The Coming Debt Crisis

The U.S. is hurtling toward a debt crisis. Congress seems entirely unfocused on doing anything about it.

As lawmakers trade fire over contempt votes and impeachment, there’s been no progress toward reaching a budget agreement or extending the federal government’s ability to borrow before September, when the money runs out. That’s raising the ugly prospect of more than $100 billion in mandatory cuts as well as an unprecedented default on US debt — a situation that could trigger a worldwide economic catastrophe.
It’s a mess everyone knows is coming, and yet no one seems to have a plan — at least at the moment — for averting disaster.”

https://www.cnn.com/2019/05/11/politics/congress-debt-ceiling/index.html

Defaulting on the U.S. debt would have been unthinkable in any other presidency. But Trump has made a career of defaulting on debt. He’d buy a building or a casino or an airline, load it up with debt, run the thing into the ground financially — because he’s a terrible business man — refuse to pay his creditors, and they’d cut him slack because at the end of the day they didn’t really want to re-possess the asset. Trump thinks that’s how the world works, not just commercial New York real estate.

I think Trump would default on the U.S. debt in a heartbeat, and be proud of himself for doing it.

Who would get hurt? Anyone who holds debt obligations of the U. S. Treasury in our retirement assets, either individually or in a pension plan. Beyond that, defaulting on the debt would be a crisis for the global economy.

When are Trump voters going to wake up to the fact that they’ve elected not only a grifter and a con man, but a moron?

The Gift of Languages

I’ve always admired people who speak multiple languages, and can shift back and forth among them with relative ease. My son-in-law is bi-lingual in English and German. I speak English and reasonably fluent Spanish, and can still read Russian — which I studied in high school and college — although I can no longer carry on a conversation. Many Europeans, due to the closeness of national borders and the ease of going from one EU country to another, shift easily among 3-5 languages.

I’m always a bit taken aback when U.S. tourists in Panama get hung up in restaurants and such, trying to communicate in English with servers or vendors whose primary language is Spanish. Last November, I helped one woman at a nearby table sort out her breakfast bill. She was with a tour group who’d promised that she needed no Spanish to participate in the trip, and here she was with no tour employees nearby and stuck over resolving her bill. After I’d helped her, she said in some frustration and evident annoyance “Why don’t these people speak English?” Um, because Panama is a Spanish-speaking country and you are their guest, not the other way around?

I consider speaking multiple languages a clear asset — a belief not share by many white Republicans and/or older white Americans, as it turns out.

“A new survey finds white Republicans are far more likely to be put off by foreign language speakers than their Democratic counterparts.

According to Pew Research Center, 47 percent of such Republicans say it would bother them “some” or “a lot” to “hear people speak a language other than English in a public place.” Eighteen percent of white Democrats said they would be similarly bothered.

Aside from politics, age and education are the major predictors of linguistic discomfort. Eighteen percent of whites younger than 30 said they would be bothered by a foreign language being spoken, compared with 43 percent in the 50-to-64 age group, and 45 percent among those 65 and older.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2019/05/08/nearly-half-white-republicans-say-it-bothers-them-hear-people-speaking-foreign-languages/?utm_term=.64d231557610&wpisrc=nl_most&wpmm=1

My late mother, a lifelong Democrat, was not a fan of people speaking other languages, especially Spanish. She went to Florida for several weeks in the winter, and always expressed great annoyance at the Miami airport when she’d go to pick someone up and announcements were made in English and Spanish. I responded by saying how helpful it was for me in overseas airports when signs were translated into multiple languages, including English. She was unmoved by the argument.

The study of foreign languages has much declined in our country, and maybe part of this is envy over a skill that older white people tend not to have. According to the article, though, the negativity toward people speaking languages other than English is often also accompanied by negative attitudes toward diversity in general. Despite the recent surge in white nationalism, that’s a profoundly limiting position in our global and multi-cultural world.

Your Additions to “Iconic Film Roles”

In the post about the death of the actor, Peter Mayhew, who played Chewbacca the Wookie, I invited readers to add to my list of iconic film roles. Not all of you read the Comments, and some additions came via email. Here they are:

Tom Hanks and Gary Sinise in Forrest Gump; Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie and Kramer v. Kramer and so many more; Daniel Day Lewis in My Left Foot; Paul Newman and Robert Redford in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Sting; Anthony Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs; Vivian Leigh in Gone with the Wind; Meryl Streep in the Devil Wears Prada and so many more; Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction and so many more; Mary Tyler Moore in Ordinary People; Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf; Gregory Peck in To Kill a Mockingbird; Sally Field in Norma Ray; Robin Williams in Mrs. Doubtfire.

