Monday, September 30, 2013

SAR #13273

Have we run out of stuff to pillage?

Fat Lady, Singing: The sad part is that the 80 or so Tea Party 'conservatives' think they are winning and are doing God's work, when actually all they are doing is creating havoc at the Koch Brothers' behest. (No, it's not about Obamacare, that's a smoke-screen.) At this point no one can back down unless everyone backs down, and there is no way that will happen. Nothing will happen until just before midnight on Monday, and most likely not even then. The shutdown will last longer than you think, because the immediate effects will not affect may people in obvious ways – unless the market tanks. That's probably the best thing that can happen at this point – a thousand point drop in the Dow.

Memo For File: The Republican Party is bending its entire will, staking its very soul, fighting to its last breath, in service of a crusade to… make sure that the working poor don't have access to affordable health care. That's it. That's what's happening. They have been driven mad by the thought that rich people will see their taxes go up slightly in order to help non-rich people get decent access to medical care. … That's a pretty stirring animating principle, no?”

Talent & Hard Work: Last year the 400 people at the top of the heap took home more than the 150,000,000 people at the bottom of the pile put together.

Dance Card: If your cell phone and my cell phone visit the same coffee shop at overlapping times a couple of times a week and you do something NSA doesn't like, I and all my friends will go on a list of probable co-conspirators. It's the magic of massive analysis of massive amounts of data on everyone, their on-line habits (we visit the same website?), email and cellphone calls (you know Sally, too?), stores we shop in, libraries we visit, purchases, and where we go – based on our cell phones. It used to be called guilt by association, now it''s just just association; the guilt is assumed.

Fairness Doctrine: The real income of the bottom 40% of Americans has fallen 6% in the last 4 years, while the top 1% have gotten a 31% raise.

Italy, Being Italian: Berlusconi, angry that the high court has upheld his tax fraud conviction, has set about bringing down the government by having his party pull out of their coalition with the Democratic Party if the Senate strips him of his seat. He claims it is about his drive to revoke an increase in the country's VAT, others suspect Berlusconi wants to become PM again so he can pardon himself again. As in certain other countries, being a crook is a qualification for public office, not a bar.

Noted: Unless they are named Horatio, 42 percent of kids born into poverty will stay there.

Proportion: In Nigeria, at least 28 students at an agricultural college were slaughtered in their dorms. It is being blamed on the group Boko Haram. A car bomb has killed at least 37 people in Peshawar, Pakistan. In the US, if the Tea Partiers have their way, another 44,000 uninsured Americans will die for lack of medical care.

And: In 2011 real median household income was 8.1% lower than it was in 2007. 
Limits To Growth: The IPCC says that no more than one trillion metric tons of carbon can be burned if we are to avoid catastrophic global warming. We're already half-way there and at our current rate we will reach that amount by 2040. So we can go along happily until September 2039, then we'll stop burning all carbon based fuel. Easy. Right?

Attention Deficit: Rep. Diane Black (Typical, TN), feels requiring background checks to buy automatic weapons is "knee-jerk" liberalism but wants those hired to help people sign-up for Obamacare to pass a background check. Knee-jerk right wingism?

The Parting Shot:
Off in the distance...

Saturday, September 28, 2013

SAR #13271

What has free trade done for you lately?

Summary Execution: All you need know about the new IPCC report is that global surface temperatures will “likely” be 4.7 to 8.6ºC above the levels seen during 1986 – 2005. That's 8 to 15 degrees Fahrenheit above today's 'norm.' Why? Because we are doing nothing to cut our carbon emissions; in fact, they are now 50% above what they were a decade ago and still increasing. Ha, and you thought the fight over the debt ceiling was important.

Qui Bono? Analysis of the US drone strikes in Pakistan reveals that they have little or no effect on insurgent violence back in Afghanistan – even those attacks that kill actual militant leaders appear to have little or no benefit to the US effort.

No And Yes: During a Senate hearing, the Director of NSA declined to say if the agency was collecting cell phone GPS location data while it is vacuuming up the content of the calls. Which means they are. He did say that he thought it “in the nation's best interest” for the agency to collect all US electronic communications and store them forever. The Director of National Intelligence, at the same hearing, claimed that NSA's collect everything, everywhere, all the time “is necessary.” They blamed the leaks and the “sensational headlines” for the public anger at being constantly watched and listened to, and not the fact that the citizens might not want to have all their electronic communications and activities spied upon.

