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Posts published in April 2020

Last wish


About a month ago when the shutdown was starting and the Corona virus was just starting to kill people in serious numbers in this country we had an uncomfortable conversation in our kitchen. It didn’t go well. I share it with you so maybe you can do it better.

Two of my grown daughters live just down the street from Martha and me. We have dinner together most nights. Sometimes we even play pinochle after dinner.

It seems so long ago, but the news was full of the concern for medical supply shortages. I had experienced in the clinic the difficulty with getting tests done, but the shortage of personal protective equipment was hitting my daughter who is an ICU nurse. What got the conversation going was the talk of the shortage of ventilators.

When people get really sick with Covid 19, their lung tissue leaks fluid and they can’t get oxygen in. Lungs are delicate sponges and they don’t function well when those little air sacs are full of your serum. I had read about the seriously ill patients in China and Italy and how many needed ventilator support to oxygenate. A month ago, I could not find good information how well patients responded to the mechanical ventilation, but I assumed they had a high mortality rate. Indeed, a recent report from New York suggests 90% of Covid patient who get intubated and placed on ventilator support do not survive. It’s 97%+ for those of us over 65.

The difficulty in the conversation with my daughters came up when I said, “Don’t let them put me on a ventilator!” They thought I was saying I don’t want to live. But that’s not what I wanted to say. I just don’t want to be treated like that.

I have intubated patients. When a gunshot or car wreck victim shows up in the ER and can’t breathe because of chest or lung injuries, we paralyze them with drugs and slip a tube past their vocal cords, inflate a little cuff near the end and now, their air way is secure and we can pump oxygen into their lungs, then treat their injuries.

I don’t resent patients who might want this level of care. Most patients want to be treated in a way that reflects their values. But unfortunately, when doctors need to slip that tube past your vocal cords, we usually don’t have time to have a comfortable, honest conversation about how the patient wants to be treated. That’s why it is so important that your loved ones can speak for you about your values.

And that’s what caused the difficulty with my daughters. They don’t want me to die. I don’t want to die either. But I will, and so will they. And I want my life, and my death to reflect my values. Mechanical ventilation doesn’t suit me. They came to accept this.

It is a hard assignment for family members to speak for the patient who can’t.

So often, the “Do everything, doc” sentiment is a surrogate for an expression of love. If we don’t do “everything” it means we don’t love them. I wanted my daughters to know I felt their love, I know their love, but they could best express their love by sharing my values with my caregivers.

I gave the legislature grief this last session for not updating the End of Life document (POST) the state authorizes. If you’ve filled on out (I have) the piece of paper with your check mark and signature have been in a filing cabinet in the Secretary of States office. The legislature killed a bill to move this to a secure data base managed by the Department of Health and Welfare. But when the Department brought back the same proposal with a 75% discount on the cost, it passed easily; good job.

I encourage you to fill out the form. But more important, share your values with your loved ones. Let them know.

A dangerous double game


President Trump is playing both sides on the issue of whether to lift stay-at-home restrictions. He is likely to cause untold damage to the effort to control the coronavirus as a result of his duplicity. It is unconscionable for the President of the United States to use his office in this way for raw political gain.

Two weeks ago, I wrote of Trump’s strategy to set up the nation’s governors to take the fall for his monumental mishandling of the coronavirus response. When the financial markets crashed on March 14, he finally woke up to the fact that he had a raging crisis on his hands, which could not be blown off by fast talk. He started claiming that it was a problem for the state governors to deal with. Since then, he has doubled down on the strategy, painting the federal government as a mere cheerleader, there to offer advice to the governors from the sidelines.

The federal government has the power, the funding capacity and the responsibility to organize and lead a national effort to combat this serious national threat. Trump has flat failed to do so. The states do not have the resources to get the testing supplies and protective equipment they need to fight the virus, let alone to safely reopen the country. The federal government has failed to do its job and is guilty of a dereliction of duty.

