Friday, August 30, 2013

Why Syria is Serious - It's Where Oil, Monetary Power and Religious Feuds Collide

Syria poses no threat to the US whatsoever and it has never committed an act of terrorism against the US.  So why is the US so hot to bomb a nation of 23 million folks that is slightly larger than the state of North Dakota and has no significant oil?  Whenever something happens we must ask ourselves "Why?".

When Nixon de-tethered the dollar from gold in 1971, the western monetary cartel colluded with Arab oil sheikdoms to make the dollar a petro-dollar.  The monetary cartel argued that the dollar was still commodity money and that gold was merely swapped for oil.  The only purpose of this oil-monetary cartel was to perpetually guarantee that the dollar would be the world's reserve currency so long as oil traded in dollar. The dollar is still the world's reserve currency.  However the global monetary cartels or 'banksters gone wild' got themselves in deep shit with endless monetary printing (inflation), mountains of fiat debt, excessive financial speculation facilitated by easy money (derivatives) and churning world financial markets into casinos that were rigged in favor of the house (banksters).

Anybody who even though about trading oil in a non-dollar currency was slated for extinction. Saddam Hussein threatened to sell Iraqi oil in Euros; he was invaded and executed for non-compliance with the international monetary cartel.  Gadhafi had similar plans to sell oil in non-dollar currency but his plan went even further and Gadhafi wanted to sell oil for gold.

Gadhafi’s Gold-money Plan Would Have Devastated Dollar

Once oil traded in any currency other than the fiat dollar, the dollar would not only be toast and no longer the world's reserve currency but it would take down the entire global monetary cartel aka banksters.

Western elites and the House of Saud have been in bed with each other ever since oil came into big play in the early part of the 20th century.  Saudi Arabia not only spawned the most violent and vile form of Islam ever to exist, Sunni Salafist Wahhabist Islam, it used its petro-dollar wealth to spread its religious disease and the Saudis funded jihad madrassahs (Islamic schools) and radical mosques all over the world, including planting these institutions of hate and violence in Western nations.The West didn't care, so long as the Saudi's were swimming in oil and traded oil in dollars.  It's a marriage of convenience where western elites and savage Sunni Muslims share a bed to make love to each other.  It should be noted that not all Sunni Muslims are adherents of Saudi style Wahhabism.

With regard to oil, Saudi Arabia is widely believed to have the mother load of oil reserves.  Oil reserves and oil production are two different classifications - oil reserves are independent of oil production because they validate future oil power.  It's not only well known that Saudi oil reserves have never been independent verified but it's been widely speculated that Saudi Arabia has vastly overstated its oil reserves and may be close (within a few decades) to being pumped dry.

Saudi Arabia's resource wealth 'vastly overstated'

The Sunni and Shiite sects of Islam have been feuding forever but in recent years the division has grown more violent and not because of the Shiites but because the Sunni Salafists ruthlessly oppress Shiite minorities.  Saddam Hussein was a Sunni; however Hussein was more of a secularist and it's been documented that he drank western whiskey and watched the Goldfather movies over and over. Hussein did oppress the Shiite minority and in Iraq the Shiites comprised the majority - over 2/3 of the Iraqi population.  Ironically, Hussein protected Iraq's Christians.

When the US invaded Iraq, it was a monumental act of sheer stupidity.  By enforcing democracy, the Shiite majority now rules Iraq.  While only about 15-20% of the world's Muslim population are Shiite, the vast majority of them resides in Iraq and Iran.  Neither the Shiites nor Iran/Iraq ever committed any acts of terrorism against the US and neither ever posed any threat to US national security.  All the well documented Islamist terror attacks are acts of Sunni Salafists - 911, London bombings, Moscow bombings, Madrid bombings, Bali bombings, Mumbai bombings, the bombing of 2 US African embassies etc.  The world's most violent and murderous Islamist groups are and have always been armed and funded by the Saudis, the US, the CIA and this has been going on since the days of Jimmy Carter who armed and funded the Afghan Mujuhadeen, now the Taliban.

The Saudi's only care about 2 things - being the world's #1 oil kingpin and spreading its firebrand of Islam which includes eradicating Shiite Islam or severely marginalizing it.  If they lose their oil power, they lose their global political clout and their wealth.  Moreover, it would be unbearable if the Saudi's lost its oil power to Shiite Iraq and Iran.

According to Wikipedia the world's top oil producers are:

1.  Russia 10,900,000 barrels a day and 13.28% of world's oil
2.  Saudi Arabia, 9,900,000 barrels a day and 12.65% of world's oil
3.  United States, 8,453,000 barrels a day and 9.97 of world's oil
4.  Iran, 4,231,000 barrels a day and 4.77% of world's oil
5.  China, 4,073,000 barrels a day and 4.56 of world's oil
6.  Canada 3,592,000 barrels a day and 3.90 of world's oil
7.  Iraq, 3,400,000 barrels a day and 3.75 of world's oil
8.  United Arab Emirates, 3,087 barrels a day and 3.32% of world's oil
9.  Venezuela, 3,023,000 barrels a day and 4.74% of world's oil
10. Mexico, 2,934,000 barrels a day and 3.56% of world's oil.

