Government Shuts Down

 

When the buffalo fight in the swamp, the frogs lose.

The morons in Washington have managed to bring the government to a standstill. I don’t know if they’ll turn around and do some quick maneuver to stop the free fall or not. I do know that people I represent, people who have bills to pay and families to support, have already been given notice that their jobs are forfeit because of this.

I knew from jump street that the Affordable Care Act was a goldmine for Planned Parenthood. It was right there in the language of the bill. I am also absolutely opposed to the HHS Mandate. At the same time, I know that the President is correct when he says the economy is fragile (at best) and that the credit rating of this debtor nation is at stake. Think what happens when your credit card company raises your interest rate and multiply that by the national debt.

I haven’t written about this before now because I am conflicted.

All I know for sure is that I love this country and I believe that the people we have put in office — of both parties — are doing damage to my country. I honestly question if they care about this country or the American people. It appears that the only thing they want to do with the power we have given them is play political games, serve their various special interests and try to hype things in an unending quest for power and dominance over the other political party.

I’m going to let you good people discuss this as thoroughly as you wish. Just be kind to one another in the process. Good people can look at the same situation and come away with different ideas. That is part of our strength, because different ideas lead to better decisions.

When the buffalo fight in the swamp, the frogs lose.

In this case, the frogs are the American people.

We deserve better than this.

From The Wall Street Journal:

WASHINGTON—After three years of ducking crises with last-minute deals, Congress finally ran out of ways to patch over its differences. Unable to meet a midnight Monday deadline for funding the government, lawmakers allowed it to shut down.

The White House ordered federal agencies to suspend a vast array of activities shortly before midnight, after a day of frantic legislative volleying left Senate Democrats and House Republicans at an impasse over government spending and the 2010 federal health-care law. The next steps to resolve the stalemate remained unclear.

Markets that have slipped recently face a test on Tuesday morning of how they will view the developments, given that a larger deadline for Congress—over the need to raise the nation’s borrowing limit—is less than a month away.

Many federal workers reporting to their agencies Tuesday morning will undertake a half-day of shutdown preparations before more than 800,000 employees in the government’s workforce of about 2.9 million are sent home. While essential functions such as law enforcement and air-traffic control will continue, a large array of federal activities, among them Internal Revenue Service audits and surveillance for flu outbreaks, will be suspended.

President’s Full Statement on Government Shutdown

 

President Obama made this statement today on the impending government shutdown. I believe, based on this statement and what I have read, that both sides are misrepresenting one another’s motives.

However, I do think that this whole adventure into brinksmanship is harming the country. I also do not think that the welfare of the American people is a motivating factor in it.

Here’s the statement.

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The Prez Who Hates the Bill of Rights and His Senatorial Minions Write a Little Law

The HHS Mandate. (First Amendment)

Surveilling the American people. (Fourth Amendment)

Gun control. (Second Amendment) 

Those pesky amendments keep getting in the way of better government. 

Thankfully, we have a Congress (who we trust soooo much) who, as everyone knows, always puts the needs of the American people ahead of any special interests, to take care of those little tripping-up points in the Constitution. These are the folks who sat on their thumbs while the administration pushed through a quasi law attacking religious freedom called the HHS Mandate. They are the ones who want to find some loophole to allow them to do away with the right to bear arms. 

Their latest little move is to rescind the legal protections of the free press to protect their sources. They are doing this by “defining” who is the “press” and doing it to their advantage. What they’re doing is limiting First Amendment protections to the “legitimate” (i.e., the corporate) press.

As anyone with half a brain knows, the corporate press is not free. They are owned. And they function more and more as a propaganda tool for the government, which also appears to be owned. 

It follows and it’s easy to follow that if the corporate press is the only legitimate press, then there is no free press. 

Slam dunk and done. First Amendment, (both parts) tamed and brought to heel. 

To put a cherry on top this rescission of the First Amendment, our Senators want to make the Attorney General of the United States the person who gets to decide which press is “legitimate” and worthy of First Amendment protections. 

Now, let’s think for a moment. Who appoints the Attorney General of the United States? 

The President of the United States. 

And who confirms this appointment?

The Senate of the United States.

Mr Fox, here’s your gun. You’re now in charge of the henhouse. 

