Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A visit to the epicenter of Virginia's earthquake

I did make a gander down to the Mineral, VA area today to see what an East Coast 5.8 earthquake had done. It's a little bit shocking to any sense of complacence for those of us who don't live on the West Coast. 

On the way, in Culpeper, a two-story building had to be razed because it had cracked. 

Near Mineral, the Louisa County High School is closed and roped off  (that's my second picture on this posting, above), and a few buildings have obvious chimney or façade damage. The students will have to use a middle school building and alternate days (with Saturday school).

The epicenter of the quake seemed to be about five miles south of Mineral, on a side road that connects VA 76 (a bike tour route) to US 522. The road goes through some gulches and bulges in the ground not associated with streams.    There was one spot where the shoulder of the road seemed to have sunk abruptly (I didn’t get the picture). There is a small natural ridge in the area that seems to correspond to the fault.

Some aftershocks have continued into this week. We cannot be sure that stronger quakes even in Virginia could not happen.  A severe quake occurred near Charleston, SC in the 18th Century. 

The area is on the west side of Lake Anna, not far from the nuclear power plant (April 6 posting). It's not that far from I-95, and only 40 miles NW of Richmond.

 On the other hand, it's only 30 miles to Culpeper, and the Blue Ridge is easily viewed from Culpeper. 

In December 1992, I  visited the New Madrid, MO area, and actually did feel a tremor while on the Kentucky side.

In Washington DC, it's pretty easy to see the damage to the sculptures atop one of the three towers (in the back in this picture which I took Tuesday) of the Washington Cathedral. The Episcopal church has no insurance for this damage and will need to raise funds for expensive repairs. 
Update: The Weather Channel reports that there was a 3.4 aftershock at around 5 AM Sept. 1.  I did not feel it in Arlington. 

Monday, August 29, 2011

Wrong-way cyclist almost gets hit by right-turning car (mine).

Today, in north Arlington VA, as I was pulling out to turn right from a side street, a cyclist came barreling down the wrong way on a sidewalk. He, a teenager, did not slow down, and might well have been struck. 

I'm all for people using bicycles non-competitively, for exercise and personal transportation (and to keep the environment green and cool); but a bicycle is still a "vehicle" and has to follow traffic laws. 

When a cyclist (jogger or fast-walking pedestrian) travels the wrong way, a motorist is looking left for oncoming traffic and expects pedestrians, cyclists, or joggers going the wrong way to notice that he will not see them and to stop.

I know, in grade school, they teach pedestrians to walk facing traffic, but cyclists should not do this because of the speed issue, and joggers should at least be prepared to stop or else jog behind turning vehicles (in north Arlington most of them do).  But wrong-way cyclists don’t seem to stop.

Here’s a site on wrong-way cycling.

The Arlington VA Police Department website confirms that Virginia law requires cyclists to ride with traffic, not against it, here.  Note rule 3, second section, "ride with traffic, not against it, in single file".  Apparently that's true on streets with bicycle lanes (there are many of them in Arlington).   If there is a bicycle lane on only one side, it may be OK to ride wrong way if you stop at every intersection.

Many cities have ordinances against riding bicycles on sidewalks. I know Minneapolis did when I lived there. 

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Homeowners in East largely unprotected by earthquake coverage

Hayley Peterson has an important column on p. 4 of the Aug. 26 Washington Examiner, “Few homeowners’ earthquake damage covered by insurance”, link here

Less than 5% of East Coast residents carry earthquake insurance, which means that some are paying enormously because Virginia’s recent tremor was larger than ever expected in this area.  Homeowners in Boston, South Carolina, and even New York may be naïve about the risk they faced, given historical facts going back to the 18th Century.  This may be an issue in the Midwest with the New Madrid MO “fault”.
Earthquake coverage usually has huge deductibles, such as $25000 or 5% of the value of the property, whichever is more.