All of the medical experts say that the key to opening up the country, without risking a second wave of the virus, is to do testing and tracing. Yet, in the absence of a national strategy, the governors are each running their own recovery show. It is a recipe for disaster because the virus does not recognize state borders. Trump will not implement a national testing strategy because he does not want to acknowledge the federal government's central role in fighting the pandemic.

At the same time that Trump is shirking his responsibility to protect the country, he has been giving aid and comfort to those who want to precipitously open up for business as usual without adequate testing and tracing safeguards in place. Since April 17, Trump’s campaign helpers and Fox News enablers have been railing against the official guidelines that Trump adopted on April 16 for opening up the country. The reasonable governors are in a box because, without the help they need from Trump, they are not in a position to fully relax social distancing restrictions.

Our President is working both sides of the fence and hoping nobody will notice. Many governors are desperate to safely open up their states but they can’t do it because Trump claims it is not his responsibility to provide the supplies. Having stymied the governors’ efforts to open up, the President then panders for the votes of those who are desperate to open up at any cost. Either way, the responsible governors lose under Trump's strategy.

Everyone wants to open up as soon as possible, but it must be done safely. If we try to get back to business too soon, it will only prolong the national agony. Trump significantly increased the economic and medical devastation of the pandemic by failing to act until it was too late. Now, he risks additional unnecessary damage to public health and safety by cheerleading the clamor to open up too soon and in contravention of his own guidelines. It is a dangerous double game.

Damned fools


Things are supposed to be much better now, here in our adjoining desert retirement communities of 90,000 seniors.

Oh, we’ve had some Covid-19 illnesses and deaths. Several dozen, according to health department maps by zip codes. Still, some fanatic golfers have forced a reopening of our golf courses so there’ll be some additional fatalities. But, at least they’ll get infected in some beautiful, well-groomed surroundings.

With things loosening up, I decided to get a haircut. Of course, the barber had to stand six feet away. Did a lousy job. Barb needed a nail workover. Of course, the tech had to sit six feet away so she still has that damned hangnail. Took pup Skeezix in for a bath and the groomer told us she had to be at least six feet away while working. Funny how he still has “that smell.”

Craziness? Yes. But, not as crazy as the ending of rightfully enforced isolation conditions brought on by that damned virus. Governors - mostly Republican governors at this point - are ending bans on public assembly and allowing folks to go back to “normal” - whatever “normal” is or was.

This totally political decision - health care professionals be damned - reminds me of my basic training in USAF many, many years ago.

Our flight of “slick sleeves” was given rifles and told to crawl 50-yards. Fifty yards under barbed wire and live fire! Live fire of hundreds of real bullets about six inches above our heads. Anyone who didn’t crawl like snakes and looked up to see what was happening was considered to have “flunked the course.” I remember ending that 50-yards with dirt in my mouth.

That’s how I see these screaming idiots - the flu klux klan, if you will - demanding to be allowed to get haircuts, nails trimmed and visits to the pet store. Just like before. These damned fools are going to reverse “the curve” and reignite the spread of this damned disease!

One of the best descriptions of these cretins came via Facebook. “Odd how these people, who’ve been bragging about their stored provisions and multiple armaments to defend against some future calamity, are now faced with a deadly calamity and demanding to walk straight into it.”

They’ve cowed governors - mostly in the South - waving their Trump signs, Confederate flags, AK-47s and protest signs demanding their “freedoms.” Nothing spooks a politician faster than to see his supporters - read voters - “rioting” in the streets. Heartburn doesn’t even begin to describe the feeling in a political heart.

And, all of this madness is being encouraged by the worst president in our long history of presidents. Trump - turning his back on scientists and health professionals - has given tacit approval, further empowering this deadly activity.

It’s always amazed me how a minority - even a minority of one - can have a direct affect on the lives of the majority. Some demented soul tries to demolish a commercial aircraft using his shoes and, for years, millions of us have been forced to take off our shoes if we want to fly somewhere. A mental defective charges into a church or a synagogue or cathedral and opens fire with an assault rifle. So, now, many churches have either armed security or some members carrying concealed.

