Saturday, January 23, 2010

China teen seen as hero for killing local official

BEIJING – When Li Shiming was stabbed through the heart by a hired assassin, few of his fellow villagers mourned the local Communist Party official many say made their lives hell by seizing land, extorting money and bullying people for years.

Instead, villagers in the northern town of Xiashuixi have made Li's teenage killer something of a local hero. More than 20,000 people from the coal-mining area petitioned a court for a lenient sentence.

"I didn't feel surprised at all when I heard Li Shiming was killed, because people wanted to kill him a long time ago," said villager Xin Xiaomei, who says her husband was harassed for years by Li after the two men had a personal dispute. "I wanted to kill Li myself, but I was too weak."

The murder trial has again cast a harsh light on abuses of power by communist cadres and the frustration many ordinary Chinese feel with a one-party system that sometimes allows officials to run their districts like personal fiefdoms.

China's leaders have identified corruption as a threat to the country's progress, but an opaque political system dominated by the ruling Communist Party — which brooks no dissent — and the lack of an independent judiciary contribute to the problem.

In the case of party secretary Li, the young man who confessed to the stabbing — 19-year-old Zhang Xuping — has been sentenced to death for the September 2008 killing, his mother and lawyer said Wednesday. The sentence was quietly handed down last week and an appeal was filed this week, they said.

Zhang Xuping was paid 1,000 yuan ($146) by another villager, 35-year-old farmer Zhang Huping, to commit the murder after Li allegedly harassed the farmer for years, local newspaper reports said. The elder Zhang was reportedly routinely detained on trumped up charges ever since he led a group of farmers to seek the help of provincial authorities after Li razed 28 acres of trees belonging to them without permission or compensation in 2003.

The teenager entered a school where Li was attending a meeting, found the official alone and stabbed him through the heart. Li staggered out of the building and into his luxury sports utility vehicle but died before he could make it to a hospital, reports said.

The case quickly turned into an outpouring of sympathy for the young killer — and expressions of hatred for Li.

Zhang's trial, which was originally scheduled for August, had to be postponed to late November because thousands of people showed up outside the courthouse wanting to watch the proceedings, news reports said.

Nearly 21,000 people from the area around Xiashuixi petitioned the court for leniency for Zhang — to no avail.

In Xiashuixi, villagers contacted by the AP said that for years they had lived in fear of Li, who they say extorted money and used his influence to have those who resisted him detained or jailed.

Zhang Weixing, 58, said Li illegally seized his land of 3.3 acres and built houses on it three years ago, and he hired thugs to beat him, his wife and children when they tried to stop him.

"When we heard Li Shiming was dead, we felt happy because he did so many evil things and really made us villagers suffer," said Zhang Weixing, who is unrelated to the family of the accused, by phone. "We all hated him."

During his trial, the defendant apologized to Li's family, the state-owned Beijing Youth Daily newspaper said. But Li's eldest son rejected the apology in court and said he hoped judges would sentence his father's killer to "death by firing squad."

Li's death has dealt an immeasurable blow to the family, the son said, adding that his younger brother and sister were unable to focus on their studies and may stop going to school for the time being. Attempts to reach the Li family by phone were unsuccessful, and family members have not publicly addressed the allegations that he was corrupt.

Zhang's case echoes two other instances of ordinary Chinese who became anti-heroes after killing people in positions of power.

In June, a Chinese woman who fatally stabbed a party official to fend off his demands for sex was freed by a court in a decision that was likely made to avoid a storm of criticism.

But in 2008, Yang Jia, a man who confessed to killing six Shanghai police officers in revenge for allegedly being tortured while interrogated about a possibly stolen bicycle was executed despite an outpouring of sympathy.

Unlike those cases, China's state media after initially following Zhang's case did not report his conviction nor his death sentence — a likely indication the government ordered a media blackout.

A Beijing-based lawyer and legal blogger, Liu Xiaoyuan, said the court should have taken public opinion into account given the large number of people who had spoken out in Zhang's defense.

"If the village secretary had acted illegally and aroused the anger of the mass of villagers, then lenient punishment should have been considered by the court," Liu said. "It has become the will of people. The death sentence is too heavy."

The case reflects the desperation that China's rural poor are driven to when bullied by their leaders, wrote Chinese social commentator Yan Changhai on his blog.

"Zhang Xuping is guilty. His biggest crime is that he dared to resist a bandit-like official, and refused to be obedient and to be a slave," Yan wrote.

Yan blamed the murder on collusion between officials and local police and courts.

"If the authorities did not indulge Li Shiming's evil deeds, if even one of his evil deeds was punished by law, he would have avoided death under Zhang Xuping's knife," he wrote.


Associated Press researchers Xi Yue and Yu Bing contributed to this report.

20% VAT 'looming' as ministers face mounting debt crisis

A hike in VAT is ‘inevitable’ after the election as the government grapples with a mounting debt crisis, experts warned yesterday.

The Treasury will have to lift the tax from 17.5 per cent to 20 per cent to raise an extra £12 billion of revenue a year, according to analysts at consultancy Oxford Economics.

The next Government may also have to delay the state retirement age to 68 in order to cope with the biggest debt crisis since the Second World War, the report said.

The warning came as official figures revealed the UK government has borrowed almost £330 million a day so far in the current financial year - the most on record.

Figures from the International Monetary Fund show the UK has seen the sharpest increase in its debt burden of any Group of Seven nation since the start of the financial crisis.

Neil Blake of Oxford Economics said: ‘There appears to be a political consensus that spending cuts should form the bulk of the tightening but we can’t see how the necessary adjustments can be made without further tax rises too.

‘An increase in VAT to 20 per cent after the election and a rise in the state retirement age at some stage would appear inevitable.’

Chancellor Alistair Darling has pledged to halve the deficit in four years under a new Fiscal Responsibility Bill, but City analysts say he will have to do far more to restore investor faith in the UK public finances.

This week Bank of England Governor Mervyn King renewed his calls for more drastic steps to tackle the UK’s debt mountain, which has doubled to £870 billion in the past fives years alone.

Last year’s temporary reduction in VAT from 17.5 per cent to 15 per cent has now been reversed, which should bolster revenues in the coming months.

But both Labour and the Tories are believed to be weighing up further increases in VAT to prop up state revenues.

Luxembourg and Spain are the only European countries with lower VAT rates than Britain, so there is room for further hikes, according to Oxford Economics.

John Hawksworth, an economist at accountants PricewaterhouseCoopers, said: ‘Some sort of VAT rise is quite likely. Not necessarily immediately, but perhaps from 2011. But there would have to be a package of measures, not just one.’

Oxford Economics’s analysis showed that the Treasury will have to raise an additional £10 billion just to meet the terms of its Fiscal Responsibility Bill.

Few experts doubt that it will have to go much further beyond that.

The Treasury borrowed £15.7 billion in December alone, a record for the month. While that was lower than many City experts fear, it means the Treasury has added £120 billion to its debt mountain so far in the fiscal year that began in April.

