Federal Times Blogs
Stephen Colbert summed up the dilemma facing the U.S. Postal Service beautifully in this Wednesday night segment: “The survival of the Postal Service depends on swift congressional action … goodbye.”
Besides laying into Ben Franklin and the Forever Stamp, Colbert also announced his own line of custom stamps tweaking the Postal Service. (Though some in the agency would probably call it kicking them while they’re down.)
One talking head in the first video lets loose with the head-slapping inaccuracy that the Postal Service is funded with taxpayer dollars (its money actually comes from stamp revenue and other products it sells). But the second video — featuring an interview with former letter carrier and author Phil Rubio — is informative, and Rubio delivers a thoughtful defense of the Postal Service’s universal service mandate.
With four days to go (roughly) until the federal government runs out of cash, the effort to raise the debt ceiling is growing more and more chaotic. Last night, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, couldn’t muster enough GOP votes to pass his plan to raise the debt ceiling in two stages while cutting some $917 billion in discretionary spending (give or take a few hundred billion).
The strain is evident. Earlier in the week, Boehner told House Republicans to “get your ass in line” and back his plan, with no success. House GOP leadership is now scrambling to revise the bill and salvage a vote. But that’s bound to be a futile exercise anyway. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., already pledged to sink Boehner’s bill, Obama just denounced it as having “no chance of becoming law,” and making it more conservative just makes it even less likely to pass the Senate.
Meanwhile, millions of federal employees and retirees are growing increasingly nervous with no official word on how a potential default would affect them. The National Federation of Federal Employees today announced their “Each One, Reach One” campaign to pressure lawmakers to get their act together. NFFE President Bill Dougan wants all federal employees to call one or more of their representatives and tell them to raise the debt ceiling by the Aug. 2 deadline.
Because we’ve got to laugh so we don’t cry, here’s Stephen Colbert’s inspired — and incredibly dorky — riff on John McCain’s dismissal of Tea Partiers as “hobbits.”
Are you a fed tired of the knee-jerk government bashing that’s so in vogue these days? The social networking site GovLoop thinks its time for all of you to stand up and yell at the top of your lungs, “I don’t suck!”
Yes, GovLoop is holding a “Government Doesn’t Suck” rally tomorrow, alongside Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert’s Rally to Restore Sanity/March to Keep Fear Alive event. Go to the south end of the Air and Space Museum and look for the people with green shirts with “Chicks Dig Govies” sign. (Apparently that’s an official GovLoop rally slogan. And I really, really hope they don’t start singing government-themed anthems inspired by Joan Osborne — the “What If Gov Was One Of Us?” sign fills me with dread.) GovLoop promises “some swag and solidarity” for feds and fed supporters who swing by to express “reasonable indignation.”
The official rally itself is shaping up to be a pretty good mixture of music and comedy. The Roots are the opening act, Sheryl Crow will play, and (best of all) soul legend Mavis Staples will perform with Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy. If you attend any of the events tomorrow, sound off about your experience below.
Stephen Colbert’s appearance before a House committee hearing on migrant workers got off to a weird start this morning. Right off the bat, Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., tried to kick Colbert out of the hearing, but Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., insisted he stay.
His opening statement featured the same absurd leaps in logic and clever wordplay he employs night after night on his show, and had some very funny lines. (For example: “My great-grandfather did not travel across 4,000 miles of Atlantic ocean to see this country overrun by immigrants. He did it because he killed a man back in Ireland.”) At times he seemed to be waiting for laughter that never came, which felt slightly awkward.
But the most bizarre exchange came when an obviously unamused Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, challenged Colbert’s self-proclaimed experience as a corn packer. Colbert stood firm, but drew some nervous titters when he said, “I know that term is offensive to some people because corn packer is a derogatory term for a gay Iowan.” (And in what is — I hope — a Capitol Hill first, Colbert offered to introduce his colonoscopy as evidence after singing the praises of roughage.)
