Wednesday, April 25, 2007


"I have never been more excited about a conference in my life.”
— Jacob G. Hornberger, founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation

Conference 2007

$495 Registration — Includes 10 Meals and 24 Speeches

“The general principles of any study you may learn by books at home; but the detail, the colour, the tone, the air, the life which makes it live in us, you must catch all these from those in whom it lives already.”

— John Henry Cardinal Newman

“No one can find a safe way out for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interests, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle. None can stand aside with unconcern; the interests of everyone hang on the result.”

— Ludwig von Mises

The Future of Freedom Foundation is holding one of the most important conferences in the history of the libertarian movement, “Restoring the Republic: Foreign Policy and Civil Liberties.”

June 1–4, 2007, from Friday morning through Monday noon, we will be addressing the two most burning issues of our time — foreign policy and civil liberties. This landmark conference will be held at the Hyatt Regency Reston in Reston, Virginia. Reston is one of the nicest areas of northern Virginia and, in fact, was recently named one of the Top 100 Best Places to Live by Money magazine.

For the past several decades, U.S. foreign policy has included support of dictatorial regimes, brutal sanctions and embargoes, invasions and occupations, terrorist “blowback” against the United States, severe assaults on civil liberties and the Bill of Rights, suspension of habeas corpus, torture and “rendition” of detainees, indefinite detentions, and kangaroo military tribunals.

With the ever-growing debacle in Iraq, there has never been a better time to come together to share ideas on restoring the limited-government, constitutional republic envisioned by our Founding Fathers. It is to that end that we are hosting this exciting and important conference. When you review our list of 24 speakers — libertarians, liberals, and conservatives — you will see that this is going to be one fantastic intellectual experience you are not going to want to miss.

Not only will you have the opportunity to listen to speeches by some of the greatest speakers on foreign policy and civil liberties, you will also have the opportunity to mingle with them as well as with conference participants from all over the country who share the same passion and commitment concerning foreign policy and civil liberties.

Register for the conference with FFF either online or by telephoning us (1-703-934-6101).

After registering for the conference, call the Hyatt Regency Reston (1-888-591-1234; 703-709-1234) to make your hotel reservations. Be sure to mention “The Future of Freedom Foundation conference” to receive a discounted room. (Discounted rooms are limited and are offered on a first-come, first-served basis.)

Don’t delay! Register today!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


The Entrepreneur's Revolution and You

The most powerful force in the world is a pattern-changing big idea - if it is in the hands of an entrepreneur of equivalent ambition.

Each such major pattern shift triggers cascades of follow-on innovations, adaptations, and local applications. The railroad and today's digital revolutions are prime business examples.

"Social entrepreneurship has multiplied, competition has arrived, and the sector is racing to catch up. Building the new institutions needed to support these historical forces is, of course, Ashoka's purpose. "
This is just as true in the social arena. Florence Nightingale redefined her field every bit as much as Andrew Carnegie did his.

Whether or not society generates a vigorous flow of these critical major innovations depends on its ability to foster and support the entrepreneurs. The economic success that has transformed the world over the last several centuries has ultimately been rooted in society's learning, first, how to tolerate business entrepreneurs and, then, how to support and reward them generously and at every step.

Social entrepreneurs have not been so fortunate. Probably because they made governments nervous, they long experienced more persecution than assistance. Florence Nightingale was an exception.

The direct result has been the notorious squalor of the social sector. Inadequate innovation - especially when compared to the steadily compounding productivity gains achieved by an entrepreneurial and competitive business world - has left social organizations sclerotic, service quality poor, costs high, salaries low, and repute lower still.

The last two decades have seen an extraordinary historical turning point, the breakout of the social sector from this squalor. Across most of the world, the logjam suddenly broke. Social entrepreneurship has multiplied, competition has arrived, and the sector is racing to catch up. Building the new institutions needed to support these historical forces is, of course, Ashoka's purpose.

In country after country the number of citizen organizations is up a hundred, even a thousand-fold. Tiny Slovakia went from a handful in 1989 to over 10,000 last year. According to the overall economy of the countries studied by the Johns Hopkins Comparative Nonprofit Sector Project, "the nonprofit sector outpaced the overall growth of employmentĂ˝ by nearly 2.5 to 1."¹ According to the conservative estimate of the Yearbook of International Organizations, the number of international citizen sector organizations (defined as groups with operations in more than one country) has reached more than 26,000 today, up from 6,000 in 1990. The magazine World Watch provides corollary data on the number of citizen sector groups operating at a national or local level. Approximately 1 million such organizations work in India. Of the approximately 2 million citizen sector organizations working in the United States, 70 percent of them were established in the last 30 years. Eastern Europe has seen well over 100,000 organizations established in the seven years following the fall of the Berlin Wall.²

With learning and maturity, the average size, skill level, and competitive sharpness of these organizations has also increased. They are, moreover, becoming far more than the sum of their parts: We are seeing the emergence of the same sort of open, competitive-yet-collaborative relationships that marked the birth of the modern competitive business sector three centuries ago.

This revolution in the organization of human society has gone little noticed. Even though extraordinarily rapid in historical terms, its pace does not fit the shutter speed of either the press or political cycle.
"Because leading social entrepreneurs dealing with the sort of truly major pattern changes that Ashoka seeks out are grappling with historical forces that span the globe, social entrepreneurship is the first profession being organized at the global level."

Nonetheless, when the history of these times is written, no other change will compete with it in importance. This sort of fundamental transformation in how society organizes itself is a tectonic shift far greater than the railroad or the creation of the nursing profession. This change is, moreover, essential to human evolution and survival: It opens the way for us to adapt far more quickly and with self-preservative balance to the social and environmental challenges our business success has unleashed.

The job of the pattern-change social entrepreneur is to recognize whenever a part of society is stuck in an inefficient or harmful pattern, to conceive a better and safe alternative, to make that vision realistic and then a refined reality, and then to persuade his or her entire society to make the leap to this new way.

Spotting and solving these problems requires the entrepreneur because only (s)he is married to a vision and cannot rest until it has transformed all of society. No other type has this inner need. Scholars and artists come to rest when they express an idea. Professionals when they solve a client's problem. Managers when they have enabled their organization to succeed.

This need makes the entrepreneur persist for years and decades thorough all these steps and despite the resistance of myriad inertial forces that would frustrate others. They instinctively reject solutions that depend on local circumstances that would not work universally. Every day they are listening carefully and realistically for problems and openings. If something doesn't work, it is gone. The idea is constantly evolving and strengthening.

The entrepreneur goes after what is stuck. It could be society's failure to deal effectively with corruption. Or prohibitively expensive rural electrification arrangements. Or land ownership laws that make it virtually impossible for people to work together in a multiple use forest environment. Or trade unions stuck in the heavy industry era that have not evolved to serve the growing portion of today's work force that is mobile. Or. . . . The needs are endless, and they will only grow as change accelerates.

Ashoka: Innovators for the Public is the world's association of leading social entrepreneurs. That is to say, social entrepreneurs introducing changes that will significantly change the pattern in their field (e.g., young people or the environment or human rights) across a giant country (e.g., India or Brazil) or a multinational region of equivalent size.

Ashoka's most important job is to help our rapidly emerging field develop the institutions and patterns that will enable it to contribute as powerfully as possible, that will allow all of us in the profession to collaborate, to help one another, to be far more than the sum of our parts.

Because leading social entrepreneurs dealing with the sort of truly major pattern changes that Ashoka seeks out are grappling with historical forces that span the globe, social entrepreneurship is the first profession being organized at the global level. This is a challenge that requires constant vigilance lest we slip into narrower, most commonly national, lines of thinking.

