A reader writes:
My 80-year-old father-in-law is a Korean War vet and was 11 when we invaded Normandy. He has not been abroad since he returned from his tour in 1956. As part of his 80th birthday celebration, my wife asked that we find a way for me to take him to Europe to see all the WWII sights he’s been reading about since he was a young boy. For over a year now I’ve been planning and saving for this trip, and we leave one week from today.
But we might be forced to miss it because of GOP obstructionism. The American cemetery at Normandy and Patton’s grave at the US cemetery in Luxembourg, you see, are administered by the American Battlefield Monuments Commission, so they are essentially national parks overseas and closed due to lack of funding. Sixty-nine years of waiting to see one of our nations most sacred sights, and most likely his only opportunity, and this good and decent man may miss it because a congressional leader doesn’t have the will to stand up to his radical fringe.
I know this doesn’t qualify under the window rules, but I wanted to share it anyway regarding the government antics. I’m out here in San Francisco on long vacation. Today, I hiked from the wharf out to the ocean. At my starting point, I saw confused and pissed-off tourists, locked out of Alcatraz, waiting in line to get refunds. One lady from Leeds, here with family on vacation, said, “Even our government isn’t this messed up.”
I ended my hike four hours later at my favorite bar, Louis’s at Land’s End. Despite its stellar view of the Pacific, it was deserted. A waitress told me that everyone was scared off because technically Louis’s, which leases its little aerie from the U.S. Parks Service, was supposed to be closed. “But the owner said screw ’em and opened anyway.” So thanks so the House Republicans, I had my Anchor Steam beer – and this view – all to myself.
I might just be one of the only federal employees who is saving money from being furloughed.
I’m an attorney with a very very long commute, and I’m not getting paid for my year-long fellowship. So I’m not concerned about how this impacts me personally. I am concerned, however, about the work that is getting put on hold. I spend my days enforcing and investigating violations of civil rights laws, primarily the Americans with Disabilities Act and Fair Housing Act. I’ve had to put a number of settlement negotiations on pause as the victims of discrimination wait patiently on the sidelines. It’s a very small group of us in our office doing this work, and we’re all sitting at home. And believe me, our district is in dire need of a vigorous enforcement of these laws.
I work for a company that does a significant amount of business with the federal government. Our client list includes the EPA, Department of Energy, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Housing and Urban Development, and the National Institutes for Health. These are the kind of agencies that many on the right would likely target as non-essential under any circumstance and that they are comfortable with shutting down now.
But here are some of the things that these agencies do, just from the perspective of our work with them: reduce pollution in our water system, lower energy usage in buildings in a cost-effective manner, prevent people – especially children and the aged – from being exposed to chemicals and other hazards that could jeopardize their health or kill them, and encourage builders to construct homes that are environmentally sound and energy efficient. Just to name a few things.
So, I laugh (sort of) when those who support the shutdown talk about how we can get by without most of this stuff. I guess they don’t breathe, drink water, live in homes, work in buildings or have any illnesses in their families. They’re pretty lucky, I guess.
I feel a general sense of low-level anxiety at our company. We’re keeping busy right now with internal tasks but how long that can last, I have no idea. I suspect the next step will be asking/encouraging people to use vacation time, if they can. Then, who knows?
It’s really nice that some of the Republican “leaders” decided to make sure the old vets could visit the World War II Memorial. Maybe they could do something a little more constructive that doesn’t also constitute a photo opp.
I’m an Aerospace Engineer who evaluates safety issues for the FAA. A couple of my coworkers and I have been excepted to keep up on the highest priority tasks, and evaluating new potential issues as they come in. But 90% of my coworkers (most of whom don’t work full time on operational safety) are furloughed. If this extends for much longer we’re going to have to bring back more people, because as lower priority issues sit for too long, they tend to bubble up the risk scale, and we don’t want to have to start grounding airplanes. Luckily, we have the flexibility to initiate call backs.
Three years ago, before becoming a civil servant, I would’ve shrugged off the folks who claim these absolute minimum staffing levels constitute the proper amount of government. I might have even conceded the principle. But having seen the sausage being made, it’s amazing how little these small-government fetishists know about what gets done day to day. Oftentimes, zilch.
I’ve been reading the various iterations of your blog since the Pleistocene era of the blogworld. I finally [tinypass_offer text=”subscribed”] today. I’ve been meaning to for a long time, but today I pulled the trigger. Your blog is the only place where I’ve seen all these stories of people actually affected by the shutdown brought on by the virulent clown-show that is the modern Republican Party. This is the bit from one of your readers that pulled me in: “While the Neo-Confederate toddlers stamp their feet and hold their breath, it is America that is turning blue.”
I’ve long since fallen under the spell of your writing. But today made it clear to me that I’ve also fallen under the spell of your readers’ writing as well. It is this extraordinary back and forth between writer and reader – which is not to be found anywhere else on the intertubez – which is ultimately irresistible to me.