Archive for April, 2014

Suicide at Bunkerville

Author: admin

Cliven Bundy is dead. A suicide by his own hand….er…mouth. The hero of the far right – and Faux “News” – belched up a string of lies and racist B.S., drowning in a sea of disclaimers by former Republican supporters.

I swore I wasn’t going to revisit the Bunkerville mess again until something definitive happened. But suicides are hard to overlook. And this one in particular – so much of a “surprise” to right-wing politicians and Hannity – begs some last attention. There needs to be some separation of facts from all that B.S. – some definition of what “was” and “wasn’t.”

Let’s deal with the “wasn’t” first. The story wasn’t “ a Constitutional confrontation.” Wasn’t “First Amendment.” Or “Second Amendment.” Cliven Bundy wasn’t and isn’t a hero. For the purposes of this mess, he’s not a “patriot.” Neither are the whackos who’ve congealed around Bundy and proclaimed him a “freedom fighter.” He’s not a “freedom fighter.” Bundy’s family did not settle his ranch in the late 1800’s. The BLM wasn’t singling Bundy out for some kind of special “persecution.” The story wasn’t about who controls the cattle at any given moment.

Now, what “was.” Bundy WAS – and IS – a deadbeat. Bundy WAS – and IS – a liar. Bundy’s family didn’t buy the ranch land until 1948 as proven by a recorded deed. Bundy IS in arrears to the federal government more than $1 million and has ignored legitimate payment demands required under his deal with the feds for more than 20 years. Bundy WAS – and is – in receipt of valid court documents – apparently served several times – ordering his cattle off the BLM land and requiring him to pay off his massive debt. The fact is, neither has been done. Bundy has a long history of being a local trouble-maker and has had numerous run-ins with county, state and federal authorities over the years.

The real issues here are cut and dried. Proper, clear and repeated court orders have been issued. And ignored. Bundy did stop paying two decades ago. When the BLM moved to take the livestock, it did so with well-supported authority. Facts show Bundy was spoiling for a fight for years and used this excuse to crank up his crackpot, verbal effluent to garner support from others who are similarly constitutionally illiterate. He has deliberately attracted several hundred well-armed folk to his side who are as deluded, as ignorant of history and as mentally vacuous as himself. They’ve been pumped full of phony right wing B.S. at the hands of the Limbaughs, Becks, Hannity’s, Coulters and others using wing-nuts to make millions. Bundy has absolutely no legal ground to stand on to have a face-off with the feds. If he did, he’d have gone to court many years ago.

But the feds DO bear some fault for this powder keg – most by the bureaucrats who didn’t step in two decades back when Bundy first stopped making payment on a duly executed grazing contract. A contract similar to thousands of others with ranchers and cattle operators – executed in good faith in dozens of states by BLM and the U.S. Forest Service.

Now the feds are in a corner. On one hand, they’ve let Bundy “cow” them while he’s gotten rich by not honoring his legal obligations. On the other, if Bundy is not prosecuted, other lessees in other areas may stop making the payments due on their contracts. That can’t be allowed to happen. For many good and legal reasons.

This is a can of worms neither the BLM nor the USFS can allow deadbeat liar Cliven Bundy to open. These two and all other agencies that have contracts with private individuals must enforce them across the board.

There is a case to be made that the BLM acted responsibly in backing off from what was a very explosive situation. But the agency must now quickly pursue all legal remedies to either force Bundy to honor his contract and pay up or confiscate his cattle, his land and even his shorts to pay his contractually obligated debts. There’s no other way.

Finally, some thoughts for the media – particularly the national folks. All have treated the Bundy situation as some sort of “frontier justice” case. All have shown a lot of ignorance of the facts, constitutional law and life in the West. Most “coverage” I’ve seen or read didn’t dig for any information not floating on the surface. Very unprofessional.

But the most egregious offenders have been – without challenge – the folks at Faux “News.” Not only have they not gotten the facts straight – and some have repeatedly demonstrated they don’t know the facts. Some have pumped so much vitriol and ignorance into their pieces that they’ve created a completely unreal “story.” Hannity, in particular, has dedicated himself to putting Bundy’s face on Mt. Rushmore. He’s also blown smoke up all the nut jobs hanging onto Bundy’s notoriety with both hands to the point some now think their loony and dangerous mission is legitimate.

