Saturday, April 30, 2011

Time Top Ten Trump Transgressions

Imperfect businessman Donald Trump would be imperfect candidate Trump

A potential candidate possessing fatal flaws who would only serve to hurt the GOP/Tea Party cause of taking back the White House!

First let me say that Donald Trump has some excellent views on what needs to be done to help put the United States back on the right track. He is a straight-talking alternative to the same old same old GOP candidates we have seen so far. That, however, does not a presidential candidate make or I would run.

Mr. Trump is a polarizing megalomaniac whose current claims to fame are a television show starring a group of megalomaniacs (Celebrity Apprentice), and his hair. For all of his proclamations of unbridled successes (with no missteps ever mentioned) there have been many failures and likely one or two ghosts in his closet as well. Particularly having spent many years in the gaming industry in Atlantic City.

Remember that no GOP candidate will escape intense and thorough vetting the way that candidate Obama did!

Mr. Trump should put his ego to the side and play the role in the 2012 election that seems to have been tailor made for him, particularly after the Obama birth certificate episode. Stay on the sideline and push the envelope on issues including not only on President Obama's hidden past but on all of the issues and controversies that he has conjured up since taking office!

That way any ghosts in the closet can stay there.

Left-leaning Time Magazine Top 10 Trump Transgressions

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Toilet paper pain!

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke gives a press conference to tell us that inflation is still under control! Whew!

Do spiraling costs pose any national security threat?

Having what Ben Bernanke and his Fed cronies consider to be stable prices in the US economy is really the only way that the Federal Reserve can justify keeping interest rates near 0%. Especially since as he stated more than once in his press conference the Fed mandate is to keep inflation at bay.

The problem is Fed Chairman Bernanke, that inflation is eating us common folk up. You probably don't get as much of a whiff of it as we do on high in your Ivory Tower, but rest assured it is out there and it hurts. $4.20 a gallon for regular gas? Think about it when your driver is using the government credit card to fill the tank of your government issue car. Then consider this article that points out the 9 areas where inflation is "killing" us.

From MarketWatch: Commentary: Meat, gas, even diapers are costing regular folks

Inflation is far from under control and it's time that Americans demand our government officials do something about it.

The Federal Reserve would have you believe that everything is fine, focusing on core inflation rates and ignoring broader measures of inflation as they affect food and energy. These commodity-driven prices, as our central banking overlords would have you believe, are naturally more volatile and shouldn't be overstated.

You would think after Fed bureaucrat William Dudley was castigated for talking up the affordability of iPads while ignoring real family expenses, our Federal Reserve officials would have woken up to reality. But after the publicity stunt by Chairman Ben Bernanke on Wednesday, it's clear that the Fed — and perhaps many Americans as a result — is in denial when it comes to the inflationary trends crippling U.S. households.

While it's all well and good for investors to focus on surging precious metals and the profit opportunities there, let's not overlook the dark side of inflation that is eating away at family budgets. Here are nine crushing costs of inflation that are breaking many American households:

1. Beef

In a revised forecast Monday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said consumers will see higher price tags on ground beef and steak, projecting 6% to 7% increases year over year. That's up from a previous forecast of just 4.5% to 5.5% inflation for beef prices. Beef prices have surged in the last several months as supplies shrink, exports boom and grain costs soar.

2. Pork

Don't think you can just switch from cow to pig to avoid this trend — pork could see retail price increases of as much as 7.5% over 2010 levels according to the USDA.

3. Grains

Even going vegetarian is more expensive than it was a year ago. Corn prices have doubled, from $3.49 a bushel in July to well over $7.70 currently. Wheat prices have rolled back a bit in recent weeks, but topped 2008 highs in February to set a new record and remain very high currently.

4. Gasoline

The average U.S. price of a gallon of gasoline has jumped about 12 cents over the last two weeks to $3.88, with the highest average price for gas tallying $4.27 in Tucson, Ariz. This is with oil at $112 a barrel — if crude prices reach 2008 peak levels of $145, four bucks for gas may seem cheap.

