"Smart in Ukraine is for the U.S. to stay completely out of it. Stupid is for the U.S. to take provocative actions against Russia."  Mike S. Rozeff   

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April 15th, 2014

   The stock market gained ground today.  Gold and silver prices were pounded, and some pundits are nervous about how fiscal events will unfold in the 2nd quarter of 2014. Pundits must be fearful.  That emotion is far more interesting to observe than mere confidence and contentment.  

  News media are bored silly by dull economic news. They'd rather be telling the world about the 1 year anniversary memorials at the Boston Marathon, the cessation of pings in the Indian Ocean, and the Russian threat to  Ukraine.  Ari Shapiro had an almost joyous tone in his voice on NPR this morning as he described circumstances in Ukranian hot spots.  He even had explosions going off in the background, although at one point he mentioned the effect was from a YouTube video someone had loaded on the Interest.  Imagine!  Newscasters are now lifting amateur videos from the Internet to enhance their reports! Do they track down the video-makers in order to pay them? We have no idea. But then, we go back to the days when a beep had to be sounded every 18 seconds when telephone reports were taped for broadcast. A LOT has changed since those olden days.  !!

  We remember when tax day was March 15th. It was March 1st when it started, wasn't it?  We also remember when wage earners got the news that Uncle Sam would "temporarily" withhold estimated federal taxes from pay packets in an effort to bring in needed revenue for the war effort. (WW2) It was the early 1940s and we worked part-time in a cracker bakery and wasn't seriously affected by the new rule, but many of the full-time workers felt it was not fair to have to cough up their taxes before they were due. That was more than 70 years ago and the "temporary" withholding practice continues to this day.

  Not many people remember when the IRS was the Internal Revenue Bureau.  In the 1950s Washington bureaucrats decided to soften the labels on various agencies.  The War Department became the Department of Defense, the Internal Revenue Bureau became the Internal Revenue Service, etc. The boys and girls at the public relations agencies had a field day!

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Price Inflation is still less than 2 percent, annually.

    (Reuters)  In the 12 months through March, the core CPI advanced 1.7 percent after rising 1.6 percent in February.

    The Fed targets 2 percent inflation and it tracks an index that is running even lower than the CPI. The rise last month could ease concerns among some policymakers about inflation being too low.

    In March, food prices increased 0.4 percent after rising by the same margin in February. A drought in the West has pushed up prices for meat, dairy, fruit and vegetables.

    More price increases could be on the way after food prices at the factory gate posted their biggest gain in 10 months in March. Gasoline prices fell 1.7 percent, declining for a third straight month.

    Within the core CPI, shelter costs increased 0.3 percent, which accounted for almost two-thirds of the rise in the index. Rents increased 0.3 percent.

    There were also increases in medical care, apparel, used cars and trucks, airline fares and tobacco. The cost of  recreation and household furnishings fell.

  The Labor Department confirms it. Prices are higher in grocery stores, and apartment and house rents are higher. The Federal Reserve says it aims at a price inflation rate of at least 2 percent but hasn't been able to achieve this goal despite inflating the quantity of credit coming into the system at the present of $65 billion per month.  (This on top of its other credit creating activities.) 

Rancher Bundy Goes to War with the federal government. 
There's a lot more involved than cattle grazing issues.
    "It is  obvious that some activities are favored by the Obama administration’s Bureau of Land Management, and others are disfavored. The favored developments include solar and wind projects. No surprise there: the developers of such projects are invariably major Democratic Party donors. Wind and solar energy survive only by virtue of federal subsidies, so influencing people like Barack Obama and Harry Reid is fundamental to the developers’ business plans.

  " Ranchers, on the other hand, ask nothing from the federal government other than the continuation of their historic rights. It is a safe bet that Cliven Bundy is not an Obama or Reid contributor."  SYMPATHIZING WITH RANCHER BUNDY

  John Hinderaker fully understands that Rancher Bundy doesn't have a legal leg to stand on in his battle to continue grazing his cattle on federal land for free.  But the ruckus is far more involved than merely his claim that his family used that land before there was even a Bureau of Land Management and he intends to keep on doing so.

        Hinderaker decided to dig into the confusing story more diligently than most of the commentators who have been writing reams on the matter.  He notes, for one thing, that much of the state of Nevada is owned by the federal government and finds the heavy hand of Nev. Senator Harry Reid in the management of a large chunk of that land.  "Harry Reid is known to be a corrupt politician, one who has gotten wealthy on a public employee’s salary, in part, at least, by benefiting from sweetheart real estate deals," says Hinderaker. 

        The law may not be on Bundy's side, but his battle is sure to shine the light of discovery on shady deals involving powerful politicians and vast public lands.  That's a real plus. 

We expected repercussions on this...and weren't disappointed!

    When parents die their estates are liable for their debts, not their descendants.  However, Uncle Sam has a different take on this tradition as Mary Grice of Takoma Park, MD, recently discovered.  The government claims it overpaid her late mother for child support 37 years ago and has intercepted Ms. Grice's tax refund to apply as repayment.  (!)  Applying Refunds to Family Debt

    The Federal Trade Commission says “family members typically are not obligated to pay the debts of a deceased relative from their own assets.” But Social Security officials say that if children indirectly received assistance from public dollars paid to a parent, the children’s money can be taken, no matter how long ago any overpayment occurred.  


