Tag Archives: government shutdown

Congress and Trump give free paid vacation to federal workers during shutdown

The swamp wins: President Trump yesterday signed a Democratic Party bill guaranteeing the pay for all furloughed federal employees for the time they are either furloughed from work or working now without pay.

The signing of the Government Employee Fair Treatment Act of 2019, sponsored by Sen. Benjamin Cardin, D-Md., requires that all government employees be compensated for “wages lost, work performed, or leave used” during the shutdown, the Whitehouse announced in a news release.

Obviously, it seems just to pay for their time those who have been forced to work without pay. Why those who have not been needed are getting paid however seems very unjust, to the taxpayer. It would seem to me that they should not be paid for work they did not do. More apropos would be to consider removing them from the payroll permanently, as it appears based on this shutdown that most are likely unneeded to begin with.

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Shake-up at half billion dollar government ecology project

Even as the government shutdown continues, the contractor managing a $434 million ecology project has dismissed two project managers and dissolved a 20-member scientific advisory board.

The turmoil is the latest in a long line of woes for NEON, which launched in 2000 and has faced ballooning budgets and allegations of mismanagement by its previous operator. Battelle took over NEON’s operations in 2016 and, in 2018, appointed Collinge, an environmental scientist at the University of Colorado Boulder, as the network’s observatory director and chief scientist. The non-profit also created the 20-member Science, Technology & Education Advisory Committee (STEAC) to advise NEON.

STEAC members credit Battelle with saving NEON, and construction of its observatories is now on schedule. But several see the dismissals and cancellation of the board as a breach of trust with the scientists who hope to use NEON data. “That’s burning bridges, which you just can’t afford to do in a small community,” says Ankur Desai, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

“I understand fully that this is very difficult and emotional for some people,” says Battelle spokesperson Patrick Jarvis. “Our goal remains to develop amazing data products and help the research community understand what’s going on at the broadest ecological level.”

The article includes a lot of whining by scientists about this, but I wonder. I also wonder at this project’s real scientific value. It could be legitimate, with the contractor merely cleaning house to make it run better. Or maybe it’s a boondoggle that is aimed solely at confirming the politically-driven environmental theories of the green activist community. If I had to guess, based on the track record of most big government projects these days, I’d pick the latter.

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Pressure builds on Trump to declare national emergency to fund border wall

The coming dark age: Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) joined a growing chorus from the right calling for President Trump to fund and build the border wall by declaring an national emergency.

Trump himself has raised this option, and has even looked into the legality. Whether he will do it remains at this moment unknown.

What is known is that to do such a step would continue the ugly process of increasing the arbitrary power of the president, irrelevant to Congress or elections. This process has been on-going since President Roosevelt in the 1930s and 1940s, but it accelerated significantly during Obama’s term. If Trump bypasses Congress he will further cement the idea that the President can do whatever he wants, without restrictions.

The eventual result will be a dictatorship, not by Trump but by a future President, in the not too distant future. I say this as a historian who has studied how democratic governments fall. We are heading that way.

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Corrupt Washington moves to permanently fund itself

The coming dark age: A group of Republican Senators have introduced legislation that would make future government shutdowns impossible by creating a permanent continuing resolution should budget negotiations fail.

Currently, when Congress fails to meet a deadline to pass a government funding bill, the agencies which remain unfunded shut down. Often, Congress chooses to pass what’s called a continuing resolution (CR) to delay and extend the deadline to pass funding bills, which keeps funding operations at their current levels. The “End Government Shutdowns Act” would automatically create a continuing resolution for any appropriations bill not passed by Oct. 1, the deadline to pass a bill funding the government for the next fiscal year. In theory, this would allow members of Congress to continue to negotiate over appropriations while keeping the government open.

CR funding would be reduced by 1 percent after 120 days, and would be reduced by another 1 percent every 90 days “until Congress does its job and completes the annual appropriations process,” according to the release announcing the bill.

To put this in plain language, this bill would make permanent all government funding, forever, while taking all power from the voters to influence what the government does. Congress would no longer need to do anything to get its money to its cronies, and no matter what the voters did, the money would still flow. The one percent reduction in funding every 90 days is worthless, a mere bone to make everything think they mean business. It would be years before any government department would feel a pinch from this reduction, and in that time they would easily have the opportunity to get the reduction canceled.

Note that the bill was introduced by Republican senators, including “libertarian” Mike Lee (R-Utah). If this doesn’t demonstrate that the people in Washington, from both parties, and from across the political spectrum, have no interest in the national interest, nothing will.

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FBI union says FBI operations hurt by shutdown

My heart bleeds: The head of the union that represents FBI agents petitioned Congress today, stating that the government shutdown is now beginning to affect FBI operations.

Does this mean they will no longer be able to perform their duties as Democratic Party operatives, spying on Republican candidates and working to void legal elections where Democrats are defeated?

