A Bloggy Puttanesca: Now with Government Shutdowns, Tea Parties, Trucker Protests and Confederate Flags!


Tod Kelly

Tod is a writer from the Pacific Northwest. He is also serves as Executive Producer and host of both the 7 Deadly Sins Show at Portland's historic Mission Theatre and 7DS: Pants On Fire! at the White Eagle Hotel & Saloon. He is  a regular inactive for Marie Claire International and the Daily Beast, and is currently writing a book on the sudden rise of exorcisms in the United States. Follow him on Twitter.

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94 Responses

  1. Avatar NewDealer says:

    Great post. Good luck at your speaking engagement.

    I rather dislike that Klayman called Obama anti-Semitic as a Jewish person, I will defend Obama as a steadfast friend to the Jews and Israel until the day he dies. How can a person who appointed Rahm Emmanuel, Elena Kagan, Jack Welch and others to high posts be anti-Semitic? They truly live in an alternative universe. Though part of me should possibly be glad that the right-wing now considers anti-Semitism beyond the pale perhaps…..

    I concur on Freedom from Consequences. This is something that comes up in liberal blogs all the time and I’ve seen this argument for years.

    Though here is a thought that I’ve brought up here and in other places. I think that the Confederate Flag as transformed a bit from merely being the flag of dixie into something else. It know works as a signifier for resentiment for the white, rural, working-class. This is why you can see it in Union and old Republican strongholds like upstate New York, rural Ohio, rural Pacific Northwest, etc. I have Canadian friends who tell me that rural Canadians like to fly the confederate flag.

    I have to think that a lot of this is not done merely for dixie but because they flag flyers know that it pisses off white, urban, middle-class and upper-middle class liberals. It is a deliberate fuck you and done to show off rage and defiance against the cities and what they are perceived to stand for.

    Though plenty of people still like the flag because they believe in the lost cause. Conservatives of the “anti-PC” type often seem to remind of unruly junior high school students with a sub in charge. Maybe not even a sub.Report

    • Avatar greginak says:

      Most people are also unaware of the more recent ugly context of display of confed flags. They weren’t displayed all that much until the Civil Rights era and were put up at that time as a show of “states rights”/ opposition to CR.Report

  2. Avatar Damon says:

    And let’s not forget those Park Police in Yellowstone that prevented tourists from seeing Old Faithfull and virtually imprisoning them in the Hotel inside the park until they could be bussed out of the park, ’cause that’s unimportant too…Report

    • Avatar morat20 says:

      Well, if WND reported it — how can it be biased?

      (I googled it. WND and a handful of ultra-right wing sites. I am sold on it.)Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Is it weird that I remember my first encounter with WND. Before that, I hadn’t realized that such things existed. It was one of those moments in which you realize your innocence is lost forever.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        You know what I love about this story? How amazingly mundane it is. Take away all the scary words, and you have:

        1. People come to a park that in closed, and are told they can’t go in the park because it’s closed.

        2. The people in charge of the park make sure there is a bus to take them off park grounds, so they aren’t stranded.

        It’s as if the Nazi’s ruled the whole country.Report

      • Avatar morat20 says:

        The Onion headline writes itself: “Baffled Republican Confused Government Actually Does Stuff”.

        Followed by quotes like “If I’d have known that shutting down the government actually shut down the government, I’d have asked that they only shut down the parts I don’t use. Like the NTSB or the FAA. I don’t think those sound very important.”Report

      • Avatar NewDealer says:


        The problem seems to be that a lot of people sincerely, sincerely believe that the country is ruled by totalitarians and this is a life or death struggle for liberty and the very soul of the nation. Instead of what it is which is a policy dispute.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        The folks who fearfully imprecate and gesticulate about the Totalitarian Fascists A-Ruinin’ Our Nation are the very first ones to jump to attention and kiss the ass of the first actual fascist to come down the pike.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        @newdealer “The problem seems to be that a lot of people sincerely, sincerely believe that the country is ruled by totalitarians and this is a life or death struggle for liberty and the very soul of the nation.'”

        Is that really the case? I have to confess, I’m not entirely sure.

        I have a sense that there might be a very small minority of the minority that believe that, but I can’t shake the feeling that most of them are playing to the crowd (by which I mean each other).

        When I look top to bottom (voters, radio anchors, Fox folks, the people who regularly call in to talk radio, NRO writers, etc.) I never get the sense of revolutionaries about to take up arms so much as I do frat guys trying to signal. Too much of it has a wink-wink sniggering feel to it.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        @newdealer, @tod-kelly; does it really matter one way or another if their beliefs are sincere or not. Either way, they seem to be causing a lot of damage to the country. What we need is a GOP that isn’t operating on parliamentary norms or at least one that doesn’t see large parts of the country as illegitimate.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        I’m increasingly of the mind that Urban vs Rural misses the point. At least sort of. It’s urban vs rural in a battle for what really matters: the suburbs. The primarily political question being whether those who live in the suburbs and exurbs identify with rural, or identify with urban. When people talk about how we live in an “urban” country they are typically going by metro areas, which includes a whole lot of suburbs*. In most other contexts, urban does not consider suburban to be in the same camp. Nor, of course, can it really be included in the rural camp. It is its own camp and in many ways the most important one.

        To the extent that people believe that rural is Real America or whatever, it’s in a more abstract sense. It’s people in the suburbs (some of them, to varying degrees in varying places) identifying with it. I remember a while back a town near where the one I grew up had a mayor cited saying that his was a “small town.” Except it wasn’t, really, it was a suburb (40 minutes from the city) and a large one by small town standards (a city in Montana with that place’s 50,000 people would be among the state’s largest). Likewise, in other towns of about 50,000 people about 40 minutes from the city look at rural America with horror.

