The Agitator by Oliver_Halle
The Agitator #112: Freedom and responsibility
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The Agitator #92 - Cobb County lobbyist?
by Oliver_Halle
November 07, 2013 03:33 PM | 624 views | 0 0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

The MDJ reported on Monday, November 4th that Cobb County commission chairman Tim Lee plans to send out a request for proposal for a lobbyist firm that can handle lobbying on both the state and federal level.  The article stated that $125,000 is budgeted for lobbying, but it is not known what the final cost will be since no contract has yet been negotiated. 

Surely I can’t be one of only a few Cobb taxpayers that is troubled and bewildered by this expense, but as I write this there have been only two comments on the MDJ website to the story, and no LTE’s as of yet.  If Chairman Lee can pull this off I can only wonder if all the anger over political issues has been used up on Obama. 

Lee says that it is about who can build relationships with elected officials.  Really.  All along I thought that local elected officials built relationships not only with other officials on the state and federal level that serve Cobb County, but also various administrators and officials that can affect our county.  Not only are there Republican Party Saturday breakfasts that seem to be well attended by the Cobb delegation and our federal representatives, but there are countless other gatherings and meetings where business can be discussed.  If Lee is not attending these breakfasts and gatherings (I don’t know what his participation record is), then as a full time commission chairman he is not engaging in one of the functions that the taxpayers have a right to expect from him.  One would think that he would have more credibility discussing issues with elected officials than a paid shill. 

Lee rightfully pointed out that it is not possible to know every committee chairperson at the state capitol, chairpersons that may have significant power over legislation that impacts Cobb residents.  But it is hard to believe that our state representatives don’t have relationships with these people.  Why can’t Lee have them “lobby” the appropriate chairperson?  Isn’t that something that goes with the job of being a state rep?  Would a contract with a lobbying firm put limitations on money it spends working to get some desired result?  Or would a lobbyist be able to bill for expenses that are exempted from the new state ethics law governing what monies can be paid to officials?  Would the lobbyist be required to file reports to the commission that could be obtained under the Open Records Act?  Is the lobbying firm going to consist of former state representatives that are part of the “club” that gets access? 

To sum up, I can’t figure out why the taxpayers should pay for someone to do what Lee should be doing himself.  One would think that Lee would have developed good working relations with the Cobb delegation by now, and if he hasn’t maybe it’s time for him to seek other employment.  In fact, maybe that’s what he ultimately has in mind, to become a lobbyist himself after ingratiating himself with whichever firm was to get this contract.  This should not be allowed to happen, and with all the negativity about spending, this is one spending item that the commissioners should vote down.  If there is all this extra money to pay for a lobbyist, perhaps instead it could be better spent by hiring three more police officers who do real work and individually get paid about a third of what Lee proposes. 

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The Agitator #91 - Whose America?
by Oliver_Halle
October 31, 2013 08:45 AM | 522 views | 3 3 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

The cry on the right stays on track, that we are spending too much money and bankrupting our great country. You can’t leave out the children in this plaint and they don’t. The same folks never lose an opportunity to express their concern that tomorrow’s children will bear the burdens of our spending today, and that it’s all about them. In the next breath, though, they want to cut taxes that fund education. In some counties in America, to include Cobb, seniors are exempted from paying school taxes. Many of the same concerned citizens are among this group, but if you tried to eliminate this tax break to fund the future captains of industry, you would be run out of town.

Students are drowning in debt unless they won the genetic lottery and can get an academic scholarship, or were born into families with financial resources. What this often means is that an otherwise intelligent person may not be able to pursue a post graduate study that could lead to a professional career. This is because of the golden handcuffs of a current job that pays down student loans. Any number of other countries consider the young an investment in that country’s future and put education at the top of their priorities. Not in the land of opportunity, though, the greatest country on earth. As a result we are not producing the engineers, scientists, and other creators in the numbers that are needed to sustain our nation’s record of accomplishments. Many who “got theirs” because of the largess of tax paid educations, to include public schools, don’t blink at cutting this form of government spending. There are the usual objections to all the waste, as though waste and fraud don’t happen in the private sector.

As the congress and senate try to come to agreement on a budget resolution, one thing that is not likely to change is the multiples of spending on the elderly versus the younger generation. Seniors vote and are a very powerful force. I have been at political gatherings where they are vocal about the runaway spending, about the kids being shortchanged, but if asked to sacrifice and pay more for their Medicare or Social Security, you hear all sorts of objections on why that would be unfair. While Obamacare continues to be today’s popular punching bag, you won’t find one person on Medicare who would be willing to give it up to buy insurance in the private sector. Could it be because of preexisting conditions that might exclude them, coupled with the cost of paying premiums that reflect the real costs of the services they get?

