Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Ron Paul Revisited, Yet Ignored

 Maine held its caucuses from Feb. 4 to 11. Romney won 39% while Texas Rep. Ron Paul won 36%, media reports say. Neither Santorum nor former House Speaker Newt Gingrich campaigned in Maine; they drew 18% and 6% respectively there. The percentages reflected about 84% of the state’s precincts reporting. The vote in Maine does not allocate delegates to the Republican National Convention, which is set for the last week in August in Tampa, Fla. The Republican Party convention in Maine, set for May, will select the state’s delegates.

The media and the Republican establishment has already started to spin this so called "victory" as a rebound for Romney, who is generally considered to lead the Republican candidates to run against President Barack Obama in November. Last week he lost three beauty contest to former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum who won Republican votes in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri. As in Maine last week’s votes in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri were similarly non-binding.

Having supported Ron Paul and his ideas for years I have noted and complained about his being ignored and dismissed by the media and the Republican establishment. Tonight the campaign of 2012 Republican Presidential candidate Ron Paul sent an email to supporters regarding today’s caucus results from the state of Maine. See below for a portion of comments from Ron Paul 2012 Campaign Manager John Tate.

“Ron Paul will win the most delegates out of Maine tonight. “In fact, he will probably even win the ‘beauty contest’ straw poll the media has already called for Mitt Romney – even before all the votes have been tallied.“In Washington County – where Ron Paul was incredibly strong – the caucus was delayed until next week just so the votes wouldn’t be reported by the national media today. “Of course, their excuse for the delay was ‘snow.’

“That’s right. A prediction of 3-4 inches – that turned into nothing more than a dusting - was enough for a local GOP official to postpone the caucuses just so the results wouldn’t be reported tonight. “This is MAINE we’re talking about. The GIRL SCOUTS had an event today in Washington County that wasn’t cancelled! “And just the votes of Washington County would have been enough to put us over the top.

Paul said. Romney will "be better off if he wins it and I'm going to be a lot better off if I win. So this will give me momentum and it will just maintain his. It's a pretty important state as far as I'm concerned." It seems that  Paul’s message of liberty and Constitutional principles is resonating with Americans everywhere who are sick and tired of the status quo establishment. He plans to take this campaign on to ‘Super Tuesday’ and beyond.” Maine will continue counting its votes as they come in but because there is no reliable in-state polling, this race is still anybody's game.

 Paul has put a lot of effort into Maine, and while a loss would not be a good sign for Paul more importantly, a win for Paul would mark the fourth consecutive loss for Romney. Losing that many times can't be a good feeling,and strengthens the argument that voters are unexcited by his candidacy. So while Paul continues to assert himself as the only "real alternative" Republican, Romney keeps trying to prove as he says, that he is "severely conservative"


Sunday, February 12, 2012

Syria uprising is past the point of Return!

Syria is located in the troubled region that includes countries like Egypt that are currently in political flux and undergoing social upheaval. Forces are lining up to supply weapons to both sides of the Syrian conflict fueling  the fire and using the Syrian people as pawns in a very dangerous and deadly game. Reports of firefights are no longer rare in what was once a peaceful capital. Few Syrians now dare to drive on the country’s main artery, the highway from the capital north to Aleppo, a commercial hub, fearing ambushes on the road. Military buses and oil pipelines are often hit by explosions. Although many activists have shown remarkable patience and remained peaceful in the face of the regime’s onslaught a growing number feel the country sliding into civil war and are viewing an armed struggle as the only way out.

Activists shake their heads in dismay at their weakening control of the street; imams preaching non-violence may be the last barrier holding back a surge to arms. “Many people are just waiting to be told they can fight back,” says a young professional from Homs. Many protesters now chant slogans celebrating defectors rather than the divided political opposition. A minority of groups have started openly to advocate armed struggle and are ready for the situation to disintegrate into open warfare, “The people want Jihad” is a new slogan being discussed.

The majority fighting on the opposition side are defectors calling themselves the Free Syrian Army. Their leaders claim to command up to 15,000 men, though outsiders believe there may be no more than 7,000. Most fight in autonomous groups. Activists say frustrated civilians are increasingly joining in. Most of them have only basic military training. This has resulted in mishaps: having procured two rockets to target a police station, a group fired one over its roof and the second into a tree.

In the breezy hilltop resort of Zabadani that is usually occupied by rich Syrians in second homes and Gulf tourists enjoying the picturesque mountains on the Lebanese border for much of January, the town of some 40,000 people has been a rebel enclave. After several days of fighting by daring but lightly armed opposition forces, the army, equipped with tanks and heavy weaponry, was forced to pull back on January 18th. Residents hailed their “liberated city” and hung pictures of the dead in a tree. They waved placards and shouted slogans ridiculing the regime. Civilians guarded checkpoints usually manned by the security forces.