5. Copper

The price of copper at the end of 2008 was just $1.30 per pound. Currently, copper is trading around $4.30 after setting a record of $4.60 in February. Unlike gold and silver, which are largely used in luxury goods or as investments, copper is used in a wide range of household items — from electrical wiring to air conditioners to water pipes.

6. Diapers

Consumer-products company Procter & Gamble PG (NYSE: PG - News) said this week that list prices for Pampers are up 7% on average over last year, with even Pampers wipes up 3%. To be clear, that's not a retail price hike, just a cost increase to stores. Retailers will decide how much of those price increases to pass along to shoppers. Kimberly-Clark KMB (NYSE: KMB - News), maker of Huggies, said Monday it plans to raise prices for similar reasons — rising costs for the petroleum products and paper pulp that go into the diapers. It will be the third such announcement for Kimberly-Clark since the middle of March.

7. Paper towels and toilet paper

If you don't have infants, you're not off the hook. P&G also said that Charmin toilet paper and Bounty paper towels are both listing for 5% more now with retailers and distributors than they were a year ago. KMB's diaper price update will also be accompanied by a boost for its flagship Kleenex tissues.

8. Shipping surcharges

Freight shipper United Parcel Service UPS (NYSE: UPS - News) will be hiking its fuel surcharges from 7.5% to 8.5% as of May 2 for ground freight and from 13% to 15% for air freight. That really hurts small businesses. If you are a storekeeper simply trying to keep your shelves stocked, you have no choice but to pay more and endure smaller margins — or hike prices yourself and add to this inflationary mess.

9. Wages

Perhaps the most insidious factor of our current inflationary spiral is the fact that while all these other items are costing more, household purchasing power is shrinking because wages and salaries aren't keeping up. While the consumer price index rose 2.7% in March to clock the fastest 12-month pace since December 2009, a staggering 18.3% of personal income is now made up of food stamps while wages account for just 50.5%. That's the lowest since the government started keeping records in 1929.


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Friday, April 29, 2011

Could a megathrust earthquake be about to strike off the northwest U.S. coast?

What is a megathrust earthquake and why is the U.S. pacific northwest coastline at risk?

"... Megathrusts' are the world's largest earthquakes, and happen in a 'subduction zone', a region where one of the earth's tectonic plates is thrust under another. The last one involving Cascadia was estimated at magnitude 9 on the Richter scale, according to Natural Resources Canada.

The Juan de Fuca plate is being forced under the North America plate along the Cascadia fault and, as large parts of the plates are locked together, stress is being built up until an eventual breakage causes a massive earthquake..." (Daily Mail)

The March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan was likely the result of a megathrust earthquake. This type of earthquake, were it to occur on the Cascadia fault line could result in a tsunami hitting the west coast of the U.S. rivaling the one that hit Japan.

The Cascadia fault line

Geologists fear that the long dormant Cascadia fault line that stretches from Vancouver to northern California, inactive for more than 300 years, could be overdue for activity. They give a 45% chance for an 8.0 magnitude quake within the next 50 years and a 15% chance for a magnitude 9.0 or greater.

Studies being conducted at the Active Tectonics and Seafloor Mapping Lab at Oregon State University seem to indicate that pressure on the plates is building. We will continue to monitor for any new developments.

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The Royal Wedding does little for most Americans

Nice diversion for some, but we have bigger fish (and chips) to fry in America!

Tradition, ceremony and history are all well and good, but when it comes to The Royal Wedding, Americans don't really seem to care. No matter how much the media try's to make us!

What is the American public really interested in?

While the story of The Royal Wedding will dominate the airwaves today and most likely for the next few days, the American public is much more concerned with jobs, the economy, federal budget deficits and debt and the violent and killer weather that has been crossing the country. See the Pew Research chart below that details Americans the areas that Americans are really focusing on.

That said I of course wish the Prince and new Princess all of the best!

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Economic recovery? Would you like some fries with that? (Video)

McDonald's hires 62,000 people across the United States in one massive National Hiring Day!

