If the U.S. civilian government can’t handle things will the military step in?

January 17, 2019

In third-world nations when the civilian government can’t keep things together or satisfy the masses the military often takes over.

So I am wondering, could that happen here in the United States with the congress and administration in a deadlock over politics that has shut down a major portion of the government for a month now?

Not likely and as far as I know not even legally possible (although that last part never stops a determined military in other nations).

We here in the good ol’ US of A have a constitution that puts the military clearly under the direction of the civilian government, with the president designated as Commander-in-Chief over the military. I think that role is sometimes confused. I don’t believe it means that he personally directs the troops or the maneuvers of war, rather he is in charge of policy that guides their actions.

While some presidents have gone as far as personally approving individual bombing raids, i.e., Lyndon Johnson in Vietnam (Nixon too?) — I don’t think that is correct. Every situation is different I suppose.

So anyway, there is supposed to be, pardon the use of this word in its current context, a wall between politics (the fight over issues and public policy) and the military.

But President Trump has burst through that wall. He dispatched the military down to the southern border clearly as a political move to bolster his specious notion of an imminent invasion. We may indeed have an immigration problem; there is no evidence of an armed invasion or what would rightly be called an invasion of any kind. The usual occurrence of people slipping illegally over the border (and yes some could be incidentally armed although most not) has not developed into an armed invasion or even threatened to do so, not meaning the prudent security measures should not be taken. But the Great Wall of Trump seems a bit much and more immigration hot button politics than actual sober policy.

Mr. Trump made a campaign promise to build the wall, meant to appeal to a largely white anti-non-white immigration base. Originally it was to be a solid wall on the border, replacing fences and shutting off gaps. He has implied if he can’t get the backing of congress, read the now Democratic Party-controlled House of Representatives, he will have the military do it — I suppose the Army Corps of Engineers — or at least get funding from the military budget and disaster relief funds to build the wall.

He also fantastically declared Mexico would pay for it, but the Mexican government countered it was not aware that it would and in fact would not. Trump later said he just meant changes in the NAFTA trade agreement would amount to the same thing, to which economic observers point out what anyone would know, that makes no sense whatsoever and would not be the case. I mean even if we made more money by a trade deal we would still expend it on the wall. Something about money being fungible. To me it sounds like buying something on sale you never wanted or needed in the first place.

Trump has now indicated he would settle for something less than walling off the total border length, 2,000 miles (it already is mostly fenced anyway).

The Republican president accuses his Democratic opponents of being anti-border security. But at the same time, curiously, he points out that in the past they have supported increased security on the border, including fencing and, yes, a wall of some sort.

In his ever-changing rhetoric Trump sometimes alludes to a “steel” fence or wall as a possible alternative. But with him all things are ephemeral.

It can be said that although for its part, the Democratic Party likely favors border security as much as the Republicans, some within the party don’t mind the idea of people somehow making their way in, legally or otherwise, and signing up on the Democratic voting rolls (well legally once they become eligible). I mean it is supposed most would tend to gravitate to the political party that appears more friendly to their interests.

Also, current Democratic voters of Hispanic origin tend to have sympathy or empathy for immigrants, even illegal immigrants, although not all. Some feel that they had to do it the legal way, why not them (the illegals)?

But this political impasse over who gets to come out looking good and stronger has resulted in what is becoming a dangerous governmental shut down situation, with thousands of people missing paychecks and thousands more who sell them things or provide services or hold their mortgages being shorted too. It is a hit to the economy.

Of even more immediate consequence it is a threat to air safety, with TSA inspectors thrown off the job or being expected to work without pay and deciding to call in sick. Other public safety measures are at threat and even the federal judicial system is facing a shut down for lack of funds. And those who want government services, loans, disaster payments, contract work and so on are affected.

The powers that be were wise enough to make sure the IRS would be able to process tax refunds, which so many Americans depend upon as a non-interest bearing savings account (strange, but easier to get money back all at once than to have to pay up front I guess).

As I understand it most government employees will get their back wages when and if this ends, but like a car repair guy once told me when I asked if he could wait for his money — the grocery store wants it now.

