Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Blogger Candidate Forum: Arizona And Florida

Hello Everyone:

It is a slightly humid Wednesday but Yours Truly has found a nice air conditioned space to write the weekly Blogger Candidate Forum. 

Yesterday, the states of Arizona, Florida, and Oklahoma held primary elections.  The big news: Florida's gubenatorial race is between Tallahassee mayor Democrat Andrew Gillum and Trump acolyte Representative Ron DeSantis.  In Arizona, the race to fill retiring Senator Jeff Flake's (R-AZ) seat, Democrat Krysten Sinema will meet Republican Rep. Martha McSally. Governor Doug Ducey is expected to announce Sen. John McCain's replacement sometime next week. His seat does not come up for election until 2020. In related news, Arizona senate hopeful controversial Sherif Joe Arpaio came in last with barel 3-percent of the vote. So what did we learn from these races?

1. The Florida governor's race is the one to watch this fall: the fantasy Bernie Sanders-Donald Trump race come true. Mayor Gillum's surprise victory for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination pits "a young, black  progressive aspirational working-class message and DeSantis, a Republican who staked his political career on his ties to President Trump (; date accessed Aug. 29, 2018). 

Domenico Montanaro writes, "The bases of both parties want at each other. Now, they'll get their chance.  And it's all taking place in the swingiest of the swing states (; date accessed Aug, 29, 2018). So where does the United States stand after nearly two years into the Trump presidency?  Florida, like so many other elections, is a bellwether. 

2. "Money isn't everything:" what makes Andrew Gillum's victory so impressive is that he was outspent by a mile. Mr. Montanaro writes, "In a primary contest that saw a whopping $112 million spent overall on TV ads ($73 million of that in the Democratic primary), the most of any race in the country, Gillum's campaign and groups supporting him were outspent by a factor of five by the Democratic favorite--and even more by other millionaires who ran."

Mayor Gillum and his supporters "spent just $2.5 million according to NBC News [; Aug. 28, 2018; date accessed Aug. 29, 2018]. Former Rep. Gwen Graham...and groups supporting her spent $12.5 million."

The lesson is a clear message is important, as does political energy. Mayor Gillum rallied the progressive base, and, "despite not leading in a single poll, he peaked at the right time."  Momentum was with him, evident at rally he held with Senator Bernie Sanders in Tampa that drew 1,000 people and the curious. 

However, Florida is a state with many expensive media markets and no one can win without empty the campaign coffers. Mayor Gillum has the support of billionaires George Soros and Tom Steyer--"...expect the money to flow inside and outside the state on both sides as the general election kicks into high gear."  Expect a staggering amount of money to be spent by November. 

3. Republican turnout set off alarm bells for Democrats: the excitement surrounding Mayor Gillum is palpable, check out his victory speech (; date accessed Aug. 29, 2018) but before you get too excited, his victory carries a warning sign. Mr. Montanaro observes, "It should be pointed out that Republicans turned out in greater numbers for their gubernatorial primary."

He continues, "About 1.6 million Republicans turned out in the GOP primary, while 1.5 million Democrats did.  What's more, DeSantis got 914,000 votes, while Gillum got almost 400,000 fewer."  Andrew Gillum has room to improve: "The turnout rate in Miami-Dade, a crucial Democratic area, was the highest in at least a decade--higher than the 2016 primary,..."  However, Mayor Gillum still has plenty of work to do before he can take his place in the Florida statehouse. 

Republican turnout was not restricted to Florida.  The GOP also saw bigger turnouts in the Arizona governor's race and the hotly contested Senate race. This is despite Krysten Sinema's lead--thus far--in general election polls over her Republican opponent. This is also a race worth watching because this once ruby red state is now in play. 

4. It is going to a brutal fall: Yours Truly is not talking about the weather. Domenico Montanaro reports, "Arizona underscored how sharply negative the fall campaigns are about to get."  Although Ms. Sinema leads in the polls (; Aug. 28, 2018; date accessed Aug. 29, 2018) and has the luxury of moving to the center while Rep. McSally, a former combat pilot, came out guns ablaze.  She told a crowd of supporters on Tuesday,

 I am as impressed as anyone that my opponent owns over 100 pairs of shoes.... I, on the other hand, flew over 100 combat missions for my country.

She added, the race was between a patriot and a protestor.  It is controversial tactic that she used during the primary, as if she was trying prove her toughness.  Ms. McSally even went as far as to run an ad showing Ms. Sinema protesting in a pink tutu. Seriously?  

Martha McSally understands that negativity moves numbers. Given what is at stake in November, this race is about get uglier.

5. Chalk up another victory for Democratic women: whoever wins theSenate race will make history as the first female senator from Arizona. This has been the ongoing story of the primary season.  A record number of DEMOCRATIC women have won nominations for governors' and House seats. 

Mr. Montanaro reports, "Last week, the number of female nominees overall for the U.S. House hit 200 for the first time ever--155 of those, though were Democratic women."

This story continued yesterday evening as Democratic women kept winning--"19 Democratic women won their party's nomination for the U.S. House. That is a majority--53 percent--of all the House seats with primaried Tuesday night."  Florida, in particular, has a large slate of female Democratic candidates on the ballot, "16 of the 27 congressional races featuring a woman as the Democratic nominee."

The same cannot be said for the Republicans. Four out the 36 races Tuesday night, a female Republican was victorious. In Florida, it was two out of the 27.  Startling contrast with the Democrats.

As primary season comes to a close, let us look at the numbers of women who have by party. According to the Rutgers Center for American Women (; date accessed Aug. 29, 2018):

Factoring in Tuesday night's results, overall 174 Democratic women will be their party's nominee this fall (so far), a record. That far surpasses the prior record of 120 in 2016. 

On the Republican side, however, just 49 women will be their party's standard-beater out of 435 seats. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

What If Your Mum Designed CitIes?; August 27, 2018

Hello Everyone:

Question:  Do you google yourself at 5:00 a.m.?  The president does and proceeded to have another one his twit fits, this time raging at Google for burying positive stories about him. Um, this is not the National Enquirer, Larry Page and Sergy Brin are not David Pecker who will bury negative news about you for a price. Next question: What would your city look like if your mum designed it?  Blogger cannot imagine her mum trying to design Los Angeles. Maybe there would be better transportation.  

Christine Murray asks this question in her The Guardian article, "What would cities look if they were designed by mothers?"  Ms. Murray points out, "Architecture's lack of diversity shows in environment created by people who never need step-free access or to take the bus."  The lack of a more inclusive workplace has created a profession that is oblivious to the needs of the elderly, mothers with small children and infants.  What if moms designed cities like London?  Shall we find out what Ms. Murray has in mind. 

The latest rendering of a proposed development in Greenwich, south east London sparked some outrage on the social media (; Aug. 15, 2018; date accessed Aug. 15, 2018).  Ms. Murray reports, "The Elysian rendering of Charlton Riverside features 36 people frolicking in the park, and only one of them is black. Among the white millennials and young children there is also a single older person, gesticulating in sprightly manner with a walking cane."

