Was The US Successful?

Chuck Todd (Meet the Press) on the local NBC station tonight asked was the US successful in training the Afghan defense forces?

Of course they were. Look how fast the Taliban has retaken the country.

Come on folks, if you think that the Afghan defense forces were comprised of any group other than the Taliban, you have not been paying attention to more than 40? 100? years of history in the region. Now the US has trained another force that is capable of kicking the US military’s ass.

Let the GOP Gaslighting Continue

From the Washington Post Daily 202 newsletter round up for 27 July 2021:

House GOP leaders attacked Pelosi before today’s hearing. “House Republican leaders sought to blame Pelosi for the events of Jan. 6, arguing that she was responsible for officers not being sufficiently prepared to repel the pro-Trump rioters,” Wagner and Donna Cassata report. “‘January 6 should have never happened,’ House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said outside the Capitol. ‘We should have prepared and been prepared for the officers, made sure they have the training and the equipment that they needed.’ McCarthy and other House GOP leaders also took aim at Pelosi for removing from the select committee Reps. Jim Jordan (Ohio) and Jim Bank (Ind.), two of the five Republican members McCarthy selected. McCarthy later withdrew his three other picks in protest.

Excuse me, Mr. McCarthy (and no, I am not sure you deserve any title beyond the Mister, unless it is seditionist.), but what sort of preparations was the Speaker supposed to have made in advance of what the President at the time called a social gathering? Are you implying that the Speaker and the head of the Capital Police should have been expecting an armed attempt on the US Capitol like nothing we have ever seen before because of a disagreement (insert BIG LIE) over a paperwork process that in the last 200 odd years has occurred with little more fanfare than the box scores from the night before?

I am pretty sure that repelling boarders…er…US Citizens from the ramparts like soldiers invading Troy was not in their job description, much less any other training materials they are exposed to on a day to day basis. If so, then the Capital Police were not the right people to guard the Capitol. That should have been the job of the United States Army. However, in the United States we have a law (Posse Comitatus Act) that actually prohibits the Army from enforcing the law. Good thing.

Which brings us back to the core question Mr. McCarthy. What exactly should the Capital Police been trained to do on January 6? Because repelling a horde of brainwashed, misguided, and mislead citizens certainly should not have been it. And that falls squarely on the shoulders of the GOP, their President, and their continued gaslighting of America.

Tyranny of the Majority

AUSTIN, Texas — House Speaker Dade Phelan late Tuesday signed 52 arrest warrants for Democrats who left the state for Washington D.C. in July and have yet to return to the House chamber for the second special legislative session of the year. (Yahoo News)

American political discourse is supposed to be about compromise, give and take, and a collegial spirit of doing what is best for the electorate.

On January 6, 2020, this went out the window, and as we have seen since, it continues to fall by the wayside.

In the latest bout of my way or the highway which has seen disgruntled GOP (and former) GOP lead states strip away powers from their Governor when they lost control (Wisconsinand North Carolina), or when they disagree with the Governor (Michigan, Minnesota, Kentucky) and other elected officials (Arizona).

Now Texas issues arrest warrants for the minority power (Democrats) who refuse to vote for what is clearly voter suppression laws. Their option, knowing they do not have the votes to override what is clearly a regressive bill, is to ensure quorum cannot be achieved and left the state.

State Rep. Lyle Larson, R-San Antonio highlighted the issue clearly:

Have we got to the point where we believe our own bull shizz so much that we arrest our own colleagues. Civil discourse took a nasty turn today.

Civil discourse is no longer civil. And what is happening in Texas around voting rights is the same level of GOP crap that we have seen in Georgia, and other Republican strongholds where following four years of mismanagement at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the American public said enough is enough. And those voices were loudest in the parts of the country where the GOP is now moving beyond gerrymandering and moving to outright vote restriction so this sort of radical politics never happens again.

Welcome to the new normal.

We have lost the bubble…again

New guidance from President Donald Trump’s administration that declares teachers to be “critical infrastructure workers” could give the green light to exempting teachers from quarantine requirements after being exposed to COVID-19 and instead send them back into the classroom. Teachers could stay in classroom if exposed to COVID-19

I understand the idea of essential workers. More I understand the desire, or need for some parents to get the kids out of the house, but am I the only one who wonders about the priorities of this nation when they say, essentially, we don’t care if you are sick, the kids are going to recover and if you spread COVID around, well, that’s OK too.

And we wonder why no other county on the planet will let US citizens come and visit without a mandatory quarantine period. And Canada still has the northern border closed.

Checks and Balances

Trump impeachment: Lindsey Graham will ‘not pretend to be a fair juror’

Asked if it was appropriate for him as a prospective juror to be discussing the case in such terms, he said: “Well, I must think so because I’m doing it.”

Once upon a time, the Founding Fathers instituted a provision to remove a sitting President for High Crimes and Misdemeanors. Since that time four US Presidents have come under those provisions. Prior to this case, the Senators who should be trying the case (as jurors) kept their opinions to themselves. Not this time. This time, they are coming out and telling us exactly how they are going to vote. Before even hearing one witness. Before even seeing one document. They feel that this is a hit job and this is how they are going to vote.

If they were a real jury of their peers, they would be dismissed, at the very lest. I am sure there would be others ramifications. But these are United States Senators. The Founding Fathers are wondering what has happened to the Republic they strove so hard to create.

A Political Stunt? Like Repealing ACA?

This got hung up somewhere, but it is still just as valid today when Congress still has not accomplished anything of note while the parties squabble with each other as it was when I wrote it before the shutdown….

Shutdown: Congress shouldn’t get paid during standoff, Va. rep says | WTOP

But McConnell called it a “political stunt” and said it would be useless to allow a vote that wouldn’t get Trump’s signature. The GOP lawmaker said simply, “This would not produce a result.”

