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All the News Fit to Treat Badly

This screenshot depicts U.S. news media’s gross failure.

There have been numerous stories this week about the Trump cabinet which received slapdash coverage. All of them are scandals and should have resulted in the firing or resignation of two, possibly three cabinet members.

And yet the public is deluged with and seeking more information about a celebrity’s personal screw-up resulting in prosecution — a story which has no real impact on their personal lives. The public doesn’t appear to know how very badly Trump’s cabinet members are treating the public’s trust, or the risk posed by turning a blind eye to these cabinet members’ bad faith and corruption as nearly all of them are in the line of presidential succession.

In short, the public isn’t being informed about real news.

If the public is asking about a celebrity, leave it to celebrity gossip sites to answer. The public needs reporting about these failing cabinet members, and they need to know these stories are far more important than celebrity buzz, affecting the country’s ability to function normally. If the public isn’t asking about these cabinet members, it may be a sign that the media is failing them and/or the trend data may be manipulated.

~ ~ ~

How much do you or your family members and friends know about Wilbur Ross’s repeated lies about his personal holdings? The Office of Government Ethics refused to certify his most recent financial disclosure statement because he didn’t sell stocks that he said he’d sold. This has been going on since he became Commerce Secretary. His work in that role has been dismal as it is, not to mention his questionable relationship to a bank in Cyprus. But to lie and lie repeatedly to the government about his personal finances? There’s no excuse for his not knowing what assets he’s holding because he has to file a tax return reflecting ownership, earnings and subsequent profits and losses.

There’s also no excuse for news media to treat Ross’s lies as if they are perfectly normal for the person who is eighth in line of presidential succession and responsible for fostering, promoting, and developing the foreign and domestic commerce of the largest economy in the world. News outlets should be asking the White House every damned day why Ross hasn’t been booted out the door.

~ ~ ~

How much do you or your family members and friends know about former federal prosecutor and current Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta’s role in the ridiculously light sentence human trafficker Jeffrey Epstein received? Or Acosta’s role in violating the Crime Victims’ Rights Act, directly affecting at least 30 of Epstein’s victims?

News media paid a little more attention to this case because the crimes underlying it were of prurient interest. But they have already forgotten justice for the victims, blowing off Acosta’s continued employment in a role overseeing workplaces where human trafficking may occur. Acosta is right behind Ross in the presidential succession lineup. News media should likewise ask why Acosta still has a job as Labor Secretary right after they ask about Ross’s continued employment.

~ ~ ~

How much do you or your family members and friends know about former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s alleged lies to federal investigators regarding disapproval of Native American casinos? This wasn’t the only probe Interior Department Office of Inspector General had been looking into; it’s the one which has been referred to a grand jury. What other damage may Zinke have done while he was at Interior? What continues under acting Interior Secretary?

Zinke had been two slots ahead of Ross in the presidential succession lineup. At least Zinke is no longer with the administration, unlike Ross and Acosta, or Betsy DeVos.

~ ~ ~

A staffer for Education Secretary DeVos attempted to obstruct investigation into DeVos’ restoration of approval for a college accreditor by trying to remove the acting inspector general looking into the re-approval. It’d be nice to know if DeVos instructed her deputy secretary Mitchell Zais to remove Sandra Bruce because was continuing her investigation, or if Zais tried this on his own. This is yet another cabinet-level scandal the public doesn’t know enough about compared to a celebrity story.

DeVos has been a threat to public education since her approval hearing when she suggested guns were needed in the classroom to protect against bears. She’s a threat to more than education as 13th in line of succession for the presidency, too, given there are open slots for Secretaries of Defense and Interior. College students struggling with tuition debt and students who’ve participated in active shooter drills would love to know why DeVos still has a job. They ought to know someone is asking every day.

~ ~ ~

And Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao couldn’t let these four cabinet secretaries have all the fun. She may have been improperly coordinating with our glorious Senate Majority Leader Mitchell McConnell — also her spouse — to ensure their home state Kentucky received a lion’s share of transportation projects.

Fortunately Chao is not in the line of presidential succession because she is foreign born.

Fortunately, her spouse McConnell isn’t in the succession lineup at all.

Unfortunately, these were just a handful of stories which should have ranked higher in the mind of the public and the media’s effort.

This is an open thread.

