US Deserves Another Credit Downgrade

On any given day, tens of millions flock to the beach for the sun, sand and surf.  Yet because there have been fifty cases over the last decade of people digging deep holes being trapped in sand cave-ins (including one this week), there is a renewed call to ban digging holes at the beach.  Some towns have already done so (Myrtle Beach) and some are close to following suit (Los Angeles).

It’s such a “serious risk” that the LA Lifeguard Division Chief, when asked by a reporter what advice he would give parents who are heading to the beach, replied, “Don’t let your kids dig holes.”

Talk about burying your head in the sand. 

Fifty cases out of millions is insignificant — and that’s just the equivalent of one beach-going day. Now extend that out over ten years, and we’re talking about creating laws to ban an activity that had negative results for only 50 out of literally billions of beach trips.

Given that this warped mentality is now the norm, it’s no surprise that America just got handed a horrendously bad debt ceiling deal by Congress— one that will only exacerbate the problem — yet is already being celebrated as a necessary step and part of the “solution.”

Nothing could be further from the truth.

So what do passing ridiculous laws and debt-raising deals have in common?  Both ignore the real problems, with  bury-your-head-in-the-sand thinking. Bad decisions are rationalized in a paternalistic, group-think way, accomplishing nothing but providing the decision-makers with a false sense of feeling good. 

It’s bad enough that we now make laws to “protect” idiots who want to dig side by side six-f0ot holes and try to tunnel between them. But laws intended to prevent stupidity never work.  So why don’t we instead focus on the real problems that we have, instead of passing do-nothing regulations that only hinder law-abiding folks using common sense? Because it’s the easy way out.

Welcome to the M.O. of the United States Congress.

Let’s look past the rhetoric and ponder the real implications of the debt deal recently passed by Congress and heralded as absolutely “necessary” to save America:

1) If virtually everyone in Washington agreed that the high national debt was a bad thing, then how could those same folks turn around and raise it?  It’s like locking an alcoholic in a liquor store for a week and expecting sobriety.  If the debt was admittedly the problem, then raising it, by definition, would only make the problem worse.  Go figure.

2) How can Congress be expected to solve the nation’s educational failures when its own basic math skills are suspect?  So to cut two trillion in spending, the solution is to add two trillion to the debt? Hmmm.  Granted, columnists are not that smart, but that one just doesn’t seem to add up.

3) A number of Republican Congressmen voted for debt deal “so that the small businessman wouldn’t be hurt” and to avoid a credit rating downgrade. Now, they get the worst of both worlds.  As any high schooler could have told you, the downgrade was coming, since the cuts weren’t nearly substantial enough.  So now faith in America takes a huge hit, interest rates and inflation will rise, and the markets will continue to freefall.  Yep, those things really serve the interests of small business.

4) Who exactly is going to buy the additional trillions in debt?  Sure, there will be foreign nations, investors, and fund managers, but there simply isn’t enough money out there to buy that much debt.  And don’t look to China to buy a whopping share of the new debt, since they aren’t exactly thrilled with the way things are going.  They are nervously watching their current U.S. debtholdings, and don’t want to be holding a worthless bag of goods as the value of the dollar continues to plummet. The Chinese may be a lot of things, but being imprudent with their own money is not one of them. They were cutting back on buying U.S. Treasuries well before this current fiasco.

5) Most significantly, does anyone really have any idea what a trillion is, let alone two, or 17, for that matter?  No, not even the brightest astrophysicists. It is an incomprehensible number.  So to give the debt increase some perspective, we have just given ourselves the green light to borrow more than the twice the entire economic output of Texas, currently the most productive state in the nation in terms of attracting residents and businesses and beating the recession.  For that matter, the debt increase is greater that the Gross Domestic Product of all but four countries — just the increase!

