this year if Washington had not cut spending and raised taxes as it has since 2011... To put that it slightly different terms, if not for two years of deficit reduction, 1.5 million more Americans would have jobs, and the economy would be picking up nicely.”

Motivation: The IEA says that if we are to have a 50/50 chance of stopping global warming at 2ºC, then at least two-thirds of the currently listed fossil fuel reserves will have to stay in the ground permanently. If they cannot be burned, then they have no economic value, which would mean the market value of fossil fuel companies is three times what it should be.  No wonder they’re the ones funding the global warming denialist camp

Party Time!Instruments monitoring the atmosphere from atop Mauna Loa have recorded – for the first time in about 3 million years – atmospheric CO2 concentrations at 400 ppm. The last time CO2 concentrations reached this mark, camels lived in the Arctic, seas were at 30 feet higher and television was worth watching. But not to worry, the measurement is like the temperature set on a thermostat; it'll take the furnace a while to catch up. Tell your kids.

Smile: Hidden in the immigration reform bill is a mandate for Homeland Security to build a 'photo tool', essentially a database containing names, ages, Social Security numbers and photographs of everyone in the country with a driver’s license or other state-issued photo ID. Wear a nice shirt, remember to smile.

Porn O'Graph:Dirty pictures, the real deal.

The Parting Shot:


Friday, May 10, 2013

SAR #13130

The only issues that really matter are the ones that nobody talks about.

Automatic Cash Machinations: Computer savvy crooks across 26 countries conned the computers at debit card companies to ignore the established cash withdrawal limits, then descended on the now-generous ATMs and withdrew $45 million “in a matter of hours.” Some have already been caught for taking advantage of what is described as “outmoded US card technology.”

Once More, Without Feeling: House Republicans have passed a debt prioritization bill – conservatively described as one of the worst ideas even they have ever had – that would require the US Treasury to pay bondholders first once the debt ceiling is reached. That would require the US to pay China before it pays US soldiers, to pay Wall Street before it pays for food stamps or Medicaid. It is reckless, irresponsible, stupid, and has no chance of becoming law; the epitome of today's Republican ideology. And it is a preview of what to expect when the circus (raising the debt limit) comes to town this fall.

Going, Going, Not Going: After 11 years of inconclusive foreplay, the US Military is demanding that – in return for his weekly bags of cash – Karsai let the Americans keep a “residual force” of 12,000 occupying troops nested in nine major bases scattered across the country, as they proclaim victory or something that might pass for it on a dark street on a moonless night. Karsai also wants electric power, roads, dams and even more bags of cash (which he has been guaranteed).

Your Results May Vary: Yesterday in separate courtrooms, an 83 year-old nun was convicted of trespass (or treason or terrorism, something like that) for protesting at the Oak Ridge nuclear lab. She'll spend 20 years in prison. Today, Jeff Skilling had his 24 year sentence (for his role in stealing $40 billion) reduced to 14 years in return for paying back $40 million of the stolen money. Jon Corzine, former this and that at Goldman Sachs and the federal government, still hasn't been tried for disappearing a couple of billion of his MF Global customers' money.

Honey Do List: If we are going to even pretend to try to keep global warming below 2°C this century, here are the things the IEA says we must do, and when we must do them. By 2020 we must have at least 38 major coal-fired power plants that capture and store CO2 emissions forever. So far we have none, none are being built, and we're not sure it's remotely possible anyway. Nuclear power must double by 2025 – yet today our nuclear generating capacity is declining. And, yes, there's Fukushima and all that, too. Renewable energy is getting better, but far too slowly. The internal combustion engine hasn't begun to vanish. We could be building far more energy efficient buildings, but are not. And we really need to put survival above profit, and that's pretty much a non-starter, too.

So? A Pakistani court has ruled that the ongoing US drone strikes are illegal, inhumane, a violation of Pakistani sovereignty, a violation of the UN charter of human rights, and beyond Pakistan's ability to do anything about.

Today's Word, 'Separation': Faced with the choice of starting graduation ceremonies with an unconstitutional Christian prayer or not having a graduation ceremony, the Riverside School District in Craighead County, Arkansas decided to cancel graduation. It was for the sixth grade and they hadn't studied the separation of church and state yet. In Texas, where that part of the constitution does not apply, a judge had ruled that high school cheerleaders can carry banners displaying Bible verses at school sporting events. The Judge said he was aware of no law that prevented religions banners at official school-sponsored events. Q remedial reading assignment seems in order.

Take A Break: Republicans in the House want to give employers the ability to force workers to take “comp time” rather than actually paying them for working overtime. That's not exactly the way they describe it, but that's the way it will actually work out.

Buzzy, Buzzy:About 30% of commercial honeybee colonies in the US did not survive the 2012 winter. Now the EPA, by approving the highly toxic new Dow pesticide sulfoxaflor for use, has made it likely that 30% of the remaining colonies won't make it through the summer. The EU has enacted a two-year ban on these pesticides which are known to “scramble the honeybees’ sense of navigation.”

Porn O'Graph: The trend is not your friend.

The Parting Shot:


On the trail. Really.