WELL, THEY’RE BACK. DO YOU WANT AN APOLOGY, TOO? – DAY AFTER SHUTDOWN ENDS

We’ve been locked in a fight over here, trying to bring government down to size, trying to do our best to stop Obamacare,” House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) told a Cincinnati radio station. “We fought the good fight. We just didn’t win.*

With all due respect, Mr. Speaker, you not only “just didn’t win.” Your sixteen day experiment caused great damage. Your sixteen day experiment caused us to lose, and to say, “We fought the good fight” is disrespectful, patronizing and the poorest choice of words possible. How about an apology to the citizens of the United States for starters? It’s as though now that this “inconvenience” is over, there’s an “Oh, well…” attitude, with perhaps a moment to let the end of the shutdown sink in, and then it’s on to business as usual.

And in the meantime, the rest of the country is looking at the new date just after the holidays, and one can’t help but wonder if a shutdown is going to happen again, right when the holiday bills are due. So, do we spend generously this Christmas, or worry that another shutdown looms?  From the same Washington Post article quoted above, we have this recap of the bill that was passed last night:

“Meanwhile, federal agencies are funded through Jan. 15, when they might shut down again unless lawmakers resolve a continuing dispute over deep automatic spending cuts known as the sequester.”*

And then there’s the default issue again. From the same article:

“Enforcement of the debt limit is suspended until Feb. 7, setting up another confrontation over the national debt sometime in March, independent analysts estimated.”*

The thought remains in the forefront of our collective mind, “Is the United States of America going to partake in these shenanigans again?”

While I write, and all this swirls in my mind, I hear President Obama on the radio.

 “Now that the government is reopened and this threat to our economy is removed, all of us need to stop focusing on the lobbyists and the bloggers and the talking heads on radio and the professional activists who profit from conflict, and focus on what the majority of Americans sent us here to do — and that’s grow this economy.”**

“Need to stop focusing on the lobbyists and the bloggers….” I’m a blogger. Hey, the President is talking about me! At first, I was incredulous. Do I understand this statement correctly? President Obama does not believe that my concerns are legitimate because I represent them in a blog? It’s okay for me to write a letter, but just not publish my thoughts?

Then I had an amusing thought; I had no idea that my individual campaign to draw attention to the ramifications of the government shutdown, including my pleas to elected representatives to tell me what I can do to help, is in a class of activism that precludes anyone from focusing on growing the economy. And just for the record, the only profit I’ve taken is a bit of personal satisfaction that I have done something, but clearly not enough, to bring attention to this shutdown and to end it, to contact my government representatives, to talk about the problems and the positive points, and yes, the negative ones, too, to attempt to remain civil in tone, and to try not to lose too much sleep with worry. Oh, and I also derived satisfaction when my “Stats” page indicated that somebody else, somewhere, read my posts. It’s strange, of course, but I had no idea the President believes I wield so much power.

My point is that ramifications to the shutdown continue; there are large economic issues at stake, and personal ones. Plus, I don’t think the government can expect everybody to forget what they’ve been subjected to because Congress members got to work and struck a deal. Frankly, I feel that collectively, we’ve been put through the wringer. I feel that way, anyway.

But you may not want to pay attention to anything I write, because, well, I’m a blogger and the President says you should stop focusing on me.

*The Washington Post, “Obama Signs Bill To Raise Debt Limit, Reopen Government,” by Lori Montgomery and Rosalind S. Helderman, Published: October 16, 2013  http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/house-effort-to-end-fiscal-crisis-collapses-leaving-senate-to-forge-last-minute-solution/2013/10/16/1e8bb150-364d-11e3-be86-6aeaa439845b_story.html?hpid=z1?wpisrc=al_special

**Here’s a link to the President’s quote, (although I heard it on National Public Radio news): http://www.politico.com/blogs/media/2013/10/obama-hits-bloggers-radio-talking-heads-who-profit-175330.html  “Obama hits bloggers, radio ‘talking heads’ who ‘profit from conflict’” By Dylan Byers, October 17, 2013

Kathy Galgano

October 17, 2013

To Hell In A Hand Basket – Day Sixteen of Shutdown

“So, the mortgage [or rent] is due, but for sixteen days, nobody’s worked. Hmmm. What happens if I can’t pay?

You really don’t want to be the doc telling your patient the devastating news that he or she has cancer. There is a bit of a bright spot, however, because at least there’s an appropriate clinical drug trial that just might help. But oh yeah, even though the cells are multiplying like crazy, the treatment’s off limits because the government says so.

