Saturday, June 12, 2010

Russia presses for French warship technology | Antiwar Newswire

Russia presses for French warship technology | Antiwar Newswire

Russian decision-makers pressed France on Friday for access to warship technology, while France's biggest company sought a bigger chunk of Russia's oil and gas business.

No breakthrough announcements were made on either front, but Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin looked confident of France's economic loyalty during a trip to Paris dominated by talk of trade.

Putin and French President Nicolas Sarkozy agreed that a pending deal to build four French Mistral-class warships for Russia's navy would be a "50-50" project, according to Sarkozy's office. The project, what would be the largest military deal between a NATO country and Moscow, has worried Russia's neighbors such as Georgia and some of France's NATO partners.

Sarkozy insisted in his talks with Putin that the sale is a "political signal" more than a purely commercial deal, an effort to keep Russia engaged with the West, according to Sarkozy's office.

Both sides are still working out how much of the ships will be built in France and how much in Russia — a key question, given the many jobs that would create — and the sensitive issue of how much military technology France will share with Russia...

At a Paris exhibit showcasing Russia's industrial might, Putin told guests that it was time to "deepen our cooperation," and encouraged oil giant Total SA to "expand your activity in Russia."

"You can count on us," Total Chairman Christophe de Margerie answered.

De Margerie said his company had submitted a bid for between 20 and 25 percent of the Yamal gas field in cooperation with Russian company Novatek, and that he was discussing the bid with Putin. "I am always optimistic. If we don't think we have a good chance to win, we don't make a bid," he told reporters....

Putin also visited a French government building — the former headquarters of the national weather forecasting service — being sold to Russia in a prime location near the Eiffel Tower. Russia wants to build what Putin called a "spiritual cultural center," what many expect to mean a Russian Orthodox church.

Meeting with former French President Jacques Chirac on Friday morning, Putin, a former KGB agent, denied media reports that the center would be used by Russian secret services, saying they have "no grounds at all

[bth: French warship technology to Russia in exchange for oil concessions and a spy nest in Paris. So very French.]

Saudi Arabia gives Israel clear skies to attack Iranian nuclear sites - Times Online

Saudi Arabia gives Israel clear skies to attack Iranian nuclear sites - Times Online

Saudi Arabia has conducted tests to stand down its air defences to enable Israeli jets to make a bombing raid on Iran’s nuclear facilities, The Times can reveal.

In the week that the UN Security Council imposed a new round of sanctions on Tehran, defence sources in the Gulf say that Riyadh has agreed to allow Israel to use a narrow corridor of its airspace in the north of the country to shorten the distance for a bombing run on Iran.

To ensure the Israeli bombers pass unmolested, Riyadh has carried out tests to make certain its own jets are not scrambled and missile defence systems not activated. Once the Israelis are through, the kingdom’s air defences will return to full alert.

The Saudis have given their permission for the Israelis to pass over and they will look the other way,” said a US defence source in the area. “They have already done tests to make sure their own jets aren’t scrambled and no one gets shot down. This has all been done with the agreement of the [US] State Department.”

Sources in Saudi Arabia say it is common knowledge within defence circles in the kingdom that an arrangement is in place if Israel decides to launch the raid. Despite the tension between the two governments, they share a mutual loathing of the regime in Tehran and a common fear of Iran’s nuclear ambitions. “We all know this. We will let them [the Israelis] through and see nothing,” said one.

The four main targets for any raid on Iran would be the uranium enrichment facilities at Natanz and Qom, the gas storage development at Isfahan and the heavy-water reactor at Arak. Secondary targets include the lightwater reactor at Bushehr, which could produce weapons-grade plutonium when complete.

The targets lie as far as 1,400 miles (2,250km) from Israel; the outer limits of their bombers’ range, even with aerial refuelling. An open corridor across northern Saudi Arabia would significantly shorten the distance. An airstrike would involve multiple waves of bombers, possibly crossing Jordan, northern Saudi Arabia and Iraq. Aircraft attacking Bushehr, on the Gulf coast, could swing beneath Kuwait to strike from the southwest.

