Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Speaking Of Cavalier Cruelty…

Friday, September 23rd, 2022

On Wednesday, I wrote about the cruel fraud alleged in Minnesota where the government charged 47 people with stealing more than $250 million from nutrition programs aimed at helping low income children and adults.* Today, another story from the high-rise cruelty tower.

By now, everyone knows about the governors of Texas and Florida busing and flying immigrants to northern states. Governor Greg Abbott of Texas has bused immigrants to New York City, Chicago and Washington, DC, the latter to the front yard of Vice President Harris. That’ll teach her.

The most recent example, and to my mind the cruelest, was Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis’s stunt of flying about 50 immigrants from Texas in two planes to the lovely island of Martha’s Vineyard off the coast of Cape Cod in Massachusetts.

When I write “lovely” I’m not kidding. The Obamas have a home there. Presidents have vacationed on the island for many years. The super-singer-songwriter James Taylor lives there. My family and I vacationed there when the Clintons were in town in the mid-90s (talk about a traffic jam; I never knew).

However, Martha’s Vineyard is not just a place where rich folks go to get away from their presidential and Wall Street drudgery. With a year-round population of 11,864, more than 13% of the locals are either citizens not born in the US, or immigrants who are not US citizens. The median annual household income of the Island is $82,857. Nearly 9% of the population lives below the federal poverty level, and 7% depend on the island’s food pantry. Last year, the Martha’s Vineyard Boys & Girls Club served more than 16,500 meals to Island kids in need.

Martha’s Vineyard might not be a “melting pot,” but it certainly is a “simmering pot.”

So, two planes set down at the island’s relatively small airport — at night — and discharged their cargo. Nobody from Florida had bothered to give anyone in Massachusetts a heads up as to what was coming, but I’ll bet the folks in Tallahassee had quite the laugh when word came the planes had landed. I imagine during the planning for this human trafficking operation, executed with military precision, DeSantis and his team had a great big yuck anticipating how the liberals up north would react to their newest neighbors. I also imagine the disappointment when they saw nearly everyone on the Vineyard turning out to do all they could to help the Venezuelan political pawns. Then Governor Charley Baker, a Republican (but not even close to the mold that made Abbott & Costello — sorry — DeSantis; Abbott & DeSantis) had them brought to an Army Base on Cape Cod, settled in dormitories and immediately given the help and services they needed in a strange place. Made me quite proud, actually.

This is all vaguely reminiscent of 1962, when White segregationists created so-called Reverse Freedom Rides in retaliation for the Freedom Rides of the previous summer, when Black and White volunteers rode buses through the South supporting desegregation. A number of the Reverse Freedom Riders ended up in Massachusetts, where they were given housing at the same Cape Cod Base now housing the Venezuelan immigrants. That’s Kismet for you. One of the Reverse Freedom Riders from Alabama, Eliza Davis, 36, told the New York Times about being bused to and abandoned on Cape Cod in the town of Hyannis just down the road from the holiday home of President John F. Kennedy. More Kismet.

DeSantis, taking credit for this 2022 frat house prank said all the illegal immigrants wanted to go; they all signed consent forms and were promised nothing except a ride.

This, of course, was and is patently untrue, as Judd Legum wrote in Popular Information. Legum had gotten his hands on a brochure DeSantis’s agent, someone named Perla, had given the immigrants as enticement to make the trip.

Describing the immigrants as “illegal” was also untrue. All of the immigrants were in the country legally, at least at the time they boarded the planes, as they had all applied for Asylum Status upon crossing the border. DeSantis didn’t care. The man seems to have the empathy of a loan shark and the arrogance of a wannabe Benito Mussolini.

Have you thought about where DeSantis got the idea for this come-fly-away-with-me stunt? Thanks to Media Matters Senior Fellow Matt Gertz, we now know he got it from this guy on Fox TV, who, on 26 July 2022, laid the whole thing out for him:

When we look past all of this we see a complicated and deeply complex problem: A woebegone immigration “system,” if you can call it that, sorely in need of repair. We see countries whose leaders are persecuting and generally making things perilous for many of their citizens to the extent those men and women, human beings, feel so parlous they are willing to take their families on a long journey under the harshest of conditions at great expense to reach a place they don’t know, but see as a refuge with profound opportunities for their future. Many die along the way. Some die when they get here. And a few get suckered on to a plane to make points for an ambitious and opportunistic politician who thinks playing with people’s lives is fine if it feathers his personal nest even a little bit.

Yup. That’s cruelty for you.

 

*A good friend, responding to Wednesday’s column, wrote, “As thorough as Dante was, he seems to have missed a few circles in designing Hell. I suggest a sub-basement addition for this crowd where they can be chewed on by starving children for all eternity.”

Beautiful image, that.

 

A Few Weekend Thoughts On Biden’s College Loan Forgiveness Program

Saturday, August 27th, 2022

On Wednesday of this week, President Biden issued an Executive Order to forgive some of the debt owed by those who had received college loans. In doing so, Biden was attempting to fulfill a campaign promise to forgive undergraduate student debt for people earning up to $125,000 ($250,000 for a family). “I made a commitment that we would provide student debt relief, and I’m honoring that commitment today,” he said in remarks at the White House.

According to the Office of Federal Student Aid (OFSA), an office within the US Department of Education, Biden’s plan comes in three parts. The first part extends the repayment loan pause a final time (again) to the end of 2022. Part 2 is what’s getting all the attention at the moment. It says:

To smooth the transition back to repayment and help borrowers at highest risk of delinquencies or default once payments resume, the U.S. Department of Education will provide up to $20,000 in debt cancellation to Pell Grant recipients with loans held by the Department of Education and up to $10,000 in debt cancellation to non-Pell Grant recipients. Borrowers are eligible for this relief if their individual income is less than $125,000 or $250,000 for households.

Part 3 of the President’s plan is different in that it is in the form a  proposed rule “to create a new income-driven repayment plan that will substantially reduce future monthly payments for lower-and middle-income borrowers,” according to the OFSA. The proposal would:

  • Require borrowers to pay no more than 5% of their discretionary income monthly on undergraduate loans. This is down from the 10% available under the most recent income-driven repayment plan.
  • Raise the amount of income that is considered non-discretionary income and therefore is protected from repayment, guaranteeing that no borrower earning under 225% of the federal poverty level—about the annual equivalent of a $15 an hour wage for a single borrower—will have to make a monthly payment.
  • Forgive loan balances after 10 years of payments, instead of 20 years, for borrowers with loan balances of $12,000 or less.
  • Cover the borrower’s unpaid monthly interest, so that unlike other existing income-driven repayment plans, no borrower’s loan balance will grow as long as they make their monthly payments—even when that monthly payment is $0 because their income is low.

