CU Talks: New Year! New Show! ep.1401

44080336[1]We debut a new format for 2014 – three hosts, one hour, one day a week.  James Pisano (The Chief), Nikolaos Dimopolous (Nikos) and Leslie P  – passionate about politics, passionate about America, eager to grow the Conservative movement, and figuring out how to do that. It’s going to be a busy, crazy year – come along for the ride!

Well, we tried for an hour, but there’s so much to say, we ran over. We probably always will.  First we introduced ourselves and the new format, what we expect from the coming year, then we dove right in. We mentioned Obamacare, likely to have at least a bit part in every episode. We talked about the Ryan budgets, and the budget misdertion process overall. We discussed our shared hatred of the 17th Amendment and the it weakened the states, and led to this massive centralization that’s hurting the nation so badly right now. Then we talked about the 16th Amendment – just a teaser on that one really – but the very existence of an Income Tax changed the relationship of the individual to the federal government. Change not really for the better.

Then, because it got depressing, Leslie searched desperately for a way to find the happy ending, the positive outcome – she thinks she succeeded, at least enough to allow her to face another day!

Give the show a listen, then use the comments to let us know what topics you’d like us to cover in future episodes.

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About the show:

Every Thursday, 9pm Central, join us for an hour of Conservative Discussion with Real People from Real Places in America, NOT DC and NOT the Media.

CU Talks is the one hour weekly program from The Conservative Union, largest conservative community on Google Plus. We talk politics, with a focus on informing and educating our listeners, and finding ways to create the positive future we all want for ourselves and our posterity.

Your hosts will include James Pisano (The Chief), Nikolaos Dimopolous (Nikos) and Leslie P.

  • The Chief lives in California, is currently active duty in the Coast Guard, and drives a Prius – not because he’s afraid of global warming, but because it made sense for him to purchase it – FREE MARKET, YEAH!
  • Nikos was born in Greece, got here as soon as he could, will be a US Citizen eligible to vote in 2016, and is the American Dream personified.
  • Leslie is a native Texan and a redhead, she’ll cut you.

We may or may not all be armed.

Submental Gymnastics

Bill Maher and Piers Morgan
CNN, October 29, 2013

Submental. A word that seems to mean one thing, but by means of some linguistic gymnastics, is bent to mean something else. It would imply something below the level of proper mentation, but it doesn’t.  Just like the meaning of the word “settled” seems to mean something special to statists in regards to the law.

“And also, let’s again have a little perspective. Was any program ever, ever sabotaged to the degree this one has been? I mean, it’s been three years. It’s not a bill. It’s a law. I know that tea people think they know the Constitution — I don’t think they’ve even read it. A bill becomes a law, once it does, you don’t argue about it…I don’t care what your opinion on the health care law is now, it’s the law — you’re supposed to help it along.”  — Bill Maher, “Piers Morgan Live”, CNN, Tuesday October 29, 2013

Hey, Bill…I have a question for you.  Have you driven on a road in the past decade or so that had a speed limit of, say, 65 mph? It’s hard to drive any significant distance without finding one; most Interstates and other major highways have raised their limits to somewhere around there.  You’re old enough, Bill, to remember the late 70’s, just after something called the “National Maximum Speed Law” was passed, in the throes of the “Energy Crisis”. It was part of the “Emergency Highway Energy Conservation Act”, which limited maximum speed on ANY road in the US to 55 mph.

In 1995, guess what happened, Bill. That law was repealed.  That’s right, it was repealed.  As in eradicated, removed, cancelled. Congress voted to negate it.  “What,” you say, “A Federal Law was cancelled?”  You recoil in disgust, your emotions an agonized, confused whirl.  “But when a bill becomes a law, once it does, you don’t argue about it!  It’s supposed to never go away!”

