shutdown

Potpourri v7.0 – Shutdown Edition


Reading time – 4:06; Viewing time – 5:34  .  .  .

It is the bright, fresh practice of the Senate of the United States of America to formally abandon all activity if the President of the United States might not like what the Senate would do. Of course, this is in stark contrast to times past when Congress was held to be a separate and equal branch of government. Now, though, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has seen the wisdom of abdicating Congressional responsibility. You can expect more acts of Senatorial disappearance as the shutdown continues or really any time it’s politically expedient.

Note that Senator McConnell is still under a Harry Potter invisibility cloak and didn’t appear to be available for comment.

Everyone knows that McConnell has stated that he won’t bring a bill to the floor of the Senate to resolve the government shutdown issue unless he knows the president will sign it. But, why is that? Try this.

A vote to open government without funding Trump’s wall is a most precarious thing for Republican senators. If they do that they will have turned their backs on Trump’s campaign promise and, correspondingly, on their constituents who voted for Trump. Senators will feel their fury in their next primary. It will be ugly and they know it.

If, on the other hand, those senators vote against reopening government, each one will immediately feel the fury of every government worker in their state, as well as the fury of the workers’ families and their friends, independents who can spell “empathy” and all Democrats in their state. That fury will be brought to every election s/he will enter for the rest of their life and they will have to resign from the Senate and become a lobbyist for Big Pharma or a defense contractor.

That’s why McConnell won’t bring a bill to reopen government to the floor for a vote if he thinks Trump will veto it. These days it’s very hard to be a Republican.


Here’s how to get the government reopened without spending billions on a useless wall designed solely for Trump’s ego. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her team should offer this to Trump and announce it to the public at a press conference:

  1. Immediately reopen all of government.
  2. Immediately pay all back wages both to workers who were forced to work without pay and to workers who were furloughed.
  3. Trump will deliver a personal, hand-written note to each federal worker, written in bold Sharpie, saying, “I know I hurt you. I apologize and promise I’ll never do that again.” Okay, that isn’t going to happen. It’s just snark. I do feel better now.
  4. Funding will be provided for a bi-partisan blue ribbon committee to generate a plan to bring border security and immigration policy into the 21st century, including recommendations for permanently dealing with the DACA kids and the other 11,000,000 undocumented in the US now. The plan is to be submitted to Congress and the president within 9 months of committee inception. It is to include no recommendation tor a wall except where a wall will actually enhance border security and is to be of appropriate construction. No need for a wasteful “big, beautiful wall.”
  5. Congress is to draft a bill following the committee’s recommendations, as adjusted or amended by Congress, and vote on that bill within 6 months.

Note that Congress won’t be starting from scratch because there were efforts at immigration reform not long ago.

The beauty of this plan is that the if the president rejects it he will be telling everyone that he really doesn’t support border security or immigration reform; he only supports what makes him look like a tough guy and doesn’t care about America or Americans. There will be substantial pressure on him to agree to this plan.

Plus, the president can claim a victory, as there will be some amount of wall that will be constructed. And he can claim fiscal prudence, too, since whatever wall is recommended will likely cost a lot less than $5.7 billion and a whole lot less than the projected $59 billion for a complete Trump wall. Everyone wins.


Perhaps you recall President Trump bravely declaring, “There’s been nobody tougher on Russia than President Donald Trump.” Regardless, he had to be dragged kicking and screaming to sign off on the sanctions imposed on Russia and some oligarchs for their hacking our 2016 election.

Then in December 2018 when Congress was on holiday break he had his Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, dump in Congress’ lap a plan for sanctions removal. They had just 30 days to vote to stop that action and far fewer once congressmen and senators were back in DC. The House voted to stop the sanctions removal with a strong bipartisan showing. The Senate wimped out, falling two votes short of the 60 needed to overcome a filibuster.

Every one of those nay voting senators knows that Russia is a bad actor. Every one of them knows that Russia hacked our election and deserved those sanctions. And 43 of them voted to lift the sanctions.

Someone please tell me where those brave men and women store their spines when they go to DC.

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Ed. Note: I don’t want money (DON’T donate) or your signature on a petition. I want you to spread the word so that we make a critical difference. So,

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

  1. Pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!).
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Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Slavery


Reading time – 5:16; Viewing time – 8:10  . .  .

This post is longer than usual, but stay with me. I promise you’ll be rewarded.

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The 13th Amendment reads,

“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

Good idea. Too bad we’re violating that amendment right now.

