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Archive for August, 2010

Like a moth drawn to the flame, I recently attended a debate between three candidates for Governor of the State of Georgia.  The event was held at the Cobb Energy Centre (why, oh why do they do that sniffy Centre stuff?) and it was an interesting experience.

As is my custom, I got there early, nosed out a cup of coffee and settled in on a bench outside the ballrooms where the event was being held.  As show time approached, the candidates arrived and were led back to a holding room behind the debate site.  First to arrive was Nathan Deal, who did something rather interesting.  As he was walking by my coffee drinking spot, he pointedly came over to greet me individually, which, as it turns out, impressed me.  Obviously this is part of his No Voter Left Behind act.

Second to arrive was Roy Barnes, who could be heard long before he made the walk down the hall.  He and his entourage looked over at me, smiled and kept moving.  There was that quizzical “Who the hell is he?” look on their faces.  I’m quite accustomed to this and actually like it that way.  I’ll never be an I. F. Stone; I’m much closer to being the modern day Milton Frisch (who was an avid letter-to-the-editor type in 1960’s Atlanta).  I could do a lot worse.

Last to arrive was John Monds.  Deal and Barnes have held numerous political campaigns before, and it shows in their general composure.  Monds, on the other hand, is relatively new to this, and he walked in with his entourage, deep in conversation and preparation.  Not a surprise.

The debate room was modestly large, in the event that a large number of people showed up.  Which they rarely do.

Ballroom A & B of the Cobb Energy Centre

The fact that the crowd was relatively small was not a surprise.  First, the weather was very decent instead of blazingly hot, it was a Saturday afternoon and the subject was Georgia politics.  I did see some young people in the audience, along with at least two sets of parents with their children, but overall, the crowd was older and whiter than average.

Because the debate sponsor was the Medical Association of Georgia, there were a goodly number of physicians there, all with basic convention name tags.  The political types were easier to spot, since they were dressed up as if going to work, which they were, and their little plastic name tags that help countless other political types remember just who they were talking to.

The moderators for the debate were the AJC’s Kyle Wingfield, news babe Wendy Saltzman (CBS-affiliate station) and news babe John Bachman (ABC-affiliate station).  Here, they prepare prior to the debate:

Wingfield has been the AJC’s conservative columnist for a couple years now and does a good job with it.  Saltzman has developed a reputation for being just a bit pushy.  Bachman, scion of other broadcast types, observed in the introductions that he had originally been in pre-med but had later gone into television.  I suspect that several of the doctors present quietly thought to themselves: “Hmmmm, the money’s almost as good and there are fewer lawsuits.

Gathered at the back of the room were more of the media types:

In general, this is the place to be.  If things get really boring, you can make a quiet exit.  There can often be interesting side-bar conversations and football game reports back there, too.  The idea is to stand around with your hands in your pockets, looking bored.  That said, it should also be noted that people don’t really change all that much.  Consider the local news woman who took prodigious notes on a steno pad during the entire debate, clearly the same one who sat in the front row of that Sociology class in college, taking copious notes.  And, just like college, I’m there without pen nor paper, just taking it all in.

Things got underway promptly at 1:00 PM, with an introduction by Gary C. Richter, MD,  the current President of the Medical Association of Georgia.

Although introduced as the “Three candidates for Governor”, there are, actually, five:

  • Nathan Deal (R) – Congressman, Ex-State Sen., Ex-Juvenile Court Judge, Attorney & Army Veteran
  • Roy Barnes (D) – Ex-Governor, Ex-State Sen., Ex-State Rep. & Attorney
  • Neal Horsley (Creator’s Rights) – Evangelist, Pro-Life Activist
  • John Monds (Libertarian) – Grady County Planning Commission Member & ’08 PSC Nominee
  • Sam Hay III (Write-In) – Environmental Activist, Retired Businessman & ’02 Candidate

No word yet from the Socialist Worker’s Party or the Whigs.  And, there’s no telling just what would have happened if the evangelist or the environmentalist had appeared on the dais.  In any case, having all five candidates would have been unwieldy, at best, and unfortunate at worst.  Given the current state of political affairs, it also made sense to have the Libertarian candidate present.  Although not a prominent presence in Georgia, the tea party movement is out there, an entity which is not clearly a Republican phenomenon and most certainly not a national Democratic one.