Ashoka is the field's first professional association. It, for example, has launched an initiative designed to help the citizen sector learn that it can and must build its own broad base of grassroots support (money, time, and information). Otherwise over-reliance on a few foundations and government will lead to both inadequate support and co-option. Ashoka is also working to define and encourage the development of new forms of financing for the sector that could serve the many needs that foundations and government find difficult to reach.

Ashoka is also building new patterns of collaboration among Fellows working on the same issue globally, e.g., the over 300 Fellows working with young people or the 143 Fellows bringing innovation to health. Each has a powerful but partial answer. Only by bringing all these ideas together can one see the few universal principles that could help anyone wrestling with the issue. There simply are too few trees in any one country to see the forest.

Over the next year Ashoka will launch a global Academy for the field's most successful practitioners. It will also experiment with the first firm for practitioners (analogous to the first law or consulting firm) that will allow members to benefit from the sort of economies of reputation, recruitment, common services, cross-fertilization, and colleagueship that the older professions have long enjoyed.

Over the last two decades Ashoka, acting as the field's first venture support group (analogous to the venture capital firms of business), has helped launch over 1,000 important new social change ideas, the long careers of the social entrepreneurs behind them, and the institutions needed to support both. This critical service, which is what Ashoka is best known for and most experienced in providing, will continue as long as there is a need for social change.

Each such entrepreneur and idea that succeeds, moreover, encourages many others to care for society's wellbeing and to champion changes they feel are needed. The multiplication of such decentralized concern and effective action is, of course, the essence of the democratic revolution.


Google is the most powerful brand in the world, according to research and consulting firm Millward Brown.

Millward Brown Optimor, the company's brand consulting arm, Monday released its Brandz Top 100 Most Powerful Brands survey in conjunction with the Financial Times, which published the complete report.

Google took the top spot with a brand value of $66.4 billion, followed by General Electric ($61.9 billion), Microsoft ($54.9 billion), Coca-Cola ($44.1 billion), China Mobile ($41.2 billion), Marlboro/Altria ($39.2 billion), Wal-Mart ($36.9 billion), Citigroup ($33.7 billion), IBM ($33.6 billion), and Toyota ($33.4 billion).

The value Millward Brown Optimor assigns to corporate brands is based on a company's "intangible earnings," a metric derived from public financial data supplied by Bloomberg Datamonitor.

Millward Brown Optimor determines the portion of intangible earnings attributable to the company's most loyal users. It then projects this value forward based on "research-based loyalty data from the Brandz database," market valuations, the brand's risk profile, and its potential for growth.

"Intangible assets are things like brands, patents, human resources, and distribution networks," said Ove Haxthausen, a director at Millward Brown Optimor in New York. "Things that give you a competitive advantage."

This is in contrast to tangible assets like plants and facilities that show up on corporate balance sheets. Google's current stock market capitalization is $149.2 billion, compared with Microsoft's $281.8 billion.

Google gained 77% in terms of brand value, rising to #1 from #7 in the 2006 Brandz study. Microsoft lost 11% of its brand value from last year's report, falling to #3 from #1.

The brands with the highest momentum -- short-term growth rate -- were Google, Apple, Louis Vuitton, Starbucks, Porsche, eBay, Chanel, Hermes, and Rolex, according to the report.

Beyond Google's ascension, the 2007 Brandz report notes several emerging trends.

One such trend is the increasing affluence of consumers abroad. But succeeding in countries like Brazil, Russia, India, and China means offering "products or services that are relevant to the local consumers," the report states, pointing to specific fast food, apparel, and luxury brands as examples.

The fast food category outperformed all other categories in terms of total growth. Faced with criticism for contributing to unhealthy eating habits, "the fast food industry has responded to the decline in consumer demand by changing its product offerings," the report observes.

Another trend the report observes is the increasing impact of social responsibility on brand value. "Delivering on the promise of corporate social responsibility helped boost the value of major brands including BP ($5.9 billion), Shell ($4.7 billion), and Toyota ($33.4 billion)," the report states.

Sunday, April 22, 2007



Hillary Clinton and her campaign repeatedly highlight her ardent feminism, her lifelong advocacy of worker’s rights, her consistent support for unions, and her love of Israel.

But those principles go right out the window if there’s money involved. When it comes to lining their pockets, the Clintons have a double standard. While Hillary chastises American corporations and employers for lay-offs and opposition to greater union organizing rights, Bill is paid big bucks that go into their joint bank accounts to legitimize and promote the anti-Semitic, anti-worker, anti-union, and anti-woman Arab state of the UAE and its emirates of Dubai.

It’s not just Bill’s $1.2 million speaking fees from Dubai that have enriched the Clintons. And its not just the million dollar contribution by the Emir of Dubai to the Clinton Presidential Library that has endeared the Islamic monarchy to them.

It’s much more that that: Bill Clinton is personally responsible for delivering the ruler of Dubai and Prime Minister of the U.A.E., Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, to a partnership with Yucaipa Cos., headed by Bill and Hillary’s uberfundraiser Ron Burkle.

Bill Clinton is a paid adviser and member of the Board of Directors of Yucaipa. Together the Sheik and Yucaipa have formed a new company, Dubai Investment Group Limited, to jointly invest Yucaipa funds and the Sheiks’ personal funds.

So Bill Clinton is now an adviser and member of the board of directors of a company that is in partnership with the government of Dubai - a part of the world that blatantly discriminates against women, abuses workers in violation of International law, outlaws unions, deports strikers, and bans Israelis and their products from ever entering the country.

The Clintons won’t reveal how much the former president pocketed for setting up this deal, except to report on Hillary’s Senate disclosure form: “more than $1,000.”

A lot more. According to San Francisco Examiner columnist P.J. Corkery, Clinton makes $10 million a year from Yucaipa.

At the same time, the average worker in the Dubai and the UAE construction industry makes about $177 per month., not enough to support a family. According to the U.S. State Department, 98% of the workforce in the UAE is made up of foreigners, who Human Rights Watch “indentured servants, with no right to form unions or hold strikes.” About 20% of them work in the Dubai construction industry. Most of these workers are illiterate and have paid huge fees (usually with loans) to get the job. It is a routine practice for employers to withhold paychecks for several months and to hold the workers passports as ‘security.’

There is no minimum wage.

There is no right to organize for collective bargaining for foreign workers or domestic workers. There is no right to strike. Those who dare are either deported or banned from working for a year.

There is no right to freely move from job to job unless either the current employer agrees to provide a letter of ‘no objection’ or the worker leaves the country for six months.

Worker safety is not an important matter and there are only 80 inspectors to monitor over 250,000 employers.

Workers are out in 104 degree temperature in the summer with a only a two and a half hour break in the middle of the day – a break that used to be four and a half hours, but was recently shortened.

The workday is 8 hours, but employers frequently require overtime – without extra pay. There is a six day work week.

Many of the lowest skilled workers live in horrible conditions. The U.S State Department report on human rights in the UAE notes that:

“low-skilled employees were often provided with substandard living conditions, including overcrowded apartments or lodging in unsafe and unhygienic “labor camps,” often lacking electricity, potable water, and adequate cooking and bathing facilities. Some low-paid workers did not receive these benefits, even if stipulated in their contracts.”

For the full report:

But while Bill collects the checks for the Clinton family from anti-worker Dubai, Hillary lectures about workers rights.

Just last week, Hillary spoke at the convention of the Communications Workers of America and urged its members to contact Republican Senators about pro-union legislation:

“let them know this is a voting issue; this goes to the real heart of whether we’re going to be a country that stands on a principle that every person should have the right to join a union, to be part of a bargaining unit that will stand up for your income…”

Hillary doesn’t have the same interest in the workers whose employers enrich the Clintons – she apparently has no objection to the Dubai dollars or Dubai’s disgraceful treatment of workers.

Our own government has recognized the severity of the abuses: “Since 1995 the country has been suspended from the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) insurance programs because of the government’s noncompliance with internationally recognized worker rights standards.”