        * – They also include places like Idaho Falls, which in most cases people would not consider urban in most contexts.Report

      • Avatar Morat20 says:

        I have a sense that there might be a very small minority of the minority that believe that, but I can’t shake the feeling that most of them are playing to the crowd (by which I mean each other)

        I dunno, the belief that there’s a ‘silent majority’ behind them is really fundamental to the GOP base. It’s been around since, what, Reagan? Earlier? And Reagan surfed to office on it, ending a long period of Democratic control.

        You hear it after every election — the loser wasn’t a real conservative, voters didn’t want a ‘fake Republican’, they might as well vote for the Democrat, etc. Always, the answer is “you lost because you weren’t conservative enough, so the ‘real conservatives’ stayed home’.

        That’s been their message since, oh, 2006. McCain wasn’t conservative enough, Romney wasn’t conservative enough — and they won in 2010 but they just ignore the fact that their most conservative candidates cost them the Senate.

        I think the belief that they have a ‘silent majority’ behind them is fundamental to the GOP base. Maybe not the politicians, but the base. Add that in with gerrymandering, and the increasing insularity of the GOP news bubble, and you have a recipe for this foolishness.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        Uhmm… I’m not sure where that comment was supposed to go, but it wasn’t here. Oops.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        @will-truman, I agree with you. The entire rural vs. urban think doesn’t make any sense because most Americans do not live in urban or rural environments as traditional understood. You still have plenty of people in cities, small towns, and isolated farmsteads. There over 300 million of us and lots of different living arrangements. But most people live either in suburbs or ex-urbs based on the post-WWII model. Some suburbs are more towny but thats only because they are based on older settlements and are nearer older cities.

        Urban and rural is more of a matter of posturing and values than actual life-style in many places. A person could live in a suburban part of LA or the Bay Area but have more politically in common with a Manhattan dweller than somebody in the Atlanta suburbs even though their lifestyle is more like the people in the Atlanta suburbs.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        “Silent majority” was one of the major themes of Nixon’s 1968 campaign.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer says:


        I think it matters for these reasons

        1. Talking blithely about America being a totalitarian and/or Nazi states, belittles the people who survived actual totalitarian and Nazi regimes. I’m very uneasy with inflammed rhetoric and hypberbole.

        2. I think Ted Cruz really does believe in what he believes in and if he doesn’t and is willing to say such, that is the very definition of dangerous.Report

      • Avatar Damon says:

        You consider the Eagle Tribune an ultra right wing site?

        A Pulitzer Prize winning paper in Massachusetts?

        No doubt they just lifted the article in toto from WND….Report

  3. Avatar morat20 says:

    I note that Joanathan Adler over at the Volokh Conspiracy currently has a half-dozen or so posts whining about park closures, and exactly zero posts on the Anti-Deficiency Act.

    That is noted legal blog, supposedly more ‘libertarian’ than ‘partisan’, has no posts (by any Conspirator) on the actual law involved, but quite a bit of straight-up cut-and-past whines about parks and memorials.

    Which is…sad, really. I’ve heard a lot of about the ADA and there was a big change in interpretation in the 80s (which is why shutdowns stopped, really) and it seems a really complex area with lots of grey — I mean between increased use of contractors, privatized services, and post-911 security — a lot’s changed since the mid-90s shutdown and it’d be really nice to hear some actual legal minds talk about it.

    But instead it was just whines about parks. I learned more about the stupid law from HR when they discussed the furlough and it’s potential effects on our company (we have lots of contractors).Report

    • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

      Here is a blog run by a guy who’s company operates parks for the federal government. He’s mostly upset because he pays the federal government money to run the parks, but is being told to shutdown & furlough his workers.Report

      • Avatar morat20 says:

        Yes, I know. I’ve seen that blog referenced everywhere by conservatives. Offhand, I suspect he’s full of it — or at least confused, and certainly understandably angry.

        For starters, I suspect the Feds are on the hook for a lot of things he’s not counting as costs. (Rescue, among other things). They have to shut down the park to avoid incurring these costs, as required by law. And I’d bet GOOD money it’s in his contract, too.

        The same people posting that blog are the same people who constantly say “It costs more to barricade the monument than to leave it open” — as if the law governing this (or the situation itself) was somehow about efficiency or cost savings.

        Parks and monuments shutting are about two things: The government has no funds to spend save for ‘essentials’ (the shutdown) and the government is not allowed to obligate Congress to pay for things (the ADA).

        Which means that monuments and memorials are barricaded so that a skeleton security staff can watch them (you need fewer people to watch an empty monument to prevent vandals).

        National parks? They’re often shut down to prevent incurring S&R costs, maintenance costs, and security costs — because the NPS is running on a skeleton crew.

        Which leaves us with this poor sod, who is in the same shoes as Lockheed Martin or Jacobs Engineering — the government has shut down the facility he uses, because they’re either on the hook for non-essential direct costs or potential costs.

        And here’s the kicker — even IF he pays the government MORE to run the the parks than the government COSTS to do oversight, security, park rangers, or whatever — he STILL shuts down because the law — the ADA — cares only about the government’s direct costs.

        What he pays the government is immaterial. It’s a simple calculus: Is there money charged to government for this thing? Yes/no. If yes, then CLOSE. There is no “Yes, but it earns more than it costs, so stay open”.