There is a lot of room to cut big budget items, but you don’t read much about it. I’ve mentioned getting rid of Medicare Part D, the drug portion that is costlier than Obamcare. Agricultural subsidies, bank loan guarantees that taxpayers fund, and a tax code that favors investors and other wealthy over people who earn their living doing real work, may get passing lip service at best. Same for unneeded defense contracts and obsolete military bases. How often do you hear about multibillion dollar cost overruns and fraud in defense contracts? When you do it’s hardly the lead story or front page news. When was the last time your representative talked about it? It’s become a game where both the contractor and Pentagon point fingers at each other, and the taxpayer hasn’t a clue as to who really is responsible. But since it’s defense money it’s not popular to bring it up in one of the typical canned speeches your rep gives at the local civic club.

To sum this all up no one could do it better than Texas Republican representative Blake Farenthold. He is a man of the people and wants to “reduce the size of government, lower taxes, and increase freedom.” During the government shutdown a disabled veteran told this patriotic American that he was concerned about losing his disability check. Blake responded about freedom not being free and the need to make small sacrifices. I bet readers would be shocked to know that Farenthold never wore the uniform of this country and got a tax subsidized education at the University of Texas-Austin. If this guy and other like-minded types are reelected in 2014, we will get what we asked for. And it won’t resemble the America that many of us once knew.

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B D Lane
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November 07, 2013
Hey, Oliver.

I think that we could definitely find points of agreement in content from this article when discussing certain things like the hypocrisy of entitlement, e. g. "I'm old and entitled, but *you're* not entitled."

However, I also think that you are speaking here with way too broad brushstrokes. This is, of course, inevitable in a column... but you do reveal some ideological biases that can quickly be addressed.

For example, the fact that there is waste in private industry--and there is--you seem to not understand why people get more worked up about waste in government. The reason is simple. I don't care if someone flushes dollar bills down a toilet as long as he doesn't take those dollar bills from *my* wallet! Government is funded by you and me. That's the difference.

Also, most of a public school's budget goes to salaries and benefits (pre university), but there is definitely waste. Why is it wrong to look at this waste and try to get rid of it? (And I say this with a great deal of empathy for teachers who have actually made very real sacrifices in Georgia via furlough days, salary freezes, and--worst of all--massively increased class sizes, which make it hard to teach well.) Perhaps we could meet somewhere in the middle to look at education budgets? To do the right thing for kids? Like Guido, I don't think that particular problem is caused by money.

Also, there's a pretty compelling argument for how government involvement in higher ed has driven up tuition costs faster than the rate of inflation. Can we look at this as well? Why does it cost so much for post-graduate studies?

These questions could spark some real--and valuable--exchanges to move society to a better place... to find compromise, yes?

BDL

The Agitator #90 - It's gonna get worse
by Oliver_Halle
October 23, 2013 09:18 AM | 541 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

I think most Americans, and that includes Democrats (despite self-righteous “patriots” thinking otherwise), could find no logic or reason behind the closing of national monuments that were open and part of the landscape. I haven’t read anything to date, other than a lot of uninformed opinion and statements without evidence, that Obama was behind it. Sometimes I wonder how he gets anything done with all of his micromanaging of the most minute details of governing. Oh well, when you hate someone enough you can make it up and swear it’s true. But to be clear, I didn’t support the closing of national monuments to WW II veterans or anyone else. It was a bad move for sure, but as bad as it was, there are other forgotten Americans who got caught up in the government shutdown that didn’t get the same media attention.

The shutdown reduced our nation’s GDP, which is not a good thing during an economy that is still in recession to most people despite statements to the contrary. No restaurant, food service purveyor, gasoline wholesaler or retailer, by way of example, can make up for lost business, and there are lots of other businesses that also depend on daily traffic. Those who condemn federal workers as being lazy, underworked and overpaid should make a statement and not accept the cash of anyone they know to be on the “government dole.” Too few probably don’t realize that for every dollar anyone spends, it gets circulated four times.

But things are gonna get worse. Now that new target dates have been set to pass a budget and approve raising of the debt ceiling, the fighting has just begun. Every special interest group from all segments of our society will be lobbying for the taxpayers to continue paying for or subsidizing this, that or the other government program. Now is a good time to be a lobbyist in Washington. This may be the best of times for them.

