Building Wind Farms for a Quick Buck despite Public Opposition

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 17th, 2013

Week in Review

If you ever went hiking in a state park you’ve probably seen signs admonishing you to tread lightly.  To stay on paths only.  So as not to disturb the pristine environment.  Because environmentalists love this planet so much they will take all precaution to keep it pristine.  Except when it comes to putting these ugly things all over the place (see Locals get the wind up as turbines advance in Ireland by Geoffrey Lean posted 8/9/2013 on The Telegraph).

Some six per cent of the country’s electricity is now generated from the wind, and wind farms are a common sight in much of the country. In parts of inland West Cork, for example, it is rare to find a view that does not contain them, and there are places where four or five encircle you on surrounding hills. But so far there has been relatively little of the opposition to them that has become common on the other side of the Irish Sea.

Imagine that.  Only 6% of electricity comes from wind yet it’s rare to find a view without a wind turbine in it.  A much larger percentage of electricity comes from coal-fired power plants but it is a rare view indeed that includes a coal-fired power plant.  For they are much harder to find.

Angry scenes broke out last week at a “public information” meeting on plans to erect twelve 131 metre high turbines near the iconic mountain of Shehy More between the town and the upper Lee valley to the north. It would be visible for miles around in popular hiking territory and is, locals say, the third wind farm to be proposed in the last year for the hills around picturesque Loch Allua between the villages of Inchigeela and Ballingeary.

If everyone hates these turbines then why are they building so many?

Dave Edmond, of the appropriately named nearby alternative community of Coolmountain, led the revolt, accusing the wind industry of “just wanting a quick buck.” He added: “They have figured out how to get the grants and ‘shemoz’ the authorities” and predicted that the turbines would soon be “as obsolete and curious looking as the Easter island statues.”

Imagine that.  It’s greed.  In the form of fat government grants to build these white elephants to appease the global warming enthusiasts.  And they will become obsolete and curious.  As there are so many now that you can’t look in any direction without seeing one.  Yet they only provide 6% of their electricity.  Just imagine how many it will take to actually replace coal-fired power plants.  Probably so many that they will kill every living flying thing.  As no airspace will be free of these spinning killing machines.

Again, odd.  For someone who loves the environment so much to tread all over it.

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Debt Crises in Ireland, Greece, Portugal and now Spain may Prove too much for the Euro to Survive

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 3rd, 2012

Week in Review

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.  But I have promises to keep.  And miles to go before I sleep.  And miles to go before I sleep.  Lines from a poem by Robert Frost.  For some reason this came to me as I read about the never-ending crisis that is the sovereign debt crisis in Europe.  And the Eurozone.  For the Euro is lost in those dark and lovely woods.  Woods that are so deep that it will never find its way out.  And the only kind of sleep the Euro is going to get is the kind you don’t wake up from (see Britons face £5bn bill to help out Spanish as fears grow that Madrid will have to ask IMF for €300billion bailout by Hugo Duncan And James Salmon posted 6/1/2012 on the Daily Mail).

British taxpayers could be forced to stump up another £5billion to rescue Spain as the crisis in the eurozone spirals out of control.

Fears are mounting that Madrid will have to ask for an emergency bailout of up to £300billion as it struggles to prop up its basket-case banks.

A third of that money could come from the International Monetary Fund – including around £5billion from the UK, even though Britain is not in the eurozone.

UK taxpayers have already coughed up £12.5billion to rescue debt-ridden Greece, Ireland and Portugal…

But growing doubts over how the Spanish government will finance the £15billion needed to rescue Bankia, one of its biggest lenders, have raised fears that it will follow Ireland, Greece and Portugal in requiring a bailout from Europe and the IMF.

This week US investment bank JP Morgan warned a joint rescue of Spain could cost around £300billion.

The Spanish banking system has been crippled by nearly £150billion in toxic property loans.

At the heart of the sovereign debt crisis in Europe is debt.  They have way too much of it.  So much that the odds are not good that they will ever be able to repay it.  Which makes people very reluctant to loan them any more money.  It’s like loaning a friend money who already owes you a lot of money.  Do you loan him more money?  It just may help him turn his life around.  Start anew with a new job.  Earning enough money to support himself and pay you back.  That’s one possibility.  Then there’s the possibility he may just blow the money on booze, drugs and women.  You know he’s just going to spend whatever else you loan him.  And not pay any of it back.  So it would be rather foolish to loan him more money.

This is the decision facing the people who could attempt to bail out those in the Eurozone.  They’ve already loaned them a lot of money.  So these in-trouble countries can sustain the government spending their current tax revenue can’t support.  But the deal was to cut back that spending so they can live on what their tax revenue CAN support.  But there’s only one problem.  The people of these countries reject calls for them to live within their means.  And have had enough of austerity.  And that’s a big problem.  Because if they don’t live within their means they will perpetuate the sovereign debt crisis.  As they will always need to borrow more money to pay for the things that their tax revenue can’t afford.  Until the day this house of cards collapses.  And the longer it goes on the more money people will lose in bad loans to these in-trouble countries.