        The people this baffles, uniformly, seem to think the government shutdown is there to save money. The applicable law doesn’t care, it wasn’t designed to care, and enforcing it as if it doesn’t care is EXACTLY how it was meant.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        @morat20 You may be right, I don’t know. He is joining a lawsuit to force the Park Service to let privately run parks re-open, so I suspect if there is some obligation for the Park Service (such as SAR operations – NPS is responsible in parks it administers, not sure if his operations qualify), it will come to light.

        One point he does make is that during previous shutdowns, his business was not affected. I’m curious what is different about this one.Report

      • Avatar trizzlor says:

        morat20 covered most of the perfectly reasonable explanations for this but the big one is that it makes no perfect sense for a big federal bureaucracy like the NPS to have a simple blanket shut-down rule in case the government shuts down.

        Some kind of preparedness plan would require figuring out which parks can stay open and for what time-frame, what happens to maintenance and liability when they do, who takes-over for the roles previously played by NPS, and a million other things that we can’t imagine. This preparedness plan must also be constantly maintained as parks change hands, state laws change, etc. So a complex protocol for an extremely infrequent event. Or just shut down all the parks. Which makes more sense?Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        I’d personally be happy to get verification that he’s telling the truth, or lying, about the deviation of this shutdown from the previous shutdown. If it’s the truth, then I’d be happier to know what changed between then and now, and why.

        Until then, really, it’s all just speculation that seems to track primarily with one’s political leanings.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        I shouldn’t think you would need the government to say one way or the other.

        If his business has entered into a contract with the Federal government, then it will all be spelled out in the contract. (Have you ever seen one of those things? They are pretty damn thorough and don’t leave a whole lot to guesswork.)

        If he doesn’t use the phrase “breach of contract,” I’d see that as a bit of a red flag. And he might, for all I know. But I have to think his attorney already has a pretty good idea if they have a winning case-case (as opposed to a for-the-publicity-case).Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        And also, WIll is pretty damn spot on with his second paragraph there.Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        I agree opinions track along politics. But this is still mostly just a side show. Why is the dude pissed at the NPS or NFS first when it should be directed at those who lead us to a shutdown. Complaining that the gov didn’t quite shutdown its various functions in exactly the way to make everybody content seems to be fairly boggling. If the gov spent more time trying to figure out how to do an emergency shut down better, then people would complain about that as waste or be pissed that their needs weren’t being served because some bureaucrat was busy doing something else instead of serving them.Report

      • Avatar Morat20 says:

        One point he does make is that during previous shutdowns, his business was not affected. I’m curious what is different about this one

        Contracts changed hands? Increasing penchant for privatization of lots of park services, so he’s less of an edge case and more the ‘new normal’ and thus under stricter rules?

        I know for monuments, it can be summed up in one word: “Security”. After 9/11, security requirements changed. They can’t leave open-air monuments like that without security staff, but they can’t staff enough people to leave them open (they’re on basically night-watch numbers) — and of course they’re no custodians.

        But yeah, if he’s not screaming breach of contract he’s full of it. There’s scientists watching years of work go down the drain because of this, but they’re apparently not as interesting as some guy that runs a park.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        Why is the dude pissed at the NPS or NFS first when it should be directed at those who lead us to a shutdown.

        I’d chalk that up to a matter of ideology or political philosophy. My view is that if the government is shut down, it makes more sense for parks to be open (and littered, and potentially unsafe) than it does to spend an ounce of energy trying to keep it open. Others argue the opposite. I’m not sure either side is right in any concrete sense. At least, not if they were left open in one case and closed in another.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        Still, it’s pretty amazing that conservative’s biggest worry about the shutdown is with Parks and Recreation.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:


        Talking to yourself again?

        Anyhoo, I don’t disagree with you here. It’s kind of funny in its own way. Makes sense politically. Argue that some of the more conspicuous downsides to the shutdown are orchestrated and unnecessary, when you’ve orchestrated the shutdown. On the other hand, if these aspects of it are unnecessary, it’s particularly irksome even if not particularly important.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        Until then, really, it’s all just speculation that seems to track primarily with one’s political leanings.

        A legal site like Volokh Conspiracy could shed a lot of light on the problem. That they bitch rather than doing even a bit of actual analysis is suggestive that the law isn’t on the side of their prejudices.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:


        Maybe they have a crush on Rashida Jones.Report

      • Avatar Morat20 says:

        My view is that if the government is shut down, it makes more sense for parks to be open (and littered, and potentially unsafe) than it does to spend an ounce of energy trying to keep it open.

        Wouldn’t that create liability, the potential for damage to government property, and risk further (unauthorized) expenditures for things like search and rescue (lost hikers, forest fires started by idiots, etc)?

        Not to mention the work load on the Park Rangers — they’re operating on a skeleton staff, and they still have responsibilities. (And they’re unpaid until the checks start flowing again). Closing parks seems to make perfect sense.

        There’s no oversight, the emergency personnel that are supposed to cover it are working with minimal staff, and nobody is allowed to do ANYTHING with might indebt the government in any way. Slapping barricades up to keep people out because they lack the staff to oversee a functioning park system seems perfectly sensible from the only perspective that, legally, is allowed to matter.

        Minimal manpower, no obligations for further expenditures beyond ‘essential personnel’ (and as few of them as possible).Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        Morat, Abstractly, I think the case for going into an unmaintained park ought to limit your liability claim should something bad happen. From a more on-the-ground standpoint, if the liability has been accepted in the past, and are accepting the liability in some places right now, it’s not clear to me why such liability is impermissible now. “Legally, this is pretty much what they have to do” would depend, to some extent, on a degree of consistency that I am not seeing.

