Post-Election Odds & Ends

Alas, what could have been! Courtesy Audrey Denney for Congress Facebook page.

I got a little shocker in the mail down the homestretch to last Tuesday’s midterm elections. A letter from the Shasta County Registrar of Voters with a blood-curdling first line:

“The signature on your ballot envelope did not match any signature on your voter registration records,” the letter said. It went on to demand that I provide a matching signature no later than Nov. 19, or else my mail-in ballot was all for naught.

“The Deep State,” I thought, “has finally caught up with me.”

I had a feeling this was going to happen. My full name listed on my mail-in ballot was “Robert Victor Scheide.” I’ve been signing my name “R.V. Scheide Jr.” since 1988, but after pausing, I figured I better sign with the name on the ballot, in the tiny rectangular box provided. Naturally, I tried to make it legible. A copy of my rejected signature came with the registrar’s letter.

“That’s my handwriting,” I thought. “WTF is going on here?”

I called the number on the letter from work. Eventually I was patched through to Sarah Murrietta, the registrar’s supervising staff services analyst. I told her the signature on the ballot was mine. She said it doesn’t match any of the signatures the registrar has on record. Yes, the staff had received training on matching signatures, she insisted.

“Impossible,” I thought to myself. “It’s the same signature that’s on my driver’s license.”

Murrietta encouraged me to just sign the form provided with my actual signature, mail it in with the pre-addressed, no-postage-provided envelope, and call her personally on Monday or Tuesday to make sure the letter was received and my vote was counted.

After we hung up, I pulled out my driver’s license and looked at the signature. The “R.V.” was clearly legible, done with my usual flourish. On the other hand, the “Scheide Jr.” begins with something that maybe looks like an “S” followed by a series of lazy, indecipherable squiggles that could be anything, ending in an abrupt backslash that only I would recognize as “Jr.”

I compared it the copy of my ballot signature. They might as well have been written by two different people. Murrietta was right! The handwriting didn’t match!

Furiously, I scrawled my actual signature, “R.V. Scheide Jr.”, in the ample space provided on the return form, four times larger than my normal signature and ending with a backslash “Jr.” that jutted halfway down the page.

I regretted signing it that way the second I dropped it in the mailbox. Rendered as it was in larger scale and heightened enthusiasm, I worried if this signature, too, would fail to match.

I was relieved to find that wasn’t the case when I called Murrietta on Tuesday, Election Day, and she returned the call within the hour. Yes, my letter had been received and my vote had been counted, she assured me.

She estimated upwards of 200 Shasta County mail-in ballots had been returned during this election cycle, many because voters had neglected to provide their signatures on the envelope. Most people, like me, respond quickly to the notice, and she said 30 such responses have been crossing her desk daily.

So. Not the Deep State. Just a local government agency doing its job.

That truly is a relief.

Your friendly neighborhood climate change denier, Rep. Doug LaMalfa. Courtesy of U.S. Congress.

The Day After

I woke up Wednesday morning feeling pretty good. Daylight Saving Time agrees with my internal clock in the fall and the election turned out pretty much as forecast: Democrats seized control of the House with a net gain of 30 seats, Republicans strengthened their majority in the Senate with a net gain of three seats, President Donald Trump declared the split-decision a victory.

Local liberals and progressives (myself included) were bummed that Audrey Denney failed to unseat 1st District Rep. Doug LaMalfa, losing 56 percent to 44 percent, but I never expected her to win, I expected her to do well. It was a respectable performance, and Denney has built a substantial base of small local donors throughout the district to challenge LaMalfa again in 2020, should she choose to do so.

As for LaMalfa, he now finds himself in the minority, along with the House Freedom Caucus, so the never-ending efforts by right-wing Republicans to gut the social safety net, reproductive rights and environmental regulations will be somewhat blunted.

Meanwhile, House Democrats have options. They can use their newfound majority to push for single payer healthcare for all, relief for debt-burdened college graduates and a higher federal minimum wage, issues championed by Denney and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the 28-year-old Latina who just won New York’s 14th District and will become the youngest women ever to serve in Congress.

Can these younger millennial Democrats who embrace socialism transform the party from its corporate centrist ways? Looks like we’re going to find out.

House Democrats will also take control of numerous committees in January, including the Judiciary, Intelligence and Finance Committees, and will now have the power to subpoena witnesses and documents, including Trump’s long sought-after tax returns. With numerous Trump cabinet officials already under investigation and Donald Trump Jr., the president’s son, in special councilor Robert Mueller’s cross-hairs, it’s going to get ugly, sooner rather than later.

What’s the president think about all of this? Well, considering he fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions first thing in the morning after the election, replacing him with an unqualified stooge known to be critical of Mueller’s Russia investigation, I’d say Trump is pretty damned rattled by the soon-to-be Democratic House majority.

