Sunday, July 31, 2011

U.S. Civil Unrest?

The consequences of a U.S. debt default are not pretty. "Consequences for the private citizen always mean a dramatic devaluation of monetary wealth, because the private individual saver is often an important creditor of the state (eg. government bonds) ... The citizen feels the impact indirectly through higher unemployment and a decrease in state services and benefits."(Wiki)  Sounds innocuous enough - until you dig deeper to see exactly what "services and benefits" might be affected.  The elderly could see delays in their Social Security benefits.  Families who rely on Medicaid to care for chronically ill children could see disruptions.  Interest rates could skyrocket on car, house and student loans.  Small businesses might have a hard time getting credit.  In fact, the list of government services alone that could be affected is as long as your arm.  And don't forget higher unemployment.  The U.S is already at 9.2% officially, and that doesn't count those who have given up and aren't registered anymore, or those who are "under-employed".  Some estimates put the real unemployment rate at 23%.  (Scroll down to read Harry S. Truman's famous quote on unemployment in the column at left.)  And at what level does civil unrest emerge?  Civil unrest, are you crazy?  "People, you know, if it continues, we're going to start to see civil unrest in this country. I hate to say that, but I think it's imminently possible." (James Carville, Advisor to President Bill Clinton, July 2011.)  Over to you, Barack!

Today's Good News:  I'm sorry, James, but was that "eminently possible" or "possibly imminent"?

Saturday, July 30, 2011

14th Amendment Time?

Now it's bonds WITH shackles!
       Boehner's bill is dead, Reid's bill won't make it through the House, Obama calls for compromise.  In a perfect world compromise is what intelligent, pragmatic people would do in this situation.  And I'm pulling for compromise, don't get me wrong.  (My Euro short isn't working as it should because it's been a race to the bottom for both currencies lately, but - while the debt ceiling debate gets all of the air time on this side of the pond - the Eurozone is really melting down, due to even bigger problems than Uncle Sam has.  I need a resolution here, guys!)  But obviously this is not a perfect world.  We're talking here about sleep-deprived, harried, telephone-eared people who've eaten way too much Al's Pizza (although it is nature's perfect food), and - given the Teapublicans slavish devotion to guns, God, and Glen Beck - it may not happen in time.  My solution if it doesn't?  Obama should invoke the 14th Amendment, and raise the debt ceiling himself.  Why?  Because: a) enough already, the point has been made about the unsustainable U.S. debt, b) nobody really knows how bad the consequences of a downgrade or default would really be.  Everyday I hear some new analyst somewhere who's found yet another hitherto undiscovered obscure "baddy" that scares the crap out of me, and c) polls show that 2/3's of Americans want this matter resolved yesterday.  (And 9/10's want the weekend to be about football - and not the political type!)  It's been done once before, apparently, and needs to be the back-up plan now.  Over to you Barack.

Today's Good News:  The weather's nice and the beer's cold!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Commuter's Salvation

Teapublican t-shirts are good for something!

Today's God News:  Some guys who said they were Teapublicans asked me for advice from the House of Representatives chapel late last night.  I said "get your ass in line"!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

"Get Your Ass In Line"

