Belle of Liberty

Letting Freedom Ring

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Never Give Up

Yesterday was the anniversary of the beginning of World War I. Over 42 million on both sides died in the conflict. Serving in the British Army was John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, the future author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

The Wall Street Journal might be interested to know that this future Oxford professor’s name was believed to be of German origin, meaningly foolishly brave or stupidly clever. He was born in South Africa to Arthur Reuel Tolkien, a bank clerk, and Mabel Suffield. Both came from England’s West Midlands.

Ronald’s (as he was called by the family) father died when he was abou four and the family returned to England. The landscape of South Africa influenced his description of Middle Earth. The West Midlands in Tolkien's childhood were a complex mixture of the grimly industrial Birmingham and the quintessentially rural stereotype of England, Worcestershire and surrounding areas.

Tolkien's life was split between these two: the then very rural hamlet of Sarehole, with its mill, just south of Birmingham; and darkly urban Birmingham itself, where he was eventually sent to King Edward's School. By then the family had moved to King's Heath, where the house backed onto a railway line - young Ronald's developing linguistic imagination was engaged by the sight of coal trucks going to and from South Wales bearing destinations like “Nantyglo,” “Penrhiwceiber” and “Senghenydd.”

In 1904, Mabel Tolkien was diagnosed as having diabetes, usually fatal in those pre-insulin days. She died on Nov. 14  of that year, leaving Ronald and his brother Hilary orphaned and destitute. At this point, a priest by the name of Father Francis charge of them, and made sure of their material as well as spiritual welfare, although in the short term they were boarded with an unsympathetic aunt-by-marriage, Beatrice Suffield, and then with a Mrs Faulkner.

By this time, Ronald was already showing remarkable linguistic gifts. He had mastered the Latin and Greek which was the staple fare of a classical education at that time, and was becoming more than competent in a number of other languages, both modern and ancient, notably Gothic, and later Finnish. He was already busy making up his own languages, purely for fun. He had also made a number of close friends at King Edward's; in his later years at school they met regularly after hours as the “T. C. B. S.” (Tea Club, Barrovian Society, named after their meeting place at the Barrow Stores) and they continued to correspond closely and exchange and criticise each other's literary work until 1916.

He went to Exeter College, Oxford in 1911, where he stayed, immersing himself in the Classics, Old English, the Germanic languages (especially Gothic), Welsh and Finnish, until 1913. He then obtained a disappointing second class degree in Honour Moderations, the “midway” stage of a 4-year Oxford “Greats” (i.e. Classics) course, although with an “alpha plus” in philology. As a result of this, he changed his major from Classics to the more congenial English Language and Literature. One of the poems he discovered in the course of his Old English studies was the Crist of Cynewulf - he was amazed especially by the cryptic couplet:

Eálá Earendel engla beorhtast
Ofer middangeard monnum sended
- Hail Earendel brightest of angels, over Middle Earth sent to men. (“Middangeard” was a ancient expression for the everyday world between Heaven above and Hell below.)

He used the poem as his inspiration for his trilogy.

Meanwhile, World War I had broken out in August 1914. Unlike so many of his contemporaries, Tolkien did not rush to join up immediately on the outbreak of war, but returned to Oxford, where he worked hard and finally achieved a first-class degree in June 1915. At this time, he was also working on various poetic attempts, and on his invented languages, especially one that he came to call Qenya (which would become the language of the Elves of Middle-Earth), which was heavily influenced by Finnish - but he still felt the lack of a connecting thread to bring his vivid but disparate imaginings together.

Tolkien finally enlisted as a second lieutenant in the Lancashire Fusiliers whilst working on ideas of Earendel  the Mariner, who became a star, and his journeyings. For many months Tolkien was kept in boring suspense in England, mainly in Staffordshire. Finally it appeared that he must soon embark for France, and he and long-time love Edith Brath married in Warwick on March 22, 1916.

Eventually he was indeed sent to active duty on the Western Front, just in time for the Somme offensive. After four months in and out of the trenches, he succumbed to "trench fever", a form of typhus-like infection common in the insanitary conditions, and in early November was sent back to England, where he spent the next month in hospital in Birmingham. By Christmas he had recovered sufficiently to stay with Edith at Great Haywood in Staffordshire.

During these last few months, all but one of his close friends of the “T. C. B. S.” had been killed in action. Partly as an act of piety to their memory, but also stirred by reaction against his war experiences, he had already begun to put his stories into shape, . . .. in huts full of blasphemy and smut, or by candle light in bell-tents, even some down in dugouts under shell fire [ Letters 66]. This ordering of his imagination developed into the Book of Lost Tales (not published in his lifetime), in which most of the major stories of the Silmarillion appear in their first form: tales of the Elves and the “Gnomes,” (i. e. Deep Elves, the later Noldor), with their languages Qenya and Goldogrin. Here are found the first recorded versions of the wars against Morgoth, the siege and fall of Gondolin and Nargothrond, and the tales of Túrin and of Beren and Lúthien.

Throughout 1917 and 1918 his illness kept recurring, although periods of remission enabled him to do home service at various camps sufficiently well to be promoted to lieutenant. It was when he was stationed at Hull that he and Edith went walking in the woods at nearby Roos, and there in a grove thick with hemlock Edith danced for him. This was the inspiration for the tale of Beren and Lúthien, a recurrent theme in his “Legendarium.”. He came to think of Edith as "Lúthien" and himself as "Beren". Their first son, John Francis Reuel (later Father John Tolkien) had already been born on 16 November 1917.

