Okay, where’s the pay raise outrage???

State officials in Pennsylvania are apparently “due” a raise based on cost of living adjustments and such, for the incoming elected officials and the current ones who will still be there come 1/1/2011.  

However, in this most down of economic and state budget times, with resources being pared back and future budgets in jeopardy for things, as basic and in need as education, public assistance for young, elderly, and those with mental health or mental retardation issues, where is the outrage by the fiscally conservative public officials on this issue.  Where is the unified pledge not to take one dime of this money or to donate it, as Representative Reichley intends to do, according to the Reading Eagle article this morning?  

Voters showed us they were tired of the tax and spend model of how things have been done and voted to give more fiscally conservative persons a chance to make a difference and to change the wasteful spending habits of Harrisburg.  Yet, right now, there’s a direct additional cost of spending that’s coming to bear and where are those Republican and TEA Party supported fiscal hawks now?  Where is there outrage now?  How long do we have to wait for those who put their faith in these people to change the way business is done, before we see some honest action on this and other wasteful things?  How willing will the legislature be to truly trim its own slush-fund-rich blood supply of perks, Walking-Around Monies (WAM’s) and other wasteful practices?  How soon before voters end up coming to some ugly reality that they just may have been “had” by another group of slick politicians, who don’t really intend to cut waste where there is waste, but instead put some of the very voters who helped them get into office, into harm’s way or leave them worse off than before?  

I mean, for the stink that the GOP and the TEA Party people made this year, leading up to the election, and especially the new Governor Tom Corbett, to harp on the waste, the reform that is needed to the system in Harrisburg, which I agree there does need to be serious reform.  You’d think they’d want to jump on this golden opportunity like a cat in a gold fish bowl.  It’s a no brainer folks.  Come on, where’s the outrage on this from your chosen leaders?  

Of course, there was also the opposite side of the coin showing its true colors in the same news article this morning.  Tom Caltigirone, PA State House Representative for the City of Reading and 2 other surrounding boroughs, was happy to point out that he didn’t vote for it, and that the officials hadn’t seen any increase in 2 years.  So, he was probably going to take his increase and run with it.  Alas, that’s what old system, old school people like Tom have learned to do over the years, or in his case decades of service.  The City he represents just passed a 20% property tax hike because they’re floundering in the red so much, you’d think Reading was a cattle slaughter house from one end to the other.  Yet, he’ll take his increase and not think anything of it.  Yet, sadly, I expect the loyal voters of Reading to still probably vote for him again in 2 years, especially since nobody really ever runs against him, in either the primary or the general election anymore.  

So, again, I ask you, voters, newly elected fiscal conservatives, where’s the outrage and the change and improvements you promised on things like this?  Did you really mean it or were you just being the opportunistic thieves I thought you were being?  Prove me wrong.

The TSA Controversy

The controversy over full body scanners and full pat downs at airports has the nation in an uproar.  It seems much ado about nothing to a point.  If the TSA has stepped up to an aggressive approach logic tells me this is a response to direct perceived threat.  Because this is happening close to the holidays following last year’s underwear bomber incident I suspect there’s a threat to which TSA is responding.

What concerns me about TSA and the entire airport security apparatus is that they always seem to be obsessed with the last attempt rather than the next.  Al Qaeda has yet to repeat the same tactic, even if it worked.  So why are we always concerned with shoes or underwear instead of anticipating their next move?

Pat downs of children, the elderly and others who are obviously no threat is stupid.  Who would strap explosives to a 10 year old?  Let’s get smarter about how we do things.  The entire idea of full body scanners strikes me as ridiculous when well trained experts in behavioral science can observe passengers and sort out those who might be threats.  This is the Israeli method and has proven to be more effective than ours.

The other weakness seems to be this obsession with Muslims.  Not all terrorists are Muslim as we saw with McVeigh, Eric Rudolph and the Unabomber.  There are domestic terrorists too and they aren’t wearing head scarfs.  Being Muslim no more makes one a terrorist than being Christian makes one a member of the Inquisition or a Crusader.

