Saturday, August 20, 2011

Shih-Tzu blogging.

Just because it's been a while since I have done this....

I wonder if there are doggies on the moon?

What? I was kind of busy here.

Well, since you interrupted my deep contemplation of the mysteries of the universe, I would really, really like for you to rub my tummy, if you have the time.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

I really feel for the parents and spouses of the 31 Americans killed in Afghanistan.

Read the story here in HuffPo if you haven't seen the news.

This is reminding me so much of the Vietnam war. I am old enough to have lived through that time, but young enough not to have been made to go and fight and possibly die for some reason that no one could really explain. Oh, there was probably a valid reason at the beginning for both wars, but as time dragged on and things changed, no one could really explain why we were there and expending our military, other than some vague Domino Theory and communists overrunning the world. In Afghanistan, I have no idea what is going on anymore and why we are there. Al Queida has either been destroyed or picked up stakes and moved into Pakistan. The Taliban LIVE in Afghanistan and it has been proven time and time again that foreign forces have huge problems when they are trying to subdue local forces. Just ask the Soviet Union. Oh yeah, the Soviet Union does not exist anymore, and their foray into Afghanistan was one of the main reasons it collapsed.

Why are we in Afghanistan? Really, why?

Thursday, August 04, 2011

This is an e-mail I wrote this morning to my local TV station about the FAA shutdown.

Why can't you say it's the Republicans who have partially shut down the FAA?

I saw your lead story on the 5:00 news last night (Aug. 3). All I gathered from it was that "Congress" couldn't come to an agreement on the FAA and that the lady you interviewed was upset with "Congress" for not doing its job. None of the Washington state politicians could tell you why this happened? Come on. A 30 second Google search would tell you exactly what is going on, and that it the House of Representative, under Republican control, inserted language into the FAA funding bill that would make it much more difficult for airline and railroad workers to unionize. That is not a secret! Plus, John MIca (R, Fl) admitted that he added language about defunding the rural airport program, mostly in Democratic states, just to "get people's attention." It was the Republicans who decided to use the FAA as a hostage to get what they want, after agitation by the CEO of Delta Airlines. The Democrats asked for a clean reauthorization bill, one that would fund the FAA without strings attached and Republicans refused. This is not a secret!

Are you afraid to say that it is the Republicans yet again who are throwing a wrench into government and are putting 10's of thousands of people out of work during a time of high unemployment? Why did you just incorrectly identify "Congress" as the bad guys here? That is so wrong, and I can't believe you can't get this right. This is one of the first times I have seen your news program lead off with a real hard news story, rather than the normal stuff involving sex or car crashes or house fires. You guys are really good at floods and snow. But come on. If you are going to try to cover a major news story like the FAA shutting down (for which I work, so I have a big stake in this), try to inform your viewing audience about what is REALLY behind it all. Otherwise, you are doing a great disservice to everyone and it looks like you are frightened of the truth. Even Kay Bailey Hutchison, a Republican Senator from Texas, said that the action by John Beohner's House was "not honorable", to send to the Senate a bill with riders like that that were not negotiated and that had such a drastic consequence. And then, it was the Republicans who decided to take their August break. Not Democrats. Not "Congress." Republicans.

I really, really expected better from you. Tell the truth, why don't you?

I wish I had said more, or in stronger terms, but I thought that this might be the maximum I could get away with and actually have someone read this. It won't help, of course. I would have thought that in a liberal place like Seattle, the TV and newspapers wouldn't be so unwilling to actually identify the culprits here. KOMO 4 TV, owned by Fisher Broadcasting. Anyone in the Puget Sound area, drop them a line if you don't like this hiding of the truth.

One thing I really wish I would have said is this. Republicans have voluntarily CHOSEN to govern by threats, intimidation, coercion and hostage taking. This is their new way of operating, and they are proud of it! John McConnell said as much after the debt deal was signed. This was so successful for them that they plan on doing it the next time! He admitted it, and was proud of it. So, if that is true, then why can't the press actually REPORT this? Why hide the fact, if Republicans themselves are patting themselves on the back?

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Lest anyone forget in the midst of this discussion about the debt ceiling debacle, the FAA remains partially shut down.

Here’s the HuffPo version to get your started.

The Senate, with the federal debt crisis resolved, is expected to leave by the end of the week for its August recess. The House has already left. Unless the Senate accepts the House bill, lost revenue from uncollected airline ticket taxes could exceed $1.2 billion before lawmakers return to work a month later, senators said.

The FAA's long-term operating authority expired in 2007. Since then, Congress has been unable to agree on a long-term funding plan. The agency has continued to operate under a series of 20 short-term extensions.

