Archive for May, 2021

About damned time

Author: admin

I came across something this week I’d not heard of but, looking at the group’s website, it may be something more of us should check out.

Twenty-nine members of the U.S. House formed a group called “Problem Solver’s Caucus.” A quick look at its website is very enlightening.

Members – from both parties – got together because they were fed up with the continuing battles in Congress and the deep, very deep divide between the two parties. Most members are fairly new to Capitol Hill and, it would seem from the long list of subjects they’ve reached agreement on, they’re on a serious mission to get things done.

Here’s a sampling of their projects: Coronavirus Recovery and Contingency Planning; Criminal Justice Reform; Immigration; Health Care; Infrastructure and more.

All their work is meant to be bi-partisan. For example, when you’re working on Criminal Justice Reform with Van Jones, Grover Norquist, Congressman Hakeen Jeffries and Jared Kushner – yes, that Jared Kushner – you’ve GOT to be “bi-partisan.”

The “Solvers” agreed to support three separate bills on Guns and School Safety. Though more needs to be done on the subject, they were successful in moving the ball. A bit. So far. In addition, funding for mental health programs have been enacted into law. Another “Problem Solvers” effort.

They’ve even reached across Statuary Hall to the Senate to get Susan Collins, Joe Manchin and Bill Cassidy involved with the “Solvers” to get something done to lower prescription drug prices. Like the other issues, the work is ongoing.

All 29 voted, as a bloc, on immigration reform. One of their projects is to “deliver aid to children and families at the border that might otherwise have been delayed due to partisan divides in the House and Senate.” The group also is having “discussions to explore viable solutions building on agreements drafted (in the) last Congress.”

Given we, as a nation, have had to put up with failed efforts by this Congress and others in the past, to get down to work on serious business because of continued wrangling, this “Problem Solver’s Caucus” sounds like a great idea!

Though Congress has suffered from continued GOP “party line” voting on many important issues in recent months, I’ve thought, many times, some of those people must have had to swallow hard on an issue – or two or three or a dozen. Things like voting rights legislation or education funding. Got to be tough to vote “no” on something just because the Party Leader says to when, in your heart, you want to vote “yes. And, you know you’re right.

But, the continuing obstinance by the GOP may be coming a bit unraveled. Last week, 35 of ‘em broke ranks with GOP leaders to support creation of a Congressional Commission to examine the events of the January 6th Capitol Hill riot. Many of the “Problem Solvers” were among the “Yes” votes.

Mitch McConnell wants to “deep six” the bill when it hits the Senate floor. But, there could be some defectors in the ranks. Some members of Congress who had to seek shelter during the attack, may have some deeply personal feelings about the ordeal, such as, maybe, Mitt Romney. So, while court actions and several other legal efforts are underway, there may be Senators who want such a Commission – just because they want to have their say. Like Mitt Romney.

Though I find no such “Problem Solvers” group in the Senate at the moment, who knows? There may eventually be some who make such a “leap of faith.” Surely, there are at least a few on both sides – tired of the fractiousness – wanting to join forces to get things done.

The names of a third of the Senate will be on ballots in the 2022 election. They’ll all have to face we electors. There’ll be some casualties, no doubt.

While it’s too early to make predictions of who’ll be winners and who’ll be on the casualty list, one thing is sure. A lot of us are fed up with the acrimony and party-line voting. We’re tired of seeing good legislation buried because of a few egos.

There was some “house cleaning” in 2020. It’s to be hoped more of the same is in store about 16 months hence. Increasing the ranks of the “Problem Solvers Caucus” and introducing the same concept in the Senate may be ideas who’s time has come.

Yes, Sir! It’s about damned time!

They done her wrong

Author: admin

I’m not fan of Liz Cheney. Too close to the edge of the flat, far-right earth for me.

So saying, her fellow Republicans have screwed her over in steam-roller style. She’s right. They’re wrong. Very wrong.

The depth of willingness of millions of Americans to follow that horse’s patoot in Florida, astride his golden elephant, is both stunning and embarrassing. But, that’s what many Republican office holders – and the great “unwashed” – are apparently doing.

If you look at the short game, the Cheney episode is likely the first of many purges to come. Purity has always been the Achilles heel of the far right. That’s why there are so many spinoffs and splintering. Our political landscape is awash with little Republican factions because, sooner or later, someone in the group is deemed “unworthy” so he/she is exiled. And a new group is formed.

“King” Trump and current Royal Jester, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, have sent Cheney to GOP purgatory so they can install a willing replacement who buys into Trumps fantasy of his “shadow presidency.”

In the short game, it seems Trump and his deliberately ignorant followers are ahead.

But, I’d bet Liz has a small, experienced, whispering voice near her ear. And that “small voice” is non-other than her father – one of the most dangerous and domineering “voices” in American politics for the last 50 years. Ol’ Richard himself.

Which should shift our focus to the long game – a game the elder Cheney played for decades in Congress and in the back office of the White House.

