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Jay Lake
Date: 2013-10-06 08:17
Subject: [travel|politics] Crater Lake, Speaker Boehner and you
Security: Public
Tags:oregon, politics, radiantlisa, travel
This weekend Lisa Costello and I took a trip to southern Oregon to celebrate her one year anniversary of moving to Portland. We planned it around a visit to Crater Lake National Park.

You can see how well that worked out:


The Federal government is shut down due to a delaying tactic by the House Republicans in a fight over something that isn't even directly affected by the shutdown. Speaker of the House John Boehner could pass a 'clean' continuing resolution to restart the government any time he wished by bringing the measure to the floor of the house. Most Democrats and a fair number of Republicans would vote for it. In doing so, Congress would be doing its job, what each Representative and Senator was elected for. In doing so, Congress would be performing a legal duty that went on for decades as a trivially routine measure until conservatives politicized the process.

The reason I could not visit Crater Lake this week was the same reason that almost a million Federal workers have been furloughed, the reason education and science and health and safety services across this country have been suspended, the reason sick kids are being sent home from NIH to die. Because Speaker Boehner is afraid he'll lose his job if he brings the continuing resolution to a floor vote. All this to try to stop a piece of settled law which was negotiated and compromised on extensively as a bill, passed on a bipartisan vote, signed by the president and litigated to the Supreme Court. All this to try to stop a social initiative which was overwhelming supported in the last election with Obama's second term in office and the GOP losing the popular majority of votes for both the House and Senate.

In other words, by the rules of our same Constitution those conservatives so profess to love, a done deal. Legally and electorally, this question has been resolved.

One man with the power to comply with both the law and the stated will of the electorate by simply making Congress do what it should have been doing so all along will not do so, because he's afraid to lose his job.

Speaker Boehner, why is your job worth the cost $300 million in shut down costs per day, and almost a million people out of work? You, sir, are a true profile in political courage. You, sir, are everything the modern Republican party has become on its way to being a permanent disgrace to American democracy.

Photo © 2013, Lisa Costello

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This work by Lisa Costello is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

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User: jordan179
Date: 2013-10-06 19:52 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
The National Parks have been blocked to visitors because the Obama Administration wants to make the shutdown hurt as much as possible. The park management could, after all, just leave the roads open and unattended, and let people enter the parks at will.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2013-10-07 00:28 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I think you're a tad confused on cause and effect here. Plus, it's rather hard to credit the administration with micromanaging the shutdown to that degree, given that all the Federal departments and agencies are following well-established shutdown plans. But I know right wing media has been making a big deal out of the National Parks being shut down, as if the shutdown were somehow Obama's fault, so if it makes you feel better, go with that.
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User: jordan179
Date: 2013-10-07 00:37 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
The Congress presented the President with a spending bill. The President chose not to sign it. The deadlock thus resulting is the US Constitution functioning exactly as designed, preventing either branch from dominating. The remedy is for either the faction holding the Congress to change in 2014-15, or the faction holding the Presidency to change in 2016-17, or the Supreme Court to decide that one or both branches must yield. We're living in a constitutional republic, not a dictatorship.

As for blocking the entry of persons into national parks and other monuments, this is in many cases requiring the use of more personnel than would keeping those facilities open. It's difficult to see why a fair and rational shutdown plan would involve having more Federal employees on the job rather than less. This is why I'm assuming that the motivating factor on the part of the President is "make it hurt."

Why do you think he's choosing to block people from entering the facilities, even when doing so is costlier than would be simply leaving them open, perhaps unattended?
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2013-10-07 00:47 (UTC)
Once again, I don't think Obama's choosing to do anything. This is part of a long established NPS plan. At a minimum, I'd guess this is for both liability and preservation reasons. National Parks are pretty tightly run places. (By comparison, the BLM sites in Oregon still seem to be open and accessible.)

As for your political analysis, it is deeply disingenuous and rather beneath what I know to be your level of thoughtfulness and understanding of world events. You can do better than snark behind legalisms.
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User: jordan179
Date: 2013-10-07 01:09 (UTC)
Subject: Re:

The system I'm referring to here is the US Constitution's own system for passing bills into law. This is not a matter of mere legal technicalities, this is the fundamental way in which the US Government is constrained to operate by the Founders. Since the President is essentially an elected King, and the Congress our version of the Houses of Parliament, and the original English system had so notably and bloodily failed us in the 1760's and early 1770's, the Founders made damned sure that checks and balances would prevent any one branch from dominating.

