Saturday, April 30, 2011

America's reckless money-printing could put the world back into crisis - Telegraph

Traders took these words to mean that the Federal Reserve won't hike rates until the first few months of 2012 at the earliest.

Bernanke also pledged to do whatever is required to keep America's economic recovery on track – confirming that the second programme of "quantitative easing", or QE2, would be completed. These two related announcements – the "reprieve" and the "sugar rush" – sent Wall Street into renewed spasms of synthetic joy.

In the real world, US growth is slowing sharply. Annualised GDP rose just 1.8pc during the first three months of 2011, down from 3.1pc the quarter before. America remains mired in sovereign, commercial and household debt.

Yet as the Fed chairman spoke, US stocks hit their highest level since before the sub-prime crisis. The tech-heavy Nasdaq, incredibly, closed at a 10-year peak.

So the Fed will keep on "printing" virtual money – at least for now. By the end of June, it will have purchased $600bn (£363bn) of longer-term Treasuries, with the US government effectively buying its own debt from funds created ex nihilo. That's on top of the original $1,750bn (£1,048bn) QE scheme, launched in late 2008.

The reckless behavior of the US and their unwillingness to accept responsibility for the financial crisis started by US banks and not implementing an austerity program can result in the whole world paying a heavy price.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Time to Choose -

America is now facing the most difficult governmental choices since the end of World War II, 66 years ago. Back then our debt as a percentage of gross domestic product had just exceeded 100%. In about a decade it will exceed that again, and if we continue our current economic policies the Congressional Budget Office projects it will approach 800% in another 66 years.

So the American people now have an important choice to make: Shall we continue to increase the size of government—in spending and debt—as President Obama consistently will do, or shall we make increasing economic growth, jobs and income our top public-policy goals?

Our country is facing very real challenges. On top of our national debt climbing significantly, economic growth continues to lag, our unemployment rate stays over 8%, and inflation is coming toward us. The White House wants to keep increasing government spending and, as soon as it can, to raise taxes on businesses, individuals, and families. Or as the president said earlier this month at George Washington University, we just don't want to spend "a trillion dollars on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires," never mind that they currently make up just 0.2% of taxpayers but pay 24% of individual income taxes. The government cannot balance the large budget by just supertaxing "the rich." Without major spending cuts, it will have to spread down the tax increases to middle-class Americans.

According to CBO, the median-income family of four is at risk of seeing its income and payroll taxes go up from 15% to 25% of its income. This risk is real because the president and the former Democratic Congress intended to raise federal spending, which has averaged 18% since World War II, to 25% or more this year, and then keep it at 22% to 23% going forward. And that, of course, leads to a demand for higher taxes.

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Review & Outlook: The Gas Price Freakout -

Man-at-the-pump angst is harming President Obama politically almost as much as gas prices surging toward $4 are hurting the middle class economically, which explains the energy panic that Washington began in earnest this week. The 2011 debate isn't likely to be any more instructive than its 2000, 2005, 2006 or 2008 vintages, but maybe this time politicians can keep things in the general vicinity of planet earth.

They're off to a lousy start. Mr. Obama usually begins his gas price narrative, now a campaign trail staple, by explaining that there aren't easy solutions. That's true—there's not a lot the political class can do to change gas prices in the short run—but then the President goes on to mention that there happens to be one easy solution: raising taxes on the oil and gas industry. This is also his stock answer on the budget deficit, world hunger and everything else.

In a letter to Congressional leaders Tuesday, Mr. Obama called for repealing some $4 billion a year in "subsidies" in the tax code, and even Speaker John Boehner chimed in that oil companies "ought to be paying their fair share." No doubt the reporting of first-quarter profits this week will be a demagogic moment, but really? The junk economic theory is that increasing the U.S. costs of investor-owned oil producers—which together hold a mere 6% of world reserves—is supposed to lower the price of a global commodity.

