Archive for category Congress

Bundy cattle, Harry Reid, Eric Holder, Jaywalking and enforcing the law.

“We can’t have an American people that violate the law and then just walk away from it.”

– Senator Harry Reid talking about Nevada Rancher Cliven Bundy.

Used to be that elected members of Congress would stand up for their Constituents when they have a problem with the Federal Government. Based on the statement above, it seems that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid views his job differently.

 “There is a vast amount of discretion that a president has — and, more specifically, that an attorney general has,”
– Attorney General Eric Holder testifying before Congress regarding the enforcement of Federal laws. 

Seems that Sen. Reid and Att. Gen. Holder need to get on the same page. Holder has been responding to criticism that the Administration and he in particular have been very selective in which Federal laws they enforce when it comes to illegal immigration statutes, criminal marijuana laws, the Defense of Marriage Act and other measures.  Holder has been arguing that some laws do not need to be vigorously enforced due to conflicts with State law or changes in Federal court rulings.

Reminds me of the enforcement of Jaywalking in downtown Los Angeles. When visiting our daughter who was in college in central L.A. as I was about to cross the street against the light a passing pedestrian yelled at me, “Don’t do it! The cops fine you for Jaywalking here! They are very serious.”

As someone who grew up in New York City I found this baffling. There’s no way to get around town in Manhattan in a reasonable amount of time on foot unless you Jaywalk. New York City’s Finest recognize this fact –  at least when I was growing up – and ignored the pedestrian traffic violation thousands of times a day. A New York cop would tell you, “I got better things to do.” I thought that LAPD should have “better things to do,” as well.

Attorney General Holder seems to be expressing the NYPD view when approaching some of the above mentioned laws. (I disagree with him on some but not all of them.) Given that attitude, it begs the question:

Why was the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) willing to spend, according to a Washington Post timeline of the Bundy cattle controversy,   over $1 Million in a cattle roundup? Yes, according to the BLM Bundy had run up $1 million in unpaid grazing fees – over a period of decades – now the BLM was going to spend that amount in a several day round-up?

Some are pointing to connections to Senator Reid’s son and a Chinese energy company with designs on the land as the real reason and connections to a BLM director who was a Reid staffer. Accurate or not, it still does not seem right at all that a Nevada senator would take a position against a citizen of his home state in favor of the Federal government when it comes to the rancher’s private property – his cattle.

For now the BLM has stood down. Senator Reid says it is not over. Meanwhile Eric Holder is explaining to Congressional oversight that the Executive Branch has a “vast amount of discretion” in enforcing laws. All while stalling on releasing information regarding Fast and Furious – a case where US Federal Border agents were actually killed.

Listen to the New York Cop – seems to me all of these Federal law enforcement personnel “have better things to do.”

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Unicorns, WMD, Kerry, Obama, Putin, Hillary Clinton, and Doing the Damascus Dance

Since the current American Foreign Policy regarding Syria has swung back and forth more than a half-naked Miley Cyrus on a wrecking ball, we have taken it upon ourselves to interview some of the principle players involved and attempt to clarify things.

First up, Secretary of State John Kerry:

John Kerry

Q: At first you said that there would be no “boots on the ground” in Syria but then you opened up the possibility of “boots on the ground” if we needed to secure chemical weapons. Which is it?

Secretary Kerry: Both. I was against “boots on the ground” before I was for them.

Q: What about arming the rebels fighting against the Assad regime? Do you favor that?

Secretary Kerry: I was against arming the rebels before I was for it.

Q: Finally, what about getting Congressional approval before the US Military action?

Secretary Kerry: I was against getting Congressional approval before I was for it.

Q: I see. Thank you very much Secretary Kerry.

Now we turn to President Obama.

President Obama

Q: Mr. President what do you have to say about “boots on the ground” in Syria.

President Obama: Let me make this perfectly clear. There will be no “boots on the ground” in Syria.

Q: But Secretary Kerry said that if we needed to secure WMDs we would go in, and there has been talk of providing arms to the rebels. How can we do this with no “boots on the ground”?

President Obama: Let me make this perfectly clear. The US Military wears boots. The C.I. A. wears shoes. We will have no “boots on the ground” in Syria.

Q: Secretary Kerry has said that any action by the US in Syria would be very limited…yet you said that the “US Military does not do pin pricks.” What about the drone strikes we have been doing around the world – aren’t those small precision strikes?

