Saturday, October 05, 2013

You Think Last Week Was Crazy?

If the shutdown wasn't absurd enough, on Saturday it hit a whole new level in Washington.  The House voted unanimously to guarantee retroactive pay for federal employees now furloughed, which means GOPers will vote to pay federal workers to do nothing with no strings attached, but they won't vote to let them do their jobs without killing or wounding the Affordable Care Act ( or whatever they're demanding today instead.)

And until Saturday about half the federal employees furloughed worked for the Defense Department, but Secretary Hagel decided that the bill the GOPers pushed through that exempted the military and employees necessary to support them meant, well, almost everybody in the Pentagon.  So he called 350,000 people back to work, and there's little likelihood the GOPers will squawk.

However, beneath the waves of absurdity and insanity is the cold reality of the shutdown: the families who aren't federal employees but are not getting federal and federally-supported state health, education and survival services they need.  It's the cold reality of stuff that isn't being built with federal funds or for federal agencies (like the Pentagon) that means private businesses must lay off people, and the economy takes numerous hits.

It's also clear that Republican governments in the states, having already denied needed help to the most vulnerable through the sequester, already manipulating the Affordable Care Act to make healthcare less accessible to the most vulnerable, are happy to use the shutdown to inflict further cruelty on the poor, the sick and the old--as in Arizona, which has stopped welfare payments.  Stopped them.

Maybe it's time that the GOP own the slogan once applied to Exxon:

We don't care.  We don't have to care.  We're Republicans.

Friday, October 04, 2013

The Pittsburgh Pirates beat the home team St. Louis Cardinals in the second game of their division series, wresting hometown advantage from the division winners.  The next two games are in Pittsburgh.  The first team to 3 wins wins it all.  Having taken a 9-1 defeat in the first game, the Pirates also won in convincing fashion, 7-1.

There were some Pirates fans in St. Louis (photo above) but also at PNC Park to watch the game together on the Jumbotron.  Here's a neat Post-Gazette story about how rooting for the Pirates in the post-season has finally become multi-generational.

The third game of the series is on Sunday at PNC Park.  The Pirates are sending their ace starting pitcher to the mound in a very big game.  Luriano is very good at home, but the Cards are countering with a pitcher who is very good on the road, and has specifically dominated the Pirates this year.  It will be pretty difficult for the Pirates to win this short series if they don't win this third game.  So both teams know the importance of this particular game.

The Pittsburgh fans will certainly be a factor, though hopefully not a negative one, as when two fans may have interfered with balls hit in the 9th inning of the Reds game, perhaps leading to a home run and a double that could have been consequential.  This is the Pirates' best shot at taking real control of this series.  

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Everything You Need to Know About the Shutdown and the 'Debt Ceiling'

In clear language, President Obama explains to workers at a Kentucky plant what's going on with the government shutdown and the impending crisis over the 'debt ceiling,' or paying the country's bills: who is responsible, how it can be fixed, what's happening now, what could happen, what's at stake.  Among the points he makes that aren't generally discussed is that the budget that the Senate passed but the House refuses to pass was already a compromise budget that kept cuts the Republicans insisted on, at least until there are further negotiations.  But the refusal of Republicans to pass what is essentially their budget until they get what they have been unable to get through democratic means, is responsible for the shutdown.  And how and why they are threatening an even worse economic catastrophe in the next two weeks.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Our Elected Terrorists

So far the House GOP is resisting any reasonable effort for at least a cooling off period in this insane government shutdown and debt ceiling crisis.  Democrats have offered to go into budget negotiations if Congress will pass a continuing resolution funding the government at current levels until mid-November, and John Banal on behalf of the GOP House has rejected it.

This is the government shutdown nobody thought would happen, and it is now running into the absolute necessity for Congress to authorize the payment of U.S. government debts in the next two weeks, or a completely unprecedented crisis will occur in the tightly knit and very tightly wound world economy.

Everybody is against these people.  Many traditional GOP corporate allies are against it.  The latest polls show that Americans know that the GOP's apparent first priority is opposing President Obama regardless of consequences; that they disapprove of defunding or delaying the Affordable Care Act (which as a conservative pundit points out, is fading as an issue as the House tries to cherrypick which aspects of the federal government it wants to fund.)

The media and members of Congress themselves say this is the work of a small minority of GOP House members, and that they are driving this suicidal venture through the one man who has the power to stop it, speaker of the house John Banal.

As I reflect that prudent people should now be preparing for possible economic apocalypse, and cannot count on a lot of the immediate future--from getting tax refunds and government services to retiring on their mutual fund-fueled retirement accounts (for as this goes forward the stock market is more and more likely to tank like nothing since 2008.)  And that prompts me to wonder if in the minds of those insane few this isn't the point: the thrill of the apocalypse, the end times to this sinful civilization, the Rapture of the rapacious.

