On Obama’s Immigration Gambit

For those who missed it this past Thursday, the American President, Barack Obama, announced that he was taking action via an Executive order to fix the US Immigration system.  Depending upon one’s feelings on the subject, Obama either an extremely bold step to do what the US Congress should have done years ago, or He made one of the most shameless power grabs by the Executive in recent history.

Whatever one’s feelings, it is reported that the action will allow some 5 million undocumented immigrants to now live and work legally in the United States.

In the following piece, Katie Couric frames up what has occurred:

For most thinking persons, the stated results should come as very good news, especially when one considers that it now gives the right for undocumented parents of children who do have legal status to stay with their family and to provide for them in a more dignified manner.  However, the GOP appears to have taken to extreme rhetoric in opposition to the President’s humanitarian actions.

Even the writers at Saturday Night Live seemed inclined to highlight the power grab element of what presumably will be Executive Order 13683 once it is recorded.

While the GOP position, that America should do more to protect its borders in conjunction with allowing those who are here without documents to receive amnesty, appears logical, it is completely devoid of morality and human decency.

We are all immigrants.  And failure to recognize this basic fact is cause for seemingly endless strife in many places on God’s green earth.  The right to reside on a certain piece of geography via a piece of paper and a  formal relationship with the tax farm is a construct of 20th Century Imperialism.  The idea of carrying a passport for the common man or woman only came into being around the time of WWI.

People Immigrate because they are looking for a better life.  It should flatter the current inhabitants of the United States of America that they believe that they can build that life here, as the ancestors of the current inhabitants, the immigrants of generations past, have been able to do.  To put unreasonable measures which rip families apart and deny those who are ambitious and courageous enough to leave everything behind to pursue the modern-day American Dream is not only wrong, it is self-defeating to any nation that desires to remain on the cutting edge of progress.

Our Time as an Undocumented Immigrant

It may come as a surprise to our readers that we have spent time as an “undocumented” immigrant in both Spain and Bolivia.  We did not sneak across the border into these lands, as one might imagine.  We arrived via normal channels through airports, as many undocumented immigrants in America have come.

Our passport was stamped and away we went, in search of pursuing our dreams.  There was one catch, the achievement of our dreams in these places was to take a good deal more than the 90 days supposedly allotted us on our visitor’s visa.  As such, we went to the immigration authorities of the respective countries and began the long and expensive road to legitimizing our status through a process that can only be described as a colossal waste of time and effort for all involved.

In Spain, we waited all morning in a cue only to arrive at the window 6 hours later to submit our application.  When we arrived, we were told to wait some more.  Amazingly, they did not even give us the dignity of a lavatory and, after the seven hour ordeal, our bladder was in rough shape.

Once our school was done, we were fortunate enough to land a job with an American company, Sara Lee, and we thought our immigration troubles were over.  However, after waiting in two similar cues over the course of seven months and still not being able to begin work as we waited on the Spanish bureaucracy to process our application, we’d had enough.  The process was ludicrous, and we parted for Bolivia with our bride to be.

In Bolivia, the process did not involve as many cues, but it did involve some nervous periods of time when our passport was sequestered for weeks on end to be “translated.”

Perhaps the most blatant example of the sham of Immigration processes was their requirement that we obtain an “International Criminal Record” from an organization next door called “Interpol.”  Once inside, the kind gentlemen at Interpol would give you two options.  Option one, which carried a cost of 10 Bolivianos (roughly $1.50) would render a “Criminal check” in about a week.  However, there was another, slightly more expensive option, running around 100 Bolivianos, which would render a “Criminal check” on the spot.

Naturally, the more expensive and necessarily less thorough 100 Boliviano International criminal check was the more popular choice.

The point of recounting our struggles with Immigration abroad is this:  There are many people living within our borders who desperately want to do the right thing and legitimize their status.  However, they do not have 5 to 10 years to put their life and ambitions on hold wait for their fate to be decided by some sort of visa lottery or bureaucratic process.  All the while living peaceful, productive lives with the constant fear that it could all be taken away on a whim.

The Immigration system is not just, it is inhumane and a great impediment to the further progress of the United States of America or any Country that puts politics and nationalism ahead of people.  If President Obama has taken steps to remedy this stain on America, then he has done a great service to 5 million human beings who can now live their lives without fear.  If he had to sidestep a political process to do this, then the true problem lies in the political process, not in the actions of one who is acting with humane intent.

 

A Conversation with Ben Bernanke

11/23/2014 Portland, Oregon – Pop in your mints…

At the 2014 Association of Financial Professionals Annual Conference in Washington D.C. there were a number of incredibly insightful sessions. Perhaps the most interesting, at least on the playbill, was the opening general session, which featured Ben Bernanke, the former chairman of the Federal Reserve.

bernanke_benBernanke is on tour selling his upcoming 2015 book, a memoir focused on his front row seat and actions during the Financial Crisis, for which he has received an advance of roughly $8 million.

He took the opportunity to speak to over 5,000 members of the AFP, ourselves included, on November 2, 2014 in Hall E of the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, DC.

Bernanke addressed the audience for approximately 30 minutes in what, for the most part, appeared to be an apologetic for the actions of the Federal Reserve and other major actors who found themselves in the middle of the Financial Crisis.

The final 60 minutes of the session were much more interesting as the presentation changed in format to that of an interview conducted by Bernanke’s friend and former Princeton and Federal Reserve Colleague, Alan S. Blinder. We will have more insights from Blinder later in this series of AFP sessions on The Mint.

You can hear a large portion of the conversation between Bernanke and Blinder by listening to the audio file below:

On AIG: At minute 11:30 – Bernanke observes that the only “True Bailout” performed by the government during the Financial crisis was that of AIG. He observed that AIG was like an unregulated hedge fund. They doubled down by taking the cash they received from insuring the CDO’s against the risk of default and purchasing those same CDOs, essentially leaving them with double exposure to the CDO market. There was a sense that they were either not doing proper risk management or that their actions were cynical. Bernanke was most irritated by the AIG bailout of all of the actions that were taken to stave off the Financial Crisis.

On His scariest moment during the crisis: The Tuesday that they went to Congress to propose TARP when some of the largest firms under pressure. Not unsurprisingly, Bernanke maintains that TARP was good policy under the circumstances, and it gave the Fed the legal authority to take many of the actions that, in Bernanke’s opinion, staved off the total collapse of the financial system.

On Lehman Brothers: There was no legal way to save Lehman Brothers. At 7:00 he addresses this. There was not buyer for Lehman Brothers, and at the time, everybody was pulling away from Lehman, and the firm would have collapsed with a week anyway.

On Quantitative Easing: At minute 16, Blinder brings up the fact that Bernanke lobbied for a time for the series of programs which were known as “Quantitative easing” to be called “Credit easing” in order to distinguish it from the actions previously taken by the Bank of Japan. The key difference being that while the Bank of Japan pumped funds directly into the banks as reserves, the Fed was creating liquidity to the system as a direct actor in the credit markets.

{Editor’s Note:  Those interested in satire can see our 2010 rendition of the Bare Naked Ladies hit If I had a Million Dollars as sung by Ben Bernanke, inspired by the early rounds of QE here}

On the stock vs. flow theory: Around minute 21, Blinder and Bernanke move into a conversation about the “stock” versus the “flow” view of the Fed’s balance sheet. The key difference being that those holding the stock (meaning money stock) view look at the Fed’s balance sheet as it actually is to infer the effects that the Fed is having on monetary policy, while those that hold to the “flow” view, namely almost everyone on Wall Street, look at the Fed’s buying and selling of assets to infer the effects.

Bernanke is a strict adherent to the stock view, and wonders what will happen if and when the Fed looks to unwind its Balance sheet at a future date.

For those who followed the Financial Crisis closely, Bernanke offers his own, less guarded take of the events in the interview, which we assume will be a precursor for the contents of his upcoming memoir.

One of the stark takeaways that we are compelled to pass on to our readers is the following: Bernanke’s assertions that the Fed did not have the legal authority to save the financial system until TARP was passed. TARP was essentially railroaded through Congress on the advice of then Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. While it may have been the expedient thing to do at the time, it is unclear whether it was a good idea to give the Federal Reserve and the Treasury (for they work in tangent with one another) the authority to backstop the financial system.

It is a question that is still waiting to be answered today, on the eve of yet another great inflation event.

Stay tuned and Trust Jesus.

Stay Fresh!

David Mint

Key Indicators for November 23, 2014

Copper Price per Lb: $3.07
Oil Price per Barrel (WTI):  $76.45

Corn Price per Bushel:  $3.72
10 Yr US Treasury Bond:  2.32%
Bitcoin price in US: $367.00
FED Target Rate:  0.10%
Gold Price Per Ounce:  $1,282

MINT Perceived Target Rate*:  0.25%
Unemployment Rate:  5.8%
Inflation Rate (CPI):  0.0%
Dow Jones Industrial Average:  17,810
M1 Monetary Base:  $2,758,900,000,000

M2 Monetary Base:  $11,585,100,000,000

Our Unwitting Journey Towards Lumbersexual Fashion

“Though he works for a software company he looks like he just walked out of the forest:  His beard is shaggy, (he wears) the boots and shirt of a lumberjack.  The Lumbersexual man, with his savage style,  is displacing the Metrosexual in the urban landscape.”

-Rough translation of the opening paragraph of following article from Cochabamba’s “Los Tiempos”:

Adiós metrosexuales, el “lumbersexual” salió del bosque

The Spanish-speaking media recently picked up on the what has, at least from our perspective, become a slowly developing trend over the past few years:  The rise of the Lumbersexual.

If you need a primer on what exactly is a Lumbersexual, Tom Puzak, writing over at GearJunkie.com, who’s work is referenced in the Los Tiempos article, sums it up well in the following article:

The Rise of the Lumbersexual

Fashion is not our forté here at The Mint, but this trend is somewhat personal as we have unwittingly begun to embrace it.

The seeds for this fashion trend, at least in the Portland area, were planted by the publicity tactics of the Portland Timbers in 2011, who at the time began to drape billboards and painted buildings in the city with images of men, women, and children wielding chainsaws and axes.  This continues to some extent today.

With this subliminal messaging firmly embedded in our subconscious, we were thrust into the Lumbersexual style via our well publicized tree incident back in 2012, in which an unfortunate household accident caused us to get in touch with our inner lumberjack (Scroll down to the “Black Locust” heading on this link).  While we had the larger tree felled by an arborist, we purchased the requisite chainsaw and the other tools of the lumberjack and went at the beast in our yard until we could no more.  We left it for the winter.

The following summer, our inner lumberjack was summoned once again when the HOA presented us with an ultimatum to “get the wood off of our lawn.”

While we had the tools (we have since moved up to an 8 pound axe and added a 9′ pole saw to our arsenal), it was not until two years ago that we began to wear a beard.  We simply felt it was time.  The only time we had worn a beard before was for two unfortunate weeks in the mid ’90s when we contracted the chicken pox at 19 years of age and we were unable to shave under the threat of permanent scarring.  When we began to hear reports that men in Miami, who could not grow a beard, were paying up to $8,000 for facial implants, we knew we were squarely in the middle of a fashion trend, a rarity for The Mint.

The Lumbersexual Style Circa 2013
The Lumbersexual Style Circa 2013

Where did it all start?  While Lumberjacks have been admired, especially here in the Land of Giants, from time immemorial, we like to attribute the latest trend to comedic origins such as Monty Python:

And Red Green:

Whatever the origins, the Lumbersexual is now out of the Forest and into the Urban landscape.  For the sake of the trees, it come as a relief that most of us wield iMacs instead of axes.

A Salute to Those Who Fight Other’s Battles

11/11/2014 Portland, Oregon – Pop in your mints….

We were fortunate to visit the seat of the Empire in Washington, DC, last week to attend a conference (more on that to follow).  The Washington DC area is home to some very moving war memorials.  Among them those dedicated to those  who gave their lives in World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.

In nearby Arlington, Virginia the Arlington National Cemetery provides a resting place for approximately 400,000 soldiers.  This Military Cemetery was established on 624 acres after the Civil War on the grounds of Arlington House, the former estate of Mary Anna Custis, a great-granddaughter of Martha Washington.  Ms. Custis, of course, was the wife of none other than Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

The Changing of the Guard at Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers, Arlington, VA
The Changing of the Guard at Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers, Arlington, VA

Most famously, the Tomb of the Unknowns commemorates those who perished in conflict and could not be identified.  It is the focal point for many at the Cemetery.  It has been guarded around the clock since 1937 and its changing of the guard is one of the most solemn and precise disciplines in the US Military.

Today we watched television program recounting the history of the Navy SEALs, perhaps the most visible and celebrated contingent of the US Military.  One thing that stuck out to us is that for the SEALs who shared their stories on the program, they saw their service as “fighting other’s battles.”  Indeed, this is the spirit of the Veterans who have answered the call of duty throughout History.  They train and then go willingly into the face of danger so that others don’t have to.  They defend those who are unable or unwilling to defend themselves, and the depth of their sacrifices is too often overlooked.

Let it be not so this Veteran’s Day, as we remember those who have given their lives for many.  You can read about a few we have been privileged to know here:  An Ode to the Veterans We’ve Known

 

Catalunya Employs Classic Democracy as Oregon Taxes Weed

11/9/2014 Portland, Oregon – Pop in your mints…

For those among our readership who do not follow Spanish Politics, Catalunya, the region of Spain most easily recognized by its leading city, Barcelona, held a vote on two matters of the utmost importance to the Catalans. The questions were posed in the following manner:

1) Do you want Catalunya to be a State?

2) Do you want that State be Independent?

The vote today in Catalunya, of which 80.72% voted “yea” on both questions, was not sanctioned or recognized by the Spanish government in Madrid, other than to say it was nothing more than propaganda.

According to The Guardian, roughly 2 million of the 5.4 million persons who were eligible to vote cast a ballot today, a roughly 37% turnout, which means that today, roughly 32.3% of those living in Catalunya took the time to submit a symbolic ballot in favor of their Independence from Spain. For a quick comparison of this figure, 68.9% of eligible voters cast a ballot in Spain’s last General Election in November of 2011.

L'Estelada Blava
L’Estelada Blava

While voter turnout today in Catalunya may not seem impressive on the surface, it takes on more meaning when one considers that, as it was unsanctioned by the Spanish Government, over 40,000 volunteers took it upon themselves to receive and count the ballots.

The Catalans have employed what we call Classic, or Grass-roots, Democracy in an effort to allow their citizens to determine in a civilized manner the most basic of questions with regards to self governance: Shall we, as a region, be Independent?

Admittedly, Catalunya is in a unique position to do so. Most regions, for which Independence is more a romantic idea than a practical one (the most recent example being Scotland’s referendum to break ties with the UK), have much to lose and little to gain by declaring Independence. Catalunya, on the other hand, is essentially self-sufficient and for them, remaining part of Spain has little upside.

For a time, the argument could be made that Spain provided Catalunya access to markets that it otherwise could not have sold into. Today, this is a non-issue, as the EU trade agreements would continue to cover an Independent Catalan State.

The Spanish Government has a big problem. While Spanish officials are swiftly and publicly denouncing the Catalans for holding what, in their mind, had already been declared an “illegal” vote, the Catalans have cleverly and very publicly made a mockery of what passes today as “Democracy” in the Sovereign States of the world who embrace this model of governance.

For what is Democracy if not the people’s right to self determination? Yet modern democracy for most boils down to questions of which hand picked candidate will occupy an embedded power structures, and whether or not to increase the existing tax and regulatory burdens imposed by this power structure.

With today’s actions, the Catalans struck at the heart of the existing system. Our guess is that one day, they and many other regions in similar situations will enjoy sovereign status as peers to their former oppressors in the EU.

Throwing off the EU’s chains, however, would be a matter settled by arms, as the French, American, and every other successful revolution against the clutches of Empire have shown. It is not the nature of Empire to negotiate or put to vote matters of self-determination.

Oregon Taxes Weed

In our local elections, our fellow Oregonians chose to decriminalize marijuana. Joining them were the people of Washington, DC, making a total of four jurisdictions in the US that have changed the innocuous plant from a huge drain on tax revenue to a potential source of revenue with the stroke of a pen.

Weed: It got your parents kicked out of school, now it can pay for yours.

Which way did The Mint vote on the issue? We didn’t. You can read our reasons for abstaining from voting on State and Federal Matters in the links below:

Ballot Burning, Our Breaking Point, and Why the Next Gold Rush Just Began (notice the reference to Catalunya’s Independence preparations)

Three Reasons Why We’ve Stopped Voting, The Trail of Tears

The Silent Majority, Why No One Will Win the 2012 Presidential Election

As the Catalans have seen in the case of the Spanish, government, once it exceeds a certain size, ceases to serve the people who created it and becomes at best parasitic and at worst, antagonistic and violent as it increasingly resorts to the use of force in an effort to advance a failed system.

Can Catalunya peacefully remove the yoke?

Stay tuned and Trust Jesus.

Stay Fresh!

David Mint

Key Indicators for November 9, 2014

Copper Price per Lb: $3.07
Oil Price per Barrel (WTI):  $79.02

Corn Price per Bushel:  $3.67
10 Yr US Treasury Bond:  2.31%
Bitcoin price in US: $361.80
FED Target Rate:  0.09%
Gold Price Per Ounce:  $1,179

MINT Perceived Target Rate*:  0.25%
Unemployment Rate:  5.8%
Inflation Rate (CPI):  0.1%
Dow Jones Industrial Average:  17,574
M1 Monetary Base:  $2,939,700,000,000

M2 Monetary Base:  $11,485,000,000,000