4/23/15: CHARADE

4/23/15: CHARADE

Fed chairman Janet Yellen’s song-and-dance about why the Fed can’t raise interest rates now is a charade.  It has nothing to do with the economy.  It has to do with civil unrest.  We are sustaining an astronomical national debt of $18.2 trillion (I ingore an additional $95.9 trillion in entitlement shortfalls.) by keeping interest rates artificially low.  If the Fed raises interest rates for banks, the U.S. will have to pay higher interest on its t-bills (currently .09% on 90-day t-bills).  Our annual interest costs on the ND now amount to about a quarter of a trillion dollars.  If interest rates were eventually to increase to historical norms by a factor of 5, our debt service would increase to $1.25 trillion (do the math).  That would absorb all of federal spending ($3.7 trillion) after Medicare ($931 billion), Social Security ($869 billion), and Defense ($596 billion)(again, do the math).  There would be nothing left for discretionary non-defense spending.  Nothing for foodstamps, aid to mothers with dependent children, the National Endowment for the Arts, the nationals parks.  Nothing.  That’s when the civil unrest will start. 

So what’s the Fed to do?  I would say, start telling us the truth and stop slinging bullshit about labor markets, productivity and wages.  The fact of the matter is the Fed can’t raise interest rates until we get our fiscal house in order, which suggests Congress must be on a short leash.  We don’t have 10 years, as all the plans seem to suggest.  The Fed can’t keep interest rates at effectively zero for another decade.  I would say Congress has no more than the end of the next President’s first term — 2020 — to reach a balanced budget, and that’s just a start.  I wonder how many Americans understand that, even then, until we achieve budget surpluses and use them to pay down the debt, we will achieve no debt reduction.  We will just be treading water. 

So how do we take just the first step and balance the budget?  Given the partisan divide in Washington, it is not possible to pick and choose programs to cut or reforms to make (like taxes).  We must take an across-the-board approch and impose spending cuts and surtaxes of equal amounts to eliminate our budget deficits.  Only then can we begin the second step of paying off the debt.  It may well not be possible.  Donald Trump says $24 trillion is the breaking point.  I have no idea where he came up with that.  $18 trillion in dollar bills can make 9 round-trips from the earth to the sun.  That’s 1800 million miles, or 1.8 trillion, or about 30% of a light year!  Think about it.  Try prozac for the resultant despair.

SO SAYS THE SENTINEL.

National Debt: $18.198 Trillion

Annual Budget Deficit (add to ND): $492.740 Billion

Annual Interest on ND (@.09%!): $242.253 Billion

Unfunded Entitlements (SS/MC/MC/OC): $95.876 Trillion

Debt per Taxpayer: $966,407  

WE ARE BANKRUPT AND INSOLVENT.

4/21/15: CAVE

4/21/15: CAVE

President Obama hinted last Friday that we will cave on the issue of sanctions to get the Iran nuke deal.  The reader will recall that, in late March, we announced an “agreement” for a gradual lifting of sanctions as Iran complies with the deal after it’s signed.  Iran said the deal was for complete lifting of all sanctions as soon as the deal is signed, irrespective of their future compliance.  And we have agreed.  That’s an abysmal cave.  We have surrendered our leverage. 

The President said no matter, because we can reinstitute sanctions in the future if Iran doesn’t comply.  He calls it “snapping back” the sanctions.  This is an illusion.  We will never get the Soviet Reunion, the Red Chinese and pink Europe to reinstitute their sanctions after they’re lifted and business starts to flow.  We have already agreed to unfreeze $50 billion in Iranian assets held in this country when the deal’s signed, which sounds like commercial bribery to me.  As soon as we release the funds, the Iranians will pull the dough.  How do we snap that back?

So now we would only attempt to reinstitute the sanctions if Iran doesn’t comply.  The key to that is instrusive inspections.  But the Iranians have already announced we cannot inspect military facilities, and civilian inspections will only occur on advance notice and with their permission.  If we cave on that, forget it.  Congress will never approve such a “deal,” and can probably override the President’s veto of their disappoval.  