   "Big Brother isn´t watching you--but he is listening. The S.C. Department of Health and Human Services, one of the largest, costliest agencies in state government, pays Clemson University´s Social Analytics Institute $50,000 a year to 'scrape data' from 150 million public, real-time feeds each day and report back to the agency what people on the Internet are talking about. That includes Medicaid patients who may be complaining about the application process on Twitter or bloggers who criticize Gov. Nikki Haley´s decision to reject Obamacare´s Medicaid expansion. But they say they´re doing this 'social listening' in the name of customer service."

   This item from the Charleston Post and Courier helps reinforce our own decision to avoid Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, and other popular "social media."  We know we're out-of-the-loop, a fuddy duddy, and missing out on the social chatter.  

  We explained our social media avoidance in January, 2011. ("Twittering Ourselves to Death.")   "We know we're out of sync with society by not having a Facebook account, and we don't know the first thing about Twitter.  We don't hang out at Internet chat rooms and we still read books the old-fashioned way having resisted the invitation to 'Kindle.'  It's not that we object to the technological advance of gadgetry.  It's just that we can't manage our time well enough to take on any more entertainment."  

   Nothing is as destructive as a government drowning in debt. Though the time it takes to play out varies, the narrative is always the same:
1. Government borrows too much
2. Government prints money in a desperate attempt to service debt
3. Government ultimately prints too much money, destroying its currency and the savings of all its citizens
4. Unfortunately, it often doesn’t end there. Several of the most horrific atrocities in human history were committed by hopelessly indebted governments.”
< Dan Steinhart gets the credit for this...a tidbit we picked up from Chuck Butler's Daily Pfennig.  

     Nothing earth-shaking here.  Not even new.  This tiresome cycle has been repeated hundreds upon hundreds of times through the ages and the history books record the highlights and list the wreckage of currencies that died.  

     Most of us believe, deep down in our hearts, that the U.S. dollar cannot be destroyed because of the inherent goodness and invincibility of our great nation.  But the socialist impulse overpowered the voting majority and we must suffer the consequences.  


   Our Montana-based artist nephew conjured this clever image of the overblown stock market.  IS it a bubble?  Is it about to pop?  No one can know for sure.  A lot of investors are placing their bets on a bull market continuing.  On the other hand a lot of money has been pulled out of the market in the last two trading days as many players adopt a wait and see position.  

    Ben concludes there is considerable risk in Wall Street at the moment.  We agree with him.    Grrrgraphics.com

Medical doctor offers a valuable primer on money
Thorough...accurate...worth sharing!

    "The U.S. dollar has lost value at an increasing rate since 1971. What cost $100 in 1971 costs $2,428 now, a 96% decline. The dollar lost 75% of its value from 1914 to 1971 and 96% from 1971 to 2014, adding up to a 99% decline over the 100-year period from 1914 to 2014. (I used the Inflation Calculator on shadowstats.com to obtain these numbers.)"  Currency Masquerading as Money

CAVEAT:  An eagle-eyed reader believes Dr. Miller's information, above, is somewhat skewed.  The various "inflation calculators" do not agree.  The dollar may have lost 96 percent of purchasing power since 1914, not 99 percent.  But the main point remains:  The dollar has been almost destroyed since the nation's 3rd central bank (The Federal Reserve) was organized. 

    Anyone with the faintest desire to understand the money muddle should download this extraordinarily clear essay by Doctor Donald W. Miller, Jr. He does a superb job of explaining exactly what today's fiat currency is and how it sunk into its present tattered condition.  Miller writes clearly and precisely.  It's not one of the empty-headed opinion pieces one encounters so often on the Internet.  This one, in fact, could be carried into a classroom and used as a teacher's guide to a basic understanding of the difference between MONEY and debt-based FIAT CURRENCY.

     Armed with this primer on "money" one might thread his/her way across the economic thin ice in relative safety.

     A book review tempts us to order Bill White's "America's Fiscal Constitution."  A few clicks of the computer keyboard would have the 557 page tome rushing to our door from Amazon.com. According to the review White has done a pretty good job of tracing the nation's history of handling federal debt, and we have this hang-up about the subject.  We think the reckless amassing of debt by the U.S. Congress is not only shameful but is a guarantee of misery for posterity. 

  But why do we need another book on the subject?  Why spend $35.00 to bolster our personal conviction that unpayable debt is dangerous?  What's needed now is not another rehash of the history of debt accumulation by the U.S. government.  What's needed is a charismatic, fully informed young leader who can ignite a firestorm of interest among young voters who may come to realize what a rotten deal they're being handed and flock to the voting booths to put a stop to it.  As White points out, "There was once a tradition of limiting the uses of public debt and worrying about the burden it placed on future generations.  No more."

  As long as a voting majority chooses spendthrifts instead of statesmen prospects for our posterity are dreadful.  As former Colorado Governor Lamm said many years ago, "It's like Christmas in reverse.  The grownups get the presents and send the bills to the children." 

  Maybe a rock 'n roll or hip-hop star will write a song that will inspire American youth to begin to fight back.  

Brendan Eich got the boot at Mozilla...the Firefox browser company.
His mistake? He gave money in 2008 to support Prop 8 in California.  

   "What the Brendan Eich episode teaches us, where a man was driven from a position he had earned, because of his beliefs, and was abandoned and left undefended by false friends and gutless peers in Silicon Valley, is this:

   "In the new dispensation, opposition to same-sex marriage disqualifies you from leadership and may legitimately be used to bring about the ruin of your career.

   "This is the new blacklist."  The New Blacklist