Consider that defense contractors will pound away at our reps to continue to fund weapons systems that the pentagon says we don’t need. And our reps, who proclaim to have more expertise about weapons than our career service members who actually wear a uniform, will prevail because in the end it is really about federally funded jobs programs. But that’s an unpopular term with Republicans. Defense sounds better. The same arguments will be used to keep unneeded military bases open. With all the experts in congress, most who wear flag lapel pins but never served their country, it would seem that we don’t need a Department of Defense.

Let’s not leave out other special interests that have deep pockets to protect their government gimmees. I don’t recall Ted Cruz talking about the antiquated agricultural subsidies that have outlived their once valid purpose. He has been silent, too, about the taxpayers that provide loan guarantees to the banks, which I thought was part of the free market system of risk and reward. Let’s not leave out flood insurance that the government subsidizes. Think about all the folks with homes on lakes, rivers and beaches that for some reason can’t afford what it would really cost to ensure their dwellings without taxpayer help. And then there are the grab bag of goodies in the tax code for those who make enough money to take advantage of them. But again, not a peep from Ted Cruz and his followers. Nope, Obamacare is their low hanging fruit right now despite the fact that it hasn’t even been fully implemented yet. The computer glitches have nothing to do with the law itself, and I won’t disagree with anyone that those problems shouldn’t have happened. That said, though, it will be fixed.

By the time all the special interests pound away at our representatives in Washington, when they throw mountains of campaign cash their way, some of the choices will be made easier. The unspoken for, those on food stamps and Medicaid, among other services for the down and out, will be the ones to take the torpedoes. In a country where cash is king, where legal bribery is part of our national ethos, those who can pay get results. The rest take shaft. As I’ve written here before, this is a three card monte game. And folks like Ted Cruz will have you focus on the one thing that has everyone’s attentions while emptying your pockets when you aren’t looking.

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The Agitator #89 - Obama the ogre
by Oliver_Halle
October 14, 2013 03:54 PM | 805 views | 4 4 comments | 18 18 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

The government shutdown continues with no end in sight as I write this.  Sure, an agreement will be reached, but it will be because of a crisis, whether a consequence of not raising the debt ceiling, or  because the Republicans will see their poll numbers drop like a sack of rocks.  In the meanwhile Obama is the ogre responsible for everything that is wrong with America.  The failure to create jobs, the shrinking of the military, increasing welfare benefits to the poor (corporate welfare is off the table among ideologues), and a host of other things gone south.  Never mind that congress is the one that passes spending bills.  That’s an irrelevant detail when you want to accuse Obama of being a dictator, a socialist, or a Nazi. 

Right now Obamacare is still the favorite punching bag of conservatives.  One doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry when it is characterized as socialized medicine.  The fact that I will still be choosing my own doctors and specialists within my private plan is irrelevant.  Also irrelevant is that their payments will come from private insurance companies.  My three main doctors all accept Medicare, but you wouldn’t know it if you listen to the horror stories from reactionary radio.  His Porkulous, Rush Limbaugh, never fails to demonize Obamacare and Medicare, yet he wouldn’t have any experience with either, especially because he admitted one time that he doesn’t need health insurance.  Lucky him. 

Obamacare has been mythologized like Ronald Reagan (whom I voted for twice with no regrets).  Whether the cost of healthcare is going up or down seems to depend on who you talk to.  I have read countless accounts from both sides.  For sure, though, you can’t depend on reliable information from people that you should trust, like our state insurance commissioner Ralph Hudgens.  He should be neutral on the subject and provide real facts instead of declaring outright that he is out to destroy the program.  Recently the AJC interviewed people representing different segments of society for their views of Obamacare.  One woman said that she opposed it.  She continued that she liked the provision that eliminated preexisting conditions and the one that kept her son on the family plan until he reaches 26.  Yet she declared that she couldn’t support the mandatory provision, the one component that Obamacare needs if it is to work. 

I haven’t forgotten that my healthcare costs have risen dramatically each year since about 1993.  I have also experienced the hassle of my doctors arguing with my insurance carrier on whether they will pay for a certain drug that the doctor says is more effective than the alternate one the insurance company wants prescribed, or whether or not the insurer will pay for a needed MRI.  So much for the myth of the doctor/patient relationship in the private sector.  But that’s what the Obamacare demonizers want you to believe, that you really do have a doctor/patient relationship in the private sector vice an insurance company relationship versus the patient and the doctor. 