Passing over Iraq would require at least tacit agreement to the raid from Washington. So far, the Obama Administration has refused to give its approval as it pursues a diplomatic solution to curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Military analysts say Israel has held back only because of this failure to secure consensus from America and Arab states. Military analysts doubt that an airstrike alone would be sufficient to knock out the key nuclear facilities, which are heavily fortified and deep underground or within mountains. However, if the latest sanctions prove ineffective the pressure from the Israelis on Washington to approve military action will intensify. Iran vowed to continue enriching uranium after the UN Security Council imposed its toughest sanctions yet in an effort to halt the Islamic Republic’s nuclear programme, which Tehran claims is intended for civil energy purposes only. President Ahmadinejad has described the UN resolution as “a used handkerchief, which should be thrown in the dustbin”.

Israeli officials refused to comment yesterday on details for a raid on Iran, which the Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, has refused to rule out. Questioned on the option of a Saudi flight path for Israeli bombers, Aharaon Zeevi Farkash, who headed military intelligence until 2006 and has been involved in war games simulating a strike on Iran, said: “I know that Saudi Arabia is even more afraid than Israel of an Iranian nuclear capacity.” ...

[bth: this is sourced through the Time of London so one can be pretty sure that it was revealed with the knowledge of the Israeli government. Why they would want to put Saudi Arabia in an embarrassing position is hard to say. Perhaps it is to signal to the Turks that they aren't as needed by Israel is they thought. I don't know. One also has to wonder why now? What is the significance of the timing of this leak. It might also be to misdirect the air defenses of Iran to the southwest.]

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Navy still searching for missing underwater vehicles | HamptonRoads.com | PilotOnline.com

Navy still searching for missing underwater vehicles | HamptonRoads.com | PilotOnline.comFour underwater unmanned vehicles went missing Sunday during training to conduct search, classify and map missions.

The Navy, Coast Guard and local authorities were searching for the missing vehicles in the Thimble Shoals Channel between the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, a Navy news release said.

Communication was lost with four of the 13 unmanned vehicles Sunday about 1 p.m. while the vehicles were using bottom-mapping sonar to look for mine-like contacts in the water as part of the training. Search and recovery operations began immediately....

[bth: notice how little attention is given in the media to why the navy hasn't deployed its unmanned underwater vehicles to assist in the monitoring the Gulf oil situation?]

British troops to stay in Helmand - Telegraph

British troops to stay in Helmand - Telegraph

Dr Liam Fox said he had discussed the issue with General Stanley McChrystal, the US commander of the Nato mission in Afghanistan, during a visit to the country two weeks ago.

The move has been proposed by senior Nato commanders as part of a scheme to replace the Canadian troops in the key southern city.

Sources had suggested that the fight in Kandahar, the spiritual homeland of the Taliban, would be as tough as Helmand, where 292 British troops have lost their lives, but Dr Fox made it clear it would not be acceptable.

Speaking during a press conference in London with his US opposite number, Robert Gates, Dr Fox said the 9,500 British troops, most of them in Helmand, had “carried a high cost to life and limb” as well as developing expertise in the terrain, politics and governance.

Dr Fox said the move would also be expensive and added: “I think it would be quite a leap for us to leave Helmand to be redeployed in Kandahar.”

Dr Fox said it was important to give flexibility to commanders on the ground but added: “I think it is highly unlikely that that will happen. And it is certainly not something that we will be proposing.”

In the end, it appears Gen McChrystal did not ask for the move but even if he had, Dr Fox said: "It is highly unlikely that we would want to accede to that particular change."

Mr Gates said British troops in Sangin, in the north of Helmand, were “in the middle of the thick of the fight” adding: “This is one of the toughest areas in all of Afghanistan.”

He said he had not discussed a move to Kandahar with Dr Fox but the pair had talked about whether British troops needed more support on top of the 20,000 US Marines recently deployed there.

Major General Richard Mills, of the US Marine Corps, assumed control of Nato forces in Helmand on June 1, while British commander, Maj Gen Nick Carter, took command in Kandahar.

