Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Tis the Season to be Offended

Originally published in American Thinker on December 23, 2015.

            This is the time of year when news of people being offended by Christian symbols reaches a high point. Progressives view complaints about a “war on Christmas” as manufactured. Barack Obama commented on this in 2006:

This notion that's peddled by the religious right -- that they are oppressed -- is not true. Sometimes it's a cynical ploy to move their agenda ahead. The classic example being that somehow secularists are trying to eliminate Christmas, which strikes me as some kind of manufactured controversy.

            Most of these “manufactured” offenses take place in schools, the media, the military, and government bureaucracies. When some of its more extreme examples are exposed to the public the first reaction is to deny they happened. It appears that the government is attempting to eradicate all mention of Christianity without drawing excessive attention to their program. Professor James Hitchcock has written, “Far from being neutral, the American government is now in the position of favoring unbelief over belief and irreligion over religion.” When there is media attention to their efforts and a strong reaction they tend to deny that they were establishing a new policy.
            There are countless examples of government efforts to remove any reference to the Christian religion. A military diversity training officer instructed a group of U.S. soldiers at Camp Shelby, Miss., not to use the word "Christmas." This officer told the troops she was affirming Army rules. After the episode became public the Public Affairs Chief of the post explained, "There is no policy at the 158th Infantry Brigade, First Army Division East, or First Army that forbids using the word 'Christmas.'" It was all a misunderstanding.
            The Veterans Administration has also stepped into the fray. When a group of children made homemade Christmas cards for patients in a Dallas VA hospital they were informed by a hospital spokesperson “We're thrilled to have them, except the only thing is, we can't accept anything that says ‘Merry Christmas' or ‘God bless you' or any scriptural references because of all the red tape.” A VA spokesperson quoted the Veterans Health Administration handbook:

In order to be respectful of our veterans' religious beliefs, all donated holiday cards are reviewed by a multi-disciplinary team of staff led by chaplaincy services and determined if they are appropriate (non-religious) to freely distribute to patients. We regret this process was not fully explained to this group and apologize for any misunderstanding.

            The Augusta VA hospital has banned some Christmas carols. Hospital spokesman Brian Rothwell announced, "VA policy is welcoming but respectful of all faiths and the protection of each veteran's right to religious freedom and protection from unwelcomed religious material, to their individual beliefs." Therefore, high school students from Augusta's Alleluia Community School were prohibited from singing such songs as "Silent Night" and "O Come All Ye Faithful". Even instrumental versions of religious music has been banned. A school superintendent banned an instrumental version of "Ave Maria" at a public school graduation. The chief of staff of Walter Reed National Medical Center banned family members from bringing Bibles to the facility. Col. Chuck Callahan’s memo stated, “No religious items (i.e., Bibles, reading materials and/or artifacts) are allowed to be given away or used during a visit.” After the memo became public the hospital released a statement saying that it was worded “improperly” and, “We apologize for any confusion the policy may have caused.” A memo from the Salem VA Medical Center states:
…Public areas may only be decorated in a manner that is celebratory of the winter season. Displays must not promote any religion. Please note that trees (regardless of the types of ornaments used) have been deemed to promote the Christian religion and will not be permitted in any public areas this year.
            Efforts to suppress religious observations are not restricted to the holiday season. The Department of Veterans Affairs director of the Houston National Cemetery, Arleen Ocasio, banned saying God or Jesus at funerals. VA Press Secretary Josh Taylor responded, “The idea that invoking the name of God or Jesus is banned at VA national cemeteries is blatantly false.” However, this policy was observed by several witnesses, including Congressman John Culberson.
            Fox News has reported that soldiers at Fort Hood were warned that donating money to evangelical Christian groups or Tea Party groups could result in military punishment. The report claims that an Army Reserve training brief listed Catholics and Evangelical Christians as examples of religious extremism. Training instructions designating religious groups as extremists led Army Secretary John McHugh to write the following memo:
On several occasions over the past few months, media accounts have highlighted instances of Army instructors supplementing programs of instruction and including information or material that is inaccurate, objectionable and otherwise inconsistent with current Army policy.
Examples of intolerance toward religion in the public school are too numerous to count. One example illustrates the technique used by educators to cover their tracks. A teacher in the Willis school district in Houston, Sara Flottman, allegedly confiscated two bibles from students and threw them in the trash. She also allegedly threatened to call Child Protective Service. A school district investigation claimed that the incident never occurred. However, the school’s credibility may be questioned. School Superintendent Kay Karr admitted that Flottman had mentioned calling CPS but that she had said it “in jest.” When disciplining students, it is not a time for humor, especially concerning such dire punishment.
            The national Christmas holiday is gradually being replaced by a “Winter Celebration.” However, this may be too much of a reminder of the Christian holiday. Although it is not in the United States, Winnipeg, Canada, may give us a glimpse of the future. They have replaced their annual Winter Concert with an evening of African drumming.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Finally: Peace in Syria