From Breitbart:

An amendment is moving through the Senate Judiciary Committee that would essentially allow the government to determine who is a journalist for purposes of legal protection of sources. For purposes of protecting a source, a “journalist” under law would be anyone who: 

  • Works or worked for “an entity or service that disseminates news or information by means of newspaper; nonfiction book; wire service; news agency; news website, mobile application or other news or information service…news program; magazine or other periodical…or through television or radio broadcast…” These people would have to have the “primary intent to investigate events and procure material in order to disseminate to the public news or information.” Opinion journalists might not be covered.
  • Bloggers and citizen journalists – citizens who commit acts of journalists without working for such an outlet – would not be covered, unless it was determined that “at the inception of the process of gathering the news or information sought, had the primary intent to investigate issues or events and procure material in order to disseminate to the public news or information.” In other words, the government – the Department of Justice – would now determine whether primary intent was news distribution or political concerns.
  • Those explicitly excluded from protection include those “whose principal function, as demonstrated by the totality of such person or entity’s work, is to publish primary source documents that have been disclosed to such person or entity without authorization.” Glenn Greenwald, please contact your lawyer.

 

 

Sonny Bono at the Freshman Congressman’s Dinner

Sonny Bono at the Freshman Congressman’s Dinner. I first saw this on cspan, shortly after Sonny Bono delivered it. I laughed then, and when I found it You Tube, I laughed again.

Enjoy.

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Congress Gridlocks Over Completely Blank Bill

Tired of Congressional gridlock?

So long as partisan ambitions to get and keep power outweigh concerns for the good of this country and its people, there is no end in sight.

We might as well laugh.

This just in from The Onion:

Congress Fiercely Divided Over Completely

Blank Bill That Says And Does Nothing

 Jul 25, 2013
Congressional leaders in both parties have failed to find common ground on the completely text-free bill.

WASHINGTON—A blank piece of legislation that says nothing, does nothing, and contains no text whatsoever has been the source of heated debate in Washington this week, and has sharply divided Congress along partisan lines, Beltway sources confirmed Thursday.

Known as S.0000, the bill, which doesn’t have sponsors, co-sponsors, or an author, has reportedly drawn starkly contrasting opinions from legislators in both the Senate and House of Representatives, and has paved the way for a major legislative battle in coming months.

“At a time when millions of Americans are still struggling, we simply cannot afford this kind of devil-may-care federal policy,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), angrily waving the blank stack of papers in front of reporters. “We will not risk leading the American people into further hardship simply so the Obama administration can once again do whatever they please, regardless of the consequences. As it is now, the bill is both short-sighted and utterly irresponsible.”

Bill S.0000, which has sharply divided lawmakers.

“Frankly, we need to get back to the negotiating table and make some major changes before members of my party would even consider putting this up for a vote,” McConnell continued. “And if my friends on the other side of the aisle try push it through, well, they’ll pay the consequences at the ballot box.”

According to reports, 45 Democratic senators are in favor of the bill—which contains no text whatsoever—while 41 Republicans are staunchly opposed. At least three Republicans, including Sens. Richard Burr (R-NC), David Vitter (R-LA), and Susan Collins (R-ME), have said they would consider crossing the aisle and backing the bill, an announcement that drew fierce criticism from GOP leadership and primary threats from members within their own party. (Read the rest here.)

He Didn’t Make a Mistake. He Lied. And the Senate He Lied to Was In On It.

Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, says he “made a mistake” when he said “No sir. Not wittingly.”

He’s sent a letter to Senator Dianne Feinstein apologizing for his “mistake.”

The question that prompted this “mistake” was one in which Mr Clapper was asked if his agency collects “any type of data on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans.”

His answer, which he gave under oath, was “No sir. Not wittingly.”

Enter Edward Snowden, the man who the press and Congress have labeled public enemy number one, and who our government is using every bit of its international muscle to chase down and put on trial. No country will give Mr Snowden asylum. After all, who wants to mess with America?

What was Edward Snowden’s crime? He proved, rather convincingly, that the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, dead, flat lied to Congress when he said that his agency did not have “millions or hundreds of millions of Americans” under surveillance.

In truth, the lying Mr Clapper had just about the entire nation under the “information gathering” gun.

I don’t believe that Mr Clapper “made a mistake” when he said this. I don’t believe that he forgot that he was engaging in the most massive violation of the civil rights of the America people in the history of this nation. It is already a matter of fact that the President of the United States had informed our “duly elected officials” about what was going on. That means that Senator Feinstein knew Mr Clapper was lying. The President knew he was lying. The Speaker of the House knew he was lying.

When their silence let his lie stand, they were lying, too.

