Worst trade ever …

BergdahlSo after five years Bowe Bergdahl is heading home.  But there is hardly unrestrained joy and relief outside of the small community of Hailey, Idaho, where Bergdahl grew up.  In fact, Hailey decided to cancel its planned celebration in the face of much doubt over his circumstances and the deal to exchange five Taliban military leaders for his freedom.

For the time being, you will not hear me calling him by service branch and rank.  From what I have read, he doesn’t deserve it.  I do not take this position lightly, even as one who never wore the uniform.

Normally, I stay silent in cases where an investigation is clearly warranted.  It’s not for me to judge.  But this situation truly makes my skin crawl.

Staff Sergeant Clayton Bowen and ...

Staff Sergeant Clayton Bowen and …

By all reports, accepted as truth by those who served with Bergdahl, he willingly; knowingly; and worse of all recklessly relative to the safety of his fellow troopers, walked off his duty station to “start a new life“.

Bergstrom did not simply walk out the gate or go under the perimeter wire; he may have even hid in a contractor’s vehicle to secretly exit his outpost.  He went out of his way to send many personal belongings home before abandoning his unit.

Bergdahl’s desertion is unforgivable for no other reason than the danger in which it put other troops once he was listed as missing.  When that happens, the U.S. military – whether you are on land, in water, or missing from the air – is going to try to find and recover you. They will not leave a man behind if at all possible.

That puts a number of military personnel in an order of magnitude several times greater than your personal worth in harm’s way; exposing themselves to all the dangers of that theatre of operations; going into dangerous and volatile situations they would normally avoid just to find you.  Bergdahl’s actions in this regard were unconscionable.

... Private First Class Morris Walker were killed by IED while searching for Bergdahl.

… Private First Class Morris Walker were killed by IED while searching for Bergdahl.

Certainly Bergdahl deserves his day in court, privileged by the assumption of innocence as provided by those very principles he decided to leave behind when he so clandestinely worked to melt into the Afghan countryside.  Hopefully the truth will come out, though I doubt he will receive more than a dishonorable discharge if found guilty.

Of course, that assumes he doesn’t receive a White House pardon.

The troops who served with him and who lived closest to him before he deserted his post are very free in their feelings towards Bergdahl.  They are – to say the least – angry at his selfishness and furious at the losses incurred on his behalf.  They knew him to be a loner, though no sin in itself.  They knew he didn’t want to be there.  They saw him gaze into the mountains near their base, wondering if he could reach China by heading in that direction.

They are the ones to whom we should be listening.  They are the ones who knew him best.  They could tell whether he was with them in duty or looking for a way to salve his disillusionment with his chosen profession.

When Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel went to Afghanistan and announced the release and repatriation of Bowe Bergdahl, his announcement was met with stony silence from the American troopers in attendance.  Don’t buy the story line of young American troopers showing “reluctance to display emotion in front of the Pentagon chief”.  That never seems to be a problem with emotion when the Commander-in-Chief shows up.

Their lack of reaction and none-so-fond memories of Bergdahl’s fellow unit members are good enough for me.

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Democrats for Governor: Playing Sharks and Jets

West-Side-Story-west-side-story-27587742-461-346The Democrats’ contest to pick a candidate to unseat Tom Corbett in the race for Governor of Pennsylvania is in full swing.  I’m sure I am not the only Pennsylvania Republican who has been enjoying the spectacle of Democrat cannibalism.

The Democrats love eating their own as much as Republicans do.

It’s a real accomplishment for any incumbent challenger to be successful in a general election after surviving a competitive and contentious primary.  The zeal both political parties take in tearing down their own candidates during primary seasons is frankly bizarre.  Whether it’s Allyson Schwartz‘s scorched-earth strategy for defending her 13th District Congressional seat or Republicans playing Whack-a-Mole on their best candidates before challenging a vulnerable President.

It’s hard to win a horse race when your prized steed – “winner” of the preliminary heat – is lame and limping off to the glue factory.

But if you are supporting an incumbent, who enjoys the safety of a challenge-less primary, patiently waiting for the battered primary victor to emerge, it’s a bit more rewarding to grab the popcorn; find a comfy chair; and commit to paper all the great attack lines your primaried opponents will hand you in their attempts to survive the intra-party process.

Whack-a-MoleFor Democrats the home stretch for the May 20 primary is within sight; and the heat has been turned up by the two biggest names in the race; both struggling to keep up with 25-point front-runner, Tom Wolf.  If you have been paying attention during this internecine combat, you have learned much about how for the Democrats will go to unseat Tom Corbett and how they will govern should they win.

For weeks now, I have been waiting for Schwartz to resort to the nuclear option in what must be an extremely frustrating struggle for Schwartz, who had already picked out the Executive Mansion drapes.  Instead, it was Rob McCord who decided to drop the bomb … a race bomb!

Divisiveness has blossomed as a favored tactic of Democrats running for executive offices, seeking to ingratiate themselves with specific – and obvious – voting blocks.  They present their arguments like this …

  • There are two groups.  (Let’s call them the Sharks and the Jets, so I don’t end up being hung at high noon by the Political Correctness Police.)
  • The groups can be split along a few different fault lines … economic (1% vs. 99%), geographic politics (urban vs. rural), corporate/consumer, gender, race, religion, etc.
  • “I am a Jet, just like you!” as opposed to being one of those nasty, selfish Sharks.  (This is aside from the fact that very often those claiming to be Jets are in fact Sharks.  More on that a little later.)
  • “Vote for me and I will level the playing field at the expense of those big, bad Sharks!”

McCord’s tactic was all too obvious.  Appeal to the large concentrations of votes in Pennsylvania’s biggest cities by alleging racism by Tom Wolf.

The incident, a killing during the 1969 race riots in York, Pennsylvania (Wolf’s hometown), returned to haunt the 2001 re-election campaign of then-Mayor Charlie Robertson.  When faced with the 2001 indictment, Robertson was persuaded to resign from the election after having already won the primary.  Wolf was one of several advisers who talked Robertson into resigning.

