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Posts published in October 2020

Vote – if you can

rainey

We’ve voted.

Couple of weeks ago. Mailed ballots. Except, we didn’t use the mail to return ‘em. Went to city hall polling place and dropped ‘em in the box. Just to be sure. Couple days later, receipt was acknowledged by Maricopa County. Done!

Filled out the ballots at home - when we had time - and after reading what we needed to from the voter information pamphlet. No rush. No fuss. No l-o-n-g lines. Absolutely secure. Done!

Why doesn’t every state do this?

Given what Republicans have done to suppress voting access across the country in the last few years, it’s easy to blame the whole party. Which would be wrong. In many states, the GOP has worked with Democrats to create secure voting and assured access. Democrats still think and act the same way.

But - this year, some state Republican parties have pulled out all the stops, actively working to limit access or outright steal completed ballots. California. Where the GOP put out ballot deposit boxes labeled “official.” They aren’t. Dems and some cities asked the GOP to remove ‘em. GOP said “NO.” Seems local authorities, the Dems or the state didn’t want to take legal action beyond the requests. So, the ballot-stealing boxes are still out there. Pilfering completed ballots.

We’ve seen lots of pictures of people in long lines, waiting to vote. Stories of folks waiting 10 hours - or longer - to gain access. Texas Governor ordered counties to remove all ballot collection boxes but one - one - per county! Texas has several cities of more than a million population. One with 4-million. Imagine the lines. But, worse, imagine how many people just didn’t vote because of the restriction. Again, access denied.

Other states - mostly in the Southeast - used all sorts of gimmicks to deny citizens the right to vote. Some required certain ID information many poor people don’t have for one reason or another. Two states wanted birth certificates or other proof of citizenship. Several, like Texas, reduced the number of polling places or shortened hours polls would be open. Especially in areas with a lot of Black residents. In Georgia and Florida, both Black and Hispanic communities hit hard by state restrictions. More roadblocks.

I’ve long believed - if you’ll pardon a personal opinion - that voting for the office of President should be run by the feds. One ballot used under a single process in all states.

All of us, at times, operate under one federal law. Nothing new about that. When I was a private pilot, my license was issued by the Federal Aviation Administration. My military driver’s license was federal. I’ve had several federally-backed home loans. My VA benefits operate under federal law. And, there are many, many other singularly federal laws we don’t even think about. Uniform. Everywhere.

Imagine. A single presidential ballot. Used in all states and territories. All using one federal law. The same “rules-of-the-game.” Everywhere. Down-ballot, each state could go it’s own way. But, on top, a national vote under uniform rules.

I know. I know. Such thinking is that of an old guy out in the desert sun too long. But, it makes sense, damn it!

Should Democrats prevail in sweeping the Presidency and both Houses of Congress - as seems likely - the first order of business should be restoring - or even rewriting - the federal voting rights act.

Couple of years ago, SCOTUS gutted the existing law, part of which put certain requirements on states known to restrict voter access. Even forcing offending states to submit to SCOTUS oversight if a voting law was to be changed. I can’t forget Chief Justice Robert’s comments at the time SCOTUS acted. He noted past violators of the Constitutional guarantee of voting “seem to have learned their lessons” and issues of abusing voters were “things of the past.” Yeah. Sure.

So, here we are. Several years down the road. And the “offending states” -absent that old oversight - are at it again. Same states. Same old tricks. With largely the GOP erecting hurdles between citizens and their ballot boxes. Congress must act.

A few days ago, I heard a well-respected Republican leader of the past say, if the Party took a national beating up and down the ballot, it could mean the GOP would be nearly non-existent for a decade or two.

Maybe that’s what’s driving this Republican effort to keep voter and ballot apart. If it is, then congressional action should be swift, replacing safeguards to bring these underhanded activities to an immediate halt.

Here in the desert, in our “55+” world, it’s worth noting how us old folks do things a bit differently. Politically speaking. As you drive through our senior neighborhoods of some 90,000+ retirees, you’ll usually see Trump signs placed close to the sidewalks for easy viewing. Biden signs, on the other hand, are mostly placed back, near the front door. That’s because Biden signs are stolen or defaced in much larger numbers. Seems Trumpers hereabouts outnumber the Biden-backers. At least publically.