Recently, found apartment buildings in Fairfax County were condemned (at least temporarily), as well as  two in Prince Georges County, due to foundation damage from the Aug. 23 Virginia quake.

The article mentions EQECAT, a California company that calculates insurance risks associated with a variety of perils, link here

If you don't live on a flood plain, do you need flood insurance?

If you don’t live in a flood plain, do you need flood insurance? (The question is qualified by the caveat that the government has several levels of flood plain risk.)

It does take at least thirty days to place a policy into effect, and you can’t get flood coverage for a hurricane already named.

Here’s a question from FloodSmart, “is flood damage from wind-driven rain covered?” link. You can check the site for more general information on the National Flood Insurance Program, NFIP.

Homeowners insurance companies often include flyers encouraging the purchase of flood insurance on renewal.  Remember, there may be no ordinary policy that covers flood.

If you’re very high above any conceivable stream or river (or ocean), you may not need it.  But I would wonder about other possible disasters, like sewage backups, water main breaks, and the like. 

While we criticize people for “choosing” to live on the ocean and causing expense, the fact is we depend on people who do that.  But I don’t think the government should be in the business of protecting vacation “indulgences” on the beach (Nevil  Shute’s pun intended).

FEMA says that 25% of flood claims come from outside flood plains, and that melting snow can be a particular hazard (like the 2010 East Coast blizzards). 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Irene v. Isabel

The power outages in the DC area are piling up quickly now, for one main reason:  old trees (often with root systems compromised by sidewalks and pavements) are allowed to stand near power lines and, worse, near houses and apartments, where they can crash in and, in one case in Tidewater VA today, kill. It takes a lot of thought and expense to make an infrastructure robust – in a time when a part of our political establishment didn’t want to let our government pay all its bills.

I live in Arlington VA and grew up here, and I don’t recall a lot of power outages when growing up. I remember Hurricane Hazel in 1954, and don’t think “we” had many problems.  We lost power for a day in 9th grade after a wet-snow blizzard in March. But outages were rare.

It’s changed. Since Hurricane Isabel, all utilities in the DC area have had a lot of trouble with even average storms.  It has gotten better in 2011.  But I recently had a generator installed.

I haven’t needed it yet in this storm, but I’m afraid to go to bed. And this was not a night to go clubbing. 
During Hurricane Isabel in September2003, the gentle rain bands started around noon Wednesday, and by 3 PM the power was flickering and went off.  We got it back in about 14 hours, but friends (who used our freezer) were out nine days because Dominion Power couldn’t get enough transformrs.  This is stupid.  Large storms occur on the East Coast, an infrastructure should be ready for them.

Isabel went west of us, and the weather actually seemed less severe; during much of the storm, the air was relatively calm with little rain. Today, since about 4 PM the heavy rain has been relentless. Around 5 PM, there was a severe thunderstorm, with the sound of a transformer (power stayed on) going out, and a whirlwind of rain (like an F-minus-1 spindown tornado with maybe 70 mph gusts) going down the street, not hitting anything.

And, yes, Irene is taking Amtrak to New York City:


Here's a story by National Geographic on the danger of a hurricane like Irene to the power grid.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Hurricane Irene timeline

The Weather Channel has been particularly hysterical today with headlines of "extraordinary" and "dire" threats to the entire East Coast from Hurricane Irene.

The track of the storm (the bisector of the "Cone of Uncertainty") shifted about 30 miles west early Thursday, but may have shifted again at 11 PM slightly to the East. The average track has the Eyewall playing tag with Ocean City MD (picture above from 2010, lower end), as a strong Category 1.  There is great concern about what happens when it reaches New York City, flooding lower Manhattan, many lower areas of the outer boroughs, and causing transit to be shut down for several days.

A track slightly inland could bring stronger winds to Washington and particularly Baltimore.

The danger  for homeowners in further inland areas with individualized problems is that repair crews may be diverted to coastal areas with many more widespread problems.