Her op-ed in The Washington Post a few weeks back, was all but an official announcement of her future plans. It was full of highfalutin thoughts of a Republican Party being “true to its historic values and principles” – her desire for a “truly Conservative America” – “the rule of law” – and a Party “at a turning point in its history.” It would be easy for a political writer to make a realistic party platform of such words.

I think Liz has a staked out a path for herself. While Ol’ Dick is a trusted voice to many, she doesn’t need a lot of fatherly advice. She’s a good thinker who rapidly rose through the GOP ranks from a back bench to a front seat in quick order. Even with just few a years in office, she rose to leadership by proving her worth.

But – she and Daddy together, have thousands of contacts within the Party. They’ve got unlisted phone numbers, very private email lists. Both are on a first-name basis with national figures. And, they know the “back avenues” necessary to get things done in Washington.

I’d bet Ol’ Dick is trying to position his daughter as a stable, experienced, viable Republican leader who other “right-thinking” Republicans can rally around. There could be talk in the Cheney Wyoming compound of a second Republican Party – Republican “light” – an effort to build anew by attracting disappointed and wayward GOP’ers who ain’t Trumpers.

Liz Cheney is making news these days. Some even predict she’ll run for president in 2024. Very, very doubtful. But, while current news is mostly about Republican supporters of the Mar-a-Lago Moola getting rid of her, solid, right-thinking Republicans and a lot of Independents and Democrats know DJT and his faction of the GOP “done her wrong.” She’s receiving a lot of sympathy. And sympathy is often good currency in politics.

Short game – he wins. Long game – there’s a lot of “playing” to be done between now and 2024. The “game” ain’t over.

Buy a program. Get some popcorn. Take a seat and see how it goes.

A dismal performance

Author: admin

I was a journalistic “young pup’ when I started covering the Idaho Legislature in early 1967. Young in both age and experience.

But, after all these 50-plus years, I still remember the basic tenets of Idaho Republicanism: strong local responsibility and local control. The Legislature – for many years – practiced that philosophy. It also strongly opposed “unfunded mandates” – government at any level imposing something without funding it.

Then, something changed. As years went on, the Idaho Legislature became a “mother hen” and local governing bodies became the “chicks” to be directed and/or disciplined at will.

Also, there was a distinct emergence of “conservative” thought that tilted toward authoritarianism in Republican ranks. Cities and counties – even school boards – began receiving not only unfunded mandates, but prohibitions against this and that. The City of Boise was a favorite target.

The most recent evidence is the new law banning state school funding if, in some way, students are “forced to adopt or adhere to” a belief that an individual is somehow responsible for actions committed in the past by members of their race or identity group.

Further, schools may not teach that one identity group is ‘superior.” There are words like “critical race theory” and “liberal indoctrination” thrown around. Seems the folks on the third floor believe such is already being taught in Idaho schools.

So much for “local responsibility” and “local control.” Shot to hell.

Then, you’ve got ol’ Mitch McConnell joining the chorus. In a letter to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, he wants all schools in the country to “abandon curriculum” that McConnell claims is “telling a revisionist history of America’s founding.”

Bottom line is McConnell and Idaho’s legislature are trying to keep students from being taught anything dealing with a New York Times research project called “Project 1619.” Period.

McConnell claims – and the Idaho Legislature apparently agrees – the project “re-orients” the view of American history “away from its intended purpose toward a politicized and divisive agenda.”

“Project 1619″ was first published last year and quickly became a target of today’s “conservatives” nationwide. In actuality, it re-frames American history around the date of August, 1619, when the first slave ship arrived on our shores. All the clamor is about the Project’s claim the legacy of slavery has helped shape the nation’s history, especially as it relates to treatment of Black Americans. That’s it!

California uses the Project’s curriculum. Other school districts in other states are considering it. Republicans are claiming – falsely – that the federal government is “forcing” local districts to follow California’s lead. Pure B.S..

While the federal Department of Education has proposed offering grant money to school districts to incentivize use of the program, it cannot “force” use of any materials. Adoption – or rejection – of “Project 1619″ is entirely in the hands of local school boards. As it should be.

But, Idaho politicians have now forbidden any local board from even considering the program.

The use of “Project 1619″ material – like sex education and other “hot button” politicizing – is a LOCAL matter. Local school boards should be free to pick and choose what classes should be taught. But, legislators have decided they know best – they know what every local school board in Idaho needs to do. And NOT do.
By their action – and with Governor Little’s signature – this new Idaho law, again, upholds the vaunted Republican history of “local control.”

The current Idaho Legislature – based on very solid evidence – has been described by long-time observers as the “worst legislative session in Idaho history.” I strongly agree.

As a body, it has acted as though modern thought and contemporary life are antithetical to what today’s Idaho lifestyle and environment should be. It’s passed restrictive legislation forbidding other levels of government from acting in their own local interests.

It has foolishly struck down necessary – and constitutionally required – state funding for public schools and higher education. It has wasted valuable time and other resources by grandstanding about this and that. It has consistently ignored public opinion on many issues. It has turned a deaf ear to voter desires to engage itself in mindless “conservative” debate.