Stumble: Customer confidence has fallen to a five-month low, with the biggest two-month decline this year and the largest miss vs. expectations on record. Citi analysts noted this pattern suggests “significant downside risk to US equities.”

Whale/Oil: ExxonMobil has managed to kill about 100 melon-headed whales while searching for oil off Madagascar using sonar “booms” to search for oil.
Fear Itself: Christian groups in Kansas have gone to court to try to stop the schools from teaching science at all grade levels, because faith-based creationism is not being included and they are sure learning about science will create “a hostile learning environment for those of faith.” I certainly hope so.

The Parting Shot:
The gang's all here...

Friday, September 27, 2013

SAR #13270

Lying about reality does not change it.

Point, Counterpoint: The GOP went to the White House and demanded that Obama surrender. Surrender on Obamacare. Surrender on the Keystone pipeline. Surrender on the budget. Surrender his birth certificate. Surrender, surrender, surrender. And left empty handed. If you don't think the government will shut down next week, tell me who is going to blink. Not the Tea Party Republicans, they think they are winning and that shutting down the government is a disaster to be embraced to prove their manhood. Obama isn't going to surrender his signature achievement and sell the public into slavery. After a week or so – my guess – the public and or big business (feeling the economic swan dive that will begin) will force the Republican Right to crawl off-stage, claiming victory, sort of like the US in Vietnam. Hopefully taking Boehner with them.

Edited for Accuracy: According to a Guardian headline, "To reform the NSA, fire officials who lie." Too many words; imagine a government where we fire all the officials who lie.

About Prosperity: Despite the much mentioned economic recovery TM , poverty in the US remains unchanged from last year at 15% of the population. That's 46.5 million Americans still living in poverty and abusing the food stamp program. Nearly 25% of all kids under the age of six live in poverty. And they don't have health care, either. It would cost much less than 1% of our GDP (or less than 25% of what we spend on 'defense' every year) to eliminate poverty in the country. That's about the same amount of money that we give homeowners through various tax deductions. We have poverty because we choose it.

Wish Granted: The head of the Barilla pasta empire says his company does not want gays eating his products. Me, I think we should all – gay and straight together - give him his wish.

Round & Round, Up & Down: Every time the economy perks up a bit, interest rates rise a tad and kill the recovery in housing and autos, which drives down interest rates so the Fed reverts to QE. And any talk of reducing QE also dampens the economy – or at least the market, which is not the same thing. Rinse and repeat for years and years.

What Goes Around... The Russian government has censored a website about the Russian government censoring websites.

Sweat, Shop: The Bangladeshi government is using parmailitary forces to crush the massive protests for better pay and safer working conditions in the garment industry that are now in their second week. Its a good thing Wal-mart is stuffed with inventory, because some of their cheap clothing hasn't been getting made of late.

Bull: As swallows are to spring, headlines like Seeking Alpha's “It's Not Too Late To Capitalize On The Real Estate Recovery” pretty much tells you it is too late.

Sure Thing: We are on track for at least a 7°C rise in global temperature by 2100. That's 5°C hotter than at any time since we settled down 12,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent and started being farmers. Actually, in at least the last 15 million years the global temperature has never spiked above 2°C from modern norms. There are things we could have done, things we could do; but we have not done them and are not doing them and will richly deserve what we get. 
Unclear on the Concept: A Kansas school board has voted to allow student-led prayer over the school intercom. Good, my Wiccan daughter and her Muslim girlfriend have been wanting to gain a bigger audience for their prays for peace and tolerance.

The Parting Shot:

Thursday, September 26, 2013

SAR #13269

We are not the nation we pretend to be, and haven't been for a long time. 

Lookin' Good: At first blush, the premiums for coverage under ACA look remarkably affordable. Not, of course, as good as a national single-payer system would be, but much better than Republicans have been claiming. And the insurance vampires still get their unearned profits and BigPharma doesn't get challenged on their price goughing; a nearly perfect world and still Ted Cruse thinks poor people should die if they can't afford medical care.

Pencil It In: On October 17th, the US will officially become a deadbeat, unable to pay its bills. Thank a Republican.