When the Armistice was signed on 11 November 1918, Tolkien had already been putting out feelers to obtain academic employment, and by the time he was demobilised he had been appointed Assistant Lexicographer on the New English Dictionary (the "Oxford English Dictionary"), then in preparation. While doing the serious philological work involved in this, he also gave one of his Lost Tales its first public airing - he read The Fall of Gondolin to the Exeter College Essay Club, where it was well received by an audience which included Neville Coghill and Hugo Dyson, two future “Inklings.” However, Tolkien did not stay in this job for long. In the summer of 1920 he applied for the quite senior post of Reader (approximately, Associate Professor) in English Language at the University of Leeds, and to his surprise was appointed.

Tolkien was deeply influenced by his experiences in the trenches of World War I. Supposedly, the scene at the climax of the movie after Frodo destroys the ring where Sam laments that he couldn’t have married his sweetheart, Rosie, is based on a mortally wounded soldier in the trenches lament for his life that wouldn’t be.

Tolkien would later go on to become a professor of Old English at Oxford and to write his famous trilogy, The Lord of the Rings. There was a long period between the publication of The Hobbit, which he wrote for his children and came out in 1937, and the more extensive and complicated The Lord of the Rings, which was published in 1954. The story was taken up by the Hippie Generations in the 1960s because of Tolkien’s environmentalism and dismay at industrialization.

Then, in 2001, Peter Jackson produced the first of a film adaptation of the trilogy. The film came out a mere two months after 9/11; its story of heroism, loyalty, duty, sacrifice in the battle of good versus evil capture the hearts of a new and entirely different generation.

That’s not to say that Liberals weren’t dismayed by its message of fighting the good fight. Nor were they pleased with Tolkien’s Christianized themes. Now, ten years after the first came out, Liberals and RINOs would like those who took the film’s message to heart and embraced its courage to go quietly back into their hobbit holes.

The problem, Wall Street Journal and Sen. McCain, is that we haven’t yet defeated Mordor. A very interesting note about WSJ’s editor-in-chief, Robert Thomson, is that he’s married to Wang Ping, the daughter of a general in the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.

If we Tea Party members are the hobbits, then Sen. McCain is very much in the vein of Saruman, the head of the Wizard order who betrays the Fellowship of the Ring to Sauron. I read the Lord of the Rings many years ago, when I first started college and I was instantly hooked. If reading the Lord of the Rings makes its readers schizophrenic, then let’s have more of the malady.

The character Treebeard, the Tree-Herder, tells us of Saruman:

“Saruman was reckoned great among [the Wizards]… He was very quiet to begin with but then his fame began to grow. He was chosen to be the head of the White Council, they say; but that did not turn out too well. I wonder now if even then Saruman was not turning to evil ways….There was a time when he was always walking in my woods.. He was polite in those days, always asking my leave…and always eager to listen. I told him many things that he would never hae found out by himself; but he never repaid me in like kind. I cannot remember that he ever told me anything. And he got more and more llike that; his face…became like windows in a stone wall; windows with shutters inside. I think that I now understand what he is up to. He is plotting to become a Power. He has a mind of metal and wheels; and he does not care for growing things, except as far as they serve him for the moment.”

Earlier on, Gandalf, having been captured by Saruman but escaping, tells the Council of Elrond (who are deciding what to do with and about the Ring of Power):

“I saw that [Saruman’s] robes, which had seemed white, were not so, but were woven of all colours, and if he moved, they shimmered and changed hue so that the eye was bewildered.
“‘I liked white better,’ I said.
“’White!’ he sneered. “It serves as a beginning. White cloth may be dyed. The white page can be overwritten, and the white light can be broken.’
“’In which case, it is no longer white,’ said I. “And he that breaks a thing to find out what it is has left the path of wisdom.”
“’You need not speak to me as to one of the fools that you take for your friends,’ said he. “’I have not brought you hither to be instructed by you, but to give you a choice.’
“He drew himself up then and began to declaim, as if he were making a speech long rehearsed. ‘The Elder Days are gone. The Middle Days are passing. The Younger Days are beginning. The time of the Elves is over, but our time is at hand: the world of Men, which We must rule. But must have power, power to order all things as we will, for that good which only the Wise can see.
"'And listen, Gandalf, my old friend and helper!’ he said, coming near and speaking now in a softer voice. “I said we, for we it may be, if you will join with me. A new Power is rising. Against it the old allies and policies will not avail us at all. There is no hope left… This then, is one choice befor eyou, before us. We may join with that Power. It would be wise, Gandalf. There is hope that way. Its victory is at hand, and there will be rich reward for those that aided it. As the Power grows, its proved friends will also grow; and the Wise, such as you and I, may with patience come at last to direct its courses, to control it. We can bide our time, we can keep our thoughts in our hearts, deploring maybe evils done by the way, but approving the high and ultimate purpose: Knowledge, Rule, Order.”

Gandalf rejects Saruman’s offer and leads the Fellowship as far as he can before he dies defending them in the Mines of Moria. The Wizard is resurrected to complete his mission. Gandalf takes over Saruman’s place and casts him out of the wizard order. The rest of the party listens as Saruman parleys with Gandalf.