Zabadani is not the first place in Syria to experience a brief taste of freedom over the past ten months. Last year Mr. Assad’s forces temporarily lost control to the opposition in Hama, the country’s fourth-largest city. Rastan and Tel Kalakh, two small towns close to Homs, have at times barricaded themselves in. Parts of Homs, the third-largest city, and villages near Idleb have also enjoyed a measure of autonomy. The fight for control of the country is no longer taking place far from the center of power. Just days after Zabadani was liberated, armed clashes erupted in Douma, a suburb six miles from Damascus. Army defectors seized control of the town for a few hours.

Unlike the Government forces, the rebels are poorly armed. Until now, they have been relying on equipment from rogue regime soldiers. But arms dealers and smugglers are seeing a sharp increase in demand. “A gun that cost $800 a year ago now costs $3,000,” says a volunteer fighter in Homs. Still, army defectors and civilian volunteers are becoming increasingly audacious. They have repeatedly picked off government snipers and security chiefs at checkpoints. The regime says it has lost 2,000 men so far. The UN talks of more than 5,000 dead civilians. The Syria uprising has passed the tipping point where things can return to the way they were, Assad must go. It is only a matter of time before  huge amounts of blood are spilled and the regime is brought down by an internal cancer or the people's resolve, that is the only solution.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Greece Slips Towards Default

It is not so much a question of if but when the default will become official. technically Greece is already in default. Greeks concede that the big problem afflicting the economy, now in its fifth year of recession, is the uncertainty about whether Greece can stay in the euro and get its act together. Savers are anxious that their cash might be forcibly converted to a new Greek currency. By November the Greek banking system had lost a quarter of the deposits it had two years earlier. Banks have had to borrow $56 billion from the Greek central bank on top of €73 billion of secured loans from the European Central Bank. Credit is in short supply because banks have had to cut loans and raise borrowing costs. Informal credit arrangements between firms are breaking down and many foreign suppliers now demand cash payment upfront, making liquidity even scarcer.

Few investors or businesses are brave enough to risk long-term bets on the Greek economy in these conditions. “You can buy good companies for pocket money,” says one business chief. Assets are cheap but they would become cheaper still were Greece forced out of the euro. Capital spending is down by almost half from four years ago; house building has fallen by two-thirds. The one bright spot is tourism: visitors to Greece were up by 10% last year, in part because tourists steered clear of the unrest in north Africa.
There are hopes that the economy might recover next year if Greece’s place in the euro is confirmed. Agreement on a big new support package from the euro zone and the IMF would put some minds at rest.

Greek politicians also have to come up with around 3bn euros in extra spending cuts or tax rises, to unlock the first tranche of the revamped 130bn euros IMF rescue package, first announced to the world by European leaders more than six months ago. This means Greece must put public finances on a sustainable path, that would require that private-sector creditors sign up to a bond-exchange deal that will see more then half of the face value of their Greek paper written off. For weeks, there has been a clear gap between the amount of debt relief for Greece that the private sector would "voluntarily" sign up to, and the amount needed for the IMF or anyone else to be able to say, with a straight face, that Greek sovereign debt was on a sustainable path. Many suggest that the ECB will also have to take a write down to help bridge the gap, but this is only one piece of the horrendously complicated puzzle that is the Greek "bailout". For one thing, those private sector creditors voluntarily losing a large part of their shirts still have actually to sign on the dotted line. That assessment already looks too sanguine as the headwinds facing the economy are proving much stronger than had been forecast. Greece’s GDP probably fell by 6% last year, far more than expected as a weaker economy has made it harder for Greece to meet its fiscal targets.

The Greek central bank’s figures show that bank credit to households and private firms fell by 2.4% in the year to November. Banks suffering a drain of deposits have had to husband their liquidity. Official lending figures do not reflect the drying up of other sorts of credit. An informal system by which firms used postdated cheques to pay for supplies has also broken down. Firms complain that the government is slow to pay value-added-tax (VAT) rebates, making the liquidity shortage worse. While public opinion also still favors the euro with more than 70% of Greeks say they want to stay in the single currency, from where will Greece get the breathing-room it needs to right its economy? It has to convince its rescuers that they are not throwing good money after bad. A deal on private-sector losses is only a first step; it seems likely that the euro zone will also have to stump up more money than expected to keep Greece going.