The link to the world's top oil producers is here and the link to the world's oil reserves is here.

Here's the geo-political monetary conundrum - everybody knows that 'banksters gone wild' has decimated the dollar as well as other fiat currencies. Moreover, fiat central banks are teetering on brink and are unsustainable under the mountain of debt no matter how much 'out of thin air' money they create.  Many nations have reacted by pulling back on treasuries; they aren't buying and they are quietly selling.  Russia and China absolutely believe that the dollar as the world's reserve currency is on life support and both have been stockpiling gold because they understand that someday the world will be forced back into sound money and a new reserve currency will emerge.

Russia would love nothing better than to see the dollar crash along with the evil US empire.  After all, it's well documented that the US had its buddies in the Middle East hyper-pump to drive down the price of oil to crash the Soviet Union and force its breakup.  While Russia did indeed suffer significantly, it got back on its feet and reinvented itself by embracing capitalist principles.  The payoff has been phenomenal for Russia and its oil and natural resource industries are booming. Under KGB turned capitalist Putin, the Russian economy is doing well.

What does the US fear more than anything? It fears the dollar losing its world currency reserve status because when that happens the US dies and is nothing more than another bankrupt banana boat republic.  America is already a bankrupt banana boat republic, the noose around our neck has been knotted and an ever so slight kick of the stool will dangle our corpse.

What can really trigger or expedite the dollar losing it's lofty reserve currency status? Only one thing - oil trading in any currency other than dollars and that has already begun.

China is Trading Oil in Non-Dollar Currencies

Iran Seeks Alternative to Dollar Amid Oil Sanctions

After sanctioning the hell out of Iran and constantly threatening to bomb and invade, America can't very well expect Iran to sell it's oil in dollars.

What's really at play with the Syria debacle really has nothing whatsoever to do with Syria, it's just that Syria is aligned with oil rich Iran who is aligned with both Syria and oil rich Iraq.  What is unique about this alliance is that Syria has a 75% Sunni majority.  Yet, a majority of Syria's Sunnis support Assad and greatly fear a violently ruthless Saudi styled Wahhabist Taliban-Al Qaeda takeover of Syria.  The US invaded Libya and now US supported Al Qaeda gangs have busted the country into bloody civil war, a situation that did not exist under the leadership of Gadaffi.

If major oil producers like Russia, Iran and Iraq start trading oil in non-dollar currencies, that kind of combined oil power would definitely expedite the death of the dollar and the empire. If the Saudi's are running out of oil and there is substantial documentation on this issue, the Sunni Saudis are definitely willing to wage wars to secure dominance over Shiite Iraqi and Iranian oil and the Saudis are not lacking in western partners in crime.  Western powers are 100% behind the evil House of Saud and even openly support and arm Al Qaeda styled Sunni Islamists. The power of the 2 biggest global cartels in human history are at stake - a fiat banking cartel dominated by the dollar being the world's reserve currency and the global oil cartel. Together they just about control everything from the monetary to the economies of every nation on earth.

The world runs on oil and money.  Oil is power.

Syria?  For the House of Saud and Al Qaeda-Taliban styled Sunni Islam, it's all about preserving their oil power and disemboweling an age old religious enemy while using the US military to do it for them. For the US, it is all about preserving the already doomed dollar, Sunni oil cartels and bankster cartels.

The House of Assad is Alewite, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.  As previously noted, the majority of Syria's Sunnis support Assad because they don't want their country taken over by violent Sunni Al Qaeda gangs.  Furthermore it's been documented that Benghazi was a CIA operation gone bad and the goal of that operation was the arming and funding of Syrian Al Qaeda rebels with the help of Saudi Arabia and its Sunni allies.

The US actually believes that it can preserve the dollars' world reserve currency status by militarily intervening in Syria to use Syria as a base to invade Iran.  By controlling Iran-Iraq oil and forcing it under the control of Saudi Sunni Islam, the western marriage of Sunni Islam and the petro dollar can survive at least in the short run.

The real axis of evil is the Saudi-US-oil-central bank cartel. The real goal is to ultimately invade Iran and Iraq (again) and sever the possibility of a Russia-Iran-Iraq oil arrangement that trades oil in non-dollar currencies.  The plan is to isolate and marginalize Russia to force it to sell oil in petro-dollars.

The US and the Wahhabist Sunnis are willing to explode the entire Middle East into horrific war and even use nuclear weapons to achieve its goal of controlling oil and the preservation of the petro-dollar.

Assad and the Syrians are merely expendable pawns on the international chess board of the elite power brokers and the NWO. So are the folks of Iran and Iraq.  Syria is geographically significant because it stand between Turkey and Iraq.  The Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan is a hardcore Sunni Salafist with deep ties to the US and House of Saud.  However, Turkey's Sunni Muslims have been rising up against Erdogan in well publicized revolts because the Turkish Sunnis don't want to be ruled by the Saudi version of Islam.  Moreover, the Turkish people oppose war on Syria, a war that PM Erdogan emphatically supports.

This will not end well. It's clearly evident that the US and Saudi Arabia et. al. are murderous psychopathic nations. The situation holds the potential to draw in Russia and plunge a world already suffering economic misery into a global war where the only beneficiaries are a handful of elites who are more than willing to slaughter millions to maintain their oil and bankster power.