“So great was the power that Saruman exerted in this last effort that none that stood within hearing were unmoved. But now the spell was wholly different. They heard the gentle remonstrance of a kindly king with an erring but much-loved minister. But they were shut out, listening at a door to wrods not meant for them: ill-mannered children or stupid servants overhearing the elusive discourse of their elders, and wondering how it would affect their lot. Of loftier mould these two were made: reverend and wise. It was ineivtable that they should make alliance. Gandalf would ascend into the tower, to discuss deep things beyond their comprehension.”

But Gandalf merely laughs at Saruman. Saruman angrily refuses to surrender the keys to the tower of Orthanc:

“Do not be a fool. If you wish to treat with me, while you have a chance, go away and come back when you are sober! And leave behind these cut-throats and small rag-tag that dangle at your tail. Good day!” He turned and left the balcony.

In the Wall Street Journal’s and Sen. McCain’s insults, we hear the words of the fictional Saruman of The Lord of the Rings. Is that the way they view the ultimate sacrifice millions of service people have made? Just average doughboys in World War I, most fresh off the farm or out of the tenements. Are we all just rag-tag chess pieces to be sacrificed at their whim? Despite what you may have heard, our military men and women didn’t just sacrifice their lives to save their comrades-in-arms; they sacrificed their lives so that the others could continue the fight. Just look up the Medal of Honor records of any of the recipients in the Korena War. You’ll find countless heroes who charged uphill to take out fortified enemy positions so the rest of the troops could continue on to capture the hill.

Finally, as Sam and Frodo approach Mount Doom, with Frodo barely able to walk or talk, Sam wonders to himself what they’re going to do:

“Frodo had not spoken to him much of his errnad, and Sam only knew vaguely that the Ring had somehow to be put into the fire. ‘The Cracks of Doom,’ he muttered, the old name rising to his mind. ‘Well, if Master knows how to find them, I don’t.’
“’There you are!’ came the answer. ‘It’s all quite useless. He said so himself. You are the fool, going on hoping and toiling. You could have laid down and gone to sleep days ago I fyou hadn’t been so dogged. But you’ll die just the same, or worse. You might just as well lie down now and give it up. You’ll never get to the top anyway.’

“’I’ll get there, if I leave everything but my bones behind,’ said Sam. ‘And I’ll carry Mr. Frodo up myself, if it breaks my back and heart. So stop arguing!’”

Friday, July 29, 2011

Pundit Panic

The Conservative pundits are in a panic this morning over the fear that right-wing Conservatives might jeopardize our chances of winning the 2012 election, and that in the long-run we’ll be far worse off than we were.  Mona Charen at National Review warns us:  “Don’t blow it!”  Charles Krauthamer and Thomas Sowell agree – that Boehner’s plan is a pretty good deal and we’ve gotten more than we’d ever hoped for, considering we only hold one-half of one of the three branches of government, only a small majority of that is governed by Conservatives.

I couldn’t agree more that if we go past that Aug. 2nd deadline and Obama refuses to pay that debt, that the Tea Party will be blamed for the economic disaster (no loans for businesses, cars, mortgages, an abysmal credit rating, overseas creditors refusing to loan the U.S. money, and so forth).

Charen cites the tactics by which the Progressives achieved universal health care (Obamacare) – one piece, one little victory at a time, the way Washington won the Revolutionary War.  George Washington and Benjamin Franklin did not approve of the 1773 Boston Tea Party.  Franklin, in particular, also felt that time was on the side of the Colonists.  Eventually, the Colonists would outnumber the English in population and find the Colonists taking over their Parliament.  Which is why we had no representation there.  Without representation, there was no hope of freedom from Britain, no matter how many people lived here.

Our trade was heavily regulated in England’s favor.  Americans couldn’t even manufacture goods for themselves; they had to buy everything exclusively from England.  They used to taxes to regulate everything.  Yes, they finally gave in on every tax, except for tea, which was supposed to be a symbolic compromise.  Franklin, when he learned of the tea party, was extremely annoyed.  Washington was said to be furious.

As with every revolution, someone considered a “hothead” lights the match and starts things going.  More sober minds cluck their tongues, complaining that a compromise would have eventually been reached, that the hotheads are overreacting.  They deplore the ensuing violence – although what “violence” has ensued is hard to see – and bloodshed.  Wiser heads should prevail.

Wiser heads prevailed during the eventual takeover of health care.  Initially, Americans were angry and refused to pass it.  Wiser heads, worrying over elections and press coverage, intervened and worked out “compromises” with the Democrats until we were saddled with Obamacare, not to mention the Stimulus/Porkulus buy-outs.

We’re sorry if Messrs. Krauthamer and Sowell, and Ms. Caren have a headache.  Krauthamer and Sowell are respected economists.  Constituent anger stopped HillaryCare in its tracks; Media hype about Conservative “anger” stoked the fires of propaganda, and wiser heads, thinking our reputations were at stake, wisely “compromised” with the Democrats, figuring they could starve Obamacare out.  That’s what they told us.  Only they can’t.  Paying for Obamacare is part of this compromise package we’re supposed to meekly accept.

