A White Woman Listens … Really Listens

We have a serious problem in the U.S.:  we don’t listen to each other.  Okay, yes, we have many serious problems in the U.S. today, but many of them could be solved if we simply took time to listen … really listen … to each other and consider what the other person is saying.  Instead, we have preconceived ideas and, so sure that our own ideas are the right ones, we barely listen to those with opposing viewpoints, or from whom we might learn something.

Yesterday, I came across a Facebook post by a white woman who took the time to listen to a black man, who asked questions and pondered the answers, who learned from someone whose life experiences differ vastly from her own.  Her post has thus far received more than 220,000 views and some 182,000 shares.  I think this piece is well worth sharing, for we can all do a better job listening and learning from others, making the world a little bit better.  This is the sort of civil discourse that will eventually lead the way forward for this nation …


Caroline Crockett Brock

I am a 45 year old white woman living in the south, and today was the first time I spoke frankly about racism with a black man.

When Ernest Skelton, my appliance repairman, came to the front door, I welcomed him in. As this was his second visit and we’d established a friendly rapport, I asked him how he was feeling in the current national climate. Naturally, he assumed I was talking about the coronavirus, because what white person actually addresses racism head on, in person, in their own home?

When Ernest realized I wanted to know about his experience with racism, he began answering my questions.

What’s it like for you on a day-to-day basis as a black man? Do cops ever give you any trouble?

The answers were illuminating.

Ernest, a middle-aged, friendly, successful business owner, gets pulled over in Myrtle Beach at least 6 times a year. He doesn’t get pulled over for traffic violations, but on the suspicion of him being a suspect in one crime or another. Mind you, he is in uniform, driving in a work van clearly marked with his business on the side. They ask him about the boxes in his car–parts and pieces of appliances. They ask to see his invoices and ask him why there is money and checks in his invoice clipboard. They ask if he’s selling drugs. These cops get angry if he asks for a badge number or pushes back in any way. Everytime he is the one who has to explain himself, although they have no real cause to question him.

Ernest used to help folks out after dark with emergencies. Not anymore. He does not work past dinnertime, not because he doesn’t need the business, but because it isn’t safe for him to be out after dark. He says “There’s nothing out there in the world for me past dark”.

Let me say that again. Ernest, a middle aged black man in uniform cannot work past dark in Myrtle Beach in 2020 because it’s not safe for him. He did not say this with any kind of agenda. It was a quiet, matter of fact truth.

A truth that needs to be heard.

When I asked Ernest what ethnic terms he gets offended at, he said that the most offensive term people use is ‘boy’. Ernest has a bachelors in electronics and an associates in HVAC. He is not a ‘boy’, and the term ‘boy’ in the south implies inferiority in station and status. He came to Myrtle Beach and got a job at Hobart. The supervisor repeatedly used the term ‘boy’. Ernest complained. After several complaints Ernest was fired.

Ernest says most white people are a little scared of him, and he’s often put in a position where he has to prove himself, as though he’s not qualified to repair appliances.

After getting a job for 2 years at Sears appliance, Ernest started his own company, one he’s been running for several years. He is the best repairman we’ve had, and has taught me about washer dryers and how to maintain them myself, even helping me with another washer/dryer set and a dishwasher without charging me. I highly recommend his company, Grand Strand Appliance.

I asked Ernest what he thought of “black bike week” in Myrtle Beach, where thousands of black people come with bullet bikes and trash our town. He says it hurts black people in our city, and he disagrees with the NAACP coming in to sue businesses that close on black bike week. He hates working that week.

Ernest doesn’t have hope that racism will change, no matter who the president is. His dad taught him “It’s a white man’s world”, and he’s done his best to live within it.

When I asked him what I could do, he said, “everyone needs to pray and realize we’re all just one country and one people”.

I am a 45 year old white woman living in the south. I can begin healing our country by talking frankly with African Americans in my world—by LISTENING to their lived experience and speaking up. I can help by actively promoting black owned businesses. That’s what I can do today. Let’s start by listening and lifting up. It’s that simple.

