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The Obama Edge

Retrofitting Nation’s Gas Guzzler Fleet Unstimulated in Latest Bailout

February 16th 2009

Economy - Green Jobs

This continuing coverage of America’s oil crisis arises from the just released book, The Plan: How to Save America When the Oil Stops—or the Day Before (Dialog Press). Buy it here.

Now that the $787 billion stimulus package has become law, a key emphasis is “green jobs” and energy rescue. But the single most important program in becoming energy independent and regaining financial health is never mentioned in the massive Congressional text.

Without that program, it will take one to two painful decades to kick our national addiction to oil. Without that program, our vulnerability to an oil interruption due to a petropolitical or terrorist blockage of the Strait of Hormuz continues as a clear and present danger. Without that program, America’s economic house of cards will continue to weaken as we continue to send approximately a $1 trillion overseas, primarily to OPEC suppliers. Without that program, hundreds of thousands of auto industry workers have no real chance of rapidly returning to secure work. That undiscovered program is vehicle “retrofitting” to create a Retrofitting Revolution. Read more ..


Mexican Drug Wars

Mexican Narco-Traffickers Wreak Deadly Havoc Against Law Enforcement

February 9th 2009

Mexican Topics - Mexican Drug Violence

Mexico is struggling to wage war against its ultra-violent drug traffickers. More than 6,000 people were murdered in 2008, including innocent people, law enforcement officers and military men, as well as narco-traffickers themselves. The gruesome conflict is spilling over into American territory into the lives of U.S. citizens vacationing south of the border. Mexico's drug war is in fact more threatening and bloody now than at any point in history.

The numbers are staggering. In 2008, some 530 police officers were killed. In January 2009 alone, some 493 murders were attributed to drug-related violence, nearly doubling the figure for January 2008. These murders were gruesome. Many of the dead were decapitated and showed signs of torture. Minors and women have not been spared from the violence.

The Mexican government admits that a number of the police killed were also working for the narco-traffickers and were in fact murdered by rivals. Escalating violence has American authorities worried. Read more ..


America’s Economic Collapse

Must America Learn Painful Lessons from Japan’s Economic Crisis?

February 2nd 2009

Economy - Japanese Economic Crisis

Every day seems worse than the previous day for our economy. Five hundred thousand people are getting laid off each month. Our banking system is on life support. Retailers are going bankrupt in record numbers. The stock market keeps descending. Home prices continue to plummet. Home foreclosures keep mounting. Consumer confidence is at record lows.

You would like to close your eyes and make it go away. Not only is the news not going away, it is going to get worse and last longer than most people can comprehend. The Great Depression lasted 11 years, but the more pertinent comparison is Japan from 1990 until today.

A two-decade downturn has a high likelihood of occurring in the United States. There are many similarities between the U.S. and Japan, but in many areas the U.S. has a much dire situation. If the next decade resembles the Japanese experience, there will be significant angst and social unrest. Read more ..


The Obama Edge

Barack Obama and the Triumph Over American Eugenics

January 26th 2009

Presidential - Barack Obama with Flag

Among Barack Obama’s many historic achievements is the ultimate triumph over American eugenics. No one in America should forget that about 100 years ago, the American intellectual and academic elite created the race science known as eugenics. This genocidal pseudoscience claimed that humanity was destined to be comprised solely of blonde, blue-eyed Nordic Americans. Anyone who did not conform to this racial stereotype was not worthy of existence on Earth. The list of undesirables included Southern Italians, Eastern Europeans, Hispanics, brown-haired hillbillies, Jews, American Indians and of course African Americans. Above all, all race-mixing was taboo, a concept eugenicists called “race suicide.”

This bizarre pseudoscience arose in the early 1900s, following the rediscovery of Mendel’s principles of heredity as applied to peas and horses combined with the corrupted views of Francis Galton, the quirky British scientist who originated the idea of eugenics at the end of the 19th Century. Galton almost whimsically hoped that if rich, talented people married other rich talented people, then rich, talented offspring would result. In the hands of early 20th Century American racists, Galton’s and Mendel’s ideas were transmogrified into a racist ideology: American Eugenics.

According to eugenic thought, blacks and other “undesirables” were lazy, shiftless, disease prone, and genetically predisposed to a criminal life, including prostitution and thievery. You were not born into poverty. Poverty was born into you. Racist intelligence tests, known as the Alpha and Beta Test, were concocted to prove that some 70 percent of tested Negroes were Morons. Indeed, the word “moron” was a scientific term invented by the academics to help damn the destiny of those who did not resemble themselves. Read more ..


America's Economic Collapse

Ghost Malls Will Be Appearing

January 19th 2009

Economy - Out of Business

America’s economy supports more than 1.1 million retail stores. There are approximately 1,100 Malls in the United States, not counting the thousands of strip mall centers. That will soon change as once thriving malls become ghost malls. By 2011, America’s malls within two years will have an entirely different set of numbers.

International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) chief economist Michael Niemira tries to put a good face on the gloom. He says, “In the midst of all this doom and gloom, it's hard to imagine it getting better... But keep in mind, what happens in strong downturns is there's a hefty pent-up demand. It's wrong to extrapolate these conditions for the next year or two."  Read more ..


The Surge Against Hamas

Has Israel Used "Disproportionate Force" in Gaza?

January 5th 2009

Israel Topics - Gaza bomb damage
Gaza Bomb Damage

Israeli population centers in southern Israel have been the target of over 4,000 rockets, as well as thousands of mortar shells, fired by Hamas and other organizations since 2001. Rocket attacks increased by 500 percent after Israel withdrew completely from the Gaza Strip in August 2005. During an informal six-month lull, some 215 rockets were launched at Israel.

The charge that Israel uses disproportionate force keeps resurfacing whenever it has to defend its citizens from non-state terrorist organizations and the rocket attacks they perpetrate. From a purely legal perspective, Israel's current military actions in Gaza are on solid ground. According to international law, Israel is not required to calibrate its use of force precisely according to the size and range of the weaponry used against it.

