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The Patraeus Affair: Does it Really Matter?

4:31 pm in Uncategorized by Omnipotent Poobah

The David Petraeus narrative is coming out in dribs and drabs, all the better to make things look worse than they are and give the story long, long gams. Petrausgate is as strange, or stranger, than any other Washington “boy meets girl … boy beds girl … boy resigns … girl hides in an undisclosed location” story. Surprisingly, everyone is still working out the details of a story with more plot twists than the Da Vinci Code. They are just beginning to get to the rights and wrongs of the matter and as we all know, that’s when the sh*t will really hits the fan.

Despite the coming onslaught of, “God smiteth thou who cannot keep his pecker in his pants” admonishments, most Americans could probably care less the General had an affair. Heck, half of America is screwing around so they tend not to get too worked up over sexual indiscretions – unless they are televangelists coveting their neighbor’s wives. That’s as it should be. Morality is best left to the people exercising those morals. No one needs a squadron of Church Ladies to tell them they will burn in eternal fire because of something they did behind closed doors. Note to over-reaching religious zealots, if they will indeed burn in hell, it’s between them and Beelzebub. No more needs be said.

Although I usually follow the screw and let screw position, there are some differences between Petraeus and your average cad. For one, he’s the leader of America’s spy apparatus.

Inclined to Watch Goats a Little Lasciviously

He’s the guy all the international America-haters would most like to knock off and there is no better way than to catch him doing something really embarrassing. In the Old World, blackmail would’ve been the tool du jour. Revealing someone was gay or inclined to watch goats a little lasciviously was a sure-fire way to dispose of an intelligence enemy. Today, outing someone would produce a collective American yawn. Even being a goat-lover might not be so bad as long as it was a consenting goat. But, if you doubt the power of embarrassment, I offer the following examples: Bill Clinton threw away his second term by breaking the law in trying to cover up the embarrassing fact he used Monica as his little humidor. John Edwards tried to keep the lid on his love child while killing his career. The list is endless.

Blackmail is a hard thing to do these days because people aren’t embarrassed about much of anything. However, Patraeus’s indiscretions aren’t about embarrassment or blackmail. They are about genuine concerns for national security.

A man who babbles a little too much during après sex pillow talk is a legitimate security risk. A man who is so unconcerned about keeping the affair secret that the cuckolded hubby finds out, blows the whistle, and writes a letter to Dear Abby is a legitimate security risk. A man who is so oblivious to a paramour who used his email account for a cat fight with a family friend is a security risk. Plus, if he is this cavalier about a relatively harmless extramarital affair, what does it say about his critical thinking skills when it comes to more important events? People have been fired for much less and rightly so.

Congress is another matter. If there is hypocrisy afoot, their hems may be the ones showing too much ankle. Congressional overseers are miffed they weren’t told straightaway. However, these are the same people who routinely leak like a colander. I can understand the FBI’s reticence in informing them until they had all the facts, especially since it didn’t appear the General broke any laws or caused any real damage. Using the oversight committees’ logic, every member of Congress should get a daily briefing explaining that they and every other member of Congress is under investigation, because at some point, they all are.

Holly Petraeus will Have His Stars and Balls

Still, the intelligence committees do have a point. The law requires notice of things like this, even if the law is vague on the rules about when – one man’s notification is another man’s prudent holding the notice until the facts are in.

Finally, there are the matters of optics and transparency. While Petraeus may not have done any real security damage, he did splash mud on his boss’s wingtips. Despite all the talk of bipartisanship, Congress is still an ugly, obstreperous place and there will be investigations until the cows come home. The chances we’ll get away with one good investigation and drop it to get on with more important things is nill.

On the transparency front, Congress has always struggled with how to oversee things they can’t be trusted to see. The intelligence community struggles equally hard with how and when to communicate sensitive matters. It’s hard on your transparency cred when the FBI knew about the affair for months and neglected to send it up the chain until a few days after the election. Though that doesn’t seem to be the political case here, one could understand why opponents might think conspiracy instead of transparency.