Part 3 is consequential, and the fourth bullet point of Part 3 even more so. Interest payments can easily double the size of a student loan, and anything that reduces the interest burden will reduce the size of the loan and, consequently, the time required to pay it off. But a proposed rule is not an Order and will take time before being finalized, perhaps a lot of time.

Right now we are in the knee jerk phase of this issue. Republicans categorize Biden’s move as political and unfair to those who worked hard to pay off their loans. Why should their tax dollars now subsidize the millions who haven’t? The far right, more rabid of the bunch, have been raining tweet storms condemning the very idea of forgiving the loans, all the while forgetting to mention their own Paycheck Protection Act loans, most well over $100,000, have all been forgiven.

In thinking about this, the first question one might want to ask is: Does the President have the authority to do it? House Speaker Nancy Pelosi doesn’t think so. “The president can’t do it,” she said in July. “That’s not even a discussion.”

We can expect this decision to be challenged in the courts. But, at the very least, it offers President Biden a chance to say he is honoring a commitment, a promise, even if the Judiciary ultimately won’t let him do it.

How and why has going to college come to this? I think the answer can be found in the long, winding, potholed road to higher education of the last 55 years. It’s complicated, and people have devoted entire careers to studying it.

I’m concerned, in a practical sense, with what changed from the time I and my peers affordably attended college in the late 1960s. For instance, how and in what manner have costs increased? To what degree and why is there now a far greater percentage of high school graduates attending four year, or even two-year colleges? Have wages commensurately grown with college costs to allow parents and their children to be able to afford it all? How has the for-profit boom in colleges contributed to the college loan crisis, if it has?

To begin to answer those questions, let’s first take a look at where we are now.

Adam Looney, the Nonresident Senior Fellow at the left-leaning Brookings Institution and the Executive Director of the Marriner S. Eccles Institute at the University of Utah, is one of our foremost experts on college loans and costs. He has argued for quite some time against across-the-board loan forgiveness, because a disproportionate amount goes to people who don’t need it, Ivy League educated doctors, lawyers, etc. He has produced the following table to demonstrate his argument. The table categorizes all colleges and graduate programs represented in the College Scorecard by their selectivity using Barron’s college rankings. The left panel of the table describes the debts owed by students at these colleges. The right panel describes their family economic background and their post-college outcomes. From top to bottom, the schools are categorized by their selectivity—how hard it is to get accepted. Note that the more selective the school, the greater the average debt (with the exception of the for-profits). The same holds true for the two far right columns. The more selective the school, the greater the after college earnings. Note also that, with the exception of the Ivy Plus graduates, the average after college earnings for every other category are less than the President’s cap of $125,000 for loan forgiveness qualification.

I’m going to ignore the harm done by for-profit colleges, except to say the largest single source of student debt in America is one of them—the University of Phoenix, the gigantic online for-profit chain. Students who graduated or dropped out in 2017-2018 owed about $2.6 billion in student loans; two years after graduation, 93 percent of borrowers had fallen behind on their loans, which caused interest owed to grow like festering weeds. These are people Looney agrees need to be helped—a lot.

I thought it might be instructive to look at this through the lens of one, typical, highly reputable, selective public university. As Looney’s table shows, graduates of selective public colleges and universities make up 33.7% of the total share of college debt. I’ve picked the University of Massachusetts. UMass is representative of all state universities, and, because I’m from Massachusetts and long ago was a Trustee at one of its foundations, I know the school better than, say, Penn State or Connecticut.

The UMass flagship campus in Amherst sits on more than 1,400 acres and has about 24,000 students. Out of more than 850 US public colleges, it is #68 in US News & World Report’s current rankings. Tuition, fees, room and board total $32,168 for in-state residents, about $50,000 for out-of-staters. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts currently contributes (subsidizes) 31% of the university’s total costs, or $14,287 per student, which means students’ tuition would be considerably more without that help, somewhere in the range of the cost of a selective private college, or an out-of-state UMass student. Every state subsidizes its selective public colleges to some degree.

Nationally, in 1967, 47% of high school graduates moved on to college. Seventeen percent would drop out, 15.4% white, 28.6% black. Today, less than 10% drop out; 10.7%% of drop outs are Black. We are approaching equality in that regard.

That’s where UMass is now. Fifty-five-years-ago, when I was young, things were different. Facts And Figures 1967, from the then UMass Office of Institutional Studies, is a 163-page, deeply detailed report of the university as it was then, all of it in one spot. I do not think you’d find a similar study today.

In 1967, annual tuition and fees were $336; room and board, $939, for a total cost of $1,275. The university employed 729 full-time faculty for 9,439 students. Today, there are about 1,400 full-time faculty. In 1967, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts picked up 67% of the university’s operating costs (as opposed to the aforementioned 31% today).

What you bought in 1967 for $1.00 would now cost $8.87, with a cumulative rate of inflation of 787%. Over that time, tuition, fees, room and board at the University of Massachusetts have increased by a factor of more than 24. If the tuition at UMass had just grown by the rate of inflation, it would now be $11,310, not $32,168.

So, extrapolating from current demographic and UMass data to the national picture, four things have been at work over the last 55 years. First, student costs have grown at nearly three-times the rate of inflation. Second, the state has reduced its share of student costs by more than 50%, which is representative of the nation. Third, the percent of high school graduates who go on to college has grown from 47% to nearly 62%. And fourth. wages have not even remotely kept up with the cost of college. According to the Congressional Research Service, real wages (wages adjusted for inflation), grew only 8.8%, at the 50th percentile level of all earners, since 1979.

President Biden’s initiative will likely remain a political football at least until the mid-terms, probably beyond. My own conclusion is that it will help a lot of people who need it and will be unnecessary largesse, at taxpayers expense, for those many who don’t. And it does nothing to solve the real problem.

Unless and until we can control the cost of college, this crisis will continue for future generations.  College cost growth at three times the rate of inflation is unsustainable.

We need to do much more than forgive a slice of college loans. That’s like trying to save a sinking ship by tossing the first mate a rope of sand.

 

Two Stories – Only One Of Them Good

Thursday, August 11th, 2022


Photo credit – The Economist, 2018

There are two major stories roiling America this week in August 2022. One concerns the major accomplishments of the Biden administration, and the other is the political cyclone that is anything having to do with Donald Trump.