KonMari-ing the Confederacy’s Son

[NB: Check the byline — this is a different kind of ‘trash talk’. /~Rayne]

You may already have heard the buzz about Japanese organizing consultant Marie Kondo and her branded decluttering technique, KonMari. Perhaps you’ve even seen her on Netflix which now features a series called Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.

She set off a furor across the internet among book lovers when she suggested getting rid of all of one’s books except for those few that spark joy — which is her guiding philosophy to thinning everything one possesses. When one considers a particular personal belonging, what feelings does it inspire? If joy, keep it and store it carefully; if not, release it.

This doesn’t work for books. Some of the most horror-inspiring books may be essential favorites whether fiction or non-fiction. And many book lovers whether readers, authors, or editors thrive in an environment of tsundoku, the weight of unread books providing a wealth of promise rather than oppressive dread.

The hullabaloo about her approach to books forced a reconsideration of the KonMari technique. It doesn’t work uniformly for everyone; what sparks joy for one rouses sadness in others.

But people do share universal values; if we focused on happiness and peace arising from observing these values, there might be a way to reconcile the disparity between ditching books and keeping them whether they spark joy or not.

Looking at our universal values — those we share as humans regardless of our gender identity, race and ethnicity, religious heritage, or country of origin — we have to ask ourselves about much more than whether to keep the tatty high school-issued copy of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein or well-thumbed Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine.

What is it we should jettison if we are truly keeping that which is honest and trustworthy, responsible, respectful, caring, and fair?

Why worry about an excess of books and holey stray socks when our lives are thrown into chaos every day by people who are not living these shared values?

It could be said the repudiation of Governor Ralph Northam is an example of this kind of purging by Democrats in Virginia and beyond. Has Northam changed since the mid-1980s? Sure — we all have and hopefully for the better, but Northam’s failure to be open as a candidate and now as an elected official about the context of his medical school’s yearbook is a lapse of under universal ethics even if we believed his claims.

Now the people of Virginia wait for Northam to come to grips with the sorting he’s been through.

But as a country we’re not done with our reassessment. What are we keeping that holds us back from realizing our best selves as citizens?

A substantive number of readers will surely suggest impeaching and removing Trump and they’d be right. He’s the antithesis of  honesty and trustworthiness, responsibility, respect, caring, and fairness in nearly everything he does. Decluttering processes have already been set in motion — the Special Counsel’s Office plays a role in them even if its mission isn’t removal per se.

Trump isn’t the only human obstruction to realizing our communal universal values, though.

This needs to go. This should have been KonMari’d more than a dozen years ago, pared out of government. Don’t even think about trying to recycle it, either, it’s beyond redemption. The tradition manifest here has no worth because it disrespects the innate value of fellow humans while elevating a small number of people because of that disrespect.

Kentuckians need to clean their house beginning with this Senate seat. McConnell can’t possibly inspire happiness and peace in their hearts when his actions deny so many their human dignity.

Republicans should do likewise, beginning now with removing McConnell from the majority leadership role. They need to ask themselves if doubling down on their pursuit of power, throwing values to the wind to this end, really sparks joy in their hearts and souls. Do their efforts generate genuine authority, lay claim to authentic leadership, when fellow humans must be denigrated in the process?

Failing to be honest with themselves and respectful of the public will eventually set off other kinds of sparks. Just ask Ralph Northam.

 

Treat this as an open thread.

Graphic: Quino Al via Unsplash (mod by Rayne)

Day 34+12H: Ermahgerd, an Ermahgency

[NB: As you can see from the byline, you can blame me and not Marcy./~Rayne]

Brace yourselves, kiddies, there’s still more roller coaster ahead. On the agenda besides Roger Stone’s indictment:

— Another day into the shutdown, and a second pay period without a paycheck for furloughed federal workers, contractors, and those employees forced back to work without pay. FAA has already closed LaGuardia (LGA) airport to inbound flights due to a staff shortage and Reagan National (DCA), Newark Liberty International (EWR), Philadelphia Intl (PHL) and Tampa Intl (TPA) are now getting backed up heavily.

— One lone asshole, GOP state house delegate Mark Cole, is going to attempt to stop the state of Virginia from ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment, though his party has already passed the ERA in the state senate. Not clear what status is at this moment, only that the bill is not yet dead. Virginians can take action to boost this bill.

— An anticipated declaration of a state of emergency at the border by Trump in which he is expected to tell the public how he scraped up $7 billion dollars Congress didn’t allocate for a “fucken wall.” May depend on how the cascading effect of the airport shutdown(s) plays out.