Dr Fox said the build up of troops in Kandahar was “one of a number of operations that are important, happening at different paces in different parts of the country” but it was important not to see “any one thing as key” to progress.

The US Defence Secretary paid tribute to British troops who had “more than done their bit” and called Britain “one of our oldest and closest allies.”

Dr Fox said the “special relationship” was not a “doey-eyed, Disney love-in” but one in which they were able to tackle a range of international challenges, including Iran.

“Having got to the end of the Cold War, we want to do more than leave the next generation a new nuclear arms race in the world’s most unstable region,” he added.

[bth: who is Fox kidding? The 9500 Brits are "supported" by 20,000 US marines? Forgetting numbers, the US forces have helicopters. The Brits have virtually none. Save for modern and suitable ground vehicles. Fox went to Karzai to let him know that the Brits are going to follow the Canadians and leave Afghanistan. Afghanistan is about to be America's war just like Iraq.]

NATO allies poised to slash military budgets; Gates urges other cost savings

NATO allies poised to slash military budgets; Gates urges other cost savings

LONDON -- European allies are bracing for their deepest cuts in military spending since the end of the Cold War, fueling concerns in Washington that an already wide gap in military power between the United States and the rest of NATO will grow.

On Monday, the German government said it is looking to reduce its 250,000-member military by at least 40,000 troops; the defense minister has suggested that a whopping cutback of 100,000 might be necessary.

Meanwhile, analysts project that Britain may have to cut its defense budget by 10 to 15 percent over the next six years as it grapples with what Prime Minister David Cameron has called "a staggering amount of debt."

France and Italy are also contemplating manpower reductions.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, on a trip to London and Brussels this week, is pressing allies to hold the line as Pentagon officials fret they could be stuck with an even bigger share of the burden of the war in Afghanistan or future NATO missions. ....

In contrast, some NATO allies confront actual cuts that could substantially diminish their military power.

"We know that we've got financial constraints," Fox said Tuesday in a joint news conference with Gates. "We've inherited a train wreck in the economy."

Gen. David Richards, the chief of the British army, acknowledged Tuesday that some major military programs are in trouble.

"The most important long-term strategic factor in our security is economic prosperity," he said at a security conference. "If that is so, must we in defense accept that not all our cherished programs will survive?"

Malcolm Chalmers, an analyst at the Royal United Services Institute, a think tank aligned with the Defense Ministry, said "optimistic" projections suggested that Britain could be forced to cut its active-duty forces by 20 percent over the next decade. The British military could see its total number of aircraft reduced by a quarter, and the navy could have its fleet cut by a similar amount.

"The size of the total reduction is likely to be quite considerable," he said. "The fiscal pressures in Europe, not least in the U.K., are pretty inexorable."

[bth: UK's army is already smaller than the US marine corp. The cuts across NATO mean that Turkey is the only non-US country in NATO with a substantial army. NATO as a military force is about to be eviscerated. We might as well plan accordingly. With cuts like these there won't be Nato allies in Afghanistan within a couple of years. Nato for all practical purposes is dead as a viable military institution. It may still have political potential.]

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

YouTube - Simple Gifts from Appalachian Spring

YouTube - Simple Gifts from Appalachian Spring

Voters' support for members of Congress is at an all-time low, poll finds

Voters' support for members of Congress is at an all-time low, poll finds

As voters head to the polls Tuesday for a crucial set of primary elections, a new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds antipathy toward their elected officials rising and anti-incumbent sentiment at an all-time high. ...

[bth: worth a full read. This is going to be one of those times where None Of The Above would be the winner if it could get on the ballot.]

Turkey's Zero-Problems Foreign Policy | Foreign Policy

Turkey's Zero-Problems Foreign Policy | Foreign Policy

....
The Sept. 11, 2001, attacks made it clear that this situation is not sustainable. Immediately after the attacks, the United States began attempting to establish an international order based on a security discourse, thus replacing the liberty discourse that emerged after the collapse of the Berlin Wall. It is in this context that the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq can best be understood. The intent was to transform an unstable international environment by targeting crisis-prone zones that were considered to be the sources of insecurity. But in the process, predictions about the end of history and the expansion of civil rights and liberties have largely lost their appeal. ...