News & Notes November 22, 2010

The Pope announced the church will now allow HIV+ gay male prostitutes to use condoms so as to prevent the spread of disease.  This is a complete reversal of the Roman Catholic’s practices in Africa where, for decades, they have told people that condoms cause AIDS.  In this respect the church has been an agent of serial killing leaving untold numbers of orphaned children in its wake.  So much for infallibility.

Lancaster County Commissioners voted to disband the county’s Human Relations Commission and now minorities have no recourse against discrimination other than the state Board.  Republicans across the Commonwealth seem determined to get rid of as many of these protective Boards as possible so they can openly discriminate.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Ron Castille is being criticized for accepting expensive gifts from clients whose cases he hears.  This is a direct conflict of interest whether they affect his decisions or not.  The simple appearance of such conflicts raises doubts about the integrity of courts and the Justices and Judges who decide important legal cases.  Following the scandals of recent years this shows poor judgment on the part of Justice Castille.

Debate about repealing tax cuts for the rich seem to be dragging on incessantly.  The Bush cuts which mostly benefited the top 2% of people are set to expire at the end of the year.  Republicans insist on keeping them although they campaigned aggressively against the deficit they created on the backs of these cuts, the wars and failed economic policies.  You cannot have your cake and eat it too.  If nothing is done the middle class, or what’s left of it, will see their taxes increase because when Bush and the GOP passed the bill they chose to have these expire at the end of 2010.  Though it was their decision to do so watch them blame Democrats.  The GOP is expert at the blame game deflecting personal responsibility for their failures onto their foes.

They are also opposing a food safety bill in Congress while agribusiness receives huge welfare subsidies and endangers the public with bad agricultural and manufacturing practices.  As more and more sludge, for example, is spread onto fields more and more vegetables are being poisoned with e coli and other pathogens.  If we cannot regulate our food supply to insure its safety we not a civilized nation.

The START Treaty negotiations may make all that moot.  Again, Republican Senators bent on destroying the Administration at any cost are blocking ratification.  As such we are unable to inspect and observe Russian missile sites.  When Reagan signed the first SALT Treaty he said we must trust but also verify.  With the expiration of START we are now unable to verify.  The GOP is endangering the country in return for perceived political gain.  What happened to “Country First?”

Fox News is at it again attempting to destroy another organization.  This time they are targeting NPR because it fired Fox darling Juan Williams (for cause).  The network which features Glenn Beck, a known Nazi sympathizer, is calling NPR Nazi.  Williams was a news analyst who frequently used Fox as a platform to air his biased political opinions making his analysis on NPR questionable.  I recall becoming aware of this several years ago so NPR was actually quite patient with his ethical lapses.  Of course Fox has no issue with ethical lapses because they have no ethics.

Berks County DA John Adams continues to be targeted by animal rights groups for allowing abusive and inhumane pigeon shoots in the county.  This time a group protested outside the courthouse.  Adams is up for re-election next year so these organizations could have a field day embarrassing him in public if they so choose.

Did you hear about the Maryland (CD 1) doctor elected to Congress who showed up complaining about his new government health insurance?  Trying to illustrate what he thought was an inadequacy he protested that he has to endure a 28 day waiting period before getting coverage.  This elitist representing the Eastern and Upper Shore has been out of touch for too long.  While 59 million American have NO health care and millions of working people wait months for coverage when changing jobs this asshole is crying about 28 days.  Maybe he can simply use his COBRA benefits, something else Republicans oppose.

70% to 30% Against Sharia Law

The State of Oklahoma, home of the infamous bigot Sally Kern, held a vote on 2 November like most other states. However, in a very special referendum the residents of Oklahoma voted 70% to 30% to prevent the courts in the state from ever imposing Sharia law.


Was there a great movement afoot to install Sharia law in the State of Oklahoma?

I would have been more impressed if the residents of the State of Oklahoma had voted to forbid the state from ever becoming a mini-theocracy.

First it was OK to demonize black folks, then it was the gays, now it’s the Muslims.

Clearly 70% of the voters in Oklahoma are easily gullible if they believe the installation of Sharia law is such a high priority threat that it needed to be outlawed in a pre-emptive strike.