Yesterday’s vote in the Senate on both Trump’s POS proposal (voted down ) and the Democrats’ alternate bill (voted down 52-44) showed that more Republican senators preferred the Democratic version over Trumps.

The GOP senators who broke with Trump were:

Lamar Alexander (R-TN) — Class II, retiring at the end of 2020
Susan Collins (R-ME) — Class II, has at least two Democratic opponents waiting
Cory Gardner (R-CO) — Class II
Johnny Isakson (R-GA) — Class III
Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) — Class III
Mitt Romney (R-UT) — Class I (least threatened, 2024 re-election)

Recall that Class II senators are up for re-election in 2020. Class III in 2022 and Class I in 2024.

Clearly the GOP caucus is feeling the heat.

McConnell and Schumer are talking — the airport shutdown(s) will also affect their discussion.

Keep the heat on your senators because it’s working if they’re yelling at McConnell. If you’re a Wisconsinite, thank your senator Ron Johnson for pushing McConnell.

We also need to take note of this guy who has plenty of time to develop a track record before re-election in 2024 and yet voted with the GOP now to fund the wall and reopen government.

Joe Manchin (D-WV) — Class I

Party line is No Wall, buddy. Trump wants it badly enough he can negotiate instead of having a tantrum and shutting down government.

West Virginians, I hope you are working hard on grooming a Democratic candidate for a senate primary race. You have about four years.

Congressional switchboard: (202) 224-3121

This is an open thread. Bring non-Trump-Russia/Special Counsel’s Office comments here.

Photo: Pavan Trikutam via Unsplash

Day 33+11H: Flood the Zone

[NB: Check it ^^^ / ~Rayne]

I don’t have a full post written yet — I will update this post when I have more to say.

What I want to say is this: CALL YOUR SENATORS RIGHT NOW.

Congressional Switchboard: (202) 224-3121

There are only two simple things to tell them:

— Government must be reopened as soon as possible;

— No on the “fucken wall.”

Our nation’s health and security is diminished every moment this unnecessary lockout continues.

Why do you need to call now? Because Mitch McConnell has scheduled a vote for 2:30 p.m. today on Trump’s ‘phony compromise‘ bill.

Right-wing wall proponents (a.k.a. anti-immigrant bigots and faux budget conservatives) have been encouraged to call their senators with a pro-wall message. We must counter this; calls are counted and weighed into consideration.

More later. Just make the call. Share in comments your experience.

Day 32+11H: Trump’s Other Wall

[NB: Byline — check it. /~Rayne]

This post is about a wall. Nope, not about Trump’s narcissistic pipe dream made of steel slats and Fox News-borne ego fluffing.

It’s a wall of GOP senators, so corrupt and craven they will line up against reopening their country’s government while voting to help a country which U.S. intelligence agencies say interfered with the 2016 elections.

They’ll roll over while Americans begin to die from their gross neglect. Federal employees who are diabetics are already having difficulty paying for insulin, a double whammy since the GOP-led Congress has done nothing to deal with extortive insulin pricing. Children affected by the shutdown will begin to go hungry soon if they haven’t already, whether from cuts to school lunches or at home.

There are several groups varying by their corruption and cravenness; I’ve already written about the Class II senators who don’t appear to feel concern about their re-election prospects — yet.

But the second group in need of a swift kick are those who visited Russia on July 4th this past year:

Richard Shelby (AL) — Senate Class III

John Thune (SD) — Senate Class III

John Hoeven (ND) — Senate Class III

Ron Johnson (WI) – Senate Class Class III

John Kennedy (LA) — Senate Class III

John Thune (SD) — Senate Class III

Jerry Moran (KS) — Senate Class III

Steve Daines (MT) — Senate class II

Kay Granger (TX) — Representative

At the top is the senior “spokesperson” for the group; he’s the one quoted most often by the media when asked about this congressional delegation.

At the bottom are two exceptions: Daines is running for re-election for the first time in 2020, and Granger isn’t a senator at all but a House rep from a solidly red congressional district.

Notice the trait most have in common? They’re Class III, which means they will be up for re-election in 2022.

Why the hell did nearly 30% of the Class III GOP senators go to Russia on our most American holiday, one celebrating our independence from an authoritarian monarchy?