Mother Hubbard's Cupboard, Revised: Wal-Mart has so many unsold plastic salad spinners jammed into its stockrooms that it has to put pallets of arriving Christmas crap in the stores' aisles next to the plastic Halloween crap. Seems customers have not been buying stuff for quite some time, despite the red hot economic recovery. Things are so bad the company is cutting orders for merchandise, hiring back workers fired in a chase for continuing profits, and in generally flailing about like neophytes. Watch for the bargain clearances.

Be Very Afraid: The US government, which spends tens if not hundreds of billions of dollars every year reading every email and every web posting, listening to nearly every phone conversation in the entire world, says to be on high alert because al-Qaeda “might be planning something.” What? They don't know, but something. Can we get a refund?

Tsunami Warning: French Socialists say they will make “unprecedented” cuts to France's 2014 budget. Boy, this'll be fun to watch.

Nothin' Up My Sleeve: JPMorgan Chase seems willing to pay $11 billion to federal and state entities to make prosecution for years of mortgage fraud go away. (JPM is quick to point out the dastardly deeds were done by guys at Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual, long before JPM took them over.) Citigroup has agreed to pay $395 million to Freddie Mac to sweep “potential flaws” (for which read years of fraud) in nearly 4 million mortgages it sold to Freddie. Citi said the settlement would come out of petty cash its existing mortgage repurchase reserves. A couple of months ago it paid Fannie May just shy of a billion dollars to settle similar claims, and in January BofA agreed to give Fannie $3.6 billion to cover “troubled home loans” it had palmed off as the good stuff, and to buy back another $6.7 billion of smelly mortgages.

Words Of One Syllable: The national debt is caused by the Treasury paying for stuff the Congress ordered above and beyond what they were willing to pay for at the time.

Mother Hubbard's Cupboard, Finalle: JCPenny looks to be toast. Goldman Sachs says that a terminal bankruptcy filing seems inevitable because the company does not have any inventory to sell, doesn't have any money to buy any inventory, can't borrow any money to buy any inventory and even if it got some money and some inventory it doesn't have any customers left to buy the inventory. Say Goodnight, Gracie.

Incurable Optimist: Richard Dawkins says there is a 50-50 chance that religious fanatics will get their hands on biological or radiological weapons and kill us all – eradicate humanity from the earth – this century. Just in time to save us from ourselves.

The Parting Shot:
 Eye of the beholder...

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

SAR #13268

A recipe is not legally binding.

Making The Point: Ted Cruz vowed he would continue his fillibuster of Obamacare until he is “no longer able to stand”, knowing that if he collapses he will receive excellent medical treatment under his federal health care plan.

Confession: With five days to go before the silliness becomes serious, I see no way out. The demands and non-negotiables are far too rigid to be compromised. The Republican Right is not in contact with reality and it appears that Obama finally has finally realized that giving in is the same as giving up. I'd say something clever but there is nothing clever about this country's proud march to a non-functional political state. Time to go back to the drawing board on political structure and power, with all the violence that will entail. 
Child'sPlay: NCAA will restore the Penn State athletic scholarships that were supposedly punishment for the University's years of making sports and coaches far more untouchable than children. 
Leadership: John Kerry says the US will sign the UN treaty pretending to regulate the $80 billion-a-year international trade in weaponry, of which the US is directly or indirectly the largest seller. Of course the US Senate will never 'consent', so it will never apply to our merchants of death. And we will still make, use and sell anti-personnel mines, depleted uranium ammunition, and drones. 
Pot/Kettle: Israel says the US should not trust the Iranians because they are hypocrites 
Censorslip: . The US has terminated reporting on the ongoing hunger strikes at Guantanamo, and the attendant forced feedings, but wants the world to know that hunger striker Pussy Rioter Nadezhda Tolokonnikova has been sent to an isolation unit as punishment for complaining about conditions in the Gulag where she's imprisoned.

We're Number One! Income inequality in the United states is now more extreem than it was in the Roman Empire. 
As Intended: The 401(k) retirement charade has worked exactly as planned. It helped destroy private pension plans, has enriched Wall Street via fees and charges, and has made the wealthy, wealthier. The sheep have mostly not recovered from the two serious shearings the market handed out in the last decade. Oh, and it's still used as a 'reason' to bludgeon Social Security.

