mykeystrokes.com

"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“Boehner’s Empty Suit”: An Emperor On An Island With No Exit Bridge

A day in the life of the emptiest suit in Washington:

7 a.m. You wake up, light a Camel. Read a pink Post-it left on the refrigerator by your wife: “John, don’t ever forget, YOU REALLY ARE THE SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE!!! Also, we’re out of bagels.”

7:30 a.m. You lie in your tanning bed meditating about the government shutdown, wondering if it was such a brilliant idea to let it happen. You put on some Pink Floyd, “Dark Side of the Moon,” but that doesn’t help.

8:00 a.m. On the ride to Capitol Hill, your driver remarks that there’s not much traffic in the city, no tourists lined up to see money being inked at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. You smoke another Camel.

8:11 a.m. From the car you call the police to report that some jerk on D Street is selling “Boehner is a Bum” T-shirts — no, wait, he’s giving them away! Worse, he’s wearing a national park ranger’s uniform.

9:07 a.m. Staff meeting. The assistant in charge of reading all your hate mail insists she’s not crying, it’s just allergies.

On a more upbeat note, three Tea Party activists in Arizona tweeted that the shutdown is a smashing success, and that if you cave in to moderate Republicans who want to end it, then you are lower than lily-livered liberal scum.

9:30 a.m. You deliver your regular morning blame-Obama-for-everything soundbite, which goes pretty well, all things considered. Your wife calls to say you looked totally reasonable on TV, not the least bit satanic, and asks if you’d please swing by the grocery store on the way home.

10:46 a.m. Fox News wants to interview you about the 800,000-plus federal workers being laid off. How are they supposed to pay their mortgages, keep up their car payments, yada, yada, yada….

And this is Fox? They’re supposed to be on your side.

You tell your assistant in charge of turning down hard-hitting media interviews to say you’re too busy trying to end this dire national crisis caused entirely by the Democrats and the president.

11:07 a.m. Three discreet drags on a Camel before sneaking into another tanning bed that you’ve installed in a dark alcove near the Speaker’s office. You put on some Zeppelin, “In Through the Out Door,” but can’t stop thinking about the havoc you’ve created by not letting the shutdown come to a vote on the House floor.

At the Department of Defense, 400,000 civilian workers furloughed with no pay. Same story at NASA, the Department of Justice, Treasury, Commerce, Labor, Energy, even Veterans Affairs.

And this was totally your call, as some unhappy colleagues have pointed out. One word from you and a clean spending bill would have passed, no problem, if only you weren’t such a wimp.

“I hate that word!” you start to holler, fogging up the Plexiglas.

12:30 pm. Lunch with a carefully chosen group of supporters. They try to brighten your mood with news that the signup website for the Affordable Care Act — sorry, Obamacare — is plagued with glitches.

What better proof that the president’s healthcare law is a total disaster, right?

“So cheer up, Mr. Speaker!” they say.

“Cheer up?” you snap back. “Didn’t you see the headline in the New York Daily News? ‘House of Turds.’ With my picture!”

“You’re definitely not a turd, Mr. Speaker.”

“Gee, thanks. Get the check.”

2:15 pm. You cancel the daily session with your charisma coach and go to the driving range to hit a bucket of balls. Out of nowhere comes a thundering downpour!

Turns out you didn’t receive the storm alert on your cell phone due to layoffs at the weather service caused by the you-know-what, that you yourself allowed to happen.

You stub out your Camel, go back to the office and sulk.

4:00 p.m. Your regular afternoon blame-Obama-for-everything soundbite is postponed because the assistant in charge of making sure you’re never photographed with Ted Cruz has spotted the lunatic Texan roaming the halls.

5:45 p.m. Quick trip to the tanning bed, then moisturize.

You’re preparing for a live interview with Diane Sawyer. The producer says Diane’s going to remind you that you’re the one person who could stop the government shutdown tomorrow, if you wanted to.

Suddenly you remember a dentist appointment.

6:30 pm. On the ride home you phone the NSA and ask if someone could please hack the Google site and remove all the mean stuff being written about you. Unfortunately, the hacker in charge of that department has just been furloughed.

So you light up another Camel, and call Harry Reid.