So really, Tom Wolf was simply standing by a friend,who had not as yet been tried (and was later acquitted) of the charges against him.

Of course that didn’t matter to McCord.  He got what he felt he needed, a wedge with which he could pry votes his way.  But it also gives you an insight into what a McCord Administration of State might look like .. a lot of bodies under a lot of buses.

Divisiveness, then conquer … a recurring theme …

Just ask Nate Kleinman what it's like!

Just ask Nate Kleinman what it’s like!

Schwartz – of course – jumped right on the Railroad Wolf train.  But then again, she doesn’t have much else to fall back on.  Her own Philadelphia connections have not been impressed with her constant harping of support for President Obama and his administration’s stilted, stuttering policies.  Most of all the Affordable Care Act …

Not exactly political genius by the Schwartz campaign, given the abominable handling of the ACA rollout, the Obama Administration’s opaque-ness when it comes to ACA sign-up/payment information, and well, just about everything they do – or don’t do – internationally.

Schwartz’s biggest problem though, when trying to connect to Joe Voter, is that when it comes to playing the 99% Jets off the 1% Sharks, she can’t hide the fact that she is – in fact – a Shark!

Then again, so are all the Democrats running for Governor!

Check out the income tax statements of the Democrat candidates who released their tax returns, keeping in mind that as late as 2012, the standard for being considered a 1% income earner was roughly $380,000.

200397812-001All figures are from 2012 tax returns:

  • Tom Wolf – $2.2 million in total (unadjusted) income (Taxes paid: $263,000 … Secured a loan for $4 million to partially finance campaign.)
  • Allyson Schwartz – $666,000 (unadjusted) income (Taxes paid: $140,000 … $5 million in campaign fund remaining as of April 8)
  • Rob McCord – $333,500 (unadjusted) income (OK … He’s a 1.5%’er!  Loaned campaign $1.7 million.)
  • Katie McGinty – $1.0 million (Taxes paid: $251,000 … Loaned her campaign $535,000.)

Now certainly there’s nothing wrong with being a successful 1%’er as it results from your hard work, highly demanded capabilities, or entrepreneurial spirit.  No, my point is this …

When these candidates look you in the eye and try to tell you they know what you are going through; that they are on your side; and they will help your Jets even the playing field with those richie-rich Sharks, you need to ask yourself the one question that really matters, when your family could live quite comfortably on what these candidates pay in taxes alone …

Wolf may the rue the day his Jeep joined the campaign.

Wolf may the rue the day his Jeep joined the campaign.

Who’s kidding whom?!?

The same story applies to how budgets and taxes will work should one of these esteemed liberals defeat a vulnerable Tom Corbett.

All four Democrat candidates rail against the $1 billion lost to education in the Pennsylvania budget.  They will all restore it.  Cost: $1 billion

By the Way …

The $1 billion cut to education in Pennsylvania was not a Corbett budget cut, as Democrats will lead you to believe.  The cuts were the result of the loss of $1 billion in federal stimulus dollars committed to the education budget by former Governor Ed Rendell and lost when the federal stimulus program ended in 2011. 

The 2013-14 state budget faces a $500 million shortfall, largely the result of overly optimistic projections of tax revenues that have not materialized.  Projections suggest the same could hold true for FY14-15, which begins on July 1.  So the State is really looking at a $1 billion budget gap.

The Democrats running for Governor all want to fix that of course.  Cost:  $1.0 billion over two years ($500K a year)

Total costs of fixing both the education funding gap and the State budget shortfall:  $1.5 billion annually

And how will Democrats fix this problem?  The unanimous answer is RAISE TAXES!  A large chunk of their proposed solution would be extraction taxes on the natural gas industry.

The problem for those of us who identify as middle class?

If you were hoping that Pennsylvania’s huge gas resource would result in cheaper local energy costs, it would be us – as consumers of this Pennsylvania gas – who will end up paying those taxes as increases to the wholesale/retail prices … of the gas itself and the products that rely on that gas for production and transportation.

shark-repellent-sharep-b_2Increased taxes are never paid solely by the businesses that are taxed.  They are simply pushed out to the consumer, who pays those added taxes in increased costs of what they buy and the services they use.  In addition, the fact that Pennsylvania already taxes energy companies with the second highest marginal corporate income tax rates in the country renders further taxation a potential drag on the economy and killer of jobs.

So when a Pennsylvania Democrat candidate for Governor comes calling; looks you in the eye; tells you they are a Jet, just like you; that they have your back; and will work oh-so-very-hard in your interests, make sure you have that Shark repellent handy!

Presidential wabbit hunting season

Felmer Dudd

Elmer the wabbit stalker

The running of the wabbits is off to an early start this presidential election cycle … or so it seems.

The signs are unmistakable.  Hunters crashing through forests of subpoenaed documents and confiscated e-mails.  Their media blasts are shotgun wild; blowing up chunks of soil and biting off chunks of helpless tree bark.

The wabbits scurry off to chuckle at the Hunters’ futility.

The Hunters are so anxious to bag any front-running, though undeclared Republican presidential hopeful they cannot shoot straight.

They are the Elmer Fudds of wabbit hunting.  All noise, no results.  You can almost hear the Fudds screaming “I’ll get you, you wascally wabbit!”

But the wabbits – so far – are having all the laughs.

Certainly all the constant media attention is having some effect.  New Jersey Governor Chris Christie‘s favorable ratings have taken a hit; but at 49% after all this, he ain’t exactly bleeding to death over staff-initiated lane closures that few people outside northern New Jersey and NYC care about.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker – on the other hand – is fighting off unproven accusations that are three years old, involving staffers illegally performing campaign work on government time, when Walker was still a little known County Executive.  People, who worked for Walker, went to jail; but a Democrat prosecutor found no evidence of Walker’s knowledge or acquiescence.  Still the hunt for Walker’s presidential future continues.

