Posts Tagged With: government-shutdown

THE DIEHARDS

In 1854, British poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson wrote his classic poem, “The Charge of The Light Brigade,” which was based on actual events that occurred during the Crimean War (1854-1856.) The war united Britain, France and Turkey in a very bloody confrontation with Russian expansionist goals in Europe. As you may well know, the history of Europe is replete with centuries of constant warfare. There were often shifting alliances among countries fighting each other. For example, Britain and France engaged in numerous bloody wars over many centuries. But in the Crimean War, Britain and France were united, along with Turkey, in battling Russia. Lord Tennyson’s poem covers a specific event that resulted from a General’s incredibly incompetent and blundering orders to have a British light brigade (which was comprised of about 600 calvary men) charge Russian fortifications over an unprotected, flat terrain.

There was no way this mission could have succeeded and every one of the 637 in the light brigade knew they were being sent on a suicide mission. Yet they were bound by their honor to obey orders. As Tennyson wrote: “Half a league onward, All in the valley of Death, Rode the six hundred.” Other famous lines from the poem are: “Theirs not to reason why, Theirs but to do and die.” Needless to say, the men in the light brigade were slaughtered like cattle, an obvious outcome from the beginning. But representative of a diehard mentality that will bear any price, no matter how hopeless the outcome, in order to achieve its goals. Which brings us to the Government shutdown we all just endured for a couple of weeks. It was the same diehard tea party mentality, that the only way they would allow the Government to stay open and function, was to defund Obamacare. A political suicide mission that failed to accomplish its goal and whose only achievement was giving about 800 thousand federal employees a free, two-week paid vacation. And since the Government was only allowed to re-open on a temporary basis, we get to experience this all over again in January.

So I began wondering who exactly are these tea-party diehards and extremists, that now seem to control most of the Republican Party, especially in the House of Representatives. From what I’ve gleaned, the common thread that runs through tea-party mentality is a virulent hatred of Government. Nothing delights them more than actually seeing the Government being closed for business. So I’ve put together a list of common denominators that one is likely to possess to be in the tea-party movement. Sort like that comedy routine some years back about being a redneck. For example, you know you’re a redneck if you pee against the same tree trunk that your dog does, when out for a walk. So here goes in identification of who is in the tea-party.

You’re likely to be a tea-partier if you’re a fundamentalist, evangelical Christian. Although the New Testament focuses heavily on helping the poor and the sick, evangelicals go bonkers at thought of the Federal Government providing such assistance. I believe this goes back to when the Government sanctioned stuff like legalized abortion, widespread availability of birth-control, gay rights and marriage, removal of religion from public schools, availability of pornography, etc. Nothing good could ever come from any Government that allows such satanic occurrences. So in the evangelical mindset, the Government is the devil’s playground, bent on destroying organized religion. The Government is to be fought tooth and nail in order to preserve their religious freedoms and beliefs.

You’re likely to be a tea-partier if you believe that the poor, the sick and the elderly that receive Government assistance are nothing but slackers. They’re either lazy, indolent, dumb, or inept, or a combination of all of these. They’re the 47% that receive Government handouts, that Mitt Romney talked about when he thought all the cameras had been shut off. I wonder if he still ascribes his election loss to those “on the dole” as they used to say. In these tea-party minds, the income taxes they pay are all going into the pockets of those too lazy to work. Their taxes are never spent on the military or counter-intelligence efforts, but go strictly to those with their hands out. Therefore, the tea-partier hates the Government in general and the IRS in particular, and bitterly resents forking over the tax money he’s forced to pay.

You’re likely a tea-partier if you’re paranoia has reached through the stratosphere, and you feel the Government is out to destroy your life or kill you altogether. Or perhaps throw you into one of those large concentration camps the Government is building somewhere in Indiana to house political dissidents. You know the Government is reading all your emails and tweets, so if you erred in emailing your recipe to Grandma for chicken-pot-pie your life is as good as over. And where does all this paranoia come from? Try listening to the Rush Limbaughs or Glen Becks of so-called “talk radio.” They claim to have millions of listeners all tuning in for their daily dose of paranoia or Barack Obama vitriol. The same is true if you watch Fox News on TV.

Your likely to be a tea-partier if believe that America should become a shrinking violet in foreign affairs instead of leader of the free world. Of course, in that regard, right-wing wackos have teamed up with left-wing looney-tuners to bring about this current state of affairs. It’s one of the reasons that the mid-east is crumbling into chaos before our very eyes. One of the reasons that a terrorist state like Iran is about to cross the finish line in building nuclear weaponry.

I could go on but I believe you get the picture. I haven’t even talked about Ted Cruz, the unofficial tea-party leader and crusader in Congress. Or his evangelical father who runs a fundamentalist church. But my endurance is waning, so I guess I’ll save all that for another posting. It’s that senior thing again.