There is the dawning recognition that the issues may not strictly be the provenance of Left or Right.  I suppose that it all goes back to the fact that we have two eyes, two ears and such.  If we had three hands, it would seem likely that we would have Left, Right and Other, which would open up all sorts of political avenues for us.  But, I digress.

In a way, these debates are always strikingly ordinary and predictable.  And I would not have it any other way.  The people that attended were genuinely interested in the candidates, these were not people that were just passing by and decided to stop in to see what was happening.  And, based on those that I saw there, this is a very good thing.  The crowd was well behaved; polite applause would periodically occur, but there were no hoots and catcalls.  If this is the voting electorate, I have confidence in the future, for they were thoughtful and interested.

Of course, the media covers these events because they have to, and because there’s always the limited possibility that some candidate will veer abruptly off of their talking points and say or do something startling.  Sometimes it will be newsworthy and sometimes it will be fodder for wretches such as myself.  Film at 6:00.

The debate itself was predictable and well mannered.  The focus groups have been telling the politicians that they’re tired of the fractious behavior, and that message seems to be getting through.  Everybody was well behaved, and that is a good thing.

As I listened to the candidates, I could get the sense of their experience level.  Barnes has more experience at the gubernatorial level, Deal at the Congressional level. If you’re a Deal supporter, his Congressional experience is a positive; Barnes supporters would say that this doesn’t apply for the Governor’s office.  Barnes’ previous gubernatorial experience counts as a plus if you’re one of his supporters, a negative if you’re not.  He did leave office previously against his will.  Both clearly have depth of experience, good and bad.  Barnes invoked the name of Richard Russell, and I wondered how many people in the room knew who that was.  Certainly a lot of the audience knew, but I’m not so sure about how many in the media knew that name and the reverence that it earns.

Monds has some experience, but not yet enough and certainly not enough to break the two-party character of this election.  I am hoping that we have not heard the last of John Monds.  What I particularly like is the fact that his racial background has never been mentioned, a clear expression of the Libertarian philosophy that it is the individual and their ideas that matter.

On an emotional level, I want to like the Libertarians, but I can’t do it on an intellectual level.  There’s just not enough different to justify my vote.  Third party movements have always had a hard time with this, defeating the sense that you’re “throwing your vote away”.  At the same time, the tea party movement has gained traction, maybe not enough to get elected but certainly enough to affect policy with the two major political parties.  I suspect that after the November elections, this movement will quietly disappear, but the lessons that it taught will not be gone.  In that sense, the tea party may have already succeeded in doing what needed to be done.  So, too, the Libertarian voice needs to be there, just to remind everybody that government can’t cure all that ails us.

And, remember, this year is a Census year, and the next session of the General Assembly will be determining  the State’s voting districts for the next ten years.  Who is Governor will matter in a number of ways.

The debate ended as promptly as it started and I left with a feeling that this had been a worthwhile experience, but it was more than that.  I eventually realized that what had left me with a good feeling was that to get into the debate hall did not require passing through a security checkpoint.  People just walked in, sat down and listened.  To be sure, there were uniformed officers present, but their presence was as low key as the crowd.

In this day and time where fear is exploited, the Medical Association of Georgia Debate was just an exchange of ideas.  It was well mannered and thoughtful, but it was more than that.  There was a physical connection between the participants and the listeners.  It was not adversarial, we were all citizens gathered together to discuss the issues of our society.  It was us, not us and them.

Consider the venues for local school boards, which have a Chinese wall and moat between the Board members and the general public.  So reminiscent of other places:

That said, I do have the usual perverse thought.  If any organization really wanted to draw a big political crowd, they could do no better than to stage a Texas Death Match, complete with chain link fence, between , say, Arianna Huffington and Ann Coulter.  This match would include bikinis, drilling mud supplied by Halliburton, grilled sausages by Johnsonville and beer from Dogwood.  Now, that would draw a crowd.