Today, we have a new minority of loud mouths and fools, forcing the majority to live along side them in our communities with renewed chances some in that innocent majority will become infected. Or die. Because of a minority.

These deranged voices, supported by cowardly politicians, are opening all of us up to new dangers. Regardless of the political cowardice, the majority of us will continue our “social distancing” and stay separated from our normal activities. Because of their abandonment of common sense and professional warnings, we in the majority will have to occasionally carefully venture out for supplies, faces masked and sanitary dispensers close at hand.

I’ve known, as I got to senior status, I’d have to expect change and accept it. But, change? CHANGE? Who the Hell could be prepared for the changes we’ve had to endure for the last three-plus years? We’ve had to live with massive changes - read political ignorance - cowardice, institutional destruction, presidential scams, politically created racial biases, outright presidential depravity. Who, in their best years, could have prepared for such “change?”

Now, a motley collection of uninformed, mindless fools, disregarding the best information from health professionals, is forcing more change. Change that’s life-threatening. Change that’s deadly. And, an entire country will be forced to live with our invisible killer for a much longer time. Even without this craziness and cowardice, we’ve been warned to expect a higher levels of Covid-19 cases for the balance of the year!

Well, here in the petri dish of some 90,000 oldsters, most of us will continue our cloistered existence until advised by people, who know what the hell they’re talking about, give us the “all clear.” Minus, of course, a few golfers.

Quit picking on Trump


The President constantly bemoans what he views as unfair criticism from the lamestream media. If they aren’t after him for chumming it up with the likes of Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-un and Xi Jinping, they are on him for his belated and anemic response to the coronavirus pandemic. Even though their reporting is well sourced, often based on his own words, it is just plain wrong.

One glaring example is the heat the President has gotten for having “Donald J. Trump” emblazoned on the government checks going out to millions of Americans just months before the presidential election. If the Fake News just gave it a tiny bit of thought, they’d realize that Trump earned the right to have his name on those particular checks. They are to compensate for the gigantic economic disaster caused by the pandemic and Trump played a major part in that.

Starting late last year, numerous sources inside and out of government warned that a pandemic was brewing. Trump essentially sat on his hands throughout February and did not even recommend social distancing until March 16. By that time, the horse was out of the barn and the infection was spreading in cities across the country. A tested model indicates that implementing social distancing on March 2 could have reduced Covid-19 deaths by 90%, while a March 9 implementation could have prevented 60% of the deaths.

By letting the pandemic go unchecked for well over a month, until the markets crashed on March 14, it became necessary for the federal government to infuse massive amounts of cash into the economy. A significant portion of the $2 trillion bailout package was necessitated by Trump’s refusal to take the pandemic seriously. It only makes sense that his name should appear on the memo line of the payment checks.

The Fake News is also criticizing Trump for blaming everyone in sight for ignoring the pandemic and letting it get out of hand, including President Obama, the infamous Deep State, China, the World Health Organization, Democrats, Nancy Pelosi, state governors and Chuck Schumer.

As usual, the lamestream media has it all wrong--Trump is not scapegoating others, but merely sharing credit with those others, a typically generous gesture on his part. He just wants everyone of voting age to know that others, who were not the leader of the nation, played a significant role in preventing early action to fight the pandemic. They may not have had the nation’s health and intelligence apparatus at their beck and call to ferret out information about the pandemic and organized a comprehensive national response, but they could have done something--like praising him.

The lamestreamers also claim that Trump has never displayed empathy for those devastated by the virus or the economic collapse it visited upon the land. He certainly appears to be empathy challenged when it comes to Covid-19 victims, their families and those on the front line, but that does not prove he is totally unable to feel their pain.

