Beware of Pigs in Pokes

This term originated in England during the eleventh century.  The scheme entailed the sale of a suckling pig in a poke (bag). The wriggling bag would actually contain a cat (not particularly prized as a source of meat) that was sold to the victim in an unopened bag. The French term acheter (un) chat en poche (to buy a cat in a bag) refers to an actual sale of this nature, as do many European equivalents, while the English expression refers to the appearance of the trick.

In my humble opinion, this upcoming election defines who we will be as a nation.  Will we remain a country that has a vigorous middle class, an educated citizenry, and opportunity for all or will this election mark the start of a classed nation slipping into a third world status?  I strongly feel the issues have focused to those fundamental levels.

I mean let’s look at things logically.  Logic is apolitical.  Logically, why does a person spend $110 million of their own money to be elected to a job paying $174,000 per annum and only lasting 4 years?  Do the math.  It just doesn’t add up, does it?  What does that person know that I do not know?  Maybe how corrupt the system really has become?

This brings me to the real focus of this election.  Like Deep Throat said, “follow the money.”  Campaign spending for this MID TERM election is up five fold from 2008!  Five fold!  Why and how did this happen?

By a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court in January rolled back restrictions on corporate spending in federal campaigns. The decision has unleashed a torrent of corporate-funded attack ads in upcoming elections.  “Because speech is an essential mechanism of democracy — it is the means to hold officials accountable to the people — political speech must prevail against laws that would suppress it by design or inadvertence,” wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy for the majority.

In his dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens accused the majority of judicial activism and attacked the use of corporate personhood in the case: “The conceit that corporations must be treated identically to natural persons in the political sphere is not only inaccurate but also inadequate to justify the Court’s disposition of this case.”

“With its ruling today, the Supreme Court has given a green light to a new stampede of special interest money in our politics,” said President Obama in a statement. “It is a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans… That’s why I am instructing my Administration to get to work immediately with Congress on this issue. We are going to talk with bipartisan Congressional leaders to develop a forceful response to this decision.”

“The Supreme Court majority has acted recklessly to free up corporations to use their immense, aggregate corporate wealth to flood federal elections and buy government influence. The Fortune 100 companies alone had combined revenues of $13 trillion and profits of $605 billion during the last election cycle,” Wertheimer wrote.

“Under today’s decision, insurance companies, banks, drug companies, energy companies and the like will be free to each spend $5 million, $10 million or more of corporate funds to elect or defeat a federal candidate — and thereby to buy influence over the candidate’s positions on issues of economic importance to the companies.”

“We are moving to an age where we won’t have the senator from Arkansas or the congressman from North Carolina, but the senator from Wal-Mart and the congressman from Bank of America,” said Melanie Sloan, director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

The court found that the Federal Elections Commission overstepped its constitutional authority when it barred a conservative group called Citizens United from running ads for a movie attacking Hillary Clinton during the 2008 election season. Corporations and labor unions are now free to advertise — and tell people to vote for individual candidates — as they please. Before, corporations had to funnel money through political action committees to pay for ads, with limits on what could be spent. The court upheld, however, disclosure requirements for corporations that spend $10,000 to produce election-season ads, and ads will still have to disclaim who paid for them.

What we are now seeing is that we are being bombarded by wall to wall political ads on TV that are NOT approved by any candidate, ads attacking one candidate, but not endorsing any candidate, gross distortions of the truth, and blatant personal character assassinations of various candidates.  What we are NOT seeing is thoughtful debate and solid platforms of the candidates.  What does logic say to you?

I am not pro-democrat, pro-republican, or a tea party supporter, and I really don’t judge anyone else on their political persuasions.  I am an American. I believe in the Constitution and support the principles of an open democratic society which I believe America represents to the entire world.  As did my father, my brother, and my son, I served my country to preserve those principles.   I personally resent people who believe that I am basically ignorant so therefore I can be “played” emotionally for my vote.  Unfortunately, those tactics are continuing to be employed because, alas, they are working.

