Observations Along the Road

Theatre Writeups, Musings on the News, Rants and Roadkill Along the Information Superhighway

Category Archive: 'rant'

Shutdown Day 4: I’m Fed Up

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed Oct 09, 2013 @ 6:48 pm PDT

National Lampoon Doguserpic=pastramiAs the shutdown continues, I’m getting fed up. So I think I’ll talk about food:

Oh, and speaking of the shutdown… remember yesterday when I talked about how compromises work? The Dems have agreed to lower the budget figure to $986 billion, the Republicans’ baseline spending level, and begin a conference to delve into exactly where government spending would be cut. This gives the Repubs something they want — a lower budget figure. However, they want the ACA off the table. In other words… the GOP gets something, the Dems get nothing. The GOP response? Nope. We want both the cuts and the ACA killed. This is why the magazine cover will remain until this is resolved.

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Shutdown Observations: Furlough Day 3

Written By: cahwyguy - Tue Oct 08, 2013 @ 6:24 pm PDT

National Lampoon Doguserpic=soapboxI just saw an article in the LA Times with the tagline: “House Speaker John Boehner flatly rules out a potential short-term deal to reopen the government, saying it would amount to ‘unconditional surrender.'”

Excuse me?

Since when is this a war?  Since when does the process of running the government mean that one side must win completely, and the other side must lose completely? Mr. Boehner, if that’s what you think that government is, please go back to 4th grade civics class.

The job of Congress is to pass legislation that a majority (or perhaps a super-majority, depending on the bill) must approve. In both houses. Your job, in the House, is to come up with legislation you can convince the Senate to support. Ignore the President in all of this.  Come up with something that can get through the Senate. Newt Gingrich, your hero, said just as much: It has to pass the Senate. The Senate is not going away.

Most important, please remember that compromise means you give up something, and the other side gives up something. You can also look at it as both sides getting something they want, but not everything they want. However, I’m not seeing any evidence that the GOP understands this. They seem to want only what they want, and if they can’t get it, they want more. Already the proposed deal has moved from delaying or defunding Obamacare to delaying or defunding Obamacare AND major budget cuts. That is not compromise. I haven’t seen the House propose a single thing that could be viewed as a plus for the other side. No, saying you’ll cut Obamacare less is not a plus, because you are still cutting it. That’s like saying I’m only going to cut off one hand instead of both.

[Additional Exercise Thoughts: A compromise is shared pain — each side hurts equally, and the other side knows it. The GOP wants the other side to give up (delay or defund) the Affordable Care Act — something very dear to them. In exchange, is the GOP willing to give up on a position equally near and dear to them? Are they willing to agree to make changes in tax laws that increase revenues? Are they willing to pass the Dream Act or help with immigration issues? Are they willing to pass a constitutional amendment guaranteeing the right to an abortion? Are they willing to pass a law making discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation illegal? Any of these would be big concessions from them, potentially equal to asking the Dems to delay or defund the ACA? Are they willing to do this?  Looking from the other side, what the President is proposing — a clean bill at last years levels — is shared pain. The Dems don’t get increases in revenues or increases to support programs, and the sequester cuts remain. The GOP feels equal pain by not getting things they want. One last exercise related thought: If the GOP believes the “shared pain” is the Dems getting the country running again, this is saying that the GOP is putting party principles over the welfare of the nation — they believe that defunding or delaying the ACA is more important than anything else in this country. What does that say about them as a party?]

I’m not saying the Senate is doing much better at negotiation, but there’s not much that they can propose that the House would accept short of completely gutting Obamacare. That’s not going to happen, so they need to figure out something else to negotiate on.

I’ve got this feeling I’m going to have a lot of time to work on the highway pages. 1934, you’re next.

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Shutdown Log – Day 0

Written By: cahwyguy - Thu Oct 03, 2013 @ 5:16 pm PDT

userpic=angry-dogI had hoped that my rants of Monday and Tuesday would get the shutdown out of my system. There were a few items I was still fuming about, but I was trying to let them go. That was before this morning, when we learned that our humble little FFRDC was also affected by the shutdown, and as of tomorrow, almost all of us are on furlough — burning vacation days if we have them, taking unpaid time off if we don’t. Further, unlike Federal workers, we’re not getting that time back (or for those taking unpaid time, getting retroactive pay). This is hitting folks in the pocketbook, all caused by congresscritters who are not taking the personal economic hit for what they do.