This is great news right? A sign that the US economy is moving off the bottom and is finally showing signs of improvement? Finally an indication that the Obama administration has gotten America moving back in the right direction? That QE 2 has really been a roaring success?

Not so fast (food)!

Consider that in Florida 1 in every 188 residents applied for a job at McDonald's on National Hiring Day, with a job offer rate of about 4 in every 100 applicants or 4%. This pales next to the success rate for freshman applicants at Harvard that typically runs at about 7%. When McDonald's can be more selective than Harvard, we may still have an extremely large problem on the employment front.

So what does this mean?

While 62,000 new hires is an impressive number, McDonald's received over 1,000,000 applications for what are typically low-paying, minimum wage food service jobs. Of these hires only 1,000 were for management positions. While some small percentage of non-management hires may move beyond this level in the future, most likely will not.

Bottom line: The US economy is not going to enter any real phase of recovery on the back of service jobs that pay in the neighborhood of $15,000 a year.

In the video below a McDonald's spokesman can spin these jobs any way that he wants, but the reality is that these jobs, while critically important for the people getting them, are not the solution for economic growth and a strong US economy moving forward!

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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Pamela Geller: Forensically speaking, the Obama birth certificate may raise more questions than it provides answers! (Video)

As much as I would like to say case closed on the Obama birth certificate so that the country can move on and simply focus on his failures as President, it has simply not been possible to do!

We are hopefully getting close.

Rarely in the history of our Republic has a sitting president stirred as much controversy as President Obama has, although some such as Clinton and Nixon have come close. Yesterday, amid great fanfare the President did the country a favor and produced a document that people have been asking him to produce for years.

He purportedly did this so that he, and the country, could move on to some of the more pressing issues at hand such as the economy, the budget deficit, the debt limit, national security and so on. In reality no one knows why he chose this moment in time to do so, but ending this "silliness" as he calls it seems as if it was just an act of political expediency.

The pressing matters that this production would free him up to focus seems to be the 2012 election and fundraising. Nothing that will benefit the American people now or in the future. The video was courtesy of a discussion on Facebook.

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Jon Stewart and THE birth certificate (Video)

Birth certificate silliness out of the way, the President can now really focus on the important issues that he needs to attend to!

Obama has serious things to do... Such as immediately flying off after the press conference yesterday to give an interview to Oprah in Chicago and then jet to New York for three fundraisers. Perhaps tending to the issues of concern to the American people will start today.

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The Top 10 most suspicious things about the Obama birth certificate

Because "the birth certificate" affair has become a media circus, then why not have an end to the "silliness" Top 10 list?

The Obama White House, for some reason, decided yesterday to try and put an end to the years of "silliness" surrounding the issue of is he or isn't he, and produced a birth certificate said to be issued by the State of Hawaii.

For any number of reasons I am still not 100% convinced about this papers validity. I am also not convinced of many other things concerning this President but, that said, these are the Top 10 suspicious things about this document from The PJ Tattler (here):

Ten suspicious things about Obama’s birth certificate

10. It’s headed “President Obama’s Birth Certificate”

9. The attending physician’s name is listed as “Dr. Demento”

8. The address given for Obama’s mother is actually that of Jack Lord’s house

7. It’s scratch-’n’-sniff

6. The street name, “Kalanianole,” is Hawaiian for “take this, combover boy!”

5. It’s printed on the back of an 8” X 10” of Tom Selleck

4. Curiously enough, both the doctor and local registrar were old poker buddies of Jack Ruby

3. His mother’s occupation is listed as “some kind of academic social-science bullsh*t”

2. It turns out that doctor died under mysterious circumstances last year at the age of 106

1. Obama’s father? Don Ho

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Is the birther movement dead?

Obama turns an ordinary American action of producing a birth certificate (we all need to periodically do it) into a media event!

For any number of reasons Americans will periodically have to produce and show their birth certificate. No big deal right?

So why then did it take years for the President of the United States, one Barack Hussein Obama, to deign to show us the proof that he is legally allowed to hold the office he currently does? To end the "silliness" once and for all. For me, "something is rotten in the state of Denmark" (Shakespeare).

