Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Why Democracy

Look what they’ve done to my song Ma ♪♫♪

Thanks, Melanie

Polls show that most Americans believe in democracy; that most Americans believe that America is a democracy. That even those who aren’t sure what democracy is think that they would recognize it if they saw it. That’s close enough; as close as one’s going to get these days. We think we are a democracy, therefore we are. FDR said that our constitution was a work in progress; so our democracy. A democracy, if we can keep it.

We have been warned that our democracy is fragile, that preserving our democracy demands constant vigilance, …; warnings that our democracy has enemies. And, lest we forget, democracy is complex; needs to be taught to be understood.

The American Enterprise Institute and The Heritage Foundation, the ex-Confederate States, Gingrich’s War on America, Mitch McConnell, Gerrymandering, former States of The Confederacy Republicans, The John Roberts’ Court, Tea Party Republicans, The NRA, Dictators around the world, Governors like Georgia’s Kemp, Mitch McConnell, Donald Trump, …; democracy has lots of enemies.

The American Enterprise Institute and The Heritage Foundation are quick to remind us that America is a republic; not a democracy. Rich coming from the two of them as they claim themselves to be something called Federalists; that’s the before the Constitution, not in the Constitution, gone since the early 19th century, Federalists; not the long after the Constitution, 1982, organization of right-wing conservatives and libertarians Federalist Society. Or, maybe, … it is that they wish to be associated the both? The two are quite different, you know.

Without democracy, a small minority like the Federalist Society might tyrannize the nation by securing the appointment of right-wing, libertarian judges to the benches of the Federal Courts. They already have. The Federalist Society, shown as having a membership of around 70k, now controls the US Supreme Court by way of having 5 of the Court’s Justices as members or former members by way of a non-representative US Senate led by Mitch McConnell from the small, backward, non-representative state of Kentucky. The Federalist Society isn’t a political party; has never stood for election to anything. We really needn’t bother asking.

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Questions for Postmaster General Louis DeJoy

Save the Post Office is edited and administered by Steve Hutkins, a literature professor who teaches “place studies” at the Gallatin School of New York University. Prof. Hutkins (Steve) is the author of this commentary.

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has been on the job just two months, but he can already boast of many accomplishments, including these:

  • He has become the subject of a review by the USPS Office of Inspector General concerning allegations of a conflict of interest over his investments and his controversial policy changes; the review may lead to an investigation.
  • He has provoked calls for his immediate resignation from Senators Bernie Sanders and Joe Manchin and Representatives Gerry ConnollyPeter DeFazio and Alma Adams, as well as 700,000 people on a MoveOn petition.
  • He has implemented changes to postal operations that are delaying the mail and heightening fears about the Postal Service’s ability to deliver election mail on time.
  • He has inspired 175 members of Congress to write a letter calling on him to reverse his overhaul of the Postal Service, citing the coronavirus pandemic and upcoming elections.
  • He has also inspired four House Republicans — Reps. Peter King, David McKinley, Brian Fitzpatrick and Daniel Webster — to join 80 House Democrats in signing a letter expressing “deep concerns” about DeJoy’s changes and calling for them to be reversed, and Montana Sen. Steve Daines and Rep. Greg Gianforte have separately sent their own letters criticizing the mail delays.
  • He has caused U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. to call on the New Jersey Attorney General to convene a grand jury to investigate him for election subversion, and Arizona Secretary of State to ask the Election Integrity Unit of the Attorney General’s office to investigate him for deliberate delay of ballots.
  • He has spurred protestors to take to the street in front his house rallying against his complicity in Trump’s effort to suppress voting by mail.
  • He has demoralized thousands of postal workers by implementing changes they view as undermining the mission of the post office.
  • He has helped to undermine “the most trusted brand in the nation” and “America’s favorite federal agency.”

The Postmaster General needs to appear before Congress immediately, not a month from now, as currently scheduled, and he needs to speak to the American people in a press conference.  Here are some of the questions he should be asked.

Conversations with the president; When the president was asked about your cutbacks on August 9th, he said he hadn’t spoken with you, but news report later said you had met with him a few days previously, on August 3. How many times have you met with the President or spoken with him over the phone? Have you discussed mail voting in conversations with the president or with other members of the White House or Cabinet, including Secretary Mnuchin?

