Thursday, October 3, 2013

Things you DON’T know about the Shutdown

Roundup Shutdown – Day 2

Let’s start with this:

The PJ Tatler’s Patrick Poole captured this video today at the same WWII Memorial that provided the backdrop Monday – Day One of the Federal government shutdown – to the Obama Administration’s petty reversal of fortune.  Watch the video…

You know that story: veterans and GOP House members disregarded the shuttering of the memorial, moving barricades (the conservative blogosphere has taken to calling them “Barrycades”) and touring the memorial that was meant for them.  President Barack Obama had to be gritting his teeth at a PR failure that subverted his Administration’s whole “make ‘em hurt” approach to this shutdown. Who antagonizes veterans?

The more we learn about the extent to which the White House has attempted to get vindictive against the American people over the government shutdown, the more bizarre the whole things gets.

Like the rest of the grounds of the National Mall, the memorial is public space that is never, at any time, physically separated from the public by barricades or is otherwise “closed” for visitation, so closing it due to an alleged lack of funds is a conceptual non-starter. The memorial itself “was funded almost entirely by private contributions,” so the White House’s financial stake in its accessibility is both morally and fiscally miniscule. The Park Service has indicated the Obama Administration, via the White House Office of Management and Budget, did indeed order that the site be closed.

With all that as context, now we have today’s “protest” of more veterans and their mostly-GOP supporters at the same scene by “Federal” employees. Park Service employees (hey, don’t they know there’s a shutdown going on?!) were out in force in the morning, putting up yellow tape and aligning more barricades with those specially-made “government shutdown” signs.

Despite a call-ahead warning they would be arrested for defying the barricades a second day, vets from Ohio, Missouri and Chicago forged past the blockade once again and toured the memorial.

There were no reports of arrests, but, according to Poole (who shot the video and whose voice can be heard asking protestors to show their Federal IDs):
After about an hour, about 20 SEIU [Service Employees International Union] protesters arrived on the scene chanting “Boehner, get us back to work” and claiming they were federal employees furloughed because of the shutdown.

…I was asking them to show their federal IDs to prove they were in fact federal workers. No one wore their federal ID and none would provide it to prove their claim.

Then, remarkably, a guy carrying a sign passed by wearing a McDonald’s employee shirt, which I noted. I then began asking them how much they had been paid to protest, at which point the guy wearing the McDonald’s shirt came back and admitted he had been paid $15 to attend the protest.

About a minute later a SEIU organizer ran up to me telling me that the man in question is a contractor working at the McDonald’s in a Smithsonian Museum — a claim she made no effort to prove. The same story was told to Jake Tapper at CNN who was on the scene and made the same inquiry.
And yet that doesn’t explain why he was paid $15 to attend a protest targeting our nation’s honored military veterans.

No, it sure as hell doesn’t. But it’s easy to connect the dots.
Meanwhile, the Park Service ordered the closure of the Claude Moore Colonial Farm, a park in Virginia that, while situated on Federal land, receives no funding whatsoever from the Federal government for its operations.

The Washington Free Beacon reports:
According to Anna Eberly, managing director of the farm, NPS [National Park Service] sent law enforcement agents to the park on Tuesday evening to remove staff and volunteers from the property.
“You do have to wonder about the wisdom of an organization that would use staff they don’t have the money to pay to evict visitors from a park site that operates without costing them any money,” she said.

The park withstood prior government shutdowns, noting in a news release that the farm will be closed to the public for the first time in 40 years.

“In previous budget dramas, the Farm has always been exempted since the NPS provides no staff or resources to operate the Farm,” Eberly explained in an emailed statement.

“In all the years I have worked with the National Park Service … I have never worked with a more arrogant, arbitrary and vindictive group [that’s you, Obama Administration] representing the NPS,” Eberly said.

In other related hijinks from Day Two:

This is excerpted from a February sequestration article in The Washington Post, but if it was applicable then, it’s only more relevant now:
Does everyone know what a “Washington Monument” strategy is? We should expect to see government agencies employ that strategy against the sequester — because it works.

A Washington Monument strategy involves fighting against budget cuts by focusing, and if possible shifting cuts, to the most popular and visible services an agency provides — thus the Park Service would react to a budget cut by threatening to close the Washington Monument, figuring that disappointed tourists would flood their Member of Congress’s office complaining about it.
…What this means is that whatever the level of damage across-the-board would impose, we can expect the affected agencies will try to make the damage look as high as possible.

The collective opinion of political pundits is that this “shutdown” is likely to be a long-haul sport.
Rand Paul pointed out the fallacy of calling this whole flap a “shutdown,” noting on Fox News that “85 percent of government is being funded. Two thirds of the government is Social Security, Medicare – all of that is going on. And then we agreed yesterday, Harry Reid did come forward when we asked him to, and he finally agreed to pay the soldiers. So now we’re up to that, 85 percent of the government.”

There’s a little 143 year-old law called the Antideficiency Act that is intended to prevent the Executive Branch from obligating funds that Congress hasn’t appropriated. There are exemptions written into the law for “emergencies involving the safety of human life or the protection of property,” and during a government shutdown, guess who gets to interpret that? The White House Office of Management and Budget.

Judicial Watch has filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to get to the bottom of the National Park Service’s actions at the World War II Memorial in Washington this week, the PJ Tatler reports.

Late in the day, The Hill reported Congressional Democrats, led by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, were dipping their toes in the compromise waters :
[Reid] offered to open negotiations on tax reform Wednesday if Republicans agree to a clean resolution to reopen the government. Reid sent a letter to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) pledging to appoint negotiators to a budget conference if House Republicans relent on a six-week funding stopgap.

The budget conference is something Democrats have long sought, however, and the proposal was quickly shot down by Boehner’s office.

Reid offered to include tax reform, which has bogged down in partisan politics this year, on the agenda. The letter suggested that Democrats would be willing to negotiate changes to ObamaCare as part of budget talks as well.

Finally, from the fair-and-balanced department: The Media Research Center (MRC) finds that the news divisions at ABC, NBC and CBS are interested in framing the shutdown as anything but a product of Democrats’ obstinacy. In 39 stories leading up to the shutdown, the three networks “blamed” Republicans on the gridlock 21 times, both parties four times, neither party 14 times, and Democrats zero times.

Day Three, here we come.

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