It did, Bill. History is full of such laws that have been passed, lasted a while, then were…brace yourself…repealed.  I’m sorry to have to shock you like that, Bill, I know that word hurts to hear, but you have to face it someday. Laws like the Alaska Native Allotment Act, the Chinese Exclusion Act, the Dawes Act, and even the…I’m sorry, this is brutal for you and I realize that, but be brave…the Smith-Hughes National Vocational Education Act of 1917.  Now that’s submental, isn’t it, Bill?

Then there’s the Banking Act of 1933. You’re a liberal, Bill, you surely know what that was.  You don’t recognize it?  Why, it was the Glass-Steagall Act! I thought every liberal knew what that was, and blamed it’s loss for the financial crisis. All the Occupiers had signs demanding it be reenacted, you MUST remember THAT!  And the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act — though you may remember it as the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999 — don’t you remember?

That act repealed PART of the Glass-Steagall Act. Just part. There was such argument and haranguing over that, but in the end, it was done. Weren’t you all so upset when the Republicans tried to negate just PART of the ACA? You thought that was so unfair, to try to remove just a piece of a law like that. And when the shutdown came, there was such furor over the Republicans trying to pass “piecemeal” laws to cover things like death benefits, and national monuments. No, it had to be all of it, that’s what you all screamed, all of it!  It’s the law of the land, it’s settled!  You can’t just hack at it like this, you have to accept it, get behind it! That’s what you all said.

But then someone asked for the sequester to be negated. They wanted those increases restored.  I thought the sequester was a Federal law? It’s settled.  Why this talk of…(choke) repealing  it? Wait…wasn’t that something you wanted?  You didn’t like the sequester. In fact, didn’t you say “This Sequester shit is so submental – its like not having the willpower to diet, so rigging the refrigerator to blow up when you open it”?  Bill, even though the word “submental” means “located in, affecting, or performed on the area under the chin,”  that comment would imply that you…you…didn’t agree with a law.  You wanted it…repealed.  But according to you, isn’t that sort of thing submental?  Well, I, for one, feel like I’ve taken one on the chin, but I don’t think that’s what you meant, was it?

I’m confused about your desire to repeal the sequester, Bill.  Aren’t we supposed to help it along, regardless of our opinion on it? But Democrats want to fight over the sequester, and even Ezra Klein can see that the deal to end the shutdown presented them with a golden opportunity to change an existing, settled law.

“The timing of all this is designed to create a fight about sequestration. The Jan. 15 deadline means funding for the federal government runs out at the exact moment sequestration’s deeper cuts kick in. The Dec. 13 deadline means that the full House and Senate would have time to consider any package of recommendations the bicameral committee comes up with, if the committee actually manages to come up with anything.” — Ezra Klein, Washington Post, October 14, 2013.

I think it’s time to face some uncomfortable facts, Bill. I know it hurts to say this, but I think it’s clear that any law can be repealed. It doesn’t matter if it’s a liberal or conservative law. It doesn’t matter if it has bipartisan support, or if the Supreme Court rules in its favor.  SCOTUS can revisit it and change its mind, or Congress can pass a law that changes or even negates a law — they can remove it entirely. There’s even a procedure, laid out in the Constitution, for amending it. The highest law of the land can be altered if the proper procedure is followed.  There have been 27 amendments to the US Constitution. Of those, the 18th Amendment prohibited alcohol…and the 21st Amendment repealed the 18th.  No law is immune to changes over time.

Democrats have been screaming for the 2nd Amendment to either go away, or be hedged about with regulations, restrictions, and obstructions to the point where the people would only be able to legally get single-shot rimfire rifles, which they have to keep in a government-run armory, and can only be taken out to go to a government-sanctioned range and back again. That’s how they do it in much of Europe, after all, and aside from the skyrocketing violence, terrorist actions, and public massacres by rampaging nutcases, they’re doing  just fine… Well, to be fair, not all Democrats want that. Some want every single gun in America turned in and melted down into commemorative paperweights. Except for the ones held by the police, of course. They say “we don’t want to take away your guns,” but they have their fingers crossed behind their backs, because they have made it perfectly clear that they do in fact want to do just that.

