Golly, even Sears is managing to stay open!

The longer the shutdown goes, the more nerves fray. It's downright crabby out there.

At death’s door, the retail zombie Sears somehow engineered a deal to keep 400 faded stores open. That’s after what was arguably the worst retail CEO ever managed to outmaneuver a bid to liquidate.

Meanwhile in Washington, the ongoing shutdown is starting to take weird turns.

Bizarre as it sounds, operations in some of the unfunded agencies will expand. The FAA ordered more than 3,000 inspectors back to work to inspect airliners.  The IRS has exempted about half its employees to keep the tax filing season alive.  In both cases, industry pressure helped restore functions. Interior is calling back a handful of employees in its drilling leasing unit.

For employees, it’s nice to be needed. It would be nice to be paid, too.

The shutdown is like a power outage. It’s slightly exciting at first but the excitement soon gives way to crabbiness — justifiable crabbiness. Irritation extends even to funded, normally-operating agencies.

For instance, the Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie was incensed at a statement made by the president of an American Federation of Government Employees local. Referring to veteran employees of the Bureau of Prisons, Canales worried aloud, “We’re going to have suicides.”

That prompted an angry letter from Wilkie to AFGE National President David Cox, demanding an apology for a local leader perpetuating the “veteran-as-victim” stereotype. Not to be outdone, Cox shot back, “There are an estimated 300,000 veterans and their families affected by this shutdown who are experiencing tremendous financial hardship and you apparently couldn’t care less.”

Crabbiness gets worse, and slightly comical, on Capitol Hill. No Democrat would attend a luncheon at the White House, perhaps worried they’d be served leftover Big Macs and Whoppers. President Donald Trump had catered a visit of the Clemson University football team with fast food sandwiches because much of the White House staff is furloughed.  And, added the president, “Many, many French fries.” The New York Times reported that during a closed session of Democratic leaders, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she wouldn’t mind if rank-and-file Democrats met with Trump. She added, “They’ll want to make a citizen’s arrest.”

For his part, Trump tweeted that the “Radical Democrats are a Party of open borders and crime.”

Everywhere you look it’s uplifting debate, for a crab.

Now approaching a solid month, this shutdown dwarfs all of the prior ones, except for maybe that of 1995-1996. That was pretty bad in its effects on the federal work force and contractors. The politics were bitter then, to be sure, and the rhetoric sharp. But it wasn’t as personal.

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