Sunday, June 20, 2010

Watch Small Business for Employment Forecasts

Today’s 472,000 jobless claims print once again emphasizes how poor the employment outlook has been. What the macroeconomists all have missed is the creative-destruction character of the US economy: jobs are permanently lost and big companies and replaced by startups — except this time, there are no startups.

Small business was still contracting in May, albeit at a somewhat slower pace of contraction than previously, according to Discover Small Business Watch:

  • 35 percent of small businesses surveyed said they believe the economy is getting better, up from 31 percent in April; 51 percent say the economy is getting worse, down a point from the previous month; and 12 percent see the economy as the same, down from 14 percent in April.
  • The percentage of small business owners rating the current economy as good or excellent was 12 percent in May, compared to 13 percent in April. The April and May ratings on the current state of the economy are the highest since June 2008. Thirty-two percent rate the economy as fair in May, while 56 percent still think it’s poor.
  • Small businesses reporting cash flow issues held steady at 45 percent, the lowest number in seven months. Forty-eight percent reported no cash flow issues, and 7 percent were unsure.
  • 28 percent of small business owners say economic conditions for their businesses are getting better, down from 30 percent in April; 44 percent said conditions are getting worse in May, down from 48 percent in April; and 24 percent said things are staying the same, up from 19 percent in April.
  • 25 percent of small business owners indicated they were increasing business spending in May, up from 23 percent in April, while 46 percent said they were reducing spending this month, compared with 43 percent in April, and 31 percent said they are spending the same, up from 25 percent in May.

Despite the surging stock market, venture capital investments during the first quarter of 2010 fell by 9% compared to the fourth quarter of 2009.

There simply are no signs of life in the startup sector–not surprising given that the US government is sucking up all the financial sources of the economy along with all the available balance sheet of the US and global banking system to finance its deficit.

Until this changes employment is going to remain dead in the water. The manufacturing boomlet simply has no impact on employment.

Emergency Department Visits Involving Nonmedical Use of Selected Prescription Drugs --- United States, 2004--2008

" Rates of overdose deaths involving prescription drugs increased rapidly in the United States during 1999--2006 (1). However, such mortality data do not portray the morbidity associated with prescription drug overdoses. Data from emergency department (ED) visits can represent this morbidity and can be accessed more quickly than mortality data. To better understand recent national trends in drug-related morbidity, CDC and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reviewed the most recent 5 years of available data (2004--2008) on ED visits involving the nonmedical use of prescription drugs from SAMHSA's Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN). This report describes the results of that review, which showed that the estimated number of ED visits for nonmedical use of opioid analgesics increased 111% during 2004--2008 (from 144,600 to 305,900 visits) and increased 29% during 2007--2008. The highest numbers of ED visits were recorded for oxycodone, hydrocodone, and methadone, all of which showed statistically significant increases during the 5-year period. The estimated number of ED visits involving nonmedical use of benzodiazepines increased 89% during 2004--2008 (from 143,500 to 271,700 visits) and 24% during 2007--2008. These findings indicate substantial, increasing morbidity associated with the nonmedical use of prescription drugs in the United States during 2004--2008, despite recent efforts to control the problem. Stronger measures to reduce the diversion of prescription drugs to nonmedical purposes are warranted.

DAWN is a public health information system that tracks the impact of drug use, misuse, and abuse in the United States by monitoring drug-related hospital ED visits. In a manner similar to the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System,* DAWN uses a sample of EDs to estimate national ED visit rates (2). DAWN collects data from a stratified, simple random sample of approximately 220 nonfederal, short-stay, general hospitals that operate 24-hour EDs in the United States. DAWN's sampling frame is based on the American Hospital Association annual survey database and is updated annually to reflect new, closed, merged, and demerged hospitals, and to give new hospitals an opportunity to be selected into the sample.
Note: I searched this document for cannabis, pot, THC - and found nothing. I wonder why? As usual the "war on drugs" is a non-specific war - like "war on terror" and other wars on things like poverty, stupidity. They never work. Eventually the money runs out and people have to fall back on discussion and reasonable courses of action that address the specifics - and face their wasteful over-reliance on generalities.

Perhaps a return to SPECIFICS and reasonable use of marijuana to address some of the maladies these "prescription drugs" are used for would result in fewer emergency room visits - as the patient benefiting from a now-banned and effective drug may never come into contact with the more dangerous and addicting ones.

Obama's liberal critics find their voice

We on the left have been in numb denial about President Obama's failures. But as the crises pile up we can't remain silent

Until President Obama's first ever Oval Office address-to-the-nation the other night BP's chief executive Tony Hayward was winning the booby prize as "America's most clueless man" for his gaffe-prone TV interviews. But Obama is gaining fast. His self-exonerating speech, full of sparkling generalities and with no hint of frank accountability for his administration's culpability in the nation's worst environmental disaster, was like the man himself, bloodless and emotionally detached from the human costs of an oil invasion that's now spreading from Louisiana to Texas, Florida and as far north as the Carolinas.

Instead, to cover his impotence to cope with the seemingly unstoppable 60,000 barrel a day spillage, and his deference to BP he's appointing – what else? – one of those tired old wheezes, a "tsar" to oversee the Gulf spill effort and a "commission" to investigate its causes which by now are well known by everyone except the clueless White House. Don't they listen to their own scientific advisers?

Tony Hayward must feel a little relief that the spotlight on him as a 24-karat fool shifted momentarily on Tuesday night to our do-nothing-except-make-war president.

