Seems the current news context is not particularly favorable to the PTB and we should therefore, if this isn’t too much of a stretch for you at this hour on Hump Day, to anticipate that at least one more Big News Story ought to pop before next Monday. A context changer.
That’s because we find, upon this morning’s examination of headlines, a world which is mostly believing the story about Osama bin Laden’s killing, although there’s some question about when it took place. For example, this YouTube vid lays out a case that OBL has been killed (are you counting?) nine times so far, although this will likely be the last of it.
The Benazir Bhutto claim in 2007 that he’d been killed then – and her own assassination a month after that David Frost interview is disturbing. But, what see part of the cover-up for his being in Pakistan? Was she being played?
Coupled with last week’s extreme magnetometer movements (Friday through Sunday as we reported earlier) the odds of making it through a week from now without something of a major consciousness switching event seems very low.
Such a projected event (massive earthquake, domestic terrorism attack, or strike on Iran’s nuke plant(s)) would complete a trifecta of media spins which first defused the birth certificate/college transcript debate which was building, and would next spin public attention away from the dead OBL photos.
Curiously, my brother-in-law who worked SF ops in South America advised me that the dumping of bin Laden’s body at sea made sense at a tactical level. It denies martyrdom and that’s why (with a wink) it’s still not clear whether Che Guevara’s body was cremated or buried (sans hands later sent to Cuba). The US really does have experts in these things.
CNN is raising an interesting question this morning: “Who gets bin Laden’s $25 million bounty?“ That’ll be interesting to see; are service members doing their job eligible? One struggles to remember if there was any fine print to this offer.
We could speculate endlessly about what impact the killing will have (freezer burns or otherwise) on the delicate balance in the Middle East. With a Hamas-Fatah unity deal in the works, an argument could be made that bin Laden’s death is pushing to cement extremist unity.
On the other side, we note the increasing reports that Israel may be operating jets out of US airfields in Iraq now, and such operations may be seen as a prelude to an attack on Iran, which has everything to lose from such an attack. The report ‘gets legs’ with coverage in Israel’s J-Post that “IAF aircraft seen drilling at US base in Iraq.“
Such an attack would fill linguistic expectations for “the Israeli mistake” but there’s also a question whether that might already be partially filled by wide-spread discussion that it may have had something to do with development of the Stuxnet Virus which the NY Times reported in January Stuxnet was tested at Israel’s Dimona nuke factory.
But the Middle East is only one leg of the trifecta of threats. The next is that terrorism will come again to American soil. We note that local law enforcement in many parts of the country are on elevated alerts, such as the Wisconsin Public Radio report that “Vigilance urged, following Bid Laden death” although in Denver, former senator Gary Hart “…predicts another attacvk, despite bin Laden’s death.“ So there’s that one ticking, and perhaps to the beat of the clock in that Simpsons’ episode.
Then there’s our current fascination with what could be the third choice of game-changers: A Major earthquake.
I assume you know that earthquakes are slightly more likely around the time of the new moon to first quarter? So yesterday (3 May) was the new moon and we may be considered to be in an ever-so-slightly elevated risk period now.
Overnight we had a smallish 2.6 in the Los Angeles area when was only slightly felt up in the San Dimas warehouse district and alongs the 10. Larger was a 3.7 overnight near Lone Pine, which is interesting because it brings the possibility of a rip developing which could separate to the northwest up toward the offshore of northern California area which has been somewhat active on the one hand, and the quake swarm which has been ongoing up in Nevada including a 2.7 yesterday.
And speaking of quakes and such, there’s a paper from one Prof. Fran De Aquino which is worth a read if you’re into conspiracy theories about the Higth Altitude Auroral Research Program (HAARP). The gist of the paper “High-power ELF radiation generated by modulated HF heating of the ionosphere can cause Earthquakes, Cyclones and localized heating” is a in interesting read for sure, but pay particular attention as to how a slight gravity alteration (top right of page 6) could [theory here] lessen the impact of gravity which in turn, when shut off, might trigger a massive quake.
