Birth Pangs Of The Coming Great Depression

Birth PangsThe signs of the times are everywhere – all you have to do is open up your eyes and look at them.  When a pregnant woman first goes into labor, the birth pangs are usually fairly moderate and are not that close together.  But as the time for delivery approaches, they become much more frequent and much more intense.  Economically, what we are experiencing right now are birth pangs of the coming Great Depression.  As we get closer to the crisis that is looming on the horizon, they will become even more powerful.  This week, we learned that the Baltic Dry Index has fallen to the lowest level that we have seen in 29 years.  The Baltic Dry Index also crashed during the financial collapse of 2008, but right now it is already lower than it was at any point during the last financial crisis.  In addition, “Dr. Copper” and other industrial commodities continue to plunge.  This almost always happens before we enter an economic downturn.  Meanwhile, as I mentioned the other day, orders for durable goods are declining.  This is also a traditional indicator that a recession is approaching.  The warning signs are there – we just have to be open to what they are telling us.

The Death Of The American Dream In 22 Numbers

Abandoned HomeWe are the generation that gets to witness the end of the American Dream.  The numbers that you are about to see tell a story.  They tell a story of a once mighty economy that is dying.  For decades, the rest of the planet has regarded the United States as “the land of opportunity” where almost anyone can be successful if they are willing to work hard.  And when I was growing up, it seemed like almost everyone was living the American Dream.  I lived on a “middle class” street and I went to a school where it seemed like almost everyone was middle class.  When I was in high school, it was very rare to ever hear of a parent that was unemployed, and virtually every family that I knew had a comfortable home and more than one nice vehicle.  But now that has all changed.  The “American Dream” has been transformed into a very twisted game of musical chairs.  With each passing year, more people are falling out of the middle class, and most of the rest of us are scrambling really hard to keep our own places.  Something has gone horribly wrong, and yet Americans are very deeply divided when it comes to finding answers to our problems.  We love to point fingers and argue with one another, and meanwhile things just continue to get even worse.  The following are 22 numbers that are very strong evidence of the death of the American Dream…

Students opt for junk food contraband to avoid Michelle Obama’s gulag lunches, nutrition experts say

As Congress prepares to reauthorize the first lady’s Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 officials at the School Nutrition Association are asking lawmakers to rethink the tough nutrition standards.

“SNA supports strong federal nutrition standards for school meals, including calorie caps and mandates to offer a greater quantity and variety of fruits and vegetables,” SNA CEO Patricia Montague said.

“However, some of USDA’s regulations under the law have unnecessarily increased costs and waste for school meal programs and caused many students to swap healthy school meals for junk food fare.”

The problem, SNA says, is that students are opting out of school lunch programs in droves to avoid unappealing menu options provided by schools struggling to meet the standards with common cafeteria foods.

“Many schools are doing a great job serving healthy meals at the current reimbursement rates,” Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy with the Center for Science in the Public Interest, told Agri-Pulse. “But it can be tricky for smaller schools, schools with lower participation rates, schools in areas with higher costs of living, etc.”

Obama treats journalists like ‘enemies of the state’

Former CBS reporter Sheryl Attkisson told senators on Thursday that a journalist’s job of “getting at the truth has never been more difficult” than it is under the Obama administration.

Testifying before the Senate confirmation hearing for Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch, Atkins said that the Obama Justice Department has potentially done “long-term damage to a supposedly free press” and urged Lynch to enact policy changes to end the DOJ’s abuse of journalists.

“Facets of federal government have isolated themselves from the public they serve. They covet and withhold public information that we as citizens own. They bully and threaten access of journalists who do their jobs, news organizations that publish stories they don’t like and whistleblowers who dare to tell the truth,” Attkisson said.

The reporter, who is one of many journalists who’ve been spied on by the government, then outlined a number of incidents where she was personally bullied by White House officials waging a “frenzied campaign” to chill reporting in the U.S.

