Disclaimer: This site is *not* affiliated with AIPAC, Ahmed Chalabi, K Street, ClearChannel, or Urban Moving Systems of Weehawken, NJ. In case you were curious. Full disclosure: I have a "long Apple position" and therefore I have an Apple bias.
Everyone knows about the current rise of the aerial killer robot. These machines are now in operation across the US military, and have already reaped a deadly harvest in Southwest Asia.
But the big deathbot battle isn't, in fact, in Iraq of Afghanistan; it's between the various branches of the US armed services, regarding who will be in charge of all the new flying slaughter machines and spy-eyes.
The United States Air Force (USAF) has been engaged for at least two years now in an attempt to seize control of almost all US military drones and flying kill-bots. The USAF was arguably left at the starting line in this rapidly-growing death-tech arena, perhaps due to the natural reluctance of human pilots to see their jobs automated out of existence.
Both the US Navy and Marines have strong aviator subcultures, of course, and even the US Army has huge numbers of helicopter drivers, but only in the USAF is the aircrew dominance total.
USAF generals are often vocally sceptical about unmanned aircraft, and the USAF has so far failed to move forward with serious, heavy, jet-powered drone combat aircraft.
Even its prop-driven Predator-B/Reaper hunter-killer, thus far the heftiest aerial death-droid in operation, must be handled remotely by a fully-qualified human pilot and sensor operator.
Yikes. Relevant article I can't find a fulltext of, but very sweet: The Coming Robot Army: America's future killing machines. Sweet in an evil way. It was pretty creepy how all these military-industrial pitchmen kept talking about Hollywood-oriented styles and prospects for more wars with fewer casualties. Far more cash for the military-industrial complex, they're circling it like vultures.
It has been quite a while since I rattled at the shimmering electrons which might or might not care about what I have to say. Things are definitely going to shit:
Turkey is invading Iraq, which will generate internal war #4 apparently. Pakistan is also disintegrating with generous jabs at the hornet's nest from freaggin Obama.
Evidently our infrastructure is crumbling. I spent quality time at work reading all the wretched MnDOT reports on the I-35W bridge; they were nightmares - more on that later
The national credit market LSD-fueled HedgeFundMortgageCrackPalooza seems to be crumbling as well. There is a systemic shock or crash emerging which is going to damage the housing/sprawl market for a long time. Literally our urban structures might stop sprawling & generating all that fabulous paper wealth. At least the last couple weeks a sign that the economy might suddenly abandon 'good faith & credit' soon, just in time for...
The exploding oil market which will finally kill the American Dream of fetid suburban development once and for all. Even Mexican oil production is crashing. Demand is going to rise in these producer countries and they'll quit exporting. Supplies will fall and we're gonna hit that fucked-up time where all these complicated Cheap Oil systems will fail (Wal-Mart's 11,000 mile supply chain is a prime example).
That is enough to keep anyone away from writing. Yet here I am back again, against my better judgment.
No harm; the summer is a terrible time for blogging. I still have to update some Drupal modules, but at least the core is safely up to 5.2. After watching The Bourne Ultimatum and TNT's nifty docudrama miniseries The Company, I had a good whomping of the paranoia and knew it was time to tighten up all the digital angles best I can, so I took the site offline for a couple days to patch it up.
The first week back in town (last week) really rattled me. I haven't quite found my feet yet, I guess.
To top it off some little bastard stole my bottle of French wine from the kitchen over the weekend. It is a lucky stroke of good fortune I saved a backup. It's airport duty-free wine anyway, but fuckall shit I hauled it around the world spewing 90 pounds of carbon to get it here. FUCK. And then they left a filthy, half-full glass in the fridge.
Now back in town, I am at my parents' house in Hudson, Great Wisco, while I ponder getting a new apartment and the absurd amount of gas you gotta burn to live out here.
Tonight I finally gave in and plugged my desktop Mac G5 back together. It likes to scare the shit out of me once in a while and refuses to come back on. The monitor just sits there, glum & dark. I dimly recalled beating this problem before. [Nice thing about Macs: these kinds of shitstorms have a pretty limited complexity. It's about something easier than device drivers and Windows insanity...]