Conservative Treasury spokesman Philip Hammond said: ‘This is a double dose of appalling economic news. We have the worst December borrowing figures on record and IMF figures showing that, since the financial crisis began, Britain’s public finances have deteriorated faster than those of any other G7 country.

‘No wonder the Governor of the Bank of England, credit rating agencies and international investors don’t think Gordon Brown has a credible plan to deal with our record budget deficit.’

UC approves $3.1 million in bonuses for senior medical executives

The payments are linked to improved patient care and stronger hospital finances, the regents say. But union activists are critical of the bonuses at a time of belt-tightening and job cuts.

Reporting from San Francisco - The University of California regents Thursday approved the controversial payment of $3.1 million in performance bonuses to 38 senior executives at UC's five medical centers.

The regents emphasized that the payments were linked to improved patient health and stronger hospital finances and said they were important tools to attract and retain talent. They said the bonuses were part of a 16-year-old plan funded by hospital revenue, not state funds or student fees. An additional $33.7 million is distributed among 22,000 lower-ranking medical employees.

However, union activists denounced the executive bonuses as unconscionable as other parts of the university were coping with pay cuts and layoffs.

"This is appalling to do this when they are telling the lowest-paid workers to stay in poverty," said Lakesha Harrison, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299, which represents about 20,000 UC workers, including hospital technicians and campus custodians.

Some of the union's members get bonuses of about $300 a year, Harrison said. In contrast, the payments to the 38 senior managers range from about $30,100 to nearly $219,000.

The incentives were awarded after the UC medical center system met such targets as reducing catheter-related infections and saving money through group purchases of supplies, officials said.

Among the payments approved Thursday by the regents in San Francisco were $218,728 to UCLA Medical Center Chief Executive David Feinberg, on top of his $739,695 base salary; $181,227 to UC San Francisco medical center Chief Executive Mark Laret, on top of $739,700 in pay; and $87,000, in addition to his $580,000 salary, for John Stobo, the UC system's senior vice president for health sciences.

Regent Sherry Lansing said she supported the payments as a way to help maintain the quality of UC hospitals. "Even though these are difficult economic times, we have an obligation to find a way to protect the whole university and obviously the hospitals," she said.

Regent Charlene Zettel abstained from the incentives vote, which was passed by all other regents. Zettel said there were too many uncertainties about healthcare economics now and said she found the bonuses questionable at a time of pay cuts and layoffs for many state and private workers.

9/11 was staged: Dr M

The twin towers of the World Trade Center burning after two planes crashed into each building in New York, September 11, 2001. -- PHOTO: AFP

KUALA LUMPUR - MALAYSIA'S former premier Mahathir Mohamad claimed the Sept 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, which killed nearly 3,000 people, were staged as an excuse to 'mount attacks on the Muslim world'.

Speaking at the General Conference for the Support of Al-Quds (Jerusalem) here, Tun Dr Mahathir said killing as an excuse for war is not new to the US. He also argued that Israel was created to solve the 'Jewish problem' in Europe, saying the Holocaust had failed as a final solution against the community.

'In September 2001, the World Trade Center was attacked allegedly by terrorists. I am not sure now that Muslim terrorists carried out these attacks. There is strong evidence that the attacks were staged. If they can make Avatar, they can make anything,' The Malaysian Insider reported Dr Mahathir as saying. The former premier said Israel was created after the Europeans failed to massacre the Jewish community.

'The Jews had always been a problem in European countries. They had to be confined to ghettoes and periodically massacred. But still they remained, they thrived and they held whole governments to ransom... Even after their massacre by the Nazis of Germany, they survived to continue to be a source of even greater problems for the world,' said Dr Mahathir, who was noted for his anti-Western and anti-Zionist stand while in power for 22 years, until October 2003.

Dr Mahathir also expressed his disappointment in US President Barack Obama, who marked his first year in office on Wednesday. 'I am a bit disappointed because so far none of his promises has been kept. He promised to get out from Afghanistan but he ended up sending more troops there instead. He promised to close down Guantanamo but he has not closed down Guantanamo.

'It is quite easy to promise during election time but you know there are forces in the United States which prevent the president from doing some things. One of the forces is the Jewish lobby,' he said.

China's Rebound may cause Inflation

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Celente: Banks gambling with taxpayer money

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Depression Stories: Animal Rescue Operator (Interview)

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GREEDY bankers are still paying themselves huge bonuses in an arrogant disregard of the anger felt by millions of people who are battling to survive the recession.

There was outrage last night after Goldman Sachs announced a 48 per cent rise in pay and bonuses – and then claimed it was showing “restraint”.

The banking giant’s 5,500 UK staff are set to pocket an average £308,000 each this year from the firm’s £10billion pay pot. Many of the company’s top performers will see bonuses running into millions of pounds.

The news comes as employment figures show tens of thousands of Britons have been forced to work part-time to save their jobs.

It reveals the failure of Chancellor Alistair Darling’s attempt to curb City excesses with a one-off 50 per cent super-tax on bonuses.

And it comes as President Barack Obama vowed to break up big banks to prevent a return to the “old practices” that started the financial meltdown.

The President said: “While the financial system is far stronger today than it was one year ago, it is still operating under the exact same rules that led to its near collapse.”

The crackdown, which involves a whole series of measures to restrict the banks’ trading activities, sent Wall Street and the British FTSE share indexes crashing yesterday. Last night critics hit out at Goldman Sachs which narrowly avoided total collapse thanks to a £6.2billion bailout.

When the pay pot was announced, Vince Cable, the Lib Dem Treasury spokesman said: “People will be rightly furious to see Goldman Sachs paying out bumper bonuses after it was bailed out by the US government. It is farcical that so soon after the reckless greed of bankers brought the world economy to its knees, we are seeing a return to business as usual.

“There is a fundamental problem that the banks which made it through the credit crunch can now operate in a near monopoly, with government backing, and reap massive profits.

“Bankers should spare a thought for taxpayers who bailed the system out, some of whom no longer have jobs.” Mr Cable backed the US president’s plans to limit banks’ growth and called on the UK to follow.

“Barack Obama understands that the bonus culture in the banking system has got entirely out of hand and must be curbed.” He added: “We must break up British banks to ensure that taxpayers are not forced to underwrite unnecessary risks and to make the system more competitive.”

Brendan Barber, the TUC general secretary, condemned the US bank for its “mega-bonuses”. He said: “Goldman Sachs wants us to believe that its bonus payouts are modest. The truth is that we have set up an international welfare state for super-rich bankers. They pay themselves mega bonuses when times are good and expect the rest of us to bail them out when times are tough – even though it was the finance sector that has thrown the world into recession.”

Goldman Sachs has a global workforce of more than 32,000 staff including 5,500 in London. It took the £6.2billion public handout in 2007 but has since paid the money back with interest. The downturn had forced the bank to reign itself in one year, limiting staff payouts to around £208,000 on average in 2008, down from £409,300 in 2007. But the restraint was forgotten yesterday when the Wall Street giant announced a staggering five-fold increase in profits from £1.4billion in 2008 to £82billion last year.

Goldman Sachs attempted to dampen the mounting anger, saying the size of this year’s pay pot was a smaller percentage of its revenue than last year’s.