Non-stop warfare is an unspeakable evil and it's long over due for folks to bring this issue to the table. A humanity that commits genocide for oil, bankster and defense contractors is a humanity that is doomed by its own evil. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Is Religion a Bad Thing?

Throughout human history, mankind and its addiction to religions have spawned intolerance, wars, genocide and oppression.  Is 'god' a bad thing?  'God' or belief in a deity isn't necessarily a bad thing but when self-anointed prophets claim to have an absolute monopoly on the will of 'god' as a totalitarian mandate that must be imposed on all of humanity, whatever the cost, the situation quickly turns dangerous, inhumane, bloody and deadly.

Despite its lofty guarantee of everlasting redemptive bliss for devout believers as well as fire, brimstone and eternal hell for those who refuse to 'believe' and 'submit', religion has the uncanny ability to churn human beings into murderous psychopaths because folks absolutely will kill in the name of their preferred deity.

Religious skeptics will frequently argue that religions are and never have been anything more than tools of the state to impose tyranny and whip folks into a psychological frenzy to support the king, empire or government.  This theory is easily proven when one considers the ability of the Republican Party to mobilize America's religious right into an army of Warvangelicals.  Of course, many Christians reject such horrors as incompatible with the teachings of Jesus and Christianity. Still, many religious nuts dominate the Republican Party.

As we bear witness to the horrifying spectacle recently played out in Egypt where the secular Egyptian military is ruthlessly crushing the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood and its fanatical Sunni Salafist Whabbist adherents who are burning churches and murdering Christians as well as Muslims deemed not sufficiently pious in their faith, we are codifying into history yet another chapter of religious intolerance and brutality.  The Egyptian military is hardly on sainted ground either and its ruthless suppression of Egypt's religious wacko's has shocked the world.  Wherever religion roots, the blood seems to flow.

If anything, the great failure of religions is their abject rejection of natural rights.  Human liberty, peace and tolerance absolutely evolve around the concept of natural rights for all human beings regardless of race or religious beliefs.  Yet, natural rights are the missing ingredient in just about every religion. Brotherly love, peaceful co-existence, respect for fellow human beings and tolerance are not components of organized religions, although the Christian world has has progressed, regressed and reinvented itself many times, sometimes for the good and sometimes for the bad and ugly.

The Christian world benefited enormously from its infamous and notorious religious schisms starting with the split between east-west Christianity or the rift between the Roman Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox Christianity that continues to this day with the official schism date being 1054 but was brewing for centuries.  Martin Luther ignited a firestorm in 1517 with his written attacks against the Catholic Church that birthed the Lutheran sect of Christianity.  Henry VIII of England birthed the Church of England when he got royally miffed over a papal refusal to grant him a divorce from his first wife (Catherine of Aragon) so he could marry his mistress (Ann Boleyn) who he later beheaded. Henry's daughter with Catherine turned into Bloody Mary as she attempted to restore Catholicism in England as the religious blood flowed yet again. To this day, the Irish Catholics and Irish Protestants despise each other. Across Europe there were schisms upon schisms and more and more Christian sects were birthed.

While Europe was a bloodbath off and on for nearly a millennium as it engaged in horrific religious wars, the end result was ultimately a more secular and tolerant Christian west.  A history of Europe's bloody religious wars:

Religious Wars in Europe

Still, European religious fervor and persecution persisted and many folks sailed across the pond to America where they fully intended to create their own theocracy.  But since many of these sects had the same idea, America was forced to become tolerant or engage in precisely the same religious wars that drenched European soil with blood. The American heritage of religious tolerance is one of the best in human history, even if flawed by slavery and subject to nasty religious attacks by one sect of believers against another sect of believers. Overall, it worked and probably begrudgingly because the alternative to religious tolerance is chronic religious warfare.

Thomas Jefferson said he only wanted to be remembered for 2 things 1. writing the Declaration of Independence and 2. writing the Virginia Statute on Religious Liberty.  It was not unusual in colonial America for dominant churches to forcibly tax the non-believing minority population to support the church.  This galled religious liberty folks like Jefferson and he along with others worked to end the power of churches to tax.  Religions are very much like governments - give them a little power and they want more and more powers, powers that are used to oppress and plunder.  Somehow plunder is considered a much loftier goal when a deity is invoked.

In any event, the Protestant Reformation served to free the western world from theocracy even if to the chagrin of many.  But the demise of western ecclesiastical power also spawned the birth of human liberty and natural rights. Unfortunately, no such significant reformation has occurred in the Muslim world and largely because the Muslim world has been backwards, lived under tyranny and religious debate is generally banned.  Except for the well documented Sunni-Shia rift, Muslims don't typically debate religion or even challenge their religion.

It has frequently been said that Christianity and Islam are categorically the two most violent religions in human history.  Both conquered by the sword.  Moreover, the legendary battles between Islam and Christianity have filled history books and the bloody battles between the Muslim world and the Christian world are indeed horrific reminders that their respective versions of a god and his will were anything but peaceful, humanitarian or compassionate.  At some points in history, Islam was the superior military might that rapaciously conquered and Islamized Christian communities.  The Christian world fought back and managed to prevent Europe from being Islamized.