And meanwhile, the president is also making political appeals to the troops, by speechifying to them in the war zone and blaming the Democrats for not being on the team. He also hands out or at least signs those red MAGA caps he uses in his political campaign for them. And he has criticized retired generals. It is all against protocol but he has no regard for that.

Reports are that while being constrained from making public remarks many of the current military brass are concerned about Trump’s behavior. He makes surprise military decisions on a whim without even consulting them, such as withdrawing from Syria. And then pulls back a little on that the next day or so.

Now the impasse could be resolved immediately if one side just offered a logical compromise. Niether side has been willing. It is politics.

The military is constrained from coming to the rescue by the Constitution and its own loyalty to our democratic (small d) values.

But Trump is not.

Seeing that, if things got worse…

p.s.

Was just ruminating. I in no way think a military coup would be desirable. I do think President Trump and the state of our national politics (from both of the major parties) serves as an existential threat to our democracy and position in the world.

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A political stalemate because we don’t know what we want…

January 16, 2019

I’m just wondering. Could it be that the American electorate at large does not know what it wants? The political stalemate that has resulted in the month-long so far shutdown of much of the government, halting food inspections, endangering security on flights, and even of the White House itself, not to mention putting vast numbers of people in and out of the government out of work, is not just a product of politicians who can’t agree, it is a product of an electorate at stalemate.

Coincidentally the electorate in the United Kingdom seems to be suffering the same. They are divided on whether they want to be in or out of the European Union, although the majority vote is to be out. But even among those who want to be out, they do not agree on how far out. I mean even those who don’t want to be under the thumb of the EU may want some of its advantages and protections. But you can’t have your cake and eat it too (I’ve always wondered why that is, about cake, not about what that adage represents).

I think there is some connection here. Iowans and Republicans in general may have approved of that loyal conservative congressman Steve King and to an extent may have shared his white supremacy or maybe keep-the-status quo thoughts but on a national scale he just got to be too embarrassing. More embarrassing than Trump? Well no, but they could do something about King. He has been stripped of his committee appointments in congress and some have suggested, including the Des Moines Register newspaper, that he just leave public life.

It seems that neither of the two major American political parties know exactly what they stand for or what their constituencies want.

The Republican Party is certainly not the Party of its first president, Abraham Lincoln. I mean what do you see in Donald Trump that could even come close to Lincoln?

And the Democratic Party, once the party of unionized workers, among others, no longer is seen as the working man’s party. For some unexplained reason much of the Joe Lunchbox crowd have gravitated toward a party that usually seeks to limit worker protections.

As anyone who reads this can tell, I am kind of writing stream-of-consciousness here, but I think the Democratic Party lost or began to lose the union vote or the Joe Lunchbox vote back during Johnson and Nixon’s time when young, perhaps often non-working youth, demonstrated against the Vietnam War. It had been the culture of working men (I’m referring to men here simply because I am thinking back to the male-dominated society of my youth, not because I am sexist) to be patriotic and to follow the lead of American foreign policy and either go sign up voluntarily for war or at least support the effort back home on the jobĀ  — wars used to make money for a wider range of people, beyond the military industrial complex elite, than they do now.

(Oh, and I am not ignorant of the fact that draft dodging has a long history — back in the Civil War you could legally pay for someone to take your place and many did.)

But war itself has caused disunity in society. After World War II with its clear victory by the U.S. and the allies, it all became ambiguous, as to victory and purpose and legitimacy, i.e., Korea, then Vietnam, then the Middle East. That has divided and perplexed society.

And today, the world of work, with constant elimination of jobs with technology advancing exponentially is disrupting society. Someone I know and respect once opined many years ago now, but then again not all that long ago, “thinking” jobs were safe. But now we have artificial intelligence threatening even those jobs.

We all no longer know quite know what to think. How can the politicians and political parties know?

Just random thoughts today as I wait for more work (a dispatch) in my own line, truck driving. I’m safe because of age. I mean yes in the not distant future my job may be gone, but so will I — I just hope not too soon, on both accounts.