I wrote the following at the Examiner yesterday:

Obama releases his birth certificate to the world

President Obama held a press conference this morning to trumpet the fact that he was finally releasing the birth certificate. This had been a request that many had made for quite some time. With world crisis on a multitude of fronts, the President said that he was releasing the proof of his place of birth so that the country could focus on those issues affecting the country’s homeland security and economic security.

Why now?

The scene of the press conference was somewhat surreal from the perspective of a sitting president of the United States, in office for over two years, still being in the position of having to convince the electorate that he was indeed a legitimate holder of the office.

The question begs asking therefore as to why, if this has been such a distraction for the President, he waited until this time to release what it appears that he has had all of the time? Why, if there was no issue, did he allow it to become an issue and a distraction?

Somehow this entire episode does not pass the smell test, and I fear with all of the dangers facing the country, this story is not over.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Fed Chairman Ben Blah-blahnanke holds a press conference

Nothing like listening to an egghead tell us how things are in the real world!

Summary: In the short period of time that I listened to the Chairman speak, the items below are what I took from it. For anyone who is involved in the real world and real life with mouths to feed and bills to pay, they should probably not waste any of their time listening to an egghead tell them what's what! Mr. Bernanke's reality is much different than our reality, but he is who we have been reduced to relying on.

I spent about ten minutes listening to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke speak to policy and the general economy, and then I just couldn't do it anymore. In reality, does a rigorous academic discussion (this was a term used by my business school professors) really tell us anything about the trenches that you and I fight in each day?

Mr. Bernanke speaks about economic stabilization leading to economic recovery and of having had to take extraordinary steps during a period of massive economic turmoil. He spoke a great deal of the Fed mandate to control inflation while doing many things to help economic growth. He spoke of how the country has a strong and stable dollar policy.

Quantitative easing was discussed with the questioner stating that many economists feel that QEII was ineffective. Mr. Bernnanke supported QEII as a success because the stock market has risen and fixed income spreads have narrowed. It was never meant to be a panacea Mr. Bernanke said.

On oil, Bernanke said that the expectation is that oil prices will either stabilize or go down. Is this opinion based on any fact or simply because that's what we want to hear?


Once again, in the short period of time that I listened to the Chairman speak the items mentioned below are what I took from it (although I am sure there was more that I missed). As I said at the beginning, anyone who is involved in the real world and real life with mouths to feed and bills to pay should not waste any of their time listening to an egghead tell you what's what!

  • The Fed can't create more oil (although his boss is doing everything in his power to stop it)
  • Long-term unemployed lose skills and lose contact with the labor market
  • Oil price rise is a result of supply and demand
  • The dollar fluctuates but is held in high regard around the world
  • The government wants a strong and stable dollar
  • Again, they want price stability and a stable dollar
  • We have made a lot of progress on jobs creation
  • The Fed has a keep inflation low mandate
  • The economy has strengthened
  • Inflation is basically low
  • The dollar is weak now due to the unwinding of the safe-haven effect
  • Deficits are a long-term problem that require long-term solutions
  • He doesn't want to do anything rash short-term that could impact the economic recovery
  • He's watching things very carefully and is ready to act because there is no substitution for action
Do you feel better and hopeful now? You should as Mr. Bernanke feels somewhat hopeful and better about the direction of the economy! And nobody is more book smart than that guy!

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The Political Commentator reaches a new milestone!

The readership of The Political Commentator expands!

I was just watching Donald Trump on T.V., and although I am in no way a self-promoter on that scale, I am very proud of the fact that The Political Commentator has just surpassed the 900 mark for feed subscribers.

This along with an average daily readership of between 3,000 and 5,000. I thank you all!

If for some reason you are not currently subscribed, the form is directly below or in the right-hand column.

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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

What is the well dressed bomb-making terrorist wearing?

How to identify an al-Qaida trained bomber

In a report out of Guantanamo Bay, a cheap Casio watch was used as a sign of a prisoner likely being an al-Qaida operative who was trained in bomb-making. It would also be used as a reason for further detention.