Which is odd. We have a lot of retired military living here. A lot. Most have bumper stickers or back-window indications of such. You’d think - given our President’s comments regarding the military - alive or dead as “suckers” and “losers” - that anyone who’s lived a military life would not be a DJT supporter. But, many are! Seems odd to me to see a retired “gunny” in our neighborhood still backing Trump. But, he is. Lots of others, too.

In our world these days, we seem to be under attack from many things. COVID-19 has us hunkering down. At least some of us. Climate change - maybe the single largest “attack” we face - is all around us. In some states - too many states - local governments seem to be attacking voting rights and other civic privileges.

Then, there’s our President, who’s been conducting a four-year frontal attack to destroy agencies of federal government and our faith in long-standing institutions. He’s attacked our rule-of-law, our trust in many forms of governance. He’s subverted restrictions on the Presidency to enrich himself and many of his friends. His entire term seems to have been used to attack truth, civility, trust and responsibility. He’s worked to destroy just about everything he’s touched.

Now, facing a perilous future of many lawsuits, some serious federal and state charges and doing so without the protection of high political office he’s enjoyed and used for his own benefit, he’s attacking the voting process. The constitutionally-protected franchise guaranteed to all. Sadly, we’re not likely done with a major political party attempting to block citizens from exercising that franchise.

People we elect to high office in November have a huge job ahead of them to clean up the mess. To attract good and qualified people to serve. To restore confidence and faith of the people in their own government. To undo the damages of the last four years.

It’s a big job. But, it can be done. That’s why we vote.
 

Spread out those votes

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In much of the country, this year is full of new rules and schedules related to when and how you vote. In some places, like Oregon and Washington, this whole business of “voting early” is nothing new at all, and for those encountering new approaches, a few lessons from the experienced may be worth considering.

One key to how to consider it involves thinking not of “early” voting but of “spread-out” voting. It’s not that all votes are cast a couple of weeks ahead of what we might think of as deadline day - in this case, November 3. It’s that the voting takes place over a stretched-out period of time.

And there are two big advantages to that, one in the bigger picture - the good-government picture - and one that affords advantages to candidates and parties interested in taking advantage of it.

The first advantage is the quashing of late-breaking negative campaigning. I’ve seen it over the years, and if you’ve been around a while, so have you: The news story or ad or mailer or flyer drop, or whatever, that contains some (hopefully) devastating attack against the opposition, delivered only two or three or four days before the day everybody votes, which would be on a Tuesday. That means weekends before election day can be sensitive times indeed … if everyone’s voting on Tuesday.

Recovering from such an attack at that time can be hard to do: There’s often not time enough to get a rebuttal message out. People have time only to absorb the initial message and react reflexively, which often means emotionally and thoughtlessly. And the kind of candidates who engage in those kinds of behaviors, as many have over the years, often aren’t the kind of people you want in elective office. But then, such tactics can work.

Suppose, though, the voting is spread out over two or three weeks. There’s no one precise moment when making the information drop is going to help enormously; it immediately affects the votes of only a few people, and afterward there’s time to pause and review.

Spread-out voting tends to make for more careful and reflective voting.

From a political organizer’s point of view, there’s another advantage.

While the votes cast by a voter remain confidential throughout the process, the fact that a specific person voted becomes public information as soon as the ballot reaches the county elections office. That means, ordinarily, that if a political organizer wants to determine who has voted, they can.

Why might this be important? Once a person has voted, you can scratch them off your to-do list: No longer any need to try to reach that person, by phone, mail or otherwise, from this point on. They’re done. On the other hand, if you see that someone hasn’t voted, this is a person you still want to get after if you think they’re one of yours. If you’re a day or two out from election day and this batch of voters hasn’t get been accounted for, you can go after them.

In theory that same principle can apply on election day, but there instead of days to learn who has and hasn’t voted and to act on that information, you have hours and minutes. You can go after those people, in theory, but there’s hardly any time to make a dent.

Don’t be surprised if spread-out voting catches on in a big way even after this Covid-19 year is done. A lot of people stand to benefit.
 

It’s not just going away

johnson

Donald Trump and his Republican enablers are ending October the way they began late last winter when the pandemic came to the United States: with gaslighting, misdirection, blatant lying and the largest diversionary propaganda campaign in American political history.

There are really only two words to describe what the president and his lapdogs have done: incompetence and evil.

“People are tired of Covid,” Trump complained on a recent call with his campaign staff, while several reporters were listening. “I have the biggest rallies I’ve ever had. And we have Covid. People are saying: ‘Whatever. Just leave us alone.’ They’re tired of it.”