 

By: Carl Hiaasen, The National Memo, October 8, 2013

October 9, 2013 Posted by | Government Shut Down | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“More Extreme Weather, Decreasing Capabilities”: Sequester Forces NOAA Satellite Cuts To Save Weather Jobs

There has been mounting concern over the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s mandatory furloughs of National Weather Service employees amidst increasingly severe weather. As a result, NOAA has reportedly submitted a plan to Congress that would restore the jobs at the expense of its weather satellites.

This ‘pay one debt to incur another’ plan is the result of budget cuts mandated by sequestration, which severely threaten the agency’s ability to carry out its key mission by slashing $271 million from its 2013 budget, including a $50 million cut in its geostationary weather satellite program.

After the devastating tornadoes in Oklahoma and Missouri and in preparation for what’s predicted to be an extremely active hurricane season, NOAA’s acting administrator Dr. Kathryn Sullivan announced last week that the agency was cancelling its mandatory furloughs, but provided no details on how it would be offset.

On Sunday evening, Politico reported that the agency has proposed draining the funds from the promising COSMIC-2 satellite program in order to save weather jobs on the ground.

A joint initiative with Taiwan, the COSMIC program began with the launch of six satellites in 2006. As the initial fleet nears the end of its life, COSMIC-2 would launch 12 new satellites into orbit with the capacity to collect and transmit an enormous amount of data that enhance weather forecasts and climate models. According to the program’s website, more than 2373 researchers from 71 countries are registered users of COSMIC data, which are freely available to users in all countries, and 90% of COSMIC soundings are available within three hours of collection.

Whereas most satellites point down toward Earth, COSMIC satellites are unique in that they look across the horizon and monitor radio signals from the dozens of Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites. Since so many soundings are collected continually around the globe — including atmospheric density, pressure, moisture and temperature data from space — COSMIC provides a three-dimensional picture of the diurnal cycle in all types of weather.

This is particularly helpful in collecting data above the oceans, polar regions, and other hard-to-sample areas. According to Nature, COSMIC team members hoped to launch the first six COSMIC-2 satellites in 2016 “to orbit a narrow section of the tropics, gathering data that would reduce uncertainty in measurements of hurricane intensities by 25%, and in those of hurricane tracks by 25–50%”.

As climate change increases the severity of extreme weather across the country, sequester was already jeopardizing NOAA’s ability to provide accurate and advance forecasting of extreme weather events by further delaying the launch of replacements for the agency’s aging geostationary satellites.

While NOAA has yet to make any statement on its plan to avoid furloughs, cutting the COSMIC-2 program to save forecasting jobs does not mean forecasting quality will stay the same — instead, sequester cuts just create more problems elsewhere by undermining the ability to predict and prepare for severe weather in the future.

As Michael Conathan, Director of Ocean Policy at the Center for American Progress explained, “This is not cutting spending to increase efficiency, it’s cutting spending that will decrease capabilities.”

 

By: Kiley Kroh, Think Progress, June 10, 2013

June 13, 2013 Posted by | Sequester | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Unmistakable Trend Lines”: Sequestration Can Be Bad For Your Political Health

Since it’s Furlough Friday, a day when by recent tradition conservatives get together to festively celebrate how little across-the-board budget cuts actually affect anyone who matters, some findings from last week’s WaPo/ABC poll, as explained by ABC’s Gary Langer, are perhaps in order:

The federal budget sequester may be dampening a rise in economic optimism: Nearly four in 10 Americans now say sequestration has hurt them personally, up substantially since it began in March – and they’re far less sanguine than others about the economy’s prospects overall.

Thirty-seven percent in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll say they’ve been negatively impacted by the budget cuts, up from 25 percent in March. As previously, about half of those affected say the harm has been “major.”

And as the effects of the sequester spread, the trend lines are unmistakable and cut across partisan and ideological lines:

More Americans continue to disapprove than approve of sequestration, now by 56-35 percent – again, a view influenced by experience of the cuts. Eight in 10 of those who report serious harm oppose the cuts, as do about two-thirds of those slightly harmed. But the majority, which has felt no impacts, divides exactly evenly – 46 percent favor the cuts, vs. 46 percent opposed.

Further, this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, finds that 39 percent overall “strongly” disapprove of the cuts – but that soars to 66 percent of those who say they’ve been harmed in a major way. (Just 16 percent overall strongly approve.) Experience of the cuts even trumps partisanship and ideology: Among Republicans, conservatives and Tea Party supporters who’ve been harmed by the cuts, most oppose them. Support is far higher among those in these groups who haven’t felt an impact of sequestration….

