Friday, June 22, 2012

Frickin' Geniuses

The foreign markets dipped sharply (overnight here), after yesterday’s downgrade of the 15 largest US banks, but today the US markets simply shrugged it off. The excuse was that the banks had set aside funds in anticipation of the downgrade. It might also have to do with the fact that proprietary trading done by these banks is a huge chunk of the daily trading. The average holding time of any single share of stock is now measured in the single digits, not years or months, but seconds.

The banks do something like 60% (or perhaps more) of total volume of stock trades on their own dark markets. That is way we have no idea who owns what stock or the trading price. In other words we don’t know what the real market is doing in the back room, and the front operation can be run up, or down, by computers trading back and forth in nano seconds. So fast is the trading and at such ridiculous volumes, that there is a real estate boom in lower Manhattan. The race to see who can get their super computers a few feet closer to the exchange floor (or rather their server), and thus a billionth of a second faster in the trades.

You also have no idea what is going on with your 401(k) in any real sense. During the 2008 crash the markets lost half their value, when they regained their previous high early in 2012, the average 401(k) had only recovered 49% of its losses. Just because the banks have all been downgraded, you might think the Masters of the Universe on Wall Street don’t deserve the $155 billion in bonuses they took last year? They are frickin’ geniuses.

The Dodd-Frank Act allows for much of this activity to be curtailed, and even done away with. So far the Republican House along with Republican appointees to the various regulatory Commissions have stalled action and refused to fund any reform. Mitt Romney has vowed to repeal this unwarranted intrusion on the Free Market. Another frickin’ genius.

The price of gasoline is collapsing, it isn’t that the oil companies and Wall Street speculators are giving Obama a gift, not intentionally. We are swimming in gasoline, you see they don’t make gasoline, it’s in the crude oil. The oil companies must sell it, or burn it to get rid of it. I suppose they could use it in Fracking Solution, that’s what they do with other refinery byproducts they can’t sell, just pump them into the ground. They used to just put all the benzene and such into the gasoline, and you got to pay them for giving you cancer.

So you see they simply have too much gasoline and must encourage consumption by cutting price. The corporate media is really talking up vacation driving, despite the boost to the economy that will produce. They are in this spot largely because of fuel efficiency gains. This has come partly because of years of high prices, but also from Obama’s Cash for Clunkers program moving consumers to buy more efficient vehicles. This in turn boosting the auto industry, that would be the same auto industry Obama saved, and Romney wanted to sell to China.

This auto recovery has helped boost the economy of Blue States, and even some Red swing states. Romney has sent out a memo to those governors to stop talking about the improving economy. He can’t win if the economy looks better because of things Obama has done. Especially with Obama pointing out that most of the new companies that Romney created were out-sourcing specialists.

Oh, and those banks, the rapidly falling gas prices will allow them to harvest money from hedge contracts they sold to all the suckers. The Republican noise machine convinced them that the price would go to $8/gallon. Quite a margin call if you can swing it. Frickin’ geniuses.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Hide your marbles

The stock markets were down sharply today on reports that economic growth might be stalling. Then after hours one of the big credit rating agencies downgraded the top 15 US banks, guess what the markets will look like in the morning. These credit rating agencies are just lackeys to the very banks that they are downgrading. The banks have been showing massive profits for the past three years and awarding their executives $150 billion per year in bonuses, but now suddenly they need to have their credit worthiness brought into question?  NOW?

The reason given is that analysts question these massive predatory banks’ ability to make money in the future. It’s as if they see something coming the rest of us missed. Did they unearth a new Mayan tablet that goes into detail about the end of the world?  Oh wait, oh wait, there’s something happening in November, if I could just remember what it is?

A somewhat cynical person might think that the Wall Street banks fear that all the money they’ve invested in Mitt Romney  isn’t going  to pay off, and that they’ve come up with a way to hedge their bets. The corporate media is talking constantly about the fantastic costs this downgrade will ad to borrowing, IF YOU CAN EVEN GET A LOAN! The Mayans were right, we’re doomed. At least if the Republicans can drive down the economy sufficiently by November we peasants will be.

The question is just how far will they go? Will they completely crash the banks in order to freeze up the economy? It doesn’t matter to them how much money they lose, if they can seize the entire country. Then they can print their own money. Will all the bills have portraits of Ronald Reagan on them the way the Queen is on Her Majesty’s currency?

I’m a little surprised that they’re starting this early, but they do have people who can crunch the numbers. By October, will we see lines of people outside banks wanting their savings? (Are there people who still have savings?) Will the plastic in your wallet stop working? I have no idea, but you can bet they are considering this.

Even if Obama can keep the bankers under control, the damage they do will make Obama look bad just the same. He’s probably starting to regret not putting them all in prison. Really, all the Republicans need to do is hang onto the Congress, the next four years will make the past two years seem like a picnic. Too bad that big asteroid missed us, it would have been so much easier to deal with.  