The Congress passed a spending bill. The spending bill explicitly did not fund Obamacare. This is within the rights of the Congress: the power of the purse was expressly given to them by the US Constitution. The reason why the Congress is choosing not to fund a bill their predecessor Congress voted for two years ago is that the composition of the Congress changed in consequence of the election of 2012. This, too, is expressly intended by the US Constitution -- that's why Congresspeople run for office rather than have it be a lifetime post as was the case in (for example) the Roman Senate.

Obama has pledged to veto the spending bill. This is within his rights under the Constitution, and it was intended as a check against democracy -- the intent was that the President could override the political passions of the moment and keep us on a wise policy course. He, too, is (so far) behaving within his Constitutional limits.

The Congress will have the opportunity to try to override Obama's veto by two-thirds majority. They probably won't succeed at this, because they don't have the numbers in favor of the current spending bill.

So there's an impasse. This is not a failure of the Constitution, it's the Constitution working exactly as designed. The Founders wanted to make it hard for any one branch of the three grand governmental branches to go it alone. This was to prevent a dictatorship of any of the three obvious types: Presidential, Congressional or Judiciary.

Probably, this impasse will be resolved by some sort of compromise or surrender. The Congress and Obama might agree to fund some parts of Obamacare and leave the rest up to the results of the elections of 2014 and 2016. The Congress might cave in completely. Or Obama might cave in completely. Any one of these outcomes would be perfectly Constitutional.

As for Obama not "choosing to do anything," you don't even realize how deeply you're damning him by that statement? As the President, the head of the Executive Branch, he's the one who ultimately is in charge of deciding what to do on the level of implementing the laws of the United States of America. As for "a long-established NPS plan," the NPS is part of the Interior, which is part of the Executive Branch. As Harry Truman said of the Presidency, "the buck stops here," and thus the President is always responsible for any but the lowest-level and most temporary sorts of executive decisions.

Did you believe Reagan, or either Bush, when they sometimes denied knowledge of politically-important Executive Branch policies? Heck, did you believe Clinton in these cases?

No? Me neither. Then why do you believe Obama when he claims the same thing? Isn't Obama as much President as any of his predecessors?
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2013-10-07 02:48 (UTC)
Subject: Re:
Once again, you are being profoundly disingenuous. Relying on a strictly Constitutionalist interpretation of how divided government works ignores well over two centuries of statute law, case law, precedent, parliamentary procedure, legislative tradition, House and Senate rules, and, yes, sometimes presidential fiat. At least since the Civil War, we've always managed to run the government even when it is politically divided without the legalistic Constitutional deadlock you are falling back.

As for referring to the NPS closures as "politically-important Executive Branch policy" somehow on a par with the Iran-Contra arms sales and so forth, your FOX News is showing. That's not even remotely a credible stance to take with anyone in the real world here outside the conservative bubble.

'nuff said.
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User: jordan179
Date: 2013-10-07 04:52 (UTC)
Subject: Re:
These deadlocks (there have been 12 over the last four decades, an average of one every 3-4 years) are usually resolved through political compromise. The "legalistic Constitutional deadlock" you consider unimportant is why both sides have always had to compromise: if one or both aren't willing to compromise, the government could and would remain unfunded for years until the next elections.

Part of Obama's problem is that he -- despite claiming to be a "Constitutional scholar" -- has very little idea how the government actually operates, and he has run into trouble over this before. He could have gotten Obamacare instituted and funded by now (he had a Democratic majority in both houses between Jan 2009 and Jan 2011) if he hadn't tried to rule through Executive Orders rather than deal with Congressional polticians.

As to the mechanics of the NPS shutdown, obviously Obama could have missed the incredible idiocy of shutting-down open-access monuments that are normally unstaffed, before it happened. But it's been some days now, and Obama's orders upon hearing of the fiasco when the veterans stormed the WWII memorial have been to increase the guards on the monuments, to be sure of keeping people out.

This is not inertia, this is deliberate policy on his part.