Trump is grappling with bigger issues, like clinging to Fox News commentators for policy direction and keeping track of whether governors are being sufficiently thankful for any virus-fighting materials he may toss their way. He can’t waste his presidential time grieving for average people. Besides, he clearly laments the poor health of the financial markets. Isn’t that enough for the critics? It is time for the Fake News to recognize that the great leader is doing his very best and give him the credit he deserves.

Let ’em vote


Wisconsin, a state with a long progressive political tradition where state-level innovations were once the rule, recently held a vote-in-person primary election in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic. The election went ahead after the Republican dominated state legislature sued the Democratic governor who had wanted to delay the election and create time to allow more folks to vote by mail.

The conservative majority on the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled for the Republicans, as subsequently did the U.S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court’s rationale was tortured to say the least. Courts ought not to interfere with state election laws, the majority said, notwithstanding the inconvenience of an unprecedented pandemic. Oh, yes, and notwithstanding the precedent the Court established in 2000 when five justices handed the presidency to George W. Bush by ordering that Florida state law be set aside and a recount stopped.

Failing to see the Republican action in Wisconsin and the Court’s ultimate decision to ignore reality as anything less than an effort at partisan vote manipulation is failing to see the forest for the trees.

In Wisconsin there were numerous predictions that hundreds of thousands of people showing up in polling places would surely lead to more coronavirus cases and sure enough the Milwaukee health commissioner reported earlier this week that at least seven new cases of the virus are traceable to people exercising their franchise.

All this is a sickly preview of what is likely to happen in November. Failure to adopt vote by mail policies nationally could profoundly impact the presidential and other elections this year. It’s really not too much to call it a crisis for democracy. It doesn’t have to be.

In a couple of weeks my vote by mail ballot will arrive in my post office box in Oregon. I’ll mark the ballot in the privacy of my dining room table and mail it back or drop the ballot in a special collection box in town. The ballot will need to arrive or be dropped off by election day – May 19. Oregon has been exclusively a vote by mail state for 20 years and it works like a charm – clear, easy and clean. Oregon’s system enjoys bipartisan support, as well.

“Vote-by-mail is cheap and convenient,” Oregon’s Republican Secretary of State Bev Clarno said recently, “it’s given Oregon one of the highest voter turnout rates in the country, and we’ve proven that it’s very secure. In the wake of COVID-19, it also prevents voters from having to choose between staying safe at home and casting their ballot.”

According to records assembled by the conservative Heritage Foundation voter fraud in Oregon is hardly a problem since there is strict enforcement with fines for offenders. As the Eugene Register-Guard reported recently Oregon has had only 15 vote fraud cases since 2000, compared with Mississippi’s 29 cases since 2000 and Minnesota’s 130 cases since 2009. Those states are about the same size as Oregon and only allow in-person voting. In another analysis, The Brennan Center at New York University Law School has calculated the rate of Oregon voter fraud on 100 million ballots cast at .0012 percent.

Voting by mail has other benefits, as well. I suspect we’ve all been in the position of standing in the voting booth looking at the candidates in an obscure special district election or down ballot race and thinking: “Who should I support for the board of the local mosquito abatement district or I don’t know anything about the candidates for state treasurer.” While sitting at the dining room table filling out your vote by mail ballot you can actually take a moment and educate yourself about such things.

Vote by mail is also good for working families, seniors, people with disabilities who may have trouble getting to the polls and citizens who are non-native speakers of English.

Additionally, and some campaigns really dislike this part, vote by mail helps minimize the impact of the last-minute campaign smear. When ballots start arriving two weeks before election day the spurious, two days before the election slimy charge that leaves no time for response isn’t nearly as effective. Campaigns are, at least slightly, less dirty as a result.

Oregon is remarkably fast at counting ballots, too and results are often known within an hour or so of the polls closing.

Oregon’s senior senator, Democrat Ron Wyden, is a national champion for voting by mail and has been joined by a host of Democrats in pushing for the idea. But time is running out to get a system in place by November, and of course Mitch McConnell is obstructing.