It also said it was set to pay “several hundreds of millions of dollars” to the UK Treasury through the Chancellor’s super-tax.


Film director Roman Polanski's wife has said she "understands perfectly" that women were shocked by the under-age sex case revived by her husband's arrest in Switzerland for possible extradition to the US.

But she said that in the 1970s, when the crime took place, society viewed sex and drugs in a different light.

Actress Emmanuelle Seigner said her husband - who pleaded guilty to sex with an American minor and then fled to France - is a "marvellous" man.

She told Elle magazine her feelings after 76-year-old Polanski was jailed in Switzerland for more than 60 days. He was transferred to house arrest in the Swiss resort of Gstaad on December 4.

She said she felt she was "falling into a well... and this long fall won't stop".

A judge in Los Angeles is due to rule today on whether Polanski can be sentenced in his absence.

Polanski, who has two young children, is fighting extradition to the United States.

He was initially accused of raping a 13-year-old girl after plying her with champagne and a Quaalude pill during a 1977 modelling shoot. He pleaded guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse and then fled to France on the eve of sentencing in 1978.

"My husband never believed he was above the law. The proof is that he pleaded guilty..." his wife said.

Polanski was arrested in Switzerland on his way to a film festival last September

25 State Unemployment Funds Bankrupt; Credit Card Defaults at Record Levels; Look on the Bright Side

Pro Publica is reporting Two Dozen States’ Unemployment Funds in the Red, Nine More Within Six Months

The unemployment insurance system is in crisis. A record 20 million Americans collected unemployment benefits last year, and so far 25 states have run out of funds and been forced to borrow from the federal government, raise taxes or cut benefits. Using near real-time data on states' revenues and the benefits they pay out, we've estimated how long their trust funds will hold up.

And while states’ poor fiscal planning is a serious topic on its own, our unemployment insurance tracker also follows the increasing human toll: so far businesses in 36 states face tax increases this year, ranging from a few dollars per worker to more than a thousand. Six states have moved to cut, freeze or otherwise restrict benefits, a number that is likely to increase. (See our breakdown of states’ projected increase in taxes and cuts in benefits.)

Some states have focused the pain, like Virginia, where unemployed seniors who also receive Social Security face steep benefit cuts. Other states, like Pennsylvania, have taken a broader approach: all unemployment beneficiaries will receive 2.4 percent smaller checks starting this month.

Red - Bankrupt and Borrowing: The state's unemployment fund is currently bankrupt and the state is borrowing from the federal government.

Red - In Trouble: The state's unemployment fund will likely be depleted in six months or less.

Grey - In the Clear: The state's unemployment fund is solvent.

The above interactive chart courtesy of Pro Publica. There is much more in the links above that show the amount of current borrowing by each state and actual projections six months ahead.

Credit Card Defaults Hit Near-Record Levels

With unemployment at 10%, and the economy losing jobs 24 consecutive months it is not surprising to see Fitch reporting U.S. Retail Credit Card Defaults Hit Near-Record Levels with No Relief in Sight.

U.S. consumers defaulted on store-branded credit cards at near-record levels during the holiday shopping season, with 2010 likely to bring more of the same trend, according to Fitch Ratings.

Fitch's December Retail Credit Card Index results show that more than one in every eight dollars of receivables was written off as uncollectable during the November collection period on an annualized basis. Taken with the recent delinquency trends and Fitch's expectation for unemployment, Fitch expects retail card chargeoffs to remain elevated throughout first half-2010.

"We do not foresee any meaningful improvement in the retail card credit quality in the coming months," said Managing Director Michael Dean. "U.S. consumers remain under stress on a number of fronts, most notably on the employment front, and retail card chargeoffs will continue to reflect those pressures."

High unemployment and ongoing household deleveraging will continue to limit demand for consumer credit in 2010. Consumer confidence as measured by the Conference Board remains historically low despite rising in the most recent period and unemployment is expected to remain elevated averaging 10.2% in 2010. 'Households will remain cautious with their spending and further curtail their use of retail cards in 2010,' said Dean.

This does not bode well for prospects of a robust rebound in retail sales or credit usage in 2010 as the employment situation and economic environment overall continues to weigh on consumers' spending decisions. The latest Fed figures show revolving credit usage decreased at an annual rate of 18.5% in November - the largest dollar-value drop since 1968 and the 14th consecutive decline since October 2008As long as the employment and income growth remain weak, demand for consumer credit - especially retail credit - will be limited.
Look On The Bright Side

Hey! Look on the bright side.

The recession is over (if you happen to work at Goldman Sachs).

A Question Of Ability

Inquiring minds are reading Fed's Dudley: Opposes Move In Congress To Audit Rate Policy.

"My principal concern is the damage that could potentially result to the Fed's ability to achieve its mandate of price stability and maximum sustainable employment."

Excuse me for asking but ....
What ability is that?

Moreover, no one is asking for an audit of the Fed's Rate Policy. People are asking for an audit of the Fed's books. Dudley Do-Wrong looks like a dunce.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

Wikipedia Doesn't Like Me ...

Opinion by Consumer Advocate Tim Bolen

Wikipedia's General Counsel, Mike Godwin, is sending me nasty emails. Apparently he doesn't like me telling people how bad Wikipedia actually is, and he definitely doesn't want me telling you what to do about it - when it effects you personally. He actually, the other day, said I "was trying to destroy Wikipedia..."

Stand back while I turn down my testosterone levels.

Even though, in some ways, it feels good to have some people think I'm that kind of powerful, I can't really claim credit for what's happening to Wikipedia. The whole world is beginning to realize that Wikipedia is being run by the social equivalent of a pimply twelve year old.

Wikipedia is coming apart. What I'm offering is a remedy for its victims. How? I'm telling people how to sue Wikipedians in the Courts to stop them from victimizing others. I've got the formula to beat them (and I'll tell what that is further into the article) - and Mike Godwin doesn't want me to talk about it. He says:

"Thank you providing evidence of intent to engage in strategic litigation aimed at shutting down Wikipedia."

Yup, he really said that. Let me adjust that testosterone knob one more time.

Mike, I don't need to destroy Wikipedia. It is doing that to itself. I'm actually trying to help you guys, but you're not listening. The WHOLE WORLD is trying to help you, and you are not listening. You need to make some changes - and here's why...

Critics like Oliver Kamm of the London Times said in his November 25, 2009 article:

"The persistent decline in the number of Wikipedia editors may signal the end of the dominance of a remarkable online resource. It cannot happen too soon. Wikipedia is routinely cited in online articles as a substitute for explanations of concepts, events and people. It has thereby coarsened public culture. It is an anti-intellectual venture to its core.

Knowledge is democratic in the sense that no one has the right to claim the last word. Wikipedia is democratic in the different and corrosive sense that anyone can join in regardless of competence.

Every editor’s contribution is of equal value. That is an affront to the notion of disinterested intellectual inquiry. What Wikipedia prizes is not greater approximations to truth but a greater degree of consensus.

hat ethos undermines Wikipedia in principle as a reference source. There are many Wikipedia articles that are scrupulous, balanced and fair treatments of their subjects. But these are liable to be overthrown at any time by an editor with an idée fixe and an empty life.

