Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.

Posts tagged “Government Shutdown

The Kroll Opera House in Berlin on April 28, 1939. Hitler makes keynote address answering Roosevelt’s appeal to avoid war.

I play a little game, a variant of “where’s Waldo”, with pictures like this.
The challenge is to try and figure out everyone in the photo who will be dead or in jail by 1946. It’s quite gratifying.

Hitler’s speech that day was a response to a letter sent by Roosevelt to get Hitler’s assurances that it would not attack other countries. You can read it here.

Roosevelt asked for Hitler to give assurances that he would not invade a number of specific countries, mostly British possessions and European neighbors, most of which became involved in the war anyway. Hitler’s view of peace seemed to be between the major powers, and that Germany should be entitled to expand into Poland and Czechoslovakia if it wanted to. He was telling Britain, France, the US and Russia to stay out of Germany’s area so that he could continue his ambitions. This is not at all what those other countries, especially Poland wanted.

In my understanding this letter came at a time when the world had already geared up for war. Although it hadn’t been declared yet, all the major powers were building up their stockpiles and constructing more and more weapons, like bombers. Even the US, which wouldn’t join the war for another 2 years was already preparing for it.

There were a few warning signs that that just got ignored. One that I think should not be forgotten is that most Western countries did not raise their immigration quotas and allow more Jewish refugees to enter their countries until late in the war. Anti-semitism and fear over immigration in general led to refugees being rejected until public opinion turned around 1944. Even though their was ample evidence of violence and discrimination, the US and Britain still refused to increase their quotas. It saddens me to think about the lives that could have been spared by a bit of bureaucratic empathy.

It is possibly the greatest tragedy of human history that the Second World War happened with so much warning, yet nothing was done to truly stop it.

(Here’s some of the speech, with subtitles.)

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The Historians’ Case Against Gay Discrimination

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Two historical propositions important to the legal analysis of discrimination of the LGBT community: (1) no consistent historical practice singles out same-sex behavior as “sodomy” subject to proscription, and (2) the governmental policy of classifying and discriminating against certain citizens on the basis of their homosexual status is an unprecedented project of the twentieth century, which is already being dismantled.

In colonial America, regulation of non-procreative sexual practices – regulation that carried harsh penalties but was rarely enforced – stemmed from Christian religious teachings and reflected the need for procreative sex to increase the population. Colonial sexual regulation included such non-procreative acts as masturbation, and sodomy laws applied equally to male-male, male-female, and human-animal sexual activity. “Sodomy” was not the equivalent of “homosexual conduct.” It was understood as a particular, discrete, act, not as an indication of a person’s sexuality or sexual orientation. Not until the end of the nineteenth century did lawmakers and medical writing recognize sexual “inversion” or what we would today call homosexuality. The phrase “homosexual sodomy” would have been literally incomprehensible to the Framers of the Constitution, for the very concept of homosexuality as a discrete psychological condition and source of personal identity was not available until the late 1800s. The Court in Bowers v. Hardwick misapprehended this history. Proscriptive laws designed to suppress all forms of nonprocreative and non-marital sexual conduct existed through much of the last millennium. Widespread discrimination against a class of people on the basis of their homosexual status developed only in the twentieth century, however, and peaked from the 1930s to the 1960s. Gay men and women were labeled “deviants,” “degenerates,” and “sex criminals” by the medical profession, government officials, and the mass media. The federal government banned the employment of homosexuals and insisted that its private contractors ferret out and dismiss their gay employees, many state governments prohibited gay people from being served in bars and restaurants, Hollywood prohibited the discussion of gay issues or the appearance of gay or lesbian characters in its films, and many municipalities launched police campaigns to suppress gay life. The authorities worked together to create or reinforce the belief that gay people were an inferior class to be shunned by other Americans. Sodomy laws that exclusively targeted same-sex couples were a development of the last third of the twentieth century and reflect this historically unprecedented concern to classify and penalize homosexuals as a subordinate class of citizens.

Since the 1960s, official and popular attitudes toward homosexuals have changed, though vestiges of old attitudes – such as the law at issue here – remain. Among other changes, the medical profession no longer stigmatizes homosexuality as a disease, prohibitions on employment of homosexuals have given way to antidiscrimination protections, gay characters have become common in movies and on television, 86 percent of Americans support gay rights legislation, and family law has come to recognize gays and lesbians as part of non-traditional families worthy of recognition. These changes have not gone uncontested, but a large majority of Americans have come to oppose discrimination against lesbians and gay men.

(more…)


OH YEAH, remember that time David Vitter f*cked a bunch of prostitutes on the taxpayer’s dime while being a “family values” crusader?