 

 

 


Those who lean right and may now suffer at the hands of Trump should have known…

January 11, 2019

So has President Trump finally jumped the shark with his government shutdown over the imaginary invasion from the south?

What can the Tea Party, that amorphous (there is no one Tea Party) group of Constitution defenders think of their beloved Trump’s move to create a dictatorship and bypass the constitutional provision that only congress can appropriate funds by toying with the idea of declaring a national emergency where there is none?

Oh they cried dictatorship when Barrack Obama used executive orders to do such things as to protect dreamers (undocumented children brought to the country as infants and being threatened to be deported to a nation they knew nothing about, including in many instances the language).

But now their beloved Make-America-Great-Again Trump is threatening to cut off aid to those who suffered from the wildfires that ravished so much of Trump country (I know. I live in one of those areas — I did not suffer damage). Yup, this is most definitely Trump country. He’s also threatening to cut off funds for hurricane-ravished Puerto Rico.

And all of those farmers who supported Trump only to see him close off their export markets in a trade war he started and now to shut down the government, thus halting government relief to them that had been enacted to counter damage from the Trump trade war.

And my own local Trump-supporting congressman has to smile nervously on TV and lament Trump’s mindless tweets but assure his constituents that he has faith their unpredictable leader will keep a promise to help out his to date unwavering supporters in the hinterlands.

And all those Republican lawmakers who hide behind the shield of Trump and overlook some of his nonsense and outrageous behavior must be getting a tad nervous by now. Just ask all those Republican congressmen who lost their elections in the mid terms.

Yes, I realize these people were looking for the anti-Hillary but maybe they should have been more careful of what they wished for.

Kind of reminds me of the song Tom Jones sung about the old woman who took in an injured snake only to have the serpent recover and inject her with poisonous venom with its bite:

You bit me!” cried the woman…”and there ain’t no reason why!

You know you’re far too poisonous and now I’m gonna die!”

Oh shut up, silly woman…” said the reptile with a grin,

“You knew damn well I was a snake before you took me in”.

Trump’s history was well documented folks.

And I wonder, could it be that people only decry dictatorship when it is on the wrong side of the political line between left and right?

But just an observation about those government workers who have had their paychecks cut off:

First, I think it is reprehensible to cut off funding and leave workers hanging and should be illegal. And for sure they all should get back pay once this thing is over.

And second, I realize that salaries for government workers vary widely.

But thirdly, perhaps some of these workers, especially those fairly up on the pay scale, might heed the old adage that one should save back enough money to cover one’s self and family for at least six to twelve months. I mean I cringe when I hear that these government workers are living paycheck to paycheck. Either we are not paying them enough or they are profligate with their money.

Even so, I would not blame any government worker expected to show up for work without being paid to not do so. That would be their call.

p.s.

Meanwhile, Trump does have an advantage. Words and promises and facts mean nothing to him. So he is quite capable of turning on a dime and changing policy.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Why Mr. Trump is the wall suddenly so crucial? You had two years with your party in control, but Dems, you too can deal…

January 10, 2019

While I pride myself in keeping informed, I had not even thought of the weird irony that while President Trump has been calling for that border wall ever since before he was elected somehow he never managed to get it done while he had Republican control of both houses of congress.

For some reason now two years later with Democrats taking over the lower house all of a sudden the wall has become the issue of all issues, so big he is threatening to call a national emergency and order it built on his authority alone.

But after his lackluster performance Tuesday night in trying to convince the nation of the need for the great wall of Trump, one wonders how he would rally the troops in a real emergency — like that story of the boy who cried wolf, after a while nobody listens.

Make no mistake Trump is afraid of losing his grip after losing the House of Representatives; his “emergency” is a cynical play for power in which he hopes to discredit the Democrats by calling them weak on border security and blaming them for shutting down the government and throwing people out of work and denying the citizens the services they have paid for and contractors their money and businessmen and farmers who although they claim they hate government love the bounty it brings to them in the form of support payments and various incentive programs.

While I have no use for Trump, I’m a little impatient with the Democratic Party leadership under Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer.

