Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Legislative Agenda Priorities

In another 'staged for TV event', President Obama stood in front of the cameras yesterday at the White House and clearly stated for the record, that the "time has come to fix once and for all" the broken system, according to an article in the UK Guardian.  Now many of you might have suspected that the leader of the free world was finally accepting his responsibility for failing to deliver a budget to Congress on time, as mandated by law, in five out of the last six years in which he has served; and to finally broker a budget passed by both Houses of Congress during his tenure in office.  The President's budget proposals have became rather famous (some would say instead notorious), not only for their consistent tardiness; but for being so out of line with political thought in this country that he has been unable to get even one of these proposals passed.  More telling though, is that he has yet to receive a supporting vote from even one of the legislative members of his own party, let alone that of his political opposition, during this same period.  If this was your assumption of his message however, like me, you would have been wrong.

Oh sure, you might have instead been looking at the President's statement as a goad to the United States Senate, a legislative house which his Democratic party has been in control of prior to and during his entire tenure in office.  The Senate, for those of you who might have missed it, is the only group in Washington that's done worse on the subject of the national budget than the President.  In violation of federal law themselves, Senators have consistently failed to pass a budget in each of the last four years, a record which they may finally be prepared to break.  This failure, aside from allowing next to no control over the national spending process, has lived on a consistent diet of 'Continuing Resolutions' in the last few years, which does little other than continue the business as usual of automatic increases to 'Baseline Budgeting'; with annual increases and no effective limits.  Budgets passed by the Republican (once known as the party of no) in the House of Representatives have been completely ignored and refused a vote by the very party that once so named them.  Sorry again folks if that's what you thought though, for this laudible goal likewise had nothing to do with the President's statement.

Perhaps the President was speaking to a broader financial situation in the nation.  It is once again after all, approaching another fiscal crisis as the National Debt Limit is about to be exceeded.  Now the Senate budget proposal is one that seems to ignore this situation, and instead looks to increase taxes another $1 trillion dollars over increases that have already occurred either at the expiration of the Bush tax rates and the imposition of the taxes that are beginning to take effect as part of the "Affordable Health Care Act"; while never once addressing the amount of the budget that's in the red.  The Congressional Budget proposal proposes no new taxes and seeks over ten years to instead balance the budget through the reduction of spending.  Strangely there are actual points of agreement between the two offerings that the legislative branch is working to make larger. 

Despite the claims by candidates on both sides of the aisle for both the executive and legislative branches in the last election that 'jobs are going to number one', nothing has yet been done or appears to be imminent in the budget plans in Washington DC to stimulate any other part of the economy than 'green energy'; and most of that has turned out to be throwing good money after bad to companies that only manage to provide a few temporary jobs before going bankrupt.  The government has yet to come up with anything that addresses that it's spending 30% more than it's taking in, that it's paying for the debt incurred by printing money at a furious pace, selling the debt that foreign countries don't want to The Fed, and lending money to big backs at what is effectively 0% interest.  Of course all of this will eventually lead to Inflation, but in the meantime the current batch of politicians is able to fiddle while the nation begins to burn; and continue to beat the dead horse of 'Sequestration' as the nag to blame for no better reason than it provides political cover for all the things that they're either too dense to recognize or too cowardly to address.

Oh, by the way.  I may have forgotten to tell you what the President was talking about during his recent public event instead of what he wasn't.  At a time when the President is late producing his own budget and doesn't expect to produce one until long after both the House and Senate have voted on their own proposals.  At a time when fiscal cliffs pop up more often than three-day holiday weekends.  At a time when the national debt has reached a level higher during his administration than at any time in its 237 year history, a debt that this President's Administration is responsible for accumulating faster than any other in its history; the President was instead looking at something entirely different than what should be the most important subject of his second term.  

This President was once again changing the priorities of his legislative agenda (and that of Congress), and castigating that legislative branch for not addressing a completely different subject to his satisfaction; in spite of the fact that both Houses are working to come with a compromise for it that will pass both Houses.  Instead of finally addressing an economy that the President has often called the worst since the Great Depression, the chief resident of the White House was instead attending a ceremony held instead to address something completely unrelated to the nation's economic malaise ... Immigration Policy.  

Bravo Mr. President, for keeping your eye on the ball ...