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Senator “Diaperman” David Vitter basically wants Louisiana to be exempt from any EPA regulations. (It shouldn’t take more than a generation for the entire population of the state to die of cancer, before someone in the legislative branch realizes that this isn’t a great idea.) So he wrote a ten point pro-shutdown listicle (Here’s the link: t.co/ujgRIWMndk) on how shutdown was great, because it meant there was no EPA.

Given that disposable diapers are such an environmental problem, isn’t this a huge conflict of interest?

Most of the list mocks the EPA’s inability to enforce Clean Water Act standards and oversee mining and drilling safety, because the agency has been forced to furlough 90 percent or 15,000 of its workforce. The listicle says to be glad that, “Fewer bureaucrats at the EPA makes it less likely that they’ll make up science on new regulations,” and that “World War II veterans have stormed the Normandy beaches again. (Sadly, they had to, in order to gain access to their own memorial).” Diaper Dave’s list also says it’s good news that EPA workers can’t carry out established laws like the Clean Water Act or raid mines that allegedly violate it, that the Interior Department can’t review permits for oil production, and oil and gas drillers can continue on the public lands closed to the public.

It is a good thing we do not need the environment anymore!

Diaper Dave apparently believes it is acceptable to be swimming around in a pool of feces, crude, pesticides, herbicides, heavy metals, radionucliotides, breathing sulfur dioxide, NOx, ozone, chlorinated hydrocarbons and on and on. Not to mention that we are already screwed by the amount of CO2 and methane in the atmosphere.

He has unintentionally written the talking points for the Democratic challenger he will face in his next election cycle. It’s always interesting to me when I discover I’m actually smarter than a Legislator because he or she is dumb enough to prove it by either putting it to print or by opening their mouths.

We need to get this man (who has decided to make it his personal mission to be the mouthpiece of every nemesis of Captain Planet) out of the Senate and get someone in there who is willing to defend our human right to live in a healthy and safe environment (by strengthening environmental laws, etc.), as well as acknowledging and confronting the devastation that climate change will bring to our state.

Vitter


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What will probably happen in Europe if USA goes in default?

What will probably happen in Europe if USA goes in default?

What will probably happen in Europe if USA goes in default?

This post will be structured in 2 parts:
Who owns the debt by the government
What would the effects be of defaulting
The US defaulting on its debts has both internal and external effects. The total of US government debt is over $ 16.7 trillion. Of that debt, $ 4.8 trillion is owned by governmental agencies.

This includes agencies such as the social security (holds over $2.5 trillion dollars).
Of the public debt, $5.7 trillion is owned by foreign investors.

Keep in mind this is just the actual government debt, effects of a default would be much bigger

Now, what would happen in case of a default? Let’s assume you own a $1000 bond by the US government. You might think it’s just paper, but that’d be wrong. After all, you paid for that paper. Just like an iPod is worth $500 or whatever because that’s what you paid for it. Bonds are means of (safe) investment.

Now, government defaults. You, the owner of the government bond are unsure about whether you will actually ever get your money back, so you’re freaking out. Then some dude comes to you and says “hey, I’ll pay you $500 for that bond!”. You figure “better be sure” and accept it (this 50% depreciation is completely arbitrary).

Now, let’s assume everyone reacts like you do (which is entirely unlikely but let’s assume so for sake of simplicity). Consequence: the value of the government debt drops by 50% for the owners of that debt. Social security loses over $ 1 trillion, other government agencies or internal investors lose a combined $3 trillion.

To put this in perspective, this is roughly $10 000 per American for a 50% drop. Even assuming just a 1% drop, it’d still be $200 for every American out there. Family with 3 kids? Well shucks, you just lost $1000 (in actual assets or in government benefits, this is on a macro level).

Foreign owners of the debt would see the same effects: the value of their assets would fall. China owns $1 trillion in debt, so loses $500 billion. Same with Japan. Both countries have been rumored of being on the verge of an economic crisis, and this would definitely trigger it.

Worldwide, about $3 trillion in assets would disappear. Again, assuming a 50% value drop which, again, is really unlikely.

Now, let’s look at the much major second-order effects. The dollar would drop in value… really hard. Since the dollar is basically the global reserve currency, a lot of foreign companies (be it from India, Bulgaria, Ecuador… you name it) have dollar bank accounts.

Since the dollar would drop in value versus basically every other currency, a lot of those companies would lose a lot of their assets too. Same (and especially) with the banks.
A whole lot of the global economic system is basically based on the stability of the dollar as a reserve currency. The US defaulting would have an effect on the entire global economic system.

I don’t want to sound like a doomsday prophet here, but if shit actually hits the fan a default would likely lead to a domino effect of banks going bankrupt. Remember when that happened with Lehman Brothers and how hard that one single bank going bankrupt shook the global financial system? We avoided a financial collapse at that point by letting the governments bail them out. Thing is, in this scenario the most (powerful) governments wouldn’t be able to bail them out either.