“People are tired of hearing Fauci and these idiots,” Trump said, “all these idiots who got it wrong.”

Tell that to 223,000 Americans who are not here to listen to a deranged, heartless campaign’s closing argument delivered by the most disastrous president in American history. Or how about the more than 1,700 health care workers in the United States who have died during the pandemic because they cared for the sick. Are they “all these idiots who got it wrong?”

David Eggman, a registered nurse at a hospital in Wausau, Wisconsin, a region overrun with Covid-19 hospitalizations, has seen more than his share of death since March. He told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he has listened as COVID-19 patients breathed their last, alone without family at the bedside. Frequently they told him, “that they didn’t realize it was as bad as it was.”

But the president did know. He told the journalist Bob Woodward in February that the virus was “deadly” and much more serious than the flu. “I wanted to always play it down,” he said a month later during another exchange recorded on tape. “I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.”

After first refusing the reality, and then ultimately failing to deal with a deadly disease, Trump rushed to ignore accepted science and politicized the public health response. He has repeatedly mocked advice about masks, and despite his own near-death experience, has persisted in holding virus spreading – and truth killing – rallies in states where the disease is running wild.

Trump said a week ago that we have “turned the corner” with the virus, a true statement if you understand that the “turn” is upward in daily cases, upward in hospitalizations and upward in the number of rural counties that by his own government’s assessment are trending overwhelmingly in the wrong direction.

A website that reports on rural America said this week that “Covid-19 spread in rural America at a record-breaking pace again last week, adding 160 counties to the red-zone list and bringing the total number of rural Americans who have tested positive for the coronavirus to more than 1 million.” And researchers at the University of Idaho, just to cite one data point, now estimate one in every 30 people in eastern Idaho are infected with the virus.

That Trump would seek to downplay all this, lie about it and fail to heed the advice of scientists is no longer even news. He’s a textbook example of a pathological liar, likely unable to ascertain truth from fiction. He’s also clearly suffers from narcissistic personality disorder, leaving him unable to accept let alone empathize with millions of his fellow Americans who have died, been made sick or economically devastated by his unprecedented failure to lead an effective national response.

What remains surprising, even after all these months, is that fellow Republicans have accepted his failures and made them their own. Two governors – South Dakota’s Kristi Noem and Idaho’s Brad Little – exemplify how thoroughly degraded Republican politics have become. With virus cases running out of control in both states, the governors act like this is all business as usual.

South Dakota’s infection rate is four times the national average, but Noem, a rightwing darling, has been hawking t-shirts inscribed: “Less Covid, More Hunting.” Meanwhile, the governor has been all over the country campaigning for Trump, so often missing from the state in recent weeks that columnist Mike McFeely roasted her this week saying, “She’s followed the Trump playbook, and therefore the Republican playbook, line for line. With her T-shirt sales, Noem is even cashing in on the denial.”

Meanwhile, the Republican speaker of the South Dakota House of Representatives, Steve Haugaard, has been in hospital emergency rooms twice this month battling the virus. “It’s been the most devastating stuff I’ve ever had in my life,” the 64-year-old Haugaard told the Associated Press.

Little isn’t as brazen – or as stupid – but ultimately just as ineffective as his South Dakota counterpart. While hospital officials across Idaho were calling this week for more aggressive steps to slow the growth of cases, Little was preaching the gospel of personal responsibility, refusing even the most basic step of a statewide mandate to wear a damn mask. “This is about personal responsibility,” Little said, “something Idaho is all about.”

Right. All that personal responsibility has seen a 46% increase in cases over the last two weeks, including so many cases at the major hospital in south central Idaho that the top doctor there said this week, “It gets back around to, how long can you sustain this? How long can you provide the high-quality health care we provide?”

If you’ve been waiting for the promised Trump October Surprise, it’s already here: the infection and death toll is rising rapidly, and winter will be awful. Donald Trump and his GOP sycophants with their widespread demonization of people of expertise like Dr. Anthony Fauci and with the ignorant rejection of basic public health measures have effectively adopted Stalin’s maxim: a single death is a tragedy; 221,000 deaths are a statistic.

The election in ten days comes down to a stark choice for America: do we embrace science and common sense to lead us to solutions for the worst public health crisis in more than one hundred years or do we empower, as the writer Caroline Fraser put it recently, “a zealotry so extreme that is has become a death cult.”
 

