The Moral of the Story

It’s all over but the shouting.  The sequester will go through tomorrow.  Now we won’t feel the effects immediately and that mightUSCurrency_Federal_Reserve make some people downplay the sequestration process.  That would be silly, as silly as acting like it’s the end of the world.  It’s neither.  But it will hurt the economy if it is allowed to go on unabated.

But even though sequestration kicks in tomorrow at 11:59 pm, the sequestration legislation news is not over, not by a long shot.  Much of the negative effect of the sequester can be done away with after it kicks in, which will guarantee more news about this subject from a legislative angle until some good middle ground between the two parties can be had.  Just like any other law, it can be changed, altered, even repealed should the need arise. And I can think of no better thing to change, alter and even repeal than the sequestration.

And the effect could be almost completely ameliorated if fixed quickly.  If the congress gets on this next week, if not next week then relatively quickly then the sequester will have had almost no impact.  Not no impact, almost. There have already been effects.

The aircraft carrier  Harry S. Truman is supposed to be on duty in the Persian gulf right now, but has been held in port thanks to the sequester.  It was actually supposed to have been there for a few weeks but has been held here until the sequester is dealt with.

Hundreds of illegal immigrants have been freed thanks to the sequester.  OK, technically it’s a work release program, but they are out of jail.

But the amount of veteran funerals at Arlington national cemetery, which will with sequestration be cut from 31 a day to 24, could be kept to a minimum if congress works on this next week.  As could the furloughing of thousands of federal employees, and all the other cuts to spending in all facets of government, military and non military alike.

The congress is not in session tomorrow, which is why there is no chance of sequestration being avoided.

Any chance of avoiding that fate went out the window today when both the Republican and Democratic sequester replacements were voted down in the Senate.  The Republican replacement bill lost 38-62, and the Democratic replacement lost 51-49. Yes, a majority vote lost.  Sad that in American politics today, a vote that normally would be enough to win couldn’t because Harry Reid didn’t have the nerve to alter the Senate rules so it could actually get work done.  But that is another story for another time.

The moral of the story:  There is still hope of avoiding the worst of the effects of the sequester, despite it’s actually being here.

We’ll see what John Boehner, Harry Reid and their compatriots can get done.

Supreme Court Edging Towards Overturning Voting Rights Act

A case of every silver lining having a dark cloud seems to have emerged today in arguments given at the Supreme court.

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Justice Antonin Scalia

The silver lining is the fact that the same ominous tone came out from more liberal media sources last year when the court was going through arguments about the affordable health care act. And all that fretting was for naught, as Chief Justice Roberts decided to join the 4 liberal judges in upholding the constitutionality of the AHCA.   (For links this article is based on, Click here.)

But that silver lining seems to not be much of a lining, not this day anyway.  Yesterday’s silver lining seems to be non-existent in this case today. The voices that we have heard are speaking in the usual ways.  Justice Scalia disparaged section 5 of the 1965 voting rights act, calling it a perpetuation of racial entitlements.

Justice Sotomayor, in response to the claim by Shelby county that the act is itself unjust  and that they have changed said that there are still 240 discriminatory laws on the books in Shelby county, pointing to an obvious need to uphold the voting rights act.

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Justice Elena Kagan

Justice Elena Kagan stated that while the first generation issues may have been resolved, and that the original aim of ensuring African Americans voting has been met, there are other more insidious forms of discrimination in use, such as voter I.D. laws and gerrymandering.

But the two votes that could potentially swing either way are looking like they are leaning towards getting rid of section 5.  The swing vote of Justice Kennedy seems to be leaning towards de-legitimizing  the voting rights act according to what I have heard.  The same for Justice Roberts who makes the potential swing vote list only because of his support of the AHCA last year.

The questions that seem to be most persistent against the voting rights act involve fairness towards the states that section 5 holds sway over.  Both justices Scalia and Roberts were overt in their questioning of both political and social motivation in the congressional vote for the voting rights act back in 2006, and both seemed to be pointing in the general direction of doubt as to the actual need for a voting rights act.

And while the Solicitor General, Donald Verrilli did a very good job as far as I could tell arguing the governments case, I am not so sure that he could have done a good enough job to overcome the prejudices of the justices against the law itself to keep section 5 alive for much longer.  I’m not sure anyone could have, given the anti-section 5 fervor that seems to exist amongst the more conservative judges on the court, done a better job.

Stay tuned, more news here as it happens.

Chuck Hagel Confirmed as Secretary of State

Chuck Hagel was finally confirmed as Defense Secretary today. He was confirmed by a 58-41 vote.