 

 

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THE SHUTDOWN DEBACLE

Hope you haven’t made any plans to visit any one of our national parks at this time. Over 300 million visitors come to our national parks annually; with a large chunk of them visiting around this time of year, especially those parks with trees that display colorful autumn foliage. ¬†If you have made such plans, and put down a large deposit to cover the costs of trip, you will likely be out of luck. Because if the Government shuts down at midnight tonight, as it appears highly likely, you had better hope that your travel agent is understanding enough to return your deposit. One of the first agencies to shutter their operations during a Government shutdown will be the National Park Service. You can also forget about obtaining a passport at this time, just in case you were planning an overseas trip. The passport office in the State Department will be another shutdown casualty. Welcome to your dysfunctional and delusional Government in the early part of the 21st century.

Technically, if Congress makes no funding appropriations by midnight tonight, the entire Federal Government is supposed to close shop. Because the Constitution clearly states that no expenditure is permitted for any Government operation if funds have not been appropriated by Congress. But there is a tacit, unspoken agreement among politicians of every stripe, that essential Government operations will be permitted to function. I guess it wouldn’t look too good for Congress or the President if we were subject to a major terrorist attack because counter-intelligence operatives in the Dept. of Homeland Security, the Dept. of Defense, or the CIA were told to go fishing instead of coming into work. But where are the strict interpreters of the Constitution when you need them. Where are the strict-constitutionalists like Supreme Court Justice Anton Scalia, who are always railing about liberal interpretations of the Constitution.

One of the reasons I write this blog is because its so much fun to highlight the irrational delusions that obsess many people’s lives and their ensuing actions. It’s fun, but it’s also tragic at the same time. Yes, reality is often a bitch, but it needs to be faced if one has any hope of succeeding in life. Delusional fears, paranoia, anger, or blaming others for one’s own mistakes or failures may be temporarily comforting; but in the end they are always highly counter-productive, and will usually lead to disaster. So it is with the House Republicans pandering to the most extreme right-wing elements that have now taken control of the GOP, and have this mantra that everything will be sweetness and light if they can only defund Obamacare. If that would only happen, then the sun will shine, the birds will chirp, and we can all go tiptoeing through tulips every morning with carefree abandonment. Thus, House Republicans refuse to pass required appropriations legislation unless it includes provisions to defund Obamacare. Democrats refuse to accept this defunding provision so Congress has stalemated itself into a Government shutdown at midnight. It’s like 2 cars coming head on at each other from opposite directions, and at high speeds, in an adolescent game of chicken. Which one will swerve to the side to avoid a head-on collision. If neither will, then tragedy ensues.

Time has long since passed when elected officials actually cared about the welfare of our citizenry. Now there is just one item on the agenda of our politicians-and that is getting re-elected next time around. To accomplish that, most politicians feel they have to appeal to their “base,” which is usually comprised of the most dedicated, fanatical, and extremist elements. People that are willing to work themselves into a coma, if that’s what it takes to get their guy elected. Because of this, there is hyper-polarization in Congress, with neither side willing to budge an inch. Which, turn, has resulted in a magnificent the 8-10% approval rating from the public in all the latest polls, that Congress so richly deserves.

Awhile back I posted an entry about why Congress has such dismal approval ratings. I theorized that Congress had been taken over by Plutonians. It seem that a few years back, scientists in this country downgraded Pluto from being a full-fledged planet in our solar system because of its smaller size. To seek vengeance, Plutonians came to Earth in space ships, took over the halls of Congress, and vowed to act as irrationally and dysfunctionally as possible. And that’s exactly what they did. It all made perfect sense, if one thought about. Alas, because this site is devoted to rationality and realism, I’m forced to abandon that theory and seek a more plausible reality.

I now believe that while vengeance is still the issue, it’s not being caused by citizens from the planet Pluto. Instead our own citizenry are the ones to blame. While, according to the polls, over 90% of us disapprove of Congressional actions, who is Congress but us. Aren’t we the ones that put all those senators and representatives there in the first place. And now we condemn them? As Ricky Ricardo might have said on “I Love Lucy”-we have a lot of ‘splaining to do.

I believe that among the Republican base of right-wing diehards, are those seeking revenge against Barack Obama for beating the GOP in 2 presidential elections. What better way to wreck vengeance than to deny Obama the funding needed to make his signature health care act become a reality. I believe that they are willing to shut down the Government indefinitely if that what it takes to strike back at the President, who they despise with every fiber of their being. Then there are those that hate the Government’s existence to begin with. In other times they were known as anarchists or nihilists. In their world, it’s survival of the fittest and every man or woman for themselves. Who needs government in the first place.

Maybe some kind of accord will be reached in the wee hours tonight; but I wouldn’t bet the mortgage on it. Of course, the longer the government shuts down, the more it will adversely affect the most vulnerable in our society. Like the poor, the sick, and the elderly. But in the end, who really cares about them. It’s too much fun watching this panorama of dysfunction unfold before our eyes.