By the way, if you want the straight coverage of the event, please see here.

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Texas Weather

My Facebook page lists Texas City, Texas as my home town. I wasn’t born there, but it is a place of special memories for me.  For me, Texas City was the place where I first gained autonomy, where I was generally allowed to run free as long as I stayed on the east side of 6th Street.  Texas City was the place where I discovered that there was a model railroad hobby, an event which would serve to guide many of my career choices for the next fifty years.  Texas City was, and is, a special place to me.

As towns go, it’s pretty bland.  It is a refinery town and a sea port, so there are lots of railroads and ships, perfect for me.  It is also a down-to-earth kind of place, and not just because of its working class roots.  Texas City is right at sea level on Galveston Bay, near the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, a few miles inland from Galveston.  That fact means that Texas City always keeps an eye on the horizon.  Hurricane season in the Atlantic begins June 1st and ends November 30th, and hurricanes have directed Texas City’s life, and mine.

Before they named them, a hurricane destroyed Galveston in 1900.  Some sources put the death toll at 6,000, while others say 8,000 and even 12,000 people.  Whatever the number, Galveston was largely wiped from the map.  At one time, a nearby town called Indianola had competed with Galveston for port supremacy, but two hurricanes, one in 1875 and a second in 1886 finally convinced the town’s residents to move on to a better location.  While Indianola folded, Galveston dug in and built a sea wall.

Tropical storms are such a regularity for the Texas Gulf Coast that most individuals living there know that when a storm approaches, the best solution is to pack up and go inland until it passes.  To be sure, there are the few that choose to stay and ride it out.  In earlier days, hurricane parties would roll on upper floors of hotels in the affected areas, more than often resulting in a loss of life.  With modern times, the authorities force everybody to evacuate, but there still are those who choose to stay.  These people show up periodically as part of the fatality statistics associated with each storm.

In recent memory (2008), Hurricane Ike killed 195 people.  123 of those dead were in the United States, and 23 people are still missing.  Prior to that, the disastrous 2005 hurricane season included Hurricane Rita, which made landfall near the border between Texas and Louisiana, resulted in 120 deaths.  A few miles further down the coast, Hurricane Katrina caused the deaths of 1,836 people, in part because of the failure to evacuate people from the storm’s path.

Even when they don’t become hurricanes, tropical storms are dangerous and produce property losses.  Texas City has an established elevation of ten feet, which is to say that when the tropical storm rolls inland, the force of the winds push the waters inland with them.  Like Galveston, Texas City has installed barriers to minimize the damage caused by the storm surge, but it was not always that way.  In 1915, a hurricane largely wiped out Texas City; after it passed and the town tried to return to normal, more than half of the houses there remained vacant.  People chose to not come back to the devastation.

Looking back, I wonder about what drives people to return to such a place, knowing that whatever they had left there would be ruined.  That their home would be destroyed and any valuables that had remained would be damaged beyond repair.  I got to see it first hand.

It was 1961 and Hurricane Carla was the storm’s name.  Things changed for me because of that storm.  By the purest of chance and fortune, my family and I were largely spared, and I still marvel about it to this day.  It was a powerful storm and Carla made Dan Rather’s television career into a national one.  It was the first time that a storm had been covered live by television, a matter which we take for granted today.

My parents were well educated people, my father was a research chemist at a lab for one of the refineries in Texas City.  As part of his career, we had already moved several times; it was just part of the job.  But in a decision which I still regard with some confusion, it was decided that I would be going to private school instead of staying with the Texas City public schools, and that meant moving to Houston.  These days, it is the fashion to blame one’s parents for everything, but I cannot fault my parents for trying to do the right thing for me.