The truth of the matter is that America’s credit rating should have been downgraded quite some time ago, so it is a mathematical certainty that it will be downgraded again in the relatively near future.  And regarding the argument that raising the debt was necessary to avoid default, that’s Washintgton-speak, plain and simple.  There were numerous ways to pay the nation’s bills while not raising the debt ceiling.  Don’t get hypnotized by the “complexities” foisted upon us by a Congress — both Parties — with an insatiable appetite to spend.

They could have fixed the problem. They chose not to.

And the beauty of it all, at least from Congress’ perspective, is that they got what they wanted: more money to spend now, and down-the-road reductions that can, and absolutely will, be ignored by future Congresses. 

So what happens? Given our unprecedented situation, no one really knows for sure, but none of it will be good, and the pain level will be huge.

The West is experiencing its financial bankruptcy in large part because of its spiritual bankruptcy, and until that changes, don’t expect things to “get back to normal” anytime soon. 

But there is one measure of preparedness that will undoubtedly come in handy as the economic storm worsens: when at your foreign owned service station, learn to ask for your Middle Eastern-derived gasoline in Chinese. 


An accredited member of the media, Chris Friend is an independent columnist, television commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau,

Readers of his column, “Freindly Fire,” hail from six continents, thirty countries and all fifty states. His work has been referenced in numerous publications including The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, foreign newspapers, and in Dick Morris’ recent bestseller “Catastrophe.”

Freind, whose column appears regularly in Philadelphia Magazine and nationally in Newsmax, also serves as a frequent guest commentator on talk radio and state/national television, most notably on FOX Philadelphia.  He can be reached at



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August 17, 2011 at 1:23 pm Comments (0)

Rep. Mike Sturla–Lancaster’s Finest

Mike Sturla represents the City of Lancaster in the PA House. He is the House Democratic Policy Chairman, an anti-Marcellus zealot, and a raging jackass. Here’s a quote from a recent email. (h/t Grassrootspa)

Also, aside from building roads so their trucks can get to drill sites and doing a little stream work to mitigate damage from their road building, exactly what are all those things the drillers are doing for the local communities? Patronizing the bars at night? Driving up the cost of rental housing? Spreading sexually transmitted disease amongst the womenfolk? Causing school districts to ask local governments to ban truck traffic on local roads during school bus pick up and drop off times so kids don’t get killed? Upgrading emergency preparedness equipment to handle a well blow out? Running compressor stations that have decibel levels equal to a jet engine?

And there we have it. The Marcellus Shale–bringing you cheap gas and VD since 2004.

You stay classy, Mike Sturla.

[Special thanks to PALurker for pointing out that it’s Mike Sturla, not Dan Sturla. Either way, he remains a raging jackass.]

August 16, 2011 at 7:14 pm Comment (1)

Toomey To Super Committee


House Speaker John Boehner said he’s tapped House Republican Conference Chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, to serve as co-chair of the committee. He’s also appointing House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., to the committee, as well as House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said he’s appointing Sens. Jon Kyl, Ariz., Pat Toomey, Pa., and Rob Portman, Ohio.

In a statement, McConnell said the three senators he’s chosen understand the “gravity” of the current economic climate and will bring to the table “the kind of responsibility, creativity, and thoughtfulness that the moment requires.”

Toomey is good on the Senate side, but no Freshman teabaggers from the House? Really?

Not a one?

August 10, 2011 at 12:20 pm Comments (0)

Guest Post: Stop the Jobs-Killing Regulations on Career Colleges

Jack McCartan serves on the board of Pittsburgh Technical Institute board member and is a member of the Student Access Student Choice Coalition.

Guest Post is a occasional feature at the watercooler… if you’d like to post a piece please email it to me, and I will put post it. Same rules apply as to the cooler contributors. You have to be a real person, no screen names… and it’s got to be watercooler topical. – Ed

Here is a message for Senator Tom Harkin and the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP): Put an end to the senseless “kangaroo courts” on private sector colleges and universities, and start focusing on creating jobs so that our graduates have a place to flourish once they complete school.