[bth: this is an extraordinarily insightful article for understanding Turkey's foreign policy plans and how it intends to wedge itself back into the international scene and how it's foreign policy ties back into its domestic agenda. Well worth a studied read - just don't mention Kurdistan or Armenian genocide.]

Military Chatrooms from California to Afghanistan - NYTimes.com

Military Chatrooms from California to Afghanistan - NYTimes.com

...Hunched over monitors streaming live video from a drone, Lieutenant Christopher and a team of analysts recently popped in and out of several military chatrooms, reaching out more than 7,000 miles to warn Marines about roadside bombs and to track Taliban gunfire.

“2 poss children in fov,” the team flashed as Marines on the ground lined up an air strike, chat lingo for possible innocents within the drone’s field of view. The strike was aborted.

Another message, referring to a Taliban compound, warned: “fire coming from cmpnd.” The Marines responded by strafing the fighters, killing nine of them.

Lieutenant Christopher and her crew might be fighting on distant keypads instead of ducking bullets, but they head into battle just the same every day. They and thousands of other young Air Force analysts are showing how the Facebook generation’s skills are being exploited — and paying dividends — in America’s wars.

The Marines say the analysts, who are mostly in their early to mid-20s, paved the way for them to roll into Marja in southern Afghanistan earlier this year with minimal casualties. And as the analysts quickly pass on the latest data from drones and other spy planes, they are creating the fluid connections needed to hunt small groups of fighters and other fleeting targets, military officials say.

But there can be difficulties in operating from so far away.

Late last month, military authorities in Afghanistan released a report chastising a Predator drone crew in an incident involving a helicopter attack that killed 23 civilians in February. Military officials say analysts in Florida who were monitoring the drone’s video feed cautioned two or three times in a chatroom that children were in the group, but the drone’s pilot failed to relay those warnings to the ground commander.

For the most part, though, the networking has been so productive that senior commanders are sidestepping some of the traditional military hierarchy and giving the analysts leeway in deciding how to use some spy planes.

“If you want to act quickly, you’ve got to flatten things out and engage at the lowest possible levels,” said Lt. Col. Jason M. Brown, who runs the Air Force intelligence squadron at this base near Sacramento. ...

[bth: the technology and social networking is advancing far faster than the prime defense contracting companies can keep up. There is a big debate going on between open source code and proprietary software. My bet is on the open source approach.]

Monday, June 07, 2010

Boston Globe Tailors Print Edition For Three Remaining Subscribers | The Onion - America's Finest News Source | Onion News Network

Boston Globe Tailors Print Edition For Three Remaining Subscribers | The Onion - America's Finest News Source | Onion News Network


Boston Globe Tailors Print Edition For Three Remaining Subscribers
BBC News - Nato loses 10 troops in deadly Afghanistan day

A Nato vehicle burns after a militant attack in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, 6 June 2010

Note with this M-ATV photographed today the engine is on fire and destroyed but the cabin appears to have remained intact which probably means the crew survived


Informed Comment | Thoughts on the Middle East, History and Religion

Informed Comment | Thoughts on the Middle East, History and Religion



bth: note the ending statement; the Taliban feel it is better to wait than to talk because US troops levels will be going down and the Taliban, at least in the eastern portion of Afghanistan are gaining ground. From their perspective it is hard to argue with that. So where does that leave us?

YouTube - Last Of The Mohicans - Cora.

YouTube - Last Of The Mohicans - Cora.

In Afghanistan, U.S platoon's tranquil morning shattered by blast

In Afghanistan, U.S platoon's tranquil morning shattered by blast

...Ritenour had spent the morning patrol talking to villagers, probing for information on insurgents. A farmer had given him a promising lead on a possible Taliban hide-out nearby.

The lieutenant asked the man for his cellphone, then punched in his own cell number. He wrote down the farmer's number and slipped him a few Afghanis, the local currency.