In an article in the New York times entitled It’s Time for T.S.A. Workers to Strike, authors Barbara Ehrenreich and Gary Stevenson show us what’s happening to our federal workers. They are prevented by law from striking, a point which was firmly made by Ronald Reagan, who fired 11,000 striking PATCO workers in 1981. They were demanding better wages and shorter working hours, as the high stress of their air traffic control jobs and overlong work hours were literally killing them. Those are good reasons to demand better, but their contract said that they couldn’t strike and they paid the price. This time, though, it’s different.

Ehrenreich and Stevenson make the case for a T.S.A. strike on the basis of violation of the 13th Amendment. Likely they identified the T.S.A. workers out of all federal workers as the ones who should strike because their striking would shut down our air traffic system and grind much of our economy to a halt. It would be enormously expensive for industry, so their strike would likely cause great pressure on government to get the shutdown resolved fast. The logic of a 13th Amendment triggered strike, though, applies to all federal workers who are forced to work during this shutdown. I’m not advocating a strike, but forcing people to work and refusing to pay them is most bad ju-ju.

The complaint isn’t about better pay, better working conditions, shorter hours or anything typical. This is about paying people as agreed. Yet they are being forced to work without pay. That’s called slavery.

Should any of our federal workers strike, there surely will be a lawsuit initiated by the Justice Department. It will be an interesting case. Let’s do a thought experiment about that.

The government will be asking for a temporary restraining order to force workers back on the job immediately. Surely, they’ll quote contract law that says the workers agreed not to strike and are thus prevented from doing so. They’ll say that the government will pay workers in full when the shutdown is over and that the promise of future pay satisfies the contract.

From Stat, a Boston Globe publication. Sen. Dick Durban has called on HHS Secretary Nielsen to resign. Click the pic to download the report.

The defense will likely also quote contract law and make clear that the government has violated its obligations, thus nullifying the contract and freeing workers to strike. They’ll also make the Constitutional case that the government is practicing slavery in direct violation of the 13th Amendment. They might claim civil rights violations by the government as well.

The only difference between old fashioned slavery and the circumstances of today’s federal workers is that today the workers are being given a promise of being paid on some unspecified future date that could be years from now. Imagine being a federal worker and having to tell your landlord that you’ll pay your rent – some day. How well do you think that will work for you?

The way our thought experiment case is decided or the shutdown itself is ended will dramatically affect not just the workers, but our entire nation. Here are some examples:

1. Absent a quick resolution to the shut down, thousands of federal workers, whether striking or not, will find permanent full time work elsewhere because they have bills to pay. They will not be coming back to those federal jobs ever. But we need airport security, food inspectors, a fully functioning FBI and State Department, air traffic controllers and the rest. These are skilled jobs and we don’t have a bench, especially in this full employment economy. Who will do the work to make our nation function?

2. The shutdown is costing billions of dollars and, if it continues a while longer it’s projected by the President’s own economic people that it will cancel out national economic growth for the year.

3. Depending upon how this shutdown ends, we’ll be making a powerful statement about our national values. We’ll be declaring with our actions who and what we care about and we’ll be setting a precedent for the future. There will be lasting impact.

There’s more, of course, but think about the callous way our people are being treated. You’ve seen the up close and personal reports, like the woman who is trying to stretch her insulin supply because she doesn’t have money for more; and the workers who are trying to decide whether to buy food for their families or pay the electric bill; and the family with two kids, both of whom have medical issues and they’ve have run out of money to properly care for their kids; and the hundreds of thousands who now or in the very near future will be unable to pay the rent or the mortgage or the car payment. Still, they’re expected to show up and work without pay.

It’s hard to comprehend that we’re dealing with slavery in America in the 21st century.


A friend of mine is a federal worker – an air traffic controller. He’s one of those people who is dedicated to serving and works every day to keep you safe when you fly and he’s working without being paid. He’ll miss his second paycheck four days from now. I reached out to him early this week to see if there is something we can do to support him and his family. Here’s his reply:

Thank you for reaching out. This shutdown is definitely weighing on me more than the previous ones I have been a part of. This is the longest one in history and there is no trying to figure out a solution. This has turned into a school yard shouting match.

It is hard to go to work – and do my job – not knowing when I will be compensated for it. I will continue to work my scheduled shifts – my overtime shifts – the holidays – and do everything that is asked of me. I am proud of what I do and I will continue to do it.

