Archive for August, 2020

Not an outlier

Author: admin

Let’s be very, very certain about this. The organized, window- smashing break-in to the gallery of the Idaho House of Representatives last week by Idaho “citizens” portends more violence. Possibly in the streets. Bet on it!

I started covering the Idaho Legislature in late 1966 and did so – off and on – until 1985. During that time, I watched people protesting this-that-and-the-other politely escorted from both chambers and committee hearings for being nuisances. Politely. But, never in all that time, did I see an angry bunch of “citizens,” following a guy with a rifle, break through a Statehouse gallery door and refuse to act in accordance with House rules when asked by the Speaker of the House to be orderly or leave. Never even close!

Then, the next day in a hearing room, more shouting and refusal to leave a seating area specifically reserved for the press. More shouting, profanities, more chants of “This is our house,” more continued disruption.

As far back as the ‘60’s, we’ve watched what was, at first, a fringe “conservative” branch of Republicans in North Idaho, twist and shout their looney conspiracies and back political candidates who espoused the same craziness. Even split the GOP-North into several “real” Republican Committees. Folk in the South didn’t pay much attention.

In recent years, from Lewiston North, citizen “militias” formed. Armed groups of citizen “militias.” They play “war games” in the forests and cling to their automatic weapons while they chant many of those same old conspiracy theories.

Still, most Idahoans haven’t paid a lot of attention to the evolution in another time zone. Things in South Idaho have been a lot more “city-fied” and quiet when it’s come to saber-rattling. East Idaho – quiet but with some rural conservatism though, as far as we know, unarmed.

But, last week’s Statehouse outburst – with professional trouble-maker Ammon Bundy in the crowd – has shown it’s time to pay attention. Bundy, who’s had many run-ins with the law in Idaho, Oregon and Nevada, had to be carried out off the premises by State troopers – not once but twice. He’s since been banned from entering the Statehouse for a year.

Something else to note. The law-breakers were not just from the North. There were some Treasure Valley faces in that crowd. Quite a few. How many and how close an attachment to the armed folks up North we don’t know. But, the more militant spirit seems to have spread.

For many, many years – and not just in Idaho – most of us have just ignored the Limbaugh-loving folk. We left them alone. They left us alone. But, during those same years, Limbaugh’s voice was joined by others: Hannity, Beck, Carlson, Dobbs, Malkin, Ingraham and a dozen more. Each with a handful of “vocal” matches lighting little rightwing fires here and there. And over there.

Still, we’ve let ‘em alone. We’ve treated ‘em as a “minority” and turned our collective backs on the yammering. “Sooner or later,” we thought, “they’ll get tired of their minority status and join the rest of us.”

Well, the Idaho Statehouse rabble and the “soldier wannabees” in the North Idaho bushes aren’t going to re-adjust and join the rest of us down by the river singing “Kum-Ba-yah.” Ain’t gonna happen.

At the risk of being labeled a rabble-rouser, it seems adding Idaho’s increasingly upscale violent activities to the continued and escalating violence across the country, it’s beginning to look like we’re headed to some confrontations. Maybe many confrontations. Armed confrontations.

We’ve got growing political violence in the streets. We’ve got increasingly dangerous protests of cop-killings. Cop-killings all too common. We’ve got death threats being made against peaceful, law-abiding groups who’ve had to cancel their own community public rights out of fear. We’ve got I-net web sites, many of ‘em
linking these “militias” and threatening more armed violence against the rest of us.

The peace and enjoyment of community we used to have are being threatened by armed, vocal and dangerous people. Their numbers are growing and becoming more publically active. Their basic belief seems to be get a gun – or many guns – for self-protection and to fend off people who don’t think their way or who represent what they see as threats to the Republic. Now, they’re in our streets. Pushing against us and against authority. Seemingly anyone’s authority.