There is huge pressure for the Greek political leaders to agree a deal but a package of cuts and reforms would go down very badly with an austerity weary Greek nation. Some of the proposed ideas include cutting minimum wage by 22%, reducing supplementary pensions by 15% and possibly basic pensions as well, and cutting 15,000 public sector jobs by the end of 2012. Oh yes, and after they have done all that, those same Greek politicians may have to agree, at Germany's request, to let the new money go into an account with a big EU-IMF padlock on it, marked: "Use first for paying off bondholders. Payments to Greek government itself only under advisement." You can imagine how much Greek voters would love that.

If the Greek government does not sign up to all this, it is difficult to see how Greece avoids a formal sovereign default in the next few weeks. European officials are said to be "exasperated" with all the delays. But they cannot be entirely surprised. If I were a Greek politician, faced with these options, I'd be pretty keen to put off any agreement  as protesters gather in the streets and outside parliament in Athens. Eurozone ministers insist  that the Greek coalition gives "strong political assurances" on the implementation of this "program" as the world looks on. It is clear that Greece cannot service its huge debt, we must face reality and our fears that a default could endanger Europe's financial stability and even lead to a break-up of  the Eurozone.

THE  2/13/2012 UPDATE

Trips that I have made to Greece over the years confirm that it is a lovely but very poor country where the fastest growing occupation may be that as a pick-pocket in Athens. As I write this Greeks are rioting in the streets. The economy has ground to a halt. The most recent austerity measures have been passed that will allow the next phase of the bailout to move forward, but passed not without a cost.

This is not, and should not be a surprise or a reason for celebration as members were pressed hard to pass the package under the concept of "vote for the awful or be prepared for worse". About 40 of the elected members of the Greek Parliament have been "expelled" because they would not vote for the austerity package. Point is these austerity measures will not be supported by the masses

Little coverage by the media of  the massive protest in Portugal is making the airwaves. Is this a glimpse of  what democracy will look like across the world in coming years? Another circus, a farce, a sham, lie stacked upon lie, this a another gimmick, we are seeing the can is again being kicked down the road. It seems our whole "system" is a lie and that is a fact. Democracy is being redefined to mean "they will do with us what ever they want to."
. .

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Romney Rejected Again!

If you did not know better you would think that Republican voters are less then impressed by Mitt Romney. Last Tuesday night Romney has lost all three recent state cacsues to Rick Santorum and came in behind Ron Paul in Minnesota. This has upended the race for the Republican nomination.

Colorado's race see-sawed throughout the night until 11 p.m., when Colorado GOP chairman Ryan Call declared Santorum the winner. Santorum beat Mitt Romney 40 percent to 35 percent with 99 percent of precincts reporting. "This is a major upset," said Denver-based political analyst Floyd Ciruli. "Definitely, there is a new story now."

Even Romney, who easily won Colorado's Republican contest in 2008 with 60 percent of the vote, acknowledged in his speech from the Auraria campus his new challenger. Romney said "This was a good night for Rick Santorum, but I still expect to become the nominee."

This ties in with my January 22, 2012 blog titled "Newt Is Back!" and "A Few Primary Thoughts Concerning Politics!" published on Febuary 5,2012. It seems that Republican voters are not sold on Romney. The big question is how to decide on someone that can defeat Obama, on that I have little advice.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Auction of Atlanta Skyscraper A Sign of The Times

Bank of America Plaza, the tallest tower and the most identifiable building in the U.S. Southeast, was sold at a public auction Tuesday on the steps of the Fulton County, Georgia  Courthouse. The $363 million Bank of America Plaza loan became delinquent in December after BentleyForbes stopped making payments.The noteholder had a winning bid of $235 million, according to attorney Howard Walker who ran the auction. The holders of the commercial mortgage bonds took ownership through a “credit bid” placed by LNR Partners, the tower’s special servicer.

BentleyForbes, based in Los Angeles, paid $436 million to acquire the 55-story Atlanta skyscraper in 2006 from Bank of America and Cousins Properties Inc. in the city’s biggest property deal. The 55-story Bank of America Plaza building is a first-rate address in Atlanta for many top law firms and corporations. Since the property market peaked a year after the purchase, the 1.25 million-square-foot (116,000-square-meter) building’s value has tumbled with tenants, including namesake Bank of America, reducing space.

Atlanta has the highest rate of late payments for loans on offices bundled into bonds among the largest U.S. metropolitan areas, at over 25 percent, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That’s an increase from 10.4 percent a year ago and is more than triple the national rate. The building's owners are just another victim to the real estate bust that is sweeping over Atlanta. The area  has been  hit hard by over-building, lots of empty office space and inflated prices, Atlanta recently saw home prices fall to a thirteen year low and received the second-lowest ranking among 20 cities tracked in the Case-Shiller home price index, only Detroit did worse.