Oh, and Mr. Obama wants to devote the proceeds to even more spending on "clean energy." The problem here is that some renewables (ethanol) increase the cost of driving, while the others (wind, solar) are irrelevant in transportation. We trust anyone not recharging his federally subsidized $109,000 electric sportscar at his personal windmill is blinking in amazement.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

EDITORIAL: Obama running on empty - Washington Times

Skyrocketing gasoline prices have sent President Obama’s public-approval ratings plummeting. The White House is searching for someone to blame, but the problem rests not with the pumps but with the president.

Mr. Obama maintains that lack of supply is not driving up prices. However, domestic demand is not the issue either, since U.S. energy use per capita has been on the decline. So the White House has formed an interagency working group to root out the “traders and speculators” whom he says are responsible for America’s gasoline woes. This type of populist blame-game is typical of the Obama administration’s approach to policy challenges, and diverts attention from the true proximate causes of the oil spike, such as the crises in the Middle East.

If prices are being manipulated, perhaps Mr. Obama should take it up with the OPEC potentates who are the most direct beneficiaries. Mr. Obama also said he wants to end what he says is a $4 billion annual taxpayer subsidy to oil and gas companies, though how removing a subsidy will lower gasoline prices has yet to be explained.

Mr. Obama’s scapegoat safari notwithstanding, the current energy crisis underscores the general failure of administration energy policies. The promised brave new world of green technologies is slow in coming, and the government is quickly putting reliable domestic fossil fuels further out of reach. Even as vast new energy reserves are being discovered, such as the Saudi-topping Bakken formation in North Dakota, domestic production is declining. Mr. Obama has banned new domestic offshore drilling while subsidizing it in Brazil. This week, Shell Oil Company announced that it is abandoning Arctic Ocean drilling plans because the Environmental Protection Agency is blocking key permits, sacrificing 27 billion barrels of oil. Last month, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) projected a reduction in total U.S. crude oil production of 110,000 barrels per day in 2011 and a further 130,000 barrels per day in 2012. Given the current profitability of oil production, the blame can only rest with the White House.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Pentagon: Robot War Over Libya Begins in 3, 2, 1 … | Danger Room |

Thursday marks the end of U.S. strike missions in Libya. In a press conference, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Gen. James Cartwright, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, announced that armed Predator drones have been approved for use in Libya. They flew for the first time on Thursday, but “the weather wasn’t good enough, so we had to bring them back,” Cartwright said.

Recall Gates told Congress three weeks ago that the U.S. strike role would end once NATO took command of the war. U.S. pilots continued to bomb targets to enforce the no-fly zone, but left the hard work of attacking Gadhafi’s ground forces to NATO pilots. The arrival of the Predators — two combat air patrols, Cartwright said, so probably five drones — reverses all that.

Cartwright justified the move by saying the drones are “uniquely suited” for attacking dug-in forces in “urban areas,” where Gadhafi’s loyalists are. The Predators fly lower than gunships like the AC-130 or attack planes like the A-10. Their sensor and camera suites give them better visibility than human pilots have, reducing the risk of collateral damage. And they can fly for 24 hours at a time, providing “extended persistence.” It’s quite a contrast to the archaic weapons used by Libyan rebels.

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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Review & Outlook: Fleeing the Dollar Flood -

Members of the International Monetary Fund emerged from their huddle in Washington last weekend resolved to keep every option open to slow the flood of dollars pouring into their countries, including capital controls. That's a dangerous game, given the need for investment to drive economic development. But it's also increasingly typical of the world's reaction to America's mismanagement of the dollar and its eroding financial leadership.

The dollar is the world's reserve currency, and as such the Federal Reserve is the closest thing we have to a global central bank. Yet for at least a decade, and especially since late 2008, the Fed has operated as if its only concern is the U.S. domestic economy.

The Fed's relentlessly easy monetary policy combined with Congress's reckless spending have driven investors out of the United States and into Asia, South America and elsewhere in search of higher returns and more sustainable growth. The IMF estimates that between the third quarter of 2009 and second quarter of 2010, Turkey saw a 6.9% inflow in capital as a percentage of GDP, South Africa 6.6%, Thailand 5%, and so on.