I can’t help but wonder how the 30% of voters who voted against this ridiculous measure feel about living in Oklahoma?

Apparently Sally Kern wasn’t bad enough.

Range Resources Radio Ad I heard

This morning, I heard a commercial that starts out about some young boy fishing with his father on or near a lake or stream in Pennsylvania, mostly likely a rural part of the state, as the scene is described a bit, and the kid grows up and leaves the state to find work elsewhere, because there were no jobs for him here.

Then it goes on to talk about how natural gas drilling is bringing lots of jobs to the state and now the boy who grew up can move back home and work on the Range Resources gas drilling rigs and such.  All the while extolling the greatness of natural gas and how wonderful it is that he can now have a job close to home.

Okay, from a very wonderland and seemingly practical perspective, on the surface it seems like there’s NO problem with any of that and it’s a happy ending to a story for someone and might sound nice to a lot of people, who’ve been out of work and are pressured into taking whatever jobs they can at this point to survive.  

HOWEVER! Let’s take a peek at a few things that were “glossed” over that are missing from this happy story that make it a lot of nice fiction without a lot of harsh facts and ugly truth.

1) The lake or stream that he used to fish in as a kid, will more than likely fall victim to complete and utter pollution from the proces of extracting the very same natural gas that would be responsible for him having a job.  So, basically, he gets to throw away some of very things he loved about his home area, while probably not making a lot of money working for the stingy and non-union gas drilling companies.  After all, they’re hiring less than highly educated rural Pennsylvanians who need work and let’s be brutally honest, they’re likely to work for what they think is a good wage, even if you really look at it and it’s not.

2) The problem in the first place that drove the boy in the commercial to leave Pennsylvania is a problem that has plagued our entire nation since the government, through business lobby efforts made it a great thing to ship jobs overseas.  No politician, of any party, who supports the continued policies of shipping jobs to cheaper areas should say ONE DAMN THING! about job creation here at home through the private sector.  They are being complete frickin’ hypocrits and nothing more!  So, realistically the natural gas companies are really just overlooking that fact and truth because for them it’s not about why he left, but why he should return.  Yet, it is important because if the jobs hadn’t left, where would that kid probably be…hmm…still probably in Pennsylvania quite well perhaps.

3) The pressure of the lack of jobs and the continued removal of work from the rural parts of Pennsylvania and other areas ofthe country are forcing people into making the kinds of ugly, self-destructive, and long-term harmful decisions to survive now because the gas companies are offering the jobs and sadly some have to take whatever work they can, as opposed to being able to have a choice in the matter and being able to stand up to what is arguably one step or two removed from land piracy and whole sale racketeering by the gas industry upon the poor and unemployed of Pennsylvania, or preying on their emotions with notions of huge royalty payments and other such dreams of being rich beyond whatever dreams they’ve had to date.  

Take into account those 3 points with the commercial and you start to realize why gas drilling in Pennsylvania right now is in need of serious control, oversight, and taxation to make sure we don’t ruin this damn state anymore than it has been soiled and screwed with already.  Again, does anyone remember a little town in Columbia County called Centralia that up until the coal industry had its way was a nice little town with decent, hard-working people trying to live their lives in peace, only to now have a smoldering, still-burning, ever-growing crater for a town left these days?  Do you really want to make large sections of Pennsylvania look like that folks? seriously?  I’m not trying to scare you.  It happened once with coal, and it could happen again with the impact of all this gas drilling. When will you decide enough is enough?  When some part of the Susquehanna River catches fire from the amount of residual natural gas and other flammable compounds that are leaching into it and other lakes, streams, and creeks in this area?  When you can’t fish in just about any water body in this state, because the fish are either all dead, contaminated to the point of not being able to eat them, or simply gone altogether because their eggs can’t hatch so there’s no way to replace the species over time?