Benchmarks

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While much of the nation watches rapt on election night to see who wins where, what will Idahoans have to watch?

Idaho, by and large, is commonly regarded as a baked-in done deal: If an “R” rather than a “D” is attached to the name, then - with some exceptions, as in the city of Boise and a few other places - that candidate will win. The Republican for president, for Senate, for legislature and so on. For example, the FiveThirtyEight website, one of the most careful numbers analysts around, never assigns 100 percent probability to almost anything but does put (dryly) the likelihood of a Donald Trump presidential win in the Gem State at more than 99 percent.

That’s not quite the end of the story. In cases like Idaho, and other places - this applies to both parties - part of the story is in, not just who wins, but by how much, and where. These details have their own stories to tell.

To tell them a little more clearly, it helps to set some benchmarks against which the numbers on election right, or election week, can be measured.

For example, four years ago, Trump won in Idaho with 59.2 percent of the vote. That left a little more than 40 percent for others, but Democrat Hillary Clinton accounted for just 27.5 percent of it. An independent, Evan McMullin, got much of the rest. (Four years before that, Mitt Romney got 64.5 percent.) With no third party candidate on the ballot this time, what’s Trump’s percentage? Well above 60 percent, more like Romney, or below it?

The state hasn’t been polled a lot. The most frequent polling has been by SurveyMonkey, which is not a highly rated pollster; its numbers in September and October have put Trump at around 58 percent and Joe Biden at around 41. But that’s not a lot to go on.

At the U.S. Senate level, Republican Jim Risch, like Trump, gets a 99-plus percent chance of winning in Idaho. One poll from late summer by Spry Strategies showed Risch at 53 percent and Democrat Paulette Jordan at 28 percent, an advantage of about two to one, with a large chunk of voters undetermined. Six years ago, Risch received 65.3 percent of the vote (and six years before that, 57.7 percent). How does this year’s percentage stack up to those earlier numbers?

You can pose similar questions for the U.S. House members. In the first district, Republican Russ Fulcher two years ago received 62.7 percent of the vote against a low-key Democrat (and a tribe of independent and other candidates); Fulcher’s opponent this year, Rudy Soto, has been highly energetic and visible. And in the second district, Republican Mike Simpson in 2018 took 60.7 percent against Democrat Aaron Swisher (his opponent again this time), which was actually his lowest general election number since he won the office in 1998. How well will Fulcher and Simpson do this time? Are the numbers from recent elections indicators of a crack in the wall, or just minor fluctuations in the status quo?

The Idaho Legislature, overwhelmingly controlled by Republicans as it has been for close to three decades, is not likely to change much: The odds are that the Senate, with its six Democrats and 29 Republicans, and House, with its 11 Democrats and 59 Republicans, will not shift dramatically.

But there may be changes, and probably will. At least one Senate seat, in west Boise, is a strong prospect for flipping from Republican to Democratic control, and a few House seats (I’m watching a couple in Moscow and Idaho Falls especially) are also prospects. Republicans are not sitting still either, and the party’s new chair, Tom Luna, has made clear that winning back some now-Democratic seats is a high priority for the state party, and in Idaho few Democratic office holders are really safe.

On the local level, a number of county offices (I’m keeping an eye here as well on Ada County, where two commission seats flipped Democratic two years ago) merit watching.

So it shouldn’t be said of Idaho a week from Tuesday that there’s nothing to see here. The drama is lower, but the lessons could be meaningful.
 

What are you thinking?

schmidt

As a former elected representative, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out just what the masses I was supposed to represent were thinking. I’ll admit, a lot of the time I thought their thinking didn’t make a lot of sense, but I still thought it was my duty to understand their thinking. If you think of representative government as a contest of opposing or varied ideas, and the election winner takes the trophy (“Elections have consequences” Barack Obama 2009), then understanding the thinking of those you represent is wasted time; just vote for those who elected you, not the people you represent. I just didn’t see the job that way. Maybe that’s why I didn’t last long.

So, I am currently struggling to understand just what Americans, but more Idahoans, my neighbors want from health care. Help me out.

A recent poll showed most people don’t want the Affordable Care Act’s protections of “preexisting conditions” repealed. That means, if you have a preexisting (expensive) health condition, health insurance companies can’t refuse to sell you insurance or increase your rates based on their assessment of your future risk to their bottom line. Even 66% of Republicans (91% of Democrats) thought the preexisting condition protection should be maintained.