The central problem in this crisis are bad loans.  Caused by the easy credit policies of central banks to loan money to anyone so they can buy a house.  All this easy credit caused housing booms in countries all around the world.  And housing bubbles.  Then the bubbles burst.  Leaving countries with debt crises as toxic mortgages weakened banking systems everywhere.  And still Keynesian economists are urging central banks to repeat this reckless lending behavior again to stimulate economies.  And to bail out the Eurozone.  The problem is that the central banks have so destroyed their economies no one is borrowing money.  Or spending money.  Because no one thinks the worst has passed.  And businesses and private citizens have learned the lesson from the great debt crisis we’re going through everywhere.  Too much debt is a bad thing.  And are refusing to take on new debt.  And using what income they have to pay down existing debt.  Contrary to all Keynesian doctrine.  For they want reckless and irresponsible spending.  Because they believe only spending is good.

Politicians and central bankers said the situation in the eurozone was unsustainable and drastic action was needed to prevent the ‘disintegration’ of the single currency.

They spoke out as European leaders scrambled to stop the financial crisis in Spain spiralling out of control and infecting other countries such as Italy…

Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank, said the eurozone was unsustainable in its current form.

In his sharpest criticism yet of eurozone leaders’ handling of the crisis, he said the European Central Bank could not ‘fill the vacuum’ left by governments in terms of economic growth or structural reforms.

So, no, more easy credit isn’t the solution.  Countries must live within their means.  Which means adopting austerity measures.  And find ways to achieve real economic growth.  Not the kind that leads to bubbles.  Or sovereign debt crises.  And the best way to generate real economic growth is with tax cuts.  Cutting spending as needed so they spend only what their tax revenue can afford.  They must stop running deficits.  And stop borrowing money.  (Good advice for the United States as well).  As the private sector economy picks up because of a more business-friendly tax structure they will create jobs.  So all of those government workers who lost their jobs in the public sector can get new jobs in the private sector.  Whose salaries and benefits will not have to be paid for by more government borrowing.  If they adopt pro-growth policies like this the international community may still be able to help them.  And save the Euro.  But will they?  With all of that public opinion against any more austerity?  Don’t know.  Probably not. 

It’s unlikely that the Euro will ever find its way out of the woods.  For these woods are scary, dark and deep. 

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Militant Irish Nationalists still Planting Bombs in Northern Ireland

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 28th, 2012

Week in Review

Ireland and England have a history.  And it isn’t a very good one.  With things getting really bad when the English went Protestant.  And the Irish remained Catholic.  Which aligned Ireland with England’s Catholic enemies on the continent.  France and Spain.  England would go on to conquer Ireland.  But it didn’t stop the Catholics from rising up against English rule.  So the English colonized Northern Ireland with Protestants in the 17th century.  Plantation of Ulster.  To dilute the Catholic threat.  With English Anglicans.  And Scottish Presbyterians.   Which did nothing to improve relations between the Irish and the English.  Even to this day (see Bomb defused in Northern Ireland would have caused devastation by Ivan Little posted 4/28/2012 on Reuters UK).

Two bombs planted by militant Irish nationalists, including one packed with enough explosives to have killed anyone within a 50-metre (yard) radius, were defused in Northern Ireland on Saturday, police said…

Army bomb disposal experts defused a similarly sized bomb in the border town of Newry this time last year. Another bomb was also found near the main Dublin-to-Belfast motorway earlier this month that police said had the potential to kill.

The other bomb also made safe by the army on Saturday was discovered under a parked car in Belfast where 80 people were moved from their homes for five hours overnight. There was no confirmation yet of its size…

The 1998 peace agreement called a halt to more than three decades of violence between mainly Catholic Irish nationalists opposed to British rule of Northern Ireland and predominantly Protestant unionists who wanted it to continue.

The British founded America.  While the Irish built much of it.  The British gave us our language, our representative government, our institutions and our economic principles.  Despite two wars we’ve remained close.  The Irish helped us to win our independence from the British.  And subsequent waves of immigration swelled our population.  And, later, our cities.  Filling our factories.  And building our infrastructure.

We have great numbers of both Catholics and Protestants living peacefully together.  Which makes this continuing struggle between Ireland and England difficult for many Americans.  For we probably would not be who we are if it wasn’t for both of these people.  We abhor this violence.  Especially when those who suffer this violence are not responsible for the sins of their distant ancestors.  But worse for Americans is that both the Irish and English are our ancestors.  And they’re not that distant from us.  Which is what makes this struggle so difficult for us.  They’re both family.  Unlike they are to each other.

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The Irish Parliament begins Debate on Bill that will Provide Limited Access to Abortion

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 22nd, 2012

Week in Review

Representative government transferred the power from the privileged few to the people.  And once they did things got better for the people.  Because the government started serving the people instead of the people serving the government.  And to keep it that way representative governments introduced separations of powers.  And checks and balances.  They created legislative bodies to write laws.  Where legislators represented the people in proportion to the population.  So laws represented the will of the people.  And not minority interests. 

Of course, this made it difficult to pass some laws.  Especially those that went against the will of the people.  So some found a way to get around the will of the people.  By legislating from the bench.  Where instead of needing a majority of hundreds of legislators you only needed a majority of a handful of judges.  Which has been the legislative tool of choice for liberals to write laws.  Using the judiciary to write law that they could not write in the legislature.  Violating the separation of powers.  And going against the will of the people.  Such as making abortion legal in countries where the majority oppose it.  Like the United States.  And Ireland (see Ireland Takes Up Bill on Abortion Access by DOUGLAS DALBY posted 4/18/2012 on The New York Times).