But to paraphrase you, Bill, it’s not a bill. It’s an amendment to the Constitution. I know that statist, leftist people think they know the Constitution — I don’t think they’ve even read it. A bill becomes an amendment, then goes to the States for ratification. Once it does, you don’t argue about it.

Right, Bill?

 

Respectfully Submitted

References

Bill Maher on Piers Morgan Show, CNN 10/29/13:  http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1310/29/pmt.01.html

Ezra Klein, Wonkblog, Washington Post 10/14/13:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/10/14/the-senates-deal-to-end-the-shutdown-is-a-deal-to-fight-over-sequestration/

Riding the Legislative Omnibus

Piecemeal.

That’s what the Democrats are calling the House Republicans’ steps to address the current funding gap and partial government shutdown. They are complaining that the House wants to break up the budgetary issues currently at odds in the continuing resolution. What the House is doing is a response to the utter gridlock on the huge omnibus appropriations bill currently at a standstill due to the Obama Administration’s intransigence. The House figured, OK, they don’t want to pass the CR we’ve given them, let’s take a step back, break it down, and fund things that need immediate attention.  This is seen as a “piecemeal” or “cherry-picking” approach by the Democrats. But is this attitude just another example of Democrat grandstanding?

I believe it is. Harry Reid said in an interview:

“Now they are focusing on trying to cherry-pick some of the few parts of government that they like,” Reid said. “Just another wacky idea by the tea party-driven Republicans. … We support veterans, and parks, we support the FBI, we support the federal government, that’s our job that’s what we do. We can’t and we won’t be forced to choose between parks and cancer research or disease control or highway safety or the FBI, or national security agencies.” — Salt Lake Tribune, Oct. 9, 2013

On the surface, it sounds like Ol’ Harry “Cowboy Poet” Reid has a point, but that point is fragile, like that of a mechanical pencil. Subject it to too much pressure, and it snaps off.

Congressional appropriations, according to Jessica Tollestrup, Analyst on Congress and the Legislative Process for the Congressional Research Service, come in three major types: regular appropriations bills, continuing resolutions, and supplemental appropriations measures. The type that, under normal circumstances, provides most of our government’s funding is the regular appropriations bill.

The normal process during the Congressional year is for the budget (supposed to be offered by the President) to be broken down into around 12 or so separate chunks, each of which is considered by a separate appropriations subcommittee. Spending bills are originated in the House, by Constitutional requirement, and the Senate wrangles over possible changes to what the House committees propose. Each chunk addresses a different area of government spending. When things are going as laid out in the Constitution, the process goes back and forth until a budget is acceptable to both the House and the Senate, then each chunk, each a separate appropriations bill, is given to the President to sign or veto.  (This is highly simplified, for the full process refer to the CRS document at http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/97-684.pdf)

But things are not normal right now. Congress has not been able to agree on a budget for around 5 years. The President passed down a couple, but they didn’t work for Congress. The House has passed a number of budgetary measures, but the Senate didn’t accept them, such as the Ryan plan. Yes, it has been that long since we had an actual budget.  In order to keep functioning in absence of a budget, Congress has resorted to the second type of appropriations bill, the Continuing Resolution. But just because it’s a CR doesn’t mean it’s not supposed to be broken out into its usual chunks and put in a bunch of smaller bills. What we’ve got, though is one huge bill with everything in it, an omnibus bill.

Omnibus bills are typically an attempt to save time by putting everything in the same package deal. While they can, under some circumstances, help with getting things done before deadlines, it’s easy to hide jokers like earmarks, special interest favors, and other kinds of “pork” because they are usually huge. Such large documents are rarely completely understood because there’s never enough time to read them. They are a strategy to slam-dunk a whole lot of extra stuff into the “law of the land” along with the main body of the budget.  They’ve been getting more and more popular since the 70’s, containing more and more and more of the budget in a single, unwieldy bill.