The Tea Parties do have to fight harder.  We don’t have the luxury of nibbling away as the Democrats have.  There is no compliant, treacherous cohort on their side of the aisle, willing to compromise the Progressive agenda.  They’re totally committed to it.  They have the armor of a compliant, propaganda press, and a bought-off entitlement class of voters who will never, ever vote against them.  A best, we’ll only ever be able to fight them to a stalemate and only if every single Republican voter is brave enough to stand their ground, and obviously they’re not.  That’s the reality from down here.

Are we supposed to cry for the RINOs who fear they might lose an election; RINOs who’ve aided and abetted the enemy in putting us in this position?  When I was in high school, I threw my American History II grade rather than submit to a subversive curriculum extolling the virtues of Communism.  My parents were furious.  They predicted all sorts of calamity.  I wouldn’t be able to get in a good school.  There would be a bad mark on my name.  It wouldn’t change anything; this teacher was union-protected and would just continue on his ideological march.  Indeed, his whole purpose for usurping U.S. History was to convince the school board to make World History (where the teaching of Communism belong) a graduation requirement for all students.

If Obama and the Democrats win this battle – and they probably will, an event I don’t predict lightly or gladly – it won’t be because a minority of Conservative Republicans stood up for their principles; it will be because a majority of compromised Republicans didn’t.

Debt-Defying Tea Partiers

Last night was a proud moment for the Tea Party movement, even though the battle is far from over concerning the debt-ceiling.  Well-done Tea Party activists, groups (a particular nod to FreedomWorks and their kin for keeping us informed), and Congressional representatives.  As soon as we heard the word about the 5:45 (EDT) vote, we were on the phone to various friends to call their representatives.

The Progressives have fired every weapon in their arsenal at us:  we’re going to destroy the country; we’re going to destroy the world; the country will be in default if we don’t compromise (read “surrender”) by Aug. 2nd; even Ronald Reagan compromised and raised the debt ceiling; Tea Partiers are hobbits in an adventure movie will go home once we’ve defeated the evil Sauron (if we’re hobbits, and the Democrats are Sauron, then certainly the RINO Republicans are the traitor Saruman or the vacillating, cowardly Denethor, steward of Gondor who refuses to fight against the overwhelming armies of Mordor).

Conservative experts assure us that any Boehner bill will inevitably become the Reid bill, totally unrecognizable once the Senator puts his imprimatur on it.  Essentially, the Democrats will have carte blanche to carry on as usual.

According to RedState, “On Tuesday, Sen. Pat Toomey offered a bill that would prioritize spending to minimize the disruption to debt service, Social Security checks and military pay in the event a debt deal isn’t reached by next week.

“There are far more than enough resources for the administration to make these payments and, frankly, many others,” said the Pennsylvania Republican. "Already, 31 senators are on board for the Full Faith and Credit Act.”

Meanwhile, it is the Democrats, not the Tea Partiers, who are giving the nation headaches, as they know well enough.  Not being informed, the general public doesn’t know what’s going on and doesn’t want to know.  They’ve become so accustomed to Progressive dictates, that they don’t believe there’s any reason to debate.  Surrender is the much easier option.

At the very end of Glenn Beck’s Original Arguments, he publishes a letter from John Jay to the citizens of New York, written in 1788.  New York was a hold-out in signing onto the U.S. Constitution.  At the end of the letter, Jay writes:

“If the people of our nation, instead of consenting to be governed by laws of their own making, and rulers of their own choosing, should let licentiousness, disorder, and confusion reign over them, the minds of men everywhere will insensibly become alienated from republican forms, and prepared to prefer and acquiesce in governments which, though less friendly to liberty, afford more peace and security.”

Everyone should read “Original Arguments” to realize just how far we have strayed from the original intent of the Founding Fathers.  If you’re a Beck-hater, then you can always read the Federalist Papers themselves.  Beck does give a handy reference guide to the Constitution and the number of the essays in the Federalist Papers which give the supporting arguments for the various articles of the Constitution.

The GOP has a real problem of division within its ranks.  Fear, intimidation, brainwashing and drugs have made a muddle of the younger generations.  They know what’s happening is wrong, but they’re afraid of fighting, of being “unpopular” or ostracized by their peers, as though they were still in the eighth grade.  Harry Reid is the proverbial schoolyard bully, lining up with his gang to make sure the weaker kids know that fighting them is pointless.  Boehner reminds me of my wimpy younger brother who had to be taught by our mother how to stand up and fight the bully beating him up as he went about his business of delivering the local newspaper.

I knew my brother.  I knew he’d give in unless someone was there to urge him on and remind him.  That is our job, Tea Partiers, to make those calls to our House representatives and senators to remind them that they must stand firm, no matter how tightly the enemies of The One close ranks, beat their Media drums, and thump their chests.  We are the younger brothers and sisters, the hobbits, dwarves, Elves, and Men (and Women – remember Eowyn) who united themselves against a common enemy.

The Wall Street Journal (of all papers), Sen. McCain, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi think we’re bothersome little gnats on the path of progress, to be contemptuously swept away by their mighty hands.  I would remind you, then, of an even older story:  David and Goliath.

