Monday, March 31, 2014

SAR #14090

The one that 'one size fits all' fits is unlikely to be you.

Priorities: The Obama administration says it is concerned about global warming and encourages the development and spread of sustainable technologies like solar energy. As long as the solar equipment used is US made. None of this India using locally manufactured stuff, nope, that's cheating. Profits first, saving civilization second.

Sauces: Just as 24/7 surveillance of US citizens is fine with Congress but a little surveillance of Congress is unacceptable, it seems that the US hacking into Chinese tech companies is fine, but when they hack the US it is cyberterrorism. Drones, anyone?

Clear And Present Danger: Returns on 10 and 20-year government bonds in the US and UK predict that extremely low interest rates will continue will into 2016, and beyond 2020 for the EU nations. A decade and more of ultra-low rates; and that's just to get to a 2% level. Secular stagnation in all its glory with no encouragement for investors to invest or for companies to borrow or banks to lend. It implies low growth, low wages, extended unemployment and low everything economic for years to come. Given this, how can soaring stock prices be justified – other than by continuing the hollowing out of the economy for the benefit of the few? Worse, the step from low inflation to deflation threatens. Couple that with the inevitable increases in food and energy costs and it is easy to envision some very bad outcomes.

Motive Purity: The rigid stiffling of worker advancement by Steve Jobs and friends was “needed to protect innovation” (they claim) and (here's the true part) “to avoid spiraling costs.” It was for our own good.

Relax and Enjoy: An IBM honcho says that the ubiquitous tracking and monitoring of the public through biometrics is too far advanced to stop, so we should stop worrying about this latest assault on our individuality and privacy and figure out how we can best enjoy the attention. Anyone with enough money and manpower will soon be able to know where we are and what we are doing at all time. “Everything will be monitored” he said. Get over it.

The Spoils of War: 1,892 US Veterans have committed suicide since January 1, 2014.

Relaxation Therapy: Don't get all worked up about the Supremes siding with Hobby Lobby. Hope that they do. Because that will put paid to the idea that the people behind a corporation are not the corporation. If the corporation can deny a worker certain health benefits because of the beliefs of its owners, then the legal veil between a corporation and its owners has been pierced. From then on we can sue the owners for what the companies they own do.

Confession: “We don’t actually know much about how to produce rapid economic growth — conservatives may think they know (low taxes and all that), but there is no evidence to back up their certainty. On the other hand, we know how to make a big difference in income distribution, especially how to reduce extreme poverty.” It's called redistribution.

A Rose By Any Other Name: A judge has ruled that Beef Products Inc. can belatedly sue ABC News for calling pink slime pink slime. The company maintains that calling pink slime pink slime cost the company $1.2 billion, which is a lot of pink slime. They claim that pink slimes actual name is “lean finely textured beef” - which not even its friends call it - and isn't slime at all but finely ground up connective tissue, trimmings, and other pieces of the less palatable pieces of animals – presumably cattle – that are mixed, chopped, heated and spun in a centrifuge, resulting in a squishy pink goo. Note that the only part of the ABC description that the beef people have a beef with is the sobriquet 'pink slime'. If ABC had instead used the phrase “a pink slimy goo called lean finely textured beef' everyone would have been happy. Except the customers.

Fun With Numbers: It is harder to get a job at Walmart (2.6% of applicants get hired) than it is to get into Harvard (8.9% of applicants get admitted). Apples and Oranges, true. And those applying to Harvard pretty much know where next week's groceries are going to come from. Who's the teacher and what do we learn?

Porn O'Graph: It takes a while for the magic to work.

The Parting Shot:

Saturday, March 29, 2014

SAR #14088

Generally when a politician says something particularly stupid, he's just sucking up to a particularly stupid demographic.

Back By Popular Demand: Irresponsible parents in Orange County California are responsible for the worst outbreak of measles in the US in over 20 years. In one charter school in the county 56% of kindergartners were intentionally unvaccinated because California has a law that says parents can put their kids at risk based on irrational fears. Measles had been eradicated from the US by 2000, but the anti-science bunch has managed to reverse that.

Making The Cut: Michigan's Republican governor has signed a bill eliminating early voting on weekends, because too many hourly workers – suspected Democrats – were avoiding the long lines after work on election day. The managerial class – thought to be Republicans – can still take a few hours off during the week to vote, so it's a win-win. 
Trump: A federal judge has ruled that a company's censoring search results for political reasons was simply editing and as such was protected under the First Amendment. In essence, lying is protected speech – but we knew that.

Travel Plans: Gay marriage is now legal in England and Wales. Back in the US, the AG says that the federal government will recognize the same sex marriages conducted in Michigan - turns out that the Governor can't retroactively nullify legally performed weddings.