The man said he might phone in more information as long as no one found out. Ritenour promised that no one else would know.

"I know it's dangerous" to talk to Americans, the lieutenant told him. "That's why we pay good money for good information."

A half an hour later, as the patrol prepared to leave the dangerous dirt paths and stomp through wheat fields less likely to contain homemade bombs, the bomb exploded.

Urmel had already passed the site. The bomb was too far off the path for the dog to detect, his handler said. And the adjacent manure pile would have masked the scent.

On the hike back to the platoon's outpost, another roadside bomb exploded in the distance. The Kiowas banked and dipped to investigate. The bomb was intended for another infantry platoon of the 2nd Brigade, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, but no one was hurt.

Safely back at base, Mason grabbed Peterson by his shoulders and told him he was a lucky man. The lieutenant attributed his good fortune to proper spacing; the soldiers had followed orders not to walk too closely together....

[bth: a article well worth a full read. Two points: 1. Note that 2 IEDs were found via a few dollar bribe probably paid by cell phone transfer I'm guessing. 2. Note how the dog was defeated, placing the explosives a bit off the trail and putting manure down to throw off the dog.]

Intel chief nominee Clapper held disputed Iraq WMD view - Washington Times

Intel chief nominee Clapper held disputed Iraq WMD view - Washington Times

President Obama's choice to be the next director of national intelligence supported the view that Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq sent weapons and documents to Syria in the weeks before the 2003 U.S. invasion.

Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. James R. Clapper, a former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency and current undersecretary of defense for intelligence, will be the next DNI. President Obama announced Gen. Clapper as his nominee Saturday, saying he must not fall victim to Washington politics.

He will replace retired Adm. Dennis Blair, who resigned after 16 months in the position following several disputes with other intelligence leaders and, in particular, the CIA.

Gen. Clapper’s selection is a rebuke to senior members of the congressional oversight committees who had said they hoped Mr. Obama would nominate a civilian as his top intelligence adviser and someone with whom the president shares a personal relationship....

[bth: the military should not run US intelligence. Why is Obama doing this and especially with a nominee that tried to sell the public on the Iraq WMD fraud?]

Rule of the Gun - Convoy Guards in Afghanistan Face an Investigation - NYTimes.com

Rule of the Gun - Convoy Guards in Afghanistan Face an Investigation - NYTimes.com

MAIDAN SHAHR, Afghanistan — For months, reports have abounded here that the Afghan mercenaries who escort American and other NATO convoys through the badlands have been bribing Taliban insurgents to let them pass.

Then came a series of events last month that suggested all-out collusion with the insurgents.

After a pair of bloody confrontations with Afghan civilians, two of the biggest private security companies — Watan Risk Management and Compass Security — were banned from escorting NATO convoys on the highway between Kabul and Kandahar.

The ban took effect on May 14. At 10:30 a.m. that day, a NATO supply convoy rolling through the area came under attack. An Afghan driver and a soldier were killed, and a truck was overturned and burned. Within two weeks, with more than 1,000 trucks sitting stalled on the highway, the Afghan government granted Watan and Compass permission to resume.

Watan’s president, Rashid Popal, strongly denied any suggestion that his men either colluded with insurgents or orchestrated attacks to emphasize the need for their services. Executives with Compass Security did not respond to questions.

But the episode, and others like it, has raised the suspicions of investigators here and in Washington, who are trying to track the tens of millions in taxpayer dollars paid to private security companies to move supplies to American and other NATO bases.

Although the investigation is not complete, the officials suspect that at least some of these security companies — many of which have ties to top Afghan officials — are using American money to bribe the Taliban. The officials suspect that the security companies may also engage in fake fighting to increase the sense of risk on the roads, and that they may sometimes stage attacks against competitors.

The suspicions raise fundamental questions about the conduct of operations here, since the convoys, and the supplies they deliver, are the lifeblood of the war effort.

