A Prolonged Government Shutdown?

voted with their feet

About 800,000 government workers aren’t being paid, and are, at least temporarily, working without pay. Much ink has been spilled over Trump’s lack of empathy for them.

Likewise, much ink has been spilled over Trump’s threat to prolong the shutdown indefinitely.

Many of the folks spilling all this ink are people with some money in the bank and some money in the stock market. By and large, if they had to work for six months without getting paid, they could survive, financially.

But it seems really hard for them to wrap their minds around the fact that, unlike them, most of the 800,000 workers live paycheck to paycheck. Maybe they can fend off the bank and the landlord for a month, but carrying on for another month after that is not an option.

As Lenin said of the Russian soldiers in World War I, they will vote with their feet.

If you don’t pay them, they will stop working, and the government will well and truly shut down, with all manner of first-order consequences, and second-order consequences, and third-order consequences.

This will create big problems for the 800,000 workers. It will create big problems for ordinary citizens, many of them Trump supporters.

But we live in a plutocracy, so the most consequential problems will be ones created for the financial elite—as, for example, how the SEC has ground to a halt, forestalling any new Initial Public Offerings of stock.

Ladies and germs, when you squeeze the plutocrats by the nuts, you don’t have a problem, you have a crisis. It is something up with which our overlords will not put.

They will speak to their minions in the Senate and declare, in stentorian tones, that SOMETHING MUST BE DONE!

But, of course, the senators won’t be able to do anything without seeming to betray Dear Leader.

And that is the fault line on which the Republican coalition will fracture.

screen shot 2019-01-05 at 10.16.15 am

“Border Security” and “Negotiate” in the Same Sentence


So far, so good, I think, for the Democrats’ response to the government shutdown. But I think their message needs to be sharper, lest it lead to the impression that “border security” is something they don’t want, and are only grudgingly willing to provide for.

For that reason, I hope they stop speaking about “negotiating” on “border security” and find a more precise way to frame the issue.

By like token, I think it was unhelpful for Nancy Pelosi to declare, in a phrase well suited for a 30 second attack ad, that “The wall is immoral.”

A good portion of the border—I believe it’s around 30 percent—is fenced. Does she think that fencing is “immoral”? If she does not think so, then why might it be “immoral” to fence another five percent?

There may be a good answer to that question, but the thought needs a few sentences of explanation. For example, the answer might be that we have already fenced the part that it’s reasonable to fence, and it would be merely symbolic to waste money by fencing a larger portion. But, if that’s the point, it needs to be spelled out.

Uttering misleading sound bites does not help.

A Former Afghanistan Peace Corps Volunteer Speaks

loy jirga

A good friend sent this message and agreed I could post it. When we were a lot younger, he was in the Peace Corps in Afghanistan. His thoughts follow.

This article was shared by an old Peace Corps buddy this morning.

Given the precociousness of our government’s decision making, the US might well pull out Afghanistan next Tuesday. Or Thursday. Whatever…

What would follow might be a sudden “takeover” by the Taliban. But let’s not forget that the last time the Taliban ran most of Afghanistan, the country descended into civil war. It would again.

Afghanistan has never been a country. It has been a collection of ethnic and geographic groups that were pretty good at keeping the peace when left alone.

Call it romantic post-analysis, and it may well be, but had the loya jirga of 2002 been left to conduct itself (rather than being orchestrated by Bonn, the UN, and Washington), a journey towards peace might have begun. But the outside powers (mainly the US) fancied a modern state that would be a friend of the international order.

Most of us would not like an Afghanistan fashioned by a loya jirga, but then, few of us are particularly fond of the Afghanistan fashioned by, and here let me be polite, fashioned by more-or-less well-meaning western more-or-less democracies of capitalist interests.

America’s longest war has been sufficiently long and vacuous that a new solution for Afghanistan’s future has ripened in the region, a solution called Pakistan and a Pakistan that is no friend of Afghanistan but desperately wants to tame the land of and beyond the Kyber Pass so that it can turn its full attention towards India, a more juicy plum and a more prickly cactus.

I doubt that Pakistan wants Afghanistan. But Pakistan wants a Durand Line respected by Afghanistan and if it takes moving Afghan mountains and people to achieve that end, then an American-led desertion of Afghanistan will be, in Pakistan’s eyes, a move in the right direction.

It is only January One. And already I grow tired. I do not have the energy to contemplate what effect increased Pakistani influence on Afghanistan might have on the countries across the Oxus and, unhappy to contemplate, on the erstwhile power that once ruled the other side of the Oxus.

Deal or No Deal?

Three gangsters.


Though “partial,” the government shutdown will soon begin to cause all manner of destruction and hardship.

What should leaders on the progressive side do about the situation?

Stand on Principle about Border Security

First, be sure everyone knows their position is not to just allow anyone to walk across the border who wants to walk across the border. And, as a corollary, agree that it makes sense to have fencing where that is necessary and appropriate to keep people from just walking across the border.

Establish the Facts about Border Security

As Greg Sargent put it, “restore a reality-based conversation around the topic of how secure the southern border really is” by, among other things, formally requesting “that the Congressional Research Service do a comprehensive report on the current state of border security.”

Act in Accordance with Principle and Reality

It it is clear that more money would create more border security, vote to appropriate the money. If it is arguable that more money would create more border security, vote to appropriate the money. But where it is not even legitimately arguable that more money would create more border security, don’t appropriate the money.

Don’t Try to Negotiate with Trump

Three reasons.

(1) Trump has never negotiated, about anything, in good faith.

(2) To the extent Trump has any coherent aim, it is not to secure a wall, it is to have a fight about a wall.

(3) Trump is rapidly sinking into incoherent mental decline, and the White House is shutting down along with him. Trying to negotiate with a crazy person is a fool’s errand.

Trump is a mad man. See the immediately preceding post. (I think that, by putting this up on New Year’s Day, the boys and girls over at Politico are sending us a message about Trump’s decline.) See also Beyond ‘no comment’: The White House has no response — at all — to many media questions. Dear Leader is shutting down, so there is not much more his sockpuppets can do for him.

It’s Up to the Republican Senators

With the Democratic House having stated a principle, gathered relevant information, and acted on that information to go the second mile to support border security, it will be up to Mitch McConnell and his colleagues to decide whether to override a veto or not.

Draw a Line in the Sand

If the Republican senators refuse to act rationally, then so be it.

Because giving in to a protection racket never turns out well.

That Way Madness Lies

Mad King Lear

Politico, Joanna Weiss, How Trump Got Bad at Twitter: Once he ruled the medium, but read his feed now and you can see something has gone very wrong.

In her lengthy and disturbing post, Ms. Weiss reports that “the clutter-to-clarity ratio is rising every day. … Twitter has always seemed a direct wire into the president’s brain. So if his tweets are descending into unintelligible self-absorption, what does that say about his frame of mind?”