Permanently Temporary: The dramatic increase in contract and temporary jobs since the Current Unpleasantness began is likely to become a permanent feature of American employment practices. It is far cheaper for the companies. Ask your local college about adjunct faculty.

Drumroll: There are 67 people who together have more money than the poorest 3.5 billion of us. That's $1.7 trillion, in case you were wondering. And an average $486 for each of the 3.5 billion on the bottom of the heap, while elite average $31 billion. Over 40% of these biggies are Americans. 
Porn O'Graph: Is the S&P a bubble? Yes, funny you should ask.

The Parting Shot:

Friday, March 28, 2014

SAR #14087

"Just about everything you learned in Econ 101 is wrong." James Kwak
New Revised Version: Obama says it is unfair to compare Putin's invasion of Crimea with America's war in Iraq. To whom?

Yes We Scan: The administration plans to stop gathering all that data about your phone usage and make the phone companies keep it until Uncle wants it to harass you. But don't worry, they'll pretend to get a warrant and fully intend to pay the phone companies for ratting you out.

Mirror, Mirror: After a thorough investigation, Governor Christie has announced that he was unable to find any wrong doing on the part of Governor Christie in the Case of the Magical Lane Closings.

Secular Speculations: What if we need negative interest rates to get the economy moving and no one wants to accept negative rates and the government fails to get inflation going? The economy will not get moving for a long, long time. And we need negative interest rates to encourage investment. But who is sitting on all those dollars? Not the poor. Not the bottom 90%. If we can't get the rich to invest, maybe we should take the money away from them and put it to work.

It's Only Business: The Italian mafia makes more in a year than McDonald's and Deutsche Bank combined. But not as much as Walmart.

Social Serviced: Walmart's annual report warns that “changes in the amount of payments made under the Supplement[al] Nutrition Assistance Plan and other public assistance plans, changes in the eligibility requirements of public assistance plans...” will cut into their future profits. They did not suggest they would pay their employees more just because they are getting less from federal support programs. 
Size Matters: The EPA is strengthening the sanctions to be assessed on companies that dump pollutants into streams the flow into major waterways. Polluting streams that flow into minor waterways remains an acceptable business practice.

And The Band Began To Play: The IMF is rushing to Ukraine's assistance, offering them $18 billion if they accept the same austerity measures that – just last month – the IMF said didn't work and were likely to cause social upheaval. Let the looting begin.

Once Upon A Tine: I'm old enough to remember segregation being defended on religious, biblical grounds – exactly the way slavery had earlier been justified. It's not “The devil made me do it”, but that God said it was okay. There's a reason we have to separate church and state.

Fact-O-Rama: There are nearly as many payday loansharks in the US as there are McDonald's and Starbucks, loaning money out at 400% a year – legally.

Jesus Wept: Tennessee pased a law letting students discriminate against others and blame it on God. The bill also permits students to answer test questions using Biblical Authority, which is going to tickle the biology teachers no end. It's not as if Tennessee needed any additional legislation to illustrate the futility of evolution.

Porn O'Graph: What went around...

The Parting Shot: 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

SAR #14086

Ye Olde Slippery Slope: The general impression from those in the room was that the Supremes are inclined to rule that Hobby Lobby does have the right to impose their religious beliefs on their employees. However, there is a difference between private beliefs and public behavior – witness our current lack of 'Whites Only' signs.

Clear And Present Danger: Local public schools teaching an essential, federally mandated minimum curriculum should be funded by taxes paid by all citizens. Certainly parents should be allowed to send their children to any private school they can afford, but that should not relieve them of their civic duty to pay taxes to support public schools. None of that tax money should find its way to any private entity. The $1 billion a year being funneled into private schools should be stopped and returned to the public schools.

Farm Teams: A NLRB examiner has agreed with the Northwestern University football players who claimed the right to form a union because they were “employees” under contract to the university who received wages in return for services rendered. 
Asked & Answered: Will a degree from a for-profit diploma mill get you a job? Will you actually turn a profit on the investment - on your student loan? No, and the fact that you had to ask suggests you failed Research 101, Marketing 101 and Capitalism 101. For extra credit, estimate how many years it will take you to pay off the loans you took out to earn that worthless degree: _____ . And how much could you have socked away toward yur retirement if you hadn't been suckered into the whole charade? ____ .

A Little Help From My Friends: "The presence of a more liberal government is related to a higher rate of reported health, a lower rate of reported smoking, lower BMI, and fewer numbers of days with poor health." Damned socialists.

