Sunday, November 17, 2013

Readers Write


Some email responses from readers this week. They have given me the okay to print them . . .

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Byter Doug took me to task for saying in the 11 November post that Fraser’s blocking of supply (that is, blocking money bills, which means blocking money for the Government to function) was a bit like what happened to Obama in the US recently.

Here is Doug’s email:

Hi Otto,

Very interesting Bytes as always. I hope that you don't mind a different perspective on one of the points that you made in your [post].

You made a comment that what the Republican-run House of Representatives did by threatening to block the debt limit increase is similar to the Liberals blocking supply in 1972. It's actually a bit different for several reasons.

First, threatening to block the debt limit increase is a traditional tactic employed when the party who controls Congress does not control the presidency. For example, when Obama was a senator and a Republican was president, he voted against a debt limit increase, decrying the effect of debt upon the country, etc. I'll post part of his comments below:

'The fact that we are here today to debate raising America's debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the US Government cannot pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government's reckless fiscal policies. Increasing America's debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that "the buck stops here." Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better.'
Read more at

It's also not unusual for Congress to place conditions on funding. It's just a negotiation strategy that has been run many times before (and will probably happen many times again). In contrast, blocking supply has much more significant consequences. Although I'm not too familiar with political activity in Australia prior to 1989 (when I moved here), I think that this was the only example of the federal government supply being blocked. In contrast to the US political strategies, I don't think Oppositions even threaten to block supply anymore.

Second, Congress in the US is responsible for the budget, not the president. The president may approve or veto the budget, but he doesn't actually specify what the budget should be. For the House to put conditions on how the budget should be organised is within their scope of responsibility. That's what they do. Of course, since the Democrats control the Senate and the Republicans control the House, it's a bit more complicated than if the same party controls them both. However, this is pretty routine.

Putting the politics to one side, the rollout of Obamacare has been an utter disaster. I think it would have been in Obama's interest to actually have agreed to the Republican's demand for a year's delay. That would have given the team another year to fix it and the Republicans would have been deprived of their talking points about how bad Obamacare is. By absolutely refusing to negotiate about the debt limit increase, Obama caused himself much more trouble than he would have otherwise experienced.

Regards,

Doug

Thanks Doug, it is clear now that I should have prefaced my comment about blocking of supply being like the Obama matter with the word "not".

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There were two emails on the apeshit/batshit post. There’s a message there somewhere, that I get emails on the topic of shit but hardly ever on much weightier topics. It reminds me of the following joke:

A guy was seated next to a 10-year-old girl on an airplane. Being bored, he turned to the girl and said, "Let's talk. I've heard that flights go quicker if you strike up a conversation with your fellow passenger." 
The girl, who was reading a book, closed it slowly and said to the guy, "What would you like to talk about?" 
Oh, I don't know," said the guy. "How about nuclear power?" 
"OK," she said. "That could be an interesting topic. But let me ask you a question first. A horse, a cow and a deer all eat the same stuff... grass. Yet a deer excretes little pellets, while a cow turns out a flat patty, and a horse produces clumps of dried grass. Why do you suppose that is?" 
The guy thought about it and said, "Hmmm, I have no idea." 
To which the girl replied, "Do you really feel qualified to discuss nuclear power when you don't know shit?"

Byters Brett and Lapun Pinis do, however, know their shit.

Here is Brett’s email:

The phrase "going ape" being used on Air Force bases in the 1950s gains credence when you know that, at that time, security personnel were called Air Police, abbreviated AP, and pronounced 'ape'; members were called apes, and were not known for their gentleness. Now they are Security Police, or SPs.

This is Lapun’s email:

Replying to your comments “Crazy, Baby”: 
1. Having been the recipient of an Ape at Taronga Park* throwing faeces at me, when I and a friend were laughing at a silly joke, I am certain you have no further to look for the origin of this phrase. 
2. Having moved back to Mission Beach, Far North Queensland, and having spent last weekend in Cairns in a mango tree lined street, I also have little doubt about the origin of the much more recent phrase “bat-shit”. Anyone who has walked under these trees when the fruit bats are feeding, or who has sat on a park bench without first checking it out, will know that the bat faeces is truly evil, being both profuse and a vile black colour that stains clothes, timber, concrete and anything else you care to mention. Also borne out by my knowledge from living in Papua New Guinea for 37 years! 
Lapun Pinis  
“My ‘nom-de-plume’ - Lapun Pinis – is frequently used in blogs etc., is known to many in PNG and is more recognisable than my birth name.” 
* Taronga Park Zoo, Sydney 

Thanks for the comments and feedback, guys.

Also to Arthur, who sends a daily acknowledgment.


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