Censorship: Individuals who have witnessed and suffered from US 'surgical' drone strikes in Pakistan are being blocked from entering the US to describe the effects of these war crimes before a Congressional ad hoc hearing. Ah, yes: “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you flee...”

Things I Didn't Know: “Nothing more Christian” than cutting food stamps and forcing four million more poor people into poverty, even though the SNAP program is “an effective economic stimulus”, or perhaps because it is. I also didn't know that all blacks' “last name is N****ER!” or that the Democrats are using “mind control” to force us to accept gay marriage. Thanks to various Republicans for pointing these things out to us.l

The Parting Shot:
Mistflower - Eupatorium coelestinum

Monday, September 23, 2013

SAR #13259

Sorry for the delay in resumption, but somewhere along the way I picked up a hitch-hiking bug of some sort and am (1) in the hospital and (2) taking some lovely meds which (3) will delay my return to the trenches for about a week.

Monday, September 16, 2013

SAR #13258

To Whom It May Concern:

After three weeks of travel, nine airports and at least 9 cities, your indefatigable correspondent has become...  fatigued.

SAR is taking the week off.  

See you back here next Monday, the 23rd.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

SAR #13257

Exponential growth is the biggest Ponzi scheme of all.

Ah, Wall Street: The US stock market rose this week as a series of disapointing economic reports lowered investors concern that the economy would pick up enough to let the Fed stop giving away money. Retail sales were weak. Consumer confidence plunged. Wall Street celebrated
Not Exactly News: Bloomberg reported this week that the weak growth in factory jobs we've seen over the last three years (after 12 successive years of decline) is doomed because (gasp) it costs 9% more to make stuff here than overseas. Wonder how much a single-payer national health system would do to erase that.

Good Question: Why do we spend so much on 'security' but let Detroit go bankrupt? Or so many kids go hungry? 
Happy Days Are Here Again: Rejoice brethren, for the rich have recovered, even as the great majority of Americans have not. Lo, for the top 0.01% had higher incomes in 2012 than they did at the height of the bubble, and regret that there's not enough to go around, that inequality is the inevitable way of the world. And when we say inequality, we're not talking about the highly educated, highly skilled workers in this country verses the less skilled, the Walmart greeters and the fast-food drones. No, friends, we are talking about a tiny fraction of a tiny fraction verses everybody else. Everybody else. Not the top 10%, not even the top 1%. It is the top 0.1% verses 99.9% of us. So it is written in the Market, so it must be. 
From The Podium: “The federal government is basically an insurance company with an army,” and the insurance side (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid) is pretty well and pretty leanly run – far better than any private insurance scheme. There's a teaching point in there somewhere.

Lesson From The Wilderness: It is five years since Lehman Brothers and the housing bubble taught us that the financial sector had to change in important, structural ways and could not be trusted to do so unsupervised. And during the intervening five years what we've learned is that finance isn't going to change. Maybe they need a little help.

Proportion: Some of Britain’s finest minds are drawing up a “doomsday list” of catastrophic events that pose a real threat to civilization and lead to the extinction of the human species. Bombs on airplanes, kids riding bikes without helmets, marijuana, carcinogens in food and the occasional dirty joke on TV do not qualify. The increasing complexity of our technology does, for one slip and we begin to unravel. The interdependent networks that deliver our food and energy do, because a small disturbance in the flow can led to real hunger and real suffering within days. Don't worry about the small stuff.

Warning,Steep Incline, Use Lower Gear: Goldman Sachs, with a fine disregard for reality, warns that as the economy improves and the Fed backs away from the QE stimulus, gold will fall precipitously. "Their central thesis: since the US economy is out of the woods, there’s no longer a need for gold as a risk hedge. But as one senior-level manager at a major investment bank noted, "Nobody knows what the f**k is going on..." Try this: Goldman is peddling its own bicycle.

Just One Of Those Things: Levels of tritium in the groundwater near the leaking storage tanks at Fukushima spiked to more than 15 times above the previous levels over three days this week. The reason for this is unknown. What is suspected is that Fukushima is "Out Of Control".

The Parting Shot:
Okra, neglected.

Friday, September 13, 2013

SAR #13256

If only we could save ourselves from unintended consequences.

