Thursday, December 24, 2020

Santa's Belt and Time for Republicans to do a Little Thinking



A Loving Couple Spends Christmas at Mar-a-Lago

Denial is Not a River in Africa

As Republican legislators and his other supporters realize how wrong they have been in going along with Trump, destroying their Party in the process, they are not heading toward being ashamed of their actions nor apologizing for them.  No way.   Instead, they are lapsing into varying levels of denial, like we’re seeing from Bill Barr and Rev. Frank Graham.  

Also, at this “holy” season of the year, it’s time for his Evangelical supporters to have a conversation with God.  Same goes for those who backed him soley because of his support for the State of Israel.

 

 


Each year, I include my original Christmas story, written a dozen years ago, on the blog.  Despite the pandemic, this year is no exception.

 

Santa’s Belt  

 Jack Lippman

 It was that time of the year when things were getting hectic at the North Pole.  Santa and the elves had been working overtime to make certain that everything would be ready to go on Christmas Eve.  After all, children of all ages throughout the world were waiting for Santa to bring them the gifts which they had been wishing for, gifts to make their dreams come true.

 

“Rufus,” Santa called out.  “Are all of the presents ready to load into my bag?  Have our helpers down on Earth, the toy manufacturers, gotten their toys and games ready for the kids?  And how about the parents?  You know, they all have to do their part too!  Hey, we only have a few days left!”

 

“Don’t worry, Mr. Claus,” Rufus replied.  “There won’t be any foul-ups this year.  The toys are all ready to go!”

 

“And is my sleigh ready?  Are the reindeer in good shape?”

 

“Don’t worry, Santa,” Rufus reassuringly replied.  “The sleigh has been repainted, the runners greased and the harnesses repaired.  And the reindeer are just fine.  Comet and Cupid are over their colds and the others have even gotten used to Rudolf, who wasn’t even in that poem about us.  Even Donder and Blitzen have calmed down.  Santa, you must stop worrying.  Everything is going to be fine!”

 

It had been three years since Rufus had been promoted to the position of Chief Elf in Santa’s workshop.  Of course, he had been helping out there for many years but only recently had Santa learned of Rufus’ prior experience working closely with Merlin the Magician centuries ago.  Some of Rufus’ innovations, obviously learned from that apprenticeship with the ancient wizard, had greatly increased the efficiency of Santa’s operation.  For example, it was Rufus who had developed the mathematical formulas which, when put into practice, enabled Santa to defy mere physical laws and be in many different of places at the same time.  Rufus had solved the problem of running out of toys with a procedure which in effect, cloned one toy from another, so Santa’s bag was never empty. And of course, he used a lot of old Merlin’s techniques to ease Santa’s trip up and down chimneys throughout the world, without his red outfit ever getting dirty.  Finally, it was Rufus who convinced Santa to include intangible things such as peace, love, brotherhood and wellbeing among the gifts he left on Earth for those who deserved them.

 

It was just a few nights before Christmas when Rufus encountered Santa in a state of real panic.

 

“Santa, what’s the matter?  Why are you holding your waist like that?”

 

“Can’t you see, you darn fool!  I’m holding my pants up!  If I let go, they’ll fall down.  It happened this morning.  My suspenders snapped and I don’t have a belt big enough to fit around me to hold my pants up.  Rufus, they keep falling down and if we can’t fix them, how can I go out on Christmas Eve?  Rufus, do something to help me!  You must!”

 

“Now, Mr. Claus” the elf answered, holding back a snicker.  “I can see how this happened.  Come to think of it, I should have seen it coming and done something about it.  I’ve watched the way you’ve been eating all of that delicious food Mrs. Claus prepares for you.  Pies and cakes, chickens and steaks, soups and puddings, pizzas and knishes, pasta and dumplings and on and on.  I’ve seen you put away enough for an army at one sitting and top it off with a banana split and a chocolate bar.   What did you expect?”

 

“Stop your preaching, Rufus!  What would your Merlin do?  Come on.  Think of something so that I don’t disappoint all the children who’ll be waiting for me on Christmas Eve!  I can’t go out there with my pants falling down!”

 

“Santa, I don’t think suspenders will do the job for you any more because of the pear shape you’ve developed!  We must to get you a belt big enough to hold up your pants!”