By any basic measure, Joe Biden’s presidency is off to a rip-roaring start. Not even halfway through his term, Congress has passed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan and devoted hundreds of billions of dollars to upgrading American infrastructure. It’s approved the first major piece of gun reform in decades and expanded health care benefits to millions of veterans. And once the House returns from its recess tomorrow, Congress will have authorized hundreds of billions of dollars in green energy and health care subsidies. While the first and last measures were enacted entirely along party lines, the others passed with large, bipartisan majorities.

And this week President Biden signed another bi-partisan major piece of legislation into law, the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022, boosting domestic semiconductor manufacturing, a stroke of the pen we desperately needed to compete globally with the Chinese. Following the signing, the Micron company announced a $40 billion investment in new chip-manufacturing facilities in the United States through the end of the decade, and Global Foundries and Qualcomm announced a $4 billion partnership to produce chips in the U.S. that would otherwise have gone overseas.

Also this week, we learned the price of gasoline has dropped below $4.00 per gallon and inflation has decreased from 9.1% to 8.5%.

I defy anyone to prove any administration in the last fifty years has done more in such short a time (I know, it feels like forever, but it’s only the first one and a half years of a four year term).

But while that story of accomplishment should be celebrated around the country, such is not the case. It’s the other story, the Trump crazyness, that continues to suck all the available oxygen out of everywhere. And it doesn’t help when Republican congressional legislators hypocritically put on the mantle of persecuted victimhood and defend their cult leader like Davy Crocket at the Alamo.

I won’t go into all the nausea-inducing idiocy delivered with intergalactic significance by those “patriots,” but I will point out that in a time crying out for calm, patience and legislative leadership, we are given nothing but disingenuous histrionics with all the honesty of a Potemkin Village.

Here is what we know: Donald Trump is being investigated by two agencies, the New York Attorney General and the Justice Department. We know the particulars of the first, but not the second. We know a federal judge authorized the FBI to execute a search warrant at Trump’s home at Mar-a-Lago (After firing James Comey, Trump appointed the current FBI Director Christopher Wray, a Republican). To do that, the FBI would have had to persuade the Judge it had probable cause that a crime had been committed. Second, we know the former President testified in New York on Wednesday of this week in the New York Attorney General’s long-running civil investigation into his business dealings. We know his testimony consisted entirely of his invoking his Fifth Amendment rights (we also know Trump has said in the past, “You see, the mob takes the Fifth. If you’re innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?”).*

That is all we know for sure. Everything else has been speculation and a hair-on-fire, Hellzapoppin horror show in which Republicans see the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse galloping over the nearest hill to bring fire and destruction to them and their Dear Leader. They have also pledged massive vengeance if (they say “when”) they retake control of the House in November’s election.

While there is some excellent reporting happening, especially in long form, I blame the Washington media for much of this. Yes, it has to cover the swill that comes out of Trump’s mouth and the chaos that comes next, but it has given, and continues to give, every bombastic bloviator a national soapbox from which to spill their screed. There is a rampant and profound false equivalency going on, and, reporters covering this for the national and cable networks should know better. As someone I respect said, “They should be investigative reporters, not stenographers.”

Maybe at some point in the future Americans will stand back and take a hard look at all of this. Maybe they will come to appreciate the monumental legislation that’s come out of the Biden administration. Maybe they will realize the good it will do for our country and our neighbors. Maybe Republican leadership will instruct congressional members to stand down and let things play out. Maybe Joe Biden’s approval rating will rise. Maybe pigs will begin flying past my second floor window. Maybe…

We can be certain of one thing. The Trump drama will resolve eventually. The question is, will it right the ship of Democracy, or sink it?

 

*It is not the first time that Mr. Trump has taken the fifth in a civil case. During his divorce proceedings against Ivana Trump in 1990, he invoked his right against self-incrimination close to 100 times according to Wayne Barrett’s book “Trump: The Greatest Show on Earth.” Most of the questions he was avoiding concerned his infidelity. In Mr. Barrett’s words, “mostly in response to questions about ‘other women.’”

Friday Thoughts About Precrime: Alive And Well In The Florida Of Ron DeSantis

Friday, August 5th, 2022

Precrime: A predictive policing system dedicated to apprehending and detaining people before they have the opportunity to commit a given crime. The term was coined by Philip K. Dick and became the basis for the plot of The Minority Report, a short story of his, published in Fantastic Universe Science Fiction magazine in 1956.*

On Thursday of this week, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, surrounded by Tampa Bay Area sheriffs (fifteen of them, all male), suspended Andrew Warren, the twice-elected Hillsborough County State Attorney, saying he violated his oath of office and has been soft on crime.

DeSantis then appointed Susan Lopez to serve as acting state attorney during Warren’s suspension. Lopez was appointed by the governor to serve as a Hillsborough County judge in 2021. She previously served as the Assistant State Attorney in the 13th Judicial Circuit.

DeSantis suspended Warren because in June, following the Supreme Court’s overturning of the Roe v. Wade decision of 1972, Warren joined 91 other attorneys general and district attorneys around the country in signing a statement  declaring they would “decline” to prosecute “reproductive health decisions.”

Florida’s Senate will now take up Warren’s suspension. If it upholds the governor’s move, Lopez will remain State Attorney until an election can be held to choose Warren’s permanent replacement, permanent, that is, until the next election, or until another suspension if DeSantis becomes annoyed again.

I would like to mention a few points to consider about all this:

First, Florida’s Constitution gives its Governor the right to remove any elected official “for reasons of misfeasance, malfeasance, neglect of duty, drunkenness, incompetence, permanent inability to perform official duties, or commission of a felony.”

Governor Rick Scott, DeSantis’s predecessor and a politician about whom we have written before, exercised this power twice. In 2018, he suspended Broward County elections supervisor Brenda Snipes on the heels of a tumultuous recount, citing a litany of well-publicized problems, including the misplacement and inadvertent mixing of ballots. A year before, he had reassigned more than two dozen potential death penalty cases away from Orlando state attorney Aramis Ayala after she declared she wouldn’t pursue capital punishment.

As the Editorial Board of the Tampa Bay Times wrote yesterday, “That remedy was more appropriate than a blanket removal from office.” But still, DeSantis does have the power to do what he did.