The effects of going to private school are material for another blog posting at another time, but that is not the purpose of this.  In addition to sacrificing for my benefit, there was an interesting side benefit.  We moved out of Texas City two days before Hurricane Carla made landfall near Port Lavaca, Texas, a few miles down the coast from Galveston.  Our largely vacant house in Texas City would be filled with water that was three feet deep, along with every other home in that small town.

You look back and marvel at such things.  Everybody that was there remembers.  A good friend and I were talking about Houston, and I asked her where she had been during Carla and she perked up and smiled, saying, “I was born during Carla“.  They call it the Hurricane Baby Theory, and she was anecdotal evidence.  I was talking with a business associate when I discovered that he was from Houston.  I asked him “Where were you during Carla?” and he remarked that they were safe at home, but he remembered looking out his window and watching it rain, for days.  I remember the endless rain, too.  It never seemed to end.  And then the lull in the rain when the storm’s eye passed nearby, and once passed, the return of the relentless rain.

After Carla had passed, and people were allowed to return to the coast, my mother and I went back to our house in Texas City to retrieve what had been left behind.  Of particular interest was a Chinese ancestor painting.  It had been left hanging on the wall because there had been no room to carry it.

6th Street, Texas City during Hurricane Carla, 1961

6th Street, Texas City during Hurricane Carla, 1961

As we drove into Texas City, the devastation was everywhere.  Stacks of debris lined the road; tree limbs, sodden furniture, appliances, all destroyed by Hurricane Carla.  Texas City had a seawall, but it had not been able to stop the waters of the storm surge, which had flowed into the city through the storm drains; what was meant to be a conduit for water to flow away from the city instead became the path for sea water to enter the city.

Our former house was waterlogged, and the landlord was inside the building with a crew that was cleaning up.  The wooden floor boards had buckled up from the salt water.  Baby rattlesnakes had been found in one corner of the house.  The ancestor painting was still hanging on the wall, but had been slightly damaged by the lapping waves of water that had flowed into the house.

In all, we had been most fortunate.

We went down the street to see a classmate, a guy named Wayne Froschl, who lived a few doors away.  He was a good buddy, someone that I had spent a lot of time with.  We had gotten into trouble together (on more than one occasion), and I liked him greatly.  Wayne was with his parents, and they were shoveling out the mud from their home.  It was an awkward moment and sad.  I never saw him again after that day; two years later, my family would be in Ohio, then Atlanta two years after that.

I look back at that and marvel at the power of place, the instinct that tells you to stay where you are planted, to remain where you are always in a slight state of danger, where the water can come and take you away.  Wayne stayed there, went to Texas A&M, married a girl from Galveston, took a job there and was killed in an a collision with a concrete truck.  He is buried in Galveston, his home.  The Gulf of Mexico is nearby, and it is storm season.

I have a favorite Texas weather story, and when I tell it to you, you will not believe it.  Like so many others, you will laugh and call it yet another tall Texas tale, but I know that it happened.  I saw it.

Before Texas City, we had lived in Brownsville, at the very southern end of Texas.   Near the Gulf and across the river from Mexico.  My parents and I went there to visit old friends and toward the end of our stay there, it became apparent that a hurricane was heading directly toward Brownsville.  Instinctively, my parents got us packed up and we left town around 4:00 PM, which was not our standard procedure.  Dad was insistent, for being in Brownsville could have been hazardous, even though it was inland.

As you head north, you go up from The Valley, which is filled with citrus groves and small farms.  The towns roll by; San Benito, Harlingen, Sebastian and then Raymondville.  Once past that point, U.S. Route 77 becomes a long and lonely stretch of flat highway bordered by mesquite and grazing cattle.  At Raymondville, a road sign notes that there is no gasoline available for the next seventy miles.  The King Ranch is on both sides of 77, along with other “smaller” ranches like the Yturria Ranch, but there is little else.  As we left Raymondville, it began to rain, heavily.  There was no other traffic on the road.  Now after 6:00 PM, it had become dark.

And, in the loneliest stretch of this dark lonely highway, it began to rain frogs.  Looking out the windshield toward the front as we drove, it was obvious that frogs were falling with the rain.  They were bouncing off of the hood of the car, off of the road.  The windshield wipers were flinging them away with the rain drops.  My parents and I stared at this with disbelief.