The Omnibus Bill
“Read The Bill!”

Remember Nancy Pelosi’s famous “we need to pass it so we can find out what’s in it” line about the Obamacare bill? That’s what happens when you have omnibus bills — they’re so big that you have legislators like John Conyers saying “I love these members, they get up and say, ‘Read the bill.’ What good is reading the bill if it’s a thousand pages and you don’t have two days and two lawyers to find out what it means after you read the bill?”  It’s quite simple — bills in general in Congress were supposed to be smaller, easier to read and understand, making it actually possible to do the work of Congress properly in the time allotted them. Such omnibus bills are too big to fully grasp.

Congressmen have complained about omnibus bills vociferously in the past, including prominent Democrats, and at least one President has made his displeasure known. President Ronald Reagan, in his 1988 State of the Union address, thunked down three huge stacks of budget bills weighing in at 42 pounds.  He was quite clear when he said:

“Congress shouldn’t send another one,” said President Reagan, forcefully. “No, and if you do, I will not sign it.”

He received a standing ovation. A bipartisan standing ovation. It was justified — this was the second time in two years, the third time ever, that all 13 regular appropriations bills were presented as an omnibus.  Ten years later, then House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-MO) had this to say about another 40-pound appropriations conference report:

“Ronald Reagan was right. It was a bad way to do business in 1988, and it’s a bad way to do business in 1998.”

This wasn’t even as large a bill as the one Reagan was angry over — it only contained 8 regular appropriations bills, but it was accompanied by numerous other authorization measures and a generous helping of “pork”.

In 2004, HR 2673, yet another Consolidated Omnibus Appropriations Bill, clocked in at 455 pages. Many Democrat Congressmen stood to complain about this bill’s size, and the inability to comprehend it completely.  Representative Brian Baird (D-WA) said, in reference to the bill’s size:

“Mr. Speaker, here is the bill. I hesitate to lift it. I think it is an OSHA violation. This is it.  It became available to us at 12:15 last night. It is less than 12 hours later, and we are going to be voting on this in a very short time. Something is wrong with our democracy.” (Emphasis mine)

Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) stood to issue the following complaint:

“Mr. Speaker, this bill comes before us is an omnibus bill because we did not take all the bills, vote on them on the floor, and the Senate did not do it either.”

Mr. Nadler’s comment implies that if an omnibus bill is presented, Congress didn’t do its job properly.  The proper, normal, and reasonable procedure should be to present individual subcommittee bills, each short enough to be comprehensible in the time allowed. Representative Diana DeGette (D-CO) expresses her agreement with this concept:

“A lot of mischief can come from a bill that is a $388.4 billion bill, 14.75 inches thick. I measured it, which was filed sometime after midnight. I will guarantee my colleagues not one Member, including the gentleman from Florida, read this bill, even on the Internet…This is wrong. It is the wrong way to do it. It is the wrong way to debate it; and as far as I know, given this massive spending bill that no one has read, as far as I am concerned, it is just the tip of the iceberg. Vote ‘no’ on the rule, vote ‘no’ on the bill.”

But now, when the Democrats are under the gun and a beloved step towards their shining goal of single-payer healthcare is threatened with defunding, suddenly the proper method of multiple smaller bills is a “wacky idea”. It is derided in the media as “piecemeal” and “cherry-picking”, even though it used to be the way it was always done.

Don’t be fooled by the Democrats’ whining. It is normal to break up appropriations bills into smaller, easier-to-handle pieces, it is normal to try to defund things that your party believes are wrong, or may harm the country, and it is normal for both houses of Congress and the President to negotiate over contentious issues. All of this moaning and groaning and petulant refusals to do their jobs are nothing but theatrics, and hypocritical theatrics to boot.