Edit: I asked Ernest if I could take his picture and post our conversation on facebook. He thought it was a great idea. As he left my house an hour later, he looked me in the eye and said, “If you ever march, or have a meeting on this topic, or want to change things in Myrtle Beach, I’ll stand with you.”Ernest-SkeltonWhat a great idea. Let’s begin standing together.
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Edit: 1pm EST on 6/1. Ernest just called me and we had one of the sweetest moments, both laughing and crying about the response to this post. He started the conversation by saying, “Caroline, I don’t know if I should kill you or kiss you–my phone is ringing off the hook!”
He doesn’t have a FB profile, so he’s coming over later so I can help him set one up. He’s been absolutely overwhelmed, as have I, with the response. We’re going to be sitting down together to read your comments. They mean so much. In addition, the Myrtle Beach city manager has contacted me and I’m getting all of us together to be sure this doesn’t happen in our city any longer. THANK YOU WORLD.

Edit 6/2 9am. Just got off the phone with Ernest and the local news. They will be interviewing us today, and it will be on the local news in Myrtle beach tonight. I’ll post it on my page later.

Edit 6/7. Ernest and I ended up marching together at a peaceful protest in Myrtle Beach! It was a lovely day and we went out to lunch with our spouses afterwards. What a whirlwind of events! Check out my FB live of the protest!

Edit 6/8: Ernest and I met today with a web designer to make sure his facebook and business pages are linked, so he’s good to go there! I spoke with an investigator at the MB police department who was top notch. More to follow.
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This is how we change our country. Normal folks. One town at a time. ❤️
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Caroline Crockett Brock

What a difference between this, and the couple in St. Louis pointing guns at people marching peacefully down their street in protest of Mayor Lyda Krewson’s decision to publish the names and addresses of people in favor of police reform.

One Out Of Three …

The Supreme Court was busy yesterday morning.  They made one good decision and two horrible ones.  Let’s start with the good …


On the upside, the Court struck down Louisiana’s restrictive anti-abortion law.  Chief Justice John Roberts voted with the Court’s liberal justices … not because he was against the law or pro women’s rights, but simply because four years ago, the Court struck down a similar law in Texas, thereby setting the precedent.  I will never understand why men think they know anything about this topic, or why they think they have a right to tell us what we can or must do with our own bodies.  Watch them scream and yell if you suggest that women should decide whether men can have a vasectomy, or those little blue pills they’re so fond of.

Anti-abortion groups went ballistic, saying it will give them more motivation than ever to turn out at the polls in November.  Once again, folks, we have people in this country who are so narrow-minded that they will return a madman to the Oval Office for another four years, simply to deny women the same rights that men have to make our own decisions regarding our own bodies.  And here I thought we were living in the 21st century.

At any rate, thumbs up to the five on the Court who voted right on this one.


In another ruling, the Court gave the federal government the right to carry out executions.  Funny, isn’t it, that people like Justices Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, Alito and Thomas are so horrified at the thought of a woman having the right to control her own body, but they are ready, willing and perfectly happy to say it’s okay to murder federal prisoners … people who are actually already people.

Now, the biggest problem I have with the death penalty is that more than a few times, a prisoner on death row has been found to be innocent of the crime for which he is serving time.  The state releases him, pays him a bit of restitution, and while his life has been shattered, he still has a chance to put it back together.  If he had been executed … what???  Does the government say, “Oops … sorry ‘bout that!”?  Executing a person is pretty darn final.

The second problem I have with the death penalty is that it is inhumane.  Think of how many executions were botched a few years ago and people died after sometimes hours of intense pain.  Hell, the guillotine was kinder!  Proponents of the death penalty say execution by lethal injection is painless and humane, but we’ve seen that it isn’t.  And by the way … the people who seem most gung-ho for executing criminals are Christians … what happened to that tenet that says it’s not up to humans to decide life and death?


And I’ve saved the best (worst) for last.  The justices ruled that the president has unfettered discretion to fire the head of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB). This should raise your hackles, if you remember the reason the CFPB was created back in 2010.  It was in response to the financial crisis of 2007-2008 caused by reckless speculation, loose credit, and too much debt in asset markets, namely, the housing market.  The purpose of the CFPB was to provide a single point of accountability for enforcing federal consumer financial laws and protecting consumers in the financial marketplace.  It was to promote fairness and transparency for mortgages, credit cards, and other consumer financial products and services and ensure that the financial crisis of 2007-2008 would not be repeated.

Until today’s Supreme Court ruling, the CFPB was an independent agency, not answerable to the president.  In order to ensure the CFPB’s independence, the law creating the agency called for it to be headed by a single director, confirmed by the Senate, who would serve a five-year term and who could only be fired for malfeasance, inefficiency or neglect of duty.  Today, Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the conservative wing of the Court, saying that “the structure of the CFPB violates the separation of powers.” 

Bullshit.

The structure was so determined in order to ensure the independence and integrity of the agency.  Think about all the people Donald Trump has fired since the Senate refused to convict him of the crimes he had committed back in February.  He has fired most everyone who was tasked with overseeing his office, with ensuring that he acted properly and in the interest of the nation and its people.  Now, he’s been given another he can fire … the Director of a very important regulatory agency.  It is only a matter of time before Kathy Kraninger, the current Director, is given her walking papers, and someone totally unqualified for the agency position will be put in place to undermine the good work that has been done for the past ten years.

Way to go, John Roberts.  Is there anything else you’d like to give Trump?  Perhaps the authority to rewrite Article II of the U.S. Constitution to say that he can do anything he likes, as he told a group of young people he could do?  Or, perhaps you’d like to simply declare that there will be no more elections in the U.S.?


Independence and integrity in our Supreme Court?  I think not.  The only good decision, in my book, was the abortion decision and it wasn’t done for the right reason, not because John Roberts believes that women have rights, but simply to maintain a precedent.  Apart from that decision, the Court handed Trump presents wrapped in gift paper with pretty bows.  Bah Humbug.

None of the GOP Senators Deserve Their Jobs

He knew, yet he said nothing, did nothing. He claims to ‘love’ veterans, yet he knew that his buddy Putin was paying to have U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan murdered. He knew … and he didn’t care. And now, the republicans in Congress don’t care, either. Our friend TokyoSand has written a fine piece about this and included two hard-hitting ads. Please take a few moments to read … this should be the final straw for the likes of Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham and the other 51 republicans in the Senate, but they have largely only shrugged their shoulders. Thank you, TS, for an excellent post.

Political⚡Charge

Detail of “See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” (1989) by Keith Haring

We keep waiting to see when the Republican Senators might stand up for something. Some value they have that they won’t let Trump cross.

And after the horrifying news of this weekend, we find that we’re still waiting.

On Friday, news broke that Russian Intelligence was secretly offering bounties to militants who killed American and allied forces in Afghanistan. Quickly, other media outlets confirmed the story, including Fox News. Then, we learned that American intelligence had known about this for months, and anger spilled over at Trump as he had very clearly not done anything about it.

Of course, Trump claimed he, nor VP Pence, nor his Chief of Staff, had been briefed about it. Which former national security officials said strained credulity. Furthermore, even if they had not been told (which would…

View original post 372 more words

A Wake-Up Call

I’ve mentioned a few times that I wonder, as Trump sees his poll numbers sliding and as we move closer and closer to election day, what new tricks Trump will try to ensure his re-election.  It seems he has pulled a number of tricks out of his sleazy bag, but are there more?  Robert Reich’s column in The Guardian today shows us what has been done, and what is left that could happen.  We all need to be aware, to stay on our toes, to be ready to fight back.  And most of all … on November 3rd … VOTE!


Donald Trump’s re-election playbook: 25 ways he’ll lie, cheat and abuse his power

From now until November, opponents of the most lawless president in history face a fight for democracy itself

Robert Reich-4By Robert Reich

Donald Trump will do anything to be re-elected. His opponents are limited because they believe in democracy. Trump has no limits because he doesn’t.

Here’s Trump’s re-election playbook, in 25 simple steps:

1) Declare yourself above the law.

2) Use racist fearmongering. Demand “law and order” and describe protesters as “thugs”, “lowlife” and “rioters and looters”. Describe Covid-19 as “kung-flu”. Retweet posts from white supremacists. In your campaign ads, use a symbol associated with Nazis.

3) Appoint an attorney general more loyal to you than to America, and politicize the Department of Justice so it’s lenient on your loyalists and comes down hard on your enemies. Have it lighten the sentence of a crony convicted of lying under oath. Order investigations of industries you dislike.

4) Fire US attorneys who are investigating you.

5) Fire independent inspectors general who are looking into what you’ve done. Crush any whistleblowers you find.

6) Demean and ignore the intelligence community. Appoint a director of national intelligence more loyal to you than to America. Demand that the head of the FBI pledge loyalty to you.

7) Pack the federal courts with judges and justices more loyal to you than to the constitution.

8) Politicize the Department of Defense so generals will back whatever you order. Refer to them as “my generals”. Have them help clear out protesters. Order the military to surveil protesters. Tell governors you’ll bring in the military to stop protesters.

9) Purge your party of anyone disloyal to you and turn it into a mindless, brainless, spineless cult.

10) Get rid of accumulated experience and expertise in government. Demean career public servants. Hollow out the state department, the Departments of Justice, Health and Human Services, and public health.

11) Reward donors and cronies with bailouts, tax breaks, subsidies, government contracts, regulatory rollbacks and plum jobs. Put their lobbyists in charge of your agencies. Distribute $500bn in pandemic assistance to corporations in secret, without any oversight.

12) Coddle dictators. Don’t criticize their human rights abuses. Refuse to work with the leaders of other democracies. Withdraw from international treaties.

13) Create scapegoats. Demonize migrants and lock up asylum seekers at the border, even if they’re children. Put a white nationalist in charge of immigration policy. Blame Muslims, Mexicans and Chinese.

14) Denigrate and ridicule all critics. Describe opponents as “human scum”. Attack the mainstream media as purveyors of “fake news” and “enemies of the people”.

15) Conjure up conspiracies supposedly led by your predecessor and your opponent in the last election. Without any evidence, accuse your predecessor of “treason”. Fabricate a “deep state” out to get you.

16) Downplay real threats to the nation, such as a rapidly spreading pandemicLie about your utter failure to contain it. Muzzle public health experts. Urge people to go back to work even as the pandemic worsens in parts of the country.

17) Encourage armed supporters to “liberate” states from elected officials who disagree with you.

18) Bribe other nations to investigate your electoral opponent and flood social media with lies about him.

19) Use rightwing propaganda machines like Fox News and conspiracy-theory-peddling One America News to inundate the country with your lies. Ensure that the morally bankrupt chief executive of Facebook allows you to spread your lies on the biggest media machine in the world.

20) Suppress the votes of people likely to vote against youIntimidate voters of color. Encourage Republican governors to purge voter rolls, demand voter ID and close polling places.

21) Seek to prevent mail-in ballots during the pandemic. Claim they will cause voter fraud, without evidence. Threaten to close the US postal service.

22) Get Vladimir Putin to hack into US election machinesas he did in 2016 but can now do with more experience and deftness. Promise him that in return you’ll further destabilize America as well as Nato. Let him even place a bounty on killing US troops in Afghanistan.

23) If it still looks like you’ll be voted out, try to postpone the election.

24) If you’re voted out of office notwithstanding all this, refuse to leave. Contest the election, claim massive fraud, say it’s a conspiracy, get your cult of a political party to support your lies, get your propaganda machine to repeat them, get your justice department to back you, get your judges and justices to affirm you, get your generals to suppress any subsequent rebellion.

25) Declare victory.

Memo to America: beware Trump’s playbook. Spread the truth. Stay vigilant. Fight for our democracy.

Trump/Putin … Which Is Worse?

I came across this in The Guardian last night and felt it was well worth sharing. It is chilling, and at the same time thought-provoking.


Interview

Masha Gessen: ‘I never thought I’d say it, but Trump is worse than Putin’

Lisa O’Kelly

Four years ago, the author predicted that Trump would transform the US into an autocracy. Now, Gessen believes the country is in a revolutionary moment

Masha Gessen is a Russian-American author and journalist who has been writing about Vladimir Putin and other modern autocrats for two decades. After Donald Trump was elected president of the United States in 2016, they wrote an essay in the New York Review of Books arguing that it was folly to regard him as a regular politician and predicting that he would attempt to transform America into a Putin-style autocracy. Gessen’s new book, Surviving Autocracy, demonstrates how Trump has come closer to achieving autocratic rule than most people would have thought possible.

How do you feel about your predictions having come to pass?

If you look at the essay, I think it holds up awfully well, unfortunately. There’s nothing in it that I would walk back. At the same time, a lot of the things that have happened in the past three years have shocked me.

Such as?

The latest scene with the bible in front of St John’s church, for instance. The iconography of that, including the clearing of the square with tear gas, the Black Hawk helicopters – it was chilling.

Who’s worse, Putin or Trump?

In a way, I think Trump is worse. I never thought I would hear myself say that. They share a lot of characteristics although they are temperamentally extremely different men. They both have this contempt for excellence, they both have a hatred of government, and they both have this way of campaigning against government as such, even as presidents of their respective countries. I think in the end, Putin is somewhat less cynical. He has an idea – it is self-aggrandising and absurd on the face of it – that if he stepped away Russia would fall apart and so he has to carry this burden. And for his labours he deserves to have the yachts and the palaces and all that. But he is doing it for his country. Trump doesn’t even have that delusion. It’s all power and money in their purest form. And you could dig as deep as you want, you would never find a shred of responsibility.

Masha-Gessen

Masha Gessen. Photograph: Christopher Lane/The Observer

Can Americans rely on their institutions – the electoral system, the judiciary, the free press – to save them from Trump’s autocracy?
There’s a way in which Americans think about our institutions as a kind of religion. There’s a faith in the wisdom of the founding fathers who put down these sacred words, this idea that we have the perfect self-repairing system and it will run in perpetuity if we don’t spoil it. The problem is that many of these institutions are enshrined in political culture rather than in law, and all of them depend on the good faith of the people running them to fulfil their purpose and uphold the constitution. So when someone like Trump becomes president, the institutions become vulnerable. As an example, I think we have seen in the last couple of weeks just how effective Trump’s attempts to weaken the national press have been.

How so?
I am talking about the way that the police throughout the country have brutally targeted the media during the Black Lives Matter protests. That’s something that I saw as a foreign correspondent in war zones where there was really no sense of any kind of rules or laws. This happened because for the past four years Trump has been vilifying the media, portraying the media as the enemy of the people, as part of the problem, as part of the great conspiracy to unseat him. And that’s very terrifying.

You were born in Russia, spent your teenage years in America then moved back to Moscow as an adult. Do you feel more Russian or American?
It doesn’t really work that way. But when you have emigrated as often as I have, you learn the benefits of being an outsider. I am very comfortable not belonging. I find it extremely beneficial to my work as a journalist to be highly attuned to this culture yet at the same time hovering outside of it. I do sometimes bristle at this idea people have that my having been born in Russia qualifies me to talk about Donald Trump. I’d rather people said 25 years of studying totalitarianism qualifies me to talk about Donald Trump.

What is the most important rule for surviving autocracy?
For the state of one’s soul, for the state of one’s mind, I think it is absolutely essential to protest and show outrage. Does that have political consequences? Not immediately and not on its own. But I think what we’re seeing in America right now is several steps on from outrage. It’s outrage, plus organising, plus sustained political activity. The big question is how sustained will it be? If it is sustained in some manner, then I think we are in a revolutionary moment. In the book I talk about how in order to actually survive Trump’s attempt at autocracy we have to give up the idea of some imaginary pre-Trumpian normalcy and commit to reinvention. And that is really what these protests are about.

I don’t think there is anyone who is involved who would say: “Oh, we just have to get rid of Trump.” These protests are about the fatal flaw at the root of this democracy and that’s a really upsetting idea for a lot of somewhat conservative commentators. But culturally and politically Americans have a story of being born of protest. These protests are calling for an American reinvention. They are protesting for a more perfect union.

  • Surviving Autocracy by Masha Gessen is published by Granta (£12). To order a copy for go to guardianbookshop.com. Free UK p&p over £15

U.S. readers can check out Mr. Gessen’s book on Amazon or Barnes & Noble

Grumpy

Don’t you just love it when you wake up grumpy?  Good thing I wrote Saturday Surprise last night, else it wouldn’t have been written.  So, how about I share my ill humour so you guys can be grumpy, too?


Personae non grata …

European Union (EU) officials have compiled a list of countries whose residents can visit the EU when it reopens its borders next week and guess what?  The U.S. is not on that list.  Nothing political about the decision, simply common sense.  The United States has failed to get a handle on the coronavirus, new cases are surging, and the EU doesn’t welcome us because of the high risk involved.  Russia and Brazil are also excluded.

Despite Mike Pence’s assurances that everything is under control, the daily new case tally keeps breaking records.  Yesterday’s new case total was 47,341 … nearly 50,000!  Until the past week or so, the death toll in the U.S. was over 1,000 people daily.  It has dropped slightly to around 600 per day, but it is only a matter of days before it is back in the thousand range.

Foolishly, Trump demanded that businesses re-open, even against the advice of the experts, and equally foolishly, the people of this nation felt their right to go out and have fun superseded safety.  This is the result … we are now banned from traveling to the EU, and if Boris Johnson & Co in the UK have any sense, we will also be banned from travel to the UK.  We have already been banned from traveling to Canada.  We are, essentially, stuck in this virus-infested, fool-driven nation with a clown running the show, a ship of fools controlling our well-being … or lack thereof.


And the real terrorists are …

A new study by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) last week titled “Escalating Terrorism Problem in the United States”, determined that the problem of domestic terrorism in the U.S. is primarily from the far right.  The report says “the majority of all terrorist incidents in the United States since 1994, and the total number of rightwing attacks and plots has grown significantly during the past six years”, with the far right launching two-thirds of attacks and plots in 2019, and 90% of those in 2020.  Surprised?  You shouldn’t be.  All that talk about ‘antifa’ is just that … talk.  Or perhaps an effort to distract from the real threat of white supremacy.

The report also shows the far left has been an increasingly negligible source of attacks since the mid-2000s.  Those of us on the left fight our battles with our voices, not our guns.

In February, a report by the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism reported that cases of circulated propaganda by white supremacist groups in 2019 had more than doubled from the previous year, and the 2018 figures were 180% higher than 2017.  About two-thirds of the total propaganda incidents in the new report were traced back to a single white supremacist group, Patriot Front, which the ADL describes as “formed by disaffected members” of the white supremacist organization Vanguard America after the Charlottesville rally in 2017.

Is it purely coincidence that these groups have expanded only since Donald Trump took office?  I think not.


Justice?  We’ll see …

Well finally ol’ Roger Stone is going to prison … or is he?  Stone, convicted on charges of repeatedly lying to Congress and intimidating a witness to impede the House’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, was sentenced to 40 months back in February.  Stone had already received one delay on reporting to prison when he was first sentenced, and last week he requested yet another delay … until September 3rd.  He cites the coronavirus as his reason.  However, Judge Amy Berman Jackson has had enough of the Stone/Trump show and ruled that Stone must report to the federal correction institution in Jesup, Georgia, on July 14th.

But, unfortunately for the cause of justice, Donald Trump appears to have his pardon pen fully inked and ready to go.  Just this morning, he tweeted …

“IT’s TIME TO #PardonRogerStone”

So, if I had to lay odds, I’d say that Stone will, just like another corrupt Trump crony Michael Flynn, be a free man by the middle of July.  Stone has been a nasty piece of work since he was a very young man and has only gotten more insidious as he grew older.

Sadly, ‘justice’ is no longer defined in the United States as it once was.  Today it does not matter if you are guilty or innocent, corrupt or not … it only matters what Trump thinks of you.  I never thought I’d live to see the day when the United States became a banana republic, but that day is here.


Y’know … it’s really hard to stay grumpy when there is an adorable little squirrel just outside your window eating the bird seed and every now and then looking right at you.  It’s funny, but the birds don’t seem bothered by him in the least … they just go right on eating, perfectly willing to share their food, even though he doesn’t quite look the same as them.  Is there a lesson for us in that?squirrel

On This Day In 2015 …

Today’s post is courtesy of The Obama Foundation’s website


JUSTICE LIKE A THUNDERBOLT

What You May Have Missed …

You could be forgiven for not noticing what Donnie Trump was up to this week, amid all the news of the coronavirus spiking, Trump’s embarrassing rally in Tulsa, his asinine comments in Phoenix, and the GOP barking about it’s police reform bill that was not much more than some mumbo jumbo that would have changed not a damn thing.


Meanwhile, Donald Trump was once again trying to repeal ACA, this time filing a legal brief urging the Supreme Court to strike down The Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, even as coronavirus cases climb across the U.S. and soaring unemployment forces millions off employer-based health plans.

Yo!!!  Republicans!!!  Are you listening?  Do you understand what it will mean if the Supreme Court lets your beloved Trump have his way?  More than 2.3 million cases of the coronavirus, and meanwhile some 27 million people have lost their health insurance due to loss of employment, and Trump wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act … now.  Says Trump …

“…  just so you understand, ObamaCare is a disaster. What we want to do is terminate it.”

