31 August 2009

The Very Modern Model of a Modern Republican Candidate

Republican Virginia gubernatorial candidate Robert McDonald mentioned in an interview with the Washington Post that he did a masters thesis on "welfare policy," and the Post went and did some real journalism: they went to the library at Regent University, Pat Robertson's diploma mill, which was called Christian Broadcasting Network University at the time that he filed his papers.

What they found was shocking, though not surprising:
  • Called working women "detrimental to the family".
  • Opposition to birth control.
  • Absolute ban on abortions, including where rape, incest, and the health of the mother are issues.
  • Covenant marriage (basically making divorces much more difficult).
  • Support for religious school vouchers.
  • Opposed tax breaks for child care expenses.
I am so not shocked that he is a right wing medieval nut job, but I think that some Virginia voters might be.

I'm shocked though that the Washington Post actually allowed real journalism to reach its pages. This article is positively brutal, and deservedly so.

Your Liberal Media

The Today Show has hired ½ of the formerly underage alcohol driven comedy duo Jenna and Tonic, Jenna Bush Hager, daughter of GW Bush, as a correspondent.

Un-dirtyword-believable.

Economics Update

The Institute for Supply Management's Chicago Purchasers’ Index beat expectations,
rising to 50, where 50 is the dividing line between contraction and expansion.

It's the highest number since last September, but it has been goosed a bit for cash for clunkers, which has me wondering what the number will look this September.

I would say that we have a pretty good indicator for the cynics among us (hi there) that the stock market rally will soon be ending, as insiders are now selling their stocks 30.6 times more than they are buying, and when the insiders sell, it generally means that some sort of disappointment is on the way.

We are getting mixed signals from Asia, with both Chinese and Japanese industrial production rising, but South Korean exports falling this month, giving a 20.6% year over year drop.

In energy, closed at $69.96/bbl, as falling stocks led to demand concerns, and in currency, the biggest mover was the Yen, on the election news.

Democratic Party of Japan Defeats Liberal Democratic Party

This is a major change in government, with the DPJ ending over 50 years of LDP rule, winning 308 of the 480 seats in the Diet.

I'm not sure how much of this is ideology, and how much is just that the voters were sick and tired of the LDP, which has been an increasingly rudderless bastion of cronyism.

From what I understand of the DPJ, their ideology is not particularly clear either.

They seem to be a bit more assertive on the foreign policy front, and a bit more inclined to developing internal consumer markets, but the differences are not much.

I do think that anti-American sentiment provided some of their votes, and we will see this all over the world for the next few decades, as we continue to feel reverberations of the absolute disgust of the population at US diplomacy under Bush and His Evil Minions&trade.

In many of the industrial democracies, we have an age cohort that has come to political awareness over the past 8 years, and their sense of the US is not as a beneficial influence in the world.

As they move into leadership positions in the next 20-30 years, we will see an increasingly confrontational foreign policy from them.

John Oliver is F%$#ing Genius, or Maybe It's the Limey Accent

He brings together MBA students who refused to sign an ethics pledge, and does the "Scared Straight" bit with felons.

Gut-busting Hilarity ensues.

They Were Photographing Me from Black Helicopters Today

Because I was in the back yard, preparing Maghmūma With Asparagus, it's a sort of an Arab pot pie called a "covered dish" from the book From Annals of the Caliphs’ Kitchens, translated by Nawal Nasrallah. It dates from the 1400s or so.

I was doing it in the fire-pit of my smoker, because I was checking out the recipe for "Trial by Fire", a medieval cooking competition that is conducted under camping conditions, which means that I was preparing Arab food outside, which means that the FBI was surveilling me.

I know what you are saying: This guy has gone completely around the bend. Totally paranoid. The FBI isn't profiling people because they eat Middle Eastern cuisine.

You know, what you are saying right now sounds right, but unfortunately, the FBI IS profiling people because they eat Middle Eastern cuisine:
Hoping that spikes in falafel and tahini purchases in the Bay Area would blaze a trail to Iranian secret agents, in 2005 and 2006, the FBI mined grocery store records for Middle Eastern food sales in the South San Francisco-San Jose area. According to Congressional Quarterly, the project didn't last long and didn't lead to any falafel-related prosecutions.
Not only is this morally wrong and unbelievably f$#@ing stupid, but it actually happened.

This is why civil rights and limits on law enforcement matter: because without these limits, law enforcement can, and will engage in the most abusive dumb-ass behavior imaginable.

BTW, the Maghmūma turned out very well, as did the crust, though next time, I'll crack the coriander seeds.

When Pump and Dump Fails

In this case, it's Cerberus, the secretive (aren't they all) hedge fund that bought Chrysler, and then took it into bankruptcy.

As I noted at the time, they bought Chrysler because they were hoping to buy it on the cheap, and when the likely purchaser, General Motors, turned out to be in almost as bad a shape as
Chrysler, they took a bath, as well as taking a hit on their investment in GMAC.

So now, investors are clamoring for the exits, (also here) because even though Cerberus is chock full of former government insiders, they do not believe that they will make money with the firm.

It's clear that they bet on government bailouts that would be extremely favorable to them, and they were not, and now they are experiencing a run on the bank.

Distributed in Dallas, TX on November 21, 1963



H/T Hullabaloo

Unethical Even by the Standards of the Public Relations Industry*

It turns out that the discovery that Mark Penn’s use of his Wall Street Journal column to pimp for clients and to trawl for new clients is not an issue for their editorial page.

Not surprising, given that the WSJ has the most venal and dishonest editorial OP/ED section in the United States, though Fred Hiatt and the Washington Post offer some competition in that area.


*I cannot believe that I just said that.
That may be the first time that I've ever said this about a Democrat.
But it is Mark "The Human Stain" Penn, so it is not a surprise that he would have earned this distinction.

30 August 2009

Release of Federal Reserve Sh&%pile for Cash Purchases Stayed

Federal Judge Loretta Preska has stayed her order for the Federal Reserve to release information on the emergency loans that it made:
The U.S. Federal Reserve won a delay of a federal judge's order that it reveal the names of the banks that have participated in its emergency lending programs and the sums they received.

Chief Judge Loretta Preska of the U.S. District Court in Manhattan stayed her August 24 order in favor of Bloomberg News, which had sought the information under the federal Freedom of Information Act, so that the central bank could appeal.
The Fed asked for the stay claiming that releasing the information would cause grave damage to the financial system, but that was also their argument for not complying with Bloomberg News' Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request in the 1st place, so what is really going on here is a pretty standard stay pending appeal.