“If you cross this administration with perfectly accurate reporting they don’t like, you will be attacked and punished,” she said. “You and your sources may be subjected to the kind of surveillance devised for enemies of the state.”

Do you stash cash?

Americans may be getting a break at the pump and feeling less stressed about the economy as a whole, but that’s not stopping many people from socking away extra cash for an emergency.

According to a new survey from the credit card giant American Express, 29 percent of Americans eschew traditional financial institutions when it comes to at least some of their savings. And among those who prefer keeping cash and coins on hand, 53 percent say their physical holdings are nestled in a secret location.

“We’ve long asked people about how they’ve planned to keep their savings, and for the past few years, we’ve seen an uptick in people saving cash,” said Kimberly Litt, public affairs manager at American Express.

“I’ve also heard of people using it as a budget technique, keeping cash in envelopes set aside,” Litt added.

Financial anxiety plays a large role in the decision to go the cash-on-hand route. The poll found that about 20 percent of respondents expect to face a significant financial emergency in the year ahead.

“We saw a surge of this back in 2008, when the banking crisis was going on,” security expert Todd Morris told CNBC.

Pentagon declares taxpayer spending in Afghanistan confidential

A policy change to protect “sensitive information” at the Defense Department means that watchdogs will soon have no way to track how billions in taxpayer dollars are being spent on ongoing U.S. efforts in Afghanistan.

For years, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction has kept U.S. lawmakers and taxpayers apprised of how their money was being spent in war-torn Afghanistan. Though the Afghan war officially ended in 2014, more than 9,000 American troops remain in the country to provide training and support.

In its latest quarterly report to Congress, SIGAR said that it will no longer be able to provide up-to-date information on the effectiveness of $65 billion worth of “strength, attrition, equipment, personnel sustainment, infrastructure, and training” programs because all Pentagon information on the Afghan National Security Forces is now classified.

Adding insult to injury, the Pentagon decided to make the information classified after much of the necessary information had already been shared with the watchdog.

“[The Pentagon] is about to come and scrub our computers of the data,” Alex Bronstein-Moffl, SIGAR’s director of public affairs, told a reporter for Fusion.

Federal spending down 40 percent in ‘red’ states under Obama

A new analysis of how the Obama administration has exercised its discretion in carrying out congressional earmark spending finds that the White House has invested federal dollars in states where Democratic support is strongest, while dramatically reducing the amount funneled to traditionally conservative states where Democrats languish at the polls.

A Reuters analysis, released Wednesday, drew a line between the president’s application of congressional spending measures and the political climate in the states where the money has — or hasn’t — been spent.

“As Washington has tightened its belt in recent years, the budget cuts have sliced most deeply in states where President Obama is unpopular,” Reuters reported:

Between the 2009 and 2013 fiscal years, funding for a wide swath of discretionary grant programs, from Head Start preschool education to anti drug initiatives, fell by an average of 40 percent in Republican-leaning states like Texas and Mississippi.

By contrast, funding to Democratic-leaning states such as California and politically competitive swing states like Ohio dropped by 25 percent.

Reuters’ methodology was to divide the U.S. states into three groups: “red” states, where Obama received less than 45 percent of the popular vote in the 2012 presidential election; “purple” states, where he received between 45 percent and 55 percent; and solidly “blue” states, where he received more than 55 percent.

This public school has made it impossible for kids to receive anything less than 50 percent credit — even if they do nothing

Ignored your assignment? Didn’t even bother to write the instructions down? Cool! Here’s 50 points.

That’s the new policy at the William J. Christian K-8 school, a public school in Birmingham, Alabama, where principal Nichole Davis is attempting to address chronic low student performance by offering half credit, even when students don’t lift a finger to do any work.

A group of teachers at the school approached the Alabama Media Group with concerns that the policy, enacted last November, is exacerbating behavioral problems and sending students the message that they’re not accountable for their performance.

