Monday, December 17, 2012

The Cost of Doing Business

Recently, financial behemoth HSBC was ordered to pay a $1.92 billion dollar fine for money laundering. Sounds like a great big fine, until compared with HSBC's great big assets--over $2.55 TRillion. The bank apparently broke a few federal laws (the Bank Secrecy Act and the Trading with the Enemy Act). Regulations are all too often insufficiently enforced, with penalties not stiff enough to deter bad behavior; indeed, fines simply become part of the cost of doing business.

Following on the heels of the news of the HSBC fine was news of yet another mass shooting of innocent people. Twenty children, boys and girls who were only 6 or 7 years old, were shot multiple times, along with 6 teachers and administrators, as several of whom tried to stop the killer or protect the children. The killer finally, shot himself; it is reported that a woman found shot dead in a house in town may have been the killer's mother, also shot by him.

Early responses to the news included such reactions as "I can't believe this happened," and "How could this happen here," along with various politicians saying, "Now is not the time to talk about gun control." The gun lobby spends vast sums promoting their agenda--and for a large segment of the interests the NRA represents, these murders are just part of the cost of doing business.

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Thursday, December 06, 2012

Longer Than the War in Afghanistan

Time to put up the holiday decorations again! I'd like to offer a 21-gun salute to the brave soldiers in the trenches of the War on Christmas. They have been remarkably resilient in the aftermath of their crushing defeat at the polls November 6th. They have banished some of their generals but may be regrouping under others (old strategies wearing new stars).

The image of the Nativity would not be complete without a visit from Three Wise Guys, who came to remind the Republican base that the meek have inherited the White House, because they're moochers and takers.

But we have to leave it to determined War correspondent Jon Stewart to explain how enormous is the gulf between reality and the Christmas-Republican Alliance for Profit (CRAP).

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Sunday, December 02, 2012

A New Visitor

A bird showed up at the feeder early in November, one that I had not seen around here before--an evening grosbeak. I don't know if its location had been influenced by Hurricane Sandy; evening grosbeaks have been known to get as far south as the Gulf coast. They are not known to breed in Pennsylvania, according to the 1992 Atlas of Breeding Birds in Pennsylvania*, although it could be their range is extending southward.

About two weeks later, a whole bunch of grosbeaks, male and female, spent some time at the feeder. I haven't seen them since.


*Daniel W. Brauning (ed.), 1992, University of Pittsburgh Press, 484 p.