Hot Topic: French economist Thomas Piketty's "Capital In The Twenty-First Century" has become the thing for economists and economic bloggers to cuss, discuss and misconstrue, mainly because ait gives them a chance to talk about inequality. Well, I can play that game, too. Most agree that inherited wealth has once more become (or has always been, opinions vary) the preeminent source of political economic power in the US. That their income is essentially tax free is by design, their design. Promoting inherited wealth over work, George W. Bush's biggest tax breaks went coupon-clippers and heirs - he and his family specifically included. The right wingers have long valued capital over labor and worked to preserve that privilege. Today the level of inequality in the treatment of earned vs. unearned income in the United States is “probably higher than in any other society at any time in the past, anywhere in the world,” Certainly “the concentration of wealth has soared to levels that have not been seen in over a century…" Some claim that capitalism can be regulated so as to force capitalists to keep the division of the spoils sufficiently broad to prevent collapse and rebellion. Maybe so, but why should we help them keep us subservient? The challenge is knowing what to do. 
Memorize This: We will not be able to reduce our budget deficit, or put the long term unemployed back to work, or raise GDP levels closer to potential as long as we have large trade deficits.
Not Here: In Croatia, a child's right to health trumps the parent's right to be idiots.

Different Strokes: The Tea Party placating Republican Right wants to kill Common Core because, despite decades of evidence to the contrary, “students are best served when decisions about education are made at the state and local level.” Because reading, writing and arithmetic vary from place to place, y'know.

Porn O'Graph: Up, up and away!

The Parting Shot:

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

SAR #14085

Drone strikes are a form of educational outreach.

All Together Now: Pro-Russian separatist movements are sprouting in Latvia and Estonia. Russia is also stirring things up in Moldavia. Catalonia wants to part from Spain, and the island of Sardinia wants Switzerland to adopt it. And Venice wants to become the Serene Republic once again. 
The Neighborhood: New home sales fell 3.3% m/m in February, to an annualized pace of 440,000. January's 9.6% increase was cut to just a 3.2% rise m/m. Case-Shiller reported a 0.85% increase in existing home prices m/m in January.

Trade Secrets: The US government, after mendaciously praising Nelson Mandela once he was old and out of power, refuses to release any information about the role US intelligence played in his 1962 arrest, nor why he was kept on the terrorist watch list until long after he stepped down as South Africa's president. What, that's not in your history book?

Exhibit One: The Swedish government sponsored a conference at the Sheraton in Stockholm on discrimination against the Roma (Gypsies). The Swedish expert scheduled to present the main talk was unable to attend. She is Roma and the hotel would not let her into the meeting.

Writing Prompt: The Australian Attorney General says that “people have the right to be bigots.” Yes. But...

Market Mumbles: Financial blogger Henry Blodget sees stocks as being "so expensive that they will likely deliver crappy performance over the next decade. I also believe that there is a decent chance of a 40%-to-50% crash in the next couple of years. but he's not selling his stocks, not yet. Albert Edwards (Societe Generale) notes that "A decline in profits is inevitably followed by recession shortly thereafter.." And then says that profits have begun declining...

What Part Of This Makes Sense? A court in Sweden dismissed attempted rape charges against a man because the victim was a transsexual, not a biological woman.

Big Wheel Keeps On Turning: World Vision, one of the largest Christian charity organizations in the world, has announced it will hire legally married LGBT Christians.

Shale Game: Art Berman says shale is not a revolution; it’s a retirement party. All US shale gas production growth in areas except the Marcellus are flat or already in decline. There are lots of gas resources – after all, 'resources' are just guesses – but not that much that is commercially viable at current prices. Thus the shale gas boom is not sustainable except at higher prices. Many shale gas extraction companies are spending more than they are earning. Conventional gas accounts for almost 60% of US gas and it is declining at about 20% per year, while unconventional gas plays decline at more than 30% each year. The US needs to replace 19 billion cubic feet per day each year to maintain current production levels. That's almost four Barnett shale plays at full production each year, and economicaly produceable reserves to continue at these levels do not exist. When boosters say we will never run out, 'never' doesn't mean what you think it does.

Donation? What Donation? The BP US Chamber of Commerce is filing an amicus brief in support of BP's current attempt to weasel out of the settlement agreement it had entered into with Gulf Coast individuals and businesses.

Here And There: At the current rate of “industrial accidents”, building the stadiums and such for the 2022 World Cup games in Qatar will kill more people than terrorists did on 9/11. But most of them are Nepalese or Indian laborers... 
Porn O'Graph: In it to win it.

The Parting Shot: 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

SAR #14084

We think we are right. All of us. Always.

Buyer's Remorse: We spend all that money on the NSA and they shred the constitution and listen to everyone in the world 24/7 and we still don't know the Russians are going to annex Crimea? How is it Putin made the do not eavesdrop list while Jimmy Carter and Angelika Merkel didn't?