There are those who are blaming this situation on the Senate and President not being willing to negotiate. My question is: Negotiate what? All the Senate and President is asking for is (a) to fund the government at the same level as last year for a few months, and (b) to agree to pay for, as one co-worker put it, “the one-click purchases we’ve already made.” The House is unwilling to do that — a minority of congresscritters is holding the country hostage over a law that was approved by the people’s representatives, signed by the President, and judged legal by the Supreme Court. If they want to negotiate on this, do it after the country’s financial crisis has been taken over. They won’t do that, however, because the only way this group feels they can get what they want is to bully the rest of the nation. My opinion — that’s not how America works. We don’t give in to bullys.

But I’m not angry. No, not me.

Then there are the people who are upset that the prisons are open, that the military is still there, that taxes are still being collected… while the CDC and NIH are closed, and parks are closed. They don’t understand how the government is funded and why what is open is open. Here’s the explanation. The law is the Antideficiency Act, passed by Congress in 1870 (and amended several times), which prohibits the government from incurring any monetary obligation for which the Congress has not appropriated funds. The Government Accountability Office says employees who violate the Antideficiency Act may be subject to disciplinary action, suspension and even “fines, imprisonment, or both.” The only exemptions to the shutdown concern “emergencies involving the safety of human life or the protection of property,” according to government documents.

What’s even more galling is that this shutdown appears to be part of a larger plan. It’s not Obamacare. It’s the debt ceiling. It’s a longer term plan to strengthen one party’s hand in the debt ceiling talks. It’s bullying. Here’s a nice statement from Mark Evanier’s blog:

Ezra Klein on what’s going on in Washington. This all sounds correct to me, especially this paragraph…

To the White House, the shutdown/debt ceiling fight is quite simple, and quite radical: Republicans are trying to create a new, deeply undemocratic pathway through which a minority party that lost the last election can enact an agenda that would never pass the normal legislative process. It’s nothing less than an effort to use the threat of a financial crisis to nullify the results of the last election. And the White House isn’t going to let it happen.

Nor should they.

I agree. When George Bush was President, I didn’t always like what was being done — but I didn’t demand the country be held hostage until I got my way. [I’ve seen a number of posts that use the Iraq War as an example of this.] I bided my time, understanding that this country can live with anything for a few years. The pendulum would eventually swing, the other party would come into power, and legislative mistakes could be corrected. The current congresscritters seem to forget that — eventually (and it always happens, just as the weather oscillates from hot to cold to hot again) their party will be in power and they can do what they want. Until then, they have to work with the party that is in power in the best interest of the Nation; not block anything and everything.

As I’ve said before: children. I’m beginning to think — more and more — that Tony Hendra, Christopher Cerf, and Peter Ebling were right. They were just off a few decades.

 

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Children Just Don’t Understand: A Shutdown Rant

Written By: cahwyguy - Tue Oct 01, 2013 @ 11:44 am PDT

userpic=soapboxWhile eating my lunch, I’ve been reading various news sources about the shutdown, and it firmly cements my belief that we’ve sent children to Washington:

  • On the surface, this is a fight over “Obamacare”, with the House contingent firmly stating the people don’t want it? The problem, of course, is that is not true. When people are asked about the specific provisions of the Affordable Care Act, they like what they hear. Some people don’t like the ACA not because they don’t want the government involved in healthcare, but they want the government more involved in healthcare — they believe a single payer system that gets rid of the insurance companies would be better. Lastly, the main controversial portion of health care is the mandate for everyone to get insurance … but if you understand the insurance game, having not only the sick buy insurance is critical to being able to insure for pre-existing conditions.
  • I also see people saying the House is only representing their districts. They claim that this is how our nation works — that the representatives represent the will of the people. Of course, this is only true when they want it to be true. Representatives come from engineered districts to give one party or another the majority; the elected representatives tend not to present the opinions of those not from their party. Further, the way the caucuses in the House have been working is that a small number of districts have been holding the entire house hostage, refusing to move anything forward unless they got their way. That’s bullying. Further, by doing this, they are not serving the nation. What makes our government strong is having representatives who do the right thing for the country, even if it isn’t the right thing for their districts. If we had had this form of minority tyranny, we would never have abolished slavery, never have passed civil rights legislation, never moved this country in the direction of equality. Luckily, we’ve had people who stood up for what was right.
  • This is being portrayed as the President refusing to negotiate. But is that true? Once you read and understand the Republican strategy in the House, you’ll see that the party that does not want to negotiate is the House, not the Senate. The House will not accept any concessions unless they get 100% their way, and this has been their plan all along.