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RFL: Mark Jamison, Trump vs. The USPS & the Importance of Mail-In Voting

Contributor to Save The Post Office and Angry Bear blogs, Mark Jamison was interviewed and featured on Richard French Live, also can be seen on Meet the Press hosted by Chuck Todd, and later CNN. In this RFL YouTube, Mark gives all the reasons why we should be concerned with trump and Louis DeJoy tampering with the USPS and mail-in ballots.
President Trump has been attempting to sow the seeds of doubt before Election Day without evidence of issues resulting from mail-in voting which has been used successfully for absentee voting and other state voting. Suggesting ballot fraud and voting irregularities trump, republicans, and their followers claim it will result in a “rigged” by mail election if mail-in voting is used extensively now.

Meanwhile, we witness an overhaul of the USPS administration taking place with a new trump-politically-selected-PMG and new senior staff being put in place, the removal of additional resource to secure on-time delivery of ballots, mailboxes being removed from service in some states which use mail-in voting, OT being cut at the USPS office, etc. all done within ninety days of a national election. One has to wonder who is rigging the election and taking action to deter citizens from voting in a safe manner during a pandemic and making their vote count.

Former USPS Postmaster Mark Jamison discusses how and why Trump is attempting to destroy the Postal Service.

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“Executive Order” Versus “Executive Action” Such As A Memorandum

“Executive Order” Versus “Executive Action” Such As A Memorandum

 Most of the news media has reported that President Donald J. Trump has signed four “executive orders” involving extending unemployment benefits at a $400 rate, deferring (or ending?) payroll taxes for Social Security (opposed by both parties in Congress), extending a ban on evicting renters, and extending student loan deferments.  An important detail not mentioned in most reports that of these three of them are not actual orders but rather memoranda, which can count as “actions,” that essentially implore others to do something that requires Congressional action in order to be done, basically the first two of these, or is already happening (deferment of student loans, although this is complicated).  Only one of them is an actual order that must be followed, the one regarding evicting renters, although all this order does is to make HUD “consider” extending the ban on evicting renters.  The order itself does not actually do it.  In short, these orders amount to a campaign list of wannabe actions, no actual real actions.

This is all obviously the brainchild of the incompetent and brainless Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows, who is apparently incapable of making any deals and totally focused on the reelection campaign.  So he “blew up” the two-week negotiations with Congressional leaders by most accounts by making rigid demands.  I am not going into details, but there were obvious compromises available, just to pick one on the total size of the relief package.  The Dems were proposing $3 trillion based on what the House passed months ago while the White House and some GOPs held to $1 trillion. Reportedly the Dems offered the obvious compromise of $2 trillion, but that was blocked by Meadows who simply made demands and warned if they were not accepted, Trump would issue “executive orders” to do what he wants.  But, as careful analysis shows, only one of these is ab actual order and even the one that is an order that only orders a department to consider doing something.

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Can A President Appropriate Funds for a Program?

With regard to Trump’s three memos and one Executive Order.

We did go through this one time before with the ACA and funding for the Risk Corridor Program as I wrote “Risk Corridor, Healthcare Premiums, Companies Leaving the Exchanges, and Republicans.” The GAO said the President can not appropriate funds for funding of programs. Only congress can do so as stated in a letter to then Senator Jeff Sessions. However, a president can transfer funding from one program to another.

“Questioning whether the Risk Corridor payments were being appropriated correctly, the Appropriations Panel forced the HHS to make changes in how they appropriated funds allowing Congress to stop all appropriations. As stated in this letter, the PPACA could no longer appropriate the funds as they were subject to the discretion of Congress. The GAO issued an opinion on the legality of what the HHS was doing with funds.

GAO Letter to Senator Jeff Sessions. September 30, 2014: Discussion; “At issue here is whether appropriations are available to the Secretary of HHS to make the payments specified in section 1342(b)(1). Agencies may incur obligations and make expenditures only as permitted by an appropriation. U.S. Const., art. I, § 9, cl. 7; 31 U.S.C. § 1341(a)(1); B-300192, Nov. 13, 2002, at 5. Appropriations may be provided through annual appropriations acts as well as through permanent legislation. See, e.g., 63 Comp. Gen. 331 (1984). The making of an appropriation must be expressly stated in law. 31 U.S.C. § 1301(d). It is not enough for a statute to simply require an agency to make a payment. B-114808, Aug. 7, 1979. Section 1342, by its terms, did not enact an appropriation to make the payments specified in section 1342(b)(1). In such cases, we next determine whether there are other appropriations available to an agency for this purpose.”