“The policy, which is not a district-wide policy, was implemented after a parent questioned her child’s low score on a progress report,” Al.com reported Thursday. “Some students who are aware of the policy aren’t doing classwork and projects, and just taking 50s.”

Lest you think there must be more to the story — some mitigating factor that might make more sense of such a policy — an opinion piece by Al.com’s Edward T. Bowser clarifies:

In November, the school instituted a “no zero policy” — if a student doesn’t turn in an assignment, they now will receive a score of 50 instead of the traditional zero.

History Channel’s not-so-historical ‘Sons of Liberty’

At the opening of the old radio and then television show “Dragnet,” we were told: “The story you are about to hear is true; only the names have been changed to protect the innocent.” History Channel’s “Sons of Liberty” series, which aired this week, should have been preceded with the disclaimer: “The story you are about to see bears little resemblance to the truth; only the names are real.”

I suspect that most people who watched tje show on the History Channel thought they really were watching “history.” Unfortunately, it’s just too easy to completely overlook or misconstrue what the network meant when it showed its brief disclaimer that the show was a “dramatization.” Hint: That’s code for “completely made up.”

It was mere seconds into the first episode when the History Channel completely jumped the shark. Samuel Adams was neither a bachelor, nor a drunk, nor a thug, nor a ninja capable of climbing walls and jumping from rooftops; nor was he ever forced to contemplate such a thing. The real Samuel Adams was 43 years old in 1765, when the events portrayed in the series began.

The amazing arrogance and stupidity of Barack Obama

I’m Wayne Allyn Root for Personal Liberty. Remember when George W. Bush damaged his presidency and legacy by arrogantly proclaiming “mission accomplished” on an aircraft carrier as he announced the end of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? He looked foolish when thousands more American soldiers came home in body bags and tens of thousands more were badly injured.

The reality Bush didn’t understand was that this was only the beginning of a guerrilla war using terrorist tactics. The biased liberal media, of course, never let the American public forget Bush’s mistake. They called him dumb and arrogant.

The question now is what do you call someone stupid enough to repeat the same mistake as his predecessor? You call him Barack Obama.

In his State of the Union address, a smug, arrogant Obama just declared “mission accomplished” on multiple fronts. He gloated that the economy is booming and the “fact” that he has defeated ISIS. Obama told Americans the recession is over, that it’s time to move on. He said it’s old news and it’s time to ignore any mention of hard times.

Gas tax drama continues in Washington

Politicians and bureaucrats have been calling for hiking the federal gas tax since the price of gasoline began its steady decline last year. The talk of raising the tax has led 50 conservative organizations to join forces to lobby in opposition of the increase.

Among the groups fighting against the tax hike are high profile organizations such as Americans for Tax Reform, FreedomWorks the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST), Club for Growth and Americans for Prosperity.

“Falling gas prices are the first significant relief many Americans have experienced in years,” AFP Vice President of Government Affairs Brent Gardner said. “Congress should let them take advantage of it rather than treating it as just another opportunity to reach into people’s pockets and take more away in taxes. Lower-income Americans deserve a break from trying times, not to be slapped with another tax that disproportionately affects them.”

Indeed, Americans are currently saving at the pump. AAA reported late last month that falling gas prices in the U.S. already saved American motorists more than $14 billion on fuel costs in 2014.

If the trend continues throughout 2015, AAA says that the number could jump to as much as $75 billion by this time next year.

The controversial invitation to Israel’s prime minister

House Speaker John Boehner sure has stirred up a hornet’s nest with his invitation to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress next month. The deal was arranged without any consultation with the Obama administration, which has angered a bunch of folks here and in Israel.

A White House official has been quoted as saying, “He spat in our face publicly and that’s no way to behave. Netanyahu ought to remember that President Obama has a year and half left to his presidency, and that there will be a price.”