But the dogs are waking up and barking in the night.

Until BP's blowout in the Gulf eight weeks ago the American left (what there is of it) trailed poodle-like after Barack Obama, refusing to criticise, let alone, attack "our guy in the White House". We had worked our butts off for his election, and now we were punched out or perhaps felt we had nowhere else to go – and isn't it nice for a change to have a president who can parse a complicated sentence? Any lingering doubts we had were stifled after one scary look at Obama's yowling enemies – racist and crazy about Palin – which was enough to send us whimpering back to our kennels.

But like tiny buds of spring little fragile flowers of dissent are springing up all over the place, sometimes unexpectedly. I live in West Los Angeles, an incubator for the Obama-voting intelligentsia. A few days ago I drove past an ultra-liberal private academy in Santa Monica for the children of affluent Obama-ites, and the lawn sign in big letters proclaimed a snide reference to Obama's dismal failure get a handle on BP's environmental crime. Garry Trudeau's daily cartoon Doonesbury, which bashed Bush for years, now satirises the Obama presidency for its incomprehensible torpor in the national emergency. "The White House grows more passive every day," a Doonesbury character says in a dig at No Drama Obama's habit of lofty detachment.

Once faithful Obama retainers like syndicated columnists Maureen Dowd and Frank Rich are turning on the president for his crushing indifference to the simple human predicament of the disaster's victims. Even TV's Keith Olberman, until now virtually an Obama PR man, complains that the Oval Office speech "was great … if you were on another planet for the past 67 days". And Rachel Maddow, until now a fervent Obama cheerleader, has criticised his way-off-the-mark speech.

George W Bush gave the (false) impression, fostered by his flacks, of actually liking ordinary people. Obama prefers photo ops to human contact, such as the ridiculous posed pictures of him earnestly examining "tar balls" washed ashore in LaFourche Parish and promising Gulf residents, "I'm here to tell you that you are not alone. You will not be abandoned, and you will not be left behind" – only to promptly leave for a Chicago vacation.

He's not only tone deaf but also growing hostile to public criticism. Indeed, Obama goes after whistleblowers with more punishing venom than ever did George W Bush who whined about leaks but did not indict. In Obama's 17 months in office he has outdone all his Oval Office predecessors in going after anyone in government who dares spill the beans to the media. For example, instead of ordering court-martials for the army helicopter gunmen who murdered unarmed Baghdad civilians – a video shown worldwide by Wikileaks – the young GI leaker, 22-year old Bradley Manning, has been arrested, and the Pentagon cops are frantically trying to smoke out, and shut down, Wikileak's Pimpernel-like founder, Julian Assange. I did not think it possible, but our President Obama has an even thinner skin than Bush.

With each passing day, as crises pile up, from out-of-control unemployment to the Gulf to Gaza to the failed Afghanistan adventure, the underlying liberal authoritarianism of the Obama White House becomes clearer. We, Obama's "liberal base", of which I'm a charter member, were in numb denial that our former community organiser, who elicited such an outpouring of love from his vast network of volunteers, is actually just another Illinois pol – but with a better vocabulary.

But the dogs of dissent are waking up and starting to howl.

Oval Office Duplicity: Cover for Corporate Criminality

Since taking office, Obama proved himself a machine politician, not a man of the people, an earlier article explaining it this way:

He promised peace and delivered war; real health and financial reform, not same old, same old; help for millions losing jobs, homes, hope and futures, not handouts to Wall Street and other industry favorites; regulatory oversight, not the usual incestuous government-industry ties, making disasters like in the Gulf possible, and when they happen conspiring with offenders in coverup, distortion, lies, and a total disregard for the environment, wildlife, and way of life for thousands - let alone permanent damage to a vital ecosystem.

At the same time, Big Oil gets billions in subsidies, special tax breaks and other financial benefits, besides being free to operate recklessly in a regulatory-free environment. Little wonder that a disaster now threatens to become the greatest ecological one ever, gushing oil that's potentially unstoppably from multiple sea floor ruptures, worsened apparently by BP fix attempts done as PR stunts, the company and administration knowing they wouldn't work but used them anyway as a charade to fool the public.

In addition, for nearly two months, company officials:

-- obstructed cleanup efforts and hasn't provided proper equipment to do it;

-- suppressed vital information;

-- told cleanup workers they'd be fired if spoke to the media;

-- lied from day one about what happened and its severity;

-- denied adequate compensation to Gulf victims;

-- withheld respirators and other protective gear from cleanup workers, many now ill from flu-like symptoms, including severe headaches, dizziness, nosebleeds, chest pains, and trouble breathing that may persist, become worse and for many be long-lasting or permanent;

-- ordered workers showing up with respirators and other protective gear to remove it or be fired; and

-- on June 17, BP CEO Tony Haywood stonewalled the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation by refusing to provide information he knows as chief operating officer.

Yet BP got White House, cabinet, and congressional backing from the start, collaborating in a likely trillion or multi-trillion dollar crime, affecting the entire regional economy as well as the lives, health and welfare of tens of thousands of its residents, on their own and out of luck, like millions of others nationwide facing enormous hardships from job losses, home foreclosures, growing poverty, hunger, and unaffordable illnesses because of Washington's indifference during the gravest economic crisis since the Great Depression.