But if asked more broadly, “should the ACA be repealed”, 76% of Republicans said YES! REPEAL!

So please, tell me: what are you thinking?

This is of course made more critical in the coming election, but also the Supreme Court appointment shooting through the Senate like goose droppings.

The hope from Trump, and I guess, from Republicans, is that the nominee can sit for and vote on the case that will be heard a week after the election brought by Republican state attorneys general and supported by our Presidents Department of Justice. The suit asks to declare the ACA unconstitutional, even though they have zeroed out the individual mandate penalty in their “Billionaires Benefits Tax Bill”.

Some Republicans want to distance themselves from the possibility that the preexisting conditions limitations might disappear. They argue that through “severability” SCOTUS can wipe out some of the ACA, but not the other parts that we like. I find it fascinating that these elected representatives want appointed-for-life judges, not accountable to the voters, to be making these decisions. It’s like they’re afraid to have the discussion. Is that possible?

So, I want to ask you, my Republican neighbors, to answer some questions: just what should healthcare look like in this country? Can you please give me a clue?

I have spent a short time reading the National Republican Platform, and a little longer reading the Idaho one. In short, the National platform says, “whatever Trump says”. But the state one is a bit more specific, even if it’s on page 10, after Article 12 (Economy) and before article 14 (American Family). Maybe 13 is health care’s lucky number for Idaho Republicans.

I encourage you to read this platform that 80% of Idaho legislators endorse. It could explain why we aren’t talking about this problem. It pretty much says, health care should be affordable, government shouldn’t regulate things, and people should be responsible for their own health.
So, I think Idaho Republicans are telling me the next time I’m in a hurry and fall off a ladder and end up a quadriplegic, I should have been more responsible. I agree, I shouldn’t have been in a hurry, I contributed to my injury, but I now must sell my house if I want to keep alive? What if I’d been T-boned by a drunk driver? No mercy there either I guess.

This is a tough discussion. We should be having it with our elected representatives.

If the Idaho Republican solution to our health care dilemma is to go back to the 19th century, I can’t support it. But I’d sure appreciate a discussion.
 

Trump’s mendacity

readings

A guest opinion by Gregory A. Raymond, Distinguished Professor of Political Science, Emeritus at Boise State University, where he held the Frank and Bethine Church Chair of Public Affairs.

Dishonesty is one of the distinguishing features of the Trump presidency. The Washington Post has recorded over 20 thousand false and misleading claims that President Donald J. Trump has made during his first three-and one-half years in office, meticulously recording the frequency, range, and scale of his fabrications and half-truths. Some of Trump’s claims have been petty; others have been egregious; and still others, cruel. But regardless of how provocative they were, he rarely supported them with evidence. His defense was simply to spew out more bombast.

What explains this shameless behavior? Trump’s mendacity is bewildering to many Americans, particularly since the nation’s civic culture celebrates a Founder who purportedly refused to lie.

Pundits generally attribute Trump’s dishonesty to a rhetorical strategy based on deception. It’s a strategy so deeply rooted in the human experience that it defines some of literature’s most memorable characters. In Sophocles’ Philoctetes, for example, Odysseus, the legendary warrior-king of ancient Ithaca, proclaims that “words, not deeds, rule over men in everything.” Artful words, he explains, facilitate deception. They enable the cunning to shape themselves to suit the moment’s needs and dupe others whenever it is beneficial. “When one stands to gain,” he insists, “scruples are out of place.”

On the face of it, winning over listeners through any means—fair or foul—seems to account for Trump’s rhetoric. He regularly uses intentionally false and misleading statements to shift attention away from sensitive topics, duck responsibility for policy failures, and burnish his public image. What is more, he stonewalls and equivocates to mask these lies, as shown by his paltering about journalist Bob Woodward’s audio recording of him admitting that he deliberately downplayed the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) when he knew of its dangers.

Not only has Trump been able to dissemble with impunity, but his lying frequently works. According to a large body of psychological research, most people expect others to be truthful and are bad at detecting lies. Moreover, even after falsehoods are discredited, people tend to dismiss corrective information if the falsehoods are consistent with other things that they believe, and if they think that members of a salient reference group believe in them as well. Rather than reject erroneous beliefs, people often go so far as to imagine circumstances where a trumped-up story could have been true. Owing to these behavior patterns, dishonesty gives liars a significant advantage over principled individuals whenever they interact, which enables them to manipulate those individuals and gain benefits that might not be obtainable if both parties were sincere and transparent.