 

“What do you think I’ve been doing all day?  I’ve been looking for one and there just aren’t any made that big.”

 

Rufus thought for a minute and stroked his chin.  He then turned his eyes upward and look toward the stars, fixing them on the constellation Orion the Hunter.  In an instant, using a mystic incantation remembered from his days with Merlin, he turned himself into a thunderbolt and flew up into the heavens directly at the strip of stars which formed Orion’s belt.  Grasping as many as he could, Rufus flew back to Earth and fashioned a belt from them for Santa.  The old man, finding for the first time since his suspenders had snapped that he was able to keep his pants up, was ecstatic.   


  

Stars Comprising Constellation Orion

                                               
   
                             

A few nights later, Santa was able to travel his appointed rounds delivering gifts to children of all ages throughout the world.  As he headed back toward the North Pole, he smiled up at the constellation Orion the Hunter, whose belt, as you can see on any clear evening when you look up in the sky, consists of only three stars, which was all that Rufus left up there.

 

Circling the Earth, Santa made a promise to go on a diet.  He had learned his lesson.  Soon, recognizing the welcoming lights of the workshop far below, the reindeer guided the sleigh into a slow descent and the jovial old man once more waved his hand to the world, crying out, “Happy Holidays to all, and to all a good night, especially to you, Rufus!”



And those are my thoughts too.

Jack Lippman


                                  
 


 

 

 

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Trump's Mind, Antonio Gramsci, After I'm Gone, Hacking and "Repercussions"

Trump's Mind


I thought you would be interested in this story from the Atlantic.  It’s title, “Trump is Losing His Mind,” should be enough to convince you to CLICK HERE and read the story.   If that doesn't work, you can find it at  http://a.msn.com/01/en-us/BB1c5sBK?ocid=se .

                                                    * * * * * * *

Repercussions? 

In an article in the Palm Beach Post (Dec. 15) regarding an unsuccessful lawsuit to get Governor DeSantis to close the State’s beaches due to Covid19, the Governor’s lawyers described an appeal of the court’s decision as an axiomatic example of abuse of the justice system.  Appellant’s empty political posturing warrants repercussions.” 

Of course, that is equally true of the far more severe abuse of the justice system by seventeen Attorneys-general, including Florida’s, 126 Congressional representatives and of course, President Trump. “Repercussions” to those acts, bordering on sedition, would be a much more serious matter, and though well deserved, won’t happen. Lawyers will say anything to put their client in a more favorable light.  Most are well trained in the empty posturing they mention, political or otherwise. There are courses devoted to it in some law schools.

                                                            * * * * * * *

Hacking Reaching Home 

The recently discovered Russian hacking of our systems even reached down to this humble level. It was not just limited to commercial and government sites.  The other day, emails which I sent to relatives at email addresses I've used for years got bounced back to me with "this email address doesn't exist" messages. My son, who understands this stuff better than I do, explained that Google was hit with an outage which affected Gmail for a short time, probably in some way related to the hacking. I cannot recall that happening before. I’ve retaliated by changing some of my passwords.  You should too.  "Ask not for whom the bells toll, they toll for you."


                                                         * * * * * * *

Agenda for the Future 

Unless something miraculous happens, I will not be alive thirty years from now.  But looking ahead, here is what I think the country’s agenda should include over that period. 

1.       We must get rid of the electoral college as it is now constituted.  There are several alternatives on the table right now.

2.       We must get rid of “gerrymandering” so that Congressional representatives represent geographically logical districts, and not ones tailored to give one party an advantage.

3.       We must be certain that high quality health care is provided for all Americans, regardless of what State they live in.  Health care at all levels must be removed from the private sector and managed at the Federal, not the State, level.  All medical education should be free, with the recipient obligated to work for the government for a stated period.

4.      All undergraduate colleges should be tuition free, but equivalent education in trades and technology should also be provided as well. More advanced degrees in the STEM areas (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) should be heavily subsidized by the government, academic and business entities for which people with such degrees will work.

5.      We must clean up our environment at all levels and promote practices which will preserve the planet’s health.

The increased role of government in this thirty-year agenda should be accompanied by financial and monetary regulations which assure that private enterprise will have access to capital, so that jobs in manufacturing and service areas might be created and financial marketplaces flourish on a domestic and international basis.  With health care and education clearly falling under government programs, the private sector can concentrate on what it does best, making money, something which should not be the object of institutions devoted to health care and education.