I do give the President credit for sending warships off the coast of Yemen to discourage Iranian supply ships to the Houthi rebels.  It will be interesting to see how the Iranians respond.  I predict they will test this weak President, and then we will see.  A an aside, I was discouraged to hear conservative pundits say the the Presdient’s overall strategy is to concede that Iran will become a nuclear power and to install them as “hegemon” in the region.  This is against the tide of history.  Sunni Arabs (Saudi Arabia and Egypt) will never stand for a Persian (non-Arab) Shiite hegemon like Iran.  We’re on the wrong side, and the warships send a contrarian signal.  For that I am grateful, but does this President have any idea what he’s doing?  I think not.  

SO SAYS THE SENTINEL.

National Debt: $18.196 Trillion

Annual Budget Deficit (add to ND): $492.649 Billion

Annual Interest on ND (@.09%!): $242.144 Billion

Unfunded Entitlements (SS/MC/MC/OC): $95.859 Trillion

Debt per Taxpayer (ND+UE): $966,343

WE ARE BANKRUPT AND INSOLVENT, AND NOBODY CARES.

4/16/15: UCONN!!!

4/16/15: UCONN!!!

I watched both the boys and girls NCAA hoops tourneys with great interest.  You know I’m a big UConn girls fan and they won their 10th championship in 20 years, a remarkable feat.  Frankly, they weren’t as dominant as I had hoped in the final against Notre Dame, winning only by 10, but that was attributable to the ankle injury Breanna Stewart suffered in the first half.  I give her a lot of credit for still garnering 15 rebounds, and agree with her assessment that the MOP should have been Moriah Jefferson, who completely befuddled Jewell Loyd of the Irish in the second half, holding her to 4 free throws and 0 for 7 shooting.  Frankly, I came away thinking that ND has the inside track for next year, returning so many starters, until I heard Loyd has opted to go pro.  It will be UConn again easy next year, Geno’s 11th, surpassing John Wooden.  I heard one pundit say UConn is the greatest sports team in the world, and I agree.

On the boys side, I was pulling for Wisconsin but bet on Duke, which I, like many others, love to hate.  There’s another reason to hate them now, since they’ve become one-and-done just like Kentucky.  Three of Duke’s star freshman have opted for the NBA draft.  I did love the fact that Duke’s bacon was saved by a little white boy, Grayson Allen, who scored 8 straight points when Duke trailed by 9 midway through the second hald.  It was nip-and-tuck the rest of the way, and the Dukies won it. 

As for Kentucky, they barely merit an asterisk.  Notre Dame could/should have beaten them in the region finals, Wisconsin did in the F4 semis, and then Duke beat Wisconsin.  Kentucky ran it up against inferior opposition in the SEC and many of their player lack basic basketball skills.  Willie Cauley-Stein being a first team All-American is ludicrous.  Many times in the tournament he was left undefended for a midrange jumpshot, and didn’t take it but looked to pass, because he simply cannot shoot.  There’s little room in the NBA for a one-dimensional “rim protector.”  They’re all going pro, so goodbye, Big Blue, probably until their next class of freshman phenoms, due next year no doubt.  The beat goes on. 

SO SAYS THE SENTINEL.

National Debt: $18.189 Trillion

Annual Budget Deficit (add to ND): $475.575 Billion

Annual Interest on ND (@.09%!): $241.868 Billion

Unfunded Entitlements (SS/MC/MC/OC): $95.824 Trillion

Debt per Taxpayer: $966,247

WE ARE BANKRUPT AND INSOVENT, AND NOBODY CARES.         

 

4/14/15: NO DEAL

4/14/15: NO DEAL

Everybody’s in a twist about whether the Iran deal is a good deal or a bad deal.  How about no deal?  It’s all smoke and mirrors.

As a commercial lawyer for decades, I know better than most that sometimes deals are too big and complex to be struck in a single sitting.  So the parties draw up a “memorandm of  understanding,” or something like it, that reflects the essential deal points.  And they sign it.  It typically provides at the end — or it should –that the memorandum itself is not enforceable, but awaits the execution of a more detailed formal contract.  So it too is really no deal, but it at least gives the parties a pathway to a deal and allows one party to say down the road to the other, if the other seeks to renegotiate the basic principles of the deal, that you’re reneging and we walk.  That’s the way it should be done.

