Tag Archives: government

Even I didn’t know it was this bad

From a column in The Hill today:

Even by the standards of a divided Congress . . . there has never been such an unproductive session of Congress.

NBC’s “First Read” recently published a chart comparing the productivity of today’s divided Congress (57 laws passed) to the work undertaken by a divided Congress during President Reagan’s terms – when Republicans controlled the Senate and Democrats controlled the House. The 97th, 98th and 99th Congresses respectively passed 473 laws, 623 laws, and 663 laws.

The article concluded: “It’s not even a close call. That [Democratic] House got a lot more done with its GOP rivals than this GOP House has with its [Democratic] counterparts.”

Priorities people, priorities!

According to The Wall Street Journal, developing the health insurance exchange site so far . . .

. . .  has cost at least $360 million, and possibly as much as $600 million.

Then there’s the F-22. Developing that baby cost a mere $42 billion and while the planes themselves are a steal at only $150 million per, it was nine years before a single production model was delivered to the Air Force.  Wikipedia:

During the development process the aircraft continued to gain weight at the cost of range and aerodynamic performance, even as capabilities were deleted or delayed in the name of affordability

F-22 production was split up over many subcontractors across 46 states, in a strategy to increase Congressional support for the program.[29][30] However the production split, along with the implementation of several new technologies were likely responsible for increased costs and delays.[31] Many capabilities were deferred to post-service upgrades, reducing the initial cost but increasing total project cost.[32]Each aircraft required “1,000 subcontractors and suppliers and 95,000 workers” to build.[33] The F-22 was in production for 15 years, at a rate of roughly two per month.[34]

Now that’s some bureaucracy there! It’s really a marvel the thing flies.

Million Vets to Cruz, Palin: get yer own podium

(UPDATED TO ADD LINK)million vetsThey’ve posted this on their homepage:

Official Stance of the Million Vet March on the Memorials

The political agenda put forth by a local organizer in Washington DC yesterday was not in alignment with our message. We feel disheartened that some would seek to hijack the narrative for political gain. The core principle was and remains about all Americans honoring Veterans in a peaceful and apolitical manner. Our love for and our dedication to remains with Veterans, regardless of party affiliation or political leanings.

Mr. Cruz, Ms. Palin and some attendees, including political parties may have not been aware of the goals of the marches which took place in over 60+ rallies across the nation.

Fascinating interview: WaPo and National Review

Ezra Klein today in his Wonkblog:

Robert Costa is the National Review’s Washington editor and one of the best-sourced reporters among House Republicans. Like many others, I’ve relied on his reporting in recent days about how House Republicans are strategizing around the government shutdown. But it left me with some questions, particularly around Speaker John Boehner’s strategy. We spoke by phone this afternoon, and a lightly edited transcript follows.

I found the interview informative. Here’s a small outtake:

EK: But why isn’t it [a clean resolution or a “CR”] an option? A few dozen unhappy members is an annoyance, but how is it a threat? Wouldn’t Boehner be better off just facing them down and then moving on with his speakership?

RC: So there are 30 to 40 true hardliners. But there’s another group of maybe 50 to 60 members who are very much pressured by the hardliners. So he may have the votes on paper. But he’d create chaos. It’d be like fiscal cliff level chaos. You could make the argument that if he brought a clean CR to the floor he might have 100-plus with him on the idea. But could they stand firm when pressured by the 30 or 40 hardliners and the outside groups?

Articles of Confederation bitchez!

Because that worked so well.  Who needs a balance of powers anyway? Checks and balances? Bleh.  We have a US Senator is ‘whipping’ votes in the House of Representatives. A significant cohort of the Congress is ideologically committed to the destruction of a strong Federal government. The House Speakership – designed to wield enormous power – now powerless. Who really needs him any more? Put the world economy at risk during a fragile recovery? So what if that usually leads to World Wars. That’s the world’s problem. – and damn Europeans and Mooslims.