All of these folks – not just those at Faux “News” – need to pay attention to the reporting of Jon Ralston on the NBC affiliate in Las Vegas. He’s been there for years and – from the git-go – he’s been doing the most informed reports on this whole Bunkerville garbage. He knows the principals. He knows the territory. And he’s been “spot-on” with the facts.

As for Ol’ Cilven, he was just the latest incarnation of the perennial con man. While most media and a few hundred whackos have fallen for his phony story, the rest of us should treat this mess for what it really is: a scam.

He’s gone now. A victim of his own ignorant, twisted and sick mind The feds had better “pull the trigger” quickly. Legally, of course.

The number one thing keeping our national economy – and thus all lesser economies – from growing as quickly as conditions would otherwise dictate – is the monumentally constipated and completely ineffective U.S. Congress. And you can take that to the bank.

Geoff Colvin, Fortune senior editor-at-large, has been talking to CEOs and economists. While hearing the usual bitching about regulations and taxes, the dialogue this time has been far overshadowed by one thing: uncertainty. In terms easily understood by economic dolts like me, the issue could be framed this way: “What the Hell’s going to happen tomorrow?”

Regulations and taxes have always been topics of discussion when people making large business decisions gather over their martinis. It used to be, no matter what changes and challenges there were in those two areas, business adjusted and life went on.

BUT – uncertainty has become the largest impediment to business – large and small. For example, the new healthcare law – regardless of what you think about it – is law. Republicans have vowed to repeal it. They can’t. But, as they keep trying, if you’ve got 50 to 100,000 employees in your business, how do you adjust your future planning? For what? Taken another step, if Republicans ever posed a serious legal challenge to the ACA, how long would Democrats tie the whole thing up in court? And to what outcome?

Then, there’s the “fiscal cliff.” With no congressional action to the contrary, there are those huge mandatory cuts in federal spending. Sequestration. Crippling cuts and possible tax increases to offset some of them. Despite how you feel personally about all that, remember the current crop of ideologues, naysayers and the ignorant will still control what Congress does – or doesn’t do. Wanna bet your farm on the outcome? Neither does General Motors. Or your neighborhood grocer.

Then, there’s the Federal Reserve. Its governing body holds the outlook that things economic are “more uncertain than they has been in the last 20 years” so no major actions have been taken. You get any sense of corporate direction out of that?

Life has always been a crap shoot. That’s just life. So, is all this something new? Yep, it is. Normally, as the government moved, changes it fostered affecting marketplace conditions could be anticipated and planned for. You knew what was coming and could adjust. Not now. Polarization in Congress has badly crippled oversight of federal agencies and their regulation-writing and enforcement. Congressional action that was supposed to happen last week – last month – or next month – has ceased. No new-from-the-ground-up federal budget for several decades is likely to be matched by no new-from-the-ground-up federal budgets for the next several years. Contracts expected by the private sector are still sitting on some bureaucrat’s desk. New programs languish in the congressional swamp because there are still no decisions on old ones.

And on and on and on and on.

Dealing with change is a constant in life or business. Dealing with uncertainty should not be. Or at least held to a minimum. Congress has brought uncertainty up to the maximum. Investors are not willing to risk hundreds of millions – or even billions – of dollars on new products, plants and larger workforces when even the Federal Reserve meets, complains about the uncertainty and goes home.

As I read editor Colvin’s story of all this in Fortune, I couldn’t help but ask myself, “Will we – and business – be in any better shape under a new Congress after the November election?” The answer for me – “not likely.”

If congressional majorities remain the same, a billion-dollar election will have changed nothing. No matter how you approach the issue of getting this country moving again, if the presidency and congressional majority are not in the same party, I don’t see anything but more gridlock and stagnation.
The overriding consideration at the polls next November is not so much who’s elected for the next several years. It’s more an issue of giving one person the keys to the White House and a majority of the same party in Congress. Anything short of that could create – and continue – the most uncertain political and business climates in our nation’s long history.

You think you’ve got uncertainty now? If we and our economy have to endure another two-four-six-eight-years of the current climate on Capitol Hill, there may not be much left to save. And you can take THAT to the bank.