President Obama: Let me make this perfectly clear. The US Military is not in charge of the drone strikes. The C.I.A. is in charge of the drone strikes at my direction. The US Military does not do pin pricks – when I am looking for pricks, I look to the C.I.A.

Q: Are you sure you want to phrase it that way?

President Obama: Why? I didn’t draw a Red Line or anything again did I?

Q: No, no – never mind. Let’s move on. What do all of these changes signal to regimes like Iran or North Korea? What will they think about the reluctance to bomb or put “boots on the ground”?

President Obama: Iran is not Syria. You can check that on a map. Or even a globe. Or if you have a smart phone: use Google Maps. As for North Korea; let me make sure this is understood; the US Military wears boots, the C.I.A. wears shoes, and Dennis Rodman wears sneakers.

Q: That’s all the time we had with President Obama as he was off to a game of golf with Speaker John Boehner where they were going to talk about how budget negotiations are as painful as nicotine withdrawal.

Our next guest is Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Putin

Q: President Putin, after years of being sidelined in the Middle East it seems that Russia is once again flexing diplomatic muscles. Can you tell us what led to this change?

President Putin: There is no change here. I have been flexing my muscles for years. Haven’t you seen the pictures?

Q: What we mean is that you seem to have been very vigorous in your defense of Basher Assad in Syria…

President Putin: That’s not the only place I have been vigorous. I am recently divorced. So ladies, if you are looking for vigorous, text a picture to “Comrade Danger.”

Q: I can’t believe you went there…

President Putin: OK I have to go now, very busy schedule…

Q: Doing what?

President Putin: Have a photo opportunity of me riding shirtless on a unicorn.

Q: A unicorn? Aren’t they imaginary?

President Putin: You don’t believe in unicorns?

Q: Well, no…

President Putin: But you believe that all of the chemical weapons on a civil-war torn Middle Eastern country can be identified, secured, and transported out of the country by the International Community – with no American “boots on the ground”? You Americans crack me up. It is almost as funny as sending Dennis Rodman to North Korea.

Q: Not sure that we “sent” Rodman…

President Putin: Have to go. Have the photo op and then dinner with Eric Snowden. He tells me an NSA story, I tell him an old KGB story – we drink some vodka. Good time all around.

Next we turn to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Hillary Clinton

Q: As a senator you voted to authorize President Bush to use military action in Iraq. Later you opposed it. As Secretary of State you supported military strikes on Libya, yet when our Ambassador in Benghazi was in danger you opposed using the military. Last week, now that you are out of office, you urged Congress vote in favor of supporting military strikes on Syria by the Obama Administration, but now you agree with the President to postpone the vote?

Secretary Clinton: Exactly.

Q: Huh?

Secretary Clinton: My position as a Senator, as Secretary of State and now as a Candid – oops! I mean as a private citizen – has been consistent.

Q: How so?

Secretary Clinton: I have always been in support of authorizing the President to use military force, until I am no longer in support. Well, gotta run – like the subtle hint there?

Q: Where are you going?

Secretary Clinton: To a photo op of me riding on a lion. That Putin is a genius – even Bill said he never thought of the “riding on a wild animal” thing. It’s almost as brilliant as sending Dennis Rodman to North Korea.

Q: You mean… we did send Rodman to North Korea…? Why?

Secretary Clinton: What difference does it make! See ya – in 2016.

Finally, to try to put some perspective on all of this – we ask former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to comment.

Q: What do we know about the Syria situation?

Secretary Rumsfeld: You and I don’t know what President Obama knows. And we don’t know what President Putin knows. And we don’t know what Obama knows about what Putin knows. It looks like President Hollande of France knows something – but what it is, we don’t know.

Q: Is there any way out of this mess?

Secretary Rumsfeld: That’s what they used to ask me about Iraq – so I’ll say the same thing:

I don’t know.

Rodman in North Korea

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Some Thoughts on Together We Thrive Memorial in Tucson

Memorial Services are always difficult – because of the emotions involved. Tuesday night, President Obama hit just the right tone with his speech at the Together We Thrive memorial service for the tragic shootings in Tucson, Arizona.

As an Arizonan it was good to see how the Arizonans at the memorial fared. Governor Jan Brewer and former Governor and current Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano did well. They were respectful and pointed out that this one event does not reflect the character or nature of Arizona. University of Arizona President Robert Shelton was a gracious host and MC, and his brief words on his friendship with wounded Rep. Giffords rang sincere and heartfelt.

The Native American blessing by the University of Arizona professor was awkward. As an Arizonan who has attended many events in the state which featured a Native American blessing; that was the first one I ever saw where the person making the blessing spent more than half the time introducing himself. It seemed out of place.

