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May 12, 2009
"Government obligations for Social Security and Medicare may soon exceed the combined net worth of every household and nonprofit organization in the country.
...In the nearly five years from January 2003 to December 2007, the Medicare trustees reported that the unfunded liabilities of Social Security and Medicare grew by a stunning $10.4 trillion. The average annual growth topped $2 trillion.
That exceeds the expected formal deficit of $1.75 trillion this year.
In the 2008 trustees' report Here (.pdf file), the unfunded liabilities of Social Security and Medicare -- promises of future retirement and health care benefits -- total $42.9 trillion. In a few days, we should be able to read the 2009 report. It's a good bet that the unfunded liabilities will show an increase in the new report.
Ironically, payroll tax payments are still large enough that the Social Security and Medicare programs don't need every dime. The extra money goes into the program trust funds as Treasury debt. The actual cash is spent elsewhere. Basically, the employment tax has been subsidizing other federal spending. This has been going on since the 1983 "reform" of Social Security, a disaster chaired by Alan Greenspan, later the Federal Reserve chairman...." Read all here
"...State Sales Tax Revenues tell the story. California is absolutely cratering, for example:
Sales taxes were $452 million lower (-50.9%) than last April, and personal income taxes were down $5.7 billion (-43.6%).Fifty percent?! FIFTY?
California is responsible for thirteen percent of the total US GDP and if it were an independent nation it would be the tenth largest economy in the world.
The idea that we can have some sort of economic recovery while the sales tax receipts - which are a direct measurement of consumer activity - are down by half is pure insanity. Where is the economic activity that is going to create this "recovery"?
And let me remind everyone - sales tax receipts are not a lagging indicator, they tell you what is going on right now.
Now let's look at job losses in this recession compared to others. As written up in the NY Times:
A bottom? Where?
To be fair employment is a lagging indicator; there is no pickup in hiring for some time after the economy truly bottoms, usually about 6-9 months. The reason is that people are both slow to fire (they're nice) and slow to hire (they're not convinced the recovery will "take") and as such there is a lag in both the firings when things slow down and the hirings when things begin to recover.
Nonetheless, there is nothing to suggest that we're anywhere near the bottom of this cycle. Indeed, we've been setting records for the severity and duration of losses in the postwar era, surpassing the 81-83 duration and vastly surpassing all of the previous recessions in terms of depth.
Nor are the "programs" trotted out by Obama (and his predecessor, to be fair) doing anything. We recently learned that "Hope for Homeowners" made a grand total of..... wait for it..... 51 loans...
...Remember, "Hope for Homeowners" was supposed to help four hundred thousand people stay in their homes.
The net closed loan count is fifty one over a period of six months.
Oh, and the reason for that article? The company responsible for 50 of the 51 loans is under investigation by The Department of Justice!
I would like to be optimistic on the economy and thus, the capital markets.
I refuse, however, to countenance and cheerlead for fraudulent "reporting" and false claims in the media in an attempt to prop up asset prices so that banks can issue stock into an overheated bubble market created through lies.
In my opinion, that is exactly what is going on here, and is an extension of the game-playing that occurred with the so-called "stress tests", as reported in the WSJ over the weekend...
...too far Americans will be needing all those firearms that they've been buying since Obama was elected - not for a revolution, as some suppose, but rather for self-defense as our political, social and economic structures collapse." Read all here
It's a classic case of calm before the storm. The AfPak chapter of Obama's brand new OCO ("Overseas Contingency Operations"), formerly GWOT ("global war on terror") does not imply only a surge in the Pashtun Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). A surge in Balochistan as well may be virtually inevitable.
Balochistan is totally under the radar of Western corporate media. But not the Pentagon's. An immense desert comprising almost 48% of Pakistan's area, rich in uranium and copper, potentially very rich in oil, and producing more than one-third of Pakistan's natural gas, it accounts for less than 4% of Pakistan's 173 million citizens. Balochs are the majority, followed by Pashtuns. Quetta, the provincial capital, is considered Taliban Central by the Pentagon, which for all its high-tech wizardry mysteriously has not been able to locate Quetta resident "The Shadow", historic Taliban emir Mullah Omar himself.
Strategically, Balochistan is mouth-watering: east of Iran, south of Afghanistan, and boasting three Arabian sea ports, including Gwadar, practically at the mouth of the Strait of Hormuz.
Gwadar - a port built by China - is the absolute key. It is the essential node in the crucial, ongoing, and still virtual Pipelineistan war between IPI and TAPI. IPI is the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline, also known as the "peace pipeline", which is planned to cross from Iranian to Pakistani Balochistan - an anathema to Washington. TAPI is the perennially troubled, US-backed Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline, which is planned to cross western Afghanistan via Herat and branch out to Kandahar and Gwadar.
Washington's dream scenario is Gwadar as the new Dubai - while China would need Gwadar as a port and also as a base for pumping gas via a long pipeline to China. One way or another, it will all depend on local grievances being taken very seriously. Islamabad pays a pittance in royalties for the Balochis, and development aid is negligible; Balochistan is treated as a backwater. Gwadar as the new Dubai would not necessarily mean local Balochis benefiting from the boom; in many cases they could even be stripped of their local land.
To top it all, there's the New Great Game in Eurasia fact that Pakistan is a key pivot to both NATO and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), of which Pakistan is an observer. So whoever "wins" Balochistan incorporates Pakistan as a key transit corridor to either Iranian gas from the monster South Pars field or a great deal of the Caspian wealth of "gas republic" Turkmenistan. ... Read all here
Iceland appears to have vast oil and gas reserves in the Arctic.
Iceland is in a strategically important position.
Most Icelanders have, in the past, opposed getting tied up with the European Community and NATO.
Iceland has no standing army.