I would not forget, by the way, that this is also the week of the new IPIC report which confirms the climate crisis in its most definitive language, with a call for stringent action.  The enormity of this future that for one reason or another people cannot admit, or can only think of in crypto-religious terms, could well be having an unacknowledged psychological impact.

Speculation aside, all I know is that a small faction of GOP congressmen is threatening the nation and the world economy in a way that no terrorist group could realistically accomplish. A weakness in our constitutional government is being exploited, and in the next two weeks we're in real danger of blowing it out of the water, in an inexorable and uncontrollable cascade that could take months to play out but will leave us with a very different reality.

The influence of political party organizations in general aside, in this instance I do very much wonder whether there is a specific source of financing that's fueling this (beyond the small donations such conflicts gin up for both sides.) This is one case where a billionaire or two--no matter what their agenda might be, corporate greed or crypto-religious apocalyptic anarchism--can start the process that ends up in a national and world economy in shambles, and real anarchy in America. It may seem fantastic but somebody better start taking that possibility with the utmost seriousness. And that somebody is the speaker of the house.

Update:  The latest offer the GOPers have rejected came from President Obama: fund the government, pay the bills and we'll open a negotiation on the budget.

As the risk of repeating, I've monitored sites that publish pundits and political reporters and political scientists, and nobody has a clue on how this ends well.  Something else that's different this time, since the paying the country's debts authorization is being "debated" while the government is shut down: no new information is going in or coming out of the government.  That the monthly employment figures, due out Friday, will be delayed is just the beginning.  Citizens who want to express their opinion or outrage to members of Congress may not be able to do it if that particular member has furloughed staff during the shutdown.  There may be nobody to answer the phones or collect and collate the mail.

Meanwhile, small businesses can't start up or expand without the Small Business Administration, lots of people can't buy homes with the FHA, the National Weather Service is on skeleton crew etc.  So the economy is stifled and more vulnerable to sudden emergencies.  That's just now, that's just for starters.

That's another quality of terrorists: they don't care who they hurt as long as they make their point, even when it isn't clear to anyone what that point really is.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Bucs Beat Em

Luriano pitches a gem, Russell Martin hits two homers and Marlon Byrd (above) started it with a homer, and the Pittsburgh Pirates defeat the Reds 6-2, to advance to the division series.

From the NYTimes: They did it Tuesday by thumping the Cincinnati Reds in the wild-card game, 6-2, before 40,487, the largest paid crowd to see a game at this sparkling riverfront ballpark. Some fans watched from the Clemente Bridge beyond center field. A Jolly Roger flag hung proudly over the Allegheny River.

  This park was not here in 1992, when the Pirates lost a trip to the World Series on the final play of the seventh game of the championship series. They lost their star, Barry Bonds, and lost their way.

Yet on Tuesday, they invited Doug Drabek, the pitcher who lost that infamous Game 7 in Atlanta, to throw the ceremonial first pitch. Drabek waved a black towel, then fired a strike from the top of the mound. Pertrina McCutchen, the mother of Andrew McCutchen, the Pirates’ star center fielder, sang a stirring national anthem.

And off the Pirates went, to play ball and play it well. Francisco Liriano stifled the Reds for seven innings, Russell Martin homered twice, and the crowd — waving flags, honking horns and wearing black at the players’ suggestion — made a difference. Johnny Cueto, the Reds’ right-hander, never seemed to have a chance.

Game Day

PNC Park hosts its first post-season baseball game as the Cincinnati Reds visit the Pittsburgh Pirates in a one game playoff to see who goes to St. Louis for the division series.  It's going to be rocking at PNC Park when the lights go on.  Great day to be in Pittsburgh, wish I was.  Beat 'em Bucs!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Tonight's Headlines

Neither of these are satire--but the juxtaposition is certainly surreal.

Government shuts down as Congress fails to pass funding bill
  [This is because the House GOPers insist on defunding/delaying/otherwise destroying Obamacare (aka ACA) as the ransom for passing a budget to keep the federal government operating past Oct. 1.]

Obamacare: How do I sign up?
[The full implementation of Affordable Care Act has long been scheduled for Oct. 1, when the exchanges in various states begin offering insurance plans.   So stories like this are naturally popping up now.  The main problem the ACA has had is a dearth of accurate information on what it does and how.  The noise of lies backed by big money has drowned out the government's own information efforts.  Thanks to House GOPers however, the media is paying more attention to "Obamacare," and so the word is finally getting out.  Plus--while much of the federal government shuts down because GOPer crybabies want to defund ACA, implementation of ACA proceeds, because it has already been fully funded, by Congress.]

Everything You Need To Know About the Impending Federal Govt Shutdown

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Today's Headlines

Boehner Advises Americans to Delay Getting Cancer for a Year

House GOP Votes for Shutdown, Says That’s Not What They Did
(not satire)