Tag Archives: COVID-19

Should Voting Be Life-Endangering in the U.S.?

Do we have to kill people in the process of voting? Is exposing voters to the serious possibility of a deadly pandemic virus enough reason to postpone an election?

That’s what the folks in Wisconsin are wondering. Compelled to proceed and cast ballots April 7, they’re hoping to survive the experience after mingling with other, possibly infected, voters at polling places in their primary election.

They’ve had two weeks to think about it and/or get their affairs in order. That’s the incubation period. Does that make sense? Hardly.

At the same time, after the Wisconsin polls closed, that left people in 23 of the 53 states and protectorates (like Puerto Rico) yet to vote. They represent 80,707,054 of the country’s 331,002,651 people, including Oregonians, Pennsylvanians and New Yorkers who haven’t yet voted.*  

Hold on a minute. Elizabeth Warren withdrew from the presidential race before Wisconsin. And Bernie Sanders dropped out and endorsed the remaining opponent, Joe Biden, a week later.  The big races, the headliners, are over before they even started for one in three voters. Does that make sense? Not to a lot of people, including Oregon’s U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley.

They want to hold national elections by mail. Oregon and nine other states already do it that way. No polling places. And while they’re at it, they may want to take a look at creating one day—just one—for that election so nobody gets left out, either by calendar or by virus.

If their effort fails, then more and more people will have their lives threatened merely by casting a ballot. But wait! President Trump and his Republican cronies who have constantly striven to hold down voter turnout oppose vote-by-mail. Why? Clearly, more people voting spells pain and problems for Republicans.

Oregon, as it has with the Bottle Bill and Public Beaches, is way ahead of the curve on this one. Twenty years ago we had our first all vote-by-mail election, and we’ve repeated it many, many times. Fraud is very, very low, if it exists at all. Nobody has died in the process.

There is no better time to implement this procedure nation-wide. Yet another adjustment forced by Covid-19. And, in this case, a positive one. 

*Others include Montana, New Jersey, South Dakota, Nebraska, West Virginia, Indiana, Kansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Rhode Island, Alaska, Louisiana, Washington, D.C. and Wyoming.

Read about the national vote-by-mail proposal introduced by Sen Ron Wyden in the Oregonian

GOP or Democrat? Differences Are Telling

By Peter Toll

When my youngest daughter was 7 and I was working in the Oregon Senate Democratic Office, she asked me one day:  “What’s the difference between Democrats and Republicans?” Before I could answer, her mother said, “Honey, Democrats share.”

Or, put another way, Democrats are more focused on the individuals (as a group) than on business (as a group). Nowhere is that more clear than in the current D.C.  wrangling on how to allocate the billions of dollars about to be distributed with federal “stimulus” largesse.

Despite the occasional headline that says, “Democrats holding up relief” legislation, the fact is, the Democrats are fighting for more money for hospitals, cities, counties and state governments, those in the first-line of serving the people directly. The Republicans want more money for businesses.

One of Clackamas County’s biggest private employers, Precision Castparts, recently announced it is temporarily shutting down its operation and putting hundreds of people on “paid furlough” until the virus situation settles down.  Goodwill of the Willamette is letting virtually all of its hundreds of employees go, too, just to name a couple of the hundreds in the same bind.

Where do these people go for money to pay their rent? To buy groceries?  To buy clothing for themselves and their children? Do they go running to Donald Trump? No, they turn to local government—the state, the county and the cities for succor. When hard times and distress hit, the action is local, not from D.C.

While partisans of both sides claim the righteousness of their position, when push comes to shove in the legislative arena, when it comes down to a vote, up or down, Republicans invariably side with business while Democrats side with workers. 

Does anyone doubt that Donald Trump is all but pimping for Big Business, along with his henchman Mitch McConnell? Trump-McConnell want more money for their business buddies than they do for local and state governments. Therein lies the rub.

When we elect people who are anti-government, who see government as a terrible hurdle to the dominating success of big business and, equally, rich individuals, should we expect anything less? Not really. And that terrible example from D.C. is rolling down hill into the states and influencing Oregon Republican legislators. More and more out of favor, they feel walking away from their responsibilities—win or lose—is okay.

How far will that $1,200 fed check carry people? It is a one-time deal. Only once.

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$00.70

On Milwaukie Nextdoor.com there is a chat stream regarding some local merchants who are accused of price gouging.  According to the Nextdoor conversation, some merchants purchased paper towels and toilet paper from Costco prior to Costco running out. They are now selling those same paper products at an incredible markup. Are these simply shrewd business operators, like our President? Or, are these the folks the Christian New Testament identified as those to be driven out of the temple?

On February 3rd the average price for an approved surgical mask was $.70 cents per mask if purchased in bulk. Some of these masks were produced by 3M in South Dakota. At this price: Workers were paid, suppliers were paid and 3M was profitable. Truckers got paid, and retailers and their employees were paid. CEO’s were paid, and stockholders were given their dividends.  

This was capitalism at its finest. No surplus capacity; just enough masks were made to compete with Chinese factories (some of which are of course owned by 3M, so perhaps a more accurate phraseology would be: The masks were made cheap enough for workers at the 3M plant in the US to compete against the Chinese workers at the 3M plant in China).

 By April 3rd the price of these same masks was $7.00 per mask if purchased in bulk. Given the supply chain, this means that some of the masks were produced and shipped when the price was still $.70 cents, although by the time they reached the end use, the price had increased tenfold. A simplistic look at this would focus on price gouging by bad-acting middlemen. But such an analysis misses a much larger and more important point.