As the government shutdown continues, in addition to the attacks on Obamacare, federal employees are also confronting the public firing squad.  What most don’t know is that the good paying jobs are those that require education, skills, experience, drug testing and background check that are usually more extensive than in the private sector.  Many have skills, such as the nuclear engineers with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that would pay in the private sector multiples of what they make working for the government.  And that’s just one example.  If this shutdown continues, more people will feel the immediate effects, and the ripple will become more of a tidal wave with time.  

Perhaps an illustration of why the two sides can’t come to agreement can be summed up by a guest column in the MDJ.  The columnist said, “Obama and the Democrats hate the military, they infantilize, punish and use the troops as political pawns regularly.”  There was a time when being a member of one political party or another didn’t infer that you were un-American or some kind of lout.  I wonder if Democratic Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth, who lost both legs as a helicopter pilot in Iraq, hates the military?  I am not a Democrat but vote mostly Democratic today, but I loved my time in the military and tell the world that it shaped my life.  With this kind of incivility that is shared by many on the right, we are probably in for some hard times ahead.  Modern day American politics at its worst.

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EM Buckner
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October 20, 2013
Mr. Halle is one of Cobb's best writers and thinkers. He quite consistently analyzes the day's issues--including the shutdown, brinksmanship on the debt, etc.--dispassionately, with a rounded perspective and an easy command of the facts. On this as on many other issues he is more thoughtful and more thought-provoking than many nationally published opinion-mongers.

Thanks, Oliver--and please don't let the irrational voices (like LA's) dissuade or discourage you. --Ed Buckner

The Agitator #88 - Shutdown and priorities
by Oliver_Halle
October 04, 2013 08:02 PM | 651 views | 1 1 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
It appears that the government shutdown will go on for a while longer.  I recall standing watches in the navy, and four letters you never wanted to hear repeated were CBDR.  This stands for constant bearing, decreasing range, which translated means that you are on a collision course and someone has to take action before it’s too late.  And that’s what is happening now with the budget stalemate getting ready to collide with the debt ceiling. 
 
The MDJ poll shows most in Cobb County blaming the Democrats for refusing to negotiate.  Around the country it’s probably a little more even.  Both sides fear that if they cave in, the other will have the stronger hand for the next three years.  Not a good recipe for anyone being the first to blink.  My view is that the president and the senate are on the high road in this instance. 
 
The senate has passed a clean bill that provides for a continuing resolution to fund the government for the next 45 days or so to give both sides a chance to work out differences in the reconciliation committee.  The minority faction of Republicans, but who under the Hastert rule can prevent a majority of Republicans from voting for the senate bill, which doesn’t defund ObamaCare, won’t budge.  I always thought that elections matter, that in congress the majority rules, and if there is a constitutional issue, the Supreme Court decides it.  Not so this time.  The Republicans want to hold up funding the government through extortionate tactics instead of the process set forth in the Constitution. 
 
I have to wonder what would happen if there was a Republican president and Democratic House, and the Democrats refused to pass a budget or continuing resolution unless the Republicans agreed to vote for a partial birth law or other law that Republicans find anathema.  Actually, the answer is obvious.  What’s happening today could set a very bad precedent for both sides.    
 
I hear reactionary radio pundits bashing federal employees with the usual tripe of them being underworked and overpaid.  Many of their listeners who own small and large businesses agree with these know-it-alls who never did anything for America.  We only have their self-serving statements about them being great Americans and representative of American thinking.  But with the shutdown a lot of small businesses are realizing that a goodly amount of their money comes directly or indirectly from people who get checks from the government.  Each dollar spent has a multiplier effect of approximately four, and I doubt that any business owner checks to see where a consumer got his money.   Businesses are also discovering just how much they depend on government services for their own operations.  And big businesses, like defense contractors, pour a ton of money into the economy that trickles down to a lot of other folks.  But not now.  And it will get worse with the passage of time and countless layoffs in businesses big and small. 
 
I do have an idea to end the crisis, though.  I didn’t want to just sit back and criticize without being part of the solution.  If some invisible government force could shutdown all professional and college sports, at both the stadium and media levels---a complete blackout---I would predict that both houses and the president would find a solution in under a day.  Americans don’t like their sports entertainment screwed with, and no elected official who wanted to continue in office, if not live for a few more years, would fail to do what was necessary to appease the sports fans.  America would be back to work and all would live happily ever after.  If only it was so.   
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Laura Armstrong
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October 13, 2013
I notice you omit the obvious punishment being meted out to your fellow veterans by this administration, my friend. Someone needs to call you on it, and it might as well be me.