A hookah smoking caterpillar has given them the call.  Just ask Alice.

According to DIPNOTE, the U.S. Department of State Official Blog, “Our diplomats have been busy, and they have met with significant success across a range of issues – each of these issues vital in their own way to ensuring the safety, security, and prosperity of the American people.”  One of the significant successes is peace in Syria.  “Led by Secretary Kerry, the United States also continues to push for a political transition in Syria, and under his stewardship, in December, the UN Security Council passed a U.S.-sponsored resolution that puts forward a roadmap that will facilitate a transition within Syria to a credible, inclusive, nonsectarian government that is responsive to the needs of the Syrian people.”  This success will follow the State Department’s outstanding success in Libya.

John Kirby the author of the article, “The Year-in-Review: Pivotal Foreign Policy Moments of 2015,” talks about, “the reprehensible human rights violations and violence carried out by the Asad (sic) regime.”  He makes no mention of defeating ISIS, the JV team, probably because it has been “contained.”  There is no mention of the beheadings.  He does not mention the President’s red line or the fact that a Turkish politician has claimed that the Turks supplied the rebels with the poison gas that was used and blamed on the Assad regime.  There is no mention of the oil convoys delivering oil to Turkey (there was abundant satellite evidence of this).  These convoys were allowed to operate until the Russians became involved.  The U.S. military has made mostly cosmetic strikes against ISIS.  ISIS’s heavy weapons were manufactured in the U.S.  There have been numerous accounts claiming that U.S. policy is ineffective and either naive or delusional. I put my money on delusional

The Russian news agency, TASS, has reported that Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov has stated that the U.S. is fighting ISIS “in word only” and refuses to transfer data on terrorist targets in Syria to the Russian military.  ISIS has apparently changed the routes of illegal transportation of  oil to run through the north-western regions of Iraq, which "are in the focus of constant attention of the United States."  Russian aircraft have taken out around 2,000 tank trucks operated by the militants.  This led to their change of routes.  It appears that the U.S. area of concentration is safer for the ISIS oil smugglers.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

The RINO Stampede

            The ascendency of Donald Trump has got the Republican establishment in a panic.  Donald Trump is definitely not considered acceptable by the Republican establishment.  But, how Republican is the Republican establishment?  Who is considered an acceptable candidate by the Republican establishment?  Let’s take the case of Colin Powell.  Powell, a former secretary of state, was seriously considered as a possible presidential candidate.  He is what might be considered a “moderate” and electable candidate by the establishment.  Yet Powell appears to have some issues that should be troubling to his supporters.

            Colin Powell sees a “dark vein” of intolerance in the GOP.  Powell told George Stephanopoulos, "I still see it. I still see it in the Republican Party and I still see it in other parts of our country. You don't have to be a Republican to be touched by this dark vein.”  General Powell is troubled by the Tea Party and by extension the Trump candidacy.  He believes they cannot produce a winning candidate.  He has asserted, “the Tea Party point of view of no compromise whatsoever is not a point of view that will eventually produce a presidential candidate who will win.”   He claims, “The party has taken a sharp turn to the right…over the last 10 or 15 years the party has moved increasingly away from someone like me.”

            At the same time Powell views the Occupy Wall Street protests, “as American as apple pie.” They are who we are.  “We’ve been marching up and down and demonstrating throughout our history.”  Tea Party demonstrations, however, just don’t pass the pie test.  Powell believes in a “big tent.”  How big is this tent?