Away: Applications for new (down 13% w/w) and refinanced (down 20% w/w) mortgages continue their steep drop. Re-fi's are at their lowest level since mid-2009. Rates for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages are now at 4.80% for 20% down buyers. The data make swallowing the idea of a big housing recovery rather difficult. Home prices are up more than 25% across the nation and nearly 40% in a few cities. The increase in prices and in mortgage rates means that payments on a house today in these cities will be nearly 50% more than payments on the same house a year ago. Can you say 'bubble'?

Snowflakes/Winter: Okay, the Department of Labor just released its latest report on weekly unemployment insurance claims. jobless claims plunged to 292,000, which was 12% lower than the 330,000 expected by economists. this is the lowest level since April 2006. Butski: two states made computer system changes that resulted in incorrect data being reported. Expect a quiet but significant upward revision next week. 
Shut Up And Deal: The IMF says Spain - where unemployment is over 28% and expected to remain there for another 5 years - has no option but to stimulate growth and job creation by beggaring the population even further. The Fund’s proposal is for agreement between all involved to accept 10% wage reductions in return for a promise of lower prices someday soon. The proposal will be dismissed out of hand by the people in the street. And in Spain, people do turn out; in Catalonia on Wednesday, more than a million people (out of a population of only 7.5 million) turned out to form a 250-mile human chain across the region to advocate independence from the central state. After suffering the tender attentions of the IMF and the ECB, Greece's unemployment has gotten worse, now at 27.9%, with those most likely to throw bricks under 24, at 58.5%. Best guess is that about 25 million more Europeans will sink into abject poverty by 2025 as Europe's elite roll back decades of social progress.

The Times They Are A-Changin': The Pope is broadening the brand, saying that God will love you and let you into heaven even if you don't believe in God - as long as your atheism is sincere and you follow your conscience. And a papal spokesman says that the love & marriage & sex celibacy thing may be up for debate, too.

Casus Belli: The French have intercepted a ship carrying 20 tons of chemical weapons marijuana Ah, those chemical weapons. No wonder we've gotta bomb Damascus; they are trying to bring down civilization...

Leaderslip: Funding for US government operations expires on Sept. 30. The Republican House leadership says defunding the Affordable Care Act is a precondition for passing a spending bill. And about 80 House Republicans view this as too conciliatory and want other entitlement programs such as Food Stamps cut, too. And none of this nonsense could pass the Senate, so it's all for show anyhow. But the shutting down of the government is not. Then, about November 1st, comes the debt limit showdown, in which the Republicans want to force the US Treasury to stop paying the bills that they, the House ran up.

Oh, I Knew That: If the minimum wage had kept up with inflation, it would be about $10/hr today. If it had kept up with the productivity growth of US workers, it would be $18.
Everybody Knows: After twelve years of thrashing about North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia to little avail, it has long since become obvious that we have no idea how to fight terrorism. Not a clue.

It's The New South - Same As The Old South: In Florida you can be beaten, arrested and threatened with a Taser for walking while black on the wrong side of the road.

The Parting Shot:

Egelantiersgracht, Amsterdm, NL

Thursday, September 12, 2013

SAR #13255

When the government speaks of secrecy and security, what it is talking about is fear.

Making Haste Slowly: Refinancing mortgages has dropped to 2009 levels and overall mortgage activity is now at 2008 levels as mortgage rates rise; mortgage servicers and originators, lacking things to do, are laying of employees in bunches. Almost makes one doubt the experts who keep going on about a housing recovery.

As Assumed: Since the NSA's scooping and snooping of American telephone and other electronic communications began in earnest in 2006, "every day NSA analysts snooped on more American phone records than they were allowed to." It's become the Tomato that Ate Cleveland Democracy, too big to manage, too complex to control. It should be shot and put out of our misery.

The Obvious, Revealed: All of the problems being encountered with the jury-rigged Affordable Care Act could easily be solved if we went straight to a single-payer system. Y'know, like Medicare and Medicaid and the VA system and... That's where we're going to end up anway. And should.

His Master's Voice: Goldman Sachs notes that the economic damage of the sequestration is becoming more and more noticeable in things like our moribund personal incomes and the drag from the government's non-spending. And it will get worse if Congress doesn't get around to doing its job. Which it has no intent of doing.