During Isabel in 2003, where the track was west of DC, there was widespread tree damage and outages for ten days or so despite the fact that during much of the storm winds were relatively light and there were periods without rain. It was actually pleasant outside during much of the event.

Inland, the strongest winds will be from the NE, and later the NW as the low moves away.  That means the pattern of tree damage may be different from what happens in usual thunderstorms.

Weather Channel video of timeline as of Thursday night:

Here is the NBC Washington Forecast:  Late Friday afternoon, predictions have downgraded the intensity of Irene slightly. It was reported as expected to be a Category 1 as it passes Ocean City.

View more videos at:

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

East Coast earthquake: unsettling problem at Lake Anna nuclear power plant reported; condemned apartment buildings could lead to a homelessness crisis

I first thought the quake was the generator turning on (with no power outage, strange); then when the shaking and rumbling increased, I thought there could have been an explosion at a construction site nearby. But finally, I went outside and found neighbors saying it was an earthquake.  I emailed WJLA, but the TV stations didn’t have the breaking news of the earthquake for ten minutes.

As the evening wore on, more reports of damage rolled in.  I went out to a Home Depot at Seven Corners, VA and found it closed.  But I saw no damage at all driving around northern VA myself. This evening, the Ballston Common was operating normally.

An older high rise apartment building (or two  of them) in the Hyattsville MD, above Branch Ave. area has been condemned already.  I’m not sure if this means it cannot be repaired and must be demolished. Here is a reference for how it works in Massachusetts (not Maryland), link

There could be danger that more buildings will be condemned, or these buildings may have been unusually weak structurally or the area around it may be unusually sensitive to seismic energy.  If many buildings were suddenly condemned (perhaps unnecessarily), there could be a sudden homelessness crisis.  Authorities should not be in a hurry to condemn buildings that probably can be repaired.   But over the years, a number of apartment complexes, especially in the Prince Georges County area of MD, have been reported by the media to have very serious problems.

On the East Coast, relative moderate earthquakes (under 6) can propagate for hundreds of miles because of the lack of transversing faults.

The media also reports that the first backup power system for cooling rods at the Lake Anna Nuclear Station (which I visited in April, very near the earthquake epicenter) failed, and that Dominion Power had to go to a second backup. Michio Kaku said today that this is not good, that ultimately it raises the specter of a meltdown in the area (see April 6 posting on this blog).  
The Lake Anna station has a visitor's center, but it is not easy to see the actual reactors, that are "hidden away" like in Josh Groban's song. 
Last month, I also drove past the Indian Point nuclear station 50 miles north of NYC on the Hudson; it is said to be built to take only up to a 6.0 quake.  And New York City is more exposed to large quakes than Virginia. 

Monday, August 22, 2011

Amtrak brings up movie scenario with a measles scare

Amtrak is bringing back memories of movies like “The Cassandra Crossing” or even ABC’s “Bird Flu in America” with a warning that passengers on a recent train from Boston to Virginia could have been exposed to measles.

Anyone who was vaccinated should be all right. I had the measles myself just before age 7 in 1950; I came down with it while on a family vacation in Ocean City, MD.   Could measles explain some of the physical developmental difficulties that I would experience later? It’s possible, but that calls for a close examination that would be out of reach – maybe my old NIH records would turn something up.

The MSNBC story by Linda Carroll is here.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

GOP denial on global warming would conflict with "social conservatism"

Joel Achenbach and Julie Eilperin have a major story on the front page of the Washington Post, “The hot politics of global warming: Topic a ‘wedge’ issue with little change to scientific consensus”,  or “Climate-change science makes for hot politics” online.

The most conservative GOP candidates – Bachmann and Perry – are claiming that “global warming” is an urban legend, as they neglect the mathematical evidence as from films like Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” (2005, Paramount Vantage), as well as his supplementary, illustrated book.