Indeed, the very institutions that this committee has spent the last several months burdening with unrealistic and job-killing regulations are the same institutions that are preparing thousands of qualified graduates to fill openings in high demand career fields nationwide.

This predicament begs a very simple and serious question. Why not abandon these counterproductive hearings and start focusing on how Washington is going to work with the private sector to create jobs?

Today’s hearing, disguised as a “roundtable discussion,” serves no other purpose than to cast private sector colleges and universities in a negative light, and will undoubtedly feature the greatest hits of faulty and one-sided criticisms on these vital vocations schools and degree programs.

For example, one of the participants in the discussion, Robert Shireman, former deputy undersecretary at the Department of Education, is afounder of the Institute for College Access and Success, a group opposed toprivate sector colleges and universities.

Even more troubling, Shireman met with the infamous Wall Street short-seller Steve Eisman less than two months before the Education Department issued its first round of rules on private sector schools. And Eisman’s intentions couldn’t be any more dubious, hoping to persuade the Department of Education to single out these private sector schools with harmful and burdensome regulations, thus profiting off of the resulting decline of these institutions in the marketplace.

Maybe the committee should ask Mr. Shireman to what degree he has allowed Wall Street short-sellers to mold or influence policy for the U.S. Department of Education. In fact, the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has already begun investigating other examples of the unseemly process upon which the new regulations were based.

The fact is that private sector colleges and universities play a vital role in training America’s current and future generations for the specialized jobs of the 21st Century. Additionally, these schools focus most on the job sectors that the economy happens to be adding most inthis difficult economic environment – areas such as health care, high-tech manufacturing, information technology and business management.

These schools also provide comprehensive online degree programs that allow working adults, parents and other nontraditional students the opportunity to advance their skills without having to sacrifice work or family obligations.

So instead of spending valuable time airing the concerns of only one side of an already slanted debate on private sector schools, lawmakers should take a look at the value these institutions bring to everyday Americans seeking career advancement and a brighter future which oftentimes, starts with a job.

August 10, 2011 at 10:40 am Comments (0)

The Larger Implications of Philly’s Flash Mobs

Walter Russell Mead puts the Philadelphia flash mobs in a larger social and historical context:

[T]here is the urban underclass; in many respects it is significantly worse off than in the 1970s.  Social conditions in the inner city (as assessed by measures like public health, the percentage of illegitimate births and the percentage of pregnancies that end in abortion, achievement on standardized tests, high school and college graduation rates, unemployment, HIV prevalence, drug usage and the incarceration rate) are appalling and many indicators are worse than they were a generation ago.

The lines of communication between the Black poor and the Black elite have largely broken down.  (A similar process has taken place among whites.) President Obama has had little to say in the White House about the desperately deteriorating situation of Black America — much less about the disproportionate effect cuts in government spending will have on African Americans looking to government to provide jobs or to deliver services.  The personal and individual triumphs of highly visible African American public officials and business and intellectual leaders does not resonate with young people who see no road from where they are to where Oprah Winfrey or Colin Powell stand.

The same thing is true at a local level.  As more successful families have moved out of the inner cities and into the suburbs, the ability of the national and local “Black Establishment” to intervene in moments of tension is dropping.  Many inner city kids today grow up feeling abandoned by Black leaders as well as by whites.  Should flash mobs or other disturbing phenomena catch on more widely (and the combination of social media and idle youth can lead to very rapid shifts in behavior), it is not clear that either local or national leaders could do much to calm things down.

Mead puts the riots not just in the context of urban sociology, but also notes the current political conflict over the legacy of LBJ. He notes that white Americans have no more trust in the ruling class than do blacks and are increasingly resentful of the special status accorded minority groups. Moreover, alarm over the consequences of sixties-era immigration reform is even more politically salient than racial conflicts. He concludes that the flash mobs are not just local problems — they are a symptom of the general failure of the Great Society reforms that have so profoundly shaped modern America and perhaps harbingers of a second American revolution.