Sunday, March 24, 2013

March Madness

People often speak about "March Madness" as simply the temporary focus of the national attention on the 68 college teams competing this month in the NCAA's basketball tournament.  (It used to be 64, but the NCAA keeps adding to the team numbers, recognizing that there's more money to be made out there if they can add games without anybody paying much attention.  And this by the way, doesn't even count the 'loser's tournament' for those who weren't for some reason invited to the big dance.  By this of course, I mean the 32 colleges of the NCAA 'invited' to the NIT [National Invitation Tournament] as a consolation.)  March however seems to have been a month long infected with both fervor and madness before anyone considered 'Sweet Sixteen' as a phrase that could used in a discussion of sports. 

The Ides of March, for example occur on the 15th, and is famous as the day in which Julius Caesar was assassinated in 44 BC.  Now normally the Ides of any month (usually the 13th - 15th) were marked by the Romans through religious celebrations which concluded with a sacrifice.  In this particular case however, the sacrifice turned out to be their dictator (a term which meant something far different in those days).  The Religious implications of Politics are often rather difficult subjects to understand however; and while normally the elimination of a dictator would likewise be considered a reason for celebration, history remains confused over the elimination of this particular one.  Perhaps it's because so many of us were forced to translate what were considered Caesar's heroic efforts in the "Gallic Wars" during our classical education, and perhaps it's because of Rex Harrison's sympathetic depiction of him during the 1963 classic "Cleopatra".  It could also have something to do with the fact that many of those who replaced Caesar (even keeping his name) were promoted from Roman Dictator (only a nominal king) to Emperor (more in keeping with our current definition of the term), and in many cases were far worse than the original.  It may even be a confused reverance and prejudice against the offences committed by later iterations of the title, 'Kaiser' and 'Czar'.  Then again, there may just be those who simply have a grudge against eating the salad that retains the name.

Two days later on the 17th, many around the world celebrate the feast day of the Patron Saint of Ireland, St. Patrick (except of course for those of us celebrating my granddaughter Maggie's birthday).  This too (as those of you who read my St. Patrick's Day post would have noted) is an event rife with confusion.  Beginning with the concept of a former English slave becoming the patron saint of the nation that imprisoned him, proceeding through a number of falsehoods surrounding his use of the shamrock and the departure of Ireland's snakes, and finishing up with the concept of a religious holiday designed to be celebrated with prayer that's become the secular equivalent of a donnybrook.   There's certainly enough befuddlement in its history therefore to cheefully add it, along with the Ides, as bit of March's mania.  (And at this, I have yet to add my own discomfiture over the consumption of some poor examples of the brewer's art somehow being suddenly found to have become seasonal ambrosia through the addition of emerald-colored chemical enhancement.)

For those of you who might have missed it (unable to see it even days later through the blinding snow that's stretched through the Midwest), next was the arrival of the Vernal Equinox at 7:02 EDT on the 20th; and with it the beginning of Spring.  As for me, I have little doubt that the 6-10 inches of white stuff currently falling at the "Just Blowing Smoke" headquarters in Mission, Kansas is a violation of Nature; and no doubt due to the ongoing 'mad scientist' battle between the forces of 'Global Warming' and the secret weather experiments being conducted by the government 'Military-Industrial Complex'.  ("Haliburton ... you Bastards!" he said, as he readjusted his tin foil hat .)  This of course, leaves local 'Missionaries' complaining about still being trapped in freezing temperatures that only months from now they will long for, when suffering from the soul-sucking heat of another 100 degree Summer.  This weather anomaly in a state where basketball is king creates its own form of madness, as locals who would in no case be venturing too far from their television sets suffer from a bi-polar disorder that finds them curiously discomfited at their climactic entrapment.   

(This is a well-chronicled condition that has something to do with a mental malady that arises from the manic conflict between wanting to be in an adult beverage dispensing establishment with a bunch of strangers, consuming over-priced ethanol-based concoctions vs. doing the same thing at home with ones family at much lower prices, while at the same time not gambling on potential arrest from the process involved with getting from one to the other.  There's an ongoing government study that's sucking up millions in funding for years without yet producing definitive results on the subject.)