One of the most deeply divisive issues in Irish society was reignited Wednesday night when the Irish Parliament began debate on a bill that would provide for limited access to abortion.

As in the United States, it was the Supreme Court here that legalized abortion, although in strictly limited circumstances. But in the 20 years since the decision in the “X Case,” successive governments have shied away from enacting the legislation needed to carry out the order…

“We believe that it is only a first step for abortion to be legalized in Ireland in all circumstances. We have waited long enough,” Ms. Daly said. “Over 100,000 Irish abortions have taken place in Britain for many different reasons, none of them easy, all of them valid. The hypocrisy, injustice and expense of having to travel to England for terminations, away from family and friends, is a disgrace.”

But in this conservative and Catholic nation, sentiment against abortion runs strong, and over the past few months anti-abortion groups have been pressuring politicians to oppose the bill, and are confident it will be defeated.

Governments shy away from putting abortion in the hands of the legislature.  Especially in countries with large Catholic populations.  Which is why there are no abortion laws on the books in the U.S. or Ireland.  Just Supreme Court rulings that created an abortion law from the bench.  As Supreme Court justices typically serve for life they don’t have to worry about the political fallout of their decisions.  Which gives some a green light for judicial activism.  Giving them leeway to disagree with laws they don’t like.  Or creating laws they like that the people don’t.  They can do this.  Legislators can’t.  Which is why they shy away from abortion law.  Because a legislator usually has another election to try to win.  And that isn’t easy to do when you go against the will of the people.  As many found out in the U.S. after they voted for Obamacare.  And lost their jobs in the 2010 midterm elections.  Because they not only acted against the will of the people but against their own constituents.

Ireland is a Catholic country.  And they take their Catholicism pretty seriously.  Which is why so many Irish hate the English.  Who are Protestant.  If you’re not familiar with this history read up a little on it.  Perhaps looking up some names like Elizabeth I, James I or the Earl of Stafford.  Then you’ll get a feeling for the love between Irish Catholics and English Protestants.  So the Irish are Catholic.  And fiercely so.  They stay true to their Catholic beliefs.  Which includes an absolute opposition to abortion.  Which is why there is no abortion law in Ireland.  Only a Supreme Court decision.  Until now, perhaps.  As the Irish legislature is now debating this subject.  What will the Irish Catholic do?   Whatever they do one thing is for certain.  It won’t make the issue any less divisive.

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Ireland needs an EU Bailout but doesn’t like the Austerity attached to it and may reject the New Spending Rules

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 3rd, 2012

Week in Review

Just when you thought the Euro was safe again (see Future of the euro again thrown into doubt after Irish announce referendum on new EU cash rules by Jason Groves posted 2/29/2012 on the Daily Mail).

Efforts to prop up the euro were again thrown into doubt last night after Ireland announced plans for a referendum on whether to accept new European spending rules…

Public anger over austerity measures is running high in Ireland and many observers were last night predicting a ‘No’ vote. That would not prevent the strict budget controls coming into force, but would leave Ireland  unable to access future EU bailouts…

Ireland has twice rejected plans for EU reform in referendums, only for the votes to be overturned under intense pressure from Brussels.

Eurosceptics in Ireland are expected to use the latest referendum to highlight Ireland’s dire economic problems, which have required a £70 billion bailout from the EU and International Monetary Fund.

Ireland giving away control over its own destiny to others due to intense pressure from an outside power?  My, how times have changed.  Once it took an occupying army to wrest their sovereignty away.  Now all you have to do is to get a nation to spend itself into debt and they will eventually hand you the keys to the kingdom.  Will they do it again?  Time will tell.

Again, the problem with the Eurozone is the lack of a political union.  But getting a political union of countries having such long and rich histories is not easy.  For if it were they’d already have done it.  But they haven’t.  And probably never will.  Unless countries step forward and agree to surrender their culture and identity.  And give control over their destiny to a distant central power.  Something that just doesn’t happen.  At least, not so far in the history of this world.  Where the trend seems to be definitely in the other direction.  Where autonomous regions of countries yearn for their independence from the countries suffocating their culture and identity.

This is the risk of excessive government spending.  You spend too much and you either ask for help.  Or wreak havoc on your nation by destroying its financial institutions with bankruptcy.  Neither is good.  But one is less desirable than the other.  Better still would be never putting yourself in between these two choices in the first place.  And the path there is that dreaded ‘A’ word.  Austerity.  For this we know for certain.  If Ireland had no debt Brussels wouldn’t be dictating terms to them.

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William of Orange, Mary, Glorious Revolution, Bill of Rights, Act of Succession, Whigs, Tories and Constitutional Monarchy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 9th, 2012

Politics 101

Englishman John Lock believed not in the Divine Right of Kings but in the Sovereignty of the People

After the English Civil War, and the English Republic with Oliver Cromwell as Lord Protector, Britain had a king again.  Charles II.  Taking the throne in 1660.  And after what Britain just went through he was going to rule a little more carefully than his dad Charles I.  Who was, after all, beheaded by Parliament.  Charles believed in the Divine Right of Kings.  But he wasn’t going to mess with Parliament.  He didn’t want anyone saying like father like son about him.