Because the liar’s advantage is a central element in the president’s rhetorical strategy, he bristles if someone calls attention to his prevarications. When fact-checked during press briefings by reporters Weijia Jiang (May 11, 2020), Kaitlan Collins (July 28), and Paula Reid (August 8), Trump abruptly terminated the meetings rather than defend his assertions. Likewise, when asked by S.V. Dáte (August 13) if he had any regrets for all of the brazen lying that he had done, he refused to respond. With numerous books and news reports exposing his duplicity, it is understandable that in an August 28-September 1, 2020 CNN poll only 36 percent of the respondents believed that Trump was honest and trustworthy.

Even his sister, retired federal judge Maryanne Trump Barry, has asserted that “you cannot trust him,” an opinion echoed by such diverse observers as Michael Cohen, his former personal attorney, and by Miles Taylor, a former chief of staff for the Department of Homeland Security.

Trump’s anger at mainstream print, broadcast, and online media is not surprising. Reporters who bring his disingenuousness to light undermine his ability to deceive. Still, a puzzle remains: Why does Trump continue to lie when he knows that the majority of his audience knows that he is lying?

One plausible answer is that his rhetorical strategy entails more than persuasion. In addition to making false and misleading statements to distract, deflect, and delude, there is another, less appreciated facet of Trump’s strategy—domination. Whereas he lies to bolster his support among ardent followers, his aim is different when speaking to those he cannot convert. Here he lies not to convince, but to control; not to entice, but to taunt. Implicit in his con is a boast: “I realize you know that I am lying, but I am powerful enough to do it anyway, despite your objections.” It is a form of bullying, writer-activist Masha Gessen notes, that characterizes many authoritarian leaders.

Flooding the civic arena with wild, sensational claims is a way that Trump flaunts his power. His relentless barrage of fictions, spurious accusations, and fallacious conspiracy theories attracts attention, which allows him to insert himself into people’s everyday lives, regardless of whether or not they believe his allegations. Debunking the confusing jumble of distortions that he propagates is mentally exhausting, like trying to unscramble the contorted images in a house of mirrors. Trump’s swarm of fraudulent claims can overwhelm the most indefatigable fact checkers, bogging down their efforts to hold him accountable for his wayward behavior. As his verbal onslaught obscures the boundary between reality and illusion, desensitizing people to the line between truth and fantasy, it is easy to grow cynical about politics and become resigned to living public life as a passive subject rather than as an active participant.

In short, jackboots and brownshirts are not the only tools for enervating civic engagement. Unremitting mendacity can also beget political acquiescence. By wearing citizens down, it offers a cheap, surreptitious way to demoralize opponents and discourage their involvement in public affairs. Over time, the torrent of lies erodes trust in democratic institutions and practices, which can lead all but the most fervent partisans to withdraw from civil society and seek solace in the quiet joys of private life.

Lying is pervasive among human beings, though most people do it for relatively harmless reasons, such as being polite in uncomfortable social situations. Donald Trump’s mendacity is more egregious and consequential.

While it may be tempting to believe that his outlandish claims are merely intended to shock and should not be should not be taken literally, the sheer volume of false and misleading statements suggests otherwise. Trump’s interminable lies represent more than simple waggishness. They are the leading edge of autocracy.
 

Into desperation mode

jones

With the polls showing Donald Trump heading for a disastrous election loss, he and his crew are desperately grasping for something, anything, to keep their ship afloat.

It has not been working out so well. Trump continues to be his own worst enemy--holding a superspreader event at the White House, publicly dithering over more stimulus aid, commandeering Dr. Fauci for a campaign advertisement after denigrating him and ignoring his wise advice for months. The list goes on.

Now, Trump is trying to shore up his campaign by improperly dipping into public money. He recently hatched a desperate plot to snitch $7.8 billion from the Medicare Trust Fund to send a $200 drug gift card to each of 39 million Medicare recipients. It will cost an additional $19 million to send a letter through the Postal Service, which he is in the process of wrecking, to congratulate himself for his generosity.

The polls show that senior citizens are deserting Trump in large numbers, which accounts for his belated effort to curry favor with them. Seniors may recall, however, that Obamacare closed the doughnut hole for prescription drugs and that Trump is presently before the U.S. Supreme Court trying to kill that law. The doughnut hole would come roaring back.