Here I'm making a note to myself: When initially setting up, I need to unplug all external drives and the external speakers (harman/kardon makes a nice speaker, but these old dogs are getting rough - and they tend to cause USB fuckups). Then I had to hit the Mac's special internal reset button, known as the PMU switch, which gives a mega-zap to the PRAM. (these were called CUDA switches back in the day) IMPORTANT: Only press the PMU for One Second While It's NOT plugged in. Otherwise you'll fry it. Too bad I definitely pressed it for way too long.
Then is step 2: plug the computer back in; hit the power button and immediately hold down Command-Option-P-R . This is also a PRAM zap which works at a lesser level than PMU. The G5 first issues its normal startup chime, then you gotta wait, still holding the keys. It chimes again. Wait. And again.
Then finally you let go, and for whatever mysterious reason it comes right back to life, no problem. I really think it's because the USB speakers and maybe the external hard drive hork it somehow.
In any case OS X 10.4.10 has been kinda dodgy in the USB department: my brother's Intel MacBook can't connect to his external music hard drive for shit since the upgrade. Someone discovered that running 'USB Prober' from the OS X Developer Tools gets it to rediscover the drives. I am way too tired to look up links right now.
That is all for now. I promise we'll be back on the gravy train of at least 3 posts a week for a while.
All right everyone. I am about to leave for England & France with my brother and dad tomorrow and I don't plan to blog or stay in the loop at all. But before I go, here is a story I did about the secret NAFTA superhighway scheme uncovered here in Minnesota. We published this in Politics in Minnesota: The Weekly Report yesterday...
SuperRondo Superhighway? MnDOT, NASCO, and plans for the I-35 NAFTA Superhighway
St. Paul's Rondo Days festival is right around the corner on July 21st. Rondo, of course, was the primarily black neighborhood obliterated when I-94 was built and blasted through, a route selected because of the neighborhood's lack of political clout. Deploying the "Stops-4-Us" message, the University Avenue Community Coalition plans to raise awareness about the potential damage to their neighborhoods because of the proposed Central Corridor light rail project, which they fear will remove parking, disrupt commerce and fail to offer enough stops for their community. The federal government wants fewer stops on the Corridor to reduce trip time, or else federal funds will be jeopardized. As one UACC organizer said to PIM, this federal policy has effectively removed transit stops from other urban communities around the nation.
On a much larger scale, proposals are now being drawn up for large transportation networks across America piggybacking on the interstate highway system. PIM has obtained documents from the Minnesota Department of Transportation about proposals to create major international transportation corridors along I-35 and I-94. The documents were obtained from MnDOT via the Minnesota Data Practices Act by local lawyer Nathan Hansen and posted on his blog and law firm's website. We have packaged the PDFs into a 66 MB ZIP archive available here through PIM's website.
The major group coordinating this effort is North America's Supercorridor Coalition, or NASCO. The MnDOT files include many strategic public relations emails among NASCO, lobbyists, government employees across the country, in Canada and Mexico, as well as grant applications specifying the exact nature of NASCO projects. Many emails among MnDOT personnel are also included. These documents formed the basis for a report by Jerome Corsi at WorldNetDaily, which also discussed MnDOT's views of U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman's (R) position on the matter. (Officially, he doesn't have one). The documents confirm that MnDOT agreed to join NASCO for a specially discounted price of $15,000, money that perhaps could have been better spent patching I-35W's potholes.
NASCO's website declares that I-35 is already the NAFTA superhighway; the group is not trying to build some vast network. Oklahoma City's mayor recently agreed [GoogleVideo] that I-35 was "really a part of that NAFTA corridor," and the U.S., Canada and Mexico should really be one economy. Both publicly and privately, NASCO brushes off the supposedly sinister nature of their project, which they say is intended to benefit the economy and alleviate congestion. Also MnDOT provided NASCO an index of projects along I-35 and I-94 in an effort to get NASCO's Washington lobbyists to coordinate better funding.