        Mike, I actually just went to Volokh and saw that Adler had written a post about it. He doesn’t buy the Antideficiency Act argument on the same basis that I am a bit skeptical of it.Report

      • Avatar Morat20 says:

        Mike, I actually just went to Volokh and saw that Adler had written a post about it. He doesn’t buy the Antideficiency Act argument on the same basis that I am a bit skeptical of it.
        Yeah, I read that. It boiled down to “I don’t buy it” without any actual legal reasoning whatsoever. Heck, he was still quoting the “there’s been seventeen shutdowns” line up until too many of his commentators smacked him for ignoring a sea-change in interpretation of the ADA in the 80s.

        He’s a lawyer. On a law blog. With relevant experience and understanding. I’ve SEEN them dissect bills, laws, court cases, and rulings. What Adler did on the ADA was “Let me quote the Barry-Cades brigade, and also I’m totally a lawyer so those people saying it’s the law are totally wrong. Trust me”.

        As to the parks: The law is the law. Sure, you might think “Enter at your own risk” — but if you get lost, those park rangers are GOING to have to find you. If you start a fire, someone is GOING to have to put it out.

        And in the end: A closed park or monument requires fewer people to handle it. Which is sort of the “big thing” when everyone has to drop their work and leave, except the bare minimum — and when 97% of NASA is shut down (the remaining 3% is ISS mission control and security. That’s IT. Research? Shut off. A multi-million dollar satellite launch? Scrapped — and it’ll never fly, because the next planetary window is years away. Astronauts? Furloughed. Nobody’s there) — they’re not padding the numbers.

        A closed property takes fewer people to handle. And I don’t care how privatized a park is, it’s still Federal land under federal supervision that requires — you guessed it — some federal workers. Of whom every possible one they can send home is home.Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        For a lot of the parks a reason for closing them is to protect the darn park from people. I’ve been to plenty of parks where people have scratched their names over rock art or thrown stuff in the geysers at Yellowstone. They don’t want people vandalizing the parks property or notable spots. Sadly people really do those things if they think they can get away with it.Report

      • Avatar Morat20 says:

        I’d bet real money it came down to oversight, security, and staff.

        Closed parks take less people to watch.

        Again, I don’t care how much money the park makes, I don’t care how much someone pays to run it, no federal lands are run without some government supervision, however minimal and some oversight and some federal work. I doubt the guy running the campgrounds does S&R, patrols for vandals, or any of the other million things the Rangers do and I sincerely doubt he’s just left alone to run the park as he sees fit as long as he pays his bills on time.

        The math is simple: “We have to furlough absolutely everyone not essential, and ‘essential’ people are the bare minimum to do the job. Shut everything we can down, because it takes fewer people to secure and monitor”.

        Which is pretty much exactly what the ADA requires during a shutdown.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        Morat20, If what you say is so concrete, why isn’t it consistent? If it were consistently applied, I’d think “Well, that’s stupid in abstractland, but I guess it’s just the way it has to be.” Except that it doesn’t have to be. I think the reason Adler doesn’t cite a lot of caselaw is because there isn’t much caselaw to cite. More to the point, caselaw would, I think, investigate whether the government can shut it down, not whether it must, which seems to be the government’s claim.

        Greg, That, to me, is insufficient. I understand the desire to protect the place, but to me the default is to allow people on, not to expend energy keeping them out. I consider it less “We need the government to allow people in” and more “We need the government to keep an eye on things while they are there.” And lack of government precludes the latter and not the former. I understand and respect that you see it differently, but that’s how I see it.Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        “I understand and respect that you see it differently, but that’s how I see it.”
        Wow…you don’t have to be so nasty about it ( insert wry smile face here)

        If there is a difference in how places are being closed my guess is it is more about who is running the actual park and how it is designated. Forest Service is different from NPS. National monuments are different from wilderness areas, etc. Parks that are run by contractors are going to be yet another species. Also the different agencies have different regions that may do things differently. Not every Walmart is run exactly the same.Report

      • Avatar Morat20 says:

        Adler doesn’t cite caselaw because he’s basically being a conservative hack at the moment. He’s perfectly capable of supporting his view, the fact that he won’t is pretty telling. The fact that he’s been badgered by actual curious people to make a factual post on the law and hasn’t is pretty telling. Not even a ‘is it applied’ but ‘what’s the law, what are the interpretations and guidelines, how was it applied in 1995’ stuff.

        As to why it’s not consistent: It’s pretty freaking consistent. Outliers are easily explained — a very few places have unique circumstances or requirements, but mostly it’s the fact that shutdowns are not meticulously planned out.

        It’s literally down at the last second, and depending on the size of the organization it might have very little top-down oversight. Directions and guidelines from OMB are flowed to the various departments, who apply them as best they can while trying to label as many people exempt as possible AND try to provide for an orderly shutdown (because it goes from ‘lights on’ to ‘lights off’ in an hour or so) and they’re doing it inside of a few weeks.

        There’s no “blueprint”. There’s no Office of Shutdown, there’s just OMB and their lawyers who are managing their own shutdown and still have their day jobs — like everyone else — right up until it happens.

        Seriously, NPS got told to shut down everything non-essential and was — like everyone else — told not to try to pad their essential numbers. Send every possible person home, and close any site not being used by essential personnel.

        Did you expect perfection from an ad hoc maneuver? Something that’s happened twice in the last 30 years and nobody plans for because, well, there’s no money allocated for planning for it?

        It ain’t the Pentagon. Good lord, the NTSB is closed and people are acting like it’s strange the parks are? Of course the parks are closed. It’s government land and the government is closed and virtually everyone who works for them isn’t allowed to go to work.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        The inconsistencies are not just between different places now, though that argument still has problems, but between the same places that were previously allowed to remain open but now are not. The ADA doesn’t explain that, and the ADA is the justification being used for not just letting the parks be.Report

      • Avatar Jim Heffman says:

        “National parks? They’re often shut down to prevent incurring S&R costs, maintenance costs, and security costs — because the NPS is running on a skeleton crew.”