I guess whether it is a disaster or a life-saver depends on which side of the wealth divide you stand on.  For some 99% of us, it is potentially a life-saver, but for those like Trump who have no financial worries, perhaps it is seen as a disaster, for it costs them a few bucks, and those guys are tight with a nickel.

Even Senator John Cornyn, a republican from Texas, who has voted against ACA numerous times, is now urging people to take advantage of it …

“The good news is that if you lose your employer-provided coverage, which covers about 180 million Americans, then that is a significant life event, which makes you then eligible to sign up for the Affordable Care Act — and as you know, it has a sliding scale of subsidies up to 400 percent of poverty.”

The Court will not hear the arguments until the next term which begins in October, and a decision is unlikely before the November 3rd election.


In other news … remember those $1,200 stimulus checks that were paid out in April as part of the $2.3 trillion stimulus bill passed by Congress?  Well, the implementation of the disbursements covered under that bill has been a nightmare, just as we all figured it would.  Trump refused any oversight of how the money going to help businesses would be allocated, and the bulk of it has gone to big businesses, rather than the small businesses that most needed it.  But about those $1,200 checks … turns out the IRS sent more than one million of those checks to … dead people.  Yep, leave it to our federal government to royally screw up anything they are tasked with.dead-stimulus-paymentThe cost to We the Taxpayer for their screwup?  Potentially as much as $1.4 billion … yes, billion!  So how did this happen?  Well, to distribute the money, the Treasury Department used 2019 tax return records, but it did not use “third-party data,” such as the death records maintained by the Social Security Administration (SSA), to determine whether the person was still alive.  The IRS is in the process of trying to get the money back, but they admit that they do not have plans to actively pursue it.  Ah well, what’s $1.4 billion of our hard-earned tax dollars, eh?

mnuchin

Steve Mnuchin

But that’s not all!  About those loans to small businesses … we who funded this project might want to know where the money went … not too much to ask, is it?  But, according to Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin, it is.  By the end of May, we had spent more than $500 billion on some 4.5 million loans, but … to whom?  Mnuchin told a Senate committee earlier this week …

“As it relates to the names and amounts of specific PPP loans, we believe that that’s proprietary information.”

Even the Government Accountability Office (GAO), which is charged with oversight of the program, has struggled to get information from the administration.  Several media outlets have filed a joint Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request seeking the identities of businesses that received loans through the PPP program. The Project on Government Oversight plans to file a separate FOIA request seeking the data.

So much for transparency and accountability in our government.


And another tidbit you might have missed … Trump & Co have decided they no longer want to apprise Congress in advance when they sell arms to foreign countries.  The reason?  According to Foreign Policy magazine, administration officials say they are tired of regular efforts by Capitol Hill to review arms exports to Saudi Arabia and other nations.

Lawmakers have tried to block weapons sales to countries like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates because of concerns about human rights issues and the prospect of civilian casualties, particularly with the Saudi-led coalition’s war against Iran-backed rebels in Yemen.  It seems to be mostly Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who is tired of not being able to do as he wishes without having to seek the approval of Congress.

There will still be formal notification to Congress, but in many cases the formal notification does not give Congress sufficient time to assess the potential sale and put forth objections or concerns.  Again … Trump seems to chafe at the reins of congressional oversight, thinking he should be able to do as he wishes without the consent and advice of Congress.  Another corner of the Constitution lit afire.


And on that note, have a nice day!smile

Where’s The Mail???

I don’t know about you, but my mail delivery has been horrid for the past month.  My insulin arrived at the post office on a Thursday, I was told it would be delivered on Friday, but it wasn’t.  Then I was told it would be delivered on Saturday.  It wasn’t.  Finally it was delivered on Tuesday, after sitting in the post office for five days, this despite the fact that the box was clearly marked …Insulin boxI almost never get mail on Wednesday anymore, and only about half the time on Thursday.  No, this is not normal … prior to last month, I can only remember 2-3 days in the past 10 years that we didn’t receive mail.  In addition, a friend sent me a package from the UK in early May that I still have yet to receive.

The United States Postal Service (USPS) is in deep trouble, my friends.  While Donald Trump is directly responsible for part of the problem, and I’ll get to that in a minute, the USPS’ problems began long before Trump showed up with his wrecking ball.