But because President Obama and Secretary Kerry are such rank amateurs, that isn’t at all what happened in the Iran nuke talks.  Facing a March 31 deadline, the parties did not execute a memorandum of understanding but instead issued separate “fact sheets.”  Ours was 4 pages long in English, theirs 1 page in Farsi.  That should tell you something.  And now the Ayatollahs tell us that, despite what our fact sheet says, all sanctions must come off, not gradually, but when the deal is signed and before Iran does anything to comply with it.  They further tell us that there will be no inspections of their “military” facilities at all, despite that’s where the nuke work is undoubtedly going on, and inspections of “civilian” facilities will only occur with their permission.  I repeat: no deal. 

It’s obvious that the proclamation of a deal was premature and was merely an effort to buy more time to negotiate up to the new deadline of June 30.  In the meantime, Congress should now pass the Corker/Menendez bill to give Congress a say on the final deal.  If the President vetos it, it’s a clear signal that he will never allow Congressional oversight, not merely that he regards the bill as premature.  Congress in no way impedes the negotiations between now and June 30 by stating that it wants to review the final deal after June 30.  In fact, in the world of hardball, the President should pay a price if he vetoes the bill.  Congress should then proceed to enact tougher sanctions on Iran effective immediately.  That will surely torpedo the negotiations and the President will think twice before he vetoes the oversight bill.  

A very disturbing new development occurred yesterday.  The Russians announced they will ship defensive missile systems to Iran by year’s end.  Some “partner” in the negotiations Russia is.  This is specifically intended to  deter an attack by us or Israel on the Iranian nuke sites.   This President will never strike that blow, but Israel might.  In fact, the Russian move assures that Israel will strike on July 1.  Here we go.

SO SAYS THE SENTINEL.

National Debt: $18.187 Trillion

Annual Budget Deficit (add to ND): $475.653 Billion

Annual Interest on ND: $241.760 Billion

Unfunded Entitlements (SS/MC/MC/OC): $95.806 Trillion

Debt per Taxpayer (ND+UE): $966,183

WE ARE BANKRUPT AND INSOLVENT, AND NOBODY CARES.

 

 

4/2/15: HOW ABOUT ME?

4/2/15: HOW ABOUT ME?

Indiana and Arkansas Governors Mike Pence and Asa Hutchinson are scambling over the fallout to new  laws in their states “restoring religious freedom.”  They say they’ve been misunderstood.  Bullshit!  The purpose of the laws unequivocally is to permit discrimination against gays by businesses on religious grounds, like the evangelical florist who doesn’t want to provide flowers for a gay wedding.  The Governors lack the balls to call a spade a spade because, you know what, gays have money and can vote.  It’s all about the mighty dollar.  Pence calls himself a staunch conservative but, without cujones, what is he really?

It’s kind of like the abortion debate.  Since “Roe v. Wade,” state legislatures have been busy imposing as many restrictions on abortions as the federal courts will let them get away with.  Here, anticipating a Supreme Court a ruling imposing nationwide gay marriage, the states are already at work chipping away.  Under these laws, and the laws of 20 other states and the federal government, business can refuse to serve gays on religious grounds, such as homosexuality being immoral.  But how about me?  I am not religious but think lesbianism is a waste of talent, and male anal intercourse is an abomination.  Just ask any hotel proprietor who has to wash the shit off his sheets after two gay men have been going at it.  Under these laws, I can’t refuse to serve gays because I have no “religious” objections.  I am the victim of discrimination.  How I love to shout that from the rooftops!  

It’s ironic to hear Walmart and Apple criticize these laws.  Walmart does business in 16 countries where homosexuality is a crime, and Apple thrives in 4 of those countries where it’s a capital offense.  Get caught and you die.  But listen to their CEOs wax eloquent.  Again, unlike the preborn, gays have money and can vote, and businesses hear that.  Maybe that’s the way democracy is supposed to work — money and votes talk, nobody walks.  