Sky, Falling: Veteran fund manager and all-round grumpy guru Jeremy Grantham says central banks have created an enormous bubble in stocks and he expects that "the next bust will be unlike any other," and that the market will have negative returns over the next seven years.

Credentials: Turkish PM Erdogan, who doesn't "understand how people of good sense could defend this Facebook, YouTube and Twitter" Me, either, but that doesn't mean that those without good sense shouldn't be allowed to amuse each other. Anyone with that poor an understanding of people and their social networks isn't fit to be a leader. Which was their point, and that's why Erdogan has banned them. Or tired to.

Qualification: The US is sending 150 more special operations personnel to Uganda to hunt down the infamous warlord Joseph Kony. More. The first bunch was dispatched back in 2011. Quietly.

How To: Anyone can become rich by following Warren Buffet's example. Step one, put a few billion dollars into... Or not.

Contraband: A joint Germany/Vatican drug sting came to nothing when no one showed up at the Vatican Post Office to claim the 14 condoms full of cocaine. The Germans seized the cocaine, the Vatican the condoms.

Noted: Telling the truth is considered to be naïve. 
Snail's Trails: The House Republicans want to overturn a 108 year-old law that lets the President protect and preserve iconic American places like the Statue of Liberty, the Grand Canyon and Arches National Park. Why? Because that black upstart in the White House used it to preserve part of the California Coast near Point Arena and any thing Obama is for they are against. Republicans have killed all legislative efforts to protect wilderness, parks and monuments since the Tea Party takeover in 2010. America is ours for the exploiting, not for wasting tax dollars on, y'know.

Crime's Down, Cop's Up: US crime rates are way down, militarized police forces are way up. If that makes you feel good, remember you are far more likely to die at the hands of a cop than a terrorist.

Housekeeping: A court in Egypt on Monday sentenced 529 supporters of ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi to death after a mass trial.

As I Was Saying: The UN's IPCC is set to deliver a new, and very depressing, report on our changing climate. And it is not all about melting ice and stranded polar bears. It's about hunger, disease, drought, flooding, refugees and war, It's about all those things become more frequent and much worse. Okay, go back to sleep now. 
The Zombies: The long term unemployed are not ever getting jobs, they are destined for the bottom of the heap. And the increase in this new, downwardly mobile population resulted from deliberate choices made by the austerian debt doomsters.

Familiarity Breeds Indifference? Norway has lowered the incidence of sexual harassment in its army by quartering female and male soldiers together in shared bedrooms. Maybe it leads to friendships, or familial relationships. Or maybe it's like marriage, resulting in the maximization of opportunity and the minimization of motivation.

Porn O'Graph: Where the money goes.

The Parting Shot:

Monday, March 24, 2014

SAR #14083

Because They Can: Microsoft, citing its own lawyers as the authority, says it has the right to break into your accounts and read your emails and instant messages. Because the vine print to every MS product says they can. Showing a bit of dry humor, Google - which acknowledges that it reads your mail before it delivers it to you - is going to begin encrypting your emails so the NSA can't do the same thing.

Measure for Measure: Former President Carter no longer uses e-mail because he n longer trusts the government. For the same reason, you might reconsider that cell phone in your pocket. Sure it's handy, the best bait is always sweet. 
TB, MDR-TB and XDR-TB: TB is one of the deadliest diseases in the world even though it is curable. Every year 8 million contract TB and 1.3 million of them die from it. Multiple Drug Resistant TB is just that - strains of TB that are resistant to most treatments for it. There are about half a million cases of MDDR-TB every year and the treatment is long, complex and expensive and only half of those treated survive the 2 years of daily injections and 10,000 pills. XDR-TB is eXtremely Drug Resistant is worse, and gaining popularity.

Planning Ahead: Two-thirds of American workers report they have set aside some money for their retirement - down form 75% in 2009. Over one in three of those who have "retirement savings" have less than $1,000. Another 30% of those who have set aside money to live on have less than $25,000. So let's cut Social Security.

Unclear On The Concept: Creationists are demanding their mythology be featured along with actual science on the Neil DeGrasse Tyson 'Cosmos' series. To provide 'balance', or maybe to prove they're unbalanced. 
Price Fixing: About those good-paying high-tech jobs in tghe computer industry... They'd be a lot higher if Apple, Google, Intel, Pixar, Luxasfilm, Dell, IBM, eBay, Microsoft, Comcast, Clear Channel, Dreamworks and others had not illegally conspired (since 2006) to hold down the salaries of nearly a million high-tech workers. But being computer firms, they naturally committed their conspiracy to documents. Their bad.