They ought to skip meeting with the president who walked out in closed-door discussions Wednesday, reportedly after the Democrats failed once more to go along with his wall proposal as a condition for funding the government, much of which is shut down over the impasse over the border wall. Instead they ought to approach the Republican senatorial leadership or reasonable senators who would be willing to negotiate and bypass the president, who is basically a petulant buffoon.

Also they should try harder to prevent Trump or the Republicans in general from successfully painting them as against border security. They try to say they are not but it is hard to sell when they say no to the wall, even though the wall might not be effective or practical and might well be a waste of money. They need to stress and stress again that they are for top-flight security. They could offer to include a major improvement in border barriers in general, without locking themselves into Trump’s exact version of the Great Wall of China.

Meanwhile, Trump keeps going back and forth, at first demanding nothing short of a 30-foot tall solid wall and then dangling the carrot that maybe a strong steel fence and then in a fit Wednesday it was back to nothing but a full-blown wall.

(And I always feel it necessary to point out there is already a system of various barriers along the border, been there seen some of them).

Enough with the haggling over the look of the thing — it’s not going to go up overnight like the Berlin Wall, at least not one that goes anywhere near the whole length of the U.S./Mexico border, which is almost 2000 miles in total.

Both sides just ought to agree to fortify the existing barriers and at the same time sit down and once and for all work out a mutually agreeable immigration and border protection policy, including a plan to safeguard the so-called “dreamers”, those brought here as children who now as college-age adults face deportation because they are not citizens.

An official from the past who has been through this government shut down game suggested that it will end once it drags on too long and public pressure demands an end.

If we did not need a government we would not have one. It is there for a purpose and to me it seems criminal to bring it to a halt and endanger the well-being of the nation in a game of political chicken over who will get the blame for causing the pain.

It is strange, though, to hear that some agencies are down to only essential employees — so who are the rest? And if they are not essential, why were we paying for them in the first place? (There was a piece in the Wall Street Journal to that effect).

But I’ll assume everyone is essential. In the first civilian job I had out of the army, at a wood products mill, the man said: “some of you may be pushing a broom and think that your job is not essential. Let me tell you, we wouldn’t have hired you if it wasn’t”. That is the way government should look at it all.

Reports are that there are some Republican senators working behind the scenes to get past the intransigence of the president (and the Democrats I guess I should say to be fair — although it seems at the moment that the president who called for the shutdown and won’t budge is the culprit).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


President presents same old same old but congress could compromise…

January 9, 2019

So I listened to President Trump’s special address on the border wall but as I suspected he failed to make the case with solid evidence.

Even so, congress might overcome the impasse if it went for better fencing, I think. As it is Trump has shut the federal government down by refusing to sign a funding bill unless he gets a border wall.

From what I can gather president Trump this evening (1-8-2019) made the same stale and false argument that illegal aliens in large numbers are streaming across the U.S. southern border and committing serious crimes in this nation. The fact is that while there are terrible and sensational crimes committed by illegal aliens they only account for a fraction of crime committed here and they do not disproportionately commit crimes as compared to the general populace. Illegal aliens do show up in his crime statistics when they are stopped for things like traffic violations.

In his special address to the nation he also implied that somehow a $5-billion border wall, or possibly steel fence — I think he is beginning to slip in the word “barrier” (we already have fencing) — would go a long way to solving the problem of drug smuggling, terrorism, and the illegal entry of criminals and job-stealing undocumented workers. But those not supporting his border wall, citing statistics from government agencies, say that most of the illegal smuggling and other such activity comes through legal ports of entry, such as by air or in the back of trucks, not through a hole in the fence.

Trump also claims that there is a terrible humanitarian crisis at the border affecting families, women and children. Well there is. But a large part of it is caused by the Trump administration’s separating children from their families when they show up at the border. Administration officials have admitted that the policy was implemented as a tactic of discouragement toward migrants.

But there is a crisis of families being separated and held in detention and more and more families have been showing up, often from Central and South America, not so much looking for work as looking for safety, trying to escape the drug war violence and corruption in their home areas where gangs have taken over.

The problem is that instead of working together, the president and the new Democratic Party majority in congress have dug their heals in over the proposed border wall. Federal workers are missing paychecks — some even being forced to work without pay — and people wanting services from government are left wanting, from everything from food stamps to payments to farmers who were affected by Trump’s trade war. Home mortgages and various commercial activities are affected.

