Today we look at the horrific indifference to government worker suffering from within the Trump administration, a school administrator arrested for helping a sick child, and a military academy recruit denied her chance to enlist after Trump’s cruel transgender ban. Please give me some money.
In the fifth week of the government shutdown which is a record vis a vis government shutdowns something we can all be proud of the Trump administration has continued to downplay any effects it’s having on the lives of furloughed workers because they would have to do that how else would they justify it to themselves and to their base. They’d have to make up all sorts of fantastical scenarios to be able to look at literal bread lines in the nation’s capital and still think to themselves this is fine this is not that big of a deal all things considered we’re getting away with it.
In Chicago TSA workers have been stopping at area food pantries in order to be able to eat and so they show up in their TSA uniforms on the way to work so the people with the food know that they’re legit. It’s like showing your desperation passport. I’m hungry the government uniform they have on says and the people there understand that to be true intuitively because people like that the ones who help people have to see things for how they are they don’t have the luxury of engaging in flights of ideological fancy such as people like the president can.
It’s hard to ask for help at first a lot of the workers have said people like Darrell English vice president of Midway Airport Local 777 a TSA union.
“After a while you have to let that pride go,” English told the Tribune. He’s worked for the TSA for fourteen years which is to say he’s worked for the government for fourteen years which is to say he’s worked for you and I for fourteen years. The TSA still sucks though lol but not so much I want them to go hungry.
“You are talking to two senior management employees here,” a Commerce Department worker at a pop-up food bank near D.C. told the Washington Post. Her husband works for the National Park Service.
“This is pretty humiliating,” she said.
Donald Trump doesn’t give half of a shit or a fuck about that because he wants the wall very badly. We all know the wall is his thing and we all know he really does not like immigrants but even knowing that it’s weird to think about how much he has committed to it right? He doesn’t particularly seem like the type of person to commit to anything especially if it’s hard but nonetheless he really really does not want Mexicans and Central Americans coming into the country. It’s wild man. He lives for that shit. Imagine that being your thing? I’m into writing and exercising and drinking a gallon of brain poison so those are my things but his thing is having Mexican people walk in a different direction.
You may or may not be surprised to hear Trump’s particular deal isn’t even the worst brand of horse shit coming out of the administration about the shutdown since this week Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said he “doesn’t really understand why” government workers have started going to food banks. Ross is eighty one years old and doesn’t look a day over five thousand and he’s got at least $700 million dollars he can line his coffin with so we have to listen to what he thinks because that’s how the news works.
“The thirty days of pay that some people will be out, there’s no real reason why they shouldn’t be able to get a loan against it,” Ross said on CNBC this week reminding us of the classic scenario we all know where banks will hand out loans to people who are out of work and barely making enough money to get by as it is.
This may or may not be related I don’t know but a report from the Federal Reserve Board last year found that four in ten Americans couldn’t cover an unexpected expense of $400 in the case of an emergency.
Ross also said airport workers who aren’t showing up to work for free are pieces of shit.
“It’s kind of disappointing that air traffic controllers are calling in sick in pretty large numbers,” he said.
Many of them can’t afford to do work for free he was told.
“Well, remember this, they are eventually going to be paid,” Ross said. And even if they aren’t, it’s not like it’s going to be a big hit on the economy over all.
"You're talking about 800,000 workers and while I feel sorry for the individuals that have hardship cases, 800,000 workers, if they never got their pay, which is not the case, they will eventually get it, but if they never got it, you're talking about a third of a percent on GDP so it's not like it's a gigantic number overall," he said.
Very good news for the GDP. Workers might not be so lucky. While an IOU may work for a multi-millionaire I’ll pay you eventually doesn’t tend to work when it comes to rent and groceries for working families.
White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett did Ross one better when he suggested furloughed workers were “better off” over the Christmas holiday because they were getting time off without having to use up vacation days.
"And then they come back and then they get their back pay, then they're, in some sense they're better off," Hassett said. I don’t know what Hassett’s net worth is but he was an economic adviser to John McCain and George W. Bush and Mitt Romney and now Donald Trump so I think we can safely assume it’s net worth: Pretty Good! Another job I just saw he has when I looked it up was something called State Farm James Q. Wilson Chair in American Politics and Culture and Director of Research for Domestic Policy at the American Enterprise Institute and any time you have a job title that takes more than a couple words to describe that means you’re rich.
Yesterday Trump was asked to respond to Ross’ weird comments and he came in and straightened out the whole situation with mind logic.