Shut it down. Take it down! USA! USA! USA!

I asked my old friend Wikipedia for a few random factoids about the debt and that debt ceiling thingee:

  • 800px-US_Public_Debt_Ceiling_1981-2010US government indebtedness has been the norm in the financial history of the nation. The carriage of debt in Western Europe and North America by governments has been normal for the past 200 years, so the US situation is not unique.
  • The US has been in debt every year except for 1835.
  • Debts incurred during the American Revolutionary War and under the Articles of Confederation led to the first yearly report on the amount of the debt ($75,463,476.52 on January 1, 1791).
  • Every President since Herbert Hoover has added to the national debt expressed in absolute dollars. The debt ceiling has been raised 74 times since March 1962,[1] including 18 times under Ronald Reagan, eight times under Bill Clinton, seven times under George W. Bush, and three times under Barack Obama.

A little vulgar, but an important question

And it’s not about Obama specifically; it’s about US policy that increasingly turns away from very serious threats to freedom and democracy. But of course they’re only ideals. So, you know . . .

~Liberty~

Bet Rand Paul’s happy now that he voted for Obama in ’08!

Because he doesn’t want trillion dollar deficits, see.

Budget Deficit

As watertiger put it, grifters gotta grift

Here again cometh Christian pin-up Ralph Reed and this time with More-Deity-For-Your-Dollars! He had to shut down that Indian Tribe swindle he had going – and damn but that was good money! Former partner Jack Abramoff went and changed careers after getting himself convicted and sent to jail. Jack’s into redemption now, so Ralph is back to plain old huckstering, an ancient, if dishonorable, profession. (See those annoying little points on the pocket handkerchief? There’s yer proof that Ralph’s the too too smooth sort.)

Does make me wonder where is Tom DeLay these days?

On the Fourth of July . . .

. . .  I choose to celebrate the continuity of our government. We’ve managed it for  237 years. That’s an achievement and a testament to the brilliance of our constitution and our continuing respect for it. So good for us. Herbunk created this a few years ago and he just reposted for 2013. Also, it may be the best morph ever.

Image

Jes sayin’

As it is, so it’s ever been.

I like this picture

presidents

It’s an illustration of one thing that we’re still doing right – this picture reminds me that for two and a quarter centuries we’ve managed a peaceful transfer of power every few years. That counts for something.

Too bad there wasn’t a good guy with a gun around to keep this bad thing from happening

bridge

Once we get all the school teachers armed and trained, we’ll surely find some money to fix stuff like this. But first things first.

East Coast storms and Oklahoma storms: totally not the same thing

coburninhofeFederal assistance to Oklahoma? Duane notes that its two Senators (Inhofe and Coburn) aren’t too sure about that Federal funding stuff in theory. They didn’t want to step in after Sandy and they’re always trying to defund FEMA. But here’s what Inhofe had to say this morning on the teevee:

JANSING: You know there were a number of people along the East Coast who weren’t happy about your vote on Hurricane Sandy . . . you said the request for funding was a “slush fund.” . . .  is there money to help the people here in your home state rebuild?

INHOFE: Well, let’s look at that. That was totally different . . .

Yup. Totally different. I get that.

What Inhofe and Coburn don’t seem to grasp – well,  here, Duane says it best:

Yet despite the efforts of Inhofe and Coburn, the FEMA trucks will show up in Oklahoma throughout today and beyond. Those trucks are representatives of the American people, most of whom live far, far away from Moore.

Let me repeat that: Those trucks are representatives of the American people.

We can, however, take some comfort that both of the esteemed Senators, while not crazy about that food and rescue equipment part, did ask for prayers.

You may know that Duane lives in Joplin MO and two years ago a tornado devastated Joplin; 161 people died. His post a few days later is one I’ve never forgotten and it still touches me. Read it. That’s probably pretty close to what they’re feeling in Moore OK about now. It begins:

Sunday evening, before the onset of the cruel aftershocks that continue to pummel our devastated city with remorseless storms and rescue-impeding rains, my youngest son and I undertook a journey to a destination he—a high school student and baseball player—seemed desperate to see.