The odd thing, from my perspective, is that global warming would fit a socially conservative agenda, promoting the idea of shared communal and family values and a willingness to suspend self for locally compelling purposes. But even Carlson and Mero, in their 2007 book “The Natural Family: A Manifesto” (reviewed in my books blog Sept. 2009) are that we live in a world of “plenty”.

One irony is that the mechanics of global warming could suddenly lead to an ice age, if the polar ice caps melted and interfered with the Gulf Stream. 

The Post story link is here. 

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Bachmann sidesteps question about nation's paying its already-incurred bills when talking about massive spending cuts, after straw poll win

Today, Candy Crowley interviewed Michele Bachmann about her “straw poll” Iowa win, and got into the matter of the debt ceiling fiasco.

Bachmann claimed that, had the debt ceiling not been raised, bond holders would have been paid and seniors would have gotten their social security, and military personnel and veterans would have been paid. Maybe so.   
(I’ll sidestep right now whether Obama could and would have invoked the 14th Amendment which, apart from possible impeachment, would have made the debt ceiling matter “almost” (not quite) totally moot.)  But then she went on to say something like, “we have to cut spending”.  Does that mean stiffing people who have already put in the hours for which they must be paid?  That would include contractors and federal employees.
We’re not talking just about layoffs. We’re talking about not paying people for work already done, expenses already incurred.

Do people get the difference? 

Yes, there can be personal hardships (on individuals, extending into their families) in both kinds of circumstances.  But Bachmann is threatening the whole idea of an economy that can be trusted. Modern individualism is based on this economy, and, curiously, on a certain kind of global interdependence and trust.
In the longer run, the “Tea Party” could be right.  While I buy the idea that the short term economic malaise requires stimulus and that deficits should be cut gradually in the long term, I’ve heard this many times before.  Do we have to think about cold turkey now, to avoid a bigger debacle later, when maybe three-fourths of our GDP goes to service debt?   (People have said that about the Great Depression – that the New Deal prolonged it – and have said that about the 2008 bailouts and TARP.  But the same people have sometimes said we should get rid of the FDIC and deposit insurance, too.)

The radical Right could be “right”: future generations could be better off if we can repudiate some of our burdens, throw people off the boat, and start over. But that starts a debate on the moral aspect of the social contract that they don’t seem to want to have.  For example, should we, as one USA Today column suggested, limit the lifetime amount people can spend on Medicare, or means test (even across family) the use of life-extending procedures once a certain age is reached?  “Nobody” wants to face this.

The “debate”, if you have it, certain turns into something else: how much of the safety net should be covered by public funding, and how much of it should be part of inter and intra-filial personal responsibility?   The claims that entitlements are wrecking our economy could be overblown; runaway contractor abuse could be part of the problem.

And, does raising taxes a little on the “rich” stop the offering of jobs? Well, a family making just $250000 a year is no longer “rich” for one thing, but, maybe you could raise that number. Then you have the question, if a family that owns a few McDonalds’s franchises pays more in taxes, does it hire fewer people? Maybe so.  But if you’re the head of a Facebook or Google and pay more in taxes yourself, do you hire fewer people? Probably not.  As I look at my own future (a movie venture), I could see this playing out either way.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

S&P downgraded US for fake threat of default, no other reason; look at the consequences now

Eugene Robinson has an op-ed on p A15 of the Tuesday Aug. 9 Washington Post, “The GOP’s downgrade”, called online “A downgrade’s GOP footprints”, link here

S&P should have used only one justification for its downgrade. “It’s pretty simple: if you threaten not to pay your bills, people will – and should – take you seriously.”  And the U.S. -- if it continues borrowing in an "orderly" manner, can certainly pay all its bills on time. 

Robinson does say that Cantor should never have threatened (or been allowed to threaten) to use the debt ceiling as “leverage”. Cantor and other TP members (Bachmann) thought they could do so in such a way that the president and Democrats would get "blamed". But Obama could have taken default off the table by saying he would use the 14th Amendment.  (Listen to Bill Clinton, a lawyer himself.)  Both parties share some “fault”, but 80% of it is with the House Republicans.  Is life about seeing who gets punished?

