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Monday, Apr 21st

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Santa, Fox News, and the Pope Walk Into a Bar...

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Time, like year-end commentaries, are convenient constructions to help us make sense of our lives.  In the great scheme of things -- or, in The Great Scheme of Things, as you prefer -- both make little difference.  It's not that they don't matter;  they do.  Both require great patience to endure, and both direct our wooly thoughts here and there, willy-nilly.

Distractions explode, pop, and stutter in the mind.  This is especially true if, like me, your concentration and mental discipline are not what they once were.  Digesting a few recent tidbits in the news has proven tougher on my stomach than freeze-dried ostrich or owl jerky.

For example:  In the last week, via media reports, I've bumped into various aspects of God, Santa Claus, Fox News, Albert Einstein, and Pope Francis.  In a move displaying little to no apparent evolutionary advantage, my mind insists on turning these random exposures into patterns -- in this case, jokes of the sort which always begin with a long, convoluted list of people and animals all walking into a bar...

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The Jade Rabbit says, "Nǐ hǎo" (hello)

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New unemployment claims fell sharply the week before Christmas despite widespread weather problems that were putting a drag on business activity. Early numbers suggest that retail sales were up for November and December, justifying the increase in business inventory during the third quarter. This would be in line with the declining layoffs, if inventory sold as predicted as more production will be required in January.

 

The Federal Reserve is cutting its $85b per month QE3 bond buying program by $10b in January and this is causing bond interest rates to climb. But so far this has had no negative effect on the stock market that continues to set records. At $75b we're still talking about the better part of a trillion dollars a year in stimulus. Of course this is 'soft stimulus' that mostly ends up as bank balance sheet entries.

 

If the government would spend $1t per year on infrastructure the US would be booming like China, instead of drifting toward becoming a third world colony of the People's Republic of China. Did I mention they have a rover named the Jade Rabbit on the moon? Twenty years ago there were almost no private cars in China, now the 'commies' are a bigger market for cars than the US. In five years their economy will be bigger than the US across the board.

 

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A Little Something Under the Ol' Electron Tree

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All I want for Christmas -- now that I have a range of functional teeth up front -- is a memory that's not a sieve.  There's always some body part deserving of its own song as one ages, I suppose, and as the meaty vehicle we all find ourselves traveling in as humans starts to slowly unwind, hiccup, and fade.

However, this year, and every year, there are many other things I'd like to see slipped under the tree -- and under the radar of watchful and disapproving conservative forces.  Contrary to wistful bumper stickers and erstwhile, old-fashioned sentiments, I'd like more than a helping of whirled peas, please.

A little basic economic fairness, say, from the money-go-rounders would be a nice holiday touch.  A giant scoop would be even better, but I dare not wish for such miracles -- not even from the Christianity-espousing moneylenders long since seeped into the temples of our democratic discourse.

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Punched or drilled? Use an inspection mirror & a spec sheet for comparison

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Numbers on 3rd quarter GDP growth are in, and we could be breaking into a chorus of    'Happy Days are Here Again.'  A quarterly growth of 4.1% in GDP is something that we have seen hardly at all since Ronald Reagan set about destroying the economy for the benefit of the 0.001% of Americans.

 

In the old days of New Deal Keynesian economics a 4% growth rate was the norm. Conservatives would like you to believe that such a number just isn't possible anymore unless you cut the tax rate on the rich to zero. Never mind that the Communist Chinese have been maintaining a pace of 2 to 3 times that for decades by pursuing FDR's or more accurately Alexander Hamilton's polices. You know, the guy on the ten dollar bill.

 

The Chinese are big fans of our Founding Fathers, and it's paid off for them big time. The US went from making wooden shovels to being the undisputed industrial power of the world by following Hamilton's policies enacted by Congress in 1792. China has gone from making nothing more advanced than a 1940 style steam locomotive to putting a rover on the moon in just 30 years. This will be China's century in ways that we can't even imagine.

 

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The Flag Remains the Same: Parts One, Two and Three

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The Flag Remains the Same - Part One -

At the peak of World War Two the U.S. was cranking out a Liberty ship in 8 hours, a B-24 bomber every 63 minutes, and a Sherman tank every half hour. The Military-Industrial Complex, within a few short years of its coming into existence, had become the largest war machine the world had ever seen. By the end of the war The U.S. was the global superpower, and by signing The National Security Act of 1947 into law, President Truman created the CIA and the National Security State.

War became the foundation of the economy and the Military-Industrial-Security Complex had no interest in dismantling itself. There must always be A War. There must always be An Enemy. The Soviet Union, the most valuable ally of the United States during World War II, became The Enemy, and communism became the all pervasive threat.

From Adam Curtis’s documentary Century of the Self Part Two - The Engineering of Consent:

“In 1953 the Soviet Union exploded it's first hydrogen bomb and the fear of nuclear war and communism gripped the United States.

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Thankful for Being Able to Be Grateful for Gratitude

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Yesterday was the official day of handing out our thanks to anyone who would listen.  With luck, we not only thought about doing that, but actually did so.  Out loud.  And, with even more luck, we also had some takers, in between thunderclaps of footballer collisions from our Big Scream teevees, and the assorted sonic booms of industry and inventiveness erupting from kitchen and guests.

You might have even been so lucky as to have been heard above the acoustic carnage of the day, and, luckier still, to have received knowing, thoughtful, insightful, and sincere replies along the same lines.

I mean, I can wish that such becalmed seas ferried you along softly and sweetly yesterday, and in the golden photographer's light of dawn or dusk, all the while sipping a profoundly satisfying adult entertainment beverage, but the odds are pretty much against it, I'd imagine -- like hoping Aunt Smelda would please, please forget to bring over her famous Jell-O mold, with odd bits of things suspended in the gelatin (some identifiable and mostly edible, others of a baffling, mysterious origin) like a forgetful, absent-minded cook's version of bugs trapped in amber.

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Using Strategic air power to protect precious bodily fluids

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New unemployment claims dropped by another 10,000 last week to 316,000, approaching pre Bush Crash numbers. California accounted for almost half of the decline suggesting that Conservative claims that the 7th largest economy in the world is in rapid decline since the Democrats took complete control of the state's government might be 'overstated'.

 

Wall Street banks are throwing a fit because the Federal Reserve is considering the elimination of the 0.25% interest that they have been paying banks on cash reserves that banks keep on deposit with the Fed. It doesn't sound like much except that these reserves total $2.4t. They only started doing this as part of the bank bailout and Wall Street has become accustomed to this $60b subsidy, it's almost half of their annual bonus pay. Banks didn't used to keep much cash on deposit but were encouraged to start doing this in case of further losses from the Bush crash. The Fed thinks that with the economy actually working again that maybe banks should start making loans with this money instead.

 

The possibility of peace with Iran has been putting further downward pressure on oil prices despite the Obama Administration's assurances that Iran wouldn't be allowed to pump more oil and natural gas any time soon.

 

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