Hey, Hillary, stop the hypocrisy.

Friday, April 20, 2007


The real war is not in Iraq or Afghanistan but in the currency markets.

In his article “From Russia with Love,” Community friend, Dan Norcini, set up the subject matter of what is the most important but unappreciated characteristic of the gold market.

This characteristic is misunderstood by many but forgotten by even more. The Gold Dinar is coming without any doubt now that two major foundational items, which had caused a delay, are falling into place,.

Let’s review the entire strategy leading up to the breakdown of the huge bearish Head & Shoulders formation of the US dollar:

1. The 9/11 attack was staged to create a military response by the United States in the Middle East and Afghanistan.
2. The strategy of 9/11 is part of a plan to unite the one billon Islamic people in the world.
3. Bin Laden is a major unifying factor in the 9/11 strategy.
4. The plan of action was to drain the US dollar of its reserve status by driving expenditures inside and outside of the US up to unsustainable levels.
5. As the triple deficits go wild because of the costs associated with inland security and military actions around the globe the pre-election efforts to falsify the US economy as being healthy means the US dollar must decline thereafter. In actual fact, the decline is now below the bearish neckline drawn from the previous low and is a terminal technical breakdown. If the US dollar was a corporation, it would indicate clear potential for bankruptcy.
6. The increased cost of oil can only injure the US economy, driving down tax receipts.
7. The drop in tax receipts expands the US Federal Deficit thereby acting as a further brake on the US economy, injuring business activities and increasing US Federal demand for money in the money markets.
8. Middle Eastern dollar holders have been selling dollars constantly, putting increased pressure on these markets.
9. In all of Asia and more recently in Russia the US dollar is coming under pressure.

We stand now at that point whereby a tick below the low of this entire decline is within range and a new little Right Shoulder is in place.

Why the Gold Dinar Has Been a Silent Subject For a Year

The argument has been two fold. The first and most important is that Middle Eastern gold is primarily held in London, which is now not secure, and in violation of the Koran instructions concerning dealing with non-Muslin nations in financial matters. The second but intellectual argument is the position that gold was too volatile to tie a settlement mechanism or currency to.

Most observers would tend to select the UAE as an alternative for locating gold due to its no tax environment and history of free trade. However, its ability to defend itself militarily is doubtful against superior forces thereby endangering the gold hoard.

Now ask yourself where Iran has gotten all its courage lately and the answer comes up quickly. Their protector is Putin’s Russia which has much to gain from a full circulating currency form of the Gold Dinar because of its positive affect on oil and other commodity prices which incidentally are quite important to the ruble.

The argument that gold is too volatile for a currency to be tied to completely fails in light of the volatility of the US dollar.

The other aspect is the timing of its introduction which seems now to be somewhat after the bearish neckline breaks down as it will for the US dollar so that there is plausible denial that the dollar forced the Gold Dinar to emerge as a currency rather than the Gold Dinar forced the US dollar to enter its inevitable freefall condition.

So the shocker is that Iran might become the center of the Middle East’s gold holding in Dinar form because it will be protected militarily by Putin’s Russia. The Iranian theocracy plus a new totalitarian Russia will project the Gold Dinar and the Ruble as superior currencies to the US dollar.

This strategy then projects Putin’s Russia into a major superpower position and Iran as the leader of a more unified Middle East.

In conclusion:

1. Terrorism is primarily a financial tool designed to break the bank of the US.
2. The real war is economic and not political.
3. The reaction of the US was totally predictable and it walked directly into a bear trap that it cannot now easily extract itself from.
4. Regaining insurgent controlled towns in Iraq will not win this war.
5. The military action in Iraq and Afghanistan is a uniting factor among the one billion Muslims.
6. Capturing Bin Laden would be as meaningless as capturing Saddam Hussein
7. The price of oil will not become cheap again.
8. Iran is the covert third party behind the Iraq and Afghanistan military actions.

The only US defense against this strategy is the adoption now of the new modernized form of the Federal Reserve Gold Certificate Ratio tied to international liquidity and not to interest rate action. The chance of this occurring is as good as a snowball surviving in hell. Only by preempting the Gold Dinar by initiating the Federal Reserve Gold Certificate Ratio in the modernized and revitalized form that I have spoken about many times can offset the pending introduction of the Gold Dinar as a full-fledged currency.

This explains why Asia and the Middle East have been the major buyers of gold since 1991.

Since no US presidential candidate or any advisor to either contender has even a remote idea of what is really happening, you can wager that the dollar will enter its freefall, the Gold Dinar will emerge as a full fledged currency, and Putin’s new totalitarian Russia will rise in stature as the US falls in stature among major nations.

So if I have been wrong about the gold bull market, it’s in considering it as a generational event while in fact it might constitute the entire foreseeable future.

If you fail to own gold and gold shares but rather depend on the US dollar to protect your life’s work you are in for the worst of disappointments. The gold writers who spend their time looking for temporary tops and encourage you to sell your entire positions will not be in business much longer.

I have met with key players who will be involved in the coming events and I am convinced without any doubt that the above is a road map from here until 2012 and well beyond.

Now you know why the survivors of the old European major financial families spoken of in the book “Our Crowd” have distributed US securities and bonds into the pre-election Made in Hollywood equity market and have been buyers of gold for quite a period of time.

Please be careful and pay attention. Make absolutely sure your mortgages have fixed rates. Eliminate any mortgage obligation that requires a balloon repayment or refinancing in 2007-2008. Reduce debt if you can and move your gold and gold share position up to no less than 33 1/3 percent of your liquid net worth.

For those of you seeking an even deeper understanding of this subject material, there is a book that should be read. It is “The Return of the Gold Dinar” written by Umar Ibrahim Vadillo.

Thursday, April 19, 2007


Economic Showdown


The Misery Index was first employed by Jimmy Carter in 1976 to unseat President Gerald Ford. That year, the index, which is calculated by adding the unemployment rate to the inflation rate, averaged 13.2%. Four years later it had climbed to 18.2%, and Ronald Reagan used it to unseat Mr. Carter.

Today the Misery Index isn't revealing much misery. As of February 2007, it was only 6.8% (4.5% unemployment plus a 2.3% 12-month increase in the PCE deflator) -- a level bettered in only four years since 1967, and all those years were in the so-called "bubble economy" of the late 1990s.

One would think that complaints about the economy would be few and far between. But complaining has become the national pastime. Not directly about the Misery Index, but about the economy in general, and how much worse we have it today than we did during the Clinton economy in the 1990s in particular.

[Economic Showdown]

While I find it hard to believe that every complaint is politically motivated, it is difficult to imagine another justification for those who assert that the Clinton economy was better than the Bush economy.

For most Americans, who aren't familiar with economic analysis, it's impossible to determine what's actually happening. But the debate over Bush versus Clinton would be silly, if it weren't potentially influencing policy.

President Clinton took office in January 1993, almost two years after the 1990-91 recession had ended. On the other hand, President Bush took office just two months before the 2001 recession began.

As a result, any economic comparison that uses four-year presidential terms is highly misleading. The Clinton years will always look better than the Bush years with that approach. A better analysis which compares the two business cycles from their previous trough, shows the opposite. The Bush economy is equal to or better than the Clinton economy in almost every area.

President Clinton benefited from gale-force tailwinds. The price of oil fell from $19.82 a barrel in the first quarter of 1993 to $12.84 a barrel in the fourth quarter of 1998. Inflation remained very low. President Clinton also benefited from being in office immediately after the Cold War had ended, allowing him to enjoy the "peace dividend" -- a rapid decline in defense spending which helped bring federal spending down. More importantly, the fall of the Iron Curtain accelerated the global movement of capital and goods.