The unexpected incursion at the Idaho Statehouse last week was small on its face. But, throw in a guy at the front with a rifle, busting through a locked House door, a professional trouble-maker like Bundy in the crowd, refusal to obey decorum and orders from elected authority, the added raucous disruption of a legitimately-held legislative hearing, state police having to eject people and you’ve got a precursor of more trouble. Not less.

“See ya next year?” Quite possibly.

Sooner or later – sooner is my thought – these people and many, many others breaking our laws, making streets unsafe, challenging legal authority, destroying public property and threatening our peace and tranquility have to be stopped. Either that or we face a dangerous world of increasing lawlessness and disorder.

Was the vandalism, the incursion, the refusal to follow rules or requests of duly elected officials at your Statehouse just a one-time event? Was it a warning of louder, more violent things to come?

Or was it just an outlier?

It ain’t over

Author: admin

So, we’re living with COVID-19.

We’ve had to adjust our lives to it. Learn to live with it. Take precautions we never thought about before. And, no one is even predicting a time when it’ll all be over. Truth be told, it may be with us permanently. In one form or another.

Researchers have already found new strains and new ways Coronavirus causes permanent damage to the human body. Like nearly all viruses, it grows, morphs and takes on new characteristics. Just like the flu bug. Each year, scientists make a best guess to formulate the vaccines most of us get. Maybe they identify two dozen strains from which they have to pick the right combination for our shots. Best guess.

So, if we agree this killer virus will be here long term and, if we agree the virus keeps changing and, if we agree there does not now exist a viable vaccine to deal with it – then why the Hell are we putting kids and teachers and teacher’s aides back into classrooms? How many kids and teachers have to die before some school board of health care amateurs can say “Well now, guess that wasn’t such a good idea after all?”

Every day, we read of some university or college being hit with coronavirus outbreaks after students have returned to campus. University of North Carolina and Duke were especially bad. Presidents of both had to say a big “OOPS” and close campuses, forcing the unaffected to online learning.

People in authority from local school boards to DC politicians are calling the shots. Politically. Yes, politically! They should NOT be. Health professionals of all stripes have been raising red flags all over the place. “Not yet,” they’re saying. “Not yet! Let’s get an effective vaccine first.”

In so many places, the warnings are being overridden by local elected types. Moms, bankers, store clerks and part-time politicians. People, whose only experience with viruses may be that annual flu shot, are committing children and teachers to the confines of a classroom where effective protection is just plain damned impossible. Not to mention office staffs, custodians, food service personnel and anyone who has to visit or do business with schools.

Hospitals, nursing homes and other resident care venues have infection control people working full time. They’re constantly spraying, dusting, mopping, wiping and disinfecting the premises. Full time! Got one or two like that in your elementary or high school buildings? Somebody disinfecting the lavatories every few hours? No. No you don’t.

Coronavirus ain’t over. Idaho has been attempting to reach a lower level on the COVID scale so more businesses can open. And it’s failed. For weeks.

Europe, riding high on several weeks of improved COVID news, is having to revert to closures and making people stay home. It’s BACK! India can’t seem to make progress toward normalcy. Countries in South America saw reductions in reported cases and opened up. Now, they’re closing. More people dead.

Why can’t we learn? Why are politicians and amateurs making healthcare decisions and not the professionals – doctors- researchers – who know what the evidence is? Just because the school calender shows an opening date – a date picked far ahead of the arrival of Coronavirus – why is engraved in stone? Why can’t we learn from the tragic mistakes of others, rather than repeatedly running headlong into “the wall?”

Every nation in the world right now is in flux – working day-to-day on ever-changing information – adjusting and readjusting to the ebb and flow of the latest COVID-19 news. Waiting for that “magic vaccine.”

But, we Americans seem not to learn. The early August higher-ed openings have produced more victims of the disease and they’re shutting down. We’re seeing new reports of many COVID cases coming out of that Harley-Davidson rally in South Dakota. All over the country! Beach parties have sent hundreds to hospitals in California and Florida. Nut cases who thought themselves “invincible” and “It can’t happen to me!” Well, they weren’t. And it did.