“Local people know who they are when they go for groceries and everything else, and I think what Wilbur was probably trying to say is that they will work along — I know banks are working along, if you have mortgages, the mortgagees, the mortgage — the folks collecting the interest and all of those things, they work along,” he said.
“And that’s what happens in a time like this, they know the people, they’ve been dealing with them for years, and they work along, the grocery store. And I think that’s probably what Wilbur Ross meant, but I haven’t seen his statement. But he’s done a great job, I will tell you that.”
Shortly after Ross spoke Larry Kudlow, Director of the National Economic Council praised unpaid government workers as noble “volunteers” laboring for their love of the president and country.
When asked how coming to work without pay for fear of being fired counted as volunteering Kudlow, a millionaire in his own right, bristled as the question.
“With the respect to people who do have financial hardships… they are coming to work,” he said. “They honor us by their service…” he said. “They do it because of their love for the country and the office of the presidency and presumably because their allegiance to president Trump…”
Other Republicans have committed to the spin that unpaid workers remain supportive of Trump their own pay be damned. On Fox News this week Rep. Mark Green of Tennessee relayed a very real story about a TSA worker exhorting the Republicans for their efforts. “Build the wall,” the worker told him. Did that actually happen? No one can say anything with one hundred percent certainty but I can and I will tell you right now that is the realest thing that has ever happened. That TSA worker’s name? Albert Einstein.
Oh shit hold on another thing that was dumb and bad happened which was on Monday Lara Trump the president’s daughter in law waded into the shutdown controversy saying that going over a month without pay was a “little bit of pain.”
“Listen, it’s not fair to you and we all get that,” she said. “But this is so much bigger than any one person. It is a little bit of pain but it’s going to be for the future of our country. And their children and their grandchildren and generations after them will thank them for their sacrifice right now.”
I wrote about a lot of this in the Guardian today and I normally wouldn’t repurpose it here but it seemed particularly apropos to our shared Hell World interests and also they edited out my kicker which is coming up below get ready for the good kicker I think you’re going to like it very much.
Responding to Ross’ comments Nancy Pelosi asked “Is this the ‘let them eat cake’ kind of attitude?”
Cake would be a generous offering from this administration. Let them eat shit is a lot closer to their intentions.
Want to see something else very bad? I know that you do.
Casey Smitherman a superintendent of schools in Indiana was arrested and charged with three felonies and a misdemeanor this month including official misconduct, insurance fraud, insurance application fraud and identity deception according to CBS.
Smitherman’s offense against society for which she now owes us all a debt began like this: A fifteen year old student she had often taken an interest in buying him clothes and helping him clean his house and so on due to his living situation wasn’t that great didn’t show up to school one day. She went to check on him and he appeared to have a serious case of strep throat or some shit so she took him to a clinic and they refused to treat him which is normal and fine and then she took him to another one and lied to them saying he was her son so that he could avail himself of the insurance she has and he does not. She also picked up some Amoxicillin at CVS under her son’s name and illegally smuggled it to the sick boy she was worried about.
"As a parent, I know how serious this illness can be if left untreated, and I took him to an emergency clinic," Smitherman said in a statement. "I knew he did not have insurance, and I wanted to do all I could to help him get well."
The amount of her fraud including the clinic visit and prescription was $233.
I saw a video of Smitherman they had on the local TV news there in Indiana and she was crying and saying she was sorry for her mistakes.
"I know this action was wrong. In the moment, my only concern was for this child's health," she said. She said she didn’t contact child services because she didn’t want to see him placed in foster care so she just went ahead and helped him on her own.
Good news though the DA agreed to let her off easy. As long as she doesn’t get into any more trouble for another year the charges will be dropped they said.
And then a couple weeks later she resigned anyway saying in a statement that her "recent lapse in judgement has brought negative attention" to the school and herself the Indianapolis Star reported.
"I am very embarrassed for that, and I apologize to the board, the community and the teachers and students of Elwood Community Schools. I sincerely hope this single lapse in judgement does not tarnish all of the good work I've done for students over the span of my career."
Everyone knows there’s a Dril tweet for everything that’s just how our brains are wired now but for me there’s one tweet that has become so reliable an illustration of how the centrist Democrat mind works that it’s long since become hacky to even use it which those of you with Twitter Mind Damage will know as maplecocaine.jpg.
The most recent instance of this was a week or two ago when someone went to the Washington Post and pitched an idea to the editor and the editor said sure that sounds good to me let’s see it and then they wrote a piece about how, yes, Mike Pence’s wife Karen better known as Mother was in fact working at an elementary school that explicitly bars LGBTQ employees and students but isn’t it nice that as a woman she’s able to go back to work?