One of Many Disturbing Views

On June 12, assessed the crisis as follows:

"First of all....set aside all your thoughts of plugging the well and stopping it from blowing out oil using any method from the top down. Plugs, big valves to just shut it off, pinching the pipe closed, installing a new (blowout protector) or (lower marine riser package), shooting any epoxy in it, top kills with mud etc etc etc....forget that, it won't be happening....In fact, (it) actually open(s) up the well at the subsea source and allow(s) it to gush more."

"It's really an inescapable conclusion at this point (based on expert oil and gas professional opinions) that "The well bore structure is compromised 'Down hole.' That is something which is a 'Worst nightmare' conclusion to reach....It means they will never cap the gusher (at) the wellhead. They cannot (and) the more they try and restrict the oil gushing out the top, the more it will transfer to the leaks below."

"The down hole leak will undermine the foundation of the seabed in and around the well area. (In fact), we are beginning to (see) the well's total integrity beginning to fail....I am convinced (that) the entire system is accelerating and attacking more key structural areas of the well." After enough damage is done, "the casing will buckle and the (blowout preventer) will collapse the well."

BP and Washington know it but conceal it from the public and residents most affected.

At some point, "the worst things you can think of" will happen. "The well may come completely apart as the inner liners fail....the least damaging outcome (being) that we are stuck with a wide open gusher blowing out 150,000 barrels a day of raw oil or more."

The longer the oil gushes, the worse things will get, and in the end every fix tried will fail, including relief wells to relieve pressure. At that point, "the system will collapse or fail substantially....and the worst is yet to come," increasing the magnitude of the disaster "exponentially."

Response from The New York Times

The paper of record largely supported Obama's address, including his supposed humbling BP with a $20 billion escrow fund for claims, saying in an editorial headlined, "From the Oval Office" that:

"Americans have been anxiously waiting for President Obama to take full charge of the gulf oil catastrophe," and he did by "vow(ing) to 'fight this spill with everything we've got for as long as it takes' and declared that 'we will make BP pay for the damage their company has caused.' "

Agreeing that follow through is essential "with more energy and dedication than they have shown so far," and that his speech "was short on specifics and devoid of self-criticism," The Times was hopeful that "Obama was right when he predicted that in 'coming weeks and days,' up to 90 per cent of the oil leaking....will be captured and the well finally capped by this summer" - a virtual impossibility for either to happen, something the "newspaper of record" should know and report.

The Times also endorsed the Senate's "long-stalled comprehensive energy and climate bill, a necessary first step to reducing this country's dependence on fossil fuels and tackling the problem of global warming," when, in fact, it's a scheme to raise energy prices and create a huge new bubble through carbon trading derivatives speculation, and has nothing to do with the environment except increase pollution.

Yet the editorial says "Time is quickly running out for Congress to act before the midterm elections. There is no chance at all (for passage) unless Mr. Obama takes full charge of that fight as well," typical irresponsible misinformation, backing powerful corporate interests, a longstanding Times tradition, why nothing it reports can be believed in editorials or news coverage, why most of what it publishes isn't "fit to print" or read, for sure not believe.

Gulf Gas Bubble Danger Alert

On June 14, author Richard C. Hoagland, citing insider BP and US government sources, told the BBC that "a gas bubble approximately 15 - 20 miles across 10+ feet high near (BP's) well head....had formed that that it may cause a massive explosion within weeks or months."

He said the pressure is enormous, around 100,000 pounds per square inch, so if it happens it will be an underwater volcanic eruption, creating a huge tsunami, traveling at 400 - 600 miles per hour, sinking all vessels in its path, besides causing vast shoreline damage and deaths, driving up oil prices, and spreading hazardous dispersants and gasses well inland.

Florida, he believes, will be hardest hit, but the entire region will be affected. A mass evacuation will be ordered, affecting about 40 million people, what Jane Burgermeister reported on her birdflu.666 site, saying under "martial law:"

"The US military is preparing to 'evacuate' 40 million people in the (Gulf) region....under the pretext of toxicity, according to sources," taking them to "notorious FEMA camps, built around the country and resembling concentration camps or prisons...."

Citing sources she calls reliable, she adds that "if the seabed is fractured, then all gulf drilling will be suspended (and) will force the price of energy and gas to double worldwide within a few months." Only time will confirm if true, but already the situation is grim, with nothing in prospect for improvement, according to some reliable oil experts.

In readiness, Hoagland said the Coast Guard is calling up former officers and seamen, "offering enticements to come back into service quickly," and that "measurements at Venice and (New Iberia), LA are (already) showing health endangering levels of toxic hydrogen sulfides and benzene gasses." He believes evacuation will likely come or millions may die or suffer severe health consequences, because of toxicity in large amounts being emitted.

Again, whether or not true remains to be seen, but better to know the possibilities (even if exaggerated or proved false) than remain uninformed and unprepared for the worst. Under the best case scenario, this is an unprecedented environmental catastrophe, criminally covered up by Washington and BP.

Oval Office Cover and Capitulation to Corporate Predation

Obama's June 15 address was disingenuous, shameless, hypocritical and supportive of Big Oil interests, much like his backing for the Israeli Lobby, Wall Street bandits, Big Pharma, the insurance lobby, auto giants, agribusiness, defense contractors, and other corporate favorites, while endorsing big cuts in vital public benefits and services to show fiscal restraint.

Playing front man for BP, he didn't explain the cause or severity of the crisis in terms of its effects on the economy, ecosystem, and lives, welfare and health of Gulf state residents. Nor did he demand accountability for perhaps the greatest ever environmental crime, as a result of government-corporate complicity that neither this or any other disaster will change, and unless it does, profits will always supersede public welfare and ecological safety, externalities indifferently sacrificed without concern, no matter how severe. Obama, of course, is a front man for a human and environmentally destructive system, his pious rhetoric and brave face a shameless lie.