                                                  * * * * * * *

 

 

 Antonio Gramsci Wrote About the Hegemony of "Ideological Illusions." We call it "Trumpism"

Antonio Gramsci was the co-founder of the Italian Communist Party.  He did much of his writing during his 20 year imprisonment by Mussolini’s fascist regime.  Gramsci went further in his writings on Communism than the usual Marxist arguments regarding the ruling class controlling the economic base and thereby controlling the masses of workers. Gramsci argued that control really occurs through ‘ideological illusions’ produced by the ruling class, coercion alone being insufficient to keep them in power.  He called this complex process ‘hegemony’, which simply put, is a means of class domination through persuading people that the ruling class’s ideas are just “common sense.” Gramsci argued that hegemony is an invisible mechanism and the ruling class’s ideas permeate the whole of society, are unquestioned and become normalized through constant exposure. particularly for the working class.

                                                     *  *  *  *

And this is what Trump did to the uneducated portion of our working class, using the internet, tweets and FoxNews!  It's what the Nazis did in Germany.  If you want to read a little more about Antonio Gramsci,  CLICK HERE or if that doesn't work, just visit  https://www.tutor2u.net/sociology/reference/sociologist-in-focus-antonio-gramsci

 JL

 

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Binding the Wounds, Pastor Niemoller's Words and Truth

 

 

 

Binding the Wounds


It is clear to me that those in the White House (for 42 more days) and some in the Halls of Congress and in Statehouses (Florida for example) for far longer, are doing great damage to our democratic republic.  This is what Vladimir Putin engineered by manipulating our vain President and lending him a hand where possible.  With 74 million Americans having voted for Trump and many more supporting him, how can this wounding of our democratic republic be repaired without damaging it?  Perhaps it can, but at what cost?  Will the surviving nation remain a democratic republic?  Or will it have to be a less democratic nation, but hopefully a benign one?  Playing by our existing rules got us Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell, Bill Barr, and worse in the governorships and legislatures of many States.  Change is necessary but It cannot be done overnight.  We faced a similar problem in 1865.

Abraham Lincoln concluded his Second Inaugural address with a sentence starting thusly: With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds … “

Good Advice.  But it takes two to tango which didn't happen back then.

 

                                                   * * * * 


Words to Remember

Most of us are familiar with the words of the late Pastor Martin Niemoller, imprisoned for seven years in concentration camps by the Nazis.  After the Second World War, he pointed out that,

“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

We cannot just stand by when Florida’s governmentstarts down this path. Please read on:

Gimme those computers or I'll shoot!
On Monday morning, about ten armed law enforcement officers raided the home of former Florida state data scientist Rebekah Jones and seized her computers, phone, thumb drives, and hard drives. Jones had been fired from her job at the state Department of Health for insubordination back in May when she apparently refused to manipulate data about coronavirus to downplay state infections at a time when Florida Governor Ron DeSantis was eager to reopen the state. Jones had built the state’s Covid-19 dashboard, and after she was fired, she continued to compile and post coronavirus updates on her own.

An investigator with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement filed an affidavit saying that someone had hacked the state emergency management system to send a text to about 1,750 people with the message: “It’s time to speak up before another 17,000 people are dead. You know this is wrong. You don’t have to be part of this. Be a hero. Speak out before it’s too late.” The affidavit said the text came from an IP address connected to Jones’s house, and the affidavit was the reason for the search warrant that led to the raid. Jones denies having anything to do with the text and noted that it went out on the official channel about the time that five of the eight team leaders at the DOH were fired in what she described as a purge.

Jones publicly blamed DeSantis for the raid on her home. “This is what happens to people who speak truth to power,” she tweeted. DeSantis’s spokesperson told CNN, “the governor’s office had no involvement, no knowledge, no nothing, of this investigation.” (I doubt that, but regardless of who ordered the raid, how necessary were the presence of armed law enforcement personnel to seize Ms. Jones computer hardware?)