In fact, Trump wasted no time turning the ugly up, assailing reporters as well as loser Republican candidates who didn’t embrace him on the campaign trail in yet another crazed, rambling press conference. He doesn’t hold many press conferences, but all of ‘em are doozies. Asked by CNN’s Jim Acosta if his characterization of the migrant caravan of Honduran refugees as an “invasion” demonized the refugees, Trump exploded like your grandma at the restaurant when the soup’s too cold.

“I’ll tell you what, CNN should be ashamed of itself having you working for them,” Trump scolded the hapless newsman. “You are a rude, terrible person. You shouldn’t be working for CNN.”

Later that evening, the White House yanked Acosta’s press pass. Another “enemy of the people” bites the dust. I went to bed with a smile on my face. Trump is definitely rattled. The next two months, not to mention the next two years, should be highly entertaining, assuming we survive them.

Read Reporter

To be fair to Trump—and there’s no reason to be—Acosta was grandstanding a bit for the millions watching on cable and the internet. As former Daily Show host Jon Stewart recently commented, journalists who take on Trump in live encounters often end up playing Trump’s game, one he enjoys playing, his base enjoys watching, and networks can’t get enough of, because it drives up ratings.

The problem, for the news consumer, is you don’t really learn anything. The abundance of information on the Internet helps, but it also hurts. These days, a great deal of the content on so-called news websites, on the left and the right, simply regurgitates cable news stories about the latest Trumpian outrage that’s gone viral (just like I did above!). No one ever gets to the bottom of things, where the real Deep State hides in the shadows.

Multiple Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh is one shining exception to this rule. Hersh has been breaking the big stories for nearly 50 years, from the My Lai massacre during the Vietnam War to the Abu Ghraib prison scandal during the second Iraq War to the assassination of Osama bin Laden by U.S. Special Forces during the Obama administration.

Hersh recounts these and his many other journalistic triumphs in his recently released memoir, Reporter (Knopf, $16.99 Kindle Version).

The 340-page memoir is a quick read, simply because Hersh often placed himself at the center of controversies that have defined our lifetimes, and it’s hard to put down. Most of the controversies revolve around the military-industrial-financial complex that represents the true Deep State in America, the politicians, military officers, intelligence operatives, defense contractors and Wall Street financiers who’ve been waging permanent war against countless enemies since the end of WWII.

A self-described loner, Hersh nevertheless has the gift of gab, and has used it throughout his career to get Deep State sources to talk to him anonymously, off the record. In all cases, the editors of his work were aware of who the anonymous sources were, and Hersh, a prodigious researcher, strove to find sources willing to go on the record to bolster their claims. It’s a technique he both pioneered and perfected, developing a life-long relationship with many of his sources.

Hersh’s work for the New York Times on Watergate and the New Yorker on foreign affairs is legendary, but the vast majority of mainstream journalism hasn’t followed his lead. Investigative journalism is expensive, and Hersh understands he’s one of the few lucky reporters who’s had the resources to conduct the work and the publishers willing to print it.

That’s changed a lot since Hersh’s heyday—it’s hard to say he had a heyday when his long, prestigious career is still ongoing at age 81—and lately he’s had to resort to publishing his scoops outside the United States. That’s where the state of American journalism is today.

If you’re interested in what real news might actually look like, Reporter is highly recommended.

R.V. Scheide
R.V. Scheide has been a northern California journalist for more than 20 years. He appreciates your comments and story ideas.
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28 Responses

  1. Bruce Vojtecky says:

    Whether a Republican, Martha McSally, or a Democrat, Kyrsten Sinema, will become Arizona’s Senator to replace Jeff Flake may not be known for awhile. The lead keeps changing, this morning Sinema is in the lead with almost 300,000 ballots to be counted. The Republicans have sued to block all mail in ballots that weren’t counted by the end of election day because the signatures haven’t been verified.
    With this win I hope the Democrats will forget about hanging Trump, ala the way the GOP tried to hang Obama, and focus on the real issues. Healthcare, Immigration, Income inequality and yes a real answer to the mass shootings happening. Like drug laws, gun laws do not work. Better communication between law enforcement agencies seems to be needed.
    And RV, if liberals want to unseat The Hat the same Democrat needs to run against him every election. All my years in the northstate I cannot recall a time when the same Democratic candidate ran against Herger or LaMafla. It doesn’t help tochange to someone new every election.

    • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

      Bruce I think the Democrats in the House can focus on domestic issues at the same time they go after Trump with various investigations. I believe that if Trump’s tax returns are ever released, he’ll be disqualified from running for reelection. I agree with you that Audrey Denney should run again–just keeping running the campaign she ran this year. It’s only two years to the next election. Best get started now!