Yes, Pennsylvania used to be the oil drilling capital of the United States and the world for a time, but that was in a day and a time when things were not done so haphazardly and there was not so much at stake in human terms and the technology to drill for oil was at least standardized and even then it was taxed properly for its extraction and production.  Yes, Pennsylvania is still home to successful coal operations that have also had their share of environmental and safety problems with workers dying or being trapped.  Yes, natural gas can be mined reasonably and more safely and with proper controls and fees paid for covering the cost of the cleanup and environmental care of the state and the local areas that are most affected by this new “gold rush” of drilling.  Yet, our newly elected leaders don’t want to even consider it and have been slow to believe that what’s going on is quite potentially harmful to the state and its future, because they only see the money of it and not the tax money of it, but the money their making on the gas futures and land they’ve sold or developed for drilling and the contributions they’ve taken from companies and firms who lobby against any controls or any regulation or any extraction fees for environmental compensation or local municipal compensation.

The natural gas and other power companies want you to believe that prices will have to spike up a lot if any sort of gas extraction tax or fees are levied on them, but really what it amounts to is EXTORTION on the part of big business to get what they want and not have to pay for it at all.  They want licensed thievery and not much else.  Gas is already dirt cheap, cheaper than it’s been in years and that’s before Marcellus Drilling began folks!  I had to do everything not to laugh my ass off at the jokers from the power company at a professional seminar I was at recently about electric rate deregulation and purchasing power for business use and such.  They are really trying to hard sell everyone and scare them into higher prices and sadly because the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) usually rolls over and accepts the requests to raise rates and not really exercise much of any oversight on the utilities in PA, the power companies will probably get away with some of it.

So, again, are glad you voted for who you did, are you really expecting them to do right by you and do you really understand that they told you what you wanted to hear because they knew you were mad and pissed and desperate for work so they’ll basically make you an offer you can’t refuse, but should’ve had the good sense to say NO to on election day? If you think you were made this year, take some blood pressure pills and make a doctor appointment for the coronary you’re gonna give yourselves in 2 or 4 years from now.  Don’t say I didn’t tell ya so.

Did the Trial Work?

Yesterday in New York Ahmed Ghailani was acquitted in federal court in New York on all but one of more than 280 charges that he took part in the al-Qaida bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa. The twin attacks in 1998 killed 224 people, including a dozen Americans.

The GOP and others, including some legal experts, are screaming that this is proof that terrorists cannot be tried in civilian court.

I have one question for these folks…Why does this man’s acquittal prove that terrorists MUST be tried in military courts?

Because he was found guilty of only 1 count?

Or was it because the civilian court threw out evidence acquired through “advanced interrogation techniques” (in words that we all understand….torture).

Our civilian courts, quite rightfully I believe,  exclude evidence gathered by coercive measures or under threat of harm. Such evidence cannot be used to convict a defendant.

The theory, and it’s rather simple, is that if you are trying to drown someone they are going to say anything you want to get you to stop. Think about it…wouldn’t you?

In the middle age they would show people the instruments of torture and many times that alone was enough to get them to say anything you wanted them to say. People confessed to all sorts of things in order to avoid torture and pain and very often died because of their confession. What we learn from history then is that death is preferable to pain and torture.

So how can we put ANY stock in information gathered from the use of such tactics?

If someone makes you kneel for hours in a painful position you are eventually going to say anything for the pain the stop.

Coercing evidence via pain or fear of harm is torture. Call it whatever you like…it’s torture.

It may be effective, it may have proved useful, it may have stopped attacks, IT IS STILL WRONG. It’s morally and ethically indefensible and utterly reprehensible.

When interviewed recently about his new book of revisionist history (yes I’ve read it) Mr. Bush says he wasn’t a lawyer (he wasn’t much of a President either) and the lawyers said water-boarding was legal and it stopped attacks. Did anyone ask if it was ethical? Did anyone ask if using those techniques are in line with the ideals for which America allegedly stands? Did anyone ask how they would feel if these techniques are used against our citizens or soldiers? Make it personal, how would you feel about these techniques if they were used against your husband or wife or son of daughter especially if you believed your relative was innocent?