President Bush, on the other hand, has been faced with gale-force headwinds. In the midst of deflation and an epic stock-market meltdown, the 9/11 attacks occurred just eight months into his term, while the recession he had inherited was still underway. President Bush's massive increase in security spending has effectively offset the benefits of the peace dividend. The burden of government spending, and the cost of shifting resources toward security, are drags on the private sector. In addition, Hurricane Katrina flooded New Orleans, the 38th largest city in the U.S., while oil prices climbed above $70 a barrel.

Trying to compare presidential terms is a useless and biased venture. Cutting through all the rhetoric, the boom of the 1990s was spectacular, and so has been the boom of the 2000s. But they are both part of a longer-term wave of technological innovation that dates to the early 1980s.

During the high-tax, highly regulated years between 1969 and 1982, the economy was in recession 32% of the time. Since then, following Ronald Reagan's tax cuts, and deregulation, and Paul Volcker's victory over inflation, the U.S. economy has only been in recession 5% of the time.

There have been periods of sub-par performance, and one of those periods was the first half of the 1990s -- partly thanks to the first President Bush's and President Clinton's tax hikes.

Many argue that President Clinton's 1993 tax hikes did not hurt the economy, and that this proves taxes don't matter as much as supply-siders think. But nothing could be further from the truth. During the first 64 months of the '90s recovery, real average hourly earnings fell 0.2%, while the unemployment rate fell to 5.5%.

For the current recovery, during its first 64 months, real average hourly earnings are up 1.8%, while the unemployment rate is down to 4.4%. At the grass-roots level, the current recovery is significantly stronger than the 1990s recovery. Despite rhetoric to the contrary, tax cuts are not a giveaway to the rich, but a huge lift to labor demand, and therefore wages. And don't forget, oil prices tripled over this period.

The proof is in the pudding. The early '90s recovery had better performance for financial markets. The S&P 500 increased 73.0% (10.8% annually) during the first 64 months of the '90s recovery, but only 30.3% (5.1% annually) in the first 64 months of the current recovery. But this is somewhat misleading.

The stock market of the early '90s was lifted by the end of communism. But in 2001, it was hit hard by a new age of terrorism, which lifted the risks of investing in the U.S. and around the world. The S&P 500 fell 30% in the 17 months following the attacks. Nonetheless, since tax rates were cut in May 2003, the S&P 500 is up 48.1% -- an annual rate of 10.7% -- a comparable performance to the early 1990s.

The most interesting comparison is in the job market. According to the payroll survey, the current recovery has been weak, with just 6.7 million new jobs versus 11.3 million in the first 64 months of the '90s recovery. But the payroll survey has major problems, mostly because it cannot capture the dynamic nature of our new economy. Because it captures self-employment and does not undercount small business, the civilian jobs survey is much better. It shows 9.9 million new jobs in the 2000s, just slightly less than the 10.1 million new jobs the survey shows for the first 64 months of the '90s recovery.

This is amazing if you stop and think about it. The '90s saw a massive amount of capital thrown at Internet start-up companies that were designed to compete against the status-quo. These new companies staffed up quickly and drove the demand for labor well above its normal trend. The Nasdaq crash changed much of this, but the real shakeout from all of this disruptive technology did not hit until the 2000s.

That is when the inventions of the past two decades really began to pay off. The early years of new technology create a great deal of economic activity and excitement for investors who can fantasize about the future. But it is the implementation phase when productivity and profits boom.

In the first five years of the current recovery, pretax corporate profits are up 107.9%, a significant improvement from the 73.8% growth during the first five years of the '90s recovery.

While some argue that the growth in profits is a sign that greedy rich people are benefiting at the expense of workers, this is not shown in the data. Civilian job growth in the past five years is not statistically different than it was in the early '90s, while wages, for every income level, have experienced better performance.

The big difference between the two periods was that tax rates were hiked in the early '90s, while tax rates were cut in the early 2000s. And, contrary to popular belief, tax cuts, because they lift incentives to invest, always lead to a better environment for the overall population.

This does not mean that the massive transformation of our economy, as new technology up-ends all the old ways of doing things, does not create anxiety or actual pain. But that pain is much less prevalent than most people seem to believe. While misery may love company, it's hard to paint a miserable picture of today's economy.

Monday, April 16, 2007


March Retail Sales Increase 0.7%
First Trust Advisors

March retail sales increased 0.7% overall and 0.8% excluding autos, both close to consensus expectations. February retail sales were revised to show a 0.5% gain, after originally being reported as up just 0.1%. Retail sales are up 3.8% from a year ago, 3.9% excluding autos.

The largest gains in retail sales were in gasoline, building materials, clothing and accessory stores, general merchandise stores (which includes department stores), and restaurants and bars. The rebound in building materials was the largest gain since January 2006.

Activity was weak for furniture and non-store retailers (internet and mail-order purchases), although the weakness in non-store retail sales followed the largest one-month gain since 1994.

Excluding autos, building materials, and gas, sales were up 0.3% in March and February's originally reported drop of 0.2% was revised to a gain of 0.3%.

Implications: Today's retail sales data is a bullish sign for the US economy. Retail sales excluding autos and building materials are a direct feed into GDP data (auto sales data come from another source and building materials are counted as investment) - and these sales jumped 7% at an annual rate in Q1, after growing at rates of only 3.7% and 0.1% in the last two quarters of 2006. Given today's data, we project real (inflation-adjusted) consumption - goods and services combined - rose an annualized 3.7% rate in Q1. This will help offset continued weakness in housing.


ATLANTA, April 12 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- For the first time, consumers in Internet-connected households are paying more of their bills online than by paper check, according to a new study conducted by Harris Interactive and the Marketing Workshop.

The 2007 Consumer Bill Payment Survey showed that, for the first time, online bill payments exceeded bill payments made by paper check among online households. Online payments made up 39 percent of the total volume of bill payments among online households, an increase of 4 percent over the previous December 2005 survey. In contrast, the volume of checks sent through the mail fell 4 percent to 34 percent of the overall volume.

The Consumer Bill Payment Survey - the seventh conducted since 2002 and sponsored by CheckFree Corporation (Nasdaq: CKFR) - highlights consumers' growing use of online banking and electronic billing and payment services to help them manage their household finances.

The January 2007 survey polled 2,018 online respondents who were at least partly responsible for household bill payments. Respondents are representative of the estimated 82.5 million U.S. households using the Internet, and the margin of error is plus or minus 2 percent.

    The survey findings include:
    -- A growing number of consumers are turning to their computers, rather than their checkbooks, to pay household bills.
    -- Paying bills online has become a mainstream activity among U.S. households.
    -- Western states, followed by the South, have embraced online bill payment faster than other regions, which may be driven in part by higher broadband penetration rates and online banking use in these regions.
    -- Paperless bills appear to be catching on as consumers recognize their convenience, security and environmental benefits.

"The fact that online bill payment has overtaken paper checks shows that people feel secure managing their finances online," said Gwenn Bezard, research director with Aite Group. "Once considered a nice-to-have add-on, online bill payment is now the foundation of the Web banking user experience. I expect further growth in this area due to Generation Y's greater reliance on technology in their everyday lives as they move into early adulthood, and the increasing adoption of electronic bills, especially as the environment becomes a mainstream issue."

West Leads Nation in Online Bill Payment, Followed by the South

Nationwide, consumers paying at least one bill online per month rose to 74 percent, compared to 69 percent of respondents in the previous December 2005 survey. Consumer adoption of online bill payment has more than doubled since January 2002, when only 37 percent of online households reported paying at least one bill online.

The West ranks first in overall adoption of electronic billing and payment, with 78 percent of online households paying their bills online, according to the survey. The South ranks second, with 76 percent. The Northeast ranked third in online bill payment, with 72 percent, and the Midwest trailed, with 71 percent.