The show of support from our union brothers and sisters from around the globe has been amazing. I have been treated to meals by the Allied Pilots Association and the Irish Air Traffic Controllers Association. The controllers in the Great White North [Canada] have taken it upon themselves to send pizzas to US facilities. Local businesses are reaching out – creditors are being understanding – some banks are offering 0% interest loans (as long as you pay them back within a certain time period). What is helping is the amount of publicity this is getting as a whole.

For now – we are okay. That may change. If this drags on, we may be forced to reach out to friends and family for financial support. We (luckily) aren’t quite there yet.

Thank you for reaching out – this has (and continues to be) a rough time and it helps to know we have a wonderful support system with some amazing people.

Please don’t let this only be a heartwarming story of people supporting others. Find a way to do your part, like overpaying your tab at the restaurant that’s providing free meals to federal workers and their families, or reaching out to someone you know who might need help, or donating to a local food bank or one of the GoFundMe sites. People are hurting and coming together in times of need is what we Americans do. It’s time for action.

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Ed. Note: I don’t want money (DON’T donate) or your signature on a petition. I want you to spread the word so that we make a critical difference. So,

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

  1. Pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!).
  2. Engage in the Comments section below to help us all be better informed.

Thanks!


Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Wag the Dog


Reading time – 3:24; Viewing time – 4:37  .  .  .

This is from the Sunday New York Times:

“At [national security advisor John] Bolton’s direction, the National Security Council asked the Pentagon last year to provide the White House with military options to strike Iran .  .  .”

Let’s put this into perspective.

Gen. Colin Powell warned us against doing military stupid stuff in his Powell Doctrine decades ago. It’s grounded in the painful lessons of Vietnam and, while it has weathered criticism for being incomplete, it’s hard to disagree with Powell’s cautionary message. Sadly, we’ve pretty much ignored it time and again.

Not stated in the Powell Doctrine is another of his admonitions, the Pottery Barn rule: You break it, you own it. And so we do in Iraq and Afghanistan, the longest wars in our history. Now John Bolton, always eager to flex US muscle, has asked for plans to strike Iran.

Can you imagine Donald Trump being a calming voice of reason to tether John Bolton to reality? Neither can I. If Bolton gets his way we will break yet another country where we will then be in perpetual war. And this story gets worse.

We are mired in the longest government shutdown in US history. The president is threatening to declare a national emergency in order to overpower Congress and get his useless wall. You need to understand what such a declaration can mean.

In a time of declared national emergency the president has vast powers. Here’s a partial list:

Suspend the Constitution – yes, SUSPEND THE CONSTITUTION!

Redirect money in blatant conflict with Congressional intent

Declare martial law

Deploy our military in-country

Seize control of the internet

Shut down communications (telephone, radio, television, etc.)

Freeze bank accounts – including yours

Suspend habeas corpus (i.e. imprison Americans without charge and without due process of law – Think: Guantanamo in Des Moines, IA)

Control the states’ voter databases

Sanction Americans without charge and leave them without recourse

Effectively, the president can become a monarch. Perhaps Trump will prefer autocrat or generalissimo or kommisar or general secretary or chairman. Regardless of the label, it will be the end of American democracy.

This president has repeatedly shown that he has no regard for Constitutional limits, much less respect for legislative and cultural norms. He’s given us no reason to believe that he would refrain from outrageous behavior following his declaring a national emergency. And with the help of Mitch McConnell for the past two  years, Trump has packed the courts and his cabinet with people who likely would refuse to stand up to him.

A declaration of national emergency, whether for his fantasy claims of crisis at our southern border or for a pending or hot conflict with Iran or Argentina would be just the thing for Trump to consolidate power. Beyond fulfilling Trump’s bottomless ego needs, such a declaration will completely divert attention from his conspiracies with Russia. It’s the ultimate distraction and, perhaps, the negation of any investigation into his possible criminal activity.

Did I mention that this story gets worse? It does.

We never vote leaders out of office during war time and very rarely during any other national emergency. The only contrary example I can think of is Herbert Hoover, who lost the 1932 election to Franklin Roosevelt for his mishandling of the Great Depression. Nevertheless, the point for us now is to be clear that a declaration of national emergency, regardless of the justification Trump uses, would likely ensure Trump’s reelection in 2020, if, indeed, we even have another election.

And that will make Vladimir Putin very happy. His only regret will be that he won’t have any more kompromat on Trump, because exposing Trump’s money laundering, his tax fraud, his obstruction of justice and his treason will no longer matter.