I’m old enough to remember that, as a country, we were morally outraged (and rightfully so) when we learned that POWS during the Vietnam era were tortured. We were similarly outraged when we learned that POWS were tortured during WWII. We always held our held up high and proudly claimed that we treated POWS in our care humanely and never tortured anyone.

We joined the rest of the world in outlawing the used of mustard gas and nerve gas in 1925 as part of the Geneva Convention because all nations agreed that it was not very effective and it was cruel and horrifying.

Now I’m not saying we are beating people or sticking bamboo under their fingernails or attaching electrical wires to sensitive body parts (although I’m not sure I would be surprised to learn that we were and it’s still be covered up) but it’s clear that we no longer have any qualms about using pain-inducing, fear-inducing and humiliation techniques to coerce people.

I’m not proud that we’ve sunk to those depths. Yes the world has changed since WWII and VietNam but that doesn’t mean we should sink to the levels of our enemies. We, as a people, should be better than that.

I’m not sorry to say that I think the trial in New York of Ahmed Ghailani worked exactly the way the American legal system is supposed to work. Legally obtained evidence was presented and cross-examined and the jurors voted. I think this trials proves that civilian trials of terrorists CAN be conducted fairly and with detachment.

I’m not a lawyer, although I play one at my office quite often, but I know the difference between right and wrong and torture is wrong. Military trials of non-military persons is wrong.

As much respect as I have for the military, I have absolutely no confidence that any military trial at Gitmo (or elsewhere), was or will be conducted fairly and without a pre-ordained  outcome. My opinion, singular though it may be, is that every single “military trial” at Gitmo is a kangaroo court.

Before anyone takes me to task I was writing this with another task looming so I did not proofread the article as well as I should, please forgive any misspelling or incorrect words…I’m sure despite any errors my point will be clear. :)

Rush Doesn’t Know His Sasha From His Arse

We all know how stupid Rush is, he doesn’t know fact from fiction after all.  The man makes sh*t up as he pulls “stories” from the inner reaches of his colon.  When he does grab onto something he doesn’t do his basic homework.  Earlier this year we interviewed author Sasha Abramsky on Democratic Talk Radio with the publication of his book “Inside Obama’s Brain.”  He emailed me the other day about this affair with Rush which is hilarious because Limbaugh thinks Sasha is a woman.  He isn’t.  So much for research.

Here’s the scenario: on Sunday, Salon.com ran a piece of mine on Obama’s penchant for the language of good, moderate goverance, and on the mistake he made in assuming his opponents were also interested in a high level, rational form of political discourse.

Sasha’s excellent article. (follow the link and read it) fully captures the failure of Barack Obama two years into his term.  Here’s an excerpt from Salon:

Implicit in that promise was the assumption that through rational, consensus-building rhetoric and pragmatic policy solutions to America’s serious, and growing, social and economic problems he could reforge broken bonds of trust between the citizenry and its governing institutions. When I set out to write my book, “Inside Obama’s Brain,” shortly after the last presidential election, the many interviews I conducted about how Obama thinks, how he approaches problems, how he views the political process, led me to conclude that this was the single most important part of Obama’s agenda and his credo.

Abramsky hits the nail on the head because Republicans, under orders from Rush, set out to sabotage every initiative the new President proposed for moving America forward and out of recession.  Whatever legislation they couldn’t block they watered down to a point where they could then attack them as being failures (even when they weren’t).  This effort was led on radio by Limbaugh and on TV by Glenn Beck.

Rush apparently didn’t like the Salon article and lashed back calling him a “stupid babe” and “some woman from Salon.”  A simple Google search to Sasha’s website would have revealed his gender.  Why wouldn’t a famous radio celebrity conduct what is very basic fact checking?  Because Rush has never been interested in facts, he makes up his own facts, his own reality where there is no need for fact checking.  Media Matters caught the broadcast.

I guess Rush doesn’t get out much except to get more Oxycontin (I doubt his maid is willing to be his dealer any longer).  It seems he didn’t watch “Borat” starring Sasha Baron Cohen.  Of course the name “Sasha” probably connotes foreigners to this bigot and he wouldn’t waste the time researching his subject with a Russian sounding moniker.  Why go on the air having prepared?  Before interviewing Sasha Abramsky I read his book and highlighted numerous passages to discuss on the show.  I visited his website and knew who he was and his biographical information.  This is why we’re off the air and Rush is making millions, Americans aren’t interested in facts just entertainment disguised as discourse.