Second, everything Ron DeSantis does from morning till night must be colored in the light of his presidential ambitions. He, like so many other politicians who believe they deserve to be President, is forever circling above the bloated body of Donald Trump, waiting and hoping for the former President to stumble and fall, so he may swoop down and grab the political gold ring. Sadly, there is no Cincinnatus here, Cincinnatus, the Roman farmer of 458 BCE revered for his virtue, who left his farm to become General and in 16 days rescued Rome from imminent defeat and promptly retired to his farm.

Third, what exactly did Warren do? Answer: Nothing, except signing a group statement saying “we decline to use our offices’ resources to criminalize reproductive health decisions.” Yes, the wording could have been better, much better, actually. It should have made clear the prosecutors would make decisions on an individual basis. Regardless, Warren has yet to refuse to prosecute anybody for violating Florida’s anti-abortion law. DeSantis’s suspension is a pre-emptive strike by the Ron DeSantis Precrime Unit, a bone thrown to his political base for his upcoming 2022 gubernatorial reelection and presidential run in 2024. If you doubt that, ask yourself why DeSantis spent so much time at his Thursday press conference talking about San Francisco, George Soros and “woke” criminal justice reform? Ask yourself why the sheriffs he called upon to speak spent so much time talking about the “evils’ found in other parts of the country, the very blue parts?

Finally, if Governor DeSantis can “suspend” Andrew Warren because he thinks Warren will do something he has yet to do, then he can suspend any legitimately-elected Florida official with whom he disagrees. That is scary.

Who’s next?

 

*

An Indiana Power Grab Shows Politics At Its Worst

Thursday, July 21st, 2022

Fifty-two-year-old Theodore Edward Rokita, known as Todd, not Ted, is Indiana’s 44th Attorney General.

A dedicated far-right Republican, his political life is a thirsty search for one powerful political office after another. Elected Indiana’s Secretary of State at age 32 in 2002, he was the youngest Secretary of State in America at the time. He went on to capture Indiana’s 4th Congressional District seat in 2011 and served in the U.S. House until 2019.

In 2015, during his time in the House, Indiana created the Healthy Indiana Plan and expanded its Medicaid Program to take advantage of the Affordable Care Act. Rokita’s reaction to this was to say the ACA was “one of the most insidious laws ever created by man.”

He ran against Eric Holcomb for Governor in 2016 to replace Mike Pence, who had resigned to become Donald Trump’s running mate. Holcomb won convincingly, and, as I hope to prove below, Rokita never forgave him for the drubbing.

In 2017, Rokita resigned his House seat and sought the Republican nomination for U.S. Senator. He failed again.

But in 2020, in a political comeback of sorts, Todd, not Ted, Rokita defeated incumbent Curtis Hill for the Republican nomination for Indiana Attorney General, and in November 2020, he won the general election.

If that were all we ever learned of Todd Rokita, we could chalk him up as just another political hack of the Republican persuasion.

But the story doesn’t end there. It begins there. And it begins with a 10-year-old girl from Ohio.

In May 2022, a man from Columbus, Ohio, Gerson Fuentes, 27, allegedly raped that 10-year-old girl not once, but twice, and she became pregnant by him. On 27 June, a child abuse doctor treated her, but could not refer her for an abortion in Ohio, because, following the Supreme Court’s Roe reversal earlier in June, Ohio’s trigger law fired and outlawed abortions after six weeks of insemination. He determined the girl was six weeks and three days pregnant. So, he called a colleague in neighboring Indiana, where abortions were still legal in the first 22 weeks. Dr. Caitlin Bernard, an obstetrician-gynecologist, agreed to help, and the 10-year-old was quickly on her way to Indiana.

On 30 June, Dr. Bernard performed the abortion. The 10-year-old, who will bear the horrid psychological scars of this for the rest of her life, was spared the further horror of giving birth to her rapist’s child.

Among all the bureaucratic red tape government can create, Indiana has created what are called Termination of Pregnancy Reports, TPRs, and these must be completed by physicians who terminate pregnancies in the state. In the case of a pre-teen abortion, the law calls for TPR completion within three days of the abortion. Dr. Bernard completed and submitted her TPR for the 10-year-old within two days, on 2 July, thereby complying with the law.

On the first of July, one day after the abortion and one day before Dr. Bernard submitted her TPR, the Indianapolis Star ran a story about pregnant women from Ohio and Kentucky who were heading to Indiana for abortions because of the restrictive laws in their states. The story began:

On Monday, three days after the Supreme Court issued its groundbreaking decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, Dr. Caitlin Bernard, an Indianapolis obstetrician-gynecologist, took a call from a colleague, a child abuse doctor in Ohio.

Hours after the Supreme Court action, the Buckeye state had outlawed any abortion after six weeks. Now this doctor had a 10-year-old patient in the office who was six weeks and three days pregnant.

Could Bernard help?

The story later said Dr. Bernard had agreed to help. It did not say she had performed the abortion, just that she had agreed to help.

This story caught the nation’s attention, mostly for the wrong reasons. It was ridiculed. The Wall Street Journal called it “fanciful.” Republican Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost was among those who questioned the validity of the story.  Ohio Republican Representative Jim Jordan called the story “another lie” in a now-deleted tweet. Some of Fox’s most high-profile hosts — Tucker Carlson, Jesse Watters, Laura Ingraham — suggested the account of the 10-year-old rape victim was a “hoax” and “politically timed disinformation,” and claimed that the Biden administration was “lying” about the case after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

All this happened between the Indy Star’s story and the arrest—and confession—of Mr. Fuentes, which is when the backtracking happened. Jordan deleted his tweet, the WSJ issued a “correction,” Fox News actually took credit for “justice being served,” and Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita, with all the empathy of an empty paper cup, saw an opportunity and took the stage.

Was he devastated that a 10-year-old had suffered such a horrific experience? If he was, he never said. What he did say, during a press conference he hurriedly called on the subject, complete with TV, Radio and Print media, was that he would be investigating Dr. Bernard for failing to provide the Termination of Pregnancy Report within the time required by law (She had).

On 13 July, twelve days after the abortion, he wrote a letter to Governor Holcomb, the same Eric Holcomb who had trounced him in the race for Governor, advising, “If  Doctor Bernard has failed to file the required reports on time, she has committed an offense, the consequences of which could include criminal prosecution and licensure repercussions.” Rokita went on to say “key” people on his staff had been trying to get the Indiana Department of Health to forward the TPR for two days, without success. Two days.