And lastly, I refer back to an earlier post of mine — all of these complaints about the ACA being “the law of the land”, how it got passed (along party lines), and how SCOTUS found favorably for it are nothing but intimidation, intended to keep people from challenging it. NO law is immutable. NO law, even one that SCOTUS has decided upon, is untouchable.

Why is there such worry about who the President appoints to the Supreme Court, whether they’ll be left-wing or right-wing?  Because SCOTUS can revisit decisions and overturn them. The Democrats are always concerned that SCOTUS might swing to the right, and revisit something like Roe v. Wade, just as the Republicans are concerned that SCOTUS might swing to the left and revisit DC v. Heller. When someone says “it’s the law of the land”, you should mentally append “for the time being”, since any law is subject to repeal, modification, regulation, a new SCOTUS case, or having a decision overturned completely.  The court might revisit the ACA…and next time, John Roberts might change his mind, who knows?

Respectfully Submitted.

 

I’ve been over a Cliff. It wasn’t fun. We’re nearing another. Do we go over?

When I was very young, around 5 or 6 years old, my brother and I were left alone in a 1980 Chevette at the top of a driveway. The driveway faced away from an unprotected cliff; one could walk right up to the edge and see down every inch of the 75 foot drop to the parking lot below.

My brother, wanting to play race car driver (in a Chevette? Really?), jumped into the driver’s seat, while I sat in the hatch back, one of my favorite places to sit while being driven around. It was quite a different time than we’re in now.

My brother had managed to knock the car out of gear, and we started rolling backward toward the cliff. I was the first to realize what was going on, but unfortunately I was also privy to front row seating to what may very well have been the end of the world for my brother and I.

So, it turns out, our worlds didn’t end. My brother and I survived what looked like almost certain death with very little injury at all. I’ve some scars, my brother’s one scar healed and disappeared over the years, and neither one of us remembers the event.

Now I hear there’s another cliff approaching, and it makes me wonder if we’re in all that much trouble, seeing as how I’ve been over one before. Having experienced danger and survived nearly unscathed often makes one braver in the face of the same danger, but also more wary. There’s a lot of talk of a cliff in the news these days, and I, for one, am very wary of what’s coming.

The United States, in its rise through its Industrial Revolution, two World Wars and several other scarring events, including the indelible marks of terror in Oklahoma City and on 9-11, has weathered every one of these events with courage and resolute dignity. It may be that we’re unable to see the danger associated with our present condition due to our ability to withstand our past tragedies, but, based on what I’m reading and hearing from those who take our Nation’s fiscal condition very seriously, we will not be able to weather this “Fiscal Cliff” and continue to be the United States we’ve known.

There are two directions being discussed to address our Nation’s fiscal condition, but neither one of them actually addresses the problem. As a doctor will treat the cause of the symptoms instead of simply medicating away the symptoms, so must Congress and the President address the cause of our fiscal destruction instead of simply salving the symptoms. Our Nation can ill afford to continue failing to meet its obligations in a way that doesn’t expose our citizens to the irresponsibility of passed Congressional malfeasance.

We’ve spent our way into a sealed tomb. While the “Full Faith and Credit of the United States Government” still means something, we need to cauterize the wound that bleeds our Nation out, address how to pay for our previous largess, and bind our Nation’s financial future to a balanced budget that will only allow for borrowing in times of dire need, instead of using borrowing to fund the majority of our Federal Government’s activities, many of which are not legitimate in terms of our spending is concerned.

Until we do something about our Government’s insatiable appetite for our money, present and future, borrowed and otherwise, there will be no way to back away from the “Fiscal Cliff”. There will be no way to build a bridge far enough to get us over the chasm, and there will be no way to keep us from seeing the suicide of the greatest experiment in self governance humanity has ever known. Our founders knew this day would come, and they told us as such during the Nation’s founding. Why have we failed to heed their warnings?

A better question… How much longer will we be allowed to ignore their warnings before things are so far gone we’re not able to recover?