De Aquino’s paper on “The Gravitational Spacecraft” is interesting, and if you get around to duplicating the gravity effects outlined in his paper “Gravity Control by means of Electromagnetic Field through Gas or Plasma at Ultra-Low Pressure” please send along your results. We’d like to convert our old farm truck to mag-lev or better.
Even more curious – to those who follow the ‘clues in plain sight’ concept – is this page. Curiouser and curiouser…but that gets us off into woo-woo land and we have an economy to watch.
So keep the popcorn and three weeks of food and water handy, events could pop any which-way in here and the aware human’s job is to be prepared for anything and ready to spring into action, which means not to be drawn in to the ‘shock and awe’ of anything.
OK, except the financial stuff which ought to get extremely interesting going into the weekend, so we will keep an eye on the economy/banking sector.
Job Numbers Improving
We have a couple of headlines crossing this morning which may prove of interest if you’re trying to figure out what the unemployment number will be like when it pops Friday. First out was the Challenger job cuts report which we expected to be modest given the good “mass Layoffs’ number for February out recently:
CHICAGO, May 4, 2011 – The slow pace of downsizing continued in April, as employers announced plans to cut 36,490 jobs from their payrolls during the month, 12 percent fewer than the 41,528 job cuts announced the previous month, according to the latest report on planned layoffs released Wednesday by global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.
The April job-cut total was down 5.0 percent from the same month a year ago, when 38,326 planned layoffs were announced. It was the lowest monthly total of the year and the third lowest over the last 16 months. Year to- date, employers announced 167,239 job cuts, 24 percent fewer than the 219,509 layoffs by the same point last year.
Then we have the ADP Employment Change report which is a good proxy for what’s going on in the real/non-adjusted-so-much world:
“Employment in the nonfarm private business sector rose 179,000 from March to April on a seasonally adjusted basis, according to the latest ADP National Employment Report® released today. The estimated change of employment from February 2011 to March 2011 was revised up to 207,000 from the previously reported increase of 201,000.
Today’s ADP National Employment Report shows that labor market conditions continued to improve in April, but only at a moderate pace. The increase of 179,000 is close to consensus expectations both for today’s report and for Friday’s jobs report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.”
None of which definitely tells us what Friday will bring, except of course, change, though it does shade toward another tenth or two of improvement in the federal numbers which might rally the market a bit.
Congressman Barney Frank has fired a warning shot over the bow of the Federal Reserve, telling the press that the regional fed chieftains should not be the ones setting Fed rate policy, since they are all drawn from the regional businesspersons pool and there should likely be a little wider interest in public policy as opposed to business-friendly policy on such things.
With a quick review, we can see the point: It may be good for business to deficit spend, but is it really in America’s best interests to have a national debt that’s over half of GDP nowadays? I don’t think so…
Frank – for whatever people may say about him – seems to be doing a very brave thing, given the outcomes of others who have dared try and change the Fed around. President Kennedy’s famous Executive Order 11110 comes to mind, for instance.
Famine in the Wings
Despite some arguably good news in the past couple of days on bin Laden, jobs, and Frank reforming the Fed, there’s still the little matter of huge food inflation to come since the nation’s breadbasket is largely underwater.
A typical reader report goes like this:
G, I live in north central Ohio. Just got another 3/4 inch of rain. The problem is we are soaked. This part of Ohio plants nothing but corn. The farmers are normally planted by now. It will take a couple of weeks to dry enough to plant. See where this is going. The harvest is going to be late and smaller this year. We usually get corn to eat around forth of July. My guess it will be late July this year.
That Army Corp levee explosion has worked…at least sort of. On the one hand, it has lowered the level of the Mississippi 1½ feet up around Cairo, Illinois, BUT it has also triggered a new lawsuit on behalf of 90 homeowners impacted. Seems some days the ACE’s just can win for losing. But Wednesdays are like that.