You and I know what Pastor Niemoller would have said about this.  We cannot just stand aside and let these things happen.  (I am glad to see that just a few days later, there is a significant reaction in support of Ms. Jones.)  Sooner or later, if we are not careful, this could happen to each of us.  Even those who write blogs like this.  No man is an island.  Recall the advice given almost 400 years ago by poet John Donne, any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

                                                              

                                                             * * * *

 

Truth and a Couple of Universes

I read the Palm Beach Post every day along with my morning coffee.   Mostly It complements my own thoughts, particularly on its editorial and op/ed pages.  But occasionally I wonder if perhaps I might be living in an alternate universe, brainwashed by not only the Post, but by the New York Times’ and the Washington Post’s columnists, not to speak of CNN and MSNBC, who also inhabit that alternate universe along with me.  

What if those millions who voted for Donald Trump and continue to support him are living in the real universe, and are not the gullible and often ignorant folks I believe them to be? Are we who call that other universe’s absurd explanations “conspiracies” the ones who are wrong? Am I the one living in an alternate universe and are the facts which I accept actually alt-facts?  Is truth a relative thing? These are matters better left to epistemologists but we have put them in the hands of politicians, a bad move.  

(Epistemology is considered one of the four main branches of philosophy, along with ethics, logic, and metaphysics.)

JL

 

 

 


Sunday, December 6, 2020

Four Pundits and a Magazine Cover Going Viral

See Link at bottom of posting

Pundit #1

Michelle Goldberg, in her New York Times column, noted that the President is even turning on his own appointees who do not agree with him about the election results.  She wrote, “The Republican establishment, and also the conservative establishment, has always made this bet that it could open Pandora’s box and close it on command,” Rick Perlstein, a historian of American conservatism, told me. They could activate tribalism to achieve power, while maintaining a modicum of respectability. They could create an alternative reality but keep people enclosed within it. But with Trump “having pried Pandora’s box open, that becomes impossible,” Perlstein said.  Republicans helped Trump unleash countless civic evils. They shouldn’t be surprised when those evils don’t spare them.

  

 Pundit #2

 

Back in the 1950s, Joseph Welch, the government’s counsel in the hearings investigating the late Senator Joe McCarthy’s accusations, challenged him by asking, “Sir, do you have no decency?”  A recent USA Today editorial asked that same question of those in Congress who still support the President, who refuses to accept the election’s results and accelerates his acts, intentionally damaging the country he leaves to his successor.

 

(We suspect that Donald Trump has no decency … but what about most Republicans?  More and more of the blame for our economic and health care crisis belongs with the Republicans in Congress, and specifically Mitch McConnell, rather than exclusively with Donald Trump.  JL)

 

 

 

 Pundit #3

 

In a recent column, the New York Times’ David Brooks writes about the necessity for a Covid19 relief measure now.  “If McConnell won’t do a deal now, in the midst of a clear crisis and under a Republican president, there certainly won’t be one with more controversial issues under a Democratic president in 2021. If we don’t see a Covid19 relief measure pass in the next week or two, then our democracy is existentially broken.

If that happens, McConnell should spend Christmas with people thrown out of work and witness the suffering he has caused.

 

Pundit #4




From the
December 7, 2020 issue of the New Yorker magazine, here is the comment, from “The Talk of the Town,” by that publication’s distinguished editor, David Remnick. That is about as close as the New Yorker gets to publishing an editorial.  It is well worth reading.

The Cost of Trump’s Assault on the Press and the Truth

The President is being forced to give up his attempt to overturn the election. But he will continue his efforts to build an alternative reality around himself.

 By David Remnick

November 29, 2020

Presidents have always complained about the press. At awards ceremonies and journalism-school conferences, Thomas Jefferson is often remembered for his principled support: in 1787, he wrote to the Virginia statesman Edward Carrington, “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate to prefer the latter.” Yet, by 1814, having endured the Presidency, Jefferson was not quite as high-minded, whining by post to a former congressman about “the putrid state” of newspapers and “the vulgarity, & mendacious spirit of those who write for them.”

You could hardly blame him. How would you like to read that one of John Adams’s surrogates has branded you a “mean-spirited, low-lived fellow”? No President escapes scrutiny or invective. In 1864, Harper’s listed the many epithets that the Northern press had hurled at Abraham Lincoln: Filthy Story-Teller, Despot, Liar, Thief, Braggart, Buffoon, Monster, Ignoramus, Scoundrel, Perjurer, Robber, Swindler, Tyrant, Fiend, Butcher, Ape, Demon, Beast, Baboon, Gorilla, Imbecile.