Also released were NASCO public relations documents describing how to spin media coverage, and MnDOT emails about media incidents. Oddly, NASCO distributed PR material disambiguating themselves, the cross-border Security and Prosperity Partnership, and even the Council on Foreign Relations, among their materials sent to Minnesota.
Interestingly, NASCO discusses an advanced systems integration platform called NAFTRACS (North American Facilitation of Transportation, Trade, Reduced Congestion and Security Project), which would be developed by SAVI, a subsidiary of Lockheed Martin, which already handles shipping container logistics for the Pentagon's Global Transportation Network. The NAFTRACS "integration pilot program will automatically gather, correlate, and interpret fragments of multi-source (Radar, AIS, & GPS tracks, Open Source, Intelligence, Watch list & Law Enforcement Report, CCTV, Bioterrorism sensors) data together into one collaborative portal-based environment, an [sic] ultimately a Total Transportation Domain Awareness Center of Excellence." The NASCO Center of Excellence and Total Domain Awareness Center would be the "centerpiece of the corridor coalition; will engage in studies, development and deployment activities; will seek funding & investment for a broad array of projects relevant to both the corridor and of current & national significance," including "the US-Mexico-Canada Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP); Hurricane Katrina/Rita impact; Cross-border trade facilitation and information sharing; inland ports network; counter-terrorism and security." In the last couple PDF files, the development of NAFTRACS through Lockheed Martin's advanced military-oriented research facility in Virginia is discussed at length.
PIM hasn't heard anything about this project through the grapevine; only nativist and conservative media outlets (what some would dub "right wing whacko") have focused on plans for continental integration. It seems unlikely that massive superhighways will be built along I-35, but still, it's quite interesting to examine the flurry of communications, message management and cross-border integration exposed by this set of documents. Check out the raw material; it's really quite unusual and informative. While activists in Texas and Oklahoma are raising a ruckus about the potential Rondoization of their counties, Minnesotans would be wise to look south and keep an eye out.
Well that's it everyone. Have a good time, I will see you in two weeks. Thanks for visiting! And check out PoliticsInMinnesota to see how they pull it off when I'm gone!
Bloomberg - Standard & Poor's, Moody's Investors Service and Fitch Ratings are masking burgeoning losses in the market for subprime mortgage bonds by failing to cut the credit ratings on about $200 billion of securities backed by home loans.
The highest default rates on home loans in a decade have reduced prices of some bonds backed by mortgages to people with poor or limited credit by more than 50 cents on the dollar and forced New York-based Bear Stearns Cos. to offer $3.2 billion to bail out a money-losing hedge fund. Almost 65 percent of the bonds in indexes that track subprime mortgage debt don't meet the ratings criteria in place when they were sold, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
That may just be the beginning. Downgrades by S&P, Moody's and Fitch would force hundreds of investors to sell holdings, roiling the $800 billion market for securities backed by subprime mortgages and $1 trillion of collateralized debt obligations, the fastest growing part of the financial markets.
``You'll see massive losses from banks, insurance companies and pension managers,'' said Joshua Rosner, a managing director at investment research firm Graham Fisher & Co. in New York and co-author of a study last month that said S&P, Moody's and Fitch understate the risks of subprime mortgage bonds. ``The longer they wait, the worse it's going to be.''
So the big indexes are pretending these bad debts are better, because if they get downgraded all the index funds and everyone else will dump this shit, and its heavily leveraged value will accelerate the system's imminent (and immanent) ruptures. Another fine example of how the market can't self-regulate by downgrading batches of shitty securities. See also: London fund latest subprime victim.
I also went on a wild-goose chase, as the State Department has been unable to get my dad his passport for a good 13-14 weeks. They sent it to a street address in Minneapolis, which I visited (and attempted to find the other three SW / NE / NW quadrant equivalents as well). No luck all around. I am going here in a week.