        Except for the part where the parks in question didn’t use government-employee S&R, didn’t use government-employee maintenance workers, and didn’t use government-employee security. In fact, government employees did not actually have anything to do with the park at all, other than managing contract paperwork and cashing checks.

        “Which leaves us with this poor sod, who is in the same shoes as Lockheed Martin or Jacobs Engineering — the government has shut down the facility he uses”

        Hey, yeah, let’s talk about that a bit. The Lockheed Martin “employees” being furloughed are the ones who are actually contract staff at government facilities, and they’re the same contract staff no matter what company owns the contract. If a different company gets the contract, the former company lays off the employees and they are immediately rehired by the new contractor. A friend of mine was employed by Lockheed, Boeing, SAIC, Orbital Sciences, and Halliburton in the space of four years.

        So it’s not like there are giant airplane factories that are just sitting there empty because of Fucking Republicans. The airplanes and rockets and bombs are all still getting built same as they were before.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:

        Why would we expect consistency across shutdowns? Government is certainly called on to make assessments about risk of liability, damage to property, etc. in each situation, no? Even if it were ostensibly all laid out somewhere, in reality it couldn’t be and we’d have no choice but to accept and expect discretion in making these decisions.

        So… the burden really should be on anyone trying to say that any of the decisions are politically motivated. And in pinning that down, I have to say that I have a hard time being nearly so polite about Will’s blanket assertion that “to me the default is to allow people on, not to expend energy keeping them out” as he is to those who disagree (though i will be), because he offers it without a reason and clearly expecting it to advance a particular argument. That view in itself stacks the conversation against the government given that we know they will have to make decisions to close certain open-air facilities. It seems obvious to me, for example, that you would close the brand-new WWII memorial if you don’t have the staff you would usually have to prevent vandalism. But it needn’t be obvious to others; what we should have is simply no preconception that any given facility should be open or closed (and given that this IS a federal government shutdown, that’s actually quite a concession given that in reality it would be entirely reasonable in that context to have the preconception that everything nonessential will in fact be closed). We should agree that the assumption should be that the government will have to make a set of decisions about what should be closed and restricted and what can remain open while unattended that might well differ by facility and differ from the decisions of previous administrations facing similar though not identical factors, and that anyone wanting to say that those decisions are wrong or unreasonable face a burden of proof in showing that’s the case (not just, “to me, the presumption should be, as it happens, against what they’re doing”), and if they further want to say that the wrongheadedness or unreasonableness is politically motivated should face the highest burden for proving that’s the case if they’re not to be dismissed with scorn.Report

      • Avatar trizzlor says:

        @jim-heffman “In fact, government employees did not actually have anything to do with the park at all, other than managing contract paperwork and cashing checks.

        In fact, this has never been demonstrated and is likely untrue. Here is Meyer’s description of the contract he has with Forest Service: “

        Our USFS contracts give the local Forest Supervisor the right to suspend the contract. However, historically, the USFS has only rarely used this contract power, and its use has generally been in one of two situations: a) an emergency, such as a forest fire, that threatens a particular recreation area or b) a situation where the recreation area cannot physically be used, such as when it has been destroyed by fire or when it is being refurbished. Never, to my knowledge, has the USFS used this power to simultaneously close all concession operations, and in fact in past shutdowns like 1995 and 1996 most all concessionaires stayed open.

        So, right off the bat Meyer concedes that USFS steps in when a major emergency threatens the recreation area and/or clean-up is required. That’s called providing security, it’s very different from “not actually having anything to do with the park at all”; in fact, it’s the complete opposite. It goes without saying that just because Meyer’s concession areas are not currently experiencing an emergency does not mean they cannot ever experience one. Having visitors frequenting a park increases the chance that such an emergency will occur and that more people will be hurt. The USFS is severely short-staffed due to the shut-down, which means they cannot respond as adequately to such emergencies. As a reasonable precaution, the USFS has temporarily suspended their contract with Meyer, as they are fully within their legal authority to do.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        I don’t see that the default is to let people in when there’s no staff to deal with vandalism, fires, injuries, people getting lost, etc. The default is not to create additional expense.

        To put in another way, the morons who refuse to fill the tank have no business complaining that they can’t also run down the battery by playing the radio.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        I know what I wanted to see when I went to a National Park this year!
        Dead bodies!
        That makes for a fun thing to have to explain to the kids.
        [Disclaimer: I have canceled hikes because of dead bodies, and I do know someone who unearthed a skeletal hand in a park…]

        People do awfully dangerous stuff in National Parks. They get MORE dangerous without staffing, not less. Hiking the Zion Narrows this time of year is a fucking deathtrap without National Park staff. Thousands of people visit the park each day, and let one person die from a flash flood? Everyone’s gonna be seeing the body. (well, until the sheriff gets called. Presumably he’s at least got jurisdiction to pull the body out of the water).Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Ok, hotshot, tell me: what real private businesses are going bankrupt because of this shutdown?Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        Why would we expect consistency across shutdowns?

        I wouldn’t. But if you’re going to say “The ADA *forces* the government to shut down parks due to potential liability” and treat this like a concrete thing, then it needs to be explained why the ADA applies now but did not apply a decade ago, and why it applies here but not there.

        If all you’re going to say is that “The government had to make some tough choices” then okay, but then we can at least agree that decisions were made.