Factors helping drive regional differences included higher broadband penetration rates, greater online banking use and technology-savvy populations in the West and South.

In the West, 80 percent of surveyed households receive their Internet service through a broadband connection and 83 percent use online banking to check their account activity or transfer funds. By contrast, the Midwest, which trailed in EBP adoption, 70 percent of households have broadband Internet connections and 76 percent use online banking, according to the survey.

Consumers in Western states also were more likely to pay bills at online banking sites (42 percent), than those in the South (38 percent), Northeast (37 percent) and Midwest (33 percent).

Among the survey's six consumer bill-payer personality segments, there were more E-Savvy Planners living in the West (11 percent) and South (15 percent) than in other regions. This consumer segment enjoys trying the latest technology products and using financial management tools to organize their finances. E-Savvy Planners pay bills online because it's safer than mailing a check, they regularly check their credit reports and are more likely to use online banking (94 percent) and online bill payment (91 percent) services than other consumer segments. For more information on the six types of consumer bill payers, visit

Rising Postal Rates Encouraging Consumers to Switch to Online Bill Payment

American consumers increasingly rely on online bill payment services to save time. Eighty-five percent of survey respondents said, "paying bills online is faster."

But the rising cost of mailing paper checks to pay bills also may be helping fuel the trend. Some 85 percent of consumers surveyed said, "paying bills online saves the paper, stamps and the hassle of paying bills by check."

A first-class stamp cost 37 cents in 2005, compared to the current price of 39 cents. An approved postal rate increase will bring the cost of a first- class stamp to 41 cents on May 14, 2007. In contrast, the vast majority of consumers - 93 percent - reported that they get the online bill payment service for free from their banks or credit unions.

"Electronic bill payment is not only a great way for consumers to manage their cash flow and ensure on-time payments, but it is also an often overlooked way to maintain a tidier, more organized home or home office," said Standolyn Robertson, president-elect of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO), and founder of Things in Place, which provides professional organizing services to residents of the Greater Boston area. "By opting to receive electronic bills, rather than paper bills, consumers can reduce or eliminate those stacks of bills near the front door, on the kitchen table or at their desks, and there is no bill to misplace or drop behind the couch. By simply signing up at their local banks or portals, usually for free, consumers can give themselves the gift of time and the peace of mind that comes from organization."

Convenient, Environmentally Friendly E-Bills Poised for Adoption Growth

Paperless billing seems to be catching on as consumers become more aware of the environmental benefits of e-billing. Thirty-nine percent of consumers receiving electronic bills at bank websites said they no longer receive mailed copies of the bills.

    Other key findings related to e-bills included:
    -- Consumers paying bills at bank websites were more willing to stop receiving paper bills than those paying directly at biller sites.
       Eighty-four percent of e-bill users said they were willing to consider shutting off receipt of paper bills through the mail if offered the choice, compared to 69 percent of those paying at biller sites.
    -- Fifty-two percent of e-bill users cited "receiving bills in electronic form saves paper and energy, helping our nation's environment" as a major reason they chose to receive e-bills.
    -- Overall, the most appealing features of e-bills were convenience, due-date reminders and "assurance that bills are never late."
    -- Among the benefits for banks and billing organizations, consumers using e-bills also reported significantly greater satisfaction with their banking and biller relationships and were less likely to switch providers. Some 58 percent of e-bill users claimed they were less likely to switch banks as a result of receiving and paying bills through online banking sites, while 39 percent of e-bill users said they were less likely to switch to a competitor's service.
    -- Seventy-two percent of e-bill users said they were satisfied or very satisfied with their online banking experiences, compared to 52 percent for those who didn't use e-bills. More satisfaction also translated into word-of-mouth endorsements. E-bill users were 58 percent more likely to recommend their banks' online bill payment services to family members and friends.
    Online Bill Payment Adoption Climbs

The average survey respondent paid 11.5 bills in a typical month, with approximately 39 percent of these, or 4.5 bills, paid online, and 34 percent, or 3.9 bills, paid by paper check.

Consumers who used online banking sites for paying bills reported paying more bills per month and paying far more of them online. These consumers paid 8.2 (63 percent) of their 13 monthly bills online, and just 1.6 (12 percent) by paper check.

The survey also showed growth in consumers' use of online banking sites to pay bills. In the latest survey, 38 percent of survey respondents said they paid at least one bill per month at an online banking site, compared to 33 percent in the December 2005 survey.

An increasing number of online banking users are activating online bill payment services, further fueling EBP adoption. Forty-eight percent of online banking customers pay bills online, compared to 37 percent at the end of 2003.

Those who pay bills at online banking websites reported using more of their banks' financial services overall than non-EBP users, including automatic teller machines, demand deposit accounts and loans. Online bill payment customers also tap into more online banking features such as electronic statements, online account transfers and check imaging services.

Biller Sites Growing Steadily

Meanwhile, consumers' use of biller websites to pay bills continues to grow, though at a slower rate than in the past. Fifty-five percent of 2007 survey respondents made a payment directly at a biller's website, up from 53 percent in the December 2005 survey.

Consumers with household incomes of less than $50,000 were more likely to pay their bills at biller websites, while higher-income groups - particularly those earning more than $100,000 - were more likely to pay their bills at online banking sites.

Consumers cited "faster," "saves paper, stamps and hassle" and "provides more control over payment timing" as the top three benefits of paying bills at online banking sites, according to the survey. Non-users cited "don't know enough" as the leading reason why they don't pay bills at their banks'

websites. Concerns about online security were cited by only 13 percent of respondents, compared to 20 percent in the December 2005 survey.

CheckFree Electronic Commerce Division provides electronic billing and payment services that enable more than 2,000 financial services organizations to achieve their customer acquisition, retention and optimization goals through secure online channels. In fiscal 2006, CheckFree processed 1.13 billion transactions and distributed 184.6 million electronic bills. CheckFree Electronic Commerce solutions include online integrated personal finance management, online account opening, funding and transfer; electronic billing and payment for consumers; electronic invoice presentment, payment and receivables solutions for small business banking customers; mobile payment solutions; flexible Web services technology for electronic billing and payment; and payment fraud detection and prevention.

About CheckFree (

Founded in 1981, CheckFree Corporation (Nasdaq: CKFR) provides financial electronic commerce services and products to organizations around the world. CheckFree Electronic Commerce solutions enable thousands of financial services providers and billers to offer the convenience of receiving and paying household bills online, via phone or in person through retail outlets. CheckFree Investment Services provides a broad range of investment management solutions and outsourced services to hundreds of financial services organizations, which manage about $1.7 trillion in assets. CheckFree Software develops, markets and supports payment processing solutions that are used by financial institutions to process more than two-thirds of the 14 billion Automated Clearing House transactions in the United States, and supports reconciliation, exception management, risk management, transaction process management, corporate actions processing, and compliance within thousands of organizations worldwide.

Certain of the Company's statements in this press release are not purely historical, and as such are "forward-looking statements" within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. These include statements regarding management's intentions, plans, beliefs, expectations or projections of the future. Forward-looking statements involve risks and uncertainties, including without limitation, the various risks inherent in the Company's business, and other risks and uncertainties detailed from time to time in the Company's periodic reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, including the Company's Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended June 30, 2006 (filed September 8, 2006), Form 10-Q for the quarter ended September 30, 2006 (filed November 8, 2006) and Form 10-Q for the quarter ending December 31, 2006 (filed February 8, 2007). One or more of these factors have affected, and could in the future affect the Company's business and financial results in future periods, and could cause actual results to differ materially from plans and projections. There can be no assurance that the forward-looking statements made in this press release will prove to be accurate, and issuance of such forward-looking statements should not be regarded as a representation by the Company, or any other person, that the objectives and plans of the Company will be achieved. All forward-looking statements made in this press release are based on information presently available to management, and the Company assumes no obligation to update any forward-looking statements.

