Thursday, December 31, 2009

Health Care Bill Just Another Give Away?

Randall Wray suggests it is, as cited on Washington's Blog

"Here’s the opportunity, Wall Street’s newest and bestest gamble: there is a huge untapped market of some 50 million people who are not paying insurance premiums—and the number grows every year because employers drop coverage and people can’t afford premiums. Solution? Health insurance “reform” that requires everyone to turn over their pay to Wall Street. Can’t afford the premiums? That is OK—Uncle Sam will kick in a few hundred billion to help out the insurers. Of course, do not expect more health care or better health outcomes because that has nothing to do with “reform” ... Wall Street’s insurers... see a missed opportunity. They’ll collect the extra premiums and deny the claims. This is just another bailout of the financial system, because the tens of trillions of dollars already committed are not nearly enough." (Wray, cited on Washington's Blog)

I have been very concerned about how authentic health care reform has been dropped. The big insurance giants have much to gain with mandated care and no public option.

I fail to understand why some people would prefer that a corporation make health care decisions over a government.

I work in government and know how the social-welfare-education government system works. Government is often slow and could be more efficient at times but it does not deny coverage on the basis of profit margins. Social-welfare types of government bureaucracies operate by rules.

In contrast, my experience with health care corporations is that cost is the deciding factor, always. Coverage will be denied, even when pre-authorized, in order to postpone payment. How many times have I had to call to get the insurers to pay as contracted?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

"Forecast 2010" by Cluster...

This is an interesting, well-worth-the-read analysis of where the U.S. and the global economy stand.

His observations are macro in nature and address the fantasy extend and pretend game being played by the banks and U.S. Government. They also explore pressing but little-talked-about issues such as peak oil. His observations parallel those made by Perkins, but are very different in tone. Here is a sample passage:

"The past 20 years we've seen the institutions of capital finance pretend to create growth where there is no growth by expanding financial casino games of chance and extracting profits, commissions, and bonuses from the management of these games - mortgage backed securities, collateralized debt obligations, credit default swaps, and all the rest of the tricks dreamed up as America's industrial economy was shipped off to the Third World. But that set of rackets had a limited life span and they ran into a wall in October 2008. Since then it's all come down to a shell game: hide the giant pea of defaulted debt under a giant walnut shell....

....Meanwhile President Obama has given next-to-zero money or attention to public transit, to repairing the passenger railroad system in particular. I maintain that if we don't repair this system, Americans will not be traveling very far from home in a decade or so.

Author of Confessions of an Economic Hitman Discusses the Secret Empire

John Perkins, author of Confessions of an Economic Hitman, discusses how he in the past set up developing nations for economic defaults in order for the U.S. to get access to those nations' valuable resources at bargain prices.

Nations that failed to go along with the plan were subject to CIA engineered coups.

Perkins also discusses the current economic crisis and what reforms are needed in this must see video interview

Perkins concludes by proposing a variety of macro and micro solutions and alternatives to produce a healthier, fairer, global economy.

He observes that making missles and trinkets are destructive. Instead, those same companies that produce arms and GMO seeds that benefit the corporations alone might be incentivized to create technologies that actually help people and clean up our poisoned planet.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Main Street Tragedies

Robert Reich has a thoughtful post on the decline of the working and middle classes. Here is an excerpt:

"The real locus of the problem was never the financial economy to begin with, and the bailout of Wall Street was a sideshow. The real problem was on Main Street, in the real economy. Before the crash, much of America had fallen deeply into unsustainable debt because it had no other way to maintain its standard of living. That's because for so many years almost all the gains of economic growth had been going to a relatively small number of people at the top."

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Oil Consumption Surprise

The U.S. Armed Forces uses more oil than just about any other institutional user. Quoting Sara Flounders, Washington's Blog reports:

"By every measure, the Pentagon is the largest institutional user of petroleum products and energy in general. Yet the Pentagon has a blanket exemption in all international climate agreements"


"Even according to rankings in the 2006 CIA World Factbook, only 35 countries (out of 210 in the world) consume more oil per day than the Pentagon..."

The logic here seems to be that we wage war to "secure" energy that will allow us to wage war. The snake swallows its tail.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Project Censored Releases List of Top Censored Stories for 2010

This list of censored stories is definitely a reading must.

One story is particularly disturbing. Apparently the ocean off the coast of Somalia has been used for 10 years as a dumpting ground for industrial waste, including radioactive materials, lead, etc. Here is an excerpt:

"Nuttall also said that since the containers came ashore, hundreds of residents have fallen ill, suffering from mouth and abdominal bleeding, skin infections and other ailments. 'What is most alarming here is that nuclear waste is being dumped. Radioactive uranium waste that is potentially killing Somalis and completely destroying the ocean,' he said"

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Supreme Court Guts Due Process

Naked Capitalism has an article describing a new Supreme Court Decision that purportedly strips all rights, including it seems habeas corpus, of individuals decreed by the president to be "enemy combatants."

This is very, very disturbing if true. I'll try and track down information.

Friday, December 18, 2009

3 Perspectives--1 Viewpoint

I've read three different analyses today, each framed from different philosophical orientations on the world. Yet all three come to the same conclusion.