To a nationwide audience, he said nothing about regulatory laxity, BP's disregard for worker safety, its shoddy history of dangerous practices, the disrepair of its equipment by cutting corners on maintenance and proper controls, years of manager warnings to top officials ignored about safety concerns risking serious accidents, employees pressured to be silent, say nothing, or be fired, and the company's single-minded pursuit of bottom-line issues, everything else be damned - to such an extreme that it got former EPA debarment attorney, Jeanne Pascal, to say after investigating company practices:

"They are a recurring environmental criminal and they do not follow US health safety and environmental policy. At what point are we going to say we are not going to do business with you any more, bye? None of the other supermajors have an environmental criminal record like they do."

So why did Obama provide BP cover from day one, and in his 18 minute nationwide address? Why hasn't he held a corporate scofflaw accountable, run the cleanup from the start, demand BP provide full information on the problem and cooperate with Washington in charge or face criminal prosecution, huge fines, and nationalization? Why hasn't the public been fully informed? Why do the administration, its officials, the Congress and Coast Guard work for BP instead of the other way around?

Why has he unquestioningly accepted all BP pronouncements on faith, including deliberately falsifying gush estimates - first, 1,000 barrels a day, then 5,000, then 25,000 - 40,000, and now 30,000 - 60,000 when reliable evaluations are double these numbers or higher and explain a problem that may turn the entire gulf and beyond into dead zones, as well as contaminate the entire Atlantic coast and waters well beyond?

Why hasn't he explained Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen's offhand comment that most oil isn't flowing up BP's pipe but is "in communication" with the sea floor and surrounding formations, meaning it's gushing from multiple ruptures, perhaps more to come because of the enormous pressure eroding the well's walls? Why hasn't he announced that perhaps nothing can stop them short of technologies that don't exist, other than perhaps a nuclear option that might fail and magnify the problem as well as irradiate the Gulf and regional shorelines?

Why did he said nothing about noxious air and toxic rain if one or more hurricanes hit the Gulf? Why isn't he warning residents and providing help in case of the worst? Why doesn't he use the military for cleanup, restoration and other aid, and bring home US forces from Iraq and Afghanistan to do it?

Why does he repeat BP's lies, censor the media, conspire to destroy evidence, and keep the public in the dark when they have every right to know anytime, let alone when there's an unprecedented disaster affecting this and other nations?

Why hasn't his Justice Department indicted BP officials, ordered their arrest, and imprisoned them where they belong? Why did he deliver shameless boilerplate to a nationwide TV audience, instead of a detailed action plan, with facts and hard numbers, including seizing BP's assets, mandating all be used to cover recovery and restoration costs, even if it bankrupts the company? Why hasn't BP, and perhaps the entire industry been nationalized - one responsible for global environmental disasters, mostly where victims aren't compensated and get shot if they complain?

After a choreographed White House meeting with top BP officials, why did he let them off easy with a bogus $20 billion escrow fund, amounting to two quarters of dividends, affecting only company shareholders, that's way less than needed to compensate affected residents, who'll be trashed in deference to Big Oil interests? Why did he appoint Kenneth Feinberg as overseer, a notorious Washington fixer who'll protect BP and the administration, not affected Gulf residents?

Why didn't he announce a complete halt to offshore drilling, especially in dangerous deep waters? Why didn't he (belatedly) order immediate environmental impact studies on all current and future drilling operations as well as mandated safety regulations, placing worker and ecological issues above bottom line ones?

Why isn't he our president, instead of BP's front man, stooge, shill, willing agent, betrayer of the public trust, like he's been in all ways since taking office? When will the public realize they've been fooled again, scammed, betrayed, Obama no different from the rest, and, in fact, worse, by fiddling, lying, obfuscating, and concealing the truth while America and other nations face a potentially catastrophic disaster? When will they understand that only grassroots activism brings change when it's determined enough to demand nothing less - and what better time to try than now?

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at Also visit his blog site at and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

California on 'verge of system failure’

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger

Golden State, like many others, is nearly bankrupt and desperately needs a bailout

Arnella Sims has seen a lot in her 34 years as a Los Angeles County court reporter, but nothing like this.

Case files piling up by the thousands, phones ringing off the hook, forced midweek courthouse closings and occasional brawls as frustrated citizens queue for hours to pay parking fines.

“People think we’re becoming a Third World country,” said Ms. Sims, 55. “They don’t understand.”

It’s a story that’s being repeated all across California – and throughout the United States – as cash-strapped state and local governments grapple with collapsed tax revenues and swelling budget gaps. Mass layoffs, slashed health and welfare services, closed parks, crumbling superhighways and ever-larger public school class sizes are all part of the new normal.

California’s fiscal hole is now so large that the state would have to liberate 168,000 prison inmates and permanently shutter 240 university and community college campuses to balance its budget in the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Think of California as Greece on the Pacific: bankrupt and desperately needing a bailout.

“We are on the verge of system failure,” warned Jean Ross, executive director of the California Budget Project, an independent think tank based in Sacramento.

None of this would matter much to anyone outside the not-so-Golden State except that California’s budget crisis is a harbinger of a grim dilemma that all Americans will soon confront. The country has built an elaborate and costly government machine, tied to a regressive tax system that can’t generate enough revenue to pay for it all.