Despite Democrat attempts to tie the Christie and Walker controversies together as an indictment of general Republican malfeasance, the only thing that’s common between the two is their potential aspirations for The Oval Office.

Hence all the hunting and drama …

For voters – still two years away from having to declare their preference for a Republican presidential candidate – the Democrats’ strategy should be disturbing. For the Democrats are not interested in uncovering official misbehavior; their only objective is clearing the field for Hillary Clinton.

Bugs+Bunny+4Shhhhhhhhh … We’re hunting wabbits!

But the wabbits aren’t cooperating.  So far the Democrat hunters have only proven two things.  One is that the wabbits are much, much smarter than the Fudds.  The second is surely an unintended consequence that should come back to bite the Fudds right on their Clintons!

These same hunters of Republicans hopefuls will tell you looking into Hillary’s own history with a husband who cheated on her from the Oval Office; and who – more recently – failed to protect embassy personnel in a largely lawless country, would be an unproductive undertaking.

Needless to say anyone, who take their decisions on Chief Executive qualifications, should disagree.

Even Daffy can figure out why!

Clinton’s experiences in her White House tour as First Lady carry both weight and significance in assessing her suitability for the Highest Office in the Land.  I scratch my head over assertions that what happened in the Clinton White House 20 years ago is somehow not pertinent to Hillary’s foregone run in 2016.

First off, for all those touting her as an ideal candidate to be the first female President, how does one reconcile her enabling behavior in regards to her husband’s predatory behavior towards other women.

This has long been a pet peeve of mine when it comes to Clinton 42.  As a federal employee, I could well have been promptly and righteously removed from my job for using even the appearance of supervisory authority and it’s perceived power to press an inappropriate advantage towards a female employee, even if she were a consenting participant.

How could a Chief Executive behave so brazenly; performing exactly the kind of behavior over which those working for him could easily lose their jobs?

As a much touted example for women, it should be equally appalling that Hillary throughout the Clinton history, enabled Bill’s behavior through her repeated acquiescence.  It didn’t happen only with Monica in the West Wing with the cigar, dear Fudds!  It was a pattern of behavior that first caught the attention of the press and government watchdogs when Bill was still the Governor of Arkansas.

Biil and MonicaImagine how strong Hillary would have appeared had she nipped her runaway Lethario in the bud!  At face value one could conclude this was at best a psychologically abusive relationship; and isn’t that something women are encouraged to end or leave?

If the definition of insanity is expecting different results from doing the same thing over and over again, the question should be what was Hillary’s mindset when she repeatedly forgave Bill?  And what does that say about her judgement and decision making at a time of crisis?

Then again, she probably wouldn’t be where she is today hadn’t forgiven Bill’s wanderings over and over again.

One might surmise that Hillary traded a Proximity to Power for those oft-repeated acts of forgiveness.  Did she trade the potential for future incidents for a bright political future of her own?  Is it hard to imagine Hillary conditioning her forgiveness on Bill’s backing of her own political future when it became her turn?  Does anything other than a marriage that evolved into one of political convenience explain her behavior?

How is it that some think this fundamental character flaw is not worthy of intense scrutiny for one positioning herself to become President?

Character is developed over an extended period of life and living.  Leadership is forged from making the tough decisions and difficult choices.  Strong women do these things every day.  Does Hillary get to skate on the choices she made or didn’t make and how they affected other women – Bill’s future conquests – down the line?

gty_benghazi_dm_130425_wblogBenghazi is another matter unto itself which I will not got into here.  Suffice it to say that it’s beyond indecent that a few lane closures on a local bridge – even for New York City – has garnered more media coverage than the legitimate interests of finding someone responsible for the breach of physical security that ended the lives of four Americans including an Ambassador!

It’s one thing for President Obama to declare that he is “ultimately responsible” for embassy security; but that’s simply a catchall.  Someone was more directly ultimately responsible, and that person would be in the State Department.  So when no one is held officially responsible with whom does the problem lie?

Where’s a good hunter when you need one, Elmer?

Hillary should certainly be subject to her own time in the crucible, if the mainstream media reciprocates their bottomless fascination with lane closures and three-year-old cold cases (How likely though is that?); but at least “What difference – at this point, does it make?” is going to make one cutting campaign commercial!

How Snowden turned U.S. intel into a healthcare.gov Tech-Apocalypse


The Federalist‘s Ben Domenech wrote a great analysis of how Eric Snowden‘s revelations hurt the U.S. when he released information on U.S. international intelligence operations that really had no relation to the protection of American privacy.  It only hurt U.S. intelligence efforts around the world.

And if you really think the U.S. shouldn’t be doing this at all, as if no other countries do whatever they can to figure out what the U.S. is up to or what our interests might be internationally, you are quite the naive one!

The other interesting development from President Obama’s speech yesterday was the decision (See second paragraph.) to allow his subordinates to determine and design a system for allowing access to U.S. phone records when needed for reasons of national security.

The president said he no longer wants the National Security Agency to maintain a database of such records. But he left the creation of a new system to subordinates and lawmakers, many of whom are divided on the need for reform.

Wait a second …

Isn’t this the same creative team with the same management and executive leadership that came up with the healthcare.gov website?!?

So how well will all of you be sleeping NOW with that little nugget of info???

No man is an Island … unless an Island he is


Now I know what a Zombie Apocalypse
might look like …

I stand alone.  It’s official.

At some point this week, my last hope that good parenting, a quality standard of living, and the example – so often set here – that a grounded political philosophy can hold up to any intellectual challenge was smothered in the simple act of renewing a Pennsylvania driver’s license.

My youngest son changed his voter registration to Democrat.  And he is the smart one!

Was the smart one …

How did he express his change of affiliation when asked?  “I changed my mind.”

He made it sound like he was changing his socks.

Maybe it’s a statement on my Leadership.  Maybe I didn’t politically proselytize enough when the boys were so impressionable the correct politic would have been permanently ingrained, like their Philly accents.  Maybe I made one too many mistakes as a parent.