Very interesting — read the whole thing here.


August 8, 2011 at 7:30 pm Comments (0)

Flash Mobs Accelerating

Maybe it’s the media coverage, maybe it’s just the fun thing to do.

ADDRESSING the “butthead” youths who’ve been mobbing Center City and the “sperm donors” who’ve passed for their fathers, Mayor Nutter thundered from the pulpit of his church yesterday in uncharacteristically fiery remarks.

“You’ve damaged yourself, you’ve damaged another person, you’ve damaged your peers and, quite honestly, you’ve damaged your own race,” he said. “You damaged your own race.

“If you want . . . anybody else to respect you and not be afraid when they see you walking down the street, then leave the innocent people who are walking down the street minding their own damn business. Leave them alone.”

Nutter’s 30-minute sermon in front of a white-robed choir invoked rousing applause from the packed house at Mount Carmel Baptist Church, in West Philadelphia, where he’s been a member for 25 years.

The only problem was that the median age of the congregation appeared about four times that of the 11- to 19-year-olds who have randomly accosted Center City pedestrians this summer in large groups of mostly black youths.

You know how flash mobs get stopped?

A victim shoots someone or many in self-defense.

It’s going to happen.

August 8, 2011 at 1:46 pm Comments (0)

Church Picnic Spawns Mob Looting

WPXI Reports:

About 100 teenagers swarmed from a McDonald’s to Trader Joe’s to a new Target store during a riot in East Liberty on Sunday, police said.

Police said the trouble started at Mellon Park, where Mount Ararat Baptist Church had just wrapped up its community picnic.

The Rev. Linda Oliver said that out of an estimated attendance of over 3,000 people, only a fraction of those people are responsible for starting the trouble.

Read it here.

A church picnic spawns mass looting and violence!!! These incidents are becoming far too common and collectively signal a significant breakdown in civil order all across the nation. To a large extent this is technologically driven — social media and smart phones allowing thugs and kids to organize large mobs easily — but there are disturbing patterns in the nature and composition of these flash mobs.


I should point out — this took place in Pittsburgh.

August 6, 2011 at 3:47 pm Comment (1)

re: It’s Not Where You Are But Where You’re Going

Fred, I generally agree with the sentiment concerning certain people who never seem to be satisfied by anything.  I know a lot of activists were against any debt ceiling increase at all, and are mad as hell about the vote.  I think their expectations are entirely too high.  (Even the Ryan budget, as controversial as it is, wouldn’t balance the budget for a good long time.)

But with this particular debt deal, the fact that we still got an S&P credit downgrade tells me that we really should have done a lot better.  A compromise that doesn’t actually get the job done isn’t worth much.  If your car is careening towards a cliff, and you know that you must depress the brake 60% in order to avoid falling off, the debate among the other passengers in the car about whether to depress the brake 30% or 40% is sort of irrelevant.  At some point you need to consider the possibility of pulling the emergency brake on your own and hoping for the best.

So it’s at least an open question in my mind as to whether it would have been better to have the deal we ended up with, or whether it would have been better to force a government shutdown in order to get a better one.

August 6, 2011 at 12:05 pm Comments (0)


Massive school fire at 7th & Lehigh uses nearly half the city's on duty fire companies. Further reductions in Philly emergency services are looming as the school district contemplates a million plus dollar buyout of Arlene Ackerman. It's all about priorities.

Fire-response times are up, but city says brownouts aren’t to blame.