Canadians too have a stake in all this. Dramatic cuts by state governments are threatening to derail the U.S. recovery, dampening expectations for global growth.

“This is a classic American dilemma,” explained Peter Dreier, a professor of politics and director of urban and environmental policy at Occidental College in Los Angeles. “Americans expect a lot of their government. But politicians have convinced them they’re not getting what they want.”

Americans have been “brainwashed” into believing they pay a lot of taxes, Prof. Dreier added. In fact, they are among the least-taxed people in the Western World, particularly if they’re wealthy, he said.

After unveiling a grim budget last month that scraps a popular welfare program for a million children and slashes countless other programs for the poor and elderly, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger complained that the state’s broken budget process has left him facing a “Sophie’s Choice.” That’s a reference to the story of the Polish Jew forced by the Nazis to choose between saving her son or her daughter from the Auschwitz gas chambers.

Experts say the U.S. government will inevitably have to come to the rescue, using its borrowing clout to save the state from near-bankruptcy or devastating service cuts. Do nothing, and the entire U.S. economy could be put at risk. California, like the country’s banks, may be too big to fail.

California is looking at a gap of $19-billion (U.S.) this year and $37-billion next year on a roughly $125-billion-a-year budget. Local governments, including the City of Los Angeles, are in similarly dire financial straits and are now scrambling to shed workers and services.

Red ink, from sea to shining sea

Red ink, from sea to shining sea

“We have to get some federal money,” argued Ms. Ross of the California Budget Project. “The impact [of the Schwarzenegger budget] would be enough to slow down the U.S. economy. It would be bad for the U.S. and, arguably, bad for the world to do the shock therapy approach.”

And California isn’t alone in angling for a bailout. U.S. states are facing shortfalls totalling nearly $300-billion in 2010 and 2011; they also must wrestle with hundreds of billions more in unfunded pension obligations to their workers. “There are a few Greek crises brewing among the United States of America,” said economist Ed Yardeni of Yardeni Research Inc.

The task is made all the more difficult because California and virtually all other states are barred by legislation from running operating deficits, forcing them to balance their budgets annually by slashing spending, raising taxes or both. Typically, states can only borrow short-term funds, or for capital projects.

Billionaire Warren Buffett, who advised U.S. President Barack Obama during his White House run, suggested recently that a Washington bailout of California and other troubled states is inevitable. How, he wondered, can Washington deny California after saying yes to General Motors, AIG and dozens of banks.

“I don’t know how you would tell a state you’re going to stiff-arm them with all the bailouts of corporations,” Mr. Buffett said.

The alternative for many state and local governments may be default. Mr. Buffett said many state and municipal bonds are only triple-A rated because investors assume there’s a federal backstop. “If the federal government won’t step in to help them, who knows what [the bonds] are,” he said.

California’s credit rating is already the lowest of all 50 states.

How California, the largest and once most-prosperous state, got in this mess is a story decades in the making. It began with middle-class angst and a property tax revolt in the sprawling suburbs of Los Angeles. The movement would eventually sweep the country in the inflation-ravaged economy of the late 1970s, leaving government unable to pay for many of the services and entitlements people now take for granted.

John Serrano Jr., a social worker, was frustrated that he had to move his family out of East L.A. to find decent public schools for his children. He would eventually lend his name to a class-action lawsuit that would go all the way to the California Supreme Court. In a series of decisions, the court found the state’s school finance system to be unconstitutional for relying too heavily on local property taxes, which vary widely in poor and wealthy neighbourhoods. For example, a school in tony Beverly Hills would often get more than twice the funds per student than one in poor East L.A.

The landmark case would forever change the fiscal landscape of California, and many other states, shifting the financial burden of kindergarten to Grade 12 education from local to state governments, but not the tax base. K-12 education is now the State of California’s single largest expense, soaking up roughly a third of its budget.

A tax revolt would further tilt the tax burden to the state and deprive local governments of their most stable funding source – property taxes.

In the mid-1970s, California property taxes were soaring, along with real estate values, and incomes couldn’t keep pace. The result was a campaign, financed by L.A.-area apartment landlords, that culminated in the now-infamous Proposition 13 ballot initiative in 1978.

Prop. 13 rolled back and capped both residential and commercial property tax rates at 1975 levels. And it virtually guaranteed that only a revolution would reverse the measure. Proposition 13 imposed a two-thirds majority requirement for all tax bills and required local voters to approve all municipal tax increases.

“California put itself in a straitjacket that it hasn’t been able to get out of,” Occidental College’s Prof. Dreier explained.

In the years since Prop. 13, California has come to the rescue of local governments, taking on ever-greater responsibility for schools, low-income health care and welfare. And it has paid for all that with volatile sales and income tax revenue, making it tough to balance its budget when the economy stalls.

“A lot of people predicted doom and gloom in 1978. It just took a long time,” said John Tanner, executive director of Local 721 of the Service Employees International Union, which represents 85,000 government workers in Los Angeles and throughout Southern California.

Prop. 13, according to Mr. Tanner, has put schools, courts, parks and a raft of other government services in a downward spiral. “We are at an unacceptable place right now,” he said.

Perhaps no group of workers feels more targeted in the crisis than teachers. U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has warned that without money from Congress as many as 300,000 teachers nationwide could lose their jobs to state budget cuts, including several thousand in California.

“It’s not easy being me these days,” said A.J. Duffy, president of the United Teachers of Los Angeles. “I have 45,000 members looking to me to save their jobs.”