All the voting Democrats voted for former Sen.  Hagel.  The only non vote was N.J. Sen. Lautenberg.  The 89 year old New Jersey Democratic Senator was at home sick.  All 41 of the votes against the Hagel nomination were Republican.  But there were a few defectors. They were the Senior Senator from Mississippi, Thad Cochran; First term Nebraska Senator, Mike Johanns; Five term Senator from Alabama, Richard Shelby; and most curiously given his abrasive questioning during the confirmation process,  The junior Senator from Kentucky, Rand Paul.

I for one am happy that Chuck finally got through.  It was a very tight vote, at least as far as votes for confirmation of a defense secretary is concerned. The tightest vote in recent history from what I have read.  It was not exactly a fait accompli that he would pass, as the Republican opposition to his nomination was fierce.

There was the insane “The democrats are worried about Hagel” false flag attack, supposedly put together by concerned democrats that after scrutiny completely disappeared.  As I recall it was a right wing group that funded that attack.  Then there was the infamous “Friends of Hamas” giggle-fest that the sleaze-bags over at Breitbart put out, despite the fact that no such organization exists.

Then there was the fun from propagandist Ted Cruz.  Ted read a story from Reuters.  That story said that an official in the Iranian government hoped that the next defense secretary would be more interested in peace and less interested in warmongering. Ted turned that into something completely other. Ted turned that into a nominee for the biggest lie of 2013 ; His claim that Iran was “cheering” the Hagel nomination.

Then there was the plain crazy crap he came up with during the Senate Armed Services committee nomination process when Ted said that he wasn’t sure that former Sen. Hagel had taken money under the table for speeches from radical groups.  People are still trying to figure out what the hell that fat glib fraud Cruz was talking about.

And do I have to speak at all about Sen. McCain’s bitching and moaning at the Conformation hearings? No?  Good.  McCain is an asshole, and the less I write about him the better. Attention of any kind only eggs the stupid bastard on.

On top of that there are the right wing outside pressure groups that tried to paint now Sec. Hagel as being weak on Iran and not being friendly enough with Israel, that he was not a good enough friend of Israel because he was soft on Iran.

Now his record does show that he has in past voted both for and against sanctions on Iran.  That does not make him soft on Iran.  That makes him smart.  His reasoning for voting against sanctions when he did vote against them was that the sanctions simply won’t do anything.

Tell me, in hindsight, how much was Iran weakened by sanctions?  How much? Not very, they are getting closer to being nuclear capable, and their work on nuclear capabilities continues unabated, despite those sanctions. The sanctions worked well, didn’t they?

Seems Sec. Hagel was right.

And now he has to try to work on negotiations with Iran to talk them off of the nuclear cliff.

Good Luck, Secretary Hagel.

Plausible Deniability

The President has put out a list that presents specific amounts of financial cuts in a state by state list that shows exactly the damage that sequestration will wreak on them.  Being from New York, and being the curious type, I decided to read exactly what kind of effect the state can expect to feel when the shit hits the fan come Friday.

According to the President, New York alone can expect to see over 42 million dollars in cuts to primary and secondary education funding.  That would put 590 teachers and teachers aides jobs at risk.  There is even more daunting news as far as education is concerned.   Enough funding will be lost to to cut several hundred teachers job for kids with disabilities.  Which means, bluntly stated, that if your kid has autism or some other disability, you or someone just like you will be shit out of luck.

Click here for links

But the fun doesn’t stop there, ladies and gentlemen.  No sirree bob it does not.  12,000 civilian DoD employees would be furloughed; and the total amount of cuts to military base funding?  One hundred and eight million dollars just for this year.

The stop violence against women program would lose the capacity to assist over 1,500 women.

Want help from Workforce one?  Good luck.  Funding for them gets cut drastically enough to effect over 45,000 job seekers.  That’s 45,000 people who wont get the help they need finding work so they can stand up on their own two feet.

Fun, huh?

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So, with the President basically telling the entire nation that IT is about to hit the fan and that everyone is gonna feel it, how do the house republicans respond?  By planning on giving the President greater discretion on where to cut.

Just amazing the chutzpah of these bastards. Rather than lightening the load, putting forth something that might actually do something for the people affected, they’re basically saying “Cut where you like Mr President, we’re washing our hands of the entire thing.” Note that it doesn’t say the amount cut will shrink. Nope.  They don’t want that.  Lazy America hating conservative bastards.

It gives them an out, a way for them to say”We gave him the budget ax! He did the cutting! See!  It wasn’t us!” or more accurately put gives them a level of plausible deniability that they can take back to their constituents.  And then call it the Obamaquester, a stupid name if I’ve ever heard one.  But the only problem is that it is not  plausible on any level.