Catching up with Scott: The Grand Dean of academic conspiracy research is Peter Dale Scott, who has doggedly checked out the 'deep politics' of America, the secret stuff from JFK to Watergate and now 9/11 and Iraq-related matters. He comes from the same cadre as Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky and the other classic leftie critics. He's saying here that he is not really part of the left anymore, and how the ongoing political battles among nasty factions like the oil lobby are sort of invisible to the Chomsky-style 'structuralists' who apply outdated concepts of the Ruling Class vs. the Oppressed &etc. Here's an 8-minute clip about 9/11, 'left gatekeepers' and Scott's general approach to 9/11 after researching JFK and Iran-Contra for decades.
Scott is one of those guys who insists on looking at individual personalities and all that kind of thing, not just the dull economic structures that old lefties dwell on. Here's another 9 minute clip about Cheney and 9/11, how Cheney sort of seized control of the 'shadow government' on that day. He's connecting 9/11 actions with Oliver North's old weird schemes in the 1980s - FEMA, the National Programs Office, going into the Patriot Act, etc.
Global schemes to divide ethnicities: One interesting neoconservative angle is how you can combine "freedom for small ethnic groups" and "ethnic groups are pawns we play against each other." The dissolution of Yugoslavia & the application of Albanians & the KLA as an (al-Qaeda-linked) anti-Russian proxy force is a pretty good example. Some similar stuff happens around Africa near Rwanda and the Congo. Clearly Elliot "the original pardoned henchman" Abrams' efforts to get the Palestinians fighting amongst each other have gone forth, if somewhat backfired. Many around the mideast suspect that dividing up Iraq was the plan all along. Now the think-tank geniuses are floating plans to partition Iraq, and not surprisingly the Conspiracy Front sees a conspiracy. I accept most of the articles they cite as examples of this policy in Iraq though.
iPhone cracked by DVDJon: some work accomplished on unlocking standard iPhone features. Google for more info on that, his blog is called 'so sue me'. Appropriate for the guy that originally came up with key parts of the DVD encryption crack, a great defeater of the DMCA worthy of top accolades.
Lifeblogging = people in your head: This Pittsburgh Mac user named Justine elected to basically wear a webcam all day & put her life online via video at tastyblogsnack.com and ijustine.com. Somehow thru this process she gets to fly around and visited Minneapolis for the iPhone release. I am not sure if it is a promotional gig or what. The whole thing is strange but very modern eh? Everyone stumbles into the panopticon - i.e. Little Brother.
I am suspicious of Citigroup. It's not some big conspiracy; they're just so huge and bloated that no one really knows what's going on inside the colossus. Now from the more paranoid sectors of the Internet comes a purported link between Citibank's supposed "Account 98" Saudi terrorist financing structure, and Enron's late Mr. Baxter, who died of an 'apparent suicide' in January 2002.
It's quite an angle, should it turn out to be true. It seems pretty clear to me that the financing of 9/11 is one of those really unexamined weak points in the official story, where more truth could most easily be shaken out. There's plenty of annoyingly weird material out there. For example, one of the top guys in Pakistan's ISI intelligence service wired money to Mohammed Atta just prior to 9/11. That seems to be confirmed, but also is basically nuts and totally off the track of 9/11's Official Story. The problem is that anything you're calling "al Qaeda" has a lot of sympathizers in the ISI - it's one of those nodes where the War on Terror clearly loops back on itself. Is that side linked to big U.S. banks? And what the hell, Enron?
Guys like Enron, the Saudis, and all those other shady cats excel at setting up strange front companies to shield their chicanery, and there's some likelihood that Enron's vast constellation of fake companies (the YETIs and CHEWCOs) intersected with the 9/11 financiers. Someone who could really shine some light in this area would be the currently gagged former FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds, who alleges that FBI wiretaps contained 9/11 financing evidence.
It was quite convenient that Ken Lay expired while his conviction was on appeal. That really helped all the shell companies he ultimately owned cruise off into the sunset. If he'd been convicted again, the government could have gotten control of all of them, exposing all kinds of shady business.