The fight is not over, but the days are growing.  There are ways to pay the debt.  If I understand the experts correctly, if the House sends no ball over to the Senate for Harry to play with, since he’s already defeated one and has vowed not to pass the other, he’s telling us it’s his way or the highway.  Compromise is just handy of way of doing things their way.  Call their bluff.  Call your Congressional representatives again – they’re planning another 10 a.m. meeting in which Boehner will try to flex his House Speaker muscle and strong-arm the Tea Party/Conservative Republicans.  We may be hobbits, but with our help, our representatives will have the weight and clout to resist another cave-in to Progressive lies.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

A False Ceiling Alarm

As the House of Representatives prepares to vote on Boehner’s debt-ceiling plan, Conservative pundits are warning that the whole debt-ceiling/credit rating crisis is a false alarm.  They’re saying Obama’s trying to shove this tax-laden, blank check proposal through before the “hobbits” get wise to him.

Here’s what FreedomWorks has to say about the Boehner plan:

FreedomWorks and a broad coalition of fiscal conservatives strongly oppose the plan.  Why would fiscally conservative citizens oppose a plan that claims to reduce spending? Wouldn’t defeat of the Boehner plan just help President Obama and the Democrats, who want to raise taxes? Why should Americans take action to support the “Cut Cap Balance” (CCB) Act and oppose the Boehner plan? For at least 10 reasons:

1. The Boehner “debt and tax hike” plan is a typical Washington establishment cop-out. The Boehner plan, alas, is just another Washington establishment deal that simply kicks the can down the road and continues to pile a mountain of debt on our children. Our national debt currently stands at $14.3 trillion.  Even if all the Boehner plan’s promised spending trims occur, which is doubtful, in 10 years’ time the national debt will be $23 trillion instead of $24 trillion. 

2. The Boehner plan raises taxes. The Boehner plan creates a “Super Committee” of 12 members of Congress, who will be empowered to come up with a plan next year to reduce the deficit by $1.8 trillion over 10 years.  Four leaders will get to appoint 3 members, each, to the Super Committee: Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, John Boehner, and Mitch McConnell.  The Super Committee’s bill will get an up-or-down vote in both Houses of Congress, with no amendments.

If the Super Committee’s bill is rejected, the debt limit cannot be raised, triggering another “crisis” like the current one; but if the Super Committee’s bill passes, the debt will automatically go up by a whopping $1.6 trillion.  We are absolutely confident that the Super Committee will have at least 7 members – a majority – who will agree to include tax hikes.  Therefore, the Super Committee will raise our taxes, end of discussion.  Some Republicans are hoping the Super Committee will lower tax rates as well, but this is a slender reed to cling to. It’s no accident that congressional Democrats are strongly supporting the Super Committee. They are confident it will raise our net tax burden.  In addition to representing a threat to taxpayers, the Super Committee is also a terrible way to legislate.  It’s a bad idea in principle and should be stopped, regardless of whether it would raise taxes. 

3. The Boehner plan empowers the President to raise the debt ceiling automatically.  Under the Boehner plan, the President would be allowed to raise the debt limit by $400 billion, as soon as the plan becomes law.  This is a bad idea, and would set a troubling precedent. The idea, known as the McConnell-Reid automatic debt hike, is a politically motivated scheme to cede to the President the power to raise the debt ceiling automatically, if he sends the Congress a letter saying he needs the money. The goal is to fool the voters into thinking the President, not Congress, is responsible for future increases in the debt. Besides being too transparent to succeed as a political ploy, it’s also constitutionally problematic. The Constitution gives Congress, and only Congress, the power to authorize borrowing on the credit of the United States. Congress cannot constitutionally delegate that power to the President. Before World War I, every new debt issue was authorized by a separate act of Congress. Since World War I, as a convenience, Congress has given the President a limited ability to borrow on his own initiative, up to a statutory level set in statute (the current limit is $14.3 trillion).  

Under the McConnell-Reid automatic debt hike proposal, the President could actually raise that limit on his own initiative, by sending a letter to Congress saying he needs the money. To be sure, Congress would still set a limit on how much he could borrow, but the scheme would make it possible for Congress to avoid having to vote on it, and in principle, Congress could set the limit so high that it would be tantamount to delegating its borrowing power to the Executive. We should not start down this path. 

4. The CCB Act is the only plan that will avert a debt downgrade. Of all the plans being discussed – Boehner, Reid, Gang of Six, and CCB – only CCB would preserve our government triple-A credit rating.  Of all the plans, only CCB actually deals with the national debt in a real way. Only CCB = AAA. 

5. CCB is the only plan that stops the growth of our national debt. Unlike other plans, CCB meets the criteria set forth by Standard & Poor’s, which is that the debt must be stabilized as a share of our economy. Right now, U.S. government publicly held debt equals about 69 percent of GDP.  It is on a trajectory to hit 100 percent of GDP by the end of this decade – which would likely cause higher interest rates and produce a measurable drag on economic growth.  (For reference, troubled Greece’s debt-to-GDP ration is 150%.) The way to stabilize debt accumulation is to keep your annual deficits lower than your annual GDP growth rate.  GDP is currently growing at between 2 and 3 percent a year.  Our deficit currently stands at a staggering 10 percent of GDP.  CCB is the only plan that would reduce spending significantly, reducing outlays by $111 billion in 2012 and about $7.5 trillion over the decade.  We will need at least that much in savings, to have any hope of balancing the budget within 10 years. If we only reduce spending by $4 trillion, as President Obama and the Gang of Six have suggested, the debt-to-GDP ratio would slow down, halt, and begin to decline within the decade; but we would not balance the budget.  Boehner’s plan tries to save a mere $2.8 trillion.  And no plan can guarantee all its promised savings will actually materialize, unless we bind future Congresses with a constitutional amendment.  