His union represents teachers and other employees at 700-plus L.A. schools, where as many as 1,200 jobs are threatened.

“We’re destroying education as we know it,” Mr. Duffy lamented. “My teachers will do a great job no matter what. But it’s harder and harder to deliver the quality of education we’ve had.”

California public schools were once a beacon for the country. Now, the state ranks dead-last in student-teacher ratios, 45th in per-student spending and 36th in high school graduation.

The tax structure may be badly flawed. But even union activists acknowledge that repealing Prop. 13 outright is probably a non-starter. Recent polls show support for keeping a lid on property taxes remains strong, in spite of the budget crisis.

Experts say tax reform is the only option for California, short of a massive and unprecedented shrinking of government. And that requires an “open conversation” between voters and their elected leaders, and almost certainly higher taxes, according to Ms. Ross, the economist.

If you want good schools, you have to pay for them,” she said. “Cutting taxes doesn’t raise revenue.”

That kind of talk angers Kris Vosburgh, executive director of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, named after the L.A. homeowner who led the Prop. 13 campaign and dedicated to ensuring it’s never overturned. He said California is a high-tax state with generously paid government workers, and recession-weary taxpayers have no money to pay more.

“The bank is empty,” Mr. Vosburgh complained.

“We have tried to be all things to all people and we can’t afford to do that any more.”

But in California, and elsewhere, the price will be steep – in lost jobs and vanishing services.

Carliose Lane, 37, an animal licensing official for the City of Los Angeles, knows the city, and the state, are in a budget bind. But he can’t understand why he and the city’s entire team of animal fee collectors must pay the price with their jobs. Who, he wondered, will collect the money that pays for the city’s shelters and pet control operations after he’s laid off on July 1.

“Laying me off isn’t going to solve the city’s budget problems,” said Mr. Lane, whose $32,300-a-year salary helps support a wife and three children. “It will make them worse.”

Blackwater Firm Gets $120 Million U.S. Government Contract

Click this link .....


I cannot stress just how important it is for you to take the time out to read the following piece. To put it succinctly, Richard Cook covers everything that is happening in the world in to day in terms I don’t think many of us have heard before. I feel blessed to be able to offer such light to you all. For indeed, as dour as the things we face may be, through this piece, we will UNDERSTAND and KNOW what is happening to a great degree. And just those gifts of light through the darkness strengthen and arm us to do the best we possibly can. And that is why this is The Time of Testing.

Richard C.

By Richard C. Cook

While skeptics mockingly point out that the “end of the world” has been prophesied over and over again for centuries with nothing happening ~ the latest being Y2K, they say, and another likely bust coming up when the calendar hits 2012 ~ it’s obvious that mankind faces an increasingly unsustainable future.

The world’s economic, technological, agricultural, and political systems are breaking down. While the causes are debated, it’s certain that the human assault on the natural world has wiped out vast numbers of species and polluted the land, the air, and the oceans.

After the past 100 years of history, with two world wars and low-grade but vicious warfare going on almost continuously somewhere in the world since World War II ended, it seems impossible for human beings to live together in a state of harmony either among ourselves or with the planet we call home.


In social life, the overriding characteristic of our era is the increasing division in the world between haves and have-nots, masters and slaves, controllers and controlled, rich and poor. The power of the wealthiest class of people has never been so great. The weapons of mass destruction they ~ and the armed forces who work for them ~ monopolize have the force to destroy the earth many times over.

Teachings of peace, tolerance, charity, which have always received lip service, lack efficacy. Such teachings increasingly count for nothing. Organized religion, done in by its own transgressions and lack of transformative potency, rarely even attempts to make a stand for justice or persuade nations to forego war.

The people at the very top of the heap

have been those Western financial magnates,

especially from the Anglo-American-Zionist Empire

and the European Union,

who control banking, industry, investment, and credit.

The world is run by an international financial elite

and their subordinates in government,

corporations, academia, the military, and the media.

These elite have plunged billions of people and the nations they inhabit into astronomical levels of debt. They are the controllers who live off the fat of the land, skimming the cream of science and industry through usury on money they create out of thin air through financial monopolies granted or at least tolerated by the politicians whose strings they pull.

The leaders of the popular will, the political classes of all Western nations, most particularly the United States, are servants of private financial and corporate interests.

The controllers realize how tenuous stability has become.

So they have embarked on a worldwide consolidation

of power, using every tool available

from the fields of electronic surveillance

and social engineering

to enhance their dominance.

Nations not entirely under their control, such as Russia and China, are tagged as adversaries and surrounded with military bases. The controllers are suspected of having vowed among themselves that the existing world population of almost seven billion human beings cannot be allowed to continue.

A large portion of the human herd must be culled; an action that now appears to be underway with the world’s resources increasingly passing into the hands of centralized financial interests.

But this will not necessarily fend off the even larger disaster that threatens mankind. For the controllers themselves also inhabit the earth.

No man is an island.

What threatens the least of God’s creatures

threatens them as well.

The perspective of the controllers is therefore incomplete.

What it leaves out are human freedom,

aspiration, and spirituality.

It also leaves out nature and nature’s laws.

Further, it leaves out God, whatever we mean by that word, still knowing that there is “something” or “someone” who is the ultimate creative force.

Perhaps these most materialistic elements of humanity are not quite as sharp as they think they are in trying to erect a fortress against the universe in order to save themselves.

For instance, they have not yet found a way to negate the law of cause and effect:

“As ye sow, so shall ye reap.”

