Monday, August 29, 2011

10 more years in Afghanistan?

How about a solid no... The American people are tired of this war.


The agreement would allow not only military trainers to stay to build up the Afghan army and police, but also American special forces soldiers and air power to remain.
The prospect of such a deal has already been met with anger among Afghanistan’s neighbours including, publicly, Iran and, privately, Pakistan.
It also risks being rejected by the Taliban and derailing any attempt to coax them to the negotiating table, according to one senior member of Hamid Karzai’s peace council.
A withdrawal of American troops has already begun following an agreement to hand over security for the country to Kabul by the end of 2014.
But Afghans wary of being abandoned are keen to lock America into a longer partnership after the deadline. Many analysts also believe the American military would like to retain a presence close to Pakistan, Iran and China.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Quickly approaching a wall...

With income equality at an all time high Social Security is feeling the strain.  I'm kind of glad the GOP is the party that gets to tell grandma they want to pull the plug on her.


WASHINGTON — Laid-off workers and aging baby boomers are flooding Social Security's disability program with benefit claims, pushing the financially strapped system toward the brink of insolvency.
Applications are up nearly 50 percent over a decade ago as people with disabilities lose their jobs and can't find new ones in an economy that has shed nearly 7 million jobs.
The stampede for benefits is adding to a growing backlog of applicants – many wait two years or more before their cases are resolved – and worsening the financial problems of a program that's been running in the red for years.
New congressional estimates say the trust fund that supports Social Security disability will run out of money by 2017, leaving the program unable to pay full benefits, unless Congress acts. About two decades later, Social Security's much larger retirement fund is projected to run dry as well.
Much of the focus in Washington has been on fixing Social Security's retirement system. Proposals range from raising the retirement age to means-testing benefits for wealthy retirees. But the disability system is in much worse shape and its problems defy easy solutions.
The trustees who oversee Social Security are urging Congress to shore up the disability system by reallocating money from the retirement program, just as lawmakers did in 1994. That would provide only short-term relief at the expense of weakening the retirement program.
Claims for disability benefits typically increase in a bad economy because many disabled people get laid off and can't find a new job. This year, about 3.3 million people are expected to apply for federal disability benefits. That's 700,000 more than in 2008 and 1 million more than a decade ago.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Bernie Sander's newest video, where are the jobs?

Matt Taibbi makes a really good point about Rick Perry

Rolling Stone:

Rick Perry vs. Ben Bernanke: Round One


Apologies for the long absence – I have a big story coming out tomorrow (definitely come back to tomorrow around this time) and spent most of last week bogged down in the fact-checking process. I’ll have more on that piece when it comes out.
Lots of stuff going on this week, including many dire predictions about the economy, but the most interesting thing I saw in the last days was the sudden appearance of Quantitative Easing as a campaign issue. For those who don’t remember QE, this is a magical money-printing program the Fed has been using two years in a row to artificially prop up the economy (well, parts of it, anyway).“Helicopter Ben” Bernanke has printed a couple of trillion dollars, just waved a wand and invented them, then used those funds to buy things like mortgages and t-bills.
That this is a terrible idea ought to be self-evident. The irritating thing is that this ought naturally to be a campaign issue for progressives, because the most direct consequence of QE is to magnify the income inequality problem, as this study of the British version of QE  (decried by our witty friends at Zero Hedge as the winner of the “real men of captain obvious genius award”) concluded. The study by Dhaval Joseph of BCA research concluded that QE might have been a factor leading to the British riots.
The reason QE is “good for the rich and bad for the poor” is obvious: by pouring trillions in jet-fuel cash into the inequity engine that is the banking sector, we’ve seen massive increases in share prices and corporate profits, without any resulting increases in wages. As the Joseph study concludes:
Real wages – adjusted for inflation – have fallen in both the US and UK, where QE has been a key tool for boosting growth. In Germany, meanwhile, where there has been no quantitative easing, real wages have risen.
It should be obvious to anyone that printing two trillion new dollars and handing it to the corrupt financial sector to play with will not result in higher wages for ordinary people. This ought to be an issue for the left/progressives, but thanks to Barack Obama’s ownership of the program, it’s now turning into a campaign issue for Republicans. Most notably, Texa-creep Rick Perry came out recently with a uniquely thuggish criticism of QE, essentiallythreatening Bernanke with a Texan mob if he does what everyone expects him to do and enacts a third QE program:
"If this guy prints more money between now and the election, I don't know what y'all would do to him in Iowa, but we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas," said Perry.
To me this whole issue encapsulates the basic failure of the Obama administration. It has surrendered to Wall Street interests, and in doing so has allowed lunatics like Rick Perry to step into legitimate roles as critics of corrupt policy.
Of course Perry’s gripe with QE isn’t that it boosts corporate/banking profits at the expense of the general population, but that it’s unsound economics and fiscally irresponsible – which is true as well, but that’s not the point. The point is that we’re heading into 2012 and Barack Obama is going to be owning a hell of a lot of corrupt policy. Voters who want to break up the Wall Street/government oligopoly are increasingly left with only fringe politicians as champions, and (here's my Captain Obvious observation) that blows.