Friday, April 13, 2007


Can Young Entrepreneurs Get Funding?

If you're young and in love with the idea of starting a business, these tips will help you in your search for startup financing.

All entrepreneurs have to overcome hurdles when it comes to finding capital for their new business. When customers are few, earnings are scarce and business assets are immaterial, it takes energy and creativity to locate the necessary funds. And these challenges are heightened for entrepreneurs in their 20s, who are often involved with their first formal business venture or just out of school with limited work experience.

In previous columns, I've advised entrepreneurs how to get bank loans guaranteed by the SBA, how to make a "kitchen table pitch" to relatives and friends, and how to approach angel investors. Much of this advice applies equally well to young entrepreneurs; however, there are typically a few extra hurdles that make these sources of financing more difficult to attain for the younger generation of business owners. Some of this difficulty is simply perception, but some of it is a reality.

When it comes to bank loans, you're required to have a good credit history, submit a personal financial statement, and sometimes make an equity investment in your business--all of which may not be easy for most young entrepreneurs to accomplish. For example, a few stains on your credit report from late payments in college could hurt your loan application. And since most twenty-somethings don't own a home or have much equity built up, relying on home equity lines of credit is also not an option.

So the fallback position for many young entrepreneurs is to get bank financing in the form of credit card debt. As I've written in previous columns, this is a dangerous path to go down if your business is in its startup stage and your earnings are unpredictable. Instead, I would recommend getting a debit card rather than a credit card for the first few months of business startup until you're confident that you can forecast earnings and until you develop the habit of making your payments on time. I'd also caution young entrepreneurs from using more than $5,000 per month on their debit or credit card. Anything over that will put you in a different risk category with most credit card companies and, if you end up in delinquency, could really impact your ability to get future financing.

Financing from relatives and friends is also a bit more difficult to obtain for twenty-somethings rather than thirty- or forty-somethings with more extensive networks. Typically, I hear young entrepreneurs tell me that their "family and friend" circle consists of their parents and a handful of close friends--all of whom are either too poor or too uninterested in funding their business venture.

My advice for these entrepreneurs? Open your mind and expand your circle; think about all the different people you know, including friends of friends, who could help fund your business. Many of the country's most well known businesses, including Atlantic Records, Walmart and Subway, were funded after the entrepreneur expanded his financing circle beyond his parents. The founder of Atlantic Records, for instance, landed a loan from his family dentist!

Private investors, or so-called "business angels", are more likely to invest large sums of money with an experienced business owner than with a young entrepreneur. However, there are some business angels who prefer to spread their wealth in smaller investment amounts to young entrepreneurs with promising ideas. So raising $25,000 from business angels is a very achievable goal for most twenty-somethings with a good business concept and solid business plan (though raising $100,000 would be considerably more difficult).

When raising money from high-net-worth investors, young entrepreneurs should aim to pull together small rounds of funding in succession (for instance, $100,000 to $500,000 per round) rather than trying to complete their total capital raise in one fell swoop. Fair warning: It takes longer to close smaller investors than larger investors mainly because the investment isn't a very high priority for the investor (even though it might be your highest priority).

One well-regarded organization that teaches younger entrepreneurs about small-business financing is the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship. Their website has some good books on the topic of youth and entrepreneurship, many of which are written by their founder, Steve Mariotti, who is a guru in this field. The Entrepreneurs' Organization, formerly the Young Entrepreneurs Organization, is a great networking resource with more than 6,000 members and 120-plus chapters worldwide. Finally, I'd also recommend spending some time on the SCORE website to get financing advice from more experienced entrepreneurs who've lived through the ups and downs of life as a young entrepreneur.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


Since its founding on July 30, 1953, the U.S. Small Business Administration has delivered about 20 million loans, loan guarantees, contracts, counseling sessions and other forms of assistance to small businesses.

The SBA was officially established in 1953, but its philosophy and mission began to take shape years earlier in a number of predecessor agencies, largely as a response to the pressures of the Great Depression and World War II.

The Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC), created by President Herbert Hoover in 1932 to alleviate the financial crisis of the Great Depression, was SBA's grandparent. The RFC was basically a federal lending program for all businesses hurt by the Depression, large and small. It was adopted as the personal project of Hoover's successor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and was staffed by some of Roosevelt's most capable and dedicated workers.

Concern for small business intensified during World War II, when large industries beefed up production to accommodate wartime defense contracts and smaller businesses were left unable to compete. To help small business participate in war production and give them financial viability, Congress created the Smaller War Plants Corporation (SWPC) in 1942. The SWPC provided direct loans to private entrepreneurs, encouraged large financial institutions to make credit available to small enterprises, and advocated small business interests to federal procurement agencies and big businesses.

he SWPC was dissolved after the war, and its lending and contract powers were handed over to the RFC. At this time, the Office of Small Business (OSB) in the Department of Commerce also assumed some responsibilities that would later become characteristic duties of the SBA. Its services were primarily educational. Believing that a lack of information and expertise was the main cause of small business failure, the OSB produced brochures and conducted management counseling for individual entrepreneurs.

Congress created another wartime organization to handle small business concerns during the Korean War, this time called the Small Defense Plants Administration (SDPA). Its functions were similar to those of the SWPC, except that ultimate lending authority was retained by the RFC. The SDPA certified small businesses to the RFC when it had determined the businesses to be competent to perform the work of government contracts.

By 1952, a move was on to abolish the RFC. To continue the important functions of the earlier agencies, President Dwight Eisenhower proposed creation of a new small business agency -- the Small Business Administration (SBA).

In the Small Business Act of July 30, 1953, Congress created the Small Business Administration, whose function was to "aid, counsel, assist and protect, insofar as is possible, the interests of small business concerns." The charter also stipulated that the SBA would ensure small businesses a "fair proportion" of government contracts and sales of surplus property.

By 1954, SBA already was making direct business loans and guaranteeing bank loans to small businesses, as well as making loans to victims of natural disasters, working to get government procurement contracts for small businesses and helping business owners with management and technical assistance and business training.

The Investment Company Act of 1958 established the Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) Program, under which SBA licensed, regulated and helped provide funds for privately owned and operated venture capital investment firms. They specialized in providing long-term debt and equity investments to high-risk small businesses. Its creation was the result of a Federal Reserve study that discovered, in the simplest terms, that small businesses could not get the credit they needed to keep pace with technological advancement.

In 1964, SBA began to attack poverty through the Equal Opportunity Loan (EOL) Program. The EOL Program relaxed the credit and collateral requirements for applicants living below the poverty level in an effort to encourage new businesses that had been unable to attract financial backing, but were nevertheless sound commercial initiatives.

Over the past 47 years, SBA has grown in terms of total assistance provided and its array of programs tailored to encourage small enterprises in all areas. SBA's programs now include financial and federal contract procurement assistance, management assistance, and specialized outreach to women, minorities and armed forces veterans. The SBA also provides loans to victims of natural disasters and specialized advice and assistance in international trade.

Nearly 20 million small businesses have received direct or indirect help from one or another of those SBA programs since 1953, as the agency has become the government's most cost-effective instrument for economic development. In fact, SBA's current business loan portfolio of roughly 219,000 loans worth more than $45 billion makes it the largest single financial backer of U.S. businesses in the nation.

Over the past 10 years, (FY 1991-2000), the SBA has helped almost 435,000 small businesses get more than $94.6 billion in loans, more than in the entire history of the agency before 1991. No other lender in this country – perhaps no other lender in the world – has been responsible for as much small business financing as the SBA has during that time.

Since 1958, SBA’s venture capital program has put more than $30 billion into the hands of small business owners to finance their growth.

Last year alone, the SBA backed more than $12.3 billion in loans to small businesses. More than $1 billion was made available for disaster loans and more than $40 billion in federal contracts were secured by small businesses with SBA's help.