Republicans generally don’t like vote by mail and President Trump has spun his usual fantasy arguments and conspiracy theories about the process. “Mail ballots are very dangerous for this country because of cheaters,” Trump said recently and incoherently. “They go collect them. They are fraudulent in many cases. They have to vote. They should have voter ID, by the way.” Trump, of course, has voted absentee since becoming a Florida resident, but never mind that. The man knows what he doesn’t know.

Trump went on to say the quiet part out loud, admitting his real concern with mail voting, as he said, is that “for whatever reason, [it] doesn’t work out well for Republicans.”

Total fantasy. Utah, one of the most Republican states in the country, has gone almost entirely to vote by mail. Colorado, a swing state, has voted by mail since 2014.

The canard that making it easier for people to vote would harm Republicans was clearly behind the recent Wisconsin debacle. Republican leaders there desperately wanted to help a conservative state supreme court judge win re-election and they cynically calculated that pandemic impacted in-person voting would hurt turnout and help the judge. Ironically, even while many Wisconsinites requested absentee ballots and hundreds of thousands voted in person, often wearing masks while standing in line at a drastically reduced number of polling places, the conservative judge lost in a landslide. Turns out that people like to vote. Little wonder some Republicans want to make it difficult.

When historian Alexander Keyssar, who has written extensively on voting rights, testified before Congress in 2006 he said, “Our history makes plain that the right to vote can be as fragile as it is fundamental.” Protecting our right to vote – and making it easier by voting by mail – should represent a bipartisan commitment to democracy. That it doesn’t speaks directly to the fragility of the American experience.

Blowback in reverb


The anti-stay-home protests in Idaho, carried initially to the Statehouse and later to the homes of individual people, have their echoes all over the country. The intention seems to be an echo of the Tea Party protests of a dozen years ago. The political result is likely to be different.

In reporting about the upcoming May 2 ReOpen Oregon rally at Salem and a counterpart in Olympia on April 19, the Portland Willamette Week said, “The protests may seem familiar, even wearyingly predictable, to Oregonians who've watched right-wing groups use Portland for political theater—and brawls—intended to energize President Trump's base.”

This sort of thing was newer and fresher a decade ago. And now? The Idaho Statehouse rally, in opposition to Governor Brad Little’s shelter orders, seemed to draw an unimpressive number of people (photos indicated a turnout of a few hundred at best) and have the look and sound of a retread.

There’s no evidence it’s breaking new political ground. Polling in Idaho specifically on Covid-19 regulation has been sparse, but the national picture is clear: Americans overwhelmingly favor social isolation actions by state and local governments and express more concern about lifting them too quickly than not soon enough. In Oregon, a poll by DHM Research about Governor Kate Brown's stay-home orders - more restrictive than Idaho’s - found 82 percent favor continuing the March 23 "Stay Home, Stay Safe" order. National percentages are just a little lower.

Idaho isn’t Oregon, but it’s hard not to conclude that Idahoans overall probably strongly support what Governor Brad Little has done. They can see easily that the number of new Covid-19 cases in Idaho has been dropping, like other shelter-in-place states but in contrast to states without similar orders, evidence that the rules have been working. (One Idaho Facebook poster cited some of those latter increases: Oklahoma: +53%, Arkansas: +60%, Nebraska: +74%, Iowa: +82%, South Dakota: +205%.)

Several Idaho Republican officeholders seem to be competing to serve as the face of the anti-Little opposition on this: Lieutenant Governor Janice McGeachin, Representative Heather Scott, maybe even House Speaker Scott Bedke. But the most visible spokesman now probably is Ammon Bundy, who has been active in several anti-federal showdowns around the west. Lately, he’s helped organize events - like an Easter gathering of about 60 people - protesting the Little orders.