Here is the story: The too-big-to-fail banks, investment banks, and insurance gians made risky bets, enabled by the de-regulatory environment. They obviously got in trouble. So, the U.S. Federal Reserve and the Treasury bailed them out with zero percent interest loans and government guarantees.

The "real" economy kept diving with lower consumption, no credit, and more job losses. Since "real" losses kept growing, the bailouts continued. Now, government bailout excesses and very high military spending are creating an unprecedented government debt bubble (in Treasuries).

Government bailout out money to the banks has created a speculative bubble in securities and commodities in the U.S. and also in other countries (e.g., China). This bubble in financial assets is in danger of popping. When it does, it will endanger the U.S. federal bubble because, the assumption is, only so much gov debt can be manufactured without precipating a currency crisis.

Other nations' bubbles that are deflating could cause a wave of sovereign defaults, which would cause central banks everywhere to have to issue more bailouts

The upshot is this recession is far from over and it looks like it is going to get rough...

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Scope of Government Military Contracting

Truth out covers a report out recently on the scope of government military contracting. Here is an excerpt:

"According to a new government report, more than 50 percent of the Department of Defense workforces are military contractors and the Obama administration's troop surge in Afghanistan is set to only increase these numbers.

The report, prepared by the Congressional Research Service (CRS), the investigative arm of Congress, and released Monday, highlights the internal dealings of the Defense Department with that of the 218,000 contractors, compared to 190,000 uniformed personnel, it employs, and the logistical and administrative issues inherent in dealing with a military campaign through outsourcing. "

Drug Money Saved Banks in Financial Crisis
"Drug money saved banks in global crisis, claims UN advisorDrugs and crime chief says $352bn in criminal proceeds was effectively laundered by financial institutions"

"Drugs money worth billions of dollars kept the financial system afloat at the height of the global crisis, the United Nations' drugs and crime tsar has told the Observer.

Antonio Maria Costa, head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, said he has seen evidence that the proceeds of organised crime were "the only liquid investment capital" available to some banks on the brink of collapse last year. He said that a majority of the $352bn (£216bn) of drugs profits was absorbed into the economic system as a result "...

Shadow Inventory of Housing Rises Sharply

Calcuated Risk reports: "From Bloomberg: ‘Shadow Inventory’ of U.S. Homes Climbs, Report Says'"

"The number of homes that may be in the pipeline for a sale because of foreclosure and delinquency climbed about 55 percent to 1.7 million at the end of September, according to estimates by First American CoreLogic.
“While the visible month’s supply has decreased and is beginning to approach more normal levels, adding in the pending supply reveals there is still quite a bit of inventory that will impact the housing market for the next few years,” First American said.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Volcker: Wake Up!

Simon Johnson has a good article at Seeking Alpha discussing Volcker's remarks about the lack of financial reform.

Johnson writes "Volcker has three main points, with which we whole-heartedly agree:

1. “[Financial engineering] moves around the rents in the financial system, but not only this, as it seems to have vastly increased them.”
2. “I have found very little evidence that vast amounts of innovation in financial markets in recent years have had a visible effect on the productivity of the economy”
and most important:

3. “I am probably going to win in the end”.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Childhood Tragedies

I've been swamped grading papers and making changes to my latest book manuscript and really only had time to read the news. What I read is distressing. I've read 3 stories in the last few days about the terrible circumstances facing America's children.

Here are the 3 stories.

1. Silent Epidemic of Hunger Among America's Kids

2. Extreme Crisis in Youth Prisons

3. Poor Kids More Likely to be Zombified with Antipsychotics

These titles caught my attention because they point to the deteriorating conditions facing so many of America's kids. This topic is the focus of my most recent book. I'm working on the copy editor's corrections now. It will be out in April 2010.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Manchurian Candidate

Matt Taibbi offers us more insightful analysis.

In this excerpt, Taibbi describes what happened to Obama's advisors immediately after his election:

"What he did instead was ship even his most marginally progressive campaign advisers off to various bureaucratic Siberias, while packing the key economic positions in his White House with the very people who caused the crisis in the first place. This new team of bubble-fattened ex-bankers and laissez-faire intellectuals then proceeded to sell us all out, instituting a massive, trickle-up bailout and systematically gutting regulatory reform from the inside..."

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Meglomonia Policy: Full Spectrum Dominance

Why is the US in Afghanistan, the place where the Soviet Union died? Why does the Pentagon think it can succeed? What is the "agenda" for US in the Middle East? What roles do China and Russia play in this new incantation of the "Great Game"?

Check out the video at the link.

