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© Michael Cooutu
SUNSET ~ NEWPORT, VERMONT


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Posted 7.19.21
Just Outside Washington

FRANK BERNHEISEL

CALIFORNIA DREAMING? NOT!

My friend Janie, who lives in San Diego County, recently complained that her old California is gone, which she attributes to illegals and great wealth. But for me, I think nothing ever stays the same.

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CORONA NUMBERS UPDATED
WORLD: OVER 199.66 MILLION.
DEATHS - OVER 4,250,338 MILLION .
U.S.: 35.689 MILLION.
DEATHS - 629,862.
CANADA: CASES - OVER 1.431 MILLION.
DEATHS - OVER 26,600.

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HCR LATEST REPORT
Posted 8.3.21

AMERICA TOMORROW: HAVE A LOOK AT HUNGARY TODAY

Yesterday, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán posted on Facebook a photo of Fox News Channel personality Tucker Carlson visiting him. Carlson is broadcasting his television show from Hungary this week, before he speaks on Saturday at MCC Feszt, an event hosted by a government-sponsored university whose mission is to produce a conservative elite.

Hungary is a country in central Europe of about 10 million people who have, in the decade since Orbán took power for the second time, watched their democracy erode. On paper, Hungary is a democracy in that it still holds elections, but it is, in fact, a one-party state overseen by the prime minister.

Orbán has been open about his determination to overthrow the concept of western democracy, replacing it with what he has, on different occasions, called "illiberal democracy," or "Christian democracy." He wants to replace the multiculturalism at the heart of democracy with Christian culture, stop the immigration that he believes undermines Hungarian culture, and reject "adaptable family models" with "the Christian family model."

No matter what he calls it, Orbán's model is not democracy at all.

As soon as he retook office in 2010, he began to establish control over the media, cracking down on those critical of his party, Fidesz, and rewarding those who toed the party line. In 2012, his supporters rewrote the country's constitution to strengthen his hand, and extreme gerrymandering gave his party more power while changes to election rules benefited his campaigns.

Increasingly, he used the power of the state to concentrate wealth among his cronies, and he reworked the country's judicial system and civil service system to stack it with his loyalists. While Hungary still has elections, state control of the media and the apparatus of voting means that it is impossible for Orbán's opponents to take power.

Trump supporters have long admired Orbán's nationalism and centering of Christianity, while the fact that Hungary continues to have elections enables them to pretend that the country remains a democracy.

Currently, political patterns in America look much like those Orbán used to gather power into his own hands. Republican-dominated legislatures are passing new measures to suppress the vote, aided by the Big Lie that former president Trump did not lose the 2020 election. Trump and his supporters are focusing on the so-called "forensic audit" of Maricopa County in Arizona, paid for and conducted by Trump loyalists who insist that Trump actually won despite the repeated investigations that have proved the election was clean.

Today, a piece by Jane Mayer in the New Yorker revealed how the money for that audit is coming not from local protesters, but rather from "sophisticated, well-funded national organizations whose boards of directors include some of the country's wealthiest and highest-profile conservatives." Those organizations "have relentlessly promoted the myth that American elections are rife with fraud, and according to leaked records of their internal deliberations, they have drafted, supported, and in some cases taken credit for state laws that make it harder to vote."

Mayer details how organizations such as the Heritage Foundation, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the anti-regulation FreedomWorks, and the Judicial Education Project (which is tied to Leonard Leo, a chair of the Federalist Society, which has worked since the 1980s to stack the courts with originalists) have turned from their previous advocacy to focus on voter suppression. These groups are bankrolled by Milwaukee's Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, whose board member Cleta Mitchell was on Trump's January 3, 2021, call to Georgia election officials.

In the Washington Post, Greg Sargent noted that the goal of these audits is to undermine Americans' faith in elections altogether. Continued questioning of election results even after repeated recounts and verification makes any outcome seem untrustworthy.

In such a case, a state legislature might argue it was justified either in "finding" enough votes to swing an election -- as Trump tried to get Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to do in Georgia in 2020 -- or in throwing out the vote altogether and advancing its own slate of electors to the Electoral College.

Mayer points out that organizations funded by the Bradley Foundation are, indeed, talking about taking the choice of electors away from voters and giving it instead to state officials.

Carlson has shown support for Hungary in the past. Notably, in 2019, he endorsed that country's anti-abortion and anti-immigration policies; in that year, according to investigative researcher Anna Massoglia of Open Secrets, Hungary paid a D.C. lobbying firm $265,000, in part to arrange an interview on Carlson's show.

But for him to visit Orbán and to broadcast from Hungary right now, when American democracy is under the very sort of threat Orbán represents, seemed to me to be a deliberate demonstration of the Trump Republicans' plans for our future.