Fact: The architecture profession in the United States and Kingdom is overwhelmingly white, male, and privileged.  Given this fact, there are very legitimate concerns that they are designing our cities for individuals like them. Here is another fact: "Fewer than one in every 10 architect is black, Asian or minority-ethnic, and less than a third [; date accessed Aug. 28, 2018] of UK qualified architects are women.  And the numbers are not improving."  

A month ago, the British government's Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport published statistic on e creative industries, revealing a startling 10-percent drop (; July 18, 2018; date accessed Aug. 28, 2018) in the number of women in the architecture profession, while the numbers of African British, Asians, and other ethnic minorities remained stable. The uproar over the vanilla Greenwich rendering comes at a moment when the Royal Institute of British Architecture is facing accusations of racism (the; Aug. 9, 2018; date accessed Aug. 27, 2018) over its recent elections.

Christine Murray engages in a bit a of creative speculation, "Lately I've found myself imagining what the world might look like if the people who designed--politicians, planners and architects--were more diverse."  Interesting question. It is not like men and women design differently but experience is a better teacher than any studio professor.  Over the past decade, the current iteration of projects seem to focus more decorative landscapes and fancy coffee places, then more practical concerns like: "free drinking, public toilets, cheap groceries and a post office."  Instead, they appear to remedy the champagne problems of the glitterati that created them. 

Back to the original question: "What would our cities be like if mother had more of s role in designing them?"  Straight away, there would be ramps everywhere. Having had experience pushing the niece and nephews' stroller, has made Blogger look at stairs in a different light.  Ms. Murray shared her experience, "Schlepping a pushchair around makes you think differently about stairs.  I cried when my nearest station was revamped without the inclusion of a lift.... Any station or public building undergoing refurbishment should by law be made step-free."

Unfortunately Ms. Murray is not likely find too many sympathizes among architects. She reports, "According to a recent survey by the Architectural Review, 75% of women in architecture don't have children" (; February 26, 2016; date accessed Aug. 28. 2018). She continues, "Most architecture graduates think they're designing access ramps for the odd wheelchair, not every child under three."

Riding a bus, and you quickly realize that there is not enough room for a wheelchair or a stroller. Using a shopping cart, a walker, luggage, or group of excited schoolchildren with backpacks, you get the idea that there is not enough room on city buses. She describes London's experience, "And the New Routemaster buses may have fancy rear door, golden handrails and two staircases, but passengers also require air. Even if the London mayor, Sadiq Kahn, ordered openable windows to be installed in these double-decker sweat lodges, gone is get former pleasure of the big-windowed and windy upper deck."  Ms. Murray should try riding Los Angeles buses. She might be more appreciative of London buses. 

What if senior citizens--like Blogger's mum--got into urban design? Oy vey.  At least there would be plenty of places to sit.  Ms. Murray writes, "Most London [; date accessed Aug. 28, 2018] bus shelters have those angled, non-stick benched that are to buttocks as icy hills are to sledges."  Decorative features rather than anything useable. As for main station, like in King's Cross, an arriving passenger is expected to float through the hall like "the ghost of nationalised past, unless you go outside to the abundance of benches in attractive wastelands of public spaces."

Just as confounding in the United Kingdom is the lack of public toilets (Ibid; July 8,2018)--YES-- which require one to have a camel bladder. This forces a person with a bladder at DefCon 5 to either dash into a coffee place, buy something (paging Starbucks) just to unload or holding it until you can find a discreet corner or get home. Christine Murray proposes this clever rule, "...if you can eat in, you can wee in, too."

What if teenagers, like Blogger's eldest nephew, designed cities?  Places to charge your phone and other devices would be a human right. Advertisements featuring beautiful slender people would be banished. There would food places on every corner. Parkour (Ibid; Aug. 14, 2014) would be a national sport. "There would be slow lanes on cycle pages for cruising your BMX,band for skateboarders, scooters and children learning to ride."  Fenced-in grass patches would be repurposed as loitering area.  Anyone posting a sign that said no ball playing, would be fined. "Adventure playgrounds would stay open late."  New major developments would have a normal shop that sells normal things at normal prices--none of this overpriced sandwich and coffee nonsense.  Best of all, the police would walk the streets of places that actually need them, and be helpful, instead of private security pretending to be police. 

Concluding on a positive note, Christine Murray cites, Blogger concurs, the span between St. Paul's Cathedral and Tate Modern as a well designed space.  She writes, "My favourite in London is the uninterrupted ramp that floats you over the Thames from St. Paul's Cathedral to the Tate Modern via the Millenium Bridge without a step. There's even play equipment and several places to sit."  Truly a well designed space that proves it can be done. 

Monday, August 27, 2018

Senator John McCain; Hero Patriot

Hello Everyone:

Welcome to a fresh week on the blog. Before we return to our chat on mass graves and suburban sprawl, a word in remembrance of Senator John McCain. Senator McCain passed away this past Saturday, after discontinuing treatment for brain cancer. The senior senator from Arizona was one of the last true Republicans.  Unlike his contemporary colleagues, he was able to reach across the political divide and work with his Democratic colleagues on the issues confronting the United States.  This spirit of bipartisanship turned into lasting friendships with the late Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA), retired Senator Joseph Lieberman (D-CT), and Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC).  One his lasting examples of this bipartisanship was the McCain-Feingold Act. Senator McCain, together with Senator Russell Feingold (D-WS), authored legislation to reform campaign finance laws.  The law has been weakened but it was a landmark. 

Following the horrific events of 9/11, Senator McCain forcefully spoke out against use, by American intelligence agncies, for "enhanced interrogation" (i.e. torture) on detainees. On this subject, he spoke from his own experiences as former prisoner of war in Viet Nam. As an inmate of the infamous Hanoi Hilton, he was subjected to the most horrific treatment.  When given opportunities for early release, he refused, choosing to remain with his men. In the face of reports of the CIA torturing Iraqi detainees, he authored the Detainee Interrogation Act, which forbade American agencies from using "enhanced interrogation" techniques. Despite entreaties from then-Vice President Dick Cheney, he stood firm, refusing to change his stance. Eventually then-President George W. Bush signed the bill.

Many remember Senator McCain as a candidate for president in 2008. It was his second attempt at higher office. Senator McCain had been struggling in the polls against an upstart Senator Barack Obama. To shake up his campaign, he tapped the little known Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin.  This was a decision he came to quickly regret when it became obvious that then-Gov. Palin did not have a grasp of national and international issues. In defeat he was gracious, acknowledging the newly elected Barack Obama as the President of The United States.  One event, during the campaign, at a rally, a woman stood up and told Senator McCain that she would not vote for President Obama because he was an Arab.  Senator McCain went over to her, looked her in the eye, and told her President Obama was a decent, upstanding, citizen.