This not-very-subtle threat follows another leak by a White House insider last year, when an anonymous official described Netanyahu as “chickensh*t.” Everyone knew that such nasty name-calling was a deliberate provocation — a warning shot in the diplomatic maneuverings, if you will. You can imagine how well it went over in the prime minister’s office.

The immediate issue concerns U.S. negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program. The deadline for coming to an agreement has already been delayed twice and currently expires at the end of June.

The Next War In The Middle East Has Begun And Israel Vows ‘To Act Powerfully On All Fronts’

Israeli Tank - Israel Defense ForcesIsrael and Hezbollah are at war.  On top of everything else that is going on in the world, now we have a new war in the Middle East, and nobody is quite certain what is going to happen next.  Israel has been preparing for this moment for more than 8 years.  So has Hezbollah.  According to some reports, Hezbollah has amassed an arsenal of 50,000 rockets since the end of the Hezbollah-Israel war in 2006.  If all-out warfare does erupt, we could potentially see tens of thousands of missiles rain down into an area not too much larger than the state of New Jersey.  And of course the Israeli military is also much more sophisticated and much more powerful than it was back in 2006.  If cooler heads do not prevail, we could be on the verge of witnessing a very bloody war.  But right now nobody seems to be in the mood to back down.  Hezbollah is absolutely fuming over an airstrike earlier this month that killed six fighters and a prominent Iranian general.  And Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says that Israel is “prepared to act powerfully on all fronts” in response to a Hezbollah ambush that killed two Israeli soldiers and wounded seven.  Just such an incident is what sparked the war between the two sides back in 2006.  But this time, a conflict between Israel and Hezbollah could spark a full-blown regional war.

First World problem: Students protest milking, pizza chain

A group of University of California, Berkeley, students gathered outside of a local Domino’s Pizza store to shame the company for thanking the cows “grieving mothers” that provide the cheese for its pizzas.

“Today we’re protesting Domino’s recent advertisements that ‘thank’ dairy cows for their ‘help’ in enabling them to make pizza,” the college’s Organization for Animal Advocacy wrote on their Facebook page to hype the protest. “It is never okay to rape someone, steal their children and milk, or kill someone for palette pleasure. Help us speak on behalf of dairy cows today.”

The ad campaign the students are angry about features commercials and pizza boxes giving credit to the farm animals that make pizza possible.

“This pizza couldn’t have been made without help from Stella, Edna, Abigail, Estelle and Nancy… [w]ithout them, your cheesy and delicious pizza would be, well, less cheesy and delicious,” one new Domino’s ad says of the cows.

Just for fun, what do you think might happen if all the dairy producers supplying milk for Domino’s cheese immediately stopped milking abusing cows?

Rand Paul does Snapchat interview, says he’s down for a drone hunt

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) got hip with the youngsters this week, conducting an interview with CNN via the popular disappearing-message app Snapchat.

Paul offered candid answers to a range of questions including whether he wants to be the nation’s next president, how he feels about Hillary Clinton’s speaking fees and his opinions on drones.

Clinton’s $200,000 speaking fee is “obscene,” Paul said, adding, “I guess she can pay her chauffeur well now.”

And when CNN’s Ashley Codianni asked Paul if he’d like to live in the White House after 2015, he replied, “Maybe.” http://www.politico.com/story/2015/01/rand-paul-id-have-shot-that-drone-out-of-the-sky-114679.html

The senator then added, “They may have to make the fence and guard the fence a little bit better than they have been doing lately.”

Referencing the recent drone incident at the White House, Codianni asked the lawmaker if the flying vehicles should be banned.

“Drones should only be used according to the Constitution,” Paul offered. “But if they fly over my house, they better beware because I’ve got a shotgun.”

Comments on a video of the exchange drew mixed reviews for both Paul and CNN, which heralded the tech-enabled interview as a historic moment.

Throwing away food in Seattle could cost you

If you buy your food, should you be able to waste it as you please? Not in Seattle, where residents currently risk a fine if they are found guilty of improperly disposing of food.