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CAPITOL FISCAL FOLLIES

In 1907, a young man in Chicago named Florenz Ziegfeld decided that his career path would be that of a show business producer. He started with a light and inexpensive song and dance revue, for the summer season in Chicago, with emphasis on holding costs down, since he had little capital to begin with. But not even Ziegfeld could have imagined the the momentous impact his creation would experience. It was a huge hit from the beginning, and soon Ziegfeld would attach his name to what became as the “Ziegfeld Follies.” As he acquired more money the show became a more lavish and opulent spectacle. By the 1920s, this extravaganza was the smash hit of Broadway. But what really made the “Ziegfeld Follies” such a mammoth event were its showgirls, a collection of eager dancers and chorus-line singers all wearing dazzling costumes. Ziegfeld advertised them as the most beautiful girls in the world. Many huge show biz stars, such as Barbara Stanwyck, Paulette Goddard, Gypsy Rose Lee, Josephine Baker, and Marilyn Miller got their career-starts in the “Ziegfeld Follies.” The show finally had to shut down in 1931 as the icy tentacles of the Great Depression were beginning to wrap themselves around the American economy and start plunging it into the deep freeze.

This is sort of a long way around to observing that the fiscal follies currently going on in our nation’s capitol, far exceed the extravaganzas put on by Flo Ziegfeld. Especially as it pertains to the theater of the absurd. As good a showman as Ziegfeld was, he couldn’t match the looney-tunes, dysfunctional antics currently underway in the U.S. Congress, even as we speak, (or write, as the case may be.) Two events explain this fascinating kerfuffle. The first is that the Government’s fiscal year ends September 30, a week from now. The Constitution has words to the effect that the Government cannot spend a farthing (or a nickel if you prefer) unless the funds are appropriated by an act of Congress. So far, Congress has appropriated nothing for the new fiscal year, about to start on October 1. The primary hold-up is in the House, where Republicans have a majority and are refusing to pass fiscal 2014 appropriations ¬†unless all funding for Obamacare, (the President’s signature universal healthcare legislation) is stripped from the appropriations bill. Of course, it’s pure fantasy that the Democratic majority in the Senate, or the President, will agree to such shenanigans and extortion. But House Republicans are adamant that no new funding will occur unless resources for Obamacare are deleted. Even if it means shutting down the Government with all its ensuing consequences. Like military and civilian Government personnel, contractors and debt-holders not getting paid. Like no new food stamps, or housing assistance or other benefits to the sick or poor being issued. You know, fun stuff like that.

Senate Republicans also refuse to miss out on these entertaining follies. Senators, led by the four horse of the tea-party apocalypse, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Mike Lee, and Rand Paul, whom I’ve written about before, are also threatening to filibuster any appropriations bill that contains funding for Obamacare. Please do not disturb the ivory tower of self-delusion these four choose to dwell in. So here we are, one-week away from a total Government shutdown, with all its disastrous consequences, that could very well send our fragile economy into a devastating tailspin. But as these follies gather momentum, they do make for excellent theater of the absurd. It should be pointed out, however, that we are the only country in the world, from first to fourth rate, that is willing to shut their Government down over budgetary battles. Not even the weakest or poorest banana republic would entertain such thoughts.

If, by some miracle we can avoid a a Government-shutdown through lack of appropriations legislation; shortly thereafter comes the debt-ceiling fiasco, as Congress lurches from one phony crises to another. The debt-ceiling, unlike the appropriations process, is nowhere mentioned in the Constitution. Instead, in a fit of self-imposed masochism, Congress enacted legislation saying the Government cannot exceed an arbitrary debt-ceiling without Congressional approval. We are estimated to bump up against the current debt-ceiling around mid-October. Since we are borrowing about 40 cents out of every dollar we spend, it would seem rather imperative that Congress raise the debt-ceiling. If not, the Government once again shuts down. And once again, Congressional Republicans are holding the Government hostage, by refusing to raise the debt-ceiling unless all funding for Obamacare is erased. Since the Mafia has made blackmail and extortion so profitable, Republicans, I assume, figure, why not employ these same tactics.

Now we all know that Republican vitriol and hatred directed against Barack Obama, is almost legendary. To deprive the GOP out of 2 presidential election victories is unforgivable in most tea-party and Republican circles. To say nothing of the race issue that I won’t get into at this time. So what better way to seek revenge than depriving Obama of his signature legislated achievement. Plus they know that if Obamacare, flawed though it may be, is allowed to function for 2-3 years, it will become as popular as Medicare or Social Security. Then even the tea-party lunatics will not be able to advocate for its dissolution.

One other factor is in play. There is a whole group of far-far right-wing looney-tuners that would really like to see the Government shut down. The Rush Limbaugh/ Glen Beck/ Sean Hannity types with their millions of followers are practically frothing at the mouth, or drooling all over themselves, in anticipation of a Government shutdown. Instead of visions of sugar plums, such anarchists thrill at visions of such an event. Even Flo Ziegfeld, as good a showman as he was, would have hard time producing theater follies to match the current ongoing antics in our nation’s capitol.

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