Bipartisan effort in Kentucky

Courtesy of fellow blogger, Kentucky Angel (see link below) comes the following good news story.

Kentucky Democrat Governor Andy Beshear and Republican Secretary of State Michael Adams jointly developed a plan for the General Election that puts the “health and safety of Kentuckians first,” per Beshear, providing more time and options to vote than ever before.

This bipartisanship is refreshing and much needed on this issue. Rather than malign the voting process, they are taking efforts to make sure it works for their citizens. The folks in the White House and Capitol building could learn from this bipartisan focus to help people understanding the challenges they face.

This post is necessarily brief, as I sent a variation into my newspaper because of its bipartisanship. I hope they print it. This represents the kind of collaboration we need to solve problems. Please feel free to spread the word. Thanks Kentucky Angel.

https://kentuckyangelfliesagain.wordpress.com/2020/08/29/message-from-gov-andy-beshear/

The nonpartisan Concord Coalition on the absent relief package

The Concord Coalition is a nonpartisan group that researches and educates on the US deficit and debt problems. The following was in my inbox from that group and it speaks for itself.

“The following is written from the perspective of Concord Coalition Policy Director, Tori Gorman.

Avid readers of The Lookout will notice that my missive today is unlike any of my previous entries. If you are accustomed to the colorful charts and technical policy analyses that usually accompany my posts, my sincerest apologies. Those features will return, but today’s post is from the heart.

Last week I fully anticipated that I would be spending my waking hours prior to publication of this newsletter buried in legislative text, frantically distilling the latest coronavirus relief package from Congress for our readers. Instead, I find myself staring at an empty desk while federal officials jet home for their sacrosanct August recess. Why? Because despite over 160,000 Americans dead from COVID-19, a record-setting decline in economic activity, over 31 million people collecting some form of unemployment, and millions of children unable to return to school, lawmakers refused to compromise.

Unconscionable.

Each side has expressed support for another pandemic relief bill and each side has tendered their initial offer. The House-passed HEROES Act would spend another $3.4 trillion whereas the Senate Republican package of proposals would spend closer to $1.2 trillion. Clearly there is plenty of playing field in between to reach agreement.

On what planet is an acceptable outcome ZERO?

To add insult, on August 8, President Trump announced with great flourish a series of toothless executive memoranda from the ballroom of his eponymous Bedminster golf club – actions that will have virtually no effect except to make any further negotiations more difficult: A payroll tax proposal that neither side in Congress supports, a pseudo-unemployment insurance scheme virtually no state can navigate nor afford, an eviction ‘moratorium’ that isn’t, and student loan action that could have been, and should have been, more robust.

At some point in our political history ‘compromise’ became a dirty word. Somewhere it became acceptable in an election year for Congress to punt the people’s work until the November results were known. In today’s environment, however, where twin crises are leaving a trail of death and destruction, it is imperative that lawmakers rise above the low expectations they champion, return to Washington, and do the work they were elected to do.

Americans deserve no less.”

What the president has fashioned with executive orders is beyond his authority. Congress has the purse strings given to them by the Constitution. What the president has proposed is unworkable in parts and unwieldy in others. But, again we are not an autocracy and Congress needs to do its job.

What I also find interesting is the president’s executive order did not include a price tag on debt impact. I have done some back of the envelope calculations and it is likely nearer the $1.2 trillion GOP figure, if it is not extended, but we just do not know. I also feel that cutting FICA taxes will be harmful to Social Security and Medicare, at a time when they need more funding not less.

Yet, what no one has done is calculate what we need to do, including all three parties, the Senate, the House and White House. The House at least passed a bill on May 15, but the Senate could not bring themselves to debate and vote until the bewitching hour. Frankly, that is poor leadership by Senator Mitch McConnell and the president. Crisis planning is often not the best of planning.

You would think our so-called leaders could take the time to do some homework. But, what do I know?

David Brooks pens an editorial – President Biden’s first day

David Brooks has long been my favorite conservative pundit. I first became aware of him as he teamed with more liberal Mark Shields to do a recap of the week on the Friday show of PBS Newshour. They epitomized the PBS doctrine of civil discourse. I have read two of Brooks’ books – “The Social Animal” and “The Road to Character” – which are excellent reads, and have had the good fortune of hearing him speak.