An example is the BP oil catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico caused by negligence in addressing pre-existent problems in a manner reminiscent of the space shuttle Challenger disaster of 1986.


Disasters also lie in wait due to genetically-modified seeds laced with pesticides where crop failures or the appearance of super-resistant insects could lead to mass starvation.

The controllers desire to rule from their glitzy world capitals of glass and steel while maintaining “safe” suburban, rural, or island palaces and retreats.

Many, though not all, are the physical or spiritual descendants of those who rejected God by rejecting Jesus Christ 2,000 years ago, though according to some traditions their genealogy may be much older.

Though the Christian churches offer many confusing and contradictory interpretations, it was Jesus Christ who prophesized the end of the age and sought to prepare mankind for it.

Christianity is first and foremost an eschatological religion, especially as it hearkens back to such Old Testament prophets as Isaiah.

But in recognizing that the size of the human population is an overriding issue, shouldn’t we ask why are so many people alive on earth at this time?

Where have they come from?

Is it simply a result of improved sanitation, more productive farming methods, or the reduction in infant mortality?

Or is there a hidden cause?

The planet today resembles a train station at rush hour.

Perhaps for the sake of discussion

we should look at it from a somewhat mystical perspective.


It could also be that a side-effect of the large earth population has been the emergence of the critical mass of information that has led in turn to exponential growth in science, technology, and economic productivity, the latest phase being the cybernetic revolution.

Has man, in his vanity,

attributed this apparent progress

to his own stellar qualities,

while failing to guard against

the temptations deriving therefrom

and their potential for binding him to the material plane?

Perhaps man has surrendered his soul through a Faustian bargain based ultimately on the illusion which science promotes of someday attaining physical, as opposed to spiritual, immortality.


The great parable of modern man may have been Goethe’s Faust, published in 1808 and prefiguring the spiritual crisis of the modern age.

We should note well the fact that due to social and political upheaval, combined with modern methods of communication, every person alive has been exposed to teachings of spiritual evolution, not just from Christianity, but from other religions such as Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Taoism, as well as spiritual teachings such as yoga that cross religious lines.

All have taught that our true home is in the spiritual realms, not in the rounds of earthly life and death. (Judaism is excluded from this list, as there are so many different Jewish sects, including so-called “secular Judaism,” that it is difficult to isolate a specific teaching on spiritual development.)

Why else have we seen in the past century so many enlightened teachings coming from all parts of the world, existing side-by-side with organized political, financial, and military horror?

Doesn’t it seem that each and every soul on the planet is being tested?

As indicated above, perhaps each of us is being given one last opportunity to attain enlightenment before the curtain comes down and the theater is closed for the season.

This May Be One Way To Look At The Concept Of The “End Times.”

So what are we waiting for?

Shouldn’t we be coming together

to work in every way possible

for the furtherance of truth

and the enhancement of being?

Shouldn’t we be creating centers of light

to prepare ourselves and each other

for whatever lies ahead?

Indeed, some are. But are we doing enough?

Time appears to be running out, with dire changes having already begun. Who knows, maybe there is only a year or two remaining of relative freedom of movement before the controllers reveal their deep affinity with the dark side by setting up what seems to be their planned world dictatorship, world government, and world currency.

They have learned how to manufacture crises and disasters, such as 9/11, as a means of seizing more power.












As has happened before, the majority of people will likely be so sick of the rising tide of chaos the controllers have helped engineer they will willingly trade their autonomy for the shackles of totalitarian order.

They have already attacked many spiritual teachers and movements since the epochal change of consciousness that emerged in the 1960s. The rebellious flower children were seduced by dangerous drugs developed and distributed by covert operatives.

“God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?”~ Nietzsche

Other examples were the engineered reaction within the Catholic Church against Vatican II and the liberation theology movement, as well as the takeover of Protestant Christianity by Zionists among the Evangelicals.

A friend points out that militant Zionists also took over and subverted the Reform movement within Judaism.

And it has been the Western intelligence agencies, going back over a century, who helped create radical Islam in order to declare the Middle East a base of “terrorism” so that war against the Islamic world could be rationalized and their oil resources seized.

The controllers engineered these and other reactions because the only way they can rule is to eliminate the naturally-occurring hope of free individuals for a higher level of consciousness and a more humane world.

This has also been brought about through the destruction of aesthetics and fine art as well as classical music which lifts to bind and soul... and imagination... to different levels of consciousness and creativity. In this blog I have done substantial work on entertainment and music as well as a treatise on the lowering of the standards of fine art.

Other methods include mind control through TV programming and the continued dumbing-down of the population through an educational system now based entirely on learning by rote and government-mandated standardized tests.

As 1984 and Brave New World showed to previous generations and the cynical manipulation of political reporting by Murdoch-owned Fox News indicates today, the masses are easy to control.

Fox News is doing it by co-opting the Tea Party movement and goading it into a phony rebellion that ignores the real issues of elite control.

All these elements hide the fact that it is the controllers who are the real terrorists in the world today.

Now embedded microchips, along with automated administration of pharmaceuticals to individuals by nanotechnology, appear to be on the way.

The first step toward the microchip in the U.S. could be the national ID card as proposed by U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) in connection with immigration reform. According to published reports, the card Schumer proposes would contain a person’s social security number, along with biometric data such as retinal scans and fingerprints. Such a card could easily be expanded to include credit and criminal history, DNA sequences, and medical history, all linked to a central database.

As cited in Politico, Sen. Schumer has stated his belief that “Hashem” ~ Hebrew for “the Name” ~ has appointed him the guardian of the state of Israel within the U.S. Senate.

