Archive for February, 2010

The Truth Will Come Out

Friday, February 26th, 2010

After all, the British courts won’t be intimidated by the efforts of the British government and security services to explain away and/or cover up their involvement in torture.

It’s a victory for the rule of law, as the article makes clear:

In a remarkable sequence of events, appeal court judges considering the case of Mohamed, who claims he was tortured, reinstated their findings about the security services, stating that some officials “appear to have a dubious record when it comes to human rights and coercive techniques”.

When will we see such clarity with respect to our own government’s involvement in torture, rather than the free passes and outright cover ups perpetrated by two successive Administrations?

Gorilla answers: “When the waterboard freezes over!”


Revised Up (And Down)

Friday, February 26th, 2010

Today’s headline GDP number for Q4 2009 is 5.9%, an upward revision from the initial estimate of 5.7%…

But consumer and residential spending in the same quarter were revised downward.

Message: growth was mostly in inventories, consumer demand remains weak, and the housing market’s moribund.

In Movingforwardville, the headline number will be greeted with confidence, but in Goingbackwardville the numbers say it will be a long time before anything other than a jobless recovery comes to pass.

Gorilla says: “Read between the lines, and you’ll find the proper signs!”


A Very Small Step

Friday, February 26th, 2010

The FDIC is experimenting with principal reductions for underwater borrowers.

It will only apply to those with loans from banks the FDIC has seized, and to severely underwater borrowers who continue to make payments over a long period of time, but it’s a positive step towards getting the housing crisis under control.

A far more effective step would be to allow bankruptcy court judges to modify loan terms, but that’s been defeated by the Congress twice. The banks remain the first pigs in line at the public trough.

Nothing much will happen with housing until supply (enormous and growing) and demand (puny) get back into balance.

Prices will have to fall further, perhaps 10-15% in the boom/bust areas of the country.

Gorilla thinks: “Washington is beginning to understand that propping up prices is at best a splintered crutch!”


Blasting Away In Kabul

Friday, February 26th, 2010

Another suicide bombing in the Afghan capital, aimed at foreigners.

What’s interesting about this one is that the targets were Indian, which might indicate, yet again, that the Pakistan-India conflict is now being brought to Afghanistan by the Pakistani government.

Of course, happy bilateral talk also coincided with the bombing, so it seems clear both sides in that conflict are preparing for the day after the US departs.

Gorilla says: “Pakistan’s playing the middle against both sides!”


Sputtering Along To Nowhere

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

496,000 new unemployment claims!

A very bad number, but, as Floyd Norris points out, it may reflect more on the very bad weather.

Durable goods orders ex-aircraft fell 2.9%!

This figure means businesses, having restocked inventory in the fourth quarter, are not spending.

It would be nice if our leaders would notice this and start spending, but the deficit fetish rules the roost in Washington these days.

Helicopter Ben’s back on the Hill this morning, telling everyone that cheap money is here to stay, so bubble away!, and that the Fed, while feeling bad about it, will continue doing nothing much about unemployment.

Gorilla says: “Caring is fine, but action would be finer!”


This Week’s George T. Platter And Bait

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

The tidetime folklorist wonders in this age of endless summiteering when the era of bipartisanship will end and the era of leadership will begin.

The Platter: Undecided by Django Reinhardt with Beryl Davis (the suits in the room or the voters we need?)

The Bait: The Gotcha Cedar Plug Daisy Chain (for two houses with abundant pox)


“My Bankers Were Nazis”

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

Possibly not the best phrase to use when you need a bailout!

But here’s how the Deputy Prime Minister of Greece described the country’s chats with Euroland:

“They took away the gold that was in the Bank of Greece, and they never gave it back. They shouldn’t complain so much about stealing and not being very specific about economic dealings”.

Twisting the knife further, he said the current crop of EU leaders were of “very poor quality” and had botched this month’s crisis summit in Brussels. “The people who are managing the fortunes of Europe were not up to the task,” he said.

Gorilla says: “The glory that was Greece is now the farce that never ends!”


The Cliff Bottom Gets Lower

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

New home sales: worst ever!

New home sales are an important indicator about the economy.

This number, which doesn’t include condo sales (a massive oversupply in search of no demand) says: the inventory overhang is considerable, there aren’t very many buyers, the government’s house price and interest rate stabilizing programs (HAMP, TARP, Helicopter Ben the mortgage buyer) have been a failure, and the outlook for the economy remains bleak.

Gorilla says: “It’s not Acapulco, but there’s plenty of cliff diving still going on!”


The Deficit Itch: Not Yet Time To Scratch

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

So says the IMF, in its latest paper on Exit Strategies from the current financial crisis.

The IMF’s chief economist puts it bluntly: “Notwithstanding the recent pick-up in growth momentum, there is little evidence as yet that private demand is self-sustaining. Hence, fiscal and monetary stimulus may need to be maintained well into 2010, although if developments proceed as expected, withdrawal could begin in 2011.”

Developments so far have not proceeded as expected: growth in the US, Japan, and Europe is anemic, unemployment remains very high, and government stimulus packages have not been sufficiently large.

US politicians and Helicopter Ben hopefully will read this paper, and get serious about economic development and unemployment.

It’s very unlikely that anything other than a minor jobless recovery is on the cards before 2012, and it’s quite possible there will be a double dip recession.

Puny jobs bills, phony inflation fights, and fetishizing the deficit are not the solutions of people who claim to be leaders.

Gorilla thinks: “Put the deficit at bay and give us WPA!”


The Godless Gap

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

The Chicago Council on Foreign Relations says the US has been slow to respond in areas of the globe where religion plays a role, creating a “god gap” that hurts national security.

The recommendations: more training about religion for foreign service officers, better understanding with local religious groups, and a better explanation of US policy on religious freedom.

For the godless, there’s not much on offer.

Where is the criticism of organized religion, currently responsible for many of the world’s wars and all of the world’s terrorism?

Where is the support for the separation of church and state?

Where is the support for the victims of religion?

Guess that’s too sensitive for our future diplomats.

Gorilla says: “Sensitivity is fine, godlessness is better!”