The government blew another $1 million to put a letter in 75 million USDA food aid boxes, congratulating Trump for helping families feed themselves during the pandemic. Ironically, Trump’s wretched response to the pandemic played a major role in creating the need for massive food aid for families. Many food banks, including the Community Food Basket-- Idaho Falls, have appropriately removed the letter.

On September 18, Trump announced an additional $14 billion in aid to the farm sector for pandemic relief. That follows $19 billion in April, as well as $28 billion for the two previous years to compensate for Trump’s bungled tariff policy. Much of this aid has been needed to sustain the farm economy, but the need was caused by Trump’s Covid-19 and trade policy failures. When the financial aid runs out, farmers will be left trying to figure out how to re-establish the export markets they’d built up over many years.

The Trump administration’s electioneering goes beyond using public money to try to buy the election. Trump has been harassing the Justice Department to come up with some kind of charges against numerous individuals he has villainized over the years.

For months, Trump has been promising that the Justice Department would momentarily produce a report outlining criminal conduct on the part of former President Obama, Joe Biden and a cast of many others. On October 8 he unleashed a storm of tweets and verbal slams against Attorney General Barr, calling for the indictment and arrest of Obama and Biden before the election. The Justice Department has quietly indicated that no such action is going to happen. If there was any merit to Trump’s frantic claims of misconduct, you can bet Barr would be taking action against the royal enemies.

The Trump administration’s herculean effort to keep its election prospects from sinking to the depths of defeat have not worked. No amount of taxpayer funds has done the trick. The fact is that the voters have had their fill of Trump’s dangerous and inept handling of the pandemic, the toxic political atmosphere he has created in America, his pandering to extremists, his disregard for the truth and the swamp of corruption he has fostered over the last four years. The Trump ship is headed to the bottom.
 

Change is ours to make

rainey

O.K., we’ve had a couple of “debates.”

The whole sorry mess has been chewed on by all media extant. Best summary of the whole sorry mess I’ve heard came from political pro, Paul Begala, who said it was “must flee TV.”

Like it or not, Trump’s still the President of these United States. The fact that he’s not a “play-by-the-rules” guy and acts/sounds like the school yard bully is because that’s what he is. He won’t change. But, there’s the dignity and importance of the office he so poorly represents. Cutting him off or arguing with him, as Savannah Guthrie did so well, may seem necessary at times, but he’s still the President.

To me, the storyline emerging so far was what wasn’t said. We’ve got about 50-million people on unemployment. There are many, many more who aren’t counted because they’ve been out of work so long. Anyone get a factual sense of what either candidate would do about the unemployed in these verbal “wrestling matches?”

How about disappearing jobs? The Census Bureau counts total jobs that have vanished since the first of the year at over 21-million. So 21-million unemployed folk have nothing to return to. Airlines, just this month, are laying off many thousands and eliminating those positions. Anyone hear either man say anything about that?

Afghanistan. I don’t recall hearing anything meaningful. We should have! Our longest war is sapping billions of dollars, killing our youth and no end in sight.

Our environment. What about it? Anything “in depth?” Any solid plans?

And a whole lot more.

In many ways, Trump’s belligerence is defining these shameful events. More than that, he’s redefining our government, our politics, our media, our economy, our markets, our very existence as a recognized democratic republic. Changed? Yes. For the better? Not!

Trump’s dominated our existence for four years by “sucking the air” out of every appearance and action. In so doing, he’s succeeded in changing the course of an entire nation. Not for the best, assuredly, but changed nonetheless.

He’s bullied, abused, badgered, threatened, lied about nearly everything. Constantly. With the able assistance of lackey Mitch McConnell, he’s moved our federal justice system to the far-right and is about to fill a Supreme Court vacancy with a nominee whose past judicial actions and personal beliefs will cause even a sharper rightward shift. Nearly all lifetime positions. (Edit note: I’d like to see term limits on federal judicial and SCOTUS appointments but that’s a story for another time.)

So, what do we do about it?

One of the forces endangering this nation is ignorance. Ignorance of what this country is, how government works, the structure of it, what it’s supposed to do, what we should expect from it, who’s responsible for its operation, where do we fit in, how do we exercise change, what do we do if it becomes unresponsive to our needs - as is the case now.

