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Posts Tagged ‘Congress’

My heartiest apologies for being away from this blog for the past month. Circumstances beyond my control left me unable to continue my writings. The details are too queasy to delve into, but suffice it to say that I can confirm that the following pair of sentences are undeniably true.

1) When health experts warn expats living in Thailand to wash all of the fruits and vegetables bought in local markets, they really mean it.
2) The hospitals in Bangkok (okay, granted that my dataset consists of one) are Western in quality, cleanliness, and professionalism.

With all that said, I’m glad to be back (and upright).

While I was away, I noticed that the internal workings of the United States government have ground to a halt (almost like my insides…oh, wait, I wasn’t going to go into the details…sorry). This gridlock-slash-shutdown-slash-default seems like the perfect hook to let you in on my latest epiphany.

When I was growing up, I came of age (politically speaking) in the Era of Reagan. Back then, I blamed the Republican president for the budget deficits and national debt that were a hallmark of the 1980s.

In the 1990s, when the red ink turned black, I tipped my hat to President Clinton for his (or at least his advisors) financial acumen.

Now, even in my mid-forties, I am not so bound by ideology that I cannot see new facts and revise what I once knew.

I have now (slowly, but surely) come to learn and appreciate that it is the Congress – and more importantly, the House of Representatives – that controls the budget. The chief of the Executive Branch may be able to offer legislation and a budget plan, but it is still the responsibility of the People’s House to actually allocate the money.

With this new perspective in mind, I belatedly offer my ire to the Democratic-led House of the 1980s for busting the budget and give my appreciation to the Newt Gingrich-led GOP House of the 90s for helping to rein in spending.

What this now means for me in the current situation as the nation I was born in has shuttered most of its windows for the past two weeks and hurtles towards becoming a deadbeat nation is that my contempt is wholeheartedly reserved for the party now controlling the House of Representatives. The current leadership has to know when it has the votes, when legislation will pass and in what form, and what will be able to move through the Senate and make its way to be signed by the President. Any toying with the full faith and credit of the Unites States government simply to achieve a political goal that has been rebuffed over forty times is folly.

I give credit where it is due and blame where it is due. I have been able to change my mind. I hope it doesn’t take the current House leadership decades to do the same.

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With news that Congress’s “supercommittee“, the group of Representatives and Senators who have been tasked with cutting the federal government’s deficit and debt, has met for the first time, it made me wonder about the wisdom of committees and the adage that a platypus is an animal built by committee.

That train of thought took me to a ceditra entry from over ten years ago. Back on May 21, 2001, my process for randomly creating a topic to write about (which was never dreamt up by a committee) took me to page 12 of the Money section of USA Today where I landed on…

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[An advertisement for Aether Fusion showing the results of six people painting the Mona Lisa.]

Well, if it’s Monday and time for a ceditra and I have had USA Today chosen for me, then I must be faced with an ad.

My first thought about this advertisement centers on the Mona Lisa because it’s also where my finger fell upon. The use of this painting is to imply the high end of a scale of sophistication. This painting, by Leonardo da Vinci, is seen as one of the best painting, if not the best painting, in the world. I have always been curious about that sentiment since, to my classically untrained eye, there is nothing spectacular about this portrait.

Oh sure, there’s the smile. Countless art scholars have commented on the smile but there has to be more to it than that. Can the epitome of all painting really be based on an enigmatic smile? There must be something else to this portrait that I am missing that gives such prominence to La Joconde. Or could it be that Mona Lisa is nothing spectacular but only through the years of praise heaped upon it has it gained in status. Therefore, since all believe it is a good painting, even thought no one can say why, it is, ergo, a good painting. Because if one tried to seriously analyze the painting and critique it, one would risk going against years of accepted art orthodoxy. We certainly can’t have people going against orthodoxy now, can we?

So given that the Mona Lisa is the apex of all things of a painted nature, why is it in this ad? Besides being free of charge to use since the copyright has long since expired, it serves as one end of the taste spectrum. The other end, the low end, of the taste spectrum is filled by the image of the dogs playing poker. Similar to my rant about how Da Vinci’s painting is perceived to be all that is just and wise in painting, who are the people that have decided that card-playing canines is the ultimate in bad taste?

Whoever that committee is, let us proceed with the premise that the Mona Lisa and the bulldogs are the yin and yang of the visual arts. The combining of these two images degrades the splendor of da Vinci through guilt by association. The juxtaposition result answers the question of the ad “What if it took six painters to create the Mona Lisa?”

The underlying premise of the question and the ad harks back to the Aesop moral, “Too many cooks spoil the broth”. Having too many people work on or create something denigrates the value of the final product. Aether is banking on the fact that people reading the ad absorb that message when they read the copy of the advertisement. This ad is for a product called Aether Fusion. Like most current technology ads, this one doesn’t go into great detail about what the product actually does. It seems to revolve around making various wireless technologies (device, networks, protocols) work under a common infrastructure.

