December 22, 2011 archive

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The Spiral Dance To The Bottom

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Round and round, downward, repeating the same mistakes, shoveling good money after bad, all to save themselves.

ECB lends Europe’s banks a massive €489 billion over unprecedented 3-year period

FRANKFURT, Germany – The European Central Bank flipped its credit tap wide open Wednesday to help Europe’s troubled banking system, allowing hundreds of nervous banks to take out a record €489 billion ($639 billion) in loans.

The move was the biggest ECB infusion of credit into the banking system in the 13-year history of the shared euro currency. It aimed to keep the Europe’s debt crisis from choking off credit to businesses – since a credit crunch could cause a continent-wide recession that would make the debt loads hanging over the 17 nations that use the euro even harder to pay.[..]

Although the ECB credits can help banks and the economy get through the crisis, they don’t attack the cause of Europe’s problems – too-large amounts of government debt – or convince markets that European governments can get a grip on their public finances. And it doesn’t remove one of the main reasons why banks remain wary of lending to each other – their thin levels of capital reserves against potential losses.

All that means despite the massive influx of cash, Europe’s debt crisis will still be churning in the New Year.

Spain awaits a painful dose of medicine

It was an election victory the polls had predicted. Second guessing what policies Mariano Rajoy will pursue has not been so easy. Behind his centre right party is a huge parliamentary majority, ahead of him what seems to be a contagious European disease, debt.

Healing the Spanish economy teetering on the edge of recession will be painful, where, when and how will the medicine be administered?

He has promised deep spending cuts announcing he aims to cut the budget deficit by 16.5 billion euros in 2012 and yet such action needs to be balanced against measures to stimulate growth.

Successful Spanish Debt Auction

PARIS – Spain’s borrowing costs plummeted Tuesday at a debt auction, helping to lift the euro and stocks, as the European Central Bank began rolling out a new lending program that could encourage banks to buy euro-zone government bonds. [..]

The central bank’s policy move “is something very big,” Mr. Fransolet said, but he questioned whether it represented “a complete change of direction” for the euro zone.

“I think you need a lot of other things,” he said. With a huge round of government debt up for refinancing next year, he added, “The jury is still out.”

In a reminder of the sword hanging over the heads of European leaders, Fitch Ratings warned that the AAA rating it has assigned to the debt issued by the euro-zone bailout vehicle, the European Financial Stability Facility, “largely depends on France and Germany retaining their AAA status.”

Italian economy shrinks by 0.2% fuelling recession fear

Italy’s economy shrank by 0.2% in the three months to the end of September, fuelling fears of a recession in the eurozone giant.

The figures, released by the country’s official statistical agency, Istat, show the first contraction in the Italian economy since 2009.

Italy’s government has predicted the economy will contract by 0.4% in 2012.

Earlier this month, the government announced an austerity plan to “save Italy”.

The package of emergency austerity measures included raising taxes on the assets of the wealthy, increasing pension ages, and a major drive to tackle tax evasion. Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti also said he would give up his own salary as part of the effort.

However, analysts expect Italy’s economy will struggle for some time yet.

Moody’s gives UK high scores but warns of ‘challenges’

Ratings agency Moody’s has given the UK high scores for economic governance but warns the country it faces “formidable and rising challenges”.

In its annual guidance for investors, Moody’s says the UK has “significant structural strengths” and deserves its top AAA rating.

But it says weakness in the eurozone could hold back growth and weaken the government’s debt-cutting plans.

Rating agency opinion affects the cost of borrowing.

This is only because England has a sovereign currency

On the other side of the globe from Herr Prof.Krugman:

I’ve been reluctant to weigh in on the Chinese situation, in part because it’s so hard to know what’s really happening. All economic statistics are best seen as a peculiarly boring form of science fiction, but China’s numbers are more fictional than most. I’d turn to real China experts for guidance, but no two experts seem to be telling the same story.

Still, even the official data are troubling – and recent news is sufficiently dramatic to ring alarm bells.

The most striking thing about the Chinese economy over the past decade was the way household consumption, although rising, lagged behind overall growth. At this point consumer spending is only about 35 percent of G.D.P., about half the level in the United States.

So who’s buying the goods and services China produces? Part of the answer is, well, we are: as the consumer share of the economy declined, China increasingly relied on trade surpluses to keep manufacturing afloat. But the bigger story from China’s point of view is investment spending, which has soared to almost half of G.D.P.


Porky Pig’s Feat

Congressional Game of Chicken: The House Of Unrepresentatives

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

House Rejects Senate Payroll Tax Deal

by David Dayen

The House of Representatives officially rejected the bipartisan agreement that passed the Senate with 89 votes for a two-month extension of the payroll tax cut, extended unemployment benefits and a doctor’s fix to prevent a 27% reduction in Medicare reimbursement rates. They did so under a complicated scheme whereby members did not vote on the Senate deal itself, but on whether to move to a conference committee on the package, with the rejection of the Senate deal implicit in the exchange. The final roll call was 229-193, with seven Republicans switching sides and voting with Democrats to reject the conference committee. All Democrats present voted against the bill. [..]

The seven Republican no votes: Charlie Bass (NH), Jeff Flake (AZ), Chris Gibson (NY), Jaime Herrera Beutler (WA), Tim Johnson (IL), Walter Jones (NC), Frank Wolf (VA).