The Wind Keeps Blowing: A district judge has ruled Michigan’s ban on same-sex unions is unconstitutional. Naturally the ruling has been stayed so the state can appeal.

Bricks Without Straw: Ukraine, as it signed an agreement promising closer political and economic ties with the EU, made clear that it expects the EU to provide it with energy if those nasty Russians cut off their natural gas supplies. Quite where Europe, which gets 30% of its natural gas from Russia, will get the energy or how it will reverse the pipeline flows are unanswered questions. Sort of like, if we had some bacon we could have some bacon and eggs if we had some eggs.

I've Got Mine: The global warming deniers have won. Statistically, it's all over. Scientists will continue to warn us about global warming, but to no avail. We are not going discomfort ourselves to save ourselves, no matter how horrible their projections or how sure they are of them.

The Quote: “JPMorgan knew." Bernie Madoff.

The Parting Shot:

Saturday, March 22, 2014

SAR #14081

There is nothing quite so tempting as a poorly managed country with exploitable resources. Jesse.

Balancing Act: As the West and Russia enter into The Sanctions Game, it is hard to handicap the tit-for-tattiness. Western banks have lent billions to Russia and Russian firms. Europe needs Russia's natural gas. Russian gangsters oligarchs have billions tied up in the West. Putin needs the income from that gas. Europe can switch suppliers faster than Russia can come up with new customers. The neocons have been missing a really good villain...

The Paper Chase: The big tech firms can pretend all they want that they did not cooperate with the NSA in violating your privacy, but only if billing the government for sending them your data is thought of as not cooperating. Too bad someone got copies of the invoices.

Sounds Plausible: Jack Matlock, former US Ambassador to the USSR, says that in annexing Crimea, Putin may be at least partially reacting to years of provocation by the US, including the eastward march of NATO and the expansion of US military bases in Eastern Europe.

Full Service: Google is being sued for reading children's emails in order to show advertisers that their ads in Google's Apps for Education were working.

Level Playing Field: Living "paycheck to paycheck" is not the exclusive purview of the lower classes – those we think of as the poor. But about a third of American households have little or no liquid assets, no cash, no savings or checking accounts. They are not officially poor - they own things a house, cars, and have some money in a 401k's. But they have no excess cash, they live from payday to payday, just like the rest of the poor.

Unlucky: Research shows that the long-term unemployed are destined to be just that – unemployed. Forever. Their chance of getting a job, any job, are so slim that economically they are irrelevant. No matter how many resumes they send out, phone calls they make, ads they answer, they are not going to get a job and thus do not count as part of the labor pool. So it is entirely possible that a labor shortage could occur while millions of the long term unemployed are... unemployed.

Getting Really Real: The average US wage, in real dollars indexed to 1982-84, increased a bit last year and now is only 13.5% lower than it was in 1972. After 40 years, lower wages are beginning to look like a trend. 
'splain to me: "We’re doing worse than anyone could have imagined a few years ago, yet people seem increasingly to be accepting this miserable situation as the new normal. How did this happen?" 
Got Milk? Why? Milk was designed by Mom as a food for newborn calves. Period. No mater what the dairy lobby says, it was not designed for you. No one ever died of a dairy deficiency. Lots of folks – nearly everyone but European whites – are lactose intolerant by design. It is not a disease or a failing. Now cheese, on the other hand...

Slips Ahoy: NCIS, apparently just because they can, has a database tracking your parking tickets, traffic citations, and minor traffic accidents. And if you've been arrested (to hell with waiting for the conviction), or a cop has written up an encounter information card with your name on it, they've got that too. And they share all this with almost any federal, state or local law enforcement agency. Posse commetas? We don't need no posse commetas. 
Down The Drain: The last remaining stable portion of the Greenland ice sheet, the Northeast Greenland Ice Sheet, is stable no more. The northeast ice stream stretches more than 370 miles into the center of the ice sheet, where it connects with the heart of Greenland's ice reservoir. It has the potential of “significantly changing the total mass balance of the ice sheet in the near future.” As in “look out below.”

Confirmation Classes: 72 studies involving 600,000 patients shows that eating food high in fish oils/omega-3 does not reduce the risk of heart disease.

The Parting Shot:
 Caesar Grunts, Haemulon carbonarium.

Friday, March 21, 2014

SAR #14080

We want people to like us unconditionally, without knowing who we are.

Manners: Don't you feel better knowing that Obama doesn't think going to war with Russia over Crimea would be “appropriate”, even though NATO defense planners view it as "no longer unthinkable."

Essay Question: Why do high frequency traders never lose money? ( Play our theme song while composing your answer.)