Rokita’s letter lectures the Governor, saying, “As state officeholders, we bear an important responsibility to get to the bottom of this matter immediately….” He admonishes the man who beat him in the election of 2016 by saying Holcomb should “direct the state agencies under your purview to produce immediately to my office the requested TPRs…so we can confirm Dr. Bernard’s compliance with the law.”*

Not one drop of the Balm of Gilead does Todd, not Ted, Rokita offer the 10-year-old whose life has been so tragically scarred. Nope. He can’t be bothered. He has other things on his mind. He is 100% focused on scoring whatever rancid political points he can.

No wonder people hate politicians.

 

*On 14 July, one day after Rokita’s letter to the Governor, Indianapolis TV station Fox 59 published the TPR, submitted by Dr. Bernard within two days of the procedure, which it had secured by a Freedom of Information request. Maybe Todd should have tried that.

The Biggest Grifter In History?

Tuesday, June 14th, 2022

“A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep.” – Saul Bellow, writer, Nobel laureate.

“There’s a sucker born every minute.” – P. T. Barnum (maybe).

Yesterday gave us the second Hearing of the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack, and it put a stake through the heart of any belief that the adults around Donald Trump following the 3 November presidential election actually thought he had won. They all knew that as more and more mail-in votes were counted, the curtain was slowly coming down on the Trump Presidency. And they all told him that.

He wouldn’t listen and turned for validation to the crazies in the room led by an apparently intoxicated Rudy Giuliani who told him, “Just go out and say you won.”

All the testimony yesterday, both in person and pre-recorded, confirmed that, regardless of what anyone told him, Trump’s need to stay in power “trumped” everything else. His minions would keep making wild accusations of fraud, and he would glom onto every one of them, one after another. His Attorney General Bill Barr testified this forced him into constant “whack-a-mole” investigations. Barr said he concluded Trump had become “detached from reality.”

None of this was surprising, although it was a little reassuring to realize nearly all the Republican professionals working on the election had an allegiance to the truth of the facts on the ground. Turns out that, with the exception of the Giuliani, Powell, Eastman cabal, Trump was just about the only off-the-rails person in the White House.

But what was surprising, what hit me like a high hard one to the side of the head, was the testimony of Amanda Wick, which the Committee saved until the end, their knock-out punch. Wick is the Senior Investigative Counsel for the Committee.

Wick laid out in exquisite detail how Trump saw his election defeat as a money-making opportunity of the first order.

Even before the polls closed Team Trump began sending out millions of email solicitations asking for money in order to “fight back” against the “radical left’s” attempt to steal the election. Millions upon millions of emails. Each telling supporters to “Step up” and “Fight back.” Wick testified, “Thirty minutes after the last email was sent, the Capital was breached.”

This tsunami of emails was easy for them, because the Trump campaign had been doing the same thing for the last couple of years. I know this because I would get the solicitations…every day, sometimes two or three times a day. Somehow the Republican National Committee (all the solicitations were signed at the bottom as coming from the RNC; maybe they did, maybe they didn’t) had my email and had decided I was a “top supporter of President Trump,” but had yet to contribute to his defense of our “American freedom,” and the President could “not understand why.” Now, they would give me “one more chance” to contribute, but it had to be done before 11:00pm that night, so President Trump could “see” my name on his daily list of “American Patriots.” In response, I would send nothing, and the next day they’d be back giving me “one more chance.”

Every one of the solicitations promised that my donation would be either 100%, 500%, or even 1,000% matched! By whom? They never said, and if I were a betting man I’d wager no such person existed.

I had never tried to cancel those things. They gave me a daily laugh. I would look at them and say, “Who falls for this stuff?”

Apparently a lot of people. Amanda Wick testified that between Election Day and January 6th those email solicitations raised $250 million for the Official Election Defense Fund.

Except there never was any Official Election Defense Fund, as campaign staffer Hannah Allred testified yesterday. Actually, the solicitations were “marketing tactics,” and the money went into a new Super PAC Trump had created right after the election, the Save America PAC.

Trump doled out some of the money to his political sycophantic cronies like Mark Meadows, who got $1 million for his Conservative Partnership Institute. Nearly a quarter of a million went to the Trump Hotel Collection.

As I watched this unfold, I realized all of this $250 million, and all the money raised from the daily solicitations prior to the election, had come in small donor donations from people around the country who had totally bought into the Cult of Trump. I pictured retired couples getting these solicitations as they sat around their kitchen tables telling themselves they were part of a great cause, and saying, “Let’s send another $25, honey.” People who were on fixed incomes and addicted to Fox News, Trump’s personal TV Network. Grandpas and Grandmas who were the soul of middle America and whose minds had been co-opted by Carnival Barker Donald Trump, and who now believed their way of life was being stolen by radical, leftist extremists in Washington, DC.

Donald Trump’s mythical Official Election Defense Fund was callous, cruel, disgusting, and the epitome of greed.

Has there ever been a bigger grifter in American history?

It’s Time For Some Morality In Leadership

Wednesday, May 25th, 2022

Nineteen young children and three adults including the 18-year-old shooter. Slaughter on a grand scale, American style.

What can one say that hasn’t been said before and is being said again right now? Nothing. We have run out of new words.

Gun law advocates will say are saying, have said — we need tighter gun control laws. Second Amendment obsessives will say are saying, have said— No, we don’t; it’s not the guns. It’s the demented people using them.

These positions are not mutually exclusive, but that is how we treat them. Result? Nothing ever gets done, and the killing goes on.

I wrote about this back in 2019, and, because not a thing has changed since then, I thought I couldn’t do better than to share a portion of that column.

September, 1970

Let me tell you a story.

We call it “going back to the world.” Home in the USA. And I’ve arrived in one piece. For the last couple of years I’ve been running around the jungles of Vietnam. My new orders direct me to report to the Army’s Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, Georgia. I know the place well. It’s where I was trained and Commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant. Then on to Airborne and Ranger schools. Now a Captain, the job is to train the next bunch of happy warriors. My wife and I settle into the house at 3660 Plantation Road in the fine city of Columbus. It’s a nice neighborhood.

A few months after moving in a new civilian worker shows up at my office in the Infantry School. His name’s Bob. He’s a GS12 research analyst and I have no idea why he’s here, but he has a disability that makes it hard for him to walk or move even moderately weighted stuff. He’s rented a house in Columbus and is trying to figure out how to move his junk in. My wife and I offer to help.