Donald Trump began his career convinced that reporters, once exposed to his myriad charms, would be willing stenographers of his story. He learned to elevate himself, his brand, and his interests largely by supplying the New York tabloids with a ready-made character, a strutting snake-oil salesman who provided an unending stream of gossip-page items about his personal and commercial exploits. It was of little concern to anyone that these items were, in the main, preposterous. Occasionally, investigative reporters, profile writers, and the courts would look more deeply into Trump’s swindles and business bankruptcies, but, as long as he skirted total ruin, he seemed to think that even his bad press added to his allure.

Trump’s relationship with reporters inevitably changed when he shifted his occupation to the command of the federal government. First as a candidate, and then in the early days of his Presidency, he discovered that the press was a variegated beast; Cindy Adams and Maggie Haberman were not of the same stuff. He could still depend on toadying support from some quarters, particularly the editorial holdings of Rupert Murdoch and emerging properties like Breitbart and Newsmax; however, he was now getting a more scrupulous going-over from what Sarah Palin had called “the lamestream media.” Trump craved the acceptance of such institutions as the Times and the Washington Post, but he knew that his base loathed them. And so he would loathe them, too, while at the same time declaring a new, Trumpian reality, constructed of what his adviser Kellyanne Conway memorably called “alternative facts.”

On his second day in office, Trump sent his press secretary, Sean Spicer, to the White House briefing room to con the nation the way he had conned the tabloids. The crowds on the Mall for Trump’s Inauguration, Spicer insisted, were unprecedented, despite the evidence to the contrary. A few weeks later, as news coverage further nettled Trump, he took to Twitter to declare that CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, and the Times were “the enemy of the American People.” The resonance was clear. In the Soviet era, to be branded an “enemy of the people” was to await a boxcar to the Gulag. Even the U.S. Senate, whose Republican majority would prove so unfailingly loyal to Trump, seemed alarmed. In August, 2018, the Senate passed, by unanimous consent, a resolution attesting to “the vital and indispensable role the free press serves.”

But Trump knew precisely what he was doing, and he never let up. During a meeting at Trump Tower, Lesley Stahl, of CBS News, asked why he kept attacking the press. “You know why I do it?” he said. “I do it to discredit you all and demean you all, so that, when you write negative stories about me, no one will believe you.”

Trump may have devoted more mental energy to his degradation of the press—through lawsuits, threats, and hundreds of tweets—than to any other issue. He called reporters “corrupt,” “scum,” and “some of the worst human beings you’ll ever meet.” And those words riled up his base, so much so that at his rallies reporters were often berated and menaced. Last year, the F.B.I. arrested a Coast Guard officer who had drawn up a hit list that included reporters at MSNBC and CNN, and an Army officer was arrested after allegedly conducting an online discussion in which he talked about blowing up the headquarters of a major TV network.

Trump’s assault on the press and his assault on the truth––he made more than sixteen thousand false or misleading claims in his first three years in office, according to the Washington Post’s fact-checking operation––have taken their toll. Where once American Presidents gave at least rhetorical support to civil liberties, he has given comfort to foreign autocrats, from El-Sisi to Erdoğan, who routinely parrot his slogan of “fake news” and lock up offending journalists. Perhaps Trump’s most disgraceful act in this regard was his refusal to speak a critical word against the Saudi leadership after the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a columnist for the Post.

The costs at home are no less ominous. It is now estimated that one American dies every minute from covid-19. Every two or three days there is a 9/11-scale death count. How many of those people died because they chose to believe the President’s dismissive accounts of the disease rather than what public-health officials were telling the press? Half of Republican voters believe Trump’s charge that the 2020 election was “rigged.” What will be the lasting effects on American democracy of that disinformation campaign? Bit by bit, Trump is being forced to give up his attempt to overturn the election. But he will continue his efforts to build an alternative reality around himself. Now that Fox News has proved insufficiently servile, he is likely to join forces with, buy, or launch an even more destructive media enterprise.