This incoming wall of money puts the central bankers in these countries in a bind. If they do nothing, the result can be asset bubbles and inflation. Brazil (6.3%) and China (5.4% officially but no doubt higher in fact) are both enduring bursts of inflation, as are many other countries. These nations can raise interest rates or let their own currencies appreciate, at the risk of slower economic growth. Rather than endure that adjustment, many countries are resorting to capital controls and other administrative measures to try to stop the inflow.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

NYT: As British Help Libyan Rebels,

As NATO struggles to break a deepening stalemate in Libya, the British announced on Tuesday that they were sending military advisers to help build up a rebel army that has stumbled against the superior forces of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi.

The first question the British will face is "Whose army?"

For they will find themselves advising a ragtag rebel force that cannot even agree on who its top officer is, amid squabbling between two generals who both come with unsavory baggage.

The dysfunction was on full display here this week. "I control everybody, the rebels and the regular army forces," one of the two, Gen. Khalifa Hifter, said in an interview on Monday. "I am the field commander, and Gen. Abdul Fattah Younes is chief of staff. His job is to support us in the field, and my job is to lead the fighting."

The rebels' civilian leadership, the Transitional National Council, has insisted, however, that General Younes remains in charge of the military. "This is not true," an official close to the council said Tuesday when told of General Hifter's claims. "General Younes is over him, this is for sure, and General Hifter is under him."

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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Could Debt Worries Accelerate Fannie, Freddie Overhaul?

Most Washington pundits don’t expect any major political action on mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac before the 2012 election, but growing jitters over the nation’s debt illustrate one potential catalyst that could keep the current conse ...

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Sunday, April 17, 2011

From Pleasant Deficit Spending to Unpleasant Sovereign Debt Crises | Mercatus

Economists have long disagreed seriously about the costs and benefits of government budget deficits and debt. Following the Second World War, a clash between Keynesian and―orthodox‖ fiscal policy views arose. The debate waned as fiscal Keynesianism won the day, then resumed as monetarist and new classical economists challenged Keynesian thinking in the 1970s. Economists became largely skeptical about the potential for actively using deficit spending to improve macroeconomic outcomes. With the sharp recession of 2007–09 the Keynesian side of the debate suddenly revived, and today the clash continues. On the side of greater deficit spending in the recession are the intellectual progeny of John Maynard Keynes and his interpreters Alvin Hansen and Abba Lerner, contemporary fiscal Keynesians, who worry that government spending and debt growth must be too small when there are high rates of unemployment. On the opposite side are the intellectual progeny of David Ricardo, Milton Friedman, and F. A. Hayek, contemporary new classical and Austrian economists, who dispute the Keynesian arguments and worry about rapidly growing government financed by rapidly mounting public-sector debts.

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Friday, April 15, 2011

Phil Angelides Discusses America's Dual Justice System: One For Wall Street And One For Everyone Else | zero hedge

Lisa Murphy of Bloomberg interviewed the chairman of the now defunct FCIC, Phil Angelides to discuss the findings presented yesterday by Carl Levin. The topic was the "greased pig" that is Wall Street. The conclusion is that America now has a dual justice system: "One for ordinary people and then one for people with money and enormous wealth and power." As for crime deterrents, considering that to this day not one person has gone to prison, even an idiot can foresee what Angelides has to say on this issue: "To the extent laws were broken, we need deterrents. If someone robs a 7-11, they took $500 and they were able to settle the next day for $50 and no admission of wrongdoing, they'd knock over that 7-11 again. And we've seen time after time where people and firms have made tens, one hundreds, billions of dollars. They've settled charges for pennies on the dollar. At Citigroup for example they represented that they had $13 billion of subprime mortgage exposure when they really had $55 billion. The penalty to the chief financial officer who made $19 million that year, 2007, was $100,000. Goldman was fined $500 million but the date they settled their stock moved up $2 billion. There's been no real consequence." Too bad there is no acknowledgment that it is people like Angelides who through their corrupt behavior over the years allowed Wall Street to singlehandedly usurp the democratic process and replace it with that of a fascist corporatocracy. But that's irrelevant: at some point, sooner or later, the American peasantry will snap. Maybe not tomorrow, maybe not the day after the Apple borg hypnosis ends, and the fascination with American Idol expires, but at some point thereafter, absolutely. And the primary reason will be the glaring trampling of the tenets contained in both the Declaration of Independence and Constitution, by the kleptocratic "superclass." Then what happens when the billions of ones and zeros held in some bank vault and imparting some ephemeral monetary greatness to these people, finally is exposed for the sham it is, and they have nothing to protect them from the hordes of hungry, angry and very well armed? We can only hope they will be able to bribe their way to the top in that world order as well as they can in the current one. Somehow we doubt it.

