Roundup for Week 31

Monday 8 August 2011, 7.06am HKT


Roundup of posts on The Naked Listener’s Weblog for the past week, 01-07 August 2011:

* * *

Other insanities taking place around us…

Suddenly, loads of ‘northern mushrooms’

For those who are not hip to the phrase ‘northern mushrooms’ (北菇 buk gwu : rhymes with ‘buck glue’), it’s Hong Kong Cantonese euphemism for ‘northern maids’ — mainland Chinese chicks across the border from Hong Kong.

And we mean ‘chicks,’ not ladies or women. Chicks.

For some unknown reason, Hongkongtown has been flooded with buk gwu the whole week. They are svelte, with great cleavage, legs that go ‘up to there,’ skirts that go ‘up to there’ as well, and tops that go way-way-for-cryin’-out-loud ‘down to there.’ They’re skyscraper tall — like at least 5 feet 9 (1.76 metres). At least.

They’re chicks that turn women’s heads and guys ain’t got the balls to turn theirs.

Last week, we’ve been having 33°C (91°F) heat, and the buk gwu were — how to say in British English? — nearly wearing something.*

(* A phrase made famous by Adrian Love of London’s Capital Radio 95.8 FM back in the 1970s. So there.)

Our local pouts go into sour-grapes mode. Our local boys claim they still prefer the local girls (hah!). Our more nubile variety of expats finally met their match, and their remarks wholly unprintable and probably pornographic.

Living conditions are just highly unacceptable with all these buk gwu running amok. We innocent menfolk are being forced to make comparisons … it’s really unfair.

Yeah, yeah, I know — pictures, or it didn’t happen, as the Internetspeak goes. Well, I’m sorry I didn’t take any. My fault, really. I was distracted.

“We have so many dreams, but have
no ability to make them come true.”

* * *

TSA begins Israeli-style interrogation of travellers

So, Boston Logan International Airport on 3 August 2011 became the first place the TSA (Transportation Security Maladministration of the U.S. Department of Homeland Insecurity) to do Israeli-style behavioural screening of travellers. The new procedures involve TSA guards engage in more conversations with travellers to assess potential threats.

The obvious question to ask here is, does the TSA have the requisite skills and resources?

The difference in the way travellers are screened in the USA and in Israel is that the USA treats all travellers the same (except, of course, those on the terrorist watchlist). In Israel, travellers are sorted into two lines and a couple of Israeli female security officers go round and ask travellers some questions and gauge travellers’ reactions for security purposes.

But, considering the general cleavage — ahem! I mean operational expertise — of most Israeli military and police females, who on earth wouldn’t possibly be nervous?

Reality check: Boston TSA is part of a security force that has alredy drawn ire and fire about its competence in security screening. The latest in the TSA’s litany of embarrassing blunders was shaking down and removing a diaper off of a 95-year-old invalid. If that contributed nothing to the safety of any flight, it sure contributed to keeping the TSA safe from criticism that it was being discriminatory in screenings. The Internet and mainstream news are chockablock with TSA horror stories. Consumer complaints lodged with the TSA continue unabated.

Mainstream news (plus personal recollections of many bloggers) have long said that TSA blunders were the result of a misguided screening policy that relies on profiling and random sampling rather than on actual threat detection. Many news and non-news writings have said that the system discourages security screeners from using their judgment, so it leads to a widely held notion that the TSA is more concerned with appearances than results.

Reality check: True or not about the TSA, the truth is that the Israelis have not had a very high rate of success with their own screening process, despite the Israelis having better overall experience in conducting profiling-type screenings mainly because of their relatively more multicultural society.

Reality check: Broadly speaking, the general training and personal qualities of TSA guards and screeners are marginally better than watchmen, although to their credit the frontline staff do as well as they can with a faulty operational policy.

So now, TSA screeners are going to carry out sophisticated behavioural assessments that even the Israelis have to take particular care in. That is already raising concerns of racial profiling, harassment of innocent travellers and longer lines.

What’s going to happen down the road? Many domestic travellers in (and foreign travellers to) the USA will simply forego any kind of travel that involves TSA hassles, and that is going to cause negative economic impact on the travel industry.

More details at The New American, the Boston Herald and Time magazine.

We’ll be more mature if you will.

* * *

America loses triple-A rating

For the first time in history on 6 August 2011, the USA has lost its prized AAA credit rating from Standard & Poor’s. This earth-shattering news was plastered all over the news that day, unless you live in a hermetically sealed bubble.