Where's Waldo? Facebook says it has a program that can accurately match a photo of you to any other photo of you – alone or in a group – 97.25% of the time. Just imagine what some evil government agency could do with that. And will. Or already does.

Bossy: Uganda's First Lady says that she is not personally acquainted with any gay cows which – to her mind – proves there is no such thing as homosexuality. Obviously this lady has never watched a herd of milch cows very long. 
Dragnet: According to the LAPD and LA County Sheriff's Department, owning a car in the LA area is reasonable grounds to suspect you are involved in criminal activity, even though the cops don't know quite what it is that you've done. Yet. But they're sure that if they watch you long enough, they'll catch you at something.

#censored: Upset that people keep posting recordings of his government's corruption on social networks, Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan is making good on his threat to ban access to Twitter in the country.

When You Gotta Go... Billy Graham’s daughter suggests that the missing Malaysia Airlines plane disappeared in a ‘small snapshot’ of the Rapture

Making Tracks: Caterpillar continues to disappoint, making it 15 consecutive months of declining sales as February's sales were down 8% from February 2013 (which had been down 13% from February 2012). Says something about the heavy construction and resource extraction industries, no?

Chinese Fire Drill: Goldman has joined other major banks in cutting its 2014 GDP growth forecast for China, expecting both export trade and internal consumption to fall as the world's second largest economy encounters “a bumpy road.” Bumps like megawealthy Chinese liquidating the luxury houses they bought offshore as tax dodges – in order to raise money against their borrowing, large firms defaulting on billions in bonds resulting in a 'bear raid' on the Hang Seng and a sudden drop in the value of the Yuan large enough to trigger tens of billions of losses for speculators bankers.

Ooops: Merrill Lynch has sent an appology to the Irish for underestimating the cost to the citizenry of nationalizing the losses of their four largest banks - by €47 billion. Or 800%, whichever seems smaller. And it wasn't their fault, because, because... But they did not offer to give back the 7.3 million euros they were paid for the advice.

Dominoes: There are 55,000 electrical power substations in the nation. If nine of them (properly selected) were to go out at once, the entire US electrical grid would collapse. And would be down for about 18 months – which is how long it would take to replace the big transformers (which are not made in the US anymore).

Next? How concerned should we be that Putin is “concerned” ethnic Russians in Estonia have to learn Estonian - which really does seem to be a hardship?

Porn O'Graph: They've got yours.

The Parting Shot:
 Ocean Surgeonfish, Acanthurus bahianus.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

SAR #14079

"They tell us that we are violating the norms of international law. First of all, it's good that they at least remember that international law exists."  Vladimir Putin

While You Were Not Watching: Crimea! Crimea! Chimera! But not a peep about ethnic cleansing on a "massive scale" in the Central African Republic. Because oil...

Captive Camera: Citizens in Florida are suing the cops for arresting them for photographing and arrest on a public street. Cops in New Jersey got caught photographing people who weren't properly deferential at a Christie town hall meeting. Anonymously filed bill in the Kansas House would let police arrest people who file complaints against them and would prevent appeals to higher authorities. The anonymously filed bill would also outlaw anonymous complaints.

Quoted: “We already have museums for women — they are called malls” Rush Limbaugh.

Mulligans: Toyota has been hit with a $1.2 billion criminal fine and required to “fully admit wrongdoing” in connection with the 2009 – 2010 stuck accelerator recall, after investigation showed the company knew about the problems and did not fix them. The business decision behind this – that paying for a few deaths was cheaper than fixing the problem – is not unique to Toyota – remember the Pinto? And then there's GM and the ignition switch. Ain't capitalism grand?

Just So: “Families Of Missing Flight Passengers Hoping Media Gets Closure It Needs”

I Can't Get It For You Wholesale: New Jersey now prohibits Tesla from selling their vehicles in the state because auto dealers are afraid of the competition. The auto dealers warn that direct auto sales would threaten their livelihood. Another fine aspect of true capitalism, which prefers captive customers to actual free markets. "Our economy is based on the belief that companies should provide the highest quality product at the lowest possible price... " they say, while inserting an unnecessary profit taker between the manufacturer and the customer. What do auto dealerships do? They maximize the amount we pay for cars.

The Takers: Since 2000, Fortune 100 companies have raked in $1.2 trillion in welfare payments from the government. And that does not include any of the bailout money. At least they don't take food stamps... but they could, because corporations are people, right?

Streets Paved With Gold: While the government was busy rescuing JPMorgan, BofA and the other Usual Suspects, it did nothing to prevent the collapse of about 500 small banks around the country. Small banks are key to small businesses, you know, the one's the politicians claim to love so much. But with their disappearance, the economic health of their counties has suffered greatly and continues to do so. Saving the global economy may have been important, but if you live in a small town with a failed bank, the local economy is far more important to you than how Wall Street's doing.

