Thursday, October 29, 2009

The amazing US economy "officially" recovers

Ladies and gentlemen, the recession is over! Well kinda...

Reporting from Washington - The U.S. economy expanded at an annual rate of 3.5% in the third quarter, unofficially marking the end of the worst recession since World War II.

The growth reported today by the Commerce Department for the three months that ended Sept. 30 snapped four straight quarters of economic contraction and was driven largely by a rebound in consumer spending supported by the federal stimulus package and improved business spending that included a revival of home building.

The increase in the gross domestic product, the total value of goods and services produced in the country, is the evidence most economists have said is needed to declare victory against the recession.

But today's preliminary report doesn't mean the economy is in good shape. Its expansion in the third quarter only partly offsets its dramatic 6% decline last fall and winter. A number of forecasters are predicting weaker expansion in the fourth quarter and in the early part of 2010.

I'm not exactly doing cartwheels over the news but this is certainly a better place to be than say last year when the sky was falling. The main thing with these numbers is that they could easily dip back down and we could see a second leg to the recession if certian things aren't done to the economy. It's still weak in several sectors and I would assume that the average American's confidence in it isn't very high.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

More losses in Afghanistan

President Obama has a hot potato he's going to have to address now as things aren't going well in Aghanistan war for US forces.

KABUL – Roadside bombs — the biggest killer of U.S. soldiers — claimed eight more American lives Tuesday, driving the U.S. death toll to a record level for the third time in four months as President Barack Obama nears a decision on a new strategy for the troubled war.

The homemade bombs, also called improvised explosive devices or IEDs, are responsible for between 70 percent and 80 percent of the casualties among U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan and have become a weapon of "strategic influence," said Lt. Gen. Thomas Metz in Washington.

The attacks Tuesday followed one of the deadliest days for the U.S. military operation in Afghanistan — grim milestones likely to fuel the debate in the United States over whether the conflict is worth the sacrifice.

Obama has nearly finished gathering information on whether to send tens of thousands more American forces to quell the deepening insurgency, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said. A meeting Friday with the Joint Chiefs of Staff will be among the last events in the decision-making process, Gibbs said.

Do you pull out the troops? Reinforce them? One thing Obama is going to have to do is SOMETHING, becuase right now it looks like he's just sitting and waiting while people lose their lives. His thinking is probably more along the lines of waiting to make an informed decision, rather than the knee jerk reaction that got America in that country in the first place - but people aren't going to be very patient with his apparent indecisiveness.

Decision time.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Al Qaeda doesn't need a home base, does it?

There has been talk about whether or not the war in Afghanistan has disturbed Al Qaeda and prevented them from being as powerful as they could be without a suitable home base in a "lawless" country. Some say that Al Qaeda is still a major threat whether or not we're in Afghanistan - basically nixing the purpose of the war - and others say that it has severely reduced their capability to strike America. Jim Arkedis is one of the latter people, as he explains the following...

I spent five years as a counterterrorism analyst for the Pentagon and rigorously studied plots from Madrid to London to 9/11. The above arguments may have merit in a piecemeal or abstract sense, but fall apart in the specific case of what we all dread: a large-scale, al Qaeda operation aimed at the United States.

It is certainly true, for example, that terrorist groups can accomplish much online. Individuals can maintain contact with groups via chat rooms, money can be transferred over the Web (if done with extreme caution), and plotters can download items like instruction manuals for bomb-making, photographs of potential targets, and even blueprints for particular buildings.

But all the e-mail accounts, chat rooms, and social media available will never account for the human touch. There is simply no substitute for the trust and confidence built by physically meeting, jointly conceiving, and then training together for a large-scale, complex operation on the other side of the world.

Basically, it's a lot easier for you to train to do something very bad when you have an entire country to roam around in. When you have to hide and constantly dodge attacks, getting these large-scale terrorist attacks are much more difficult.

Despite the difficulties in Afghanistan, one would have to say its better to have Al Qaeda on the run rather than having them lining us up in their gun-sights.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Obama's approval rating in the tank

I think the Detroit Lions are having a better season than Obama at the moment. At least they've won a game.

The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Wednesday shows that 27% of the nation's voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty percent (40%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -13. That’s just a point above the lowest level ever recorded for this President.

Not good news for a president that is trying to push his agenda through for health care and surplus bills. It seems that the goodwill built up at the time election has faded and we've now got some serious problems facing the Obama Administration. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

High unemployment might be normal in the United States

Some cheery news from the AP. Don't get all excited at once.

WASHINGTON – Even with an economic revival, many U.S. jobs lost during the recession may be gone forever and a weak employment market could linger for years.
That could add up to a "new normal" of higher joblessness and lower standards of living for many Americans, some economists are suggesting.

The words "it's different this time" are always suspect. But economists and policy makers say the job-creating dynamics of previous recoveries can't be counted on now.

Here's why:

• The auto and construction industries helped lead the nation out of past recessions. But the carnage among Detroit's automakers and the surplus of new and foreclosed homes and empty commercial properties make it unlikely these two industries will be engines of growth anytime soon.