Here’s the Fourth Amendment. Read it and weep:

AMENDMENT IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

From Newsmax:

Clapper Apologizes for ‘Clearly Erroneous’ Statement to Congress

Tuesday, 02 Jul 2013 10:57 PM

By Greg Richter

Under fire for telling Congress his agency did not gather intelligence on millions of Americans, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper apologized for what he called a “clearly erroneous” statement.Clapper apologized in a letter to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. The letter was dated June 21, but was released to the public on Tuesday.

In it, Clapper says he has “thought long and hard” to recreate what was going on in his mind when he responded to a question from Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., asking whether Clapper’s agency collects “any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans.”

“No sir,” Clapper answered at the March 12 hearing. “Not wittingly.”

That was proved to be false when former NSA contract employee Edward Snowden leaked classified information on the PRISM program, which collects electronic communications, including email. Another leak showed that the NSA collects metadata from phone calls showing times and duration of calls as well as the other number involved in the call.

Read Latest Breaking News from Newsmax.com http://www.newsmax.com/newswidget/clapper-congress-statement/2013/07/02/id/513137?promo_code=EB8D-1&utm_source=National_Review&utm_medium=nmwidget&utm_campaign=widgetphase1#ixzz2XzXrrVk3 Urgent: Should Obamacare Be Repealed? Vote Here Now!

Student Loans: Is it Really All about the Interest?

 

Congress is once again fussing and fuming over how to use another festering problem that faces the American people as a club to beat one another with in partisan rumbles.

This time, it’s the ridiculous cost of higher education, specifically the cost of  student loans.

The amount that people owe in student loans has doubled in the past five years. Those were the same five years when jobs vanished, wages for the jobs that were still around stayed flat or dropped and the net worth of families decreased due to the falling housing market. They were also the same years that saw gasoline go up and up and up along with the cost of everything from a gallon of milk to a new pair of jeans.

Students can no longer graduate from college and look forward to landing a job that will allow them to pay their student loans. As anyone who’s ever had one can attest, owing on student loans is only slightly preferable to owing the Sicilian Mafia. They won’t break your legs if you can’t pay your student loans, but they will break your financial back.

Every time you have to put payments back, the loans pile up penalties and interest. This increases the amount you owe in a geometric progression, piling debt on debt until there is no way anyone earning one of today’s salaries and living with today’s cost of living can pay off the loans in a normal lifespan.

Student loans can force young people to delay marriage, put off starting a family and forgo buying their own home. On the other end of life, student loans force at least some people to delay or even give up retirement. I personally know an individual who is well past retirement age, but can’t stop working because of payments on student loans.

Students loans were a great idea when they were first implemented. The plan was to open the doorway to higher education to young people who wouldn’t otherwise have the money to go. The loans made a lot of sense when tuition for a state university cost $12 or $15 per hour, text books could be had for less than $50 and good jobs at a living wage were plentiful. They were an extension of the American dream based on the kind of earnings that went with the almost unfathomable industrial might this country possessed.

Unfortunately, we’ve exported our industrial base and our government is now in the process of squeezing the last bit of financial reserve out of the population by making them pay for unnecessary armaments for what has become an endless cycle of war. Layered on that is corporate raiding of the national treasury which uses Congress to transfer money from the people to corporate welfare programs for those who pay for their campaigns.

Meanwhile, our institutions of higher learning have not been slouches at getting their cut of the economic joyride. They have lived large on the student loan gravy train since the program was implemented. After all, these are intelligent people They know a golden goose when they get one.

I’ve served on a board of regents in my time. I was the truculent one who voted against fee increases. Then, when I was a legislator, I was the unpopular one who voted against allowing the state schools to set their own tuition with no legislative oversight.

I’d heard all the arguments.

“Vote for the fee increase. No one will be denied an education. They can get loans.

Or,

“Vote to let the schools set their own tuition without legislative oversight. It won’t stop anyone from going to school. They can get loans.

But, for the simple reason that I could add, I knew that there was a day coming when the costs would outpace the rewards for students. We passed that day a while back. I also knew that the job requirements were getting stupid.

Nobody needs a college degree to be a cop or a firefighter or a lineman for the local electric company. Those jobs were held for decades by people without college degrees and they did them very well. A college degree is not necessary to do most jobs. Employers are requiring the degrees because  they have so many applicants for every position that they use the degrees as a weeding out criteria.

The question that arises is whether or not this is a legitimately useful criteria. Does a college degree actually mean that a person is going to be a better employee? I doubt it.

I’m not against higher education. But I am against this endless round of cost increases tied to the argument that there’s no reason to practice good usage of resources because, after all, students can always get loans to pay for it. I am also against job requirement inflation that tacks a supposed need for a college degree onto every position.