He wanted to go to his school.

Read the rest.

We’re not them, so who are we?

 In the quarter-century after World War II, the country established collective structures, not individual monuments, that channeled the aspirations of ordinary people: state universities, progressive taxation, interstate highways, collective bargaining, health insurance for the elderly, credible news organizations.

That’s from a NY Times op-ed today by George Packer (author of one of my favorite Iraq War era books, The Assassins’ Gate). It was true then. But we all know it’s not true now.

Later in his piece (which is about individualism as reflected by a celebrity obsessed culture), he uses the phrase ‘the great leveling’. And that perfectly explains I think why that post-War era succeeded and did so on every level.

The shared experience of WWII touched everyone, whether at war or at home. At war, the mechanic served with the lawyer whose car he fixed, and the young kid with an 8th grade education spent lonely nights talking to college professors.  Even more powerful in its effect on the later society was that they not only shared the experience but during it they were equals – all called to service by their country, wearing the same uniforms, fighting in the same battles with the same weapons. ‘GI Joe’ carried the same rifle as his lieutenant did.

They shared too, by rising to the challenge. And when it was done, they shared the tears and the pride.

It’s possible for societies to exhibit those values even without war. There are some here on our planet who manage it. But for us, that day is past.

We’ll never be those people again.

Now go have a nice day!

Let us yet mock public transit investment. After all, we can have this. Lots of this. And more of this.

Eyesore_201212

At Clusterfuck Nation,  Kunstler says:

Behold the landscape of Happy Motoring in its latest iteration in northern Virginia, that is, the Washington DC suburbs. It’s significant that the very seat of policy and governance in our country is the epicenter of cluelessness about the fate of our tragic car dependency. They just see endless new layers added onto the existing clusterfuck, and you can be sure that money will continue to be created for it — though it is suicidal for our society.

He posted this as the ‘eyesore of the  month’. I’d say he’s got that exactly right. Ugly it is.

We just did it again – 224 years of smooth presidential transitions

Not Eric Holder again! By the way, I thought corporations were people . . .

 . . . and don’t people go to jail when they commit crimes? Well, they don’t when  the head of the Federal justice system is Eric Holder who is NOT stepping down for the second term and who was head of Justice in the spring of this year when this was going on.

HSBC Holdings Plc (HSBA)’s head of group compliance, David Bagley, told a Senate hearing he will step down amid claims the bank gave terrorists, drug cartels and criminals access to the U.S. financial system by failing to guard against money laundering.

Bagley was among at least six HSBC executives who testified before the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations today after the panel released a 335-page report describing a decade of compliance failures by Europe’s biggest bank. London-based HSBC enabled drug lords to launder money in Mexico, did business with firms linked to terrorism and concealed transactions that bypassed U.S. sanctions against Iran, Senate investigators said in the report.

So Mr. Bagley and his buddies said they were ever so sorry before heading back to the company ‘retreat’ at Cabo and after, of course, paying a fine in an amount that they can earn back in a week.

That’ll show ’em alright.

Obama’s Cabinet has included some really terrific, skilled and well-suited people. I don’t count Holder among them. I’ll admit to being ignorant regarding many of his policies and initiatives. Maybe they’re good. Maybe they’re great. But when it comes to punishing corporate ‘persons’, those whose crimes almost brought down the world economy? FAIL..

No investment bankers are in jail. No one from AIG is in jail. Not even anyone from Countrywide. Or Arthur Anderson. Or the other rating agencies. And how about LIBOR? Any US companies complicit in that?

By any  measurement, letting them off with fines is sufficient reason to judge him a failure. I suppose that only when they do it two more times will they, like the 20-year-old marijuana smoker down the street, head to the big house.

