Hold on, I can be sitting on my porch in Waco, with a Shiner Bock in one hand, and a Remington 11-87 Sportsman in the other, and should I by any chance see a guy trying to take my next door neighbour’s crystal vase, I can put that beer down and shoot him in the back? I guess that makes sense. I mean this is America, what was the guy doing on someone else’s property?
More than a dozen states in the U.S have a strong Castle Doctrine (make my day law), which basically says, you have a right to protect yourself, your property, and other people, and you can use deadly force to do so, so be a man and stand your ground, and we won’t convict you when you kill someone. Texas says you’re allowed to use deadly force regardless of whether it’s your home, or your car, or a place of business that are being intruded upon. Florida is far more sensible than Texas, and so their definition of a dwelling extends to property with our without a roof, temporary or not. Put up a tent on a beach, and you should be good to go. Nobody likes those damn volleyball snatchers anyway. Oh, and if you’re in Alabama, Texas, Georgia, Kentucky, Arizona, Louisiana…mentioning how those guys in New York require you to attempt to retreat, before you shoot an invader, will probably cause some laughter. Why would you want to leave your home, if an opportunity presents itself, and call the police, when you own a rifle?
Historical justifications for this senseless reasoning can be traced back to philosophers like John Locke. A lot of his writings have been used in the Deceleration of Independence and the framing of the Constitution. Is it here that we have perhaps found logic in placing value on property over life? It’s possible, especially when reading Locke’s thoughts on morality of enslaving those who try to claim our lives, or protect our property at any cost. But then again, it can’t be Locke. For this is the same person that was talking about farmers and their crops being taken. About hunters and their prey stolen. And in those days you could understand it. How were you to feed your family when all you worked for could be lost so easily? Lives of many depended on the little property they had.
No, it’s not John Locke, or any other philosopher. It’s not capitalism or religion. It’s just deranged ideologies as usual. Nothing else explains the logic of taking a life for some stolen property since nobody’s life depends on it today. Not unless we were talking about a homeless person who hadn’t eaten in days, and just had his sandwich stolen. But look at the irony of it all. A starving, homeless person has his meal stolen, and a well-off home-owner has a Rembrandt stolen. They both kill the thief. Who do you think is more likely to be convicted by a jury? It’s fine to be a constitutional originalist, a conservative, a capitalist, a believer in property/pursuit of happiness, but common…
A year ago there was nobody exciting enough to challenge President Obama, not to an independent at least. Economy wasn’t doing to well, and cracks started showing in the leadership style of Obama, style that was very much different from the one we witnessed during his campaign. The confident, outspoken, change inciting candidate turned into a mediator, safe route President. But with all his faults, who else could Americans vote for? Then we entered 2011 and names of Bachmann, Pawlenty, Paul and the likes started surfacing, but there was one candidate among them that I could finally see taking over the White House seat.
Mitt Romney was a recognizable name, and it seemed like he could really offer Americans something new when it came to the economy. Forget his social views, his policy flip-flopping, America was in crisis, and this guy was saying he could save the U.S.A Incorporated from bankruptcy. A proven businessman? I believed him. He was also a Republican who was interested in universal healthcare, much as he’d like to deny it today. We could leave same-sex marriage, Guantanamo, guns for later.
Then came the July debt ceiling talks, and my favourite Republican candidate decided to take a holiday. He was convincing Rhode Island Governor to endorse him, giving speeches in Ohio, sending his wife to New Hampshire, and sucking up to North Hollywood voters. Not what Americans want from their future leader in a time of crisis. Though I fully understand those that use their vast campaign experience in explaining his absence, by saying it was a good decision not to get involved in a process that won votes for nobody, I doubt Americans will see it that way.
I’ve been saying for a few weeks now that the President needs to forget negotiations, and GOP extortions, and act presidential. Get out there and attack the radicals, use all the power you’ve been given to force through a plan, sign an executive order, something! There are leaders out there that gamble, and lose some votes in the process, but there’s nothing worse than a leader that doesn’t lead. To disillusioned voters the final decision was merely a bonus to what they were looking for. A confident, straightforward commander-in-chief that is willing to lead, and use the power given to him by Americans, unwilling to compromise on issues that shouldn’t even be raised.