        So said House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner in a closed door meeting yesterday with his rebellious Republican caucus.  And although I don't think his debt ceiling plan is the right one (and apparently neither does the Congressional Budget Office), I like Boehner.  Why?  He's from Ohio, not the usual coastal flake.  He's the second of twelve children, so he knows how to share.  He grew up in modest circumstances - no rich, prep school, Ivy-leaguer he.  He started working at his family's bar at age 8, always a good sign in my books.  He was a linebacker on his school's football team, so he's tough.  Rather than dodging, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War.  He earned a B.A. in business administration over seven years as he held several jobs to pay for his education.  He worked his way up in a small business all the way to the CEO's office, so he knows those ropes too.  He has been re-elected 10 times.  During his freshman legislative year, Boehner took on the House of Representatives establishment on both sides of the aisle, and successfully closed the scandalous House Bank, uncovered "dine-and-dash" practices at the House Restaurant, and exposed drug sales and illegal cash-for-stamps deals at the House Post Office.  Good stuff, that.  He was also a major force in the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, saying it was his “proudest achievement” in two decades of public service.  In the last election Boehner campaigned to reform the so-called "earmark" process and rein in government spending.
     However, like all long-term politicians, Boehner has baggage: In 1995, he distributed campaign contributions from tobacco industry lobbyists on the House floor as members were weighing how to vote on tobacco subsidies. "They asked me to give out a half dozen checks quickly before we got to the end of the month and I complied.  And I did it on the House floor, which I regret.  I should not have done.  It's not a violation of the House rules, but it's a practice that‘s gone on here for a long time that we're trying to stop and I know I'll never do it again."  Boehner eventually led the effort to change House rules and prohibit campaign contributions from being distributed on the House floor.  (We all make mistakes; he publicly acknowledges his and tries to repair them.)  A 2010 NY Times story said Boehner maintains "tight ties with a circle of lobbyists and former aides representing some of the nation’s biggest businesses, including Goldman Sachs, Google, Citigroup, R.J. Reynolds, MillerCoors and UPS."  (I despise lobbyists of any kind.)  And in November 2010, Boehner, and others, called for the cancellation of an exhibit in the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery after he learned that it featured a video that contained an image of a crucifix with ants crawling on it.  (Write that off to his Irish Catholic upbringing.)  Although Boehner does have a conservative voting record, when he was running for House leadership religious conservatives in the GOP were not satisfied with his positions.  (Good.)  According to the Washington Post: "Boehner, as chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, took ardently pro-business positions that were contrary to those of many in his party.  Religious conservatives - examining his voting record - see him as a policymaker driven by small-government economic concerns, not theirs."  (Good, and good.)  Boehner has received a "0" rating from the Human Rights Campaign in the last three congressional sessions of voting.  In a letter to the Rights Campaign, Boehner stated, "Please be assured that I will continue to work to protect the idea of the traditional family as one of the fundamental tenets of western civilization."  He is a hawk militarily, yet has called on the President to justify spending for military operations against terrorists.  And on September 18, 2008, Boehner attended a closed meeting with congressional leaders, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, and was urged to craft legislation to help financially troubled banks.  That same day (trade effective the next day), Boehner cashed out of an equity mutual fund.  (Makes him look bad, but then he's not a rich man either, verdict: a dumb, but not illegal, move.)  On October 3, 2008, Boehner voted in favor of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP).  He has been an ardent opponent of Obama, as is the duty of the opposition in any democracy.  In 2011 Boehner called the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act “one of our highest legislative priorities.”
     Okay, so he's not perfect. Who among us is?  The point here is that this guy deserves the respect and obedience of the Young Turks of the Tea Party.  Get your ass in line indeed.

Today's Good News:  It looks like my Euro short position may pay off.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Teapublicans Unite!

... and RESIGN!  You have made your point, and demonstrated your ignorance of national affairs.  Your dogmatic slavishness to ideology and guns has made you the laughing stock of the world.  Worse, it has made you a threat to your own great nation.  Decent, hardworking men like John Boehner are too good to be in your company, much less at your service.  You are a perfect example of crowd behaviour, feeding off each other's bizarre ideas, ready to rip apart institutions that your forefathers took centuries to refine.  Yes, your country is in debt over its head, and yes, something needs to be done.  But to blackmail your own party leaders when you are still wet behind the ears legislatively is the height of foolishness.  Resign now, for the good of your constituents, the nation, and the international community!

Cattle Branding Out Here

            When did regulated cattle branding get underway in Western Canada?  As a consequence of the end of the fur trade about 1845, formerly busy trading posts either closed or became notorious as whiskey outlets.  Federal governments on both sides of the 49th parallel set about securing their lawless western territories by encouraging settlement and commerce.  "Starting in the early 1870s, a number of men in the southern North-West Territories of Canada kept a few head of cattle for their own meat and dairy supplies and, from 1874, for trade with the North-West Mounted Police and the native population ... In the 1880s they began recording their brands with their stock associations, and the police acted as hide inspectors when cattle were being sold or shipped to market.  However, a lot of the cattlemen - in particular those who were not members of associations and could not register brands - did not properly mark their animals ... It was not until the North-West Council 'hide ordinance' of 1898 that all brands could be properly registered."  This initial ordinance, as it turned out, was full of legal loopholes, and in 1900 a new one had to be enacted.  "The first brand book appeared as early as 1888 and new ones were issued from time to time.  However, there apparently were few copies and they were poorly updated and distributed.  That changed as a result of pressure from the Western Stock Growers Association.  By 1907 the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan were publishing their own brand books."   I was happy to discover the other day that a very old leather-bound brand book has survived in the possession of a close friend of mine.  I look forward to perusing it.  (Quotes herein are from Cowboys, Gentlemen & Cattle Thieves by Warren M. Elofson.)

Today's Good News:  Back then folks wouldn't have a problem coming up with a solution to the U.S. debt problem!