Rush’s problem now is that he’s engaged someone much smarter than he, someone with great insight into politics and someone who is a very good writer.  Sasha may not have the platform of Rush’s radio empire but he made a mistake making him so well known.  Who knows, perhaps some of his listeners might actually Google Abramsky and learn something.

News & Notes November 18, 2010

I needed a bit of a hiatus there after an intense fall.  I’m still waiting for my new desktop (fried by a lightning strike in September) so I’m muddling through on the laptop.  I wish Erie was faster about paying claims!

Nancy Pelosi survived a threat from Blue Dog Dems including Jason Altmire yesterday to win her post as Minority Leader 135-40.  This is why the Blue Dogs were decimated in the election:  they aren’t actual Democrats.

There’s tons of buzz about Dwight Evans’ fall from power in Harrisburg.  His arrogance, hubris and obstructionism on key bills hammered home his ruthless use of his power and that was his downfall.  The former Democratic leadership team is now gone and no one is crying the blues.  Many real, actual reformers lost their seats because that team blocked all their efforts at reform and real progress for Pennsylvania.  The approval of those libraries for Murtha and Specter cost them the majority because they refused to stand up to the Governor.  The GOP hammered away relentlessly at that pork.  He deserved to be replaced.

Fox News is targeting George Soros because he finally contributed money to Media Matters.  Fox has accused him of doing so for years untruthfully and now is attempting to make him into the devil.  Glenn Beck has accused the Jewish survivor of WWII of helping send Jews to the death camps.  Smears don’t come any lower than this but then, this is Glenn Beck.

As more and more Americans fall into poverty the numbers of them having trouble feeding themselves is climbing alarmingly.  Now imagine if Congress refuses to extend unemployment past Nov. 30th?  Since they ran against the deficit and unemployment benefits they’re between a rock and a hard place.  Knocking these people off the rolls and onto welfare doesn’t save much and hurts the economy.  The ripple effect of government spending stimulates economic activity, every $1 results in $1.42 in economic activity.  This means more small businesses will see lower revenues.

I’m astounded at the ignorance and stupidity of those who seek to lead this country.  If you don’t know basic economics go take a course.

Medicare Part D premiums are rising 20-40% next year according to this article in today’s PG.  Regular health care costs also continue their spectacular increases.  One of my primary objections to HCR was the lack of cost containment provisions and we’re witnessing that at the end of the year.  

A New Hampshire school board member and Vietnam veteran tried indoctrinating a class of children by claiming progressivism and liberalism are evil companions of socialism and communism.  Such brainwashing by the president of a school board is outrageous.  Didn’t Republicans raise a furious clamor when Obama made just a motivational speech to kids last year that was completely apolitical?  The constant progression of their own sins onto the opposition makes one wonder if Republicans are mentally ill.

Sarah Palin thinks she can beat Obama in 2012.  Of course she thinks she’s intelligent, can see Russia from her porch and that abstinence is good for other people but not her own family too.  This woman is delusional.  Make my day, run Sarah run.

Charlie Rangel gets his punishment meted out by the House of Representatives today.  The Congressman broke basic rules and should be punished.  I rail against Republicans who do these things so justice needs to be equal.  He left his trial claiming he hadn’t had time to get a lawyer.  How many months does that require Charlie?  I love the guy but he did wrong.

Pennsylvania’s Adult Basic is about to expire.  This throws more people on to the rolls of the uninsured, that total is currently 59 million and still growing.

Felon Bob Asher is co Chair of Tom Corporate’s inaugural committee.  He’s one of the AG’s top funders.  The other co-chair is from the gas drilling industry.  A sneak peek at the next four years?  I’ll, at least, have lots of corruption on which to report.

The media is all atwitter about the new TSA pat downs.  I won’t mind them if I can choose my molester, I want a cute one.