The tower was appraised at $202 million in March, according to Bloomberg, a big reason the tower is worth so much less is the diminishing fortunes of Bank of America. The bank which had occupied 30% of the building will now use just 15% of it and starve the landlord of needed tenants. To add insult to injury, the bank will pay half as much rent per square foot as it had previously, according to a  December report from Fitch Ratings.

Bank of America has been laying off employees and selling and shrinking businesses in an effort to shore up its balance sheet. In the past year, the bank sold its Canadian credit card operations, said it would exit the correspondent mortgage business and sold its remaining a stake in China Construction Bank. Bank CEO Brian Moynihan said late last year the bank would lay off 30,000 employees "over the next few years."This event and many like it reflects reality in America far better then the soaring stock market.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

We Are All Slaves, an interesting thought.

Just over a year ago I stumbled upon a blog on WordPress .com written by Gerry Spence who was born and educated in the small towns of Wyoming where he has practiced law for almost fifty-five years. Spence has spent his lifetime representing and protecting victims of the legal system from what he calls The New Slave Master: big corporations and big government. Gerry Spence has tried and won many nationally known cases, including the Karen Silkwood case, the defense of Randy Weaver at Ruby Ridge, and the defense of Geoffrey Fieger. He has never lost a criminal case and has not lost a civil case from 1969 to 2008.

 I feel it is interesting to see both the Tea party and the Wall Street Movement ridiculed and manipulated by politicians and the media for their own benefit and to marginalize their messages. Yes, we are slaves in that we have so little freedom in today's modern world. The combination of a constantly growing government and massive financial corporate giants are slowly removing our options. Much of our culture consists of people meeting their needs by filling the day with tweets and other bland fillers. After all that has happened only this would explain the lack of outrage!

Below is part of a post Spence published.  I urge you to pay particular attention to his line "With its endless propaganda the Moneyed Master has caused its slaves to believe they are free."

Pain, Protests and the People

U. S. Supreme Court has insured that the Moneyed Master can buy elections, and only the Master has such money. The democratic idea of government by the governed is a myth. One notes that the Republican party is so sensitive to its master’s power that it dare not suggest raising taxes on the Master –- not even an impoverished penny, much less plug the illegal loopholes through which the Master sucks the last of the life blood from the nation. All such slaves know that all power is vested in the Moneyed Master.
The current protests are curious news. But the media, both the printed and electronic, belong to the Moneyed Master. The people have no voice and their protesting voices on Wall Street and elsewhere are lost in the din of the growling, empty stomachs of children and the sounds of terror from a people who are crippled, not because their arms or legs have been severed, but because they can find no jobs. The Moneyed Master has closed its doors against the people and sits on its money like an old hen on rotten eggs. The people will not prevail. No, not now. The gluttony of the Master must first run uncontained like maddened rats in a cheese factory until the sky grows dark and the light of hope fades, and there remains only the sound of the Master’s gnashing teeth greedily devouring all but the faintest dreams of the people.
With its endless propaganda the Moneyed Master has caused its slaves to believe they are free.

The Gerry Spence Blog is located on WordPress .com, I want to point out that this line of thought dovetails with my take of "watch out for the military-industrial complex". While the military-industrial complex is still massive and evil we must now focus on our new worse enemy, in a nut shell, "WATCH OUT FOR THE GOVERNMENT-FINANCIAL COMPLEX". For more read the post below


Thanks for reading, please visit some of my newer posts!

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Assualt of Growing Government

The role of Government in America is changing, over the last several decades we have seen a shift away from Adam Smith’s idea of limited government. This is occurring on federal, state, and local levels. Much of this has been in the form of mandates. Often unfunded they are fostered upon businesses, organizations and private citizens.

If unchecked government grows - it is the nature of bureaucracy to expand. I for one am concerned that the use of sun-set legislation in underused or the bar set too low when it comes to extending and renewing government bodies. The best time to kill a monster is when its small!

Politicians and bureaucrats, deterred from expanding or funding programs by a few vigilant citizens, wait and find creative ways to reach their objective at a later date. Creating special bonds, attaching fees to needed services, or narrow taxes they fund new authorities, commissions, and districts. These often unneeded quasi government organizations then reach out to expand the influence and power of their directors.

Instead of focusing on the business of government and simplicity, a new proactive movement of “cuteness” cloaked in a veil of flexibility and diversity is being expanded and we are paying the tab. Government is proud of its pet projects, they allow bureaucrats to experiment and try new things without the personal financial risk that a businessman must take. The problem is that they are being creative on our dime.