Personal  affairs like these almost never end well – just ask Holly Petraeus how “furious” she is. By the time this is over the General will be lucky to keep his stars in the divorce and his balls still attached to cheat another day. But, that’s no concern of the nation. What is a concern of the nation is how poorly the man in charge of national security protected that security while squandering his own. It makes one wonder.

Will these guys never learn?

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks! More than politics, more than pop culture & humor.

Mitt Romney: Likable as a Haggis Buffet

9:01 am in Uncategorized by Omnipotent Poobah

The list of things wrong with the Romney campaign is ignominious and pushing Mitt toward the precipice. He has had innumerable foot-in-mouth episodes, told many hand caught in the cookie jar lies, managed self-inflicted gunshot wounds, and made the worst Veep choice since McCain sent himself well and truly off the rails with the Moose Momma. The reasons for this ineptitude are manifold, from sheer stupidity to being as likable as a haggis buffet, but perhaps that last one might explain it best.

In general, Americans don’t like lawyers. They aren’t too hot on reporters either. And when it comes to politicians Congress can’t get any lower than their 12% approval rating. And right up there in the Pantheon of the Hated are CEOs. Your average citizen thinks they are arrogant, greedy, out of touch, and completely devoid of morals. When a factory worker screws up they find their ass on the street. When a CEO screws up they get a hefty bonus and stock options equal to the combined incomes of Nebraska’s entire middle class. Then, they close the factory, send the work to Chinese reeducation camps, and collect another bonus for how well they handled their own failure. To everyone other than CEOs, and the people who inexplicably love them, it’s easy to see why they don’t give people the warm and fuzzies.

Saving America by Gutting and Selling it to the Highest Bidder

Mitt wants to be a CEO President in the worst way. He wants to be the brilliant turnaround artist who saves America by gutting and selling it to the highest bidder. We had another CEO President not long ago and that didn’t work out so well. He bragged about his business acumen too. It consisted mostly of running an oil company into the ground, helming the Texas Rangers, and lots of frat parties. You know, pretty much the standard CEO resume.

People don’t much trust Mitt. Even his brethren in the Grand Old Pogromites (GOP) don’t like him and they are of the same Brook’s Bros. cloth. He has the uncanny ability to make someone like Mother Teressa hate him by telling a few jokes at at $50,000 a plate rubber chicken dinner. However, that might not be completely his fault. I question the character-smelling ability of a person willing to shell out $50,000 for a vulcanized chicken breast.

Mitt has all the worst habits of the CEO-class. If there is one place he excels, it’s acting nothing like a human in thought, word, or deed. That is baggage my friends – the sort of baggage that makes it hard to hornswoggle people into believing that giving them less is somehow more. Like most CEOs, he never met a piece of good advice he could take. His massive, well-coiffed ego won’t allow it. Give him a rope, he’ll gladly set his eyes bugging out, then ask for your vote because he’s the CEO dammit.

His former friends are running away from him while shouting advice over their shoulder to let someone else run the campaign. You’re not the worker bee, just find someone who can competently tell lies and get out of their way. Wasn’t that why you chose Paul Ryan?

There’s something else common to all CEO Presidents – not understanding government is not a business. Government’s purpose is not to turn a profit for anyone – even the people who hide more in offshore accounts that the 53% pay in taxes. Businesses are dictatorships, which every CEO will remind anyone ill-advised enough to cross them. In business, you can’t hand-select Congress, the courts, or voters like a stacked Board of Directors…yet. Government is messy and the electorate often lacks the same goal of business – money. Regardless of how it is made.

Voters Really Appreciate Fire Trucks Traveling Fast Down a Taxpayer-Funded Road

The one way governments and businesses are alike – budgets – even differ. CEOs routinely miss theirs by considerable amounts. Governments routinely go way over theirs…because they are bigger. CEOs can get things under control easier. They can eviscerate half the company and cutting off unprofitable products because they only have to suck marginally less than their competitors. Government doesn’t have that advantage. When your house is on fire, the average voter really appreciates a fire truck traveling fast down a taxpayer-funded road. No amount of telling those lazy-ass victims that living in blackened rubble is better than getting off their dead asses and getting a job in a country where all the jobs are in Bangalore is better than water and ladders.