[For my friend B. who contributed that list, track down a film called The Fisher King, in which Robin Williams stars with Jeff Bridges and Mercedes Ruehl. ]

James Earl Jones as Mufafa in the Lion King; Rosalind Russell as Auntie Mame.

Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music.

Come on readers, I know there are more movie buffs out there. And more iconic roles that we all know and recognize…. I’m loving your contributions!

Chewbacca the Wookie Died

Peter Mayhew, the 7foot 3inch tall actor who played Chewbacca the Wookie, has died.

Is there anyone, Star Wars fan or not, who doesn’t know who Chewie is?

My late husband Jerry wasn’t a big movie buff, but he loved Star Wars and loved Chewbacca, the gentle giant.

There are certain iconic roles that are simply part of film culture, and that few of us who love movies would fail to recognize: Judy Garland in the Wizard of Oz. Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca. Clark Gable in Gone with the Wind. Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront and The Godfather. Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s and for those of us who are or were Catholic, The Nun’s Story. Jodie Foster in Silence of the Lambs. Faye Dunaway in Bonnie and Clyde. Anne Bancroft in The Graduate.

Here’s to you, Mrs. Robinson.

Indelible part of film culture.

Who’s on your list?

The Olympian Caster Semenya

Caster Semenya is a South African middle distance runner and Olympic gold winner who has naturally higher levels of testosterone than the typical range for women. Speculation is that Semenya may be intersex.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport has now ruled that in order to continue competing, Semenya will have to take hormones that lower her natural testosterone levels and take blood tests to show that she is doing so. That ruling supports an International Association of Athletics Federation ruling that specifically targets athletes like Semenya. The position of IAAF and CAS is acknowledged to be discriminatory, but the belief is that this discrimination is necessary to safeguard the integrity of women’s sports.

This is a tough one, and it has split the world of women’s athletics. Billie Jean King, Abby Wambach, and Martina Navratilova support Semenya’s position. So does Madeleine Pape, an Australian runner who lost to Semenya in competition. British long distance runner Paula Radcliffe supports IAAF and CAS.

I think blanket rules to cover relatively rare situations are generally a bad idea. I also think it’s ironic that governing bodies who work hard to control performance enhancing drugs in elite competition are now taking the position that performance-limiting drugs must be used in this case. If I were Semenya, I wouldn’t take hormone treatments that could have an uncertain impact on my overall health for the sole purpose of making me other than I am and satisfying sports officials.

Asking her to do something quite unreasonable, I say.

On the Other Side of the Cascade Mountains

People think of Washington state as a progressive place, and it is on this side of the Cascade Mountains, where Seattle and Portland are located. We have two progressive Senators, Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell. We have a progressive governor, Jay Inslee, and a progressive Attorney General, Bob Ferguson.

That’s on this side of the mountain range. On the other side, it’s a different world — including enough of the people who live there to elect state representatives who promote conspiracy theories and advocate armed resistance to what they see as a looming civil war.

“Washington state Republican representative Matt Shea and several associates regaled an audience with conspiracy theories, separatist visions and exhortations for listeners to arm themselves ahead of a looming civil war, at a gathering at a remote religious compound in the north-east of the state last year.

In recordings obtained by the Guardian, Shea and Jack Robertson, also known as radio personality John Jacob Schmidt, invoked their visions and fears of a violent leftist revolt in speeches at the 2018 God and Country event in Marble.

The Guardian last week published leaked chat records in which Shea and Robertson were revealed to have discussed the use of surveillance, “psyops” and violence against liberal and leftist activists.

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/may/01/republican-matt-shea-rightwing-rally-guns

We’ve always had conspiracy theorists and survivalist preppers and people who wall themselves off from the rest of us out of fear, but I’m not sure I knew that there were enough of them to elect state representatives. They apparently want to be their own state, Liberty, and have it be a Christian fundamentalist place where everyone is armed with an AR-15 rifle and lives under the dominion of Christ.

What would Jesus do?

Our Military Spending

According to FP Security Brief, U.S. military spending reached $649 billion dollars in 2018.

“The U.S.-China angle. U.S. military spending reached $649 billion in 2018, and it spends more on the military than the next eight countries combined, SIPRI research shows. China, by comparison, spent $250 billion–the 24th consecutive year it has increased its military spending.”

This is ridiculous overkill, and there are a lot better things we could be spending money on. We should be ashamed.