Bernie Sanders uncovers the capitalist economy cooking the books again, and people are surprised?

Bernie Sanders:

U.S. senator's leak of oil trading information sparks concern

CFTC, Wall Street upset by leak of private oil data

WASHINGTON — Oil trading data that exposed the extensive positions speculators held in the run-up to record high prices in 2008 were intentionally leaked by a U.S. senator, sparking broader concern about industry confidentiality as Congress moves on Wall Street reform.

Senator Bernie Sanders, a staunch critic of oil speculators, leaked the information to a major newspaper in a move that has unsettled both regulators and Wall Street alike.

In a June 16 e-mail reviewed by Reuters, a senior policy adviser to Sanders discusses how his office received private data with the names and positions of traders and forwarded it exclusively to a Wall Street Journal reporter.

The e-mail, which also attaches two files with the data, was sent to Public Citizen’s Tyson Slocum asking him to review it and speak with the newspaper about his observations.

In a statement from Sanders provided to Reuters, Sanders said he felt the data needed to be publicly aired.

“The CFTC has kept this information hidden from the American public for nearly three years,” he said. “This is an outrage. The American people have a right to know exactly who caused gas prices to skyrocket in 2008 and who is causing them to spike today.”

The leaked information has sparked concern at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which is legally prohibited from releasing confidential information that identifies trader positions and identities.

The leak also raises broader questions as U.S. regulators gear up to collect massive new amounts of private data from market players on everything from swaps and hedge funds to blueprints for how large financial firms can be liquidated. The breach of data could make Wall Street less reluctant to hand over sensitive information if they fear it is not appropriately safeguarded.

“This type of incident will have a chilling effect on derivatives trading in the U.S. because market participants will be reluctant to take the risk that their positions will be exposed to the public-and their competitors,” John Damgard, president of the Futures Industry Association, said in a statement sent to Reuters.

Republicans have already raised concerns in recent hearings about the Treasury’s new Office of Financial Research created by Dodd-Frank, and whether its collection of data from hedge funds and banks may constitute a regulatory overreach.

Although the CFTC is barred from releasing confidential data, the law does require the CFTC to hand over such information if a Congressional committee acting within its proper authority requests it. Once it is in the hands of Congress, there is nothing to prevent lawmakers from releasing it publicly.

The leaked data contains long and short positions held by oil traders in 2008, the same year that oil prices spiked to $147 a barrel. Critics at the time accused oil speculators of driving up prices, leading lawmakers to later insert a provision into the Dodd-Frank Wall Street overhaul law compelling the CFTC to place stricter limits on how many commodity contracts any one trader can control.

Among the kinds of traders accused of excessive speculation included passive long investors such as pension funds, which often seek exposure to commodities markets indirectly by going through an intermediary swap dealer such as such as Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley.

The data that was leaked to the Wall Street Journal was compiled by the CFTC in 2008 during a “special call” in which the agency sought crude oil position data from swap dealers so they could piece together market activity occurring both on and off the exchange, people familiar with the matter said.

The CFTC first became aware of the breach of the data after a staffer from Sanders’ office sent the agency an e-mail with the information and asked the CFTC’s chief economist to discuss it more.

The agency began exploring internally whether or not any staffers were responsible for the leak, and concluded that no CFTC employees were involved, according to people familiar with the matter.

It is unclear exactly how Sanders acquired the private information, and a spokesman declined to say.

But people familiar with the matter say the data later obtained by Sanders was first formally requested by the U.S. House Energy Committee. From there it somehow migrated over to the U.S. Senate.

© Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald

Read more:

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Music to my ears...  This is completely biased though, this guys likens Stalin's Russia to Democratic Socialism.  Those of us who are well read know better... The Soviet Union NEVER advocated for the rights of human beings, civil rights, religious ones and economic rights.

"There is no antagonism between the Cross and socialism!  A man can pray to Jesus the carpenter, and be a better socialist for it  Rightly understood, there is no conflict between the vision of Marx and the vision of Christ.  I stand by the Cross and I stand by Karl Marx.  Both Capital and the Bible are to me Holy Books" -James Larkin

Daily Mail:

Capitalism in crisis, a warning from history: Eighty years ago, a banking collapse devastated Europe, triggering war. Today, faith in the free markets is faltering again.

Exactly 80 years ago, international capitalism stood on the verge of meltdown.
The collapse of the banking system in the summer of 1931 sent shockwaves through Europe, bringing governments to their knees and thousands out onto the streets.

In the United States, an increasingly careworn president and his congressional critics fought a bitter battle over government spending and tax rises.