Friday, July 29, 2011

Eric Cantor Is The Hedge Funder's Man In Washington

Eric Cantor is the hedge funder's man in Washington.
With Cantor "leading the opposition to any deal that includes higher taxes" in the debt ceiling fight, it "represents a major coup for sectors of the investment community that Cantor has been striving to assist for years," according to the Washington Post.
When Cantor abandoned debt talks with Vice President Biden earlier in July, one of the main reasons was because Cantor didn't want to budge on hedge fund and private equity proposals, much to the joy of money managers around the country.
Cantor is a huge beneficiary of donations from Wall Street, attracting about $2 million from hedge fund, private equity, real estate and securities firms in 2010 alone.
According to the Post,
Among the White House’s top demands for new revenue are changes in the tax code affecting hedge funds, private equity firms and real estate partnerships, which would raise an estimated $20 billion over 10 years.
For the past four years, Cantor has taken the lead in the House on fighting the same changes. He also has been one of the top recipients of contributions from those industries — last year, his two fundraising committees took in nearly $2 million from securities and investment firms and real estate companies, more than double the figure for Boehner.
Don't miss: Suddenly John Paulson's Hedge Fund Is One Of John Boehner's Biggest Donors>
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Canada blocks UN from declaring asbestos a “hazardous” substance

Canada’s Conservative government has prevented asbestos—a notorious carcinogen responsible for tens of thousands of deaths each year—from being listed as a hazardous substance under the United Nations’ Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade.
Canada had hoped other countries would take the lead in blocking greater regulation of asbestos exports at last month’s conference of the signatories to the Rotterdam Convention, thus enabling it to avoid public odium.
Even as the conference delegates were assembling in Geneva, Canadian officials, including Environment Minster Peter Kent, either denied Canada would vote against listing chrysotile asbestos as a hazardous material or claimed that the matter was of so little concern to the government that they did not know what its policy was.
But to the Conservative government’s chagrin, Canada soon found itself alone in opposing inclusion of asbestos in the list of hazardous substances stipulated in Annex III of the Rotterdam Convention. India, a major asbestos importer, dropped its longstanding opposition and several other countries involved in either the production or import of asbestos indicated that they were preparing to follow suit.
Because the Rotterdam Convention functions by consensus, Canada, even if the lone dissenter, could nonetheless thwart the push for greater regulation of chrysotile asbestos.
Ultimately, the Ukraine, Vietnam, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan—poor countries hardly known for their concern for the environment or occupational health and safety—joined Canada in opposing chrysotile asbestos’ inclusion in Annex III.
Had it been listed, the export and import of chrysotile asbestos would not have been banned. Exporters would merely have been legally compelled to warn importers of the health risks.
Both major asbestos exporters such as Canada and importers like India fear that listing asbestos under Annex III will result in new limits on how and where it is used, driving up building costs and causing importers to look for alternate fire-resistant materials.
The whole process has revealed the Harper government’s callous indifference to human welfare and the right wing character of its anti-regulatory economic agenda.
This is the third time Canada has blocked the listing of asbestos under Annex III of the Rotterdam Convention. Canada has also previously vetoed moves to change the ratification process so that substances can be added to the Consent List if three-quarters of the countries that are signatories to the Convention agree.
The Canadian government has provided over $20 million to the Chrysotile Institute in recent years. Headed by Clement Godbout, the former Quebec Director of the United Steelworkers union, the Chrysotile Institute is a Montreal-based lobby group that promotes the sale and use of chrysotile asbestos in the developing world.
In the run up to the 2008 Rotterdam Convention conference in Rome, at which Canada was able to use asbestos importing countries, such as Vietnam and India, as its proxies in defeating asbestos’ inclusion under Annex III, the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) issued a scathing attack on the Harper government. Calling it “an avid asbestos cheerleader,” the CMAJ criticized the Conservative government for its shameful “political manipulation of science,” including suppressing a report from an expert panel, commissioned by Health Canada, into the risks associated with chrysotile use. According to the CMAJ, one of the world’s most-respected medical journals, Canada has taken part in a “death-dealing charade” by arguing that chrysotile can be safely used in the developing world.
Canada is the world’s fourth largest producer of chrysotile asbestos, with only Russia, China and Kazakhstan producing more, and is second only to Russia in annual exports of the carcinogenic substance. The UN World Health Organization reports that cancers caused by the inhalation or ingestion of asbestos fibers kill approximately 90,000-100,000 people per year.
In Canada and other advanced capitalist countries use of chrysotile asbestos has been effectively banned. Nearly all of Canada’s asbestos production is for export to poor Asian countries where health and safety regulations do not exist or are not enforced.
Several newspaper reports noted that Canadian government is currently spending millions to remove asbestos from the Parliament Buildings, other public facilities, and ordinary Canadians’ homes. Yet it is do everything in its power to prevent Canadian asbestos companies from having to put warning labels on their products.
During the recent federal election campaign, Prime Minister Stephen Harper made a point of stopping in Quebec’s Eastern Townships, where Canada’s asbestos industry is centered. When challenged on his government’s stand on asbestos exports , Harper said it would be unfair to deny Canadian companies access to markets in which there is a demand for their product and in which its sale is permitted. “This government,” declared Harper, “will not put Canadian industry in a position where it is discriminated against.” Earlier he told an election rally in Asbestos, Quebec, “The only party that defends the chrysotile industry is our party, the Conservative Party.”
The Harper government’s unabashed promotion of the asbestos industry and transparent and callous indifference to the health of asbestos miners in Canada and building workers and others in impoverished countries has been criticized by sections of the corporate media. Several editorial writers and columnists criticized the government for damaging Canada’s “good name” on the world stage. Their concern is that Harper’s stance has shined light on the predatory interests that determine Canada’s foreign policy. Habitually, Ottawa and Canada’s ruling elite seek to camouflage these economic and geo-strategic interests with profuse professions of altruism and humanitarianism.
In arguing that the government’s defence of the asbestos industry is not in the “national interest,” many of Harper’s press critics adopt a crude dollars and cents approach akin to that of the prime minister. They note that Canada’s asbestos industry has shriveled in recent decades. In Quebec, where it is based, asbestos production only generates $90 million per year, equal to about 0.1 percent of the province’s economy.
Few, if any, of the editorials criticizing Canada’s stand at the Geneva conference drew the obvious connection between the government’s vigorous opposition to labeling asbestos “hazardous” and its pledge to make deregulation a government priority. In the name of eliminating “red tape” and reducing the regulatory “burden” on business, the Conservatives are seeking to increase corporate profitability at the expense of the environment and the safety and well-being of workers in Canada and around the world.