Ibrahim Barzak and Amy Teibel wrote for the Associated Press on December 28 that most of the 230 Palestinians who were reportedly killed were "security forces," and Palestinian officials said "at least 15 civilians were among the dead." The numbers reported indicate that there was no clear intent to inflict disproportionate collateral civilian casualties. What is critical from the standpoint of international law is that if the attempt has been made "to minimize civilian damage, then even a strike that causes large amounts of damage—but is directed at a target with very large military value—would be lawful."

Read more ..

The Surge Against Hamas

A War “to the Bitter End” says Israel while Arab Officials “Blame Hamas"

December 29th 2008

Palestine Topics - Israel destroys Hamas installation
Israel Destroys Hamas Installation

The surge against Hamas will be fought to “the bitter end,” Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has declared. Israel is now determined to undo the Hamas terror state that has emerged in Gaza, targeting all of its installations, tunnels, and infrastructure.

Hamas squads have lobbed thousands of rockets into southern Israel since it seized power in a coup against the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority in June 2007. Once in power, Hamas established a Taliban-style rule, forcing secular Palestinians to abide by Islamic fundamentalist precepts, massacring supporters of the Palestinian Authority, and forging extensive military connections with Iran and its surrogate, Hezbollah. In the process, it has waged a daily war of rocket launches and terrorist attacks against nearby Israeli towns and cities. Read more ..


The Madoff Massacre

Merkin's Role in the Madoff Scandal Coming to Light As Lawsuits Fly

December 22nd 2008

Economy - Money Money Money

The largest financial fraud in history continues to reverberate throughout the far flung Jewish communities of the United States and beyond. The perpetrator of this fraud and the overwhelming majority of the victims are Jewish. There are more questions than answers at this point in the investigation. Could one man acting alone possibly run a $50 billion multi-decade long Ponzi scheme? Where did the money go? Were there accomplices that either actively supported or were complicit in the scheme? The answers to these questions will be answered in the coming months, but the pain inflicted upon Jewish charities, Jewish communities on Long Island, New York, Los Angeles, and Palm Beach will last a lifetime. Attention has now turned to a second prominent Jewish financier, Jacob Ezra Merkin. Merkin appears to be deeply involved in Madoff’s mess. Who is Merkin? Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

Obama Said To Threaten U.S. Nuclear Strike If Iran Nukes Israel

December 15th 2008

Military - A Bomber
American Nuclear Bomber

U.S. President-elect Barack Obama's administration will offer Israel a "nuclear umbrella" against the threat of a nuclear attack by Iran, a well-placed American source said earlier this week. The source, who is close to the new administration, said the U.S. will declare that an attack on Israel by Tehran would result in a devastating U.S. nuclear response against Iran.

But America's nuclear guarantee to Israel could also be interpreted as a sign the U.S. believes Iran will eventually acquire nuclear arms.

Secretary of State-designate Hillary Clinton had raised the idea of a nuclear guarantee to Israel during her campaign for the Democratic Party's nomination for the presidency. During a debate with Obama in April, Clinton said that Israel and Arab countries must be given "deterrent backing." She added, "Iran must know that an attack on Israel will draw a massive response." 

Read more ..

The Iran Threat

Iran Deploys Troops, Ballistic Missiles To Eritrea

December 8th 2008

Iran - Eritrea Iran meeting
Eritrean President Isayas Afwerki and Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad

Iranian ships and submarines have deployed an undisclosed number of Iranian troops and weapons at the Eritrean port town of Assab, according to opposition groups, foreign diplomats, and NGOs in the area.

The city of Assab sits at the Horn of Africa in the Arabian Sea. As such, Assab offers a strategic position as the world nervously eyes the precarious routes through which a seaborne oil traverses daily.

Local sources have reported that Iran recently sent soldiers and a large number of long-range and ballistic missiles. The military basing came after Iran signed an accord with Eritrea to revamp the Russian-built refinery used by the Eritrean Oil Company, also known as Assab Oil Company. As the world’s second largest import of gasoline, Iran is sensitive to a Western plan to obstruct its access to refined product as a part of broad sanctions provoked by Teheran’s nuclear activities. Iran needs nearby oil refining ability. Using protection of the Eritrean refinery as a pretext, Iran has set up its military operation there, and has been patrolling with unmanned surveillance drones. Read more ..


Mumbai Massacre

Murder in Mumbai Yields New Terrorist Threat: "Jihadi Infantry"

December 1st 2008

India Topics - Mumbai Massacre

As Indian security ended the terrorist attacks in the financial capital of the Indian region, a first evaluation of the attacks is now ongoing.

Jihadi Infantry Appears on Global Stage

According to emerging reports in Mumbai, the armed group has attacked at least ten targets inside the city including the iconic Taj Hotel, Oberoi Hotel, a railway station, the Leopold Café, the Trident Hotel, the Chabad Jewish center, a hospital and other locations. The terrorists fired indiscriminately against civilians but also targeted security officials and lobbed grenades. Indian security reports some 180 deaths, and hundreds more wounded. All known terrorists were presumably killed and one arrested. Indian security sources confirmed the use of AK-47s, small arms, grenade, etc. The operation, involved a dozen Jihadis "deployed" in several positions, after "landing" from sea.

In my book Future Jihad I coined these types of forthcoming strikes as "urban Jihad." Instead of bombers and suicide bombers, the command sends "Jihadi infantry." The tactical goal of these actions is to engage in different types of missions: random killings, chaos, killing of security officers and hostage taking.  Read more ..


The Detroit Bailout

2008 L.A. Auto Show: Was it the Kick off for the Big Three's Farewell Tour?

November 24th 2008

Economy - Big Three at Congress
GM's Wagoner, Chrysler's Nardelli, & Ford's Mullaly

Los Angeles, San Francisco, Detroit, Chicago, Philadelphia, New York…

That sounds like the city stops along a rock band’s national tour—and it could be.

But in this case these are major cities that make up part of the 2009 model-year auto show exposition tour that car companies will follow to display their products to the American public. For the Big Three—General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler, it could be their farewell tour.

While nearly everyone hopes this won’t be the situation, it doesn’t look particularly promising judging from what the U.S. carmakers unveiled—or more pointedly, didn’t unveil—last week at the Los Angeles Auto Show. 