SBA continues to branch out to increase business participation by women and minorities along new avenues such as the minority small business program, microloans and the publication of Spanish language informational materials.

There are those who argue that big businesses, profiting from "economies of scale," can produce far more efficiently than small businesses. But small business is where the innovations take place. Swifter, more flexible and often more daring than big businesses, small firms produce the items that line the shelves of America's museums, shops and homes. They keep intact the heritage of ingenuity and enterprise and they help keep the "American Dream" within the reach of millions of Americans. Every step of the way, SBA is there to help them.

Sunday, April 8, 2007


Trade Financing Solutions for Exporters and Lenders
  • Exporters can increase their export sales with help from the U.S. government

  • Small business exporters, as defined by the Small Business Administration (generally under 500 employees for manufacturers), receive a discount on the seminar cost

  • Lenders can increase their profits while decreasing their risks with help from the U.S. government

    ... plus optional half-day Working Capital Delegated Authority Lender training for lenders interested in partnering with Ex-Im Bank

This seminar helps exporters and lenders learn about trade services they can offer their customers and raise profits. During this comprehensive special event, attendees will learn how:

  • Ex-Im Bank supports working capital financing to fulfill sales orders
  • To qualify and become an Ex-Im Bank delegated authority lender whereby lenders can process and commit applications at their own speed and obtain generous fees
  • Medium-Term Export Credit Insurance and Guarantees can finance capital equipment exports and services
  • Special financing products benefit environmental exports, service exports, lease transactions, and enhancements for small, women and minority-owned businesses
  • To obtain and complete the application for financing and locate the right professional contact at Ex-Im Bank for prompt efficient consultation

Senior Ex-Im Bank staff conducts this course, which is usually located at the Washington, DC headquarters. The session provides an excellent opportunity to meet and network with Ex-Im Bank staff as well as U.S. exporters, international lenders, insurance brokers, and staff from other trade-related government agencies. The regional seminars are typically one day while the more intensive seminars are offered in Washington are two days.

Working Capital Delegated Authority Training

Instruction for financial institutions that wish to qualify their institutions as Delegated Authority Lenders for Working Capital Guarantees. Training typically follows the two-day Trade Financing Solutions for Exporters and Lenders seminar and runs half-day. Training is open to anyone who wishes to learn more about the Working Capital Guarantee Program and for those desiring to partnership with Ex-Im Bank as a delegated authority lender.

Regional Seminar - "Increase Your Export Sales with Help from the U.S. Government"

Ex-Im Bank hosts an exporter seminar for companies of all sizes who wish to learn more about increasing their export sales and growing their international business. This one-day seminar uses case studies and classroom discussions to facilitate the attendee's understanding of the varied and dynamic trade financing products and services offered by Ex-Im Bank. Attendees will learn how to obtain working capital loans to fulfill foreign sales orders, offer competitive terms to overseas buyers, minimize risk in emerging markets, protect against buyer default as well as how to enter new international markets with assistance from the United States Department of Commerce and Ex-Im Bank.

Exporter Symposium - "Learn How to Find Buyers and Finance Sales"

Ex-Im Bank in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Commerce, Small Business Administration, and Overseas Private Investment Corporation and local sponsors host these half-day symposiums for companies of all sizes that wish to learn how to "find and finance" foreign buyers to increase their sales or are interested in investing internationally. Attendees will learn how to find international buyers, access valuable trade information, obtain working capital loans, protect against the risk of nonpayment, gain support for investments overseas, and offer buyer financing with the U.S. government's assistance. Symposiums will also address special programs for environmental and service exports, lease transactions, and small, minority-owned and woman-owned businesses. This session features case studies and classroom discussions to facilitate the attendees' understanding of the many dynamic trade products and services available.

Women & Minority-Owned Business Symposium - "Learn How to Find Buyers and Finance Sales"

Ex-Im Bank in cooperation with local sponsors hosts exporter symposiums for women & minority-owned business of all sizes who wish to learn how to "find and finance" foreign buyers to increase their sales. Attendees will learn how to find international buyers, access valuable trade information, obtain working capital loans, protect against the risk of nonpayment, and offer buyer financing with the U.S. government's assistance. This half-day session features case studies and classroom discussions to facilitate the attendees' understanding of the many dynamic trade products and services available. Although this symposium is geared towards the needs of women & minority-owned business any small business is welcome and encouraged to attend.

Credit Review and Operations Training

This training is aimed at helping credit administrators in financial institutions and exporting companies better understand Ex-Im Bank's post authorization documentation requirements for loans and guarantees.


Good Friday Blockbuster

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics delivered a blockbuster jobs report this Good Friday morning: 180,000 new jobs in March, 32,000 upward job revisions for the prior two months, and a 4.4% unemployment rate.

This stronger than expected report puts the lie to those perma-bear pessimists who keep predicting recession from the sub-prime mortgage problem and the housing slowdown (both a function of tighter Fed money over the past two years).

But the free-market US economy, with its low tax-rates, is more durable and flexible and bigger that just housing and mortgage finance. In the March job report, big job gains came from business construction, retail trade and a variety of services.

Unemployment for those with a bachelors degree or higher was only 2.2%. For traditional families with both spouses present, joblessness was 2.5%.

The rate of economic growth ebbs and flows over long expansion periods such as this one (which is now in its sixth year). Sometimes faster, sometimes slower, but in the absence of major policy blunders (big tax hikes, bad inflation, major trade barriers, nasty regulations) the economic pie keeps expanding.

Stocks have been predicting continued growth for quite some time. Since last summer, the major indexes are up about 20%. Year-to-date they are up roughly 3% so far. Since the Bush tax cuts they're up roughly 100%.

Isn't it interesting that markets are better economic predictors than perma-bears?

Saturday, April 7, 2007


What If Iran Had Invaded Mexico?
by Noam Chomsky and Tom Engelhardt

On Tuesday, meeting with the press in the White House Rose Garden, the president responded to a question about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to Syria this way: "[P]hoto opportunities and/or meetings with President Assad lead the Assad government to believe they're part of the mainstream of the international community, when, in fact, they're a state sponsor of terror." There should, he added to the assembled reporters, be no meetings with state sponsors of terror.

That night, Brian Ross of ABC News reported that, since 2005, the U.S. has "encouraged and advised" Jundullah, a Pakistani tribal "militant group," led by a former Taliban fighter and "drug smuggler," which has been launching guerrilla raids into Baluchi areas of Iran. These incursions involve kidnappings and terror bombings, as well as the murder (recorded on video) of Iranian prisoners. According to Ross, "U.S. officials say the U.S. relationship with Jundullah is arranged so that the U.S. provides no funding to the group, which would require an official presidential order or 'finding' as well as congressional oversight." Given past history, it would be surprising if the group doing the encouraging and advising wasn't the Central Intelligence Agency, which has a long, sordid record in the region. (New Yorker investigative journalist Seymour Hersh has been reporting since 2005 on a Bush administration campaign to destabilize the Iranian regime, heighten separatist sentiments in that country, and prepare for a possible full-scale air attack on Iranian nuclear and other facilities.)

The president also spoke of the Iranian capture of British sailors in disputed waters two weeks ago. He claimed that their "seizure… is indefensible by the Iranians." Oddly enough, perhaps as part of secret negotiations over the British sailors, who were dramatically freed by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Wednesday, an Iranian diplomat in Iraq was also mysteriously freed. Eight weeks ago, he had been kidnapped off the streets of Baghdad by uniformed men of unknown provenance. Reporting on his sudden release, Alissa J. Rubin of the New York Times offered this little explanation of the kidnapping: "Although [Iraqi foreign minister, Hoshyar] Zebari was uncertain who kidnapped the man, others familiar with the case said they believe those responsible work for the Iraqi Intelligence Service, which is affiliated with the Central Intelligence Agency." The CIA, of course, has a sordid history in Baghdad as well, including running car-bombing operations in the Iraqi capital back in Saddam Hussein's day.