• The job market is caught in a vicious circle: Without more jobs, U.S. consumers will have a hard time increasing their spending; but without that spending, businesses might see little reason to start hiring.

• Many small and midsize businesses are still struggling to obtain bank loans, impeding their expansion plans and constraining overall economic growth.

• Higher-income households are spending less because of big losses on their homes, retirement plans and other investments. Lower-income households are cutting back because they can't borrow like they once did.

Now obviously we can't make any comparisons to the Great Depression because if memory serves me right, unemployment was somewhere around 25 percent. As gloomy as it may seem, it's not that bad in America right not. It's crummy, but we could bottom out some more.

I think what Americans will have to come to grips with is that the quality of life in this country will drop for the first time rather than get better. Blame whoever you want, but I believe its a collection of issues that have hit us all at once and now we're going to have to figure out a way to make things work again.

Considering the amount of waste in this country, it almost seems as if the economy is fixing itself by cutting some fat. However, that fat is needed in the pocketbooks of many people and it's just not there anymore.

We're in for a long road, but in order for us to get out of this, the US is going to need to figure out how to survive - not just figure out a way to get back to the economic bubble of the 90s. That model just doesn't work anymore.

Monday, October 19, 2009

What Americans think of the Iran situation

A new poll by the Washington Post and ABC show that Americans overwhelmingly believe Iran is developing nuclear weapons and want something done about it. Well duh, they only hate every living fiber in our country and will do anything to get rid of us, sitting on our hands while they develop nukes isn't the best game plan.

Americans overwhelmingly see Iran's nuclear program as geared toward the development of atomic weaponry, and more than eight in 10 support direct diplomatic talks to try to resolve the situation, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

As negotiators from the United States, France and Russia meet with Iran starting today in Vienna, public opinion in the U.S. is decidedly behind one possible outcome should the talks fail: 78 percent in the new poll support international economic sanctions against Iran to try to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons.

There's less, though still sizable backing for military engagement, with 42 percent of Americans supporting the bombing of Iran's nuclear development sites and 33 percent advocating invading the country with U.S. ground forces (54 and 62 percent, respectively, oppose these actions).

The backing for military engagement is the one that surprises me. With troops already in Iraq and Afghanistan, invading Iran would cause considerable strain on our armed forces. Unless of course we pull out of Iraq before we do anything in Iran, but aren't we just moving from one Middle-Eastern country to another? 

Invading a country in that region hasn't exactly been shown to be the right gameplan. However, you would hope there would be more international help since Iran is a considerable threat (or at least they talk like it). Just ask Israel.

If we throw down economic sanctions, the Iranians are going to be hard-pressed for Hot Pockets...

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The NFL, Obama, is out to get Rush Limbaugh!

Get ready for a firestorm as the right-wing media goes into a frenzy after one of their own got shot down for possible minority ownership in the NFL. Rush Limbaugh had been part of the ownership group that was looking to purchase the St. Louis Rams - however after objection from NFL players, the player's association and a public outcry, he was excluded from that ownership group.

But Rush isn't going to down without a fight. Here's what he had to say...

During a 15-minute counterattack at the start of his show, Limbaugh said he believes he's been made an example by a players' union seeking leverage in talks over a new collective bargaining agreement. What happened to him was an illustration of "Obama's America on full display," the commentator said.

Hold on, you were denied ownership of an NFL team because of your past record of inflammatory remarks and it is somehow Barack Obama's fault. That guy gets credit for everything from world peace to the coming of World War III.

Limbaugh's history hurt his participation in the bid. In 2003, he was forced to resign from ESPN's "Sunday NFL Countdown" after saying of the Eagles' Donovan McNabb: "I think what we've had here is a little social concern in the NFL. The media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well."

Ahem. That's not the least bit racist. The media always has their favorites and all of a sudden it's wrong if the media favors a black quarterback? And it couldn't be further from the truth and McNabb has the same numbers as Big Ben, but Ben get's the praise and questions about McNabb's getting benched gets thrown around every season. And there were successful black quarterbacks before him... soo....

According to transcripts posted on his Web site, in 2007 Limbaugh said: "The NFL all too often looks like a game between the Bloods and the Crips without any weapons. There, I said it."

Again Rush Limbaugh is not a racist. Nosireeee.

Limbaugh blamed Smith, executive director of the NFLPA and an "Obama-ite," along with Sharpton and Jackson, whom he referred to as "race hustlers," for Checketts' decision to drop him. He said his sacking was an example of the political clout wielded by President Barack Obama's administration.

There he goes back to Obama! I'm sure there's some way he can blame global warming on Obama as well. Wow!

Listen Rush, the NFL is a business and it has the right to deny your involvement in their operations. The simple matter is that you're an inflammatory shock jock radio host that says things that are often offensive. You made your own bed in this, and you again do that normal little ditty of blaming other people. Aren't the Republicans suppose to be all about personal responsibility?

You say these outlandish things and you expect no repercussions? No public outcry? Get real bud.

The NFL wasn't going to partner with Rush Limbaugh for the same reason CBS News wouldn't have Girls Gone Wild be one of their sponsors. That's content that's inheritance offensive to their fan base and their players. It's a lose-lose situation.