Career Guidance: Will Sutton should have been a lawyer, a bankruptcy lawyer. The vultures picking over Lehman Brothers' corpse have billed more than $2 billion – three times the haul they made off with from Enron's demise. The creditors will get 18 cents on the dollar.

Asked &Answered: What is driving down labor's share of the nation's income? How about the death of unions?

Monotonous: Capping an 85-year come-back, the richest 1% have grabbed the largest part of the nation's income since 1928 – 19% of it. And the top 10% swept up a tidy 48.2% of all income – as race, education and income continue to polarize the populace
Mazel Tov: Israel has a choke-hold agreement that requires NSA provide, from its nearly unlimited collection of collectionsl “intercepted communications likely to contain phone calls and emails of American citizens.” AIPAC has to have some way to monitor the herd. 
Science Silenced: The religious right in Texas – which is way, way over there – intends to eliminate any high school biology text that doesn't refute Darwinian science and replace it with “creation science based on Biblical” authority. Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network, fears this will turn Texas into a “laughingstock”. Too late.

The Parting Shot:
 Alkmaar, Netherlands

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

SAR #13253

Words Is Words: The Director of National Intelligence, the occasionally honest James Clapper , says NSA is not stealing secrets from companies around the world. It's just borrowing them for a little while.

My Girl: Senator Elizabeth Warren says that the US Supreme Court is a “wholly- owned subsidiary of Big Business”. Not news, but nice to hear that at least one Senator is on our side.

En Passant: In case you were wondering, no, Italy hasn't had an economic recovery. Either.

Mission Creeps: Ambassador Rice: "Our overarching goal is to end the underlying conflict through a negotiated, political transition in which Assad leaves power.” So from punishment and deterrence to regime change, the menu grows. Yet John Kerry says the US effort will be “limited, very targeted, very short-term” because “we're not going to war.” She works for him, didn't get the memo.

Glad You Asked: If the employment situation is getting better and better, why are withholding tax collections declining?

The Parting Shot:
Joe-Pye Weed, Eupatorium fistulosum.
A traveling day...

Sunday, September 8, 2013

SAR #13252

Would you vote for him today? Why?

Quiz: What happened the last few times the US bombed a country to teach it a lesson? Why does O'Bomber think it will be different this time?

Making It Up As They Go Along: With the 'Final Round' of negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Plundering Partnership treaty scheduled and little if any agreement yet reached on nearly one-third of the 'chapters' of the putative agreement, will there be secret meetings to resolve differences – away from the glare of public scrutiny? Not that there's been much public scrutiny so far and absolutely no public discussion or input into this latest ceding of national power to corporate forces. The interesting stuff always happens in secret, and for a reason.

Making Love, Not War: Sweden is offering permanent residency to all asylum seekers from Syria. Wonder if they would like that old and forgotten statue from New York harbor?

Fine Print: Yeah, the economy added jobs! Yeah, the unemployment rate dropped to 7.3%! But we only added a piddling 169,000 jobs and the unemployment rate fell only because 312,000 people dropped out of the workforce. Let's see, if we lost 312,000 workers and added 169,000 jobs, we're celebrating a net decline of 143,000 employed American workers. Big whoop. Oh, and they took 74,000 away from job gains claimed in the previous two months. Fortunately, Wall Street profits continue to climb and war with Syria will boost the economy, too.

Another One Bites The Dust: For essentially unfathomable reasons, Australia has chosen über-conservative Tony Abbott, of the über-conservative Liberal Party,to be their new Prime Minister, leading them into a god-awful future with exactly the wrong plans: cut spending, kill immigrants, cut taxes, reduce the deficit and stop paying any attention to climate change – it's a hoax. Another great argument against popular democracy.

The Quote: It’s hard to look at climate change deniers as being anything other than willfully ignorant. The numbers are right there: As surely as greenhouse gas emissions are rising, so are global temperatures. To discount all that is to choose to be stupid.

What's A Little Leak Among Friends? The corrosive liquids that triggered the massive leak in a well in Total's Elgin North Sea field are commonly used in deep-water wells around the world. Total has quietly warned other operators of the danger. Don't worry, they are experts and they won't take unnecessary chances. Depending on the definition of 'unnecessary' of course.

Cornered: The Federal Reserve, and various other economists and financial commentators, have repeatedly told us for the last two or three years that the (then) latest data was a little weaker than they'd hoped for, but that better times were just around the corner. What if they're not? What if the Great Recession never ends? Show me where it says it must.