Ideology has an effect: Forty-seven percent of “very” conservative Americans approve of the cuts, as do 42 percent of those who call themselves “somewhat” conservative. It’s 36 percent among moderates and 24 percent among liberals. But again, impacts of the cuts are a bigger factor in views on the issue. Among conservatives hurt by the cuts, 65 percent disapprove of them; among those unhurt, just 34 percent disapprove.

This means, of course, that the strongest constituency for the sequester is “very conservative” voters who have not been personally affected by the cuts. If that sounds like the “conservative base” that exerts a particularly strong influence on Republican lawmakers, maybe we have an explanation for why so many of said lawmakers incautiously chortled about the whole thing being a nothingburger that proved government had plenty of excess fat to shed.

They might want to rethink that position.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, May 24, 2013

May 25, 2013 Posted by | Sequester, Sequestration | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Everything That’s Rotten About Congress”: Fixing The Part Of Sequestration That Affects Rich People

After a month or so of the sequestration budget cuts only affecting people Congress doesn’t really care about, the cuts hit home this week when mandatory FAA furloughs caused lengthy flight delays cross the country. Suddenly, sequestration was hurting regular Americans, instead of irregular (poor) ones! Some naive observers thought this would force Congress to finally roll back the purposefully damaging cuts that were by design never intended to actually go into effect. Those observers were … sort of right! The U.S. Senate jumped into action last night and voted to … let the FAA transfer some money from the Transportation Department to pay air traffic controllers so that the sequestration can continue without inconveniencing members of Congress, most of whom will be flying home to their districts today. The system works! (For rich people, like I’ve been saying.)

The Washington Post says, “The Senate took the first step toward circumventing sequestration Thursday night,” though in fact what it did was work to ensure that the sequester continues not affecting elites, who fly regularly. I am embarrassed that I did not predict this exact outcome in my column Tuesday morning. The Senate, which can’t confirm a judge without months of delay and a constitutional crisis, passed this particular bill in about two minutes, with unanimous consent. The hope is that the House can get it taken care of today, I guess in time for everyone to fly to Aspen or wherever people whom Congress listens to fly to on Fridays.

After that Congress will be done fixing all the various problems with the design and implementation of the sequestration:

But House action on a broader deal to undo the across-the-board cuts appears remote. House conservatives say much of the impact has been exaggerated by the White House, and they have relished the success of forcing visible spending cuts on a Democratic administration.

“I think it’s the first time we’ve saved money in Washington, D.C.,” said Representative Raúl Labrador, Republican of Idaho. “I think we need to move on from the subject.”

Move on, people who may become homeless! We fixed the airports, what more do you want?

There was a big to-do yesterday about a Politico story insisting — explosively! morning-winningly! — that Congress was trying to exempt itself from Obamacare. Because this is Politico, the story was based on equal parts misunderstanding of policy and desire to create a fuss. The actual story is that Republicans proposed forcing members of Congress and their staffs to only use healthcare plans created by Obamacare or available in the exchanges. Democrats passed the amendment, as a sort of fuck you. But the exchanges are designed for people who don’t have employers who pay for healthcare. Congressional staffers get employer-sponsored health benefits. The exchanges are explicitly not designed for employees of large employers who pay for healthcare, so some people are right now trying to figure out how to make sure staffers continue to get healthcare. It may end up not being a big deal, or it may require a tweak to the law. But it’s not a scandal. (Honestly, it’s all a pretty good argument for ditching employer-based healthcare in favor of universal single-payer but then again everything is.)

But the fuss was already created. The story will live forever, and no amount of debunking in the world will kill the popular myth that Congress attempted to secretly “exempt” itself from Obamacare. So self-serving!

Their staffers are generally the poorest people members of Congress know, and trying to make sure their healthcare is paid for is seriously the closest our legislature gets to altruism. But while the story of Congress working to make sure its staffers don’t have to shoulder the entirety of their premium costs because of Republican political stuntmanship was treated as a scandal and an example of everything rotten about Congress, the story of Congress hurriedly making sure the well-off minority of Americans who fly regularly don’t get briefly inconvenienced — while ignoring the costs of brutal cuts on programs for low-income Americans facing housing or hunger crises — is treated as a wonderful and encouraging display of bipartisanship.