Senator John McCain was an authentic person.  He was big enough to admit his personal and professional failings, something truly lacking in contemporary life.  He leaves behind his wife, Cindy, his children and grandchildren.  The funeral and burial will be on Friday, at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.  Memorial services will be held at the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. and Phoenix, Arizona. 

Senator John McCain, hero and patriot. 


Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Blogger Candidate Forum: What Happened?

Hello Everyone:

Blogger Candidate Forum is bursting at the seams from all the excitement of the past 24-hours. First, Mr. Donald Trump's former personal attorney and fixer Michael Cohen pleads guilty to violating campaign finance laws, bank and tax fraud. During his statement, before federal court in New York, under oath, he implicated the president directed Mr. Cohen to payoff Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal. Both women alledge they had affairs with him. Second, former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort was found guilty on eight counts of bank and tax fraud. The Forum would be lying if it said that it was feeling sad for both men. In fact, The Forum is sitting on a very bad case of schadenfreud.  However, The Forum will have to suppress the urge to laugh hysterically, pop champagne corks, and figure out what just happened.

What did just happen?

What happened was the most horrible, terrible day in the over year-and-half of the Trump administration. Two massive, rain filled, dark clouds nearly simultaneously burst open, dumping sheets of rain all over the President.  Follow along:

Paul Manafort, the person who led the Trump campaign for a short five months in 2016, was found guilty of eight financial crimes.  Mr. Manafort was originally charged with eighteen financial crimes but the jury deadlocked on ten out of the eighteen, leading to the judge to declare a mistrial on those counts.

Literally within minutes, Mr. Cohen agreed to plead guilty with the Southern District of New York.  Per the plea agreement, Mr. Cohen admitted guilty on eight counts and acknowledge that he discussed or made payments to prevent damaging information from entering the public domain, at the direction and in coordination with a candidate for federal office.  The candidate for federal office is indirect reference to Mr. Trump.

Both stories are massive deals but in terms of which worse, the Cohen plea is the biggest threat and has the most direct impact on the president.  

Way back in February, Mr. Cohen confirmed discussing or making payments to porn actor Ms. Daniels (Stephanie Clifford) and former Playboy model Ms. McDougal. At first, Mr. Cohen said he paid Ms. Daniels out of his pocket without the direct or indirect knowledge of said candidate for federal office.  Like anyone believed that story.  At the time, Mr. Cohen said:

In a private transaction in 2016, I used my own personal funds to facilitate a payment of $130,000 to Ms. Stephanie Clifford. Neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction with Ms. Clifford, and neither reimbursed me for the payment, either directly or indirectly. (; Aug. 21, 2018; date accessed Aug. 22, 2018)

Yesterday, he admitted what the public domain figured out already--that was not true.

What does it mean for the president?

In an interview with Slate magazine's (; date accessed Aug. 22, 2018) Isaac Chotiner, CNN legal analyst and New Yorker staff writer Jeffrey Toobin, explained what Mr. Manafort's conviction and Mr. Cohen's guilty means.  Mr. Toobin told Slate,

There is one specify and one general thing that have changed. The specific thing is you have the president directly and explicitly accused of criminal conduct, which is very substantially different from from where we have been before.... The general thing is that here you have on the same day, within an hour of one another, the chairman of the president's campaign, and his personal attorney and close associate, both convicted of or pleading guilty to serious felonies...

Essentially, Mr. Trump has been named an unindicted co-conspirator, in the same manner as the late President Richard M. Nixon was named an unindicted co-conspirator during the Watergate investigation

What is the connection to the Mueller investigation?

Paul Manafort's conviction and Michael Cohen's guilty plea were certainly major milestones for Robert Mueller and his team of 17 angry Dems. Both Messrs. Manafort and Cohen were caught up in the wide sweeping Mueller investigation. They were not the only ones--as of today, two members of Congress and early endorsers of Mr. Trump, were recently indicted for related charges (; date accessed Aug. 22, 2018). 

Lucien Bruggeman of ABC News reported that Lanny Davis told George Stephanopoulous that "his client has information that would be of 'interest' to special, counsel Robert Mueller and would not accept any pardon from the president" (; date accessed Aug. 22, 2018). 

How credible would Mr. Cohen's information be?  National Public Radio's Ailsa Chang asked Barbara McQuade, a former U.S. attorney who now teaches law at the University of Michigan, how reliable would Mr. Cohen be.  Ms, McQuade said,

...Michael Cohen is a witness who will be met with some skepticism. If he is seeking to reduce his own criminal exposure--or the fact that he has been out ere talking on the media could create some skepticism. So I think what they'll want to do is look for ways to corroborate his information...(; July 27, 2018; date accessed Aug. 22, 2018)

Ms. McQuade also believes that Mr. Cohen is potentially valuable to the Russia investigation (Ibid). However, before you start making more popcorn, how valuable will he will depend on what he has to say.  Attorney-client privilege will only offer limited protection because lawyers are legally obliged to divulge any potentially or actual criminal activity of their clients.

Both Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen are facing lengthy federal prison sentences. Mr. Manafort made a bet that he would be acquitted and decided to not offer a defense. He lost and still faces charges of bank fraud. The prospect of spending most of his adult life behind bars may give him incentive to cooperate with the special counsel. Mr. Cohen is due to be sentenced on December 12 and maybe looking to reduce his time in prison. 

The I-word

The I-word: impeachment.  Not yet.  Democrats in the House of Representatives are remaining quiet about this controversial move and they do not have the votes, right now.  Democrats are taking a cautious approach--they are waiting to read the report from he special counsel.  To his credit Mr. Mueller has been extremely tight lipped about what he and his team have discovered.  The special counsel is being thorough and not even hinting at what they have found.  Stay tuned.  September looks to be a very wild month. 


Yesterday's courtroom dramas certainly put the subject of impeachment in play for the 2018 Midterm elections. Per Justice Department guidelines, a sitting president cannot be indicted for alleged criminal activities in office (; Oct. 16, 2000; date accessed Aug. 22, 2018) The president can be liable for criminal activity once leaving office. The U.S. Constitution contains a provision for impeachment and removal from office of cabinet officials, including the president. That job falls to Congress.  

That said, Republican candidates for the House and Senate will make the case that a vote for a Democrat is a vote for impeachment. Wee premature since no one knows what the special counsel has to say. If the Democrats are smart, they will focus on the issues they need to get them elected. When the question of impeachment comes up during the campaign (it will, if it has not already), the wise answer will be wait and see.

Pace yourselves with popcorn and hold on tight.  Things are about to get really rocky and Blogger Candidate Forum will be with you.  