Romney is making the same mistakes that Obama is, except he’s doing it in a campaign, and while the failures of Obama to lead may cost him the seat in the White House, at least he got there, something Romney won’t be able to say if things stay the way they are.
Forget comparative advantage, trade deficit, and struggling economy, those are issues reserved for more sensible nations. Bosnians have more pressing problems to tend to, and resolve a trade tragedy, a joke, that is taking place today. I wish I could call anything else the mockery of business and profit-making that our industries engage in.
A Bosnian cellulose producer, Natron Hayat, the only one remaining in ex-Yugoslavia, is importing raw materials. OK, but why exactly is Hayat importing raw materials, which for the purpose of their production are found in abundance in BiH? Supposedly they can’t find enough in Bosnia, or not at acceptable prices? That’s even more perplexing considering that Bosnian firms export those same raw materials. Natron Hayat, in a game based on five-year-olds playing monopoly, imports the same materials that were earlier exported by another Bosnian company, paying a higher price, at which point foreign businesses make profits.
Asking some of these individuals involved to consider the losses to our companies, losses to Bosnian economy, or losses to everyone in terms of transport cost, might be too much at this point. We need to start from the basics, like we do with those five-year-olds willing to exchange Boardwalk for Baltic Avenue, because they like the colour purple better. Considering that attempts to avoid exporting materials, before importing them at a higher price, is basics, I’m not sure how we’ll dumb it down further.
Recent reasearch by posao.ba indicates that majority of young people in Bosnia and Herzegovina have an intention of staying in the country. This is somewhat contradictory to all the previous statistics that showed Bosnian youth leaving the country to either continue their higher education, or look for jobs. Today, some 78% of young people are willing to stay, and what was more surprising is that 71% would like to start their own business. On the surface this looks like wonderful news for the future of the country, but as always, there are some problems.
First, and the most obvious limitation to the dreams of becoming an entrepreneur in Bosnia is the state of the economy. Many limitations are placed on individuals interested in starting a business, mostly in the form of regulation, although until recently there was a serious problem of taxation also. Bureaucracy is something the country has inherited from the previous regime, and it is a long and difficult process of getting rid of it. It is not uncommon for a person to run around the city from one building to another, trying to get the paperwork done. It is also not uncommon to see someone spend days doing it, and being directed from one office to another by uninformed and absentminded government employees. Much rests on your ability to skip procedures, get favours, and make payments where none should be made. When you add to this the weak buying power of common citizens, problems in securing low-interest loans, and doing so without a list of co-signers, and inability to collect payments, the entrepreneurial future looks bleak. A significant contributor to the problem is the inefficient and corrupt judicial system. Settlements take years to finalize, and many businesses are left permanently damaged in deals they make, regardless of their many times good intentions.
The second major problem is the mentality of people, one that can’t be emphasized enough. Years spent under the socialist system tends to destroy the entrepreneurial spirit, as well as all knowledge pertaining to it. Many of those who grew up in socialist Yugoslavia have very little knowledge about the capitalist system, and business management. This applies to academics also. And there lies a problem. How do you bring up a generation of young people with sufficient knowledge and drive to start businesses, and make them profitable, when those who bring them up lack the same? With the exception of few individuals, who have the innate ability to manage, and coffee shop/bar entrepreneurs, there is not much to brag about. Individuals with a natural ability to manage are rare in every society, and most countries depend on those who fill the gap between natural leaders and employees. People with an acquired skill, and requisite knowledge to run a small business, make profits, and employ others. I can tell you with some certainty that majority of those 71% of young Bosnians who wish to start their own business, are not natural leaders. I would not like this to be mistaken as an insult to the young Bosnians and Herzegovinians, but this is a reality in every country. This means they would need proper business education, and a drive instilled in them at home, in schools, and by friends. Creativity is just a start of a business, but it must be accompanies by work ethic, and some basic knowledge in accounting, finance, communication, marketing, planning…and everything else that makes for a profitable and sustainable business.