Last Tuesday night, Ford debuted its latest muscle car, the 2010 Mustang. Yes, the Mustang has always been an American favorite, and the unveiling is obviously intended to blunt Chevrolet’s intended 2010 re-launch of Mustang’s longtime competitor, Camaro. But is this the right time to be talking about gasoline-guzzling muscle cars… regardless of how relatively fuel-efficient the new Mustang may be. Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

Israeli Air General Vows "We Won't Let Iran Go Nuclear"

November 17th 2008

Israel Topics - Israeli Jets Parked

Israel will not tolerate a nuclear Iran, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos Gilad, the head of the Defense Ministry's Diplomatic-Security Bureau, has stressed to this reporter in an unusually hard-hitting interview.

For now, Israel is backing diplomatic and economic efforts to thwart the Iranians, Gilad added, but it doubts these will work and it is keeping all options open.

Asked about the complexities of any resort to military action, particularly since Iran has built its facilities to withstand a repeat of the IAF's 1981 destruction of Saddam Hussein's nuclear reactor at Osirak, Gilad replied, tellingly, that domestic critics 27 years ago said the Osirak raid "couldn't be done. And the fact is, it succeeded."

"Iran is a country with smart people that have capabilities," he noted. "It really would be a considerable challenge. Come the day, if and when this or that option is adopted, what will matter is the outcome."

Read more ..

Clean Energy Quest

Truck-delivered Micro-Nuclear Reactor for Clean Energy Within Five Years

November 10th 2008

Contributors / Staff - Edwin Black

Micro-nuclear reactors about the size of a hot tub, prefabricated and delivered by trucks, will begin revolutionizing electric energy supply within five years, according to information gleaned from government scientists and corporate energy sources. If successful, the breakthrough will change the face of global energy supplies.

New nuclear battery technology pioneered by government scientists at Los Alamos—the facility that developed the first atomic bomb—has been licensed to private companies for mass production and distribution. In its initial format, each micro-reactor will produce just 25 megawatts, but enough to provide electricity for 20,000 average American-sized homes or a major industrial project. Daisy-chained, these micro-reactors, each one about twice the size of an average man, can supply enough electricity to power an entire small city or suburb. Initially, the reactors will be placed in isolated industrial and residential areas, such as oilsand enterprises and underdeveloped African nations in need of power. 

The miniature nuclear marvels will be factory-sealed in concrete, and delivered by truck, train or ship for burial under close international nuclear regulatory supervision. The reactors will produce heat which will boil an adjacent water source to create the steam that typically turns turbines that generate electricity.

Unlike giant nuclear reactors requiring ten years to construct under daunting conditions, these concrete “nuclear batteries” have no moving parts, no potential to go supercritical or meltdown, and reportedly cannot be easily tampered with. The extremely small amount of hot nuclear fuel—too hot to handle--would immediately cool if exposed to air, technical sources assert. Read more ..


America With No Plan for Oil Interruption

Ironically, As Price Per Barrel Drops, American Oil Supply From Canada Imperiled

November 3rd 2008

Energy / Environment - Oil Sands

This continuing coverage on the supply arises from the just released book, The Plan: How to Save America When the Oil Stops—or the Day Before (Dialog Press). Buy it here.

Americans may be rejoicing about lower oil prices, but the law of unintended consequences and the vagaries of the global oil supply have begun to kick in.

Ironically, oil may become dramatically scarcer for Americans--not as a result of manipulations by the OPEC oil cartel, but due the fragile economics of Canadian oil.

America consumes some 20 million barrels of oil per day, about 70 percent of which is imported. But the number one supplier to the United States is close to home, our northern neighbor, Canada. The nation to the north sends some 2 million barrels of oil per day to the United States from Alberta in western Canada. This petroleum comes from a source commonly known as “oil sands.”

Oil sands are deposits of oily goop embedded in sand, and comprise about 95 percent of Canada’s massive petroleum reserve of approximately 180 billion barrels. That reserve was not globally recognized until 2003—near the time of the American invasion of Iraq. Prior to that, the environmentally threatening, water intensive, heavy industrial nature of oil sands extraction was considered too expensive to be considered economically viable. With oil prices telescoping toward $150 per barrel, the hyper-expensive oil sands process became viable, profitable, and the basis for a sudden American reliance on North American petroleum as a source of fuel.  Read more ..


America With No Plan for Oil Interruption

Doomsday in an Oil Barrel

October 27th 2008

Energy / Environment - Oil Barrels

Just say this: There will be an attack on one of Saudi Arabia’s major oil terminals (e.g. Ras Tanura or Abqaiq) within the next six months.

As a consequence, more than six million barrels per day will be taken off the global market, leading the price of oil to rise overnight to more than $200/bbl – and stay there for as long as a year until the terminal is repaired. The President of the United States, the Prime Minister of Japan, and heads of government  in Europe will open sustained crisis consultations, coordinate the release and sharing of strategic petroleum reserves, and agree on other measures to try to manage the crisis.  Notwithstanding these efforts, the global economy – already over-burdened by the collapse of financial markets – will sink rapidly into the chaos of a deep and prolonged depression.  Japan, which imports 99% of its fuel, will be first to go, but the interdependence inherent in our globalized world will assure that all industrialized countries will suffer essentially the same fate. Read more ..


America's Economic Collapse

What to Expect in the Coming Three Years as America's Economic Collapse Worsens

October 20th 2008

Economy - Economic Collapse

It has been excruciating watching your retirement portfolio disappear day by day. The S&P 500 has declined by 26% in the last three weeks and 43% in the last year. Everyone has been waiting for the bounce that always comes. The brilliant financial gurus on Wall Street have convinced us that we are supposed to buy the dips. The market always goes up in the long run. These experts have been lying to you. Are you surprised?