    • Steven Towers Steven Towers says:

      Bruce, I think you’re absolutely right about the same candidate needing to run repeatedly against LaMalfa in order to build support. There Denney was yesterday, front and center as the Camp Fire ravaged Butte County, offering leadership. Meanwhile, LaMalfa is absent and silent. That gives me hope that she has a long game.

      I do agree with R.V., though. With Congress divided and the GOP stocked with hair-on-fire zealots more than ever, not much is going to get done legislatively. The Demos can propose legislation that won’t pass in the Senate and still turn on the heat where Trump is concerned. That said, they need to make it look like the agenda is to get to the truth more than to get Trump. That’ll be tough to pull off.

      Go Sinema!

      • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

        Democrats would be wise to let the Mueller investigation into Russian collusion run its course. It will probably snare Don Jr., who will wind up getting a hand-slap. There are numerous other opportunities for prying open Trump’s financial records, and once that happens, his chances for a second term go up in smoke.

        • Beverly Stafford says:

          And Trump pounded away for months trying to get Obama’s birth certificate. And now he’s stonewalling about his tax returns – actually not “now,” but since before the election.

      • Linda Cooper says:

        Whoops, I lapsed on reading your post. So, LaMalfa has been a no show. Although, I’m not surprised.

  2. Linda Cooper says:

    Audrey Denney is continuing to serve the public via Facebook. She is using her page to share resources and information regarding the Camp Fire. She “lost,” however, she is continuing to lead. No formal evacuation for us in Chico yet. Although it’s close. I’ve been to this rodeo before. Meanwhile, we made reservations for a hotel in Redding.

    • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

      No reason for Audrey to stop campaigning. 2020 will be here before you know it!

      • Linda Cooper says:

        Well, I guess I’m maintaining the fantasy that she is sincere? Curious if Doug has kicked in along these lines.

        • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

          Yes, Mr. LaMalfa posted about the Camp Fire.

          • Steven Towers Steven Towers says:

            Thoughts and prayers?

          • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

            “Log it, graze it or watch it burn.”

          • Steven Towers Steven Towers says:

            So, a cheap, throw-away cliché. I’m shocked—SHOCKED!

            “Log it…”

            What have you done to ensure that the Forest Service has enough funding for the kind of logging that needs to occur? Huge federal subsidies would be needed in order to get that scale of uneconomical harvesting accomplished. Where is it?

            “…graze it…”

            Graze what? If anything, the area that’s burning needed more browsing, even with current record deer populations in the Sierras. And even then browsing wouldn’t have put much of a dent in the ladder fuels choking those forests.

            “…or watch it burn.”

            Ultimately, that may be the answer. A lot of huge burns, followed by future forest management that doesn’t suppress wildlfires until they inevitably blow up from all the accumulated fuels. Also, when a town like Paradise gets erased, some rethinking about whether people ought to be living in extremely fire-prone habitats.

          • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

            In the Forest Carbon Plan, released earlier this year, forests will be thinned by taking out the small trees and leaving the larger trees, above 20 inches diameter I think, in place. That’s kind of the opposite of logging in LaMalfa’s mind. There will be a tremendous amount of small trees and forest residue and beyond burning it for biomass energy, there’s no market for. Where possible, they want to do prescribed burns on a much higher scale. More slash burning too. “Sustainable logging” may be conducted on State and federal land.

            Interestingly, the IPCC, in its model for the next 80 years, proposes biomass-generated electricity in plants equipped with carbon capture and sequestration technology, BECCS, which will theoretically have a dramatically negative carbon footprint. The problem? The technology doesn’t exist yet–it’s currently being trialed in the midwest, with grains.

            Brian Dahle sat on the Little Hoover Commission report “Fire on the Mountain,” released earlier this year. The entire report is couched in climate change, quite clearly agrees with the states Forest Carbon Plan that the anthropocene is real–and Dahl is totally mum on this subject, with his idiotic anti-government campaigning. He should be touting these reports from the balcony, because the work has to be done if we’re going to save these forests. That means jobs, all across the board, from the crews in the field to the teams designing the technology. It’s a no-brainer, really.

  3. Steven Towers Steven Towers says:

    R.V. see: “To be fair to Trump—and there’s no reason to be—Acosta was grandstanding a bit for the millions watching on cable and the internet.”

    Yeah, I agree. And yet I disagree.

    Acosta can be an @$$hole—he’s clearly trying to provoke the Rager-in-Chief in that exchange. Predictably, it worked, but Trump’s response is a beautiful thing to his authoritarian-loving followers.

    But on the other hand, someone from the WH press corps has to unyieldingly call Trump on his bullscheisse. And that bullscheisse isn’t just limited to calling the refugee caravan “invaders.” Worse, it’s sending the military to the border months before the caravan’s arrival as a pre-election stunt. The commander-in-chief using military personnel as campaign stooges.