6. CCB is the only plan that actually tries to change the way Washington spends. CCB has three components: 1) Substantial first-year savings; 2) binding caps to move us toward balance; and 3) a strong Balanced Budget Amendment (BBA).  The genius of CCB is that it links the debt ceiling hike to congressional approval of a strong BBA. No BBA, no debt hike. The lack of such linkage is a fata flaw in all other plans, including the Boehner plan. Without a strong BBA to Bind future Congresses, there’s no guarantee savings promised today will materialize tomorrow.  By a strong BBA, we mean one that makes it much harder for Congress to borrow or to raise taxes or the national debt. 

7. CCB is the only plan that has actually passed a House of Congress.  H.R.2560 passed the House last week a comfortable, bipartisan majority of 234 to 190.  Senator Harry Reid immediately moved to table it in the Senate, and succeeded, 51 to 46.  Adding 234 to 46 gives you a “Gang of 280” legislators who have put a real plan before the America People.  CCB is still “alive” from a parliamentary standpoint. But the Washington establishment is determined to dismiss and ignore CCB, calling it “dead.”  If CCB is “dead,” so is the Boehner plan, since 53 Senate Democrats have sent Speaker Boehner a letter saying they will vote against it. 

8. CCB is supported by 66% of voters.  A recent poll showed Americans support the CCB concept by an overwhelming margin of 2 to 1.  A similar margin opposes the McConnell-Reid automatic debt hike scheme, which is a part of the Boehner plan. 

9. We have time to get this right. August 2nd isn’t a real deadline. It’s an artificial deadline created by the Obama Administration, in hopes of scaring Congress into giving him a big debt limit increase before the next round of the yearly budget fight begins. The U.S. Treasury has enough reserves that it should be able to go past August 2nd easily.  A number of fiscal experts believe we can get to August 15th and possibly even into September without a debt limit increase, thanks to higher than expected revenues, plus certain reserves, including $5 billion in cash at the Federal Reserve and about $100 billion in mortgage-backed securities that the Treasury Secretary can sell.

But even if Treasury does run out of cash by August 2, the U.S. will still be able to pay its creditors on time. The U.S. will not default under any circumstances.  We will also be able to send checks to seniors, doctors, hospitals, veterans, and active-duty military.  The math is simple. There will still be about $170 billion to $200 billion coming in each month.  Paying creditors costs $30 billion a month. Social Security checks total about $50 billion. Doctors and hospitals, $50 billion. Veterans, $3 billion. Soldiers, $3 billion. Those commitments add up to about $136 billion a month.  Because we currently spend about $300 billion a month, when the cash runs out, we will have to pause some government functions as we negotiate a new fiscal arrangement – but the world will not end. Again, The US will not default in any scenario.

Since we currently borrow about 43 cents of every dollar we spend, at the federal level, Uncle Sam will need to prioritize.  The President will be the one to make the decisions. He can choose whether to send out Social Security checks, whether to pay our soldiers, whether to pay our creditors. He has pretty much complete discretion. 

A downgrade of US treasuries from AAA to AA – which would be almost inevitable if the Boehner plan passes – would in theory cause the interest rates charged by creditors for buying them to go up.  But experts on Wall Street aren’t sure by how much rates would go up.  Some think any rise in interest rates has already occurred, in anticipation of a failure to turn the government’s fiscal ship around.  Others think that the rise will be small, because AA is still a good crediting rating, all things considered.  And some think the rise in interest rates will be significant – perhaps as much as 300 basis points, or 3%.  That would put a real pinch on U.S. government finances, and would also eventually ripple out through the entire economy, causing everybody’s borrowing costs to rise, not just the government’s.

10. The CCB Act is the only plan that makes any political or policy sense at this point.  Only CCB actually addresses the problem.  Only CCB actually averts a downgrade.  Only CCB has the support of two-thirds of the public. Only CCB has passed the House.  CCB only needs 2 more votes in the Senate to have a majority there as well.  The Democrats have essentially presented no plans.  Republicans have already passed two (the Ryan Budget and CCB). Why are Republicans taking “No” for an answer from Harry Reid and President Obama?
This is no time to kick the can down the road. The big picture is this: This fight is not about raising the debt ceiling. It’s about getting the debt under control. Which means getting Washington spending under control. The real threat our economy, our nation’s credit rating, and the health of our financial markets is not a political failure to raise the debt ceiling – it’s our massive national debt. Our federal government currently borrows 43 centers of every dollar it spends.  We have doubled the size of our national debt in the past five years, and are on track to double it again in the next ten years. This has got to stop. Many economists say we are within just a few years of a major debt crisis, akin to what’s happening in Greece and elsewhere in Europe.  But while Greece has Germany and France (and the U.S. taxpayer-funded IMF) to bail them out, who will bail out Uncle Sam?

We don’t think Americans agree with the Washington establishment that “now is not a good time to get the spending under control – let’s do it tomorrow.”  Folks, tomorrow is here! 
Voters didn’t send 69 new members to Congress, committed to the fiscally conservative “Contract from America,” just to keep kicking the can down the road. America cannot afford to put off addressing our financial mess any longer. Therefore, fiscal conservatives are right to hold their ground and demand real budget reforms.  Think of what’s at stake.  We must remain firm in our demands.

FreedomWorks explains the situation as well as anyone can explain economics to “hobbits.”  The Little People.  That the Wall Street Journal should have used such language is appalling beyond belief.  We knew that the New York Times was built on Mount Olympus; that its editors consider themselves Greek gods towering above the lowly shepherds, where the flocks bleat “Oh-baaaaaaa-maaaah!”  We hadn’t realized the WSJ was located in the same neighborhood.  I used to think they were the best newspaper in the world; I’m not so sure anymore.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Big Announcement

Well, my company finally made The Big Announcement – the building closing announcement we were expecting.  You’ve probably read about it in the local papers, though it’s not headline news.  Our building is closing.  They’re going to relocate all the employees who don’t retire (and that’s a fair number) or find other jobs here in New Jersey to our company’s other offices.

Being New Jerseyans, no one can really blame our company, even though they insist it has nothing to do with the state’s politics or economy.  Guess they’re afraid of offending potential customers or bureaucrats.  That’s total nonsense, of course.  They admit that it was a mistake to buy this huge building we’re in.  By the time they realized it, the business real estate market had already tanked.

Our company is generously offering the affected employees jobs in the other locations.  Some are hesitating because they have homes (and mortgages) here.  One can’t help thinking, as unappealing as a job at the North Pole is, at least it’s a job and while they might take a loss on their New Jersey houses, it beats losing their jobs and their houses.

What upsets our employees most is the long-term relationships they’ve established with their co-workers here in New Jersey.  They’re loyal employees and our company has been pretty much a faithful employer.  They will do what they can for us.  You won’t find many companies willing to do that.

The closing wasn’t all that hard to predict.  All one had to do was stroll the increasingly empty floors where employees could once be heard talking to customers, with the occasional joke, and various morale-booster parties and celebrations.  I’ve been privileged to catalog and chronicle this office’s history.  We’re not supposed to say such things, but it was a fun place to work.

No one was ever luckier than I was than to stumble upon such a job where I could meet and photograph so many people for so many years and be a spectator to their ups and downs.  This job has been just so much darned fun, I always knew it couldn’t last.  Sooner or later, the bean-counters and the sour pickles would catch up with us and put an end to all that happiness.

Thanks to J.D. for giving me that opportunity!  Thanks to S.D. for humoring me and for being so kind.  We’re told our department has until the end of March.  I told one of the employees yesterday that they could have an operations center reunion every five years.  I even wrote an alma mater for the occasion:

On the banks of Mazda Pond,
Amongst the garbage strewn,
Stands our operations center
Barren as the distant moon.
Steadfast as our slogan: True crew
Loyal till the building’s sold.
Undaunted we will strive anew
Till our pink slips we behold.

No one has any malice towards the Company.  But I, for one, am going to remember this comes the November 2011 election.  As certainly as I knew our building was going to close, I know exactly why (in spite of what our public relations must say) and who is responsible for this. 

Our state government (excluding Gov. Christie, who did everything he could to make it possible for our company to remain here), deserves to have this disgrace hung around its neck.  Yet another company having to flee the state.  More residents who will more than likely be forced to move.  More business and individual tax dollars out the door, leaving whoever remains to pick up the tab.  Great way to run a state, guys.

I’m not going anywhere though, and although my job would have been history anyway, all the same, I’m going to remember all of you bureaucrats in November.  That’s a promise

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Obama Through the Looking Glass

I missed the president’s debt ceiling speech last night.  I hadn’t meant to.  But I had a good excuse.  I was finally attaching my Roku box to see if it’s a valuable and economic alternative to my astronomical cable bill.  The dreaded building announcement is coming today and I need to economize where I can.  I’ve been laying in certain supplies - educational and technical upgrades  and cutting what I don’t need – like most of the cable programs I’m paying for right now.

Once I’m among the unemployed I won’t be able to afford to go to school and by our state’s unemployment laws, won’t be allowed to do so, anyway.  As for the little Roku device, I spent a little more money and bought the version with the optical connection.

The first thing I watched was America:  The Story of Us.  After 15 minutes of lies and distortions, I turned it off and switched to a Netflix movie, the recent Star Trek film.  Both proved telling substitutes for Obama’s speech.

This version of Star Trek, shows the early years of the Enterprise crew.  The movie uses the series’ famous time-warp motif to change Star Trek’s past, without quite changing its future, thanks to a surprise appearance by Leonard Nimoy as an elderly Mr. Spock.

How else to explain that Scotty is now the youngest member of the crew, that Mr. Sulu and Mr.
Chekhov – some ten years younger than the captain in the television series – are now the same age as he and Commander Spock?  We learn that Capt. Kirk’s father George originally lived to see his son become captain of the Enterprise.   In this movie, he’s placed in command of his ship, which is speeding to its doom.  In 12 minutes, George Kirk goes from being second in command to hero.  James Kirk grows up to be a rebellious rascal.  But how does that explain his character in the alternate universe.

Pres. Obama seems to have been forced through a debt-ceiling time warp.  He’s “transformed” from a spend-it-all socialist to pragmatic economist, still clanging away at the same economic doom bell he rang during his candidacy.  Ronald Reagan, not FDR, is now his economic mentor.
Reading his speech, he employs the family credit card example to encouraging us into patriotically raising the debt ceiling so our bills can be paid, while still denouncing the Republicans for wasting Pres. Clinton’s budget surplus on trillions of dollars in tax cuts and two wars.  Guess he was channeling Adam Smith.