So, on a sunny Saturday morning in the deep south we get into Marilyn’s red Corvair Corsa with its turbocharged engine and dual carburetors, show up at Bob’s new place, and find a UHaul truck in his driveway packed with everything he owns. We get to work toting box after box into the house and putting it all where Bob wants it to go. It’s taken us all morning, but around noon we’re done and we sit down on Bob’s new furniture to celebrate the end of Bob’s beginning. Marilyn’s never met Bob, whom I’ve charitably described as being “a little strange.”  So, being a curious person she nicely asks about his life. This goes on for a while until the big moment.

The big moment is when Bob says to Marilyn, “Wanna see my hair-trigger Colt 45s?”

It’s like an E. F. Hutton commercial. Everything stops. I freeze for a second and then say, “Bob, do you really have hair-trigger Colt 45s?” He says, “Sure do. Two of ’em. They’re pearl-handled, too. Want to see?”

He’s asking a guy who’s just finished two years dodging bullets and other bad things in a spot where serious people really wanted to kill him and his men. To say I have developed a healthy respect for any kind of gun is not giving that phrase the value it needs. Having seen up close what they can do, the accidents that can happen, actually did happen, makes me scared to death of them. I’m not scared when they’re in my hands, but in somebody else’s who probably doesn’t know what he’s doing? I’m not scared yet, though, because Bob has yet to produce the firepower, but my tension level rises like a Goddard Rocket.

I look Bob dead in the eye and say, “Bob, please don’t get the 45s. Leave em’ right where they are. Marilyn and I have to be going. Hope you like your new place.” And with that, we leave.

We get back into the red Corvair Corsa with the turbocharged engine and dual carburetors and drive home. When we get to the house on Plantation Road I pay the babysitter and look at the two-year-old daughter I’m just getting to know. And I think about the pearl-handled, hair-trigger Colt 45s in Bob’s house.

May, 2022

A University of Washington 2017 study found that three million Americans carry a loaded handgun daily; nine million do so at least once a month. According to the recently completed U.S. Census, there are somewhere around 390 million guns in the hands of civilians in America. According to the CDC, nearly eight-in-ten (79%) U.S. murders in 2020 19,384 out of 24,576 involved a firearm. That marked the highest percentage since at least 1968, the earliest year for which the CDC has online records.

Unfortunately, all the CDC can do is report the numbers. Why? Because a 1996 appropriations act contained something that has come to be known as the Dickey Amendment. That amendment is interpreted to prohibit the CDC from doing any research into gun violence. The amendment says federal funding could not be used to “advocate or promote gun control.”  Since more than 38,000 people die by gun violence per year (murder and suicide), is it too much to ask that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spend a few million of its $5 billion budget to research and analyze gun violence. Seems a modest proposal to me.

The Houston Chronicle reports the shooter in yesterday’s massacre bought his AR-15 rifle the day after he turned 18. That would be par for the course, because in mass public shootings, the weapon of choice is the assault rifle. The National Shooting Sports Foundation has estimated that approximately 5 million to 10 million AR-15 style rifles exist in the U.S. Regarding assault rifles, I know a thing or two. And I can say with complete certainty and a good deal of experiential credibility that there is not a single reason on God’s lovely earth why anyone other than police and my military brothers and sisters should have one, especially one with automatic fire capability. Anybody who tells you differently is chock full up to their eyeballs with what makes the grass grow green and tall.

We all know that this country is not going to take firearms from its citizenry. However, there are sensible things we can do now —  sensible things that most Americans support. For instance, weapons need to be better controlled through age restrictions, permit-to-purchase licensinguniversal background checkssafe storage campaigns and red-flag laws — measures that help control firearm access for vulnerable individuals or people in crisis.

No one in their right mind commits a mass shooting, but people not in their right minds seem to manage it, and carnage results. And we do nothing. It is a terrible thing to say, but I can only conclude that a majority of our legislative leaders have been bought and paid for by gun lobbyists. No other explanation for inaction seems plausible after the year after year after year slaughter of innocents.

It is high time to force our leaders to ditch the “thoughts and prayers” and find the spot somewhere in their hypocritical, opportunistic, power-hungry being where they have hidden their sense of decency, their morality, presuming they ever had any.

Mississippi: America’s Third World Country

Wednesday, May 11th, 2022

Although I have been there only once, I can’t help thinking about Mississippi.

Mississippi has recently been in the news, of course, because its 2018 Gestational Age Act will be upheld in the same Supreme Court decision overruling Roe v. Wade, which we discovered from Justice Samuel Alito’s leaked first draft opinion for the majority.

This is not Mississippi’s first foray into restricting abortion. In 2007, the state passed its version of an abortion Trigger Law, which “bans all abortions unless necessary to save the life of the pregnant woman or if the pregnancy was caused by rape and charges have been filed with law enforcement,” and which takes effect immediately following the state attorney general certifying the Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade. The Trigger law had 19 male legislative sponsors and zero female sponsors. Regardless, Mississippi has been ready for this for 15 years.

But has it been ready for what comes next?

Matthew Walther, editor of The Lamp, a Roman Catholic literary journal, and a person who will never be accused of favoring abortion, sees predictable and unpleasant consequences after Roe is no longer the law of the land. In his 10 May 2022 guest essay for the New York Times, “Overturning Roe will disrupt a lot more than abortion. I can live with that,” Mr. Walthern acknowledges what very few anti-abortionists want to admit.

Research over the years has suggested that an America without abortion would mean more single mothers and more births to teenage mothers, increased strain on Medicaid and other welfare programs, higher crime rates, a less dynamic and flexible work force, an uptick in carbon emissions, lower student test scores and goodness knows what else.

But Mr. Walther, despite envisioning a gloomy horizon, “can live with that.” I cannot restrain myself from pointing out that Mr. Walther is of the male persuasion and, consequently, faces little likelihood of ever having to “live with” personal pregnancy.

Nonetheless, he makes a good argument, which brings us back to Mississippi.