The Emerald City this month became the first in the nation to mandate under the possibility of penalty that homeowners sort food out of the trash before taking it to the curb for pickup.

The city says that the new food waste requirements are part of a “public education” campaign to encourage residents to compost perishable refuse.

Seattle explains the new ordinance on its website:

Starting January 1, 2015, all commercial establishments that generate food waste or compostable paper would have to subscribe to a composting service, compost their food waste on-site, or self-haul their food waste for processing. (Single-family and apartments are already required to have composting service.)

As of July 1, 2015 all commercial, single-family and multi-family garbage containers that would be found to contain more than 10 percent recyclables or food waste by volume would face penalties of Seattle municipal code.

Battle lines emerging in conservative push to take McCain’s Senate seat

As 2014 wound to a close, the campaign machine behind Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) began showing signs of aggression toward the Tea Party conservative momentum that has made the five-term Senator extremely unpopular among base voters in his home state.

Now, the push to oust McCain by electing a conservative in the GOP primary is beginning to take form. If early reports are any indication, it appears the base is looking to get its ducks in a row well ahead of the primary season. The idea is to get Republicans organized behind a single challenger, in order to avoid the multi-candidate scenario that ensured a primary win last year for one of McCain’s favorite fellow moderates, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), despite conservatives’ strong antipathy for his moderate record.

According to The Hill, two Tea Party conservative congressmen from Arizona are interested in challenging McCain — but, the paper notes, “they won’t both get in the race.”

From The Hill:

Arizona GOP Reps. Matt Salmon and David Schweikert, who are “best friends” on Capitol Hill, have spent recent weeks mulling over the possibility with family members, analyzing polling and keeping tabs on McCain, as he makes moves toward running for a sixth Senate term.

One-third of disability recipients cite mental disorder as reason for not working

A new breakdown of data from the Social Security Administration (SSA) reveals that more than one-third of federal disability recipients rely on diagnoses of mental disorders to qualify for the benefit.

For the year ending in December 2013, 3,599,417 disability recipients cited mental disorders as the reason they aren’t able to work — out of a total of 10,228,364 disability beneficiaries. That works out to 35.19 percent.

An analysis of the data by CNS News revealed other interesting demographic trends. People living in northeastern states had the highest proportion of mental disorder claims, while people living in the South had the lowest.

“In Washington, D.C., according to the report, 42.9 percent of disabled beneficiaries as of December 2013 had been diagnosed with a mental disorder,” CNS observed. “Massachusetts and New Hampshire led the nation in this metric with 49.9 percent of disabled beneficiaries diagnosed with a mental disorder.

“At the bottom of the list were Alabama (28.8 percent diagnosed with a mental disorder); Georgia (29.1 percent), South Carolina (29.7 percent), and Arkansas and Louisiana (30.2 percent each).”

Does ‘American Sniper’ take aim at the truth?

Bradley Cooper portrays Chris Kyle in “American Sniper.”

In a scene from Stanley Kubrick’s “Full Metal Jacket,” a helicopter gunner fires wildly at civilians scattering in rice fields below. After that comes the following exchange:

Private Joker: “How can you shoot women and children?”

Helicopter gunner: “Easy! Ya just don’t lead ‘em so much!”

As you can bet, Kubrick’s acclaimed movie got zero Pentagon support. Two other critically acclaimed Vietnam movies from that period that also got no cooperation from the U.S. military were Oliver Stone’s “Platoon” and Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now.”

It is easy to understand how these movies were denied any support from the Pentagon. Besides showing the determination of the enemy, they also showed American soldiers committing suicide, fratricide and mass killings of civilians. Aeschylus said, “In war, truth is the first casualty.”

Not so much perhaps for Stone’s movie “Platoon,” especially when you consider he was a decorated combat infantryman who served in Vietnam. Yet the truths he told in “Platoon” were discredited by the very government that sent him 8,000 miles to fight.