Not Quite Useless Wishes

John McCain is dead and buried. He will never be president now. Donald Trump is president. That was Donald Trump’s revenge for all that was said about his inadequacies at the McCain funeral. He’s the president. McCain isn’t. McCain tried, again and again, to be president. McCain failed. Now he’s dead. Deal with it. Give up. Deal with the president you have, not the president you wish you had.

And it was Labor Day, so deal with this:

When President Donald Trump came into office pledging to cut regulations “massively,” he made a point of exempting regulations that protected workers’ health.

But almost two years in, the Trump administration has done the opposite, rolling back worker safety protections affecting underground mine safety inspections, offshore oil rigs and line speeds in meat processing plants, among others.

That was the Labor Day news. Deal with a president who says one thing but has, as everyone should have known, always had something else in mind:

Trump’s deregulatory moves on worker safety are at odds with his public stance as a champion of working class Americans, but consistent with his naming two management-side attorneys bent on rolling back economic protections for workers to the National Labor Relations Board, which regulates labor unions, and with his nominations of two reliably pro-management jurists to a now-Republican-majority Supreme Court that recently dealt a heavy financial blow to public-employee unions.

One of those Supreme Court nominees, Brett Kavanaugh, will on Tuesday begin Senate confirmation hearings, where Judiciary Committee Democrats will almost certainly quiz him about dissenting opinions in which he denied undocumented workers had the right to bargain collectively and that San Diego’s Sea World bore responsibility for a deadly attack on one of its employees by a killer whale.

“When you look at core worker protections and union rights, the administration and the president have been totally anti-worker,” said Peg Seminario, director of occupational safety and health for the AFL-CIO.

No, he’s pro-business:

To Trump, rules that protect workers – even rules that protect worker safety – are often a hindrance to boosting employment, especially in traditional industries like manufacturing and coal mining.

Deputy White House press secretary Lindsay Walters said in a written statement that the administration “is committed to protecting health and safety on the job while respecting the right of Americans to make their own decisions. Too often in the past, agencies issued regulations that constricted the freedom of American workers and small business owners to work in the best way.”

In short, some will die, but that’s their choice, and that’s freedom, freedom from big government. That’s what American workers want too – no stupid government rules protecting them. They can take care of themselves. They’re not snowflakes, although some of this is a bit absurd:

Trump’s mine safety chief, David Zatezalo, is a former coal executive who as recently as 2011 was cited by the agency he now leads for a pattern of safety violations. When Zatezalo was president and CEO at Rhino Resources, a West Virginia miner was killed when a portion of a rock wall collapsed. The accident occurred after Rhino already had been cited for one worker safety violation, and before it received a second.

Zatezalo, at his confirmation hearing, told senators that “the management of that particular group and that particular site was not doing what they should have been doing.”

It wasn’t his fault. Local management screwed up. He’d hired fools. And anyway, the point is to make money:

At the Interior Department, administration officials are seeking to roll back regulations on offshore oil rigs – former President Barack Obama’s response to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon blowout that killed 11 workers and flooded the Gulf of Mexico with millions of barrels of oil. A proposed rule would rescind the requirement that only government-approved third parties may inspect blowout preventers that seal a well in the event of a pressure surge.

The revisions would also allow rig operators to test equipment less frequently, to prevent “wear and tear.” All told, the changes would save industry more than $900 million over 10 years.

Obama was wrong. These people can regulate themselves. Let them – and nine hundred million dollars is a nice chunk of change. They can use that money to hire more people, which is great for the economy. Even if they don’t hire more people and use that money to pay big dividends to shareholders, or to buy back outstanding shares of their own stock to make their stock-price soar in the markets, that’s great for the economy too. There may be more massive oil spills, and more dead workers, but that’s a reasonable trade-off. The environmentalists will understand. The workers on those offshore oil rigs will understand. This is freedom. This will make America great again.

And there’s this:

At the Agriculture Department, officials are weighing whether to raise line speeds at meat-packing plants, a change that worker advocates say would increase repetitive motion injuries and accidents. According to government data, the injury rates in meatpacking are already higher than in U.S. industries as a whole.

USDA in February proposed lifting line speed requirements in hog processing plants – part of an effort to streamline food safety inspections at the plants, which currently may process no more than 1,100 hogs per hour. Agriculture department officials wrote in the proposal that they seek to remove “unnecessary regulatory obstacles” and cut food safety inspection staff, saving taxpayers $8.7 million.

That’s a twofer. Drop the worker safety stuff AND drop as much of the food safety inspection stuff as possible. After all, Americans aren’t snowflakes. They can take care of themselves. They won’t buy tainted food. They know better. No one reads those USDA approval stamps anyway. Get the damned government out of all that, and save millions of dollars too.

And there’s this:

At the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Trump officials are seeking to loosen reporting requirements for injury and illness data from large companies. A rule proposed in July in would relieve companies with 250 workers or more from a previous obligation to submit detailed injury and illness data, which OSHA had intended to publish online… Since Trump took office, OSHA also scrubbed a running list of worker deaths from its home page.