Last week came a group of crowd events, to deliver written complaints - which one participant called (on Facebook) a “regress of grievances” - to the governor, to a health official and to a police officer ... at their homes. It was more than just that; it was a large, hostile group marching up those private residences in a confrontational setting. No violence was reported, but under those conditions how easily might it have been set off?

The Meridian police officer had been trying to remove a group from a city park when he arrested anti-vaccination activist Sara Walton Brady, who had refused to leave.

Bundy reportedly yelled out to the police standing in front of the besieged officer’s home, “The people will not allow you guys to do this for very long! You will not go into the park and arrest people! You will not go into parks and arrest mothers, and you will not go anywhere and arrest us for exercising what our rights are.”

Bundy’s perception evidently is that he and his backers have a right to risk spreading disease among people trying, in a challenging environment, to stay healthy. (It’s an argument, as noted here a couple of weeks ago, someone might use to justify his right to drive drunk.) He also seems to think he can give orders to local and state law enforcement officers.

But what will the people allow? Many more of them, many more, seem to be more on Little’s side than on Bundy’s. We may see some reflection of that in the elections not so far ahead. This may be a political movement that doesn’t pan out as intended.

No column


I’ve been plugging away at writing this column for over three years now so I thought I’d take a break. There will be no column this week.

Initially I’d thought, since we are nearing the primary election, I could say something about Idaho politics, but honestly, what’s the point? It’s the same old story.

We have the super-majority Idaho Republicans crowded into their big tent arguing over who really represents the conservative values of Idahoans. There are so many in the tent they can’t all see each other, hear each other, let alone know each other. They can’t even agree on what to eat, so they keep taking a bite out of each other.

Meanwhile, both remaining Idaho Democrats are sitting outside at a picnic table looking at the noisy tent trying to figure who will pay for their lunch. The baloney sandwiches weren’t free. There’s no news here folks, so I will pass on Idaho politics.

I try to focus on Idaho healthcare issues but this pandemic is perplexing, so there’s no point writing a column about that. Once we know if it was just a bad flu or truly the apocalypse, we’ll think we know what we should have done different. But that could be years from now. I choose not to speculate at the moment, so I have decided not to write a column this week.

It’s no news that the natives are getting restless, as natives should, about what authorities are telling us to do. After all, who put them in charge?

At least our wise representatives in Washington DC have decided we all need a check in the mail. They fired up the presses at the Treasury and printed them up pretty fast, didn’t they? I haven’t got mine yet, but I’m comforted knowing it might come soon, so I can’t really write about that. I’ll let you know.
In the meantime, most of us are staying home and wondering where all those spider webs came from. I really have noticed a lot of spider webs, but who wants to read about spider webs? So, I won’t write a column this week.

And there’s no point sharing all the projects I’ve been puttering on. Yours are probably more interesting. I got the 1949 Chevy dump truck running like a champ, but I can’t haul the roof I need to tear off to the dump. It’s closed.

So, I fixed up an old lawnmower a neighbor left me. I’m now blessed with four lawnmowers. See why I shouldn’t write about how I’ve been filling my time?

There is one thing I’ve put off for quite a while that I am tackling now in all this isolation. It’s not really much of a story. I have this old wooden sailboat that takes more time to keep shipshape than it spends in the water; kind of like our government. I’ve sanded and varnished and patched and replaced more than I can list. That too, sounds like this Republic. It has really big sails and it can go really fast with the right wind, but right now it’s in storage, also like our country. I can get it out in a couple weeks. See, there’s not really a story here.

Right now, I’m fixing the rudder. It was really dinged up and cracked. The third coat of varnish is drying now, and it’s really quite attractive. The image of a beautiful rudder for a boat that doesn’t sail somehow resonates with me right now. But like I said, it’s not a story.

So, to all my readers I apologize for not doing a column this week. We suffer in these troublesome times, socially distanced and worried about the plague upon us. Since you won’t be wasting time reading my column, maybe you can share a story with a loved one. We need to feel close; tell a story.



