International Forecaster Weekly

Iraqi Citizen Death Toll Rises Massively

Iraqi citizen death toll rises massively... The dog is in the pound... more probes into republicans... D.C. area real estate... more evidence of torture by CIA... Sarbanes-Oxley corporate governance law already on the chopping block...  

Bob Chapman | October 14, 2006

According to the Washington Post a team of American and Iraqi epidemiologists estimates that 655,000 more people have died in Iraq since coalition forces arrived in March 2003 than would have died if the invasion had not occurred. This is 20 times the estimate of 30,000 civilian deaths that our president gave us last December. It is also 10 times the estimate of roughly 50,000 civilian deaths made by the British-based Iraq Body Count research group. So much for reliable government statistics.

Bounty hunter, Duane Mad Dog Chapman, an ex-convict, is wanted in Mexico for bail jumping and bounty hunting in Mexico where such activity is illegal. He kidnapped convicted fugitive rapist Andrew Luster, which the Mexican government turned over to the FBI. Mr. Chapman has been picked up by federal authorities for extradition to Mexico. Our Secretary of State Condi Rice and 29 Republican members of Congress are trying to block the extradition of this lawbreaker. The end does not justify the means - that is why each nation has laws. Mr. Chapman should be extradited to face trial and our 29 Republican congressmen and our Executive Branch should be chastised for breaking Mexican laws. Evidently these congressmen and Ms. Rice do not know right from wrong and execute the laws they feel like executing.

In another new probe the FBI is investigating whether a member of Senator Arlen Specter’s staff broke the law by helping her husband, a lobbyist, secure almost $50 million in Pentagon spending for his clients. The staff member of Republican Specter’s staff is Vicki Siegel Herson and it’s alleged that the Senator was the malefactor directing Pentagon spending to Michael Herson.

In a related item federal authorities are investigating links among House appropriations committee chairman Jerry Lewis (R-CA), his staff and a lobbying firm that employs several of his friends, former staffers and relatives of staffers.

Single-family homes in the Washington, DC area is staying on the market for an average of 109 days before selling versus 33 days YOY. The average median price in September was up 8.6% to $455,000, in Prince George’s they were up 6.5% to $330,000 and in Montgomery County they were up 1.4% to $435,000. Loudin County fell 9.3% to $440,000, Fauquier 9% to $365,000 and Fairfax 8.3% to $445,000. This region is one of the 30 hot areas. Prices will probably be off 15% from highs by yearend. That should be followed by 15% in 2007 and 15% in 2008.

KB Home said it improperly accounted for executive stock option grants and might need to restate earnings.

Mortgage applications fell last week, off 5.5%. The MBA version of the 30-year fixed rate mortgage was 6.27%, up 0.3% from the previous week. The MBA’s purchase mortgage index fell 5.3% and the index of refinancing applications fell 5.8%.

The Fed says the economy grew 2.5% in the third quarter and that it would stay at that level in the fourth quarter. The drag on the economy is housing, which as Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke says is going to undergo a substantial correction, which is lopping off 19% of GDP. Where were all these forecasters in June 2005 when the real estate market topped out? They were all lying to keep the public buying. The Fed is mad if they expect GDP growth to be over 1-1/2% next year and it could be zero. Anything under 2% is recession. Homebuilding will probably fall 25% for the year and 25% to 50% next year. Inventories of new and used homes will remain very high and the wealth effect on consumption will die as will the psychology of higher house prices. The Fed sees a savings increase to 1% to 2%. They are dreaming with the debt out there and the rising unemployment. Real income, even with wage increases cannot grow, with inflation over 10%.

As the Fed pumps money and credit into the commercial banking system at a 13% rate some Fed regulators are becoming concerned especially with the concentration in commercial real estate, which should top out in late 2007.

The Federal Agricultural Mortgage Corp. (Farmer Mac) will restate three years’ worth of financial statements to account for derivatives losses. Specifically, the lender will no longer apply hedge accounting to derivatives it uses to manage interest rate risk. In the future they will mark derivatives to the market, rather than deferring or offsetting them. The adjustments will not materially affect the balance sheet says the agency. We have heard that before.

Massachusetts voters in 139 cities and towns, or 1/3 of its communities, will get a rare chance to register their opinion on the wars and occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan when they consider a ballot question on whether the US should immediately withdraw all troops. About 22% of the states’ voters will get a chance to have their say on the issue. The issue has been presented so that voters can express their disgust with the immorality and criminality of the war and the huge loss of life. The American Friends Service Committee says it has to start somewhere and why not Massachusetts. They expect the results to be overwhelming.

The average American family has $3,800 in cash in the bank, no retirement account whatsoever, owes $90,000 on their mortgage and owes $2,200 in credit card debt. We don’t exactly call that being prepared for economic hardship.

A German citizen, Khaled al-Masri, 43, testified this week in a Spanish court that he was kidnapped and tortured by US intelligence agents in 2003, having been flown by the CIA, via Spain, to Afghanistan. Earlier this year the Kuwaiti-born al-Masri testified before German lawmakers and a European Parliament panel.

This is why our Congress and President passed their torture legislation, hoping to cloak their evil in legality.

As scandal after corporate scandal breaks, our new Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson, wants to ease or do away with the Sarbanes-Oxley Law, a corporate-governance law. Mr. Paulson wants to curb investor lawsuits and make corporate prosecutions harder so that corporate America can more easily loot American citizens. The revocation of this law is part of Paulson’s package of destroying Medicare and Social Security. Both Republican and Democrat lawmakers want to revise a rule requiring auditors to certify that a company’s internal financial controls are in order. Businesses, which finances these politicians’ campaigns want relief from lawsuits, fewer criminal prosecutions and amend to overlapping state and federal rules. They really want to gut the most important part of the legislation so they can again continue to run roughshod over Americans.

Paulson and corporate America have made their fortunes on the backs of American investors and they want to continue to do so.