Oh well …

So now I am surrounded.  But that’s OK.  I can take solace in the following.

    • Neither one of them votes to my knowledge; and unfortunately, getting an Absentee Ballot is about to get a lot harder for one Temple Owl!
    • Mr. Hoot is also going to love taking the Broad St Subway back to school in the company of so many of his Democrat buds!
    • The two lost offspring who still list our home as primary residence do not as yet have to buy their own healthcare on those sterling examples of Government efficacy and Democrat “know how”, those Obamacare exchanges.  (I just want to be in the room when they find out how much they will be paying!)


    • Neither have they had to worry about supporting themselves entirely on their own, and by doing so discover just how hard it is to stay ahead of the curve all the while supporting so many who simply don’t bother trying.
    • Nor do they possess the baseline from which they can gauge all that marvelous Hope and Change to which they are obviously drawn.
    • I still hold very limited influence over my Better Half. Carol votes Republican – I think – but has little interest in changing party affiliation for some reason.

In the end, I will continue to stand as the Lion at the Gate.  Politely accepting the political materials dropped off at the house by my Democrat opposition during elections cycles and quietly sorting the mail.   Not sure why those materials never seem to arrive with their intended receivers.

I guess all’s fair in Love and Poltics!

Of course I told the house’s latest Democrat that he will always be welcomed back into the real Party of Progress … once he regains his senses!

But for now, I am the lone Grand Old Party stalwart beating back the political zombies seeking to weaken the ramparts, while keeping the inmates calm and reassuring them that they can have their political say the second Tuesday of every November!

Changing Hearts and Minds through Weakness

Leadership a foreign concept

Leadership – a foreign concept

Have to give President Barack H. Obama credit.  He has changed my mind on the prospects of taking action against the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria in the face of alleged – and all but certain – use of chemical weapons against opposition forces and civilians.

My nut is not an easy nut to crack.  I have long-held the personal belief that the United States held a special place in the community of nations.  It’s a place – to my own thinking and values – where a World Superpower belongs.  It’s the role that goes beyond the kind of standard-setting usually the purview of the United Nations.  It’s the role of enforcing those standards of common decency when it comes to the bitter realities of armed conflict.

A lot of Americans will categorize this simplistically as the role of World Cop.  Many disagree with me on this premise, that our country should be involved in events overseas that appear to have little or no direct impact on U.S. interests.

Those sentiments are well-founded and reflect the commonly held belief that American military personnel and U.S. treasure should be risked only in those situations linked to National Security in almost all cases.  So maybe my viewpoint is quite firmly in the minority.

Yet it is a role that in my mind comes with being a World Leader and Superpower.  It is a role we have filled many times in the past in various regions of the world in varying degrees of participation.

images-1I am not fond of unilateral U.S. action.  I do not favor the use of American boots-on-the-ground, especially in a situation like Syria.  What I look for is an American-led process of Consensus Building; the development of a common sense and purpose amongst our primary allies, major world powers, and those countries in closest proximity to the danger and most likely to be affected by any widening of a regional conflict.

My view is of the United States as The Point Man on the diplomatic front and The Muscle when it comes to the military response for which we hold a decided advantage (i.e. technological, hardware, delivery systems, weaponry).  When it comes to boots on the ground, the only enforcement situation where this should apply – in my humble opinion – is as part of a multi-national approach to a controllable environment (e.g. Bosnia; Clinton 1999) or where an immediate U.S. response would be sufficiently overwhelming (e.g. Grenada; Reagan 1983).

Now when it comes to Syria, President Obama has sufficiently altered the course of my thinking in a situation where a struggling regime gassed an overmatched military uprising and a defenseless civilian population …

… for all the wrong reasons.

Introducing the Freedom Muffin!

Introducing the Freedom Muffin!

Suddenly, under his mislaid concept of “leadership”, the U.S. looks timid, indecisive, and unfocused.  American efforts to build an International Coalition of the Willing was shot in the foot by its biggest allie (Great Britain) before it even got rolling.  (WIll we have to rename the English muffin?)

The Office of the President – long The Decider when it comes to the use of U.S. military power in short, direct, and sometimes personal (Libya, Muammar Gaddafi, 1986) responses to violations of international norms – appears confused by Britain’s rejection and unsure as to what to do next.

Instead the country’s Decider punted the issue – just as British Prime Minister David Cameron did – to the Legislator.  From my perspective, this has the look of a President hoping someone will get him off the fish-hook he firmly set in his own mouth.  When you use terms like “red line”, you had better have a plan of action with several iterations to account for unexpected developments like your Biggest International Allie getting cold feet.

The alternative, fall-back strategy?  Apparently there wasn’t one.  Which leads one to the obvious question … Who was doing the Leading?  Right now, it looks like Cameron and the Brits.

Where's Margaret Thatcher when you need her?

Where’s Margaret Thatcher when you need her?

So now Syria mocks us.

To fill the role of International Leader, you must be convinced of your Righteousness; firm in your ability to Lead, even if it means you must lead without your closest friends and allies at your side; and when all else fails, you must be prepared for bold action if necessary and if supported by the facts.

These are the kind of considerations President Obama should have kept in mind before speaking of “red lines” in August 2012.  Obviously he and his National Security team didn’t.

And this is what ultimately changed my mind.

If you can not be a strong, prepared, flexible leader, you have no business  drawing lines; making promises; and scheduling attacks when you do not have the backbone for the toughest decisions … actually sending Americans to clean up the World’s ugliest messes.

God help the Syrian people …

‘Twas the Night before Furlough

Enjoy a little Christmas in July with me and my fellow Federal civil servants with this twist on an ageless classic.

Twas the Night before Furlough

Concept and execution if not the actual words

by Barack H. Obama

Santa Jack Lew with furloughs for you!

Santa Jack Lew with furloughs for you!

‘Twas the night before Furlough
And all through The White House,
Not a creature was stirring,
Barack had Droned the last Mouse!