In fact, things really began to change under Charles II.  It was the age of empiricism.  The era of observing things.  And making sense out of what you saw.  Which led to some questioning of Church doctrine.  For the Church said they understood everything.  Such as the earth being the center of the universe.  And in the Divine Right of Kings.  But then Galileo observed that the earth revolved around the sun.  Contrary to Church doctrine.  So if the Church was wrong about how the universe worked then perhaps they were wrong about the Divine Right of Kings, too.  People started questioning things.  Francis Bacon who lived through the English Civil War questioned some of the old books.  Believing more in observing things.  And thinking about what you observed.  Tom Hobbes observed life and thought people were a lost cause.  And needed the heavy hand of government to protect them from each other.  To alleviate their suffering from a life that was “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.”  John Locke, a veteran of the English Civil War, thought a lot about what he observed.  He believed everyone was born equal.  And innocent.  He didn’t believe in the Divine Right of Kings or the nobility.  And that government ruled at the consent of the governed.  The idea that kings weren’t sovereign.  The people were.

It was also a science renaissance.  Smart guys were figuring out how to master their environment.  And the seas.  This was the era when the world got smaller.  As ships began to navigate the oceans.  And the great European powers colonized other lands.  Things were looking up in Britain.  Until Charles II died and his son took over being king (1685).  King James II.  Who had none of his father’s cunning political skill (who ruled following a civil war that ended monarchy).  Who liked to rule as he pleased, believing more in the Divine Right of Kings than in Parliament.  But worse of all he was a Catholic.  While the English were still Protestant.  And fiercely anti-Catholic.  Especially with all of this new thinking going on.  They were done with Catholic dogma for good.  And when James started making the Protestant churches of England and Scotland Catholic, well, the people had had enough.

The Act of Succession brought a German from Hanover to the British Throne

James II was chased out of England into exile in France.  A Dutch prince came over to do the job.  William of Orange.  A stout Protestant.  Who had married James’ daughter.  Mary.  With James abdicating his throne (by running away) Parliament made William and Mary joint monarchs.  Not quite a revolution.  But we call it one anyway.  The Glorious Revolution.  Because the William/Mary monarchy was conditional on a Bill of Rights.  Which basically said Protestants and Parliament were in.  The Divine Right of Kings and Catholics were out.  Which was good if you were a Protestant.  But particularly unpleasant if you were a Catholic in Scotland or Ireland.  Who suffered dearly under William.

Things were looking up again for Protestant, liberty-loving Britons.  But the royal monarchs were getting old.  And had no male heirs.  Even Mary’s sister, Anne, failed to produce a male heir.  Big problem.  Then they found a widow of a dead German prince with some Stuart blood in her.  Sophia of Hanover.  Whose mother was the daughter of one James I.  (The dad of Charles I.  King Charles I, of course, being the king Parliament executed after he lost the English Civil War).  And more importantly she was a Protestant.  Problem solved.  The Act of Succession (1701) formally passed the throne to Electress Sophia after everyone else ahead of her died.  And to her heirs upon her death.  The act further stated that a Catholic shall never, ever, sit on the British throne.

Queen Mary died in 1694.  William III followed in 1702.  Making Anne Queen.  Under her reign Scotland joined England in formal union.  Creating a large free-trade zone.  The impetus for the Scots to sign on the dotted line.  The Act of Union ended the Scottish parliament.  Scottish ministers now sat in the British parliament.  In the new union called Great Britain.  In time the Scots and the English would stand shoulder to shoulder on battlefields throughout the world.  Fighting Catholics.  And others.  Building an empire.  Meanwhile Sophia died.  Before Anne.  So when Anne died the throne passed to her son.  George.  Who enjoyed being home in Hanover more than being in England.  And spent more time in his German kingdom.  At first angering Parliament.  But then they grew to like the idea of having all that unfettered power.

British Americans enjoyed their British Heritage, their Religious Freedom and their Constitutional Monarchy

It was the age of Parliament.  And constitutional monarchy.  While George was home in Hanover Parliament governed Great Britain.  It was political parties that fought each other.  Not the Parliament and king.  The Whigs (who favored the Hanover line of succession).  And the Tories (who favored the House of Stuart).  Whigs supported religious freedom.  For them any form of Protestantism was okay.  The Tories preferred only those Protestants in the Church of England.  But they united in their opposition to all things Catholic.  Thanks to a financial scandal tied to the Tories the Whigs ruled for most of the 18th century.  The Whigs MPs grew powerful.  Especially Sir Robert Walpole.  Who the people began calling Prime Minister.

The 18th century saw a series of wars in Europe and throughout the world.  All of which could be boiled down to two things.  Economic advantage.  And the never ending battle between Protestantism and Catholicism.  Which put Protestant Great Britain and Catholic France in a near perpetual state of war in the 18th century.  In the Old World.  And in the New World.  Meanwhile the British Americans in the New World were coming of age.  Enjoying their British heritage.  Their religious freedom.  And their constitutional monarchy.  For awhile, at least.  Until they picked up on that idea Locke had.  About the people being sovereign.