There’s a distinct difference in what Idahoans seem to want on various issues from the backward direction of the Idaho Legislature. To change that direction – if polling is accurate – people responding to pollsters need to march straight to a voting booth and turn their responses into votes. Votes that can make a difference.

There’s a strong need right now for those old Republican values of thrift, honoring local government control, listening to the voter’s voice And responding.

Sometimes, the best way forward is to honor the past. And act accordingly.

Dirty work afoot

Author: admin

Of course, you’ve heard of red states and blue states. Well, I’m not sure where the latest political charade puts Arizona on the political color chart. That’s because I can’t think of a color for crazy!

There are roughly 4-million residents in our county – Maricopa. Of that number, just over 2-million of us voted in November. Our ballots have officially been recounted twice. Certified. And, it ain’t over yet!

Arizona State Senate Republicans – nearly all of a rightward persuasion – numerically control the Senate by just one member. They’ve authorized four private firms to recount those 2-million-plus ballots. FOUR! The lead company, Cyber Ninjas, a Florida outfit, previously promoted various conspiracy theories, especially QANON. Promoted that fiction and Donald Trump. Heavily, in times past.

The states largest news outlet reports “The county has provided the ballots, 385 ballot tabulators and nine central count tabulators, some hardware and ll gigabytes of data with such information as voter registration details and election day logs.” But, it will steer clear of any participation or sponsorship.

Naturally, this is fertile ground for – wait for it – the Trump folks to jump in. Prominent supporters are out raising big bucks for this ill-advised (mis)adventure into partisanship to pay costs after the Senate’s allotted $150-thousand contract runs out. It will. Don’t they always?

Secretary of State, Katie Hobbs – a Democrat, of course, – is among those calling this show “a circus.” She believes – as do most onlookers – this private recount “will do nothing to restore anyone’s confidence in our election system and no one should take it seriously.”

Two independent companies were hired by the county last November. Both verified voting machines were not hacked, were not connected to the Internet and vote totals were accurate. The November results in Maricopa county have been officially counted. And recounted. Twice. Each time, results were the same. Joe Biden won.

Now, there’s old Steve Bannon – a Trump minion’s voice deep in the swamp – calling this fiasco “Top of the first inning with many lawsuits to come. This is where the grind really starts.” End quote. Mercifully.

So, you can see which way this “private counting” is likely to go and we all have a pretty good idea, by now, what the outcome will be. Cyber Ninjas has already had it’s soiled hands slapped for allowing counters to use blue ink pens during this fiasco – blue is the color voters use on ballots. So, how easy would it be to change a vote? Many votes in a close race? Green and red pens have been issued. Some ballots are being viewed with special lights. No one has explained why these lights are necessary or what they’re used for.

There are 46 pallets of boxes – 1,691 boxes to be exact. There are no clear procedures or controls and no tracking, as yet, by the contractor.

Naturally, those right-leaning Republicans in the Arizona Senate set some rules for all this. There’s even a former Secretary of State – Republican, of course – appointed as the Senate’s liaison. Among Ken Bennett’s initial comments? “The rules can change.” Day four and they already have. Several times.

There are questions all over the place about security, accountability, who can observe and the media’s role. At the moment, that role is limited. Cyber Ninjas wanted to require all media take training to be “official observers.” That failed. Democrats went to court seeking open up the process. The judge so ordered. But, the Ninja guys wouldn’t discuss their counting process in court so we don’t know what it is. Or, if such exists.

Basically, Republicans are alone in this. County administrators of both parties have officially washed their hands of the whole thing. The State Democrat and Republican Parties, too. All this worries a lot of legitimate national election consultants who call the effort “inherently biased” and “lacking transparency.”

The security question? Our Sheriff, Paul Penzone, said he wouldn’t provide security – he estimated it would cost $175-thousand – because the affair is “not in his departmental budget.” Phoenix city cops and the Department of Public Safety have also demurred. Who pays for private security? What security? More unknowns.

So, we have a third, full hand count, expected to take 35 days. Our unsecured official ballots are in the hands of Trump-affiliated folks, just itching to find devilment afoot. Outside experts expect the hand count will take whole lot longer than 35 days “if it’s done right.”

Tabulators are looking for “deceased voters” and “non-citizens” the other official re-counters “missed.” They’re also trying to find ballots “uncounted” in the previous work. No one knows where the Senate will get its necessary information to verify those voters who cast ballots are dead or not legal citizens. Another important unknown.

So, what do you think? Will our thrice previously certified election totals be undone? Will Donald Trump win? Will we have a “do-over” election? Will Mike Pence be brought out of retirement? Will we, at last, find what happened to Jimmy Hoffa?

If there ever was a screwy – and somewhat dangerous – “make work” project, this has to be it. The whole damned thing is a “make dirty work” project.

Oh, didn’t I tell you? Those Trump-related folks are looking at one other race, too. Only one. Democrat, of course. Mark Kelley, who won the 2020 Senate contest. All other races, hundreds of them, are deemed by the Cyber Ninja folks to be kosher. Odd, that.