Which brings me to the latest legislative brinksmanship in Congress. It seems that there is a plan afoot to double the interest rates on student loans. Congress, with its usual unwillingness to think of the people or the country ahead of its partisan loyalties, is fighting over what to do about it. The Republicans want to tie the interest rates on student loans to interest on the 10-year treasury note. Based on what I’ve read, I think the Democrats want to block the proposed rate hike, which, I presume, would hold the rate at its current level.

Meanwhile, the amount of student loan debt in this country has risen from $550 billion in 2007 to a trillion today. That’s not government funny money. That’s people’s lives nailed down and unable to progress because of a burden of overwhelming debt.

So far as I’m concerned, we need to look at two things: The inflationary cycle in the cost of a college education, and the inflationary cycle in downright stupid job requirements.

You don’t need to be an engineer to change a lightbulb. Somebody needs to remember that.

From the Wall Street Journal

Student loan debt has nearly doubled in the past five years, according to a congressional report released Tuesday, less than two weeks before interest rates on federally backed student loans are set to jump to 6.8% from 3.4%.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat who is the vice chair of the congressional Joint Economic Committee, released the report and said it underscores the need for “immediate action” to block the rate hike scheduled for July 1.

With little time to head off that hike, however, a bill has yet to clear the Senate. A pair of competing bills failed test votes earlier this month. The House in May passed a bill basing interest rates on the 10-year Treasury note.

The report highlights the burden of debt on students now. Debt has increased from $550 billion in the fourth quarter of 2007 to just under $1 trillion in the first quarter of 2013, it says. (Read the rest here.)

 

Congress Considers More Gun Control and Less Gun Control

 

Gun control has become a metaphor for the way our Congress doesn’t work these days. 

Proponents of the defeated gun background checks bill are looking at ways to amend it in hopes of getting the votes of push it through. Meanwhile, at least one senator, as well as the House of Representatives are pushing measures to either relax existing gun control laws or broaden situations where guns are allowed.

My question is, why try to jump the Grand Canyon flat-footed if you’re a turtle?

What I mean by that is that politics is supposed to be the art of the possible. But it appears that it’s become the art of public demagoguery in order to rally your voter base. The desire to actually accomplish anything for this country appears to be dead.

I do not see how constantly erecting straw man legislation and then voting on it does anything for the people. I know that there are times when a lawmaker will introduce legislation they don’t have much hope of passing to make a statement about deeply-held principles. I’ve done this myself. But when this becomes the only thing that Congress is doing, it starts looking like cheap demagoguery designed to deepen the culture wars and lock your sliver of the vote in place for the next election.

We call these kinds of things “hero deals,” and done in moderation, they are not only harmless, but can serve a purpose. However, the purpose of a governing body is to govern, not do endless “hero deals” for the cameras.

Surely there is something besides pumping more money into unneeded defense contracts and going on lobbyist-provided junkets that the members of Congress can agree on. Frankly, I’d like to lock all of them up in a dormitory and make them eat beans and sleep on cots until they agree to start governing for the common good and what is best for the people of the United States of America.

Given the deference they are accustomed to, I think one night of this torture should break almost all of them.

From the Associated Press:

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senators backing gun control are discussing ways to revise the defeated Senate background check bill to help win the votes they need to resuscitate the measure.

Among the changes they might consider are limiting the fees buyers would pay at gun shows, adding provisions dealing with the mentally ill and altering language extending the background checkrequirement to all online sales, senators said Tuesday.

Supporters fell five votes short when the Senate defeated legislation last month that would have extended required federal background checks to more buyers.

That vote, four months after the massacre of 20 first-graders and six educators at a school in Newtown, Conn., was a defeat for President Barack Obama and gun control advocates. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has promised to revisit the issue, perhaps by early summer.

While Senate Democrats hunted more votes to expand background checks, the Republican-run House took a step in the opposite direction Wednesday, voting to make the system less restrictive for some veterans.

The House Veterans Affairs Committee voted by voice to require a judge or magistrate to declare a veteran is dangerous before the name is entered in the background check system’s database of people barred from getting firearms. Currently, the Department of Veterans Affairs sends the system the names of veterans it has declared unable to manage their financial affairs — 127,000 names since 1998.

Supporters of the measure said veterans who can’t handle their money aren’t necessarily dangerous. The department opposes the measure, saying veterans in the database already have the ability to appeal.

Gun rights advocates were also taking the offensive in the Senate.

The chamber planned to vote Wednesday on a measure by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., allowing firearms on land owned by the Army Corps of Engineers if it didn’t conflict with state law. (Read the rest here.)