I fully expect this to go all the way to the Supreme Court, and if this information gets released, I fully expect it to reveal that the Federal Reserve has been lying, as their standard behavior has been to assume that you can't handle the truth, so the truth must be suppressed.

As I have said before, this is why central banks powers need to be limited: While the interest rate/inflation fighting function must be thoroughly insulated from politics, because the act of taking away the proverbial punch bowl is inherently politically suicidal, any other function that does not require that level of political isolation must be vested in a more accountable institution.

Background here.

Dick Cheney Is Pathetic

While Madeline Albright did not actually call Dick Cheney "pathetic", she said that his statements about the Department of Justice's investigations of torture "are kind of pathetic".

When we look at Richard Milhaus Bruce Cheney, he is pathetic, he:
  • He went to Yale, and flunked out by reason of alcohol
  • Got busted twice for DWI
  • Convinced Gerald Ford to drop Nelson Rockefeller as VP and replace him with Bob Dole in 1976
  • Ran Ford's losing campaign to Jimmy Carter,
  • Spent 10 years in the Congress, some of it as House whip, and only sponsored a handful of bills (IIRC, about 2).
  • As Secretary of Defense, he instituted the massive expansion of private contractors doing jobs that had previously been done by the DoD.
  • As head of Halliburton, bought Dresser Industries, and the billions of dollars in asbestos liabilities that came with that.
  • Picked himself as Vice President.
  • And then there is his time as Vice President.
This man has been a pathetic failure his entire life. It needs to be understood that whenever he has made a decision, he has been deeply wrong.

He is a sad pathetic old man, and he needs to be treated as such.

29 August 2009

File Under "Stating the Obvious"

So says Barry Ritholtz in response to this gem from the New York Times:
It is clear in retrospect that in parts of the Sun Belt, the economic dependence on construction reached unhealthy levels in recent years.
And I agree wholeheartedly.

It wasn't just the driver for economic expansion in places like Arizona and Florida, it was the economy.

Nation's Unemployment Outlook Improves Drastically After Fifth Beer

Headline of the day from The Onion - America's Finest News Source.

Seriously, though, with Beer prices rising, how long can this last.

Also, there should be a study comparing the different responses depending whether the beer is domestic or imported.

I'm just saying.

Missile Defense Video Pr0n


Last Week's THAAD's Salvo Test


Raytheon's promotional vid for the land based SM-3 Standard

Russia May Terminate Bulava SLBM

After numerous test failures of the new solid-fuel Bulava submarine launched ballistic missile (SLBM) intended for the new Borei-class submarines, there are reports that it could be replaced by the liquid fueled Sineva missile, which is currently deployed on older submarines.

My guess is that it would take less time and effort to make the Bulava work than it would to replace it, since it is derived from a land-based system which already works, and the rework of the Borei's to do this would be involved, but I am speaking from a position of profound ignorance here.

If You Believe This.....

There is this bridge in Brooklyn that I am authorized to offer for sale....

Sukhoi General Director Mikhail Pogosyan is saying that he expects the PAK-FA 5th generation Russian fighter to fly by year's end.

Yeah, sure.

I'll offer 2:1 odds against.

Hitler Gets the News of Another 787 Delay (NSFW)

This is hilarious.


And the bunker scene is most versatile movie clip ever.

How Sri Lanka Defeated the Tamil Tigers

Here is an interesting analysis of how Sri Lanka defeated the Tamil Tigers.

The short version is that they ignore world opinion, and refused to make avoidance of civilian casualties a centerpiece of their campaign.

Note that these are legal under international law, which requires that non-combatants not be targeted, not that efforts be made to protect them from combat activities that legitimately target the enemy.

The post makes what I think is an error, in that it fails to distinguish between colonial conflicts, which include Iraq and Afghanistan, and internal civil wars, such as Sri Lanka.

Evidence shows that in an colonial conflict, these are precisely the most counter productive tactics.

As to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which is where I look for an application of this principle, I think that conflict in the disputed territories is much more of a colonial conflict than a civil war, so these techniques would not be effective.

28 August 2009

Aleynikov Wants Deferred Prosecution

Sergey Aleynikov is the programmer alleged to have taken Goldman Sachs' high speed trading computer code, and his lawyers are asking prosecutors for a delayed prosecution, which basically means that if he keeps his nose clean, he gets a dismissal in a few years.

It sounds to me like he is going to get it, based on the refusal of Goldman Sachs to turn over his personnel file.

I'm wondering if this was a case where GS was worried about his competing with them in this market in his new job, and decided that filing a dodgy complaint with the FBI would shut him down, and then realized that if they turned over personnel records, that they would out themselves for some sort of crime.

Background here (or it will be when "the Google" fixes the blogger search function).

Friday Cat Blogging, Evil Edition





It's Bank Failure Friday!!!!

And here they are, ordered, and numbered for the year so far.
  1. Bradford Bank, Baltimore, MD
  2. Mainstreet Bank, Forest Lake, MN
  3. Affinity Bank, Ventura, CA

Of course, I am excited by Bradford Bank, because a local boy has hit the big time.

Full FDIC list
A followup to Rejected Diamond Ads:


And the Family Guy take on the diamond silhouette ads:

And Then His Hands Burst Into Flame....

Great googly moogly!

Bringing on the Stupid, Lynn Jenkins (R-2nd District, Kansas)

She was talking about politics at a town hall, and let slip the following:
U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins offered encouragement to conservatives at a town hall forum that the Republican Party would embrace a 'great white hope' capable of thwarting the political agenda endorsed by Democrats who control Congress and President Barack Obama.
I am speechless.

Deep Thought

Demotivator Edition



Sanity Brakes Out in Missile Defense

We now have a report that the US will abandon plans to station missile interceptors in Eastern Europe
Washington will scrap plans to put anti-missile bases in Poland and the Czech Republic and is looking at alternatives including Israel and Turkey, a Polish newspaper reported Aug. 27, citing U.S. officials.

The U.S. plan, intended for defense against attacks from Iran, has met with fierce objections from Russia, which regarded the eastern European bases as a threat to its own security.

...
This is good news. Not only was Eastern Europe a piss poor location for missile defense, because it leaves allies on the southern tier of NATO unprotected, but it is located so as to be a direct threat, and a means of surveillance of, all of the European territory of Russia.

I continue to maintain that the real goal of the missile system was to create hostility, which would, in the perception of the Dick Cheneys of the world, bolster the Republican Party.

Economics Update

Consumer confidence is at a 4 month low for August, Reuters/University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers, which compares with the Conference Board's reading, which was up a few days back.