Saturday, December 12, 2015

The Trump Mystique

            Establishment Republicans appear to be baffled by Donald Trump’s staying power.  They are, “clinging to hope that the Trump phenomenon may yet fade.”  Every comment Trump makes is immediately jumped on by the media and even his fellow Republicans and twisted to produce maximum damage.  However, these attacks only appear to increase his appeal.  The establishment attributes Trump’s appeal to the ignorance of the Republican base.  They are clinging to their bibles and guns.  Rob Stutzman, a GOP consultant in Sacramento, attributes Trump’s success to a, “core of non-college-educated segment of the party that’s adhering to his irrational and dangerous rhetoric and has the potential to hold the party back.”  The Democrats’ base is composed of an elite and a large underclass. Do Democrats ever comment on the ignorance of their base?

            Originally dismissed as a joke, the establishment is now deathly afraid that he will win the nomination.  The RNC demanded Trump sign a pledge to stay with the Republican Party.  However, the RNC did not sign a pledge to stay with the nominee chosen by the Republican base.  Establishment Republicans are now considering a “brokered convention.”  Trump is accused of “tearing apart the party.”  However, it appears that it is the establishment that is tearing the party apart.  Since the polling began candidates that can clearly be described as establishment rarely have achieved a combined total of more than 30%. 

            The establishment prefers “moderate” candidates.  Bob Dole, John McCain, Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush are their preferred candidates.  They are also losers.  Part of their problem is their unwillingness to attack their Democrat opponents.  Joe Biden commenting on the third presidential debate of the 2012 election stated, "Half the time, in this last debate, I didn't know whether or not Gov. Romney was there to debate Barack Obama or endorse Barack Obama.”  No one will suggest that Donald Trump would endorse his opponent.  Trump has made several “outrageous” statements.  After the media have distorted what he has said, the expected response is for the target to grovel and beg for forgiveness.  That is not Trump’s style.  Many people find this refreshing.

            Many of Trump’s policy suggestions are described as impractical.  However, his policies can be contrasted to the progressive policies now in place.  These policies are in effect supported by establishment Republicans and funded through omnibus budget bills.  The administration’s policies are frequently counterproductive - even administration supporters are realizing this.  The administration’s refugee policies and Guantanamo prisoner released policy are receipts for disaster.  Yet the establishment is expending its energy on attacking Trump.

            The stakes are high in this contest.  The corruption is so deep that the establishment cannot allow an “outsider” to gain control.  The establishment has been able to enlist “conservatives” to its cause.  Rep. Darrell Issa stated, “I think when we denounce him as the buffoon that he is, voters have to decide.  You have everyone from the speaker of the House to both conservative and moderate Republicans, in addition to all the Democrats, denouncing [Trump].”  It is early in this campaign.  As time goes by the attacks will become more vicious.  A “famous” rapper has already called for the assassination of Trump and a board member for the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado has resigned after urging people to kill supporters of presidential candidate Donald Trump.  If Trump is nominated we can expect civil disturbances encouraged by the media.  The Attorney General has not commented on these matters.  She is more concerned with remarks that are critical of Islam.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Civilizations Die From Suicide, Not Murder – Arnold Toynbee

            In 1906 orientalist Franz Cumont speculated on the future of Europe based upon his knowledge of the Roman Empire.  At the time his speculations must have seemed absurd:

Let us suppose that in modern Europe the faithful had deserted the Christian churches to worship Allah or Brahma; let us imagine a great confusion of all the races of the world in which Arabian mullahs, Chinese scholars, Japanese bonzes, Tibetan lamas and Hindu pundits would be preaching fatalism and predestination, ancestor-worship and devotion to a deified sovereign, pessimism and deliverance through annihilation - a confusion in which all those priests would erect temples of exotic architecture in our cities and celebrate their disparate rites therein.  Such a dream, which the future may perhaps realize, would offer a pretty accurate picture of the religious chaos in which the ancient world was struggling before the reign of Constantine.

            Comedian ‪John Cleese has declared, “London is no longer English city.”   ‬This fundamental transformation is being fueled by immigration, low birth rates among the native populations and high birth rates by immigrants.  John Derbyshire declared, “If you go to a big hospital in a British city, the geriatric ward is full of old white English people; the ob-gyn ward is wall to wall burkas and headscarves. The country's gone; there are just a few years left. It's a tragedy, the death of a nation … by suicide.”