People have known this for years now but still there is no meaningful action... why? ... because the system has been captured by an elite and the normal system of politics will not remove them

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Libya: All About Oil, or All About Banking? | Truthout

Sever­al writ­ers have noted the odd fact that the Li­byan re­bels took time out from their re­bell­ion in March to create their own centr­al bank - this be­fore they even had a govern­ment. Robert Wen­zel wrote in the Economic Poli­cy Journ­al:

I have never be­fore heard of a centr­al bank being created in just a matt­er of weeks out of a popular up­ris­ing. This sug­gests we have a bit more than a rag tag bunch of re­bels runn­ing around and that there are some pre­tty sop­histicated in­flu­ences.

Alex New­man wrote in the New American:

In a state­ment re­leased last week, the re­bels re­por­ted on the re­sults of a meet­ing held on March 19. Among other th­ings, the sup­posed rag-tag re­volutiona­ries an­noun­ced the "[d]esig­na­tion of the Centr­al Bank of Be­nghazi as a moneta­ry aut­hor­ity com­petent in moneta­ry poli­cies in Libya and ap­point­ment of a Gover­nor to the Centr­al Bank of Libya, with a tem­pora­ry head­quart­ers in Be­nghazi."

It would be good to know who the shadowy figures are behind this.... follow the money

Monday, April 11, 2011

Bill Gross - Bill Gross is now shorting U.S. Treasurys

Bill Gross, who runs the world's biggest bond fund at Pacific Investment Management Co., bet against U.S. government-related debt last month and boosted cash to be the largest of the Total Return Fund's holdings.

Pimco's $236 billion fund had minus 3 percent of its assets in government and related debt, after reducing the position to zero in February, the Newport Beach, California-based company said on its website. Cash and equivalents rose to 31 percent from 23 percent, making it the largest component for the first time in four years.

Gross has said he is concerned about what will happen when the Federal Reserve stops buying Treasurys, after the securities fell for a second quarter. The central bank implemented a plan in November to purchase $600 billion of debt by June 30 to sustain the economic expansion.

"Their objective obviously is to improve the economy and to create jobs, but also to put a floor under the stock market, and we know that's working," Gross said April 1 in a radio interview on "Bloomberg Surveillance" hosted by Tom Keene. "The question remains, when the Fed stops buying Treasurys, does the private sector take the baton and run the last leg of the relay race?"

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Paul Tustain: Gold Is Sending A Signal That The Monetary System Is In Grave Danger - Blogs at Chris Martenson

"When a country's public debt exceeds 90% of GDP, that is the magic number. You get to 90%, there is no way back, and that is the number that the U.S. is going through pretty much as we speak. It is also the number which the UK has gone through; all of the PIGS are going through it, as well. They are all going past the 90% debt to GDP ratio. Obviously, Japan is miles past it already. It's up to 200%+. There does not appear, in the historical analysis, to be any great likelihood of getting back from that level of debt safely. There is this strong evidence that above 90% debt to GDP, you will experience either a cataclysmic default or some form of very serious inflation."

So observes Paul Tustain, gold market analyst and founder of BullionVault. In his view, gold serves as a beacon who's price is currently signalling the monteary system is in grave danger. He and Chris discuss the primary factors driving the price of gold and smart strategies for investors looking to build or maintain their holdings of the metal.