So what’s the legal backdrop here?  The federal government can’t legislate for the general welfare; only states can.  Under Article I of the Constitution, the fed can only tax for the general welfare.  The 14th Amendment is a limit on government action, so it doesn’t apply to the actions of private individuals.  Knowing that, the 1964 Civil Rights Act, probibiting discrimination by employers, hotels and restaurants, was sustained, ridiculously, under the Commerce Clause.  Discrimination, it seems, is bad for business.  But that law was limited to race and national origin, and made no mention of sexual orientation.  Numerous efforts to amend the law have failed, and will continue to fail as long as Republicans control the House of Representatives.  States are free to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and some have, including New Jersey.  That’s one of the reasons I moved to Tennessee.  As a private individual, I should be free to engage with whom I will.  It might comfort you to know that nothing yet prohibits you from refusing to receive blacks, browns, yellows, reds, gays, fat people, bald people, or short people in your home.  

But gays are having so much success that their next move after gay marriage will be to force every state to enact anti-dsicmination laws which protect them in the workplace and the marketplace.  And you know what, judging from Pence and Hutchinson, the states will cave.  It’s called the tyranny of the minority.  Get ready, because here we go.  

SO SAYS THE SENTINEL.        

National Debt: $18.171 Trillion

Unfunded Entitlements (SS/MC/MC/OC): $95.718 Trillion

Debt per Taxpayer (ND+UE): $965,926

Annual Interest on ND: $241.100 Billion

Annual Budget Deficit: $476.128 Billion

WE ARE BANKRUPT AND INSOLVENT, AND NOBODY CARES.   

 

 

 

3/31/15: FREEDOM OR LICENSE?

3/31/15: FREEDOM OR LICENSE?

I’m no prude but even I was more than a little shocked by the cover to this year’s “Sports Illustrated Suimsuit Edition.”  It depicts a frontal view of stunningly attractive female in a skimpy bikini, pulling her suit bottom straight down.  Little is left to the imagination, except perhaps how much of her vagina  is shaved.  Is this the “freedom” our soldiers die for?  Maybe in your country, but not mine. 

I had hoped women’s liberation would bring us more female doctors, lawyers and CEOs, maybe even a President.  What it seems to have brought us is more women  willing to be objectified more than ever for money.  There’s a word for that — sluts.  No doubt these so-called “supermodels” are highly paid, but is this what we want our daughters to aspire to?  TV newsreaders — and even Hillary Clinton, who wants to be our next President, on the Senate floor no less — flash cleavage to generate ratings.  It’s completely unprofessional.  Go to any public high school in the spring and fall, and you’d think you’d entered the Playboy Mansion.  It seems the real bounties of women’s lib are pornography, abortion and lesbianism.  No, thanks.  

Radical Islam surely goes too far in the other direction, dressing their women in burkhas and forbidding contact with males outside the family.  Common decency lies, I suspect, somewhere in between.  Many in the religious right believe that God’s will is being done on earth.  Isn’t it possible that jihadism is God’s scourge upon us for for pornography, abortion, homosexuality and our debt (see below).  We’re soiling the world, and that’s one of the reasons the crazies want us dead.  As Jesus says repeatedly in the Gospels, “Can you not read the signs?”

SO SAYS THE SENTINEL.

National Debt: $18.169 Trillion

Unfunded Entitlements (SS/MC/MC/OC): $95.702 Trillion

Debt per Taxpayer (ND+UE): $965,865

Annual Interest on Debt (@.12%!): $240.996 Billion

Annual Budget Deficit: $476.203 Billion

WE ARE BANKRUPT AND INSOLVENT, AND NOBODY CARES.

3/26/15: TIME TO RESIGN

3/26/15: TIME TO RESIGN

I really wanted to give the Obama administration some credit for the decision to maintain troop levels in Afghanistan at about 10,000 through the end of the year.  This was the request of the new Afghan leader on a visit to Washington and, boy, was he a breath of fresh air after that asshole, Karzi!  The new leader went out of his way repeatedly to thank the administration, our soldiers and even the American taxpayer for our support.  