Then you get to the third-order effects. Banks go bankrupt. Before you all start shouting “YEAH, FUCK THE CAPITALISTS!!!”, this means that everyone who has an account with a bank (savings account, investment account or whatever) will lose their money. Companies, but the average family too.

 

***I will stress again that this is all worst-case scenario. Just keep in mind that the EU did everything it could to avoid Greece going bankrupt, and then consider the difference between the Greek economy and the US economy on a global scale. Should give you an idea of how bad it could be. This would be far worse than the Lehman Brothers collapse (many people still don’t realise how close we were to a global collapse of the economic system).


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Shutdownghazi Day 14 (Oct. 14th)

Shutdownghazi Day 14 (Oct. 14th)

This meaningless shutdown of the United States Federal Government has entered day 14 and we are still careening towards this coming Thursday’s economic default. So I guess I’ll keep annotating this international embarrassment of a continuing crisis in our government:

Thursday is not the day we hit the debt ceiling. That day, when treasury cannot authorize any additional debt, has already passed. Starting on Thursday, the treasury department can no longer guarantee that they can pay out all incoming bills.

See, for all the complaining about the government not acting like a business…it is actually surprisingly close in terms of accounting. Businesses have accounts receivable (money coming in), just like the government does with its tax revenues, and businesses have accounts payable, and so does the government with its obligations to pay interest on its debt, pay social security, federal workers paychecks, etc…

When a business has more money to pay out then it has coming in, it has three choices: 1. Take on debt to pay the difference 2. Renegotiate the debts/cut its spending 3. Go into default.

Where the business/government comparison splits is in how much easier it is for the government to choose option one or two over option three. Because a business might not be able to take out more debt (if the market doesn’t think it is credit worthy), and negotiating over its outstanding debt is incredibly difficult given the advantages creditors have in bankruptcy proceedings. Cutting spending as a business is also hard because market forces tend to make businesses run as lean as possible to begin with, so there isn’t much “fat” to cut.

The government, on the other hand, has complete control over how much it has to spend. Even if they are “legally” obligated to pay things like social security or medicare, they are also the ones who get to define what they are legally obligated to pay. So in short, if they passed a law saying they no longer have to pay social security checks…then they don’t have to pay that debt anymore.

And as far as issuing debt goes…if you are a country (like the United States) that controls its own currency…you can (short of a law saying you cant) ALWAYS take on more debt to pay your bills. The Federal reserve is obligated by law to buy whatever debt the gov’t sells it even if there is no other commercial buyers. And the Fed is able to do this because they have infinite money…ie they are the ones who “create cash”.

Both of these facts have, up until the past couple years, made US debt the absolute safest place on earth to put your money. Because if you control what you owe, and you control the money supply, then theoretically you should never have to go with option three…ie Default. And with a recessed global economy where there is more of an emphasis on a return “of” capital rather than a return “to” capital…ALOT of people/mutual funds/banks/government put their cash in US debt.

Let me insert another key concept that markets and economics depends on…the concept of the rational actor. It says that, all else being equal…people/companies/markets/governments aren’t stupid. They will choose what is best for them over other worse options. This key concept makes markets stable, because it makes all of the actions of actors in that market more predictable.

We know that Goldman Sachs wont light all of their cash on fire…because that’s bad for Goldman Sachs. We know that Toyota won’t intentionally make an exploding car…because that would be bad for Toyota.

And up until Thursday, the market knows that the US government wont intentionally not pay its bills when the penalty for doing so is so much more severe than the other options presented to it. The penalty for cutting spending is political, the penalty for issuing debt is economic but manageable (given a long list of time tested tools we have to control inflation)….the penalty for outright refusing to pay your debts are catastrophic.

So in short, what happens on Thursday when the US declares that it wont/cant honor its debts? I don’t know…what happens when Goldman Sachs decides to liquidate all of its assets and burn, literally light on fire, all of its cash?

But whatever it is….we know its not good.


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Boehner Land

Is this dude ever sober? I think not.

Of course, if I had to deal with douche bag politicians all day every day, I’d be a drunk too; or in prison for mass murder.


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Weeper of the House

Senator Harry Reid should have punched John Boehner in the throat, that’ll give him something to cry about…


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A Thought:

I really want to see John Boehner and Barack Obama fight in THUNDERDOME!!!

Two men enter, one man leaves.


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Alternative Solution?

Congress should pass the ‘Battle Royale’ act, where all our elected officials in the House of Representatives are locked in a room, all lines of communication with the outside world will be severed, and they are left in there until an agreement can be reached (or they can just kill each other off until only one remains, then that person gets to choose policy for the year.)

***The Pay Per View revenue alone would clear the deficit.***


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Yuck.

Rep. Eric Cantor reminds me of that douche bag that’s in every 80’s movie for some reason…