Ready, aim …

Author: admin

The situation with the Bundy family out in the flatlands some 80 miles from Las Vegas is akin to a truck load of dynamite with a very, very short fuse – parked next to a wildfire. Even an accidental spark could get a lot of people killed. So the federal government has blinked – backing away from executing a very valid court order and made the pathologic freeloader a hero in the eyes of his government-hating friends.

At first glance, this is about a professional deadbeat who owes us taxpayers more than a million dollars in grazing fees – running his cattle on BLM lands for decades and ignoring the bills. Rather than back down, the BLM should have served the court order, confiscated his herd, sold ‘em at market and arrested the bastard for inciting sedition. Seems simple enough.

Like so many of their push-it-to-the-limit kind, Cliven Bundy and his family have taken the totally irresponsible position their ancestors were there before the BLM – their water rights predate federal ownership of the land – they’re not obligated to pay the bills the feds have been sending for more than two decades. And they haven’t! Not exactly living up to the promises made signing that federal grazing contract many years ago. Makes one wonder what changed their minds. And when.

Now, the Bundys claim they’ve tried to makes some payment on their water and grazing bills recently but nobody will take the money. And they’re right. The State of Nevada and the federal government will not accept payment. They can’t. That’s because the recent court order allowing the BLM to confiscate the cattle also freezes the whole Bundy situation. And their assets. The Bundys are in massive default.

But all that fades now because the Bundy’s have taken the position they’re the “aggrieved” party in this situation – that the feds are exceeding their authority – that the government is out to make an example of them – they’re victims of government excess – that they’re “patriots” who will hold out until the end. About 98.7% B.S..

The feds do appear to have some blame here. The BLM should’ve stepped in years ago with direct legal action to put an end to Bundy’s use of federal grazing lands for free. While I haven’t read the contract, I’d bet the farm there’s a section dealing with default – what it is – when it is deemed to have taken place – remedies for forcing contract compliance. And penalties. I’ve never signed a major contract without such language. And Bundy has been in default, according to the courts and government, for more than 20 years.

To let the Bundys run up a million dollar grazing tab for that long without collection action is, to my mind, completely irresponsible on the feds part. Get two months behind on your house payment and you can expect a guy from the bank at your front door. So – to some extent – this situation could have been nipped in the bud years ago.

But – as I said – because of the dangerous situation the Bundys have created by word and deed – trying to make themselves out the martyrs here – we’ve got an armed encampment of federal officers “cheek-by-jowl” with several hundred armed faux “freedom fighters” from half a dozen states who’ve come to the Bundy homestead to stand against anything governmental.

There’s a dangerous element in this country using the I-net and other media to whip itself into a frenzy of camouflage-wearing, government-hating, heavily-armed anger. Without knowing any firsthand details of Ruby Ridge or Waco, they blame the feds for those and any and all perceived attacks on their “personal freedoms” – most especially the Second Amendment to the Constitution – a document most of them have likely never read. They’re as unstable as a gallon of nitro on a bumpy road. Reasoning and logic are out of the question. They talk violence as if it were the only satisfactory response to their trumped up hatred. How many will actually stick around if shots are fired is anyone’s guess. But shooting is what they say they’ll do.

The back ridges and valleys of our Pacific Northwest also harbor a lot of very unstable people. Some hiding from something or someone. Some mentally over-the-edge from wars or simply lack of professional treatment. Others who call themselves “survivalists” and are convinced the world is soon to meet some cataclysmic end and believing they alone will be spared. Some are flat-out criminals growing marijuana or engaging in other illegal activities. And some have built heavily fortified compounds in which they’ve gathered family and vow to kill anyone who comes snooping about.

It’s this last bunch and their loony near-relatives who dress up in war clothing, paint their faces and spend weekends shooting and marching in the woods. These are the ones that pose the biggest threat. You’ll find a lot of ‘em converging on the Bundy ranch from this flock. Some of ‘em talk a good fight and that’s about it.. But I also believe some will hunker down and try to “take out” as many feds with them as they can.

We’re a very violent society. Whether it’s a calamity of nature, some perceived grievance by one group or another or just the local university winning/losing a football game, violence and criminality lurk just beneath the surface. Smash- burn – loot – destroy. For all our civilized ways, we can be dangerous and violent with even the smallest provocation.