“We’re funding both sides of the war,” a NATO official in Kabul said. The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation was incomplete, said he believed millions of dollars were making their way to the Taliban. The investigation is complicated by, among other things, the fact that some of the private security companies are owned by relatives of President Hamid Karzai and other senior Afghan officials. Mr. Popal, for instance, is a cousin of Mr. Karzai, and Western officials say that Watan Risk Management’s largest shareholder is Mr. Karzai’s brother Qayum.

The principal goal of the American-led campaign here is to prepare an Afghan state and army to fight the Taliban themselves. The possibility of collusion between the Taliban and Afghan officials suggests that, rather than fighting each another, the two Afghan sides may often cooperate under the noses of their wealthy benefactors.

“People think the insurgency and the government are separate, and that is just not always the case,” another NATO official in Kabul said. “What we are finding is that they are often bound up together.” ...

[bth: worth reading in full then vomiting. Karzai and allies are involved in bilking the US. They are involved in narcotics trade and making money off of us. They are not above paying off the Taliban and becoming the Taliban when it suites their purposes. The people are shamelessly corrupt. This is why it costs us $1 million per soldier per year in Afghanistan and $400 per gallon to get fuel to the front lines.... Its also why we will not when a war in Afghanistan in the military sense - the enemy controls our supply lines and can choke them off at will. So as long as it pays to let our trucks through they will do so, but if we get too strong, the supply lines will get choked off. This is why, among others a military victory will elude us in Afghanistan.]

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Operation Free | Secure America with Clean Energy

Operation Free | Secure America with Clean Energy

Friends or Enemies? The U.S. and Turkey - By Steven A. Cook | Foreign Policy

Friends or Enemies? The U.S. and Turkey - By Steven A. Cook | Foreign Policy

....The Obama administration has yet to grapple with the ways the structural changes in the international system have affected U.S.-Turkey relations. All the talk about strategic cooperation, model partnership, and strategic importance cannot mask the fundamental shift at hand. The stark reality is that while Turkey and the United States are not enemies in the Middle East, they are fast becoming competitors. Whereas the United States seeks to remain the predominant power in the region and, as such, wants to maintain a political order that makes it easier for Washington to achieve its goals, Turkey clearly sees things differently. The Turks are willing to bend the regional rules of the game to serve Ankara's own interests. If the resulting policies serve U.S. goals at the same time, good. If not, so be it.

Moreover, Ankara's approach has proved enormously popular in Turkey and among average Arabs. This is why Erdogan seems all too willing to discuss Turkey's newly influential role in the Middle East at even the most mundane ribbon-cutting events, from Istanbul to the Armenian border. Indeed, it is abundantly clear that Erdogan and his party believe they benefit domestically from the position Turkey has staked out in the Middle East. Yet, it is lost on Washington that the demands of domestic Turkish politics now trump the need to maintain good relations with the United States.

Given the mythology that surrounds the relationship, the divergence between Washington and Ankara has proved difficult to accept. Once policymakers recognize what is really happening, Washington and Ankara can get on with the job of managing the decline in ties with the least possible damage. Obama's goal should be to develop relations with Turkey along the same lines the United States has with Brazil or Thailand or Malaysia. Those relations are strong in some areas, but fall short of strategic alliances. "Frenemy" might be too harsh a term for such an arrangment, but surely "model partnership" is a vast overstatement. It's time to recognize reality.

[bth: worth reading in full.]

The Bonddad Blog: Storm Clouds on the Economic Horizon?

The Bonddad Blog: Storm Clouds on the Economic Horizon?

...As a result of the increase in initial unemployment claims, the decrease in the euro and the decrease in the index of leading economic indicators, caution is warranted going forward. To eliminate this caution, we need to see the following:

1.) A decrease in initial unemployment claims below the 450,000 level. In addition, the economy needs to keep up its current pace of job creation. Last month we had a great employment report. That needs to be repeated in the next report.

2.) The euro needs to stabilize. The European Union has proposed a massive $1 trillion dollar package, which was announced several weeks ago. However, the euro has continued to drop since that announcement. Markets are now concerned that austerity programs will hurt overall economic growth.

A close look at the FXE indicates the euro may be in the middle of a selling climax. But the only way to make this determination is in hindsight.