Please, Oliver, do tell what you think of the intentional pain put on military families, elderly veterans trying to visit their memorials and crass lack of caring for even children with cancer as expressed by Harry Reid and admitted to by Obama in recent interviews (read Jonah Goldberg in the MDJ)? Hard partisanship is one thing, and you can continue to vent against "those who "never did anything for America" but really Oliver, not allowing veterans to assemble at their own monuments when they are literally SCENERY? This isn't Bush's fault and the vindictiveness is owned by Obama, who has the last word.

The Agitator #87 - Government shutdown madness
by Oliver_Halle
September 30, 2013 03:23 PM | 744 views | 1 1 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
We are rapidly approaching the October 1st deadline for congress to pass a budget resolution to keep government open for a while longer.  Right behind that date will be the vote on whether to raise the debt ceiling.  And if a growing segment of tea party Republicans have their way, government will shut down if Obamacare isn’t defunded as part of the resolution, or if defunding isn’t tied to raising the debt ceiling.  Loud voices from the right are yelling for government to close shop until they get their way. 
 
Now if government shuts down and inconveniences a lot of people, someone has to take the blame.  Ted Cruz and some reactionary columnists, to include the MDJ, say that it will be the fault of the Democrats.  The reason is so simple:  the majority of Americans don’t want Obamacare to be implemented.   Therefore the Democrats should be willing to compromise and at a minimum agree to delay implementation for a year so that both sides can come up with something better.  Of course, when a majority of Americans wanted congress to close loopholes concerning the sale of firearms, they were ignored by our representatives as legislation to accomplish this went down in flames.  But somehow that’s different.  And our two senators from Georgia were among those that voted against the wishes of the majority. 
 
Keep in mind that the Republicans in the six years they had the White House and both houses of congress only came up with Medicare Part D, the far more costly healthcare program than Obamacare.  As part of the package they made sure that their benefactors were taken care of and banned the government from negotiating with pharmaceuticals for getting the best prices for drugs.  There was no attempt made to overhaul healthcare for Americans. 
 
In our republican form of government we elect representatives to vote for us.  Like it or not, a majority, which happened to be all Democratic, passed the Affordable Healthcare Act.  As part of the social contract and good citizenship to obey all laws and abide by the Constitution, to include court interpretations of both,  until a law is changed through the democratic process it is the law of the land.  To use extortion to overturn a law by threatening to shutdown the government if opponents don’t get their way is about as un-American as you can get.  
 
What is confounding is how Republicans supported a universal healthcare law in the past.  Newt Gingrich and the conservative Heritage Foundation were among the supporters.  Obamacare was modeled on Mitt Romney’s plan for Massachusetts, but we know how that all played out.  Today Massachusetts has only four percent of its populace that is uninsured.  Georgia is close to twenty percent, and Ted Cruz’ state, Texas holds the record at twenty four percent.  Meanwhile, those of us who have insurance are paying for those who don’t, many who claim that it’s their right not to have insurance but who will show up at the ER and expect to be treated on your nickel.  On this point Romney was right---everyone should have skin in the game.  
 
I’ve said it before in my commentaries that most Americans detest the tax code because of the gross inequities that have been insinuated into it over the years from special interests, and the overall unfairness of the code.  We all have things that our tax money goes for that we personally object to.  But part of our social contract is to accept the law of the land and change things through the democratic process.  Those who support Ted Cruz may be the victims of the curse of the Greek gods: their wish could come true.   And if it does, watch the effect on the economy.  It will not be pleasant.  Senator Isakson said on NPR a few months ago that a government shutdown wouldn’t happen.  He will have to decide if statesmanship lies with supporting the tea party Republicans or those who think it madness to close shop over Obamacare.
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Guido Sarducci
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October 01, 2013
Yes, the federal government is closed after the House passed a new budget last night delaying ObamaCare's individual mandate and requiring politicians to live under the law forced on citizens. Harry Reid then led Senate Democrats on a straight party line vote to reject all of it late last night. Now we're at an impasse. Meanwhile, Barack Obama says he will not negotiate. He will with Iran but he won't with Congress. This moment is the inevitable culmination of Obama's war on all those citizens who disagree with ObamaCare and my-way-or-the-highway public policy on debt, spending, regulation and taxes. ObamaCare starts today and the government is shut down because of it.