Federal courts have enough funds to continue until the end of this week. Then each Federal court will have to decide what’s essential; most likely, “essential” doesn’t cover civil cases at all. And, if you’re in the jury pool and actually serve, don’t expect to be compensated until this mess is over.

If you have been waiting for your green card, you better dig in your heels because the wait just got longer.

It’s Okay, Kids. Mommy’s not worried that our WIC money to buy food will go away in a few weeks. Everything’s going to be fine. Just fine.

Oh well, most of the people who inspect the food aren’t working anyway. And in case you’re wondering, yes, the government has stopped U.S. food inspections overseas.

But the little one may not be able to go to her Head Start school.

Here’s some more non-essential stuff “With two-thirds of personnel sent home, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been severely limited in spotting or investigating disease outbreaks such as the flu or that mysterious MERS virus from the Middle East. The FDA has halted the review and approval of new medical products and drugs. Nearly all staff at the National Science Foundation has been furloughed, and new scientific research grants are not being issued.” (NY Daily News, October 14, 2013*)

In case you like to get ready for Christmas and Hanukkah a little early, here’s an uplifting bit: “The Consumer Product Safety Commission is no longer screening products at ports of entry to prevent potentially dangerous ones from reaching store shelves, such as children’s products containing excessive levels of lead.” (New York Daily News, October 13, 2013*. Merry Christmas.

Just in case there’s a problem with the car, auto recalls are on hold. You can still file a complaint, of course, but don’t expect anybody to look at it.

Here’s something that really instills a lot of confidence. The Guardian** reports: “The Nuclear Regulatory Commission closed most of its operations on Thursday, though on-site inspectors will remain on the job and the government says it will handle any immediate safety or security issues.” Are they kidding? We’re expected to trust that the NRC will be able to handle problems while employing a skeleton crew, and that the government is going to keep us safe? Has the government been paying any attention at all to what it is doing? I’m speechless.

Oh, but here’s something that’s still working: “The more than 12 million people who requested automatic extensions on their spring tax return must still file their returns, which are due on Tuesday.” (The Guardian, Monday, October 14, 2013.)**

I can’t make this stuff up. You know what they say, “Truth is stranger than fiction.”

Here are my sources:

*New York Daily News, AP, October 13, 2013, SHUTDOWN IMPACT: 13 Days after the federal government closed, affects are felt across many agencies: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/shutdown-impact-13-days-federal-government-closed-affects-felt-man-article-1.1484061

**The Guardian, October 14, 2013 by Amanda Holpuch, “US Government Shutdown: which agencies are next to run out of money?” http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/oct/14/government-shutdown-closures-money

Kathy Galgano

October 16, 2013

Letters to Senator Feinstein and Senator Boxer – Day Fifteen of Shutdown

(NOTE: I emailed this letter to both Senator Feinstein and Senator Boxer representing California, and I also emailed a similar letter to Representative Lofgren.)

Dear Senator:

I realize I have written numerous letters to you. As long as this shutdown continues, I will continue to work from my vantage point in my kitchen to end it.

Is my kitchen grassroots campaign having an impact? To a few readers, perhaps it is, but to the country and our elected representatives, probably not. However, I must do what I can because this shutdown is utter madness. And in a broader perspective, I am trying to prove to young people that one person makes a difference, that one vote matters, and that there is still respect in the world (though I admit that yesterday’s blog posting was much stronger in tone.)

Here is a letter I just sent to Vice President Biden. It contains my message to Congress, and a plea from me.

Kathy Galgano

Dear Mr. Vice President:

I have been posting a daily blog about the shutdown. Yesterday I implored my readers to send invoices to Congress for reimbursement of money Congress has denied them, such as salaries and lost business revenues.

What causes me the most angst, however, is the collective attitude of Congress. (I have stopped calling congressional members “leaders” or “officials,” as I do not believe they are embodying the qualities inherent in leaders representing constituents in a democratic republic. I invite you to read my post.

https://kathygalgano.wordpress.com/2013/10/14/there-is-no-distinctly-american-criminal-class-except-congress-mark-twain-day-fourteen-of-shutdown/

Mr. Vice President, I urge you to relay to this body that I, as a voter, am most ashamed of their behavior and their collective attitude, because not only is the 113th Congress failing to do the business of the United States, it is failing to responsibly represent the United States in a global economy.