This was taken from the report:

"The Casio was known to be given to the students at al-Qaida bomb-making training courses in Afghanistan at which the students received instruction in the preparation of timing devices using the watch.

Approximately one-third of the JTF-GTMO detainees that were captured with these models of watches have known connections to explosives, either having attended explosives training, having association with a facility where IEDs were made or where explosives training was given, or having association with a person identified as an explosives expert."

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Missing Easter proclamation: Jay Carney makes Robert Gibbs look like a pro! (Video)

The Obama White House case of the missing Easter proclamation

The rope a doping White House Press Secretary Jay Carney actually makes the stammering and babbling of Robert Gibbs seem quite professional. It is very possible Carney should have been started off in a slightly easier post like making the morning announcements at an area high school.

The following is a clip of the Carney press conference in which he looks to slide out from answering the simple question of why the White House did not issue an Easter proclamation. He also seemed to have to check himself when speaking of President Obama's Christian roots. (H/T The Snooper Report)

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New York Times: The Muslim Brotherhood is a force in Egypt! Surprise?

The "mostly secular" Muslim Brotherhood has co-opted the "mostly secular" Egyptian revolution, originally meant to be a push for freedom and democracy!

That headline contains many half-truths and outright falsehoods, although for many around the world, at the New York Times and within our own government (Clapper, Obama et. al.) this headline was thought to be, and may even to this day still be believed to be, the actual truth of what went down in Egypt.

That the uprising was nothing more than a hunger for democracy by a population fed-up with totalitarian rule and high food prices who was energized and organized through social media.
That the Muslim Brotherhood is actually a "mostly secular" organization, content to stay on the sidelines and take its chances for power in a general election and who possessed no evil intentions along the lines of the establishment of an Islamic theocracy.

Was this misread of the situation on the part of the Obama administration simply naivete, a bad strategy or part of a plan?

Readers of The Political Commentator and a vast array of other alternative news sources (aka non-MSM) have known for some time of just how false the headline was and is. Those who read at all and who possess any sense of history of the region and of the Muslim Brotherhood knew the likely end result even if our own government did not.

Or did the Obama administration actually know and this was the desired result all along?

It's been asked before and will be asked again but why was there so much urgency for Mubarak to step down in Egypt but not the dictators in Syria and Libya where civilian slaughter is taking place daily, and where the ruling regimes are equally as oppressive?

Read a great analysis of the Egyptian crisis at Hotair here.

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Monday, April 25, 2011

Obama will come to be known as the "weak dollar" president!

A better question might be, under this President, what will the United States come to be known as and what will our personal finances look like by the time he is out of office?

While commodity prices continue to rise, President Obama seeks to scapegoat traders and speculators as the culprits!

Does the Obama administration, when looking for an answer to a problem or crisis, find that the most tenable solution is to form a commission or panel to probe for some possible cause? The answer to that is a resounding yes, and while on paper this may sound like action, in reality it is little more than seeking to locate a scapegoat while delaying the need for any real or substantive action.

Commodity prices for example

So why are commodity prices on a straight-line to the north while the value of the dollar is on a straight-line south. So far south that it is threatening to take out the lows made during the height of the financial crisis.

Could those two divergent occurrences somehow be linked to dysfunctional government, large and growing ever larger budget deficits, the mammoth need for foreign subsidy of this deficit, other governments raising interest rates to stave off inflation, a U.S. disregard about inflation, potential for a downgrade of U.S. sovereign debt, the potential that the debt ceiling might not be raised, the potential for a third round of quantitative easing? The answer is yes and from this list you get an idea of the true scope of the problem.

If nothing is done to stem the decline of the dollar, the previous dollar low may simply be just one more stop in our currency's decimation while some other currency positions itself to take over as the worlds reserve currency.

It is a huge and foreboding problem with some questionable minds in government attempting to fashion a solution.

Read a further analysis at CNBC here.

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Are economists insane? These two pictures are worth 1000 words!