Nowhere is the expansion of government more apparent than in the area of social services. By replacing the word "want" with the word "need" those seeking a larger and stronger safety net have created a hammock. Many non-working Americans exist under the notion that they have a right to things like a car and a cell phone and it is the obligation of society to supply these items. 

 Government can't be everything to everyone.  At what level should we supply those who choose not, or claim they are unable to carry their share of the burden? Those choosing to describe themselves as victims need to take more personal responsibility. Waiting for the government or someone to do things for you is a recipe for disaster. Claiming entitlements is a form of theft, those that take do so at the expense of others!

Politicians do have a way of distancing themselves from responsibilities. Former Senator Tom Dashel claimed that business "lobbyist in Washington often blocked change". Someone should remind our elected officials that at the end of the day unless the Constitution has been changed that lobbyist are still not allowed to vote!

I should remind those who are less cynical about government that the House and Senate have placed themselves in the enviable position to receive automatic pay raises unless they specifically vote against the increase. Is it any wonder that government grows unchecked in such an environment?

Sunday, February 5, 2012

A Few Primary Thoughts Concerning Politics!

America’s presidential primary system is far from perfect and it's flaws are exacerbated by the influence of the flawed Electoral College that takes over after the general election. While both systems have their supporters, too much of this support it is based on partisan politics. Reform of both processes would benefit the country by helping us to choose better leaders. It is worth the effort to devise and support a system that lets the best talent and most qualified work their way to the top. The best way to determine if a system needs change is to look at its goal or purpose.

Our two party system and partisan politics tend to gravitate towards a system that eases getting the party's slated candidate elected or to blocking an opponent, I reject that goal. We must elect officials that most represent the views and desires of a majority of the people and at the same time protects those on the political fringe. I consider winner take all contest the most unfair way to allocate delegates. Another major problem is that by the time my state primary takes place it no longer matters and the choice has been made for me.

Our current systems tend to promote gridlock and acts to polarize the nation. It is geared in a way that a small active group at either the far left or the far right of the political spectrum gains far to much influence and this often leaves us forced to chose between the worst of two evils. Anything that encourages the pandering to special interest or small intense voting blocks is not in the interest of the majority of citizens. Any state primary that acts to reduce the impact of those at the center and cast aside the preferences of a large number of independent voters allows for candidates to advance that fail to represent a majority of the people.

 When a politician tells a group of voters that they "deserve" more money and more opportunities, is this a cheap trick to buy votes? We must look past the media's glowing reviews and ask, "where's the beef"? Voters must make a serious effort to become better informed. The podium in a political campaign is a bully pulpit that sets priorities and brings about needed change. The flow of ideas and debate should be encouraged. A winner takes all primary often shortens this process and can marginalize a candidate with an important message.

Winner take all primaries are quick and less divisive to their party but the notion that we should choose fast and unite behind a flawed or lesser candidate because he or she is better known or financed makes no sense. Indeed we need to reform the whole process, I live in Indiana, we often have no voice at all in choosing a candidate. The field of Presidential candidates has already narrowed dramatically and before we are quizzed. My favorite candidate Ron Paul has had less impact because of this closed process. Well designed caucuses or run off style elections would offer voters a far better choice.

Another major flaw with our current system is that  the announcement of any "third party candidate" can quickly skew the results, these candidates with a message become "a spoiler" that can deny the best choice any hope, this is magnified by the stupidity of our Electoral College. Over recent years, we have witnessed countries torn apart by burning, killing and tribal mayhem because the leaders in power stole the election, it should be pointed out that the winner-takes-all attitude is partly responsible for this problem. When the people's voice is ignored and both sides see the stakes too high to admit defeat the system will lose broad support.

It is time to put each vote on equal footing. Today with instant communication and no area of the United States more than a few hours away by jet It is time to eliminate the electoral college which redistributes attention during Presidential campaigns to key “swing states”and skews their overall importance. This taints an already lengthy and expensive process. The cost of maintaining this antiquated dinosaur runs a billion dollars a year but no longer yields any real benefit and is in many ways harmful. With 48 out of 50 states using a winner take all structure the election can teeter on a few hundred votes in states such as Ohio or Florida.

Open primaries that allow the voters to move from party to party or promote a “run off” type process where first as well as second preferences are considered tend to expand and open the political debate. Giving the voter a throwaway vote acts as a poll that helps articulate how they feel about the issues. We must trust the people to make the correct choice and resist ideas that hogtie the people in an effort to protect them from themselves. The outcome of our elections will not improve without reform as to how we arrive at our final choice. A system that gets the candidates supported by the most Americans into the general election should be a major priority, it is unfortunate this is such a very low priority.