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Reconciling Problematic History With Growth; August 15, 2018

Hello Everyone:

Oh boy, oh boy what day.  First, former Trump attorney Michael Cohen entered into a guilty plea on campaign finance laws as part of an agreement with federal prosecutors.  Mr. Cohen admitted that he paid hush money to Stormy Daniels in coordination with the Trump for President campaign in order to influence the election.  Meanwhile, former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort was found guilty, by a federal jury, on eight counts of bank and tax fraud.  Blogger thinks she hears the twittering of canaries serenading the Special Counsel. Oh yes, Blogger was reminded of the politically vindictive pulling of former CIA Director John Brennan. Kudos to Admiral William McRaven for his mic dropping rebuke of the president. Grab your popcorn this is getting really good. Shall we move on?

Every once in a while, construction crews unearth human remains.  When this happens, work has to stop and archeologists are called in to examine the skeletons.  For example, in 1991 archeologists discovered the skeletons of 15,000 free and enslaved Africans at a Manhattan work site (; date accessed Aug. 21, 2018).  The federal government, which planned to build an office, conferred with African American communities, scholars, and activists (; June 1, 2013; date accessed Aug. 21, 2018). Together, they agreed to stop construction, rebury the bodies, and create a national monument on the site (; date accessed Aug. 21, 2018). 

However, officials in Sugar Land, Texas took a different approach in April 2018 when they discovered 95 graves (; June 4, 2018; date accessed Aug. 21, 2018) under a construction site for a new school.

A judge approved the exhumation of the bodies (; June 15, 2018; date accessed Aug. 21, 2018) and archeologists hired by the school opened the coffins.  Andrea Roberts reports in her CityLab article "The Mass Grave Beneath a Texas Suburb," "Thehy contained the remains of black prison laborers forced to work on Texas' sugar cane plantations from 1878 to 1911.  This form of indentured servitude, called convict-leasing [; date accessed Aug. 21, 2018], was common across the American South after the Civil War."

Work crews continued construction during the excavation.  The city of Sugar Land, the owner of most the land occupied by the burial ground, decided to exhume the bodies and rebury them somewhere else (; April 13, 2018; June 2017; date accessed Aug. 21, 2018). 

"Protecting Texas' black history"

Let us take a look at the contrast between these two cases.

Andrea Roberts is an urban planning professor whose scholarship (; date accessed Aug. 21, 2018) focuses on community development and historic preservation (; date accessed Aug. 21, 2018) can attest to the fact that it is "not that unusual to find unmarked black cemeteries in the South.  After all, enslaved Africans comprised 35 percent of the region's population in  1860, according to census data" [; date accessed Aug. 21, 2018).

Too frequently, public discussions on how to deal with sensitive site happen after the graves have been distrurbed.  

Prof. Roberts' research (; July 8, 2016; date accessed Aug. 21, 2018) on Texas' black settlements and cemeteries (; June 2017) indicts that "such discoveries will only increase as it fast-growing cities expand into what was once rural."

Texas was the last state to officially end slavery (; date accessed Aug. 21, 2018), two and half years after the Emancipation Proclamation.  Not long after, Texas became home to hundreds of freedom colonies (; date accessed Aug. 21, 2018), towns established by "landowning African American families descended from enslaved people."

Prof. Roberts' Texas Freedom Colonues Project Atlas and Survey (; date accessed Aug. 21, 2018) has uncovered "archival and ethnographic evidence evidence that African Americans established more than 557 freedom colonies throughout eastern and central Texas between 1865 and 1920.  Fort Bend County, where the Sugar Land burial ground was discovered, it itself home to five freedom colonies."

All that remains of this once prosperous community are the memories and stories, a few homesteads and the cemetery. The freedom colonies insulated African Americans from the racial terror that accompanied Emancipation and Reconstruction.  

These are crucial parts of American history.  Sadly, many of the colonies' cemeteries have been paved over, bulldozed (; date accessed Aug. 21, 2018), or surrounded by development.

"What the law requires"

Theoretically, Texas law should protect these historic and cultural heritage sites.

Prof. Roberts writes, "By law, once a cemetery or grave site is found, the property owner must be notified [; date accessed Aug. 21, 2018] and the finding recorded with the county clerk."

However, "If the cemetery is more than 50 years old and abandoned, the Texas Historical Commissiin [; date accessed Aug. 21, 2018] takes jurisdiction over the site.  It must consult with the dead's next of kin, many can require exhumation to be conducted noninvasively, using ground-penetrating radar."

Further, the state does not specify where or how the unearthed remains should be reburied, nor does it require community input in making the decision.

Fortunately, we can turn to our friends at the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  Federal law (; date accessed Aug. 21, 2018) takes over when a burial site maybe eligible for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places.

In these cases, "construction must be halted while officials determine if the newly discovered burial grounds [Ibid] qualify based on the historic significance of the dead, the events surrounding their death, the burial materials, or their prehistoric value."

Andrea Roberts writes, "I believe work on the entire school project should have been paused the moment the bodies were discovered.  The Sugar Land mass grave has clear historic relevance [; July 27, 2018; date accessed Aug. 21, 2018], both as an endangered place [; July 20, 2017; date accessed Aug. 21, 2018] and a remnant of he horrific but little-known chapter of black history that followed emancipation and Reconstruction."

Although he city of Sugar Land complied with Texas state law, they did not recognized ( June 4, 2018; date accessed Aug. 21, 2018) the site's national significance as a former Imperial State Prison Farm graveyard.

Therefore, National Historic Preservation Act (; date accessed Aug. 21, 2018)--"which require local officials to consult with the state and other 'interested parties,' including the descents of prison laborers throughout Texas--was not triggered."

"Black history and suburban growth"

Texas is one of the fastest growing states in America (; Jan. 15, 2018; date accessed Aug. 21, 2018). "With little or no regulatory constraints, suburban developments--many named after plantation owners--have proliferated in major metro areas."

Prof. Roberts has a personal connection.  She is the descendent of enslaved people, who brought to this part of Texas in the 1830s. As a child, she listened to the stories from relatives about black bodies entombed under the suburbs of Sugar Land and Missouri City.

It is entirely possible that Sugar Land officials officials knew they might unearth an old cemetery on the site of the school.

Sugar Land advocate Reginald Moore has been telling local officials (; Dec. 1, 2016; date accessed Aug. 21, 2018) that prison laborers might be buried in the area.  Fortunately, there was an archeologist already on site when the graveyard was uncovered.

Exhumation took place within days, without the families' consent. News helicopters provided the public with aerial footage of the deceased in wooden boxes.  

Prof. Roberts reports, "By July, images of handcuffs, chains and other artifacts buried with the bodies were being broadcast internationally."

Further, "The Southern convict-leasing system, which some historians have called 'slavery by another name' (; date accessed Aug. 21, 2018) was laid bare for the world--and relatives of the dead--to see."

We will pick up this discussion on Monday, if not sooner.