If I had a school-age child right now, he/she would NOT be going to a classroom with 20-30 other kids. Putting a mask on an elementary child is one thing. Keeping it on – for a day or many days of classes – is quite another. Restrooms, cafeterias, crowded hallways, sweaty gyms, busses packed with 40-50 kids. Those kids? You’re expecting masks being properly worn? Really?

Next time I’ve got a serious health concern, I’ll check in with my doctor. And not someone on the school board. Mr./ Mrs. so-and-so. Not an unqualified someone who made a decision that killed a dozen kids.

Reopening American schools now is a rush to sacrifice children. And teachers. How many will get sick with life-long health problems? How many will die? In your district?

It ain’t over!

Good news/bad news

Author: admin

Two major events in the news these days. One seems very good; the other very, very tragic. Let’s deal with the good first.

Joe Biden’s pick of Kamala Harris as his running mate. The national media’s treatment of that news has been largely about her ethnicity. No matter the real subject of reporting, the second paragraph – or sound bite – we’re constantly being reminded of her mixed race – Black and East Indian. And, “the historic importance” of same. Always got to get that in. Enough already. We get it.

Harris comes to the ticket with some interesting positives. And a couple of negatives. Plus side, whether as a former California Attorney General or as a first-term Senator, she’s proven herself a tough inquisitor, hard bargainer and a worthy opponent when she disagrees with someone or some thing. She backed Trump’s Attorney General (and personal lawyer) Barr into a verbal corner during a hearing on the Hill. And, she brought SCOTUS nominee Kavanagh to tears in his Senate confirmation hearing. At the moment, it’s Harris two, Trump nominees zero.

Yep, she’s a hard charger. And, apparently, a quick learner. Harris is completing her third year of her first term in the Senate. She’s sponsored – or co-sponsored – some interesting legislation. Most of it hasn’t gone anywhere because Mitch McConnell has filled several waste baskets with bills from Democrats. But, that hasn’t stopped her from trying.

Her background, we’re assured, is clean as that old whistle. My guess is she’s been vetted so closely the Biden team can tell you what she had for breakfast March 23, 1987. Trump’s team of political grave diggers can do their nasty work 24/7 and, in the end, they won’t know as much as Biden. Not his first rodeo.

On the downside, there’s that business of only in the middle of her first term in Congress. Most VP nominees come to the ticket with a lot more experience in world affairs, the military or similar fields. Possibly the most qualified VP pick, at least in recent history, was Bush the elder. His political bio had so many important entries it looked almost as if he couldn’t keep a job. Harris – not so much. But, as mentioned afore, she seems to learn quickly.

It’s often said the President’s main job is foreign affairs. As far as the whole Congress goes, no one has more expertise than Joe Biden. He’s on a first-name basis with leaders of the countries we have to re-establish relationships with. There’s also his many years on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee – many as chairman – going back to Frank Church days. Uncle Joe has the “chops.” Very long “chops” to undertake that important task.

While Harris lacks lengthy congressional experience, there are those three-years on the Hill. She’s gotten to know the ins-and-outs, who the staff players are, who can move legislation and who can get jobs done even without prominent titles.

So, Biden may figure, he’ll take on the immediately necessary work of re-establishing relationships and assuring other nations of our intent to honor our treaties and other obligations. Harris can deal with Congress to rebuild the vital trust and working arrangements as necessary between that Constitutional body and the White House.

If that’s the case, we could be looking at a President-Vice President team with the possibility of being as cohesive and effective as Obama-Biden. Just could be.

Now, that aforementioned tragic event: forcing schools to reopen.

From local school boards to Trump, politicians can jump up and down and shout from the rooftops that schools MUST reopen “for the good of the children.” Pure B.S.! In nearly all cases, school reopening this year will be done on a political basis and not sound public health policy. Period!

We already know, from the few schools operating, teachers and kids are being infected. In Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi and elsewhere, it’s been bad enough some schools have been shuttered.

Why is it so damned hard to deal with this? Why is it so difficult to understand the basic facts so apparent with coronavirus?

