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by brasch

Shuffling Federal Paperwork

7:04 am in Uncategorized by brasch

The right-wing part of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, with John Boehner in the role of spineless lackey rather than courageous Speaker, has shut down much of the federal government.

A government form

Did you fill out the right form?

Eighty Republicans had signed a letter expressing their intent to shut down the government. It was a political act of defiance against government by people who themselves were government. The millionaire representatives have grabbed the media, which they publicly say they hate—except for one TV network and a few loud-mouth blowhards on radio—to proclaim their demands.

They demand the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, be defunded. To these ultra-conservatives, the most important health care insurance protection in the nation’s history is a socialist trap, just like Social Security, Medicare, and VA benefits. The Republicans tried more than 40 times to abolish Obamacare; more than 40 times they failed. The law was passed by both houses of Congress, signed by the President (who was re-elected by a majority of the people who fully knew where he stood on the ACA), found to be constitutional by a conservative-leaning Supreme Court, and has the support of a majority of the American people.

And so they develop slogans, and have plastered the media with the words “negotiate” and “fairness.” It is the President’s responsibility, they declare, to negotiate and to be fair.

Apparently, political gesturing plays well in their newly-gerrymandered districts.

What doesn’t play well is the crass overt politics. In numerous polls, more than half of Americans place the blame for the shut-down not on the Democrats or President Obama, but to the Republican minority that has regressed to their lives as two-year-olds when they could scream, cry, kick, and hope to get their way.

But, the minority of the Republicans do have one point when they say government (but not the Defense Department) is too big and too unwieldy—although what they don’t say is that President Obama has already significantly trimmed the federal government to make it much more efficient at representing the people’s needs and concerns.

We now take you back to 1975, when government began trimming itself.

In 1975, Congress had created a Federal Paperwork Commission which recommended a cabinet-level Department of Administration, “to promote more efficient, effective and responsive administration of the federal government.” These transcripts may, or may not, have been recordings of the newly-formed department almost four decades ago.

Deep in an obscure federal building is Wilson P. Throckmorton, the first secretary of the Department of Administration. With him are his two key assistants, career administrators Samuel J. Stonewall and Waldo P. Rockbottom.

“Excuse me, sir,” says Stonewall, “but I notice that you have only the American flag behind your desk. You also need a cabinet flag.”

“Alright, make it blue with the Department’s gold seal in the middle.”

“Before you can get the flag, you have to fill out form DA-504 in quintuplicate. According to regulation 42, as explained in executive memo 11-07, as amended by executive memo 15-11 section 4, subsection b, all requests for executive-level flags must be approved by the Department of Administration. I don’t see any problem, though. I’m sure that the Department of Administration will give its approval.”

“But we are the Department of Administration.”

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by brasch

A Father’s Day Barbecue—Washington-Style

5:57 am in Uncategorized by brasch

By Walter Brasch

It’s Father’s Day, and that means the Great White Republican Hierarchy in Washington smells burnt charcoal and is ready to barbecue some Democrats.

Because Father’s Day is special, the Republican-proposed Sequester is waived, and there is no budget limit for the day’s food and frivolity.

It’s warm this Father’s Day, but the Republicans aren’t complaining about all the fracking heat from their propane grill or the sweat they’re putting into making a nice dinner. They’re sure that it’ll be ice-age cool next year because the destruction of the ozone layer and Climate Change don’t exist.

First onto their searing grill is a slice of prime Benghazi. The meat has been marinating for nine months and is ready to pop. The Republican fathers see a conspiracy and cover-up that four Americans died in an embassy fire caused by terrorists. Protecting the Republican eyes from all the heat being stirred up are rose-colored glasses that have kept them safe from acknowledging they have been responsible for massive funding cuts for State Department security. The glasses also protect them from remembering they weren’t outraged and didn’t demand impeachment when terrorists attacked seven diplomatic compounds and killed more than 30 people during the George W. Bush administration.

Next onto the grill is a nice cut of IRS rump. The Palefaces of Power claim the IRS targeted Tea Party applications for non-profit status, and even got President Obama to apologize and declare he was going to investigate and get rid of that problem. The Republicans plan to char this delicacy, but this rump won’t roast. Tea Party and conservative applications represented only about one-third of all applications that were investigated—and every application was approved for 501(c )(4) tax-exempt status, even though none of the applicants met the criteria of being a social welfare organization, or a private and educational association, or even a SuperPAC. Rejected, however, were some liberal organizations, including Emerge America, a Maine group that trains Democratic women to run for political office.

On this special day, the Republicans have their raw meat brought to them, but as a special treat, the macho macho men  unholstered their legal AR15s and blasted a flock of peace doves, taking the bits of shredded meat and feathers to make a squab glaze for the rump roast.

The Verizon delicacy, with freshly-minted leaks, has the Righteous Republicans salivating. They’re outraged that the Obama government has been collecting phone and email records of millions of Americans as part of a National Security Agency database. Content is not collected, just data about who called whom, when and for how long. Now, this data mining might seem to be an invasion of privacy, and something that should be a matter of public outrage—if it was illegal, which it isn’t. That might be why the Republicans didn’t seem outraged when the same problem emerged in 2006 during the Bush–Cheney administration. They claimed that secret courts dealing with secret warrants to secretly snoop upon Americans were morally justified. In fact, almost every Bill of Rights violation that came up during the Bush–Cheney administration was dismissed by the Republicans as necessary for national security. They were the ones who pushed the PATRIOT Act, and got spineless Democratic cowards to sign onto their scheme to scam Americans of their civil liberties. But, there may be some delight in seeing the party that believes fathers have a right to dictate the lives of their children, even if they are unrelated adults, into eating their own telephone cords.