The default position of Wikipedia is to leave editors to sort it out among themselves. The loudest voices and most obsessive contributors become the arbiters of truth.

The periodic scandals that have afflicted Wikipedia are not accidents: its culture invites them. A supposed theology expert turned out to be a fantasist in his mid-20s. Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, declared that this impostor had “been thoughtful and contrite about the entire matter, and I consider it settled”.

It clearly didn’t occur to Mr Wales that claiming knowledge you don’t have and have never worked for is wrong. Wikipedia stands for vainglorious amateurism: it will be an easy act to follow."

Oliver, you hit the nail right on the head.

Wikipedia is being hit harder and harder in the media, all around the world, as well it should be. The language used in the articles is getting less, and less, respectful of what once was a very good idea. You can't crawl around the internet without finding another complaint - usually in the strongest of language. Comedians are making fun of it.

And the lawsuits are a-coming... and a-coming, and a-coming...

According to the London Telegraph, Wikipedia's articles on global warming are nothing but propaganda. The National Post says it even stronger. The Bali Times quotes me.

I think Wikipedia/Wikimedia management sits there with a dullness in their eyes reciting that old mantra "Why is everybody always picking on me?

Well, listen up WikiFolks... I'll make this easy for you. Take that all-day sucker out of your mouth and pay attention children. I'm here to help you. I'll help you grow up (maybe).


(1) People work hard in their lives to accomplish things. They don't need to have some homeless, muttering, schizophrenic wander into a public library, plop their reeking selves down in front of the public internet, and log onto Wikipedia with a "private" name, to take out their resentments against their betters, by re-writing articles with so-called facts that were born in their drug-soaked, in-and-out of consciousness, mind. Nobody needs that.

But that's one of the opportunities you provide. You call it "privacy," and you actually think it is a good thing. Grow up.

The other opportunity you provide is for the victim of the library-using-crazy to, after spending twelve hours at their profession every day, they get to come home, log onto Wikipedia, and change back to the real information. Just what everybody needs to do after a long day (sarcasm intended).

But it gets better. For, down the road, a few hundred miles, is one of those homes where "we-the-people" store recently out of prison pedophiles. You know the ones. They have to be a minimum 1000 feet from a school yard or a children's playground. Handily, there is only one small window, in that home, where the perverts can peer out, using their binoculars, scanning that schoolyard - so maybe only two-at-a-time can use the window leaving the other twenty-eight roommates to fight over the use of the five internet-connected computers, all of which have blocking devices keeping them away from the kiddy-porn sites. Since there is no kiddy-porn available why not edit Wikipedia, eh? Do it long enough and you can become an administrator? And, you can make friends, with similar thought paths... like a maybe a "library-using-crazy?"

The wonderful world of Wikipedia "privacy."

So, guess what happens. The "library-using-crazy" gets really sick of this professional changing back his writings every night so he contacts his admin buddy over at the pervert center and complains. "Perv" fixes the problem by pointing out that the professional is violating Wikipedia rules by editing information about himself, and bans him from Wikipedia indefinitely. Then the professional gets upset and demands to know who these people are - so the "Perv," and the "library-using-crazy" complain to the ArbCom group and they, of course, ban the professional forever for trying to "violate privacy," leaving the bad information on the article page

And that's Wikipedia in a nutshell.

I think it is being run from a tree house.

(2) Larry Solomon, from the National Post, in his article titled "How Wikipedia’s green doctor rewrote 5,428 climate articles" says it like this:


he Climategate Emails describe how a small band of climatologists cooked the books to make the last century seem dangerously warm.

The emails also describe how the band plotted to rewrite history as well as science, particularly by eliminating the Medieval Warm Period, a 400 year period that began around 1000 AD.

The Climategate Emails reveal something else, too: the enlistment of the most widely read source of information in the world — Wikipedia — in the wholesale rewriting of this history.

Read more:
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The Climategate Emails describe how a small band of climatologists cooked the books to make the last century seem dangerously warm.

The emails also describe how the band plotted to rewrite history as well as science, particularly by eliminating the Medieval Warm Period, a 400 year period that began around 1000 AD.

The Climategate Emails reveal something else, too: the enlistment of the most widely read source of information in the world — Wikipedia — in the wholesale rewriting of this history.

Solomon goes on to describe, in detail, what happened next.

One person in the nine-member team — U.K. scientist and Green Party activist William Connolley — would take on particularly crucial duties.

Connolley took control of all things climate in the most used information source the world has ever known – Wikipedia. Starting in February 2003, just when opposition to the claims of the band members were beginning to gel, Connolley set to work on the Wikipedia site. He rewrote Wikipedia’s articles on global warming, on the greenhouse effect, on the instrumental temperature record, on the urban heat island, on climate models, on global cooling. On Feb. 14, he began to erase the Little Ice Age; on Aug.11, the Medieval Warm Period. In October, he turned his attention to the hockey stick graph. He rewrote articles on the politics of global warming and on the scientists who were skeptical of the band. Richard Lindzen and Fred Singer, two of the world’s most distinguished climate scientists, were among his early targets, followed by others that the band especially hated, such as Willie Soon and Sallie Baliunas of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, authorities on the Medieval Warm Period.

All told, Connolley created or rewrote 5,428 unique Wikipedia articles. His control over Wikipedia was greater still, however, through the role he obtained at Wikipedia as a website administrator, which allowed him to act with virtual impunity. When Connolley didn’t like the subject of a certain article, he removed it — more than 500 articles of various descriptions disappeared at his hand. When he disapproved of the arguments that others were making, he often had them barred — over 2,000 Wikipedia contributors who ran afoul of him found themselves blocked from making further contributions. Acolytes whose writing conformed to Connolley’s global warming views, in contrast, were rewarded with Wikipedia’s blessings. In these ways, Connolley turned Wikipedia into the missionary wing of the global warming movement.

Read more:
The Financial Post is now on Facebook. Join our fan community today.

One person in the nine-member team — U.K. scientist and Green Party activist William Connolley — would take on particularly crucial duties.

Connolley took control of all things climate in the most used information source the world has ever known – Wikipedia. Starting in February 2003, just when opposition to the claims of the band members were beginning to gel, Connolley set to work on the Wikipedia site. He rewrote Wikipedia’s articles on global warming, on the greenhouse effect, on the instrumental temperature record, on the urban heat island, on climate models, on global cooling. On Feb. 14, he began to erase the Little Ice Age; on Aug.11, the Medieval Warm Period. In October, he turned his attention to the hockey stick graph. He rewrote articles on the politics of global warming and on the scientists who were skeptical of the band. Richard Lindzen and Fred Singer, two of the world’s most distinguished climate scientists, were among his early targets, followed by others that the band especially hated, such as Willie Soon and Sallie Baliunas of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, authorities on the Medieval Warm Period.