Visualizing the US debt!

One Hundred Dollars
$100 - Most counterfeited money denomination in the world.
Keeps the world moving.

Ten Thousand Dollars
$10,000 - Enough for a great vacation or to buy a used car.
Approximately one year of work for the average human on earth.

One Million Dollars
$1,000,000 - Not as big of a pile as you thought, huh?
Still this is 92 years of work for the average human on earth.

One Hundred Million Dollars
$100,000,000 - Plenty to go around for everyone.
Fits nicely on an ISO / Military standard sized pallet.

One Billion Dollars
$1,000,000,000 - You will need some help when robbing the bank.
Now we are getting serious!

One Trillion Dollars
When the U.S government speaks about a 1.7 trillion deficit - this is the volumes of cash the U.S. Government borrowed in 2010 to run itself.
Keep in mind it is double stacked pallets of $100 million dollars each, full of $100 dollar bills. You are going to need a lot of trucks to freight this around.

If you spent $1 million a day since Jesus was born, you would have not spent $1 trillion by now...but ~$700 billion- same amount the banks got during bailout.

One Trillion Dollars
Comparison of $1,000,000,000,000 dollars to a standard sized American Football field and European Football field.
Say hello to the Boeing 747-400 transcontinental airliner that's hiding on the right. This was until recently the biggest passenger plane in the world.

15 Trillion Dollars
$15,000,000,000,000- Unless the U.S. government fixes the budget, US national debt (credit card bill) will topple 15 trillion by Christmas 2011.

Statue of Liberty seems rather worried as United States national debt passes 20% of the entire world's combined GDP (Gross Domestic Product).
In 2011 the National Debt will exceed 100% of GDP, and venture into the 100%+ debt-to-GDP ratio that the European PIIGS have (bankrupting nations).

114.5 Trillion Dollars
$114,500,000,000,000. - US unfunded liabilities
To the right you can see the pillar of cold hard $100 bills that dwarfs the
WTC & Empire State Building - both at one point world's tallest buildings.
If you look carefully you can see the Statue of Liberty.

The 114.5 Trillion dollar super-skyscraper is the amount of money the U.S. Government
knows it does not have to fully fund the Medicare, Medicare Prescription Drug Program,
Social Security, Military and civil servant pensions. It is the money USA knows it will not
have to pay all its bills.
If you live in USA this is also your personal credit card bill; you are responsible along with
everyone else to pay this back. The citizens of USA created the U.S. Government to serve
them, this is what the U.S. Government has done while serving The People.

The unfunded liability is calculated on current tax and funding inputs, and future demographic
shifts in US Population.

Note: On the above 114.5T image the size of the base of the money pile is half a trillion, not 1T as on 15T image.
The height is double. This was done to reflect the base of Empire State and WTC more closely.