Have a great flight home, senators!

By: Alex Seitz-Wald, Salon, April 26, 2013

April 27, 2013 Posted by | Congress, Sequestration | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Wait, The Sequester Thing Is Still Happening?”: Well-Off People Soon To Finally Be Inconvenienced By Sequestration

This week, the FAA began keeping 10 percent of America’s air-traffic controllers home every day, because of a stupid federal budget argument that turned into a purposefully bad law. Furloughing a bunch of air traffic controllers has a pretty easy-to-predict effect on air travel: It causes delays. Airlines have been sending out automated emails warning travelers to expect as much. The Washington Post yesterday reported on how the first day of furloughs turned out: The New York airports had delays of “one to three hours.” By later in the day, those delays had rippled out to airports in the middle of the country. By late Monday night, LAX was still dealing with delays of more than an hour.

I am guessing that over the next few days a lot of Americans are going to hear about these delays, or be personally inconvenienced by them, and think to themselves, wait, the sequester thing is still happening? Well, yes, it is, because so far it hasn’t been that bad, for certain Americans. Other Americans, though, have been aware of the cuts since they went into effect.

Thus far, many of the people directly affected by sequestration cuts have been the sort of people whose desires and policy preferences are easily ignored by our political institutions. Larry Bartels has shown that politicians are quite responsive to the views of their rich constituents, but not particularly concerned with anyone else. “The views of middle-class constituents matter rather less, while the views of constituents in the bottom third of the income distribution have no apparent effect on their senators’ roll call votes.” Martin Gilens has found basically the same thing.

So far, the sequestration cuts have been particularly hard on people who rely on food pantries and Head Start and Meals on Wheels and unemployment benefits, along with more middle-income government employees and contractors. (And a bunch of scientists, but no one listens to scientists unless they’re building death rays or something.) For rich people, the most inconvenient thing about the sequestration thus far has been trying to figure out why it caused the president to threaten to drone Bob Woodward that one time.

That is going to change, once flights everywhere — but especially out of the Northeast — are suddenly being delayed and canceled all the time, for no good reason. For a really dumb, easily fixable reason, in fact. (And no, we don’t need to “fix” this with a “balance” of cuts and tax hikes, we just need to not do the sequestration. Just repeal it! Super-simple. Then have your idiotic Grand Bargain Budget Showdown.)

“Shuttle flights between Washington and New York were running 60 to 90 minutes late,” the Times reports. Do you know who takes weekday shuttle flights between Washington and New York? People who think they are too important for the train, let alone the bus. People Congress listens to. (People Congress is, also.)

Members of Congress are more likely to fly commercial than attend school on an Indian reservation. Their rich constituents, the only ones they listen to, are more likely to fly often than their constituents who, say, rely on federal housing vouchers.

So Congress may feel a bit more urgency, then, about addressing the sequestration cuts. (Pundits and journalists, too, may start treating them more seriously.) The DCA-LGA shuttle is at risk.

Not that the inconveniencing of the usually convenienced will cause an immediate sensible end to sequestration cuts. The defense cuts were supposed to ensure that right-wingers hated this, and that didn’t work. A lot of people are pretty committed to this weird showdown between the president and House Republicans. And delays and flight cancellations may make a certain type of conservative more committed to mass austerity.

There are certain Simpsony-Bowlesy people who believe quite strongly that the United States will — must — pay for the sin of Debt, by self-imposed austerity or by “becoming Greece.” Plenty of right-wingers already believe a sort of millenarism-via-Drudge in which the United States is already Greece, or some other failed state on the verge of collapse. Mass airport congestion will only nurture that pleasant feeling of inevitable, deserved decline. (This is related to the common elite opinion that mass unemployment is a sign of a country “taking its medicine.”) For some, the worse things get in America, the more evidence it is that we need to make things worse.

So, if your flight gets canceled sometime soon because a bunch of knuckleheads in Congress don’t know how sovereign debt works, just be grateful you’re not a Medicare cancer patient. (Unless you are one, too.)

 

By: Alex, Pareene, Salon, April 23, 2013

April 24, 2013 Posted by | Congress, Sequestration | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

%d bloggers like this: