A Disaster Overlooked …

The Washington Post and New York Times both carried multiple stories about the ‘end’ of the government shutdown, about Roger Stone’s arrest, about Venezuela’s current presidency conundrum, and about the Trump ego-wall.  Neither carried, at least not in the major news sections, this story I found in bold headlines in The Guardian:

Hundreds Feared dead as Brazil dam collapse releases mud tide

Are we so wrapped up in our own detritus, in any story that carries the words ‘Trump’, ‘republicans’, ‘corruption’, ‘scandal’, or ‘immigrant’ that we simply don’t care about people in other places?  I don’t know, but apparently our two most credible media outlets think so.  Sure, I understand that we are interested in our own situation which is, unarguably dire, but can we not take a few minutes to care about people in other countries?

Here’s the story as of 2:00 p.m. this afternoon …

Hundreds of people are feared dead after a dam operated by the mining company Vale collapsed in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, releasing a wave of red iron ore waste and causing the worst environmental catastrophe in the country’s recent history.

Ten bodies have already been found and more than 300 people remain missing, according to the company. The disaster comes only three years after a similar failure of the Fundão tailings dam near Mariana – co-owned by Vale – which killed 19 people.

Take a quick look …

Brazil’s new right-wing populist president, Jair Bolsonaro, has frequently attacked environmentalists who predicted this very thing and who have been calling for tighter regulations at the mine.

Most of the victims of the disaster were Vale employees or subcontractors, around 100 of whom were having lunch in a canteen on the mine complex when the torrent of mud swept over them. A busload of workers was also killed, it was reported.

It cost billions to clean up after the Mariana disaster in 2015, which polluted the drinking water of hundreds of thousands. Yet no individual was ever held responsible.

I notice that CNN did do a piece on this catastrophe, and undoubtedly other media outlets in the U.S. covered it as well, but WHY wasn’t it headline news?  Because the majority of the media outlets thought people would rather read the same news they saw yesterday about the shutdown, about Roger Stone, and about Donald Trump. brazil-4

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A Few Random Tidbits …

My mind is bouncing today … I tried to settle it to write a single-topic post, but no, it was not having any of that!  It kept hopping from one topic to another so fast that my eyes were twirling about in their sockets trying to keep up.  So … once again I have just a few bits ‘n pieces today … and a hope that my mind stops bouncing soon, for I am getting a headache!

mike-pence


Mike Pence doesn’t say a whole lot, and after yesterday, I think that may be for the best.  The saying that is often attributed to either Abraham Lincoln or Mark Twain: “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt,” seems to be one that Pence should heed.  Yesterday, he made the mistake of speaking …

“One of my favorite quotes from Dr. King was, ‘Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.’ You think of how he changed America. He inspired us to change through the legislative process, to become a more perfect union.  That’s exactly what President Trump is calling on Congress to do. Come to the table in the spirit of good faith. We’ll secure our border. We’ll reopen the government and we’ll move our nation forward as the president said yesterday to even a broader discussion about immigration reform in the months ahead.”  🤢

Sorry, Mikey, but Dr. Martin Luther King and Donald Trump have not got a single thing in common … one was a compassionate, concerned, caring, dedicated man who risked and ultimately gave his life for the people of this nation, and the other is a bloody fool.  Care to guess which is which?


Humanitarianism is apparently illegal in some places in the U.S., such as Arizona.  Four women, volunteers for the Arizona-based aid group No More Deaths, were convicted after a three-day bench trial at a federal court in Tucson. They could face up to six months in federal prison.  Their crime?  Leaving food and water for dehydrated migrants crossing the desert into the United States.  Watch what these border patrol agents did to that water …

Ever walked through the desert with no water?  The criminals here, in my book, are not the women who left the water for the migrants, but the border patrol agents who not only destroyed and wasted the water but appeared to take great pleasure in doing so.  Sadists.

The women, Natalie Hoffman, Oona Holcomb, Madeline Huse and Zaachila Orozco-McCormick were charged in December 2017. They said their work for No More Deaths was motivated by their religious convictions and a belief that everyone should have access to basic survival needs.  And for their efforts, they might go to jail.  What the Sam Heck is wrong with this country???


The worldwide charity Oxfam released a new report today.  According to the report, just 26 individuals have more wealth than the bottom 3.8 billion of the world’s population!  Think about that one for a minute.  Twenty-six people, probably fewer than at your last family reunion, own more than 3.8 billion other people.  Wow.  The combined net wealth of those 26 totals $1.4 trillion.  Now, people say that if a person works hard, he should be able to enjoy the fruits of his labour, and I don’t disagree with that.  Certainly there must be an incentive to go the extra mile, work harder, create and innovate.  But … mustn’t there also be a conscience?  Should not responsibility accompany privilege?

Rather than sharing their wealth, these 26 billionaires are actually hoarding and increasing their wealth, to the detriment of the rest of us.  In 2016, 61 billionaires controlled half of the world’s wealth, then in 2017 that number was 43, before becoming 26 in 2018.  At this rate, in another 2-3 decades, there will be a single person who will control half of the world’s wealth.

Meanwhile, back at the salt mines, the average worker’s wage has increased by only 0.2% in the past year.  Now, I have never been a billionaire, nor even a millionaire.  In my entire career of long hours and hard work, I did not earn a million dollars total … not even close. But if I had … I would not have six figures sitting in my bank account or investment portfolio, for I would have shared it with those who were hungry, cold or sick long before now.  Apparently, one of the criteria for being wealthy … disgustingly wealthy … is that you sell your conscience.


And, on that note, I shall go feed my bouncy mind in hopes that it can find a spot to settle for a bit.  I think the cold weather and mounds of snow have made it restless.  Have a great week, friends!

Snarky Snippets … Again …

A couple of things in the news yesterday bothered me … really bothered me.  And you guys know what happens when things bother me, right?  I erupt into Snarky Snippets!  Grab your coffee, or better yet, your glass of wine, for I am full-on snark today.


A smooth shave turns bumpy …

First off, let’s talk razors, shall we?  I kept seeing remarks, mostly negative, about razors.  Meme’s, comments on Facebook, bad jokes … and I thought, “what the heck is up with razors?”.  But I didn’t think much beyond that until I saw this …gun-toting-dadHOLY SHIT!!!  I don’t know about Gillette, but it offends the heck out of me and makes me want to call Social Services on this guy!  And then I knew I must find out what all the hullabaloo is about.

Turns out, it is all over an advertisement that razor-maker Gillette recently placed, softening the male image from their usual “tough man” image, and appealing to men’s gentler sides.  It appears to be Gillette’s response to the #MeToo movement, and a response that I personally applaud.  So, what is the problem here?  Take a quick look at the ad and see what you think …

People are throwing away their razors and threatening a boycott of Gillette products.  WTF???  Do people really have nothing better to think about or to do with their time?  And are people so enamoured of the “he-man” image that they would rather see men portrayed as macho men than as kind, respectful men?

One such fool wrote on Twitter …

“I’m researching every product made by Proctor & Gamble, throwing any I have in the trash, and never buying any of them again until everyone involved in this ad from the top to bottom is fired and the company issues a public apology.”

Hold your breath, bucko!  Okay, so those gun-toting, tattooed, swaggering macho men feel threatened by a suggestion that they tone it down, treat women with a bit of respect.  I get that … well, no, really I don’t, but having known a few such men in my lifetime, I’m not surprised by it.  But what does surprise me is the response of some women!johnstoneSeriously, Kathleen???  You like to be shoved around a bit, maybe even slapped once in a while?

Although there were favourable responses to the ad, the response was overwhelmingly, 2-to-1, negative.  Folks … I think this says an awful lot about our society today, don’t you?


Clipping Pelosi’s wings …

In a rare event of petty revenge, Donald Trump told Nancy Pelosi that since she wouldn’t invite him to give the State of the Union Address before Congress on 29 January, then he wouldn’t allow her to fly via military transport for a previously undisclosed visit to U.S. troops in Afghanistan.  Shocked, aren’t you?  I’m surprised he didn’t burn her house down.  A few things here … the trip was not made public out of concern for the Congresswoman’s safety … HELLO DONNIE???  And now the whole world is aware, so Nancy, who Trump told could fly commercial airlines if she still wished to go, is forced to either stay at home, else fly through the air with a big red bullseye painted on her back, thanks to the loose lips of the fool on the hill.  Watch what Stephen Colbert has to say about it (if you have time, watch the whole 8 minutes … I promise you will laugh …)


Nancy can’t go, but Lindsey can?

And yet, though Trump claims the Trump-shutdown is the reason to disallow Ms. Pelosi’s travel, look who turned up in Turkey yesterday …lindsey-graham-erdoganYep. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi cannot go visit our troops in Afghanistan, but Senator Lindsey boot-licking Graham can go visit the Dictator of Turkey, one of the few men who Trump admires, or more likely envies.  You will remember that it was a telephone conversation with President Erdoğan that convinced Trump to announce that he would pull all U.S. forces out of Syria, presumably in order to give Erdoğan a chance to fulfill his mission of destroying our allies in Syria, the Kurds.

Given that John Bolton and literally all of Trump’s foreign policy advisors cautioned against a rapid pull-out and that removing U.S. troops from Syria is at a standstill, largely as a result of Erdoğan’s threats against the Kurds, Erdoğan is upset that his buddy, Trump, did not follow through on their conversation of December 19th.  And so, wanting to stay on the good side of his buddy Erdoğan, Trump sent Lindsey Graham to smooth the ruffled feathers of the Turkish dictator.  From the look on Erdoğan’s face, it wasn’t working.

Erdoğan welcomed Trump’s decision to withdraw from Syria; however, the Turkish president condemned what he said were attempts by senior U.S. officials to delay the withdrawal and link it to conditions including guaranteeing security for our Kurdish allies.

The timing is interesting, too, for it was just on Wednesday that the Turkish Parliament voted to grant emergency powers that give Erdoğan broad authority to act when Turkey’s financial stability is deemed to be under threat.  Deemed by whom?  Why, Erdoğan, of course! This, folks, is the power Trump is so envious of.


Oh, and speaking of travel during the shutdown …

Trump has announced that he will meet with Kim Jong-un again before the end of February.  Presumably, since he has threatened to allow the shutdown to last for years, and since he shows no signs of being willing to make reasonable compromises, he will likely be traveling during said shutdown.  Perhaps …trump-travel-shutdown


A friend posted this ‘toon on Facebook yesterday evening and I just couldn’t resist …toon

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

An Important Message …

I came across this video created by Greenpeace a few days ago.  Greenpeace, founded in 1971, is a non-governmental environmental organization focusing on worldwide issues such as climate change, deforestation, overfishing, commercial whaling, genetic engineering, and anti-nuclear issues.  Their mission statement:

Greenpeace is a global, independent campaigning organization that uses peaceful protest and creative communication to expose global environmental problems and promote solutions that are essential to a green and peaceful future.

The video contains probably some of the worst singing you will hear this week, but the message is important, the message is one that needs to be remembered and shared.  Our lives, the lives of our children and their children are at stake here, and every person on this planet has the ability to make a difference.

Filosofa’s State of the Union Address

Yesterday, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, sent a letter to Donald Trump strongly urging that he either reschedule the State of the Union Address or deliver it in writing, in the wake of the ongoing government shutdown, which entered its 26th day on Wednesday, and which has affected nearly 800,000 federal workers. Pelosi cited critical government agencies in charge of overseeing the event — namely U.S. Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security — that have been hobbled by the shutdown.

Under the circumstances, it is highly unlikely that Trump will, in fact, deliver a State of the Union address in person on Friday, 29 January.  So, it seemed prudent, just in case I am asked to deliver it in his stead, to go ahead and write my own speech … Text dividersGood evening Ms. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, my fellow Americans.

Ms. Pelosi graciously invited me to fill in for Mr. Trump in giving the State of the Union Address tonight, for with the government shutdown in its 39th day, the Secret Service and Department of Homeland Security are stretched far too thin to provide adequate security to attend this address to Congress.  It was determined that far fewer people want to bump me off than Mr. Trump, so my safety seems not to be at risk and thus I am here to deliver the speech to Congress and the Nation tonight.  Mr. Trump’s speechwriters worked very hard to provide me with a written speech, however, I seem to have left it back at the hotel, so luckily I have written my own.

This is called the State of the Union address because the purpose is to inform the American people how the country is doing, and where we are going, what we plan to accomplish in the coming year.  Let me start with how we are doing.

America is more divided today than at any time since the end of the Civil War years.  We have problems, folks – serious problems.  As I mentioned today marks the 39th day of the partial government shutdown that is affecting everyone in one way or another.  You, the people of this once-great nation are losing confidence, and understandably so, in your government.  Investors are losing confidence and it is being reflected in the dropping stock market and also in the job market.  Consumer prices are on the rise.  The food you buy to feed your families costs more than it did a month ago and there is a very real danger that meat and produce may be contaminated, since the U.S. Department of Agriculture hasn’t sufficient staff to continue food safety inspections. 

Apart from the government shutdown, we have a plethora of other problems that we seem unable or unwilling to address.  Perhaps the most critical one is that of the environment.  Since the rollback of past environmental regulations that were intended to cut back on carbon emissions, it was reported earlier this week that carbon emissions in the U.S. have increased by 3.4%, not decreased as they needed to.  This is a problem, not only for the United States, but for our neighbors, Mexico and Canada, as well as the rest of the globe. 

The other critical problem facing the nation is that we have lost the trust and respect of our allies, which leaves us in an extremely vulnerable position.  We abandoned our allies when we announced our intent to pull out of the Paris Climate Accord, when we exited the Iran nuclear agreement, and more recently when we announced that we would pull all U.S. troops out of Syria, leaving our allies holding the bag.  In addition, our threats to pull out of NATO, our unwarranted criticism of our allies, high import tariffs, and seeming attentiveness toward our adversaries further have our allies wondering whether they could depend on us in case of an emergency.  This is a dangerous situation.

Here at home, we face other problems.

Last year we saw a number of mass shootings in the United States.  113 people were either killed or injured in school shootings alone, and young people are asking us why we don’t do something, why we don’t pass laws to keep guns out of the hands of people with mental problems, of people who are known domestic abusers, why we don’t have stronger gun laws in this country. 

The nation is torn apart by the debate about immigration and a wall on the border between the United States and Mexico.  Border states are particularly torn, for such a wall would limit, if not eliminate trade and tourism between our two countries and would almost certainly cause further political and economic unrest. 

Our education system is failing our young people.  They are not receiving the education they need in order to succeed, to become the next generation of leaders, of scientists, of historians or great inventors.  Instead, we are training them only for specific jobs, thereby severely limiting their options.  

We have fallen far behind other Western nations in the development of renewable energy sources, have become far too dependent on fossil fuels which are causing more damage and destruction to the environment every day.

Bigotry in all its forms is at an all time high in our nation today.  Racial tensions are the highest they have been since the 1960s when people died to gain Civil Rights for African-Americans, for all people.  Rights are being taken away from the LGBT community.  Women’s rights are being trampled.  Muslims are discriminated against openly in public.

Our elections are no longer fair, for almost every state has gerrymandered districts, newly imposed voter identification laws that discriminate against the poor and minorities.  Polling places in poor districts are closed, or in some cases the hours dramatically reduced, making it impossible for a working person in one of those neighborhoods to vote.  Foreign entities have interfered in our elections, often skewing results.  Both domestic and foreign lobbyist firms have influenced elections and now have some of the people sitting in this room tonight in their pockets. All of this has led to voter disenfranchisement and apathy.

And healthcare … drug prices are obscenely inflated in the United States, as are insurance costs.  The ACA has been chipped at to the extent that many can no longer afford their health insurance.  People are sick and dying for lack of money. 

I wish I had better news to report, but frankly, ladies and gentlemen, our nation is in a sorry state today.  I cannot speak for Mr. Trump as to any plans for the coming year, but I have given you a rundown, in brief, of the State of the Nation.  And on that note, I thank you for your time this evening.

It Can’t Happen Here …

sinclair lewis.jpgA few days ago, Robert Vella commented on one of my posts that those who think I am over-dramatizing my take on Trump & Co., might be well-advised to read Sinclair Lewis’ It Can’t Happen Here.  Why hadn’t I thought of that comparison?  It has been around 50 years since I read the book, although I do remember the general premise.  Still, I went to Wikipedia for a brief synopsis, and I thought it apropos to share with you what I found:

“It Can’t Happen Here is a semi-satirical 1935 political novel by American author Sinclair Lewis, and a 1936 play adapted from the novel by Lewis and John C. Moffitt.  Published during the rise of fascism in Europe, the novel describes the rise of Berzelius “Buzz” Windrip, a demagogue who is elected President of the United States, after fomenting fear and promising drastic economic and social reforms while promoting a return to patriotism and “traditional” values.”

Anything in that paragraph sound familiar?

“In 1936 Senator Berzelius “Buzz” Windrip, a charismatic and power-hungry politician, wins the election as President of the United States on a populist platform, promising to restore the country to prosperity and greatness …”

Power-hungry … populist platform … promising prosperity … greatness …

“Though having previously foreshadowed some authoritarian measures in order to reorganize the United States government, Windrip rapidly outlaws dissent, incarcerates political enemies in concentration camps, and trains and arms a paramilitary force called the Minute Men, who terrorize citizens and enforce the policies of Windrip and his “corporatist” regime. One of his first acts as president is to eliminate the influence of the United States Congress, which draws the ire of many citizens as well as the legislators themselves. The Minute Men respond to protests against Windrip’s decisions harshly, attacking demonstrators with bayonets. In addition to these actions, Windrip’s administration, known as the “Corpo” government, curtails women’s and minority rights, and eliminates individual states by subdividing the country into administrative sectors. The government of these sectors is managed by “Corpo” authorities, usually prominent businessmen or Minute Men officers.”

Want to know more?  Read the book.  But here’s my thought.  All of us have at least one or two friends who are still supporting Trump, whether because they truly believe in his lies, honestly think something he’s doing is right, or are just too ashamed to admit they were wrong about him.  The book isn’t expensive, so I say we should each buy one in paperback to give to each of our wayward friends or family members.  And if you really need a lot of copies, you can download it for free from the Project Gutenberg, or you can download the .pdf file, also free, then email it to your friends and relatives.

I just wish I had come up with this idea a week or two before Christmas, and we could have given a copy to those ‘in need’ of reading it for Christmas!

 

The Top 50 Trumpaus From The Atlantic

The Atlantic has done a series that I found to be both comprehensive and interesting.  What they did was … well, I’ll let Jeff Goldberg, Editor in Chief tell you …

In an October 2016 editorial, The Atlantic wrote of Donald Trump: “He is a demagogue, a xenophobe, a sexist, a know-nothing, and a liar.” We argued that Trump “expresses admiration for authoritarian rulers, and evinces authoritarian tendencies himself.” Trump, we also noted, “is easily goaded, a poor quality for someone seeking control of America’s nuclear arsenal. He is an enemy of fact-based discourse; he is ignorant of, and indifferent to, the Constitution; he appears not to read.”

In retrospect, we may be guilty of understatement.

There was a hope, in the bewildering days following the 2016 election, that the office would temper the man—that Trump, in short, would change.

He has not changed.

This week marks the midway point of Trump’s term. Like many Americans, we sometimes find the velocity of chaos unmanageable. We find it hard to believe, for example, that we are engaged in a serious debate about whether the president of the United States is a Russian-intelligence asset. So we decided to pause for a moment and analyze 50 of the most improbable, norm-bending, and destructive incidents of this presidency to date.

Our 2016 editorial was a repudiation of Donald Trump’s character as much as it was an endorsement of Hillary Clinton for president. It was not meant to be partisan. The Atlantic’s founders promised their readers that we would be “of no party or clique.” This remains a core governing principle of the magazine today. What follows is a catalog of incidents, ranked—highly subjectively!—according to both their outlandishness and their importance. In most any previous presidency, Democratic or Republican, each moment on this list would have been unthinkable.

There are 50 articles in the series, and while I have not read them all, the ones I have read are spot-on.  I list them here, with links, so you can decide which, if any, you would like to read.  Click on any title to go directly to it … all links will open in a separate tab:

  1. Children are taken from their parents and incarcerated
  2. “Very fine people on both sides”
  3. The president still hasn’t released his tax returns
  4. Putin and Trump talk without chaperones
  5. James Comey is fired
  6. Trump declares war on black athletes
  7. Trump picks the wrong countries for his travel ban
  8. The president calls his porn-star ex-paramour “horseface”
  9. Covfefe
  10. “I have the absolute right to pardon myself”
  11. Trump throws paper towels at Puerto Ricans
  12. A new term enters the presidential lexicon: “shithole countries”
  13. Trump mocks Christine Blasey Ford to a cheering crowd
  14. You know you’re in a constitutional crisis when…
  15. The CIA dead become a TV prop
  16. Public humiliation comes for everyone in the White House
  17. Trump threatens to press his “nuclear button”
  18. The president lies constantly
  19. The president learns about the Justice Department
  20. The president learns about separation of powers
  21. Rain stops Trump from honoring the dead
  22. The UN General Assembly laughs at the president
  23. America gets a first daughter
  24. The president can’t stop talking about carnage
  25. “We’re gonna have the cleanest air”
  26. Trump helps the Saudis cover up a murder
  27. Turkish agents assault protesters near the White House
  28. Trump tweets the wisdom of Mussolini
  29. The president tries to kick transgender service members out of the military
  30. The buck stops over there
  31. The White House punishes a CNN reporter for asking questions
  32. Trump disseminates Soviet propaganda
  33. The chief justice of the United States corrects the president
  34. Trump leads the country to the longest government shutdown in American history
  35. Mueller’s “witch hunt” is good at finding witches
  36. Trump threatens to strip security clearances from his critics
  37. The president just wants to go home
  38. Trump holds a top secret confab on the Mar-a-Lago dining terrace
  39. A White House economist creates facts for the president
  40. The president’s most trusted adviser is his own gut
  41. Trump waits 19 months to pick his science adviser
  42. The first president to complain about an election he won
  43. The nation loses its consoler in chief
  44. The WikiLeaks president goes silent
  45. A name-calling feud ends with the secretary of state’s ouster by tweet
  46. Trump tells the Boy Scouts about a hot New York party
  47. An overcompensating press secretary lies about crowd size
  48. The president praises the congressman who body-slammed a reporter
  49. A Cabinet officer likes private planes too much
  50. Donald Trump touches the magic orb

Only Slightly Snarky Snippets …

As I sit here, looking out at the cold snow, watching Oliver watch the birdies outside the window, wishing for a sign that spring is near, and pondering the meaning of life, I decided today was a snippet sort of day.  I considered building a nice fire to ward off the chill, but the management here doesn’t allow it … just because we don’t have fireplaces.  Silly, I know, but there you have it.  So, wrapped up in a blankie with a purring creature in my lap, it’s either fall asleep or write.


No, Mr. Watson, you are NOT correct!

James Dewey Watson, age 90, is a nasty little man.  In 1962, he won the Nobel Prize for outlining the double-helix structure of DNA.  Okay, an achievement that has provided useful information for medical science.  Sorry, James, but that doesn’t exonerate you from being a racist.

james-watsonIn 2007 Watson, a molecular biologist, geneticist and zoologist, claimed that black people were less intelligent than white people and the idea that “equal powers of reason” were shared across racial groups was a delusion.  In response, he was suspended from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory where he had served as the laboratory’s director and president for about 35 years, and later he assumed the role of chancellor and then Chancellor Emeritus.

It wasn’t only people of African lineage that he disparaged, however.  He had little respect for women or obese people. A couple of quotes …

“Whenever you interview fat people, you feel bad, because you know you’re not going to hire them.”

“If you are really stupid, I would call that a disease. The lower 10 per cent who really have difficulty, even in elementary school, what’s the cause of it? A lot of people would like to say, ‘Well, poverty, things like that.’ It probably isn’t. So, I’d like to get rid of that, to help the lower 10 per cent.”

And then, two weeks ago, he iced the cake.  Appearing on a PBS Documentary “American Masters: Decoding Watson”, he revealed that his scientifically unsupported views on race and genetics have not changed “at all” since 2007.  To their credit, the Cold Spring Harbor Lab has revoked his honorary titles.

“Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) unequivocally rejects the unsubstantiated and reckless personal opinions Dr. James D. Watson expressed on the subject of ethnicity and genetics during the PBS documentary ‘American Masters: Decoding Watson’ that aired January 2, 2019.”

I repeat … James Watson, brilliant though his work may have been, is a nasty little man.


Let the courts decide …

Section One of the thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution 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.”

Last week a group of federal employees working without pay during the partial government shutdown filed a lawsuit accusing Trump and their bosses of violating the 13th Amendment.  The lawsuit is one of several that have been filed by groups of federal employees who are being forced to work without pay as Trump continues his childish temper tantrum that has kept parts of the government shut down for nearly a month now.  But this one differs in that it is the first such lawsuit to invoke the 13th Amendment.

The group’s lawyer, Michael Kator, said …

“If this is not resolved soon, affected employees may find that beginning February 1 they will no longer have health insurance. And, if this lasts ‘months or even years’ as [Trump] has suggested, there will be defaults, foreclosures and even bankruptcies. A promise to pay back pay will not forestall those consequences.”

Sadly, legal minds aren’t offering much hope that the lawsuit will succeed, but my hat is off to the group for trying.  It is, I think, unconscionable to expect people to keep working for no pay, especially given that there are a couple of very simple solutions to this problem:  Trump could come down off his high horse and sign the damn spending bill, or the Senate could find their cojones and pass a veto-proof bill.

If the approximately 420,000 federal workers who are expected to work with naught but a ‘promise’ of back pay decide to walk off the job, this nation will be plunged into chaos … planes will not fly, trade between the U.S. and Mexico will cease, Secret Service protection to the current and former presidents will cease, U.S. embassies will close, food inspections will be halted, weather forecasts will cease, and more.

Trump claims that the wall is “essential” for national security, but this shutdown is putting national security at risk in ways that immigrants never have, never could.


Canadians have heart …

Let’s finish this post on a positive note, shall we?  A Canadian friend sent me this on Facebook this morning …natca-pizza-new-englandAir traffic controllers from Atlantic Canada directed a fleet of special arrivals into the New York Air Traffic Control Center on Friday night, as a gesture of solidarity and respect.

And each was covered in a layer of gooey melted cheese.

The Canadian Air Traffic Control Association units in Gander, N.L., and Moncton, N.B., ordered pizzas for all of their colleagues at the control center on Long Island, who have been working without pay since the partial U.S. government shutdown began on Dec. 22.pizza!According to Doug Church, deputy director of public affairs with the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) in the U.S., there are currently 14,000 controllers working without pay.

And they’re thrilled about the pizzas.

“It’s just a really good shot in the arm of positive energy and positive emotion to know that, ‘Hey they’ve got our back,’  On behalf of the entire NATCA and air traffic control around this country, we extend our thanks and our gratitude.”


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Why Didn’t I Think Of That???

Nicholas Kristof’s column yesterday in the New York Times was his usual excellent analysis of the five craziest things about the government shutdown and Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion for his ego wall.  But what iced the cake for me was the brilliant idea he posed at the conclusion of his piece.  And so, I share his column with you … let me know what you think of his idea!


Trump’s Five Craziest Arguments About the Shutdown

Oh, and about that wall. Here’s a financing plan that’s a win-win.

nicholas-kristof-thumblargeBy Nicholas Kristof
Opinion Columnist

I’d like to apologize to all the “banana republics” I’ve offended over the decades with snarky references to their dysfunction. This is karma: I now live in a nation where a petulant president has shut down much of the most powerful government in the world — so the White House isn’t even paying its water bills.

The government has shut down before, under presidents of both parties. But this shutdown is particularly childish and unnecessary; to revise Churchill, rarely have so many suffered so much at the hands of so few.

It’s difficult to pick the craziest of the arguments that President Trump is making about the shutdown — there’s a vast buffet of imbecility to choose from — but here’s my good-faith effort.

1. This is a crisis! Terrorists are crossing the border! Rapists!

This is more like a lull than a crisis. The number of people apprehended at the border remains near a 45-year low. From 1972 on, there were more apprehensions every single year than there were in 2017.

As for terrorists, experts say that there isn’t a single known case of a terrorist sneaking into the United States along unfenced areas of the southern border. Ever.

2. Only a wall can do the job. A big beautiful wall that stops people and drugs.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was wrong to describe a wall as “an immorality,” for we need border security, and a wall in some places can be effective. But a great majority of the undocumented immigrants in the country didn’t arrive by sneaking across the border, but rather came legally, often at airports, and overstayed their visas. The most beautiful of walls wouldn’t stop them.

Likewise, drug smuggling is a real problem, but narcotics have mostly been smuggled in on trucks, cars and airplanes at official ports of entry, or through tunnels under the border, or through the postal system — not by individuals crossing remote parts of the border.

“The Daily Show” dug up a 2004 college graduation speech in which Trump counseled perseverance of just the kind that makes walls, by themselves, not terribly effective: “Never, ever give up. … If there’s a concrete wall in front of you, go through it, go over it, go around it, but get to the other side of the wall.”

3. But this is a humanitarian issue!

Yes, it is. The most egregious humanitarian concern has been Trump’s brutal policy of separating children from parents at the border.

“Kids are still being separated,” Lee Gelernt of the A.C.L.U. told me. Mostly the government does this when it says that a parent has a criminal history, but the offenses sometimes were minor or unsubstantiated.

Meanwhile, the government shutdown causes other tragedies. For example, even in normal times 3,000 people a year die in the United States from food-borne illness, yet the Food and Drug Administration has now had to stop most routine food inspections, with inspectors sent home on furlough. The result may well be more people getting sick or dying from food poisoning.

4. The president doesn’t need Congress. After all, he’s the president!

Plenty of people would be a bit relieved if Trump took the dubious route of declaring a national emergency and trying to steal, er, divert money intended for disaster victims to pay for his wall. It might be a way out of our national stalemate, allowing the government to reopen.

But look, folks, when we welcome our president doing something possibly illegal, as he unjustly takes money from disaster victims, that just confirms that we have a crisis — not at the border but in Washington.

Trump’s wall isn’t about governing but about creating a political symbol and rallying his base. The problem is that it’s an expensive symbol.

By my calculations, the $5.7 billion could send 100,000 at-risk American kids to a high-quality preschool for a year AND provide Pell grants for 100,000 students to attend college for a full four years, with enough left over to ALSO provide a year’s comprehensive treatment to 115,000 Americans struggling with opioid addiction.

5. Anyway, Mexico will pay for the wall.

Trump repeatedly declared that Mexico would pay for the wall, and he still insists that Mexico will pay for it indirectly “many, many times over.” So I have a solution to the whole mess.

Since Mexico will pay for the wall eventually, the problem now is one of cash flow. Fortunately, we have financial instruments to deal with precisely this issue.

I propose that Trump pay the $5.7 billion himself, and then the U.S. will repay him (with a nice interest rate) as the Mexican payments for the wall pour in. The Federal Reserve can verify the Mexican income stream and forward the sums to Trump.

Since he’s so confident that the wall will pay for itself, he should be delighted with this option. Right, Mr. President?

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Now why didn’t I think of that???