            This transformation would not be a significant problem if the immigrants assimilated with the host country.  Prior waves of immigrants were grateful to be accepted by the hoist country and for the most part attempted to blend in.  Mark Steyn in his America Alone gives an example of Nada Farooq who he claims “is typical of a significant minority of young Muslims: raised in the West by ‘moderate Muslim’ parents, she is, unlike them, ferociously Muslim, Islamist, jihadist.”  It appears that the offspring of many immigrants are being radicalized.  Claire Berlinski has claimed that “so many immigrants view assimilation as something literally worse than death.”  She also points out, “Islam’s vitality is such that it is now the fastest-growing religion among native Britons.”

            Steyn quotes a Times of London commissioned poll of British Muslims conducted on the anniversary of the July 7, 2005, Tube bombings.  The poll found, “13 percent think that the four men who carried out the bombings should be regarded as ‘martyrs.’”  Steyn states, “If 7 percent think suicide attacks on civilians are justified, that’s 70,000 potential supporters in Britain’s  capital city.”  It is now punishable to criticize Islam.  This politically correct attitude is codified in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  It was adopted by General Assembly in Resolution 61/295 on 13 September 2007.  The declaration claims:      

            Indigenous peoples are equal to all other peoples, while recognizing the right of all peoples to be different, to consider themselves different, and to be respected as such.
             All peoples contribute to the diversity and richness of civilizations and cultures, which constitute the common heritage of humankind.
            All doctrines, policies and practices based on or advocating superiority of peoples or individuals on the basis of national origin or racial, religious, ethnic or cultural differences are racist, scientifically false, legally invalid, morally condemnable and socially unjust.

            At the risk of sounding like a Nazi, this is utter nonsense.  It is not believed by even the dimmest Somali.  People are fleeing places like Mogadishu for Malmo, Sweden and not vice versa.  Haitians bypass the socialist paradise of Cuba on their way to Miami. 

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Leaving Corporate America

Originally published in American Thinker on November 29, 2009

We are at the mercy of economic "experts." These practitioners of the "dismal science" are managing large sectors of our economy in accordance with theories learned in Ivy League Universities. They have assured us that the lessons learned from the Great Depression will prevent another such occurrence. 

The problem is that every forecast by an economic expert can be matched by an equal and opposite forecast. Often these conflicting forecasts are made by the same individual. Economist Howard S. Katz provides an explanation for this situation in his book, The Paper Aristocracy: "Modern economics claims to be a science. This is a sham and a fraud." Katz bases this conclusion on his observation that "[w]hen it fails to predict future events it does not act like the scientist, disregarding false theories in search of the truth; it acts like the Indian Medicine Man who has failed to make rain. It equivocates, rationalizes and tries to make minor adjustments." Unlike an Indian medicine man, an influential economist might not only be unable to bring rain, but he may also cause drought. 

The State of New York provides an example of the disastrous effects of an economic policy. When Governor Paterson, a politician with a long tax-and-spend record, came into office, he declared that taxes were too high. Paterson stated, "We will rue the day that we tax the rich, if the rich, who are the job-creators in New York, stop doing it, and then people are leaving to find jobs in other states." Yet Paterson signed a budget which included 6.1 billion dollars in projected new taxes and fees. Paterson seemed to realize the folly of his action, stating, "None of this makes sense." Tax revenue from these increases was running 20 percent below projections. In a lucid moment, Paterson responded, "Tax the rich, we've done that. We've probably lost jobs and driven people out of the state."

There is a popular idea that the loss of the "rich" is not a problem. Governor Paterson apparently joked that Rush Limbaugh's decision to leave New York due to tax increases was a good thing. Paterson stated, "If I knew that would be the result I would've thought about the taxes earlier." The New York Times concluded, "Limbaugh's vow won't change much" in a state with such a massive deficit. 

Of course, the taxes on one individual, no matter how wealthy, will not have a noticeable impact on government revenue. But is Limbaugh alone in his decision to leave? Buffalo Sabers hockey team owner Tom Golisano announced that he was moving to Florida shortly after the New York State budget was passed. Galisano reportedly pays $13,000 a day in taxes. The head of New York's ACORN-affiliated Working Families Party is reported to have said "good riddance to Golisano." 

According to the New York Times, "people don't relocate because of high taxes." However, Deadline Hollywood reported that "Oprah and her people have long limited the time she spends in Montecito so she doesn't exceed the number of days mandating her to pay exorbitant taxes as a California resident." Apparently Oprah Winfrey does not read the New York Times. Perhaps Limbaugh, Golisano, and Winfrey are isolated examples -- or perhaps not.

