Friday, March 20, 2020

Last Call For Rest In Peace, Corps

Because of the coronavirus, the Peace Corps is doing more than evacuating its 7,300 volunteers from 61 countries.

It’s also firing them.

In a March 15 open letter to the volunteers, the agency’s director, Jody Olsen, said, “We are acting now to safeguard your well-being and prevent a situation where Volunteers are unable to leave their host countries.”

But nowhere in the statement posted on the agency’s website does it tell the public that all the volunteers are being dismissed. That information is in the agency’s “frequently asked questions” about the evacuations.

“All evacuated Volunteers and trainees, regardless of length of service, will be classified as having undergone a Completion of Service (COS),” it says.

That leaves volunteers like Kimberly Ruck — who have sacrificed in service to two nations, at home and abroad — upset, dismayed and angry.

Although the volunteers received dismissal notifications separate from the open letter, “Director Jody Olsen’s statement is very misleading to the public as well as the volunteers,” Ruck said by email Friday, her last day as a volunteer in her post in Windhoek, Namibia, in southwestern Africa. “What is really happening is she has ended the service of ALL volunteers and there will be no volunteer activity in any of the 61 countries until the Corona Virus is over, until countries open borders, until countries issue visas and until Peace Corps begins accepting applications to join.”

An agency statement to the Federal Insider said volunteers were dismissed, instead of being allowed paid leave, because “it is logistically impossible for the agency to place each of them on administrative hold for an indeterminate period of time.” Peace Corps volunteers typically serve for about two years. The Peace Corps is an independent agency of the U.S. government.

Ruck’s annual stipend was less than $14,000 for her economic-development duties in a Windhoek community center that serves orphans and vulnerable children. She said her evacuation and dismissal mean that “I abandon them when they need me the most.” Ruck, 51, now describes herself as “currently homeless, former residence Carefree, Arizona.”

I fully expect the Peace Corps to be quietly buried in the next budget battle.  Certainly the administrative staff won't be funded with no volunteers to administrate.

And just like that, the Trump regime has ended the Peace Corps.


Trump Goes Viral, Con't

A tale of two press conferences, first, Tang The Conqueror.

Trump went on to answer NBC reporter Peter Alexander's question of "What do you say to Americans who are scared?" with "I think you're a terrible reporter" and that it was a "nasty question".

Compare that to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who joined California Gov. Gavin Newsom in issuing a shelter-in-place order for the state this morning. Chuck Pierce:

“Blame me.”

With two remarkable words, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo established himself as the leader the country needs during these plague days. On Friday, Cuomo essentially shut down the economy of his state, and of its largest city, which happens to be the largest city in this country. He did so in order to fight the public-health catastrophe that is engulfing his state and the country.

These were not words we ever will hear from the country’s president*, or, likely, anyone who works for him. Cuomo’s press conference announcing this new policy was a master class in leveling with the public, and it put Cuomo at the head of a group of governors—including Gavin Newsom of California,Andy Beshear of Kentucky, and Jay Inslee of Washington—who have grasped the enormity of what’s happening to their people. At the same time, Cuomo is clearly pleading for the federal government for help, begging the administration* to do its damn job so he can do his.

For years, Cuomo has looked like everything that was wrong with the Democratic party. He leaned toward the money power and he arranged the New York legislature in a way that empowered Republicans against the more progressive elements of his own party. It made any plans he had for running for president dead on arrival every four years. But over the past months, and especially in his press conferences, Cuomo has demonstrated a knack for the kind of leadership that rallies people rather than frightens them, and that has not relied upon the fouler elements of American politics to get the job done. He has become someone upon whom everyone can rely.
These are strange times, indeed.

Not that "displaying better leadership than Donald Trump in a time of crisis" is difficult by any means, but even Cuomo gets it, and he's a blockheaded dipstick who openly argues with his brother on CNN.

Strange times, indeed.

Oh, and the Dow Jones lost another 900 points, down only 2100 points for the week, 10 grand since Feb 12 highs, or almost 34%.

Israeli A Problem, Con't

Israel, now in trying to form a government a third time, is stuck firmly in a legal no man's land as PM Benjamin Netanyahu, facing indictment for corruption and bribery, is holding on to power for his dear political life and using COVID-19 as the justification for extraordinary powers that will never be surrendered.

Israel appeared to be barreling toward a constitutional crisis Thursday as opponents took to the streets and turned to the Supreme Court to fight a series of unprecedented steps taken by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu while confronting the coronavirus pandemic.

In recent days, Netanyahu and his surrogates have shut down the court system, approved the use of sophisticated phone-surveillance technology on the general public and temporarily suspended the activities of parliament. While Netanyahu has defended the moves as extraordinary steps in extraordinary times, his opponents accuse him of undermining Israel’s democratic foundations in a desperate bid to cement his grip on power and derail a looming criminal trial after coming up short in parliamentary elections this month.

“The state of Israel must do two very important things right now: Deal with the coronavirus crisis from its health, economic and social perspective and at the same time preserve Israeli democracy,” Benny Gantz, his opponent and leader of the Blue and White Party, told Israeli Channel 12 TV. “We need to be very careful not to even approach the margins of dictatorship.”

Demonstrators are taking to the streets, and Netanyahu is ordering everyone home for safety reasons, but Israel is now firmly on its way to becoming a dictatorship.

The crisis has given Netanyahu the opportunity to flaunt his legendary leadership skills and, critics say, to thwart Gantz from moving forward with his agenda.

Nearly every evening, Netanyahu gives a televised address, sternly telling the nation that he is imposing tough new restrictions to prevent the spread of the virus. He has ordered people to stay indoors, ordered tens of thousands of people into home quarantine and virtually sealed its borders.

In Thursday’s address, he said he was further tightening restrictions on movement, with exceptions only to go out for food or other urgent matters. “You must stay home. It’s no longer a request,” he said.

While other countries have taken similar steps, some of his decisions have been unprecedented.

Citing the coronavirus crisis, hiss hand-picked justice minister all but closed the court system in a middle-of-the-night order just two days before Netanyahu’s trial on corruption charges was to begin.

In another overnight move, Netanyahu’s Cabinet authorized the Shin Bet security agency to use phone-tracking technology to retrace the movements of infected people and identify those who had come into contact with them. The technology had previously only been used as a surveillance tool against Palestinian targets. The decision was blasted by opposition politicians and civil rights groups as a violation of privacy.

Then, on Wednesday, Parliament Speaker Yuli Edelstein abruptly suspended activities at the Knesset, preventing Gantz’s allies from forming key committees to press ahead with their legislative agenda. Edelstein cited procedural issues, but critics accused him of working on behalf of Netanyahu. Edelstein has rejected the charges and vowed to reconvene the Knesset on Monday.

Dan Meridor, a former justice minister and one-time member of Netanyahu’s Cabinet, said that Netanyahu’s recent decisions were not “well considered.” He said even if such steps are justifiable responses to the coronavirus, the decision making was flawed because the government’s traditional checks and balances, such as parliamentary oversight and an active court system, were not functioning.

“Even in a time of crisis, one should not lose the basic structure of the government,” Meridor said. “He still has to remember that he’s not a ruler of a country.”

But he is the ruler now.  And nobody seems willing to stop him.  This is a full-bore dictatorship move happening right in front of our eyes and he's almost got everything he needs to stay in power indefinitely.

This is not a drill, guys.

You'd better believe Donald Trump is paying attention, too.


Related Posts with Thumbnails