If that’s what you believe – and I do – then all these flag-waving, camo-wearing, jingoistic phony patriot, citizen “armies” should be taken very, very seriously. If you’ve got a strong stomach, read some of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s publications. You’ll find detailed and alarming descriptions of these groups identified in the research. You’ll find Oregon, Idaho, Washington, Utah and Montana harbor some of the most violent.

Looking back at Ruby Ridge and Waco – and the terrible loss of lives in both armed sieges – I’d guess the feds will sit tight and try to wait it out.
But it’s not the feds that worry me. It’s those armed loudmouths who believe their own media hype and see themselves as “protectors of those innocent government targets” – the Bundys. If just one of them – just one – has a misfire while cleaning an assault rifle, God knows what will happen in the next five seconds.

As a nation, we’ve deferred dealing with these dangerous people far too long. This is not a “Second Amendment” case. This is very, very close to armed insurrection. The Nevada desert may be where these people should face the reality that armed challenges of duly issued court orders and federal law have serious consequences. Deadly consequences if bullets start flying.

Take the cows – shut these guys down – make some arrests. With force if necessary. Any perceived backing away will just delay the inevitable.

Keep the change

Author: admin

I’m at an age when I’m slow to accept change. If something has worked well most of my life, it should continue unabated. The comfort zone should not be disturbed. Even as I remember that old saw “change is the only constant,” when it happens it’s still unsettling.

Two recent discoveries are causing my current discomfort. One is that more and more new cars are being sold without spare tires. Now that may be acceptable to those who live in large urban areas where service stations, tire repair shops and tow trucks are readily available. For those of us used to driving several hundred miles at a stretch through empty Western landscapes, the idea is most certainly unacceptable. Most of Oregon’s Harney and Lake Counties fit that empty description. Idaho’s Owyhee, too.

Car companies claim putting a spare tire in each new model costs about $30. Now if you have an annual production run of 200,000, that fifth wheel and tire will cost about $6 million. I once had a flat in Harney County, so far from civilization, that I would have personally paid the $6 million. But, apparently, CEO bonuses are being threatened so we are being asked to sacrifice. Again.

Car makers argue new generations of tires are made of better rubber, are stronger and less apt to have problems. There are also the new “run flat” tires on some of the more expensive models that will normally get you to the next service station. If that service station fixes flats – which many don’t. And is less than 50 miles away. Which many aren’t.

Their weakest argument is that taking out the weight of a tire and wheel makes the vehicle lighter so, therefore, you get better mileage. They make that claim but the savings are so small they don’t try to put a number on it. I could make the same argument that removing all seats but the drivers would probably increase mileage as well but, again, statistically insignificant when compared with convenience.

The second upheaval in my life recently came with the news that fewer K-12 schools, colleges and universities are publishing the traditional yearbook. Again, cost is the reason given. As one principal said, “We’re firing teachers so, when it comes to teachers versus yearbooks, yearbooks are going to lose.” At least that makes more sense than the effect of no spare tire on gas mileage.

Sales of yearbooks have also fallen off recently because people have less disposable income for such things. Another amazing example of how far down the food chain the effects those crooked Wall Street bastards have been on our lives.

Schools also claim they spend thousands ordering yearbooks each year but many who place the orders don’t pick up their copies for one reason or another. So the schools eat the costs on a lot of them.

At least three companies – YearBook Alive, Lifetouch and TreeRing – are in the Internet yearbook publishing business. They create designs from the material submitted, put them online and, for about $15, they’ll send you a hardcopy or you can download one. The TreeRing people claim sales have soared 600% in two years.

In all honesty, yearbooks have never been terribly important in my life. I’ve got a couple of them stashed out in the garage along with lots of other rarely used stuff. May have taken them out once or twice in more than 50 years but that’s all. Probably just to move ‘em.

Still, it’s more than any one person’s value of such things. There’s the tradition and the seeming permanence of spare tires and yearbooks. And a lot of other common fixtures in our lives: home telephones, push lawnmowers, handwriting, math without a calculator, slide rules, fender skirts, single blade razors, nylons, wooden pencils and, yes, spare tires and yearbooks.

We older folks are often told that change is good. We’re told to be flexible. We’re told it’s all for the better. But I’ve noticed most of the people who tell me such things have only just begun to shave.