Now to tie these two threads together. Having multiple wireless technologies at your company degrades your product as surely as six painters diminished the glory of the Mona Lisa. By using Aether Fusion, your product will become like Leonardo’s masterpiece.

What does the name Aether mean anyway? Much like the current trend of not identifying a product’s feature, there is a trend towards using names for products and companies that make no sense. That, I’m sure, has a purpose, but I can’t see it.

I’ll bet good money that it took six (or more) people to develop the name Aether.

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Back to 2011 and if six painters could so mess up the Mona Lisa, I will be curious to see what double that number does to the federal budget process.

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On Friday, the United States Department of Labor released the news that 244,000 nonfarm jobs were added to American payrolls in April 2011.

When combined with the jobs added during March (221,000) and February (235,000), this means that in the past three months there have a grand total of 700,000 (there’s your number for the day) jobs added in just a quarter of a year.

All of the above brings me also to the number zero (0), which is the number of pieces of legislation passed by Congress and signed by the President that have had anything to do with job creation since the 112th Congress convened in January.

You make the connection between those two figures, because obviously the talking heads inside the Beltway can’t.

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With the first quarter of 2011 in the books, it’s reporting time of one sort or another.

For this post, I look at the reporting numbers of the fine folks in Congress who want to be reelected when November 2012 rolls around.

Yes, I know, there was just an election over three months ago, but the 2012 cycle has already started. Therefore, the people who were elected to got to Washington to shake things up have to do the same thing that American politicians have had to do since the Republic was founded – pass the hat around and ask for money.

UPI has this story that states that the GOP freshman have, on average, raised only $176,000 from January to March 2011. This contrasts with the freshman Democrats of 1Q2009 who took in $287,000 and $242,000 in 1Q2007.

However, that figure of $176K is only an average, so there must be some someone who is on the high-end of that scale and indeed there is such a person.

According to this story from TheHill.com, Congressman David McKinley, a Republican from West Virginia, topped all freshmen Representatives by bringing in $536,000 during the first three months of this year.

Since the 112th Congress has only been in session for about one hundred days, this means that, on average, Mr. McKinley has brought in $5,360 (there’s your number for the day) in campaign cash per day since he has been in Congress.

I guess that’s how you show you’re a DC outsider – by asking for money.

In fact, Mr. McKinley has already started his 2012 campaign – and there is still 567 days to go until Election Day 2012 – which makes me wonder how much time Mr. McKinley spends passing the hat around for cash and how much time he spends actually doing any legislating.

I’d love to ask him, but Congress is on recess for the next two weeks.

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So the blog-o-sphere is all up in arms (see here and here and here) because Representative Pete King (Republican from New York) is chairing Congressional hearings looking into home-grown terrorism.

Personally, I applaud Representative King and I believe he should start his hearing by questioning the speaker of these words…

…[W]e have not only the right, but the moral obligation to overthrow that government by force if necessary, and form a new government that will protect our rights.

(Full speech here)

Oh wait…the utter of those words advocating the violent overthrow of the federal government is not a Muslim, but is in fact a white born-again Christian…so don’t look for his type to be at King’s hearings.

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Continuing on again with the posting about federal legislation that centers around the number 36 (my last posting was about House of Representatives Resolution 36), I set my sights on Senate Resolution 36.

Sponsored by Senator Amy Klobuchar (Democrat from Minnesota), this resolution would have desginated January 2011 as National Stalking Awareness Month.

I use the word have because that month has already passed. In what I can only describe as “it must be a Congress thing“, Senator Klobuchar’s resolution was introduced on Februrary 2, 2011, two days after the month it was supposed to honor had passed.

The Senate passed the resolution by unanimous consent, so I guess if one had a TARDIS one could have celebrated January 2011 the way Senator Klobuchar had intended.

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Continuing on with my successive postings about the number thirty-six and politics (see here and here), I fix my electronic gaze now on House Resolution 36.

This resolution, sponsored by Representative Al Green (Democrat from Texas), would recognize the significance of Black History Month by, in the resolution’s own words…

recognizes the significance of Black History Month as an important time to recognize the contributions of African-Americans in the Nation’s history, and encourages the continued celebration of this month to provide an opportunity for all peoples of the United States to learn more about the past and to better understand the experiences that have shaped the Nation

This legislation has picked up (as of this writing) sixty-three co-sponsors (which, oddly enough, is the number 36 transposed) and is currently sitting in the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

In case Committee Chair Darrell Issa (Republican from California) wasn’t aware…Black History Month was last month.

Well…he has been busy recently (see here and here), so maybe next year.

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