Of course for those of us not consumed by the media-generated version of 'March Madness', all of this basketball nonsense is simply that.  Perhaps in my case, it has to do with having played hockey for most of my childhood and a good part of what society considers my adulthood (the latter term being very much subject to interpretation).  The two sports after all have competing seasons, for a dedicated 'puckster' one basketball games looks pretty much the same as another, and even the occasional distraction of current cheerleader uniform styles is not enough to entice me into watch a sporting event that has so much scoring going on that a 20-point lead at halftime is often meaningless to the result of the game.  As for filling out 'The Brackets', I only use brackets to install wall shelving and they don't require any filling out.  (Only filling in when I drill a hole in the wall improperly...)

As far as I'm concerned the madness of March can easily do without the absurdity of colleges I've never heard of playing a game that I don't much care for, all to raise exorbitant sums of money for a higher education system that squanders such funding as quickly as they get it and then looks for more in tuition rates increases that far exceed that of inflation.  I will choose instead to wait yet another week for Easter, and let the intersection of yet another religious / sectarian holiday fight its own lunatic battle between rampant consumerism and ecclesiastical fervor.  I find it far more entertaining, having once had to do so myself, to watch parents deal with the competing ideological battle for attention as my fellow Christians attempt to reconcile their children's conflicts beliefs during another co-opted pagan holiday with serious economic considerations.  I'm fascinated in their attempts to explain the spiritual significance of painted hard-boiled eggs, chocolate bunny rabbits, and jelly beans.  Having suffered through similar uncomfortable discussions for years with my own offspring, I take a twisted solace from the inevitable psychosis arising from attempts to steal the doctrinal thunder of a miracle of faith by the sugar-frenzied distractions presented by its alternative.  

I'm sorry my friends, but quite frankly I have no time in a world far too full of delusion to find a place for the college tournament madness of a sport which I'm not even sure that its inventor James Naismith would still recognize, after the abandonment of so many of his original rules.  There's far too much aberration and absurdity in my life in general and March in particular than I care to deal with, to add this made-for-TV hysteria.  If it's all the same to you, I'd like to skip ahead now to some April showers and May flowers ... thank you very much.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Six Months From Benghazi

Well we've past the six month anniversary since the terrorist attack on the Consulate in Benghazi, Libya in which four Americans were killed, including the Ambassador; and we apparently know little more than we knew as it was going on.  

Of course there aren't the media implications and political victories to be won from this tragedy that there are from many others that remain the focus of a great deal of attention.   This is no Sandy Hook or Columbine where the lives of innocent children were cut short by the mentally unbalanced behavior of other misguided children.  There can be no lingering discussion of 2nd Amendment rights and the on again, off again attempts of the national legislature to treat it as something they can interpret without bringing the issue to the people themselves in the form of a Constitutional Amendment.  Neither is this an attack on a politician like Gabby Giffords where we can add the misguided assumptions of impassioned political rhetoric censure to double dip in the Bill of Rights by adding attacks to the 1st Amendment to that of the 2nd.

No, this was a cold-blooded attack on the lives and property of the United States by what turned out to be a well-organized group of terrorists with a well thought out plan.  There is no argument in this para-military assault as to what weapons were used, even though this went beyond whether they were semi or fully automatic; since those involved brought mortars to insure that the compounds walls were not an issue, and its building little or no protection.

In the former cases we have certainly identified the culprits involved, analyzed their life stories in minute detail, and experts have done their best to divine the motivations of their mentally unstable behavior.  In the latter, we've had two potential suspects detained; one of which was subsequently released and another only recently brought in to custody, but not questioned by US law enforcement directly.  The only guy sitting in US custody is the poor bastard who made a YouTube trailer that was at first erroneously blamed for the attack.

In the former we've come to conclusions that perhaps teachers should be trained and armed or that local law enforcement should be placed at schools in the future to prevent the recurrance of such dastardly acts.  In the latter, we have yet to hear from the government that we've beefed up security, if only in troubled areas, to do the same.  (Hell, we haven't even heard that the State Department would have like to beef up security, but can't because of Sequestration ... an error on the part of the Administration if I do say so.)

In the former we've been given the tragic 'life cut short stories' of victims, heard the emotional testimony of some families before Congress while others have had their opinions and feelings detailed in high profile media interviews.  In the latter, the only witnesses have been held incommunicato (heaven forbid that they should be questioned while events are still fresh); and it appears that only a Congressional subpeona will see any first hand information given, even in closed hearings.