Happy Birthday: Saudi Arabia has had its troops blocking the approaches to tiny Bahrain for three years now, keeping the despised dictator Hamad bin Isa Alkhalifa in power - mainly because of the Saudi aversion to democracy. 
Who's Driving This Train? The Pentagon has announced a “multinational training exercise” will take place in Ukraine. Let's hope there are no live-fire exercises.

The Parting Shot:
 Grooved Brain Coral, Diploria labyrinthiformis.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

SAR #14078

Data does not speak for itself, and the quality of interpreters varies.

Told Ya' So: Remember when they said the NSA did not listen to our phone calls and only performed analysis on the 'meta data'? Turns out they were telling a version of the truth. But now it turns out the can reach into that big closet of theirs and listen to them whenever they want. And they could do it to 100% of the calls in a certain 'unidentified' country back in 2009. That was then, this is now.

The Worm Turns: Nearly 75% of the US corn crop is grown from Bt-seed, genetically designed to be impervious to rootworms. Too bad the rootworms have evolved to happily munch away at Bt-corn. It's almost enough to make you believe in evolution...

Been There, Doing That: The concern is not that under some future stress America might turn to torture again. It's a valid concern, in that we never stopped. The real crime is that the torture we know about was not done to stop some terrorist plot, but to deliberately create false confessions
Seeing The Forest: Some 500 trees along a 15 mile stretch of Interstate 6 north of Tacoma will be sacrificed so NSA can better watch you via the traffic control cameras.

Cow/Cabbage: US productivity has quadrupled since 1947, and until about 1980 the workers shared in the gains, but since then. Oddly, that's about the time unions became obsolete. The ever widening gap is the defining issue of our time. It is not just about the money. It's about the pitchforks, too.

The J. Egdar Rule: Nancy Pelosi admits that Congress doesn't confront the intelligence agencies “because they come after you...”

Zero Tolerance: A kid in Jefferson, Ohio has been kicked out of school and arrested for having a pocket knife in his car parked on school property. Are lobotomies a prerequisite for school administrators? 
The Rest of the Story: In order to prepare their students to face the real world, many colleges have opened food banks for their students.

Diagnosis: According to Pat Robertson, God gave a woman cancer in order to encourage her to forgive her abusive father.

Porn O'Graph: Footprints.

The Parting Shot:
 Queen Parrotfish, Scarus vetula.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

SAR #14077

Capitalism assumes scarcity.

Common Theme: Iraq, war, all about the oil. Afghanistan, war, all about the pipeline. Crimea, only blather, because Russia sells $160 billion worth of petroleum to Europe and the US every year.

Wise Guys: True insiders – corporate officers and directors – are more bearish they have been in nearly 25 years. And they theoretically know more about their own companies' prospects than the market in general.

To The Rear March: In an abrupt and historic reversal, the IMF now cites investing in health care and education and instituting progressive taxation as effective ways to decrease inequality and promote growth, while singling out austerity polices as worsening inequality and hampering economic growth. Never mind that for at least a half-century the IMF has insisted that austerity was the only way to go. Don't hold your breath waiting for the agency to change the conditions it attaches to bailouts – it has a long history of doing the opposite of what it knows to be best for the countries and people that are its clients because these things benefit its patrons, the banks and the rich.

Sticks And Stones: Saudi Arabia, not content with banning 420 books at the Riyadh International Book Show, has also banned 50 names as being blasphemous and inappropriate. 
The Other Thing: Sure, there's appalling inequity in income and in wealth distribution in this country. But the more serious inequality is in health and longevity. Poverty not only diminishes a person's life circumstances, it diminishes his life. Poor males die about six years earlier than the rich. That's why raising Social Security and Medicare entitlement ages is so wrong – its saying that the poor must work until they drop because the lawyers and CEOs are living longer.

Gee Mail: User-friendly Google wants the court to black out all that stuff in the trial transcript that details how it steals information from your e-mails before you open them. It's a proprietary business secret, they claim. Unlike your e-mails, which are merely private secrets and thus not worth protecting. 
Pyhrric Victory: The NSA is getting better at its job. Too bad its job seems to be watching us 24/7. NSA does not trust any of us. The want to suck up every electronic trace there is of anything and everything we do and keep it forever, "just in case." It's like the cops videotaping everything you do in every room of your house, all the while, promising not to watch any of the footage unless an acquaintance of one of your friends is suspected of doing something wrong. Why not let them? Because it is unconstitutional. End of story.

Weight Drop Dropped: It turns out that the claimed drop in childhood obesity was a statistical error; actually the obesity rate may have risen. Damned decimal points...