Not sending Class I senators who were working on their 2018 mid-term campaigns makes sense, but why not more Class II? These classes are assigned by state according to Constitution’s Article I, Section III; there should have been broader, more random representation on this trip (and certainly not on July 4th).

Here’s my theory: first, this congressional delegation trip was an interview for aid. Not development aid for the U.S. but for their campaigns. I can’t think of a reason why so many Class III senators would have gone together. Thankfully none of them are on the Armed Services or Select Intelligence Committees though Johnson and Young are on the Foreign Policy Committee and Shelby, Hoeven, Moran, and Kennedy are on the Appropriations Committee.

Or is the percentage of links between these senators and these committees relevant in some way?

Daines is an exception — his need is more immediate, and his state is in play based on the data produced by Democratic Senator Jon Tester’s re-election in 2018. Daines may be a proof of concept.

Second, I believe Granger went because Senator John Cornyn hadn’t yet decided whether to run for re-election in 2020. He didn’t announce until September that he would do so. Granger may have been groomed as a candidate for this seat because her congressional district encompassing Fort Worth is solidly red and the GOP probably has a House candidate waiting in the wings. If Beto O’Rourke runs for the Senate again in 2020 as a Democrat, the GOP may have wanted to run a woman against him if Cornyn retired. But now Granger will have to wait for another slot to open. I wouldn’t be surprised to see her run for governor after Greg Abbott finishes his term(s).

There are seven more senators and one representative who are likely to continue to stand pat behind Trump and his Putinist agenda, including his “fucken wall.” They will only change their loyalties if they are called out on their bullshit.

There should be no conditions placed on reopening government. Period. The shutdown has weakened all security including the health and economic welfare of citizens whether federal employees or not.

Trump’s proposal made this weekend is a joke — his personal businesses will benefit from the continued protection of immigrants who work at his resorts while failing to provide any real additional security — and will be shoved in our faces tomorrow as McConnell has scheduled it for a vote.

Congressional switchboard: (202) 224-3121

If you can help at all, check with local food banks to make donations. There are federal employees who live and/or work in nearly every county. You can also try to pay off outstanding school lunch fees for kids who don’t qualify for the federal school program but have run up their hot lunch charges for lack of funds — just call your local public school system and ask if you can help.

Now is a good time to make small purchases, too, if there’s a previously owned item you’ve put off buying. Federal employees and contractors have been selling all manner of items to raise cash, from clothing to books.

And some have been reduced to selling plasma.

I don’t know how we can come away from this horrible episode in our nation’s history without thinking the GOP has deliberately chosen to harm this country and quite possibly to appease and benefit a hostile country.

Americans’ deaths arising from this shutdown will be on their hands.

Shutdown Day 28+15H: When Negotiations Fail, Add More Hostages

[NB: Check the byline, thanks. /~Rayne]

About 3:00 p.m. EDT — any time now — in a special address we’re supposed to hear from Trump what he is willing to offer in exchange for funding the wall based on negotiations led by Mike Pence and Jared Kushner (yes, he of the middle east peace negotiations, that fine negotiator). Mitch McConnell is supposed to be in the mix somewhere; it’s funny how little has been said about his presence.

Current speculation: the White House will offer concessions on the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program which had ordered terminated in September 2017, and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program in exchange for the $5.7B funding Trump has demanded along with funding and reopening government.

In other words, Trump is going to add more hostages to make the Democratic Party looks bad.

And in other words, the Trump organization may benefit directly if it seeks more immigrants laborers for its businesses.

At least one Trump-owned resort has had undocumented workers in housekeeping staff, like those working construction on the Trump Hotel-DC who qualified for TPS. There are likely others who have not come forward as two did who worked at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey.

Are there any DACA participants working in one of the Trump org facilities, too?

Trump and his team waited until after the Women’s March today to make this announcement, and until evidence of government workers’ desperation spread across the internet. We’ve seen copies of letters warning that rent was due in full — today in one case — regardless of the government shutdown, or eviction would begin. We’ve seen posts about food banks for federal law enforcement employees.

And now they want to add DACA and TPS hostages to this equation.

This doesn’t look like good faith negotiation to me. It looks more like an attempt to heighten tensions against immigrants, particularly undocumented immigrants.

No matter what terms Team Trump offers, George Lakoff is right:

Is it really too much to ask for a president and Senate Majority Leader to simply do the right thing by the country and reopen the government without fueling more  political conflict?

Into Shutdown Day 28: Is the GOP Senate Obstructing Justice?