As for the things we don't know and will never know on the latter, the list is prpobably far too long to go into; but let me try and hit some of the highlights:

  • We don't know whether the Consulate was trying to do weapons swaps as has been rumored, and which might provide some reason for its designation as a target.
  • We don't know why a security detail deployed in Libya for the protectio nof the Embassy and its personnel was withdrawn a month before the attack, especially in light of events that occurred at the Red Cross and British Embassy.
  • We don't know who was in direct command and control of the situation after Defense Secretary Leon Panetta met with the President for a regular briefing soon after the attack had begun.
  • We don't know why there were subsequent briefings to the President as it continued, or apparently to Secretary of State Clinton, whose people were being fired upon.
  • We don't know why an unarmed drone was sent to assess the situation when the Administration is so ready to deploy armed ones that might have been able to chase the attackers off in so many other situations. 
  • We don't know why none of the military assets that were available to the US government (if only to buzz the site) were not deployed; or why Libyan defense forces were not called up to defend Diplomatic territory that they are obligated to do as specified in international treaty.
  • We don't know why the YouTube video was erroneously trotted out as the and stuck with for weeks in spite of the mounting evidence to the contrary.
  • We don't know why US officials and spokesmen attempted to play 'bait and switch' with this causation when it fell apart; or why the President himself claimed alternately that both sides were the truth (with tapdance music playing playing) during and after the fact.
  • We don't know why the media mostly ignored this story at the time, and continues to see this particular loss of life as either inconsequential or non-newsworthy.
  • We don't know if we'll ever get answers to the murder of a US Ambassador and three other staff members.

Monday, March 18, 2013

TFP Column: The President's Irresponsible

Because of my travel last week to the land of crabcakes, I was unable to find the resources to put together my customary effort for the TFP.  Frustrated by the fact that I no longer carry a laptop with me on my travels, I was forced to scribble random notes to myself on scraps of paper while sitting in the hotel room each evening.

After finally returning to the sealed bunker that serves as the headquarters for "Just Blowing Smoke" at week's end, I was finally able to reassemble these various (and sometimes meaningless) scribblings into something now up on the TFP website entitled, "The President's Irresponsible".

You will note in this effort that I accuse the man occupying the White House of nothing, but in fact take him at his word in regard to the current situation of the nation and compare it to the definition of the term "Irresponsible" as listed in Dictionary.com.  Unfortunately an 800 word limit did not allow me to list all of the things that the Commander-in-Chief is not responsible for, but I trust that the limitations imposed by a newspaper column still allow you to get the idea.

Speaking of getting the idea, the week is only beginning.  That means you will get to look forward to getting ideas from both the mid-week 'Star' edition, as well as next week's regular edition of Toledo's highest circulation Sunday and Ohio's best weekly newspaper, the Toledo Free Press.

(Who knows, it's also early enough that I maybe the 'Chief' will allow me to offer up yet another effort beore week's end.) 

Saturday, March 16, 2013

La'Fheile Pa'draig Sona Duit 2013

Posting for St Patrick's Day has become something of a tradition here at "Just Blowing Smoke", and it would seem almost sinful not to continue the custom of taking note of an Irish holy day, even when it occurs on a Sunday.  Now all good Irish Catholic lads (and most of us old codgers) live in the fear of the hellfire that they so richly deserve.  I therefore, will at least make a minor act of contrition and posting once more on a issue of religious relevance (and historical as well) as my normal Saturday offering.

As I did last year, I've included a sample of Kansas City's favorite Irish band "The Elders" from last year's annual "Hoolie", knowing full well that they will be holding this grand event again at the Uptown Theater once again this evening. (Hopefully, sharing their talent with my sometimes growing, but often rather twisted group of readers will meet with their blessing.  If not, I have no doubt they'll be 'wigs on the green' for sure.) 

So now though it seems it was just a moment ago, here we are; and it's time once again for this humble scribbler born of Irish origins to wish all of you that most glorious of annual salutations:

La'Fheile Pa'draig Sona Duit

Now for those unfamiliar with the ancient Hibernian tongue, I have in fact wished you, individually, a Happy St. Patrick's Day in Gaelic. (The phrase is pronounced "La ale-lah pwad-rig son a ditch".)       