All told, Connolley created or rewrote 5,428 unique Wikipedia articles. His control over Wikipedia was greater still, however, through the role he obtained at Wikipedia as a website administrator, which allowed him to act with virtual impunity. When Connolley didn’t like the subject of a certain article, he removed it — more than 500 articles of various descriptions disappeared at his hand. When he disapproved of the arguments that others were making, he often had them barred — over 2,000 Wikipedia contributors who ran afoul of him found themselves blocked from making further contributions. Acolytes whose writing conformed to Connolley’s global warming views, in contrast, were rewarded with Wikipedia’s blessings. In these ways, Connolley turned Wikipedia into the missionary wing of the global warming movement.

So, WikiFolk? Did the nice man send a plate of warm brownies up to your tree house while he diddled your big sister, so to speak? Where the hell were you when this "global warming" crap was going on?

(3) Everybody in advanced health care knows that Wikipedia articles about health are manipulated by a secret group with an agenda designed to keep the health care status quo. No studies have yet been conducted to determine how much death and damage this group has caused to Earth's population. But I'd guess that it is considerable.

I've written about this before, so there is no point in rehashing the issue. For a refresher try "A4M Sues Wikipedia..."

But, a common thing in the Wikipedia health care world is the "badmouthing" of what are called Alternative Medicine health care paradigms, professionals and activists. Another word for "badmouthing" is defamation, and defamation is actionable in the Courts. Specifically, in the case of a health professional, refer to the "defamation per se" Wikipedia definition which reads: (Note the red highlighted words).

"The four (4) categories of slander that are actionable per se are (I) accusing someone of a crime; (ii) alleging that someone has a foul or loathsome disease; (iii) adversely reflecting on a person’s fitness to conduct their business or trade; and (iv) imputing serious sexual misconduct. Here again, the plaintiff need only prove that someone had published the statement to any third party. No proof of special damages is required."

I used the Wikipedia definition for a good reason. I wanted to show you that Wikipedia is very well aware of the law. They simply cannot deny it. They just think it doesn't effect them.

Here, below, is the section of an email I wrote to a Wikipedian that actually tries to solve problems (yes, there are some) I believe it was paragraphs three, four, five, and six (all in green) that set off Mike Godwin:

The first question: Is there a way within Wikipedia to put a stop to the organized defamation attacks against my clients, by the group I offered to "out" in the email below? If so, what is it? How do we activate it right this minute?

We know that there are certain Wikipedia web pages that are completely controlled, or unduly influenced, by this subversive group - and they will use very trick they've learned to keep those web pages the way they want - keeping them reflecting their POV. This is not acceptable to us and none of us are willing to spend most of our lives edit-warring with these people.

With this in mind our group is of the mind that the Court system would work much better for us. Properly set up cases would wreak havoc with Wikipedia volunteers, all up through the volunteer ranks. Why? Because the volunteer ranks do not seem to be getting any legal advice, and are of the opinion that they have Section 230 immunity - when, in fact, since they are an integral part of the editorial process, they have no such immunity.

My recommendation to our angry players was that we simply set traps (set up a sting), positioning new editors into the system so that they readily become victims of the subversive group. Then when that happens we simply activate what appears to be Wikipedia's internal controls, making, as it were, an appeal for the editor's position. When that fails, go to the next step, and the next, until all avenues have been exhausted in the Wikipedia process. When all that fails, which it will, because of the depth, and sophistication, of the subversive group's infiltration, then we simply sue all of the participants in every step of the process in a venue of our choice. There, each of the Wikipedia volunteers can explain through the discovery process, and more, how they arrived at the conclusion that defamation was OK, because they at Wikipedia decided it was.

Wouldn't that be interesting? Thirty five to forty Defendants each hiring their own attorney?

It would be very hard, I'd surmise, to get volunteers to serve on those Wikipedia committees when they see what the term "liability" actually means, as it is applied to people they know.

But let's go back to my first questions: Is there a way within Wikipedia to put a stop to the organized defamation attacks against my clients, by the group I offered to "out" in the email below? If so, what is it? How do we activate it right this minute?

Ok, it is time to drag out your sense of disbelief. What do you think was Wikipedia's response to my reasonable questions?


"I think there is probably so much prejudice regarding you that it is probably impossible to accomplish anything. Actually I doubt it is unwise for you to try to represent your clients because of that."

Stay tuned...

Tim Bolen - Consumer Advocate

Copyright 2010 by Bolen Report





















































































約翰遜在一份聲明中稱:“聯合反恐分析中心(JTAC)決定將我們面臨的國際恐怖主義威脅級別 提高一級,這意味著大馬很可能會發生恐怖襲擊,但我並非在這裡暗指我們的情報部門已經獲得了相關情報。“他說:“英國仍面臨國際恐怖主義真實而嚴重的威 脅,因此,我敦促民眾保持警惕。”






這輛馬來西亞註冊的集裝箱車,週五(1月22日)中午12時15分抵達兀蘭關卡,申報所載物品為木框、木門、PV C材料等。但關卡人員從掃瞄器中發現集裝箱地板有異常現象,隨即打開集裝箱檢查。






US Labor Force, 1850 - 2000 (interactive graph)

Click this link .....

Reed, other mayors tell Obama: Stimulus isn't working for cities

WASHINGTON -- As if the White House isn't already hearing it from others, the nation's mayors delivered a clear message to President Barack Obama on Thursday: His economic stimulus program isn't creating enough jobs.

"What we said ... was that the method they used for disbursing the first stimulus dollars was wrong," said new Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, one of more than 200 mayors who met with the president and other administration officials at the White House. "That approach just did not work."

Thursday's meeting between members of the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the White House comes amid signs that -- despite improvement in the nation's economy overall -- the country's cities are still suffering.

A report issued by the mayors' group this week showed the bulk of the nation's unemployed are in cities. It also predicts that most cities won't see a return to pre-recession employment levels until at least 2013. Metro Atlanta is home to about 60 percent of Georgia's unemployed, according to the report. It also shows that Atlanta is among the country's hardest-hit cities economically.

Thursday, Obama sought to reassure mayors that he knows cities need more help.

"While Wall Street may be recovering, you and I know your Main Streets have a long way to go," he told mayors. "Unemployment in your cities is still far too high. And because our metropolitan areas account for 90 percent of our economic output, they are the engines that we need to get started again."

Obama said the budget he will present next month will include new programs and added funding for the nation's cities.

Reed and other mayors want Washington to change the way economic stimulus money and other federal aid are distributed.

About 80 percent of stimulus money has gone directly to state governments, they say. Instead of being used to create new jobs, the bulk of the money has been used to save existing state government jobs -- teachers, law enforcement and others -- and for shoring up sagging state budgets.

If more money would flow directly to cities, the mayors' group contends, it could be used for local improvement projects that would create more jobs.

"Everything is about jobs now," said Burnsville, Minn., Mayor Elizabeth Kautz, president of the mayors' group.

The Democrats' stunning loss in Massachusetts' U.S. Senate race Tuesday reinforced that message.

White House officials indicated the president is receptive to making sure any future jobs creation package or economic stimulus funding adds more emphasis on federal aid to cities.