We finally made it to Kingsville and called it a night.  The weather was now behind us and we could continue on to Houston in the morning, but it is something that I can never forget.  I tell that story to people, and they do not believe.  They roll their eyes and chortle, but I know it happened.  I saw it.

Years later, I had trotted out the raining frogs story, once again, but one of the listeners did not snicker and doubt.  “I know where you were.  You were about 20 miles inland from the coast and a hurricane was blowing in.”  I was startled at the prospect of confirmation intelligence about a story that many disbelieved.  He continued:

“What you were seeing was the results of water spouts caused by the hurricane.  The storm was creating small tornadoes that were sucking up estuary water along the coast.  And all the fish and other wildlife in that water, including the frogs, were sucked up by these tornadoes.  What goes up eventually has to come back down, and that is what you saw.”

Texas Weather.

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Dan Rostenkowski

Daniel Rostenkowski has passed on.  The remembrances of Representative Rostenkowski will include his being Chairman of the powerful Ways & Means Committee and, inevitably, his downfall in the House Post Office scandal.  What will probably not be remembered is his role in the passage of the Medicare Catastrophic Coverage Act of 1988.  And this act’s subsequent repeal in 1989.

In this day of political power plays, it is helpful to go back to this series of events, just to point out that actions of Congress can be reversed.  Needless to say, those who remember history have had the same idea.  By the way, this particular article is chock full of interesting descriptions of the situation in 1988:

First, health care is personal. If you mess with people’s health coverage, they won’t just write a nasty letter to the editor. They will show up at demonstrations with home-made signs, scream at you, chase you down the street, and maybe vote you out of office. So you’d better have a good reason for doing what you’re doing, and a compelling explanation of how your plan would personally benefit your constituents.

We are, of course, still waiting for an explanation of just what Obamacare’s legal language includes, and its affects upon us.  In a typical action during an election, Senator Harry Reid has decided that he doesn’t like Obamacare, either.  You can’t make this stuff up.

For another description of the situation 1988, please see here.

The point being is that what Congress passed last year can be repealed next year the people show their opposition to legislation.  Compare this video from 1988 with last summer’s “Town Hall Meetings”:

Seems kind of tame, doesn’t it?

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I don’t quite know what to make of Facebook.  On one hand, it is morbidly fascinating to see the lives of others, well at least what they have on display.  Some are more interesting than others; the most interesting are the pages of those who haven’t paid attention to the security and privacy settings, but that’s for another day.  And, in the spirit of disclosure, when I post this item, it will be promoted on Facebook.  For better or worse, I use it, too.

I don’t use Twitter, which I consider to be the CB radio of the 2000’s.  Anything that I posted in that format would easily be considered to be a twit.  Then, too, I’m an advocate of the Southern Oral Tradition, which means that saying anything in 140 characters or less is pretty much an impossibility.

In any case, some of the most interesting posts on Facebook are the political ones. And it can’t get much more political than the primary for the Republican candidate for Governor; the run-off is on this coming Tuesday.  And, of the political postings, Mr. Jim Galloway of the Atlanta Journal Constitution seems to have found his way with Twitter and Facebook.

To set the stage, the Democratic candidate for Governor has already been determined.  It is Roy Barnes, who was governor of Georgia from 1999 to 2003.  He was defeated by the current Governor, Sonny Perdue, as part of a state-wide Republican sweep.  His loss at that time was a harmonic convergence of several dissident groups, including school teachers.  Each of these groups, by themselves, would not have been enough to merit an election defeat, but together they voted him out.  Fast forward to 2010, and Barnes is running again.  This time around, he has made it a campaign tenet to seek the support of the teachers that he alienated in the 2002 election.  We’ll get back to that point in a minute.