August 27, 2018

Today, we are returning to the subject of mass graves and suburban sprawl. First, a quick summary: In April 2018, 95 graves were uncovered on a construction site for a new school in Sugar Land, Texas.  The graves belonged to convicts, "leased out" to a local sugar plantation.  Buried with the 95 coffins, were the artifacts of their indentured servitude such as handcuffs and chains.  Texas law does require notification of next of kin but there are no provisions for reburying the unearthed remains.  Federal law is more specific on this matter, including a possible listing on the National Register for Historic Places.  The overarching issue is the reconciliation of Black history and suburban growth.  Texas is a fast growing state with little or no regulation on growth.  It is possible that Sugar Land officials knew about the graves and approved the permits.  This leads to the remaining subjects for today: Memorializing difficult history and preservation will accommodating growth. 

"Memorializing a difficult history"

One of the things that Yours Truly firmly believes is historic preservation is not just remembering the joyous and victorious events and places.  It is also about remembering the events and places of our dark moments because they serve as teachable moments for the future.  This statement definitely applies to commemorating practice of convict-leasing in Texas.

Media visibility changed the conversation regarding the grave sites.  Andrea Roberts writes,

"In the months since the discovery, Sugar Land has begun consulting with outside groups, including [Reginald] Moore and his Convict Leasing and Labor Project [; Aug. 8, 2018; date accessed Aug. 27, 2018] on the process of reinterment and memorializing the bodies."

Mr. Moore would like to see the remains reburied at the Old Imperial Prison Farm Cemetery (; date accessed Aug. 27, 2018), operated by his organization. He and his colleagues would like a museum (; Aug. 8, 2018; date accessed Aug. 27, 2018) dedicated to convict leasing. 

The civil rights organization, The Black United Front, hope that DNA testing will be conducted on the remains in order to determine reparations to the descendants. 

"Preserving while growing"

Federal law lays out specific and careful steps to take when Native American remains are unearthed. 

The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (; date accessed Aug. 27, 2018) acknowledges the rights of

...Indian tribes, and Native Hawaiian organizations to Native American cultural items, including human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony.  (Ibid)

There no NAGPRA equivalent, yet, for sites of the African diaspora.  This makes it harder to protect black historical sites.

All too frequently, sites of African American history are paved over. 

Prof. Roberts reports, "Of the 114 previously unmapped Texas freedom colonies my team has so far identified, for example, 21 are in high-risk locations near Texas' fast-growing Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio or Austin metro areas" (; Mar. 22, 2018; date accessed Aug. 27, 2018). 

Texas state officials have a golden opportunity to bring together freedom colony descendants, historians, and experts over what appropriate protective measure to take before the inevitable development begins.  

Texas is not he only state facing this issue and the law does not contain the ideal remedy.

Prof. Roberts concludes,

"The United States was built with black labor. As its population inexorably expands, city planners must look beyond the law--to technology, cultural practice, community and history--to reconcile preservation with growth." 

This article originally appeared on The Conversation (the; Aug. 14, 2018; date accessed Aug. 27, 2018(

Monday, August 20, 2018

Vienna Calling; August 23, 2016

Hello Everyone:

Welcome to a new week on the blog. White House counsel Don McGahn is singing like a canary.  The New York Times revealed that Mr. McGahn has been extensively cooperating with Special Counsel.  Mr. McGahn told the investigators things that they would otherwise not have known. According to sources, the president actually encouraged cooperation but Mr. McGahn wisely thought he was being set up to take a fall.  Don McGahn, in a measure of self protection, sang like a bird. The winner of this week's most quotable line is former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani who uttered the Orwellian the truth is not the truth.  So, if the truth is not the truth, then it must be a lie. Therefore, if a lie is not a lie, then it must be the truth. See how backwards and upside down things are in Trumpland. Up is down, down is up and no collusion.  In the meantime, Vienna beckons. 

Vienna, Austria is the glittering home Franz Kafka, waltzes, der Jugenstil architecture and design; it's world famous pastries.  The Austrian capital is also famous for being ranked number one on the annual Mercer ranking of cities with best quality-of-life.  Mercer is a human resource company that publishes an annual list of global cities with best quality-of-life.  While Copenhagen may be considered the happiest city, Saransh Sehgal reports in his article, "Why Vienna Does So Well on Quality-of-Life Ranking," which originally appeared in Citiscope in 2016, "The Austrian capital has ranked first on the list for seven years in a row [; date accessed Aug. 20, 2018]. Mercer has consistently praised Vienna for being a safe city with good public services, transport and recreational facilities."  Monocle magazine also praised Vienna (; June 20, 2016; dat accessed Aug. 23, 2018).  Although Vienna placed third on that list, the magazine still chose it as the site of its annual Quality of Life conference this past April (; June 28-30, 2018; date accessed Aug. 20, 2018).  Just last week, The Economist ranked the Ciy second on its "Liveability Rankngs" (; date accessed Aug. 20, 2018). 

What is Vienna's secret, you may ask.  Mr. Sehgal writes, "According to government and business leaders,mit's a mix of good long-term planning, an emphasis on citizen participation and a relentless focus on social equality.  Judith Sandberger of the Vienna Business Agency told Citiscope, Vienna doesn't stand for the 'fast buck.'

To be fair, Vienna, like any other city, does have its unique set of challenges.  The city of 1.8 million is dealing with growth pressures as 30,000 new residents call it home.  Like any European city, Vienna is trying to integrate the recently arrived thousands of migrants and refugees (; June 23, 2016; date accessed Aug. 20. 2018) more people continue to drive cars than civic officials would like.

Be that as it may, Vienna consistently manages to overcome these challenges to come out in the top three.  There three reasons why the Viennese rate their city so high on quality of life surveys--and what lessons other cities can learn.  Pay attention Los Angeles.

"Housing and transport are affordable"

One of the reasons global glamour cities such as London and New York rank lower on quality-of-life surveys is the high cost of living.  Mr. Sehgal writes, "By contrast, Vienna's housing framework rests on the belief that providing housing is a basic human right--and local policies reflect that."  The municipality owns over a quarter of the housing stock.  Half of the population lives in subsidized apartments, and for the rest of the population there strict rules against regarding rent increases.  He reports,

"In Vienna, residents typically pay about a quarter of their household income on housing.  By comparison, renters in London on average put 72 percent [; July 16, 2015; date accessed Aug. 20, 2018] of their income toward housing."

As Vienna expands, the municipality adds more housing. "In 2015 alone 7,200 units were handed over to residents and 20,000 subsidized housing units were either under construction or getting ready to be built."  Vienna annually spends "€450 million in national funds and about €150 million in municipal funds on construction new homes and refurbishing old ones."  

Private developers also participate in the affordable housing campaign. Are you paying attention Mayor Eric Garcetti?  Bojan-IIija Schnabl, senior researcher with the city housing department MA50, explained,

Here, private developers who work together with city government to construct reasonable housing have to allow the government to rent about half the share of flats to lower-income residents,me hike the developers had the right to lease the remaining share to moderate-income inhabitants.... This contributed to a social mixture that is healthy for any growing city. 