[NB: Always check the byline, folks. /~Rayne]

As we roll through the afternoon into the 28th day of the longest-ever government shutdown, let’s revisit Senator Amy Klobuchar’s questions to Attorney General nominee Bill Barr before the Senate Judiciary Committee this week.

She asked him about his opinion on obstruction of justice. Barr discussed in his June 2018 memo addressed to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Assistant Attorney General Steve Engel, focusing on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s “‘Obstruction’ Theory.”

Four key points give pause:

  • Deliberately impaired integrity or availability of evidence;
  • Knowing destruction or alteration of evidence;
  • Ordering witness/es not to cooperate with investigation;
  • Misleading statements to conceal purposes.

Klobuchar asked Barr about each of these during the hearing:

(3:17) KLOBUCHAR: You wrote on page one that a president persuading a person to commit perjury would be obstruction. Is that right?

BARR: Yes.

KLOBUCHAR: Okay.

BARR: Or any, any, well, you know, or any person who persuades another, yeah.

(3:31) KLOBUCHAR: Okay. You also said that a president or any person convincing a witness to change testimony would be obstruction. Is that right?

BARR: Yes.

KLOBUCHAR: Okay.

(3:42) KLOBUCHAR: And on page 2 you said that a president deliberately impairing the integrity or availability of evidence would be an instruction*. Is that correct?

BARR: Yes.

KLOBUCHAR: Okay, and um, so what if the president told the witness not to cooperate with an investigation, or hinted at a pardon?

BARR: You know, I, I’d have to know the specific, I’d have to know the specific facts.

(4:03) KLOBUCHAR: And you wrote on page one that if a president knowingly destroys or alters evidence, that would be obstruction.

BARR: Yes.

(4:13) KLOBUCHAR: Okay. Um, so what if a president drafted a misleading statement to conceal the purpose of a meeting. Would that be obstruction?

BARR: Again, you know the, I’d have to know the, I’d have to know the specifics.

KLOBUCHAR: All right.

(* Not clear if she said “instruction” or “obstruction”; she was referring to the discussion obstruction in Barr’s memo.)

So what does this have to do with the shutdown? Regardless of the genesis and distribution of Barr’s memo or his opinion, these forms of obstruction are exactly what the government shutdown accomplishes.

Evidence to be gathered by and from some government resources may be limited by the furlough. IRS staff, for example, may have been called back to handle refunds but are there IRS staff on duty who may respond to subpoenas for tax returns? What of so-called “non-essential” personnel who might handle document requests in other departments? Have furloughed federal employees who are not yet called back indirectly ordered not to cooperate with investigations by virtue of their locked out status?

We already know that Trump avoided creating and processing records of his discussions with Putin, a likely violation of the Presidential Records Act. Has he further destroyed or altered evidence subject to the PRA but prevented staff responsible for handling and recovering destroyed/altered evidence from doing so with the shutdown? (Recall the archivist-records managers who had been taping together Trump’s documents but were fired by second quarter 2018.)

Has the demand for the wall itself, in any statements or writings demanding this wall, been an attempt to conceal the true intent of the shutdown as an act of obstruction? Recall how upset Trump was with Mick Mulvaney when Mulvaney tried to offer a number lower than Trump’s demanded $5.7B and higher than House Democrat’s offered $1.3B; Trump yelled at him in front of members of Congress and told him, “You just fucked it up!

Was it not the wall’s funding but obstruction by shutdown Mulvaney interfered with by trying to offer a means to reopen the government?

If there is any doubt at all about these points, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is obligated to permit bills through which would end the shutdown or at least extend temporary funding, so that obstruction by shutdown is at an end.

The GOP Senate caucus is likewise obligated to take measures to end the shutdown, including replacement of their Senate Majority Leader if he continues to obstruct government’s operation.

Neither McConnell nor the GOP Senate caucus appear to be acting in good faith about this shutdown. At least Mulvaney made a reasonable, good faith effort before being sworn at and shot down by Trump.

If we thought the GOP Senate was compromised before by Russian-furnished NRA money, they deepen their compromise by refusing to address the obstructive shutdown. Is their “lack of alarm” about the lengthening shutdown due not to their ideology but their resignation to this obstruction?

Why is Mitch McConnell still Senate Majority Leader at this point? Former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott was asked to step down for supporting a noted racist, and McConnell know this because he was instrumental to Lott’s removal.