Maybe I’m being too pessimistic today, we’ll see how many points the market drops tomorrow. If we start seeing daily up dates on the news about how much our 401(k) has dropped, then we‘ll know the corporations are really going for all the marbles. You know, the way that the school yard bully just steps on your fingers, and takes all the marbles.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

This piece is kind of dense, but you learn this stuff, or you die

The stock market closed on a down note today showing their disappointment in the newest Federal Reserve actions. The markets were hoping for a massive new money printing scheme (QE3) to pump hot cash into the financial services ponzi scheme. The European Central Bank has pledged a trillion euros to prop up Spain and Italy, or more accurately they are trying to mitigate the damage done by the big transnational banks. In reality it’s just a band-aid on a severed limb. The end of the Euro and the return to a regulated banking system is the only answer, but Germany, who is currently the big winner, opposes this. The new Socialist dominated government in France sees things differently.

So Wall Street was hoping for something similar here, instead all they got was a six month extension of Operation Twist. It’s named after that contemporary dance step. (that was a stodgy old banker joker) Remember Chubby Checker? Give you a hint, him and Mike Malloy are contemporaries, Lincoln too I think. Anyway, the Fed did the same thing back then to deal with a recession at the time. What they did was buy up short term bonds using money they basically just printed, then they sold these short term bonds into the market. At the same time they bought long term bonds with the effect of driving down long term interest rates in the markets.

It sounds overly complicated, because it is. This is only necessary because we “believe” in the “free” market, but we don’t really “believe”, because we’re spending trillions to rescue the “free” market. The only thing that would be worse is if we took the libertarian view seriously, and really let them just go under. Were we to let the “free market“ deal with it by failing… well, can you say Armageddon?  Seizing the big banks, liquidating their assets over time, and putting all the Republicans in prison would actually solve these problems. It will take a lot more Americans understanding these concepts for that to actually happen.

The Fed’s rock & roll bond program has driven down home mortgage rates to all time lows, even if most people can’t qualify for a mortgage. Just the same, there is actually some glimmer of hope in the housing market with new building permits at a four year high. This up tick is being driven by real growth in the blue states, but is being dragged down at the same time by the senseless austerity of the red states.

I’m conflicted between the realization of our potential in this age of fantastic scientific knowledge, and at the same time depressed to the point of despair by the ascendance of people who don’t believe science. (it’s not correct to say “believe in science”) They prefer to return to an age of feudalism and superstition, and I don’t mean the fun kind when nerds dress up in chain mail.

People like Mitt Romney don’t quite grasp that in a world of nobility and dragons, they would be the ones in black. Or, maybe they do and don’t care.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Who owns who, and other tunes your horse, or politician, can dance to

This is the last day of Spring, or in the new Global Warming reality the end of the “First Summer”, the “Third Summer” will be here in three months. Traditional or the “Second Summer” could just be shortened to “Hell”.

New farming methods may become necessary, maple syrup production in Wisconsin was cut by 2/3 this year because winter ended so abruptly. A hard frost killed almost all the fruit crops across the Midwest because everything bloomed a month too early. In this new reality it doesn’t matter that the mechanical corn planters spray a highly effective nano-particle insecticide on the seeds and this is now know conclusively to be killing all the honey bees. The bees aren’t really needed, they’re as obsolete as unionized teachers, firefighters and bridge inspectors.

Corn is self pollinating (no bees needed), and high-fructose corn syrup is “just like honey”, don’t mind the one in three chance of diabetes, and the 100% chance of obesity. And people thought the plot of the movie Soylent Green was crazy. That movie revolved around the oceans dying (that can‘t happen of course), and that the corporations who ran everything were having a hard time feeding the unemployed masses. High-fructose corn syrup had just been invented when Charlton Heston was doing his stint as a food inspector. In the real world they aren’t reducing the population by making people into food, they’re just making food that reduces the population directly.

Mitt Romney runs his wife’s dancing pony hobby as a business, so he can write off the losses. Try that with your Bass Boat and you‘ll get to know a nice man from the IRS. This revelation is on the only Romney tax return we’ve been allowed to see, who knows what‘s on the rest of them. This hobby tax write off amounted to $77,000 last year. This is almost exactly what the average American worker makes in three years. To be fair to Mitt, at his tax rate of 14%, it didn’t really amount to that much in tax savings, only about $11,000. This is about the same amount of money you could make working 29 hours every week at Walmart (what Republicans consider a generous income).

Mitt would be happy to cut his tax savings in half. Not by raising his taxes up to pre-Bush levels (and god forbid, pre-Reagan levels), but by cutting his tax rate in half, lessening the value of the write-off. When Republicans talk about eliminating the loopholes, they mean that with no taxes on the “job creators“, no deductions are necessary. The peasants would lose their “loopholes” too, but not the taxes.

If Willard worked the same number of hours per week that produces the income that a Walmart associate is expected to live on, Willard would make $14,323. That’s only $3323 more than the $11,000 a common worker makes. Except that would be his hourly pay, $14,323/hour. Republicans resent that the $11,000/year worker doesn’t pay any Federal income taxes, (never mind the thousands in other taxes he does pay). They also resent that the $14000/ hour “job creators” pay any taxes at all.