Porn O'Graph: Global temperature, by decade, by golly.

The Parting Shot:

"a way a lone a last a loved a long the/riverrun..."

Friday, September 6, 2013

SAR #13250

Remember the Maine!

Late Innings: Not only have the Brits, the UN and Nato declined Obama's invitation to the dance, President Putin was crude enough to point out that Secretary of State Kerry was “lying and he knows that he is lying” when he assured the US Senate that Al-Qaeda is not a major force in the Syrian rebellion. But Kerry carried the day in the Senate, where the Foreign Relations Committee's bill not only give O'Bomber authority to start a war with Syria, it includes a provision that makes regime change the goal of the exercise. 'Regime change'. Where have I heard that phrase before?

The Band Plays On: According to the Labor Department unemployment increased a tad or decreased a tad or more or less stayed where it's been for a year or so, at a not-yet-upwardly revised 323,000. Wowser.

Going, Going, Gone: JPMorgan Chase says it is getting out of the student loan business before it collapses because it cannot compete with the federal government. Don't know why not, they're getting funds from the Fed for nothing and loaning it out for big bucks. Maybe they've got inefficient paper pushers. Or maybe they smell a bubble bursting soon, as graduates keep discovering that most of America is still depressed and there are no jobs, so paying back their college loans is... difficult.

Marking Time: UN Global Warming researchers have resurrected the old Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists' Doomsday Clock and set the hands at five minutes to midnight. Optimists.

Sleazy: Georgia's governor and its insurance commissioner, both of whom are doing their evil best to obstruct implementation of the Affordable Care Act in Georgia – and proudly boasting of doing just that – are both on the RealPAC payroll. RealPAC, which hasn't filed its required tax forms or financial disclosure documents for two years, is funded by Aetna, Humana, Blue Cross, and United Health Care.

Getting It Right: Now that the liberal French have embraced austerity, the austerians say they are doing it wrong. Closing a budget gap by increasing taxation is not, repeat not, the way to do it. They're supposed to be cutting the social handouts, the protectors of the true gospel say. In France?

A Fine Mess, Ollie: The mavens who research such things now assure us that “No password is safe from the new breed of cracking software.” So much for using my dog's birthday and my favorite high-school teacher's nickname.

The Parting Shot:
 Leaves of grass.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

SAR #13249/A

If only...

"I don't oppose all wars. What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war. What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by ... weekend warriors in this administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne.

What I am opposed to is the attempt ... to distract us from a rise in the uninsured, a rise in the poverty rate, a drop in the median income...

That's what I'm opposed to. A dumb war. A rash war. A war based not on reason but on passion, not on principle but on politics...

I know that an [attack] ... without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen ... al-Qaeda.

So for those of us who seek a more just and secure world for our children, let us send a clear message to the president."

State Senator Barack H. Obama, October 2002

With thanks to Jesse,

SAR #13249

What is the government afraid we'll do if left unsupervised?

Worser and Worser: TEPCO – which still hasn't done a damned thing right following the Fukushima disaster – now admits that the equipment they used to measure radiation only went up to 100 millisieverts an hour, so that's what they reported as the level of emissions. In reality the level was 1,800 millisieverts an hour. And these same geniuses are going to build a giant underground wall of ice to contain radioactive water – for centuries? Hey, the cores of all four reactors have burned though their containment chambers and these guys are going to save the day by sticking giant popsicles in the ground? This is ”perhaps the greatest threat humanity has ever faced”.

On Doing Good: Listen carefully and you'll hear Obomb'em and Kerry and the gang arguing that the US should kill people in Syria in order to spread western democracy over their graves. There is at the moment a great revulsion for the 'teach them a lesson' bombardment, but Iraq was never a great favorite, either. Reality is malleable, and we came to accept the war in Iraq as necessary and won, that Libya is now an oasis of democracy, and Egypt... let's not talk about Egypt. Remember, Israel is America's friend, and most of all, war is peace.

Meanwhile, Back At The Recovery: The US trade deficit is on the up and up again, up nearly 14% m/m with a record deficit with both China and the European Union. As we have come to expect, the results were worse than expected.