Why is the GOP Senate aiding and abetting this obstruction of justice at scale?

#WhyMitch

Congressional switchboard: (202) 224-3121

On the Matter of Mitch: Perhaps Not Where but Why

Yesterday morning frosh congressperson Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted about the government shutdown :

(Red arrow mine.)

This tweet may have prefaced the viral search that followed for the current Senate Majority Leader, earmarked with the hashtagged question, #WheresMitch.

If you search that hashtag in Twitter you will see the House freshmen and quite a few more senior representatives made the best of McConnell’s continued obstructionism by avoidance, with tweeted photos of them looking for him beginning in early afternoon.

Meanwhile, federal employees struggle to make ends meet, possibly facing eviction in two weeks if they don’t receive a paycheck by then. Senate bill S.24 passed yesterday, ensuring back pay for federal employees once the government is reopened. Though it won’t fix the damage to fed employees entirely, it’s the right thing to do.

It does nothing for federal contractors and subcontractors, many of whom are the lowest paid personnel performing work like sanitation.

And some of these folks are surely Mitch McConnell’s constituents, along with the rest of nearly 60,000 Kentuckyians who are federal employees and active military relying on federal services.

As I shared last week, a friend who owns a small construction business is affected by the shutdown even though they aren’t directly employed by the government. So too every one of those more than 60,000 Kentuckyians directly affected has several shadow counterparts affected indirectly by the shutdown. Like daycare providers, local grocery and retail stores, automotive mechanics, so on, all losing a percentage of their income from the shutdown.

In the case of those serving federal contract employees, they won’t make that income back. And they will be hurting for some time to come, making it difficult to forget this willfully inflicted damage before 2020’s general election. All these federal employees, active military, and contractors as well as their local businesspersons aren’t uniformly Democrats; this is Kentucky we’re talking about, a state which would elect a Republican like McConnell to the Senate in the first place.

It seems odd that McConnell, who polled last week with an improved (ha!) 38% approval rating, would cling so desperately to the shutdown when it looks like he’ll run for re-election. But his polling numbers ticked upward last year when he clung to Trump, providing a likely explanation for his entrenchment.

McConnell hasn’t yet come to grips with Trumpism’s limits. If the Special Counsel’s Office shows Trump and his closest advisers in his campaign and administration have violated multiple laws, will McConnell cling to the appearance of criminality, too?

Because we all know it’s not really if but when the Special Counsel’s Office indicts persons close to the president, the question becomes not Where’s Mitch? but Why, Mitch?

Why would anyone with half a brain screw over enough of their own constituents to populate a city the size of Lexington, Kentucky, and go on believing they just have to stand by their man Trump to win re-election?

And perhaps the question isn’t Why, Mitch? but Why Mitch? This shutdown will have the same impact on all 50 states, affecting the constituents of every senator including the 21 Class II states. Why are the GOP senators allowing McConnell to continue as Senate Majority Leader?

Especially when McConnell seems just a little too smug and too invested in the role over doing his primary job by his Kentucky constituents and the nation.

Why Mitch? Why not another GOP senator for Majority Leader?

#WhyMitch

 

Congressional switchboard: (202) 224-3121

(Treat this as an open thread.)

The Lady (Trump’s Tantrum) or the Tiger (GOP Senators Get Spines) [UPDATE-2]

[NB: Hey. Byline above — check it. Updates at bottom of post. /~Rayne]

It’s Day 25 into the longest ever government shutdown.

Those idiot right-wing anarchists — there’s nothing liber in this libertarian extreme —want to shrink government to fit a Norquistian bathtub. They don’t want to give up their hold on this sodden pipe dream nor relinquish their addiction to anti-government propaganda.

Which means Americans are going to die. It’s just a matter of time.

Did you know the U.S. suffers 48,000,000 cases of foodborne sicknesses a year, resulting in 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths in an average year WHEN WE HAVE A WORKING USDA FOOD INSPECTION SYSTEM?

Gee, I wonder what that experience rate does to the cost of health care?

And I wonder what happens when food inspections stop? We’re finding out right now.

Hey, remember that annoying little problem with a mosquito-borne disease that causes anacephalic birth defects and is responsible for cases of Guillain-Barre in adults?

What happens when the CDC stops tracking it because the CDC is closed? Better remember to pack bug spray if you’ve booked a vacation someplace warm.

