Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Another Brick in Trump's Wall - Stolen From the Rule of Law

President Trump is so eager to complete hundreds of miles of border fence ahead of the 2020 presidential election that he has directed aides to fast-track billions of dollars’ worth of construction contracts, aggressively seize private land and disregard environmental rules, according to current and former officials involved with the project.
He also has told worried subordinates that he will pardon them of any potential wrongdoing should they have to break laws to get the barriers built quickly, those officials said.

It also means that Congress’s Power of the Purse as enumerated by the allegedly Republican Revered Constitution is now nothing more than a suggestion:

Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper is expected to approve a White House request to divert $3.6 billion in Pentagon funds to the barrier project in coming weeks, money that Trump sought after lawmakers refused to allocate $5 billion. The funds will be pulled from Defense Department projects in 26 states, according to administration officials who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the matter.

And those laws designed to ensure fair, competent contracting is done with taxpayer dollars – not even thought about:

“Border Patrol insists on compressed acquisition timelines, and we consent. Their goal is to get contracts awarded, not for us to get a quality contract with a thoroughly vetted contractor,” said one senior official who is concerned the agency has been hurried to hand out contracts as quickly as possible.
 Military officials expect more contract protests because the arrangements have been rushed, the official added. The Army Corps already has had to take corrective actions for two procurement contracts, after companies protested.

And of course, there’s no consideration for environmental damage or private property rights:

The companies building the fencing and access roads have been taking heavy earth-moving equipment into environmentally sensitive border areas adjacent to U.S. national parks and wildlife preserves, but the administration has waived procedural safeguards and impact studies, citing national security concerns.

“They don’t care how much money is spent, whether landowners’ rights are violated, whether the environment is damaged, the law, the regs or even prudent business practices,” the senior official said.

CBP has suggested no longer writing risk-assessment memos “related to the fact that we don’t have real estate rights and how this will impact construction,” the official said.

Now many folks would say that interests of national security require us to forgo the legal mandates and Congressional preferences so that we can secure our border. And were we under active military invasion they MIGHT have a point.

But we aren’t.  All this wall is being done as a spectacle to fuel race-based animosity against powerless defenseless migrants literally fleeing for their lives.  They are seeking succor in the US – a country whose proxy war with Russia in the last century in Central and South America largely drove the violence and destitution they are fleeing. They come here and mow our lawns, build our houses, feed us, clean our office buildings, pick our fruit and slaughter our chickens.  They add dollars to local economies, they send their kids to school to learn English, and they give away billions in tax dollars for services they can not receive.   American born citizens do not do the jobs they do, nor will they once immigrants are thrown out.

The Wall is a political misdirection.  It takes money that Congress set aside for other purposes and throws it at a useless barrier that won’t make meaningful changes to immigration or economic policy so the President can stoke fears to keep power.  And along the way, the Part of Law and Order and the Constitution can keep trashing all those things because no one will notice.  Or care.

Oh, for a functional Deep State.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Left Behind Already - Why Mr. Trump's Bullying Works

Like a lot of pundits, CNN’s Michael D’Antontio almost gets to the heart of the matter assessing Mr. Trump’s recent racist tirades against sitting members of Congress.  He seems to correctly diagnose Trump’s bullying for what it is, and then extends it to his followers thusly:

The fear of being targeted, excluded -- or even sent away, like the President was as a youngster -- may also lurk in the hearts of voters who accept Trump's behavior. With his attacks on the four members of Congress, his coldhearted crackdown on America's immigrant families and asylum seekers, and his repeated effort to demonize those who disagree with him, Trump has demonstrated what happens if you step out of line.

What he misses, however, is the fact that many if not most of Trump’s supporters ALREADY feel thrown out – out of the economy, out of social and cultural superiority, out of the ability to control their own destiny.  Mr. Trump’s attacks against a vast array of “others” on their behalf gives them the feeling of being back in, of achieving power stripped from them by a world and systems that evolves without their input, much less their permission.  They might well have decided Rep. Ilhan Omar was worthy to be an American (albeit a second class one in many eyes), but no one asked their permission directly, and since they have bought 4 decades of stories about brown skinned people taking from them (again based on bully fear mongering), they now demand to be heard. There will be no peace until they are, but the cost to the nation until then will be dear.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Dr. King and the Furlough - Attacks on the Dream

Today is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day (abbreviated MLK Day). Its also day 30 of the latest government “shutdown.” Contemplating each day requires contemplating both.  And sadly, this year we seem to be even farther from Dr. King’s vision and call to a higher place.

The furlough is impacting communities nationwide and has spread its pernicious damage well beyond the 450,000 or so federal civil servants who have now worked a month without pay.  Hundreds of thousands of federal contractors – who work beside us daily to deliver federal services to our fellow citizens – remain furloughed as well, and they will not be back paid for time lost. Their economic straits will get worse more quickly and honestly I don’t expect to see many of their faces when we do return to work.  Many small businesses are also suffering – dry cleaners, restaurants, office suppliers, and a thousand thousand others who rely on federal spending to make their money are now either shuttered or running on a shoestring.  They too will not be compensated.

Lost in those grim statistics is the number of immigrants and people of color whose lives are upended by this. People of color make up 36.7% of the federal workforce, and many of them are employed by the agencies currently shuttered.  Contractors too are significant employers of people of color, most notably in the building maintenance, food service, custodial, and childcare facility contracts.  Roughly 25% of the workforce of the Department of Homeland Security are minorities, which means people of color working to secure our border are seeing their livelihoods impacted in the President’s fight over the wall.

Elsewhere communities of color are being impacted by the closure of HUD; by the decrease in food safety inspections, and by the inability of the IRS (so far) to issue tax refunds.  Thus this shut down isn’t just about shafting fed to try and force Democrats to do something most American don’t want; nor is it winning support for Republicans (only 29% of respondents in the survey linked to the Examiner article say Democrats are to blame).  Rather, this latest political intrusion into good government is also impacting communities of color in growing and pernicious ways.

So what would King say in response?

There are few direct quotes in his many speeches and writings about government directly, except that he notes on many occasions that local governments seek to preserve a racist status quo in the US. He frequently takes whites to task for their assertions of moderation and ill timing of the Civil Rights movement, and this leads me to wonder if he would rebuke those who call for civil servants to just back up and bear it all.  Mostly though, I believe he would be on the forefront of those who remind us this shut down is not about border security, but another battle in the long war to bring true justice to those people of color who labor to make their nation a better place by working in the government system, even as that government continues to be used against them.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Now What - A mediation on the elevation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

My head hurts.  Not because the confirmation hearings for Mr. Kavanaugh produced dialogue about gender equality or sexual assault that's over due.  Not because many women are - perhaps for the first time - willing to take on the patriarchy.  And not because Mitch McConnell proved again that he doesn't really care about anything other then power.

No, it hurts because so many of my fellow Americans have reduced all this a simple statement:

We Won!
or to another simple statement:

Suck it Libtards!
No matter the evidence that Mr. Kavanaugh is not fit to sit on the Supreme Court - and there were questions about him perjuring himself before the Blasey-Ford hearing - no matter that he is a partisan jurist who will be an "activist judge;' and leaving aside the fact that going into the second hearing the Senate Judiciary Committee was actually aware of 7 allegations against him (making it a He Said They Said no a He Said She Said) as it was billed; and never mind Mr. McConnell's disastrous silencing of Judge Merrick Garland - what the folks on the right love above all else is stick it to the left.

They don't care that their own voting rights might eventually curtailed - as long as the Left looses. They don't care that their healthcare costs will go back up - as long as the Leftlooses.  They don't care about a Trillion dollar deficit - as long as the Left looses.  They don't care about the end of medically safe abortions for women of lower economic means - as long as the Left looses. They don't care about clean air or clean water - as long as the Left looses.

And they certainly don't care about adhering to teachings of the Christ they all claim for themselves - as long as the Left looses.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

If You Are in Awe of the Duchess of Cambridge, You Don’t Know Modern Birth

CNN’s AJ Willingham wrote on April 23rd about the “Awe” expressed by so many in the fact that Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, walked out of the hospital 7 hours after giving birth to her third child.  The Duchess has done this sort of thing twice before, and it seemed so . . . magical . . . mythical . . . unmodern to so many commentators, both women and men.

Now yes, as Ms. Willingham points out the Duchess has a great many advantages – from ambulances and police escorts and on-call doctors; to stylists and nannies – that the vast majority of women lack.  Catherine has also had a great many challenges in all her pregnancies, as she battled through bouts of “hyperemises gravidarium during the early stages of all three of her pregnancies. The condition causes severe nausea and vomiting, and can pose serious health risks.” Yes, child birth can be exhausting and yes, three kids into my own marriage and I can assure you it’s sometimes messy.

But where Ms. Willingham gets it wrong – as do far too many people in today’s world (including rafts of expectant mothers) - is that the challenges of birth itself is some sort of debilitating CONDITION that must be treated or alleviated. Instead, understood properly and prepared for with gusto, you really can arrive at a childbirth experience that gets you out of the hospital in a red dress looking like you just won an award.  Which you did.  By giving birth.