Many economists will tell you that inflation is under control when you factor out the volatile components of food and energy. The fact of the matter is that these two components are for the most part all that we regular citizens are concerned with!

Compare these two pictures from the gas pump, one from April 3, 2011 and one from April 25, 2011. In my book we have some serious inflation going on.

This Wednesday Ben Bernanke, Chairman of the Federal Reserve will take the never been done before step of holding a question and answer session with the press to attempt to explain why things are as they are and how they will get better.

By using typical Fed speak, the answers will no doubt be incomprehensible. That is unless the mainstream media presses the issue. Mr. Bernanke has been practicing his answers though as this mention in the Wall Street Journal attests:

"... Still, as markets explore new ground in Mr. Bernanke's push to increase transparency, some say investors may get few new clues. The chairman has spent weeks practicing responses and studying how the question-and-answer session might play out..." (WSJ)

24 statistics showing the downward spiral of the US economy that needs to be reversed!

These statistics paint an ugly picture of the future for the US economy!

The statistics below range from a discussion of the US dollar, China, the credit worthiness of US treasury debt, a disappearing middle class, an evaporating jobs market, inflation, entitlements, mental health and more.

Due to the fact that we cannot necessarily do much about these things ourselves, we need to elect people into office who are actually willing to try and do something beyond just trying to get re-elected!

The list courtesy of The Economic Collapse (here)

#1 On Monday, Standard & Poor’s altered its outlook on U.S. government debt from "stable" to "negative" and warned the U.S. that it could soon lose its AAA rating. This is yet another sign that the rest of the world is losing faith in the U.S. dollar and in U.S. Treasuries.

#2 China has announced that they are going to be reducing their holdings of U.S. dollars. In fact, there are persistent rumors that this has already been happening.

#3 Hedge fund manager Dennis Gartman says that "panic dollar selling is setting in" and that the U.S. dollar could be in for a huge decline.

#4 The biggest bond fund in the world, PIMCO, is now shorting U.S. government bonds.

#5 This cruel economy is causing "ghost towns" to appear all across the United States. There are quite a few counties across the nation that now have home vacancy rates of over 50%.

#6 There are now about 7.25 million less jobs in America than when the recession began back in 2007.

#7 The average American family is having a really tough time right now. Only 45.4% of Americans had a job during 2010. The last time the employment level was that low was back in 1983.

#8 Only 66.8% of American men had a job last year. That was the lowest level that has ever been recorded in all of U.S. history.

#9 According to a new report from the AFL-CIO, the average CEO made 343 times more money than the average American did last year.

#10 Gas prices reached five dollars per gallon at a gas station in Washington, DC on April 19th, 2011. Could we see $6 gas soon?

#11 Over the past 12 months the average price of gasoline in the United States has gone up by about 30%.

#12 Due to rising fuel prices, American Airlines lost a staggering $436 million during the first quarter of 2011.

#13 U.S. households are now receiving more income from the U.S. government than they are paying to the government in taxes.

#14 Approximately one out of every four dollars that the U.S. government borrows goes to pay the interest on the national debt.

#15 Total home mortgage debt in the United States is now about 5 times larger than it was just 20 years ago.

#16 Total credit card debt in the United States is now more than 8 times larger than it was just 30 years ago.

#17 Average household debt in the United States has now reached a level of 136% of average household income. In China, average household debt is only 17% of average household income.

#18 The average American now spends approximately 23 percent of his or her income on food and gas.

#19 In a recent survey conducted by Deloitte Consulting, 74 percent of Americans said that they planned to slow down their spending in coming months due to rising prices.

#20 59 percent of all Americans now receive money from the federal government in one form or another.

#21 According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average length of unemployment in the U.S. is now an all-time record 39 weeks.

#22 As the economy continues to collapse, frustration among young people will continue to grow and we will see more seemingly "random acts of violence". One shocking example of this happened in the Atlanta area recently. The following is how a local Atlanta newspaper described the attack....