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Charles I, Duke of Buckingham, Earl of Strafford, Ulster, William Laud, Grand Remonstrance, English Civil War, Oliver Cromwell & Charles II

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 2nd, 2012

Politics 101

Like Father Like Son, Charles I Dissolves Parliament after not Getting the Money he wanted for his Misadventures

At the start of the 17th century England was a lot like other monarchies in Europe.  Powerful.  And used to getting their way.  Sure, sometimes they had to give a little to Parliament.  That body of the people.  But that was more of an irritant than a force to be reckoned with.  By the end of the century that irritant would become the most powerful restraint on a monarch’s power the word had ever seen.

When the Scottish King James VI became King James I of England the Scottish king changed his Scottish name from ‘Stewart’ to the English ‘Stuart’.  Being the king of Scotland was all well and nice but the money and the power was in England.  And for the first time an English king ruled over Scotland (being Scottish to begin with, of course, helped).  And Wales.  And Ireland.  These were heady times to be king.  But, alas, his subjects didn’t much care for him.  Especially that body of the people.  Parliament.  Which refused to fund his errant ways.  Which took all the fun out of being king. 

Eventually James I did what all kings do.  Died.  And the crown went to Charles I.  Who annoyed his subjects even more than his dad did.  Because, like Dad, he believed in the Divine Right of Kings.  And he dissolved Parliament, too.  Just like Dad.  After Parliament was complaining about his spending habits.  And all those military misadventures.  Headed by a guy Parliament hated.  George Villiers.  The Duke of Buckingham.  Who tried to liberate Protestant Netherlands from Catholic Spain.  And failed.  Who tried to capture the Spanish treasure fleet ala Sir Francis Drake.  And failed.  Who tried to liberate Huguenot (Protestant) France.  And failed.  Buckingham was so hated that someone eventually assassinated him.

The Scottish Commit Treason to Save the Kirk from Catholicism, Charles calls Parliament to Raise an Army

Charles and the Duke were burning through a lot of Parliament’s money.  And had nothing to show for it.  In the process the king was walking all over English Common Law.  Worse, he was meddling with the Church of England.  Making the Protestant church look more and more Catholic.  It was all too much.  To borrow a lyric from the late George Harrison.  So Parliament hit the king where it hurt.  Sir John Eliot led Parliament in restricting customs duties to pay for Charles’ errant ways.  Infuriated, Charles sent his messenger, Black Rod, to dissolve Parliament.  He did.  But not before they passed Three Resolutions.  Calling Charles’ actions treason.  A bit strong for some in Parliament.  Including one ‘Black Tom’ Wentworth.  Who switched sides.  Charles made him the Earl of Strafford.  His muscle.  And sent him to Ireland.

The English may have conquered Ireland but Ireland never fully accepted being conquered.  There were many uprisings against English rule.  The problem was that Ireland was Catholic.  So not only were the English subjugating them they were attacking their religion.  Elizabeth I tried to solve this.  By having Protestant Scots settle in Ireland.  In Ulster.  In Northern Ireland.  James I followed suit.  And then annexed this land.  So there wasn’t a whole lotta love between the Irish and the English.  To borrow a lyric from Robert Plant.  And the Earl of Strafford did nothing to improve that.  He went there for money.  And got it.  More taxes.  And protection money.  Which made the Irish hate the English even more.  As if that was even possible.

Meanwhile, in Scotland, there was more trouble.  The guy making the English Church Catholic, William Laud, was doing the same thing to the Kirk.  The Scottish church.  Which was Presbyterian.  Very Protestant.  And very un-Catholic.  The Presbyterians were already not happy that their Parliament made Charles’ dad head of their church.  For kings weren’t supposed to head Presbyterian churches.  And now this.  This foul wind of Catholicism.  Well, they didn’t just sit there and take it.  They drew up a National Covenant telling Charles to stop.  Or else.  This was, of course, treason.  You just didn’t tell kings what to do.  Especially if said king believed in the Divine Right of Kings.  So Charles wanted to thump them good.  These Covenanters.  But Charles had a bit of a problem.  To raise an army for a good thumping you needed money.  Which wasn’t easy to come by when you’ve dissolved Parliament.  But he sent up a small army anyway in what we call the first Bishops’ War.  Too small to do anything they turned around and went home without fighting a battle.  Charles called for his Muscle.  Strafford.  Who told him to call Parliament.  He did.  A decade or so had passed since he dissolved the previous one.  So there shouldn’t be any harsh feelings, right?

Oliver Cromwell’s New Model Army ultimately defeated Charles I in the English Civil War 

But there were.  John Pym was the new head of the royal opposition.  And the people weren’t happy.  In England, Scotland or Ireland.  They hated Laud.  Strafford.  Paying ship money (taxes raised from coastal cities to build navies to protect coastal towns which somehow ended up helping Catholics fight Protestants in the Netherlands).  And they especially hated the court set up to encourage those reluctant to pay forced loans and extralegal taxes loan their money and pay their taxes.  So Charles was not greeted warmly.  Didn’t get the money he wanted.  So he dissolved Parliament after three weeks of this nonsense (thereafter known as the Short Parliament) and told Strafford to raise an army and teach the Scottish who their king was.  He did.  With a small army.  And fought the second Bishops’ War.  Which ended worse for Charles than the first Bishops’ War.  He lost a chunk of northern England this time.  He needed an army.  And to get an army he needed money.  Which left him no choice.  He had to call Parliament again.

