Silliness is not terribly surprising, considering what's going on where the Debt Ceiling and Government Shutdown are concerned. Many are beginning to look at this as the 'Silly Season' here in the US. Not to be outdone however, parts of the rest of the world occasionally insist on trying to compete (mostly unsuccessfully) with the pace of silliness that 'The Land of the Free' and 'The Home of the Brave' is trying to set. Our first entry in this latest edition is just such an example.
In Oslo, Norway, the announcement awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize was made today. While a Pakistani schoolgirl, a Congolese doctor, and a US traitor were among those who successfully got through the talent competition and made the finalists; the winner of the Peace Prize begun by Alfred Nobel (the guy who invented dynamite) is in fact not a person this year at all, but an organization. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) will receive this year's gold medal and $1.25 million cash award. (Sorry, there's no sash or tiara; but thank goodness, no swimsuit competition either.)
For those of you who've never heard of the OPCW, don't feel bad. Most of the world hasn't either. These are the guys however, who will be responsible for disposing of the chemical weapons in Syria at some point, though they haven't done anything but look around so far. By now, some of you might be wondering how they could get the prize for something they haven't actually done yet. You're probably the same ones who applauded the Nobel Committee for awarding it to Barack Obama back in 2009 before having actually done anything as President (even announcing his 'Peace Through Drone Strikes' foreign policy). This is also the same prize awarded to Al Gore in 2007 for his efforts with regard to climate change. Can somebody refresh my memory here? Was his award for generating awareness of the problem or the massive carbon footprint created in his awareness efforts. (Maybe the Nobel Committee just has a problem with this award in odd-numbered years.)
Locally, the latest Shutdown brouhaha was the Defense Department's announcement earlier this week that it wasn't going to pay survivor benefits immediately to families of soldiers killed in action overseas. Not only would this failure of payment create a hardship for families attempting to meet their loved ones at Dover Air Force Base as the remains were returned for burial, but it would force them to cover the funeral expenses themselves until the shutdown had ended (and they call Republicans heartless).
The Defense Department, showing a level of sensitivity that only a government agency can (and eerily reminiscent of the IRS), justified their actions by saying that they warned everyone that these 'non-essential' expenses would result from government shutdown. And all of this in spite of the fact that both Houses of Congress had passed the 'Pay Our Military Act' to fund the military that the President subsequently signed into law. Evidently however, Executive Branch attorneys in consultation with each other felt differently, and that same Defense Department didn't see fit to pass on to Congressional oversight committees (or apparently much of anyone else except some 'unnamed White House personnel') that this obviously misnamed bill still didn't cover what the legislators who wrote it thought it did.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney showed more of his own sensitive nature by attempting to politically justify this horrifying insult to the families of those who've made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of their country. These offensive and non-responsive comments were to the effect that this wouldn't be a problem if Republicans would just shut down the shutdown.
In a related story, Congress yesterday apparently fixed the hole in their earlier fix where military death benefits were concerned. In the meanwhile however, Senator Joe Manchin of Virginia had apparently brokered a deal with Ken Fisher's Maryland-based 'Fisher House Foundation' to step in and cover the costs for these military benefits to the families involved for the government until they could step in once again. Thursday Press Secretary Jay Carney, not satisfied with previous structural damage to the situation that he'd already done, stated that now a legislative solution was unnecessary since the Defense Department struck a deal with the Fisher House (though not giving credit to the Senator who had actually brokered the deal that the White House was taking credit for).
Two things to consider here:
- Wasn't this the same White House that a while back was looking to eliminate the tax deductions for charitable contributions in order to raise general revenues? Weren't we told that all things were to be done by government, and that such contributions and organizations were all but unnecessary? You know, there's a certain consistent inconsistency to the concept of borrowing money from those whose funding you wanted to make harder to obtain in order to make up for your own funding failures. Perhaps the next step should be instead to make them 'too big to fail'.
- Speaking of the Fisher House Foundation and this loan, since where does the Defense Department or the White House (the branch of government that controls it), get the authority to borrow money (especially from a private concern)? Incurring debt is the exclusive province of the Congress under Article 1, Section 7 of the Constitution. Therefore entering into even an informal agreement with the Fisher House, regardless of the altruistic nature of the effort, was and is entirely unconstitutional.