The Christian-Islamic wars have pretty much ceased, but not really nor will they ever end.  However, what has changed in the 20th century is that the superior military might of the West has definitely halted the steamrolling of Muslim armies.  It's now Christian armies that are steamrolling and invading Muslims nations and this is a very bad thing even though the bombings, invasions, dronings and murders of Muslims really have nothing whatsoever to do with religion.

History is complicated and Islam is very complicated especially as it relates to his own history, theology and troubled relationships with the non-Muslim world.

A Cruise Through History: Islam, the West and the Rest of the World

The Making of the Modern Middle East

With Charity Toward None, A History of Israel

The above posts are long research pieces that document a lot of history and they are provided for those who seek a deeper understanding of the Middle East and Islam.

However, this post isn't about history or even Islamic theology.  It's about changing attitudes in the Muslim world.  Could Islam possibly be undergoing a Reformation similar to that experienced by the West?  There are indications that Muslims themselves are rising up against theocracy and dictatorship.  Unfortunately, it's also a bloody tragedy but historically all revolts against theocracy and dictatorship have been bloody.  What is promising is that Muslims are now connected to the outside world and they have access to information, networking and technology.

In Egypt, the forces of a more tolerant secularism rose up to challenge the vile and theocratic Muslim Brotherhood.  In Turkey, the Sunni Islamist Prime Minister suffered a huge blow to his power when Sunni Muslims fought him on various issues including forcing Turkey to become a more rigid Islamic state.  The Turks also oppose war on Syria which Prime Minister Erdogan has endorsed.  In Syria Sunni Muslims have supported the Alewite (A Shia sect) Assad regime over Al Qaeda/Taliban styled rule.

These are all severe blows to Saudi Arabia and it's vile, violent and intolerant interpretation of Islam. Sunni Wahhabist Islam is the Islam of Al Qaeda, the Taliban and Saudi petro-dollars have been funding its spread through the Muslim world.  More tragic is that the US and the West in general have supported the House of Saud and also funded radical Islam.  In fact, the US has been arming and funding radical Islam at least since the days of Jimmy Carter who funded and armed the Afghan Mujuhadeen, now the Taliban.

Yet, there are definite signs that Muslims are waking up and challenging their faith and leaders just as the Christian world did a long time ago.  It's a Muslim renaissance in the making that is long overdue. Can it succeed?  I believe it can but it's going to be a long and bloody road if the Christian reformation is any indication of what to expect when ecclesiastic tyranny and power are challenged.

Muslims are no different than other sane folks - when forced theocracy and government tyranny combine to oppress the people and deny them their liberty the people fight back.

Still, mankind has been attached to its preferred deities since the dawn of humanity.  Separating man from his gods is not easy.  But what should or could be easier in a sane, compassionate, respectful and humane world is for religions to stop spawning violence and hatred and step up to acknowledge natural rights and free will.

Ironically, some of the most moral folks I've ever encountered have been atheists and agnostics because they have a tendency to be obsessed with morality, what is right, what is wrong and what is just.  Some of the worst human beings I've encountered were self described 'God fearing' folks who worship the wars and military as if they were the latest version of the Golden Calf.  Yet, I've also encountered many wonderful Christians who oppose the wars and tyranny on the basis that it's anti-Christian.  Moreover, I've witnessed many Christians who have abandoned the Republican Party because they saw the evil that was permeating the GOP and they wanted to distance themselves from the fake Christians and the warmongers.

Finally, 'god' or no 'god', there is always the hope that humanity will somehow discover and embrace its own humanity by rejecting wars, violence and cruelty, as well as its chief perpetrator - government.
With modern military weaponry and nuclear warheads, there is too much at stake for the human race to allow for the horrors of modern warfare.

Meanwhile, the battle of the gods continues as adherents ferociously fight for supremacy and power, and what they plan to do with that power is quite terrifying.. No wonder atheists and agnostics freak-out over religions and gods, and distrust those who believe.  Convincing folks that religions are somehow noble and just is an increasingly uphill battle based on their well documented histories, histories that are drenched in the blood of non-believers and martyrs. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Why Detroit and Municipal Bankruptcies Will Be the Mother of All Legal Nightmares

The bankruptcy of Detroit has been met with a big yawn except for the folks whose fates are dependent on the outcome - creditors, bondholders and public sector unions.  States and cities do not have a printing press like the Federal government.  While Fedzilla may have at least a temporary capacity to print its way out of overspending, municipal debt is an entirely different issue.

Much to the chagrin of the states and especially public sector unions, all bankruptcies are governed by federal bankruptcy laws.  There is no such thing as state bankruptcy laws. It doesn't matter if the debt is personal, corporate or municipal, federal bankruptcy laws have consistently held to the premise that secured creditors get paid first and the unsecured creditors are left scrambling for the crumbs which are frequently non-existent.

Municipal bankruptcy is emerging as especially problematic because it's been historically so rare that there is practically no case law governing such bankruptcies.