Wayne Madsen, noted DC conspiro-blogger, put this one up, and i decided to post much of it because it seems to bear on this extremely important dimension of 9/11.
May 22, 2007 -- WMR has received documents sent to one of the presidential campaigns from Leonard D. Wallace, a former business associate of former Enron Vice Chairman J. Clifford Baxter, that provides details of Al Qaeda and the 9/11 attacks being financed through Citigroup/Citibank. The document states that Baxter, who was to appear before a congressional committee to testify on Enron's dubious business practices, died from a reported suicide on January 18, 2002. According to the document received from Baxter's associate, the former Vice Chairman of Enron was planning to expose Citigroup's knowledge of Saudi banks, some of which it had a financial stake, were funding the terrorists who were responsible for carrying out the 9/11 attacks.
Wallace writes, "this cover-up of criminal misconduct has certainly been perpetrated both at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, DC and at Citigroup's 399 Park Avenue address in New York City." The document goes on to state, "Alberto Gonzales, and the U.S. Department of Justice that he heads, have successfully blocked any investigation of Citigroup, despite evidence that has been presented to them."
Wallace also writes, "I was brought into this spider web of greed and illegality by J. Clifford Baxter, a business associate of mine who was at one time vice chairman of Enron. Through his relationship with Robert Rubin at Citigroup's Chairman's Suite in New York City, in August 2001, I became privy to a series of business transactions planned by Citigroup that I began to realize were not only illegal but also aiding international terrorism from Saudi Arabia. I complained to Citigroup's senior executives and their board, and Cliff told me and others that he was going to expose this bank fraud of Citigroup and Saudi banks. Then, about 30 days after my first letter to Citigroup's chairman, Cliff suddenly died on January 18, 2002 from what is to this day still considered a very questionable suicide."
In a letter dated February 14, 2005 to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Wallace presents the background of his case: "I had a prior association in a $1.5 billion armored vehicle project with J. Clifford Baxter, the former Enron executive who died mysteriously in January 2002. As a result of that project, there are two public companies that can corroborate my participation and the integrity with which I conducted myself. In August 2001, Cliff told me that he was involving me in securing $5 billion in loans and the subsequent investment of these funds. The collateral was to be located at Citibank Singapore, and he said that he would provide me with 4 pages of posting instructions."
The loan deal eventually was handed over to a Citibank Miami vice president -- on September 10, 2001. Wallace writes, "During the next 100 days, up until mid-December, Citigroup, through its headquarters and elsewhere, clearly orchestrated a well-coordinated conspiracy whose major impacts were going to be the defrauding of another bank and the acquisition of ill-gotten gains that would be received and/or distributed to others by Citigroup's senior management. It was represented to me by Citigroup officials and their documentation that the "others" included Account 98 activities, which I later learned were synonymous with the funding of terrorist organizations."
"Citigroup Singapore supplied a false inventory and authentication about Federal Reserve Bonds that supposedly were being used as collateral for the $5 billion loans. Citibank headquarters in Manhattan and Citibank Miami confirmed the authenticity of these bogus bonds. The posting instructions they provided me referred to Account 98s to be managed by unknown operatives in Saudi Arabia at SAMBA Bank, of which Citigroup was a major stockholder." [WMR previously reported on and provided a canceled SAMBA (Saudi American Bank) check written to a group affiliated with Hamas. This editor was personally told by a former chief of Mossad in October 2002 that if one wanted to find out where Al Qaeda received its funding, one would need not look further than the six largest U.S. banks, one of which is Citigroup].
If "Al Qaeda" is really a random amalgam of Mid-eastern Salafi fundamentalists, some of them would serve Western interests by stirring up trouble, especially against the Russians. Those angles would very likely be financed through big U.S. banks!
First the Econ:Agonist.org has a bunch of economic stories up today (and most Mondays) to get you thinking seriously. The total value of derivatives rose nearly 40% to a whopping $415,000,000,000,000, which of course dwarfs the national debt and national economy. More on that here. The 1929 Stock Market's got nothing on Modern America!! Who needs to worry about margin calls when you can just make up some more devious debt instruments until next quarter? Real America's economy sucks, but in pretend derivatives-world it's all gravy.