Congress was nestled all snug with The Fed
While visions of Mid-Terms danced in their heads.
With Michelle in her kerchief and POTUS in his cap,
The First Couple was hankerin’ for a Hawaiian recess.

When on the South Lawn there arose such a clatter,
Barack leapt from his bed to see what was the matter!
Away to the window he stumbled and crashed,
Tore open the shutters, “Get me a ‘Publican to lash!”

Then towards him on the breast of Taxpayer Dough,
Came Chief-of-Staff Lew, the House Liaison in tow.
And what to befuddled POTUS appeared
Was the Promise of what all Liberals hold dear!

The conspiring driver, so witty and quick,
Had come with an idea to surely do the trick!
More rapid than pirates on good winds of trade,
Jack Lew had found the secret for more Treasury raids!

I'm not saying this looks like anyone, only acts like some.

Leadership?  Plenty of butts instead …

“Now Nancy! Now Harry! Wake Biden up too!”
“On Fienstein and Boxer!” clammored The Lew.
“Grab Van Hollen and Stoyer and Allyson Schwartz!
We know how to get those ‘Publicans by the shorts!”

Sequester”, Lew cried, “is how we’ll get what we want!
Higher debt, more money, no need for any cuts!
They would never let it happen, and we won’t cut a dime!
The ‘Publicans will fold handily. They do all the time!”

Then amid all the whooping, the hollering, the yells
Someone asked, “What happens if it freezes in Hell?”
“Don’t worry about that. Our Gambit is sound.
We’ll make the ‘Publicans bad guys. Make it painful as well.”

But The Voice was persistent, an answer was needed.
What of sequestration, if the goal goes unheeded?
Of workers, fixed incomes, and services rendered,
What if the ‘Publicans didn’t surrender?

The Democrats turned on that Voice with wild looks.
Who dare throw a wrench in their Debt Ceiling hook?
Joe Taxpayer had wakened in the midst of the hoopla,
Was asking who’d suffer should The Plan prove a faux pas?

‘Twas The President’s turn to show that he cared
For those who paid taxes and relied on their share
For their services rendered, and the wages they need
For mortgages, tuition, that new Healthcare decree!

The grip of a golf club was light in Barack’s hand
Like the fate of the Middle Class throughout The Land.
He had a kind face and whispered so sweetly,
“Let us worry of that, we’re The Power Elitely!”

(From www.golf365.com)

The grip of a golf club was tight in his hand …
(From http://www.golf365.com)

He was chummy and glib, quite full of himself
So Joe Voter shrugged off the misgivings he felt.
The Democrat leaders returned to their caucus,
Plotting and planning how to best drain the coffers.

In the end their Big Gamble, it soon fell apart.
Their opponents, the ‘Publicans refused to impart
Higher taxes without spending restraint and responsibility
Towards an Economy renown for its fragile instability.

Joe Taxpayer saw this, and wondered aloud
“The Gambit was futile, so let’s kick this around.
The budget’s important!  The worst case is here!
You can’t stand on principle, and at taxpayers sneer!”

But the Democrats were nothing if not committed
To getting what they wanted without being fitted
With ceilings and limits to what they could spend
Even if it was Taxpayers who suffered in the end.

“We need them to suffer, to really feel hurt
From silly cuts in Park services to the pay for their work!
So process those furloughs!  Don’t spare them any Pain!”
The POTUS was certain their pain was his Gain.

So as Barack headed off on another vacation,
He climbed up the steps of his tax-paid ‘portation.
And we heard him exclaim as he flew out of sight
“Happy  furloughs to all!  Thanks for paying The Price!”


Once upon a Furlough …

Chuck Hagel

DoD Secretary Nagel, it’s “fair” to furlough Navy employees, despite the assertion that cuts can be absorbed without furloughs.

Well, it finally happened, after 33 years of Federal employment … My first Adverse Action.  A furlough, long speculated upon and hanging out there like a piece of space rock that you know is screaming – maybe more like meandering – towards you; yet you’re not quite sure if or when it might hit, or how big the mess if it does.

So it appears to be hitting, regardless of my own personal opinion (denial?) that there was no way they would allow said space junk to impact.

The story gets much uglier the further you peel the onion.

My first attempt at writing this, the day after we received our Notice of Proposed Furlough, came off like an angry rant … which it surely was.  It went in part like this:

I’m mad at all the bozos in Washington, D.C.!  All of those who would rather drive their ideological stakes into the ground and tether to those constraints the Government’s ability to function, the Country’s long-term economic health, and the tenuous condition of the Middle Class rather than dealing with the realities of the National Budget!

That goes for the Democrats as much as the Republicans, the Conservatives as much as the Liberals.  Governance requires Adults.  Unfortunately few can be found among those currently taking up space in the building they call The Capitol.  A building which frankly should have a sign draped across the front, advertising it as “The World’s Largest Day Care”!


But the biggest chunk of anger I feel is towards The White House …

That last part won’t surprise anyone who has visited here before, as I reserve a  particular animosity for those who created such an unpredictable sequestration gamble with the livelihoods of working class Americans!

But yes, I feel a little better today, thank you.  Still more than a little pissed however.

The reason is summarized somewhat by today’s title, “Once upon a Furlough …”, a twist on a phrase used by story-tellers since at least the year 1380 according to the Oxford English Dictionary.  Afterall, sequestration with all its head-scratching “cost savers” – among them the furlough of federal employees – is great big Fairy Tale.  And the story has its origins in The Oval Office during the 2011 debt-ceiling negotiations.

Sequestration Fairy

Sequestration Savings Fairy

At that time The White House was working with the Democrat’s Congressional delegation, trying to figure a way to wheedle agreement from the Republican side of The House to raise the federal debt limit.  It was then Chief-of-Staff Jack Lew (now Treasury Secretary) and White House Congressional liaison Rob Nabors who “brain stormed” The Great Sequestration Gamble of 2013.