The GOP has gone off the deep end w/ conspiracy theories. Things aren’t just things. Everything involves secret cabals of “elites.” (Dog whistle.)
► Kurt Eichenwald tweet, January 26, 2018

They just believe what they believe and they think their job is to drag the rest of the redneck morons toward the light. They don’t understand that the so-called redneck morons, the people they don’t like, are the people that grew up with values, patriotism, all those things.
► Roger Ailes, former head of Fox News (and presumably, non-elite)

The problem – to paraphrase a bit from comedian George Carlin – is that when we talk about elites, we’re not talking about all of them.

Starting with general definition of terms: Wikipedia (and many other definitions are similar to theirs) offers, “In political and sociological theory, the elite (French élite, from Latin eligere) are a small group of powerful people who hold a disproportionate amount of wealth, privilege, political power, or skill in a society.”

We might as well include here the “establishment,” a term maybe most widely used in the 60s (more often on the left then), but still popping up regularly (more on the right). William Safire’s description from the 1970s locates the “eastern establishment” as “a cluster of legal, financial and communications talent centered in New York, generally liberal Republican in politics.” He pointed out that the term “establishment’ was used generally first in Britain, where journalist Henry Fairlie was said to have coined it, and where the National Observer in 1967 criticized, “If someone wishes to complain about something but hasn’t a very clear idea of what, all he needs to do is blame the problem on the ‘establishment’ and people will sagely wag their heads … It is one of the great blessings of America that it has no ‘establishment.’”
The Observer spoke too soon.

Holding all of those elements in mind is tricky, because they wobble a lot, and the exact roster of the elite can be hard to list. But what becomes especially important, in political speak, is who we choose to name: Which elites we decide on, taking care to include our preferred bad guys rather than favorites.

Who or what are the real elites? Who ought we to focus on when using the term – and when it is simply being thrown around in an attempt to slur some group that happens to be on the other side?

In 1957 sociologist C. Wright Mills released a book intended to answer that question, called The Power Elite; his sense was that the most powerful group of people in the country was an interlocking, and closely-associated, group of political, corporate and military leaders, many of them members of families that more or less stay in the elite for decades and generations. Outside the core business and governmental leaders, he did include a smattering of “celebrities” linked to them.

The book has gotten a mixed response over time, but reactions to it have tended to become more approving as time has passed.

He did at least make an effort to suggest in some intelligible way where the power is – and that at least should give a clue as to who might be considered “elite.” If it relates to actual power or influence in society, then “elite” ought to relate to raw power of some kind, the ability to make something happen – the kind of raw power you get only through either certain types of government office, by mass persuasion of large groups of well-organized people, or by control of large amounts of money. In American society, there are really no other highly concentrated sources of mass power, and the search for true elites – as opposed to a person who flashes in and out of public attention and maybe generates a conversation for a while – logically starts there.

Most conservative descriptions of “elites” will have none of that.

In his book Talking Right, Geoffrey Nunberg lays out what this looks like on one side of the fence (the side where “elite” is used most):

“The way the right has narrowed the use of the word elite, so that it’s more likely to be used to describe ‘liberal’ sectors like the entertainment industry, the media and the academy, than leaders of business or the military. It isn’t surprising that on Fox News, references to the business elite are outnumbered by almost 50-1 by references to the media elite. But even on ‘liberal’ CNN and in the daily press, media elite outnumbers business elite by 2- or 3-1.” He goes on to note that in Great Britain, where discussion of “elites” also is lively, it’s far more likely to refer to economic than education or communication elites.

The Conservapedia description of “liberal elite” refers to “those high-ranking members of society – politicians, college educators and celebrities – who regularly promote the liberal agenda to unsuspecting teenagers and young people. The Liberal Elite believe they are superior to others. Not in a physical sense but mentally, they have their high ground and nobody dare challenge. If you challenge the Liberal Elite thinking and beliefs, you risk being ridiculed.”