Reed -- a big Obama supporter in the 2008 election -- said he was encouraged by what he heard Thursday. But, he added, the White House needs to follow through on its promises.

Charleston, S.C., Mayor Joseph Riley, who has been in office 34 years, noted what's at stake: "An economic turnabout like this works itself out not at a national level. It works itself out in the towns and cities of our country."

Doug Casey Says Bet Against Wall Street, Bonds, and after a few months the U.S. Dollar

L: Doug, I saw a Wall Street Journal headline a few days ago that boldly proclaimed, "Car Makers May Hire Soon." Be still, my trembling heart! It’s hard to believe the WSJ would stoop to such a meaningless headline, but I guess they are just trying to give their desperate customers what they want: some hope, whether valid or not. What do you make of the unemployment situation?

Doug: Well, they say that during the depression of the 1930s, unemployment went as high as 25%. That’s interesting, in that at the time, half the people in the country were still farmers. They knew how to make the things they used in daily life with their own hands, and how to grow their own food. There was less specialization in the economy, and people were more self-sufficient. That made them better able to cope with an economic depression.

So it seems to me that that depression wasn’t anywhere near as bad as this one is going to be. It was caused by the inflation of the currency in the 1920s, by the Federal Reserve, and was prolonged by the actions that Hoover took, which were in exactly the same vein as those Roosevelt took later. Hoover was quite a dirigiste – I mean, Roosevelt applauded all the things Hoover did, but Hoover didn’t have the panache and good PR that Roosevelt did. But everything these two did – and both were disasters, lengthening and deepening the depression – was trivial by comparison to what’s being done today.

The government today is making things far worse than in the 1920s and 1930s. Everything the government is doing is not just the wrong thing; it’s exactly the opposite of the right thing. But more importantly, as far as unemployment is concerned, this inflationary boom has gone on much longer than that of the ’20s. Not only does that call for a bigger correction, but unsustainable patterns of production and consumption have become far more ingrained.

L: Consuming more than you produce is not sustainable, but people can tighten their belts…

Doug: That’s only part of it. If people lose their jobs today… Well, they are pretty far from the land, and I’m not sure people today think about that. Back in the ’20s and ’30s, if your car broke down, it was expected that you would get out and, under a shady tree, fix it yourself. And you could – you could even take the engine apart and fix a bearing. That’s not in the least practical today. You’ve got to have the money to pay a specialist to fix your car today.

Back then lots of people who weren’t even farmers had vegetable gardens and chickens in their yards. Today, people live in suburbs – chickens and goats are out of the question.

L: I get it: what will unemployed golf cart salesmen do when they can’t find jobs – today, they can’t just go back to the farm and help with the chores. But they say unemployment is only around 10% now; even if that’s low, it will need to get more than twice as bad before it compares to the 1930s.

Doug: The government is saying the unemployment is around 10%, but that’s a fraud. They don’t count things the same way as they did then, not even as they did in the recession of 1982. Furthermore, they should count many government employees among the unemployed, since relatively few of them produce anything that anyone would voluntarily pay for. I’m not talking about police, garbage collectors, judges, and the like. The market would employ many of them in their current jobs even if the state were to disappear. But many of the apparatchiks filling offices not only don’t serve any useful purpose, but they actively destroy, and prevent the creation of, wealth. These people are worse than just unemployed.

Something else. Very few of the 1.5 million people in the Armed Forces actually create wealth or would be paid, in a free market, to do what they do. The same goes for the perhaps several million contractors and employees that compose the so-called "defense" industry. Obama is giving veterans preference in hiring for government jobs as well. Which means people who are not only quite jingoistic as a group but most used to taking orders – and giving them – will increasingly dominate the civil service. And, benefits included, government jobs now pay about 50% more than those in the real world. This is not a good trend any way you look at it.

The government’s unemployment figures basically include people who are paid to dig ditches during the day and others who fill them up at night.

L: And they don’t count "discouraged workers" as being part of the workforce, so they’re not unemployed.

Doug: Yes, it’s like that cartoon you ran in this month’s International Speculator, showing all the groups of people who are not working but who are not counted as unemployed. People who’ve given up looking for jobs are not unemployed, Ph.D.s working a few hours a week at Wal-Mart are not unemployed, and there are more stupid evasions like that going on. So fewer and fewer of the numbers they give us are meaningful.

But I always look at the bright side. Many of these people will find their way into the underground economy and provide goods and services to others without government approval. All the taxes they’re saving means they can effectively double their take-home income, or charge half as much, or some combination. And, very important, it denies revenue to the state, even as it puts the thought into people’s heads that they don’t need the state – the state needs them. Many who spend time in the "black economy" might even get the idea that being independent is preferable to being a serf.

L: I just looked up John Williams’ shadow stats on unemployment, and he’s showing BLS Broadest unemployment, which includes "short-term discouraged workers" at over 17%. His SGS alternate unemployment, which includes "long-term discouraged workers" (who were "defined out of official existence in 1994"), is about 22%.

Doug: So, it’s already much worse than people think. And on top of that, people seem to suffer from a mass delusion that things will get better soon. I don’t think things will get better anytime soon. For one thing, the level of debt in the U.S. is off the charts. Debt means you’re borrowing from the future, saving means putting something aside for the future. The level of debt in all areas – real estate, credit cards, personal loans, and so forth – has brought Americans to negative savings in recent years, a first. That didn’t even happen during the Great Depression.

One of the things that makes this particularly serious now is that rumors are circulating about the government licking its chops over all the money sitting in personal pension funds, Keogh plans, HR-10 plans, etc. The Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation (PBGC – like the FDIC, but for pension funds) is bankrupt, and it’s going to get much worse. It’s still early days in this grand misadventure. Usually – not always, but usually – when things get really bad, they float some trial balloons to see how people might react to things they are considering. One of the most dangerous proposals floating out there now is that, since people’s pension plans have been hurt so badly, people should be required to buy annuities with their pension funds.

L: Isn’t that what Social Security is supposed to be?

Doug: Well, that’s never been anything but a welfare scheme. Logic does not apply in the government sphere. One way or another, the government will get more involved in pensions, and I suspect they’ll do it like they did down here in Argentina. I doubt most Americans are aware that the Argentine government basically nationalized everyone’s private pension plans last year, including those denominated in dollars, and now they are going to pay people in pesos, fresh off the printing press. I think the same thing is going to happen in the U.S.: they’ll require that a certain percentage of your pension plan be used to buy T-bills, or other government securities, or an approved annuity. This will be for the safety of The People, of course. The end result will be to wipe out an entire form of financial security Americans count on today.

L: What should Americans with pension plans do?

Doug: The smartest thing to do would be to get them offshore. I say this so often in these conversations and other places that I fear sounding like a broken record, but it’s really that important. But it’s absolutely true that for an American, the safest wealth is the wealth that’s outside of the U.S. Your biggest risk is a political risk, from a completely bankrupt U.S. government. Most people are completely unaware of it, but it’s possible to buy productive foreign real estate in your pension plans. It would be difficult for the government to force people to repatriate such assets, and that affords a measure of safety.