St Patrick is of course, the patron saint of 'The Island of Saints and Scholars', more commonly known as Ireland (pronounced 'areland). The Island of Eire, as it's known in its native tongue is also known as the Emerald Isle, from the regular and abundant rains which produce a countryside dominated by the same lovely shade of green as its crystalline namesake. More fortuitously tomorrow on the day for those who celebrate it however, it's the land where Irish monks first created the nectar of the gods more commonly known as Whiskey (probably as a defense against the rigors of their chosen monastic lifestyle); and for the production of the finest offering of the brewer's art ... Guinness. 

(Actually, there's a long standing rumor that it was God Himself who created whiskey; and the monks, to their shame, decided to take credit for it.  For those of you wondering, it's also said that the original purpose of this blessed beverage was to keep the Irish from conquering the world.  Whether you believe the truth of such a tales of not, you have to admit that so far it's succeeded.) 

St Patrick himself is said not to have followed quite so strict a path as his later monastic brethren to their heavenly reward, instead choosing a rather more tortuous one; walking a fine line between angering the Celtic heathens he sought to convert and the incurring the ire of the Church he sought to serve.  And since this is ostensibly a day held in celebration of his labors, it would seem all but rude not to recount at least in brief some of his history.

Patrick is in fact quite curious as patron saints go, even Irish ones. Of course this might have something to do with the fact that he wasn't Irish at all, but English instead. He first came to Ireland in chains as a captured slave (which is the manner in which the Irish are said to be most fond of entertaining their sometimes overbearing British neighbors). He escaped his captivity after some six years however and returned to his home in Britain, eventually becoming a deacon, taking his ordination vows as a priest, and later still becoming a bishop. He then returned to Ireland as a Catholic missionary, working mostly in the north and the west of the island. Very little can be proved of the places where he preached and labored, though legends abound of the places he did his teaching and the miracles he performed while carrying out his chosen vocation. 

This missionary work ultimately proved a successful one, and the country remains largely a Catholic one to this day. And while the model of the Catholic Church that he worked toward did not come about while he was alive or even as a result of his labors, he was nevertheless named the Patron Saint of Ireland by the eighth century.

Now Irish tradition holds that St Patrick used the Shamrock's shape to teach the heathen peoples of the island the Catholic mystery of the Holy Trinity, which may explain its popularity as a symbol today. This tale may be more an example of the Irish flair for the 'telling of a good tale" than one of actual doctrinal education however, as accounts of the use of this three-leafed white clover only began to appear in popular myth centuries after his death.

The noted Irish knack for exaggeration and overstatement might likewise be held responsible for the famous accounts of St Patrick chasing the snakes from Ireland's shores, since there have never been snakes in Ireland. (In defense of such myths, it should noted that the Irish seldom let the truth get in the way of a good story.) 

Regardless of the legendary nature of his time on earth (excused as perhaps no more than a wee bit of Blarney), or the fact that he was never formally canonized by the Catholic Church, we nevertheless celebrate his feast day every year on March 17th, the date believed to be that of his death in 493.  

(Now such a lengthy retelling of St Patrick is enough to make a man's mouth like a dry crust; which is to say that it creates a powerful thirst in a man.  If for no other reason, this alone would no doubt constitute sufficient reason to stop off at the pub for a pint or two. It might even be said that this affinity undoubtedly accounts in large part for the relationship between the festivities being celebrated around the world and fond telling of tales about the man himself.  It could have nothing to do of course, with fondness the Irish have for a pint or a 'touch of the Irish'.) 

As I have pointed out on previous occasions here, March 17th is also the birthday of one of my grandchildren, Margaret Ruth Tipatina Demaria. So in her honor let me say as well, "lá breithe sona Maggie""Maggie Moo Kropotnik", will be turning seven on this day of ancestral family revelry if my often failing memory still serves me correctly. Rumor has it that they will once again be holding parades in New York City (near where she lives) and in Chicago (where my own roots are) in celebration of this more recent, but equally blessed event.