You’d think Obama was a businessman the way he throws around the word “revenue”.  In Obama’s alternate economic world, “revenue” means “profit.” 

“If we stay on the current path,” he warned, “our growing debt could cost us jobs and do serious damage to the economy.”  Who put us on that path?  The government.  Who paved the way to even more debt?  He did.  Who is he to throw our words, especially those of the Tea Party (as in “Taxed Enough Already”, not “No Taxes Ever”), back us, lecturing us about the dire economy?

Saturday is laundry day.  Since I don’t dare take my eye of the washing machine – any more than we can take our eye off Washington, the capital of dirty laundry – I spend the time shoring up my meager education.  This summer’s topic has been economics.

I just finished on Ch. 7 of Economics for Dummies, very conveniently titled “Fighting Recessions with Monetary and Fiscal Policies.”  The author talks about an economic concept called “open market operations.”  This refers to the Federal Reserve Bank’s buying and selling of government bonds.  In short, the Fed controls the money supply.  When it thinks there’s too much money in circulation, they sell bonds.  When it wants to put more money into circulation, they sell government bonds. 

When there’s too much money in circulation, prices go up (inflation) and your real wages (what you can buy with your hard-earned salaries) go down (remember Glenn Beck’s explanation of hyperinflation and the Weimar Republic?).  Not good.  But there’s no other way for the government to pay its bills, so the Fed prints out lots and lots of treasury bills which foreigners (up until now) were eager to buy.

Our money is virtually worthless.  With gold at $1,600 an ounce, there’s not a chance that the U.S. will ever be able to back its paper money with that particular precious metal again.  We might as well back the dollar with seashells.  Foreign investors have been buying up our debt and we only have empty pockets to show for it.  But Obama has given us mercury-laden light bulbs, golf cart cars, and General Motors.

We’re heading for an economic black hole and Obama wants to put us into warp drive straight for it.  However, maybe when we emerge from the other side (a la Star Trek), our young people will be smarter and aged Tea Partiers will be there to remind them that there are consequences for mistakes.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Camp Bergwald

In the late 1930s, a Berlin socialist labor movement group bought property on Federal Hill in Bloomingdale and started a Bund camp called the Bergwald, which means mountain forest.
When Hitler came into power, the local Klu Klux Klan went up to the entrance of the bund camp and burned a cross in protest. They warned the swastika-wearing Germans to get out of the area. 

During World War II, the government finally cleared them out.  Some remnants remained, and oddly enough, joined up with the KKK.  In the late 1960s, local officials sent the fire department up the hill to burn down the bund cabins, which all sorts of intransigents, including hippies (we saw them on our hikes up there) were occupying.

Last Friday, a man with a machine gun and a manifesto, part of a group he calls The New Knights Templar, declared war on the encroachment of Islamists on European society.  He bombed a government building in the capital of Oslo, and then shot people up in a Labor Youth Movement camp on an island in the nearby suburbs in an effort to trigger an anti-Muslim revolution in Norway.

No maniac is complete without a manifesto:  Anders Behring Breivik’s was 1,500 pages long (about the same length as legislation coming out of Washington), ranting against Muslim immigration and vowing revenge on multicultural, “indigenous Europeans” who had betrayed their culture.  He wrote that they would be punished for their “treasonous acts.”

We should learn a lesson about extremism from the Camp Bergwald episode.  Sometimes extremists cancel one another, usually taking a number of innocent people with them – and sometimes they wind up joining forces.  They become so similar in their rhetoric and violence, that you can no longer tell them apart.

The Progressives have a hard time owning up to their violence.  They’ve rewarded violent anarchists like William Ayers with places of honor in their new structure.  They’ve been waiting a long time for someone like Breivik to come down off his mountain and start shooting.

No one is happy about the Islamic incursion or the politically-correct ideology being forced upon us by the multiculturalists.  But they’re all words.  Not bullets.  If you want to counter them, sponsor your own youth camps to “unbrainwash” your children.  Don’t going shooting up other people’s kids.  Prayer, legal protests, and peaceful activism are the answers to multiculturalism’s Islamic agenda, not massacres.

The campers at Camp Bergwald, and particularly their camp counselors, were foreigners or recent German immigrants who came to America between the World Wars and lived in the city; that’s how the government was able to send the organizers packing.  The largely German and Dutch American residents of Bloomingdale didn’t care for the Nazi politics.  They came to America in the 19th Century to escape Germany’s growing militarism and fascism.  Others came later, to escape World War II.

Federal Hill went through many phases, from its Indian name – Burnt Hill, the happy hunting grounds for beaver and deer – to being a mining area – to being the site (on its western side) of an ill-fated Revolutionary War mutiny – to being a picnic ground – to being a parade ground for goose-stepping Nazis probably spying on the DuPont factory just to the east and the rocket testing site to the south - and cross-burning Klan members.

The current mining company has chewed away quite a bit of the mountain.  The area where the Bund Camp was may be empty air by now.  Would that all extremist organizations could be eliminated that way.  The blasting for the mines drove all the snakes off the mountains and into our suburban gardens.

Evidently, Breivik is one of those snakes.  The antidote to such poison is tea.