Source: Federal Reserve & - visit it to see the debt in real time and get a better grasp of this amazing number.

Ford China's new hand on the wheel

Ford China's new hand on the wheel
Joe Hinrichs, chairman and chief executive officer of Ford China. Liu Zhe / China Daily
Auto company currently building three factories in Chongqing as part of $1.6 billion investment that also includes another plant in Nanchang
BEIJING - Joe Hinrichs, the new chairman and chief executive officer of Ford China, is a man of relentless energy.
The 44-year-old, who admits to a diet fuelled by steak and hamburgers, was up at 4:30 am to catch a flight to Beijing from Shanghai, where he is based, but still intended to be working out at his hotel gym after dinner.
"My job, especially with all the travel, requires an immense amount of energy and I find I do this job better if I keep physically fit," he said.
The United States Midwesterner, who was speaking at the company's office at the Beijing Yintai Centre in Jianguomenwai Street, needs to bring all his life force to his current role.
Ford has fallen behind in China to rival car companies such as General Motors, the latter selling more cars in the world's second-largest economy than in the United States.
But this could be about to change. Ford announced earlier this month sales in China of 274,510 in the first half of this year, a 14 percent increase on the same period last year and much faster than the market as a whole.
Hinrichs believes it, too, could outstrip its US sales in China but is making no forecast.
"I think it could happen. There's potential someday. I don't think it's anywhere near happening in the medium term," he said.
He took over his current role from Robert Graziano, who has left to head the company's Australian office, in November last year.
He retains the position of president of Asia-Pacific and African region and is one of the most senior figures in Ford worldwide, reporting directly to Alan Mulally, the company's high-profile president and CEO.
Hinrichs said one of the key challenges for Ford is to build its sales operations in China.

Ford China's new hand on the wheel
It is opening dealerships at the rapid rate of two a week aiming to bring its total to 680 by the middle of the decade. The key target is China's smaller cities.
"They're critical. Most of the dealership growth is occurring in second- and third-tier cities and, next year and beyond, fourth-tier cities and beyond. I think the fourth-tier cities are starting to get there but fifth- and sixth-tier cities you could turn up there and there would be no dealership," he said.
Ford is also one of the few companies to fully embrace building up manufacturing capacity in western China, currently building three factories in Chongqing as part of a $1.6 billion investment that also includes another plant in Nanchang, southeastern China's Jiangxi province.
The company does not have a major a presence in China today largely due to the company's recent turbulent history.
Its acquisitions in the 1980s and 1990s of high profile European businesses, including UK car companies Jaguar, Land Rover and Aston Martin as well as Swedish giant Volvo, proved financially draining.
After these businesses were restructured, the company's key North American business started hemorrhaging cash in 2005 and key members of the management team, including Hinrichs, who was then heading Canada operations, were called back to the company's Detroit headquarters.
"It was 'all hands on deck'. The North American business was really bleeding a lot of red ink, and we really focused everybody's attention on 'we gotta save the ship because there's a big hole in it'," he said.
"This part of the world (China) was relatively small at that point in time, but it was starting to take off, and we were too busy focusing on everything else."
The subsequent mid-decade reorganization has meant Ford fared better in the financial crisis than General Motors - which notoriously had to file for bankruptcy protection - and now has a strong platform from which to attack China.
Hinrichs believes the timing could not be better since millions of people throughout the country are beginning to hit the key $5,000 to $6,000 per capita income level when they make their first car purchase.
"That's been true for the last 100 years even in markets we now consider to be mature what happens to the industry is it takes off when major parts of the country hit that threshold," he said.
Hinrichs, who obtained a magna cum laude first degree in electrical engineering from the University of Dayton in Ohio, began his career with General Motors, whose culture he believes is different from Ford's.
"They are very different. It is not my place to speak about General Motors too much. It's an overused saying but Ford is a family company," he said.
He joined Ford in 2000, managing a plant in Michigan, before being promoted to a whole series of high profile roles, China being the latest.
Hinrichs is a great believer in management ideas and is also a voracious reader of business books.
"My wife tells me, 'Why don't you read something for fun'? But, to me, business is fun," he said.
One of his key management philosophies is to build on the strengths of individual employees rather than attempt to correct their weaknesses.
"You should focus on leveraging people's strengths and not obsessively spend all your time trying to make people's weaknesses better," he said.
One of the things Hinrichs has to do is untangle Ford's complex ownership structure in China.
As a foreign company, Ford has to operate in a joint venture arrangement with a Chinese company.
In its operation, Chongqing-based Chang'an Automobile Group has a 50 percent stake, Japanese carmaker Mazda (in which Ford is a major shareholder) 15 percent and Ford itself 35 percent.
Ford has submitted a plan to the Chinese government seeking to allow Ford and Mazda to develop their businesses independently.
"The proposal is still awaiting approval. There has been a lot written about it, but we haven't publicly discussed what's in the proposal for all parties' sakes," he said.
Ford is planning to bring 15 new models to the China market in the next five years, which he hopes will appeal to the many potential customers who have yet to buy a car in their lives.
"Roughly two-thirds of the buyers in China are first-time buyers. They've never bought a vehicle before. Most sales in other markets are replacement vehicles. That makes China different," he said.
Hinrichs says the financial crisis, which saw a major slump in car sales in the US and in Europe, means the center of gravity for the car industry has shifted eastward.
"The balance of power in the growth of the auto industry is migrating east. Roughly, one out of four vehicles sold in the world last year was in China. I mean, that's unheard of," he said.
Hinrichs said it is important not to ignore recent warnings of an asset bubble in China, which could result in a growth slowdown.
"There's no question. History teaches us a lot of lessons. And one of those lessons is that no one has a straight linear line right up," he said.
But he adds: "By 2020 the numbers show that about 1 billion people in China could reach the threshold where they could afford to buy a vehicle. So the demand dimensions of the facts aren't going to change."
China Daily