Further down in the GAO letter, the GAO leaves the HHS an out of using other already available appropriations for the Risk Corridor payments to insurance companies. Classifying the payments as “user fees” was another way to retain the authority to spend other appropriations already made by Congress. Otherwise if revenue from the Risk Corridor program fell short, the administration would need approval for addition appropriations from Congress. As it was, the HHS could no longer appropriate funds to make Risk Corridor payments unless the funds were already appropriated by Congress or Congress approved new funds which was not going to happen with a Republican controlled House.”

The transfer of funding from another healthcare program to the PPACA Risk Corridor Program was blocked by the insertion of Section 227 of the 2015 Appropriations Act (dated December 16, 2014) which escaped notice by Congressional Representatives Kingston and Upton. In the 2015 Appropriations Act (Cromnibus), the sentence inserted said no “other” funds in this bill could be used for Risk Corridor payments. See: Risk Corridor

What is reprehensible is the total alliance by Senator “Moscow” Mitch McConnell and his sycophants’ who have locked stepped in accordance with a psychotic president in the White House blocking any economic help to the citizens of this nation during a catastrophic event. It remains to be seen if the Senate comes back to reality to stop this president. And McConnell? McConnell shall definitely be remembered in history as something.

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Interpol Supports Murder Charge Against MbS

Interpol Supports Murder Charge Against MbS

 In today’s Washington Post David Ignatius reports that Interpol refused a request from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) to extradite Saad Aljabri to Saudi Arabia from Canada in 2017. MbS had been trying to entice Aljabri to return and had arrested his children, who remain arrested despite complaints from the US government and basically the entire rest of the world. Aljabri was the top aide of MbS’s rival, the former Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Nayef (MbN), who was overthrown by MbS in a coup. Aljabri and MbN were highly regarded by officials in the US of several administrations, as well as other governments, and apparently was personally responsible for blocking a serious possible terrorist attack in the US.

After Interpol refused to extradite Aljabri from Toronto, MbS sent a crew to kill him. This was two months after MbS sent such a crew to Istanbul to kill and dismember Kamal Khashoggi, a columnist for the Washington Post.  Aljabri warned the Canadian government they were coming and the team was detained at the Toronto airport, where they were found to have exactly the same implements that were used to dismember Khashoggi.

Aljabri is now suing MbS in US courts for trying to kill him.  MbS has claimed that Aljabri stole funds, but Aljabri says this is a false claim.  Ignatius notes that MbS will have to produce his claims, and the big deal here is that up until now the Interpol report was not public.  They refused MbS’s extradition request on this claim, and their report makes it clear that much lies behind their decision, including massive violations of human rights in Saudi Arabia by the murderer, MbS.

Barkley Rosser

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Just Some Conversation

Republicans finally get “death panels,” Hullabaloo, Tom Sullivan, July, 26, 2020

Dr. Jose Vasquez, the health officer for Starr County, Texas located on the US-Mexico border “The situation is desperate.” At the only hospital in the county, over 50% of patients are testing positive for the COVID-19 virus — 40 new coronavirus cases were reported Thursday. Starr County Memorial Hospital in Rio Grande City made plans to set up a committee to decide which patients to send home to die. The hospital will ration its resources to patients with the best chances of surviving  (CNN).

Texas
Fri, July 24, 2020
126 died this day
5 002 total deaths
391 609 tot. confirm cases
7 947 new confirmed
2.1% daily growth

The hospital quickly filled the eight beds in its Covid-19 unit, so it expanded to 17 and then 29 beds, Vasquez said. About 33 medical workers, including medical practitioners and lab technicians, were deployed by the state to assist the hospital.

“Unfortunately, Starr County Memorial Hospital has limited resources and our doctors are going to have to decide who receives treatment, and who is sent home to die by their loved ones,” Starr County Judge Eloy Vera wrote in a Facebook post on Thursday. “This is what we did not want our community to experience.”

Republicans screamed about ACA death panels  deciding whether citizens could have treatment under its regime.