Now, every barbecue and picnic has pesky insects. And this Father’s Day celebration is no exception. It would be messy if the Republicans had to grill, eat, and bat away insects at the same time. Fortunately, they spotted some 18-year-olds walking down the street and drafted them into the war against bugs. Problem solved.

Republicans on a daily basis lambaste the lyin’ lib’ral left-wing establishment media. Of course, it’s on establishment media that they do all this ranting. But, when the U.S. attorney general went after the phone records of about 100 establishment AP reporters, the Republicans saw fresh meat. This time, they indignantly stood up for the freedom of the establishment press, and declared that because AP reporters weren’t Kosher, they were uneatable. So, they fried up a Holder Sausage.

Obamacare Oysters are always nice for a special day. But, for some reason, the slippery-fingered Republicans can’t seem to keep the oysters on the grill. They tried 37 separate times to grill the oysters, and 37 separate times, it fell off. But, these are persistent little buggers and there’s no doubt they’ll try a 38th time, although Mother Court has already told them their effort to grill health care is futile.

Because the Republican Fathers are so busy gorging themselves with Benghazi, IRS, Verizon, AP, and Obamacare cuts of meat and vegetables, they didn’t get a chance to lay out the side dishes known as jobs, economy, social welfare, and the environment.

At the end of the day, tired from charring and making a huge mess, the Republicans will take yet another long nap—while their underpaid undocumented maids and gardeners will take out the trash.

[Assisting on this column was Rosemary R. Brasch. Walter Brasch is an award-winning journalist, and the author of 17 books. His current book is Fracking Pennsylvania, which examines the health and environmental effects of fracking; the book also explores the collusion between politicians and Big Energy.] Read the rest of this entry →

by brasch

Holding the American People Hostage

8:29 am in Uncategorized by brasch

by Walter Brasch

 

Judges who wish to assure that a jury has no outside influence will sequester them.

Legally, a sequestered jury is seized by authority and isolated from all outside influences.

The jurors are escorted into and out of the courtroom. They aren’t allowed to read newspapers, listen to radio news, or watch TV news, ’lest they could be influenced by the media. They are escorted to and from meals, and isolated from other customers. They can’t discuss the case with family or friends. They can’t even go home at the end of the day; they’re housed in hotel rooms.

In the summer of 2011, a bipartisan “super-committee” was supposed to come up with a reasonable budget to eliminate $1.2–$1.5 trillion from the national deficit. The Congressionally-mandated sequester went into effect two weeks ago when Congress couldn’t come up with a better idea about the budget. The draconian cuts across all federal programs was supposed to be enacted only as a last-ditch measure. The concept was that Congress and the Administration would be so fearful of the results of the sequester, which the media and elected officials often called a “poison pill,” they would take the time to thoughtfully work out a proper budget, and the sequester would never happen.

But, the Republicans dug in their heels, refused to compromise, and even continued their vacations the last week before the sequester went into effect.

Republican Speaker John Boehner claims he doesn’t like the sequester, never liked it—although he praised it a year ago—and blames President Obama.

President Obama wanted to restore the tax rates that existed before the Bush tax cuts for those earning more than $250,000, while keeping the tax cuts for everyone else. Under Republican pressure, he eventually raised the limit to $400,000. The President further proposed a budget that would yield $1.1 trillion in spending cuts and $700 billion in increased revenue, primarily from closing federal tax loopholes and deductions that benefitted primarily the nation’s upper class. That proposal already included cutting back the deficit by $600 billion. (For those keeping track, George W. Bush came into office with a $236.2 billion surplus; by the end of his presidency, he left Barack Obama a $500 billion deficit and the worst Recession since the Great Depression of 1929.)

The Republicans, willingly jerked around by their Tea Party base, don’t want the restoration of the tax rates for anyone. Of course, they also don’t want to end billions of dollars of corporate subsidies, paid for through taxes upon the working poor. Until this past week, the Republicans didn’t even have a budget proposal of their own until they dusted off and put new polish on Rep. Paul Ryan’s slightly revised budget proposal from the 2012 campaign. That would be the budget proposal the American people rejected when they gave Barack Obama a resounding second term victory.

The Congressional Budget Office says the sequester could cut more than 750,000 federal jobs. Republicans like that idea, especially since most federal employees are also members of unions. But, those jobs include public health officials, social service workers, teachers, air traffic controllers, and others in critical jobs. Cutting social services appeals to the Republican mind-set, but cutting the number of air traffic controllers alone would cause not just a severe reduction of flights, but significant lost revenue for the airlines. Obviously, the Republicans, the party of corporate America, don’t really care.

And now we learn that the Republican leadership wasn’t honest with their own members, and didn’t tell them of the cuts the President had already agreed to, and the myriad compromises he had already made with the Republican speaker of the house and the Republican senate minority chair to try to avoid the sequester.

It may seem that Congress had no idea what the word “sequester” meant when it created this fiscal disaster. But the reality is that Congress does know. Its actions—or, rather, its failure to act— has left the American people isolated and held hostage by authority. This time, it’s not a judge sequestering a jury, but a Republican-dominated Congress sequestering all of the American people.

[Dr. Brasch’s latest book is the best-selling Fracking Pennsylvania, an in-depth investigation of the consequences of fracking by the natural gas industry. The book is available through amazon.com, greeleyandstone.com, or local bookstores.]