I bring that up because I was wrestling with the concept behind the joke when the news dropped that the Supreme Court would allow Trump’s ban on transgender people serving in the military to go forward. This is obviously offensive to any person of decent conscience of course and I am fully supportive of inclusion and acceptance, but wait, I thought, why should I care about this particular issue, isn’t it something like saying:
Make 👏 the servants👏 of bloody 👏 American empire 👏 more inclusive. 👏
After some reading around I came across a piece by writer Laurie Charles that addressed this head on.
“There is no better PR for the modern imperialist adventure than a bit of ‘pinkwashing’ — the act of a company or government institution presenting itself as LGBTQ-friendly in order to downplay or distract from oppression it causes,” she wrote. “Wealthy nations with a big financial stake in the military industrial complex depend on pinkwashing to justify violence they inflict abroad as well as on their own citizens.”
Sort of like when the NFL pretends to care about breast cancer and domestic violence for a month by putting on pink socks or whatever.
“Anti-imperialists are right to deride such violent propaganda, and ultimately allowing trans people to simply to be tokenized by the military industrial complex will never be a pathway to liberation. However, it would be a terrible mistake to think that transgender representation in the military has no impact on our rights in wider society,” she went on.
Essentially the idea is that by letting the government experiment with such exclusionary practices in an area that is clearly given so much prominence the end result is expanding those harmful ideas outward into other parts of society. Much as we might wish it were not the military is still a pretty big deal vis a vis American norms.
It’s something others who are attuned to these issues and from whom I’ve learned a lot like Parker Malloy have been busy and exasperatingly repeating all week on Twitter.
Indeed as we speak lawmakers in Utah are trying to legislate the official existence of trans people out of existence by making it illegal to change a person’s given biological sex on a birth certificate:
Rep. Merrill Nelson’s latest legislative offering, where he wants to draw a clear distinction that men are the delivery mechanism and women have “anatomical characteristics that appear to have the purpose of performing the natural reproductive function of providing eggs and receiving sperm from a male donor.”
Masha Gessen wrote thoughtfully on her experienced being misgendered throughout life in the New Yorker this week as well.
In Trump’s America, she wrote, “Even those who are not affected by the Supreme Court decision have been reminded once again that our rights can be taken away at any time, on a whim—that the widespread impulse toward gender-policing has the force of the highest branches of government behind it.”
Transgender service members have been speaking out against the illogic and curelty of the ban this week and hoping to talk to one I came across the story of Riley Dosh, who is, she says, the first openly transgender graduate of West Point to be discharged from the military.
Dosh was honorably discharged after she graduated in 2017 and denied a commission she had very much wanted since she was young, caught between enrolling during the Obama era and graduating after Trump had taken office and set his sights on rolling back his predecessor’s policies. I spoke with Riley about her experience coming out while at the prestigious military academy and how Trump’s tweet-fart-born policy has effected her life and the lives of her fellow transgender military hopefuls.
What was your reaction to news from the Supreme Court today?
Well I didn’t think I’d have to be rehashing arguments for why tans people should be in the military but here I am. I knew the Supreme Court was going to say something about it. I thought they would either take it up or return it to lower courts and at least put an injunction on the policy instead of allowing it to go forward.
Are you at all surprised?
I am a little bit. I would say I’m surprised. This is something that has been reviewed for years now and the last administration saw no problem with allowing trans people in the military and suddenly we’re back to this. This policy is literally based on Trump tweeting at 7 am in the morning. People are trying to create a policy around the erratic decision.
The idea that the health care is too expensive to support trans people in the military that Trump and others have put forward is bullshit right?
Yes, cost was one of the reasons Trump cited. That number is actually small. The Rand Corporation, by no means a liberal think tank, published a number between $2-8 million, often cited around $5 million, which in comparison Trump’s border wall would cover the costs of 15,000 trans service members for the next 46,000 years. The difference in a million and a billion is lost on a lot of people. The cost here is literally a rounding error in the military’s health care budget.
There are some exceptions carved out in the ruling which are confusing, but it’s essentially a ban isn’t it?
They want to try to grandfather people out, and they’re not going to allow people to join or reenlist. If they get this little bit here they’ll continue pushing the policy even if that courts say they can’t. They’ll keep tweaking it a bit to say that they can’t enlist.
Why even bother with the exceptions they mentioned? To make it look less hostile?
Exactly it’s to make the policy look just different enough from the original ban that it requires a new court case. But it still is going to have a similar effect and it’s going to lay down a precedent for them go to back to their original policy.
You decided to come out in the middle of your time at West Point?
I came out as trans when I was at West Point. I was on track to graduate and I passed my commissioning physical, all the required standards as male. Then the decision to commission me, it was still on the books as requiring a waver, which was described to me as like a waver for a broken arm. A third of my class required wavers. The decision for that was pulled up to the Pentagon level and three weeks before I graduated they decided not to commission me. I was out on the street after graduation in 2017.
Did you feel betrayed?
I think so. I had been repeatedly told it would be a risk but that I shouldn’t have anything to worry about. The administration at one point was fully behind me commissioning and the policy was already in place saying yes trans people can be in the military including service academy cadets, but suddenly somebody decided it’s going to be too complicated and we’re just not going to do it. They just turned their back on me.
Mattis’ heart wasn’t really behind this I read.
His standpoint seemed to be he’d not have supported the policy in the first place to allow us to serve, however he recognized that reversing policy that had just been put into place would be more destructive than continuing to allow the policy to go forward. He didn’t see it really as a problem so he didn’t do much to implement Trump’s idea of the policy.
Are attitudes in the military on par with the general public when it comes to trans issues in your opinion?
I think they’re generally on par with the public. I think a lot of stereotypes of the military come from the veteran base which tends to be older and white and male.
How did people treat you in the academy?
By and large it was good. All my friends and the people around me supported me. There were a few people that didn’t support me but they kept it hidden behind anonymous social media. I never found out who they were in particular but beyond that everyone, to me at least, was very accommodating and friendly about the whole ordeal.
So you have to come up with different plans for life all of a sudden?
I did. Everyone who graduates just about goes on to commission and the very small number of us who don’t we have to find new career paths. The problem is that West Point does not really line you up with a job the private sector. In addition to that I was told three weeks before I graduated when I was already busy with finals and other things so I did not have much time to prepare for a complete career switch. I was able to eventually find a new job and I’m happily employed now.
What do you do?
I’m a data analyst consultant.
Is being in the military something you always wanted to do?
Ever since I was thirteen years old I wanted to go to West Point and join the military.
It’s not easy to get in right? Were you a good student and athlete and all that?
Not at all. It took a very long nomination process. I did cross country and track and I was also on the math team and consistently on the honor role. Most people who go to West Point are pretty model high school students.
Do you think in general things are getting better for acceptance?
It’s kind of hard to judge because you’re viewing it from the lens of being in the moment kind of thing. Especially today with the emerging news it seems very negative. However, despite that, by and large public opinions of trans people have absolutely improved. The attitudes towards trans people from just five years ago are very different than they are today. How we listen to these trans people and they’re able to come out and express themselves has absolutely changed for the better. So while we’re fighting for things and having a hard time doing it, we weren’t even able to fight for those things five years ago.
How do you identify politically? Any candidates you think might be better for trans issues than others at this point?
Politically I’m a liberal. I’ve heard pros and cons for various politicians. The one thing for me for any politicians that gets nominated is they will be a better president, especially on these issues, than Trump. Trump has been devastating to the LGBT community. Any contender will absolutely be better than what he has done so far.
I’m curious about joining the military. Are you patriotic and believe in America and all that stuff?
The thing is that I very much do love America, however I will say that is not a requirement to join the military. There are cisgender people who join entirely for free college or join the National Guard a for a little extra money every month and that is totally ok. The idea you hear is that trans people are just joining the military to get cheaper health care. Most of the ones I know want to join to be in the military, but even if they weren’t doing it for patriotic reasons, that would still be ok there’s nothing wrong with that.
Totally wasn’t making that trying to get free health care argument I meant more like, well, it’s not that I hate the troops per se, I just really, really don’t like what we do with them.
Oh I understand. The military of any country is going to have problems due to the fact they are subject to the will of the country, and if the country is doing something that’s not great then the impression falls negatively on the military as well. However I will say when I was at West Point one of the biggest topics we talked about was war crimes. They would say these are how these war crimes occurred, how we got into bad situations, and this is how we can prevent that. So while yes there are a lot of bad things that have occurred, there’s constant focus on: this is really bad how do we fix it, and how do we not be as damaging to the communities that are in the war zone.
If this all goes away would you consider trying to enlist again?
I am looking at my options for commissioning right now and have been for the past year.
So you haven’t given up hope yet?
If I do end up going back in it would be the in Reserves, because I have structured life now. It would be quite a jump to go back to active duty, but I do have hope.