Despite what the Libertarians will say, this shutdown is not a good thing. Yes, the military is still there, but significantly impared. I know that the folks that I work with on a daily basis are not there. I’d tell you to convey your feelings on this to your congresscritter, but (a) I don’t believe they would listen, and (b) the staffers that would handle the responses won’t necessarily be there. All we can do is hope the moderates figure out how to resolve this.

[ETA: And now the latest report is that that GOP will try to piecemeal fund the government, starting with the “popular” parts. That’s like a child thinking their diet can consist only of the tasty candy, with none of those nasty vegetables (seeing the doctor) or nutrients (taxes) we need to have a healthy life. Congress is not supposed to be a child — they are supposed to be parental, doing what is right for the people they are serving, not just what is popular.]

[ETA #2: I forgot to mention this opinion piece regarding Gingrich the Newt. It talks about how Newt’s support for the current shutdown shows he’s forgotten 17 years ago, but it concludes with a great lesson the House needs to learn:

Seventeen years ago, then-Speaker Gingrich had a moment of fleeting clarity as he tried to impose control on his conservative House colleagues who were urging him toward a shutdown. He reminded them that any successful budget plan had to also make it through the Senate, not just the House of Representatives.

“We’ve checked the Constitution,” he said. “And for the rest of the session, there’s going to be a Senate. We’ve checked! It’s going to be there.”

]

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The Monday Rant: Thoughts on an Impending Shutdown

Written By: cahwyguy - Mon Sep 30, 2013 @ 11:28 am PDT

userpic=soapboxWhile eating my lunch today and perusing the news, I’m seeing more and more articles on the inevitable shutdown, and I’m getting more and more annoyed. My Libertarian-leaning and Tea-party friends are probably happy about this: a shutdown government is a smaller government. The rest? I can’t see how the non-Tea-Party Republicans like this, as the memories of this will only hurt their party. My Democratic friends don’t like it as well: we need a functioning government.

My thoughts? The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results. Congress has gone insane.

Simply put: it is the job of the House to originate a budget appropriation bill that will be signed by the President by the start of the fiscal year, October 1. It is not to develop a bill that they know will be either not make it through the Senate, or that will be rejected by the President. They’ve tried over 40 times to defund or delay the Affordable Care Act; it has never made it out of the Senate. They should not have expected anything different this time. They should give up on defunding it. If, instead, they want to fix some of its deficiencies, then propose bills after it is funded. There are things to fix, from the medical device surcharge to the calculation of the Cadillac plan tax.

Does this mean the House needs to roll over and be the President’s bitch? No. But it does mean they need to learn to compromise — to find incremental changes that the Senate and President will approve. It is their leadership’s job, given that they don’t like what the majority party has done, to find compromises that correct the problems. But they seem incapable of doing that (which is what adults do); they would rather act childish, throw their tantrum and scream “no” until they get their way.

As a result of their tantrum, people won’t be able to visit National parks or National museums. They will be delayed on getting home loans and business loans that depend on Federal loan guarantees. They won’t be able to get passports for business or pleasure travel. They won’t be able to buy guns. They won’t be able to do a lot of things (ETA: Here’s an even more detailed list). All because of a minority in the House that is holding the government hostage while they don’t want to do but will eventually have to do anyway (haven’t we all seen our children do this?). They need to be adults, and learn that a partial solution is better than no solution.
[Edited to remove a mixed metaphor]

I, for one, will remember this behavior during the mid-term elections.

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Solving the Problem in Washington

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed Sep 18, 2013 @ 11:30 am PDT

userpic=bushbabyInsert the parenthesis in the title as you wish.

I was reading the news over lunch, and I’m incensed that the GOP is at it again — this time, attempting to tie repeal of the Affordable Care Act to funding the government. They keep trying to repeal the ACA, and they keep failing. Now the ACA isn’t perfect — even in California, we’re starting to see some of limitations of the approach, but at least it is an attempt to solve the problem.

Perhaps this is why I’m incensed: Instead of saying “Let’s fix the ACA” or “Here’s another way to solve the problem”, the current GOP seems to want to just toss it out, and go back to the old approach for healthcare, which was generally agreed to be problematic.

If the GOP in the House really want to get rid of the ACA, they simply need to propose a plan that:

  • Protects consumers from the abuses of the Insurance Industry — such as the problems with preexisting conditions, coverage denials, and coverage caps
  • Ensures that affordable insurance is available to all citizens of the US
  • Controls healthcare costs (which has a direct impact on the budget)
  • Makes Americans healthier

That’s not much, is it? It is not requiring the US to be the insurer. It is not requiring the US to dictate what is covered or what isn’t. It will require insurers to not be capricious and be focused on health. The four goals above, I believe, were addressed by the ACA. If the GOP wants to get rid of it, propose something better. If you can’t come up with something better, then sit down, shut up, fund the government, and do your job addressing the other problems this Nation faces.