Click the play button below to listen to Chris' interview with Paul Tustain (runtime 56m:55s):

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In this podcast, Paul covers:

  • The differences between unallocated and allocated buillion and the market problem that led Paul to found BullionVault
  • How central banks have recently shifted to become net buyers of gold after a long period of dis-hording bullion, and how this - combined with surging private investment - has sent demand for the metal skyrocketing 
  • Why we're currently experiencing inflation & deflation at the same time: our monetary policy is pushing more and more money into short-term investments, driving up the price of the things we use today (food, fuel, etc) and and lowering prices of the things we finance over longer periods (like houses)
  • Paul's approach to valuing gold and why he sees $3,844/ounce as a defensible (and conservative) estimate of it's appropriate value
  • Paul's perspective on silver, gold miners and ETFs 
  • The purpose and advantages of the allocated custodial bullion purchasing & storage model that BullionVault offers

Click here to read the transcript 

BullionVault's Director, Paul Tustain, founded BullionVault as a response to a widespread perception of increasing systemic risk in the financial world. He remains in full day-to-day control, and in his view global systemic risk has become still more acute. He is committed to directing the business in the way which at every step retains its first objective of using gold to secure customers against the threats in the international financial system. He is also the editor and publiser of, a well-regarded and free educational resource for prospective gold buyers.


Our series of podcast interviews with notable minds includes:


Saturday, April 9, 2011

An inflated future

The Chinese province of Guangxi might be almost 9,000km from Frankfurt, home of the European Central Bank. But in today’s globalised economy, the two are much closer than they first appear. Two months ago Zhu Xinzhi, head of a lighting manufacturers’ association in the industrial city of Foshan in southern China, set off for Guangxi on a recruiting trip. Offering a monthly wage of Rmb1,600, he hoped to attract 500 workers; he got 10. Alternative opportunities, high inflation and a recent trend of rising wages made his jobs unattractive. “The workers felt the salary was relatively low and that it’s better to stay home and run their own small business or go to cities with higher pay,” he says. “The salary we offered has no advantage any more. It was a very unsatisfactory trip.” The reverberations from China’s rising wages, alongside rapid economic growth there and in fellow emerging economies, were felt in far-off Frankfurt this week. That Mr Zhu might have to pay more to recruit workers will raise the price of light bulbs imported into Germany from China. If the process is replicated in the prices of other Chinese goods, inflation in Germany and other European nations will be permanently higher, requiring action by the ECB.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Public-sector pensions: State of war

AMERICANS ARE USED to debates on the financial health of their Social Security system at the national level, but many will have been caught unawares by a pensions crisis in their state and municipal governments. Already one small city—Prichard, Alabama—is unable to pay its pensioners. The crisis has exposed the potential conflict between public-sector workers who still enjoy DB pensions and private-sector workers who get less generous DC pensions—and at the same time have to fund the benefits being paid in the public sector through their taxes. Years of underfunding mean that more contributions to public-sector plans are needed, and soon. But since most states have balanced-budget requirements, such contributions can come only from higher taxes or cuts in services.

Reform of public-sector pensions is inherently difficult. The biggest liability is promises made to existing employees. Court decisions have suggested that these promises cannot be withdrawn; states may not even be able to limit the future accrual of pension rights by existing workers. In California the Little Hoover commission, which in February reported to Jerry Brown, the state’s governor, concluded that courts had protected employees’ pension rights “as structured on their first day of work”.

It seems odd that private-sector employers can restructure their pension plans and public-sector employers cannot. The best that local governments can do is change the system for new employees, a process that will take decades to bear significant fruit, or to increase employees’ contributions. Even that amounts to a pay cut, creating the potential for dispute with the unions. In Wisconsin unions have swallowed higher contributions but balked at attempts to restrict their bargaining rights.

Putting off the evil day

The funding crisis in public-sector pensions is, in large part, the result of post-dated cheques written by politicians in the past. As Roger Lowenstein, a journalist, recounts in his book “While America Aged”, there has been a “devil’s pact” in which politicians granted benefits to unions without funding those promises properly.