Off the cliff, again

Author: admin

Rather than put the important part of this blog at the top of the column, I’m going to tell you a story. Please bear with me. The point of the matter will become very, VERY obvious.

The Missus and I recently decided to refinance our home. Several reasons to do so, not the least of which was a reduction in our interest rate by more than two-percent. Most financial advisors will say that’s reason enough. Having bought and sold many homes, we figured things would be pretty familiar. Wrong!

With our excellent credit standing and lack of significant debt, we really had little trouble qualifying. It was what we had to go through to get to the closing stage.

You’ve never seen such a pile of forms! We probably accounted for at least an entire tree from an old growth forest. My count is 63 signatures by each of us. Then, of course, all those forms had to be copied so we had a stack, the broker had a stack and the lender had a stack. Better make that two trees because – in the end – the title company had a stack.

Many – far too many – of the documents had no other reason than to cover someone’s backside. Even the loan broker could not offer a coherent reason for a number of ‘em. But the one that stands out in my mind is the one that certified who I am. The Missus had one, too.

It read something like this: “I, Barrett Rainey, certify that I am Barrett Rainey.” Then I signed it “Barrett Rainey.” Of course, that form had to be notarized. Which was done by someone who wasn’t even in the office! They were in another state! But, had these forms been left out of the tree-killing exercise, our loan wouldn’t have been approved. Made no difference what our credit was or what our assets may have been or our income. We had to self-certify that we are who we say we are. Some gibberish about “the Patriot Act” as I recall. My brain still has not made the connection. Sometimes it’s best to just get through the obstacle course alive without much knowledge about the process. Like sausage-making.

Then – wait for it – all of this paperwork – all of it – was sent to us electronically. Again. All of it. Multiple times! Because the broker who started it had to furnish it. The bank carrying the loan had to furnish it. The closing agency had to furnish it. And each had to be notified – in writing – that we had been furnished it. All of it! Can’t you just hear those saws working in the forest?

But there’s more. The whole tragic point of our experience was yet to come. Everything was signed, sealed and delivered. And the hurdles, inconsistencies and lunacy of those weeks will be just so many memories.

Except for this. Here’s what we learned when it was all over. All those signed and notarized documents have been sent off to another mortgage company somewhere else. They’re being copied – again. Then they’ll be bundled with similar new loans and sold through another money market to investment companies. There, they’ll be sorted out, re-bundled and – wait for it – sold into the world markets. Can you say “derivatives?”

This is one of the major calamities that nearly collapsed our financial markets several years ago! We’ve been here before! We’ve read the book AND seen the movie! And it’s happening again!!! Add to that the news from London that a young banker lost more than $2 billion in six weeks by doing what? Doing WHAT? Selling derivatives!!!!! Likely our home loan!

Despite the redundant paperwork redundancy – despite the billions of dollars lost – regardless of the millions of people hurt by lost retirements, lost homes, careers ended and broken families – we’re doing it again! Our financial markets are lunging straight for the rabbit hole one more time!

Much of the blame for this unoriginal sin certainly rests within the banking community here and overseas. But in my view, the majority rests squarely on the intellectually degenerate Congress of these United States. Banking lobbyists have anointed the pointy heads of both parties with millions and millions of dollars and have stopped any legitimate government regulating action from putting up workable roadblocks to this kind of national theft.

Don’t give me a lot of crap about Dodd-Frank or any similar legislative efforts. What has been done is nothing compared with what MUST be done to stop this nation from going over the edge of a devastating financial cliff. AGAIN! The idiotic excuses of too much regulation being bad for business or allowing the banking industry to “self-regulate” ring hollow when this tragedy starts repeating itself.

Damn it! It’s your money! It’s my money! And – more than that – it’s our lives at stake here. I don’t care if a federal regulator is strapped to the back of every worker on Wall Street one-by-one. If that’s what it takes, so be it.

We have a systemic problem here. The banking world itself is not only capable of bringing about near-collapse when left alone, it’s showing itself entirely able of doing it again. And again. And again.

Well, we got our loan. The whole deal closed. The resultant paper fallout was sent to the four corners of our country. And overseas. We oughta just close the book on it.

The Hell I will!