The whooping and cheering of the crowd at mentions of certain groups or the University was jarring as well. This was a memorial not a pep rally. Sometimes I wonder at the upcoming generations’ appreciation of time and place. The whooping and hollering reminded me of the news story a few years back about a lacrosse team that wore flip flops to a White House event: not understanding time and place.

But this young generation was done proud by David Hernandez, the young intern who helped nurse Rep. Giffords’ wounds and quite possibly saved her life. He insisted he was not a hero – and gave credit to others. While obviously moved, he held it together in front of the large and intimidating crowd, just as he did while in the line of fire last Saturday.

He reminded me of the U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta the Congressional Medal of Honor winner who recently was at the New York City New Year’s Eve Ball Drop ceremony. He too was humble in his heroism yet has been an articulate presenter when called upon to speak.

Appropriately President Obama called upon us all to live out the vision of our democracy that nine year old victim of the Tucson shooting Christina Taylor Green held.

As someone who has had the privilege to be backstage at a Presidential Candidate debates I can envision a few decades from now a Presidential debate where David Hernandez faces off against Salvatore Giunta. That would surely be living out that dream of our democracy.

Let us all pray that our nation be that fortunate and blessed.

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The Lame Duck Nightmare before Christmas

The other night I had this terrible dream. I walked into this large room with marble columns. There was a huge wooden boardroom table. Hundreds of people were sitting around the table and all of them were talking at the same time.

I asked the man next to me, “What is this we are seeing?”

“The Board Meeting of the Uncle Sam Corporation of America,” he replied.

“Why are they having a board meeting right before Christmas,” I asked.

“To get done the things they haven’t done all year.”

“Like what?

“Pass a budget.”

“But it’s December. They went a whole year without passing a budget?”

“Well the fiscal year started in October, so it hasn’t been a whole year.”

“Still, that was three months ago. Why didn’t they pass a budget then?”

“Well they knew that the shareholder evaluations were coming up in early November. They didn’t want to pass a budget that would have anything in it that might tick of the shareholders before the November evaluation.”

“How did the evaluation work out?” I asked.

“Bad. The shareholders were angry. Fired a bunch of them.”

“What were the shareholders mad about?”

“Not passing a budget. Overspending. Doing nothing to increase sales or make sure the company kept jobs. Pork barrel stuff.”

“So these are the new board members holding a board meeting to pass a budget and do the other things the shareholders want done?”

“No. These are the old board members. See Nancy over there? They fired her as supervisor.”

“Then why does she have that gavel like she’s still in charge?”

“Because she is still in charge…at least until January.”

“Why are they passing a budget now? After all they didn’t do one all year and wouldn’t they want the new board members to pass a budget? After all, the new members will have to live with that budget.”

“Nah. The new guys are a bunch of health nuts anyway. They want healthy spending, a healthy economy, and healthy job growth. And they’re all on some special diet.”

“What diet is that?”

“Well they’re all a bunch of whatchamacallit, Tea Drinkers. Yeah, that’s it, Tea Drinkers.”

“What did the ones who got fired drink?”

“Kool Aid.”

“So what’s so special that they have to pass the budget now?”

“You know…earmarks and stuff.”

“What are earmarks?”

“That’s when you get stuff like having a building named after you.”

“Isn’t that like the Pork Barrel stuff the shareholders were mad about?”

“Sure it is. But wouldn’t you want your name on a building?”

“Even if it meant breaking the company? Idon’t know…”

“Hey, they gotta spend money so that the employees have money to go buy the products and increase sales.”

“But what if the employees just buy stuff from the Manufacturing Company of China and the WeSpeakEnglishSorta Service Company of India?” How will that help keep employees in the Uncle Sam Company of America?”

The man just shrugged.

“So let me see if I understand this. A bunch of the board just got fired and Nancy was demoted. So then the board meets just before Christmas, with Nancy in charge, to pass a budget that they didn’t want to pass before shareholder evaluations…?” I asked.

“Right.”

“And in that budget there’s a bunch of the stuff that the shareholders and the new guys coming in don’t want…?”

“Yup.”

“This is no way to run a company!”

“That’s how we run the Uncle Sam Company of America.”

“But this is crazy!”

The man turned and looked at me.

“No, it’s Congress,” he said.

I woke up in a cold sweat. Then I felt relieved when I realized it was just a nightmare.

My alarm clock went off and the news radio came on.

That’s when I found out that the nightmare is real.

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