Where Is My Stimulus Check?

That seems to be the cry from many who I talk with, and even from some who comment here on my blog.  While James and I have both received ours via direct deposit, I am not immune to the plight of others still waiting.

You’ve been waiting for that economic stimulus check from the U.S. Treasury to buy that big-screen TV or fill your Hummer with gas.

Each day you run to the mailbox in anticipation of a monetary windfall.

After all, it seems like a year ago that TV anchors were telling you the check was in the mail.

But the mailbox contains nothing but bad news: Bills, bills and more bills.

You’re wondering if maybe the guys at the Treasury Department need a stimulus inserted into their calculus when Good Neighbor Pat shouts hello and says, “Got my check in the mail the other day.”

Well, ain’t that just fine and dandy.

That was the opening to a wonderfully funny article that ran in The Southtown Star.   Click the link to read the rest.

I mean, each day someone else has their economic stimulus check is a day I’m losing interest on my money.

All right, maybe I shouldn’t be thinking about putting the money in the bank.

In theory, I’m supposed to be spending it on a home remodeling project – putting carpenters, plumbers and bricklayers to work so they can support their families, buy food and computers for their children, who can then go out and buy shoes and clothes made in China, which can then loan the U.S. enough money to keep our economy going.

And I realize this isn’t all about me – there are millions of other people out there with big numbers at the end of their Social Security cards, and maybe we need to march on Washington, D.C., to protest.

We need to form a group (Big Numbers Are People Too) and claim digitary discrimination.

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Appeals Court Forcing Military To Prove That Gays Hurt Troop Readiness And Unit Cohesion

The court ruling on Wednesday was fantastic.  And smart.

In short, three judges of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is forcing a branch of the military to prove that allowing gays to serve would hurt troop readiness and unit cohesion.  The arguments that the military has tried to make on this matter for decades are so absurd that any rational person laughs at them.   I am glad that some judges are putting the military on the spot to defend a defenseless policy.

The federal appeals court in California on Wednesday reinstated a lawsuit challenging the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which allows gay men and lesbians to serve in the armed forces so long as their sexual orientation remains private.

The case was brought by Maj. Margaret Witt, a flight nurse who served in the Air Force for two decades, received several medals and was featured in the service’s promotional materials.

Major Witt also shared a life with a woman not affiliated with the military for six years in Spokane, Wash., about 250 miles from the base to which she was assigned. The women kept their relationship private, and the decision did not say how the Air Force found out about it.

One of Major Witt’s lawyers described what happened. “Some citizen in Spokane,” the lawyer, James E. Lobsenz, said, “called up and said there are these lesbian women living in a house here and one of them is in the Air Force and you should know that.”

Following an investigation and military hearing, Major Witt was discharged.

Major Witt filed a lawsuit challenging the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy as a violation of the Constitution’s due process and equal protection clauses. In 2006, Judge Ronald B. Leighton, of Federal District Court in Tacoma, Wash., dismissed the case. On Wednesday, a three-judge panel of the appeals court, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, disagreed, reinstating much of Major Witt’s suit and returning the case to Judge Leighton for further proceedings.

The decision was notable for the standard the appeals court instructed Judge Leighton to use in considering the case. The panel said judges considering cases claiming government intrusion into the private lives of gay men and lesbians must require the government to meet a heightened standard of scrutiny.

The usual standard is called “rational basis” review, which merely requires the government to offer a rational reason for a law or policy. The rationale offered by Congress for the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy is that openly gay and lesbian service members threaten morale, discipline and unit cohesion. Several courts have sustained the policy as rational.

On Wednesday, Judge Ronald M. Gould, joined by Judge Susan P. Graber, ruled that in cases like Major Witt’s, the government must go further than simply showing a rational basis for its action, instead proving in each case that an important government interest is at stake and that the intrusion into the plaintiff’s private life significantly advanced the interest.

The majority stopped short of requiring strict scrutiny, an even more searching standard used in race discrimination cases. It also dismissed Major Witt’s equal protection claim, ruling that it was bound by an earlier panel decision on that point.

Judge William C. Canby, the third judge on the panel, would have gone further. He said he would have required the Air Force to satisfy strict scrutiny by proving that the policy served a compelling (rather than merely important) state interest.

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Gas Prices Go Up And Oil Supply Forecast Goes Down

Madison drivers woke up to a ten-cent increase in gas prices around the city, bring the average to $3.88 per gallon. Meanwhile in Milwaukee it is reported the price is $4.19.   While I think over the long-term these prices will have a positive influence on forcing us all to better recognize the need for alternative energy sources and smaller cars with better gas mileage, the discomfort in the interim years will be difficult.  The economic pain is real, but it is important to remember that the oil problem America faces is not new.  For decades we have talked about it.  The problem is of course that too few demanded with our votes that something be done to chart a new path in the nation as it relates to reducing our need for a commodity that is entangled with foreign policy.  Now that lack of holding our elected officials, and ourselves, accountable is biting everyone.

As those thoughts rumbled around in my head as I noticed the change in gas prices today, the following news story in the Wall Street Journal really got my attention.

The world’s premier energy monitor is preparing a sharp downward revision of its oil-supply forecast, a shift that reflects deepening pessimism over whether oil companies can keep abreast of booming demand.

The Paris-based International Energy Agency is in the middle of its first attempt to comprehensively assess the condition of the world’s top 400 oil fields. Its findings won’t be released until November, but the bottom line is already clear: Future crude supplies could be far tighter than previously thought.

A pessimistic supply outlook from the IEA could further rattle an oil market that already has seen crude prices rocket over $130 a barrel, double what they were a year ago. U.S. benchmark crude broke a record for the fourth day in a row, rising 3.3% Wednesday to close at $133.17 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

For several years, the IEA has predicted that supplies of crude and other liquid fuels will arc gently upward to keep pace with rising demand, topping 116 million barrels a day by 2030, up from around 87 million barrels a day currently. Now, the agency is worried that aging oil fields and diminished investment mean that companies could struggle to surpass 100 million barrels a day over the next two decades.

The decision to rigorously survey supply — instead of just demand, as in the past — reflects an increasing fear within the agency and elsewhere that oil-producing regions aren’t on track to meet future needs.

“The oil investments required may be much, much higher than what people assume,” said Fatih Birol, the IEA’s chief economist and the leader of the study, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. “This is a dangerous situation.”

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