Mitt is the penultimate personification of a CEO and reaps all the ill that brings. He came out of the campaign gate toting more baggage than Kim Kardashian on the way to tennis lessons. He targeted his campaign at 1% of the population and it’s hard to carry that much baggage without a sub-minimum wage bellhop that will inevitably embarrass you.

There are only a few weeks left to pull the limo out of the fire and close the deal. There will be more mistakes, as there are in any endeavor, but he can overcome them. Rather than employing the normal CEO reaction to failure – deny, deny, deny, blame it on someone else – he could simply employ some (I know this is going rouge) common sense.

Stop envisioning yourself as the potential Potentate of Romnistan, put on the throne by the Council of 500 Fortunes. The country doesn’t need any more CEOs, they are the skeevy bastards that got us into this mess and we’re awash in them. Using that as the only plank in your platform is a non-starter, so (I know this a mavericky thing) stop it. Stop telling people with three jobs they are whining little goldbrickers. Start saying, “You know, that must be hard. I don’t really know about it first hand, but I trust your word for it and I’ll do something specific about it.” Stop telling people you will create 18 billion jobs during the first dance at the Inaugural Ball because no one, not even Ann Coulter, believes it.

Admit you know shit all about foreign policy. The fact you can see New Hampshire from Massachusetts is not foreign policy, no matter what Sarah Palin says. Empty the tea pot and throw those bat-shit crazy, spelling challenged nitwits out of the big tent. They scare the hell out of people and will stab you in the back as soon as you won’t support a ban on condoms bought only with prior approval from the Texas legislature.

We’re told – though most people doubt it – that you have a tiny smidgen of human left in you. Step out into the sunshine of Temple Square and let your love light shine. Treat people like (I know this is all roguey and mavericky) people instead of fully depreciated assets. Trust me on this, people really hate it when CEOs do that. Mitt, there is hope for you. You could snatch victory from the jaws of defeat and not shove defeat back into the jaws if you’d stop acting less like the CEO of BushCo and start acting more like the CEO of People.

Better yet, stop being a CEO at all. We neither want nor need any of those.

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks! More than politics, more than pop culture & humor.

What Do Mitt Romney and Joe the Plumber Have in Common?

4:56 pm in Uncategorized by Omnipotent Poobah

Here’s a burning question. What do Mitt Romney and Joe the Plumber have in common? As it turns out, they are each running the most incompetent political campaigns ever.

Samuel Wurzelbacher, aka Joe the Plumber, is the honest-to-God, official Republican candidate for Ohio’s 9th Congressional District Representative. He opposes 15-term incumbent Democrat Marcy Kaptur. Joe has taken the novel position that the best way to run for Congress is to stay hidden. But not hidden in that Mitt Romney way where you cut a few stump speeches until the heat from your latest gaffe blows over. No, he means really hidden, as in you have to contact him through the country party chair because he doesn’t answer his phone hidden.

Obviously, this does not make the 9th District’s Republican swells happy. And therein lies the first commonality between Mitt and Joe. Their party hates them.

How Very Mittens

Former GOP County Commissioner Maggie Thurber said, “[Joe] has a campaign committee and a Web site, but has been conspicuously absent from the news over the last month. This is not the way to win a campaign.” It’s the same thing as Republicans in Congress running – not walking – away from him as we inch toward election day.

Steve Kraus, the man who lost to Joe in possibly the worst political embarrassment since John Ashcroft lost his Senate seat to a dead man, agreed. “It’s kinda sad. He’s not running the race he said he was going to run. Everybody’s complaining they don’t have signs; they don’t hear from him; they don’t know what’s going on.”