Supporting the security and justice systems in Iraq is one of the main challenges that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers confronts to help the Iraqi government develop the infrastructure countrywide.
According to Rick Mers, a project engineer with the Gulf Region South District the New An Nasiriyah Maximum Security Correctional Facility, which is built by the Army Corps of Engineers in the Dhi Qar Province, is considered to be the biggest prison in the south of Iraq. "The project is a new maximum security correctional facility located near the city of Nasiriyah. The prison will hold up to 800 inmates and includes holding areas, laundry, dining facilities, and administrative offices," he said.
Michael Osborne, a resident engineer with Gulf Region South, said that the prison will help to provide employment for security personnel, medical personnel and support staff. It will also improve the quality of security correctional facilities south of Iraq.
While President Bush's new strategy in Iraq focuses on stopping the violence in Baghdad, trouble threatens to boil over in Iraq's Kurdish region to the north, which the administration frequently holds up as an island of stability and a model for the future.
The long dispute between Turkey and Iraq over renegade Kurdish fighters camped on the Iraqi side of their shared border reached new heights last month. When the head of Iraq's Kurdish regional government threatened to provoke an uprising among Turkish Kurds, Turkey responded with warnings of direct military action and an angry complaint to Washington.
Ankara has massed thousands of soldiers on its side of the border and has warned it will dismantle the camps in Iraq if the U.S. military will not use some of its nearly 150,000 troops in Iraq to do it.
.....On the Iraq side of the seam, there is wide concern that the administration has already given Turkey a green light to act in northern Iraq, one State Department official said, although others insist that Washington has urged restraint.
Looming over the conflict is the oil-rich northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk. The postwar Iraqi constitution calls for a referendum in December to determine if the population wants to become part of the Kurdish region. Turkey has made clear it would view that as a direct threat to the rights of Kirkuk's large minority of ethnic Turkmen.
Turkey believes that "if the Kurds get Kirkuk, it will mean an independent Kurdish state," said Qubad Talibani, the son of Iraqi President Jalal Talibani and the Kurdish regional government's spokesman in Washington. "We've seen Turkish groups lobbying quite actively" against the referendum.
Alleged Turkish interference over Kirkuk sparked a flare-up last month when Massoud Barzani, president of the Kurdish regional government in Iraq, threatened retaliation if Turkey continued "interfering" in Iraqi affairs. It would be easy, he warned, for Iraqi Kurds to stir up their 30 million ethnic brethren in southeastern Turkey.
Turkey's military chief, Gen. Yasar Buyukanit, responded with a warning of a cross-border attack, and Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul demanded that the United States restrain Barzani. Ankara sent sharply worded notes to Baghdad and Washington, and Erdogan said publicly that Barzani would be "crushed under his words."
An old story, but interesting: a guy found MS Word documents from the old Coalition Provisional Authority, then used the Track Changes feature to reveal secret material from 2004. The secret material proves the CPA were a seriously dumb bunch of gringos. In particular they said that a healthy dose of violence would intimidate foolish Arabs - a classic racist stereotype that has carried America far.
Here's a good one. Over the last couple weeks, the star of the Internets has been obscure Texas U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, an outspoken Libertarian of the old school, who's been running for president on the GOP ticket for quite a while. You wouldn't know that, of course, because of that funny way the media has of sucking oxygen out of campaigns. Paul has been virtually ignored everywhere in the mainstream, naturally.
I don't have time to insert the links now. Instead enjoy the videos!
The first GOP presidential debate got him more attention, but it immediately became apparent there was a serious and profound media prejudice/filtering effect pressing on Dr. Paul like a ton of bricks. Paul kept winning Internet polls, but this was attributed to his wily hacker constituency. Otherwise he went virtually unmentioned in AP coverage for example. ABC News got caught with its hand in the cookie jar: they refused to even put his name on their online poll. There was a big outcry and they had to add him. Paul won the poll by thousands.