The idea being that the sequestration would be such a painful penalty for not agreeing to a future “grand bargain” on the budget and deficit, and more importantly on what – if any – cuts could be made to said budget, and who and how much more in taxes would be paid.  This “pain” of course was aimed squarely at the Republicans, a bet on the prospects that the politics of the situation would force the Republican’s hand at a crucial moment.

Like much of what this Adminstration does, it was a poorly developed gamble that was just as shoddily executed, minus any form of Presidential Leadership, and with no fall back position other than to blame the whole mess on the Republicans in Congress.

Problem is the ploy required building sufficient political pressure to force Republicans to seek a deal.  But the Republicans dug in; refused to yield on earlier commitments to taxpayers; and held the Democrats and The White House to their promise of suitable budget cuts without more in tax revenue than Congress accepted to avoid the other contrived 2013 budget trigger – the New Year’s fiscal cliff .



The Democrats’ problem – and a continuing theme – became the need for strong Leadership from The White House.

As Scoobie Doo was so fond of saying … “Ruh Roh!”

Of course no Leadership emerged … only insistence that more tax revenue was the solution and a lot of political rallies disguised as “taking the argument to the people”.

“Ruh roh …”

Sequestration Dragon

Sequestration Dragon

And when the time came for the put-up-or-shut-up necessary to cut the heart out of the Sequestration Dragon, The White House decided to double down and really force the issue.  Though it would not be through strong leadership, circumspect vision, and the art of compromise in seeking a deal on spending and taxing.

No, no, no … Instead came the none-too-subtle message to the Republican caucus in the House of Representatives, Refuse to surrender, and the Country will suffer!

“Ruh roh …”

That’s how we ended up with the silly cancellation of White House tours, hand-wringing over Easter egg hunts, contrived air travel delays, and accusations that every unfortunate event from a bridge collapse to the bombings in Boston were the result of the sequestration.

pennyHowever, as I outlined earlier this year, the actual affect of sequestration on the 2013 fiscal budget was just 1% of everything the federal government will spend in Fiscal Year 2013.

A penny on every dollar!

And yet, here we are.

For federal employees of the U.S. Navy, the sequester furloughs are particularly infuriating because they are completely unnecessary!  Secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus and other senior Navy executive leaders have made it known that the U.S. Navy could comfortably absorb the sequestration-driven budget cuts without a single civilian furlough.

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus

The response from White House Cabinet DoD Secretary Chuck Hagel?  Yet another absence of Leadership … Insisting that the Navy furlough it’s civilian workforce in order to “be fair” to those who work for the Army and Air Force.


Yep, that’s right  … Fairness now is the real reason for the furloughs of Navy employees as opposed to “the extraordinary and serious budget challenges facing the Department of Defense” as my deliberately misleading furlough notice states.

DoD has every indication that the Navy can absorb its share of the shared pain from this silly sequestration without affecting the incomes of its civilian employees; yet they insist the Navy reduce their employees annual earnings by 20% in order to “be fair” to those working for the Army and Air Force!

Welcome to Fairy Tale Land!

So what’s a Federal Employee to do?!?  Make them pay more of course!

imagesOne of the protections, federal employees enjoy is that of the Merit System Protection Board.  The MSPB is expecting a potential tsunami of appeals over the furloughs being forced on federal employees.  Since an appeal to the MSPB can cost the Government up to $10,000 (See “Cost of Appeals”), the Federal Government desperate for a way to stay within budget and sacrificing its employees, ends up potentially paying twice as much as it expects to save for each employee who decides to file an MSPB appeal.

For this reason every Federal Employee should consider filing an appeal regardless of how dim the prospects are for vindication!  For Navy employees in particular, Chuck Hagel has laid a very nice gift at your feet.

You can view instructions and a link to the appeal process here.  MSPB even has an e-file application to ease the confusion.  Furloughed employees have 30 days from the date-of-notice or from the first day-of-furlough, whichever is later, to file their MSPB appeals.

There … now I feel much better!

Sequester ’13: The Magic Penny Theory

pennyFive days have passed, and so far the Earth has not – as yet – careened off its axis to spin wildly off into the black void of deep space.  Commercial air travel did not turn into a nightmare overnight due to air traffic controller layoffs; the schools are still open; and I still had to go to work!

You would think that maybe – just maybe – all the Chicken Little with hair-afire warnings might have been just a little exaggerated.  Just a little …

Recently I finished reading Killing Kennedy: The End of Camelot (Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard), and it brought back a lot of memories.  One concept brought to mind from the aftermath of that horrific day was the Warren Commission’s development of the Magic Bullet Theory.  The bullet was believed to be the first shot that struck President John F. Kennedy; and although it was not the fatal shot, it passed through Kennedy and did major life-threatening damage to Texas Governor John Connally, who was riding in the seat in front of The President.

A second or third shot, depending on who you read, ended President Kennedy’s life.

The Magic Bullet Theory was originally greeted with much disdain by those history and conspiracy buffs, who delighted in disparaging the physics involved and the presentation made by Warren Commission Assistant Counsel Arlen Specter.

It was even the subject of a segment on Seinfeld!

Bare with me here …

Last week’s move into Sequestration automatically put into effect $85 billion in across-the-board budget cuts.  That certainly sounds like a lot of money … until you consider that the Federal Budget for Fiscal Year 2013 is $3.8 trillion!

The Congressional Budget Office, an apolitical organization that performs independent analyses of budgetary and economic issues to support the Congressional budget process, released a report stating that the effect of sequestration cuts for Fiscal Year 2013 will be $42 billion, not even half of the full measure of $85 billion estimated as sequester-related cuts!

Of course that assumes that the sequestration will last throughout the remainder of the fiscal year.  I wouldn’t bet the House … or the Senate … on that proposition.

In fact another trigger date – a Continuing Resolution – is scheduled to hit by the end of March.  Lack of an agreement then could shut down ALL of Government, minus the traditional exemption provided the Department of Defense.  Will this opportunity also pass without a Presidential Vulcan mind-meld (Sorry, couldn’t resist.) on a grander solution?