Even his opponent is disappointed. “It’s hard for me to really define what he stands for because he hasn’t appeared in public to explain any of his positions since the primary,” Kaptur said.

How very Mittens.

The second eerie Joe/Mitt parallel is their mutual dislike of Teh Media. “Quite frankly, politics suck, I hate it with a passion. Only reason I’m involved in it is I like history and I like government,” Joe said as he tried to dislodge a particularly big turd from a drain. Although Mitt doesn’t know any history, except the one he creates for himself, and hates government, except for the part that serves him, he hates the media too. But while Mitt will Dirty Sanchez the minions of Rupert Murdoch if he needs something, Joe shows a little backbone and eschews the media altogether.

“Quite frankly, it’s easier to talk to someone one-on-one instead of a group of people. You’re not going to be taken out of context, so somebody understands what you’re saying,” Mr. The Plumber said to the somebody who apparently understands.

“Last night I probably spoke to 100-some-odd people personally which is a lot better than speaking to 100 people at an event where I might meet 20 or 30 of them,” he said of the odd people. “It just comes down to simple mathematics. How can I meet more people, talk to more people, get them to know who I am?

Here’s a formula to meet more people Joe: media+audience=lots of people. Still, he knows absolutely nothing about how that tactic might work. “Is it is a winning strategy? I don’t know. I don’t know if anyone else has tried it,” Joe said. Mitt was thinking the same thing as Clint Eastwood was taking a chair.

Joe, like Mitt, blames the electorate. He said the public needs to do some of their own research.

Both men seek money by saying stupid things. Mitt made himself famous for his 47% and Middle East conflict speech at a fundraiser. And, let’s not forget his deft handling of the embassy bombing. at the same meeting. It turns out Joe is on the same extraterrestrial wavelength.

The Hollow ‘Victory Headquarters’

Joe the Unlicensed Plumber still appeals for contributions from his national sources, but maintains a “Victory Headquarters” he no longer uses. His latest bit of grifting attacked the media for bullying Mitt over his delicately nuanced comments about the deadly raid on the American consulate in Libya. He argued the real issue was the threat to national security.

Of course, all the bad press was caused by the press being bad – not, heaven forbid, the candidates themselves. But it doesn’t matter to the Romney or Wurzelbacher. “This week has been a disaster for Miss Kaptur, Barack Obama, and the Democrats as the world begins to crash in around them, yet you can see how the media is completely in the tank for them,” Joe wrote. If Mittens had seen the quote he probably would’ve added, “Yeah! What he said!”

There are other similarities too. Wurz is as great with Hispanic voters as Mitt. “For years I’ve said, ‘Put a damn fence on that border going to Mexico and start shooting,” he said about immigration reform.

Both of them claim to have come from humble economic stock. In Joe’s case it’s so bad he’s been “forced” to take a $5000 per month salary from his campaign. “I’ve not made millions of dollars off Joe the Plumber. In fact I’ve made less money. I’ve lost a lot of money, and I’ve sacrificed a great many things to represent a group of people who want their voices heard,” he said. Joe has about three and a half paychecks left in the campaign kitty.

Mitt and Joe are even in lockstep when it comes to supporting citizens in a transparent way. “I will work to earn your trust, and I will answer your questions directly. We may not always agree, but you will never have to guess where I stand,” Romney The Wurz said.

Mitt Romney and Joe the Plumber, two bat shit crazy peas in a Tea Party pea pod salad. Aside from one being bald and one having a fine head of hair, these guys are Siamese twins.

Hell, they even chose similarly insane vice presidential candidates.

The History of History

2:01 pm in Uncategorized by Omnipotent Poobah

There is an immutable fact about history – if you weren’t there, if you didn’t personally know and speak to the history makers, you can have no irrefutable, complete evidence of their intent.  You can know concrete things, like dates. You can read treatises written by the historical participants and get some insight into what they were thinking. “Experts” can fill in some blanks. But at some level you can’t know, beyond a shadow of doubt, everything they thought, and more importantly, why.