But then the Army decided to press desertion charges against Bo Bergdahl after the idiot, Susan Rice, praised him for his service “with honor and distinction.”  His “distinction” was abandoning his post after mailing his stuff home to go over to the Taliban.  If there is a principle that we should bring every boy home, it does not extend to deserters.  And the administration knew he was a deserter before they made the deal to trade the Taliban Five for Bergdahl.  Their so-called “house arrest” in Qatar expires in May, and they will be back in the fray killing American boys in Afghanistan in a heartbeat.  Quite a deal.  That said, I think a dishonorable discharge is enough for Bergdahl.  The Taliban didn’t like him either and treated him harshly for 5 years.  That’s enough punishment, though I find it particularly troubling that 6 of our boys may have died looking for him after he ran.  Had he been found, I’d like to think his commaning officer would have had the balls to stand him up against a wall and execute him on the spot for desertion in the face of the enemy. 

Worse yet is the administration’s decision to support Iran and its Shiite militias with air strikes against Tikrit.  We are now on the side of Iran, which is opposed by our allies, Saudi Arabia and Israel.  The Saudis have even launched air strikes against Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen.  We could have done nothing and let the Sunnis (SA) and Shiites (Persian not Arab Iran) fight to the death, something they have been wanting to do for 1500 (yes, 1500) years.  Or we could have come in to support  the Sunnis somehow somewhere.  But no, we have chosen to support Iran and the Shias, who are probably slaughtering Sunnis in Tikrit and plan to do so in Mosul.  

Obama’s motive here surely is not to support Iraq; he doesn’t care about Iraq or he wouldn’t have withdrawn all our troops in 2011.  No, the President is currying favor with Iran so they’ll make some kind of deal with him on their nukes, however bad from our perspective.  The deal under consideration is opposed by everyone, and that my friend is tantamount to treason.  The situation in the Middle East is so far gone it’s time for the President to condider resigning.  But he’s too busy playing golf in Hawaii and planning his Presidential Library in Chicago.  Dick Cheney was nearly right: this is the worst President, not merely in our lifetimes, but in the history of the Republic.

SO SAYS THE SENTINEL.

National Debt: $18.163 Trillion

Unfunded Entitlements (SS/MC/MC/OC): $95.667 Trillion

Debt per Taxpayer (ND+UE): $965,776

Annual Interest on ND (@.1%!): $240.718 Billion

Annual Budget Deficit: $476.403 Billion

WE ARE BANKRUPT AND INSOLVENT, AND NOBODY CARES.                  

 

 

 

3/24/15: REALPOLITIK

3/24/15: REALPOLITIK

Forget whether we should have invaded Iraq to depose Saddam in 2003.  We probably shouldn’t have.  Forget whether we should have withdrawn our troops from Iraq in  2011.  We probably shouldn’t.  Forget whether we should have backed the “moderate” Syrian opposition in 2012.  We probably should have.  Forget whether we should have “led from behind” to depose Qaddafi in Libya the same year.  We probably shouldn’t have.  All we did was to feed into instability in all three cases, and expose the Sunni/Shia split which is roiling the entire region.  The question is: what do we do now?   

Nothing, I suggest.  If we fight against Sunni ISIS, we’re helping Shia Iran, which is on the verge of a nuclear bomb.  If we fight against Iran, we’re helping ISIS.  Let ISIS and Iran fight it out, and they will.  Iran will surely win, given their complete military superiority.  I don’t think the Saudis will let this happen without a fight.  There is no doubt in my mind that, threatening as ISIS is, the Sunni Saudis are funneling cash and weapons to ISIS because they know the real enemy is Shia Iran.  Lest we symphathize for SA’s plight, remember that 18 of the 20 hijackers on 9/11 were Saudis, as was the kingpin of al Qaeda, Usama bin Laden.  We don’t need their oil, or wouldn’t if our President would stop prattling on about global warming/climate change (which is it?) and green energy.  We can become the world’s leading energy supplier overnight, and that’s a good position to be in.  

So what do we care about?  Israel, Egypt and Jordan.  Those are our vital interests.  As for the rest, let them kill each other, and let Allah sort them out.

SO SAYS THE SENTINEL.

National Debt: $18.161 Trillion

Unfunded Entitlements (SS/MC/MC/OC): $95.649 Trillion

Debt per Taxpayer (ND+UE): $965,720

Annual Interest on Debt (@.1%!): $240.612 Billion

Annual Budget Deficit: $476.480 Billion

WE ARE BANKRUPT AND INSOLVENT, AND NOBODY’S TALKING ABOUT IT.