Damned stupid policy, both from a practical and a political point of view. But then it's your side who is claiming he's the Brilliant Lightworker. I just see him as a machine-politician nonentity, jumped-up well past his level of competence.
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User: jordan179
Date: 2013-10-07 01:15 (UTC)
Subject: "Legalisms"
The reason why I'm so annoyed by your claim that these are mere "legalisms" is that these are ultimately the same "legalisms" that prevents Obama from deciding the crisis by having the Secret Service waltz into Congress and shoot all the Republican lawmakers, or the Republicans from doing so by having an ambitious general drive the tanks up to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and accidentally kill Obama in the process of taking him into custody. In fact these are the same "legalisms" that let you post things against George W. Bush without fear that you would be attainted traitor by secret tribunal, be shot on the spot, and have the US Government confiscate all your assets and leave your family paupers. (Or, for that matter, me to do the same against Barack H. Obama, without a similar fear).

Sounds absurd? It is in America, but it was simple political truth in Europe from the Middle Ages to the 19th century, and it is still political truth in far too much of the world. The reason why it's absurd here is because of those "legalisms" you scorn. Be careful throwing out those "legalisms," for you or your loved ones might need those legalisms someday to hide behind when they dissent against the Administration of the day!
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Danny Adams
User: madwriter
Date: 2013-10-08 01:22 (UTC)
Subject: Re:
"At a minimum, I'd guess this is for both liability and preservation reasons."

This is exactly how it was explained to me by a park ranger this past weekend, when a friend and I went traveling on the federally-run Blue Ridge Parkway. The Parkway itself was open; the facilities were not. I don't know how the national parks work in this regard, but in a situation like this, local law enforcement has the power to go to the Parkway to take care of crime, accidents, etc., and so the BRP wasn't gated off.
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User: jetse
Date: 2013-10-08 22:20 (UTC)
Subject: Re: "At a minimum, I'd guess this is for both liability and preservation reasons."
As a non-US citizen, I tend to agree.

Allow me to explain: last year, my Dutch solar eclipse enthusiast friends and me went to the annular eclipse of 21 May 2012, and decided to watch it at Horseshoe Bend near Page, Arizona.

More importantly, we decided (and keep in mind we plan solar eclipse trips *years* in advance) to combine it with a rafting trip through the Grand Canyon. Reason: an annular eclipse (which is not a *total* one), is a minor eclipse to experienced total eclipse aficionados. But the combination of an annular eclipse with a rafting trip through the Grand Canyon (which indeed are very limited, and tend to sell out way in advance), was an opportunity too good to miss.

Make no mistake: the annular eclipse was nice (to be frank: the TOTAL eclipse later that year at Port Douglas, Australia, was awesome), but the rafting trip through the Grand Canyon was truly a 'once-in-a-lifetime' experience. All of my hardened total solar eclipse friends agreed on that.

Cue to an email of one of them a few days ago: a group of people set up to do almost exactly the same Grand Canyon trip we did, was stopped because of the government shutdown.

Again, I cannot explain enough how the Grand Canyon rafting trip was rated, by my very experienced total solar eclipse friends, as better than most of the actual total solar eclipses we viewed (not all, but many).

We have no clue of to who the affected people are, but we immediately and totally sympathised: they were shot down from their trip of a lifetime, and the fact that they might get their money back is irrelevant.

We've done this trip: there are very dangerous rapids in there, and without the right equipment and--even more importantly--without the right, very well trained guides, you will not survive.

So of course the companies that do Grand Canyon rafting trips have no choice but to shut down (and I strongly suspect they hate to do this as much as the people that booked the trip).

It doesn't mean they should just allow to let people raft through the Grand Canyon on their own: who will be responsible if things go wrong? Nobody will, and the lawsuits would last forever.

So they had no choice but to shut down the Grand Canyon rafting trips (and all other national park trips), for liability reasons alone.

To be absolutely clear: I fully understand what these companies arranging trips through US national parks need to do. They have no choice but to cancel these trips. And I'm equally sure they just want to go forward with these trips, as well: they're *professionals*. No blame to them.

That is why I had this email exchange with my solar eclipse/Grand Canyon friends: we are simply expressing, amongst ourselves, how devastated we would be if we missed this trip through utterly stupid government shenanigans.

So hereby our deepest sympathies to all those who are affected by this.

But to say--as someone higher up in this thread did-- to simply ignore all these national park rangers and go in regardless...

Well, words fail me. Is this person willing to pay up for all the damages these visitors suffer, unsupervised by qualified personnel? If so, I'm sure they can provide a bank account number.
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