The Republican primary featured several candidates; enough candidates so that there was no clear winner in the primary.  Thus we have the run-off, which takes place on August 10th.  The primary campaign was not a pretty one, one that played off the fact that there is Georgia and there is Atlanta.  Which is to say, there are two major groups in the state of Georgia; those within the I-285 Perimeter and those outside.  The further you get outside the Perimeter, the more that politics changes.

One major lowlight of the campaign so far has been gay-bashing, but it’s been more than that.  Making the run-off more interesting is the fact that one candidate, Karen Handel, is obviously a woman.  So, the Republican side of the primary process has already been fractious, and tempers are running at a fever pitch.  Consider a recent Facebook exchange in response to a Galloway posting.

To wit, an Inside-the-Perimeter Republican took offense at a Handel campaign tactic:

Certainly many people in this country (including me) are tired and turned off by “attack ads” and “negative campaigning;” but I have a strong objection to this on different grounds. I believe that if the strongest case you can make for supporting you is that your opponent is “one of the most corrupt members of Congress,” that is a sad commentary on you and your qualifications to be governor of our state. Is this really the most compelling case why we should support Karen Handel?

Fine enough, but what really interested me was the comments posted in response to Galloway’s story.  Names have been deleted to protect the guilty.

A:  I have no doubt the Handelistas will now swarm onto your site and rip [name redacted] apart.

B.  Do you think they are paid to do it like you are her [sic] ?

A:  [name redacted] …for ONLY the reason I am friends with your sister-in-law, [name redacted], I don’t rip you and [name redacted] apart publicly for your continued lies about me. And, Dude…I could say a LOT about you.

Like I said, it’s been a frisky campaign.  One matter rears its ugly little head.  Both of these individuals appear to be Republican Party activists, each campaigning for their respective candidate.  Things have become so ugly that fights are breaking out in the parking lot, but one would think that they would hold something in reserve for the general election in November.

And, on Wednesday August 11th, one of these partisans will have supported the winner and the other will have supported the loser.  Based on this Facebook exchange, one would wonder if they are even on speaking terms, even though they both share the Republican Party.  Or ever will be on speaking terms again.

This does not bode well.  The fact that Barnes could possibly win has already been discussed by Kyle Wingfield, the AJC’s conservative columnist.  Add to that Barnes’ efforts to establish a cozy relationship with the teachers.  Add to that the fact that the current administration is getting ready to carpet bomb more Federal money, including a goodly amount for teachers and you have an ominous development.

In that dark environment, you have two Republicans publicly talking like professional wrestlers.  And you wonder if maybe Wingfield is right; Barnes will win if for no other reason than the fact that the Republicans can’t get their act together and fight the real campaign.

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Congress’ Problem

Relax, this is just a short item about a bad habit that Congress has developed. There’s not enough time or bandwidth to cover all of their bad habits.

Those who follow political theater will no doubt remember a particularly vivid debate on the floor of Congress recently.  I won’t even bother to embed a video of the particular Congressman, but you will no doubt remember him for his screaming, complete with raised veins in the neck.  The subject of the debate?  Medical benefits for the brave souls that went into the New York City twin towers on September 11, 2001 to rescue others.

With a topic like that, one would think that there had been no need for debate at all.  In fact, that once this legislation had sailed through Congress and down the street to 1600 Pennsylvania, that Republicans and Democrats would be out front, arms linked, sinking Kumbaya.  But, no….

The reason that debate became inflamed was due to the fact that the Democrats had decided to move the legislation in such a way that no amendments could be added to the bill.  Fine enough; this action meant that there would need to be a greater majority of Congresspersons voting for the measure.  Yet, the measure did not pass.  The mainstream media stated that the Democrats chose to block amendments because “they feared the Republicans would put pork spending into the bill”.  Well, that’s kind of right, but what they called “pork spending” was apparently an effort to deal with illegal immigration, but it could have easily been any unrelated spending matter.

So, inquiring minds want to know; what’s illegal immigration have to do with helping the heroes of 9/11?  Well, actually, nothing, but it is an illustration of one bad habit into which Congress has fallen, regardless of political persuasion.  That is, Congress has taken to creating “omnibus bills“, which are:

a single document that is accepted in a single vote by a legislature but contains amendments to a number of other laws or even many entirely new laws.