In 2012, I wrote a post on the House of Representative’s 33 vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act. At the time I questioned why the Party of No was wasting the tax payer’s time with a show vote that would not result in anything more than, well a show vote.

Fast forward six years, and we have a Senate that seems to think show votes are a waste of time, and therefore, they will not do it. Except that this time, the vote is not a show vote. It is an adult, bringing a bill to the floor of the Senate, to be voted on to end the government shutdown. And this time, it is likely that even if the President does not sign the bill, there will be enough votes to override any veto he might threaten. That is what is scaring the Majority Leader. He is worried to his marrow that he has lost control of the Senate on this particular issue. Especially when the same Senate, not forty-eight hours before the shutdown began voted in favor of the same bill as the House has presented them.

I am beginning to think that this may actually be the definition of insanity.

I Hope We Got A Good Price For It

Twitter erupts over Trump claim that the moon ‘is a part’ of Mars

While it is clear 45 mis-spoke, it is not the first time he has said something that is so bizarre as to make many Bushisms (Bush II) seem like logical, well thought out arguments, the truth of the matter is that 45 just is not articulate. And that is being polite about it.

Put aside for the moment that the United States does not have the scientific will to return to the Moon, much less stage a mission to Mars, it does not have the political will to do so. With so many tangible problems on this planet, I can appreciate not funding a lunar mission. However, if funding a lunar mission kickstarts scientific funding for other, viable projects on Earth, then let’s go back to the Moon!

Otherwise, I hope Marvin gave us a good price.

The Realities of Contract Work

About three months after the longest government shutdown in history came to an end, leaders of companies and unions representing federal contract workers are speaking out, asking for legislative changes to ensure that their employees are guaranteed back pay if another shutdown occurs. WTOP

The latest Federal Government shutdown lasted thirty-five days and affected eight hundred thousand contractors, everyone from the men and women that empty the trash, to the men and women that write the software that fly the unmanned aircraft used by the military.

I ask that we work together to find a way to enact legislation that will treat the contractor workforce just as their federal workforce counterparts are treated —Leidos CEO Roger Krone.

Mr. Krone’s supposed concern for his employees notwithstanding, this is about the money Leidos and other federal contractors lost during the shutdown. Let me explain how it works. A contractor is a body with a value attached to it. That value is a combination of their salary, their benefits, and a number of other factors at play within the company that is loaning their services to the Federal Government. What is called the loaded rate. That loaded rate would astound you (or perhaps not – that $10,000 toilet seat. That was as much the cost of labour as the cost of materials). If I am employed at an annual salary of $130,000, I would be making about $60/hour. Now, we add to that the overhead costs, etc from the company and I am being sold to them at a rate of $120/hr.

This is about the money, and not the money lost by the contractors.

The argument or at least the parallel is that the Federal Employees got their money, the contractors should too. I am of two minds about this. I can see the argument that the Federal workforce was involuntarily furloughed. In labour law, it is slightly different from being laid-off, but the effects are the same. If Ford had furloughed a line, those employees would not be paid for their time off. Similarly, the contractors would not be paid.

Companies are often left with two choices during a shutdown, he said: pay their employees and go out of business, or withhold pay and see their workforce leave them.

He is correct. Contractors actually live on a very small margin with Federal contracts. And they do have a significant risk that their employees will walk out on them if they are not paid. And that is the risk of contracting in general. You take a job with a contractor knowing that at some point your contract will expire. Some companies recognize this, make allowances for it, and protect their employees, to a certain extent, while others are less concerned. In fairness to Leidos, they tend to protect their employees, but they have lost their margin over the thirty-five days, through no fault of their own because the government (the paymaster) was not doing their job.

How this compensation should be addressed is not a simple issue. Being paid to not work is not going to be successful. And 800,000 federal contractors did not work for thirty-five days. Unlike Federal Employees, contractors had the option of looking for work or taking unemployment, or annual training or leave. I am not sure contractors should expect back pay. But as a former Federal contractor, I can feel their pain. There is no easy solution.

Adults In Charge

In report, Mueller says Congress could take action on Trump obstruction

While most of official Washington is busy losing their minds today over the release of the Mueller report, this particular call out caught my attention.

“The President’s efforts to influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful, but that is largely because the persons who surrounded the President declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests.”

What is harrowing to me, is that, had people like former chief of staff John Kelly not been in their jobs, then the current President of the United States would and quite likely could have been successful in interfering in the investigation and quite likely would now be facing some form of repercussion.

This begs the question. What other orders have they declined to carry out, and to the betterment of the country or the detriment of the President?

There is no question that the current President lacks certain qualities we might expect in a President. Worse, this President seems to not want to be President, yet clearly thinks that since he is, the Government should be run like a company, not a nation. And as a nation, the United States is paying the price. And will continue to pay the price for generations to come. History will not be kind to number 45, but what worries me, is now that the adults have been cleared from the room, what sort of havoc will be wrought on the country. I am not sure the nation is ready for it.

A Legitimate Reason?

OPM: Unpaid essential personnel must show up or risk AWOL status | WTOP

If an employee has a legitimate reason for the absence, the agency could place the person on furlough, but AWOL employees can face appropriate consequences based on the discretion of the agency.

Gee, what could a federal employee use as a legitimate reason for not reporting to work, when they are being ordered to report and not actually getting paid for coming to work. Hm, let me think, let me think. Oh, I know! How about Amendment 13, Section 1 of the United States Constitution?

1. 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.

I guess being essential, working without pay, for the United States Government, in the event of a shutdown is…punishment for a crime?

Failing that, not being able to pay for gas, or transit is also something I would accept. After all, many TSA worksites are not exactly conveniently located to public transit.