The five Senators who made up the Keating Five plus Mr. Keating (bottom right)

The five Senators who made up the Keating Five plus Mr. Keating (bottom right)

Anyone remember the Savings & Loan scandal in the Reagan years? It wasn’t as far-reaching as 2008, but it was pretty damn big. There were plenty of perp walks (but not for everyone, not for everyone – see below). A lot of people paid for their corporate crimes. But that’s s-o-o-o yesterday.

For you younger ones:

Savings and loan crisis in which 747 institutions failed and had to be rescued with $160 billion in taxpayer dollars.[33] Reagan’s “elimination of loopholes” in the tax code included the elimination of the “passive loss” provisions that subsidized rental housing. Because this was removed retroactively, it bankrupted many real estate developments which used this tax break as a premise, which in turn bankrupted 747 Savings and Loans, many of whom were operating, more or less, as banks, thus requiring the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation to cover their debts and losses with tax payer money. This with some other “deregulation” policies, ultimately led to the largest political and financial scandal in U.S. history to that date. The savings and Loan crisis. The ultimate cost of the crisis is estimated to have totaled around USD $150 billion, about $125 billion of which was directly subsidized by the U.S. government, which further increased the large budget deficits of the early 1990s. See Keating Five.

Who were the Keating Five you may ask? And why are they relevant?

The Keating Five were five United States Senators accused of corruption in 1989, igniting a major political scandal as part of the larger Savings and Loan crisis of the late 1980s and early 1990s. The five senators – Alan Cranston (Democrat of California), Dennis DeConcini (Democrat of Arizona), John Glenn (Democrat of Ohio), John McCain (Republican of Arizona), and Donald W. Riegle, Jr. (Democrat of Michigan) – were accused of improperly intervening in 1987 on behalf of Charles H. Keating, Jr., Chairman of the Lincoln Savings and Loan Association, which was the target of a regulatory investigation by the Federal Home Loan Bank Board (FHLBB). The FHLBB subsequently backed off taking action against Lincoln.

Lincoln Savings and Loan collapsed in 1989, at a cost of over $3 billion to the federal government. Some 23,000 Lincoln bondholders were defrauded and many investors lost their life savings. The substantial political contributions Keating had made to each of the senators, totaling $1.3 million, attracted considerable public and media attention. After a lengthy investigation, the Senate Ethics Committee determined in 1991 that Cranston, DeConcini, and Riegle had substantially and improperly interfered with the FHLBB’s investigation of Lincoln Savings, with Cranston receiving a formal reprimand. Senators Glenn and McCain were cleared of having acted improperly but were criticized for having exercised “poor judgment”.

All five senators served out their terms. Only Glenn and McCain ran for re-election, and they both retained their seats. McCain would go on to run for President of the United States twice, including being the Republican Party nominee in 2008.

Like I said, it wasn’t all perp walks. A number of hands were slapped. And for them, that was that. (Another of the big players was GHW Bush’s son Neil Bush. Big play-ah.)

But no one smoked any weed, so . . .

Chuck Hagel? I can get down with that

While quite conservative, he was a good Senator, a thoughtful man. So if he ends up at Defense, that looks good to me. (I think he was also a fierce critic of W’s Iraq Adventure.) Will his former GOP colleagues confirm him?

Story is from Bloomberg. Notice the other headline too. So John Kerry gets State. I’m down with that as well.

hagel

 

Stand up and take it suckers. Florida doesn’t give a damn.

A nephew recently opened a branch of his insurance agency here in town, so when my policies came up for renewal I planned to transfer them to his office. But oh no . . . thanks to our consumer-hating Governor Scott and the now-infamous 2012 Florida legislature (the one that put 11 amendments to the state constitution on the ballot that contributed to voting going on until midnight, all of which were soundly defeated) that ain’t gonna happen (see below).

scottOur odd-looking Gov (nice teeth though) began his attack on all insurance that isn’t  private (as a crooked indicted former insurance exec himself, he continues allegiance to his former cohort) on Day One.  His special target has been the state-run, wildly popular and very well capitalized Citizens Insurance, which provides wind and flood coverage. In Florida, that is our hurricane policy.  (Citizens, by the way, was established after the big national companies fled Florida following Hurricane Andrew which devastated the State.)