“Companies will have an easier time hiding injuries and illnesses,” said Debbie Berkowitz, a former Obama OSHA official and director of worker safety and health for the National Employment Law Project.

That’s the whole point. Detailed injury and illness data is proprietary information. Detailed injury and illness data let other companies – competitors – know far too much about production methods and procedures. No corporation should be forced to give that away for free. That may seem anti-worker, but the business of America is business. The government needs to get out of the way.

That was Donald Trump on Labor Day. Deal with it. Deal with the president you have, not the president, Barack Obama, you wish you still had. He’s gone.

And deal with this:

President Donald Trump on Monday blasted his Attorney General Jeff Sessions and lamented the indictments of two lawmakers who were his earliest supporters in Congress during the 2016 election, suggesting they should not have been charged because they are Republicans.

“Two long running, Obama era, investigations of two very popular Republican Congressmen were brought to a well-publicized charge, just ahead of the Mid-Terms, by the Jeff Sessions Justice Department,” Trump tweeted. “Two easy wins now in doubt because there is not enough time. Good job Jeff…”

That would be these two:

Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-California, and Rep. Chris Collins, R-New York, were indicted within two weeks of each other last month on unrelated charges.

Collins was charged with 13 counts of securities fraud, wire fraud and making false statements related to an alleged insider trading scheme.

Hunter was indicted for using campaign funds for personal use and was charged with counts of wire fraud, falsifying records, campaign finance violations and conspiracy.

Sessions was doing his job as the nation’s chief law enforcement officer. Sessions was not doing his job as Donald Trump’s protector and enforcer. Sessions has not indicted Hillary Clinton. He isn’t even investigating her. He indicted two Republican congressmen instead, two Republicans who may now lose their seats. He made it even more likely that the Democrats will retake the House. They might not move to impeach Trump but there would be endless investigations – and subpoenas – for his tax records of course. Trump found that unacceptable.

Donald Trump is an unusual president:

A decision by the Justice Department to hold off on prosecuting two Republican congressmen up for re-election in order to help them win would have been highly unethical and a blatantly politically motivated violation of the department’s nonpartisan mission. The comment on Monday was the latest indication that Trump, who ran on a pledge to “drain the swamp,” believes his political allies should be immune from prosecution, regardless of the evidence stacked against them.

The tweet marked Trump’s latest attack on the Justice Department, which has a long history of carrying out investigations and pursuing indictments in a nonpartisan fashion. Federal prosecutors are strongly admonished not to let politics affect charging decisions in the way the President advocated on Monday.

But this is the president they have, not the one they might want, and they’ll just have to deal with that. In this case that means taking the abuse and carrying on, as they must, until Trump fires Sessions and each one of them on down. Obama is gone. McCain is dead. Donald Trump is president. He can do that.

Some wish he wouldn’t:

Republican Sen. Ben Sasse (Neb.) rebuked President Trump’s latest attack against the Department of Justice (DOJ) on Monday, warning Trump that the United States “is not some banana republic.”

Gentle Ben was serious:

“The United States is not some banana republic with a two-tiered system of justice – one for the majority party and one for the minority party,” Sasse responded in a statement.

“These two men have been charged with crimes because of evidence, not because of who the President was when the investigations began,” he continued.

“Instead of commenting on ongoing investigations and prosecutions, the job of the President of the United States is to defend the Constitution and protect the impartial administration of justice.”

He must be thinking of someone else, and there was this:

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) condemned President Trump’s latest attack against Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday night, saying Trump was trying to use the Department of Justice (DOJ) to “settle political scores.”

Flake said in a tweet that Trump was wrong to criticize Sessions for not considering the political consequences of pursuing criminal charges against two GOP lawmakers.

“This is not the conduct of a President committed to defending and upholding the constitution, but rather a President looking to use the Department of Justice to settle political scores,” Flake wrote on Twitter.

Flake misses the point. This president sees nothing wrong with using the Department of Justice to settle political scores. He’s the present Flake has, not the one Flake wishes he had. Wishes are useless here.

The New York Times’ Katie Benner offers more on how things have changed:

The Justice Department’s decision last week to support Asian-Americans seeking to curb race-based college admissions is the latest in a series of moves that are redefining decades of civil rights enforcement – and reshaping the very notion of whose interests the federal government should protect.

Since its founding six decades ago, the Justice Department’s civil rights division has used the Constitution and federal law to expand protections of African-Americans, gays, lesbians and transgender people, immigrants and other minorities – efforts that have extended the government’s reach from polling stations to police stations.

But under Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the focus has shifted to people of faith, police officers and local government officials who maintain they have been trampled by the federal government. The department has supported state voting laws that could wind up removing thousands of people from voter rolls. And it has pulled back on robust oversight of police departments found to have violated the rights of citizens in their jurisdictions.

This is the government we have now:

In some cases, such as with Christians, Mr. Sessions has said religious rights have not been protected forcefully enough. In others, like the expansion of protections for transgender people, the attorney general has said the department went further than what the law allows.