This Parliament, the Long Parliament, wasn’t any more helpful.  Instead of giving Charles money they gave him a list of demands.  Arrest Laud and Strafford.  And abolish ship money and those courts.  He signed the order to execute Strafford.  “Put not your trust in Princes,” indeed.  And sent Laud to the Tower of London.  To die of age.  Meanwhile, over in Ireland, the Catholics were rising up in Ulster.  Killing Protestants wherever they found them.  Charles needed money to raise an army and fast.  But Parliament was still reluctant.  As they feared he could turn that army on Parliament.  Pym and another Member of Parliament, Hampden, passed a bill transferring power from king to Parliament.  The Grand Remonstrance.  Which led to civil war.  War between Parliament and the king.

Civil wars are the cruelest of wars.  There were no standing armies then.  So both sides assembled volunteers from their communities.  So those killing each other often knew each other.  Old friends.  Neighbors.  And family.  They tore families and communities apart.  When one of your own kills your friends and family it tends to draw some violent and cruel acts of revenge.  This was the English Civil War.  Bloody.  And cruel.  Parliament lost some early battles.  Thanks to Charles’ cousin.  A professional cavalry officer.  Who knew a thing or two about winning battles.  He so impressed Oliver Cromwell that he raised a professional cavalry force like his to fight for Parliament.  He, too, was very successful.  Soon Parliament organized their whole army along the same lines.  It was the birth of a professional, standing army.  The New Model Army.  Under Cromwell.  And Sir Thomas Fairfax.  It was the New Model Army that ultimately defeated Charles. 

Their British Descendants built the New World with a Full Knowledge of their Past

Parliament won.  Thanks to the army.  But there was little unity in Parliament.  Or the army.  They had Charles.  But they couldn’t agree on what to do with him.  Charles wrote to the Scots and asked them to save their king.  The Scots came down and started fighting.  Leading to a second civil war.  That Cromwell won in short order.  And decided that they had to try Charles for treason.  They found him guilty.  Executed him.  Made England a republic.  And ended hereditary rule.  The Scots, meanwhile, where none too pleased that they executed their king.  So they crowned Charles’ son king.  So Cromwell came north and thumped the Scottish.  Parliament made Cromwell Lord Protector.  He wasn’t a king.  But he sure looked like he was.  Then he went to Ireland and thumped them for their past sins in Ulster. 

Cromwell would die in office.  In 1658.  And much like a monarchy, which England wasn’t, Cromwell’s son inherited his office of Lord Protector.  For a while, at least.  He wasn’t like the old man.  He was weak.  And couldn’t control the army.  Charles II, in exile in the Netherlands, offered the English a deal.  Let him be king and he would give them pardons and promises galore.  Even said he would pay the army.  Long story short, England got a king again.  One that would work with Parliament.  He never trusted them.  For they did kill his dad.  But he tolerated them.  And made a deal with French King Louis XIV.  The Sun King.  Who also believed in the Divine Right of Kings.  Charles II married a Catholic.  And his brother was Catholic.  So he had some mutual interests with the French king.  A reason not to attack Catholics.  Which the French were.  Helping to maintain the peace between the two super powers.  And brought some French funds into the Crown.  Which was a lot easier than begging Parliament for it.

Charles granted complete religious freedom for everyone.  Even Catholics.  In the Declaration of Indulgence.  But Parliament was still Protestant.  So if you wanted to serve in the army, serve in Parliament or go to college you had to be a member of the Protestant Church of England.  So the century ended as it started.  With a king.  Only a king with limited powers.  But it had something new.  Religious freedom.  At least, some religious freedom.  Within a century these things would take on even greater meaning on the other side of the Atlantic.  In the New World.  Where their British descendants would build the new with full knowledge of their past.

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Ireland Exposes the Fundamental Flaw of the Eurozone, it’s not a True Union

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 29th, 2012

Week in Review

Here’s a little Déjà Vu.  All the way back to 1787 Philadelphia.  Before there was a United States of America.  When there was only a weak confederation of states.  With representatives from each state sitting in the Congress of the Confederation.  Where each state had an equal vote.  And all changes to the Articles of Confederation required unanimous agreement from all states.  And often times tiny little Rhode Island could alone scuttle new legislation.  And did.  Often.  Because they had a profitable seaport.  And liked charging tariffs to those who didn’t.  It was quite lucrative.  And paid a lot of Rhode Island’s expenses.  Making their citizens happy.  Because they didn’t have to pay much in taxes.  Thanks to those tariffs.  Flash forward to the present time and you see the same problem.  Not that Ireland is like Rhode Island.  But that problem of requiring unanimous agreement from all member states in the Eurozone (see Irish voters would back EU fiscal treaty: poll by Conor Humphries posted 1/28/2012 on Reuters).

European leaders are expected to agree on the fiscal compact on Monday in a bid to regain market confidence in the public finances of the 17 countries sharing the euro.