        I am under no burden here because I am not trying to convince anybody of the motivations of the government. I am merely saying that the stated rationale, to the extent that the ADA is the stated rationale, doesn’t seem to hold. Separately, I also think “The government has to be open to allow access to these public parks” is wrong (because, to me, government action is restricting access rather than granting it) but that’s a matter of perspective and I stated as much at the outset.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        uggh, yeah, that’s kinda…umm.. a stupid thing to say (the ada bit).
        Safety is one thing, people will understand:
        “1000 people got injured at a park in the past year.
        999 were rescued before they could bleed to death,
        or lose brain function. We’re not letting you in, because
        we will lose people if we do.”Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        Kim, the safety argument is particularly strong in some parks. Without supervision, I don’t think anyone should be allowed into Zion National Park. Soooo many opportunities to get yourself killed and that’s when people are there!

        My preference is that you start from a position of “Of course we let them in” and then start striking parks off the list as they become justified. Rather than assuming that “Of course we don’t let anybody in “because they’re government enterprises and the government is shut down.”Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        I’d prefer if we could just get some state/local police on rescue duty (or divert funds to the appropriate national park coffers — I don’t expect the state necessarily to have the copters or dogs).

        And if the state (like PA) wants to say “we have state parks for a reason. they’re good enough.” Then fine, let the parks stay closed where folks aren’t going to lose their shirts.Report

      • Avatar Trumwill says:

        Kim, that’s a reasonable point of view. Which the government has taken in some places, at least, ADA notwithstanding.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        I’m glad to see Utah’s economy wont’ be left high and dry (they’re the most “National Park” tourist dependent of any of the states…)Report

      • Avatar morat20 says:

        The ADA doesn’t explain that, and the ADA is the justification being used for not just letting the parks be.

        This is where someone like Adler could shed light, instead of heat. But he choose not to, so I’ll do my best from an entirely non-lawyerly perspective based entirely on what I’ve been told by and read.

        First off, the ADA is not a law about shutdowns. It’s a law about something else entirely, designed for something else entirely, and it’s pretty basic and boils down to “Thou Shalt Not Put The US Government On the Hook for Cash Unless Thou Art Congress” — basically, it’s to prevent the Executive or Judicial branches from just whistling stuff up putting Congress on the hook to pay for it. No signing an order or contract for a new courthouse or destroyer without express permission to spend from Congress. (Express permission can be a largish fund called ‘new equipment’).

        Basically it’s a law specifically there to jealously guard Congress’ power over the purse from infringement.

        Prior to 1980, this was interpreted pretty loosely during shutdowns (which was why government more or less continued as usual during one). In 1981, however, this changed as the AG interpreted the Act much more strictly. (Why this has been controlling I don’t know, but it’s been the accepted understanding and application of the Act during shutdowns since 1981ish.)

        The ‘old’ interpretation was basically ‘you were okay unless you violated the Act’. The new — Reagan era (actually end of Carter, I think) — one was basically “The only way you could avoid violating the Act was to suspend a given agency — barring emergency exceptions (life and limb, protection of property. How the USPS fits, I have no idea) — until the appropriations issue was settled.

        The ADA is not “the law the says how to shut down the government”. The ADA is a law that suddenly becomes very applicable during a shutdown. As such, it is not as…detailed…as you seem to think it is, nor as pointed.

        Here is a really good paper that lays out some of the procedures used that you’d probably find useful.Report

      • Avatar morat20 says:

        FYI: The ADA and related US code expressly prohibits volunteerism, which includes volunteering to take on costs and the like.

        Why, I’m not sure — it’d be a useful area for a lawyer to expand on, but obviously there WAS a reason since the ADA has been amended several times since the 1880s and that was only spelled out fairly recently. Might even have been as recently as 1983.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        First off, the ADA is not a law about shutdowns.

        I know it’s not, but it’s being applied as a rationale to shutdowns. But only some of them, and some of the time. Right now it’s being applied to this part but not that park. It’s apparently being applied to parks now that it was not applied to parks 17 years ago (which is after 1980).

        It doesn’t appear to me that it is being (consistently) applied the way you say it has to be applied. Otherwise, Mount Rushmore would still be closed, because the government is incurring potential liability by virtue of it being open.Report

      • Avatar morat20 says:

        I know it’s not, but it’s being applied as a rationale to shutdowns.
        NO. The ADA is applicable law to shutdowns. The ADA was not written as “The Law to Shut Down the Government”, it’s that the circumstances OF a shutdown make it fall under the ADA. That’s a critical difference.

        But only some of them, and some of the time. Right now it’s being applied to this part but not that park. It’s apparently being applied to parks now that it was not applied to parks 17 years ago (which is after 1980).

        The report I linked noted some 370 parks were shutdown in 1995. 400 or 401 are shut down now. Of those thirty parks some are new. The WWII memorial wasn’t shut down in 1995, for instance, because it didn’t exist.

        Which seems to indicate, that at absolute worst, a minimum of 90% of the parks are being handled exactly the same way.

        It doesn’t appear to me that it is being (consistently) applied the way you say it has to be applied. Otherwise, Mount Rushmore would still be closed, because the government is incurring potential liability by virtue of it being open.

        The States are paying for it. That incurs no debt to the government. As to why a state is treated differently than a volunteer or a private organization, I’d hazard a guess of ‘because it’s a state’ and further go with ‘because no one’s likely to sue’ with a side of ‘it covers the Executive’s butt against lawsuits over the ADA sufficiently and the US code speaks only of volunteers’.

        I don’t know what you’re looking for, exactly — I mean you seem bound and determined to believe there’s SOME shenanigans because there are 400 parks and like three of them might reopen, and only 370 parks closed in 1995 and Clinton and Bush probably didn’t create 30 parks, even though they did create some.