[P.S.: The reason the ACA requires everyone to be covered is not because there is a belief that everyone should be insured. It is because the insurance companies indicated that in order to remove limitations on pre-existing conditions, the pool of people paying premiums had to be larger. Insurance works by having the premiums from the healthy cover the costs for the sick, so if the potentially sick pool is larger, you need more premiums.]

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We Are Insignificant | We Are Awesome

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed Sep 18, 2013 @ 11:05 am PDT

userpic=chicken-and-eggI’ve been busy this week as a result of a new idea for something at work — that’s why things have started out quiet. Yet there are two other ideas floating around my head begging to get out. This is one of them.

I listen to a lot of science podcasts. In them, I hear discussions about how the dinosaurs lived for millions of years, how the earth and the universe are billions of years old. I then look at us puny humans. As an intelligent species for which we have a record, we’ve been on the planet for what — perhaps 20,000 to 100,000 years. If you want a written record? Under 10,000 years. We are truly an insignificant blink the the life of this planet.

I think about this every time I drive down a street and look at the houses. Will our houses be here in 50 years? 100 years? 200 years? What will Los Angeles look like a million years from now. We don’t have any human artifacts that old. We consider something “historic” when is it 100 years old. That’s one lifetime. We have an over inflated view of our significance.

And yet.

And yet.

Contrast what our civilization looked like at the time of Christ. Compare our civilization to what it looked like even 200 years ago. In the past two centuries, humans have done so much. We have built so much, and we have destroyed so much. We have reshaped this planet for good and for bad in an astoundingly short time period.

Who knows what the future will bring? Consider the differences in society between 1813 and 2013 — a scant 200 years. Look at the differences in society between 1013 and 2013. Between the year 13 and 2013. How can we even guess what our society will look like in the year 3013 or 4013, let alone the year 10,000. If we are lucky enough to last as long as the dinosaurs, can you even imagine a world 400,000 years from now?

We’ve blundered into what we’ve got. We’ve built and destroyed without thought to the long term picture, counting on our ability to muddle through. I’m not sure whether that will be good enough in the future.

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The Role of Criticism

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Sep 14, 2013 @ 8:49 am PDT

userpic=soapboxThe place where I work has as its underlying goal “mission success”. Our goal is to help ensure that the mission (which I don’t need to state here) succeeds, and we work with the parties on both sides to make that happen. This means that we often point out flaws in reasoning or performance. Yet that isn’t criticism, because the goal is not to tear down, but to build up — to help the other parties succeed.

I’ve been musing about this as the service swelled around me last night. It relates to my discussion yesterday about the growth of sadism on the Internet and Internet bullying. It also relates to some discussion on Bitter Lemons (here, here, and here) about the roles of critics, the roles of professional critics, and whether certain individuals have been behaving appropriate.

What is the role of a critic? For that matter, what is the role of a troll? Often, what I see is that the role is perceived to be one that tears down. You’re not a critic unless you can see the flaws and highlight them. You’re not a troll unless you attack and hurt. But does simply identifying problems — whether out of love for the craft or the joy of hating — help in the long run? I don’t believe so.

To me, our goal in whatever we do should be mission success — that is, to ultimately help the mission succeed. If you are at work, you work to make your organization’s mission successful. When I write theatre reviews, it is to make the product better — I try not to just indicate a problem but to suggest (either direct or implied) ways to correct a problem. I won’t say — this show is bad. I will say — this is how this show can be better. The same is true of anything I write. When I wrote about the trolls, my goal was to find ways to make the problem better. When I write up high holyday sermons, it is not to find fault, but to indicate how they can be better.

Far too often, I see folks that believe criticism must be negative. Over at Bitter Lemons, there has been a touch of this — the implication that critics must not only see shows they like, but must have some they hate. I disagree — which is why perhaps I’m not a professional critic. I think that if you are going to write criticism, you must remember to put the adjective “constructive” before it. We must work together to build things up, to make people better, to make society better — to do better in everything we do.

This relates directly to today, Yom Kippur. At services, we enumerate our flaws and failures. We do this not to tear our selves down and belittle us in front of others, but to acknowledge where we can do better, and to vow to — in the upcoming year — work on correcting those failures. I know this has always been a goal for me: acknowledge what works well, work to fix the failures.

Let us work together to battle those whose goal is mission failure — who just want to bring down the mission, who just want to tear down people, who just want to make themselves superior by making others feel inferior. Let work together to make things better.

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