Irish citizens, who are entitled to vote on any major transfers of powers to Brussels, are seen as one of the biggest obstacles to overhaul of the bloc. They have twice rejected changes to EU treaties before voting through amended versions.

The confederation didn’t work for the Americans.  Which is why they met in 1787 in Philadelphia to draft a new constitution.  And create a new federal state.  Something beyond a monetary union.  One that was a true union.  Monetarily.  And fiscally.  Which is why the United States of America ‘were’ truly untied.  And worked.  The ‘were’ being changed to an ‘is’ following the American Civil War.  Emphasizing that union.  While the ‘united states’ of Europe are not quite so united.  And why the Eurozone is struggling to survive.

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Greece/EU/the Euro are not out of the Woods Yet

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 30th, 2011

The Price for Greece to Avoid a Sovereign Default

Greece’s troubles ain’t over yet (see European Union talks on Greek debt as IMF flies in by Helena Smith posted 1/30/2011 on the Guardian).

The European Union is engaged in frantic behind the scenes talks to reduce Greece’s debt as international monitors fly into Athens this week. There is growing concern that the eurozone’s weakest state will be unable to end its worst crisis in decades, without a sovereign default.

A sovereign default?  Yikes.  That’s pretty bad.  That means things may be so bad that they may just have to start all over.  And just say ‘so sorry’ to all those debt holders.  Break that sacred obligation of a written contract.  Just like those written contracts with the public sector unions will be broken when they reorganize.

No nation wants to go down this path.  The Greeks certainly don’t.  So what will it take?  And can they do what it takes?

Economists also recognize that even if Athens enforced the fiscal consolidation programme demanded in exchange for the bailout to the letter, the country would have to generate a primary budget surplus of 5.5% just to keep up with debt repayments.

That, in turn, would not only require relentless austerity but years of sacrifice in a nation already racked by a widening gulf between rich and poor and the social tensions that unprecedented policies have brought.

The spectre of a Greek default has divided economists, with many arguing that it would trigger a chain reaction and have a catastrophic effect on Ireland, Portugal and Spain which are also struggling with heavy debts.

It is an uphill battle.  They got into this mess because of uncontrolled deficit spending.  They just couldn’t cut spending or raise taxes enough.  Now to prevent default, they will have to cut spending and raise taxes even more than they were willing to before.  Can the Greeks pull off this Herculean task?  Or should Ireland, Portugal and Spain be getting a little nervous?  Time will tell.

If East Germany could do it so can Greece

The Greeks have a friend in Angela Merkel, the chancellor of Germany.  Germany is the strong economy in the European Union.  And they have experience in bringing someone back from the brink.  The reunification of Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall was not easy.  West Germany was a prosperous nation with a strong currency.  East Germany was not.  Rescuing Greece will be similar.  Restoring financial health to a weaker nation.  While protecting a strong currency (the Euro) that is key in the rescue (see Merkel’s Defense of Euro Forged in East Germany by Jack Ewing and Katrin Bennhold posted 1/30/2011 on The New York Times).

There are also practical lessons for Europe. Like Greece and Portugal, the former East Germany suffered from a crippling competitiveness gap yet it was locked into a strong currency, the German mark.

Mrs. Merkel has witnessed the enormous political divisions that can arise when taxpayers from one region are compelled to rescue residents from another.

And how bad did it get?

About 14,000 businesses were shut down and four million jobs lost in the first five years after formal reunification in 1990. Unemployment eventually peaked at more than 20 percent in 2005.

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, two million of the 16 million people living in the east have moved west. Long-term unemployment and wage depression bolstered xenophobic parties like the National Party of Germany, which holds seats in the state Parliament of Saxony.

It won’t be pretty.  But it can be done.  If the Greeks can handle “relentless austerity.”  If the other EU members are willing to rescue the Greeks.  And if the Greeks can resist xenophobic fears of those trying to help them.

And while the Greeks face this austere future, the rest of us should think about reducing our own deficits.  Before we find ourselves saying, well, if the Greeks could do it, then so can we.

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Crushing Debt is Crushing Europe and the United States

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 15th, 2011

The Republicans are Irresponsible for not Allowing the Democrats to Spend Irresponsibly

Washington has maxed out their credit card.  They do like to spend.  But now they need to increase their credit line.  And the Republicans aren’t playing nice (see US debt passes $14 trillion, Congress weighs caps by Tom Raum, Associated Press, posted 1/15/2011 on Yahoo! News).

Remarkably, nearly half of today’s national debt was run up in just the past six years. It soared from $7.6 trillion in January 2005 as President George W. Bush began his second term to $10.6 trillion the day Obama was inaugurated and to $14.02 trillion now. The period has seen two major wars and the deepest economic downturn since the 1930s.

With a $1.7 trillion deficit in budget year 2010 alone, and the government on track to spend $1.3 trillion more this year than it takes in, annual budget deficits are adding roughly $4 billion a day to the national debt. Put another way, the government is borrowing 41 cents for every dollar it spends.

In a letter to Congress, Geithner said the current statutory debt ceiling of $14.3 trillion, set just last year, may be reached by the end of March — and hit no later than May 16. He warned that holding it hostage to skirmishes over spending could lead the country to default on its obligations, “an event that has no precedent in American history.”