The Agitator #86 - Guns and mental illness
by Oliver_Halle
September 20, 2013 04:27 PM | 844 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

It seems that each time there is a mass murder involving some kind of firearm, every pop psychologist and special interest is ready with an answer.  I doubt that any two subjects can work up the American people to take a position on one side or the other that guns and abortion do. 

Lots of things went wrong in the current case of Aaron Alexis, the Washington Navy Yard shooter.  For starters, his military record, which included a less than honorable discharge should have been a red flag.  Then there were two reported shooting  incidents, neither of which ended with a prosecution.  One involved an “accidental” discharge of Alexis’ weapon into his upstairs neighbor’s apartment as he was “cleaning” it, despite evidence that the two were feuding.  The second involved shooting out someone’s tires.  Both would seem to have deserved to go the distance in the court system, but for whatever reasons they didn’t.  There was also an arrest in DeKalb County that somehow got disposed of.  Arrests don’t show up on data base searches; only convictions do. 

But law enforcement and its components have access to computerized arrest records that would have picked up all of Alexis’ arrests.  How that got passed the agency that did the background check for Alexis’ security clearance is a mystery.  It was also documented by police in Rhode Island that Alexis thought that he was being bombarded with some kind of rays by people out to get him.  That should have prompted a little more digging, but it didn’t.

What I have provided here is nothing more than a little background, which is really a red herring that the reactionary radio spinmeisters are using to deflect the problem of ready access to weapons to almost anyone who wants to get their hands on one.  The talking heads are blaming the whole shooting on Alexis having some sort of mental illness, that mental illness is the cause of these shootings, that if the security clearance check had been properly done all the victims would be alive.  Oh really?  How do they know that Alexis, without access to the Navy Yard wouldn’t have displaced his anger and taken it out somewhere else that had no security?  Another point they have repeatedly hammered at is how the “liberal media”, (never mind that Fox was part of the same reporting), initially broadcast that the shooter was armed with an AR-15, when it turned out to be some kind of shotgun.  I’m sure the victims and their families are relieved that the killer weapon turned out not to be the assault weapon that only “liberals” want to eliminate. 

The focus de jure among Second Amendment defenders is mental illness and how we need to do something about it, how this is the real problem, and that most of these mass murders wouldn’t occur if we just dealt with the “real problem.”  I’m fine with that if only the same opinionators would come up with a solution instead of just identifying the problem, if they would realize how silly they come across as masters of the obvious. 

I don’t advocate gun confiscation, and I do believe homeowners and others with legitimate needs have the right to possess firearms.  However, I stand with Justice Antonin Scalia’s position that the government has the right to regulate and control certain weapons.   But as long as those who believe in the unbridled right  to own and possess any kind of weapon, and as long as these people feed the campaign coffers of our elected representatives, just eliminating some of the gigantic loopholes in the current gun laws won’t happen.  Despite polls after the Sandy Hook shooting that showed a majority of Americans wanted to close or tighten these loopholes, our two Georgia senators voted against such legislation.  Then I saw a chart of how much money they got from the special interests to defeat the legislation. 

Yet there are those who believe that politicians can’t be influenced by campaign contributions.  The past victims and future victims (to include their families) of these shootings deserve better, but they won’t get it.  Congress only moves when it’s to their advantage, when things affect them.  Recall that when the sequester first kicked in and the FAA reduced the number of aircraft controllers at airports.  This hit our peripatetic representatives directly, so what did they do?  They passed a law that allowed the FAA to prioritize how they cut their budget and to eliminate the furloughs for the controllers.  You can expect the same immediacy if the worst happened and a gunman went off on our legislators and their families at some gathering.  That would be tragic beyond imagination, but it would be a game changer overnight. 

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The Agitator #85 - Obama's worst hour
by Oliver_Halle
September 13, 2013 11:52 AM | 910 views | 3 3 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

Sometimes it just doesn’t pay to get up in the morning.  As careful as presidents are, and have to be with making speeches and off-hand remarks, they are still human.  Obama proved that with his red line comment a few months ago, and I’m sure he has wished many times that he could take it back.  His best explanation, or what some would call spin, couldn’t do enough damage control to keep the ship of state upright on the topic of Syria. 

I recall well during the Vietnam era one of the mantras from the right, “My country, right or wrong.”  I didn’t know at the time that the words belonged to the great naval hero, Stephen Decatur, that they were out of context, and that the rest of it included the hope that our country would always be right in dealing with foreign nations.  With reference to Syria, to get involved at this stage would be wrong for a lot of reasons, and Obama’s speech to the nation did nothing to dispel that belief. 