LAST AUGUST, just five days after the start of a city policy of rolling brownouts at selected fire stations to save money, a 12-year-old boy with autism died in a raging fire in his West Philadelphia home. Although there is no evidence that Frank Marasco’s death was a direct result of the city’s brownout plan – in which about three fire stations are temporarily closed once a week on a rotational basis to save $3.8 million in overtime – his untimely death set off a heated debate about the city’s cuts.
A year later, response times have increased, the Fire Department’s injuries have risen and fire-related civilian deaths are up from the same time last year. But city officials and the fire union disagree over whether those changes are a result of the brownouts. Annual response times for engines and medics last year were the highest in 10 years. Although still below national guidelines, the average engine-response time in 2010 was 4 minutes 53 seconds. As of June this year, that time had increased to 5 minutes. “It is a direct result of the first-in companies being browned-out,” said Bill Gault, president of the firefighters’ union. “The Fire Department is bearing the brunt of these cuts. It’s dangerous to us, and it’s dangerous to civilians.”
City officials insist that the upticks in the department’s injuries and civilian deaths are unrelated to the cost-saving measure. “The brownouts haven’t had a damn thing to do with it,” said Everett Gillison, deputy mayor for public safety. “We used brownouts as a way to deal with the economic crisis. Without the use of brownouts, we would have had a higher number of overtime.”
Gillison said he has not laid off any firefighters. But Rob Dubow, city financial director, said that this past fiscal year, the Fire Department exceeded its $19.3 million overtime budget by $3.9 million. As for the department’s 136 injuries as of June – up from 118 last year – Gillison said that most were not fire-related and that some Philadelphians are not practicing fire-safety prevention. This year, 26 people have died in fires, compared with 33 who died in all of 2010.
“Fortunately for citizens, there hasn’t been a tragic incident that was brownout-related,” said a fire officer who declined to give his name because of fear of reprisal. “Certainly there could have been better response times. Brownouts create large gaps in Fire Department coverage.” Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers said response times were delayed by severe snowstorms in the winter, not by brownouts.
“So far the brownouts have done what we expected in every area from operations to financial savings,” Ayers said. “We have been able to satisfy our goals and keep the community protected.” LINK
Ok so here you have the official version of the disaster that has become the Philadelphia Fire Department policy regarding brownouts. As you see the dangerous policies that the Nutter administration has implemented allegedly HAVE NOTHING TO DO with higher deaths, injuries, property damage and expenses. It’s all because of the snow. Uh huh. Riiiiiiight. Whatever. Obviously I can’t publicly dispute the Commissioners position. So everyone else who reads First In (or PA WATERCOOLER) can make up their own minds on this one. I chronicle the goings on in my small slice of government as openly and as honestly as I can. (I still have mouths to feed).
What I will tell you is that the Mayors hand-picked bureaucrat and criminal defense lawyer Everett Gillison has ABSOLUTELY NO experience or credentials in emergency services. I’m told he isn’t much of a lawyer either. Yet suddenly he became an expert in a discipline he knows nothing about. Talk about arrogance. You see a lot of that these days in public officials. I’ll put my nearly twenty years on the street of one of the busiest fire departments in the country against his political connections ANY DAY. As you can see from the article he is talking about COST while the story is about RESPONSE TIMES, DEATHS AND INJURIES. He is wrong and doesn’t know what he is talking about nor how to defend these failed policies. The funny thing is no one asks Mr. Gillison about the EXPANSION of the Emergency Management Department (civilians) who do little actual service delivery while at the same time the fire department is being decimated.

Squrt 55's apparatus in the background-middle can be seen operating on the fireground at 7TH & Lehigh. They had to pack up and leave the fire ground because they were browned out starting the next shift.