There have been many long periods when stocks did not go up in real terms. Most disappointing was the 25 year period from 1929 through 1954, when investors would have secured an adjusted 0% return. From the mid 1960’s until 1980 the market did not go up in real terms. Indeed, if inflation is taken into account, the market didn’t really recover until 1990, 24 years after the 1966 high. The 2000 high was reached for a brief time in late 2007, but has fallen 43% since then. We have entered a period of time when the economy will go into a deep recession for at least two years. It is likely that our economy will not be strong for 5 to 10 years based on a continuing decline in the housing market and crumbling banking system that will not lend. The PE ratio of the market is still high and corporate earnings will collapse in 2009. Based on this bleak environment the market will likely decline by an additional 20%, before reaching its ultimate low. The S&P 500 Index will not reach its 2007 high until, at the earliest, 2015. That would be a 15 year period with no return. Evidently, stocks don’t always go up in the long run. Read more ..


The Oil Weapon

Libya Unleashes Oil Weapon Against Switzerland over Arrest of Qaddafi’s Son

October 13th 2008

Arab Topics - Muammar Qaddafi
Muammar al-Gaddafi

This continuing coverage on the oil weapon arises from the just released book, The Plan: How to Save America When the Oil Stops—or the Day Before (Dialog Press). Buy it here.

Libya has become the first Arab nation to once again unleash the oil weapon as the petropolitical Cold War has suddenly heated up in the most unlikely of nations: Switzerland.

In the roiling dispute—ignored by a national media distracted by presidential politics and an economic morass—Libya is close to declaring total economic war against Switzerland. The incident vividly demonstrates how frivolous and unpredictable petropolitical blackmail can be—and how costly. Switzerland has a plan for oil interruption but the United States does not.

The conflict began on July 15 when Swiss authorities arrested Hannibal Qaddafi and his wife at a Geneva hotel for allegedly beating two servants. Hannibal Qaddafi is the son of Libya’s volatile strongman Muammar Qaddafi. One of five Qaddafi sons, Hannibal has accumulated a record of run-ins with police departments across the Continent over allegations of violence and drunk driving. In 2005, France issued him a four-month suspended sentence and ordered him to pay a 500 EU fine for causing bodily harm against his pregnant partner—who later became his wife—and illegal possession of a firearm.

A year earlier, Hannibal was taken into custody by the Paris police after speeding through red lights on the Champs Elysees in his expensive Porsche. Reportedly, the Arab playboy was under the influence and driving on the wrong side of the famous Paris boulevard. Read more ..


America with No Plan for an Oil Interruption

Honda Hydrogen Hoax: Carmaker Says Hydrogen Car Must Await Filling Stations While Suppressing Home Refueling Device

October 6th 2008

Energy / Environment - Honda Clarity with refueler
Honda Hydrogen Vehicle with Home Refueler

This story is adapted from the just released The Plan: How to Save America When the Oil Stops—or the Day Before (Dialog Press). Buy it here.

Japanese Honda is delaying for years a national rollout of its dynamic new Clarity hydrogen car, and manufacturing just a handful of test cars, mainly for the Los Angeles area, because the company claims cities lack hydrogen filling stations. But the claim is an apparent hoax. Honda’s Clarity was designed for home refueling and was developed with a companion Home Energy Station, now undeployed and forgotten.

Unquestionably, Honda again achieved the alternative energy limelight with the rollout of its sleek and stylish hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, the Clarity. Boasting kinetic body styling, an exquisite interior, par excellence handling and roadability, the Clarity is a feat of automotive engineering. Most remarkably, the car uses no petroleum. Instead, its fuel cell uses hydrogen reformed from natural gas or electrolyzed from water. Hydrogen can also be made through a bacterial reaction, and several laboratories are trying to improve the yields. Read more ..


America With No Plan for an Oil Interruption

Honda Suppresses Alt Fuel GX Automobiles as Company Refuses to Sell CNG Cars to Spokane

September 29th 2008

Technology - Honda gpx
Honda GX

This story is adapted from the just released The Plan: How to Save America When the Oil Stops—or the Day Before (Dialog Press). Buy it here.

Japanese Honda is suppressing its own alternative fuel technology and denying its cars and home refueling devices to Americans eager to get off of oil. Honda, it seems, is going slow on its alt fuel vehicles, fearing the public will continue to abandon its more profitable gas guzzling SUVs such as the Honda Pilot. The Pilot is one of the most fuel inefficient vehicles on our nation’s highway.

Nowhere is this suppression strategy more visible than with the Honda GX, sometimes called “the greenest car in America.” Honda has ensured GX is also “the most unavailable car in America.” In fact, Spokane Community College has been trying to purchase just one for more than a year and Honda at the corporate level refuses to sell them even one car. Home-based or community-based fueling is one of the answers to energy independence. Read more ..


America With No Plan for an Oil Interruption

Exclusive: Neither Obama nor McCain nor the Government Has a Plan in the Event of a Protracted Oil Stoppage - It Isn't Even Being Discussed

September 22nd 2008

Book Covers - The Plan

This story is adapted from the just released The Plan: How to Save America When the Oil Stops—or the Day Before (Dialog Press). Buy it here.


It will come as a shock to most Americans and the media, but as the election reaches a crescendo on the issue of preparedness and energy, neither candidate—nor any candidate in local, state or federal government—has developed a contingency plan in the event of a protracted oil cut-off. It is not even being discussed. Government has prepared for hurricanes, anthrax, terrorism and every other disaster, but not the one threatened daily—a protracted oil stoppage, whether caused by terrorism, intervention in the Persian Gulf, or a natural disaster.

It is like seeing a hurricane developing without a disaster plan or evacuation route. Our allies have oil shortage interruption contingency plans, but America does not.

The crude realities: America uses approximately 20 million barrels of oil per day, almost 70 percent of which is imported. If we lose just 1 million barrels per day, or suffer the type of damage sustained from Katrina, the government will open the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which offers a mere 6 to 8 week supply of unrefined crude oil. If we lose 1.5 million barrels per day, or approximately 7.5 percent, we will ask our allies in the 28-member International Energy Agency to open their SPRs and otherwise assist. If we lose 2 million barrels per day, or ten percent, government crisis monitors say the chaos will be so catastrophic they cannot even model it.

Exactly how could America be subjected to a protracted oil interruption, that is, a 10 percent shortfall lasting longer than several weeks? It will not come from hurricane action in the Gulf of Mexico, or even major refinery accidents or other oil infrastructure damage. Such damage would be repaired within days and the temporary losses absorbed by the small half million barrel per day global cushion available. Read more ..