In the ordinary world, remember, making a threat to take or “expropriate” someone’s property or assets is a crime. It’s extortion.  Politicians don’t have to play by the rules they make.

Monday, August 08, 2011

S&P downgrades Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, looks at clearninghouses, state and local governments next (and soon); Dow falls on second SP announcement

The AP is reporting that Standard & Poor’s will downgrade Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and other entities linked to the U.S.   The brief story with details, which will expand, is here

It’s likely that local and state governments could suffer downgrades from S&P as they are looked at soon, but their damage may already have been done by pension problems (such as Central Falls, RI).  Other associated clearninghouses, farm agencies, and the like will have downgrades.  

The S&P announcement Monday morning  pushed the Dow down some more, from about -200 to about -360, as an emotional reaction in the market.

Eric Kravitz has a Forbers article on S&P’c comments on the Tech industry, which may weather all of this well. Some tech companies share the hit on the Dow this morning, but it’s hard to say if this anything more than emotion, since tech stocks are volatile anyway.

Ironically, Treasury yields actually went down a little Monday morning.  Financial commentators, as on CNN, still expect only slight increases in interest rates and mortgages. 

President Obama will address the nation at 1 PM Monday.

Update: The president said, "whatever a ratings agency may say, we are still a Triple A country".

I found this story on bond prices and the downgrade on Yahoo! here, by "Zacks".

S&P seems to have become the "Umpire", despite some miserable performance in the past (as with Enron).

Saturday, August 06, 2011

S&P publishes its rationale for downgrade; immediate effect on bonds may be rather minimal

Standard & Poor’s indeed has a nice tome explaining the downgrade for the US sovereign debt from AAA to AA+, PDF link here.  This does seem like a historic “Event”, NBC-style (with no Sophia).

S&P is very critical of the partisan political polarization within the U.S., and mentions the “demographic winter” problem (without using those words).  It’s pretty easy to imagine this whole problem dropping down, like a microburst, into a discussion of personal family and filial responsibility.  The article makes metaphors with “gray” and “green”.

But the United State is unusual in having a separate authorization (as distinct from original appropriation) to raise debt to pay bills it has already ratcheted up.  Removing a separate debt ceiling process could help restore some confidence in ratings agencies.

Will this cause higher interest rates immediately and cause the value of current bond portfolios to deteriorate?

It’s only one agency, with a questionable performance in 2008, and at least one major miscalculation in its numbers. And this event was no surprise. Generally, it would seem that the effect on the markets in the near future may be minimal. 

Nevertheless, some states and municipalities are already in serious trouble anyway (try Central Falls, RI).

Try this analysis, from “Short Takes” in late July, link here.     Note the discussion of “tipping points” and the downgrade certainly invokes such an inflection point.

CNN Money has a primer today that is moderately reassuring to private people, here. It's called "Your money in an AA rated U.S."  Actually, it's AA+ rated, but still on negative watch.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Standard & Poors getting ready to downgrade US credit, cites poor quality of Congressional behavior and capability of people who "serve" in office; U.S. says S&P miscalculated; "It's done!"

ABC News is reporting, right after the Wall Street bell rang with a slight improvement on “Black Friday”, that Standard &  Poors  is going to (or is very likely to) downgrade the United States bond rating, either to AA or AA+. Treasury officials are preparing for this. This will mean slightly higher interest rates and lower bond prices, but higher yields on new bonds (but not on existing bonds which can drop in value).  This may not be good news for retirees with heavy bond portfolios. However, some reports say that interest rates would raise only if Moody’s also downgrades, which is thought to be unlikely right now.

Standard & Poors is upset with the political gridlock in Washington, with its inability to act decisively to restore fiscal credibility, and even with the inability of the electorate to place intellectually capable people (of any party or no party) in office (or the disinclination of people who would do a better job to run at all).  The ABC blog Breaking News story is here.