Roughly two dozen teens, chanting the name of a well-known Atlanta gang, brought mob rule to MARTA early Sunday morning, overwhelming nervous passengers and assaulting two Delta flight attendants.

#23 Some Americans have become so desperate for cash that they are literally popping the gold teeth right out of their mouths and selling them to pawn shops.

#24 As the economy has declined, the American people have been gobbling up larger and larger amounts of anti-depressants and other prescription drugs. In fact, the American people spent 60 billion dollars more on prescription drugs in 2010 than they did in 2005.

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Sunday, April 24, 2011

The reality of airport insecurity!

Airport Security: Observations from the security line!

Can political correctness get you killed? It may or it may not by itself, but judging from airport security that I recently encountered courtesy of the TSA, that government entity is not doing a whole lot to prevent an incident from occurring.

The question has long been asked as to whether racial profiling is a good methodology for targeting those believed to have an agenda of death and destruction against the United States and other western countries?

Examining the many of the acts of terrorism carried out in the United States and abroad, racial profiling, if allowed, would tend to target men of Middle Eastern appearance. Additionally it would focus on those with passports from specific Middle Eastern countries.

Unfortunately for national and travel security, profiling of this nature is neither condoned or allowed leading to gaping holes in passenger safety. In fact, judging by a recent international flight I was on, security personnel will tend to go to the other extreme of specifically not scrutinizing Middle Eastern men or women at all.

Kennedy Airport: Security through omission rather than through commission!

With a security line stretching a long way and moving very slowly, I was curious to see the thoroughness of the inspections causing the delays. Was it intense and probing as one would hope with a special eye focused on those fitting a certain description? Or, as suspected, was it cursory at best with the lines slowed by the fact that for hundreds of travelers only two security lines were open?

The cursory level of security I actually encountered did not come as any great surprise, but what I watched at the end of the line did. It was in many ways startling and a perfect example of why security is really nothing more than a charade of form over substance. Something put in place to make the general public feel that things are under control when in reality they are not.

Two Muslim women who were wearing traditional clothing that included covered faces with only their eyes revealed, made their way to the TSA agent checking identification. The agent looked at the pictures and then at the women, and then waved them through. Waved through although any actual identification was virtually impossible. Continuing to watch, they did not get any closer scrutiny as they passed through the detectors where passengers will often be pulled over for enhanced checking.

Why? I can’t answer that except to think that had security applied closer scrutiny to the women there was the potential to have them or others claim profiling and/or Islamophobia.

Therefore, an error made by omission was determined to be more tenable than an act of commission by the powers that be.

For everyone except the flying public that is!

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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Borrowing is one thing and paying it off is quite another! (Video)

The US debt ceiling debate is an interesting political sideshow, but just how serious could the actual problem be?

What do Americans think?

A recent CBS New poll that asked Americans whether or not the federal debt limit should be raised showed that almost 65% think that it should not be!

Given that result, compare the current federal debt crisisto the potential ramifications for any family USA, a smallindividual borrower who gets a $100,000 loan at a 1%initial interest rate. This 1% is a teaser rate that will be adjusted at some point in the future to a prevailing market interest rate.

The first issue to be faced by this borrower is to jump through hoops set-up by the bank in order to prove that based on current household income and current expenses, this new $100,000 debt would be affordable. At some point in the future however, the interest rate on the loan will reset to whatever the prevailing market interest rate is at that time. That new rate would make this initial income and expense analysis almost irrelevant. This describes basically all of the adjustable rate loans that homeowners have entered into.

If, at the time of the reset, interest rates had moved to 5%, what had been a $1,000 a year interest payment expense would now become $5,000. For many borrowers, this change would be a catastrophic increase and unaffordable, causing either a default on the loan, a move to a bankruptcy filing or both. The last thing that they would be able to do in order to solve the problem would be to borrow more money in order to meet their new obligations.

The federal government faces the same exposure but not the same risk as up until now it has faced no real borrowing limits!