Strange as it may seem, you will probably not find me making a pub crawl locally on this traditional Irish 'feast day'. For while personal considerations indeed make it a day worthy of all manner of celebration, as I tend to avoid the crowds often attendant to the occasion for fear of losing my professional standing in the enjoyment of Ireland's ethanol-based treasures (though I admit to being rather tempted to make my way down to the 'hooley'  tonight)

In the spirit of the myth and the man however, I am persuaded at the very least, to offer an Irish toast for all of you on this the eve of that day of days for the Demaria clan, for the O'hUig'in clan (the ancestral name of the Higgins), and for that paragon of Irish virtue (such as it is) ... St Patrick. It's a sentiment that should speak to all those who've read enough of their history to know how truly lucky they are to consider themselves Irish; and may even have a bit of a message to those who can only feel so blessed during this blessed time of the year:

May the road rise up to meet you
May the wind be always at your back
May the sun shine warm upon your face
And the rain fall soft upon your fields
And until we meet again
May God hold you in the palm of His hand
And may you live in peace and freedom

All of this may be a bit much for those of you who've long sing begun to pickle yourself through the consumption of green Anheuser-Busch or Miller products in what is undoubtedly a heartfelt, but terribly misguided form of Celtic revelry.  Surely then it will be far beyond the comprehension of those of you who have instead graduated to Car Bombs far too early in the day. (A Car Bomb is a shot of Irish whiskey dropped into a pint of Guinness, with the name coming from the effect that drinking such a concoction in one long swallow normally has on the consumer's brain.) 

So for you hooligans let me offer instead a far more simple effort that you're likely still to comprehend:

"May you be in heaven for two hours before the devil knows you're dead!"


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

TFP Column: Does Size Matter

Governor Snyder is getting ready to name someone to take over the financial affairs of Detroit, since they've managed their money so badly that they're $20 billion in debt.  California and Illinois are sinking financially like they've struck an iceberg, and the country as a whole is likely to reach a $20 trillion deficit before the current occupant of the White House leaves it in four years.

All of this got me thinking about when and whether these larger government designations might also be thinking about the appointment of someone to more effectively watch they budgets.  I also wondered whether it would even be legal for them to do so.  All of this thinking and wondering led to some writing, in the form "Does Size Matter?" for the TFP website.

Fortunately for me, the TFP is in far better financial shape than any of these governments entities, so when you click on the enclosed link, you will be able to read this effort.  Even more fortunate is that having read it, you can then move on to all the information available to keep you up-to-date with NW Ohio and the Glass City.

So as this first full week of March comes about, don't forget to spend a bit of time with both the mid-week Star Edition and the regular weekend Edition of the largest Sunday circulation newspaper not only in Toledo, but in Lucas Country as well.  And if that weren't enough, you'll also be able to read Ohio's Best weekly newspaper for the last four years (at least according to the Ohio Society for Professional Journalism), the Toledo Free Press.