The problem of avoiding taxes is not only a state issue. David Farr, the CEO of Emerson Electric Co., asserted, "I'm not going to hire anybody in the U.S. I'm moving. They (Washington) are doing everything possible to destroy jobs." The Obama administration disagrees. Kevin Griffis, a spokesman for U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, replied with an e-mail from Singapore: "This administration has made a significant commitment to U.S. manufacturing, including reforming the country's health insurance system to bring down costs and make American companies more competitive globally."

Farr is not alone in his determination to abandon the anti-business climate of the United States. Eleven major companies have relocated or are in the process of relocating overseas: Tyco International Ltd., Foster Wheeler AG, Weatherford International Ltd., Nabors Industries Ltd., Noble Corp., TransOcean International Group, United America Indemnity Ltd., Cooper Industries, Covidien, Ingersoll-Rand PLC, and Accenture Ltd. The U.S. has the world's highest corporate tax rate after Japan, but we have been promised that free health insurance will make American companies competitive.

In addition to increased taxes, there are other incentives to relocate outside of the United States. The federal government now sees the need to regulate executive compensation. This is a very popular idea, and politicians like popular ideas. Paying executives tens of millions of dollars a year does not seem reasonable. And the majority of Americans agree: high salaries for American CEOs must be regulated. 

The market proves otherwise. If the market offers executives significantly larger incomes to relocate, many will relocate. Josef Ackerman of Deutsche Bank reportedly stated, "We can't wait to get our hands on all that top talent." A reasonable person might say, "The market be damned." The market can at times be very unreasonable. As an illustration, suppose the owner of an NBA team were to conclude that bouncing a ball was worth only $100,000 a year. Where would his team be in the standings? What would the team's attendance figures be? As a result of this change, how many hot dog vendors would be laid off?    

In February 2008, Michelle Obama stated,

We left corporate America, which is a lot of what we're asking young people to do.  Don't go into corporate America. You know, become teachers. Work for the community. Be social workers. Be a nurse. Those are the careers that we need, and we're encouraging our young people to do that.

As corporations relocate overseas, we will become a progressive utopia of teachers teaching social workers and social workers ministering to the needs of teachers. Somehow I do not think this will work.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Our Confused ISIS Policy

If I did not know better I would think that President Obama’s policy in Syria was a stroke of genius: manipulate the Russians to do the dirty work of eliminating ISIS.  According to retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Tom McInerney, “We are not trying to destroy ISIS.”  McInerney said, "I'm looking at a photo right now of the city of Raqqa, the ISIS main headquarters, the Islamic court.  All these buildings are standing. Why? The fact is we are not executing air power."  McInerney’s photos may be outdated. Russia’s Defense Ministry spokesman, Igor Konashenkov, reported that the ISIS command center in Raqqa had been destroyed.

But American policy might be worse than not wanting to destroy ISIS.  It may actually be supporting ISIS. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev blamed the U.S. for having policies that allowed ISIS to come about. He claimed, “The strengthening of the Islamic State became possible partially due to irresponsible policies of the United States. Instead of concentrating joint efforts on fighting terrorism, the United States and its allies decided to fight against the lawfully elected president of Syria Bashar Assad.”

U.S. policy is a continuation of the bipartisan program that eliminated Saddam Hussain, Muammar Gaddafi, and Hosni Mubarak, and has now set its sights on Bashar al-Assad.  These leaders were antagonistic toward the West to a greater or lesser degree and even supported terrorists at times.  However, they were all secular leaders who tolerated religious minorities and provided a certain amount of stability in the region.  The only setback for the progressives’ program was the overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi in Egypt.  U.S. policy allegedly supports “moderate” Muslim rebel groups.  The problem with this policy is: who are these moderates?
Abdelhakim Belhadj

This problem is illustrated by two of Senator John McCain’s Libyan “heroes,” Abdelhakim Belhadj and Abu Mosa.  A smiling Senator McCain was photographed with these two individuals who later were revealed to be ISIS leaders.  The inability to distinguish “moderates” from “extremists” has led to some disturbing outcomes.  State Department representative Marie Harf said, "ISIS has obtained some heavy weaponry.”  She did not mention the origin of the “heavy weaponry,” but the vast majority of ISIS’s heavy weapons originate in the U.S.  ISIS is also driving around in convoys of new Toyota trucks provided to Syrian “moderates” by the US State Department.  “Significant quantities” of arms including M16 assault rifles marked “property of the US government” are in the hands of ISIS. 

