Global Food Prices


From the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, by way of Clusterstock and Business Insider.

World food prices are trying to breakout.



The Deficit Commission


The President's Deficit Commission released their recommendations yesterday, and they are as follows:


Would collapse today's five income tax rates into three brackets: 8 percent for the lowest incomes, 14 percent for middle incomes and 23 percent for the wealthiest.
Would lower the corporate tax rate to 26 percent from 35 percent today.
Would end $1.1 trillion in popular tax breaks to permit these low rates. Tax breaks to be eliminated range from the deduction of mortgage interest to receiving health insurance from employers on a pre-tax basis. Such moves would broaden the tax base and make virtually all Americans pay more in taxes.
Would tax capital gains and dividends as ordinary income rather than at today's 15 percent rate.
Would raise payroll taxes on the wealthy so that 90 percent of taxable wages would be subject to the payroll tax by 2050.
Would increase the federal gas tax by 15 cents a gallon to pay for transportation improvements.

Retirement benefits

Would raise the age Americans can get Social Security benefits from 62 to 68 by 2050 and to 69 by 2075. This reflects that Americans are living and working longer.
Would allow early retirement benefits for career manual laborers.
Would boost benefits for Americans aged 81 to 85.


Would cap spending on almost all government programs through 2020 except for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and some defense programs.
Would require the president to propose annual limits on war spending, a major change when America is fighting two wars without a tax increase to pay for them. That has never happened in U.S. history.
Federal pay, work force

Would impose a three-year freeze on congressional pay, which now increases annually.
Would freeze pay for civilian federal workers.
Would gradually reduce the government's civilian work force by 10 percent.
Got a problem with any of that?
Let's see what you can do.
Here's another chance to balance the budget with The New York Times budget puzzle.
Click on the chart below to play.


To quote that well known Trotskyist, James P. Cannon



Not one of my favorite guys by any means, but if you have some time, click the quote for pretty much all of Mr. Cannons writings.

Trotskyist? .......... ite? ............... Who cares?





From James Taranto at The Wall Street Journal who loves (hell, maybe lives) to torment The New York Times, on two very different responses to leaked information.

On "Climategate".

"The documents appear to have been acquired illegally and contain all manner of private information and statements that were never intended for the public eye, so they won't be posted here."—New York Times, on the Climategate emails, Nov. 20, 2009.

On Wikileaks latest revelations.

"The articles published today and in coming days are based on thousands of United States embassy cables, the daily reports from the field intended for the eyes of senior policy makers in Washington. . . . The Times believes that the documents serve an important public interest, illuminating the goals, successes, compromises and frustrations of American diplomacy in a way that other accounts cannot match."—New York Times, on the WikiLeaks documents, Nov. 29, 2010.

Politics? ................... Maybe?

Nahhhhh, not The Old Grey Lady.



Housing Double Dip


From S&P/Case-Shiller via Clusterstock, the following bad news.

Click on the chart for the 15 softest housing markets.

You're likely to be suprised.


The chart (below) depicts the annual returns of the U.S. National, the 10-City Composite and the 20-City Composite Home Price Indices. The S&P/Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index, which covers all nine U.S. census divisions, recorded a 1.5% decline in the third quarter of 2010 over the third quarter of 2009. In September, the 10-City and 20-City Composites recorded annual returns of +1.6% and +0.6%, respectively.



Clarke and Dawe, again


Clarke and Dawe have been a staple of Australian television seemingly forever, and are rightfully considered by many Australians to be a national treasure.

They most always make me laugh, which makes me wish they were ours.

Here's their take on a 1991 oil spill.

The Front Fell Off.

Clarke and Dawe.



From the New York Times 11/25/2010


The New York Times is starting to get it.

“It seems Abdulmutallab, a name T.S.A. agents must now memorize, is to blame. Abdulmutallab is the failed Nigerian ‘underwear bomber’ of last Christmas. He joins the failed shoe bomber and failed shampoo-and-bottled-water bombers in a remarkable success: adding another blanket layer of T.S.A checks, including dubious gropes, to the daily humiliations of travelers. 