Trump, the nominal Republican, is using the government shut down as blackmail against the Democrats, even though he was the one who threatened it and the one who has carried it out.

Interestingly, while Democrats are opposed to the wall, they in the past have wholeheartedly supported border fencing.

But Trump has staked much of his political capital on building a wall to keep out foreigners in an appeal to what is called his base and often described as worried working class white voters (not necessarily totally accurate I am sure).

Both Trump and his opponents claim to be concerned with border security. It seems more of a political fight over philosophy on immigration and the hearts and minds of voters who may be bigots or more open-minded or in between.

It seems at this point it has to be up to the citizenry in a way, whether congress gets a message of support or not for the wall, and if that support is not there whether some Republicans will begin to break ranks with Trump (there being some hint of that, according to reports).

Seems to me there ought to be a clearer policy on who is allowed into the nation, whether for a straight-forward application for work and possibly application for citizenship or for political asylum or escape from violence in their home countries.

A better job of sending a message to potential migrants while still in their home countries that there are channels to go through before arriving and not everyone is going to be admitted must be made.

And it is frustrating to read those stories about illegal aliens who have committed crimes but are still not or immediately deported and then commit more crime, including murder. The excuse that the wheels of justice and bureaucracy are slow just does not cut it.

As far as sanctuaries, there has to be some limit to that. A church might rightly be a sanctuary temporarily for a person or family, but in some timely manner the issue needs to be resolved. It should never be a hiding place or safe zone for a criminal.

I think the onus on the president this evening was to make a case with solid facts and figures, but instead he issued broad statements with some statistics not necessarily correlating with his assertions. He misled.

But even so, the impasse might be broken if congress makes a counter offer on some type of upgraded fencing. If we have fencing at all, which we of course do, how could it hurt to upgrade it?

Some say that Trump was offering a bargaining chip by substituting the word “barrier” for wall. It was also said he may well go back full wall tomorrow.

 

 

 


If we need that wall prove it; neither congress nor administration officials should be paid during shut down…

January 8, 2019

So President Trump is going before the American people on television this evening to address the ongoing stalemate over his insistence on building a wall on the Mexican border (or maybe stronger, steel fencing?) and the government shutdown that is beginning to affect a wide array of government services and commerce.

What we need here and I doubt we will get are some serious facts and figures about the need for this costly barrier — he wants at least $5 billion. Hey it’s a government project. If it goes through it will surly cost way more.

Using legitimate information is not one of Trump’s strong suits. He just makes thing up on the fly.

My personal opinion is that it would likely be a waste of money. We have more trouble protecting ourselves from the danger within — mass shootings, robberies, murders, just plain violence — than we face from the slipping over the border of those looking for work and the inevitable lawbreakers and even terrorists within their ranks. And much of the illegal entry I read is by way of airports, and many non-citizens just overstay visas.

(Nearly the whole U.S./Mexico border is currently fenced, with some breaks where there are natural barriers.)

But if there is a true emergency and if the wall as is proposed is a good idea then the president ought to be able to make his case with facts and figures (documented) to prove it all.

I find it strange that congressional leaders and the administration have not been able to work out some type of compromise where they both can claim to have won the debate and move on.

We will see what we will see this evening.

The law or laws that allow or force a government shutdown need to be changed — I’m not talking about the Constitution itself. Congress has the constitutional duty and power to draw up a yearly budget and the president can approve it with his signature or veto it and send it back to the congress or just let it go into effect without his approval.

But law allows the congress and president to get around agreement by passing continuing resolutions to fund the government. That way neither side has to stick to a budget. So really the whole idea of a budget becomes meaningless. The sky is the limit. Think of how much wasteful spending could be prevented or how many of those endless and costly overseas military adventures be avoided if our government had to live within a budget. If there were a true emergency of course extra money would be appropriated, by way of a budget amendment I guess. But at least it would be part of a budget rather than something hidden in the arcane language of government budgeting and continuing resolutions, where it is made to look as if one amount spent, while it was far more.