Such righteous indignation.  According to Mr. Geithner, holding the debt ceiling hostage is just irresponsible.  The Republicans are using the financial wellbeing of the nation for political gain.  But I see it differently.  I don’t see the refusal to raise the debt ceiling as being irresponsible.  I see the runaway spending that makes the debt ceiling an issue as irresponsible.  And, yes, you can blame Bush for adding $3 trillion in 4 years.  If you blame Obama for adding $3.42 trillion in two years.  And then for passing Obamacare which will make us pine for the gold old days when the deficit increased only $3.42 trillion in two years.

Debt-level brinkmanship doesn’t wear a party label.

Here’s what then-Sen. Barack Obama said on the Senate floor in 2006: “The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. government can’t pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance the government’s reckless fiscal policies.”

It was a blast by the freshman lawmaker against a Bush request to raise the debt limit to $8.96 trillion.

Bush won on a 52-48 party-line vote. Not a single Senate Democrat voted to raise the limit, opposition that’s now complicating White House efforts to rally bipartisan support for a higher ceiling.

Apparently, reckless fiscal policies that explode the debt are only a problem when a Republican is president.  Obama, a tax and spend liberal Democrat, opposed raising the debt ceiling to $8.96 trillion.  Then he outspends George W. Bush and approves a debt ceiling somewhere north of $14.3 trillion.  And to add insult to injury, they bitch with righteous indignation when the Republicans object to their reckless and irresponsible spending.  As if there is no hypocrisy in their actions.

The Debt Dominoes ready to Fall in Europe?

But there is hypocrisy.  Worse, Obama is putting the nation in financial peril.  The debt ceiling is dangerously high.  It’s nearing 100 percent of GDP.  What does that mean?  Well, let’s take a look at Europe.

Greece is drowning in debt.  Even after their bailout, they project her debt to reach 165% of GDP in 2014.  Italy is close behind.  France, Ireland, Belgium and Portugal have debt between 80-99% of GDP.  Britain, Spain, The Netherlands, Germany, Austria and Hungary have debt between 60-79%.

Some of these nations are on the brink of bankruptcy.  Greece had to make ‘austerity’ cuts.  And the people rioted.  France increased the retirement age a couple of years.  And the people rioted.  Britain made students pay more of their own university tuition.  And the people rioted.  They just bailed out Ireland.  Portugal and Belgium have crushing interest costs on their debt.  Spain is of concern.  And Germany, the fiscally responsible nation in the Eurozone, is picking up the tab for a lot of these bailouts.  Not out of altruism.  But a Euro problem anywhere is a Euro problem for Germany.  She doesn’t have much choice.  But how long can she continue to afford this generosity?

Will the Debt Crises be the end of the ‘Cradle-to-the-Grave’ Nanny State?

Not long, it would appear (see Time for Plan B posted 1/13/2011 in The Economist).

This newspaper does not advocate the first rich-country sovereign defaults in half a century lightly. But the logic for taking action sooner rather than later is powerful. First, the only plausible long-term alternative to debt restructuring—permanent fiscal transfer from Europe’s richer core (read Germany)—seems to be a political non-starter. Some of Europe’s politicians favour closer fiscal union, including issuing euro bonds, but they are unlikely to accept budget transfers big enough to underwrite the peripheral economies’ entire debt stock.

Things are so bad with some of these Social Democracies in Europe that the Economist is recommending they just ‘file bankruptcy’ and start anew.  Their financial holes are just too deep.  Of course, this means they’ll probably screw the debt holders.  But there will be fair-shared sacrifice.  They’ll eliminate some of that debt.  But they will also eliminate a lot of that spending that caused their debt crisis in the first place.  Some of their ‘cradle-to-the-grave’ nanny state will go bye-bye.  Considering how ugly it was when France tried to raise their retirement age and when Britain cut back on tuition subsidies, these austerity moves will take ugly to a new level.

But like any problem, the longer you wait to address it the worse it’ll get.

And the longer a restructuring is put off, the more painful it will eventually be, both for any remaining bondholders and for taxpayers in the euro zone’s core. The rescues of Greece and Ireland have increased their overall debts while their private debts fall, so that a growing share will be owed to European governments. That means that the write-downs in any future restructuring will be bigger. By 2015, for instance, Greece could not reduce its debt to a sustainable level even if it wiped out the remaining private bondholders.

And this is our future.  Especially with Obamacare waiting in the wings.

The Road to Serfdom – from Medicare to Obamacare

We shouldn’t be talking about raising our debt ceiling.  We need to be talking about spending cuts.  Geithner, Obama, et al are playing a dangerous game.  They want to grow government at any cost.  To get it so deeply entrenched no matter the cost so that people will riot when faced with austerity cuts.  And they’re coming.  Austerity cuts. 

It’ll start with Medicare doctor reimbursements.  Then when Medicare collapses, Obamacare will add a public option.  This will be the end of private insurance.  Obamacare will then evolve into a national health service.  Which will ration health care services.  Then they’ll raise the Social Security retirement age.  Just like in France.  By then we’ll be well along the Road to Serfdom.

And then the rioting will start.

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