Evidence Be Damned: There is a persistent belief that government money-printing and deficits inexorably lead to runaway inflation and that 'easy money' policies are morally corrupt anyway, no matter their efficiency. Even though years of QE and deficits have not led to any inflation, much less rampant inflation, but facts do not budge the true believers. That doom has not shown up and is not visible on the horizon does not mean it isn't out there, over the horizon. Or rainbow. So there's always hope. Or fear. 
We're Lovin' It: Macky D is being sued for tampering with time-sheets, withholding overtime pay, docking pay for uniforms, forcing workers to clock out while working during non-busy store hours, and barring workers from taking breaks. Great business model: Pay your workers the minimum, then steal part of that.

Our Town: A South Dakota Republican lawmaker claims that KKK business owners should have the right to ban blacks and gays from their premises. A female GOP PAC leader says women are too busy to be concerned with the equal pay issue.

The Parting Shot: 
 Schoolmaster, Lutjanus aposdus.

Monday, March 17, 2014

SAR #14076

If free market competition produces excellence, how do you explain cable TV?

Usual Suspects: The FDIC is suing 16 banks – BofA, Citi, JPMorgan, etc. etc. - for rigging the Libor rate for years and years and years. For so long they all thought it was their natural right to steal money that way. 
Apocalypse How: A NASA funded research paper says that our unsustainable consumption of resources, our excessively large population and the increasing levels of inequality will lead to “irreversible collapse.” This is not exactly a fringe group of doomster conspiracy nuts. The authors cite compelling historical data showing that "precipitous collapse - often lasting centuries - have been quite common” throughout history. The main factors leading to civilizational collapse have been excess population, changing climate, high levels of economic stratification, water shortages, agricultural failure and failing energy sources. Sound familiar?

Desperation: Turkish PM Erdogan claims that a 15 year old boy who died nine months after being put in a coma by Turkish police putting down a demonstration, was a terrorist and that his death was an act of terrorism. Or something like that. Naturally, riot police fired rubber bullets as tens of thousands of protesters mourned the dead teenager.

Division Of Spoils: The bonuses handed out by Wall Street in 2013 came to more than all the wages earned by all the minimum wage workers in the nation.

Crime Stoppers: Workers at an Ontario turkey farm were videoed “punching, kicking, and throwing turkeys”, and crushing the birds spines and heads with metal rods and shovels. This is the sort of thing that is against the law in several US states. The videotaping, that is.

The Doctor Is In/Out: Why is it Obama's fault that your doctor's greed led him to chose not to accept your insurance? It's just business; insurance companies send patients to the lowest bidder to keep costs down and make more profits. Not their fault your doctor doesn't think you're worth his time.

Words: 'Recovery' doesn't mean what you think it does. Nor does 'recession'. They're just statistical concepts, having little relevance to reality unless you live in some economist's model. 
Striking Back: A federal judge has ruled that Tennessee must recognize marriages legally performed in any other state. Kentucky, Utah and Texas have also been so educated on the responsibilities of being one of the United States. In Arkansas a federal judge has struck down the law banning most abortions after the 12th week of pregnancy as an unconstitutional infringement on a woman's constitutional rights. 
What I'm Missing: I don't have a smart phone, so I have to just guess when it's time to go pee.

Smile, They're On Candid Camera: Baltimore's PD, after wasting nearly a quarter million dollars trying to defend a cop who objected to being photographed making an arrest, has told its officers that they cannot object to the public recording them going about protecting the public. Philadelphia is about to pay for the same lesson
Logically: A Colorado court has ruled that now that the state has legalized pot use, some of those convicted of marijuana possession should have those convictions overturned. In Washington, AG Holder backs reducing sentences for minor drug offenses. Now how are we going to keep the jails filled, like our contracts with the private prisons require?

Squeaky Big Wheels: Turns out that being a loudmouth is a huge advantage in the race to dominate the competition. And it's far easier than actually being good at something.

Do As I Say: The former cop who killed a man in a movie theater for texting, had been texting from the theater just a few minutes earlier.

The Commons: Measles vaccine does not cause autism. Those who want an explanation for the currently unexplainable and those who don't think government conspiracies against us stop with the NSA have brainwashed enough parents that we now – unnecessarily – are facing outbreaks of measles. Parents do not have the right to inflict measles on their children, nor do they have the right to pollute our shared environment through their willful stupidity. 
Those Guys: An Arizona Republican claims that slavery wasn't so hard on the slaves and, besides, it was good for the economy. One in Ohio claims that a public education system is a socialist plot and advocates complete privatization of schools.

The Parting Shot:
 Goose-neck Barnacles, Lepas anatifera.