Furthermore the reporter who wrote this drivel doesn’t even have command of the basic facts. The opening paragraph says companies are browned out ONCE A WEEK. That is so far off that it borders on NEGLIGENCE. THREE COMPANIES ARE BROWNED OUT (CLOSED) EVERY SHIFT! WE RUN TWO SHIFTS A DAY! That equals SIX COMPANIES A DAY! That equals 42 COMPANIES A WEEK! BIG DIFFERENCE DON’T YOU THINK? Here is an example: At yesterdays four-alarm fire, Squrt 55 had to take up their equipment from the FIRE GROUND because they were BROWNED OUT starting the next shift! How insane is that? Taking a highly specialized fire apparatus OFF THE FIRE GROUND because of budget cutbacks. How does a reporter make that kind of mistake? Maybe ignorance. But maybe they have a vested interest in protecting the Nutter administration. Ya think? There is plenty of evidence brownouts cause slower response times and in this job that’s a killer. They just choose to ignore it, and the media allow it.
The bottom line folks is this- attacking public safety is asinine. I have presented EXAMPLES like the other day where fires have raged and grown larger because of the closing of fire companies. Philadelphia hasn’t got any smaller in my lifetime. It is still a densely packed urban metropolis, with a large poor population. Cutting us to the bone creates an environment where deaths, injuries and response times go up. The exact OPPOSITE of our mission. While you see that response times are always at the center of these discussions, our department HARSHLY DISCIPLINES firefighters and officers who are involved in traffic accidents no matter how small or large. They want it both ways. Response times are critical, but don’t have an accident or you will get crucified. Caught in the middle? The victims, the citizens we are supposed to protect.
August 5, 2011 at 9:10 pm Comments (0)

It’s Not Where You Are But Where You’re Going

Witness the bipartisan meltdown in the wake of the debt deal!

From the Right:

Limbaugh–A Total Waste of Time and Effort

Savage–America has been ‘hoodwinked’

RedState–Obama is the Big Winner in the Debt-Ceiling Debate

From the Left:

Biden: Tea Party is a Terrorist Organization

Rep. Emanuel “Tea-Partiers-Called-Me-The-N-Word-But-There-Is-No-Evidence-Whatsoever” Cleaver–It’s a Satan sandwich.

Krugman: The President Surrenders

So everyone thinks they got screwed. Lovely. Now, to be sure, I don’t care what the Left thinks. I delight in watching them wallow in their own sorrow. Their tears are delicious. The Right, on the other hand, is more important to me. What baffles me is why so many on the right are determined to find the cloud in every silver lining. The writers at RedState clearly think that Obama is a super-evil mega-genius who orchestrated this whole thing and got everything he wanted. We apparently now have organizations that are so unhinged that they want to challenge Allen West in a primary because he’s no longer conservative enough. Really? I mean, seriously??

There are lots more examples, but you get the point. No policy is ever good enough, no Republican is ever pure enough, no victory is ever decisive enough. Yes, the debt deal could have been a lot better. The spending cuts happen in the out years which means they’re iffy at best. No one has any idea what this special commission will really do. We will keep borrowing. There is definitely no warm fuzzy to be found in this deal, but what else could we have expected? Seriously–what would victory have looked like? Passing the Ryan Budget? We tried that and the Dems said “no”. Cut, Cap, and Balance? We tried that and the Dems said “no”. Sit on our hands? The Dems have been doing that in the Senate and it hasn’t been very productive.

Generally speaking, the Republican House has done just about everything we sent them there to do. We finally have what we’ve always wanted–CONSERVATIVES IN POWER–and they’re not problem, so stop blaming them. We control one half of one branch of the government, and there is only so much we can do. That’s not an excuse; that’s reality. It has taken liberals a couple generations to consolidate their grip on power, and we are not going to undo that with one election, one budget, or one policy. It will take decades.

As far as this debate goes, you can complain all you want, but the fact remains that conservatives changed the terms of the debate. Tax hikes are off the table, the national debt will probably be the defining issue of 2012, and we’re not talking about if we cut spending, but by how much and when. Compare that to two years ago when bailout-mania was all the rage, and we were talking about how big the stimulus would be. Remember Cash for Clunkers? Yeah, try pulling that one now.

We’ve done a philosophical 180 in two years, and if that’s not a victory I don’t know what is. It’s clear that at this point our principles are not the problem, our numbers are. So our next order of business is to put the debt deal behind us and work to get a conservative majority in the Senate and a conservative in the White House. Then we can stop talking and start undoing the damage of a failed presidency and return to being the great country that we know we ought to be.

August 2, 2011 at 9:23 pm Comment (1)

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