All the crappy weather is really hitting hard according to the USDA Crop report which shows corn planted in 18 states is only 13% for the year, whereas the 2006-2010 average was 40% by this time. But more significant are states like Ohio where only 1% was in the ground compared to 33%.
So home gardening might be a good cost hedge come after-harvest. Investing in Mason jars and lids is an interesting thought. Done any home canning before?
Life on the Far Side
Our Indonesia Bureau Chief has sent us another dispatch on what life is like outside of the US media umbrella:
It’s about time to send along some econ news from the Far Side. Global shipping is still depressed. As as January’s report, and my own eye-witness account, there are more than 500 ships stacked off of Singapore. I don’t have a break-down by type, but I didn’t count any oil tankers. Most of it looked to be container or dry bulk vessels. There’s a significant overcapacity and quite a few ships are sailing at half-full.
The latest year for which I have any solid numbers is 2008. Even then, things weren’t pretty. At that time, oil tankers had a 45% excess supply, bulk carriers71%, and containerized 45%. In ’08 and ’09, a number of new vessels came online, causing the overcapacity to jump. Roughly 80% of global shipping is tanker traffic, which has only 27% of the global fleet. The rest of the fleet is broken down as 31% general cargo, 15% dry bulk, 13% passenger, 9% container, and the rest of various purpose.
As far as Indonesia goes, they have recently passed a new cabotage law that mandates only domestically-flagged vessels working in territorial waters. The exception is O&G vessels and special-purpose vessels, for which no Indonesian-flagged vessel exists. In the general economy, Asia is going nuts, and Indonesia especially so. RI is expected to show 6% growth over the next 4 years, and inflation is the biggest worry right now, even though interest rates remain relatively high (especially compared to the US). In Q1 this year, RI ran a USD 6.7 billion surplus YoY for non-O&G trade. The hottest export trade is in apparel and athletic shoes.
Most of the trading partners are EU, China and India. There is very little direct trade with the US. Most of that goes through China. Everything from corporate profits to ad spending is up 20% to 40% in the latest quarter.
There is a fast-growing middle class that is stretching its legs and demanding more goods, services and diversions. Of course, RI wanted to raise taxes on imported movies, so Hollowood cut us off. The cinemas have been filled for the past couple of months with Chinese and Thai movies, and the usual selection of Indo horror flix *YAWN*. I can still get all the latest movies a week before they hit theaters, though. The black market is as strong as ever.
As for other items…the WillynKate show was a non-starter here. Not one single person has brought it up in conversation. The OBL show is slightly higher, with two people mentioning it, but only in the context of ‘BS factor.’
Nevertheless, the Emperor’s warship, USS Guardian docked in Bali yesterday in a show of force, I mean goodwill tour of SE Asia. Next they’re heading to northeast Java, as they make the rounds keeping the colonies in line, I mean spreading peace and goodwill. I haven’t seen or heard of any demonstrations, nor have I seen any evidence of heightened alert here-abouts. Pretty much business as usual. More as things develop.
Bernard D. Grover, Indonesia Bureau
So, curiously, Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” has been hard at work. Thanks to the US continued outsourcing, there seems to be something of an ongoing boom in places like this. Only downside is the loss or jobs and homes experienced by Americans. But, I’m sure the PTB/PTW aren’t too worried about breaking a few eggs to make their global omelet.
Good story on ZDNet about the coming of a rumored Kindlebread OS for a new version of the Kindle reader. I’ve actually gotten pretty much used to reading on my Kindle and while it doesn’t sport the color display of my CruzReader (with Android) it still has the ergonomics right since the Cruz requires a stylus to do much useful, whereas Kindles have more of a menu/nav approach.
The upside of all this development & marketing in readers may not be obvious, but think about this: Maybe people will lrn 2 du mr thn txt n srf nws n sht.
(more after this)