But critics say the Justice Department is picking and choosing the statutes that it wants to vigorously defend, and letting others go. Those choices have created a new overall position on civil rights that deviates sharply from years past. In offering civil rights protections to a new set of groups, the department has lifted protections for others, especially gay, lesbian and transgender people and African-Americans.

“For the last 242 years there has been a movement to transform America from a closed society to a more open society, and it opened access to the voting booth, classrooms, employment opportunities and public accommodations,” said Norman Siegel, the former director of the New York Civil Liberties Union.

“The Department of Justice is now moving away from that, and its emerging view of civil rights is a dangerous trend, inconsistent with legal history, and a disturbing manifestation of President Trump,” Mr. Siegel said.

This is a “manifestation” of President Trump. How “disturbing” this is depends upon political location – on now suddenly being outside of all government protection or now suddenly being inside it. Benner offers example after example of that, including this:

The department has shifted its approach to local law enforcement, stepping away from Obama-era investigations into allegations of discriminatory and abusive policing in Chicago and Louisiana that were at their midpoint when Mr. Trump was inaugurated.

Once he became attorney general, Mr. Sessions asked for a 90-day delay in a consent decree with the Baltimore police department, which had been involved in the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who died while in police custody. He also asked for a sweeping review of the department’s law enforcement programs.

In a radio interview last year, Mr. Sessions said that consent decrees “reduce morale” among police officers and lead to increases in violent crime, statements that were contested by academics and researchers.

Others disagree:

The overall effect is to de-emphasize the department’s responsibility to enforce fair policing polices, said Jonathan Smith, a former official in the department’s civil rights division and the executive director of the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs.

“Across government, we are seeing a tremendous shift away from efforts to address inequities based upon race, gender or LGBTQ status,” Mr. Smith said. “With that has come the move away from making sure that police departments comply with the Constitution.”

One can wish that this were not so, wishes are useless here. Trump has trapped America in his world.

Josh Marshall puts that a different way:

Living with a Trump presidency, at least if your work is politics, is comparable to living in the home of an abuser or someone with a severe personality disorder. People who live in those settings develop tools, coping mechanisms to handle that level of emotional turbulence, aggression, craziness. They can require a degree of unlearning once they find a healthier environment. The tools you develop living in close proximity to an abuser are usually maladaptive when the abuser is no longer present…

The Trump presidency is of course an entirely different experience for those who are its direct targets: undocumented immigrants as the central focus of Trump’s aggression, all immigrants, all non-whites, women, in differing degrees members of the LGBT community. But the “living in close proximity” to an abuser still applies to a lesser degree to everyone who doesn’t view Trump as their champion. Indeed, living in close proximity to an abuser has an effect on those who are not even the primary targets of abuse.

It might be possible to learn to live with that, but Marshall has a warning:

I think it is all about to get, if not worse, than more intense, accelerated and more kinetic.

Part of this is the traditional kick-off of the midterm election cycle proper, which is Labor Day. We’re gearing up for the two months’ sprint to Election Day, with all that usually entails. But there’s something more than President Trump on the ballot. Roughly since the middle of August both President Trump’s approval and the so-called congressional generic ballot have both begun to move clearly against the Republicans. The trend is clearer with the President than for the Congress – but it is clear in both cases. It appears to be outside the realm of mere noise. History tells us that the trend in early September is usually, though not always, decisive.

This means more than that it looks likely, but by no means certain, Democrats will have a good cycle. There’s an increasing recognition that a change in control of the House will create a countervailing source of constitutional power in Washington – something that has been entirely lacking for the first two years of Trump’s presidency, in which Congress has deferred entirely to Trump’s power. This is addressed in shorthand as the threat of impeachment.

But forget that for a moment:

The real issue, the real threat to the President is broad, public and constitutionally-empowered investigations, ones that would expose all manner of wrongdoing which has taken place in 2017 and 2018, as well as during the corrupted 2016 election. Over time, those revelations will likely trigger further criminal prosecutions and threaten the kind of collapse of public support which could lead to removal from office.

That prospect also comes as the Mueller probe appears to be accelerating. We don’t know precisely what is happening inside the probe. But we can best read its progress through President Trump’s actions and affect, which have become more threatened, antic and untethered.

So expect all hell to break loose:

The United States has been gripped by a profound polarization for almost two years. Yes, the polarization predated Trump’s presidency. But having a maximalist representative of the right in power in the White House has intensified it massively. We’ve had public shouting matches, one-sided legislative fights, political mobilizations and protests. But in a constitutional sense the battle has really yet to be joined. The Courts have played some role restraining Trump. But that has been at the margins. Indeed, Trump’s additions to the Supreme Court signal that he is likely to be backed at the highest level, at least on the ground of presidential power if not immunity to the law. The President has vast powers which are matched, or potentially matched, by Congress. But Congress has been AWOL in the face of President Trump’s abuses and lawlessness for going on two years. There’s a decent chance that is about to change. It will change just as the Special Counsel Investigation appears to be arriving at President Trump’s inner circle.

Expect all hell to break loose. There soon may be no need to deal with the president we have, not the president we wish we had. Expect the nation to discover that particular wish isn’t useless after all. And then things get interesting.

About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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