Changes in Harrisburg

Four years ago when Democrats took the State House majority by one vote there was joy and jubilation on their side of the Capitol building.  There was much celebration even though Republican Mike O’Brien was elected Speaker.  Yesterday the atmosphere was funereal.  The walking dead (the defeated) roamed the halls making their farewells and bidding friends good-bye.  Because of unfinished business a lame duck session was called forcing our public servants to work several more days this year.  That onerous burden forced them to pass a pension “reform” bill fixing issues created when they raised their pensions then refused to fund them.

They also passed a “castle doctrine” bill which essentially legalizes murder.  Now you can kill anyone you please as long as you drag their body into your home before calling the cops.  The Governor is considering a veto.  I’m not sure how much good that will do since the new GOP majorities in the House and Senate can repass it and send it to Governor-elect Tom Corporate.

No gas extraction tax (please don’t call it a severance tax, no one knows what that means) was passed and the Senate says they won’t pass one tomorrow.  Meanwhile energy companies continue drilling wells and dumping fracking fluids directly into at least one river.  A recent truck inspection effort resulted in 1400 fracking trucks being pulled over for inspections and 1044 of them failed spot inspections.  These overweight vehicles are wrecking rural roads and the legislature is preventing them from using extraction taxes for rebuilding.  Guess who will bear that burden?  The old Harrisburg game of pass the buck continues.

Next year’s Democratic caucus will be led by new blood, finally.  Frank Dermody was elected Minority Leader, Dan Frankel Caucus Chair, Joe Markosek dethroned Dwight Evans for Appropriations ranking member and Mike Hanna is Minority Whip.  This is a very Pittsburgh centric crew and allows desperately needed new blood to move the caucus forward.  Keith McCall, Todd Eachus and Dwight Evans led Democrats over the cliff partly by their resolute refusal to bring important legislation to the floor for votes.  Voters weren’t happy.

I saw several outgoing members who are friends.  Bryan Lentz will be practicing law so if you’re in need of a good lawyer look him up.  Rick Taylor is job hunting so if you need a good man call him.  Retiring Kathy Manderino had a large chocolate cake set up outside her office and it smelled delicious.  I thanked her for all her work promoting progressive causes. She was the primary sponsor of single payer health care.  There is good news amidst the sadness of seeing staffers packing boxes for outgoing people as the new leadership team is definitely more progressive and no longer controlled by Philadelphia.

The next economic shock might come as early as 30 November…from Greece.

Greece? Yes Greece. Allow me to explain.

Greece has big debt. They have invoked drastic austerity measures that triggered riots and marches for weeks.

The IMF and the other countries in the Eurozone have told Greece that they will give Greece a loan at the end of the month IF Greece meets  certain conditions. It’s called a technical memorandum.

Greece, as it stands right now, 14 days before the deadline is nowhere near meeting the requirements and it’s not likely that it will. In fact, it’s highly unlikely. Germany and France will take a very hard line against the loan in Greece is not in compliance. So, worst case Greece won’t get the money. “So what!” you say…ah…well here’s where it gets fun.

If Greece doesn’t get their loan they will likely have to shut down some parts of the their government and they may not make their bond payments to save cash. Bond owners buy a country’s debt to get the interest and Greek bonds had a good interest rate because Greece needed to sell bonds to raise cash so they gave them a good rate of return.

Bond owners, in order to protect themselves often insure their bonds with a financial device called a credit default swap. A credit default swap pays the bond owner if the issuer fails to make payments required by the bond. While insurance is good, default swaps can be bought by anyone, not JUST bond holders. So even if I don’t own a Greek bond I can own a credit default swap for a Greek bond and get paid if the bond defaults even though I don’t own the bond.

Financial institutions all over the world issue credit default swaps but they are not tracked so nobody really knows how many are issued and in force.

The widely held belief is that default swaps on Greek bonds are liberally distributed through the financial world.

So if Greece defaults on their bond payment the default swaps would be invoked and financial institutions all over the planet would be in the hook for paying those swaps…including American financial companies.

Surprise!! Unintended consequences of a global economy.