Does Gun Ownership and Concealed Carry Deter the Frequency of Mass Shootings and Firearms Homicide?,” Justice Quarterly, Emma E. Fridel, July 23, 2020

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Dig Him Up!

Dig Him Up!

by

Ken Melvin

On our TV and computer screens we saw right-winged protesters armed with semiautomatic weapons displaying swastikas, nooses, and replicas of supposed confederate battle flags guarding the entrance and filling the chambers of Michigan’s State Capitol. How did they get by with this? Does the Second Amendment of the US Constitution give them the right to try to intimidate a duly elected Governor, government, with assault weapons and hate symbols? Has the Supreme Court now decided that assault weapons are a form of speech, or are maybe even citizens, and thus are protected under the First? Though Patrick Henry argued that armed militias were necessary for the ‘purposes’ of the state; there’s no evidence he thought they should be used against the state.

The Second Amendment to the Constitution:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State,

the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

The First Amendment of the Constitution

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or

prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech,

or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to

petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The First guarantees their right to protest, but neither amendment gives them the right to protest with the implied threat of shooting anyone who stands in their way. What am I missing? If we had been armed in our protest of the Vietnam War, they would have shot us; did anyway. If we had been armed in our protest of the Invasion of Iraq, they would have fabricated a reason to have shot us. Extending armed protests to its logical conclusion, we are looking at the possibility of open warfare between armed protesters and any opposition, including law enforcement; the possibility of the use of arms to overthrow a legitimately elected government. Does the constitution give them that right?

 

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Covid litigation and immunization

(Dan here…a note for reality)

Full liability release for businesses and hospitals

It’s necessary, Mitch McConnell and his colleagues say, because of a “flood” of frivolous lawsuits crushing businesses and threatening economic recovery. So it’s important to say this clearly and out loud: there is no crisis of COVID-19 litigation. It’s made-up, it doesn’t exist, it’s a ploy to get businesses out of paying for compliance. That’s entirely it.

We have all the evidence we need on this. Hunton Andrews Kurth, a law firm, has been dutifully tracking COVID-19 complaints at its website for all to see. As of today, it shows 3,521 “complaints,” but the majority of those involve petitions for prisoner release and fights over insurance claims, as well as consumer and contract disputes. Under “labor and employment” there are a grand total of 302 cases, total, across the entire country.

There are 616 “civil rights” claims, and while most of those are challenges to stay-at-home orders, a couple of those might be business-related. At least one high-profile workplace case, against Tyson and JBS meatpacking plants, is being contested under the Civil Rights Act. The claim is that the largely Black and Latino workforces were not protected due to racial discrimination, compared to the mostly white managers. But that’s a very particular situation.

If you’re talking about the kind of cases that McConnell claims are “flooding” courts—“conditions of employment” cases alleging wrongful death, exposure to COVID-19, or a lack of personal protective equipment—there are 67 such cases. There are 33 wrongful death cases in the “Health/Medical” section but almost all of them have been filed against nursing homes. There are 6 malpractice cases, only one a COVID-19 misdiagnosis that resulted in death (three others are about nursing homes). There’s exactly one (1) miscellaneous wrongful death tort case outside the labor and health sections.

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Being Targeted

Being Targeted

Arguably this is paranoia, but the mayor and police chief of my city do not think so and have officially reacted with a formal response.  What a sign that I am an old whatever, praising local law enforcement, but, well….

So the issue is that late last evening a truck full of masked white men, and no, we are not talking health masks but ones that cover ID, with flags waving including the Confederate battle flag, were going up and down our block taking photos of certain houses, including ours.  What did these objects of this photographic effort find consistent?  We all had posters on our property declaring “Black Live Matters.” Many on our block became upset over this, including my wife, and now the City of Harrisonburg, VA  police are especially watching our block. I note that both the mayor and police chief of our city happen to be Black, for which at this time I am grateful.

Background here is that I have been living where I am for 32 years with my wife, Marina, in a block in Old Town of Harrisonburg, VA, where most of the houses are somewhat over a century old, and we are five minutes from the central square, as well as being 20 minutes from offices at James Madison University.  Where we are is given by the 2004 prez election.  There are 5 precincts in Harrisonburg, but ours, closest to JMU, was the only precinct in the entire Shenandoah Valley that went for Kerry over Bush. Yes, we are an island of “liberalism,” with Harrisonburg later in 16 going strongly for Bernie.

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