Scott formed a committee tasked with developing strategies to literally get rid of Citizens. He wants to provide actual cash payments to private companies who take over their policies and is also offering to share Citizens’ disaster funds with them which they need since none of them have reserves as healthy as the gay-socialist-anti’merican Citizens.  Some of this is already in place; in 2013 for the first time, wind insurance will no longer covers ‘external’ structures of the sort most subject to wind damage  – that would be pool cages, screened-in porches, sheds and carports (stuff our leaders assume the common folk could easily cover out of their movie money). Adding to the pain, there’s not another reputable company offering alternatives – not at any price. Isn’t that nice? 

So, back to my nephew and his shining new local business. Here’s the text of an email I just got from his office. Both the agent and I have now agreed that I’d put  myself at risk of being denied insurance altogether were I to attempt to support Mike’s new business by transferring my policies to him. She said:

I am running into a problem with Citizens. As you know, they are increasingly difficult to work with for us. In order for us to change the agent on the policy, they now require the policyholder to re-qualify and will not transfer documents from one file to the other. Because of the age of your home, they are going to require a new 4 point inspection which would verify the condition of the roof, electrical, plumbing and AC systems. All items must show that they are free of defects and have at least 5 years remaining useful life. This is different from the Wind Mitigation inspection that we discussed when you were in the office, which is only required in the event that you wish to have credits applied to the policy and only verifies structural elements and not condition. Unfortunately for us, if you simply renew your existing policies, you are not subject to this condition . . . .

And now, the same situation has popped up with my homeowners policy. I guess they’ve figured if Citizens can get away with this, so can they. Both policies will now remain with my current agent. Sorry Mike.

Way to support new businesses Gov! But hey, F-R-E-E-D-O-M.

When Florida votes this clown out of office in 2014 we may be able to repair some of what he’s done; till then, it’s going to hurt – a lot.

I got off your lawn John; now what do you want?

Miss Graham’s dream of advancing to chief scold are foiled again, as current and senior scold Sen. John McCain abandons Arizona altogether and takes up permanent residence on the floor of the US Senate.

Benghazi forevah!

They’ve nominated this guy for the United States Senate

He is expected – or had been expected – to win the Senate race in Missouri over incumbent Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill.

So, Congressman, would you allow abortion in the case of rape?

“…First of all, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something. You know I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.”

Guns. Why.

Dollars spent lobbying our Congress Critters: PRO – $4.3 million; ANTI – $240K. And that is how our government works. Any questions?

This is about right. Yup.

I was just reading my way around Under The Mountain Bunker (‘Come for the apocolypse – stay for the coffee’) and came upon this Tom Tomorrow panel. 

Just make it stop

What is it with these Republican men?  They’re at it again in Congress because  apparently contraception is still the enemy of freedom.

A Letter to the Editor in my paper a few weeks ago provided a nice list of religious beliefs and rules that are ignored, indeed violated,  by civil law:

  • The Catholic ban on divorce
  • Muslim and Jewish laws about women and children
  • Buddhist and HIndu prohibitions against killing animals
  • Capital punishment
  • Quakers and conscientious objectors pay taxes that finance wars
  • Christian Scientist pay taxes to support medical care they abjure.

Language lessons for the media

Dear media: when you report on US foreign policy or military decisions, announcements and initiatives, please do not ascribe them only to “the Administration” or “the President”. Since they act in our name, the proper attribution is to “we” or “us”. (an Administration did not go to war in Iraq, ‘we’ did.)

If more specificity is appropriate, say “the Federal government” or “the State Department” or “the Pentagon”. If the initiative is purely from the Executive, then go ahead and say “the President” or “the Administration”.