The latest extension expired at midnight on July 22 after Senate Democrats rejected a temporary extension bill passed by the House that contained the subsidy cuts. Senate Republicans blocked a Democratic extension that didn't include cuts.

The lost ticket tax revenue is costing the government an estimated $200 million a week. The FAA has furloughed nearly 4,000 employees and issued stop-work orders on more than 200 construction projects.

Air traffic controllers have remained on the job. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has vowed that safety won't be compromised and travelers won't be inconvenienced.

Three times in the last 10 days, senators' efforts to pass a bill to end the shutdown without making air service subsidy cuts have been blocked by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. Each time, Hatch has focused his remarks on the labor provision.

"I've been asked by our leadership to make these objections," Hatch explained Monday night. "What is important here – and it's not some itty-bitty little thing – is that you have labor regulators out of control."

To end the shutdown, he said, the Senate must agree to the House's labor provision. Then, the shutdown "would be solved in a nanosecond," he said.

The labor provision would overturn a National Mediation Board rule approved last year that allows airline and railroad employees to form a union by a simple majority of those voting. Under the old rule, workers who didn't vote were treated as "no" votes.

Republicans complain that the new rule reverses 75 years of precedent to favor labor unions. Democrats and union officials say the change puts airline and railroad elections under the same democratic rules required for unionizing all other companies.

The White House warned in March that President Barack Obama would veto an FAA bill containing the labor provision.

So, I will recap a couple of important points here.

• The FAA has been operating without a full authorization budget since 2007. They have been operating on a series of extensions that are good for some period of time, a year or less. This is because the Republicans won’t sign a full reauthorization bill until they get everything they want. (Sound familiar?)

• Now, the Republicans won’t even sign a short-term extension of the FAA’s budget without including several provisions that the Democrats really, really don’t like. (Sound familiar?)

• The one provision included by the Republicans that most people are talking about has to do with government support of rural airports designated as important but don’t earn enough money on their own. However, the big kicker is the one discussed above regarding changes to election laws. The Republicans want to make it much, much more difficult for railroad and aviation employees to unionize. The Democrats really can’t accept that, but the FAA is being held hostage until the Dems capitulate. (Sound familiar?)

• Without an operation budget, the FAA cannot collect fees from airlines and airports to the tune of about $200 million a week. All the people in the FAA who get their salary paid from this pot of money have been furloughed. All the contractors and subcontractors throughout the country who depend on getting paid by the FAA for work done on airports and other safety related projects are also out of work.

• After their hard work on getting almost total surrender from the Democrats during the debt ceiling debate, the Republicans in the House have decided to adjourn for the summer until sometime in August without giving the FAA an operating budget. Which means this mess we have now is going to continue for at least two more months.

I find this absolutely unconscionable. During a time of very high unemployment and also during a time when the Republican Party has declared that the federal debt was THE absolute most important thing that must be addressed, they are holding the FAA hostage until their demands are met. They are creating very real safety concerns, all because they do not like unions. The money that would fund the rural airports would have been able to be paid out of the missing revenue in a week!

There is one thing that I don’t think has really been emphasized in the media yet about this issue. There are about 4000 FAA employees on furlough right now. There are a small number of employees within that 4000 that are critical to the safety of the flying public. They travel extensively, going around to airports around the country and inspecting the facilities and supporting infrastructure, such as the transmitters for the Instrument Landing Systems. These are critical functions. These people have been asked by the FAA Administrator to continue working, without pay, and to put all their travel expenses on the credit cards, which are in their own names. The FAA employees get the bill, the FAA doesn’t. These people are dedicated enough to continue with their jobs, even though our totally screwed up government has decided that the FAA can be used as just one more hostage in their new way of “governing.”

The Republicans don’t care about unemployment. They apparently don’t care they are creating the potential for a very real safety issue. This isn’t democracy. I don’t know what it is, but it isn’t democracy.

I also know that when there is another commercial aviation accident or serious incident in this country, there will continue to be calls for the FAA to be more involved, that we aren’t providing enough oversight of the industry, and that we are too “cozy” with the industry we are regulating. There may be some validity in some of those arguments, but I think the despicable actions by the Republicans and by John Mica in particular have undercut any criticisms that they and the people who support them could point our way. They are saying that the safety of the commercial aviation system in this country is NOT a priority. Making it more difficult for some industry workers to unionize is much more important than aviation safety.

I don’t know what those people who are continuing to work without pay and who are putting their travel expenses (which are significant) on credit cards with their personal names on them will do if this continues.

Update: Here's more from Washington Monthly and Crooks and Liars.