Money For Nothing: Norway, which has for over two decades very prudently husbanded its windfall income from the North Sea, is facing a sea change with the September 9 election, which will probably see the Progress Party gather enough votes to form an important role in the new government. They've been around since 1973, always on the margin. But now they are running on a platform that points to the nation's $760 billion wealth fund and says that it is the people's money and should be returned to them by lowering taxes and increasing government spending on various projects – but not on social programs that might help immigrants. Sound familiar? It should, but I didn't know George W. was Norwegian.

Exiles: Because they still are under the control of Parliament, British liaison officers have been chucked out of the Central Command sandbox in Tampa, where the surgical strike targets are being drawn up for the Syrian edition of Democracy Marches On.

Federal Law, We Don't Need No Federal Law: The Texas Guard says it will not process applications for benefits from same-sex benefits due members of the Guard, even if they earned those benefits on active duty in the US Army. Wanna offer odds on how long this holds?

Lost In Translation: Obama continues his drive to complete an Asia-Pacific trade deal before Americans find out what's in the treaty this year, arguing that it will not only boost economic growth but shore up corporate control of major portions of the globe global security.”  Wonder how ‘global security’ translates.

Price Of Privacy: Facebook must pay $20 million for using its users' personal details in ads without their permission. Each will receive $15, which tells you how much your vaunted privacy is worth.

Accessorizing: Pat Robinson says that gay people have special rings they use to cut you and give you AIDS. Who do you have to see to get one? (And no, I'm not going to touch the obvious line.)

The Parting Shot:
 Butterfly weed Asclepias tuberosa

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

SAR #13247

Having delusions is remarkably useful. 
As Night Follows Day: Wonder what our national interest is in Syria? Remember why we are in an undeclared slow-motion war with Iran? Oil. Natural Gas. Ours, because it makes our empire run. Oh, you didn't know about the Syrian-Iranian natural gas pipeline to the Mediterranean? Maybe you've forgotten the non-US approved pipelines through Afghanistan, too.

Out Of The Bottle: Project GENIE, the US offensive cyperoperations effort, plans to control at least 85,000 malware bots in computers in Iran, China, North Korea and Russia by the end of this year. We've been doing it since at least 2008, but -as NSA and the Pentagon are quick to point out – not for economic gain or advantage. Why the hell not?

It's Only Business: Turns out that Great Britain sold Assad nerve gas component chemicals ten months after the current upheaval began. At least they sold it; we gave Saddam the stuff.

Relatives: If you think Big Brother is bad, check out Ma Bell. NSA keeps phone call data (and the actual calls) for nearly every American, but only for five years. Ma Bell not only keeps the data on all of their customers and anyone whose call goes through ATT switching stations and for going on 26 years. And they also keep track of locations, which NSA says they do not do. And Ma willingly shares all of this data with DEA. Why not, apparently DEA and the White House have been paying for the program. 
About Those Minimum Wage Kids: Only 88% of US workers who would gain from a higher minimum wage are over 20, more than 30% are over 40, more than half are working full time and nearly half have at least some college education. Meanwhile, the top 1%... argh.

Way-Back Machine: Remember Fukushima, two years ago? No, it's not “old news”. Three reactor cores are still melting away, eating into the earth, and the molten radioactive mess has to be constantly cooled for the next few centuries. Or longer. So far they've got 400,000 tons of contaminated water stored in 'temporary' tanks and they are adding 400 tons a day. But they're not running out of room that fast because 300 tons of highly radioactive crapola is leaking into the ocean every day. And there are puddles sitting around the tank farms that have 'hot-spots' with radiation rates that deliver a five-year level of exposure in one hour. Others are simply lethal. What, me worry?

Kill Self After Reading: Just because the Feds (1) set you up to be a patsy in a fake terrorist ring and (2) used electronic intercepts maybe or maybe not approved by the FISA court, don't think that your lawyer can get to see the evidence against you. He can't. Because, the court says, secret evidence is secret and the Feds say they can pretend they didn't use that particular set of illegally obtained information in framing you. Are you old enough to remember when we at least pretended trials were fair?

Puritanism: Some are complaining that mandatory drug testing as a condition of receiving various welfare benefits is a costly failure, that the tens of millions spent degrading the poor and unlucky neither catches druggies nor saves the state money. As though that were the point of the exercise.

The Parting Shot:
 Vapor trail