To understand how we got here, you have to look at how medicine is practiced in the “Western” world – and more specifically in the US.  Just a glance at the terminology that is associated with birth in most medical settings is a serious clue – American medicine speaks of birth as “labor” wherein you can get medication for “relief” of “pain.” Labor is “induced” as an “intervention.” Doctors demand the “right” to monitor women and their babies with often restrictive ultrasound harnesses – despite a growing body of evidence that said monitoring actually increases anxiety in mothers, slows the birth process, and increases the occurrence of C-Sections (Which are major, painful and invasive surgeries). At one time many woman even sought out drug cocktails called Twilight Sleep to medically induce amnesia so as to forget the challenges of birth.

And yet . . . many women – like my wife – choose to take control of their birth experience just as they take control of their reproductive rights, their careers, their finances and their relationships.  They increasingly choose – as we did – to birth with a midwife or in a birth center away from a hospital so that birth can be the natural, empowering experience it has always been.  In that regard the Duchess is well ahead of the game:

Though still a relative novelty in the U.S., midwife-led maternity care is the norm in other developed countries, including most of Europe.* In England, for example, midwives are the lead care providers at more than half of all births. (There, midwife care is considered fit even for royalty; last month Kate Middleton gave birth to her daughter Charlotte under the care of two midwives.) “In England, what they say is, ‘Every mother deserves a midwife, and some need an obstetrician, too,’” Declercq says.

In addition many pregnant woman are taking advantage of things like Hypnobabies (which we used twice), a national program that, through meditation-like practices, exercises in visualization, and practice between the woman and her partner – aim to transform both the woman’s birth experience AND her perceptions. These approaches don’t take away any of the physical stress in the pregnant woman’s body.  They do, however, better prepare a woman to thrive in the birth experience and emerge just as the Duchess did.

So go ahead, be in awe.  But know that as a woman – or the birth or life partner of a woman – you too can achieve a similar outcome when you birth.  And that means you can emerge from the hospital 7 hours later in a red dress (thankfully without the cameras) to go do the important work of raising good humans.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

How can the State get it right, when Congress gets it so wrong?

I'm no fan of single party control of the three branches of government.  I have always been a fan of cross-aisle compromise.  so it was neat to see today that the Mississippi State Senate – led by many Republican senators – voted unanimously on Senate Bill 2634, which creates a special trust fund for the total of $750 million Mississippi will receive over the next 15 years for economic damages from the Deepwater Horizon disaster than spewed millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. That trust fund will put the money back into the coast where the damage occurred, and where those funds rightfully belong.  They could have snarfed the funds up for general state use, but wisely decided not to.

At the same time, Congressman Steve Pallazzo - whose District covers the Gulf coast - is  co-sponsoring H.R.861 - to terminate the Environmental Protection Agency. Those $750 Million would not have come to Mississippi to make right this terrible wrong without the yeoman work of the federal employees of the EPA, NOAA, and the Coast Guard.  Terminating the very agency that helped secure this settlement, that helped make Mississippi whole again, is immoral because it creates a real danger that when the next disaster strikes, Mississippians will be unprotected and left to fend for themselves.  BP did not pay up out of the goodness of its collective heart – it paid because the EPA worked tirelessly to make sure that the company was held accountable for its wrong.
You really have to wonder who the guy is actually representing, given his state colleagues willingness to do the right thing with the hard work of the very agency he wants to terminate.

Friday, January 27, 2017

A "YUGE" Victory still creates the Biggest Looser - Now will he hear "You're Fired!"

President Trump likes to talk about his immense win - he even did so in an exclusive interview with ABC. Problem is the numbers don't add up.

There are around 200,081,377 registered voters in the US. The best statistics available show that  138,884,643 actually voted.  the vote totals for the Presidential race broke  65,844,610 for Clinton and 62,979,636 for Trump. Which means that 69% of registered voters went to the polls.  Of course, if you look at people eligible to vote, regardless of registration status, the number of total voters drops to 60%.

But lets stick with the 69% number - of that number, Clinton voter make up 47.4% of those who went to the polls, or 33% of registered voters.  Trump won slightly less, or 31.4%.  But if you add the Clinton votes, the third party candidates, and those who did not vote, Trump LOST bigly, since 69.6% of registered voters either supported someone else or no one at all.

So, friends and neighbors, the next time the President talks about all his support, just remember that roughly 70% of the people who could legally walk into a voting booth on election day didn't want him in the White House. That's no mandate, and anyone who tells you otherwise, including the principal resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue - is lying.  YUGELY.