Is The U.S. Economy Safe?

1-800-BAILOUT: For Fannie, Freddie, Bear Stearns, and Others, it is a Toll Free Call on Weekends

September 15th 2008

Economy - Secretary Paulson
US Treasury Secretary Paulson

September 7, 2008, the 10th anniversary of the Federal Reserve arranged bailout of the infamous hedge fund Long-Term Capital, is now a more infamous date. This is the day that our government chose socialism over free market capitalism. Our elected leaders increased the national debt from $9.6 trillion to $15 trillion, a 56 percent increase in one weekend. Hank Paulson, the U.S. Treasury Secretary, seems to have a penchant for committing U.S. taxpayer dollars on weekends. On one weekend he engineered the bailout of Bear Stearns. Just this last weekend he oversaw the forced sale of Merrill Lynch, a desperate request by AIG for a $40 billion bridge loan, and the ultimate demise of venerable Lehman Bros.

But perhaps Paulson's most important recent stint as a weekend warrior was that September 5 to September 8 Friday to Sunday marathon session when he convinced Congress and the President to give him a blank check regarding the future of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. As such, he spearheaded the takeover of two of the worst run financial institutions on the planet. Together, these two titans hold or guarantee $5.4 trillion of mortgages. James Grant, a keen financial mind, described what we are experiencing today, back in early 2007, “Capitalism without financial failure is not capitalism at all, but a kind of socialism for the rich.”

Skullduggery, Corruption, and Fraud

Fannie Mae was created during the Great Depression in 1938 as part of Roosevelt’s New Deal. Its purpose was to provide liquidity to the mortgage market. For the next 30 years it operated as a government agency, with a monopoly on the secondary mortgage market. In 1968, in the midst of another fiscal budget crisis, Fannie Mae’s activity and debt were removed from the annual balance sheet of the Federal Government and the agency was privatized. To provide some competition in the secondary mortgage market, Congress chartered Freddie Mac as a private corporation in 1970. This relationship with the Federal Government gave rise to the concept of an implicit guarantee from the government regarding their debt. This allowed these two companies to borrow at much lower rates than the average financial institution. Read more ..


Is the U.S. Economy Safe?

Wachovia--the Worst Bank In America

September 8th 2008

Corporate Logos - Wachovia Logo

Being regarded as the worst-run bank in America is not an easy accomplishment in 2008. There are many competitors for this prestigious title. To win this honor would require dreadful management, poor strategic decisions, terrible timing, abusive teatment of its customers, and a track record constantly being reviewed by prosecutors and regulators for associating with and doing business with scam artists drug dealers, telemarketing crooks, money launders, check fraud rings, and customer account raiders. Thousands of customers would have to suffer from sudden account losses and disruptions. Add to that plain old delusional decision making from top to bottom. That is what it would take.

Wachovia wins on all counts. It is the worst bank in America.

It is amazing how far this 227 year old institution has fallen. Founded in 1781 in North Carolina, through mergers and acquisitions, Wachovia has grown to be the fourth largest bank in the United States. The current version of the bank has its roots in the 1990s. First Union Bank, also from North Carolina, acquired 80 smaller banks in the 1990s before merging with Wachovia in 2001. The mistakes and bad judgment started in 1998 and have crescendoed today. Read more ..


The Bear is Back

Iran’s Fantasy: A Renewed Cold War between the Infidels Russia and America

September 1st 2008

Russian Topics - Putin Iran

The post-Soviet world has never been closer to what we knew as the Cold War than right now. Iran is pleased. We should all be concerned. New proxy conflicts may soon emerge.

The starkest reminder of the new chill came after Russian forces recently executed a military operation inside South Ossetia in Georgia. Ostensibly, the Georgian incursion was to bring back constitutional order. But Russia’s massive reaction has their forces entrenched just miles away from Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital. Recent statements by Russian and Western leaders, the flights of long range Russian bombers across international skies, and the cruising of Russian battleships on the high seas are all images from the past months. But they are also a chilling reminder of what were four dangerous decades of the past century.

Moscow and NATO still stockpile thousands of nuclear heads. So any significant confrontation between the two camps is potentially lethal to the planet even though the ICBMs are no longer pre-targeted at major cities around the world. Targeting can change. Dangers emanating from these tensions—Cold War or not—are real and must be addressed seriously by the leaderships at the White House and the Kremlin. Read more ..


Is the U.S. Economy Safe?

Housing Crisis Truth – How We Got Here and Why It Won’t Be Over For At Least Two More Years

August 25th 2008

Economy - Home Foreclosure

The last thing that anyone thought would result, while watching the Twin Towers collapse on September 11, 2001, was the greatest housing boom in the history of the world. But this terrible event spurred a sequence of events that ultimately led to a tremendous rise in home prices. It arose from a positive feedback.

First, the federal government cut taxes and sent rebates to all Americans. Then the Federal Reserve, led by Alan Greenspan, cut the discount rate to 1 percent. Government officials urged Americans to spend in order to defeat terrorism. Alan Greenspan told everyone that adjustable rate mortgages were a good thing. Congress and President Bush believed that everyone should own a home and pressured lenders to provide mortgages to low income people.

Cut to Wall Street which created new investment vehicles that allowed mortgages to be packaged and sold to investors throughout the world with investment grade ratings provided by Moody’s and S&P, for a price. Mortgage companies and lenders developed ARMs, Option ARMs, teaser rate loans, no-doc loans, negative amortization loans and 100% financing loans. Low income people started buying homes, with these exotic mortgage products, from middle income people. Middle income people started to buy larger houses from rich people, boosting demand for new homes. Rich people bought mansions and second homes. Bidding wars for houses were commonplace. The demand caused by this influx of new home buyers drove prices skyward, with home prices doubling in five years. This price rise brought in the speculators/flippers. They began to buy multiple houses with nothing down, pre-construction, with plans to sell them for a profit without ever moving into them. Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

Israel Vows To Do "Everything Possible" To Stop Iran's S-300 As Debate Swirls About Its Delivery

August 11th 2008

Iran - S-300
S-300

Israeli defense officials declared the Jewish State would do "everything possible" to prevent Russia’s potent S-300 anti-aircraft batteries from reaching Iran. The remarks were made to the Jerusalem Post and reported by its veteran military affairs correspondent, Yaacov Katz.