Long-term U.S. sovereign debt (mainly U.S. Treasury bills) is now rated down to AA+ from AAA by S&P.

The USA has already lost its top-notch credit rating earlier in mid-July from Egan-Jones, another well-respected American credit-rating agency.

S&P didn’t beat around the bush in explaining the downgrade. The theme running throughout S&P’s analysis was the breakdown in the ability of the Democratic and Republican parties to govern effectively. No big surprises there.

The downgrade is sending shockwaves in the USA and worldwide. These are bound to happen:

Future news

1. From the news as well as from The Naked Listener’s conversations with various people in the financial services sector:

  • the general consensus of investor outlook is that the S&P downgrade is a sign that further downratings are possible in the next 12 to 18 months
  • the S&P might extend the downgrading to other U.S. debt securities
  • the other credit-rating agencies (Moody’s, Fitch) has already assigned a negative risk outlook on U.S. government debt, so they may make actual rating downgrades later this year

2. Dagong (a well-respected credit rating agency in China) had already downgraded U.S. credit with a negative outlook before the S&P downgrade. Dagong’s rating for the USA was AA in early 2010, then down to A+ by November 2010. Dagong now rates U.S. public debt the same as Estonia’s. China is traditionally extraordinarily sensitive about U.S. debt (likely, because it holds so much of it), or its ratings don’t have much relation to anything real (not usually when it comes to matters about the USA).

Protip: If you want to know how the USA is doing credit-wise, pay attention to how China is looking at things.

In the USA

3. Commercial and consumer interest rates will rise, mainly because they’re hinged on the T-bill rate. In other words, the cost of public and private loans will rise in the long term (i.e. for the next 5 years or more), and that increased borrowing cost will be passed on to consumers like you and me.

4. As Treasury yields go up, funding costs for public debt inside the USA could rise by (not ‘to’) US$100 billion over the next 12 to 18 months.

5. The U.S. federal government could raise the credit limit (much like any consumer or business would ask the bank to raise theirs), but that higher credit limit would be entirely on credit. In other words, the USA will have to pay through the nose for any future debt securities it issues (i.e. any future loans it makes). Why? The national credit score of the USA will have fallen (because of the increased debt) and that the USA has already borrowed more than half of every dollar it sepends (its debt is 100% equal to the GDP).

6. Inflation just compounds the problem with the likely-to-increase interest rates. U.S. inflation has been running on a relatively high note for the last two years, causing the prices of basic commodities like food, heat and gasoline to double in that time. In other words, inflation basically will wipe out any gains in higher interest rates.

Rest of the world

7. In other parts of the world, same situation as in point 1. So higher borrowing costs for consumers and governments worldwide (because of interest rate hikes in the USA) also get passed on to consumers down the line. That would be really punishing for Europe since the debt crisis there has been worsening day by day, mainly because many European countries still haven’t been able to fix the financial crisis from since 2007/08.

8. U.S. Treasury bonds were once seen as the world’s safest, until now because of the S&P downgrade. U.S. T-bonds are now rated lower than British, German and French government bonds. This means that money that would otherwise flow to the USA but for the credit downgrade will now be diverted to Europe or some other region instead.

9. Since (a) money would be diverted away from the USA and (b) the USA will have taken on increased debt at a lower credit rating, some countries such as China, Japan and the UK that hold massive amounts of American debt might become unnerved enough and call in their U.S. debt early if there should be more ‘disruptions’ like the S&P downgrade and the latest party political antics in the USA.

10. Already last week (24-30 July 2011), the U.S. Census Bureau said its M3 (Manufacturers’ Shipments, Inventories, and Orders) survey showed that U.S. new manufacturing orders in June 2011 fell 2.1% to US$191 billion from the previous month. That is already causing quite a bit of concern in China, where much of American manufacturing is done. It is also causing a stir in Hong Kong, where many American-owned offices handle sales, order processing and shipment for Chinese-made goods.

Karma

If you believe in that sort of thing, ain’t karma a bitch. The S&P downgrade happened on the 66th anniversary of the Hiroshima atomic bombing.

You suck, because you forgot how to run your country properly,
and now dragging us down with you.

The Naked Listener’s Weblog, 2011.

Images: Chinese girls kissing via funnypicblast ♦ TSA signboard via c4c ♦ Demotivator by the author.

2 Responses to “Roundup for Week 31”

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