People should look at this. The government is desperate for money. They are going to run a trillion-dollar deficit this year, plus, they have to roll over a trillion and a half dollars of short-term paper, so somehow they are going to have to find buyers for $2.5 trillion of debt this year.

L: Somehow, I can’t imagine the Chinese and Japanese lining up to pour that much money into U.S. government promises.

Doug: And absolutely not at the artificially low interest rates the Fed is maintaining. They are going to be in a mad scramble for money; the Federal Reserve will likely wind up buying a lot of it, which could result in up to 2.5 trillion more dollar bills floating around the U.S., in just one year. So, they really are between a rock and a hard place, as we’ve been saying in The Casey Report. There’s just no way out. So I think the pension plans are going to be the next victims of this ongoing crash.

L: So… We have, and will have, much higher unemployment than the government is admitting, and at the same time, the government is going to steal people’s savings?

Doug: That’s precisely what’s going to happen. Unemployment is going to stay high, because the whole of U.S. society is oriented towards patterns of production and consumption that are unsustainable. They were built on a pyramid of debt, and that debt is collapsing. I don’t know what the new patterns are going to be, but there are a lot of people who are going to have to find totally new things to do.

And they’re going to have to find new places to live as well. They just aren’t going to be able to afford their McMansions. Even if the government helps them pay their mortgages, they are not going to be able to pay the soaring real estate taxes, they are not going to be able to maintain them properly, and they are not going to be able to pay the utilities.

L: And again, by "patterns of production and consumption," you don’t just mean spending more than you make. You mean that the U.S. has a surplus of paper pushers and telephone sanitizers, and a deficit of people who actually make things of value, and therefore, as a society, is not productive – or something along these lines?

Doug: Yes. Think about some of these businesses that have grown up during the boom times – like personal trainers. The "service economy" in general. Americans have gotten used to the notion of "We think, they work."

L: Meaning that Americans don’t do physical work?

Doug: Right, so they go down to the gym to exercise. A personal trainer is nice to have but is completely unnecessary. All you really need is a little willpower. Incidentally, I’m not a fan of physical labor; it tends to be of low productivity. Machines should do it and eventually will do most of it. So there should be much more wealth in a free market, with much less work as a result. But you get there by thinking and using engineering and science to give reality to the thoughts.

Unfortunately, few Americans study these things. They go for subjects that range from those that are worth less than nothing – like political science, collectivist economics, and gender studies – to those that are simply worth nothing – like English lit, psychology, and history. As you know (see our conversation on education), I’m not at all opposed to these things. It’s just that you should study them on your own. Meanwhile, kids from the Orient and Eastern Europe are doing math, science, and engineering. I suppose future Americans can do their menial jobs, and a few can become entertainers or athletes.

L: We have a bunch of young Eastern Europeans working for us, and they’re very bright and competent.

Doug: Indeed. Another job that I think caters to the artificially high patterns of consumption we’ve seen over the last 25 to 30 years is being a lawyer. Millions of people have become lawyers over the last couple decades, and 95% of them are unnecessary and a drain on the economy.

L: I read in another WSJ article that crime has actually dropped since the crisis hit, which doesn’t make it sound like boom time for lawyers.

Doug: Well, few lawyers actually defend criminal cases, but that is interesting. Another surplus is MBAs, of which it seems we have millions; if they had any possibility of succeeding in business, that’s what they’d be doing, instead of wasting time and money listening to academics yap about it. And people in the financial business – there’s going to be much less demand for brokers, bankers, advisors, planners, and such in the years to come. They’ve come to expect a lot of money for shuffling paper, based on the financial industry being in a bubble. A huge swath of white-collar workers are going to have to figure out a new and productive way to put bread on the table. Assuming they still have a table after their McMansion gets repo’d.

L: What about Starbucks and all its clones? You think people are going to be willing to pay $5 for a cup of coffee during the Greater Depression?

Doug: It’s interesting… you know, even when I was a kid, one of the catchphrases people used when someone would offer an opinion was: "That and 10 cents will get you a cup of coffee." Since a cup of coffee almost anywhere cost about 10 cents, the implication for the value of the opinion was clear. And a cup of coffee was still 10 cents not so many years ago in most places – your $5 cup of Starbucks coffee is a long way from there.

Given how little a cup of coffee really costs, even with inflation, Starbucks may be a dead man walking; many people are going to be forced to dispense with the extravagance. So there will be a lot of unemployed baristas. However, an argument can be made that in tough times, people do without big luxuries but will still buy little luxuries to make themselves feel better. So I’m not saying Starbucks will disappear; I just don’t think there’s really a market for one on every corner. I expect they’ll wind up closing more than half their stores.

More generally, I’d say there’s just too much retail out there.

L: Particularly high-end retail. I wonder how many $1,000 bikes will be sold when people can go to Wal-Mart and get a decent, light-weight aluminum bike for $100 or less.

Doug: And how many closets full of suits and shirts and pants and shoes are out there that people don’t even use? Who’s going to buy clothes when they have more than they can wear and don’t have a job? A lot of that stuff is going to last a long time.

L: So, short Calvin Klein and Eddie Bauer?

Doug: Almost no retail business is a good business today. The only exception I can think of is a grocery store.

L: People are going to need to eat, no matter what.

Doug: That’s really about it.

One business that’s been pretty good over the last decades is the public storage unit business. People have so much stuff, they can’t even fit it all in their garages – which they need for their boats and ATVs – and their attics are overflowing. People simply have too much stuff, and they are going to stop buying it as their wages go down. Maybe eBay is the way to go, as people try to unload some of the stuff they’ve accumulated to raise cash.

Here’s the thing about unemployment: you can’t just think in terms of the U.S. Americans have insanely high wages, relative to people in other countries of equal intelligence, maybe a better education, and definitely a better work attitude.

L: That’s for sure. I had three guests, former students of mine from the Republic of Belarus, who stayed with my family this summer – at the height of the post-crash scare. Everyone was moaning about there being no jobs, but these kids got on the bikes I lent them and rode for many miles every day until they found jobs – at least two each. And these are students who’d never worked a day in their lives, had no experience whatsoever, no training, nothing to put on a résumé. But they wanted to work and were eager to exchange labor for dollars.

Doug: What kind of jobs?

L: Kitchen help in a pizza restaurant, stocking shelves in supermarkets, stuff like that.

Doug: In other words, the kind of labor self-respecting Americans don’t want.

L: Yes. You know, leftists complain that globalization is unfair to poor countries – but in fact, modern production is becoming increasingly independent of geography, so pay rates worldwide are trending towards more equality than the world has ever seen. Wages are rising in the third world and dropping in the first. Like it or hate it, it’s capitalism that has been helping the poor around the world, with real, productive work – not socialist government handouts.

Doug: Yes, pay scales are being homogenized. Which is why you can expect places like the U.S. to fight the trend with quotas, tariffs, and the like.

You know, properly speaking, the "correct" level of unemployment is zero. Theoretically, the demand for goods and services is infinite. My own desire for goods and services has no limit, and neither does anyone else’s. So even if everyone worked 24/7, they could never satisfy all the potential demand. It’s just a matter of allowing people to work at wages that others are willing and able to pay.