Many professional athletes are sitting out the season in several sports. Why? The billion-dollar “non-profit” teams all have the power to acquire unlimited health protections and the best medical staffs money can buy. Whatever the cost. But, many players aren’t going to play. Why? COVID-19, that’s why!

Yet, we’re going to put 25-30 kids in classrooms, give ‘em all face masks and expect things will be all hunky-dory? You kiddin’ me? You ever see what kids can do with a face mask – other than wearing it? Who’s going to disinfect each classroom before another gang of students moves in? Restrooms? Playground equipment? Hallways? Lockers? Gyms?

Politics first. Safety – and protection of our children – a distant second.

My wife is a retired educator with several degrees and 40 years of classroom, staff and supervisory experience. Hash marks up to here. Top qualifications. And she wouldn’t set foot in an elementary or secondary building today. She calls ‘em “breeding grounds” for the pandemic. “Breeding grounds.”

Online classes also have one major -and possibly fatal – problem. Many kids don’t have computers. And, if they did, some don’t have I-net access. They can’t do the school work that’s so heavily dependent on technology these days.

Maybe I’m just one old tree in the forest. But, given the knowledge we have of the ability of COVID-19 to cause massive sickness and death – even under the best conditions – it just could be we need to keep schools closed at least to the end of the year. Give educational pros the chance to compact a year’s school work into five months or so and reopen under a safer school environment- if pandemic conditions change.

If things don’t get better by January, skip it. If athletes being paid millions can – for safety’s sake – forego a year’s salary, maybe the lives of our children, worth at least that much, can take a year off.

The real problem for putting kids back in school isn’t so much what we know of COVID-19 as it is what we DON’T know. With five-million infected – and the 165-thousand or so Americans who’ve died – we have little hard evidence of all the ways this disease is transmitted or how each person picked it up. Without that knowledge and knowing the dangers inherent for kids, you really want to put your child into a classroom that’s more “Petrie dish” than a place of learning?

My congratulations to Sen. Harris. My condolences to parents who may gamble with their kids lives. And lose.

GOP law and (dis)order

Author: admin

What is it with Republicans?

Why are so many who’ve made it into public office – one way or another -being convicted, going to jail, being sued for something, resigning or otherwise being chased out of office?

Now, before someone gets all lathered up and accuse me of overlooking some Democrat miscreants, there’ve been some. Quite some time ago, if memory is correct. Yes, there were a few.

But, in the last several years, it seems the GOP has had a corner on the “crooked politician market.” They’re all over the place.

We’ve got three here in the desert. One of our public “servants,” Rep. David Schweikert After several terms, he’s been officially convicted and sentenced in the House. Paid a $50,000 fine. And it’s not over yet. Covering the period 2010-2018, you can count undisclosed – and illegal – loans, misuse of campaign funds, improper spending of congressional office expense funds and using office staff to do political campaign work. Ol’ Dave’s looking at possibly some years in a crossbar hotel.

Public “servant” number two is our own very junior – and temporary – Arizona “Senator” previously rejected by voters in 2018 as she sought a U.S. Senate seat, GOPer Martha McSally. In her legislative days, there was a big kerfuffle over illegal campaign violations. BIG! Got all fixed up though, with some majority party legislative slight-of-hand before our Trump-wannabe governor sent her back to Washington for a few months in office. If the polls are right, she’ll be home soon.

Then there’s Arizona’s own Joe Arpaio – “America’s Toughest Sheriff.” A Republican. Voters tossed him out in 2016 after being twice convicted – twice – of contempt of federal court orders to stop racial profiling when making arrests. He “flipped the bird” to the court and kept doing “business as usual.” For him. Ordered to jail. For unknown ”reasons,” Trump pardoned him, though he’s still a convicted felon. Two times. Now, Arpaio.s been running for sheriff. Again. His campaign signs said “Re-elect Sheriff Arpaio.” He hasn’t been sheriff around here for years. “Re-elect?” But, being a two-time convicted felon – pardon or not – he nearly won his primary last week. The real “winner” was Jerry Sheridan – by six-thousand votes. Sheridan was Arpaio’s Chief Deputy for years and was also charged with Arpaio. What do we do now?