In other words, Congress may be voting on a bill that deals with highway spending, but that bill will also be filled with a large number of related and unrelated issues.  The practice has become so common that I’m not sure that they even use the term “omnibus” any more.  The apparent inside term is Christmas Tree bill.

During the health care “debate” (so-called), it was publicly stated that Congress members really didn’t know what they were voting for, which was likely to be true.  In fact, there were so many things packed into that bill, and just about every bill coming out of Congress, that nobody really knows what they were voting for.  They can’t even vote on a resolution declaring National Peach Week without something unrelated being stuffed in.

Of course, it puts Congress into a bad light, but then again, you already knew that.  It’s a rare day when there’s an up or down vote on anything in Congress these days.  With money hemorrhaging out of the Federal government like BP’s Deepwater Horizon well, they simply don’t have time to examine every spending bill on its merits.  Not do that and run for reelection, too.

And, as the government continues to grow in size and scope, with related spending matters also growing, this problem will get worse.  It is just a matter of time before Congress has just one bill to vote on each year, with a complicated witches brew of spending, mandates and proclamations all hidden under one title.

This all points out an interesting situation.  Because Federal Money is so pervasive it is also becoming invisible.  Consider that the current administration had to spend millions to simply post signs indicating that a specific project was being done with stimulus money.  The scope of spending has become so widespread that money is now being expended for public relations which, while beneficial for the sign companies and sign installers, was not intended in the original law.

Look back to a time in North Georgia during the bleak 1930’s, when virtually nobody had a job.  When Federal money created the Civilian Conservation Corps, a lot of young men were given things to do, a place to eat and sleep, and enough money to send some home to their starving relatives.  Because of the circumstances, everybody knew that it was Federal money that was coming in for their help during a time of great desperation.  This engendered a sense of loyalty to the people that helped bring this assistance, and when the need was supplanted by entry into World War II, that money was quickly reassigned to greater priorities.  The CCC boys moved on to military service and war related jobs, but there are still strong memories from that generation.

Now, of course, there is Federal money everywhere.  By its vast increase, any sense of loyalty that might have accrued has passed.  And, because of that, people are developing an appreciation for the fact that while it is everywhere, it is also nowhere in most people’s daily lives.  This became apparent during the 1995 shutdown of the Federal government.  There were dire warnings every day in the media, that everything would stop because there was no Federal money.  To be sure, this would have eventually have turned up, but during the period of the shutdown, life seemed to go on for most people.  If you were a Federal employee, you might have felt it, but for the average person, it became increasingly apparent that nothing disastrous was happening.  Needless to say, even Congress eventually figured out this reality and did something about it.

Our screaming New York Congressman may become the poster child for Congressional dysfunction, but it also serves to point out that a government that insinuates itself into every matter, spends money on everything, is also wasting its psychic energy and, by doing so, losing its value to people in day to day life.  When everything is special, then nothing is special.

There is no loyalty to one’s Congressman for a number of reasons, but the net effect is the same.  Given the fractious state of the Congress, when people go out to vote this election year, they have little compelling reason to vote for an incumbent.  Certainly party loyalty will help the candidates, but the sense is that there is little reason to care about an incumbent candidate because they have no apparent presence in our lives.

In the larger sense, however, Congress has squandered its innate power, both by appearing unprofessional and also because it is so busy.  That when the time comes to handle an important matter, such as medical help for our country’s heroes, it cannot do it.  The examples are all over the place; the Delta Queen is another example.  It also has squandered its money, so when something as important as the 9/11 heroes comes up, they don’t have any money to pay for it without a huge debate.  They found $1,000,000.00 for “Textile/Clothing Technology Corporation, Cary, NC Textile Research Programs”, and countless other programs that were “needed”, but there’s nothing left for emergencies.

If you’re wondering about all those earmarks that are buried in each act of Congress, Jamie Dupree is a great source.

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