3.) Commodity prices need to rebound. An across the board drop in commodity prices indicates the markets think decreased demand is an issue going forward. An increase in commodity prices will indicate demand is picking up.

4.) The decrease in the LEIs is not fatal and probably indicates the US will be seeing a decreased rate of growth in the second half of the year.

There are two extremely positive developments from this chain of events for the US economy.

1.) Cheaper oil. Oil prices are one of the biggest threats to US recovery. At current levels, they are hardly a threat.

2.) Lower interest rates. As money has made a "flight" to quality, we've seen a rally in Treasury Bonds which has lowered yields.

Overall, these developments indicate the rate of expansion in the US will probably slow over the next 3-6 months.

[bth: this article is worth reading in full with special attention paid to the charts.]

FiveThirtyEight: Politics Done Right: A Horrible Jobs Report

FiveThirtyEight: Politics Done Right: A Horrible Jobs Report

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From the BLS:

Total nonfarm payroll employment grew by 431,000 in May, reflecting the hiring of 411,000 temporary employees to work on Census 2010, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Private-sector employment changed little (+41,000). Manufacturing, temporary help services, and mining added jobs, while construction employment declined. The unemployment rate edged down to 9.7 percent.

This report stinks. The majority of job creation came from Census hiring -- the private sector was non-existent.

Let's look at the data:

The civilian labor force decreased by 322,000 and the number of unemployed decreased by 287,000. This lowered the unemployment rate to 9.7%.

The labor force participation rate decreased .2% because of a drop in the number in the civilian labor force. The employment to population ratio decreased .1%. This means that fewer people participated in the labor force last month and the percentage of people employed as a percentage of the civilian labor force decreased.

Total private jobs created were 41,000. Goods producing industries increased 4,000, with an increase in manufacturing and mining offset by a drop in construction. Service employment increased by 37,000. With the exception of financial services (which decreased 12,000), all sectors saw growth. Just not much growth.

Simply put, the private sector dropped out of the equation last month. Period. Unfortunately, this report comes at the worst time possible -- when the markets are already shaky. In addition, the initial unemployment claims numbers -- which have dropped the last two weeks -- are still high. This is not a good combination....

[bth: I think part of the problem is capital formation. To grow from the current depressed levels businesses need capital and that comes from banks, profits or stock sales in normal times. But these aren't normal times. The banks have capital to lend but increasing capital constraints of their own and such fear in leading to sectors that need it like manufacturing and construction that there small business lines continue to contract rather than expand. There really isn't a working equity market for private businesses now. That leaves profits. Well profits were crushed for about 2 years so there are no real reserves left of cash to tap and profits from here requires sales growth to get over fixed costs. Those fixed costs are highly compressed and likely to grow with needed hiring if the sales growth trend can be established, but it hasn't. Sales need to rise and fast but we are seeing no forward trajectory because credit card companies are gouging the public with near 20-30% interest rates and money is tight for spending. That leaves the export and industrial sector but the EU is in the crapper and the industrial sector has been shredded.]

Long-Term Unemployed Now 46 Percent Of Unemployed, Highest Percentage On Record

Long-Term Unemployed Now 46 Percent Of Unemployed, Highest Percentage On RecordWASHINGTON � If you lose your job these days, it's worth scrambling to find a new one � fast. After six months of unemployment, your chances of landing work dwindle.

The proportion of people jobless for six months or more has accelerated in the past year and now makes up 46 percent of the unemployed. That's the highest percentage on records dating to 1948. By late summer or early fall, they are expected to make up half of all jobless Americans.

Economists say those out of work for six months or more risk becoming less and less employable. Their skills can erode, their confidence falter, their contacts dry up. Their growing ranks also will keep pressure on Congress to keep extending jobless benefits, which now run for up to 99 weeks.

Overall, the economy has created a net 982,000 jobs this year. But for Jeff Martinez and the record 6.76 million others who have struck out for six months or more, their struggles are getting worse, not better....

[bth: Washington gave upon the manufacturing base to unfettered and foreign government manipulated competition and the construction trades are in deep trouble.]