What I do know about “US” is that we are NOT ignorant, a little lazy maybe, but not ignorant.  I also know “WE” do care about our country, our economy, and our educational system.  WE do collectively support universal health care and social security and we don’t want to go back.

However, WE must also ACT.  WE must make informed votes and we all need to vote.  So logically how are you going to act?

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Is the Global Big Crash Just Weeks Away?

As I wrote in my post of last week, the biggest story in my humble opinion is what is going on with currency manipulations and the so-called “austerity” programs being rolled out in Europe.  Why do I consider these events so seminal?  Firstly, for many months now the “textural” landscape of the internet has contained increasing material related to future mass riots.

Secondly, I have previously reported on serious contingency plans and exercises conducted by the UN and more specifically, the US.  The 3rd Infantry Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team has spent 35 of the last 60 months in Iraq patrolling in full battle rattle, helping restore essential services and escorting supply convoys. Now they’re training for the same mission — with a twist — at home. Beginning Oct. 1,2009, the 1st BCT is under the day-to-day control of U.S. Army North, the Army service component of Northern Command, as an on-call federal response force for natural or manmade emergencies and disasters , including terrorist attacks.  This new mission marks the first time an active unit has been given a dedicated assignment to NorthCom, a joint command established in 2002 to provide command and control for federal homeland defense efforts and coordinate defense support of civil authorities.

After 1st BCT finishes its dwell-time mission, expectations are that another, as yet unnamed, active-duty brigade will take over and that the mission will be a permanent one. “Right now, the response force requirement will be an enduring mission. How the [Defense Department] chooses to source that and whether or not they continue to assign them to NorthCom, that could change in the future,” said Army Col. Louis Vogler, chief of NorthCom future operations. “Now, the plan is to assign a force every year.”

Here is a scenario.  First, understand the markets are as much psychological as they are technical.  We are witnessing increased pressure on the working class globally and the economy is sputtering at best.  The fear is that frustrations boil over to active rebellion which becomes pandemic globally.  This results in governments over-reacting to the population and martial law is declared and many are interned in makeshift large detention centers.  I think that global events are unfolding right now that validate the scenario is unfolding rapidly, especially in Europe.  Last week the Members of Parliament from Iceland had to be escorted out of the back door of the assembly when confronted by angry citizens.  This type of unrest is erupting everywhere in Europe.  Consider these reports.

PARIS (Reuters) – French families, students and private sector workers joined mass demonstrations on Saturday as trade unions ramped up pressure on the government to drop pension reforms.  Opposition to President Nicolas Sarkozy’s plan to raise the retirement age to 62 from 60 showed no signs of abating and hundreds of thousands across the country marched in the fourth round of rallies in as many months

Unions said that about 2.9 million had marched, while police said the crowds numbered 899,000. The union figure was about the same as at the last demonstrations on September 23. The police figure was slightly lower.  About 230 protests took place across the country with a bigger turnout of families, who are less likely to protest on weekdays, and students as concerns about pension reform highlight a deeper anxiety about their future.

Until now the protests have been also mostly in the public sector but private sector workers including some from plane builder Airbus and national carrier Air France-KLM joined Saturday’s marches.  “We are a lot more today than during the week,” said Xavier Petrachi, a delegate at the CGT union in Toulouse. “It’s got a real family feel, buggies are out. France is protesting.”

The draft bill, a reform deemed unjust by unions but essential by Sarkozy, will be debated in the Senate — the upper house — from Oct 5.  A survey published by French daily newspaper L’Humanite showed more than 70 percent of people backed the day of action.  Trade unions across Europe are seeking to rally opposition as governments slash spending to dig their way out of debts run up during the global financial crisis.

The government says its legislation is essential to erase a growing deficit in the pay-as-you-go pension system, curb rising public debt and preserve France’s AAA credit rating, which enables it to borrow at low financial market rates.  French Labour Minister Eric Woerth late on Saturday told France 3 television the government still had to educate people about the reform, but it would not budge on its core.