Trump is toying with the idea of declaring a national emergency which he claims would give him the power unilaterally to build his wall. I’ve read some articles explaining that. Seems like he might squeak that by because the courts are reluctant to question executive judgment and the definition of “emergency” in the law is fuzzy.

Anyway, no one likes to stick to a budget (except wise and prudent people) I suppose. But I think it shows how irresponsible those who handle the people’s money are. They ought to have to stick to a budget and live with it. They’d make better decisions if they did.

The way to solve the yearly impasse would be to pass a law that said if the government is shut down no one gets paid, not the workers, not the lawmakers, not the president, not any officials, not anyone in the government.

Just withholding pay from congress would do it I am sure.

I think you will find that people who put themselves up to represent the interests of the public look out for number one first (and maybe that is as it should be).

I have a real life analogy or example: back in 1963 I was preparing to enter high school. I attended a school board meeting with my father who was a newspaper reporter. The issue before the board was whether to continue using the old multi-story main building of the school. It had some safety issues, old wiring and other things that were failing (I don’t recall details). The wise and prudent (sorry for that phrase again) and fiscally conservative board members judged that the old building was good for another year or so or more. But before they took their vote their attorney advised them that should something bad happen, should some injury occur, they, each individual board member, by law, could be held personally liable. They voted against using the old building.

Not an easy decision for sure. As I recall the board members faced a recall move by the local taxpayers’ association.

But the old building burned down before classes got under way for the fall session in a fire of mysterious origins.

We were in double sessions for the first two years while new classrooms were being constructed.

I’m not sure how useful that preceding anecdote was, I just wanted to make use of it.

 

 

 

 


Trump: he’s crude but he’s useful; we can control him, they thought…

January 7, 2019

I began reading a piece about how Donald Trump being born with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth has somehow managed to hoodwink hard-working blue collar types (who are not all blue collar, just types) that he is one of them or that he understands and cares about them.

Didn’t read too far into it. Just another hand wringing piece from an I assume intelligent and well-informed writer hoping that if folks just saw the light they would be able to see past Trump’s false and ever-changing messages.

The writer (and even I) might as well give it up. Trump enablers don’t care. It’s not that most anyone believes Trump, it’s just that they don’t put much faith in the political class or the intelligentsia. They voted for Trump as a stick in the eye to all the pomposity and duplicity and even incompetence of those in charge.

They don’t care for the niceties and the political correctness and the compromises. They just want something done.

Our jobs are being shipped overseas or across the southern border. Do something. Illegal aliens are taking our jobs. Do something. We are being taxed to death (even after death by the inheritance or estate taxes; never mind on the federal level it only applies to multi-millionaires). They’re trying to remove Christianity from our public life (freedom of religion means freedom to be a Christian and pressure others to follow). Do something. We are being cheated in world trade. Do something. And make those judges follow the Constitution (of course if it were that simple we wouldn’t need judges to figure it out).

And then on the other side last presidential election we had a candidate who was so high up in the clouds she had the poor judgment to proclaim that she was going to “put coal miners out of business”. She claims she was quoted out of context. But even though few of us are coal miners and even though most of us realize the ecological destruction coal mining creates and the pollution the burning of it makes and that alternatives have been developed, the very idea that one would campaign on putting a class of people out of work is a sign of how out of touch the political class can be at times. Kind of like those perhaps well-meaning but clueless guidance counselors who have lived a life insulated from the common man.

But Trump is some strange form of charlatan who is in so many ways incompetent but at the same time may stumble upon something right, although he is clumsy in implementation.

He does outrageous things. But he does them, while others talk.

Trump also has been a useful tool to the conservative movement and to some in the business sector. They got him to lower taxes on them and rein in all those pesky environmental rules and some of those labor protections that screw up their profit margins.

And the evangelicals rallied around Trump, even though he violates the commandments, because he promised to pack the courts with judges who would side with them on social issues — they made a deal with the devil.

I’m sure the civilized and educated set who supported him thought that they could put up with his crudeness and that in the end that they could control him.

Yeah, that’s what they thought about Hitler.