“Whether or not these explosive devices were ever actually operable remains a matter of dispute, just as it remains a mystery that the enemy — if as powerful as portrayed — has not contrived a single terrorist act on U.S. soil since 9/11. What is not in doubt is an old rule: Give a bureaucrat a big stick and a big budget, allow said bureaucrat to trade in the limitless currency of human anxiety, and the masses will soon be intimidated by the Department of Fear. 

“Lavrenti Beria, Stalin’s notorious secret police chief, once said, ‘Show me the man and I’ll find you the crime.’ The T.S.A. seems to operate on the basis of an adapted maxim: ‘Show me the security check and I’ll find you the excuse.’ 

“Anyone who has watched T.S.A. agents spending 10 minutes patting down 80-year-old grandmothers, or seen dismayed youths being ordered back into the scanner booth by agents connected wirelessly to other invisible agents gazing at images of these people in a state of near-nakedness, has to ask: What form of group madness is it that forsakes judgment and discernment for process run amok? 

“I don’t doubt the patriotism of the Americans involved in keeping the country safe, nor do I discount the threat, but I am sure of this: The unfettered growth of the Department of Homeland Security and the T.S.A. represent a greater long-term threat to the prosperity, character and well-being of the United States than a few madmen in the valleys of Waziristan or the voids of Yemen. 

“America is a nation of openness, boldness and risk-taking. Close this nation, cow it, constrict it and you unravel its magic. 

“There are now about 400 full-body scanners, set to grow to 1,000 next year. One of the people pushing them most energetically is Michael Chertoff, the former Secretary of Homeland Security. He’s the co-founder and managing principal of the Chertoff Group, which provides security advice. One of its clients is California-based Rapiscan Systems, part of the OSI Systems corporation, that makes many of the ‘whole body’ scanners being installed… 

“Intelligence has improved beyond measure since 9/11. It can be used far more effectively at airports. Instead of humiliating everyone, focus on the very small proportion of travelers who might present a threat. 

“So I give thanks this week for the Fourth Amendment: ‘The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.’  I give thanks for Benjamin Franklin’s words after the 1787 Constitutional Convention describing the results of its deliberations: ‘A Republic, if you can keep it.’ To keep it, push back against enhanced patting, Chertoff’s naked-screening and the sinister drumbeat of fear.” – Roger Cohen, “The Real Threat to America,” The New York Times, 11-25-10


Dan Edstrom tracks his mortgage


Dan Edstrom does "securitization audits".

Basically he analyzes the history of transactions concerning a given mortgage and note from the moment it's signed through it's sale, securitization and hopeful payoff ................. or foreclosure.

Here's the chart for Dan's own mortgage.

I clicked on the small version and then again to enlarge it to it's full size, thinking I'd follow it all the way through it's history.

I'm not gonna lie to you, I quit after about three seconds.

I'm thinking now that this debacle has no chance of resolution outside of default, foreclose and bankruptcy, and by that I mean both individually and at the level of the subsequent securitized instruments.


From Zero Hedge, which is of the sites I skulk, easily both the toughest read and the toughest to join.

On the positive side, it's free.

It is also consistently among the most rewarding of the sites I frequent if one is prepared to grind some.

Click the chart below for the Zero Hedge site and the story.


The sordid journey of just one mortgage.



Floyd of Rosedale


Tim S. wandered into our Facebook site from straight out of left field the other day and proudly announced, for no apparent reason, that Floyd the Barber was his all time favorite Floyd.


What's the matter with Pretty Boy we wondered, or better yet Floyd of Rosedale?

Which caused some number of you to wonder, "Who the hell is Floyd of Rosedale?"

This ...............

............... is Floyd of Rosedale.

His is one of the great stories in College Football, and since today happens to be Floyd's day, you should click on the photo to read it.


More Rare Earths, which makes them less rare


We were bombed with Rare Earths material after yesterdays post.

The most complete and still easy to read was this here  Daily (that's the Daily Reckoning's Australian page) post from 2008.