On "World News Tonight" ABC reported that the Administration claims that S&P has made a major miscalculation and may be able to rebut the numerical arguments that would be published with a downgrade.  So just maybe it can be sidestepped.   This would be the first such downgrade in US history (even to be taught to high school history classes).

MSNBC and CNN have yet to carry this story (as of 6:50 PM Friday).  

Picture: an "off ramp" on a hiking trail in Shenandoah. There were no "off ramps" on the debt ceiling, according to Carney.

Update: later Friday

The downgrade to AA+  has taken place. S&P says the calculation error would not affect the result. The effect on bond prices is not yet clear.  Here are Ali Velshi and Anderson Cooper:

On Yahoo!, Daniel Gross writes, "Is US Credit Rating a Victim of GOP Sabotage?" here.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Get ready for Black Friday. (I claim credit for today's market crash!)

I did it. Or my financial planner at Wells Fargo did it. We decided early Wednesday to celebrate the “Deal” and spank Congress for its boorish behavior by selling out bigtime, going “conservative.”  We told the market, “go ahead and tank Thursday.” It did.

Actually, Wall Street stampeded today more from fear over what is going on in Europe, where countries really can’t pay their bills, than from Congress, which went on recess even before it settled the FAA problem (it did that in absentia, today).  President Obama can deal with reporters by himself now, and then he gets to go on August vacation, too. (Bill Clinton and George W. always went on vacation this time of year.)

Asian markets are tanking tonight.

Oil and even gold went down today. So survivalist eagerness for gold took a hit, too.

Everybody ready for Black Friday?

Actually, I think the 1987 crash happened on a Monday, and so was Aug. 31, 1998, as I recall. Over a weekend, investors can worry even more at the Fire Island or Hamptons parties.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Military general in charge of Katrina rescues wants to send Congress to boot camp. "Pay your dues!"

CNN published an opinion by Lt. Gen. Russel Honore, who headed up the military response to Hurricane Katrina, “For a lesson in shared sacrifice, send Congress to boot camp”, link here

Here’s where our political leaders could learn teamwork and “physical sacrifice” (his term), a notion that had offended me as a boy.  In tenth grade, I once asked a PE teacher if the Army intentionally taught boys to take pain. After all, the ancient Spartans did (without flinching). He said, no.

There used to be “officer Basic”, too. Maybe Congress could get through that. 

There is a review of Honore's 2009 book "Survival" on the Book Review blog, Aug. 17, 2011.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Rep. Moran (D-VA) writes to me that Obama should have used the 14th Amendment, why he voted no

First, I want to recognized the moment created when Gabby Giffords appeared in Congress Monday, motivated in part by the possibility that her vote could make the difference on the Debt Extension. 

I do not show a lot of emotion over these matters, but I think her appearance helped change the mood of this whole episode, which is very disturbing in most ways. 

I got an email from Representative Jim Moran (D, 8th District, northern VA). He voted against the measure and says that the president had the right to invoke the Fourteenth Amendment, as suggested by former president Bill Clinton, and should have threatened to do so, taking out the "extortion" implied by the asymmetric behavior of some House Republicans. 

Since the email would be in public domain, I can reproduce it for visitors. Here it is:

"Thank you for contacting me with your concerns regarding the recent impasse over increasing the debt ceiling. I appreciate you taking the time to share your views with me.

"As you know, on Monday, August 1st, the House passed the “Budget Control Act of 2011,” legislation that raised the debt ceiling while cutting discretionary spending deeply. This bill was the product of a deal negotiated between President Obama and Congressional leadership. It was passed by the Senate and signed by the President the following day.