©Heather Cox Richardson
Letter from an American


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SINGLE-PARENTING, EARLY EDUCATION
Posted 6.17.21
FRED RYAN

SHAWVILLE, QC | We are learning more than expected from the pandemic -- from scientific insights to generalizations about well-being and good mental health. As we slog through levels of lockdown, mental health problems seem only to grow. Our kids, for example, feel isolated and stressed, struggling to focus on their on-line lessons.

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THE TROUBLE WITH DEMOCRA$Y
Posted 6.9.21
FRED RYAN

SHAWVILLE, QC | Lend me your attention for a moment. This is not about local -- only issues, not about Covid, hockey, nor low moisture in our crops. This is about money, and money is the Trouble with Democracy.

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PSST! LOOKING FOR A QUICKIE?
5.6.21
THOUGHT FOR TODAY
Posted 5.3.21

THIS SUCKS
Posted 5.3.21
I WISH I'D SAIDTHAT
Posted 5.3.21

I WISH I'D SAID THIS TOO
Posted 5.3.21

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LOOSE TONGUES ENDANGER LIVES
Posted 5.30.21
FRED RYAN

SHAWVILLE, QC | The two world wars past gave us plenty of public messaging about "idle talk" which might reveal secrets to under-cover enemy agents. Every subject, from call-up notices to departure times -- anything which might give our enemies an edge -- was included. "Loose tongues endanger lives" was a common public message.
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Posted 5.25.21
Just Outside Washington

FRANK BERNHEISEL

THE FRENCH HAVE FIGURED OUT A BETTER MED WAY

As one gets older, it seems like we spend more time at the doctor's offices. Even when there is nothing specifically wrong, there are visits, periodic general practitioner checkups, lab visits for blood extraction, dental cleanings, dermatologist examinations, and more.

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MEMORIAL FOR THE VICTIMS OF . . . WHAT?
Posted 4.30.21
FRED RYAN

SHAWVILLE, QC | Among the surprises of this month's federal budget was a doubling of funds for Harper's "victims of communism" 2010 memorial in Ottawa. With a total of near $7 million, this should be one heck of a memorial.

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LCC WRITER: HI-5! TO COVID VAX TEAM IN VIRGINIA
Posted 2.18.21
FRANK BERNHEISEL

This morning Kathy and I received our second dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. Hooray!

PROTEST ... WHERE IT COUNTS!
Posted 2.1.21
FRED RYAN

SHAWVILLE, QC | Two street protests against pandemic restrictions in Quebec, in Fort Coulonge and Shawville, have stimulated public comment. And criticism -- many participants, generally, were not following the health rules (masks and a two-metre distance). The SQ were careful to warn protestors of the rules, without aggravating emotions and stimulating further disturbance.
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STOPPING COVID-19 ~ WITH VALIUM?
Posted 1.12.21
FRED RYAN

SHAWVILLE, QC | One of the lesser-noted effects of Covid-19 and its lockdown is the sudden and widespread proliferation of scientific expertise. There's a touch of sarcasm here.

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10 POST-PANDEMIC LESSONS
Posted 1.1.21
FRANK BERNHEISEL

Zakaria celebrates America's resilience, which he says gains strength through chaos and crises. He also downplays the idea that despots like China's Xi Jinping do better than democratic leaders pointing out covid-19's leap around the world was due to China's suppression of lifesaving data. Also, that authoritarian regimes including Khamenei's Iran, Erdogan's Turkey, and Bolsonaro's Brazil, ruled did badly.

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OUR 30TH ANNIVERSARY
Posted 12.28.20
ROSS MURRAY

I'm writing this on the day of our 30th wedding anniversary. Deb and I were married on December 15, 1990 in Sherbrooke. That wasn't the original plan.
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ON KEEPING WITS ABOUT US
Posted 12.23.20
FRED RYAN

SHAWVILLE, QC | Lesson number one: The pandemic's lockdown may be teaching us a thing or two, despite it's costs. One lesson is obvious: how deeply we all depend upon contact and communication with others. The opposite side of that coin may be that we also are learning to live with our own selves, without the contact we took for granted in the past.
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WHY ENVIRONMENTAL REGS ARE NEEDED
Posted 12.17.20
FRANK BERNHEISEL

As many as 12,000 children were exposed to drinking water with high levels of lead, which cause long-term health problems. The water supply change also caused an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease that killed 12 people.

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WHAT'S WRONG WITH "SOCIALISM"?
Posted 11.15.20
FRED RYAN

SHAWVILLE, QC | American friends are certainly now on the road to a healing presidential term. The Republicans may rant about individual counts, but we can also be certain that they are busy studying their playbook, "How to Sabotage a Democrat President."
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This is one of 30 short poems in the chapbook Placing No Markers by Jason Krpan. You can download the book for free at Bookfellows.