None of this compared to the great, ominously orwellian censorship exercise MySpace spit out days later. Everyone who tried to post Ron Paul bulletins found their accounts instantly suspended for phishing. [ie suspected spammer/hacker activity]. Soon a MySpace moderator spilled the beans: links to Alex Jones' PrisonPlanet.com embedded in the Ron Paul posts trigger the MySpace spam filter. Jones, the noted internet conspiracy guy, has been an outspoken Ron Paul supporter, since he is really, surely, not part of the New World Order/globalist bastard conspiracy/etc. Paul would be the last president to set up Orwellian total control for the corporate masters, so, you know, posts about him get jammed off MySpace instantly.
Here was Ron Paul at the first presidential debate:
Here was video from the second debate, where Ron Paul and Giuliani exploded at each other, probably the highlight of the day. Paul outlines the concept of "Blowback" under heavy fire, and the audience doesn't like it too much. CIA analysts roll their eyes...
Here's the video of the MySpace auto-censorship in action. Nice work MoreRockin!
When you look at it like that, everything makes sense.
Here's Ron Paul talking about adapting to Fourth Generation Warfare AND the prospects of staging Gulf of Tonkin-style Iran war provocations.
Here's Ron Paul telling those damn sonsa bitches that the Federal Reserve board is illegal! "Ron Paul 0wnz the Federal Reserve": "We don't even have M3 statistics" in Congress any more...
One thing that separates Serious Commentators and us paranoid blogger types is how they don't really talk about the disintegrating underpinnings of the American economy, and we do. See the Subprime Mortgage Blues and this one about the coming wave of defaults as well.
Basically this is credit cards plus mortgages. Since Bush got into office it's just kept rising and rising. Credit card spending and mortgages have bloated evermore with Greenspan's easy credit access. So many shady mortgages were issued by everyone and repackaged as "securities," in other words, securitized into the financial market. The result is this ever-escalating debt bubble, buttressed by an overinflated housing market built upon McMansions that inhabitants can't really afford.
Here's America's Personal Saving Rate - the difference between $ spent and saved on the individual level. But hey, in 2005 that fucker went BELOW ZERO. Nobody cares. They should. It means that we are living on the credit cards, and any more turbulence in the economy (another terror attack, Persian Gulf oil shock etc) and we are going right over the edge. Check out Bonddad's Savings Crisis Continues for more on this angle. Here's a bit:
Personal saving -- DPI less personal outlays -- was a negative $119.6 billion in February, compared with a negative $115.1 billion in January. Personal saving as a percentage of disposable personal income was a negative 1.2 percent in February, the same as in January. Negative personal saving reflects personal outlays that exceed disposable personal income. Saving from current income may be near zero or negative when outlays are financed by borrowing (including borrowing financed through credit cards or home equity loans), by selling investments or other assets, or by using savings from previous periods.
"Having a credit card is kind of like being a millionaire," says Scott Davis, a 37-year-old facility maintenance worker who lives in Arlington, Texas. He says he and his wife, whose household income is $38,000 a year, had "seven or eight" credit cards they used to buy sporting goods, go on vacations and remodel their home.
Mr. Davis isn't unusual. According to Fed data, outstanding debt, including mortgages, for families in the bottom 50% of earners -- those with household income below $43,000 -- almost doubled to an average $40,676 in 2004 from an inflation-adjusted $20,733 in 1992. Debt outstanding in the top 50% of households rose 83.5% to $150,821 in 2004 from $82,214 in 1992.
Ray Hooper, education and housing director at Consumer Credit Counseling Service in Dallas, says with credit conditions so easy, lower-income consumers have been able to "get what they want, even though they can't afford it." And the easy credit isn't just related to subprime lending. "It's not just the house," adds Mr. Hooper. "It's the furniture, the appliances, the lawn mower."