Oh, you’re going to fly, though. What happens if the TSA and air traffic controllers quit because they’ve had to get other jobs to pay the bills?

Will you get on a plane anyhow and take your chances the planes will dodge each other and simply cross your fingers that you’re not a casualty?

Even your trip across town could be fraught with peril if you rely on your smartphone to assist your navigation. A remotely-performed adjustment to phone magnetometers used by mapping apps didn’t take place Tuesday because NASA was shutdown. (Hope the Defense Department doesn’t need any highly accurate location services.)

That’s where we’re at right now. We don’t have food inspections. We don’t have disease monitoring. We are perilously close to having no border security at each airport and no air traffic controllers. We can’t be sure automated navigation systems work.

And now the Coast Guard is now going without pay. How will that effect border security on the water? What are the chances deaths on the water will increase because search and rescue will soon be affected?

This is just the tip of the iceberg. We are on the edge of a nationwide meltdown.

This is the result of Trump’s tantrum, demanding an unpopular border wall while irrationally weakening other points of entry to get it.

This is the result of his enabler, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who as Trump’s favorite troll refuses to let any bill pass to reopen the government, who also refuses to consider a veto override to get past Trump’s tantrum.

This is Door Number One, the Lady of increasing chaos.

Now let’s look at the Tiger.

A “couple Republican lawmakers” implied if federal employees working without pay at airports walked out that the Senate would be forced to resolve this mounting self-inflicted crisis by re-opening government.

But that’s not a new option — that’s exactly what’s already slowly happening at the airports. People can’t afford the government’s illegal demand that they work without a paycheck. They are slowly leaking away to new jobs when they aren’t filing for unemployment. It’s only a matter of time before Americans are infuriated about the collapse of air travel.

This is still the Lady scenario.

The Tiger is Door Number Two, a new and different solution.

The bottleneck to reopening government is really only one man since the president cannot tell Congress what to do. The one man refusing to move any bills to fund and reopen the government is Mitch McConnell, who doesn’t seem to care much that he’s helping Trump hurt his own Kentucky constituents.

The option is to remove him as Senate Majority Leader, replacing him with another GOP senator willing to reopen the government and return to negotiations with the House on bills that are in stasis. Why a new Majority Leader who organized this and pulled it off would look like a hero to the public — handy if they were running for re-election in 2020 or for the presidency in 2024.

This option will take a majority of the 53 GOP senators to do so — at least 28 senators who can open their eyes and see the enormity of the threat caused by the shutdown, recognize their compromised status is already visible to the public and accept they must do the right thing in spite of being compromised.

19 Class II senators up for reelection, two who’ve announced their impending retirements, another senator who’s up for a special election, and six more GOP senators could collaborate and get this done. Perhaps some of the brave ones who aren’t caving in to Putin’s demands to end sanctions. Maybe a single brave one starts by taking on John McCain’s maverick-y mantle to ask for the leadership role.

They might even salvage their own impending races with a little distance from Trump instead of tying their cred to a less-than-happy 37% presidential approval rating.

There’s the Tiger, ready to be freed from its cage to resolve this mess.

So what’s your pick, GOP senators? Which door?

The one with the Lady or the one with the Tiger?

UPDATE — 3:30 PM EDT —

David Frum tweeted:

As if this was a binary situation, only these highly polarized options available. Clearly the GOP Senate could provide a third option by throwing McConnell under the bus, voting in a new Majority Leader, and allowing a vote on extended funding at a minimum. GOP still looks like it’s in control, workers can go back to their jobs, Democrats will accept this, and Trump doesn’t have to double down.

Let’s see if the GOP Senate is smart enough to come to this conclusion, though. They are awfully busy indulging in a lot of stupid, though.

Right now they are lamely engaged in virtue signaling about abortion. Seems McConnell can manage to allow a redundant, unnecessary bill to go to the floor — S.109, a bill to prohibit taxpayer funded abortions.

Yes, we’ve already had the Hyde Amendment on the books since 1976.

But I guess McConnell needs to look like he’s doing something useful for the paycheck he’s still hauling down while TSA workers are going to food pantries.

The 2019 Women’s March this Saturday has also rattled some of these soft-handed slack-assed functionaries; making idle fapping gestures about abortion must be their method of exorcising teh wimmen before they take to the streets.

You may want to call your senators about this bill and express your displeasure that they’re ignoring the threat to American lives the ongoing shutdown poses.