In reality the interest rate reset and interest rate risk is not any different for the federal government than that faced by any family USA. That is except for the fact that the federal government cannot afford its debt now, never had to prove it could and that any move up ininterest rates from here could be devastating for the country! The US Treasury hastreasury bills, notes and bonds that mature and need to be rolled over to fund the government, all of the time. It also needs to float new money debt for additional spending needs and income shortfalls.

The US government, through the actions of the Federal Reserve, has been able to borrow at extremely low interest rates for an extended period of time. These low rates will not be the reality forever. Because it constantly needs to raise more money, the country's deficits and debts keep rising. The interest expense on that debt thus eats up more and more money each year. As a result the government needs to borrow more and more requiring that the debt ceiling be continually raised higher and higher.

This is certainly not possible for ordinary citizens who get shut-off from access to credit at very specific debt to income ratios. It is this national debt and interest expense on the debt that poses a grave risk to the future viability of the country, although it is not a subject that very many people really focus on.

The budget deficits and national debt are however a major concern for our foreign benefactors who buy our paper and who fund our deficits. As the better late than never S&P move to place US debt on creditwatch last week showed, willing buyers may in the future only be found at higher interest rates that may create a domino effect of extremely dangerous proportions! Higher interest expense that leads to higher deficits that leads tohigher borrowing costs and so on and so on until....

This debt ceiling fight in Congress will be the classic between those who refuse to make the tough decisions that might jeopardize their office versus those who actually put the country first! These members putting the country before their jobs will be those in the Congress who will risk re-election later in the hopes of helping to force the country to get its fiscal house in order now!

This video explains it in more detail (H/T Global Economic Trend Analysis here).

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The Syria crisis, graphic video of murder in the streets and Obama strategy

Obama: Mubarak in Egypt must go, Gaddafi of Libya must go (although regime change is not our primary stated mission) and al-Assad of Syria should simply to stop the slaughter in the streets?

In what appears to be Middle East policy by either the seat of the pants or according to some formula known only to him and his inner sanctum, President Obama seems to apply different regime metrics to the leaders/dictators of the Middle East.

This methodology seemingly allows him to determine who should leave, who should step down and which country's popular uprisings for regime change should be supported and encouraged. In order to try and understand the Obama administration strategy in and around the Middle East consider some of the options:

  • President Obama just an inexperienced and weak leader who sets strategy on the fly in a reactive way rather than in any kind of proactive fashion.
  • The President is working according to some strategy and master-plan that we are not privy too that is designed to bring the violence and unrest to an end.
  • Or, as some conspiracy theorists might suggest, the Obama administrations actions, statements and strategies in this part of the world so critical to US national interests are really according to some great master plan that we can only speculate about.
This plan that may have been formulated to bring Islamic extremists to power throughout the region, maintain a level of instability that will permanently endanger Israel and other allies and that will risk world access to the regions critical natural resources?

After the slaughter of more than 75 unarmed civilians in Syria, this is the statement from the President containing his typical weak-kneed rhetoric:

"The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms the use of force by the Syrian government against demonstrators. This outrageous use of violence to quell protests must come to an end now," Obama said in a statement.

"We call on President Assad to change course now, and heed the calls of his own people."

He denounced the Assad regime's use of force and "outrageous human rights abuses," saying it had chosen to reject the rights and aspirations of the Syrian people.

"Instead of listening to their own people, President Assad is blaming outsiders while seeking Iranian assistance in repressing Syria's citizens through the same brutal tactics that have been used by his Iranian allies," Obama added.

"We strongly oppose the Syrian government's treatment of its citizens and we continue to oppose its continued destabilizing behavior more generally, including support for terrorism and terrorist groups." (AFP)

We may not yet know the answer to the question of Obama's motives for US actions in the Middle East, but we do know the level of violence and slaughter in the streets of Syria.

Graphic video of Syrian forces shooting unarmed civilians from the rooftops can be seen at Pajamas Media here.

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Force of nature: Top 10 natural disaster photos

The force of nature cannot be underestimated or under appreciated!

These are pictures of some of the most powerful tools of destruction that nature has to offer. Unfortunately some of these are mere toys when compared to some of the tools of destruction that have been developed by man!

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