        Guess what? I know guys that are currently working DURING a shutdown because their contracts were forward funded — their contracts were paid a month in advance. Yet people on the same contract, who sit next to them, are sitting home because they’re unable to do their work even though the funds to pay them are available.

        And still others have work but can’t work because their contracts AREN’T forward funded.

        All three outcomes are entirely consistent to me — because I know the specifics of each one — yet to a guy sitting outside — ie, you — it’d be like “Why is Bob working and Tim and John home? Tim’s even on the same contract!”.

        So is Bob still working some nefarious scheme? Some inconsistent and badly applied law? Is Tim and John getting some Obama spite? Or is it just, you know, they’re not the identical cases you assume they are?Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        This seems like a due process issue here (although IANAL).

        I could be wrong here, but from what I hear, I get the sense that these park operators are being ordered to shut down, but not being told why. Or rather, they are just being told, “because of the shutdown”, or “because of the ADA”, as if that should be sufficient, no legal explanation given (which is why I think a lot of legal experts are having a hard time commenting on the legal aspects of this, because no concise legal reasoning has been given). I think this is also why many such park operators are going to court with this, to force the Park Service to justify itself, at the very least, to a judge, and to allow themselves to counter that argument.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        I don’t know if there are shenanigans or not. I mean, I have my suspicions, but I recognize that they aren’t any more than that (and I go back and forth on it, to be honest). What I am having more trouble buying is the notion that the administration doesn’t have discretion here. That the law requires that they do precisely what they’re doing, more-or-less, when there appears to be variability.

        My more charitable reading of the situation is that the government can’t man the parks and doesn’t want to deal with the inevitable littering and law-breaking likely to occur in unmanned parks. Headaches they can live without. Understandable. But not the same thing as a lack of discretion. (And predicated on notions that I disagree with, though as I’ve said it’s a matter of perspective on that.)Report

      • Avatar morat20 says:

        Judging by the number of national parks opened after 1995, out of the 401 sites — if a similar % of all sites were post 1995, then we’re talking exactly 5 parks that were open in 1995 and closed today.

        Out of 401.

        And in the end, it STILL boils down to people petulantly whining “I can’t believe shutting down the government shut down all the government, not just the bits I hate. Obama’s just doing it out of spite”.

        Because really, he sat there and worked out with the NPS “Let’s get those extra 5 parks closed, stat. That’ll make the political pain apparent. Not the kids on cancer trials getting screwed, or the tens of millions in science money just tossed down the drain, or anything else. It’s those parks. That’s where the worm will turn, my friend”Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        That’s not exactly the suspicion I had in mind, but whatever. Looks like things are tracked towards resolution anyhow.Report

      • Avatar trizzlor says:

        Fascinatingly, the House held a hearing on the Parks shutdowns and here was the explanation offered by representatives for the differences:

        The right’s main piece of ammunition has been the claim that open-air monuments and memorials remained open during the 1995-6 shutdown, so their closure this time around must be an intentional twist of the knife. But Denis Galvin, a former deputy director of the NPS, set the record straight. “Lincoln and Jefferson were barricaded,” he said. “The much discussed World War II Memorial did not exist then, but if it did,” it surely would have been closed off, too. As for the fact that a few parks remain open, Jarvis explained in his testimony that Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell has worked with some state governors who are willing to fully fund their parks in the interim, and that certain spaces, including the National Mall, are treated differently because access to them is protected under the First Amendment.

        That seems like a perfectly plausible explanation so, the way I see it, critics of the NPS could have made their case two ways: 1) Showing direct evidence that the agency acted for political reasons (for example, something like asking interview candidates if they were “loyal Bushies”); 2) Demonstrating that a substantially superior alternative was available and not taken, so either the agency was acting politically or negligently. Republicans on the committee didn’t even attempt (2), and their evidence for (1) was a single anonymous quote in the Washington Times. This is the Natural Resources Committee, which subpoenaed the head of the NPS and surely could’ve gotten whatever correspondence they wanted and that’s what they dug up.

        I don’t see how someone could objectively conclude that this is more than just a conspiracy theory, but I am entirely certain that the whole “Barry-cades” fiasco will be wound deep into the popular conservative history of the shut-down (nuzzled somewhere between “Obama denied a drone strike on the Benghazi consulate” and “Obama only won the election because the IRS delayed Tea Party groups tax-exempt status”).Report

    • Avatar just me says:

      We don’t worry about that in Wisconsin. We just open them back up and remove any barricades that may have been put up. Boat landing closed, send the DNR out and remove the barricades. I see the federal government is okay with reopening the parks if the states pay them money to reopen. I am curious though about the shutdown. How does this work? We don’t stop paying taxes and any business within a park still has to pay their feeds so where does the money go. And if the states start paying for the Parks to be open is it the feds or the states who will receive any receipts from entrance fees?Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        these are really cool questions.
        In a logical government, the states get the money —
        which they then give to the parks.

        The states are paying for the parks to be open,
        in order to keep their economies functional.Report

    • Avatar Jim Heffman says:

      “Here is a really good paper that lays out some of the procedures used that you’d probably find useful.”