Like other conservative pundits, George Will, Michael Gerson, Erick Erickson, et al, Brooks is deeply disappointed in the actions, verbiage and temperament of the current US president. So, when he penned the editorial, “President Biden’s first day,” I was intrigued and not surprised. Here are a few quotes that shape the article.

“The first thing you’ll notice is the quiet. If Joe Biden wins this thing, there will be no disgraceful tweets and no furious cable segments reacting to them on Inauguration Day.”

“Republicans will pretend they never heard his (Trump’s) name. Republican politicians are not going to hang around a guy they privately hate and who publicly destroyed their majority.”

“It is very hard for Republicans to demonize Biden because he comes from the sort of background that Trumpian conservatives celebrate.”

“His (Biden’s economic) agenda is more New Deal than New Left. In the two speeches he has delivered so far there are constant references to our manufacturing base – infrastructure, steelworkers, engineers, ironworkers, welders, 500,000 charging stations for electric cars. ‘When I think of climate change, the word I think of is jobs,’ he declared.”

“The agenda pushes enormous resources toward two groups: first, African-Americans, who have been pummeled by deindustrialization for decades; and second, white working class Trump voters.

“Everybody says Biden is a moderate, and in intellectual and temperamental terms that is true. But he has found a way to craft an agenda that could reshape the American economy and the landscape of American politics in fundamental ways.”

The entire piece can be found with the following link. I will not comment on the above here and let Brooks’ thoughts filter in. Let me know your reactions, thoughts, etc.

That Trump anchor

That Trump anchor is getting heavier. Republican Senate candidate are realizing the president’s decline in the polls is impacting their chances as reported in an article by Politico today called “Election forecast: Trump, Senate, GOP in trouble.”
Per the Politico article, 75% of voters think the country is going in the wrong direction as Trump’s approval ratings fall further beneath already underwater averages.

It goes on to say “President Donald Trump is now an underdog to win a second term and Republican majority in the Senate is in serious danger.” RealClear Politics, which averages poll results, reports Arizona Senator Martha McSally is behind in a close race to astronaut Mark Kelly, North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis is behind in a close race to state legislator and decorated vet Cal Cunningham, and Senators Joni Ernst (Iowa), Cory Gardner (Colorado), Susan Collins (Maine) are also closely behind in their races to Theresa Greenfield, John Hickenlooper and Sara Gideon, respectively.

With his ongoing misinformation and lack of leadership on COVID-19, with his racist tendencies adding gasoline to racial injustice issues and tensions, with his ongoing corrupt tendencies to punish people who try to protect our country against his deceit and ineptness in doing his job not bothering to read or pay attention, the Trump anchor is pulling others down with him.

And, it is not going to get better. COVID-19 is getting worse in America and he is hoping it goes away. Hope is not a strategy. Although, there was some hopeful news in May and June of some of the unemployed going back to work, the economy is going to continue its malaise into 2021, as more closings occur. The last half of June started to show fall off from the first half results.

After winning in 2016 on fear and a nationalistic campaign, he is doubling down on those themes, at a time when most of the country has left him behind on the problem of racial injustice. He had support when he made a prop out of Colin Kaepernick when he knelt to the national anthem, but Trump chose not to understand the reason why Kaepernick was kneeling. The fact a Vietnam vet knelt with Kaepernick did not register. Trump is shouting in the wind, but fewer are listening.

Now, Democrats, a word of caution. Do not count the seats as won yet. You must get out on and vote. There is an old saying that if you are going to take down the King, you better take him down. As economic advisor to presidents of both parties, Robert Reich said Trump is a clear and present danger to our country and world. If he were to win, America and the planet would be in dire trouble with an uncontrolled Pandora.

A survey phone call in disguise

Every month, I receive written surveys from the Republican Party, ACLU, environmental defense group, etc. that look very familiar. The surveys are the same each time, accompanied by an introductory letter telling me how I should answer the questions. But, the biggest tells are at the bottom of the surveys. That is where the fundraising occurs. Send us your money.

So, in essence, these are marketing and solicitations disguised as surveys. Surveying is hard as the entity must do its best to shave off any bias. Otherwise, the results are not worth the paper they are written on. In the case of these fundraisers, my guess is the survey goes to a lock box and then tossed, once the money is collected and sender codified for future fundraising.

Now, phone surveys are using the same process. Last night, I took a call and decided to participate in the survey. The questions were as expected about national and governor races, but it skipped over the US Senate race. When I was asked about a candidate not on my radar screen, that should have been a signal, as this candidate was apparently funding the survey. In this case it was a Republican state senator candidate.

What tipped me was leading questions which told me of her opponents’ stances on various votes taking those votes out of context or hyper-politicizing the stance. The surveyor was leading me to question why I should vote for the other candidate.

Once I heard about three of these spoon-fed questions, I stopped him and said this is a leading survey as you are telling me why I should not vote for the other person. Plus, you are taking a lot of these votes out of context and feeding me slogans. What you just said is a made up statistic, for example.

I said I am going to hang up now. I told you how I am going to vote. So, you need nothing further. And, you should know I am an Independent and former Republican voter. But, I am not voting for this Republican candidate.

Saturday in the park – a few wandering comments

It is a good day for a walkabout, so let’s head to the park, allowing for social distancing. As we wander, here are few thoughts to ponder.

I saw where Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots, sold one of his several Super Bowl rings for charity, garnering $1.1 million. Very nice. It reminded me of an interesting accusation Kraft made on a visit to Moscow. He accused Vladimir Putin of pocketing his ring after he asked to see it. Putin said Kraft gave it to him – Kraft said he did not.

I received a letter from one of my Senators in response to my emsil on my concern the president is firing Inspectors General. He said it was the president’s right to fire the IGs. I called and left a message thanking him for the letter, saying I understood his point, but strongly disagree. Firing IGs is like firing the umpire and should be of concern to all senators, regardless of who is president. We must have governance over any president, but especially this one who is not known for telling the truth. By the way, commentators Mark Shield and David Brooks echoed these concerns last night on their PBS Newshour recap of the week.

I read in my newsfeed the fuss about mail-in voting is a lot of hot air about nothing. Five states currently use mail-in voting to a heavy extent – Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah and Washington. It seems people don’t like to drive a long way to a voting precinct and prefer to mail it in. Having lived in a state that saw a Republican super majority plow through ALEC based cookie cutter language on Voter ID Laws, one party is trying to limit voting for their own benefit. Voter fraud is very miniscule, but you would think it is rampant. Fortunately, the judges saw the NC law as “precision-like” discrimination and ruled it unconstitutional. The problem in America is we need to encourage more voting, not less.

China is not the only one who tried to cover up what was happening with COVID-19. After being briefed in January on the pandemic risk, the US president chose to naysay the risk and misinform per his modus operandi. The misinformation continues to this day. On the good side, Americans are coming together. We see the more strident folks beat on their chest and say “I am invincible,” but most Americans are doing what they can, observing social distancing, and helping each other. To be brutally frank, we deserve a better leader than the one who is misinforming us routinely. We need people in leadership positions to shoot straight with us and not try to do things to win an election, first and foremost. Ironically, if the president had chosen to be presidential beginning in January, he could have helped Americans and helped his chances of winning.

Joe Biden had another slip up. Joe screwed up presuming black votes were his. That was wrong. Yet, later in the day, Biden did something that is very un-Trump like, he apologized for his remarks to an important audience. This is not unusual for Biden to say things he may want to check and it will happen again. Yet, it is very important to note biographers have said Trump was taught by his mentor Roy Cohn to “never apologize and sue everyone.” Having watched Trump for years, I must confess I cannot recall him apologizing. He is more inclined to blame someone else than be accountable. Biden was accountable for his screw-up. Yet, no one should take voters for granted, including Joe

Well that is enough to chew on while you walk. Have a great weekend. Be safe.

Relaxing shelter-at-home requirements must be done judiciously with health in mind

As Georgia governor Brian Kemp more aggressively lifted restrictions yesterday, joining other states like South Carolina, Oklahoma, etc., a concern that is not getting talked about enough is some of these same states have the worst national health care rankings. More on this below. Per two separate surveys in the past few days, 70% of Americans want the focus to be on health first, before reopening. Americans seem to get where the focus needs to be more so than some leaders.

I understand the desire to reopen more fully, but we must be smart about it. I was pleased to see the North Carolina governor Roy Cooper extend the shelter-at-home requirement for two weeks, but actually announcing a three phased plan to reopen. That is what is needed. It could be postponed if the numbers do not improve, but it is an articulated plan.