Wag the dog.

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Ed. Note: I don’t want money (DON’T donate) or your signature on a petition. I want you to spread the word so that we make a critical difference. That’s the reason for these posts. To accomplish that goal requires reaching many people, so:

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

  1. Pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!).
  2. Engage in the Comments section below to help us all be better informed.

Thanks!


Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Mike


Reading time – 3:40; Viewing time – 4:51  .  .  .

When we’re presented with a large number it’s easy to fail to fully appreciate what it means, Indeed Josef Stalin said, “A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.” Sadly, Stalin was right.

There are about 800,000 federal employees who haven’t been paid since the government shutdown began. About 380,000 have been furloughed, meaning they aren’t working at all and aren’t being paid; 420,000 are being forced to work without pay. 420,000 can sound like an impersonal statistic, so let’s consider just one person, Mike, a letter carrier for the Post Office. You know, the guy who delivers your mail.

Oddly enough, Mike has a life separate from dropping into your mail box envelopes and the flyers you immediately toss into the recycle bin. He has a car and a modest house and his bank insists that he make payments on both every month. His growing kids are like yours, in that they eat a lot and seem to always need new shoes. Their school requires them to have a laptop and every activity requires that his kids show up with a check at the first meeting.

Mike has to drive to work, so he has to buy gas for his car. The cashier at the gas station feels bad for Mike’s circumstances but still needs him to cough up that $53.70 that Mike rang up at the pump.

Mike’s problem is that he’s like most Americans, always about two weeks away from serious financial hardship. That, in part, helps to explain why roughly 50% of American personal bankruptcies are due to a serious medical issue. Most of us just don’t have much squirreled away for that rainy day.

That means that Mike’s resources are shallow and he can’t endure this no-pay shutdown for long before it starts to hurt. Neither can the rest of the hundreds of thousands of our federal workers. And if you include the families of workers, you can extrapolate to millions of Americans who are directly financially impacted by this self-inflicted government shutdown.

To shift focus not quite as much as it might seem at first, Trump rescinded the Obama executive order that created DACA using the excuse that Congress should legislate a solution. While that may be a sensible course for resolution of the problem, our Republican Senate and House have had no appetite for dealing with the situation and has sat on its hands ever since Trump wiped out DACA protections.

It was clear from the beginning that Trump intended to use the DACA young people as pawns to get his wall. That’s obscene on many levels, including the humanitarian perversion of making these people political pawns. Plus there’s the complete uselessness of a border wall itself.

The wall is only practical if all potential immigrants from Central America are ignorant of the existence and use of tunnels and ladders. That didn’t even work as well as planned for the Chinese in the 7th century BC when much of the Great Wall was originally built. It’s not clear how the technology of a wall will help us in 21st century America. Back to Mike.

It remains true that when you’re well fed it’s impossible to understand a hungry person on the sidewalk. So, too, it may be impossible for wealthy President Trump to understand all the Mikes and their families who are about to suffer, even if he actually had the capacity for empathy.

Mike is being used as a political pawn, just as the DACA kids are and Mike and his kids are at the edge of harmful impact right now. So, do a couple of things.

Offer a note to Mike with your thanks and concern for him and his family as he soldiers on without pay. Do the same for the TSA lady at the airport screening machine, because she’s another Mike. If you plan to go to Mexico or Canada, tell the Customs and Border Patrol folks you meet thanks for protecting you without their being paid. Keep the federal law enforcement and correctional officers in your heart because they’re Mikes, too. So are 5,000 forest service firefighters – you know, the folks who battled gigantic fires in California in December. Maybe you can do something to help these hard working folks. Just ask.

Then send a postcard – not an email or phone call – to your senators and representative telling them to stand strong for all the Mikes and for our DACA folks. They’re way too important than to be kicked around just to satisfy the ego needs of a narcissist.

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Ed. Note: I don’t want money (DON’T donate) or your signature on a petition. I want you to spread the word so that we make a critical difference. That’s the reason for these posts. To accomplish that goal requires reaching many people, so:

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

  1. Pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!). No subscriber information is ever shared with anyone, anywhere, any time.
  2. Engage in the Comments section below to help us all be better informed.

Thanks!

 


Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Why So Many Are Angry


Reading time – 3:59; Viewing time – 5:42  .  .  .