It’s not as sexy or shiny, but it might mitigate the vein-popping outrage – from certain quarters – that the President is a dictator bent on enslaving us all.

 

Ezra Klein writes down the details: the 112th Congress is the. worst. ever. Really.

This, from Ezra Klein’s Wonkblog at The Washington Post today:

14 Reasons why this is the worst Congress ever

And he lays them out, clearly, with graphics and – in spite of his blogname – in a non-wonky way, focusing on comparisons between this 112th Congress and previous.

Guess what.

He starts with this week’s 33rd vote in the House to repeal the Affordable Care Act:

Holding that vote once makes sense. Republicans had promised that much during the 2010 campaign. But 33 times? If doing the same thing twice and expecting a different result makes you insane, what does doing the same thing 33 times and expecting a different result make you?

Well, it makes you the 112th Congress.

Notwithstanding Mark Twain’s famous quip, Suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you were a member of Congress . . . but I repeat myself, these ladies and gentlemen – well,  not so many ladies – are, indeed, The. Worst. Congress. Ever.

Say hello to America’s debtors’ prisons. The 19th century is all the fashion, bitches!

Did you know about this? I didn’t. (Charles Dickens however was very familiar with this particular script.)

Here’s the story at Naked Capitalism from 2010. It’s not only still going on, it’s far worse today. And in the new American way, we’ve invited private companies to handle the matter, with enough profits to – ahem – make a few campaign contributions to their favorite pols. It’s a whole new growth industry. (Because Elvis-forbid that States should add public sector jobs! If it’s jobbed out, and thus off the State payroll, and even though it’s more costly (in more ways than one), our elected officials then can’t be accused of adding government jobs when they run for re-election. Sweet.

The practice is spreading because it’s such a good economic model – spend State money to imprison debtors, then close them off from any avenue by which they could repay that debt. And in most cases, add a few fees and let them compound. Brilliant, yes?  And it’s so rightous. And godly.

Here’s a  CBS News story from April of this year: 

How did breast cancer survivor Lisa Lindsay end up behind bars? She didn’t pay a medical bill — one the Herrin, Ill., teaching assistant was told she didn’t owe. “She got a $280 medical bill in error and was told she didn’t have to pay it,” The Associated Press reports. “But the bill was turned over to a collection agency, and eventually state troopers showed up at her home and took her to jail in handcuffs.”

Although the U.S. abolished debtors’ prisons in the 1830s, more than a third of U.S. states allow the police to haul people in who don’t pay all manner of debts, from bills for health care services to credit card and auto loans. In parts of Illinois, debt collectors commonly use publicly funded courts, sheriff’s deputies, and country jails to pressure people who owe even small amounts to pay up, according to the AP.

I especially liked this part:

Some states also apply “poverty penalties,” including late fees, payment plan fees, and interest when people are unable to pay all their debts at once, according to a report by the New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice. Alabama charges a 30 percent collection fee, for instance, while Florida allows private debt collectors to add a 40 percent surcharge on the original debt. Some Florida counties also use so-called collection courts, where debtors can be jailed but have no right to a public defender.

Anything else you want to ask me?

It’s been an unbloggy week, but I think I managed to say this on Monday:

(I’m staying out on my limb – I think Roberts votes for Obamacare. And if he does, so does Kennedy.)

Yup. That’s what I said. Gotta go. CNN’s calling.

(Whoops. My bad. Kennedy dissented.)

Think of it this way

If the Supremes overturn the ACA, four justices appointed by Republican presidents will have voted in lock step with Congressional Republicans, not one of whom voted for the bill.

(I’m staying out on my limb – I think Roberts votes for Obamacare. And if he does, so does Kennedy.)

Gail Collins says another smart thing

She’s framed this in a new way. Well said:

Our biggest political division is the war between [people in] the empty places and [people in] the crowded places.

(No linkee . . . I’ve used up my NY Times freebies for the month)