So far this decade, nominal gross domestic product has risen at a 5.1% pace, while outstanding credit-market debt is increasing at 8.4%, notes Punk Ziegel analyst Richard Bove. "If the long-term rates were to rise further or incomes grow at slower rates, then it seems highly likely that there would be a rash of defaults throughout the economy," he says.
Income inequality grew significantly in 2005, with the top 1 percent of Americans — those with incomes that year of more than $348,000 — receiving their largest share of national income since 1928, analysis of newly released tax data shows.
The top 10 percent, roughly those earning more than $100,000, also reached a level of income share not seen since before the Depression.
While total reported income in the United States increased almost 9 percent in 2005, the most recent year for which such data is available, average incomes for those in the bottom 90 percent dipped slightly compared with the year before, dropping $172, or 0.6 percent.
The gains went largely to the top 1 percent, whose incomes rose to an average of more than $1.1 million each, an increase of more than $139,000, or about 14 percent.
The new data also shows that the top 300,000 Americans collectively enjoyed almost as much income as the bottom 150 million Americans. Per person, the top group received 440 times as much as the average person in the bottom half earned, nearly doubling the gap from 1980.
That's all I'm putting for now. But no "serious" people care, at least no one they're gonna let onto CNBC. As long as the fatcats eat well, it doesn't matter if the rest of the economy fucking disintegrates. Well done, baby boomers!
With American manufacturing seriously damaged and uninsured healthcare expenses on the rise, the ever-reliable American Consumer is supposed to keep pushing this wheel, even though he and she can't afford it. Of course no one cares that the trade deficit with China spirals to historically massive levels.
Kudlow: Keep moving along, nothing to see here! Keep spending on the credit card, Fat America, we don't give a fuck!!!
"The absolute household debt level and debt payment levels are now at record highs -- as in highs not seen for 25 or more years."
One of the most prominent traits of Economics majors is that they act a bit privileged about their immaculate wisdom. I was always skeptical about schools of economic theory. I guess I would say I am a Keynesian who doesn't trust all this speculative leveraged bullshit that passes for clear economic thinking. If you're on Wall Street, the return you get from a debt instrument (mortgage, bond etc) is just as green as a real capital investment, but in the real world, the debt instrument is not really helping anything – and if there's a big shock, it might be worthless.
What am I raving about? Simply put, everyone who's involved in the financial sector gets way too heady about the quality of the underlying system. Pride and high valuations cometh before the fall. There is a staggering amount of revolving debt (much of it on my credit cards). Basically while the stock market has been deregulated, the real household debt has started to skate out of control. We noted earlier that a sub-prime mortgage lender went out of business when homeowners failed to pay back recently issued mortgages. Now we see that "the absolute household debt level and debt payment levels are now at record highs -- as in highs not seen for 25 or more years."
This means that if the housing market goes from shitty to really shitty, then these mortgages are going to be in serious trouble and lots of Americans are going to be completely fucked. While the financial sector has been drinking champagne and leveraging debentures, the part of the economy that actually makes things has been disintegrating, and the real household earnings and savings are at the worst levels in decades.
I like the curve on this graph: Note how total household liabilities has skated up from about $7 trillion to around $12 trillion since 2000. Yeah, really sound economics.
TomMahm, Copperfield Loses Not a Cent, Lots More Stadiums Seats to Put Butts In, I Have a Cat!
The above is an untouched photograph of the view West towards the Tucson mountains from my front yard on a weekday evening. The bar on the left was frequented by Jack Kerouac, I am told.
Introducing: Strega Nona
Abby and I have adopted Strega here, which is to say, Strega's owner forfeited his right to own her through gross negligence and she chose to reside with us instead. She is currently in heat, which has been a treat, as she begins yowling at five in the morning and gets louder until ten or so. Come Friday morning, entering into estrus will forever be a thing of the past for Strega, which is win-win for everyone. Mating screams and the demented rubbing exercises that accompany them notwithstanding, this is a very cool cat- gentle and loving without being needy, small, athletic and quite beautiful, she's ["Smitten Kitten" joke redacted- ed.]