In Short Supply

With some three days now behind us with what was apparently the financial Sword of Damocles hanging over our heads may not have been so dangerous. Or is it perhaps not the Cicero reference that we should use, but instead that of Edgar Allen Poe's “The Pit and the Pendulum”? Whatever the literary metaphor used however, many of our national leaders and their media minions would still like us to believe that we are on the very brink of financial disaster. What, again?
After all, we haven't had visions of this kind of Doom and Gloom for the nation since … the fiscal cliff extension of January. No wait, it must have been the last time that government negotiated its last continuing resolution on the national budget. Or was it the time we raised the debt ceiling the time before that?
No I remember now, it was all the way back in August of 2011 when the President and his staff in the White House proposed a financial Doomsday Device last discussed while coming out of financial malaise of Jimmy Carter's Administration (often also considered a Doomsday Device). For those who don't want to do their research, this was something from what is remembered as the “Gramm-Rudman Act” of 1985 proposed during the Reagan Administration as an emergency control for a government deficit considered to be out of control when it reached (wait for it) $1.8 trillion. This court of last cut was known as: SEQUESTRATION.
The concept was a simple enough one. If Congress and the President couldn't agree on federal budgets that began to get the national debt under control, automatic and across the board cuts to that budget would be made to do what Republicans and Democrats could apparently not do for themselves. While the federal government never actually used Sequestration at the time (nor did they actually reign in deficit spending for that matter), the general growth and improvement in the national economy caused the issue to drop off of the radar screen of the American public in the 80's.
Fast forward twenty-six years to the middle of the next great recession (or perhaps an even greater one, depending on the expert). The economy is once again in the doldrums and the national debt has been growing well in excess of $1 trillion per year (almost in fact, increasing at the level annually as the total National Debt during Reagan's days). Democrats and Republicans, caught up in the never-ending election cycle and their belief that victory lies in counting coup on political opponents, cannot seem to find common ground on the common good of the nation. (I refuse to use the word Compromise, since it's now equated to Capitulation.) So someone in the White House with some knowledge of history dug out the concept of Sequestration, the President embraced it, and Congress quickly passed it on a bi-partisan basis. After all, its implementation would not happen until after the next election, and who among them ever gives a damn about things so far in the future.
Fast forward again to today, and the 'Chicken Littles' in DC run the streets of the city (or hold press conferences in front of first responders and defense workers) telling us that either the sky is falling or that we shouldn't be afraid of Armageddon just yet (usually the person who previously tried to scare the crap out of us). Because of enthusiastic bi-partisan embracing of something that they proposed eighteen months ago and a refusal to do anything about triggering it since, we could yet see these chicken come home to roost (that for you Rev Jeremiah Wright). They tell us now that while not tomorrow, someday soon we're going to find some things in short supply. They're right of course, but not in the way they think. Here in fact is a partial list of such items that we're seeing already (in no specific order): common sense, undistorted facts, unbiased analysis, and of course ... potential solutions.
There are also a number of things that haven't been in short supply during the same period: bombastic discourse, meaningless rhetoric, shameless posturing, and government money. Sequestration will in fact do little more than reduce the rate of baseline budget increases due to occur. The government budget process automatically increases each year as part of their arcane calculations by averages of from four to six percent. Sequestration merely reduce those increases by $84 billion, or some 2.4 percent. Now don't get me wrong, there will be some hardships ahead, as our fearful leaders purposefully select targets that might do the most damage to their political opponents. The send workers packing, cut essential strategic initiatives, and even to some extent endanger citizens in their quest to make political points. They'll even let prisoners out of jail illegally in the hopes of currying political favor with their supervisors and scaring us all half to death.
Of course the rest of us have learned to do with two percent less since the temporary tax holidays of January for FICA went away, but we certainly can't expect those chosen to lead the country to be able to make the same kinds of tough decisions like canceling travel plans we've made and can no longer afford. We've also learned to do with less since gas prices have more than doubled in the last four years, groceries have gone up. (Can you say ethanol?) And in spite of what we're being told, inflation of our currency in general has meant that we increasingly have to do more with less.
In fact, You will find me instead celebrating the process of Sequestration, since it may serve as the only attempt at the reduction of federal spending that occurs in 2013. It's obvious that the feds can't get their own house in order, and the Law of Unintended Consequences of Sequestration will be usded to do so if it must.  All of this of course, means that one further thing is going to be in short supply for the government in the days ahead, my sympathy.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Happy Sequestration Day!

As I continue to mull over the ramifications of Sequestration this morning (short term and long term), I have been reminded of a number of experiences in my own life.  Sequestration after all, while orginally suggested by a member of the President's staff, was in the end embraced not only by the Commander-in-Chief, but on a bi-partisan basis in both House of Congress before being signed into law.  In other words, this was a choice made eighteen months ago by a majority of our national legislature and our Chief Executive.

This and a discussion of school discipline on 1370 WSPD with Fred LeFebvre this morning, led me in turn to one of my favorite stories from High School Days:

In dealing with an unruly student one day, Father Quinn gave the young man a choice as to his punishment.  He could hold up a sheet of paper in each hand for the rest of class, or take some swats with the belt.  The student in question, thinking himself wise, chose the paper option; and stood in front of class with his arms fully entended for a few minutes before the pain of such a position set in.  

Noticing his discomfort, Father Quinn once again offered the choice, while fingering the 1" belt at his waist.  The student dropped his hands, Father Quinn readjusted his belt, and moved to his briefcase on the desk.  He then removed the 6" belt used to cinch up his Carmelite robe and gave the student in question a lesson in taking responsibility for his choices that I'm sure he still remembers to this very day.  I know that I do. 

So as begin my personal celebration of Sequestion Day, I would like to remind those in our national government.  This was a choice that you made!