Bosnia needs young people with proper education, and with majority of entrepreneurs failing many times before they find success, we need young people with vision, strong focus, determination, and no fear of failure. We need young Bosnians interested in creating jobs for their fellow citizens, not quick profits. I am excited to see more of my generation willing to remain in Bosnia, and try to influence events around them, rather than escape them. This new ambition and optimism of young people must however be supported by our courts, economists, politicians, parents, neighbours, and everyone else that places obstacles in front of them. Intentionally or not. Directly or indirectly. It seems like it could be a long struggle in overcoming our past, but at least it’s a start.
As I keep watching the House debate, and waiting for a debt vote that should take place around 7PM, I would best describe my feelings over the agreement as disappointment. Whatever happens in the next few hours, and regardless of whether we have a deal that saves us from default, or far left and far right manage to defeat it, I hope we’ve learned a lesson from this farce.
The current agreement is nonsensical at best. What else call an agreement that works for nobody involved? It raises the debt limit by some $900 Billion, and the next extension depends on a new round of negotiations, further cuts, and a balanced budget amendment. It doesn’t raise revenue. It doesn’t deal with Bush tax cuts. It doesn’t close tax loopholes. As much as I hate to see social program spending cut, like many, I’d like to see a reform in the programs. The agreement doesn’t do much in that respect either. It wins very few points for the Tea Party, or the President. It doesn’t prevent our downgrade, nor has it managed to create a Dow rebound (Dow has actually been in a minus just earlier). So what did this debt plan do exactly?
It scared politicians involved in the negotiations to the point where they were willing to temporarily avoid a default, disregarding every other important issue of concern. It gives us $900 Billion of time, which might get us through to the next year. It threatens our defence spending to the extent where both Democrats and Republicans want to avoid it at any cost. Most importantly, it sets forward a number of rules which will bound the next round of negotiations, which are expected before the next elections.
The American public just spent an entire month trying to follow and understand the debt negotiations, and what we’ve been left with is; ‘tune in for part 2 next year’. I feel like I just watched Matrix Reloaded again. And though it seems we have avoided default, I fear what may happen next time around. If this round of negotiations could have been so influenced by elections, I can only expect worse when we restart the talks next year, months away from elections. And what we’ve learned about governing and elections, is that they don’t go hand in hand.
Remember the collapse of Bear Sterns, and the subsequent acquisition by JP Morgan? It was followed by Countrywide being bought out by Bank of America, who then also acquired Merrill Lynch mid-September 2008, and then we witnessed a bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers. As the stories from the financial sector emerged, apart from a few financial experts, economists and government officials, nobody was paying too much attention. We were neither privy to all the information, nor could we have understood the severity of the issue had we been. Even the financial ‘masterminds’ were failing to see what was happening to all the institutions around them, until it was too late.
One would think we’ve learned from our mistakes, and that those overpaid executives couldn’t make deals behind our back anymore, but we might be entering another period of secret plans and hidden agendas. I am talking about the imminent downgrade of U.S credit rating. I am not arguing that ther could be another financial collapse, at least not until August 3rd, but what happens after the downgrade is anyone’s guess.
With Europe in trouble, many investors have been relying on U.S Treasury securities, and this was mainly due to the perception that the U.S could never default, or be downgraded. However, now that we’re facing that possibility, investors are perplexed. Risk has just gone up, and it’s usually easy to predict what higher risk means. At the same time, there is no consensus between investors on what will happen, or whether they themselves will keep buying securities, or pulling out their money. Last time the government defaulted was in 1933, and we were in a depression. Circumstances were different in almost every way. Since there is little to compare to, or learn from, nobody can predict what the investors will do.
I’d like to think there is honesty and morality involved in the financial markets, but there are few instances where financial institutions and powerful individuals show concern for the general population. When Britain was in trouble over refusing to accept the Euro, and their currency started going down, George Soros showed little sympathy, short selling the currency by over $10 billion worth, and earning $1 billion in profits, in what came to be called Black Wednesday. The costs to the public was much greater. U.S financial institutions left America in the Great Recession, and yet bonuses were collected. The stories are endless.
There is reason for concern when awaiting decisions that people on the Wall Street will make the moment the downgrade happens. I know they will care little about the public, that’s to be expected. What worries me is that they might not know what they’re doing. In fact, many of them have been saying over the past few days that they don’t know what to do. When you’ve got people with a lot of money, freedom to do anything with it, protection from the public that is not protected from them, and they don’t know what to do, possibilities are endless.