The point missed is: Markets are amoral.  Our President knows this since he made whatever money he has by manipulating and violating norms.  He discovered how to make money by going bankrupt. This means that he made money by taking it from others without providing either goods or services.

The folks charging $7.00 per mask for a mask worth 70-cents will tell you they are just following supply-and-demand. The result of the imbalance is a higher price. The problem is that human lives are at stake. Using price to allocate resources for life-saving masks means that well- off buyers who can afford to purchase $7.00 masks will get them, and less well-off buyers, or states or public-health agencies will not. Focusing on price gougers ignores the larger framework that permits and, in fact, rewards these actions.   

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Kate and the COVID Warriors

By Mary Lyon

An AARP-sponsored phone-in town hall on the coronavirus on April 7th, couldn’t have come at a better time – either for Oregonians listening in, or for special guest Governor Kate Brown. 

Brown began the event with heartfelt thanks to everyone cooperating with Oregon’s “Stay Home, Save Lives” campaign as the COVID-19 crisis accelerates. Almost everyone who had questions for her led with a thank-you, as well. It had escaped no one’s notice that Brown had sent 140 ventilators to COVID-afflicted New York over the previous weekend.*  She was the first governor to respond to Andrew Cuomo’s desperate pleas for supplies, explaining “I did it because we could.” She appreciated Cuomo’s promise to come to Oregon’s aid if things turn sour here, because “states have to support one another.” At this writing, New York is beginning to detect a hint of a light at the end of the tunnel. Cuomo hailed her move as “kind, generous and smart.” Caller after caller into the town hall agreed.

The coronavirus is Subject A for Brown. She’s launched a public safety campaign to underscore the “Stay Home, Save Lives” mitigation message across the state, promoting “the only tools that work: social distancing.” In short, it’s working, and public sacrificing is paying off. Brown cautioned that there may be a rise in cases in coming days and weeks. Our state’s peak is expected on April 23rd, although the projection varies slightly from day to day.** She vowed to keep pushing staying home as “a key part of our response” to slow the spread of the virus and to “flatten the curve” on a graph of the outbreak’s growth.

Brown says Oregon is ready for the worst if/when it comes and that our experience in fighting the recent wildfires “has informed our work here.” There is an adequate number of ICU beds and ventilators (800 of them), even after helping New York. She doesn’t expect our state to need them all. On the other hand, she says first responders’ needs remain a high priority, because PPEs (Personal Protection Equipment) are scarce.

Brown says her team is “being as creative and innovative as we can,” scrounging from dentists, veterinarians and ambulatory surgical centers for masks, gloves and gowns, as well as new tools to sterilize those items for reuse. She has enlisted apparel manufacturers from giants like Nike to smaller companies, like Prison Blues blue jeans, now making masks and gowns. Oregon distillers are now producing hand sanitizer. For good measure, the Governor adds, the National Guard “has been incredibly important.” The number of people tested has increased substantially – to several thousand per week, but Brown now has her chief-of-staff doubling as “testing czar,” on the phone every day with the White House, urging an increase of testing capacity.

Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum joined in on the line, characterizing Brown as a “mama bear looking out for her cubs.” Rosenblum then turned to a different but equally urgent part of the story: scams, fraud, and price-gouging. She noted that “fraud never takes a holiday,” and warned that “exploiting fear for profit will not be tolerated.”

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Around the County

 By Peter Toll

 Stay-At-Home Voters Avoid Long Voting Lines

Clackamas County residents and other Oregonians are scratching their heads watching televised voters in Wisconsin standing in blocks-long lines to vote.  Milwaukee County could muster only five polling places to serve 600,000 registered voters.  

Oregonians look to our 20-year history of total vote-by-mail and have to wonder:  Why do people put up with such absurd situations around something as important as voting?  

How could this occur in Milwaukee?  The convoluted answer involves a Republican legislature, a Democratic governor and the chance to elect a GOP member to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Bottom-line impact makes typical civics students just shake their heads in wonder.

Meanwhile, being a stay-at-home in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic is giving the term a whole new positive meaning. But that’s another story.

Let’s look at some reports from around our county:

County Commissioner Ken Humberston is doing yeoman’s duty keeping everyone abreast of Clackamas County’s COVID-19 information. To date, the county has more than 100 people that have tested positive, and, we unfortunately already have seen three fatalities here. Ken has been vigilant in emailing official posts once or twice a day, with most posted on his Facebook page. 

County Chair Jim Bernard is coordinating frequent in-county virtual briefings and “Learning Sessions” via YouTube.  People actually do want to know what’s happening in the face of the pandemic, and we can thank Jim for adapting to the situation and keeping us informed.  Check the special section on the Clackamas County website for links to videos and coronavirus updates.

We can be grateful to our legislators, notably Sen. Jeff Merkley, for also providing timely contact information.  State Representatives Rachel Prusak, of West Linn, and Courtney Neron, of Wilsonville, are particularly adept and helpful with virus-related contacts and news.

Our Clackamas Democratic Chair, Peter Nordbye, of Brightwood, is conducting monthly Executive Committee meetings on Zoom as face-to-face, close-up and personal gatherings don’t apply right now.  

Speaking of Zoom, we’re all still getting used to it.  And crazy stuff can occur, as a young Lake Grove couple learned the hard way. The woman was involved in a Zoom business meeting when it was suddenly interrupted by her husband shrieking in the background:

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