A few points worth considering:

  • Poverty: According to the Department of Agriculture, 20.29% of Mississippi’s adults and 27.6% of its children live below the poverty line. This is the highest poverty rate in America where the national average is 11.4%.
  • Income: The median family income in Mississippi is $45,081. This is the lowest in the nation. According to the National Census Bureau, the national average in 2019 was $65,712.
  • Education: Only Texas, at 84%, ranks lower than Mississippi, at 85%, for the percentage of high school graduates. The national average is 89.6%. Only West Virginia, at 21%, ranks lower than Mississippi’s 22% for the percentage of college graduates. The national average is 31.28%.
  • Life Expectancy: At 74.4 years, Mississippi has the lowest life expectancy rate in the nation. Of note, the life expectancy rate for Mississippi’s men is 71.2 years.
  • Fetal Mortality: Mississippi’s fetal mortality rate, the number of deaths at 24 or more weeks of gestation per 1,000 live births, is 6.6. This is the highest in the nation. The national average is 3.68. If that isn’t enough, fetal deaths have lately doubled among unvaccinated pregnant women who suffer COVID-19 infections, State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said during a Mississippi State Department of Health press conference in September, 2021.
  • Infant Mortality: The Infant Mortality Rate is the number of infant deaths per 1,000 live births. At 8.27, Mississippi’s is the highest in the nation, far exceeding Louisiana’s rate of 7.53, which is the second highest.
  • Maternal Mortality: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Mississippi’s maternal mortality rate is 20.8, again, the highest in the country, where the national average is 17.4, which is the highest among all members of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). A maternal death is defined by the World Health Organization as, “the death of a woman while pregnant or within 42 days of termination of pregnancy, irrespective of the duration and the site of the pregnancy, from any cause related to or aggravated by the pregnancy or its management, but not from accidental or incidental causes.”
  • Maternity Leave: Mississippi has no guaranteed Maternity or Sick Leave in its state laws.
  • Smoking: According to the CDC, 20.4% of Mississippians smoke. This is the fourth highest in the nation.
  • Autopsies: Something you probably have never have considered until now: Autopsy backlogs. According to the National Association of Medical Examiners (NAME), 90% of all autopsies should be completed within 60 days of death. The NAME has never accredited Mississippi, which has the highest backlog in the nation. The Mississippi State Medical Examiner’s Office was waiting for about 1,300 reports from as far back as 2011, records sent to the Associated Press in early April show. Around 800 of those involve homicides – meaning criminal cases are incomplete.
  • Abortion: According to the Mississippi Department of Public Health, the state has about 3,500 abortions annually. This represents 4.3 abortions per 1,000 women of reproductive age.
  • Finally: Mississippi ranks highest in the nation for Percent of Births to Unmarried Mothers, Cesarean Delivery Rate, Preterm Birth Rate, and Low Birthweight Rate.

Reading the above, one might be forgiven for thinking  there is a significant population in Mississippi who are actual victims of the state’s inability, or outright refusal, to carry out its first responsibility: to provide for the security and safety of its citizens.

Thinking about this, I have to ask: Given how well it’s doing now, how in the world is Mississippi going to cope with 3,500 new births per year? On CNN this past Sunday, Jake Tapper interviewed the state’s Republican Governor, Tate Reeves. That interview offered a glimpse of what is likely coming, a catastrophe becoming worse than it already is, which is considerable.

Tapper: Mississippi, as you know, has the highest rate of infant mortality in the United States. You have the highest rate of child poverty in the United States. Your state has no guaranteed maternity leave that’s paid. The legislature in Mississippi just rejected extending post-partum Medicaid coverage. Your foster care system is also the subject of a long-running federal lawsuit over its failure to protect children from abuse. You say you want to do more to support mothers and children, but you’ve been in state government since 2004. Based on the track record of the state of Mississippi, why should anyone believe you?

Reeves: I believe in my heart that I was elected, not to try to hide our problems, but to try to fix our problems. We are focusing every day on fixing the challenges that are before us.

Good luck, Governor. You and all those “unborn” children who are about to be “saved” are going to need a lot of it. And so are the Mississippi women who are about to become the state’s newest victims.

 

 

 

 

The Leak

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2022

At 8:30pm Monday night, Politico reporters Josh Gerstein and Alexander Ward dropped the biggest journalistic bombshell of a year filled with journalistic bombshells when they published a leaked first draft of the Supreme Court’s decision to overrule and strike down the 49-year-old Roe v. Wade decision, which made abortion constitutional, and therefore legal, in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. This ruling, which, according to experts, should be made official in a month or two, also affirms Mississippi’s ban on abortions after the 15th week. Today, the Supreme Court said the leaked draft is authentic, and Chief Justice John Roberts, calling it an egregious breach of trust and confidentiality, said an investigation would begin immediately to discover how it happened and who is responsible.

It is important to note this is a “First Draft.” There may be more. However, a vote has been taken, and we know the results. Between now and the official ruling, votes can change, but probably won’t.

Supreme Court leaks have happened before. In an ironic twist, the night before Roe v. Wade was announced in January of 1973, a Supreme Court clerk leaked the decision to the Washington Post.

Thinking about the decision and the leak, I would like to offer a few points for your consideration.

First, I can see no sense to this leak, which I think disgraceful and a betrayal of trust. The reason I see no sense to it is because it achieves nothing that would not have been achieved when the ruling is made public in its final form in a month or two. At that time there would still be ample opportunity for it to play out vis-à-vis mid-term politics. So, why now? Who gains what?

Second, right now we have no idea if this was politically motivated. If it was politically motivated, we do not know the motivation behind the person who leaked it. It could have been anyone with access to Court documents. Imagine a clerk leaves the decision lying around, or forgets to turn off a computer, whereupon somebody else decides to cause a little mayhem. The point is anything is possible in our current vacuum of ignorance.

Third, Justice Samuel Alito wrote this first draft of the decision. In Alito’s confirmation hearings he was asked about his previous writings regarding Roe, writings in which he wrote Roe was unconstitutional. He wrote that the Constitution says nothing about abortion and that abortion decisions should be left to the various states. He responded to those confirmation questions by saying he would “put aside” the things he argued when a mere lawyer and “think about legal issues the way a judge thinks about legal issues.” The interesting thing here is the decision he has now authored is a mirror reflection of what he wrote when a “mere lawyer.” He writes now that Roe was “egregiously wrong” from the beginning; that the Constitution says nothing about abortion; and that the matter should be left to the “elected representatives” in the various states. Makes one wonder.

I would note that the Constitution also says nothing about baseball, but on November 9, 1953, the Supreme Court upheld a prior, controversial decision that allowed major league baseball to operate outside of the Sherman Antitrust Act. Maybe Justice Alito would like to overturn that decision, too?

Fourth, this is NOT akin to the Pentagon Papers, as some are arguing. The only thing this has in common with the Pentagon Papers, which documented governmental lying about the Vietnam War, is the method by which we learned of it: a leak. We would never have learned of the Pentagon Papers but for the leak. Without the present leak, we would have learned of this decision in the near term – which we still will. This decision, regardless of whatever you think of it, and I condemn it in the highest possible terms, has nothing to do with governmental lying with respect to national security.