Remember the time when Democrats were the young, passionate, liberal guys, and Republicans were some sort of a dying breed. It wasn’t that long ago actually. Just take a look at the last Presidential elections, where Obama, age 47, defeated McCain , age 72. Taking just the last presidential elections into account doesn’t go a long way to prove a point, however since the 50′s Democrats in Congress have generally been younger, even though there has never been more than a 2.8 year difference . And while there was but a few years difference between G.W Bush and his two opponents Al Gore and John Kerry, Bill Clinton was 24 years younger than his Republican opponent Bob Dole, and 22 years younger than G.H.W Bush, who he ran against four years earlier. Michael Dukkakis, who ran against G.H.W Bush in 1988, was 9 years younger than his Republican opponent, and Walter Mundale, who could take only 13 electoral votes from Ronald Reagan, was 17 years younger. Same happened with Reagan and Carter in 1980, Carter and Ford in 1976, Nixon and McGovern in 1972. So what is exactly happening today?
Ron Paul, Michele Bachmann, Jon Huntsman, Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty, currently pose the greatest danger to Barack Obama in the next year’s elections ( Rick Perry’s is gaining momentum in the polls, although he hasn’t announced he’ll run yet). All of them are older than Obama, although this is true by only about a year in the case of Huntsman and Pawlenty. You might think then, well, nothing has changed. Democrats still have the youngest candidate, and the Republicans have lived up to the expectations. These numbers can be very deceiving.
Ask yourself, which ‘young’ Democrat powerhouse beside Obama have you heard of recently? Then ask yourself the same question about Republicans. When you think of prominent and influential Democrats today, you think of Harry Reid, age 71, Dick Durbin, age 66, Carl Levin, age 77, Barney Frank, age 71, Jim Clyburn, age 71, Henry Waxman, age 71, Nancy Pelosi, age 71. As for younger Democrats, you have N.Y Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, Gov. Jack Merkell from Delaware…and the list doesn’t go much further than that in terms of national recognition.
Now take a look at relatively young Republicans that have gained national attention lately. Florida Gov. Rick Scott, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell. Members of the Congress; Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan, Tim Scott, Michele Bachmann, Marco Rubio, John Thune, Rand Paul, Dave Camp…etc. What do they have in common? They have all gained national prominence, and none of them are older than the age of 60. I don’t want this to be mistaken for an argument of influence and power. Not all Republicans I named are the most influential in their party, nor are they the most powerful ones. Some of them are, but the more important point is that the rest of them seem to be heading that way.
Why is this change happening? The simple answer would be the Tea Party movement, which many conservative individuals I mention either belong to, support it on a majority of issues, or associate themselves with it in various ways. There is a growing number of youth interested in the movement, and working hard to promote it. Don’t be mistaken though, this has nothing to do with old Republican views, nor are these young Republicans focused on social conservatism, but rather the change stems from the difficult economic situation we find ourselves in. It is not the issues of abortion, religion, gay marriage, affirmative action, capital punishment that drive these young individuals. It is unemployment, government growth and spending, national debt, healthcare, social security, and all other economics related issues that are at the core of the movement. When old Republicans argued against Marxism and Communism, young Republicans and Tea Party members dismiss Keynes, Samuelson, Stiglitz, Krugman…and they seem to be very serious about it. Winston Churchill remarked once that;
” Any man who is under 30, and is not a liberal, has no heart; and any man who is over 30, and is not a conservative, has no brains.”
While this remains a very generalized comment, and one you can point out many faults in, it was still a comment that represented the general public behaviour. Today, it seems the tide has changed, and this comment couldn’t be further from the truth.
The reality is that 10 of the youngest Representatives in the current House, are Republican. More importantly though, the average age for Republicans in Congress stands at 54.9, which is by almost two years lower than it was in the previous Congress. Meanwhile, average age of Democrats is at 60.2, and is higher by over two years than in the last Congress. This has created a difference of 5.3 years between the Republicans and Democrats, the highest difference between the two parties in over 60 years. Democrats are fairly confident that the President will serve another term, and I myself find it likely too, but what they should be asking themselves is what will happen with their party after that second term. Can you think of a Democratic candidate that can win the elections in 2016? Because Republicans have quite a few people in mind.