Although Colbert was witty as he sparred with the stuffy lawmakers, I still think his appearance was a mistake. His paraphrasing of the Biblical passage about doing unto the least of your brothers was heartfelt and the one serious spot in his appearance, but it’s dangerous for a court jester to dip his toes into activism. Lofgren compared Colbert to Bono, for crying out loud, and that’s never a good place for someone who’s built a career on puncturing others’ pomposity.
Colbert’s opening statement is below, and video excerpts from his questioning can be found at this link. Video of the “corn packer” exchange is after the jump.
Tags: Stephen Colbert
Faux newsman and comedian Stephen Colbert will appear before a House Judiciary Committee hearing tomorrow on illegal immigrants and farm labor. The details are kind of sketchy, but there are some reports that Colbert will testify in his on-screen character of a blustery conservative pundit.
Now, I am a card-carrying member of the Colbert Nation, but this is a bad idea all around. And it shows just how broken Congress is, and how far the quality of hearings has fallen. I’ve covered Washington since 2002, and they seem to get worse and worse each year.
It’s an open secret in Washington that very little real news is made at congressional hearings. Sure, there are a few dedicated lawmakers who actually care about the nuts-and-bolts issues that make the government run, and their incisive questions sometimes do move the ball forward. But most just pop in and out of hearings to ask questions that are either painfully superficial or thinly-veiled political statements designed to grandstand for the TV cameras. Some don’t even stick around to hear the answers, and split as soon as they’re done yelling.
We’re a long way from the Watergate or Army-McCarthy hearings. Because the questioning is so vapid these days, witnesses who should be nailed to the wall can squeak through by sticking to their talking points. (See: April’s Goldman Sachs hearings, where the major news was the fact that Sen. Carl Levin used the word s****y about a dozen times.)
And since the name of the game is getting media attention in the 24-hour news cycle to fuel reelection bids — not hard-hitting investigations — lawmakers resort to gimmicky hearings and celebrity witnesses. There’s no real reason to have Colbert talk about the plight of the migrant farm worker, besides allowing some politicians to glom onto his fame. Same thing with yesterday’s hearing on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, in which the House Homeland Security Committee invited actor Kevin Costner, of all people, to testify. (But to be fair, anyone who’s seen Waterworld knows Costner is an expert on sea-based bombs.) (rimshot)
As for Colbert, he’s got nothing really to gain from this, besides risking his reputation as a keen satirist. A March to Keep Fear Alive is one thing, but cozying up to the political class he should be skewering is something else entirely.
The event, to be held Oct. 30 on the National Mall, is partly a parody of the “Restoring Honor” rally Glenn Beck held in August. But Stewart is only half-joking when he calls for a million-moderate march to find solutions to the problems our nation faces, without demonizing those who may disagree with us. Or in his words, “take it down a notch for America.”
As his announcement made clear, shrill hysteria has become a bipartisan attribute over the last few years. Just look at how many people descended on this FedLine post — making Obama = Hitler comparisons, yelling about the Patriot Act, and calling the Census an unconstitutional scheme that leads to concentration camp imprisonments — to see how far the crazy has gotten.
And speaking as someone who covers the business of government day in and day out, “Got competence?” doesn’t sound like a bad rallying cry.
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|
|Rally to Restore Sanity|
|The Colbert Report||Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c|
|March to Keep Fear Alive|
Stephen Colbert welcomed troops returning from Operation Iraqi Freedom to his show last night, with plenty of surprises — beer, pretty girls, Joe Biden serving hot dogs, Yogi Berra, and a toilet fit for Saddam. Check out the video below, and others after the jump:
|The Colbert Report||Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c|
|Been There Won That - Joe Biden & Yogi Berra<a>|
The Onion “reports” that Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has come up with the ultimate way to test our national security vulnerabilities: Releasing the five most dangerous prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, into the United States to see whether we can catch them before they strike.
“If the Empire State Building or Jefferson Memorial blows up, for example, then we’ll know we have to make some improvements,” she added. “It’s all part of the process.”