As President, Joe Biden cannot battle the debasement of a reality principle in American life by executive order. But support for press freedoms ought to be a central element of his domestic and foreign policies. What’s more, the press itself needs to learn from the prolonged emergency of the past four years. Just as it must go on applying investigative and analytical pressure to all forms of power, including the new Administration, it cannot relax in calling out the deeply anti-factual and anti-democratic foundation of a movement like Trump’s. The stakes are high. Donald Trump may be moving to Mar-a-Lago, but he, and the alternative reality he has created, could be with us for a long time. 

Published in the print edition of the December 7, 2020, issue, with the headline “Real News.”

David Remnick has been editor of The New Yorker since 1998 and a staff writer since 1992. He is the author of “The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama.”



Magazine Cover Depicts Quarantining at Home 

And speaking of the New Yorker, the cover of that December 7 issue has gone viral!  Here’s what the Huffington Post had to say about that.   JUST CLICK HERE.  or paste this on your browser line. 

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/new-yorker-cover-sums-up-2020_n_5fc6245ec5b63d1b770f8d85

 OR TAKE A LOOK AT THE TOP OF THIS POSTING TO SEE THE COVER!



Someone's Gotta Put Out the Fire

Thursday, December 3, 2020

How Trump is Scuttling the Ship Before Biden Takes Over, the Georgia Senate Race, Medicare Choices and Venture Capitalists Playing with Your Money

What's With "Venture Capital"?

For years, Republican have claimed that reducing taxes on the very wealthy will enable them to have the resources to build businesses, create jobs and thus, the tax cuts would “trickle down” to the people who work for a living.  The frequency of this claim is matched only by its continuing failure to happen.    The first President Bush had it right when he called it ‘voodoo economics.’ 

What happens to this money which ends up in the hands of the wealthy?  Some is  used to purchase real estate, and some is traditionally invested, going into buying shares of businesses or lending them money in the regulated stock and bond marketplace, but not all of it.   A lot of it ends up as what is called “venture capital.”  An informative article on this appeared in last week’s New Yorker magazine, ‘How Venture Capitalists are Deforming Capitalism.’

You can find it at https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/11/30/how-venture-capitalists-are-deforming-capitalism.

There are billions, if not trillions, of dollars out there in the hands of these relatively unregulated ‘venture capitalists,’ looking to use it to fund new, sometimes promising, often speculative and risky, businesses.   It would be better if this money,  the result of Republican tax cuts benefiting the wealthy and the cause of our booming deficit, were redistributed by the government in various programs for the benefit of all Americans rather than being used in a speculative manner by those who benefited directly from these tax policies.  They are not concerned with the health of the nation’s economy.  Republican tax policies and ‘venture capitalists” give capitalism a bad name. 

JL

 

Medicare Open Enrollment Ends on Dec. 7

The Medicare Open Enrollment period ends on December 7.  The ads on TV and in the papers ask those on Medicare to call to find out if they are eligible for a myriad of new benefits.  

Here is the answer. “Yes!” 

If you are on traditional Medicare, you can drop your Medicare Parts A and B and switch to a Medicare Advantage plan offering such benefits, or if you already have a Medicare Advantage plan, you can switch to another, supposedly better, one. 

Right now, however, most Medicare enrollees still are on traditional, original, Medicare Parts A and B. (See earlier posts last month on this.)  In 2019, about 34% of all Medicare beneficiaries were enrolled in Medicare Advantage (Part C) which gives more control to the government and the companies offering these plans.  The rest are still on Parts A and B which gives them more control of their own health care.  (Many of them purchase private 'Medigap' or 'Medicare Supplement' policies to fill the 'gaps' in Parts A and B coverage.  These are becoming increasingly expensive.)

 JL


Georgia Senate Races Beckon You

If you are interested in buying some postal cards and stamps to send to Georgia voters, check out https://www.mobilize.us/flipthewest/event/362341/ where mailing lists of Georgia voters are readily available at no charge.  But do it now.  Two Senate seats will be at stake on January 5.  The election of Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossip will give the Democrats a Senate majority, counting the Vice-President's option to cast a tie-breaking vote.

JL


And Here is Some "Must Reading" for You

A column from the Washington Post, as reproduced in the Palm Beach Post ... by Catherine Rampell.