The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was promoted as a surefire way to increase the wages of working Americans and promote the hiring of additional workers. “More than 70% of this [tax cut] will be returned to workers,” said White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders, reading from official White House notes. It didn’t work out quite that way.

Corporations used far more of their tax savings on stock buy-backs than on anything that would directly benefit workers. The total used for stock buy-backs has surpassed $1,100,000,000,000 and the primary beneficiaries of that are people who are already wealthy.

Let’s try one more example.

After filing for bankruptcy, Sears closed many of its stores and the pink slips they put into workers’ pay envelopes told them that there would be no severance pay for them due to the bankruptcy. Now they’re giving out $25 million in bonuses to top executives. These are atta-boys for the very geniuses who drove the company into bankruptcy.

Want another example?

Wisconsin voters elected to boot Republican Gov. Scott Walker out of office and replace him with a Democrat. The lame duck session of the Republican state legislature then passed a series of bills designed to dramatically limit the power of the incoming Democratic governor and Walker has signed those bills into law. That keeps power in the hands of the people who lost the election and effectively thwarts the will of the people.

This post isn’t about railing against fat cats or Republicans. Rather, it’s about why we citizens are angry. It’s about real grievances rooted in the lives of millions who suffer while the powerful few enrich themselves.

I’m all for capitalism, but it, like anything, can be used to abuse, which is why we have regulations. Sometimes those regulations are ignored by those in power. Sometimes they pass laws that either directly or indirectly pad their own pockets and those of their “donor class,” often at the expense of the rest of us.

One last example.

Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn was President Trump’s first national security advisor. He was lobbying for a foreign government at the same time that he was receiving top secret U.S. national security briefings. What’s wrong with this picture?

Flynn lied about it. Trump tolerated it. How are you feeling about the performance of the primary job of the federal government – to protect our country and ensure national security? Flynn got $600,000 for his deceit.

When it consistently feels like you’re the screw-ee, there comes a breaking point for all of us and we get very angry. Some want to carry torches in the street and burn it all down and they will vote for whoever speaks to their rage. As long as that rage is continuously validated, all other leadership outrages can be ignored, like putting numbers on the forearms of child detainees at our border concentration camps instead of assertively dealing with the crisis of people seeking asylum.

One of the reasons we remain so very angry is the continuing Russian propaganda machine that has permeated our nation. Russia has worked to divide us, polarize us, confuse us, sow dissent and stoke our anger against anything that we used to see as bedrock of our nation. The people in our national security agencies are working to unravel that, but the most important point is that the leader of our country refuses to crack down on the Russians. Rather, he continues to create chaos – distracting, America-defeating chaos – making the stock market tumble, shaking our international alliances and making foreign autocrats applaud.

All of that and more is why so many of us are angry.

One more thing in two points .  .  .

First, the government is shut down. That isn’t about immigration. It isn’t about national security and it isn’t even about a wall. It’s entirely about Trump’s infantile ego. He declared on TV, “If I don’t get what I want, I’ll shut down the government.” (Play the audio below for the recording.) That has absolutely nothing to do with what’s best for our country.

Trump is promising to hold his breath and turn blue until he gets his way. And he thinks that’s what we should care about.

How is that working for you – or for the thousands of federal workers who won’t be getting paid?

Second point: Trump’s tweet that he will swiftly remove our troops from Syria came as a surprise to literally everyone, including our own Defense Department. Trump intends to cede the entire middle-east to the Russians, the Turks and the Iranians and abandon our allies, the Kurds, again. That is past the line of what Gen. Jim Mattis can tolerate, so he’s leaving the Defense Department. That’s shaking up our allies because there are no longer any adults in the room.

Main point: As important as these two issues are, recognize that Trump has effectively changed the national story away from the known 17 current investigations into the Trump Crime Family. Keep your eye on the ball.

Last minute correction: I’m informed that the numbers being written on the forearms of detained kids at our southern border are being written by welfare workers. I don’t know how that makes a difference from the same thing being done by government workers, but I’m told that it does. Just get that if these kids hadn’t been separated from their parents there would be no need for Gestapo-like numbers on their arms or any other form of ID. And get that this tattooing is being done in your name.

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Ed. Note: I don’t want money (DON’T donate) or your signature on a petition. I want you to spread the word so that we make a critical difference. That’s the reason for these posts. To accomplish that goal requires reaching a lot of people, so:

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

  1. Pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!). No subscriber information is ever shared with anyone, anywhere, any time.
  2. Engage in the Comments section below to help us all be better informed.

Thanks!


Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

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