The advanced S-300 mobile weapons system can reportedly track as many as 100 airborne targets simultaneously—drones, airplanes, and missiles—and can engage a dozen at once as far as 200 kilometers away. The system can even track missiles in outer space, that is, at 90,000 feet. Many missiles briefly enter the exosphere before raining down on their targets. As such, the S-300 can defeat virtually every aerial assault asset in Israel’s arsenal as it edges nearer to a pre-emptive strike against Iran’s high speed nuclear program. Read more ..


Is the U.S. Economy Safe?

What Banks And The Government Are Not Telling Us About 2009—The Next Shoes You Hear Drop May Be Very Loud Ones

August 4th 2008

Economy - Bernanke460
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke

It is time for some straight talk about what America is being told about our financial institutions. First: listen to the words or our most esteemed financial leaders.

In March of last year, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson delivered an upbeat assessment of the economy, saying growth was healthy and the housing market was nearing a turnaround. "All the signs I look at" show "'the housing market is at or near the bottom," Paulson said in a speech to a business group in New York, adding that the U.S. economy is "very healthy" and "robust."

At about the same time last March 2007, Ben Bernanke, Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve, told Congress, "At this juncture, the impact on the broader economy and financial markets of the problems in the sub-prime market seems likely to be contained."

Then, in June of 2007, Bernanke declared, "We will follow developments in the sub-prime market closely. However, fundamental factors—including solid growth in incomes and relatively low mortgage rates—should ultimately support the demand for housing, and at this point, the troubles in the sub-prime sector seem unlikely to seriously spill over to the broader economy or the financial system." He followed that up in October of last year with this statement: "It is not the responsibility of the Federal Reserve—nor would it be appropriate—to protect lenders and investors from the consequences of their financial decisions. But developments in financial markets can have broad economic effects felt by many outside the markets, and the Federal Reserve must take those effects into account when determining policy." Read more ..


The Politics of Oil

China and Sudan – A Well-Oiled Relationship

July 28th 2008

Africa Topics - China in Africa

Perhaps the most controversial of China’s oil interests, and one that well demonstrates China’s commitment to lock in oil deals in Africa, is its relationship with Sudan.

China has been faced with international criticism for much of its business practice in acquiring natural resources. At the forefront of this criticism is its growing influence in Africa. On the one hand, China has been contributing much needed infrastructure to many of the underdeveloped African nations. On the other hand, China’s practices are believed to be exacerbating some of the political problems in certain countries, maybe even increasing instability in some cases.

Beijing is the leading developer of oil reserves in Sudan, and currently possesses 40 percent of the African country’s local production, which amounts to six percent of China’s total oil imports. Read more ..


Petroterrorism

Fueling Terror—The Ultimate Price We Pay at the Pump

July 21st 2008

Energy / Environment - Saudi Oil

Much has been reported about the complex system of terrorist financing and the money trail facilitating the September 11 terror attacks. Individuals and charities from the Persian Gulf--mainly from Saudi Arabia--appear to be the most important source of funding for terrorist organizations like Al-Qaeda. According to a Council on Foreign Relations report of an Independent Task Force on Terrorist Financing, Osama bin Laden and his men have been able to accumulate millions of dollars using legitimate businesses such as charities, nongovernmental organizations, mosques, banks and other financial institutions to help raise and move their funds.

How does it work? Take Saudi Arabia for example. This Gulf monarchy is a state in which no taxes are imposed on the population. Instead, Saudis have a religious tax, the zakat, requiring all Muslims to give at least 2.5 percent of their income to charities. Many of the charities are truly dedicated to good causes, but others merely serve as money laundering and terrorist financing apparatuses. While many Saudis contribute to those charities in good faith believing their money goes toward good causes, others know full well the terrorist purposes to which their money will be funneled. Read more ..


Iran's Nukes Exclusive

Greece Quietly Provides Israeli Air Force Pivotal Assistance on S-300 as Iran Nuke Strike Looms

July 14th 2008

Israel Topics - Israeli Jets Parked
Israeli war planes

Greece has quietly assisted the Israeli Air Force in a previously unreported fashion as the dreaded decision of a possible Israeli preemptive strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities draws closer, this reporter has learned.

A pivotal factor in Israel’s military strategy against Iran’s nuclear installations is the recent delivery to Iran of Russia’s potent S-300 Russian ground-to-air radar systems. Considered one of the world’s most versatile radar-missile systems, Russia’s S-300 batteries can simultaneous track hundreds of semi-stealth cruise missiles, long range missiles and aircraft, including airborne monitoring jets. As many as ten intruders can be simultaneously engaged by the S-300’s mobile interceptor missile batteries, military sources say. As such, the S-300 is a major threat to the long-range weapons in the Israeli arsenal. These include Israel’s long-range 1,500 km. nuclear-capable Jericho IIB missiles; unmanned missile-equipped long-range drones; Israel’s F-16s, F-15Es; long range heavy-payload F151s and F161s; and even its three new Gulfstream G550 business jets boasting a range of 6,750 nautical miles, newly outfitted with nuclear-tracking electronics and designed to loiter over or near Iranian skies for hours. The S-300 can compromise everything Israel has.

But Greece has the same Russian S-300 system. Read more ..


Kicking Our Oil Addiction

If Iran and Brazil Can Do It, So Can We

July 7th 2008

Energy / Environment - Brazil Sugar Cane
Brazilian Sugar Cane for Ethanol

When the founding fathers declared our independence, they could not have imagined that, 232 years later, the United States would be so spectacularly dependent on foreign countries. It would be roughly eight more decades before oil gushed from a well in Titusville, Pennsylvania, marking the beginning of the global oil economy; it took eight decades more for the United States to become a net oil importer. But the republic's disastrous dependence on foreign oil has increased by leaps and bounds ever since.