Thomas Paine’s oft-cited Federalist Papers are a case-in-point.  Constitutional fundamentalists often look at them as the end all and be all of all things Thomas Paine. We can verify many things Paine did and we can infer some intent from his writings, but the papers are only our best insight into the mind of Thomas Paine, not everything the man believed or how he dealt with those beliefs.  Inference depends as much upon the reader as the writer, not unlike a fundamentalist’s view of the Bible.

I personally believe in the notion that the Constitution is a beautifully malleable document meant to live and grow and evolve as history waxes and wanes. I think that we should adhere to it as closely as possible, but I also think it is folly to apply 18th century societal norms and thought to a 21st century world. We are not the same citizens and this is not Philadelphia circa 1776.

Of course, I can’t irrefutably say that without a shadow of a doubt because Paine, Jefferson, and Washington weren’t my BFFs and available for an entertaining political debate over dinner. I can only speak to the here and now.

The argument is doubly clouded when ideologues pick and choose historical evidence.  For example, proponents of corporate personhood often forget that interpretation wasn’t explicitly contained in the Constitution. Corporate personhood was the invention of an “activist” Civil War era Supreme Court decision. My opinion is that it was a bad decision then and a bad decision now, but I can no more point to an amendment saying it is bad any more than a CEO or Supreme can point to it and say it’s swell. The difference is that I don’t get a vote. I’m not a Supreme and I don’t have the money to successfully argue the point. It’s galling, especially since one of the reasons the corporate personages have the money is because my rights as a flesh and bone citizen are subservient to theirs.

Likewise, opponents of mandated health care like to say that compelling citizens to buy specific things has never happened in America. However, there are cases of just that sort of behavior in our past, behavior that isn’t explained in the Federalist Papers or other writings.

In the late 1700s, Congress passed laws requiring ship owners to buy medical insurance for their seamen, force “able-bodied men” to buy a gun, and require seamen to buy medical insurance for themselves. All were signed by Constitutional framers.

Even today, localities may require residents of a neighborhood to partially pay for the installation of water and sewer lines because the majority of the neighborhood’s residents have voted to have them installed. To do otherwise, would allow those who didn’t want to pay to put the entire burden of that infrastructure improvement on their neighbors, even as they can use it.

The debate about health care isn’t so much a Constitutional debate as a societal one. Should the government be able to act in support of the greater good or find itself constrained by 18th century thought, word, and deed? I think the framers would understand and take the route of the greater good. But you can’t prove the opposite any more than I can prove they would.

History is funny that way.

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks!

Billion Dollar Airplanes or Schoolbooks?

2:57 pm in Uncategorized by Omnipotent Poobah

Anyone who denies there are big flaws in our military’s procurement practices is light on scruples and probably the CEO of, say, Boeing (among others)… or maybe both.

Anyone who believes that if America had no military the world would live in peace and harmony is suffering from dementia. There’s always disagreement over the list of bad guys, but make no mistake, there are creatively evil people out there. Like it or not, America needs a military that can defend and support our interests. The problem is how we buy it.

Military SpendingClick image for larger >> 

The first pig at the barrel is foreign policy. Going off to every piss-hole in the snow costs a lot of money and may ultimately fail anyway. We’re still unraveling ourselves from two unneeded military adventures that, in large part, wrecked our economy. Now, voters expect a peace dividend so the money can flow elsewhere. But it’s not so simple.

Most legislators and corporatists like how big military talk plays at the ballot box. Lost jobs, tax rates, and trying to do right by troops who did what civilian leaders ordered are continuing costs. Costs that proportionately make Medicare look like a game of penny pitching. Iraqistan will cost us for decades.

Military doctrine is also a big driver. The US is equipped for WWIII, not guerilla wars like Afghanistan. Their mandate is to conduct 2 wars simultaneously. That takes lots of people, lots of very expensive equipment, and lots of money to run 0.6 mpg tanks. It ain’t cheap to blow things up.