Thank you, Sir.

Kathleen Galgano

“There is no distinctly American criminal class – except Congress.” Mark Twain – Day Fourteen of Shutdown

After Fourteen Days of pondering this mess, what comes back to me time and again is not just that Congress has shut down business, and killed the paychecks of tens of thousands of employees, and hurt families as well as local economies, and put the kibosh on scientific research, and turned its collective back on people who need help the most, and even gotten the head of the IMF to say that if we don’t do something right now, the world could slide into another recession.* At least I can wrap my head around that part of this mess because I can see the damage the shutdown is causing. Just this weekend a friend told me of a conversation he had with a disgruntled TSA agent at an airport; this security employee was supposed to have received a paycheck. And I shake my head in deep sadness and shame when I read that someone can’t start a cancer trial right now. This whole mess is one long nightmare and gets worse with every ticking second.

What comes to me is that every time I hear a Congress member** interviewed on the news, I get this unnerving fleeting twinge of something in my gut. I think it’s just that I can’t expect the news to get worse, and yet it does, but I know deep down that’s not it. What unsettles me is that I’m fed up with the attitudes of our congressional members.

Every time I hear somebody say something like, “I don’t know how much we can do,” or “It’s all about the other side,” or “We’ll see what happens,” or, “I need them to…,” or even something like, “I think we can get around to something by Thursday,” I cringe. These people, these men and women elected to Congress, are the only people who can do something about this mess. If they were in school, the teachers would be sending emails home and making phone calls because of destructive, non-caring attitudes. I would never hire a person who can’t put his or her best foot forward and articulate an outcome and then work to achieve it, in a positive fashion. No professor or high school teacher would be satisfied with the work of the current 113th Congress if the job at hand were to be graded as a class group project. They’d fail miserably.

When I hear these sound bites, it’s like people have all the time in the world and it doesn’t matter if congressional members negotiate and solve the issue today or tomorrow or ever. Heck, Congress is getting paid; that’s the law. (There’s an online petition circulating which I have signed; it demands that congress members be stricken of their pay during the shutdown. It’s a great show of force for the public and I urge you to sign it, but know that congressional salaries will remain.)

What also gets to me is that congressional members (as a body, not necessarily individually) not only feel like they are under no critical deadline, they just don’t care, again, as a body, and that is what’s causing most of my angst.

Well I care. And I think the public should start sending invoices to Congress for lost wages and for lost business and for all the economic resources lost to citizens because of this stupid business. Yes, my language is getting stronger. I still caution my readers to maintain respect to the institution of the United States and to use verbiage that gets to the point without dropping to the level of disrespect. As I always say, somebody has to take the high road here and be a role model to kids. It might as well be us.

* I watched NBC’s Meet The Press yesterday, October 13, 2013. Here’s what the Washington Post wrote:

 “IMF Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, warned on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that a failure by the United States to make scheduled payments to investors “would mean massive disruption the world over. And we would be at risk of tipping yet again into a recession.” http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/senate-leaders-begin-to-negotiate-as-other-efforts-to-end-impasse-crumble/2013/10/13/498f4202-341a-11e3-8a0e-4e2cf80831fc_story.html?tid=pm_politics_pop

** (I refuse to call Congress members “leaders” or “officials” right now.)

Kathy Galgano

October 14, 2013

When All Else Fails, Take A Walk In A Pool – Day Ten of Shutdown

For the first time since the shutdown began, I didn’t wake up with that urgent need to sit down with my mug of coffee and start researching and writing my daily post, clicking away at the keypad on my kitchen table while watching the sun rise. It wasn’t that I didn’t have anything to say. On the contrary, my head was filled with ideas and topics for discussion. So what was the problem? Well, I considered this all morning, even after I shut the lid of my laptop and got on with my day. As I exercised in the pool, walking laps in my lane as a physical therapist working with a dozen other people on the other side of the pool conducted a healthy back class and then aquarobics, I pondered my surprising apathy. I puzzled over my false starts and inability to delve into the research I conducted. However, when I’m in the pool, I find it easy to clear my mind. I pay attention to the water and the light dancing on it from the windows and sky lights. The ninety-two degrees relaxes even the most tense of patrons. And it came to me, not all at once, but lap after lap as I walked. It was simple, really; I felt overwhelmed.

Adjectives peppered my head. I was elated and even smiled, remembering that the beautiful Cliff House restaurant in San Francisco reopened this week despite the shutdown, but immediately found myself disgusted and disheartened because the government forced it to lock its doors again. (While a concessionaire of the National Parks Service, the Cliff House fully supports itself.) And then I worried because family members and hundreds of thousands of people cannot work, so they can’t get paid. Even though the House has passed a bill guaranteeing backpay for federal employees, it’s not law yet. And remember, most government contractors and subcontractors aren’t included in this bill. Regardless, everybody’s rent payments are due. Then I thought about a conversation I heard yesterday. This dialogue encompassed worry and fear. Is it really safe to fly? Air traffic controllers must work with reduced teams because many people have been sent home as “nonessential.” And again, none of them are getting a paycheck.  Will the eventual fatigue and justifiable anger of these controllers get in the way of sound judgment at some point? Then something I read yesterday made me optimistic; several members of the House of Representatives demonstrating in Washington, D.C. chose to be arrested in order to make a statement. Activism in a time of political stagnation? I felt like cheering. Then I considered just a few of the programs that need their funding right now. WIC gives healthy food to young mothers and their children. Shelters for battered women are running out of their reserve funds. Scientific research is doomed. A dear friend may not get funding to complete her Ph.D. project.  I can go on and on. It’s all so depressing.

Frankly, the perennial optimist in me felt tired, disgusted, perplexed, disgruntled, angry, enraged even, worried, scared, and just plain sad. But there’s one thing that walking in a pool does for me – it helps me relax. And afterwards, I feel renewed. So I’m not giving up the fight, and you shouldn’t either. This shutdown is ridiculous. Am I fighting windmills? Maybe. Are the parties listening? I don’t know – perhaps not. Does this bother me? You have no idea. But with so much of the country in “standby” mode or even just plain turned “off,” somebody’s got to do something, so it might as well be me. So send somebody a letter. Write a few sentences for your paper’s Opinion page. Share this posting with your friends. Let somebody know you’re disgusted, too.

See you tomorrow.

Kathy Galgano

October 10, 2013

Wanna Help the Government? Buy a Cheeseburger. Day Five of Shutdown

Buckle your seat belts, kids. We’re in for a long ride.

The House just passed a bill that would give the 800,000 furloughed government workers back pay. Did you hear that collective sigh of relief?

There’s another side to this, though. Both Republicans and Democrats have just dug their heels in the muck a little deeper. They are in no hurry to let tourists into the Capitol Building, or call their staffs back to work so they can read my emails, or reopen the parks so brides and grooms can have their dream weddings, or reschedule blood drives at government offices, or reopen the dorm at the NASA Ames Research Facility so fifty brilliant interns have a place to sleep. They are in no hurry.

One sage government worker describes it this way. Both parties are taking the heat for the shutdown. Think of it as a lidded pot under pressure, and to keep the lid from blowing, they let off some steam and pass a bill offering back pay to employees. If the House members voted against giving back pay, they would have said to the nation and the world that they are benefiting from the shutdown. They can’t do that, so they are blunting some of the anger coming their way.

What’s going to end this shutdown? Public opinion. I’m keeping up my personal barrage with my daily blog postings and emails to Congress and the White House, plus my requests for readers to participate, but I admit, that’s not going to do it. How about if Wall Street investors take a 10% hit, will the government reopen fully then? Sure. But that better not happen. Will the government fully reopen if our Wall Street investors state with one voice that this current practice is bad for business? Probably. How do we get the Fortune 500 crowd to do this? I’m working on it. Let me know if you figure something out.

In the meantime, I’m thinking about driving to Groveland, the home base of the Rim Fire still not fully contained in and around Yosemite National Park. The Iron Door Saloon makes great burgers and sweet potato fries; it’s purported to be California’s oldest operating saloon, and we usually stop there on a drive to Yosemite. If you sit in the bar you’ll see all these dollar bills tacked to the ceiling. It’s a great place. The businesses in Groveland are suffering because Route 120 was shut down due to the fire, and then there’s the smoke. This blaze began on August 17 and it’s supposed to be contained by tomorrow, but the containment date has already slipped. The wildfire is massive; four hundred and two square miles have burnt. Local news reports that businesses are laying off workers in Groveland, and many owners fear they will have to shut their doors for good. The road is open, but with Yosemite closed, things look bad. 

I’m really happy the House has passed this bill; I know people who have been sweating finding rent money. But it’s not going to help the town of Groveland and all the other Gold Rush towns in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada range losing business every day because Yosemite is closed.

Keep up the pressure. I’m ordering a cheeseburger.

Kathy Galgano

October 5, 2013

Congress Should Donate Their Salaries to Charity

Members of Congress, according to my sources, are not deemed “unessential,” and are constitutionally required to receive pay during a shutdown because of a provision that limits their ability to change their own pay.* So while Representatives and Senators cannot be forced to work for nothing, in deference to the hundreds of thousands of federal employees now on furlough, we CAN ask them to donate their salaries to non-profit organizations for the duration of the government shutdown.** Please join me in contacting your members of Congress to implore them to donate their pay to charities to help people negatively impacted by the furlough.

To email your Representative, type your Representative’s last name followed by .house.gov, or go to: http://www.house.gov/ and enter your zip code in the upper right hand corner. This will lead you to a map of your area and your Representative’s name. 

To contact your Senator, go to: http://www.senate.gov/ and search for your state in the upper right hand corner, click on it, and your two Senators names will appear. Click on the appropriate name and continue to send your letter by email. Or you can type http://www.senate. (TYPE YOUR SENATOR’S LAST NAME HERE).gov 

To write a letter to the President of the United States, go to: http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact

Here is the USA.GOV Web site information: What’s Affected by a Government Shutdown?

Below, find an overview of some of the government services and operations that will be impacted until Congress passes a budget to fund them again. For detailed information about specific activities at Federal agencies, please see federal government contingency plans.

  • Vital services that ensure seniors and young children have access to healthy food and meals may not have sufficient Federal funds to serve all beneficiaries in an extended lapse.
  • Call centers, hotlines and regional offices that help veterans understand their benefits will close to the public.
  • Veterans’ compensation, pension, education, and other benefits could be cut off in the case of an extended  shutdown.
  • Every one of America’s national parks and monuments, from Yosemite to the Smithsonian to the Statue of Liberty, will be immediately closed.
  • New applications for small business loans and loan guarantees will be immediately halted.
  • Research into life-threatening diseases and other areas will stop, and new patients won’t be accepted into clinical trials at the National Institutes of Health.
  • Work to protect consumers, ranging from child product safety to financial security to the safety of hazardous waste facilities, will cease. The EPA will halt non-essential inspections of chemical facilities and drinking water systems.
  • Permits and reviews for planned energy and transportations projects will stop, preventing companies from working on these projects. Loans to rural communities will be halted.
  • Hundreds of thousands of Federal employees including many charged with protecting us from terrorist threats, defending our borders, inspecting our food, and keeping our skies safe will work without pay until the shutdown  ends.
  • Hundreds of thousands of additional federal workers will be immediately and indefinitely furloughed without pay.

Services That Will Continue During the Government Shutdown

  • Social Security beneficiaries will continue receiving checks.
  • The U.S. Postal Service will keep delivering mail.
  • Active military will continue serving.
  • Air traffic controllers, prison guards, and border patrol agents will remain on the job.
  • NASA Mission Control will continue supporting astronauts serving on the Space Station.       

*http://www.cnn.com/2013/09/30/politics/shutdown-congress-staff-paid/index.html

** http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2013/10/01/which-lawmakers-will-refuse-their-pay-during-the-shutdown/ 

Thank you.

Kathy Galgano

October 2, 2013 

Please Join Me (A Letter To My Readers Regarding the Impending Government Shutdown)

Dear Readers of Kathy’s Musings:

Good Morning. I wanted to write a little humor piece next, but am waking up disgusted and nervous about the impending government shutdown.

I just wrote a letter to my Representative; I have supported my Representative with my votes for a long time. I wrote that instead of focusing on my disgust, if there is something I can do to help avoid this shutdown, and keep people working so they can pay their rents and mortgages and buy groceries, and not make the kids touring our nation’s capital burst into tears because they can’t see the moon rocks at the National Air and Space Museum after selling who knows how many candy bars to get there, and continue to let prospective home owners acquire loans, and keep this nation from becoming a laughing stock in the eyes of the world, and prevent a downhill slide in the local, national, and global economies, then I will do it.

I have joined others in signing online petitions to register my deep concerns. I wrote a letter to the Editor of my local newspaper, although it wasn’t published. And now I sent a letter to my Representative, and even suggested we make public the names of the job positions that may be furloughed come Tuesday. Please join me in contacting your Representatives as well. Shutting down the government of the United States of America impacts all of us.

Thank you.

Kathy Galgano

September 29, 2013