Fifth, At least one Supreme Court Justice, Brett Kavanaugh, lied during his confirmation hearing. When asked about Roe, he responded it was “settled as a precedent,” because “it has been reaffirmed many times over the past 45 years.” Apparently, he did not believe that, or he would not have voted to overturn Roe now. He certainly could have voted to allow Mississippi’s abortion ban after 15-weeks to stand without overturning “settled law.” We may be forgiven for wondering if Justice Kavanaugh lied about a few other things during his confirmation hearing.

A note about “settled law.” Settled law is settled until it isn’t, as in this case. I point out that the Dred Scott decision was once “settled law.”

Sixth, in a tangential development, reporters asked Senator Susan Collins, (R-Maine), her reaction to the leaked decision. You may recall, just prior to Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing she emerged from a meeting with him and said he’d assured her that Roe is “settled law.” She gave him her vote. Today she was asked about that and said:

“If this leaked draft opinion is the final decision and this reporting is accurate, it would be completely inconsistent with what Justice Gorsuch and Justice Kavanaugh said in their hearings and in our meetings in my office. Obviously, we won’t know each Justice’s decision and reasoning until the Supreme Court officially announces its opinion in this case.”

Seventh, Chief Justice Roberts also responded to questions about Roe during his confirmation hearing. When asked if Roe was settled law, he replied, “It is settled as a precedent of the Court, yes.” Roberts did not vote to overturn Roe in this draft decision.

Eighth, this seems one more reason to think we are now living in two countries, one Red, one Blue. Eventually, if we’re lucky, very lucky, we will find common ground when we once again begin electing leaders who aspire to embrace the values, the good ones, upon which America came to be. I don’t know about you, but that time cannot come soon enough for me, if it ever does.

My question is: What happens to this country if it doesn’t?

The Sunshine State Goes Darth Vader Dark

Saturday, April 23rd, 2022

In 1967, 55 years ago, the Walt Disney World Company proposed building a recreation-oriented development on 25,000 acres of property in Central Florida. The property sat in a remote area of Orange and Osceola Counties, so secluded that the nearest power and water lines were 10-15 miles away. Neither Orange nor Osceola County had the services or the resources needed to bring the project to life.

In that year, the Florida State legislature created a special taxing district for Disneycalled the Reedy Creek Improvement District (RCID)that would act with the same authority and responsibility as a county government.

Walt Disney World then moved ahead with its vision to turn 38.5 square miles of largely uninhabited pasture and swamp land, into a global destination resort that today hosts millions of visitors every year.

The Special Taxing District designation gave the Disney company significant tax benefits amounting to tens of millions of dollars every year. However, those special tax benefits came with special upkeep responsibilities.

The new legislation said Walt Disney World would be solely responsible for paying the cost of providing typical municipal services like power, water, roads, fire protection etc.

Local taxpayers, meaning residents of Orange and Osceola County, would not have to pay for building or maintaining those services.

That all changed yesterday when Governor Ron DeSantis signed legislation revoking Disney’s Special Taxing District designation. Now, Disney will be paying taxes it did not up to now have to pay. It will also be relieved of having to  provide the municipal maintenance services it has provided for the last 55 years for Orange and Osceola Counties, whose combined population is about 1.8 million. With Disney and its 80,000 Floridian employees no longer picking up the bill, the responsibility for all those municipal services, including Police and Fire, now falls to the counties. Property taxes (the way municipalities raise revenue in Florida) will  increase substantially.

Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings is worried. “My primary concern is about any particular cost shifts that are mandated by the state to local governments,” he said in an interview with Orlando’s News 6. He should be worried.

Digging deeper, Sarah Rumpf of Mediaite notes repealing Disney’s status means that Orange and Osceola Counties, in addition to municipal services, are now responsible for Disney’s $2 billion bond debt—a 20% to 25% tax hike costing $2,200 to $2,800 per family of four. And if that’s not enough, since Disney’s RCID pays more and has better employee benefits than the Florida government, county workers taking on the jobs currently performed by Disney will likely have to take pay and benefit cuts. Yikes!

In another little twist, since both counties voted for Joe Biden in the 2020 election, Machiavellian DeSantis has found a new and improved way to stick it to opponents.

The creation, passage, signing and enactment of this legislation happened in four days.

The question is Why? Why all this political steamrolling? The answer is because Governor DeSantis, who brooks less dissent than Caligula, is upset because Disney’s CEO Bob Chapek had the daring temerity to criticize what has come to be known as the Governor’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill. Chapek even went so far as to apologize to his 80,000 employees for not condemning the bill earlier and more strongly.

The bill, officially known as the Parental Rights in Education bill, would ban classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through third grade; lessons on those topics in other grades would be prohibited unless they are “age appropriate or developmentally appropriate,” a vague threshold, indeed. And parents would be allowed to sue over violations. It doesn’t take the Oracle of Delphi to see where this is headed.

The “Don’t Say Gay” bill is DeSantis throwing seasoned red meat to his right-wing carnivores in Florida. It is DeSantis showing his many followers exactly what he thinks of the LGBTQ+ population. It is discriminatory and downright bigoted. But in Florida, it resonates, and the Governor’s lapdog legislature is happy to walk three paces behind carrying the bags.

In the immortal words of that great American salesman and inventor Ron Pompeo, “But wait. There’s more!”

In response to the 2020 census, the Florida legislature was required to draw up new legislative maps. It did, and the gerrymandered result gave Florida Republicans a guarantee of two additional seats in the US Congress. However, this was not good enough for Governor DeSantis, who created his own maps, which guaranteed four additional seats. In DeSantis’s version, Republicans would be expected to win 20 of the state’s 28 congressional districts, a four seat increase from the 16 they hold now. The Republican-dominated Legislature, in happy subservience, approved the Governor’s maps, which he signed into law three days ago. In addition to giving the Republicans four more seats, the new maps eliminate two currently held by Black Democrats, one of whom is Val Demings, who is challenging Marco Rubio in next year’s senate election. In the game of Pool, we’d call this an Elegant Combination.

The map is expected to draw a near-immediate court challenge from Democratic-aligned groups that contend the proposal violates federal and state law because it dismantles and diminishes those two seats currently held by the Black Democrats. Recognizing Democrats would challenge in court the new maps, Republicans, planning ahead, even included in the final bill $1 million to pay for that fight. Trouble is, it’s not clear if that legal battle can be resolved before June, when candidates must qualify for the ballot.

If all this were real warfare instead of the political kind, we would say Governor DeSantis and his Republican army had just won a Battle of Annihilation.