Sure as hell not in mine, or anyone else who knows what exactly is going on here.  This is a cheap ploy from lazy conservatives trying to make it look like they are doing something while doing nothing.

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The aims of both sides here are simple, at least as far as I can tell.  The Republicans want the sequester to look like it’s no big deal, something we can handle easily and whatever is a big deal gets blamed on the President.  The Democrats is to make the sequester look like hell on earth, and everything is to be blamed on the Republicans.

So rather than actually do something here, we see them play politics with our money that we pay into our system for our benefit, and risk it all in the name of partisanship.  On top of damaging the country, this makes a mockery of “We The People” by putting partisan politics ahead of prosperity and our future.

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My advice?  We can’t do anything about what these people do, so let’s just watch it happen.  I for one plan to be in front of a television on Thursday night, watching c-span as the whole thing either goes to pieces, or gets temporarily fixed and basically put off for another day, when we can do all over again!

No Real Shot for the Assault Weapons Ban

Don’t expect any realistically workable assault weapons ban legislation to get off of the floor of the Senate anytime soon.  There is simply, despite the clarion call by the bulk of the American people for sensible legislation in this area, not enough support from the Senate Democrats in order to pull that off.  Mark Begich, Kay Hagan, and several other Senate Democrats are in the process of starting up their 2014 re-election campaigns, and as we all know in the age of the perpetual campaign that is an important element.  And since a number of them live in red states, their votes simply cannot be counted on to be there to vote for the assault weapons ban.

There is much more to the Democratic Senators not backing the assault weapons ban than the perpetual election cycle. Some of these people genuinely dislike the thought of an assault weapons ban.  A few examples would be Montana Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester, and Arkansas Senator Mark Pryor.

Mark Pryor gets a D from the NRA, but a closer look at his stances reveals a man who is pro-gun in a great many ways, from voting to prohibit lawsuits against gun manufacturers to voting yes on prohibiting aid to organizations and entities that require the registration of , or taxes guns owned by American citizens. I cannot find any real serious attempt on Sen. Pryor’s part to in any way vote against the gun lobby in any way whatsoever.

Max Baucus a number of years ago voted for loosening gun licensing restrictions at gun shows, and has stated that he is for repealing federal restrictions on the purchase  and possession of guns.  Jon Tester has much the same record as his two compatriots, and on top of that voted to ban gun restrictions in Washington DC.

On top of these three senators, there are the several other democrats in the Senate who are similar in their voting records.  Which points as far as I can see it to a large Democratic roadblock to any assault weapons ban.

Everywhere I have looked on the Internet, and I have looked in a great number of places, I cannot find a single article that points to any realistic possibility of there even being a Democratic majority in the Senate.  And if there is no possibility there, then there isn’t a snowballs chance in hell of there being enough votes to get past the now obligatory cloture vote that the senate now has to go through.

From this vantage point, and frankly from any realistic vantage point in the story of the assault weapons ban, there is only one salient point to drive home;  it is done.  It cannot pass.  That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t.  But sadly, the NRA has won another round against people who want nothing more than to live their lives in peace.  It is sad to think that the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness have been overridden by lobbyists working for gun manufacturers.

Sad but true.

(Minor edit,  2/24/13 11:30 pm edt)

Hope On The Horizon?

We are nearly out of the woods after years in one of the most debilitating economic crises this nation has faced in its history.  Congress’  response to it?

Let’s do it again!

The possibility of sequestration with layoffs and furloughs for thousands of workers across this great nation will take all the effort and hard work that has gone on over the last few years and flush it down the toilet is a hard one to swallow from this group of do-nothing Republicans.  Forced to deal with that because our President, in order to get some kind of deal done back in 2011, had to make a deal with the devil, aka the House Republicans, to avert a complete disaster with the debt ceiling.

But there is some hope on the horizon.  Click here for links

A deal is still on the table, put their by the President that would avert the looming doom that is sequestration.  The deal includes the chained CPI, a hard but necessary step to take. It has smaller more palatable cuts to non-discretionary spending, with cuts in drug company payments as well as fee restructuring in a number of key areas. It also has within it a limitation in tax deductions for the wealthy that will generate well over half a trillion dollars.

Given that the alternative puts tens of thousands of people in harms way unnecessarily, I am hoping that the Republicans come t their senses and accept this deal, or perhaps some modified version of it, if this is unpalatable.

There are those on the other side of the aisle, most notably mr. P90x himself, Paul Ryan, who seem to think that sequestration is in some way acceptable.