Obama made a strong emotional argument that mentioned children victimized by the illegal use of gas.  No argument from me on that point, but he did not include any mention of children and other innocents killed and maimed by artillery or outright executions.  The issue I had hoped he would address concerned the “imminent” or at least “immediate” threat to the United States or any of our interests.  He rightfully pointed out that Assad would not use gas against Israel or the United States any more than Saddam Hussein used it against Israel or the United States.  While I don’t think a limited strike of the type Obama proposed would have any effect, even less so do I believe it considering all of the telegraphing Obama has done concerning the type of mission it would be, promises of no boots on the ground, no planes crossing Syria airspace, and what the targets would be.  I’ve never seen anything crazier.  If we were going to do a very limited and targeted strike, it should have been done with no warning, and it should have been fast and furious to accomplish the mission.  In this instance I am reminded of General Douglas MacArthur’s words, that every battle that has ever been lost can be summed up in two words, “Too Late.” 

To suggest that even a limited mission as Obama proposes isn’t an act of war is the height of disingenuousness.  Imagine some country striking one of our bases in the U.S. and trying that explanation.  The notion that we can support a “friendly” insurgent group is another lesson that we should have learned from.  We tried it in Afghanistan in the 1980s when we supported the Mujahedeen against the Soviets   only to have our own weapons later turned on us.  And even if we helped an insurgency aligned with U.S. interests, who’s to say that they won’t be overthrown by another group?  The communists and nationalists in China come to mind, as does our support for a lot of dictators in countries that were later overthrown.  How many were alive in 1964 when Lyndon Johnson said that he wouldn’t send American boys to do what Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves.  We know how that turned out.  

It’s time that our vast sums of money propping up Arab nations with military hardware and training be put to good use.  Syria is in their backyard.  Let the Arab League undertake the mission of destroying Assad’s gas capabilities, and overthrow him if they think they will be better off with a new government.  Why should we take the lead?  The unintended and unforeseeable consequences of the U.S. leading this charge make no sense without there being a real threat to our country.  

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Oliver G. Halle
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September 15, 2013
Pete, First allow me to thank you for your kind remarks. What we probably have in common are the things that we want for our country to make it a better place to work, educate our children, live without economic, crime and other fears, and to enjoy our freedoms. Our differences mostly lie in HOW to get to the end zone. Reasonable people can differ, debate, and argue, and with that one can hope that the best ideas will be distilled. Thank you again for writing your comment.

The Agitator #84 - Budget gridlock
by Oliver_Halle
September 05, 2013 03:36 PM | 718 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

This is going to be an interesting six weeks or so.  First, there is the subject of the upcoming new fiscal year that begins October 1st.  Will congress pass continuing resolutions to keep government functioning, or will it shut it down, as some Republicans are threatening, if Obamacare isn’t defunded?  And then there is the debt ceiling that will be reached about two weeks later according the Secretary of the Treasury, Jacob Lew.  Again, a number of Republicans have said that they will not vote to raise it despite having voted for the spending of monies whose bills are now due.  Recall that the last time a debt ceiling compromise was reached we got sequestration. 

In case anyone has forgotten, the current sequestration involving cuts across the board is supposed to continue until 2022.  So far it has affected mostly programs that impact the poor.  When the FAA had to furlough aircraft controllers, our elected reps didn’t like having to wait at airports because of delayed flights, and somehow the funding was restored.  Robins AFB in Warner Robins was about to get hit hard with layoffs of civilian contractors until money was somehow found.  What many don’t realize is that laid off contractors spend a lot of money in the local economy.  A lot of other smaller communities that rely on the money that federal contractors bring are going to be in for some very hard times.  Cobb County will likely feel the pinch too with work related to Lockheed. 

The ripple effect of fewer dollars in the economy is coming our way.  My spending is your income, and vice versa.  When the money’s not there, guess who is going to get hurt?  I heard a financial radio talk show host the other day who gave some good advice to a caller about the need to cut nonessential spending and save more.  This was sound microeconomic wisdom, but I could sense the howling from the restaurants, coffee shops, house painters, cleaning services, the MDJ that relies on subscribers, and all the other small businesses that depend on the money that this person and others similarly situated will not put into the economy, which is what macroeconomics is all about.  What may good for the individual can be devastating for the larger community. 