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid won’t play:

“My House colleagues should be clear on what their vote means today. If Republicans vote down the bipartisan compromise negotiated by Republican and Democratic leaders, and passed by 89 senators including 39 Republicans, their intransigence will mean that in ten days, 160 million middle class Americans will see a tax increase, over two million Americans will begin losing their unemployment benefits, and millions of senior citizens on Medicare could find it harder to receive treatment from physicians. “Senator McConnell and I negotiated a compromise at Speaker Boehner’s request. I will not re-open negotiations until the House follows through and passes this agreement that was negotiated by Republican leaders, and supported by 90 percent of the Senate. “This is a question of whether the House of Representatives will be able to fulfill the basic legislative function of passing an overwhelmingly bipartisan agreement, in order to protect the economic security of millions of middle-class Americans. Democratic and Republican leaders negotiated a compromise and Speaker Boehner should not walk away from it, putting middle-class families at risk of a thousand-dollar tax hike just because a few angry Tea Partiers raised their voices to the Speaker. “I have always sought a year-long extension. I have been trying to forge one for weeks, and I am happy to continue negotiating one once we have made sure middle-class families will not wake up to a tax increase on January 1st. So before we re-open negotiations on a year-long extension, the House of Representatives must protect middle-class families by passing the overwhelmingly bipartisan compromise that Republicans negotiated, and was approved by ninety percent of the Senate.”

A couple of point where I disagree with Barney Frank is that we are doing better than Europe and that the economy is doing better. Maybe for the 1% it is but the middle class is shriveling. The important part of this bill was an extension of the UI which is about expire.

Cranberry Canes

A holiday tradition at my house, I enjoy them any time of year.

Cranberry Canes are basically a stuffed yeast bread roll up, like a Cinnamon Roll.  It’s the presentation of twisting the prepared strips and putting a crook at one end that gives them their distinctive appearance.  There are 3 basic elements-


Scald 1 Cup Milk, cool to lukewarm
In a large bowl combine:

4 Cups Unsifted All Purpose Flour

1/2 Cup Sugar

1 Teaspoon Salt

1 Teaspoon Grated Lemon Zest

Cut in 1 Cup (2 Sticks) Margarine until like coarse meal
Dissolve 1 Package of Dry Yeast in 1/4 Cup Warm Water
To Flour Mixture add Yeast, Milk, 2 Beaten Eggs.  Combine lightly, dough will be sticky.
Cover dough tightly and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.  When ready to bake prepare filling.


In a pot or pan combine:

3 Cups finely chopped Cranberries (about 2 12 oz. bags, freeze before chopping)

1 Cup Rasins (about a 16 oz box)

2/3 Cup Chopped Pecans

2/3 Cup Honey

3 Teaspoons Grated Orange Zest

2 Cups Sugar

Bring to a smimmer over Medium heat.  Cook for about 5 minutes.  Cool.


A basic buttercream flavored with some frozen concentrated Orange Juice.


Divide dough in half.  On a floured board roll out the half into an 18″ x 15″ rectangle.
Spread half the filling on the dough.  Fold dough into a 3 layer strip 15″ long and about 6″ wide.
Cut dough into 1″ strips.
Holding the ends of each strip twist lightly in opposite directions.  Pinch ends to seal.  Place on greased baking sheet, shaping the top of each strip to form a cane.
Repeat with remaining dough and filling.
Bake in a hot oven, 400 degrees, 10 to 15 minutes or until done.
Cool on racks and frost.

Winter Wonderland

On this Day In History December 22

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

December 22 is the 356th day of the year (357th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are nine days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1808, Ludwig von Beethoven’s 5th Symphony makes its world premier in Vienna.

Also premiering that day at the Theater an der Wien in Vienna were Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 in G major, Op. 58, and the Symphony No. 6 in F major, Op. 68-the “Pastoral Symphony.” But it was the Fifth Symphony that, despite its shaky premiere, would eventually be recognized as Beethoven’s greatest achievement to that point in his career. Writing in 1810, the critic E.T.A. Hoffman praised Beethoven for having outstripped the great Haydn and Mozart with a piece that “opens the realm of the colossal and immeasurable to us…evokes terror, fright, horror, and pain, and awakens that endless longing that is the essence of Romanticism.”


That assessment would stand the test of time, and the Fifth Symphony would quickly become a centerpiece of the classical repertoire for orchestras around the world. But beyond its revolutionary qualities as a serious composition, the Fifth Symphony has also proven to be a work with enormous pop-cultural staying power, thanks primarily to its powerful four-note opening motif-three short Gs followed by a long E-flat. Used in World War II-era Britain to open broadcasts of the BBC because it mimicked the Morse-code “V” for “Victory,” and used in the disco-era United States by Walter Murphy as the basis for his unlikely #1 pop hit “A Fifth Of Beethoven,” the opening notes of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony have become a kind of instantly recognizable musical shorthand since they were first heard by the public on this day in 1808.

Muse in the Morning

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Muse in the Morning

Time for a break from poetry…in order to create some art.

Test yourself on mankind. It is something that makes the doubter doubt, the believer believe.

–Franz Kafka

Entwined 1

My Little Town 2011121: Family Christmas Traditions

Those of you that read this regular series know that I am from Hackett, Arkansas, just a mile or so from the Oklahoma border, and just about 10 miles south of the Arkansas River.  It was a redneck sort of place, and just zoom onto my previous posts to understand a bit about it.

Every family has certain traditions that they keep for whatever holiday that they hold dearest.  When I was little, it was Christmas because my mum loved it so much.  Here and here are some references to her.

As I sit here around 6:30 AM on Wednesday the 21st of December, less than a day from the solstice (thank goodness, as the short days are sort of getting to me), I recollect on what we used to do for Christmas.

This is sort of a stream of consciousness account of what I remember, a gemisch of recollections from when I first can remember to when I was older, and even with a bit of more recent history.  That is not typical of my pieces here, but after all, it is Christmas.