The real issues here are that global employment will not recover to pre-crisis levels until 2015 if current policies are pursued, creating social tension, the International Labour Organisation has warned.

Riot police hit out at demonstrators during protests in Barcelona, Spain.

The United Nations work agency said it was putting back by two years from 2013 its previous assessment of the time needed to create the 22 million jobs still needed to regain the pre-crisis level – 14 million in rich countries and 8 million in developing states.  “Despite these significant gains … new clouds have emerged on the employment horizon and the prospects have worsened significantly in many countries,” it said.  Raymond Torres, lead author of the report, told a news conference that job losses since the crisis started had totalled some 30-35 million. The ILO has forecast global unemployment this year of 213 million, a rate of 6.5 per cent.

For the United States – where persistent unemployment has become one of the main issues in this November’s elections – the number of jobs still needed to regain pre-crisis levels is 6.9 million, Steven Tobin, ILO economist, said.   The extended loss of employment and growing perceptions of unfairness risked increasing social tension, the ILO said.  In 35 countries for which data exists, nearly 40 per cent of jobseekers have been without work for more than one year, running risks of demoralization and mental health problems, and young people were disproportionately hit by unemployment.   It noted that social unrest related to the crisis has been reported in at least 25 countries, including some recovering emerging economies.

In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel called for calm Friday after riot police used what critics called “Rambo” tactics to disperse thousands of opponents of a contentious rail project.  “I would hope that demonstrations like these would pass off peacefully,” Merkel told public broadcaster SWR after the skirmishes in the southwestern city of Stuttgart on Thursday that raged on into the night.   “This must always be tried, and anything that leads to violence must be avoided.”

Demonstrators said that more than 20,000 protestors, including more than 1,000 schoolchildren, were dispersed by close to 1,000 police in riot gear using water cannons, pepper spray, tear gas and batons.  More than 400 people including minors needed medical treatment, mostly because of the tear gas and pepper spray exposure.

In Ireland, taxpayers are being left with the bill and deeper austerity measures, but the government says the banks are too big to fail.  Overnight taxpayers learned they will be shouldering an even bigger burden to bail out the Anglo Irish Bank – to the tune of $41 billion.  “The banks have actually got us into this mess. They should actually get us out,” one person said.

“It is too shocking when you see people still on the side of the road homeless and yet there were these people smoking their big cigars and yachts out in the Mediterranean,” another said.  With unemployment at a record high of 14 per cent, Macdara Doyle, from the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, says citizens cannot afford the bailout bill.  “We started out at this place two years ago with what we were told was the cheapest bank guarantee or bank rescue scheme in the world,” Mr Doyle said.  “[It] then went to $4 billion. It is now at about $29 billion or $34 billion depending on what scenario you believe. It is not working. It is killing the economy.”

Irish finance minister Brian Lenihan says he understands the country’s frustration, but says this should draw a line under the taxpayer’s liability.  “The Irish people are entitled to be angry with the bankers who lent recklessly over a considerable period of time in the earlier part of this decade,” Mr Lenihan said.  Irish government borrowing was heading to 12 per cent of its annual economic output.
This will now treble; a third of the Irish economy will now go towards supporting its banks.

When you combine all of this intel with the gross lack of political will inherent in the congresses and parliaments of these countries, coupled with the “pressure” the financial communities are applying to the governments currently, November could be the month we will historically mark as the beginning of the great world collapse.

In the US we can sense the tensions building as more and more families are facing desperate situations.  The Tea Party is somewhat a barometer of that anger.  People are really pee’vd and they really don’t know what to do about it.  The fact is we really are all the same, whether you are Bill Gates, billionaire, or John Smith, McDonalds night manager.  We EACH GET ONE VOTE.  Get it? Be sure to do something about it. Get informed and vote. It has NEVER been more important globally than now.