But it’s the math involved with this current sequestration that is irrefutable.  $42 billion equates to $0.01 ($42 billion/$3.8 trillion = $0.01) for every dollar in the FY13 federal budget.  One stinkin’ cent … an Abe, and not the more lovable $5 Lincoln … One penny on every dollar!

But that single cent is one Magic Penny!

The Magic Penny set off the wailing of the sirens warning of National misfortune and personal misery from The White House and Democrats.  There have been almost daily pronouncements of Sequester Doom & Gloom in local newspapers, on national broadcasts, and on-line media.  The Sequester, a mechanism that was actually resurrected by The White House and proposed by those very Democrats in debt ceiling negotiations, would have profound effects on the country and its citizens at the hands of those heartless Republicans in Congress.

Now all of us, particularly those outside the upper reaches of the top tax brackets, have been under constant financial pressure for the past 5-6 years.  Most recently, you lost the 2% reduction in payroll tax from 2010.  And while some will argue the expiration of tax relief is not a tax increase per se.  Fact is you are paying more in taxes; bringing home less money.  Call it what you will, your household is doing with less income.

Even if your wages have held fairly stable over this period, certainly your Costs of Living continue to rise.

Have those increases in taxes and rise in daily costs been more than a penny on your dollar?  Most probably … Were you able to adjust; do without some things; change plans; push out major expenditures waiting for better financial times?  Probably …  Has your loss of buying power been an adverse development for your household budget?  Most likely …

But you made the adjustments. You do what you can.  You bag the rest, and hope for better times.

Sequestration is perhaps the WORST strategy for fiscal negotiations ever to be uttered by any White House Administration.  And certainly, both sides should get back to work on a solution that will benefit the long-term economic health of the Nation.  But for President Obama and the Democrats to expect capitulation by the Republican Congress on their principles of fiscal responsibility over cuts equal to a penny on the dollar in the Federal budget is simply silly.

Yet Washington Democrats – in particular The White House and President Obama – will have you thinking the sky will be falling all over that Magic Penny!  Some of the pronouncements coming out of The White House have been downright hyperbolic.

National air travel would be disrupted; teachers were being furloughed, The President said (That is until the press corps challenged The White House to give one example – just one – of a school district that had issued pink slips.  They couldn’t!);  National Parks would be closing; dangerous food situations would increase, caused by the loss of food inspectors; coastal inhabitants would be at the mercy of Superstorms because weather forecasting will be unaffordable; an entire aircraft carrier group held back from active front-line service; grannies kicked to the curb; the Nation would totter on the brink of financial ruin; communities would no longer be able to protect its citizens …

All over one penny on the dollar of a ridiculously bloated Federal Budget!

That, my friends, is what Seinfeld would call One Magic Loogie!

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes …

UnknownChange is a word loaded with potential, dread, promise, and uncertainty.  Change is powerful.  Change is scary.  Change is hopeful.

As a single word, “Change” became half the anthem (Hope and Change) of President Obama’s 2008 Presidential race.  The word was a double-edged sword, cutting both to the positive and to the negative depending on which end of the sword you were standing.  Five years later, whether you perceive that any real Change has occurred depends not only on your perception of Change, but also what you thought needed – or did not need – changing.

You hear references to Change in every facet of life eventually.  Usually when you least want to deal with it.  In the workaday world, Change is often sold as a panacea for everything from sluggish performance to being severely underfunded.  In those situations, the attempts to sell Change with its accompanying catch-phrases can be annoying or downright foreboding.

The older you are, the more set in your ways, the more threatening Change can appear.

My perspective on Change is that it is inevitable no matter what your situation or station in life.  Never count on anything remaining the same forever; and you can bet, when you find something in your life that is comfortable, enjoyable, or efficiently familiar, it will Change.

imagesMy personal demon in Change is the dreaded “Change for the sake of Change“, an underlying mantra in Government and its lecherous bureaucracy.  I have experienced change in my Department of Defense job that was simply the result of one person’s hellbent desire to claim Change as part of their legacy, sad as that reality is.

These individuals resort to changing the work paradigm as they head out the door for leisure pastures, leaving those left behind to deal with the consequences.  Like the engineering feat required to change the course of a mighty river, they view their ability to make the Bureaucrats bend to their will – even in a small way – as a personal feat of professional strength.

Rarely is such Change viewed favorably.  The common reaction being, if it was such a great idea, why didn’t you pursue before you started heading out the door?

And so with that as a background, let’s look at a few examples in the recent news of good Change – bad Change, we Change – you Change.  Being a male, my particular interests well-known here, most of these examples involve sports and politics.

Except this one of course …

State Patty’s Day

UnknownAuthorities in State College, PA, home of Penn State University are offering three dozen downtown bars, restaurants and package stores $5000 subsidies to cut off sales of alcohol during the annual State Patty’s Day celebration.  The party weekend, created spontaneously by Penn State students when St. Patrick’s Day fell over Spring break, has become a community nuisance.  Excessive drinking, arrests and property damage became such a huge problem that community groups have been joined by the students themselves in seeking solutions to Change the paradigm.

Good Change … Good for the community, for Penn State, for law enforcement, and for the students themselves,  But with a price tag of an estimated $180,000., you certainly hope the benefits outweigh the payoffs to be made in the name of peace-of-mind.

Beware the Walmart Mom

Unknown-1Sometimes Change is the result of how one sees their station in life being affected by those in leadership positions.  Let us consider the political leanings of the Walmart Moms.

Some might consider the Walmart Mom moniker to be demeaning or perhaps a judgement of economic impotence.  But the Walmart Mom has become a political force in recent years.  The Walmart Mom has been studied extensively by both political parties as defined as a woman, who shops at Walmart at least once a month and comprises a significant 14-17% of the electorate.