We’re bombarded daily with broadcast lies, continuing affirmation of “facts” that aren’t true. They’re spread by paid - make that “well paid” - folks who have their own agendas which may not, at times, be in the nation’s best interests.

Millions of Americans live in an alternate universe of phony “facts” - as we’ve seen with Trump - because those “facts” support what they think they know, reinforced regularly by fact-less media designed just for them. It’s become their comfort zone and whatever is different - even if based in reality - is rejected. Arguments do no good. Even real facts are useless.

This rejection of real facts has gone on for so long it’s become “institutionalized.” It’s produced a plethora of politicians who’ve injected this group ignorance into our political system, threatening our continued national existence which is - and must continue to be - based on facts. We have 13 professed QANON believers currently in Congress with more on 2020 ballots

All of that means the rest of us - those of us dealing with reality - have to continue to grow our number. We must educate ourselves - re-educate if necessary - in all phases of government and, when presented with an opportunity to do so, knock down the lies.

It can work.

Case in point. There’s a new movement among young evangelicals branching off from their elders. In many instances, that new direction is more earth and reality-based. They’re very concerned about our environment. They’ve taken up societal issues long ignored by older “believers.” If sustained, this new breed can grow and change the future direction of a religious philosophy which, in turn, can change the nation and even our politics.

There are ways - many ways - available to all of us to have an effect on what’s happening around us. We can change things that need changing. We can support what needs our support. We CAN make a difference.

Trump’s open disrespect for the duties of his high elected office, his contempt for law, his belligerence and ignorance in all things, his avoidance of rules, decorum, responsibility and personal conduct have been a national embarrassment. His “debate” antics were unsurprising. We’ve known, for some time, who he really is, how he thinks and acts.

Now, it’s time for us to act - to remove this unwanted player from the stage. We can - we must - in just two weeks.
 

Voter suppression

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For most of my adult life, the elections officials and political people I've been around - people of both parties - were advocates both visibly and privately for getting people out to vote. Candidates and parties always recognized that some groups of people were more or less likely to support them, and their answer to this was to try to encourage as many of those likely to back them to get to the polls.

I own and have read a number of books on political campaigns, accounts of them and how to run them. When it comes to voter turnout, they all have said much the same: The answer is to be found is getting as many of your supporters as possible to the polls (or the ballot box, as the case may be).

The election officials I've known were serious and dedicated to the principle that everyone legally allowed to vote should do that, and doing that should be as easy as we can make it.

It's worth restating all this because somehow, in the last decade or so, this basic, core, obvious principle has been increasingly abandoned by one of our major political parties, the Republicans. There are stray cases among Democrats, but nationally active voter suppression - a term once rarely used, and seldom greeted with anything other than an instant and fierce denial - has become a commonplace, and in many parts of the country Republican officials seldom even both any more to deny it.

The American Civil Liberties Union describes on one web page "Suppression efforts range from the seemingly unobstructive, like voter ID laws and cuts to early voting, to mass purges of voter rolls and systemic disenfranchisement. And long before election cycles even begin, legislators can redraw district lines that determine the weight of your vote. Certain communities are particularly susceptible to suppression and in some cases, outright targeted — people of color, students, the elderly, and people with disabilities."

In Texas, counties with populations larger than the state of Idaho have to make do with a single advance voting box. In Ohio this week: "In Columbus, the line stretched for a quarter of a mile. In Cuyahoga county, the hours-long wait began before polls even opened. All of this was entirely predictable. Thanks to an Ohio state law passed in 2006 by a Republican-controlled legislature and signed by a Republican governor, the number of in-person early voting sites is limited to just one per county."

The League of Women Voters, traditionally a good-government organization dedicated simply to participation in our system of self-governance, now is in the middle of a political fight: "Voting rights are under attack. In recent years, politicians in dozens of states have erected intentional barriers to our right to vote, including forcing discriminatory voter ID and proof-of-citizenship restrictions on eligible voters, reducing polling place hours in communities of color, cutting early voting opportunities and illegally purging voters from the rolls."

The subject has - appallinglly - become far too vast for a single column. The point here is to say just this:

Anyone in politics who makes voter suppression happen, allows it to happen or simply stands by when it happens and could do something to stop it, should forfeit any public trust or responsibility. It should be an absolute disqualifier for that person from holding any public office, now or ever.

We need a suppression, for the generations to come, of anyone who engages in voter suppression.