"Under the terms of the deal the President is authorized to raise the debt limit by at least $2.1 trillion. In exchange for that necessary increase, the bill immediately enacts nearly a trillion dollars in spending cuts by creating caps on federal discretionary spending which includes funding for education, transportation, health research and national defense. It further establishes a “Super Committee” made up of three representatives from each party in the House and three from each party in the Senate. This committee will be tasked with identifying an additional $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction. That Committee must report its plan to Congress by November 23rd and Congress must vote on the plan by the 23rd of December. Should the Committee fail to report a plan, or should Congress not pass it, the Budget Control Act contains a “trigger” through which automatic spending cuts, split between the already decimated domestic discretionary budget, Medicare provider payments and defense spending would be enacted.

"I could not support the bill. The debt ceiling has been raised cleanly 39 times over the last 30 years, 18 times by President Reagan alone. But for the first time ever, a deal has had to be negotiated to raise the debt ceiling and prevent a default that would have greatly damaged our economy. Given the circumstances, President Obama should have used invoking the 14th Amendment to raise the debt ceiling as leverage against those willing to force default, making it clear to America’s citizens and investors that the full faith and credit of the United States cannot be taken hostage.

"This deal was simply not representative of a balanced approach to long-term deficit reduction. By leaving revenue entirely off the table, the agreement severely restricts the government’s ability to make investments in the human and physical capital of this country – investments that created the strongest middle class in the world and made our country the most powerful. At a time of stagnant growth and high unemployment, the far-right of the Republican Party has been able to hold our economic security hostage in exchange for deep cuts that will reduce growth and employment and increase inequality in the short term, without properly addressing the structural causes behind our long-term deficits.

"Government spending currently equals roughly 25 percent of GDP, while revenues being collected are at a historically low 15 percent of GDP. This gap, which represents our yearly deficit, is unsustainable – and despite the rhetoric cannot be bridged by spending cuts alone. Under the Clinton tax rates that prevailed during the 1990s the economy created a record number of jobs and the government actually ran a surplus for over two years, leaving a projected surplus through 2011 of $2.3 trillion. These budget deals included spending cuts and new revenues and should be the model we follow today. Unfortunately, the balanced budgets and growing surplus that were paying down the debt were destroyed through the reckless mismanagement of the Bush Administration and a Republican controlled Congress that undertook two wars, two massive tax cuts, and a Medicare prescription drug program which pays retail rather than negotiated prices. None of these policies were paid for with either equivalent spending cuts or new sources of revenue. And following the Great Recession, caused in large part by deregulation and the lack of oversight of our banking system, we are where we are today.

"The agreement formalized by the Budget Control Act validates the political strategy of those Republican radicals who were willing to create default and economic chaos in order to avoid true compromise and a balanced approach to deficit reduction. This resolution has demonstrated the political benefits of hostage-taking and only makes it more likely that this ugly process will be repeated in the future. This brinksmanship has eroded the global confidence in our system of government, a confidence that made the dollar the global reserve currency and the Treasury bill the world’s safest investment. I believe that this process and its result will have a lasting negative effect on our economy, prevent investment in our infrastructure and weaken our economic competitiveness.

"Again, I appreciate your views on this issue as it will affect our economy for years to come."

Senate roll call vote is here (C-span).

House roll call here (NY Times).

Monday, August 01, 2011

"Satan's Sandwich" comes up in House soon; here are the texts I found; BILL PASSES HOUSE

Here is the CBO (Congressional Budget Office, non-partisan) analysis of the Budget Control Act of 2011, link.

The bill that passed July 28 is HR 2693, govtrack link here. I can't find the July 31 text on govtrack yet. 

The latest version in the House to be voted on tonight seems to be (web url) this. 

Nancy Pelosi has said she will “support” its passage. They call it "Satan's Sandwich". 

Diane Sawyer called this "three dimensional chess". 

Picture: Sorry, Arlington is no longer part of "the City".

Update: C-SPAN:  House approves debt ceiling bill 269-161.  Gabrielle Giffords attended and voted for the bill.  I am trying to get the HR number.

I goes to the Senate Tuesday.

Update: It passed the Senate 74-26.  President Obama signed the bill at 2:10.  The bill was S. 365 with House Amendments.