In 1973, when OPEC imposed its oil embargo, U.S. oil imports composed 30 percent of our needs; today, they make up more than 60 percent, with a growing proportion of that crude coming from the world's least stable regions. At around $145 a barrel, the United States, by my calculations, will spend more on imported oil this year than it will spend on its own defense budget, and much of that money will flow into the coffers of those who wish us ill.

Since oil dependence is so unappealing, you'd think that energy independence would be an easy sell, especially on this Fourth of July weekend. But in fact, very few policy ideas have been so ridiculed. A 2007 report by the National Petroleum Council, a privately funded group that offers advice from the oil and gas industries to the federal government, calls energy independence "unrealistic"; a recent book, "Gusher of Lies," by Robert Bryce, a former fellow at a think tank funded in part by energy interests, described energy independence as a "dangerous delusion"; and a 2006 Council on Foreign Relations task force went so far as to accuse those promoting energy independence of "doing the nation a disservice by focusing on a goal that is unachievable over the foreseeable future."

Read more ..

Edge of Disaster

Thousands Continue to Suffer as Burma Tragedy Slips From the Headlines

June 30th 2008

Disaster - Burma Food Line
Burma Victims in Food Line

Almost two months after Cyclone Nargis ripped through Burma’s Irrawaddy Delta region, leaving tens of thousands of people dead or homeless, thousands continue to suffer with little or no relief.

Burma’s military regime followed its initial decision to restrict and obstruct the delivery of aid with new regulations which serve only to further impede humanitarian efforts.

Only 1.3 million of the estimated 2.4 million people affected by the cyclone have been reached by international aid agencies, and only a few hundred foreign aid experts have been allowed into the country – and even fewer into the worst-affected areas.

For a few weeks, the crisis in Burma dominated the headlines. For a short time, the US, Great Britain, and France had naval vessels anchored off Burma’s coast, poised to go in with aid supplies. The talk was of whether the UN’s much-trumpeted "Responsibility to Protect" principle could be exercised. For a brief moment, the idea of military intervention on humanitarian grounds looked – for the first time – like a possibility. The British Government said no option was off the table, and the French appeared to be leading the charge.

Read more ..

Living with Terror

Sderot Families Stand up to Hamas Missiles - Living 15 Seconds at a Time

June 23rd 2008

 - House hole at Sderot
A Resident of Sderot in Israel

View Video 

Imagine it: a modern under constant attack from invaders; barrages of flaming armaments crashing into the city from the skies, citizens running for cover from the unholy hellfire streaming down. The lives of average citizens are disrupted in a constant torrent of explosions, fires, and only 15 seconds means the difference between life and death.

Warsaw 1939? London 1940?

No, it is today, the tiny town of Sderot, at Israel’s desert edge with Gaza. Men, women and children in this tiny city have all collectively endured Hamas-launched Kassam rocket attacks for eight years. In that time, the city's population – once numbered around 24, 000 – has fallen to just under 19,500. The city is now a fortress or concrete bulwarks. Even bus stops in Sderot are all reinforced cement structures used as shelters when rocket warning alerts go off. Knowing at all times the location of the closest shelter is just part of life here.

As of January 2008, over 8,000 Qassam rockets and more than 2,500 mortar shells have been launched at Sderot. Massive rocket fire against Sderot and the Western Negev started in January 2001, and has continued ceaselessly every day. Read more ..


The LNG Threat

Liquefied Natural Gas Tankers Remain Giant Terror Targets

June 16th 2008

Energy / Environment - LNG Tanker
LNG Tanker at Sea

Can Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) be used as a lethal weapon of mass destruction? That question lies at the heart of the debate about increasing use of this important energy resource.

The answers are not reassuring. Nor are the questions.

Certainly, security measures currently in place make LNG terminals and ships extremely hard targets for terrorists. However, it would be imprudent to believe that terrorists are either incapable or unwilling to attack such targets. It would be equally imprudent to assume that these targets are impenetrable. A number of known vulnerabilities exist within the LNG industry. These vulnerabilities lie in the human factor. In other words, LNG ships and tankers are structurally sound. The potential for problems lies within the people who are somehow involved in the industry.

Inadequate vetting of crews

LNG shipments often originate from politically unstable and unfriendly countries and regions. Some of the locations in which LNG originates include Qatar, Nigeria, Algeria and Egypt. “It’s the location of the ports, and where the LNG is loaded, and who gets on the vessel [that is important]," said William Doyle, Deputy General Counsel of the Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association (MEBA). Many ships operate under grossly unregulated “open registry” or “flags of convenience” registries and often originate from ports with poor security systems in place. Read more ..


The Next Mideast War

Israel Openly Warns Iran of Pre-emptive Attack over Nuclear Threat

June 9th 2008

Military - Israeli Air Force
Israeli Air Force Jets

Israeli Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, a recent defense minister, caused an international uproar with still unfolding consequences by announcing in no uncertain terms this week that Israel will in fact attack Iran. 

Mofaz stated that an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear sites is "unavoidable" in light of the ongoing failures of the international community to belay Iranian attempts to acquire nuclear capabilities.

“If Iran continues with its program for developing nuclear weapons, we will attack it. The sanctions are ineffective," Mofaz told Israel’s mass-circulation newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth.  He added, "Attacking Iran, in order to stop its nuclear plans, will be unavoidable.” Mofaz also said Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad "will disappear before Israel does," referring to Ahmadinejad’s regular comments calling for the destruction of the State of Israel.

The explicit warning came on the heels of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's loud proclamation in Washington at the annual policy conference of the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee that "Israel will not tolerate the possibility of a nuclear Iran, and neither should any other country in the free world." Olmert also warned, “"The Iranian threat must be stopped by all possible means,” He continued "International economic and political sanctions on Iran, as crucial as they may be, are only an initial step, and must be dramatically increased…The international community has a duty and responsibility to clarify to Iran, through drastic measures, that the repercussions of their continued pursuit of nuclear weapons will be devastating.” Read more ..


Election Edge Analysis

Momentous Barack Obama Speech Supporting Israel Sweeps AIPAC Off Its Feet

June 4th 2008

Politics - Barack Obama AIPAC
Barack Obama at AIPAC

"I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Everything in my power. Everything."