Ah, we h ave GOP Rep. Steve Watson in Kansas. Three felony charges and a misdemeanor. The felonies include interference with a law enforcement officer, providing false information, voting while unqualified, unlawful advance voting. Lost his primary. Now what? Probably a trial. In Kansas

Also in the news, there’s Republican Larry Householder in the Ohio legislature. Oh, more than that, Larry is Speaker of the House. He’s been nailed on charges of racketeering. And some other, lesser crimes.

During the Trump years, at least three members of the U.S. House have been forced into “retirement” and the private job market for various bad deeds. One that comes quickly to mind is Duncan Hunter, former GOP Rep from California. He’s still in jail, serving out his 11 month conviction for campaign finance fraud. Another Republican “law and/or order” fella.

In Idaho, John Bujak is cooling his heels in the slammer. Stealing from family members this time. Misappropriation by use of false identity. Republican Bujack, former candidate for governor and former Canyon County Prosecutor, stood trial five times on other felony charges from 2012 to 2014. Also pleaded guilty to contempt of court.

What the hell has happened to the GOP?

Oh, I nearly forgot. Trump. And Mike Flynn. And Paul Manafort. And Michael Cowen. And several other “Republicans” from Trump’s White House gang and a few more on his campaign committee and several hires for the skimpy inaugural.

And Trump himself. Though he hasn’t said it out loud, he’s grasping at every “club in the bag” because of just one thing. Because he knows, once he becomes “private citizen” Trump, he’s going to get hit from state and federal prosecutors and a few defense attorneys with multiple charges of a dozen or so crimes. Some
offices have already hinted what’s coming! You’ll need a traffic cop to keep order by February, 2021.

Taxes? Yep. By the time Trump gets back to his Tower in January there’ll be Manhattan District Attorney Vance who already has Donald’s banking records if not the actual tax returns. Several suits are currently pending seeking those same documents – government, corporate and private. Someone else will get ‘em.

Next, the New York Attorney General – the one threatening continued existence of the NRA – who’s hinted she has a large box of documents labeled “TRUMP.” She, too, seems to be awaiting someone’s return to private citizen status.

Also, some leaked clues from the prosecutors of the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York and the Eastern District. Also the Northern District of Virginia and the DC prosecutor, too.

And don’t forget Rep’s. Adam Schiff, Jerry Nadler and some other committee heads who have their own legal documents and queries. And, those 23 women who’ve filed sexual assault charges awaiting private citizen Trump.

If the U.S. Senate flips in November, you’ll likely see some new hearings, some new investigations, some new indictments. Tain’t over.

Again, yes, there have been some Democrat crooks. Some convictions and some jail terms. But, given the evidence above, Republicans have come screaming back to recapture the national “Political Crook of the Year” crown.

We’re going to have a chance in a few weeks to do some House – and Senate – cleansing. White House, too. Given the current number of Republicans charged, under indictment, convicted and/or jailed, the “broom” will have to be very large. Very. It’ll take a lot of “hands’ on the handle to be effective.

Got your gloves? Better still, got your big black or blue ink pen?

Explosive times

Author: admin

With my coffee in the morning, I browse half a dozen newspapers on the old I-net plus half a dozen news sites found only online. Sip a little. Read a little. Sip a little more. Read a little more.

Then P-O-W! One headline stopped me cold. Never seen one like it. It read “Group Prepares for Chance Trump Refuses to Concede Election.”

Two teams of scholars, politicians, retired military and an assortment of others have been meeting – secretly – inventing and playing various scenarios the nation might face if Trump loses the November presidential election and won’t relinquish the White House.