Or does it mean that he fears we may discover that we don’t need them that much, that the work they do is generally pointless and a waste of the taxpayers’ money?

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Shutdown and government politics slows some science work

The partial government shutdown appears to be causing problems for some researchers, some of it fake and some of it real.

The article doesn’t put it that way. Instead, it sells the shutdown as a terrible tragedy, blocking all work by scientists, a claim that simply isn’t true if you read the article honestly.

The real problems include cases where the closure of government buildings prevents scientists from accessing their labs or research samples. The fake problems include things like this:

Rattlesnakes, bears, hurricanes, and freezing weather haven’t stopped ecologist Jeff Atkins from taking weekly hikes into Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park for the past 8 years to collect water samples from remote streams. But Atkins is now facing an insurmountable obstacle: the partial shutdown of the U.S. government, in its third week.

Park managers have barred Atkins from entering since 22 December 2018, when Congress and President Donald Trump failed to agree on a deal to fund about one-quarter of the federal government, including the National Park Service. That has shut down the sampling, part of a 40-year-old effort to monitor how the streams are recovering from the acid rain that poisoned them in past decades.

There is no reason this scientist can’t enter the park and get his samples. In fact, Trump administration policy has kept the national parks open, even if no one is working there. I am thus very suspicious of the claim that he is “barred” from entering.

Then there are claims that government scientists are forbidden from attending conferences. Bah. They aren’t slaves. If the conference is that important, they should go on their own dime. And if they aren’t willing to go, it makes me suspect their work is not that important. In fact, I know this, as I have watched many government scientists attend conferences merely to tout the wonderful things their government agency is accomplishing, not to really report on science.

The article also makes a big deal about the loss of pay to these individual scientists. My heart bleeds. For one thing, as government workers they are generally paid at a far higher rate, with many more benefits, than most taxpayers, who for the past decade have been suffering far worst economic times. These government scientists can afford the loss of pay for a few weeks.

For another, based on what has happened after all other previous shutdowns, Congress will approve their pay during this time, meaning this shutdown is really nothing more than an extra paid vacation for them.

I thus find myself having little sympathy for these scientists. In fact, the facts in this article make me inclined to think the taxpayer might benefit from getting rid of them all.

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Private businesses take over services to keep Yellowstone functioning

The private businesses that make their living from tourism at Yellowstone have picked up the tab for all services the National Park Service is no longer doing because of the the government shut down.

Xanterra Parks and Resorts, which runs the only hotels inside Yellowstone that remain open during the winter, is leading the effort to cover the $7,500 daily tab for keeping the roads plowed and the snowmobile trails groomed during the shutdown, according to NPR. Thirteen other private businesses that offer tours of the park are chipping in $300 a day to help cover that expense.

Meanwhile, Xanterra has some of its own employees assigned to clean park bathrooms during the shutdown, and snowmobile tour guides are packing their own toilet paper for customers to use.

These private businesses have a financial self-interest in keeping the park clean and functioning. And they also have an incentive to get the job done as efficiently as possible. In fact, they are demonstrating how little we need much of the park service.

I imagine similar things are occurring in many other national parks and forests. And if they are not, they should be. And those cases where their aren’t private businesses to pick up the slack, the local state governments should move in. They too have a financial incentive to keep these natural wonders open and unharmed.

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Watching New Horizons’ flyby of Ultima Thule

NASA has announced that the partial government shutdown will no longer prevent full coverage by the agency of the New Horizons’ fly-by of Kuiper Belt object Ultima Thule just past midnight on January 1, 2019.

This entire shutdown is pure theater, and a joke. If the government was truly out of money, it would be impossible for NASA to suddenly obtain funds to finance a New Horizons’ fly-by broadcast. The problem is that legally the government should be out of money, as Congress has the power of the purse and has not approved funding. Unfortunately, we no longer obey the law, and so our government can now do whatever it wants, free from all legal constraints.

Meanwhile the article at the link provides some good information on watching the fly-by:

Though people can now continue to enjoy the coverage through NASA’s New Horizons twitter account and NASA TV, APL will continue providing coverage in their own YouTube channel, as well as with Stern’s personal twitter account and New Horizon’s account.

The twitter feeds will mostly be junk. I would focus on the streaming links.

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Trump administration: parks to stay open to public during shutdown

Compare and contrast: Unlike the Obama administration, which went out of its way to inconvenience the public during government shutdowns, to an extent that it actually cost the government money, the Trump administration is leaving the national parks open to the public during the shutdown, even as it shuts visitor centers.

The link describes the National Park Service’s policy at Saguaro National Park here in Tucson, but this is apparently the policy nationwide:

“When you arrive at the park, both visitor centers will be closed. This is because due to the lapse of appropriation, we do not have money to pay for staff, so any facility that requires staff presence is going to be closed,” said Andy L. Fisher, a park ranger at Saguaro National Park.

That includes the contact station, the education building and programs, and ranger-guided walks and hikes.