Trump is planning a massive purge

President quietly dismantling entire federal civil service



Catherine Rampell


Again and again, outgoing Trump officials have demonstrated their intention to salt the earth. They’ve tried to jam through Senate confirmations of partisan cranks while planting regulatory time-bombs scheduled to detonate after President Donald Trump leaves office.


They’ve clawed back funding for emergency lending programs and then placed that money out of reach of the next treasury secretary. After years of swelling federal deficits, they’ve suddenly remembered their aversion to debt. And they’ve sown mistrust in the integrity of U.S. elections.


The latest sign of sabotage, though, has flown largely under the radar: Trump has been quietly dismantling the entire federal civil service – and possibly laying the groundwork for a massive, government-wide purge on his way out the door.


Trump signed a technical-sounding executive orderin October that invented a new category of government employees, called 'Schedule F.' Career civil servants whose jobs include 'policymaking,' the order said, should be newly reclassified under Schedule F – a designation that would strip them of long-held civil service protections and allow them to be fired with little demonstrated cause or recourse.

Including, presumably, for showing insufficient loyalty to Trump.


The current system is by no means perfect. But it needs reasonable management reforms, not more political interference. This order effectively transforms large chunks of the merit-based, expertise-driven, nonpartisan civil service into political appointees who work at the mercy of the president. Already, the U.S. government has more political appointees (4,000) than does any other democracy, a feature that predisposes our government to churn, fickle management and cronyism; Trump’s restructuring would make things even worse, reinstating the sort of patronage-driven, 'spoils' system that Congress abolished in the 1880s.


Trump gave the heads of federal agencies 90 days – that is, until Jan. 19, inauguration eve - to review their personnel rosters and decide which roles should be Schedule F. It wasn’t initially clear how many civil servants would get reclassified or whether Trump would still pursue the reorganization once he’d lost reelection.


Then, last week, a memo leaked from the Office of Management and Budget. The OMB director, beating Trump’s deadline, proposed reclassifying 88 percentof his agency’s workforce, or 425 employees, under Schedule F. The Office of Personnel and Management is reportedly fast-tracking its reclassification efforts too.


These are very bad signs. OMB, for example, reaches across nearly every government function, given its involvement in setting budgets and vetting regulations for other agencies. Had Trump won a second term, he presumably would have used this reclassification to clear out distrusted members of the 'deep state.' Already Trump has been working to politicize traditionally independent agencies, including by 'burrowing' political appointees into senior civil service jobs for which they’re not qualified.


Now that he’s lost, it’s reasonable to wonder if Trump simply plans to fire (and perhaps not replace) as many career experts as possible, leaving Biden with a hollowed-out government unable to perform even its most basic functions.


In other words: a purge.


If that sounds alarmist, recall that Trump has engaged in similar government purges

before, of both political appointees and career civil servants whom Congress intended to be shielded from such retaliation. This has usually happened under the guise of 'draining the swamp.' For example, the Economic Research Service – a small, independent statistical agency within the Agriculture Department - has published research on food stamps, climate change, tariffs and other topics that Trump appointees found politically inconvenient. Last year the agency was abruptly relocated a thousand miles away from where it had been; about three-quartersof affected employees decided to quit rather than uproot their families. Certainly one way to silence independent researchers.


Trump has ordered agencies to disband hundreds of technical advisory councils, including the advisory committee to the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And even without formal firings, Trump officials have spurred a mass exodus of scientists, foreign affairs specialists, immigration officials and other supposed 'deep staters' throughout government.


A government employees union has challenged the Schedule F executive order in court, saying it violates statutes regarding civil service protections. Separately, Democratic lawmakers have tried to block it. Presumably, the incoming Biden administration could reverse Trump’s executive order and try to rehire civil servants fired under it.


But in the meantime, a chill is running through the ranks of the civil service. Workers who should be focusing on the country’s health or economic crisis are instead worried about their own job security, and whether it’s still safe to speak truth to power. 


Trump is 'crashing the car before turning back the keys,' observes Max Stier, president and chief executive of the nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service. 'Can you simply fix the car? Perhaps, but (1) people will get hurt in the crash, including the public and public servants; (2) you can’t use the car while it is getting fixed; and (3) it is not clear that the car will ever drive the same.'


Which is exactly what Trump wants.


Catherine Rampell is a columnist for The Washington Post. 




                                                             Grrrrrrrr



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