Both results are consistent in that they beat expectations, but this confuses the hell out of me. I think that future sentiment has a bigger role in the Conference Board's survey, which may explain the difference.

We saw consumer spending rise by 0.2% in July, though income was flat, but this should be taken with a grain of salt, as the increase was entirely a consequence of the "Cash for Clunkers" program.

Meanwhile, in banking, the Federal Reserve is reducing the size of its Term Auction Facility (TAF) cash for sh$#pile auctions to banks, largely on the basis of reduced demand for them:
Banks are increasing lending to buyers of high-yield company loans and mortgage bonds at what may be the fastest pace since the credit-market debacle began in 2007.

......

“I am surprised by how quickly the market has become receptive to leverage again,” said Bob Franz, the co-head of syndicated loans in New York at Credit Suisse. The Swiss bank has seen increasing investor demand for financing to buy loans in the past two months, he said.
I'm not surprised. Modern investment banking is about making big bucks by scamming rubes like the one pictured on the right.

Unfortunately, said rube has the power to make every American taxpayer pay for his decisions.

Meanwhile, on the other side of both ponds, we have record unemployment and record deflation, while businesses in the UK cut investment spending at a record rate, so there is not much in the way of green shoots there.

In currency, the dollar fell, and more significantly, the "cost of borrowing dollars for three months slipped below the rate on similar loans in yen for the first time since 1993," which implies that in the event of a flight to safety, that money will go toward Japan, where returns are now marginally higher.

In energy, oil rose slightly.

While I Would Not Trust Ron Paul with My Lunch Box,

When Barney Frank says that he supports an audit of the Federal Reserve, and that the bill will pass the House in October, and I believe that his assesment is an honest one.

That being said, I think that the Senate is more receptive to Bernanke's protestations as to the need for opacity independence, and have been more thoroughly bribed by Wall Street are more concerned about market repercussions, while Obama's economic advisors are Wall Street stooges and influence peddlers very supportive of the current regime at the Fed, which makes his signing a bill dubious.

As to Representative Paul, it's a case of a stopped clock being right twice a day.

OMFG, We Were Completely Insane in 2006

Perhaps this will refresh your memory.



H/T Calculated Risk

Massachusetts Moving to Accelerate Kennedy Replacement

In 2004, the law was changed to create a replacement by special election, which means that Kennedy's seat would be empty for at least 5 months, and now the state legislature is looking to change the law so that an interim appointment can be made before the special election.

It's probably what should have been done in 2004.

27 August 2009

Economics Update

Well, let's start with the jobless numbers, where the press is reporting that initial claims fell last week, the 4 week moving average fell from 571K to 566.25K, and continuing claims fell by 119K to 6.13 million.

The lede is the fall in initial claims, only the the fall in initial claims was actually an increase:
The NYT article on weekly unemployment insurance (UI) claims carried the surprising headline: 'first-time U.S. jobless claims fall again.' The reason the headline is surprising is that claims rose the prior week, from 561,000 to 576,000, a number that was revised up to 580,000 in the new report. So, claims did not fall again.
The 4 week number is much more sound, because this us done all the time: comparing new numbers with revised ones, it's a pet peeve of mine, along with the fact that no one ever mentions that the fall in continuing claims numbers is largely an artifact of people exhausting their benefits or moving to extended unemployment benefits.

**sigh**

I would also note that the GDP number for the 2nd quarter of 2009 contracted at a -1.0% annual rate, and that this is somehow considered good news.

Still, it looks like the GDP numbers have made people less risk averse, which has pushed Treasuries' prices down, and their yield up.

Me, I'm more concerned by the fact that the FDIC's problem bank list has mushroomed to 400.

It appears that the "improving" GDP numbers has reduced the need for a currency safe haven, pushing the dollar down, and they also pushed oil prices up.

Republicans Can Go Cheney Themselves

It appears that the bubble headed bleach blond of DC political coverage, Politico, is reporting that "key conservatives" are warning that liberals may inappropriately politicize Senator Kennedy's death.

They call it the, "Wellstone Effect," which I guess means that a legitimate outpouring of grief over the death of a hero will be used by the America hating right wing, and a complicit press, to create the illusion that real human grief is somehow a sinister conspiracy.

As to those right wingers who are somehow all upset that it appears that Kennedy's name will now go on the healthcare reform bill, let me say this: Teddy Kennedy was at his worst better than your best at their best: Ronald Reagan was not fit to shine the sole of Ted Kennedy's shoes with his tongue.

Economics Update, Yesterday's

And actually Tuesday's too.

Between helping my kids try out recipes for a cooking contest, and general laziness, I've let it slide.

In any case, the big news is that consumer confidence beat expectations, and actually went into "optimistic" territory, though as Dean Baker observesmost of the increse in the index is, "Attributable to a 10.1 percentage point increase in the expectations index," which, "is much more volatile than the current conditions index and has little relationship to spending," so the numbers are not about hopped up consumers bringing on a recovery.

We also have reports that home sales and durable goods orders have increased, and the American Trucking Association's Tonnage Index (top pic) all increased in July, though I will address how the home sales/prices may be a Chimera in a later post, and the durable goods orders are not as good as they appears, ex-Boeing and defense, they actually fall:
Orders for non-defense capital goods excluding aircraft, a barometer of business investment, fell 0.3 percent in July after rising 3.6 percent in June.
Additionally, the Philadelphia Fed State Coincident Indicator numbers came out (bottom pic), and all but 4 states are still contracting.

It should be noted that mortgage apps were up slightly this week.

We also had a major downgrade of an insurer, Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance, which had its rating cut from AAA to AA+ by S&P.

I expect there to be more of this in insurance.

Despite a near record auction, US Treasuries were basically unchanged.

Meanwhile, the consumer confidence drove the dollar up, though oil fell, on the expectation of increases in inventories in today's report.

26 August 2009

Holy Crap. The Fed is Going 1937 on Us

It's the Recession all over again, with the Fed tightening money as something resembling a recovery begins:
Guess what? The Federal Reserve has not only stopped depositing copious amounts of liquidity into the economy -- it now appears to be in the process of making a sizable withdrawal.

A close look at quantitative measures of monetary policy reveals a sudden change in trend. After growing at unprecedented rates for well over a year, these aggregates stopped rising several months ago and have since declined, according to data provided by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

For example, the monetary base -- the raw material for the money supply -- has fallen at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 8% from early April of this year through mid-August, after soaring at a 187% pace during the previous eight months.
I'm a pessimist, and I do not believe that the current recovery is "real". I think that it is largely being driven by the Fed laundering money and pushing it into the equities markets (stocks), which has pushed up the indices, and that the rising stock market is creating the perception* of a recovery.