This is a state-by-state issue. The relative health of the state is important as it increases the relative risk. The Commonwealth Fund is an organization that measures the relative health of a state based on a number of factors and have been doing so for years. A link below is to the 2019 state rankings. As you think about states that are reopening sooner than others, consider the following:

The worst twelve states (and District of Columbia) for overall healthcare, from worst to twelfth worst, are as follows:
51 – Mississippi
50 – Oklahoma
49 – Texas
48 – Nevada
47 – Arkansas
46 – West Virginia
45 – Louisiana
44 – Florida
43 – Missouri
42 – Georgia
41 – South Carolina
40 – Tennessee
39 – Alabama

The Commonwealth Fund uses a robust number of variables to rank the states and is one of the more comprehensive tools. These states tend to have a higher degree of obesity (BMI greater than or equal to 30), some have a greater degree of child hood obesity, and have a greater degree of people who claim poor health. With the higher degree of obesity comes higher propensity of diabetes, although this data is inconsistently reported. Please click on the link and go through the most recent report.

Obesity and diabetes are critical factors. Data from the COVID-19 reported this week noted diabetics are not faring well when diagnosed. People with breathing difficulties – asthma, COPD, etc. also are at greater risk. It should be noted Florida ranks poorly on childhood asthma. Again, this is an underreported data point in other states.

Another key factor for poor ratings is access to health care providers and insurance. Many of these states did not expand Medicaid. Many of these states have seen more rural hospitals close than others. Many of these states have more food deserts and higher degrees of drug overdoses, alcoholism, and suicides.

I mention all of the above, as the states have varying degrees of preparedness and risk exposure. In fact, many businesses have noted they are ignoring the governor’s orders to reopen their doors. That is also telling.

I get it. I understand the desire to reopen the doors. I also know pandemic diseases spread more readily than other diseases. If we do venture out – please use social distancing and face masks. There are many restaurants who are practicing good procedures to protect the staff and customers through take out and delivery orders. Support their efforts. That is a way to invest in our economy.

And, please listen to the truthtellers, the doctors, nurses and disease scientists. Listen to the folks not patting themselves on the back or making the issue more political. Facts must trump politics. But, we should also be mindful, we are learning more about this virus with increasingly better data. Just because new data sets aside a previous notion, that is not unusual with pandemic risks. AIDs and Ebola revealed this based on their initial discoveries (AIDs was thought to impact only gay men at first, until women and heterosexuals started dying, eg).

These truthtellers understand this is an uphill climb. We must be vigilant and patient. And, judicious and humble.

https://scorecard.commonwealthfund.org/rankings/

How to respond to people who say you need to get behind the president

Our friend Jill posted a good Op-ed piece written by the Board of the Lincoln Project. In essence, this group represents Republicans who want to see the president defeated in the fall. Her piece is entitled “Country over Party say these Republicans” (see link below). With her permission, I forwarded her piece to an email distribution group. Please do read her piece if you have not already.

Below is a response to a friend who responded quickly. He said he felt we needed to get behind the president which is the new party line. Here is my response.

“These are Republican voices who said all of this. I have listened to Rick Wilson and Steve Schmidt and they are very reasonable in conveying their concerns.

I am behind solving our problems and getting back to some form of normalcy. I also respect the office of the presidency. It would be nice if the incumbent respected it as well. We lost six weeks to plan ahead and the misinformation continues to this day.

My favorite conservative pundit, David Brooks, said it best. Even when the president does the right thing, he lets his “narcissism and neurosis get in the way.” I am so pulling for him to do the right things, but it is hard to solve problems when your first motivation is how does it make me look.

What I cannot fathom is for a person who so craves positive attention, why did he not in January or February say the COVID-19 pandemic risk is something we need to pay attention to and I will initiate some planning efforts now? That would have been highly presidential and shown leadership. Instead he reverted to his modus operandi and lied and said it was a hoax.

I want him to succeed, but am highly disappointed in his autocratic bent. I am even more perturbed by sycophants who rationalize the president’s behavior or look the other way. I agree with the Lincoln Project Op-ed and know there are many other famous Republican voices – Brooks, Ross Douthat, George Will, Matt Drudge, Michael Gerson, Erick Erickson – who feel the same way.