Barack Obama, AIPAC Annual Policy Conference, June 04, 2008
View Video

To thunderous repetitive peals of applause by 7,000 gathered attendees at the American Israel Political Affairs Committee Annual Policy Conference in Washington, D.C., Barack Obama today transformed himself in the minds of many doubting Jews and security-minded conservatives.

With unmistakable clarity, Obama stepped out of his haze as a questionable figure and stepped into the limelight as a stalwart in the American/Israel relationship and in the campaign to disarm the Iranian nuclear threat. 

With riveting command of the issues, Obama checked off every conceivable question in the minds of Jewish and conservative listeners and showed himself to be knowledgeable and formidable. From no negotiation with Hamas as a terrorist entity, to a personal commitment to the return of captured Israeli soldiers, to the quest for bi-national peace between Israel and Palestinians, Barack drew standing ovations. The ovations were loudest as Obama proclaimed his vision for America’s steadfastness in the looming nuclear stalemate and confrontation with Iran.

Read more ..

Understanding the Danger of Oil

Dependence on Middle East Energy and its Impact on Global Security

June 2nd 2008

Energy / Environment - Saudi Oil
Photo: AFP

"We do have to do something about the energy problem. I can tell you that nothing has really taken me aback more, as Secretary of State, than the way that the politics of energy is […] 'warping' diplomacy around the world. It has given extraordinary power to some states that are using that power in not very good ways for the international system—states that would otherwise have very little power." Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, testimony before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, April 5, 2006.

Throughout the 19th Century nearly half of the world’s crude oil supply came from the gushing oilfields surrounding the Azeri city of Baku. At that time, petroleum supplied only four percent of the world’s energy, giving the Caspian region little strategic advantage on the international stage. But as the world economy embarked on a steep growth trajectory, dependence on petroleum grew significantly.

Today, oil supplies about 40 percent of the world’s energy and 95 percent of its transportation energy. As a result, those who own the lion’s share of the reserves of this precious energy source are in the driver’s seat of the world economy and their influence is steadily growing. Read more ..


Election Edge

In New Trinity Church Sermon Video, Obama Spiritual Adviser Wails that Clinton Thought "Black Man Stealing My Show"—He Then Mocks White America

May 29th 2008

Politics - Michael Pflegler
Michael Pfleger
photo: barackobama.com

A close associate and spiritual adviser of Sen. Barack Obama, speaking at the Illinois senator's Chicago church, Trinity United Church of Christ, mocked both Hilary Clinton specifically and white America generally on Memorial Day Sunday. VIEW VIDEO

In histrionic derision, Chicago Catholic pastor Michael Pfleger speaking Sunday at Obama's Trinity United Church of Christ, stated that Sen. Hillary Clinton, recognizing her inevitable loss, cried in public because she thought being white entitled her to the Democratic presidential nomination. Pfleger implied Clinton was a white supremacist who believed she would win the nomination because of "white entitlement."

Pfleger, who practices black liberation theology, is a regular guest speaker at Trinity church. He was introduced at Sunday's sermon by Obama's new pastor, Rev. Otis Moss III, who called Pfleger a "brother beloved," and added, "He is a preacher par-excellence, he is a prophetic powerful pulpiteer."

After Pfleger's remarks about Clinton, Moss thanked Pfleger repeatedly.

Pfleger told the Trinity congregation, "We must be honest enough to expose white entitlement and supremacy wherever it raises its head." He continued: "Reverend Moss, when Hillary was crying, and people said that was put on, I really don't believe it was put on. I really believe that she just always thought, 'This is mine. I'm Bill's wife. I'm white. And this is mine. I just got to get up and step into the plate.'" Read more ..


Election Edge Exclusive

Pastor John Hagee and the New Inquisition

May 26th 2008

Unknown - Pastor John Hagee
Pastor John Hagee

Breathe in deeply and you can still smell the embers smoldering around Pastor John Hagee’s public persona.

The recent controversy over Pastor John Hagee is about much more than one man and his “crazy comments,” to use John McCain’s words. The nature of the attacks on Pastor Hagee and the rapidity with which they spread and hardened into the ugliest of conclusions revealed something far deeper and far more disturbing about our public discourse on faith in America.

What was most breathtaking about the “debate” over Pastor Hagee’s statements on the Holocaust was the complete absence of one. This was not a case where thoughtful arbiters discussed his words in the context of a rich Judeo-Christian tradition of theodicy. There was no respect given to a quite common worldview. There was no trial. We skipped right to the auto de fé, that is, the final humiliating parading of the guilty during the Spanish Inquisition.

With an ever-increasing ferocity, large swaths of the media and the blogosphere are enforcing a new orthodoxy of post-modern contempt for literal religious faith. The heresy they hunt is the belief in an omnipotent God who intervenes in history. And the punishment they impose is public death, banishment from the public square. Their power is sufficient to give pause to even the most secular-minded among us. Read more ..


Election Edge Analysis

The Three Presidential Candidates and the Iranian-Israeli Nuclear Conflict

May 19th 2008

Headshots Leaders - Three 2008 Candidates

Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Barack Obama 

Clinton: If Israel is attacked, I will obliterate Iran.
McCain: I will not allow a Second Holocaust.
Obama: I favor tough diplomacy without preconditions.

 

Where the three presidential candidates stand on the looming nuclear stand-off with Iran and Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s repeated promise to wipe Israel off the map?

When recently asked by Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly about support for potential pre-emptive Israeli military action against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s nuclear infrastructure, Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain, in unmistaken words, declared he would “not allow a second Holocaust.” In fact, McCain repeated his promise twice for crystal clarity. McCain added that it is necessary by any means to stop Iran from becoming a nuclear superpower.

For her part, Senator Hillary Clinton has been a strong, lifelong supporter of Israel and outspoken advocate of the US-Israeli relationship. She recently made clear that if Israel was attacked by Iran that she would “obliterate” Ahmadinejad’s nation.

In response to being branded an “appeaser” on the issue of Iran, following the remarks of President George Bush in Israel’s Knesset, Obama stated he favors “tough diplomacy” with Iran and bilateral talks without preconditions.

What does it all mean? Read more ..



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