Oh, and maybe suggest they need a new Majority Leader if your senator(s) are Republicans.

Congressional switchboard: (202) 224-3121

UPDATE — 7:00 PM EDT —

Tweet by Matt McDermott:

Yeah, about that…why is it the one guy who has continuously said “Nyet!” to every bill which would reopen government is still getting a pass by the media?

Have the media bought into McConnell as some omniscient political genius instead of a co-conspirator obstructing government including the operations of DOJ/FBI and the courts?

Graphic: Quino Al via Unsplash (mod by Rayne)

The Shutdown, Day 23: An Apology, A Prod, and a Call

[NB: You know the drill. Check the byline. /~Rayne]

First, an apology.

The government shutdown is personal; I have a lifelong friend who works for a federal agency and I have another friend who isn’t employed by the government. They are both hurting.

The first is a single woman ten years away from retirement; she’s raised a son, providing most of his support over the years at the expense of saving for retirement.

The other woman co-owns a small construction company with her spouse, specializing in home repairs and remodeling. She has several kids in school right now who are nickel-and-diming her to death with fairly typical needs — like AP tests and sports fees, uniforms, and equipment, essential if a kid has been working toward a sport scholarship. (Yes, children are yet again being punished for Trump’s and GOP Senate’s willful intransigence.)

Friend 1 doesn’t have a paycheck now. I think she’ll manage through the end of the month but then what? Tap into her IRA and draw down only to face a penalty later while losing the benefit of gains on her investment? How does she juggle trying to save for retirement, paying for her medications, keeping a roof over her head and her car in good order, while not getting too stressed out and making her blood pressure worse?

Friend 2 has now lost two construction contracts this month because they were small jobs for government employees who have been forced to cancel them. Her family counted on those contracts to get them through the slowest portion of the construction year. They don’t have a lot of reserves to draw on because they have a small business they need to finance and well, kids. Children are expensive, from diapers to college application fees and textbooks. God help them if any family member gets sick.

I am so very sorry, friends and friends I haven’t yet met. I can hear your stress; I know you want to work and you don’t want to be forced to take desperate measures to stay afloat. I wish you didn’t have to go through this wholly unnecessary and utterly unfair bullshit. I hope that writing this and other posts asking fellow voters to call their senators will help. Again, I am so very sorry.

Next, a prod.

I know many of the furloughed government employees are dealing with stressful first time experiences, like calling landlords and creditors to work out payment. Many of them feel great shame about this.

It’s not you. It’s not your fault. It’s about us, the rest of us. It’s about the Senate and Trump. Please don’t take the shame on your shoulders — you have enough to bear already.

Tell your landlord and creditors openly you’re a government employee or reliant on government employees. You’re not alone in this and they are surely hearing it from others.

My prod to members of Congress and to their constituents: government employees need some sort of tax credit or waiver of penalty if they have to draw down from their 401K or IRAs to pay the bills. Can we get something like this submitted promptly, please? Can we get behind it?

My prod to our community: if you can afford it, make a donation to a local food pantry. Many government employees have been forced to get help for themselves and their families. Ask around for other local opportunities to help since federal employees can’t take tips or other forms of remuneration. Local union offices may be able to help direct your contributions.

Finally, a call.

Make one. Make several. Call your senators regardless of their party affiliation and tell them 1) we need the government reopened, and 2) we still don’t need the “fucken wall.” This shutdown is not only hurting our government employees but it is wasting our tax dollars. We have pissed away on this shutdown any money which could have been spent on increased border security.

A constituent in Illinois said Senators Duckworth and Durbin have been getting more phone calls from the build-the-wall faction than the reopen-government-no-wall faction. This is probably due to the assumption that the Democrats are going to do the right thing and vote against the wall but for reopening government; we should no longer make that assumption given how desperate things are for many furloughed workers. Call your senators first, then call your rep (House has already voted along party lines for reopening government and against the requested wall funding). Recruit friends and family members to make calls as well.

If you have a GOP senator, ask them to work with other GOP senators to remove Mitch McConnell as Senate Majority Leader because his failure to bring both bills to reopen government and wall funding aids and abets President Trump’s obstruction of justice by interfering with Department of Justice and federal court operations.

It’s been done before; Trent Lott was forced to resign as Senate Majority Leader. (It’d be karmic payback considering how helpful McConnell was with Lott’s departure.)

Congressional switchboard: (202) 224-3121

Treat this as an open thread.