Generally speaking, municipal debt falls into 2 categories:

Revenue Bonds: these types of bonds are fully secured with real estate, plant and/or equipment.  They are generally used for revenue generating projects like water plants.

General Obligation Bonds:  GO bonds are not legally defined as secured but they do carry the full faith and credit of the issuing municipality which means that General Obligation bond investors believe that they are in the drivers seat because 'full faith and credit' translates to the government entity having the absolute power to tax until the debt is paid.  Therefore, GO bondholders are convinced that they have the absolute right to demand that taxes be increased to pay them.  That's the definition of 'full faith and credit'.

Enter - Public Sector Unions  The primary reason for municipal bankruptcy is that the municipal entity can no longer afford to pay the pension/benefit packages promised to public employees.  While many state constitutions include a clause specifically stating that the states are obligated to pay pension and benefits to public sector workers, it's difficult to enforce, especially when legislative bodies fail to adequately fund those benefits.  Politicians are notorious for promising the sun, the moon and the stars to public sector employees in exchange for their votes.  Public sector employees are not aware that those same politicians never funded their promised benefits.

Public section unions have now entered the municipal bankruptcy fray claiming that they are indeed senior secured 'lienholders' and their superior lien position trumps that of the revenue and general obligation bond holders.

This is truly a nightmare of a legal situation that is destined to be played out in many cities and states across the nation but the battlefield will be the Bankruptcy Court.  Municipal bonds have always been considered very safe and low risk investments.  Now that paradigm is being severely challenged.  State and cities have borrowed and borrowed for many years for all kinds of things including issuing Pension Obligation Bonds to fund public pension.  According to Forbes, outstanding municipal debt totals $2.9 trillion, here.  However, The Economist pegged municipal debt at debt at $3.7 trillion, here.

As noted by The Guardian, many other cities and states are "skirting the edge of disaster – unless they find a solution to their pension problems".

Detroit, tip of a vast pensions liability iceberg

Although Detroit is getting all the attention because it's a major city as well as the largest municipal bankruptcy in US history, other cities are apparently in bad financial shape, if not worse shape than Detroit.

20 Cities In Worse Financial Shape than Detroit

1. Compton, Calif. Compton has teetered on the brink of bankruptcy after it accrued a general-fund deficit of more than $40 million by borrowing from other funds, depleting what had been a $22 million reserve.

2. East Greenbush, N.Y. A New York state audit concluded that years of fiscal mismanagement — including questionable employment contracts and illegal payments to town officials — left East Greenbush more than $2 million in debt.

3. Fresno, Calif. Fresno had the ratings of its lease-revenue bonds downgraded to junk-level by Moody's, which also downgraded its convention center and pension obligation bonds due to the city's "exceedingly weak financial position."

4. Gulf County, Fla. Fitch Ratings warned that Gulf County's predominately rural economy is "narrowly focused," with income levels one-quarter below national averages and economic indicators for the county also comparing unfavorably to national averages.

5. Harrisburg, Pa. Harrisburg is at least $345 million in debt, thanks largely to municipal bonds it guaranteed in order to finance upgrades to its problematic waste-to-energy trash incinerator.

6. Irvington, N.J. Irvington has a violent crime rate six times higher than New Jersey's average, with Moody's citing "wealth indicators below state and national averages and tax-base and population declines due to increased tax appeals and foreclosures."

7. Jefferson County, Ala. Jefferson County, home to the city of Birmingham, has been dealing with the collapse of refinancing for a sewer bond. It filed for bankruptcy protection in 2011 over a $3.14 billion sewer bond debt.

8. Menasha, Wis. Menasha defaulted on bonds in 2007 it had issued to fund a steam plant which has since closed and left the city permanently in the red and, as of 2011, had $16 million in general fund revenue, but had $43.4 million in outstanding debt.

9. Newburgh, N.Y. Newburgh was cited by Moody's for "tax base erosion and a weak socioeconomic profile," with 26 percent of its population below the poverty line and its school district facing a $2 million budget gap.

10. Oakland, Calif. Oakland is trying to get out of a Goldman Sachs-brokered interest rate swap that is costing it $4 million a year. According to a recent city audit, Oakland has lost $250 million from a 1997 pension obligation bond sale and subsequent investment strategy.

11. Philadelphia School District, Pa. Philadelphia's school district, the nation's eighth-largest, faces a $304 million deficit in its $2.35 billion budget, and is seeking $133 million from labor-contract savings to prevent further cutbacks.

12. Pontiac, Mich. Pontiac, where the emergency manager has restructured the city's finances, was downgraded by Moody's, reflecting the city's history of fiscal distress and narrow liquidity.

13. Providence, R.I. Providence, rumored to be filing for bankruptcy for more than a year, experienced consecutive deficits through fiscal 2012, has a high-debt burden and significant unfunded pension liabilities, as well as high unemployment and low income levels.

14. Riverdale, Ill. The credit rating for Riverdale is under review by Moody's because the city has not released an audit of interim or unaudited data for the year that ended April 30, 2012.
15. Salem, N.J. Salem is under close fiscal supervision after it issued bonds to finance the construction of the Finlaw State Office Building, which was delayed by construction issues, and its leasing revenues are not enough to cover the debt payments and the maintenance fees.