Think about the headline and the above paragraph. Just quietly think about those words – what they mean – what they really mean. People accomplished in varying fields have been gaming what course of action other powers in our nation – unelected powers – should be called on if an American president won’t relinquish the office after losing an election.

The idea that such goings-on have been “going on” in our country is truly mind-blowing. That smart, well-educated, some militarily-trained minds would consider it necessary to participate in such protracted exercises is damned near un-American!

The idea that such goings-on have been “going on” in our country is truly mind-blowing. That smart, well-educated, militarily-trained minds would consider it necessary to participate in such protracted exercises is damned near un-American!

What the Hell is going on? Have we become a “banana republic?” Are we living under a dictatorship – much as Trump wishes so? Is the powerful verdict of our voting franchise – the most valuable prize of citizenship – in danger of being brushed aside?

Then, as I calmed down to ponder, I continued looking at the computer screen. And I was thunder-struck again? P-O-W! Again!

Here’s what I read on just one page, one news site on one day.

“Trump’s election tweet shows a frightened narcissist afraid of losing.”

The people who must stop Trump’s assault on voting.”

“Trump’s trashing democracy ripples beyond America.”

“Trump’s a narcissist afraid of losing.”

“Obama warns Trump’s actions threaten democracy.”

“Trump’s own intelligence officers contradict his repeated claims of mail-in voter fraud”

“USPS workers warn of new Trump policies (that will) affect voting by mail.”

One news site – one day. Just one.

Out of curiosity, I back-checked a month of reporting – and resultant headlines – on the same subject. On the same site. I found 97 mostly negative headlines about Trump, most sounding just like these examples. On just one news site. Not including a single headline from dozens of others.

Such is the state of our presidency at this moment. Such is the state of our politics at this moment. Such is the deep concern of former military leaders, scholars and a handful of politicians – that we could be facing anarchy.

The election is 93 days from today. Inauguration day – the day to transfer the mantle of the presidency is 79 days after that. A total of 172 days away. A little less than six months.

What sorts of headlines will be produced in those 172 days about our nation’s politics? About Trump? About barriers to our voting process?

One could also seriously ask, “What kind(s) of violence on our national political scene will develop?” Because, there are hints of an expansion of the violence already in our streets.

Casting a huge, black pall over all this is the pandemic – COVID-19. Because of Trump’s inaction when warned the coronavirus was coming – because of his ongoing interference as cases and deaths mount – and because he’s now seemingly turned his back on current COVID-related events – he’s firmly tied together the pandemic and politics. Or, in his mind, politics first and pandemic second.

There’s only one political body that can check/stop Trump. The U.S. Senate. More accurately, Republicans in the U.S. Senate. But, because they hold a single digit majority – because they’ve spent the last three years refusing to respond to his outrageous and impeached behavior – because they’ve acted as a rubber stamp for Trump – he’s had free reign to rip and tear at the foundations of our national political and economic societies.

Now, hours later, I’ve re-read – and re-read – the facts of the “secret,” high-level scenario activity. Looked more deeply at both the reasoning for the assemblage and the qualifications of the “players.” And looked at some of the work they’ve done. The current president’s behavior has been continual lying and disloyalty to the oath he took over three years ago, so much so it was deemed necessary by these exceptional Americans to convene. It’s still a shock to hear about plans of action being made in case our current president is the first in history to disregard the will of the people and transfer power to his legitimately elected replacement.

I wrote several months ago about the possibility of Trump becoming a squatter in the White House if he loses the election. I wrote about the subject but offered no solution because the constitutional issues involved – not to mention the physical security affects – were far beyond my ken. What the hell would happen? Who would do what? When?

I have no idea if that scholarly group has devised a concrete plan of action, what that action would be and who would conduct the details in the event in such an explosive situation.

Just the fact that some highly qualified folks have found it necessary to “war game” such a topic is surprising. Then I looked back on those headlines. From one source. On one day. And the other negative – but factual – reporting found on that same site. In 30 days.

A former president unwilling to step back in the face of an elective loss. That’s damned frightening, my friends.

What the hell has happened to us?