A classic illustration comes from San Diego, California. In 2002 the funding ratio (the proportion of pension liabilities covered by assets) of the city’s pension scheme dropped close to 82.3%, a level that should have triggered a rise in the contribution to make up the shortfall. That would have required a tax increase. To avoid this, the city did a deal with the unions whereby it would raise future benefits in return for not having to lift contributions. In other words, faced with a hole in the fund, the authorities dug deeper.

In theory, states and municipalities are required to make an actuarially determined contribution to their pension funds each year. In practice, some have failed to make such contributions in the face of budget pressures (New Jersey is a repeat offender). That means they are implicitly relying either on the investment portfolio to bail out the fund or on future taxpayers to contribute even more to make up the shortfall. But the stockmarket has stagnated since 2000 and state coffers have been bare.

The bill is now coming due. The Little Hoover commission estimates that contributions to California’s public-sector pension funds will have to rise by 40-80% in five years’ time and stay at those levels for decades. In Los Angeles, total retirement costs (including health care) already make up 18% of the city’s budget, a share that is set to rise to 37% by 2015. In New York, the Manhattan Institute reckons that the taxpayer’s contribution to the teachers’ fund will have to rise from $900m now to $4.5 billion by fiscal 2015-16.

Voters are furious, and have been outraged even more by two related issues. One is the lavish pensions paid to retired city and state executives; in California, over 9,000 such pensioners are getting more than $100,000 a year. The second is “spiking”. In a final-salary scheme, earnings in the last year before retirement can be crucial in determining the pension; these can be boosted by, for example, offering the employee a promotion or a large amount of overtime. Some states have now moved to making pensions dependent on average income over several years.

To be fair, fat-cat pensions in the public sector are far from typical. According to Alicia Munnell of the Centre for Retirement Research in Boston, the mean public-sector pension is just $20,000 a year, well below the average wage. But public-sector workers still seem to be getting a better deal than their private-sector equivalents, who usually have to work for 40 years to get full benefits. In the public sector the qualifying period is often shorter; in California, for example, highway patrol officers retire at 50, after an average of 28 years of service.

This is partly an accounting issue, of which more in the next section. But it also raises questions of transparency. Neil Record, a fund manager, argues that the pay deal offered to a DC plan member is clear; it consists of basic salary and the employer’s contribution to the plan. A DB member, by contrast, gets his salary plus the employer’s promise to make up any pension-fund shortfall. This guarantee is very valuable, particularly when markets plunge, as they did in 2008. So comparing the public and the private sector becomes extremely difficult and taxpayers cannot tell whether they are getting a good deal.

Creditors, as well as taxpayers, are waking up to the scale of the problem. In January this year Moody’s, a rating agency, published research showing combined totals for individual American states’ public and pension debt. It used the pension funding ratios calculated by the states themselves, which almost certainly understate the size of the hole. Measured by the ratio of this combined debt to state GDP, Hawaii has the biggest hole, with a ratio of 16.2%. Thirteen other states have ratios of more than 10%. Those figures may sound modest, compared with the 100%-plus ratios seen in Greece and Japan. But the states do not have first claim on their GDP; the federal government deducts its share through income and corporate taxes, so citizens of those states need to service both their own burden and the federal debt.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1% | Society | Vanity Fair

It’s no use pretending that what has obviously happened has not in fact happened. The upper 1 percent of Americans are now taking in nearly a quarter of the nation’s income every year. In terms of wealth rather than income, the top 1 percent control 40 percent. Their lot in life has improved considerably. Twenty-five years ago, the corresponding figures were 12 percent and 33 percent. One response might be to celebrate the ingenuity and drive that brought good fortune to these people, and to contend that a rising tide lifts all boats. That response would be misguided. While the top 1 percent have seen their incomes rise 18 percent over the past decade, those in the middle have actually seen their incomes fall. For men with only high-school degrees, the decline has been precipitous—12 percent in the last quarter-century alone. All the growth in recent decades—and more—has gone to those at the top. In terms of income equality, America lags behind any country in the old, ossified Europe that President George W. Bush used to deride. Among our closest counterparts are Russia with its oligarchs and Iran. While many of the old centers of inequality in Latin America, such as Brazil, have been striving in recent years, rather successfully, to improve the plight of the poor and reduce gaps in income, America has allowed inequality to grow.