In 2002-03, Iceland’s three major banks were privatized 'in a series of insider dealings'.
These banks then went under 'owing nearly $100 billions.'
In April 2009, Iceland's election was won by the 'centre-left' which wants to join the European Community.
Professor Michael Hudson, at Global Research, on 29 April 2009, wrote:
In the Wake of Economic Collapse. Iceland’s Election: It’s not about Left and Right
Among the points made:
1. The election in Iceland, in April 2009, was not about 'right' versus 'left'.
It was largely about reckless banks.
The neoliberals wanted banks privatised; crooks were able to wreck the financial system.
2. Some voters want Iceland to join the European Community in order to get a more stable currency (the euro).
If Iceland joins the EC it will most likely lose control over its North Atlantic fishing waters and its taxes will most likely rise.
3. Iceland is a small country and may be ripe for plucking.
For many voters the idea of joining the European Union is 'an attractive fantasy'.
4. The alternative is for Iceland to change its bank rules and 'reverse the giveaways made in times past to politically connected insiders.'
5. Countries such as Romania and Bulgaria voted to join the EU in the early 1990s.
The EU leadership apparently turned a blind eye to 'the Soviet-style kleptocrats who dominated these economies'.
6. The case of Latvia and its Baltic neighbors 'is instructive'
Much like Iceland, they were burdened with mortgage debts denominated in foreign currency.
Joaqim Almunia of the European Commission, in a letter of 26 January2009, to Latvia’s Prime Minister, spelt out the terms on which Europe would bail out the foreign banks operating in Latvia – at Latvia’s own expense.
He was clear that Latvia was not to use EU loans to develop its economy or to lighten the tax burden, but only to pay off debts to its creditors in the West (mainly Scandinavian banks) and to buy imports from them.
This leaves Latvia 'in much the position of a nation defeated in war and having to pay reparations.'
7. "Instead of helping the post-Soviet nations develop self-reliant economies, the West viewed them as economic oysters to be broken up, indebting them to extract interest charges and capital gains, leaving them empty shells."
Iceland might end up replacing "a domestic kleptocracy with foreign economic occupiers."
8. "The failure of EU tutelage in the Baltics and Central Europe suggests that Iceland would do best to set about solving its own problems, pursuing its national interest while cleaning up the residue from its disastrous neoliberal experiment."
Reportedly, Iceland borrowed too much money.
Might someone have wanted to weaken Iceland and make it easier to control?
1. In 2005, Icelandic media reports alleged that CIA planes had landed in Iceland at least 67 times since 2001. (BBC - Nordic states probe 'CIA flights')
2. Bobby Fischer arrived in Iceland in March 2005.
Bobby Fischer "spent his final years raging against an Icelandic bank and 'the filthy dirty CIA-controlled Icelandic government'". (Cached)
3. According to The Reykjavik Grapevine:
In a 9 page classified CIA document called “Current Situation in Iceland” published 18 October 1949 and declassified 23 January 1978, the CIA makes political observations regarding security, the communist threat and the economic status of the country:
“Icelanders are opposed to the establishment of foreign military bases on their island in time of peace, but would probably be willing to receive NATO forces if war or the threat of war made Iceland’s involvement seem imminent.
“Solely because of its strategic location, Iceland has been drawn into the current of world affairs, albeit unwillingly and hesitantly. Icelanders desire only to be left alone, but it is as clear to them as to others that their island will not be left alone in war; perhaps not even in peace."
4. 21 August 2008: "Iceland is to join the growing rush of countries aiming to tap into the potentially vast oil and gas reserves of the Arctic. Reykjavik is hoping to attract investment from some of the world's biggest oil companies as it finalises the terms for its first offshore licences." (Iceland to offer offshore drilling licences in race for Arctic's ...)
Drilling licences for big untapped oilfields that Iceland shares with Norway were last month offered to prospectors and oil companies. US and Russian companies are sure to be interested. (Nato fears as Iceland turns to Moscow for £3bn loan Mail Online)
5. Jon Asgeir Johannesson ... "there were wild allegations in a Miami courtroom in 2003 about exotic parties on a yacht." (Business big shot: Jon Asgeir Johannesson - Times Online)
MP demands inquiry into Met tactics at demo
An MP who was involved in last month's G20 protests in London is to call for an investigation into whether the police used agents provocateurs to incite the crowds.
Liberal Democrat Tom Brake says he saw what he believed to be two plain-clothes police officers go through a police cordon after presenting their ID cards.
Brake, who along with hundreds of others was corralled behind police lines near Bank tube station in the City of London on the day of the protests, says he was informed by people in the crowd that the men had been seen to throw bottles at the police and had encouraged others to do the same shortly before they passed through the cordon.
Brake, a member of the influential home affairs select committee, will raise the allegations when he gives evidence before parliament's joint committee on human rights on Tuesday... Read all here
By Naomi Spencer 11 May 2009
More than 12 million children are threatened with the risk of inadequate food and hunger in the US, according to a new report from the food bank advocacy Feeding America....
In California, the study found 1.6 million children were food-insecure on average in 2005-2007. Texas averaged 1.47 million food- insecure children for the period.
No state had less than 10 percent of its child population exposed to hunger. Sparsely populated North Dakota registered the lowest rate, with 10.9 percent.
...As a result, rising numbers of families are turning to food pantries and other charity organizations, cutting back on food purchases, and relying more heavily on cheaper staple foods to try to make ends meet. Read all here
WikiLeaks has just posted a series of Internal reports of Bilderberger meetings between 1955 and 1980.
|The documents in this series were housed by Dynbase, a subscription only biographical, genealogical, and organizational database, which became defunct in 2006.|
The password lock 'dynbase' has been removed from most of the files by WikiLeaks.
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