Allyson Schwartz a distant 2nd to State Dems

Watch out Rob McCord!

Watch out Rob McCord Democrats!
Allyson wields a Big Stick!

In news sure to warm the hearts of those who constantly wonder, “Where is Allyson Schwartz? What has she done for us lately?”, Pennsylvania Democrats not only failed to agree on an official endorsement for the April Pennsylvania gubernatorial primary, they dealt a significant blow to Schwartz’s expectations for wide-spread Party support.

In a showdown in Hershey on Saturday, Schwartz finished a 2-1 underdog to Treasurer Rob McCord (154-77) after two rounds of balloting.

In fact, Schwartz barely beat out York County businessman Tom Wolf, who garnered 59 votes!

Bummer …

Certainly, Allyson has been distracted lately, working hard and long into the night to get her 13th Congressional District constituents plugged back into the power grid, right?  I mean you have all seen and heard of her efforts, haven’t you?

Yeah, didn’t think so.

Maybe it was her vote in Washington, D.C. to cut food stamp subsidies by an average of $65/month per recipient that did her in.  Heck, even Senator Bob Casey saw the light after initially supporting the bill that included farm subsidies!

Needless to say, there are a lot of Pennsylvania Democrats now on Allyson’s Naughty List.  Just ask Nate Kleinman how much fun that’s gonna be!

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Drivers, start your Engines!

PA 13th Congressional District

PA 13th Congressional District

Tomorrow night I hope to attend the campaign announcement of yet another candidate for Pennsylvania Congressional Representative Allyson Schwartz‘s (PA 13th Congressional District) vacated seat this November.

Her name is Beverly Plosa-Bowser.  If I told you I knew of her before receiving a mailed invite to her campaign announcement just this morning, I would be lying.

(UPDATE:  This head cold is probably going to prevent me from attending tonight.  Pretty sure I’m not going to feel up to it by the time I get out of work.)

The 13th District seat has been an impossible nut for Republicans to crack, having held the seat for all of 4 years since 1993.  Normally, one would surmise that Schwartz’s absence (and with it her substantial war chest and her take-no-prisoners politics) would make this row a bit easier to hoe.  But with a huge chunk of the district residing in ultra-liberal Philadelphia and plain old liberal eastern Montgomery County, I wouldn’t be caught counting any chickens.

Plosa-Bowser will surely have a great deal of company on the Republican side in challenging whoever the Democrats put up from their own crowded field of candidates.  Besides former 13th District Rep Marjorie Margolies (D), state Rep. Brendan Boyle of Northeast Philly; state Sen. Daylin Leach of Montgomery County; and Dr. Valerie Arkoosh, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine have a lll thrown their headgear into the ring.

On the Republican side, joining Plosa-Bowser, is Dee Adcock who lost to Schwartz handily (like a lot of Republicans have) in 2010.  Personally, I am hoping Joe Rooney is willing to take another run at the 13th, but I have not found any indication that he is running in 2014.

Plosa-Bowers’ bio shows her to be a local product.  Her father was an assistant principle at Hatboro-Horsham High School; her mother a nurse.

She was one of the first women admitted to the Air Force Academy.  She served for over 30 years in the U.S. Air Force and USAF Reserve, rising to the rank of Colonel.  Plosa-Bowser served in Iraq, building a Security Cooperation relationship with Iraqi officials.

She retired from the Air Force in 2010 after being awarded the Bronze Star for her efforts in Iraq.

As always I am hoping for sanity to return to the 13th Congressional District in the form of sound Republican guidance in public sector economics, the national economy, and matters of National Security.  But in any case, the race is on and it oughta be a darn good one!

Welfare reform through Transitional Living Funds

U.S. REP Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18)

U.S. REP Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18)

OK, OK … I know a lot of people are having a really hard time digesting U.S. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee‘s suggestion that the benefits many of the poor accumulate under “Welfare” should be re-branded to as “Transitional Living Funds“.

Now, putting aside the fact that few people – other than Liberals – would be tricked by simply renaming a Government give-away to some other seemingly innocuous term, I think Representative Lee is actually onto something!

The key to my intrigue is that very first word.

Of the three primary definitions of the word TRANSITION in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, let’s look at the most commonly used.  (The third deals with “musical modulation”.)

TRANSITION: 1. a : passage from one state, stage, subject, or place to another :  change;  b :  a movement, development, or evolution from one form, stage, or style to another … 2. an abrupt change in energy state or level (as of an atomic nucleus or a molecule) usually accompanied by loss or gain of a single quantum of energy … TRANSITION

I think she’s on to something!

Transitional Living Fund would suddenly become exactly what they were intended to be for most healthy individuals not strapped with insurmountable life problems … a means for surviving extremely difficult times in life, where one stares into the bleak abyss of abject poverty through no fault of their own.

Those individuals by definition could now be expected – under this new definition of welfare – to change, to seek ways to improve their lot in life, and maybe – EGADS! – be held to a minimal level of Personal Responsibility!

They might be asked to do what any reasonable person would be expected to do when faced with severe life challenges.  They would be given a LIMITED period of time – Let’s say a year. – to TRANSITION themselves towards a better way of life; a plan for their future and their families future success; a job.

After that Transitional Period they would be expected to pass onto a more stringent period of Personal Progress.  Maybe they could still receive some of all of their TLF benefits PROVIDED that they continue to follow a program intended to find them a suitable job and their TLF benefits would be offset by whatever wages they are able to earn.

Think about it … Personal Improvement, a way out of the morass of poverty and helplessness.  Heck, it even sounds like Progressiveness!  And what Liberal doesn’t embrace that term?!?

Nah … It’ll never happen!

But a big “Thank You!” to REP Sheila Jackson Lee for trying!

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!”

Obama-Claus-600

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”!

bg-1-136694

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 .

Leadership???

Leadership???

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.

What?!?

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!