And owning an NFL team is not a right. That's like saying just because you have money, you have the right to be a CEO of a comapny you choose if you pay them to put you in that position. Doesn't work that way, Rush.

Just continue to be that moron we've grown to love. I honestly don't even think you had any intention of owning part of the Rams, this was just a scheme to get more attention on yourself.

You know, that doesn't involve prescription drugs.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Dow Jones reaching 10,000 doesn't mean we're out of the woods yet

Some optimistic news about the economy today as the Dow Jones reached 10,000 for the first time since 2008. Despite this being a triumph for an unsure market still trying to figure out how to weather these tough times, people are being cautious.

Lately, there has been a growing consensus among both investors and economists that the battered U.S. economy hit bottom and turned around earlier this year, and is now in a recovery.

The Federal Reserve said economic activity has "picked up" in its statement after its Sept. 23 meeting, and about 80% of leading economists surveyed by the National Association for Business Economics agreed in a survey earlier this month that the recovery has begun.

But even economists who agree the economy is in recovery say that growth will be slow and difficult, with continued job losses, tight credit and further declines in home prices. And even some who believe that the current Dow 10,000 level is justified say there's still a significant risk that the economy will take a step backward.

"One of the great challenges is whether consumers and small businesses come along with this recovery," said John Silvia, chief economist with Wells Fargo. "If they don't, you either sit at 10,000 or slip back to 9,500. To sustain another double-digit (percentage) gain to Dow 11,000 is asking too much from this economy and the risks we still see out there."

So are we recovering? Tough to tell since unemployment is still high and sales are full of mixed results. The reason for the stock market hitting 10,000 could also be that companies have been cutting costs and therefore their revenue earnings are higher. However no organic growth in the economy is happening. It's essentially another bubble that could burst.

Another reason for the spike is the sweeping away of some "dirty laundry"

Another reason that comparisons to Dow levels of a year ago are risky is that two of the more troubled components -- General Motors and Citigroup (C, Fortune 500) -- were dropped and replaced by stronger companies such as Cisco Systems (CSCO, Fortune 500) and Travelers Cos. (TRV, Fortune 500) in June.

Without those changes the Dow would be almost 100 points lower now than it is with the stronger companies, although precise comparisons are difficult since GM shares are no longer traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

So don't jump the gun yet.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Your Nobel Peace Prize Winner!

It's a great day in America when their President wins the Nobel Peace Prize and everybody collectively goes "what the heck?"

However, what takes the cake here is the Reuters story actually quoting a spokesman for the Taliban. This is borderline Saturday Night Live territory. 

"The Nobel prize for peace? Obama should have won the 'Nobel Prize for escalating violence and killing civilians'," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told Reuters by telephone from an undisclosed location.

Says a member of an organization that escalates violence and kills civilians. Wonderful. While I wouldn't say Obama is a killer of innocent women of children (keep in mind he inherited two wars in his presidency and is slowly pulling troops out of Iraq), the reason for him winning the Peace Prize seems to be more related to his celebrity as opposed to his actual accomplishments. However, you can't deny his preaching for peace and in his position as president, the possibility of things getting done during his president are quite encouraging to some people.

So when are the Oscars?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

US Census hires criminals?

Due do an error by our fine government's employees, we now having criminals walking door-to-door taking down US Census data. Uh-oh, this can't end well.

Errors by Census Bureau employees may have resulted in 200 people with criminal records being hired to conduct door-to-door canvassing.

The Census Bureau typically takes fingerprints and performs background checks on workers hired to interact with the public. But a report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that tens of thousands of workers were improperly fingerprinted by bureau employees.

The GAO fears that the name-checks performed on those employees were not sufficient without fingerprints.

"It is possible that more than 200 people with unclassifiable prints had disqualifying criminal records but still worked and had contact with the public during address canvassing," Robert Goldenkoff of the GAO said in a report to a Senate subcommittee on Wednesday.

So if somebody knocks at your door asking for a head count... don't let them near the fine china.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Things are going swell in the state of Illinois

The state of Illinois has a bit of a money problem...

CHICAGO (CBS) ― The State of Illinois' pile of unpaid bills has grown to a record-breaking $3 billion. Comptroller Dan Hynes said Tuesday it's never before been this bad at this point in any previous fiscal year. CBS 2 Political Editor Mike Flannery reports that some social service agencies that rely heavily on state reimbursement warn they will soon be forced out of business.

Hynes said that things are likely to get worse before the state's bleak revenue picture begins to improve.

The comptroller reported corporate income tax receipts down $77 million for July through September; sales tax receipts, down $244 million; personal income tax receipts, down $251 million.

One result: the typical creditor must now wait three months to be paid by the state, compared to a two-month wait at this time last year.

Another sign that the recession is far from over. The simple fact that states can't pay their bills will have huge ramifications for the normal people of America. Much more than the federal government, local and state governments are essential for everyday life expenditures in America. If they tighten up all the doors and stop providing business and basic services, we're going to be in a whole world of hurt.

Perhaps Illinois should get a credit card?