Not only is Vienna a very affordable place to live but it is also inexpensive to get around. "An annual pass to the city's transit system costs just €1 a day for a yearly pass."  L.A. Transit planners pay attention to this fact, the Vienna transport system is clean, safe, reliable, and goes everywhere.  Vienna is also committed to invested in new stock and extending the system. "By 2025, Vienna aims to have 80 percent of all trips in the city made using eco-friendly modes of transport."

"Green space galore"

Tales of the Vienna Woods (; date accessed Aug. 20, 2018).  Central Europe's largest continuous area of deciduous forest, encompasses seven city districts and nearly 10,000 hectares (25,000 acres) of territory. The Wienerwald (Vienna Woods) was designated  a "biosphere reserve" (; date accessed Aug. 2018) by UNESCO, are reachable by public transport. 

Florian Hutz of the Vienna forestry and urban agriculture department, which manages a quarter of the city's land, said,

The Viennese are actively involved in designing green spaces and their needs and demands are considered in new green projects.

One example of this dual process is evident in the Lobau (; date accessed Aug. 20, 2018) wetland, is part of a national park (; date accessed Aug. 20, 2018) partially located within the Vienna city limits. Saransh Sehgal reports, "The city forestry agency regularly invites citizens to help with the protection of green spaces and their upkeep. In return, the department regularly organizes workshops that educate individuals about the flora and fauna of the area."

"Planning for a sustainable and inclusive future"

As Vienna grows, civic leaders have "pledged to reduce per-capita greenhouse gas emission 80 percent by 2050 (; date accessed Aug. 20, 2018). The urban project Seerstadt Aspern is the laboratory for this ambitious plan. 

The former airfield, located in the northeast of the city, is transforming into a "modern, multi-functional, neighborhood--and one of Europe's largest urban development projects [Ibid].  By 2030, Seerstadt Aspern is expected to accommodate 20,000 residents and a similar number of jobs [; date accessed Aug. 20, 2018], situated around an artificial lake."  Planners envision the Vienna city center only 25-minute subway ride away and a 28-minute train trip to the Slovakian capital of Bratislava.  

Seerstadt Aspern is also a test site for developing innovations in urban energy efficiency technologies.  Corporate partners lik Siemens and Wien Energie are looking at the "potential of buildings to monitor power consumption and produce energy to be fed back into the grid."  Community-wide information is collected to run the system in real time and inform new technology advancements.

The first participants in this experiment are the residents of the 213 apartments in complex D12 of Aspern (; date accessed Aug. 20, 2018). Mr. Sehgal writs, "Smart meters and home automation systems will give residents an unprecedented picture of their energy consumption and the means to control home power usage through their smartphones."

The skeleton for this and other strategies is the "Smart City Framework Initiative" ( This document was the result of years-long workshops, open forums, and conferences (Ibid) to get citizen input about creating a "smart city," as well as address issues of privacy.  The final draft emphasizes "the need to provide the best quality of life for all of the city's residents, while minimizing the consumption of resources."  The first page of the document boldly declares,

Cities are smart if all people living them have access to the same degree of participation. (Ibid)

Brigit Ginzler of the he Smart City Wien initiative (Ibid) told Citiscope "the framework is simply he lasts manifestation of Vienna's deep commitment to social inclusion.  It is centered on

narrowing the socio-economic divide,... If you look at our Smart City Principle, most big cities focus on two pillars--resources and innovation. But Vienna's strategy comprises a their pillar focusing on social inclusion and public participation.

Vienna vice mayor, executive city councilor for finance, economy, and international affairs Renate Brauner echos the sentiment for social inclusion as a key to Vienna's success.  Ms. Brauner said,

Social equity has been the primary focus of our policies for many decades,... People can feel safe and secure here because they are given the right chances, they like living here and are happy to contribute.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Blogger Candidate Forum: What Happened; August 15, 2018

Hello Everyone:

It is a very lovely Wednesday afternoon and time for Blogger Candidate Forum. Before we get going on yesterday's set of primary election, quick question, who is sick and tired of the very public, very news cycle sucking reality show shouting match between Mr. Donald Trump and former aide Omarossa Manigault-Newman?  Yours Truly is thoroughly sick and tired of these two eight-year-olds, disguised as adults, taunting each other online and in the media.  Grow up and try to act your ages not your shoe sizes.  Okay, what happened last night?

What happened last night was history. The state's of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Connecticut, and Vermont held their state's primaries and congratulations to all the winners.  Vermont Democrats selected Christine Hallquist, to carry the party banner in November's gubernatorial contest.  If she wins, Ms. Hallquist will be the first openly transgender governor.  Minnesota's First Congressional District Democrats chose Ilhan Omar to be their candidate in November.  If victorious, Ms. Omar would be the first Muslim and Somali-American woman to serve in the House of Representatives.  So what else happened?  Let us take a look at the highlights.

We start in bucolic Wisconsin and the governor's race.  Republican incumbent Governor Scott Walker is up for re-election and state Democrats are hoping to finally send him packing this year.  Tony Evers, the state's chief of public education, will challenge Gov. Walker in the fall.  Mr. Evers out distanced an impressive field that featured candidates endorsed by some of the Democratic party's brightest stars and indie band Bon Iver.  Defeating Gov. Walker will be a formidable challenge, having won three previous elections in eight years.  However, his failed 2016 presidential bid killed his popularity in Wisconsin, something that he has been struggling to remedy.  Co-writers Elia Nilsen, Tara Golshan, Li Zhou, et al report, "Polls show him in a tighter race this year with his Democratic challengers than in any of his past races."

Meanwhile, incumbent Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WS) is facing her first re-election and the Republicans want her seat.  However, a bruising primary has left the Republicans has put the party at risk.  Once the dust settled, Sen. Baldwin will face state senator Leah Vukmir.  The other big news from Wisconsin is the race to fill retiring Speaker of House Paul Ryan's seat.  The Democrats really, really truly madly want this seat.  Democrat union organizer and iron worker Randy Bryce bested school board member and former teacher Cathy Myers by 19-percent-points in a pitched primary battle.  He will face Republican Bryan Steil, endorsed by Speaker Ryan.  Mr. Bryce has had his share of media missteps and faced questions about previous arrests for marijuana and a DUI, and failure to pay child support.  This should be an interesting race.  Moving on to Minnesota. 

Incumbent Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton is retiring and there is long list of people ready to replace him. On the Democratic side, U.S. Rep. Tim Walz beat out a field that included state Rep. Erin Murphy and Attorney General Lori Swanson. Mr. Walz represents the more conservative part of the state and is being forced to defend his previous position on guns, which earned an "A" rating from the National Rifle Assocation--a rarer for a Democrat.  He will face Republican former state Rep. Jeff Johnson, who was unsuccessful in his prior gubenatorial campaign. Mr. Johnson defeated former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who has the name recognition but his disavowal of the president could hurt him with Minnesota's Trump voters.