In 2006, under the Bush administration, Congress passed the Postal Act of 2006 that required the USPS to prefund 75 years’ worth of retiree health benefits in the span of ten years—a cost of approximately $110 billion. Although the money is intended to be set aside for future Post Office retirees, the funds are instead being diverted to help pay down the national debt.  This was the beginning of the USPS struggle to stay afloat.

And then in 2017, Donald Trump was inaugurated and things went downhill from there.  It is a personal vendetta for Trump.  Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, also owns The Washington Post.  The Post has been, as have all legitimate media outlets, critical of much of Trump’s rhetoric and many of his actions since taking office.  The criticism is well-deserved, and personally I think often understated.  However, as we know, Trump cannot tolerate criticism even when it is earned, so he went on a personal vendetta against Bezos and is refusing to release a $10 million loan to the USPS that was approved by Congress this spring, unless the USPS ‘quadruples’ what they charge Amazon to deliver packages.

Now, bear in mind that if the USPS did raise the rates to Amazon, it isn’t Jeff Bezos or Amazon who would pay the price … it is you and me.  Companies pass their costs to their customers … simple fact of life.

But there is another factor in play here.  Many believed in 2006 that the bill passed by Congress was an attempt to force the USPS to privatize … transferring ownership from the U.S. government to a private company, and thereby opening it up to competition.  Trump seems to be hellbent to sell off the USPS, and his current refusal to help keep it afloat seems to be an attempt to force that issue.  His Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has also called for certain parts of USPS to be sold off.

louis-dejoyEnter Trump’s new pick for Postmaster General, Louis DeJoy.  DeJoy’s main qualification for the position is that he donated millions of dollars to the Republican Party and $1.2 million to Donald Trump’s “Victory fund”.  Said Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, a long-time advocate of keeping the Postal Service public …

“When I heard that he had been appointed I quickly realized that the president is irrepressible in his move to destroy the USPS.”

Congressman Gerry Connolly, chairman of the House Government Operations subcommittee, also weighed in …

“President Trump rewards a partisan donor by installing him at the United States Postal Service. The Postal Service is in crisis and needs real leadership and someone with knowledge of the issues. This crony doesn’t cut it.”

No, it doesn’t cut it, but what’s new?  Most every member of Trump’s cabinet is highly Unqualified for the position to which they were appointed, and they were appointed either in return for mega-donations (Betsy DeVos) or to destroy some portion of this nation (Andrew Wheeler).  Apparently, DeJoy fits both of those categories.  DeJoy has said postal reform will include identifying “new and creative ways” for USPS to fulfill its mission with a focus on efficiency.  How ‘bout trying to deliver the damn mail on time???

In the past, I have argued against privatization of the Postal Service, for I felt that once profit became a motive, we would be the losers.  However, at this point, I’m not sure a for-profit business could f**k it up any worse than the federal government with a madman determined to destroy everything in his path is doing.

The statute that created the Postal Service begins with the following sentence: “The United States Postal Service shall be operated as a basic and fundamental service provided to the people by the Government of the United States, authorized by the Constitution, created by an Act of Congress, and supported by the people.”

Once again, Donald Trump is shredding, stomping and burning the Constitution of the United States.  November 3rd cannot come soon enough!burning constitution

From the mouth of Steve Schmidt, Republican presidential campaign manager

I find it encouraging to find some republicans are seeing Trump for the malignancy that he is, and hope they can convince more among their rank and file. Our friend Keith brings to our attention the comments of one lifelong republican … thank you, Keith!!!

musingsofanoldfart

This is courtesy of a CNN article called “This is the most succinct — and brutal — Republican rejection of Donald Trump that you will ever read,” which transcribes Steve Schmidt’s comments. Schmidt is a lifelong Republican, who was the campaign manager for John McCain in 2008 and Lamar Alexander in 2000. He is one of the founding members of The Lincoln Project, which is organized to help defeat Donald Trump in the 2020 election.

“Donald Trump has been the worst president this country has ever had. And I don’t say that hyperbolically. He is. But he is a consequential president. And he has brought this country in three short years to a place of weakness that is simply unimaginable if you were pondering where we are today from the day where Barack Obama left office. And there were a lot of us on that day who were deeply skeptical…

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