That is how I feel bro.”

“Country Over Party” Say These Republicans …

What I care about – a note received

I shared that my local newspaper published my letter to the editor whose theme was “Listen to the truthtellers.” I included the letter in a recent post. Today, I received a very gracious letter from someone I do not know thanking me for my letter and “taking a stand and for expressing my views publicly.”

Attached to the letter was a summary prepared by John Pavlovitz (see link below) entitled “What I care about.” I thought I would share that summary below:

“I care that families are being separated.
I care that medical bills are bankrupting people.
I care that we’re drowning in guns and daily shootings.
I care that we’re talking about an asinine multi-billion border wall that won’t solve a crisis, even if there were one – and there isn’t one.
I care that our climate is changing and our planet is warming and our environment being degraded ad we have politicians who see science as an adversary.
I care that this Administration solicited and welcomed foreign interference in a Presidential election.
I care that voter suppression and gerrymandering are making it almost impossible for poor people and people of color to be heard and represented.
I care that racists march without hoods now, that elementary school teachers dress up like border walls, that wrestling coaches cut off a man’s dreadlocks in public.
I care that our President is mentally unfit to lead, and that he is buffeted by a group of professional enablers who know he is unfit and defend him anyway.
I care that every single day brings new legislative attacks on people who are already pushed to the brink.
I care that we have accused predators in the White House and on the Supreme Court.
I care that Muslims are caricatured into terrorists, migrants into advancing hordes, and LGBTQ people into imminent threats, by our elected leaders.
I care about families and sick people and underpaid teachers and hungry kids and unpaid Federal workers and transgendered teenagers – and the millions of beautiful, vibrant, disparate human beings who are daily endangered by the leadership of this country.

That’s what I care about.”

This list boils down many concerns to one piece of paper. It is worth the read and reaction. Let me know your thoughts.

Note: At the bottom of the summary is a quote from Neil Carter, “Why are we voting into office men who don’t even accept basic principles of biology, geology, immunology, and astronomy, and who believe we don’t have to preserve our planet’s natural resources.”

The weblink to Pavlovitz’s blog is as follows:

https://johnpavlovitz.com/

Voting for Trump is not a favorable vote for Bernie

Note the following is a comment I made on our friend’s Jill’s recent post. See link below.

I have written separate posts on the relative veracity of Biden and Sanders. I have commented on a couple of progressive sites as well. I will vote for Sanders if he is the nominee, but I favor Biden. I am an independent who is fiscally conservative and socially progressive. I believe in helping people, but we need to make sure we pay for it and are getting a ROI (i.e. – is this the best way to help?).

Biden and Sanders are genuine and decent people. Neither are perfect, but I don’t find myself questioning the veracity of what they say. None of these descriptions fit the bill with the incumbent. I also recognize what too many don’t that America’s economic system is a blend of fettered capitalism with socialist underpinnings. That simple statement would blow people’s minds.

The question we need to ask is what is the proper balance? That question does not fit on a bumper sticker which is how the president got elected. I am just saddened that our reputation around the world has declined with 64% of Europeans not trusting the president trusting Putin and Xi more. To be frank, I am surprised it is not higher in distrust, as I don’t trust a word he says.

And, neither does Bernie Sanders who calls him a “pathological liar.” So, when I see Bernie fans say they would vote for Trump over Biden it is a puzzlement. I think it is an insult to everything Bernie stands for. I would also caution my more ardent Bernie friends to make sure who they are getting their information from, as it easily might be a Trump supporter masquerading as a Bernie Bro. Trump has and will stoop low to get reelected.

Finally, my friend Bernie is not getting the votes like last time. I was pulling for a good interview on “60 Minutes,” but his subtle answer to a question about Cuba cost him Florida in huge way. One Democrat said it may have lost Florida for the Dems if he wins the nomination. Trump cannot win if he does not carry Florida.

So, I do hope we rally around Biden. Otherwise, the climate change and environmental fights will be lost for a key four year period (per Greta and AOC) and SCOTUS will likely become a 7 to 2 conservative majority along with other judges. This point galvanizes Republicans as Mitch McConnell knows he can shape a future of jurisprudence that favors big business and is diminishes civil rights for forty years.

Discord & Dissension — Part X — Bernie or Bust?