Gov. Mark Dayton's former lieutenant governor Tina Smith (D-MN) is facing her first re-election.  Ms. Smith was appointed to fill the seat vacated by Al Franken, following allegations of sexual misconduct. Sen. Smith handily routed the competition and it was ugly.  She will face State Sen. Karin Housely, who also ran away with the victory.  Cooks Political Report; Aug. 15, 2018) rates this race as Likely Democratic.  Sen. Smith has been steadily working, caucusing with Democrats. Already popular before her appointment, Sen. Smith has a nine point lead in a hypothetical matchup with Ms. Housely (; date accessed Aug. 15, 2018).

The big news from Minnesota is the primary victory of Ilhan Omar in Minnesota's Fifth Congressional District.  The seat is being vacated by Representative Keith Ellison, who is running for state attorney general.  Although Mr. Ellison was victorious in his primary, he still faces a challenge from state Rep. Doug Wardlow and questions about domestic abuse.  Ms. Omar is all but assured of her seat in November and Republicans vying for his seat.  Gov. Malloy's dwindling approval ratings, as the state deals with a stalling economy is not helping Democratic candidate, business executive, Ned Lamont.  Mr. Lamont has some name recognition from his successful progressive challenge in 2006 to then-incumbent Sen. Joe Lieberman.  Senator Lieberman ran as an independent in the general election and won.  Ned Lamont will face Republican business executive Bob Stefanowski, who barely squeaked by, winning by eight-percentage points.  Cooks Political Report calls this race a toss-up (; Aug. 15, 2018).

Finally in the verdant state of Vermont Christine Hallquist will face incumbent Republican Governor Phil Scott.  Despite his popularity, Gov. Scott is facing backlash over his efforts to strengthen gun control (; July 25, 2018; date accessed Aug. 15, 2018) over bills he signed in April, after police arrested a teenager planning a school shooting in Fair Haven.  The bill raised the minimum age to purchase a gun to 21, enhanced background checks, banned bump stocks, and limited gun magazines.  Ms. Hallquist beat her nearest challenger by 26-percent-points.  Despite the backlash, Cooks rates this race, for now, Solid Republican (; Aug. 15, 2018). 

Last night's primary victories were definitely history making but how will translate in the fall campaigns?  Voters seem to be an a rancorous mood.  The establishment is no longer working and Democratic Socialism is not always the right answer.  Then there is the specter of impeachment.  There is no more denying the president has been tainted by the actions of his cronies during the 2016 campaign. The possibility of Democratic control of one or both houses of Congress makes impeachment proceedings a likely agenda item.  It is all speculation right now and it is a long way to November.  We will just have to wait and see. 

Monday, August 13, 2018

World Tour; August 13, 2018

Hello Everyone:

It is a lovely the start to fresh week on the blog. It is mid-August and the perfect time for late summer getaway and Yours Truly has the perfect trip.  The United Nations Economics, Science, and Culture Organization (; date accessed Aug. 13, 2018) recently convened in Baharain to debate which sites should be included on its annual list of World Heritage sites (; July 29, 2018; date accessed Aug. 13, 2018). Eben Diskin writes in his article "UNESCO just named its 2018 World Heritage Sites," "This is the 42nd year UNESCO has met to review new nominees which must demonstrate 'outstanding universal value' to win inclusion."  Outstanding universal value is kind of a hazy concept but inclusion on the list is highly coveted by the sites because it generates more tourism and revenue.  The winners usually represent a diversity of sites from natural to architectural. There are currently 1,092 sites inscribed on the World Heritage list. Let us take a tour of some of this year's winners.  

We begin our tour in the "happiest country in the world," Denmark.  Aasivissuit--Nipisat.  Inuit Hunting Ground between Ice and Sea.  The spectacular Hunting Ground is located inside the Arctic Circle in the central part of West Greenland.  This land of endless sky and verdant land is cultural landscape that is home to the remains of 4,200 year of the humanity's history.  The property is witness to its creators' hunting of land and sea creatures, seasonal migrations, and a wealth of well-preserved tangible and intangible cultural heritage connected to climates, navigation, and medicine.  One of the key elements of the property are large winter homes and evidence of caribou hunting, Paleo-Inuit cultural archeological sites. Aasivissuit also features seven key locales from Nipisat in the west to Aasivissuit, near the ice cap in the east.

Next, we head down to South Africa to check out the Barberton Makhonjwa Mountains.  This spectacular mountain range in northeast South Africa makes up 40 percent of the Barberton Greenstone Belt, one of the world's oldest geological formations.  The Mountain range represents the best preserved history of volcanic and sedimentary rock going back 3.6 to 3.25 billion years, when the continents were in formation. One truly amazing feature is the meteor impact fallback breccias created from meteor colliding with primitive earth just after the Great Bombardment 4.6 to 3.8 billion years ago. 

We move from otherworldly cultural landscapes to a site that made Blogger jump for joy--Hidden Christian Sites in the Nagasaki Region.  Blogger is excited about this inscription because Yours Truly spent a good deal of time studying Japanese history and the "Closed Nation" period (17th-mid-19th-centuries) is a very fascinating one.  Also, if you read and or saw the movie Silence (highly recommendation), this was the setting of Shusaku Endo's meditation on faith.  The property is located in northwestern Kyushu and consists of ten villages, Hara Castle, and a cathedral built in the 17th-century.  The building reflect the period of Japanese persecution of the Christian Faith--by extension all things Western--as well as it revitalization of Christian communities in the early Meiji period (1868-1911).  The property is testament to the cultural tradition fostered by the hidden Christians in the Nagasaki region.

We travel from Japan to Colombia for out next tour stop: Chiriquete National Park--"The Maloca of the Jaguar."  Chiriquete National Park is located in the northwest Colombian Amazon and is the largest protected area in the country.  One of the most splendid defining features of the park are the table-top mountains, sheer-sided sandstone plateaux that take over the forest creating the most dramatic landscape, reinforced by its remoteness and inaccessibility.  If the jaw dropping scenery is not enough, check out the over 75,000 paintings, dating from 20,000 BCE to the present, visible on the walls 60 rock shelters encircling the bases of the table-top mountains.  The paintings are believed linked to the worship of the jaguar, a symbol of power and fertility.  The painting present hunting scenes, battles, dances and ceremonies.  Although no longer present on the site, indigenous community considers the site sacred.