Evidently Carol K. is even more anal about saving links than even we are.

Which makes us both pleased for ourselves and worried for Carol.

Tony K. (no relation) sent a very nice piece from and Tony D'Altorio on how to invest in Rare Earth elements, which seemingly blows up Byron King's premise that you can't.

What Byron actually said is that there are no publicly traded Western companies for Rare Earth investing with an up and running mine.

We had forgotten about

Shame on us.

Click on the photo below for the entire piece.

Thanks to all for all the links, we're on it.



Rare Earths


Byron King at Outstanding Investments researches all things saleable coming out of the ground.
I've subscribed to Outstanding Investments on and off for a good long time now, and recommend it.
Here is his analysis of "rare earths" their availability and China.
“All of the rare earth elements have one or more excellent atomic properties. These include incomparable chemical, electrical, magnetic and/or optical properties. For example, neodymium (Nd) makes strong magnets even stronger. Europium (Eu) is necessary for television screens to show color images. Lanthanum (La) is useful in high energy- density batteries, as well as being critical in petroleum refining.

“Now think about all the rhetoric you've heard about how ‘we’ are going to transition to a high tech/clean tech future of solar panels, windmills, electric cars, smart grid, wired-world. Oh yeah? Problem is, most of these technologies simply WILL NOT WORK without large amounts of rare earths.

“That is, the electric cars, wind turbines, solar panels, miniature electronics, smart grid, etc. will not get built in the US (or Canada, Japan, Europe, Australia, etc., for that matter) if industries cannot secure long-term supplies of rare earth minerals. And, oh by the way, that goes double for advanced defense technologies. For example, EVERY missile in the US arsenal uses some quantity of rare earths - every single one!
“What's the problem? In the past 15 years or so, the West closed down essentially all of its rare earths refining capability. The entire market (well, 97% of it) was conceded to the Chinese, for a lot of reasons - economic, wages, resource-base, environmental and much more. Now that the West wants to build out a different energy and technology future, the Chinese control critical substances from ore bodies through to final oxides and metals.

“It's as if somebody (the West) wants to set up a fancy, Napa Valley- style winery (new, clean, high tech), but doesn't have any grapes (rare earths). This vintner-wannabe will have to buy the grapes from a producer in China. Do you really think that the Chinese will sell the guy the best grapes, and help him create a world-class brand of wine?

“What do the Chinese say? They say that they're just acting rationally. They're closing down unsafe mines and controlling past environmental pollution. They're consolidating the industry, as most other industries consolidate over time.

“The Chinese say that they're just encountering natural issues of depletion, from mining their ore bodies over the years. They say that they just don't have ‘more’ rare earths to export, because of natural economic and market forces.

“Of course, the Chinese also say that if you move your factory to China, they'll put you on an allocation for rare earths. You'll have enough to operate. That is, you'll have enough raw materials as long as you set up a joint venture with a Chinese firm and share all your technology. Of course.

“Right now, there is NO publicly traded Western company that has a mine, refinery or plant up and running, let alone producing commercial amounts of rare earths for sale as useable end product.” 


A sick and wrong Thanksgiving story


 After you get done minding your MSGs, mind the TSA.


My Baby Thinks He's A Train


Gotta go pick up the Roanboy and bring him home for Thanksgiving.

I'm probably going to be scarce for a day or two thereafter.

Meanwhile, this is Roseanne Cash having just been introduced by Carl Perkins, performing Leroy Preston's country classic, My Baby Thinks He's A Train.

That's Steuart Smith on guitar, and the Jordanaires providing backup vocals.

Live from the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville Tenessee.

Have a safe Thanksgiving.

Mind your MSGs. 


The Fed, The Ben Bernanke and The Goldman Sachs


I haven't skulked Zero Hedge for a couple of weeks or more.

Big mistake.

For about the first 90 seconds here, you're gonna wish you could throttle either or both of these little bears.

Hang in there.

By the end you'll know for damn sure who needs strangling.

Trust me on this one.



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