Social Security Reform Bill Encourages Americans To Live Faster, Die Younger

Brand new report from The Onion released today.  This is pretty funny.
The new law will remove restrictions on cigarettes, drugs, and alcohol as well as provide tax incentives for seniors who bungee jump and skydive.
Related Onion wisdom:
And perhaps the funniest one of them all:

"It's Time To Close The National Money Hole"

Guerilla gardeners sow seed bombs worldwide

(NaturalNews) Where blighted or abandoned land sits idle in vacant lots or on street meridians, under park benches or in the bare areas under trees, look for a latter day Johnny Appleseed to take aim. Under the radar of city planners and police, they may call their covert activities pavement pimping or guerilla or stealth gardening. Although their activities are peaceful, they may utilize to some extent the language of warfare. It is a war conducted against wastelands.

Guerilla gardening is not new. Activists began to turn disused lots or abandoned properties into areas of growth and rejuvenation enjoyed by an entire community in the early 70s.

In Long Beach this spring, a self styled guerilla gardener received media notice for his ``commandeered`` street meridian where he`d kept a garden for several years. Working in early morning hours, he converted the Loynes Drive asphalt jungle and other sites around Los Angeles into ``a lush collection of agaves`` and ``lime hued succulents.`` Home owners have encouraged his work, and he incubated many plants there, moving them to other ``unapproved`` gardens.

He has had his ``unsanctioned`` gardens wrecked by thieves and he has also been questioned by police. But, he says, ``You just take a deep breath and go back to it.`` Asked why he bothers with all the work, expense and having to dodge authorities, he replied, ``I`d like to show cities that they can use plants like these, not have to water as much and cut down on landscaping costs. Within two to three years, a site like this can generate thousands of plants.``

In London, Berlin, Miami and San Francisco ``free range tillers`` conduct seed bomb runs at night without approval on land that is not theirs. They make neglected spaces ``floral or food outposts``.
Erick Knutzen, author of `The Urban Homestead` refers to this activity as pirate farming. It is a reaction, he claims, to ``the wasteful use of land`` in vacant lots and sidewalk parkways. The parkway in front of Knutzen`s home is a vegetable garden.

Dwindling green space, limited land and suspect food sources combined with a ``time honored American tradition of gardening public spaces`` spurs this movement. In the 1890s many American cities formed Vacant Lot Cultivation associations in response to an economic meltdown. Also, during World Wars I and II Liberty and Victory gardens were popular. Americans were encouraged to raise food on untended public land. In today`s economic and food crisis, revisiting this tradition by utilizing vacant land seems more than sensible.

A weapon of choice is the seed bomb.

Seed bombs are compressed balls of seeds, clay and compost. This ancient concept originated in Japan as ``tsuchi dango`` or ``earth dumpling.`` Revived in the 20th century by the philosopher farmer Masanobu Fukuoka, seed bombs are under consideration as a method of reseeding vast areas with trees.

Lobbed onto bare soil in abandoned lots or construction sites, the small, slow release bombs can explode into bloom. These hand grenades can be now purchased like candy from vending machines.
However, seed bombs should not be used for vandalism or coercion. Invasive plants should not be introduced into native habitat. Whoever uses a seed bomb should consider the potential plants` environment.

The advantage of using seed bombs is that seeds of very light weight can be launched into inaccessible areas without being scattered by the wind. Also, the bombs are made using compost, humus, green manure, and tea and coffee waste with natural binding materials such as paper pulp and clay which helps assure the seed a good start.
Fosdick, D. (2011). Seed bombs used to offset blight. The Washington Examiner. 07/21/2011, p. 25.