      Actually that’s an interesting report, because in it we learn that…

      an OMB memorandum of November 17, 1981, from Director David A. Stockman to the heads of executive agencies, identified “examples of excepted activities.” The memorandum, which still was in effect for the FY1996 shutdowns, explained:

      Beginning [on the first day of the appropriations hiatus], agencies may continue activities
      otherwise authorized by law, those that protect life and property and those necessary to begin
      phasedown of other activities. Primary examples of activities agencies may continue are
      those which may be found under applicable statutes to:

      3. Conduct essential activities to the extent that they protect life and property, including:
      e. Protection of Federal lands, buildings, waterways, equipment and other property
      owned by the United States”

      Which means that ordering a cessation of contract activities on Federal land is improper, unless steps are taken to ensure that people do not use the facilities when they are not being maintained. And, in places like Sedona, campers are being allowed into the park by local law-enforcement officers, even though the contract maintenance crew is not permitted to enter.Report

      • Avatar Jim Heffman says:

        Wow, that got completely screwed up. I forgot to close the blockquote, and the indent level decided to do something different. This was meant to be a reply to morat20.Report

      • Avatar morat20 says:

        Which means that ordering a cessation of contract activities on Federal land is improper, unless steps are taken to ensure that people do not use the facilities when they are not being maintained

        Like…barricades? Declaring the park closed? Those nefarious, purely partisan, spite-based actions that Obama himself thought up while cackling gleefully? 🙂

        Your interpretation isn’t accurate, I think — that translates out into “Security forces are deemed essential, so that the Government’s Stuff is Not Stolen”. Which includes park rangers, to safeguard public lands from vandalism and the like.

        And, in places like Sedona, campers are being allowed into the park by local law-enforcement officers, even though the contract maintenance crew is not permitted to enter.
        Local law enforcement? Not Park Rangers or Feds?

        Right down was this:
        Parks, Museums, and Monuments.
        Closure of 368 National Park Service sites
        (loss of 7 million visitors) reportedly occurred, with loss of tourism revenues to
        local communities; and closure of national museums and monuments (reportedly
        with an estimated loss of 2 million visitors) occurred

      • Avatar Jim Heffman says:

        At the Sedona campground, the local sheriffs removed the barricades and let people into the park.Report

  4. Avatar Kolohe says:

    Which brings me to my final point, which is this: Forget everything else, the Washington Redskins’ owners and management are eventually going to change their mascot for business reasons.

    The only way the franchise would change on its own is with a change in ownership, which is not going to happen until Snyder passes away, decades from now. Unless one count ‘loss of trademark protection’ as ‘business reasons’.

    Within a decade, there might be enough pressure on the NFL as a whole to have the other owners force the Washington franchise to change its name, but I give that a less than 50/50 probability over that time frame. Within two decades, the entire NFL will likely undergo a major financial crisis, as concussions and changes in taste (and further changes in media content delivery) dramatically impact the bottom line.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater says:

      Good comment kolohe. I tend to agree, for the most part. It could be that Snyder is hoping this issue moves along and there’s reason to think he’d be right in that hope. On the other hand, I think that if people from within the org. start to bitch about the distractions, or even publicly agree that the name needs to go, then internal pressure might – and I think would – tip his decision calculus.

      For business reasons, of course.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

      It would be fun to see RGIII say that he thinks the name is an embarrassment.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko says:

        Minimal media coaching leads directly to Bull Durham-like cliches. “You know, I’m just glad to be here, and I hope I can help out the ball club. You can call the team whatever you want, my job is to help get it wins.”Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      Two decades?
      Wrong sport.
      Baseball, in its current form, is a goner in 2 decades, barring significant changes in American tastes.

      Football should hang in there for a bit longer.Report

  5. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    It be nice if Snyder changes the name of his franchise simply because its the right thing to do. Just once you know.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko says:

      Snyder has only rarely done good things for the franchise as a professional football club beyond the rather obvious use last off-season of the #2 draft pick to take RG3. Why should he do the right thing for the public in general?Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        Drafting RGIII was a good move. An obvious move, but a good one. My favorite criticism of him tho is that he hired Mike Shanahan as head coach.


      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        I know. I’m just kind of frustrated how everything, not just the Redskins fiasco, ultimately ends up being about the bottom line. It would be nice to see Snyder or somebody like him do the right thing just because for once.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        I’m just kind of frustrated how everything … ultimately ends up being about the bottom line.

        Do you mean an economic bottom line? I don’t think Snyder is the Immovable Object because of short term of even long term economics (tho I could be wrong about that). And he’s immovable for reasons that have very little to do with the actual name, it seems to me.Report

  6. Avatar Kazzy says:

    I’m slated to keynote at a conference on the topic of “creating future leaders within your organization…”

    Dude. Do you want to come over for dinner? And talk about stuff? Like leadership? Cool.Report

  7. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    I notice, @tod-kelly , that about halfway through this post, you’ve spelled the President’s name as “Barak Obama.” Most times, of course, you spell it correctly, including the “c” before the “k” in his first name. You did the same thing on December 10, 2012. Ethan has done it twice that I know of ) Every time I’ve noticed this misspelling, it seems to be when you are reporting on demagoguery about the President. So my assumption is that the misspelling has been intentional so as to opine about the content of the demagoguery (from Sarah Palin here and unspecified conservative media figures in the Martin-Zimmerman post). Was this intentional, subconscious, or just a coincidence of typos?Report

  8. Avatar Rose Woodhouse says:

    Sorry to rip you off, Tod. It was an accident, for realz!Report

  9. Avatar Jim Heffman says:

    You probably aren’t hearing Republicans say much about WIC being shut down because it is not actually shut down unlike (some) national parks.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

      Funding was found through October. Would you like to make a wager that if the shutdown lasts another two weeks and WIC runs out of money that Republicans show any concern at all?Report

      • Avatar Russell M says:

        hey caring about the poors is not something the conservative media does. unless they are caring that those people are mooching off the federal teat and need to just pull themselves up by their bootstraps.Report