L: So, it’s minimum wage laws and price controls that create unemployment – there’s no natural unemployment rate in the market?

Doug: Yes. Previously, for many years, the government used to say that the normal or correct rate of unemployment was 6%. How they came up with that number, I don’t know.

L: Probably threw darts at a board.

Doug: Yeah, they picked some number out of the air, found a pliable economist to write a paper with a bunch of mathematical symbols, and it became part of the cosmic firmament. It’s ridiculous. In a free-market economy, there would be zero unemployment or even negative unemployment, as particularly ambitious individuals would have two jobs.

L: Okay, but back to these (forcibly) United States…

Doug: I’m sorry to say, it’s going to get much worse. With 15% of the population collecting food stamps, and another 15% eligible but unaware or unwilling to accept the stigma – yet – and more people accepting various other government subsidies, there will be a growing population that doesn’t want to work. In response, there will be higher minimum wages that will keep more of the unskilled out of work, and more regulations and higher taxes will keep businesses from hiring more people. The government is going to enact lots of new laws, supposedly to protect the employees, and that’s going to make it much riskier to hire anyone. It’s a truly vicious cycle that’s going to cause serious structural unemployment for a long time.

L: You think the government will be stupid enough to raise the minimum wage when businesses are failing left and right?

Doug: Yes, of course they are. I’m surprised they haven’t raised it to $20 or $25 per hour.

L: Sure, why not $1,000/hour – we’d all be rich!

Doug: [Laughs.]

L: So, if it’s that bad and getting worse – if the real unemployment rate is just a few percentage points lower than it was during the Great Depression, why don’t we see more lines outside of soup kitchens?

Doug: Well, those people I mentioned getting food stamps – they’re not getting stamps anymore. They get a thing that looks like a credit card. They don’t have to stand in line at any special store or soup kitchen; they can just go down to the nearest Safeway and load up on Twinkies. But I have seen a lot of stuff on YouTube about people living in tent cities. So it’s not as different from last time as you might think – and this time it’s still just getting started. Which reminds me: people in the real estate and construction businesses had better prepare for a long, long drought.

L: I just did a search on YouTube for "tent city" and got 2,660 results. Did you see the one about the uproar over a tent city named Obamaville?

Doug: That’s a good example, and I’m sorry to say that I’m convinced that it’s going to get much worse. There’s no way out for the average person. Except to take stock of his position, hunker down, and figure out what goods and services he can provide others at prices they can afford.

L: Any suggestions for readers?

Doug: Cut down on your standard of living while you can do so in a controlled way – or the market will do it for you. Greatly increase your rate of savings. And be very careful of what you put your savings in.

L: Investment implications? Short retail?

Doug: Yes. Bet against Wall Street, bonds, and after a few months, the U.S. dollar. It’s not a pretty picture.

L: The sort of stuff you cover in The Casey Report.

Doug: Yes, exactly. I wish I could assure everyone that things are going to get better soon. But that’s not the case. This is just the first act. It’s better to be aware of an unpleasant reality than to be blindsided by it.

L: Okay then, another sobering conversation – we’ll have to talk about something more upbeat next week, or we’ll leave our readers too depressed to read us anymore.

Doug: Just remember what Robert Friedland always says: the situation is hopeless, but it’s not serious.

[Doug Casey is one of the few investment visionaries whose forecasts have been spot-on. Don’t miss what Doug predicts for 2010 – to read the rest of this FREE interview, sign up here.]

© 2010 Copyright Casey Research - All Rights Reserved

Big Banks Have Already Figured Out The Loophole In Obama’s New Rules

Big banks have already begun poking the holes in Obama’s new rules—holes they expect their banks to pass through basically unchanged.

The president promised this morning to work with Congress to ensure that no bank or financial institution that contains a bank will own, invest in or sponsor a hedge fund or a private equity fund, or proprietary trading operations unrelated to serving customers for its own profit.

But sources at three banks tell us that they are already finding ways to own, investment in and sponsor hedge funds and private equity funds. Even prop trading seems safe.

A person familiar with the operations of one big Wall Street bank said it expects that new regulation will affect less than 1% of its overall business.

The key phrase is “operations unrelated to serving customers.” The banks plan to claim that much of the business in which it engages is related in one way or another to serving customers. Even proprietary trading, for instance, can become related to customer service if it is done through internal hedge funds in which some outside clients are permitted to invest.

One insider at a bank pointed to JP Morgan Chase’s ownership of the hedge fund Highbridge Capital. It is thought that under a strict “no hedge funds” rule, Highbridge would have to be sold off. But under the rule proposed by the Obama administration, Highbridge can be retained by JP Morgan because outside clients are permitted to invest in it.

A still more devious way is to have a banks own employees be the customers who are invested in the internal hedge funds. That way trading operations can remain closed to outsiders while the regulatory requirement of relating the trading to customer service is met. Goldman Sachs is rumored to be considering this approach. (Goldman isn't commenting on the regs right now.)

“This thing is about showing the public that Obama is standing up to Wall Street. So the rhetoric is heated. But the implementation will require far less change than people think right now,” a person familiar with the thinking at the upper echelons of one of our largest banks said.

“The market is getting this wrong by selling off the megas,” a person at another bank said.

Goldman Sachs Had Bomb-Sniffing Dogs, Police Barricades At Its Headquarters Before Earnings Announcement

As Goldman Sachs prepared to announce its fourth quarter earnings and employee compensation levels yesterday, the bank had bomb-sniffing dogs and police barricades on hand at its New York City headquarters, the New York Post reports.

The decision to boost security as its offices was apparently driven by growing fervor over the bank's huge profits and bonuses. Yesterday, the bank announced that it earned $13.4 billion for the year, and set aside $16 billion for employee compensation. Goldman was widely expected to set aside approximately $20 billion for employee pay, but CFO David Viniar suggested yesterday in a call with reporters that the bank wasn't blind to the "pain and suffering in the world" and "wasn't deaf to the calls for restraint."

Viniar's remarks indicate an abrupt change in tone among Goldman Sachs execs. In November, CEO Lloyd Blankfein -- who had previously bragged that the bank was doing "God's work" -- said the following at an industry conference:

I often hear references to higher compensation at Goldman. What people fail to mention is that net income generated per head is a multiple of our peer average. The people of Goldman Sachs are among the most productive in the world."

Despite what seems to be a new concern among the firm's leaders about the PR implications of Goldman's banner year, the bank's announcement of the pay packages that individual executives receive will be closely scrutinized. Dealbook spoke to one Goldman insider, who suggested Blankfein's bonus will be a measuring stick for employees who may see their pay cut. (Blankfein earned $68 million in 2007, but didn't receive a bonus last year.) Here's Dealbook:

"It all depends on what Lloyd gets," said one midlevel Goldman employee, referring to Lloyd C. Blankfein, Goldman's chairman and chief executive. He said Mr. Blankfein's bonus had become a popular water-cooler topic. "If Lloyd takes home a big bonus, even if it's all stock, and everyone else receives less, there will be some concern," he said.