We also don’t know what Romney made in the previous 30 years that prompted him to open multiple offshore bank accounts where secrecy is everything. In fact Romney’s wealth is insignificant compared to the people he would be working for if he became President. Sheldon Adelson has already committed to spend more money on the election than Mitt’s entire known fortune. He may spend 5 times that, if he thinks he can win, and it would not even cut into his pocket money. Of course most of his fortune comes from casinos in China. So who is really buying the White House? Those jokes about the Red Chinese owning us could take on a whole new meaning.

Monday, June 18, 2012

In 1814 we took a little trip, along with Col Jackson down the mighty Mississipi

The cradle of democracy held an election Sunday. The people lost, and the banks won, so much for democracy. Even the corporate media here in the US while hailing this as a great victory, admitted it didn’t fix any of Greece’s underlying economic problems. Spain which in terms of unemployment and deflation of asset values is in even worse shape than Greece, had its bond rates jump sharply. What is the Spanish word for Armageddon? 

Another big winner in the Greek elections was the Nazi party, not people we would call Nazis, but people who are proud to call themselves Nazis. Physical attacks against women and Communist party members seem to be the trademark of this ghost of Hitler’s past. 

Not mentioned in the corporate media were the elections in France where Socialists swept to control of both legislative bodies. They recently took the Presidency and now control the 2nd largest country in Europe. Their agenda: undo all of the measures of austerity that have been killing the economy, among other things they will raise the minimum wage. US Rep Jesse Jackson is introducing a bill in Congress to raise the minimum wage here to $10/hour.  This is only $3/hour less than it was in 1938 (adjusted for inflation) when in the midst of the last Republican Great Depression it was set at 25 cents/hour. Your didn’t hear about that on the Corporate media either.  

Banking god Jamie Diamon appeared before Congress last week to explain how it was okay for a government insured bank to lose $5 billion dollars betting against the Euro. Actually they don’t even admit any of those things, and it could really be much worse. Republicans lined up to kiss his ring like a bunch of pedophile priests seeking a cover-up (I mean absolution) from the Pope. Pope Diamon might not save their souls, but he’s their biggest campaign donor, and their best hope for a multi-million dollar retirement package. 

Obama hit Mitt hard with a change in policy covering young un-documented immigrants. It took the wind out of a proposed Rubio VP bid based on a Romney version of the  “Dream Act”. Romney is on tape promising to veto the Dream Act that Democrats have been trying to pass for more than a decade. The Republicans are screaming about Obama’s unconstitutional executive order. It’s none of those things of course, the executive branch has wide authority to decide who gets to stay in the country based on the expected benefit to the nation. 

The only people eligible for this program are either working on a four year college degree (without government aid), or who are honorably discharged from the military. Far better potential citizens than the trailer trash that vote Republican. This is of course Obama making another decisive chess move while Romney continues to toss nickels against the curb.

Have you noticed the Republican prediction of $8/gallon gas by mid June is not getting much attention these days. Maybe because gas is under $3 in many states and falling. The commercials about Obama destroying the economy by not approving the Keystone pipeline just don’t seem to have that punch anymore.  

On this day in history the United States declared war on the British Empire. Supposedly is was over the bullying of American ships at sea that the British boarded at will, but Congress had done nothing about this for years. It had everything to do with rightwing dreams of conquering Canada while Britain was busy losing the Napoleonic Wars. That didn’t exactly work out. The US might still have gotten away with it except that State Militias refused to cross the border into Canada. The only actual American victory was engineered by Liberal icon Andrew Jackson in the Battle of New Orleans, two weeks after a peace treaty was signed. We got an national anthem, and a cute country western song by Johnny Horton out of it. We didn’t really learn much otherwise.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Daddy help us

[Romney claims he wrote the word "Dad" at the top of each page of his debate notes ("most of them", just in case there are any pictures not showing it, and likely none that do since he just made it up)] "Each time I wrote Dad at the top of my page reminding myself of the sacrifice that he made in his life for his family, for us and his passion for America so yeah Dad was just three letters at the top of the page," Romney said in the interview that aired on CBS's Face the Nation on Father's Day.

Is it worse that this totally disingenuous freak can get away with pushing this kind of Madison Avenue hype, or that he might be so stupid that he takes what he's saying seriously. As a Mormon, if he is a true believer, he believes old George Romney having been buried in his Magic Underwear, now rules his own earth like planet (with as many wives as he likes). This would be exactly the same as Jesus, the former human and brother of Satan now rules this planet that we live on. All righteous Mormon males are so blessed. The rest of us? Hell, or somewhere with no Mormons, a real vacation spot.

Which is more scary? If I was a Republican that voted for anybody but Romney in the primaries, I'd be voting for Obama. But there's the rub, being stupid enough to vote Republican in the first place precludes doing anything intelligent now.