[...] DHS also confirmed that the terrorists, who vowed nothing would stop them from their ultimate goal of destroying all of America, received a $100 Home Depot gift card for incidentals and supplies.
[...] Homeland Security officials said the drill will provide vital information on exactly how easily a hypothetical group of terrorists could exploit vastly underprotected and insufficiently funded areas such as Yosemite National Park, the Hoover Dam, most of the North American power grid, or virtually any U.S. port.
“Some of them will certainly attempt to infiltrate some of our more vulnerable nuclear power plants in Texas or North Carolina, but the odds of them succeeding are pretty low, if you think about it,” [DHS spokesman Roger] Munns said. “Although, off the record, I really hope they don’t go after Chicago’s mass transit system, because, let me tell you, that whole thing would go up in flames real quick.”
GAO investigators, eat your hearts out.
In other news:
- Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell yesterday told comedian-turned-senator Al Franken that, “This isn’t Saturday Night Live,” after Franken apparently clowned around during McConnell’s speech. Politico reported that Franken rolled around in his chair, gasped and rolled his eyes as McConnell delivered remarks opposing Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan. Franken apologized, but we should probably be happy he didn’t deliver an in-character rebuttal as Stuart Smalley.
- Stephen Colbert, of all people, debunks a news report that claims the Taliban is training terrorist monkeys to fight soldiers. Phew. I’ll sleep easier tonight.
- And Colbert talks to Rep. Barney Frank here about the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and potential nominee Elizabeth Warren.
The Daily Show returned from vacation last night and weighed in on the Shirley Sherrod foofaraw. Jon Stewart, as always, gave the whole absurd episode the gravitas it required by editing the video of her speech to make it look like she was admitting to ruining the environment (the gold-plated Air Force One and alpaca fighting ring were also particularly nice touches).
Stephen Colbert then took it one step further by splicing Mel Gibson’s latest racist and very NSFW rant into a quote from White House press secretary Robert Gibbs. But why should Stewart, Colbert and Andrew Breitbart have all the fun of twisting government officials’ words? With some simple editing software, you too can make it seem like Sherrod is admitting to almost anything.
FedLine readers, what do you say we create our first Internet meme? The full video of Sherrod’s speech can be found at this link. Make your own Shirley Sherrod mashup, and post the link to your video in the comment section below! (The more ridiculous, the better. But please, try to keep some semblance of taste. This is a family blog, after all.)
(Sherrod, by the way, told CBS today she is still considering Secretary Tom Vilsack’s olive branch-slash-job offer. But given how quickly and drastically her fortunes turned last week, if she holds out, she could probably have Vilsack’s job by mid-August.)
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|
|Lost in Race|
The White House was on to something last year when it asked federal employees for their ideas on improving the government, but sometimes opening the floor to suggestions can backfire. Stars and Stripes has a fun story today about some of the wackier ideas the public has submitted online to the Defense Department.
The most awesome proposal is to airdrop a platoon of GPS-equipped bears — which have a better sense of smell than even bloodhounds — into Afghanistan to hunt down Osama bin Laden. This helpful person (possibly Stephen Colbert) really thought through the logistics involved in such an operation, and advised the Pentagon to “attempt to train bears to take off parachutes after landing, or use parachutes that self-destruct.”
Another proposal is for a Noah’s Ark-like biosphere (complete with Biblical cubit measurements!) to preserve humanity after a devastating war. But it sounds suspiciously similar to Dr. Strangelove’s plan to shelter top government officials and nubile women in a nuclear war-proof mine shaft. And one student made a broad request for “top scret [sic] information” for his economics class. (Sounds like one of my FOIA requests.)
There’s also a healthy dose of 9/11 conspiracy mongering, including this gem:
Has anyone at the Department [of] Defense noticed that the Twin Towers were destroyed on 9/11, and that when you dial emergency services in the USA you dial 911? If so, is this merely a coincidence?
. . . whoa. You just blew my mind.