16. Strafford County, N.H. Strafford County regularly borrows money to cover its short-term cash needs after it spent two-fifths of its budget on a nursing home, which lost $36 million from 2004 to 2009.

17. Taylor, Mich. Taylor has a large deficit and is vulnerable due to significant declines in the tax base, limited financial flexibility, and above-average unfunded pension obligations.

18. Vadnais Heights, Minn. The Minneapolis suburb of Vadnais Heights had its debt rating downgraded to junk last fall by Moody's after the city council voted to stop payments to a sports center financed by bonds.

19. Wenatchee, Wash. Wenatchee defaulted on $42 million in debt associated with the Town Toyota Center, a multipurpose arena, and has ongoing financial issues due to the default.

20. Woonsocket, R.I. Woonsocket faces near-term liquidity shortages necessitating an advance in state aid, a high-debt burden and unfunded pension liabilities, with Moody's citing the city's continuing difficulties in making spending cuts because of poor management and imprecise accounting.
All of the above cities and counties did something monumentally stupid and fiscally irresponsible. Illinois and Chicago have pretty much been dubbed 'walking bankruptcies' by many informed financial pundits.  Even Time wrote a piece titled Why Illinois is Going Bankrupt, Squeezy the Pension Python has its grip around the Land of Lincoln.

Public employee unions are a powerful force in heavily Democratic Illinois, and they have not only clout but the law on their side. The contracts that grant retirement benefits to public employees are guaranteed by the state constitution, the unions argue. Such promises must be kept.
Many US cities and states will become "Greece" - meaning out of cash, out of credit and out of taxpayers to plunders.  When that happens, it's the bankruptcy courts that will be making the decisions on who gets paid and who gets stiffed.  Such decisions are not decisions that any bankruptcy judge will welcome, especially since municipal bankruptcies are far more painful than routine "I want to stiff my creditors and walk away from my debts because I'm broke", the typical corporate or personal bankruptcy triggers.

Meanwhile, in Detroit the drama intensifies as the first order of bankruptcy business is for the court to rule whether or not Detroit is eligible for bankruptcy protection because bankrupt absolutely includes a legal discharge of debt.  This quite naturally has incurred the wrath of creditors.

Creditors face deadline in Detroit bankruptcy case
Banks, bond insurers, employee pension systems and others standing to lose big if a federal judge declares Detroit insolvent are expected to legally file their objections to the largest municipal bankruptcy in US history.....

A multi-day hearing on the eligibility question is scheduled to start on October 23.
Whatever the outcome of Detroit's fiscal nightmare, the only certainty is that there will be more Detroits.  There's just way too much easy money debt that has grown into mountains that are chasing the ever dwindling ability to pay it.

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Thursday, August 22, 2013

I Really Don't Want to Talk About Immigration BUT.......

As a Yankee in Texas, I'm quite fond of the Texas multicultural heritage and I've encountered many fine hardworking immigrants.  Texas has a long history of Hispanic immigration.  In fact, many Texas Hispanics hail from families that have been here for hundreds of years and far longer than my 3rd generation immigrant status resulting from my grandparents migrating to the U.S. from Russia, Ireland and Germany in the early part of the 20th century.

As a hot potato political issue, immigration ranks near the top of contentious issues, along with the never ending social issues.  Some folks just really, really hate all immigrants and demand that all of them be deported.  I'm definitely not in that camp and I absolutely do subscribe to the view that nations benefit from immigration.  Healthy immigration is a win-win for everybody.

Heck, America is a nation that was built by industrious and hardworking immigrants.  I know how hard immigrants work because I've witnessed it up close and personal.  Immigrants are here because they want to work, they do work and Americans seems to have gotten lazy about working. I had a roof replaced a few years and August in central Texas is brutally hot. The roofing crew was all Hispanic and only the supervisor spoke English.  These workers worked like dogs in the blazing heat tearing off one roof and nailing down a new roof.  I had some tile replaced and a fine Hispanic tile man did the job on a Sunday along with his 13 year old daughter assistant who was delightful.  She manned the table saw outside, cut the tiles and gave them to her dad. She told me she loved working and helping her dad.  I could go on and on about my wonderful experiences with Hispanic tradesmen.

In my opinion, the immigrants who are here that are productively working should be legalized, given green cards and have the opportunity to apply for citizenship.  They earned it and they deserve it. However, I draw the line at entitlement dependent immigrants.  The immigrants that built America didn't need food stamps, Medicaid cards and other entitlements.  There are indeed immigrants in America who mooch of the taxpayers and the welfare system.

My immigration plan is simple: deport the entitlement dependent and keep those who work and demand nothing except the right to work.

Unfortunately, that's not how our immigration system works.  The US immigration system is designed to be welfare for businesses by massively importing cheap third world laborers who are so poor that they are eligible for entitlements.  This is basically a taxpayer subsidy to businesses.  Moreover, entitlement dependent immigrants are definitely not the type of immigrants that America needs.

The Obama Administration is already advertising that some form of subsidized-to-free medical care (either Medicaid or Obamacare) will be available to 14 million illegal immigrants as a benefit.  A government benefit is paid for by tax dollars.

Medicare and Medicaid already cost American taxpayers over $1 trillion a year and the government estimates that Obamacare subsidies will cost another trillion a year.  Obamacare is not only a huge subsidized disaster, it will force more folks into Medicaid. 

Considering that America is rapidly morphing into a minimum wage economy because we've made the decision to offshore and outsource our once legendary manufacturing industries that produced high paid middle class workers, it's clear that the minimum wage economy will dramatically ratchet up entitlement dependency.  

A suddenly seemingly hawkish Ben Bernanke may be giving the impression he is preparing to taper because he feels confident enough about the recovery (just don't ask him about sudden dramatic rises in yields: that "puzzles" him). Yet as those who have been reading Zero Hedge for the past three years know, this jobs "recovery" is purely quantitative (not to mention seasonally adjusted): the quality of jobs regained is, in a word, abysmal, with the bulk of new job creation benefiting part-time and minimum-wage jobs.....
The lower-wage occupations that grew the most during the recovery include retail salespersons, food preparation workers, laborers and freight workers, waiters and waitresses, personal and home care aides, and office clerks and customer representatives.
To make matters worse, currency devaluation resulting from decades of deficit spending, mountains of fiat debt and nasty government policy decisions have not only decimated the middle class but has put workers in the poor house.

40% Of US Workers Now Earn Less Than 1968 Minimum Wage

Because America is now a nation where worker wages are no longer sufficient to cover basics like food, healthcare and shelter, the explosion of the entitlement dependent is shocking.  Nearly 50 million folks are on food stamps and its use rate is soaring. 100 million Americans are enrolled in Medicare (49 million) and Medicaid (50 million).  Those numbers are expected to grow substantially.

The Heritage Foundation reported that the immigration bill concocted by the so-called congressional Gang of 8 will cost $6.3 trillion, here.

To further complicate the mess, there are provisions and incentives in the immigration bill that actually encourages employers to fire Americans and hire newly legalized immigrants.

Gang of Eight Amnesty Bill Encourages Companies to Hire Illegal Aliens over American Workers

Immigration Bill's Health Care Provisions Could Get U.S. Workers Fired

The immigration bill not only stinks to high heaven, it's specifically designed to exclusive benefit newly legalized immigrants at the expense of American workers, as if American workers aren't already hurting and struggling to survive.

Before American can even begin to work on a sane immigration policy that is beneficial to everybody, it needs to first solve the entitlement problems.  With Libertarian leaning think tanks like CATO advocating for legalizing all illegals and opening our borders to everybody to create a borderless nation, none of them ever take into account the gargantuan cost of the welfare entitlement state and subsidizing corporate profits. We need to get Americans off the welfare rolls and back to work.  We need to become a nation where a days labor earns enough money to provides essentials like food and shelter without a welfare subsidy.

Until the entitlement state is demolished, re-engineered and/or massively downsized, there is no way to separate honest hardworking immigrants from the moochers who come here to mooch and many of them are caught up in the spiral of low wage jobs and poverty - folks just trying to survive in a global economy that has turned against them.

Between the non-working folks on welfare and the working poor on welfare, America has morphed into a hideous industrialized feudalistic society consisting of the rich and the serfs who serve them.  

35 Statistics About The Working Poor In America That Will Blow Your Mind
#1 According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 146 million Americans are either "poor" or "low income".
#2 According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 57 percent of all American children live in a home that is either "poor" or "low income".
#3 Back in 2007, about 28 percent of all working families were considered to be among "the working poor". Today, that number is up to 32 percent even though our politicians tell us that the economy is supposedly recovering.
#4 Back in 2007, 21 million U.S. children lived in "working poor" homes. Today, that number is up to 23.5 million.
#5 In Arkansas, Mississippi and New Mexico, more than 40 percent all of working families are considered to be "low income".
#6 Families that have a head of household under the age of 30 have a poverty rate of 37 percent....
The above stats are not good signs.  In fact, they document the death of America's once prosperous middle class rather than portray a healthy, rising and vibrant middle class.  In America these days, it's all about documenting the rot and decay of our dying middle class - folks who have no futures.

The senate immigration bill will only further stress the already severely stressed American workers by importing entitlement dependent third world labor. It's a recipe for massive impoverishment of all workers, citizen or immigrant.

Want wages to rise?  Abolish the entitlements and force businesses to compete for unsubsidized labor in a free labor market. Maybe then we could talk about immigration.

Still, it makes no sense to flood America with tens of millions of immigrants when our own people are profoundly suffering from an economy that had hit the skids and put many Americans on skid row.

Image source:

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Setting the Record Straight on Rand Paul, NDAA and the Patriot Act

There is much hysteria in social media accusing Rand Paul of voting YES on NDAA.  First of all, there was never an NDAA bill.  NDAA was merely a very tiny component of the monster 2013 Defense Authorization bill but that tiny component included highly combustible and contentious language on the right of the federal government to indefinitely detain American citizens without due process or charges. Because of civil liberties concerns, Rand Paul fought for language that would have weakened or neutered the right of the government to indefinitely detain citizens.  Once that amendment was included in the Defense Authorization bill, Rand Paul voted YES on the bill.

It is not unusual for the senate and house to pass competing versions of a bill.  It happens frequently and when it does happen a Conference Committee is created to include members of the house and senate to iron out the differences.  Yes, the Conference Committee is always rigged.

Let's back up to the 2012 Defense Authorization bill (passed in Dec. 2011) when the same civil liberties issues were raised. Rand Paul voted NO on the final Conference Committee bill along with 14 other senators in an 86-13-1 vote.  The 12/15/11 roll call vote is here.

Fast forward a year later to December 2012 and the vote on the 2013 Defense Authorization Act.  In an 81-14-4 vote that easily passed, Rand Paul voted NO.  The 2013 Defense Authorization official roll call vote is here and the vote occurred on 12/21/12.

In the 2011 and 2012 final votes on the Defense Authorization bill, Rand Paul voted NO, as documented above with the official roll call votes.  Since Rand Paul was elected in Nov. 2010 and was sworn into office in January, 2011, he had no votes prior to being sworn in.

Yet, there is a firestorm brewing that falsely alleges that Rand Paul voted YES on NDAA.  It's simply NOT true.  However, what is TRUE is that Rand Paul voted YES on the 2013 Defense Authorization bill (senate version) on 12/4/12 because it contained an amendment restricting NDAA indefinite detention but that amendment was kicked out of the final bill in Conference Committee.

Still, the Rand Paul haters are circulating the 98-0-2 roll call vote as proof that Rand Paul voted YES on NDAA.  That roll call vote is here.  Rand Paul NEVER voted for NDAA.

The Huffington Post wrote a piece on Rand Paul's furious dissent.

NDAA Indefinite Detention Bill Passes Senate After Rand Paul Calls It An 'Abomination'
The Senate passed a version of the National Defense Authorization Act that was stripped of a prohibition of the indefinite military detention of US citizens on American soil by an 81-14 vote on Friday, but only after a furious dissent on the chamber's floor by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who called it an "abomination." documented Rand Paul's position on NDAA.

'Abomination': Rand Paul slams NDAA as bill passes US Senate

The controversial NDAA bill, which allows for the indefinite detention of US citizens, was approved by the Senate despite White House threats to veto the legislation. Republican Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) has decried the law as an “abomination.”
The libertarian Republican voiced his concerns to a conference committee following the decision to give the present version of National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) the go-ahead. Paul cited the committee’s decision to scrap an amendment that would have prohibited the indefinite detention of US citizens suspected of terrorist activities.
"It's [the amendment] been removed because they want the ability to hold American citizens without trial in our country. This is so fundamentally wrong and goes against everything we stand for as a country that it can't go unnoticed,” Paul told the committee. He went on to condemn the bill as an “abomination” that deprives US citizens of the right to a fair trial.
"When you're accused of a crime in our country you get a trial, you get a trial by a jury of your peers, no matter how heinous your crime is, no matter how awful you are, we give you a trial," he said.
Another lie that is circulating about Rand Paul is that he voted YES on the Patriot Act.  He did no such thing.  The Patriot Act originally passed shortly after 911 with a sunset date of 12/31/05, meaning it was supposed to be TEMPORARY but since government tyranny is NEVER temporary, Congress and Bush renewed the Patriot Act in 3/06 for 4 more years.  In February, 2010, Obama signed a one year extension of the Patriot Act.

On 5/26/11, Congress passed and Obama signed a 4 year extension of the Patriot Act. Senate bill 990 (PATRIOT Sunsets Extension Act of 2011) cleared the Senate on 5/26/11 in a 72-23-5 recorded vote, here.  Rand Paul voted NO.

NO Votes on Patriot Act renewal

NAYs ---23 Akaka (D-HI) Baucus (D-MT) Begich (D-AK) Bingaman (D-NM) Brown (D-OH) Cantwell (D-WA) Coons (D-DE) Durbin (D-IL) Franken (D-MN) Harkin (D-IA) Heller (R-NV) Lautenberg (D-NJ) Leahy (D-VT) Lee (R-UT) Merkley (D-OR) Murkowski (R-AK) Murray (D-WA) Paul (R-KY) Sanders (I-VT) Tester (D-MT) Udall (D-CO) Udall (D-NM) Wyden (D-OR)

In the senate, the magic number for passing a bill is 60 votes, unless it's budget reconciliation which required a simple majority.  The Patriot Act easily cleared the Democrat controlled Senate, although Rand Paul, Mike Lee and Lisa Murkowsky were the sole Republicans who joined with 20 Dems to vote NO on renewing the Patriot Act.

I'm unclear about where all the lies about Rand Paul on NDAA and the Patriot Act are coming from. However, the truth is easily obtained by merely checking roll call votes.  Understanding how legislation is introduced, debated and passed in the house and the senate also helps, as well as understanding conference committees.

In the post Snowden era, civil liberties are indeed very critical concerns.  NDAA will be up again in December, 2013 with the 2014 Defense Authorization bill.  The Patriot Act will surface again just in time for the 2016 presidential election.

Where will Congress be?  Missing in action again on protecting the civil liberties of American citizens? Rand Paul will be there for the American people, defending their civil liberties and fighting the fight to oppose NDAA, the Patriot Act and other draconian assaults on liberty. 

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