And don't forget the botched Bush administration attempt to capture two high Iranian security officials and the actual kidnapping of five Iranian diplomats-cum-Revolutionary-Guards in Irbil in Iraqi Kurdistan over two months ago – they disappeared into the black hole of an American prison system in Iraq that now holds perhaps 17,000 Iraqis (as well as those Iranians) and is still growing. As Juan Cole has pointed out, most such acts, and the rhetoric that goes with them, represent so many favors to "an unpopular and isolated Iranian government attempting to rally support and strengthen itself."

In addition, just this week, the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz and other ships in its battle group left San Diego for the Persian Gulf. Two carrier battle groups are already there, promising an almost unprecedented show of strength. As the ship left port, U.S. military officials explained the mission of the carriers in the Gulf this way: They are intended to demonstrate U.S. "resolve to build regional security and bring long-term stability to the region."

And stability in the region, it seems, means promoting instability in Iran by any means possible. So, the president's Global War on Terror also turns out to be the Global War of Terror. No one has dealt with the way "state sponsorship of terror" works, when it comes to our own country, more strikingly than Noam Chomsky, who considers the larger Iranian crisis below. His latest book, Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy, is just out in paperback and couldn't be more to the point at the present moment. Right now, if the U.S. isn't already a failing state, it's certainly a flailing one. Tom

What If Iran Had Invaded Mexico?

Putting the Iran Crisis in Context
By Noam Chomsky

Unsurprisingly, George W. Bush's announcement of a "surge" in Iraq came despite the firm opposition to any such move of Americans and the even stronger opposition of the (thoroughly irrelevant) Iraqis. It was accompanied by ominous official leaks and statements – from Washington and Baghdad – about how Iranian intervention in Iraq was aimed at disrupting our mission to gain victory, an aim which is (by definition) noble. What then followed was a solemn debate about whether serial numbers on advanced roadside bombs (IEDs) were really traceable to Iran; and, if so, to that country's Revolutionary Guards or to some even higher authority.

This "debate" is a typical illustration of a primary principle of sophisticated propaganda. In crude and brutal societies, the Party Line is publicly proclaimed and must be obeyed – or else. What you actually believe is your own business and of far less concern. In societies where the state has lost the capacity to control by force, the Party Line is simply presupposed; then, vigorous debate is encouraged within the limits imposed by unstated doctrinal orthodoxy. The cruder of the two systems leads, naturally enough, to disbelief; the sophisticated variant gives an impression of openness and freedom, and so far more effectively serves to instill the Party Line. It becomes beyond question, beyond thought itself, like the air we breathe.

The debate over Iranian interference in Iraq proceeds without ridicule on the assumption that the United States owns the world. We did not, for example, engage in a similar debate in the 1980s about whether the U.S. was interfering in Soviet-occupied Afghanistan, and I doubt that Pravda, probably recognizing the absurdity of the situation, sank to outrage about that fact (which American officials and our media, in any case, made no effort to conceal). Perhaps the official Nazi press also featured solemn debates about whether the Allies were interfering in sovereign Vichy France, though if so, sane people would then have collapsed in ridicule.

In this case, however, even ridicule – notably absent – would not suffice, because the charges against Iran are part of a drumbeat of pronouncements meant to mobilize support for escalation in Iraq and for an attack on Iran, the "source of the problem." The world is aghast at the possibility. Even in neighboring Sunni states, no friends of Iran, majorities, when asked, favor a nuclear-armed Iran over any military action against that country. From what limited information we have, it appears that significant parts of the U.S. military and intelligence communities are opposed to such an attack, along with almost the entire world, even more so than when the Bush administration and Tony Blair's Britain invaded Iraq, defying enormous popular opposition worldwide.

"The Iran Effect"

The results of an attack on Iran could be horrendous. After all, according to a recent study of "the Iraq effect" by terrorism specialists Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank, using government and Rand Corporation data, the Iraq invasion has already led to a seven-fold increase in terror. The "Iran effect" would probably be far more severe and long-lasting. British military historian Corelli Barnett speaks for many when he warns that "an attack on Iran would effectively launch World War III."

What are the plans of the increasingly desperate clique that narrowly holds political power in the U.S.? We cannot know. Such state planning is, of course, kept secret in the interests of "security." Review of the declassified record reveals that there is considerable merit in that claim – though only if we understand "security" to mean the security of the Bush administration against their domestic enemy, the population in whose name they act.

Even if the White House clique is not planning war, naval deployments, support for secessionist movements and acts of terror within Iran, and other provocations could easily lead to an accidental war. Congressional resolutions would not provide much of a barrier. They invariably permit "national security" exemptions, opening holes wide enough for the several aircraft-carrier battle groups soon to be in the Persian Gulf to pass through – as long as an unscrupulous leadership issues proclamations of doom (as Condoleezza Rice did with those "mushroom clouds" over American cities back in 2002). And the concocting of the sorts of incidents that "justify" such attacks is a familiar practice. Even the worst monsters feel the need for such justification and adopt the device: Hitler's defense of innocent Germany from the "wild terror" of the Poles in 1939, after they had rejected his wise and generous proposals for peace, is but one example.

The most effective barrier to a White House decision to launch a war is the kind of organized popular opposition that frightened the political-military leadership enough in 1968 that they were reluctant to send more troops to Vietnam – fearing, we learned from the Pentagon Papers, that they might need them for civil-disorder control.

Doubtless Iran's government merits harsh condemnation, including for its recent actions that have inflamed the crisis. It is, however, useful to ask how we would act if Iran had invaded and occupied Canada and Mexico and was arresting U.S. government representatives there on the grounds that they were resisting the Iranian occupation (called "liberation," of course). Imagine as well that Iran was deploying massive naval forces in the Caribbean and issuing credible threats to launch a wave of attacks against a vast range of sites – nuclear and otherwise – in the United States, if the U.S. government did not immediately terminate all its nuclear energy programs (and, naturally, dismantle all its nuclear weapons). Suppose that all of this happened after Iran had overthrown the government of the U.S. and installed a vicious tyrant (as the US did to Iran in 1953), then later supported a Russian invasion of the U.S. that killed millions of people (just as the U.S. supported Saddam Hussein's invasion of Iran in 1980, killing hundreds of thousands of Iranians, a figure comparable to millions of Americans). Would we watch quietly?

It is easy to understand an observation by one of Israel's leading military historians, Martin van Creveld. After the U.S. invaded Iraq, knowing it to be defenseless, he noted, "Had the Iranians not tried to build nuclear weapons, they would be crazy."

Surely no sane person wants Iran (or any nation) to develop nuclear weapons. A reasonable resolution of the present crisis would permit Iran to develop nuclear energy, in accord with its rights under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, but not nuclear weapons. Is that outcome feasible? It would be, given one condition: that the U.S. and Iran were functioning democratic societies in which public opinion had a significant impact on public policy.

As it happens, this solution has overwhelming support among Iranians and Americans, who generally are in agreement on nuclear issues. The Iranian-American consensus includes the complete elimination of nuclear weapons everywhere (82% of Americans); if that cannot yet be achieved because of elite opposition, then at least a "nuclear-weapons-free zone in the Middle East that would include both Islamic countries and Israel" (71% of Americans). Seventy-five percent of Americans prefer building better relations with Iran to threats of force. In brief, if public opinion were to have a significant influence on state policy in the U.S. and Iran, resolution of the crisis might be at hand, along with much more far-reaching solutions to the global nuclear conundrum.

Noam Chomsky is the author of Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy (Metropolitan Books), just published in paperback, among many other works.