I would ask him is furloughing police officers, firefighters, teachers, corrections officers, and the national guard  acceptable? I would ask him if all the pain and misery created by letting his friends in the defense industry lose money because of cuts in government spending, is that acceptable?  I would ask him if letting people suffering through no fault of their own because of being unemployed because their benefits would expire, is that acceptable?

I hope it isn’t, because America can’t take much more of this stupid decision-making on the part of the Republicans. They are leading America down a dark and ugly road towards economic disaster, and we’ve had enough of that already.  We’re done with that.

The deal that the President has laid on the table here takes into account our future in a way that is forward-looking, makes good use of our present to prepare for our future without causing too much discomfort, and shines a light on the right way to be fiscally responsible while at the same time helping those who need that help the most.

I for one could use some time off from all the histrionics that these Republicans keep creating.  Accept the deal and let us go on with our lives, please.  Thank you.

The Story on Sequestration

Sequestration is originally a legal term for the seizure or confiscation of property to prevent it being disposed of or destroyed before its ownership could be resolved.  The term was altered by the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Balanced Budget act of 1985 to mean automatic spending cuts that kick in if the deficit exceeds a specific dollar amount.

If Sequestration kicks in at the beginning of March the following automatic spending cuts will take place:

A 10.0 percent reduction in non-exempt defense mandatory programs.

A 9.4 percent reduction in non-exempt defense discretionary funding.

An 8.2 percent reduction in non-exempt non-defense discretionary funding.

A 7.6 percent reduction in other non-exempt non-defense mandatory programs.

A 2.0 percent reduction in Medicare funding.

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For links for this story, click here.

I do not know that I am really upset in any fashion about the military side of this sequestration.  Not that sequestration itself is a good thing, but this kind of drastic cutting of defense spending I see as a positive thing.  We spend way too much on our military.  We are now and have for the past decade plus spent far too much for defense of the nation.  We spend 41% of all defense dollars on the planet.  What foe is, and foes are so large as to necessitate that kind of spending?

I see none.  Al-Qaeda, while a foe and a strong one, is not so strong a foe as to make necessary that kind of spending. Neither is North Korea that strong.  Neither is Iran.  No one  is.  So as far as those spending cuts go, I am all for them.

But the sequester doesn’t do just that. If it did I would whole-heartedly support it.

I do not.

The sequester will hurt a great many people by cuts to non military programs and  job cuts in many important government programs.

Sequestration would undermine education in a great many ways, from cutting funding for state grants and after-school programs. And funding for special needs children of all varieties to would suffer as well.  The agriculture departments ability to inspect food would be compromised.  The EPA’s ability to oversee environmental risks both at home and on the job would be compromised.  FEMA would not be able to respond to crises nearly as well due to lack of economic resources. And programs like unemployment and food stamps that protect the poorest of us from abject poverty and starvation would be curtailed as well.  There are a great many other programs affected by the potential sequestration that I have not mentioned.  A great many.

And those cuts would not only be a travesty and a sin, but would greatly impede this nations ability to simply function on a daily basis. The world, expensive as it is to live in, would become even more expensive.

And whom do we have to blame for all of this?

In 2011 we had a rather severe potential economic crisis on our hands. Yes it was completely self-inflicted,  by recalcitrant Republicans that were in the process of holding the economy hostage during the debt ceiling crisis.

You do remember that, right?

That Republicans in the house of representatives were not willing to budge and were willing to let the nations debt go into default, thus abandoning one of their major constitutional duties, unless something were done to curtail spending.  And that was where the concept of sequestration came into being during the Obama administration.  It was a way to get something done that would pass muster in the house.

All 218 Republicans voted for it.  No Democrats voted for it. And there is a reason that happened like that.  Democrats knew that it would hammer the economy and negatively affect millions of Americans.  Republicans didn’t care about that.  All they cared about was cutting spending, they cared not a lick who that would hurt or how much damage it would do to the economy and this nation.

Now the Republicans, seeing that their chickens are coming home to roost, that sequestration is wildly unpopular, are trying their level best to blame the President. And as we know, he really had no other choice when this first came up but to offer up something like this to save the economy.  It was the actions of the Republican controlled house that forced the Presidents hand when the house GOP held the nation hostage with the debt ceiling back in 2011.

But the issues here are not just with what the sequestration can do.  It is the attitude both sides are taking going into negotiations here.  Both sides seem to think that the other side  will be seen as being to blame for whatever happens here, which tells me that both sides will be willing to sit on their hands and simply let this happen.

I hope I am wrong about that.  The amount of damage the sequester will do is far too much for a nation just coming back from the great recession to handle.  It would cause recession 2.0 and I don’t think anyone wants that.  We’ll see if we get what we need, or what they want.