But even if I'm wrong, and the recovery is real, if very anemic, this is absolutely the wrong time to put your foot on the break.

*Yes, I know, perception is a BIG percentage of what constitutes a recession, but it is not everything.

The Best Speech that Ted Kennedy Ever Gave

How many good men must we give before we finally face the fact that the weakness in our society is a weakness in ourselves?
It wasn't his speech at the Democratic National Convention in 1980.

It was in Sitka in 1968, though not too many people heard, or saw it, because it was given to the Alaska state Democratic Party Convention in Sitka in 1968, talking about the assassination of Martin Luther King and its aftermath.

Not a whole bunch of people have heard it, because he gave at the but my mom was in the audience, and she recalled looking around and watching political hacks on either side of her, with tears streaming down their faces.

You can find the speech, along with introductions by both Senator Ernest Gruening and Walter Eugene "Gene" Guess Speaker of the Alaska State House of Representatives, who my father worked with when we were in Alaska.

I downloaded the video to split and Youtube it from the Alaska state archives.


Part 1 of 2


Part 2 of 2

The Most Morally Reprehensible Thing that I Have Heard This Month

As Spencer Ackerman notes in his review of the 2004 CIA inspector general report on torture, amidst all the redacted paragraphs, was this:
The number of detainees in CIA custody is relatively small by comparison with those in U.S. military custody. Nevertheless, the Agency, like the military, has an interest in the disposition of detainees and particular interest in those who, if not kept in isolation, would likely divulge information about the circumstances of their detention.
The translation from the Orwellian, or perhaps translation to the Orwellian, it's kind of hard to determine here in this specific instance of extreme Newspeak, but it comes to this:
We can't release torture victims, nor can we try them, because we tortured them, and they will confirm that they have been tortrued.
Seriously, I think that Eric Arthur Blair is spinning in has grave at the speed of a Hitachi Deskstar 7K2000 hard drive.

Edward Moore "Ted" Kennedy 1932-2009

From His 1st campaign for Senate
He was the last of the Kennedy men of his generation.

25 August 2009

Signs of the Apocalypse

Rents in New York City are falling:
Manhattan apartment rents fell as much as 10 percent in August from a year ago as tenants gained negotiating power in the recession and forced landlords to offer concessions.
10% ain't some sort of rounding error.

Real estate has been declining for some time, but the fact that rents, not purchases of condos or co-ops are falling is an indicator that the downturn in real estate has a ways to go before truly hitting bottom.

24 August 2009

Judge Orders Federal Reserve to Release Documents under FOIA.

District Judge Loretta Preska has ordered the Federal Reserve to turn over loan and collateral data for their emergency loans under the Freedom of Information Act.

This is very important news for a number of reasons:
  • It means that the public will get to review what was actually in this part of the Fed's "sh$%pile for cash" program.
  • It will spawn other FOIA suits.
And most importantly:
  • Is an unequivocal ruling by the courts that the Federal Reserve is a federal agency and has to abide by federal rules how they do business.
I'm fairly certain that the Fed will take this all the way to the Supreme Court if it can, because those folks really believe that seeing the man behind the curtain would destroy the United States of America.

They are wrong, of course, but it is clear that this is what they believe.

Breaking: Bernanke to Get 2nd Term

I still say that this is a bad thing.

A stake needs to be driven through the heart of the "rock star" Federal Reserve Chairman, though Bernanke is immeasurably better than the likely alternative, Larry Summers, who has never had a success outside of trading on his political connections and academe.

I may call my Senators and suggest that they vote against this.

A Bit of Meta, and Philosophy

Portrait of the Blogger as a Young Aardvark
I post in my own name, with my own face, albeit a face* from 30 years ago.

I came to the decision not to use pseudonyms when I was at school, and I realized that everyone was calling me by my computer ID, Cerebus, as in Dave Sim's comic book Aardvark, so I spent 2-3 years getting people to call me "Matthew" again.

So, now I stick with my name. It is a matter of personal aesthetics, not integrity, and no level of truth or integrity is intended by my use of my own name.

If you think that I am right, follow the links, and confirm.

If you think that I am wrong, follow the links, and confirm.

In any case, one of the writers (probably multiple writers, according to Felix Salmon) who posts as "Tyler Durden" at the blog financial zero hedge, got outed by the New York Post.

I figure an anonymous blogger who generates enough buzz to have someone hunt them down and out them deserves a look by me.

Zero hedge is now on my blogroll. They have an attitude, and I like attitude.

*And hair, which I miss.

Economics Update




The Big Picture looks at the sales numbers
Seeing as how I did not post on Friday, there was a tornado watch, and my kids were freaking, I'll start with the big story from last week, which was that existing home sales rose to a 2 year high.

Of course, the 1st thing that comes to mind is that the National Association of Realtors (NAR) are supplying this data, and it's suspect.

The 2nd thing that comes to mind is that a remarkably large portion of these sales are distressed.

The Big Picture runs the numbers more fully (chart pr0n is from this link, click to see full size), and while mentioning these two points, notes some other interesting bits of information:
  • "If not for a surprise and suspect 16k increase in Northeast condo sales, Existing Home Sales would have been lower month-over-month and only up 12k units from July 2008, which was the worst year on record for housing."
  • Non-seasonally adjusted data actually shows a decrease, and given the high proportion of foreclosures and short sales, seasonal adjustment is actually not going to be accurate right now; the market is just too fracked right now.
  • Prices are still falling.
  • Sales less foreclosure activity (bottom pic) is way down.
Furthermore, we are also seeing the effect of the housing cash for clunkers tax credit, which allows a 10% tax credit (max $8K) on purchases for "New" (not owned a house in 3 years) buyers, but the home has to close before November 30, which really means having the sale done in the next 8 weeks or so, so it's another blip, unless, as CR notes, the NAR and NAHB manage to successfully bribe lobby for an extension.

Note that the tax credit can be used for a down-payment, which further distorts the market.

He have a housing market that is really still heading down, albeit more slowly, despite massive federal subsidies.

If there were really a return to health in the housing market, then Taylor Bean, the 12th largest mortgage company in the US, would not be filing for bankruptcy.

As to housing news for the rest of us, the rate at which mortgage holders who have fallen behind catch up on their payments, the so-called "cure rate", for holders of prime mortgages, has fallen to 6.6%, down from 45% in the years 2000-2006, and very close to the rate for Alt-A (4.3%) and sub-prime (5.3%).

Meanwhile, treasuries have risen again, driving yields down, though it is unclear how much is risk aversion increasing, and how much is the Federal Reserve buying more of the securities.

It does mean that investors believe that the Fed won't be raising rates for a while yet, though the Bank of Israel just raised its benchmark rate, which indicates optimism on their part.

My guess is that they are wrong, simply because they are the 1st central bank to do so, and my money is on any first mover jumping the gun.

Then again, they could be right. The Chicago Fed July National Activity Index rose sharply in July, increasing to -0.74 in July from -1.82.

Even though the numbers still show contraction, the delta is impressive.

Meanwhile, in energy, crude oil is at a 10-month high on "green shoots" in the economy, and retail gasoline prices have remained basically unchanged, despite falls at the wholesale level.

The dollar was up slightly, largely in a holding pattern as traders wait for new consumer spending and housing data.

Why Does Anyone Hire Juan Williams?


Juan Williams and Tree:
Stupid is in the foreground
When you look at his history, his aggressive opining on Clarence Thomas' sexual harrassment of Anita Hill when he was harassing an underling him self, lasting about 3 months as host of Talk of the Nation because he was too stupid to do a marginally competent interview, and his reflexive embrace of the right wing talking points of the day, most recently with the idea that passing anything without Republican support is the "nuclear option", one has to wonder why this man has a job, aside, of course, from Fox News, where he fulfills the critical role as their token "Tom".

His history of incompetence, dishonesty, lack of knowledge about what he comments on, and ethical lapses, he should he should not be working anywhere near news.

Maybe he can get a job at the AEI or the Hudson institute. It's where right wing tools go to die.

23 August 2009

Who Got Pictures of Max Baucus Sodomizing an Underage Goat?

Because Max Baucus (DINO-MT) has now explicitly stated that he supports a public option:
U.S. Senator Max Baucus has finally broken his silence regarding his personal position on including a public option in health care reform legislation. Last Monday night (8/17), in an unprecedented conference call to Montana Democratic central committee chairs, the powerful leader of the Senate Finance Committee told his strongest supporters that he supported a public option.

While discussing the obstacles to getting a public option through the Senate, he assured his forty listeners, "I want a public option too!"

....
Seriously, I'm beginning to think that some of the Blue Dog types (technically, Blue Dogs are only a caucus in the House of Representatives) are starting to get some very serious push-back, and it scares them.

Rejected Diamond Ads

Link





Can We Please Give Texas Back to Mexico?

Or maybe Canada, or Belize, or Iran or Myanmar (Burma); I don't care, who gets Texas.

The latest bit of wankery of the Texas State Board of Education on the curriculum, where they are looking to replace Thurgood Marshall with Sean Hannity, Newt Gingrich, Focus on the Family, Phyllis Schlafly, the Moron Moral Majority, Rush Limbaugh, Mike Huckabee, and the National Rifle Association makes it pretty clear that the intersection of Texan and American values is pretty much a null set.

I really cannot add anything to Atrios' analysis, "I guess what bugs me most of all isn't that they're trying ram through a conservative-only version of history, it's that they're all obviously really f%$#ing stupid."

Why the F-35 is Better Than the F-22*

Weapons Pylons
You see, the F-35 has it, , with "it" being qualified external air to ground munitions, and can use them when the situation demands it, in places like Iraq and Afghanistan but the F-22 doesn't. (The F-22 can carry external tanks, and AIM-132s, IIRC)

That configuration is going to be used for vibration testing.

The Raptor has theoretical provisions for external weapons stowage, but there are no plans to actually develop or qualify any sort of external stowage scheme, and the pylons are not low observable.

When you are going against a bunch of mujaheddin with an RPGs and AKs in a pick up truck, it's nice to deliver 500 lb of boom on their heads.

*Truth be told, I think that they are both wastes of resources.

22 August 2009

Birthers Want Obama to Drop Trou* On National TV

Shrek: Do you think he's maybe compensating for something?
Yep, Jesus' General, who reads Free Republic so I don't have to, has noted that the latest meme: If Barack Obama is not circumcised, it would mean that he was not born in the US in 1961, because everyone got circumcised then.

There are some problems here.

It is indeed true that circumcision rates were high, well over 90%, in the US in the early 1960s, it was neither absolutely universal nor mandatory. Additionally, circumcision amongst Muslims is considered Sunnah, or a highly recommended tradition, and as a Muslim Obama would have been circumcised.

So if he were a closet Muslim, he would be circumcised anyway.

In any case let me be the first to say, great googly moogly, someone has issues.

The fascination that the denizens of FR with Democratic presidential penises, which says something about them, probably more about penis size insecurity than anything else.

*Meaning pull down his pants, and show us his penis.

Industry, MDA Buoyed By New Thaad Flight-Test Data




THAAD Launch


Image of Target (l) and Debris Intercepts
It appears that the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) is beginning to get a handle on the problems that have plagued the Theater High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) program, (paid subscription required) with the latest test having two interceptors fired in salvo.

The 1st missile hit the target, and the 2nd missile struck the largest piece of debris remaining.

A lot of the problem has been the hand off between the radar and the missile's own IIR seeker:
“Things look different to an X-band sensor than they do to an IR sensor. Something that really has a lot of sharp edges . . . will look big and bright to an RF [sensor], but it might be real, real cold,” says McGrath. “So, it doesn’t look that way to an IR [sensor]. I like to think of this as our two-color approach to life.”
Additionally, it looks like they are working at integrating the system with the Navy's Aegis fire control system, which implies that the the reports that the MDA is looking at a larger 21, up from 14½ in diameter booster, (paid subscription required) the size of the standard Navy torpedo, cruise missile, and Standard missile, are about possibly mounting the missile on board a ship, as well as improving the missile kinematics.

Still, I am dubious of reports that
the MDA is looking at moving to deployment on any of its systems. (paid subscription required)

Simply put, the record, even if improved lately is just not there, and the technology remains ruinously expensive.

Alligator Helo to Start Radar Trials

The Russians are starting trials with a radar roughly equivalent to the Longbow for the Kamov Ka-52 helicopter, with a roughly 30km range. (paid subscription required)

The cost for the 2nd seat and radar that were added in the upgrade from the Ka-50 is that a lot of the armor has been removed to keep weight below 10 metric tonnes.

Mostly I'm posting this for the picture, because I've always found the coaxial helicopters to look "cool"

Virgin No More

This is the 2nd F-35-B doing its first air to air refueling:

21 August 2009

Fun With Shrooms.

I did not do the photo, that was Tiempo at Shortskoolbus, but the snarky comment is mine.



You know, there is a similarity between the right-wing protesters and mushrooms, both are kept in the dark, and nurtured with a rich mixture of sh$#.

One of Those Days

It's Bank Failure Friday!!!!

And here they are, ordered, and numbered for the year so far.
  1. ebank, Atlanta, Ga
  2. First Coweta Bank, Newnan, GA
  3. CapitalSouth Bank, Birmingham, AL
  4. Guaranty Bank, Austin, TX
Guarantee Bank is 2nd largest bank failure of this year, with about $15 billion in assets, so, I, and a lot of other people, were wrong about it closing on Friday.


Full FDIC list

Funny, Because That's What 99.99% of Linux Admins Will Never See...*

So, I came across a body art gallery, and this picture elicited the above response from an online friend.



You can find the picture, along with a lot of neat body art pix, which include nipples, here.

*This bon mot is not mine, and I claim no credit for it.

Deep Thought

Demotivator Edition



Hubble Ultra Deep Field

Wicked cool, and where our space money should be going, not more money into the rat-hole of the manned spaced program.

I do wish that the music and the narrator were different though.

Here's Hoping for Some Real Gail Time

I've been following the tussle between the Swiss Bank UBS and the IRS over account for information for some time, and the fact that there is now a settlement which involves handing over account information for about 4500 people, and that prosecutors are working on over 150 criminal tax evasion cases is a very good thing.

Even better is the fact that there is an amnesty deadline in September, and neither UBS nor the Feds are revealing which accounts have turned over, which is having the rich pig tax evaders running around like chickens with their heads cut off, wondering whether or not they are among those accounts turned over.

One of the effects of the tax amnesty program is that about a dozen more banks have now been fingered as having aided clients in evading taxes.

Let's be clear, for this to have a meaningful effect, there need to be dozens of prosecutions, and a significant number of people both imprisoned and made paupers by this process.

That is the only way that repeat fraud will be deterred.

Jon Stewart is a F%$#ing Genius, Having a Liar for Lunch

Here is Jon Stewart showing Betsy McCaughey to be a complete liar.

Of course, Andrew Sullivan thought that it was valuable to publish her lies in 1993, and she was rewarded by becoming the NY Lieutenant Governor, and is still treated as someone who should be talked to.



Well, Dr. Krugman, this Liberal Never Trusted Obama

I figured that he would throw progressives and liberals under the bus since the entire Donnie McClurkin affair, when Obama deliberately threw gays under a bus to win the South Carolina primary.

He's done it with:
  • Rapid withdrawal from Iraq.
  • Releasing torture photos.
  • His support of "fair trade".
  • Stupid tax cuts in the stimulus package.
  • Pursuing war crimes by Bush and His Evil Minions
  • Bailing out the banks.
  • Gays, particularly with Don't Ask Don't Tell.
  • The use of civilian courts to try terrorists.
  • Closing Guantanamo (with an assist from craven Congressmen).
  • Ra

So now, Paul Krugman notices that progressives have finally drawn a line in the sand on the public option:
It’s hard to avoid the sense that Mr. Obama has wasted months trying to appease people who can’t be appeased, and who take every concession as a sign that he can be rolled.

Indeed, no sooner were there reports that the administration might accept co-ops as an alternative to the public option than G.O.P. leaders announced that co-ops, too, were unacceptable.

So progressives are now in revolt. Mr. Obama took their trust for granted, and in the process lost it. And now he needs to win it back.
Gee, you think?

I've been saying this for over a year.

Rachael Maddow Explains the Republican Hive Mind

Brilliant!

It's nice to see a woman to use a sports metaphor, and it's better than most sports metaphors.

Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi Returns to Libya

But was he guilty in the first place?

Normally, I'd put this sort of question firmly into the tinfoil hat category, but a number of people believe Libya was not the perpetrator of the bombing, with Iran and the PFLP-GC being the most frequently cited alternative, and it appears this release was a quid pro quo for his dropping his appeal of his conviction. (See also here)

My guess is that the reality is somewhere in between, that al-Megrahi is the one who done it, but that the prosecution was handled by a bunch of PR glory boys, who screwed up various parts of the trial, and there was a very real worry that he would embarrass the British courts on appeal, so they cut a deal.

That's my guess anyway.

Good Idea



From Nate Beeler of the Washington Examiner

Michelle Bachmann is Pro Abortion Rights?????

She was on Hannity's show, and she was talking about Obama's healthcare reform plan, and she said the following at about 5:35 in her interview:
"That's why people need to continue to go to the town halls, continue to melt the phone lines of their liberal members of Congress," said Bachmann, "and let them know, under no certain circumstances will I give the government control over my body and my health care decisions."
You go girl!

Meanwhile, Back in Bizarro world

Guess who is going to hold a fundraiser for the first Virginia Congressman who takes the pledge not to vote for a health plan without a public option?

Terry McAuliffe....Yes, that Terry McAuliffe, a man who has been repeatedly excoriated by lefty bloggers like me as a corporate stooge, and little more than bagman for political contributions from wealthy people and special interests.

In fact, I did a happy dance when he lost the primary race for VA governor for this reason.

But he is sponsoring this initiative:
Terry McAuliffe thinks it is time to "insist" on the public option. We couldn't agree more. Terry's agreed to host a fundraiser with Virginia and national bloggers who are insisting on a public option for the first Virginia Congressman who will take our pledge! This will be an awesome event to highlight and honor any Virginia Congressman who shows leadership on this issue. If you would like to be a part of the host committee for this event, shoot me an email at notlarrysabato@hotmail.com. Lowell and I are already on board, and I'm sure there will be many others!
Good for Terry McAuliffe....I cannot believe that I just said that.

I would also be remiss in mentioning that Act Blue has a page to donate to Congressmen who take the pledge not to support any bill that lacks a real public option, and it's already raised nearly $300K.

I've added the link to my Act Blue page too.

20 August 2009

I'm Shocked, Shocked To Find That Gambling Is Going On In Here!


(Cue Captain Renault)
So, Tom Ridge tells us now that Bush and His Evil Minions manipulated terror alerts for political gain.

But he vehemently denied any such effort while he was in office, and delayed his resignation as head of DHS until after the election.

He knew that it was wrong, but he kept his mouth shut, and now he writes a book, and it's supposed to make everything hunky dory....It does not.

Mr. Ridge, as I stated only yesterday, I do not take the term "treason" lightly, but it appears to me that your complicity in this affair, when you knew that it was happening, and you know that it was wrong, and you knew that it was damaging to the country, comes awfully close to that term.

Another Milestone In the Annals of Stupid and Corrupt

Just when I think that Bush and His Evil Minions have left me so jaded that they can no longer shock me with their corruption and incompetence, I discover that not only did the CIA have assassination teams, but they outsourced these teams to Blackwater, USA (now Xe):
The Central Intelligence Agency in 2004 hired outside contractors from the private security contractor Blackwater USA as part of a secret program to locate and assassinate top operatives of Al Qaeda, according to current and former government officials.

Executives from Blackwater, which has generated controversy because of its aggressive tactics in Iraq, helped the spy agency with planning, training and surveillance. The C.I.A. spent several million dollars on the program, which did not successfully capture or kill any terrorist suspects.
This is not surprising. Blackwater's mercenary division, Blackwater Security Consulting (BSC), was founded in 2002 with the obvious goal of cashing in on the paranoia bonanza post 911, and used that, along with the reputation earned by Eric Prince's father as a reliable supporter of extreme right wing causes, to generate revenues.

Notwithstanding the caveat in the article:
It is unclear whether the C.I.A. had planned to use the contractors to actually capture or kill Qaeda operatives, or just to help with training and surveillance in the program. American spy agencies have in recent years outsourced some highly controversial work, including the interrogation of prisoners. But government officials said that bringing outsiders into a program with lethal authority raised deep concerns about accountability in covert operations.
I think that it's more likely than not that there was a real intent by the CIA to hire outside contractors as hit-men.

If CIA paramilitary forces needed training, they could get that from any number of military organizations.

After all, as has been discovered in Iraq, Mercenaries are:
  • Not subject to US law.
  • Indemnified from the local law.
  • Not required to use the same reporting standards as government agents on either finance or notification.
So, the most incompetent and brutal of the mercenaries were chosen, probably on the basis of political payback for contributions and a shared Christo-Fascist world view, and the intent was to just turn them loose to kill people without the slightest indication of meaningful supervision.

Great googly moogly.

We need a special prosecutor now.

Economics Update

Historical unemployment, courtesy Calculated Risk
Today is Jobless Thursday, and initial jobless claims unexpectedly rose by 15,000 to 576,000, (click pic for full size image) with the 4 week moving average, and the continuing claims were up marginally, to 6.241 million from 6.239 million, but it should be noted that as people move to extended benefits, or lose benefits completely, they are dropped from that number.

Closely related to this is the fact that mortgage delinquencies are rising, to 9.24% of all outstanding loans on 1-4 unit residences in the 2nd quarter, up .12% from the 1st quarter, and up 2.83% from last year, and loans overdue by more than 90 days, which is when foreclosure begins, are at an all time high of 7.97%.

Not surprisingly, "Helicopter" Ben Bernanke is on another buying binge, with Federal reserve assets up by 2.3% this week, buying treasuries, which is an how the Fed pumps up the stock market, and mortgage backed securities, which is how they are trying to cover up the increasing collapse in mortgages.

Still, there is good news, with the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia’s general economic index giving an unexpectedly strong showing of +4.2, well above the predicted -2.0, and this is a real indicator of growth, not just a decline in the rate of decline, and the cost of insuring corporate bonds fell, on the expectation of better growth.

Oil and energy looked at the different numbers, with the dollar falling on the Philadelphia Fed data, which has people feeling less need for a safe haven, and oil falling on the new jobless numbers, which indicates that demand will still remain low for a while.

In the Interest of Fairness

Here is a French Provincial dining room table's response to Barney Frank.

Stephen Colbert is a f$#@ing genius.

Catch Phrases IV


Good news everyone!


I invented a device that makes you read this in your head using my voice!
*Not my joke, I got it from Cthulhu.
No, not the unspeakably malevolent super-being, the contributor to the Shortskoolbus BBS.
OK, I've never seen the two of them together, so Cthulhu might actually be the Cthulhu, but the mere fact that he is on a BBS, interacting with humans§ would seem to mitigate against this.
§Yes, I know, this is the internet, where no one knows if you are a dog.

*Full disclosure I worked at Stewart & Stevenson, Tactical Vehicle Systems, in Sealy, TX on the FMTV in 1992 and 1993.
Yes, I have worked everywhere. Maybe I can't hold down a job, but more likely this has been my role as "technical hit man", where you are parachuted in to take care of a specific need.

Adding Roman Polanski to my list of they who must not be named.

Finance, Insurance, and Real-Estate (FIRE) sectors


tax and trade system*

*That is what it really is, after all. It's taxes which are bought and sold to allow Goldman Sachs to generate fees for trading these permits. Cap and trade is used in order to make it sound like it isn't a tax, but it's a tax, only a lot of the proceeds go to Ivy League classmates of Ivy League politicians as sales commissions.

This puts in a "there's more link" in the doc, useful for long press releases, and suchlike.
<!-- more -->

Click for full size


This is one big shark that he jumped.
With Frikken Lasers!
Jumping C. Megladon*

*The largest shark, and likely largest predator fish ever. It died out some 1.5 million years ago. The Genus is still in dispute, between either Carcharodon (Great White) or Carcharocles (broad toothed Mako). But in either case, you are jumping C. Megladon, you have jumped the biggest shark ever.


As the saying goes, "ない愚かさはない薬です".*

*Pronounced in Japanese, "baka ni tsukeru kusuri wanai", which means, "There is no medicine for stupidity." Apologies for any inaccuracies in the text, I do not know Japanese.



Dr. Peter Venkman: This city is headed for a disaster of biblical proportions.
Mayor: What do you mean, "biblical"?
Dr Ray Stantz: What he means is Old Testament, Mr. Mayor, real wrath of God type stuff.
Dr. Peter Venkman: Exactly.
Dr Ray Stantz: Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies! Rivers and seas boiling!
Dr. Egon Spengler: Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes...
Winston Zeddemore: The dead rising from the grave!
Dr. Peter Venkman: Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together... mass hysteria!

Let's add Insertnamehere to the list of people who belong in in the Legion of People You Really Do Not Want To F%$# With (LOPYRDNWTFW), which so far includes Dylan Ratigan, Rachael Maddow, Roger Ebert, Stephen Colbert, the folks at 4Chan, Alan Grayson, Jon Stewart, Jon Stewart, Jon Stewart, Jon Stewart, Jon Stewart, Jon Stewart, Jon Stewart, Jon Stewart, and (of course) Jon Stewart.

How the New York Times RSS permanent link works http://www.nytimes.com/restofurl?partner=rss&emc=rss&pagewanted=all

To embed PDF's in documents, use ScribD.

Love*

*In a 110% purely heterosexual kind of way, of course, as the General would say.

Seriously, this is Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man kind of news.

Tobin Tax

Rush Limbaugh, he returned from the Dominican Republican with a bunch of Viagra®.

19 August 2009

GM Sells Saab to Koenigsegg

So it looks like the quirky cars are going to be around for a while (see here and here).

There is still the matter of financing, but this is pretty close to a done deal.

Koenigsegg is a serious (the body is completely carbon fiber, it weighs less than 1300 kg, and it does 0 to 100 km/h in under 3 seconds) supercar manufacturer (see pic), which implies that they will be doing more than just milking the brand name, and will actually look to keeping the Saab product line fairly cutting edge, perhaps migrating some of their existing tech down to Saab, which is good news.

In other Swedish car news, it looks like Ford is making some progress in selling Volvo automobile, with reports that a consortium named Konsortium Jakob AB, Volvo Trucks, and the Chinese auto companies Geely, Dongfeng, Beijing Auto, and Chongqing Changan, are all rumored to be bidding on the deal.

Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) Is Not Long for This World

He knows that he is dying, and it sounds like he does not expect to make it toa vote on healthcare reform:
Senator Edward M. Kennedy, in a poignant acknowledgment of his mortality at a critical time in the national health care debate, has privately asked the governor and legislative leaders to change the succession law to guarantee that Massachusetts will not lack a Senate vote when his seat becomes vacant.

In a personal, sometimes wistful letter sent Tuesday to Governor Deval L. Patrick, Senate President Therese Murray, and House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo, Kennedy asks that Patrick be given authority to appoint someone to the seat temporarily before voters choose a new senator in a special election.
......
As an FYI, he was not well enough to make it to his sister's funeral last week.

Mixed Emotions Here

Representative Eric Massa (D-NY) described Senator Charles Grassley's "Pull the plug on Grandma" talking point as "Treason" (0:41 on the video).

It's refreshing to see someone pushing back on Republican rhetoric, but there is a reason that treason is the only offense specifically outlined in the Constitution: it's there because the Kings of England repeatedly misused the charge to go after politically inconvenient people.

So it's nice to see pushback, but I am far more comfortable with how Barney Frank handles it.

Of course, Massa is a Democrat, which means that he will likely apologize in the next few days.

Economics Update

Well, mortgage applications rose this week as rates fell 23 basis points (0.23%), not too surprising.

The Architecture Billings Index, one of the leading indicators of future construction activity, rose in July, (click pic for full size) but remained below 50, indicating continued contraction roughly 12 months out.

Meanwhile, we are seeing near record drops in producer prices in Germany, adding more weight to the idea that the current concern should be deflation, not inflation.

Energy is kind of confusing, with prices falling below $69/bbl today, largely on a 5% drop in prices in Chinese stocks, but prices rise to nearly $72/bbl tomorrow on reports of shrinking inventories.

It's an international dateline thing. The drop was at market close in New York, and the increase was from places where it is tomorrow.

Meanwhile, the dollar is down on optimism about the world economy.

Looks Like We May Have a Thursday "Bank Failure Friday"

Texas based Guaranty Bank, which apparently got itself tangled up in California real estate.

Here is what Google News pulls up.

Have I Mentioned that I Love Barney Frank*

Here he is taking on some teabaggers, though I would suggest that people who think that Act Pink does any good listen to his comments toward the end, when he says that, "Disruption never helps your cause. It makes you look like you are afraid to have rational discussions. You just drive people away."



*In a 110% purely heterosexual kind of way, of course, as the General would say.

18 August 2009

Giving Blowjobs to Corpses for Cheeseburgers Since 2005*

Time Magazine notes that Tom Daschle, failed nominee for head of HHS, and regular talking head on the Sunday shows regarding healthcare, is also extremely well paid by the health insurance industry.

The problem with corruption in Washington is not campaign donations, though they are a bit of an issue, it is the fact that anyone who is in Congress knows that if he sucks up to corporate interests, he can get a 7 figure a year gig lobbying or giving strategy advice when they leave office.

*Yep, it's another of Matt Taibbi's bon mots.

Just Read This

Obama: knowing when to be an asshole

It's a good article, even though the title gives it away.

Economics Update

Housing Starts, Courtesy Calculated Risk
I guess that it's time to rejoice, because the IMF's chief economist is saying that the global recession is over...Seeing as how they handled things like the Asian Financial Crisis of the 1990s, I'm inclined to believe that they are not a reliable source.

I would also note that he has a huge caveat in this, "we may not go back to the old growth path ... potential output may be lower than it was before the crisis," which to my mind sounds like a permanent decline in economic activity, and thus the recession might be over because normalcy is being redefined.

That being said, we are seeing signs of either a recovery, or a pause in the path downward, with credit card defaults moderating somewhat, so, for example, BoA's charge-off rate dropped to 13.81% last month, down 0.05% from the level in June.

Basically, the numbers are still pretty horrible, but they aren't getting any worse...yet.

We also have a stronger consumer confidence level in August, with the Investor's Business Daily and TechnoMetrica Market Intelligence (IBD/TIPP) Economic Optimism Index rising to 50.3 in August from 46.3 last month, and this is a real positive number as 50 is the dividing line between optimism and pessimism.

In inflation, producer prices fell by -0.9% from the previous month, and the year over year price decline was -6.8%, beating the predictions of -0.3% and -5.9% respectively.

Meanwhile, in the UK, consumer inflation remained steady at 1.8%, but it had been predicted to drop to 1.5%.

Real estate is confusing, or at least the reporting of it is.

The data came out today, and the coverage is interesting, with Bloomberg noting that single-family housing starts rose for the 5th straight month, but CNN noting that housing starts and building permits declined with only single family housing starts showing an improvement, and that the year over year numbers are way down.

I'd go with CNN here, because:
  • We know that more than a third of single family home sales are distressed.
    • As an aside, we know that people are coming out of the woodwork looking for distressed sales, and prices are still falling, driven by foreclosures and short sales, as evidenced by the latest data out of California.
  • The month to month numbers are seasonally adjusted, but I think that the current market is so out of whack that the seasonal adjustments do not serve their intended purpose.
  • The drop in multi-residential buildings indicates that fewer people are moving into condos/townhouses, from which they would trade up to single family structures.
Then again, YMMV, and I always see the economic glass as half empty.

Oil was briefly back above $70/bbl before settling at $69.19, largely on a report that US crude inventories have dropped, and the dollar and Yen both fell against the Euro, largely on more optimistic business sentiment in Germany.