But how “elite” are they, really? What does it mean to call a college professor or this year’s celebrity “elite” but leave out the nation’s billionaires and top setters of public policy that govern the nation? It means the transformation of the word elite from a specific if fuzzy meaning to a simple target of anger.

It also marks, in a way, the difference between illusion and reality.
Years ago, I was editorial page editor of a daily newspaper in a small town. I had some visibility in the community (a regular column among other things) and some flexibility in what I could write. On a local level, by a conservative standard, I might even have been considered a part of the “elite,” and maybe some local (probably conservative) political people or others saw me that way. I certainly didn’t, and not only because I knew my modest pay and the limitations I worked under. It was also because I could look across the room and see the office of the publisher, whose approval was needed for running an editorial, and next to his the office of the man who actually owned the paper. Neither of them could have been described as “liberal” by any definition I know of, then or now. But if someone in that newspaper building properly should have been considered a part of the city’s “elite,” that person definitely was not working at my desk.

Testing a president


In this day and age of political spin, it is often difficult for the public to separate truth from fiction when it comes to the performance of a president. One cable network may heap praise upon the commander-in-chief for a certain action, while another bemoans the president’s abysmal performance for the very same act. With the plethora of news and opinion sources blasting out content today, it is hard to judge whether a president is a genius or a dunderhead.

The true test of a president is how he or she responds to a serious national crisis--war, economic collapse, pandemic, or the like. When confronted with a looming catastrophe, there is no room for political spin. The president either acts quickly and decisively to protect the nation from the threat or goes down in history as a failure--think Andrew Johnson, who is regarded as one of our worst presidents because of his dismal handling of Civil War reconstruction.

Franklin Roosevelt is revered for bringing the country out of the Great Depression and winning the Second World War. Harry Truman will be remembered for bringing an end to the war with Japan, despite continuing controversy over his use of the atomic bomb. John Kennedy backed the Soviet Union down in the Cuban Missile Crisis and Ronald Reagan is credited for winning the Cold War with the Russians. George W. Bush brought the nation together with his speech at Ground Zero after 9-11. Unfortunately, he used that political capital to launch the disastrous and unnecessary war against Iraq. Barack Obama inherited a collapsing economy and successfully brought the country out of the Great Recession.

President Trump had his rare opportunity to be a hero or a goat with the coronavirus pandemic and has earned a failing grade. After being warned in January by health experts, intelligence agencies, his trusted trade advisor, and any number of others of the looming threat, Trump just blew it off.

Trump claims his January 31 order, banning travel from China, solved the problem. But that does not explain the 614,180 confirmed Covid-19 cases and 26,061 deaths in the U.S. as of April 15. Those numbers will continue to climb. It should be noted that 40,000 people came to the U.S. from China after the travel ban and that more than half of the deaths resulted from infections that originated in Europe.

The frightening pandemic warnings the President got from Peter Navarro, who is Trump’s close and trusted advisor on China trade, are of particular interest. Navarro wrote memos to Trump on January 29 and February 23, warning him the coronavirus crisis could cost the U.S. trillions of dollars and put millions of Americans at risk.

It is not clear how those memos made their way into the public arena, but we did learn some time ago that Trump officials often write what are often described as “cover your a__” (CYA) memos to document their advice to Trump and protect their reputations in case some substance later hits the fan on the issue. Don McGahn, the President’s former counsel, wrote a number of CYA memos to the file during the time leading up to the Mueller probe. We are likely to learn that Navarro repeatedly warned Trump in person of the pandemic threat, was rebuffed, and then prepared the two CYA memos to show he was not to blame for the inaction.

The long and short of it is that Trump had numerous warnings that a disaster was looming but refused to take effective and decisive action to stop it. Many people have suffered or died and untold damage has been inflicted upon the economy as a result. No amount of spin will change the story because the video footage of his denials from January to mid-March are there for all to see. He could have emerged as a hero by jumping in to protect the country, but he chose to deny that any problem existed and will be remembered in history as a failed president.