Abu Mosa
The publicly accepted alignment pits the US, NATO, Saudi Arabia against Russia, China, Iran and the Assad regime.  All are supposedly opposed to ISIS.  Yet the Turks, a NATO member, seems more concerned with fighting the Kurds, who are one of the most effective forces opposed to ISIS.  Former US Department of State senior advisor David Phillips claims Turkey “has provided logistical support, money, weapons, transport and healthcare to wounded warriors" of ISIS.  The Turks quite possibly provided the Sarin gas used by rebel forces in the August 21, 2013 attack on Ghouta in an attempt to trigger President Obama’s red line threat to attack Assad if he used chemical weapons.  The Turks were also involved in the transit of ISIS oil supplies to the world market.  It is curious that these oil tankers were allegedly not targeted by the U.S. military because they were driven by civilian drivers.  Where were these tankers headed?  The US Government knows.  Satellite photos show exactly where they are going.  By shooting down a Russian jet the Turks are dangerously close to involving NATO in a conflict with Russia.  The Russia response was to install anti-aircraft missiles in Syria.  ISIS does not have aircraft and these missiles put US aircraft in jeopardy.  The last visitor Ambassador Stevens had on September 11 was a Turkish diplomat.  Turkey may be heavily involved in the shipment of oil and weapons into and out of Syria. 

Saudi Arabia also has an ambiguous policy towards ISIS.  Even US policy raises questions.  The President has announced 50 US Special Forces will join the “moderate” rebels in Syria.  There is the possibility that they could fall victim to Russian air strikes, leading to an escalation.  The President continues to release Guantanmo detainees.  It is known that many of them have returned to the battlefield. 

It is impossible to construct an accurate assessment of the situation in the Middle East.  Every move is shrouded in secrecy.  Every allegation is met with a counter allegation.  Documents obtained by Judicial Watch through the Freedom of Information Act reveal that the administration’s account of events does not coincide with their intelligence reports.  The bottom line is that following U.S. policy has led to chaos in the Middle East and the flooding of Europe with hundreds of thousands of refugees.  Even some of the President’s most devoted defenders are beginning to question his policies.  CNN's Christiane Amanpour reported that Obama said, “something that was pretty incredible…that our strategy is working. People do not believe that to be the case. The only strategy that’s working is the strategy that he tends to dismiss — and that’s the ground troop strategy.”

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Cupboard is Bare

Originally Published in American Thinker on May 10, 2014. Modified on November 19, 2015