 

Government Of, By and For the Special Interests: Rolling Right Along

Government of, by and for the special interests is rolling right along, despite a national debt that hangs like the Sword of Damocles over all of us. 

A case in point is the on-going debate in Congress about the Abrams Tank. The Army doesn’t want more Abrams tanks. But members of Congress are pushing to force more of them on the Army, anyway.

One factor in this is, of course, the location of Abrams Tank plants. These plants provide jobs for constituents. Voting for the funding because it will keep jobs for your constituents, is, of course, pork barrel voting. But at least the Congressperson who’s doing it has the interests of the people who elected them in mind.

But what about the rest of them? I rather doubt that there are enough Abrams Tank plants in enough Congressional districts to swing a vote in Congress. So, what’s motivating this bi-partisan push to force the Army to buy more tanks, despite the fact that it says it does not need them to keep us safe?

This is just a wild guess, of course, but I’m wondering if campaign donations play a part in this. Or maybe the possibility of a cushy job after leaving office.

From the Associated Press:

WASHINGTON (AP) — Built to dominate the enemy in combat, the Army‘s hulking Abrams tank is proving equally hard to beat in a budget battle.

Lawmakers from both parties have devoted nearly half a billion dollars in taxpayer money over the past two years to build improved versions of the 70-ton Abrams.

But senior Army officials have said repeatedly, “No thanks.”

It’s the inverse of the federal budget world these days, in which automatic spending cuts are leaving sought-after pet programs struggling or unpaid altogether. Republicans and Democrats for years have fought so bitterly that lawmaking in Washington ground to a near-halt.

Yet in the case of the Abrams tank, there’s a bipartisan push to spend an extra $436 million on a weapon the experts explicitly say is not needed.

“If we had our choice, we would use that money in a different way,” Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army’s chief of staff, told The Associated Press this past week.

Why are the tank dollars still flowing? Politics. (Read the rest here.)

My New Hero: Former Pro Life Democratic Congressman to be Ordained Deacon

Deacon Greg Kandra always has the story, and this is no exception. He has also introduced me to someone who is my new hero.

Mike Forbes is a soon-to-be newly ordained Deacon. On April 13, Bishop Joe Vasquez, bishop of the Diocese of Austin, will ordain 11 new deacons, including Mr Forbes.

A former member of the United States House of Representatives from New York, Congressman Forbes was originally elected as a Republican, but switched parties. He had criticized the Republicans for being “tone deaf” to the needs of average Americans. However, the New York Democratic Party Chair, Judith Hope, refused to welcome Forbes into the Democratic Party because he is pro life.

I can certainly identify with this. Pro life Democrats are a beaten, bedraggled crew. Just look at the photo at the top of this blog if you want a taste of how our party supports us. At the same time, the Republicans are tone deaf to the needs of average Americans.

If you try to follow Jesus, you will not fit in with either party. That’s a fact.

Here, straight from the Deacon’s bench, is the story:

Describing himself as a devout Catholic in love with Christ all of his life, Mike Forbes considered whether God was calling him to the diaconate for more than 10 years during a successful career in public service. He held staff positions with the New York legislature and the U.S. Congress, and was elected to three terms in the House of Representatives. Since 2001, he has been president of his own advocacy, public relations and marketing firm.

He and his wife, Barbara, are members of St. William Parish in Round Rock; they have two adult children and two children at home. Forbes credits the example of the four deacons is his parish with motivating him to begin a serious inquiry about formation.

The “street retreats,” in which the candidates spent two days living on the streets with the homeless, and prison ministry were enlightening pastoral experiences. He remains open to ministering wherever God, through the bishop, calls.

And Wikipedia notes: 

n 1994, Forbes ran on three ballot lines for the House of RepresentativesRepublican, conservative, and right to life. He defeated incumbent George Hochbrueckner by six percentage points. Forbes got a seat on the powerful Appropriations committee, unusual for a freshman representative, due to his ties with new House Speaker Newt Gingrich. In December 1996, Forbes announced he was not going to vote for Gingrich for speaker. Forbes voted for Rep. Jim Leach instead. Forbes supported the Clinton impeachment.

On July 17, 1999, Forbes switched to the Democratic Party after chastising national Republicans for being “tone deaf” to the needs of average Americans. While embraced by President Bill Clinton, Democratic leader Dick Gephardt, Sen. Ted Kennedy, Sen. Max Cleland, and other Senate and House Democrats, New York’s liberal Democrats (particularly chairwoman Judith Hope) refused to welcome Forbes into the Democratic Party because he is a staunch pro-life advocate.


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