We know from the experience of WW II that government spending is absolutely essential to the economy.  It was the single largest cause of ending the Depression.  Immediately after the war, when the government dramatically cut spending, many businesses suffered.  We also know that the costly GI Bill from that war was one of the biggest reason this country experienced prosperous times, that people who never could have afforded an education not only got one, they became the captains of industry and leaders of our great country.  Yet we have legislators who will never miss a stump speech to talk about our national debt and deficit spending, but vote for every spending bill that only benefits their constituents, particularly unnecessary weapons systems, and then denounce Obama who is responsible for ensuring that the invoices for these things get paid. 

For those who support Republicans because they promise to vote to defund Obamacare, you are the victim of their version of three card monte.  What have you heard lately about IRS hearings?  Any news from your congressman or senator about what they are doing to change the tax code? When it comes to taxes I have to believe that despite differences in political thought, especially with most people in Cobb County, we can agree that the tax code has got to go.  But it won’t.  And it won’t because the special interests like their credits and exemptions that give them an advantage, and they pay for it through campaign contributions and lobbying.  Meanwhile, as the three card monte of politics continues, once again  we are all the losers.  One thing for sure: As long as the same losers are reelected, we should not be surprised when things get a lot worse. 

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The Agitator #83 - Take no prisoners
by Oliver_Halle
August 26, 2013 02:03 PM | 660 views | 2 2 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

For the past couple of years or so, Senator Saxby Chambliss has spoken about bipartisanship, reaching across the aisle, and bridge building with Democrats in trying to govern and get important legislation passed.  For this Chambliss has been hammered by tea party members and other conservatives.  To these groups it’s all about winning, all about cramming their agendas down the throats of everyone else with no compromise and a take no prisoners attitude.  Lots of war metaphors are used to describe the type of legislator these folks want representing them.  What is disgusting, though, is the notion that somehow politics and governing is analogous to fighting a war.  

The current crop of Republican candidates to replace Chambliss seem to think that they have to take this extremist viewpoint, that if they are perceived as a moderate they don’t have a chance of being elected.  Perhaps in Georgia they are right (no pun intended), but at some point that attitude is going to see Georgia  and likeminded officials of other states, mostly from the South, marginalized and perceived like the Dixiecrats of old.  They’ll make great speeches, talk about how America is on the precipice of being taken over by communists, terrorists, Muslims, or any other group they can use to scare the masses, but you won’t see   legislative accomplishments from them.  I doubt that I am alone in hearing how frustrated the voters are at the inability of Congress to get anything done, but when these people vote, invariably they elect the same do-nothings.    

The Republicans had an opportunity to really make some changes, to do all the things that they now obstruct if any legislator with a D after his name is the one proposing it.  In the six years that the Republicans had the White House and both Houses of Congress, we saw no tax reform that would change the current system, no immigration reform, no healthcare reform, and no debt reduction plan---among some of the more important issues.  Now that these issues are topical, except for tax reform, not only are the Republicans and Democrats going at each other, there is the internecine squabbling within the Republican Party because some Republicans are perceived as giving in, compromising, selling out, and other pejoratives that are unprintable.  In return the voters get sequestration, an absurd way of dealing with budget issues.  Don’t forget that in 2010, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell when asked what his legislative priorities were never mentioned a single one of the things on the minds of the American people.  He said that his top priority was to unseat Obama in 2012.  That’s real statesmanship.  That’s really moving the ball downfield. 

Phil Gingrey represents the intransigence I am referring to.  He has stated that it’s time to “stand our ground”, to have the “courage of conviction”, all tough talk from a guy who begged Rush Limbaugh on his radio show to forgive him for making statements about the Republican Party that offended His Porkulous.  And then there was the time after the Sandy Hook shooting that Gingrey made some comments about guns that upset the gun folks, and it took less than a day for him to plead temporary insanity to his constituents for making such foolish comments.  In a perverted way I would like to believe that maybe Gingrey really is a compromiser despite his no prisoners approach, and would compromise when his feet are put to the fire.  Perhaps Rush Limbaugh can get Gingrey to compromise more frequently than Gingrey thinks he’s capable of doing.

It won’t be long before there may be a government shutdown because of the unwillingness of a significant number of Republicans who want to defund ObamaCare.  The only health plan that the Republicans have put on the table is one proposed by Tom Price.  And guess what?  His bill has almost no support within his own party.      

The American people are the losers for the bunch we have elected to serve us in Washington.  If only there was a way to have a  clean sweep.  But snake oil sells, and when you put it to the sound of sweet music, we have no chance. 

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Lib in Cobb
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August 28, 2013
Thank you Oliver, thank you.

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