Moving north, we come to the Tehuacán-Cuicatlán Valley: originary habitat of Mesoamerica in Mexico. Tehuacán-Cuicatlán Valley is a semi-arid and arid part of the Mesoamerican region with finest and greatest examples of biodiversity in all of North America.  The property consists of three equally gorgeous elements: Zapotitlán-Cuitcatlán, San Juan Raya, and Purrón and one of the primary homes to diverse but critically endangered species of cacti.  The valley holds the densest forest of columnar cacti, forming a unique landscape that includes agave, yucca, and oaks.  Archeological artifacts present evidence of technological developments and early cultivation of agriculture.  Tehuacán-Cuicatlán Valley features an outstanding water management system of canals, wells, aqueducts, and dams, the oldest in North America which allowed for emergence of farm settlements

We have one more stop to make on our mini-world tour in the Russian Federation: Central Sikhote-Alin.  This property was inscribed in the World Heritage list because the significant modifications made to this property. Before you get too excited, it was extended to include Bikin River Valley, located 100 kilometers to the north of the current site.  What makes the Sikhote-Alin significant is that it is one of the richest and unusual temperate forests on the planet.  This is a mixed zone between taiga and subtropics species such as tiger Himalayan bear cohabiting with northern species such as brown bear and Lynx. The property also includes the South-Okhotsk dark coniferous forests and the East Asian coniferous broadleaf forests.  This fairy-tale-like forest is home to species of the taiga and southern Manchuria species including well known mammals: Amur Tiger, Siberian Musk Deer, Wolverine, and Sable.

That concludes our summer getaway.  If you would like to visit these magnificent properties and more, check out  See you tomorrow. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Blogger Candidate Forum: Scorched Earth

Hello Everyone:

It is a warm Wednesday and time for Blogger Candidate Forum.  The scent of desparation is in air.  Just today, Mr. Donald Trump's legal team rejected the latest offer from Special Counsel Robert Mueller. The special counsel offered to let Mr. Trump answer half his questions in person and half in written form. It sounds like a fair offer but the president's attorneys argued that it would a perjury trap.  Sounds like the one of the attorneys, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, is extremely worried that the president will incriminate himself and feels that the president should remain silent. That is his right but if Mr. Trump has nothing hide, then why not answer the Special Counsel's questions in person?  Perhaps, the only thing left to do is subpoena the president.  Speaking of desparation, let us talk about the Republican midterm strategy.

The Republicans are worried.  They are worried that they will lose their majority in Congress following the midterm election NOVEMBER 6, which reminds Yours Truly, make sure you are registered to vote.  If have not registered to vote, stop reading and to vote, and go to for more information.  Okay, having made the pitch, everyone inhale the pungent fragrance of desparation.  Yours Truly is detecting a smoky note of scorched earth.  This perfume is bottled by the Republic party as an antidote to the very real possibility of not only losing their coveted majority in Congress but also the specter of a more progressive agenda.  Not that a progressive agenda is a bad thing, in fact it could be a good thing. The Republicans are betting the house, literally and metaphorically, that scorched earth will let the hang on their majority. What is the definition of scorched earth?

The Oxford Learner's Dictionaries defines scorched earth, "(in a war) a policy of destroying anything in a particular area that may be useful to the enemy" (; date accessed Aug.  8, 2018).  If we apply this definition to the upcoming elections, it means that the Republican Party is doing everything and anything to prevent a Democratic takeover of Congress, in particular the House.  Why is the House of Representives this year?

In January of this, Andrew Prokop of Vox wrote that the upcoming midterm are crucial "...not just in shaping the future of Donald Trump's presidency, but in shaping the American political landscape for a great many years to com" (; Jan. 2, 2018; date accessed Aug. 8, 2018). Mr. Prokop lists five things that could happen if the Democrats assumed the majority in Congress: First, the Republican legislative agenda would be dead.  Second, more investigations into the Trump administration's alleged shenanigans.  A Democratic majority in either chamber would give them subpoena power and compel witnesses to testify.  While we are on the subject, the special counsel's investigation into possible connections between the Trump campaign and Russia will get more aggressive.  Would it lead to impeachment?  Who knows?  Next, the president would be greatly constrained on judicial and other nominees.  Fourth, Republican state government that flip could bring about progressive legislation.  Finally, a big chunk of the 2021 redistricting will be determined by the 2018 election. (Ibid)  Which brings us to yesterday's special election in Ohio.

In four words, too close to call.  The state of Ohio held a special election yesterday to fill the 12th congressional district seat that has been in Republican hands for the past three decades.  The contest pitted Republican Troy Balderson and Democrat Danny O'Connor.  As of writing, Mr. Balderson leads by a mini-minuscule 0.9-percentage-point, with absentee and provisional ballots yet to be counted.  The Republican Party spent millions of dollars to avoid an embarrassing loss, and the president visited the district days before the election. 

Another hotly contested race is the Kansas Republican gubernatorial primary.  The president has endorsed Secretary of State Kris Kobach and this race will test the power of his endorsements.  Eric Bradber and Gregory Kreig of CNN (; date accessed Aug. 8, 2018) breakdown the takeaways from yesterday's elections.

First, it is panic time for the Republicans.  The Ohio contest is another indication that the Republican House majority is in deep trouble.  The 12th district in play has voted Republican in the last two presidential contests--both Mr. Trump and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney each won by 11-percentage-points. There are 68 Republican-held House seats in play that favor the Democrats. The Democrats only need to win 23 seats to regain the House.

Democratic voters are energized.  Suburban and urban voters are coming to the polls at higher rates than their rural more conservative counterparts.  The Republican are realizing that they cannot swamp every district as they did with the Ohio 12th district. This has them deploying the scorched earth approach elections.  Spend millions of dollars, bring in the president, and hope for total victory.

Second, incumbent Governor Jeff Colyer and his challenger Secretary of State Kris Kobach are still awaiting the results of their primary.  Right now, the race is a dead heat.  If the controversial Mr. Kobach, endorsed by the president, loses, it would be a bigly embarrassment for the president who has been on a winning streak.  

Johnson County is the place to watch.  This heavily populated suburb of Kansas City has yet to report their results.  There is still a lot of votes in the county left to count that could swing the election one way or the other.  

Third, Missouri held a referendum yesterday on the state's right-to-work law.  The right-to-work would end the practice of forcing non-Union employees to pay into a collective bargaining fund.  A petition to get the intiative on the ballot gathered 300,000 signatures.  The point was to put the referendum on the August ballot, when a strong Republican turnout was expected unlike the November election when pro-Union Democrats show up in force.  The move backfired spectacularly

MIssouri voters rejected the measure by a 2-to-1 margin, an amazing defeat for a Republican priority in state the president won by 19 percentage points.  This was a major victory for unions, which invested $16 million in the campaign. It could signal a turning point in the Midwest, after years of Republican victories over unions in Wisconsin and Indiana.

Finally, Democratic Socialism does play well in the Midwest.  Candidates endorsed by political newcomer Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) did not fare too well in the Michigan Democratic gubernatorial primary. In Missouri, Cori Bush lost her bid to unseat incumbent Representative William Lacy Clay, despite support from Ms. Ocasio-Cortez.  

Bottom line, the Republicans are in panic mode too soon in the election which means two things. First, the Democrats are in position to either take the House or, at the very least, gain more seats to put them within striking distance to regain the majority in two years.  Second, the Republicans are out of anything substantive to say so they have resorted to scorched earth campaigning in hopes of stemming the tide.