Saturday, October 26, 2013

Personal Notes, October of 2013

           I regret that I have been unable to post as frequently as I would have liked since early October.  Until then, I had been keeping pace with last year’s rate of posting.  Starting in early October of last year, I published a flurry of posts in regard to the 2012 United States Election for presidential electors. 

            One major reason I have not posted much this month is that I have been preoccupied with school board matters.  I have been focused on completing much unfinished business before my term expires in early December.

            In the meantime, I gave a speech at the local annual Columbus Dinner on Italian cuisine was particularly influenced by the Discovery of the New World and the subsequent introduction of foods into the Old World.  I observed how this one relatively small area demonstrates that there had been no lasting effect on both worlds of any legendary discoveries that may have occurred prior to that of Columbus, whose great navigational skills effectively bridged the two hemispheres permanently.  It was the fourth time that the Columbus Day Dinner Committee, which comprises several local Italian organizations, including Holy Rosary Parish, has invited me to provide historical remarks.  The event has occurred since 1956 and raises funds to preserve the Columbus State in Reading’s City Park (Penn’s Commons).  I was honored by the invitation.  The speech was well received. 

           I plan new posts analyzing the Syrian crisis and the U.S. budget deal.  Thank you for visiting my blog.  

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Federal Government Shutdowns Are Partial, Routine and Bipartisan

           The federal government is currently said to be “shut down” because of the expiration of spending authority.  However, United States government continues to operate, only without spending money.  Indeed, as other commentators have observed, the partial “shutdown” is more like a “slimdown,” as 83% of the federal government remains open.  All essential employees have continued to report for work.

            The partial shutdown reveals the extent of what the federal government does, which, on the one hand, can make people grateful for it, but on the other hand reveals how obtrusive the federal government is and why it is $17 trillion in debt.

            The current partial shutdown is nearly the twentieth time the spending authority of the United States has expired.  Such shutdowns used to be more routine, especially from the 1970s to the 1980s.  A variety of issues have triggered them, usually because liberal Democratic-controlled Congresses wanted to continue to engage in deficit spending, which prompted Republican Presidents to veto spending bills, thereby shutting down the government.  Republican Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush admitted that their actions shut down the government, but complained that the Democratic Congress had left them with the choice either of more irresponsible deficit spending or a shutdown. 

The liberal media blame of Presidents then is inconsistent with their current position that it is now the fault of the House of Representatives, with the only consistencies being that they want to continue deficit-spending and that they blame the Republicans for every shutdown.  Liberal Democrats and the allies in the media portray the shutdown as a disaster caused by Republican irresponsibility and reopening the federal government as an end unto itself.  Their love of big government is thereby exposed, as is their inconsistency when they triggered them, by their own definition. 

            In my post, Only Presidents, Not Congress, Have Shut Down the Government, in April of 2011,, I did theorize that the Congress, and particularly, the Senate could effectively shut down the federal government by declining to approve funding measures approved by the House of Representatives, where constitutionally they must originate.  In the current situation, because the liberal Democratic-controlled Senate has, in fact, shut down the government, backed by the threatened veto by Democratic President Barack Obama, it is legally the Democrats who have shut it down. 

            As in 1995, the liberal Democrats and the media have falsely portrayed the Republicans as having a shutdown strategy, but their strategy has been to reduce the deficit and the debt, or at least not to increase it, by giving the Democrats in the Senate and the Democratic President the choice either of accepting spending cuts or shutting down the government.  The Democrats chose the shutdown, knowing they could count on the media to blame the Republicans.  Their position is that Republicans in the House are unreasonable not to accept all Democratic demands to continue to fund the government at the current deficit-spending levels and to continue to raise the debt limit without using their leverage to force spending cuts.  In other words, deficit-spending is the norm and any attempt to use constitutional means to impose some fiscal responsibility is not reasonable.  In addition, the actions of the Obama Administration to close open-air federal facilities, including monuments, parks and even the ocean are unnecessary efforts to inflict maximum pain on the American people for political gain, even though allowing people to continue to visit such facilities does not represent any expenditure.  Clearly, the actions of the liberal Democrats in regard to this budget dispute are what have been unreasonable.  In contrast, conservative Republicans have been standing on principle of opposing the increase in the debt and the federalization of health insurance, which would add dramatically to the deficit.

           The current federal government shutdown will be resolved and furloughed workers given back pay for their time off.  The United States will not default on its debt.  The sky will not fall.  There are likely to be other partial shutdowns or disputes over the debt limit.  We shall survive all of them, just as we have routinely before.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Letta's Grand Coalition Wins Confidence Vote with Berlusconi Support

           Italian Prime Minister Enrico Lettas center-left-right government won a vote of confidence in the Italian Parliament yesterday.

           I had reported in my previous post that former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi had withdrawn his support for the executive because of Lettas center-right government's effort to remove him from office in accordance with his sentence for corruption.  After a majority of the main center-right party expressed support for the Government, Berlusconi changed his strategy and decided to back the shaky government. Nevertheless, according to the Italian News Agency, ANSA, the process has produced a split within the People of Liberty Party, with Deputy Prime Minister Angelino Alfano breaking with the former Premier.

           For now, the vote ends the political crisis in Italy and restores a degree of investor confidence in its critically-important economy.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Berlusconi Withdraws Support for Letta’s Coalition Government

           Former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has withdrawn his support for the already-shaky coalition government of the center-left and center-right led by center-left Premier Enrico Letta.  He is the leader of the largest party of the center-right bloc, the People of Liberty, which has returned to its original name, Forward Italy. 

Berlusconi had required his party’s cabinet ministers to hand in their resignations.  The former Prime Minister objects to efforts by the center-left to remove him from his seat in the Senate because of a fraud conviction.  The Government faces a confidence vote in which it must depend on center-right defectors for support.  Berlusconi is pushing to guarantee an end of the hated property tax and to cancel the increase in the sales tax.  If the five-month-long Government falls, Italians would soon have to return to the polls for parliamentary elections, the results of which are uncertain. 

The prospect of a fall of the executive of Italy, which has the third largest economy in the European Monetary Union, has rattled financial markets, as the current Italian Government is considered fiscally responsible.  Italy, which has been reducing its budget deficit, is a bulwark against the contagion of debt and fiscal crisis in the eurozone.  

Narrow Definition of Journalism Threatens Freedom of the Press

The word journalist is being defined in proposed federal legislation to expand the shield law that protects journalists from prosecution for refusing to reveal their sources in criminal investigations.  The proposed definition is narrow and clearly only includes paid professionals, not those, such as us bloggers, who do the exact same work, either employed by themselves or for free. 

Aside from the question on the merits of a journalist shield law, this proposed definition of journalist is an attempt by a de facto guild of paid employees of the media to re-establish their industry’s monopoly on information and commentary.  As such, it is a threat to liberty and must be opposed by conservatives and all those concerned about the freedom of the press – a right that belongs to all. Furthermore, it is not the duty of government to define any profession or any legitimate practice of exercising a freedom.