He has also spoken of himself as a potential presidential candidate. As events move forward, particularly with politicians like Schumer on the rise, many seemingly innocent people will be faced with difficult decisions of whether, and how far, to “get along by going along.”

But whoever accepts the chip, it is said, will wear the “mark of the beast” ~ by choice, because the conscience within will have cried out against it. The post-World War II Nuremburg trials established that no one is innocent because they were simply following orders, a ruling that should apply to victims as well as perpetrators. Of course “the chip” can take many forms, making self-deception and rationalization easy.

Yet God is not mocked.

Every human being on the planet has a God-given conscience which allows us

to distinguish between right and wrong ~ if we listen to our conscience.

Some say we have an individual guardian angel who is the guide to our conscience.

How many of us seek the counsel of this guide?

And is the time also at hand that the “earth changes” which have been prophesied will manifest on an increasingly vast scale?

How will the planet cleanse itself?

It has been prophesied, for instance, by Edgar Cayce and others that as part of this cleansing, New York and Connecticut will one day be under water.

Such predictions seem less preposterous today than 60 years ago, now that scientists are discussing the increased potential for extreme climatic events through alterations in the earth’s magnetic field or in connection with earth temperature changes.

Without a doubt, the time must also come when the United States will no longer exist in anything resembling its present form.

How can a nation as heedless, violent, prurient, complacent, and materialistic as this one possibly continue on its present course when the earth is purged of falsehood?

How can objective justice tolerate a nation that sadistically tortures prisoners of war and routinely kills civilians with unmanned drone strikes halfway around the world?

G.I. Gurdjieff was a spiritual master from the Caucasus who studied in the most remote parts of Asia and spent his mature years teaching pupils in France. In the 1920s he visited the U.S., spending most of his time in New York. He reportedly said, “America will rot before it ripens.” The causes, he intimated, would be America’s obsession with “dollar business,” its diet of processed foods, and its dissipated lifestyle.

Gurdjieff was right. Regarding “dollar business,” today’s “Big Six” ~ J.P. Morgan Chase, Citigroup, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley ~ are the most rotten and corrupt institutions on the globe.

They have sold America down the river by creating and destroying gigantic investment bubbles, feasting on massive bailouts paid for by taxpayers, and spending the last two generations shipping workers’ jobs to low-paying foreign labor markets. Then they turn around and use America and its passive population as the world’s policeman to protect their investments.

Just as bad are international institutions like the International Monetary Fund, the Bank of International Settlements, and the European Central Bank, as well as national central banks like the Federal Reserve, the Bank of England, the Deutsche Bundesbank, etc.

While Hitler allegedly killed millions, the world’s bankers make life or death decisions that affect billions. They do it through control of the money spigot, which gives them power over every business and industry in the world that utilizes any form of credit. And credit is as essential to most businesses as breathing is to a human being.

When the dust settles, will there still be communities of human survivors in America?

That may depend on the Americans themselves and how successful they are at reclaiming their freedom. Whatever survivors there are may be spiritually-minded and will of necessity live close to nature.

But the scale and appearance of any future civilization is an unknown. Europe’s future could be as tenuous. Maybe Russia, China, and selected locations in Latin America, Asia, or Africa will do better. We don’t yet know.

What we should know is that the time is up for humanity.

We have had our chance to decide what we value,

whether service to a false conception of a separate self

or service to God and neighbor.

Now we are likely to find out for certain

what measure of truth we have imbibed

and incorporated into our being during many lifetimes.

The testing has come, but it has been foreseen for a long time.

The Master came two millennia ago and showed the way.

Why do we think someone else is coming now to save us?

We were given the tools and the time to learn how to use them.

Now we have no more excuses.

Rather than promote war, conflict, and conquest, anyone with a genuine spiritual sense will do everything possible to encourage peace, justice, and harmony among peoples and nations.

Nevertheless, the “end of the age” seems imminent. As the Shivapuri Baba said, as recorded in the book Long Pilgrimage by John Bennett (Dawn Horse Press, 1983),

“We are at the end of a 6,000 year cycle.”

We should strive not to be confused or complacent.

It is time now for individuals to make a decision on where they want to be for the challenges ahead, with whom they want to spend their time, and exactly how they intend to devote their energy and commitment.

The best advice is to choose wisely and choose well

but not to wait any longer.

Jesus said: “Ye know not the day or the hour.”

So why do we wake up every morning

still thinking we know what the day will bring?

In fact we do not know.

The processes we are looking at herein

could take a day, a year, or a century.

So what is to be done? Following are some suggestions:

Find a teacher or group that can guide you to spiritual enlightenment

and where you can help others do the same.

Teach yourself to act considerately to all t

hose around you, including people you consider “evil.”

Start viewing the natural world as alive and conscious

not an inert mass of dead matter.

Get out of debt,

get off the grid,

and learn to live with only

what you really need of a material nature.

Learn to love work and do that work with reverence and gratitude.

Stop watching TV; instead watch your health and diet.

Develop your mental, emotional, and manual skills.

Be honest with yourself and others.

Refuse the “chip,” no matter what.

Never stop learning.

Grow food.

Laugh a lot.

Be at peace.

Be happy.

Richard C. Cook is a writer on public policy issues. His website is Sources for this article include the teachings of Edgar Cayce, G.I. Gurdjieff, P.D. Ouspensky, Abdullah Dougan, Jon Peniel, Omna Last, and many others.