“If you come out to one of the trail heads and plan on going for a hike, we’re not go to close the trail heads. We’re not going to chase you off the trails, the roads are going to continue to be open,” said Fisher.

This approach by the Trump administration is the morally correct one. The shutdown means they don’t have the money to run the government. It does not mean the parks can’t be accessed. They belong not to the government but to the American people. If there is no money to pay the government workers, that just means there will be no government workers at these parks. The parks themselves should remain open for public use.

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Democratic Senators force short government shutdown

Those racists! A handful of Democratic Senators have forced a government shutdown this coming weekend by refusing to allow the end of debate on a continuing resolution that would have funded the government through April.

Though I generally don’t agree with the reasons for this shutdown (they want to spend more money), I wish them luck, and would celebrate if this shutdown ended up lasting weeks. Unfortunately, according to some analysis, it can only last the weekend.

The biggest irony of this story is that the Democrats are forcing the shutdown to supposedly protect the pensions of coal miners, an industry they and Barack Obama successfully worked to destroy during the past eight years.

Update: Senator Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) and the Democrats have backed down so that the shutdown was averted.

I am disappointed. I was really hoping they would do it. Every time there has been a shutdown it has clearly shown how little we need the federal government. The more the merrier, I say. Shut it down!

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Emails now show that the the closure of open access monuments that needed no staff during October’s government shutdown was planned by National Park management

Petty fascist thugs: Emails now show that the the closure of open access monuments that needed no staff during October’s government shutdown was planned by National Park management.

The emails show that park employees knew there was no reason to shutter these monuments and doing so would actually cost money, something that made no sense since the shutdown was supposedly preventing them from spending money.

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The operators of campgrounds in the national forests are suing the Obama administration, saying it had no right to force them to close down during last October’s government shutdown.

The operators of campgrounds in the national forests are suing the Obama administration, saying it had no right to force them to close down during last October’s government shutdown.

The suit, which was filed in October, claims that the campgrounds and recreation areas should have been allowed to remain open because they don’t rely upon the federal government for funding and that private staff could have safely managed the sites. The group says the Forest Service carried out what it described as politically driven orders from the Obama administration, costing businesses hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost revenue.

There’s also this revealing quote from the article:

Ms Reese said she cannot understand why her members had to close up shop for much of the shutdown but other private operators on forest land — including several resorts — got a reprieve. “The frustrating part is that the campgrounds were closed, just the camp grounds, and not resorts or marinas,” she said.

Gee, isn’t this an example of the Obama administration abusing its power to hurt innocent citizens because it can’t get what it wants? And isn’t it kinda similar to what was done by Chris Christie’s underlings in New Jersey that has the mainstream press going into a wild-eye snit? I wonder, for what reason could the press have so little interest in this similar example of government abuse-of-power?

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The Obama administration now harasses the military chaplain who sued them because of their actions during the government shutdown.

The Obama administration now harasses the military chaplain who sued them because of their actions during the government shutdown.

Father Ray Leonard, the Catholic Navy Chaplain who sued the Department of Defense and the Navy after he was barred from celebrating Mass at Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base in Georgia during the recent the Government shutdown, is now the target of Government retaliation even though the Department of Justice indicated the day after the lawsuit was filed that he could resume his duties as a Navy Chaplain.

The retaliation involves repeated Government assertions that the employment contract under which Father Leonard was working is no longer “valid”, demands that he must sign a new contract containing several pages of onerous new terms if he wants to be paid and refusals to pay for services he had already performed.

I probably have posted an example of this kind of harassment by the Obama administration against innocent citizens about once per day for the past year. And as I said earlier today, the abuse of power by this Democratic administration makes Chris Christie look like a amateur.

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Why the House should stand firm.

Why the House should stand firm.

When President Barack Obama is willing to negotiate with Russian, Syrian and Iranian leaders but unwilling to negotiate with the U.S. House of Representatives, it is time for the House to stand firm. When Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says, according to unnamed sources quoted in Politico, that he will refuse to attend a negotiation at the White House because House Republicans have to cave and surrender to his terms, it is time to stand firm. When a senior, unnamed Democratic official is quoted Monday morning calling for no negotiations and saying “it’s time to punch the bully in the nose,” it is time to stand firm. When Obama spends a week making three partisan speeches attacking Republicans and then calls House Speaker John Boehner to tell him, “I will not negotiate,” it is time to stand firm.

It is a sad commentary on Obama’s attitude toward the elected majority of the House of Representatives that he could have a more pleasant conversation with the head of the Iranian dictatorship than with the elected leader of the U.S. House.

Just once in my life I would like to see the conservatives stand firm and not back down. What the Republicans are demanding is not unreasonable, and considering the numerous problems being caused by Obamacare, quite relevant and appropriate. If the Democrats discover they can get their way in even these circumstances, then their behavior in the coming years will become far more intolerant and uncompromising.

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