And the plunder has not only been as a result of legislation but also through unethical behavior and excessive risk taking for which the average taxpayer has footed the bill. But the majority remain passive.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Oil rises above $120: what the analysts are saying

Commerzbank Corporates & Markets Research Team, Germany:

"In the short term, oil prices should remain supported on the back of supply risks. As long as the fighting for major Libyan oil towns Ras Lanuf and Brega continues, a resumption of oil shipments is unthinkable. Hopes of a stronger growth of oil demand should be disappointed, though, given the high price level and we therefore expect the price to fall in the course of the year once the supply risks ease."

If the price of oil stays above $120 for more than 3 months we are looking at the US tipping back into recession with no fire power left to combat the shock.... and the impact on Europe will be worse.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Google Maps Navigation vs. A Dedicated GPS Device (and Why I Think Google Maps Nav is Better)

A few weeks ago, I was driving my girlfriend and a friend of mine to Hollywood to meet some friends for dinner. While I knew the way there, I loaded up Google Maps Navigation on my HTC EVO 4G and put it in my little car mount so I would get an idea as to how long it would take to get there As I was driving, my friend in the back seat commented, “Wow, I like how good your GPS looks, and how it pans and turns as you drive. I have a great dedicated unit and it doesn’t even do that.” My girlfriend, who also has a dedicated GPS unit, said how cool that was. This got me to thinking about the differences between the Google Maps Navigation app on my phone and dedicated GPS units, and how I ultimately decided that I think Google’s app is better.
For a long time, I wanted a stand-alone GPS unit because I love to drive everywhere I can, and Los Angeles can be dang confusing at times (who the HELL designed downtown anyway for chrissakes?). This changed when I got an iPhone (hush now, I’ve matured since then) and began to use Google Maps to get me everywhere, followed by a few GPS apps like Navigon and CoPilot. The iPhone’s usage of GPS never really got it quite right, however, so I was thrilled when I got my EVO and I was first able to use Google’s amazing navigational program. Since then, I can’t even imagine needing a dedicated GPS system…heck, even if I got a car with one, I doubt I’d ever use it. Why? Well let me explain…

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Saturday, April 2, 2011

Oh What a Lovely Budget Item - Reason Magazine

When Bill Kristol endorsed America's intervention in Libya, the Weekly Standard editor was being completely consistent with everything else he has said about American foreign policy. He just wasn't being consistent with his pose as a proponent of fiscal restraint. It's bracing to watch Kristol twirl so easily from denouncing "the Democrats' orgy of spending" and complaining about Republicans who "don't have a credible plan to deal with the debt or the deficit" to jubilating that the president "didn't shrink from defending the use of force." But the pundit's gyrations can't obscure a basic reality: You can pay your bills or you can be a global policeman, but you can't do both. Not in 2011.
According to ABC, the cost of Obama's kinetic spending reached $600 million in its first week. The Pentagon  estimates  that the total could reach $800 million by the end of September, and the Pentagon just might be lowballing. Todd Harrison, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, has told The National Journal that the price tag could "easily pass the $ billion mark on this operation, regardless of how well things go." And if things  don't go well.. But let's stick, for the moment, with the costs of that initial week. That's already more than half the amount House Republicans have asked to cut from Americorps. It's more than twice the amount they've asked to cut from Amtrak. It's nearly four times the size of National Public Radio's entire operating budget for fiscal year 2011, including the parts that come from private sources. All this for just a week of a war that—unlike our invasions and occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan— doesn't even pretend to be an act of self-defense. (When Kristol endorsed a spending freeze, he made an explicit exception for "national security." I realize that "national security" is usually a euphemism for "anything remotely related to foreign policy," but just for fun, let's take it literally Does anyone out there seriously believe NATO's planes are in Libya's skies to keep Americans secure?)

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