         It is natural that organisms and organizations employ defense mechanisms. When governments are confronted with the threat of budgets cuts they must respond. A particularly effective technique has been described as the "Firemen First Principle."  This term was coined by journalist Charles Peters in 1976. It states, "the public will support [the Clever Bureaucrat's] valiant fight against the budget reduction only if essential services are endangered. Thus, C.B. always picks on teachers, policemen, firemen first."  Essential services are the first targets of a government faced with budget cuts. President Obama said Republicans have a choice during the 2013 sequester debate: "Do you want to see a bunch of first responders lose their jobs because you want to protect some special interest tax loophole?" A classic example of this technique was provided by the city of Ann Arbor. Faced with the opposition to tax increases the city laid off firefighters. At the same time they were funding an art project for $850,000 that failed to function. The dire consequences of these cuts are dutifully reported by the media. Reporting on the cuts to the Minnesota state budget the Associated Press asserted, "The blind are losing reading services. A help line for the elderly has gone silent. And poor families are scrambling after the state stopped child-care subsidies." 
         In order to illustrate this tragedy they mention Sonya Mills, a 39-year-old mother of eight about to lose $3,600 a month in child care subsidies. In order to be effective, these cuts must be highly visible and draconian; designed to cause maximum inconvenience to the public. During the sequester controversy Congressman Darrell Issa reported, "the Committee received information that proposed budget adjustments submitted by an National Parks Service official in the field to deal with sequestration impacts were rejected by NPS superiors in favor of cuts that would be more visible and disruptive.” Some of these cuts have crossed the line to sheer viciousness. Discussing cuts in cancer research CNN anchorwoman, Dana Bash asked Senator Harry Reid, "If you can help one child with cancer, why wouldn't you do it?"  Reid responded, "Why would we want to do that?" The Pentagon halted death benefits for five service members killed over the weekend of the sequester. The Pentagon press release stated, “The department does not currently have the authority to pay death gratuities for the survivors of service members killed in action – typically a cash payment of $100,000 paid within three days of the death of a service member.” It took special congressional action to reinstate these benefits. These cuts were essential because as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi stated, "The cupboard is bare."
         But is the cupboard really bare? There appears to be a class of spending in the back of the cupboard that has apparently been overlooked. This has been described as "little, tiny 'porky amendments."  Senator Chuck Schumer told the Senate, “And let me say this, to all of the chattering class, that so much focuses on those little, tiny ‘ yes, porky’ amendments: The American people really don’t care.”  Former Congressman David Obey once referred the cost of one of these items as, "a lousy $8 million."  What could be more important than death benefits for deceased servicemen or cancer research? The National Science Foundation’s spokeswoman, Deborah Wing claims that the “NSF strives to be good stewards of taxpayers’ dollars.”  How about a $384,949 federal study that looks at “Plasticity in Duck Penis Length.”  Or a grant for $876,752 to study whether there is any benefit to sex among New Zealand mud snails. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded $1.5 million to study biological and social factors for why “three-quarters” of lesbians are obese and why gay males are not. The Department of the Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service has awarded $3.8 million for an “African Elephant Conservation” grant that, in part, aims to “decrease human-elephant conflict.” There is a marmoset monkeys erection study.  Several volumes could be filled with dubious studies by the “good stewards” of billions of taxpayers’ dollars.  The National Institute of Mental Health alone spends roughly $1 billion a year on “academic research.”
         Without oversight government stewards of taxpayer dollars frequently behave like the leaders of Bell, California. The city’s manager of this city of 38,000 earned an annual salary of almost $800,000. This was partially financed by the sale of two general obligation bond issues totaling $50 million. Federal officials’ salaries are regulated. Therefore they must be rewarded with other perquisites like bonuses and paid vacations or “conferences.”  The DOJ spent $121 million on conferences in fiscal 2008 and 2009. The IRS spent $48,631,800 on 225 conferences in fiscal years 2010-2012. The Department of Veterans Affairs spent more than $6 million on two “conferences.”
         Hundreds of government agencies spend billions of dollars of these “conferences.”The attitude of these stewards of tax dollars is perhaps best illustrated by the General Services Administration’s former Regional Commissioner, Jeff Neely. Neely was responsible for the 2010 GSA’s conference held in Las Vegas costing $823,000.  Neely wrote to his friends, “We’ll get you guys a room near us, and we’ll pick up the room tab… I know I’m bad, but as Deb and I often say, why not enjoy it while we have it and while we can. Ain’t gonna last forever.”
         Government officials are extremely frugal when they are dealing with their own finances. They are not so concerned when dealing with public funds. IRS workers who don’t pay their taxes still get bonuses. At the 2009 Wall Street Journal’s Economics Conference Special Assistant to the Secretary of Energy, Matt Rogers, stated, “I’m Matt Rogers.  I am the Special Assistant to the Secretary of Energy and I have $134 billion that I have to disperse between now and the end of December.”  Paul Hollander, a “venture capitalist,” responded to this in an email, “Matt Rogers is about to get treated like a hooker dropped into a prison exercise yard.”  When he shared this with Rogers, he was relieved the find that Rogers and his friends laughed at the suggestion.  But this was the whole point in Rogers making this statement.
         The VA is currently facing a $2.6 billion budget shortfall.  VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson told members of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, "We are going to do the right thing for veterans and be good stewards of taxpayer dollars.”  Gibson also said, “We will have to start denying care to some veterans.”  In 2012 Fox News reported the VA was under investigation over two conferences in Orlando that cost $5 million and featured a video parody of the movie “Patton,”
 and $84,000 spent on “branded pens, highlighters, hand sanitizers and USB drives.”
While the VA is contemplating denying care for veterans White House spokesman Josh Earnest announced the United States will direct $4.5 billion to help address the dire conditions inside Syria and in refugee camps scattered across the region.