    Shameful, disgusting, and irresponsible.

    • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

      I agree, that question, “aren’t you demonizing refugees by calling them invaders?” needed to be asked. Trump actually answered it: They fall under his definition of invaders–in other words, Trump doesn’t give a fuck about demonizing refugees, but he’s not going to openly admit he’s a racist. The second Acosta began quibbling with his definition of “invasion” Trump exploded. The more I’m reading about the Acosta incident, the more it looks like a Trump set-up, including the intern attempting to swipe the mic from Acosta and the doctored video from InfoWars tweeted out by Sarah Huckabee Sanders. As Jon Stewart said, if you play this game with Trump, Trump often wins.

  4. Steven Towers Steven Towers says:

    I’ll read a chapter of “Reporter” next time I’m at B&N and see if it hooks me.

    I do like the reporting of the Brit news magazine “The Economist” for its breadth, tone, and even-handed objectivity. In the minus column, I wouldn’t accuse them of doing a lot of deep dives.

    To bastardize a line from the flick “The Big Chill” regarding People Magazine: “No article can take longer to read than it takes the average Brit to take a dump.”

    • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

      Back when I used to write for a publication actually made out of paper, the thought someone might be reading me in the bathroom was pleasant. Now I suppose they’re reading me on their phones. Hope the camera is off.

      Hersh doesn’t waste too much time on his life before being a reporter, and gets quickly into My Lai. The behind-the-scenes look at how he put that story together is riveting. In 1968, no one wanted to touch it! Hersh says the reluctance to do such stories is even worse today than it was then. He would know.

  5. Tom O'Mara Tom O'Mara says:

    Good work by the County Clerk’s Office, and points out that they are really reading those signatures.

    • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

      Indeed! With all the talk about voter suppression back east, I was a little paranoid after receiving the letter. Then I was humbled when I realized how different my signature is from my handwriting. Next time I won’t over-think it, I’ll just sign it.

  6. Bruce Vojtecky says:

    Arizona takes longer than other states, according to election officials, because the signatures on mail in ballots have to be checked and double checked before they can be opened. Trump twitted that voter fraud is happening in Arizona. Problem is the Republicans have taken most of the offices other than Senator. Selective fraud?
    Invasion? Border officials arrested 449 migrants this week alone either climbing or tunneling over border walls near Yuma. They ranged in age from 2 to 48, mostly families from Guatemala and Honduras.

    • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

      In Florida, it looks like a Senate seat and the governorship are up for grabs. The Democrat is ahead right now in Arizona. Republicans all screaming “fraud!” This is going to be fun!

      On 449 migrants last week alone: So, the average flow this time of year? Do we need to call in the guard?

      • Bruce Vojtecky says:

        Do we need to call in the guard? Depends on who you ask. For the ranchers on the border the answer is yes as they have been interviewed on the news needing them. Some of the older ranchers tell of how they used to leave water out for migrants as they passed through going somewhere. Now they say it has changed from a trickle to a wave.
        And since the order to separate families has returned to what was before the migrant flow has doubled. Only now the Border Patrol said those families are surrendering instead of running. America is the dream of many immigrants.

        • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

          Well, that’s what I was thinking, no need to call the guard. Obviously, if that many people are coming across, there’s jobs for them. My idealistic solution to the immigration problem would be to equalize the economies in our hemisphere so that migration was no longer an issue.

          • Bruce Vojtecky says:

            Right now on Arizona news they are showing the Active duty troops, not National Guard, that are being deployed to the border. They are building camps for these soon to be here in Arizona, not northern California, migrants. The only question some in Arizona are asking is why active duty troops when the National Guard usually do that chore. But these troops are being deployed from Kentucky where they were doing nothing. Now they are doing something.

  7. Robert Scheide Sr. says:

    Our most dangerous time is the next two months, with the Republicans still in control of both houses they have already said they are going to go after Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. If we survive that we then face two more years of nothing getting done. Of course, we will be entertained by hours and hours of the house led hearings that will reveal lots and accomplish nothing because the Senate will not pass it.

    Meantime we tick off two more years on the countdown to extinction, ten to go,

    • Bruce Vojtecky says:

      And next week the Bill Clinton scandal is on TV. Time to move on to more important items. End Daylight Savings Time. Move the date of Halloween. Help John Elway find a real quarterback.

    • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

      Trump is a wounded animal, and the extent of his agony right now depends on the depth of the corruption and criminality he has engaged in, and how much of it can be exposed. Now that Democrats can subpoena witnesses and records, including tax records, he’s behaving like a man who has a lot to hide. If the crimes are bad enough, the Senate will have no choice but to convict the president if the House impeaches him. In fact, the real Deep State may be planning just that.

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