In 2008 Walmart Moms voted for Barack Obama in 2008.  In 2010 they switched to support Republicans in the mid-term elections.  Then switched back again to support the President’s 2012 re-election.

A small group of Walmart Moms was the subject of a recent Philadelphia Inquirer article.  (See above link.)  The impression one gets is that the Walmart Mom views politics and the opposing parties from the perspective of how those parties’ politics and policies affect their lives.

Unknown-2The women, who were brought together during the President’s recent State of the Union address, recognized both parties as obstructionist whenever their opposition controls The Oval Office.  They prioritized the issues facing them as women and mothers, feeling less supportive of issues like immigration reform and climate change.  They support efforts to reduce gun violence.

The recent trend suggests the Walmart Moms could be persuaded to back a coherent Republican message in the 2014 midterms; yet they were baffled as to the current Republican message.

imagesFor Republicans, this potential for Change relies on their ability to prove to the Walmart Mom that they have their best interests at heart.  At this point, the prospects for persuading the Walmart Moms to switch away from the Democrats has to be scary for the GOP.

Self interest is often the catalyst for Change.  If your target audience sees you as no better than the current regime, you never stand a chance.


Appropriate artsy intermission:


Back to our program …


Change can be the source of anxiety, both welcome and foreboding.  For examples we need not look any further than our beloved Philadelphia sports teams.

Charlie’s Last Year?

images-1As the Philadelphia Phillies gear up for the 2013 MLB season, many of its fans speculate on whether this season will be Charlie Manuel‘s swan song.  His current contract will expire at the end of the season; and at the age of 69, there is much to consider for both Manuel and the Phillies.

The Phillies have been grooming Ryne Sandberg, a Hall of Fame second basemen the Phillies stupidly traded before the 1982 season along with Larry Bowa for Ivan DeJesus (Don’t get me started!), for a shot at a managerial job.  The question is … Is Charlie ready to move on?

One would think Manuel might be ready to move up in the organization, but not likely to move on to another managing job.  And frankly, it would be an insult to push Manuel out the door, unless of course 2013 turns out to be a down year unrelated to the many injuries the team suffered last season.

images-2In the best of both worlds, Charlie goes out when he’s ready as is worthy of a World Series winning manager; and Ryne Sandberg is still waiting in the wings to take Manuel’s spot as the team’s on-field General.

Provided the upcoming season does not provoke a rash change in Uncle Charlie’s status, Phillies fans should feel good about Manuel moving on, whether it be into retirement or on to an executive opportunity here or elsewhere.

Of course Charlie could decide after the 2013 season that he’s not ready to move off the bench just yet.  In which case Change will just have to wait.

Can a Duck help the Eagles?

Unknown-4The team on the other side of Pattison Avenue is facing a situation of an entirely different hue.  After 14 seasons of Andy Reid‘s leadership, the Philadelphia Eagles are facing a challenge they have not experienced since the turn of the century.

New head coach Chip Kelly comes from the vaunted University of Oregon Ducks, a team that ran a very up-tempo offense that requires a lot of speed, read and react play by the Quarterback, and the ability to keep defenses off-balance by constantly pressing the offensive attack.

The Change has elicited a set of anxiety reactions in fans that covers just about every facet of play on the field and personnel management off it.

First and foremost is whether Kelly’s high-octane offense can work in the NFL.  Indications are that it already is in limited ways on a number of teams, including the New England Patriots and Superbowl contender, San Francisco 49’ers.  But the underlying cause for concern revolves around the question of player personnel and their suitability to run Kelly’s fast paced, attack offense.

Unknown-5The level of anxiety gets ratcheted up for some Eagles fans when they consider the prospects of promising, but unproven QB Nick Foles, and even more so when the Eagles decided to re-sign out-of-favor QB Michael Vick.

All you need to turn most Philadelphia Eagles fans into helpless bundles of anxiety riddled meatbags is to throw the above questions into a bowl; stir in huge gaps on the offensive line and the question of how Kelly and new Defensive Coordinator, Billy Davis will remake the team on the defensive side of the ball; and serve over a defensive secondary that at times couldn’t cover a casserole dish.

Finally, Change can be seen as threatening, while at the same time provide a wealth of opportunity.

That Lada … What a cherry ride!

bildeRecently, Christine Armario wrote an article, featured on the Associated Press, about the extreme manipulations Cubans must go through in order to keep the island’s very, very old fleet of long outdated Russian automobiles running.  The mainstays of the island’s remaining auto fleet are upwards of 30-year-old, ancient Russian Lada and Moskvich models, for which it’s almost impossible to buy parts.

While it’s hard to fathom a Cuban visitor to Miami having to walk into a certain auto parts store; walking out with a carburetor or a set of brake pads: and having to physically carry back to the home island.  It’s even harder to rationalize this country’s continued reluctance to exploit – if you will – a country and a people so ripe for the depth and breadth of opportunities America can provide.

The problem?  Well, it’s Cuba!

Fidel Castro extolling the virtues of a straight - but artificial - Christmas tree!

Long the bane of 1960 Domino Theory on the control of the spread of Communism … Site of President John F. Kennedy’s biggest foreign relations/national security blunder … Home of one of the most ruthless – and oldest – Red revolutionaries … And of course home to hundreds of thousands of Cuban expatriates currently living in the U.S. after leaving Cuba in the decades since the Fidel Castro-led revolution.

But it’s difficult to ignore a Cuba that is very backward in its economy, infrastructure, politics and human rights.

Imagine what a boon to American business to have a country just 90 miles off the coast of Florida as very needy destination for construction services, consumer goods, medical equipment, and technology.  Imagine the inroads – now that Fidel is near terminal age – Americans can make in exporting its way of life, political freedoms and social philosophies.

Imagine how grateful the Cuban people, and maybe even the post-Fidel or post-Raul Cuban government might be, especially now that the Russians are no longer as influential internationally as they were two decades ago.

There’s a wealth of opportunity there.  But it will require a sea change in public and political perceptions to make it happen.