Financial Reform and Unemployment

Weekly Initial Unemployment Claims Increase to 474,000

Financial Reform is Being Gutted. See Washington's Blog

I am becoming increasingly pessimistic. Obama lacks either the strength or desire to address the serious issues facing the nation.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Nano High Tech Particles Found in 9-11 WTC Dust

Active Thermitic Material Discovered in Dust from the 9/11 World Trade Center Catastrophe. The Open Chemics Physics Journal pp.7-31 (25) Authors: Niels H. Harrit, Jeffrey Farrer, Steven E. Jones, Kevin R. Ryan, Frank M. Legge, Daniel Farnsworth, Gregg Roberts, James R. Gourley, Bradley R. Larsen

Here is an excerpt from the article:

"Based on these observations, we conclude that the red
layer of the red/gray chips we have discovered in the WTC
dust is active, unreacted thermitic material, incorporating
nanotechnology, and is a highly energetic pyrotechnic or
explosive material

"Thus, the energetic nano-composite can be sprayed or
even “painted” onto surfaces, effectively forming an energetic
or even explosive paint. The red chips we found in the
WTC dust conform to their description of “thin films” of
“hybrid inorganic/organic energetic nanocomposite”. Indeed,
the descriptive terms “energetic coating” and “nice adherent
film” fit very well with our observations of the red-chips
which survived the WTC destruction..."

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Politics of Cancer Risks

Nicholas Kristof has a great editorial column in today's NYT where he examines the politics of cancer.

He points out that debates about screening (and I would add genetics) dominate mainstream media accounts of cancer. What is left out of this discussion is the role of synthetic chemicals in increasing cancer risks. Here are a couple of excerpts from his column:

"What if breast cancer in the United States has less to do with insurance or mammograms and more to do with contaminants in our water or air -- or in certain plastic containers in our kitchens? What if the surge in asthma and childhood leukemia reflect, in part, the poisons we impose upon ourselves?...

"Dr. Philip Landrigan, the chairman of the department of preventive medicine at Mount Sinai, said that the risk that a 50-year-old white woman will develop breast cancer has soared to 12 percent today, from 1 percent in 1975. (Some of that is probably a result of better detection.)"....

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Job Data: Looking Beyond the Headline Drop

WSJ 12/5-6/09

"The average duration of unemployment grew by about two weeks, to 28.5 weeks in November--the highest on record. Some 38% of the jobless were deemed long term unemployed, meaning they had been without work for about 6 months or more. The ranks of discouraged workers--those who have left the labor force for lack of job prospects--swelled by nearly 60,000 to 357,000 last month"

separate WSJ article, same date:
"Adjusting for seasonal swings in hiring, the Labor Department said retailers shed 14,500 workers last month."

Friday, December 4, 2009

Unemployment Data: The Real Numbers Please
The Internet is buzzing with analyses of the real unemployment numbers. I like this article at Seeking Alpha by "Trader Mark":

"You see, as the weekly claims figure has dropped from 462,000 Americans last week to 457,000 this week (green shoots, a 5000 person drop!) the (hidden in dark corners where only mushrooms grow) Emergency Unemployment Compensation exploded up by 265,000 Americans. Yes you heard me, a quarter million people... in a week. Shhhh... not so loud."
"So if you are not following what is happening... people are falling off the traditional claims as they have exhausted "traditional" lengths of stay, and our EUC (all our extensions combined) are exploding higher..."

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Jobs Data: The U.S. West is Deteriorating

Credit Writedowns has a good article discussing Gallup data on the national job situation.

The west is getting worse. Anecdotal evidence illustrates the trend across the nation. Yesterday, Open Text, a technology company, eliminated 8% of their national workforce. Open Text is doing well. Why are they eliminating such a significant percentage of their workforce?

Today on the radio I heard that the state of Arizona has depleted its line of credit from Bank of America. The state drew down the last of its credit line making a payment to k-12 education in the state. The state is insolvent. Government jobs are going to be eliminated.

We are in a deflationary spiral, headed for collapse.

What if the U.S. were to re-deploy all U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq in the U.S. to repair roads, bridges, schools, and parks. There would still be plenty of money left to hire unemployed Americans to clean up and repair the nation.

Matt Taibbi on Obama's Capture by Wall Street

Matt Taibbi, the Rolling Stone reporter who describes Goldman Sachs as a giant vampire squid, argues that Obama is captured, as evidenced by his reliance on Robert Rubin. I agree. I also think Obama is powerless with respect to the U.S. military.

Wall Street controls our economic policy and the Pentagon controls our foreign policy.

It is sickening to watch the U.S. be destroyed by the corruption within.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Interesting Economic Analysis

Robert Brenner's ideas are discussed in this essay by Taggart Murphy published in the Asia Pacific Journal

Here is a passage written by Taggart with quotes from Brenner:

"One has therefore witnessed for the last dozen years or so the extraordinary spectacle of a world economy in which the continuation of capital accumulation has come literally to depend upon historic waves of speculation, carefully nurtured and publicly rationalized by state policy makers and regulators – first in equities between 1995 and 2000, then in housing and leveraged lending between 2000 and 2007. What is good for Goldman Sachs – no longer GM – is what is good for America.” (emphasis in the original).

"If this is correct, there is no easy fix for our problems. The blowing of asset bubbles is not an unfortunate side effect of regulatory capture or Wall Street's greed. It was the only way governments could keep economic growth from falling below politically dangerous levels once traditional Keynesian methods of fiscal stimulus through deficit spending were no longer adequate to compensate for the sclerosis at the heart of the advanced capitalist economies: “worsening difficulties with profitability and capital accumulation.”