Congress Says Soldiers Need More Pork Chops
There’s a lot less waste than you might think, not the least of which are the “unfunded mandate”, anti-pork barrel legislators who dangle the pork chops over the Pentagon. Congress sets detailed spending priorities for almost all major military programs – whether they make sense or not. If the military needs a new airplane Congress tells the military whether that is the airplane they want, regardless of whether it’s what the military needs. Almost every major weapons system sends business to all 50 states, regardless if those are the cheapest contractors.

Finally, Monday morning quarterbacking takes its toll. Legislators knowing zip about how to fight a war, along with Congressional and Presidential foreign policies, do their part to jack costs up. Politicians want to use military spending for jobs programs instead of efficient war-fighting, except when something happens. Then, they want to destroy whoever spent all that money on creationism schoolbooks than tanks.

And last, voters make decisions about military spending while knowing even less than Congress or the President. That doesn’t stop them from meddling with the process though. Read the rest of this entry →

Paul Broun: The Sugar Plum Tea Bagger

8:58 am in Uncategorized by Omnipotent Poobah

The average American’s concept of government workers is that they lounge all day on comfy divans while being fanned by servants who peel grapes in return for fabulous riches and a retirement plan bigger than Bill Gates’. Oh, and they have guaranteed lifetime employment and don’t have to pay taxes either.

In other words, with the taxpayers all snug in their beds, visions of fairy tales dance in their heads.

Government Slackers
Where do the fairy tales come from? Why, from people like Tea Bagging, “Stupidest Member of Congress” nominee Rep. Paul Broun. In his words:

“We’ve got to stop the outrageous spending that’s going on. We hear the CBO says, well if we don’t raise the debt limit, it’s going to put so many people out of work. I don’t remember the number, I think it’s 250,000 or something, are gonna be put out of work. Well, those are gonna be government employees that are put out of work. There are a lot of government employees that need to go find a real job!

There aren’t many people who’d argue cuts are unneeded. Private sector workers – who apparently have “real jobs” – are losing them, unlike their company’s top executives. It’s only fair that true inefficiencies in government be rooted out and with it, unfortunately, their jobs. Sharing the pain at moments like this can’t be helped.

However, choosing the “250,000 or something” candidates based on the assumption they’re goldbrickers is arrogant as hell. Who exactly are these people and does Broun know one damn thing about them or their jobs? Well, if he can’t remember whether there are 2 or 250,000 lazy government sponges it seems he’s maybe a little fuzzy on the details.

Broun apparently thinks cutting government is easy – as easy as pulling out his trusty chainsaw and going all Paul Bunyan on it. He could come up with the whole deal by simply cutting the military. They have 3 million troops, what could be easier? Hey, needlessly getting your ass shot off to protect some crapulent Afghan thieves and Congressional goobers is about as cushy a federal job there is. Just ask the troops. But, make sure they’re unarmed first.

DIY Flowbeeing
What about the personal Congressional staffers and Capitol police? We can do without them. I don’t have a staff and still have enough time to watch Broun embarrass himself on C-SPAN. Hey, just for good measure lets can the Capitol barbers and lazy ass Congressional Dining Room staff too. I’m sure Broun’s hoi polloi would be more than agreeable to Flowbeeing their own hair, bussing their own tables, and washing their own dishes. They might even have enough time to take calls from lobbyists when they’re done with their effortless tasks.

But perhaps the greatest savings would be to cut just one supremely indolent government employee. I believe his name is Paul Broun. The savings on his perks, free healthcare, and better than private sector pension could finance the Global War of Error for about 6 minutes. His free franking privileges are probably worth a couple thousand, easy. Besides, he and his cronies have control of the purse strings and are clearly honest enough to make these mandatory cuts. I trust ‘em, don’t you?

I know it’s a lot to ask of politicians these days, particularly one bagging so much tea the Lipton Tea Taster would get a hard-on, but could they please understand what they’re saying before they say it? I imagine government employees would really appreciate it.

And, so would the rest of us.

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks!