Legal Challenge

  Amicus Briefs Challenge 

Policy Denying Asylum Seekers

Safety, Legal Rights

    (SPLC) - 11/27/2020 - Amnesty International USA, the Association of Pro Bono Counsel, Refugees International, and a group of immigration law professors have filed amicus briefs in a case challenging the so-called Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), also known as the “Remain in Mexico” policy, which has forced over 60,000 asylum seekers into precarious, life-threatening situations in Mexico and deprived them of access to legal assistance and other tools needed to meaningfully present their asylum claims.

   Some of the amicus briefs, which were filed in support of the plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction, include first-hand accounts of how this policy has made it nearly impossible for asylum seekers to obtain legal assistance. Other amicus briefs provide a historical perspective on the Refugee Act, which was intended to ensure uniform treatment of asylum seekers regardless of the place where they apply for asylum and explain why individuals subject to the Remain in Mexico policy are in DHS custody.

“MPP dispenses with critical safeguards meant to ensure that asylum-seekers are not returned to danger; results in the transfer of asylum-seekers to Mexico, a country where they face a real risk of serious harm; and exposes asylum-seekers to ‘chain’ refoulement,” reads the brief filed by Amnesty International USA. As a result, “MPP violates the United States’ domestic and international human rights commitments and should be enjoined.”

Last month immigration advocates filed Immigrant Defenders Law Center, et al. v.Wolf, et al., which challenges the Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” policy. The lawsuit seeks to block the continued implementation of the policy, facilitate the return of individual asylum-seeking plaintiffs so they can pursue their claims from inside the United States, and allow legal service groups to continue their work on behalf of asylum seekers.

The lawsuit was brought on behalf of organizational plaintiffs, Jewish Family Service of San Diego and Immigrant Defenders Law Center, and eight individual asylum-seeking plaintiffs. They are represented by the Southern Poverty Law Center, Innovation Law Lab, and the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, with pro bono partner Arnold & Porter LLP.

Economic Trends

Report: New Risks, Opportunities

Emerging Because of COVID-19

Consumer Behavior Will Shift $3 Trillion in Economic Value


    NEW YORK - (BUSINESS WIRE) - 11/23/2020 - With the pandemic driving people to spend more time at home, avoid air travel, and change their spending habits, businesses can expect to see a shift of more than $3 trillion in economic value, according to Accenture (NYSE: ACN).

Graphic courtesy of Business Wire
   The report, titled The Big ValueShift, quantifies the broad impact of long-term changing consumer behaviors and provides actionable insights for companies to build strategies to thrive in the face of disruption. 

   Through a proprietary macroeconomic model that incorporates data from 38,000 companies across 25 industries, as well as household spending data for 15 countries that account for approximately 80% of global GDP, Accenture conservatively found:

  • More than $2 trillion of annual value may shift away from industries such as restaurants, traditional retail, and commercial real estate as consumers pass more of their leisure time at home.
  • Changes in spending may cause a net decline of up to $687 billion in annual value across consumer-facing industries.
  • If current declines in air travel persist into a longer-term shift, up to $318 billion of annual value will flow to different industries and ecosystems.
  • “Ripple effects of today’s changing consumer behaviors are causing waves that will reshape industries and their ecosystems. Companies must be ready — with responsive business models, technology-enabled operating models that are agile, and a growth mindset rooted in data and advanced analytics — to uncover new value and better meet customer demands as this wave of change approaches their industry,” said Kathleen O’Reilly, global lead of Accenture Strategy.

   According to the latest Accenture Consumer Pulse Survey, nearly three-quarters (73%) of respondents expect to feel most comfortable spending their free time at home over the next six months. This shift is impacting the traditional retail and leisure industries with value transferring to companies that offer ecommerce and digital-entertainment options.

   “The crisis has forced an uncomfortable reckoning for many brands — but, handled wisely, this will result in new ways of doing business that deliver better experiences for consumers and growth for organizations,” said Oliver Wright, global lead of Accenture’s Consumer Goods & Services industry group. “Before Covid-19, in-store shopping was, for most companies, the only ‘game in town’ with ecommerce and digital marketing an afterthought. The companies that fully integrate enjoyable and efficient digital and physical experiences that deliver faster, more convenient services will be the winners in the future.”

   The highly suppressed demand for air travel has had a profound impact on the travel ecosystem from airlines and airports to aircraft manufacturers, and even further downstream to hotel chains, energy, and resources companies. Data suggests that business travel will be one of the last segments to experience a sustained recovery. As consumers will still have vacation time, value is likely to migrate to sectors like domestic tourism, digital entertainment, and outdoor recreation.

   “Fundamental changes in behavior, including heavily reduced air travel and consumer discomfort in public spaces, creates opportunity in other areas. Companies need to innovate to drive new revenue streams and look at their ecosystem partnerships to offer value-added services that cater to new ways of working and the health-conscious consumer. For example, the hospitality sector can leverage existing assets to provide hotel rooms for day rates so people can work away from home, but still in a safe space. Critically, these efforts could also become a permanent and profitable avenue for growth in the post-pandemic era,” Accenture Travel Industry group global lead Emily Weiss said.

   The Big Value Shift is the first in a series of Macroeconomic Insights that looks at major economic and sustainability trends arising from the COVID-19 crisis and offers guidance for business leaders as they strategize and navigate their companies through unchartered business territory.

County Politics

Rebuilding in Madison County

By James Grandone

The Madison Co. Administration Building
  EDWARDSVILLE - 11/20/2020 - “The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades” is a song by one-hit-wonder Timbuk 3 in 1986. To hear the heads of the Republican and Democratic parties talk about the future, they both have their Ray-Bans on.
    I spoke with Ray Wesley, chairman of the Madison County Republican Party (@GOPMADISONCOUNTY) and Randy Harris, newly minted chairman of the Madison County Democratic Party (@MadcoDems) after the 2020 general election. Both were optimistic about the future prospects of their party in coming elections and both cited shortcomings and strengths. But they had very different messages.

    Wesley’s Republicans are coming off a heady success at the county level that saw President Donald Trump win handily with more than 75,000 votes against former Vice President Joe Biden who got just below 57,000 votes. Countywide offices saw similar results and the party took most of the open positions at the county board level as well.

    Harris attributes the loss to the media and the national headlines. “People just came out and voted for Trump.” Democrats are looking to the future and plan to “reorganize, reach out and message” to attract the blue-collar workers the party has lost starting in the 2010 election and going forward.

    “We put out a very good, robust message around issues important to local Democrats,” said Harris. “It’s all about how we’re going to help the blue-collar workers who get up and go to work every day.”

   Wesley’s party’s message was simple: fiscally conservative philosophy coupled with lower taxes and less government. “We are the No. 1 taxed state in the country, and we are trying to save every dollar for taxpayers.” I think Californians would take exception to that statement, but there it is.

    Harris is skeptical about the Republicans’ tax-cutting and wants to know what services will be eliminated when the revenue isn’t there to pay for them. To him, it’s a quality of life issue. His point is well made, in that many of the services that Madison County residents enjoy are the same amenities that attract young families to live here.

    The Republican leader emphasizes cutting the budget, lowering the tax levy and maintaining services.

   “We want less government, lower taxes and to protect the integrity of taxpayers’ money, “Wesley said.

   To back that up, he said that when he was first elected to the county board in 2016, the tax bill for the county was “around 10 to 11 percent and today, it’s around seven percent.”

    Both parties’ arguments are compelling. People want the services but don’t want to pay the property taxes that are needed to support them.

    From a political point of view, the Democrats are facing an uphill battle for the hearts and minds of the blue-collar worker whose interests they say they represent but who feel the tax pinch, as well as the headwind of a national media that has had Trump in the news every day since he was elected. While Republicans, as Wesley said, are going to settle into their new offices and not disappoint the voters who put their confidence in them.

    Both say they are optimistic but that there is a lot of work ahead in building their organizations.


Jim Grandone
Jim Grandone is a long-time resident of Edwardsville, Ill. He was the architect of the 'East County...If You Only Knew' marketing campaign promoting the Metro East to businesses in St. Louis in the 1990s. Grandone holds a BA in political science from the University of Illinois at Springfield and was a Coro Fellow and serves on a variety of boards. He lives in Leclaire with his wife, Mary. 
Reprinted with permission. This article originally ran in the 
Edwardsville Intelligencer

Election Analysis

  Counties That Voted for Biden

Account For 70 Percent of US GDP

By Steve Rensberry
RP News

Graphic courtesy of statista.
 EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. - (RP NEWS) - 11/20/2020 - A recent report by the Brookings Institute shines a light on the growing economic divide in the country, made even more apparent from the results of the latest General Election, with president-elect Joe Biden winning just 477 counties to Donald Trump's 2,497.

The big difference: Residents and businesses in the 477 counties that Biden carried accounted for an aggregate share of U.S. GDP of 70 percent, compared to just 29 percent for counties carried by Trump. The difference was somewhat smaller in 2016 when Trump ran against Hillary Clinton, but was still very large, with Clinton carrying 472 counties with a US GDP of 64 percent, to 2,584 counties carried by Trump accounting for 36 percent of US GDP.

GDP figures used for comparison, pertaining to the 2020 election, are from 2018.

As noted in this summary by statista data journalist Niall McCarthy: "The 2020 presidential election was notable for considerable political and geographic divides but it also highlighted a huge economic divide. . . . The political outcome of this year' contest is different and the country's economic voting chasm has widened. Biden won virtually all of the U.S. counties with the biggest economies including Los Angeles (CA), New York (NY), Cook (IL), Harris (TX) and Santa Clara (CA) while Trump was the candidate of choice in small towns and rural communities with correspondingly smaller economies," McCarthy writes. "The most economically powerful counties won by Trump in 2020 were Nassau (NY), Suffolk (NY), Collins (TX) and Oklahoma (OK)."

The Brooking Institute's report notes the often-cited differences between the two demographics of metropolitan vs rural or small-town America.

"Biden’s counties tended to be far more diverse, educated, and white-collar professional, with their aggregate nonwhite and college-educated shares of the economy running to 35 percent and 36 percent, respectively, compared to 16 percent and 25 percent in counties that voted for Trump," the Institute states, "In short, 2020’s map continues to reflect a striking split between the large, dense, metropolitan counties that voted Democratic and the mostly exurban, small-town, or rural counties that voted Republican. Blue and red America reflect two very different economies: one oriented to diverse, often college-educated workers in professional and digital services occupations, and the other whiter, less-educated, and more dependent on 'traditional' industries."

The report forecasts coming gridlock in Congress and between the White House and Senate because of the country's deep economic divide. "The problem . . . is not only that Democrats and Republicans disagree on issues of culture, identity, and power, but that they represent radically different swaths of the economy," it states. "Democrats represent voters who overwhelmingly reside in the nation’s diverse economic centers, and thus tend to prioritize housing affordability, an improved social safety net, transportation infrastructure, and racial justice. Jobs in blue America also disproportionately rely on national R&D investment, technology leadership, and services exports."

The possibility of significant serious economic harm to just about everyone in the country is a concern, especially if the divisive pattern made apparent in the last few election cycles continues, they said.

"Specifically, Trump’s anti-establishment appeal suggests that a sizable portion of the country continues to feel little connection to the nation’s core economic enterprises, and chose to channel that animosity into a candidate who promised not to build up all parts of the country, but rather to vilify groups who didn’t resemble his base," the report states, noting the special needs posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, making it "a particularly unsustainable situation."

See: Brookings Institute Report

Prison Sentence

Former Police Officer, 

Gangster Disciples Member

 Sentenced to Prison

    (DOJ) - 11/18/2020 - A former DeKalb County, Georgia, police officer and member of the Gangster Disciples has been sentenced to 15 years in prison followed by five years of supervised release for racketeering conspiracy involving murder,

   The announcement was made by Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak of the Northern District of Georgia.

   Vancito Gumbs, 28, of Stone Mountain, Georgia, claimed to be a “hitman” for the Gangster Disciples while at the same time serving as a police officer. Evidence showed that Gumbs relayed sensitive law enforcement information to the gang and provided a firearm to a fellow gang member.

   According to the charges and other information presented in court, the Gangster Disciples are a national gang with roots in Chicago dating back to the 1970s. The gang is highly structured, with a hierarchy of leadership positions known as “Positions of Authority” or “POAs.” The gang strictly enforces rules for its members, the most important of which is “Silence and Secrecy” – a prohibition on cooperating with law enforcement. Violations of the rule are punishable by death.

   Evidence at trial showed that the Gangster Disciples were responsible for 24 shootings from 2011 through 2015, including 12 murders. Gumbs, who had been photographed flashing a hand sign used by the Gangster Disciples, was a self-professed “hitman” for the gang while serving as a police officer.

   While he was employed as a DeKalb County police officer, federal agents captured Gumbs on recorded phone calls with the “Chief Enforcer” for the Georgia Gangster Disciples. Evidence showed that during these calls, Gumbs relayed law enforcement information to the gang and provided a firearm to a fellow gang member. On later calls, the Chief Enforcer noted that he had Gangster Disciples police officers at his disposal.

   Among other criminal activity, the Gangster Disciples engaged in the commission of murders. The jury found that Gumbs joined or remained in the racketeering conspiracy while knowing and agreeing that the gang engaged in murder.

   This case was investigated by the FBI, Atlanta Police Department, and DeKalb County Police Department.

   Principal Deputy Chief Kim S. Dammers of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section (OCGS), Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ryan K. Buchanan, Deputy Chief of the Violent Crime and National Security Section, Erin N. Spritzer of the Northern District of Georgia, and Trial Attorney Conor Mulroe of OCGS prosecuted the case.

   Source: DOJ news release of Nov. 16, 2020

Anti-Globalism Conspiracy


Extremist Ideology Drives


Christian Zionist Crusade

By Steve Rensberry 
Opinion / Analysis

   EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. - 11/9/2020 - Zionist, anti-globalist, and gun advocate Baruch Pletner is a man on a mission. Jewish, born in Russia, and fanatically pro-Israel, Pletner spent the first 10 years of his life in the Russian Federation before moving to Israel, according to an online bio, and served in the Israeli Air Force for a while, before making his way to Boston in 1973 as an engineer. In 2010 he immigrated to Canada, taking up residence in the province of Prince Edward Island. 

Dubbed the “High-Tech Traditionalist,” and a “scientist, entrepreneur and thinker,” Pletner speaks with a noticeable accent and the tone of an expert. He writes, blogs, participates in podcasts, tweets, and appears on talk radio and a handful of Youtube videos, most if not all catering to the views of America's far-right nationalists.

   The sad thing is that what Pletner embraces, in apostle-like fashion, is nothing but a regurgitation of old falsehoods, fears and prejudices. Pre-1990, it was the ominous “New World Order,” long a target of anti-government and fundamentalist Christian groups and a carry-over from the Cold War era, in which it was feared that a godless communism and collectivist world government would replace national sovereignty with totalitarian rule and a One World Government. Progressives, liberals, the United Nations, the welfare-state, international institutions and alliances, all can be seen as building blocks of the beastly globalism trend.

   Books such as the 1903 work, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion (described as an antisemitic canard), H.G. Well's 1940 book, The New World Order, and the work of neo-theosophical occultist Alice Bailey -- a founder of the so-called New Age movement – and other literary works and figures have invigorated the anti-globalism conspiratorial mindset.

   In lockstep with our lame-duck president and others on the right, Pletner defines the Democratic Party as fundamentally evil and its supporters as criminals without honor, with a goal of complete destruction. The “Deep State,” always capitalized, figures prominently in his writing. Ironically, he fears that his enemies will completely destroy people like him if they win, yet nearly in the same breath he states that if they win, Trump will deal his enemies “a final crushing blow, a blow from which they will never recover.” He continues, echoing a belief that the existing establishment must be wiped clean or demolished entirely in order to rebuild the kind of nation they really want. “Yes, this will involve the destruction and rebuilding of many if not most of America's most cherished institutions, but it is the only way that America can be saved, the only way in which this first battle can also be the last one.”    

   That's some iron-clad, black-and-white thinking.

    Pletner writes about a coming civil war, about annihilating liberals, and about the collapse of nations -- a good thing in his mind, it seems, necessary to rid the world of bad people and to set things right. He may be educated in engineering and have experience abroad, but his essays lean heavily on exaggeration, misrepresentation, and inflammatory language. It is us vs them, and everything is on the table.

   “The globalist world order is in full collapse. Nobody is buying the wares that it is peddling. Extreme secularism, acceptance and glorification of LGBTx , extreme feminism, and 'wokeness,' are all being rejected in favor of nationalism, traditionalism, and renewed religiosity. There is and yet will be a lot of screaming at the sky, but this reality is undeniable. And so are its consequences,” Pletner writes. See: up for grabs

   In his last column before the election, Pletner called the Bidens a crime family with less honor even than the Cosa Nostra (Sicilian Mafia), and a worse choice for elected office than Al Capone or Meyer Lansky would have been. “These men may have been gangsters, but they loved America,” he says. Loyalty and allegiance are, apparently, Value No. 1. Morals and characer are somewhere further down the list.

   Former Utah Congressional candidate Debbie Aldrich has interviewed Pletner on her YouTube channel and radio show “Freedom Voice Radio.” Aldrich, meanwhile, is listed as an “On Air Talent/Roving Reporter on the CDMedia staff page, as well as author for the Center for Security Policy (CSP) – an organization categorized by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) as a hate group, primarily anti-Muslim. 

   As stated in the SPLC report: “Frank Gaffney, Jr. founded the neo-conservative-turned-anti-Muslim think tank CSP in 1988, following his tenure as deputy assistant secretary of defense for Nuclear Forces and Arms Control Policy in the Ronald Reagan administration. From the late '80s to the mid-2000s, CSP was seen as a mainstream though hawkish organization that favored the so-called 'peace through strength' doctrine popularized by President Reagan. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the CSP never left its Cold War mentality, and instead shifted its focus from battling Communism to fighting Islam.”

   In a 2018 article posted on about former Arizona state Sen. Kelli Ward, Aldrich was described thus: “Ward has done three interviews with Debbie Aldrich, a conservative pundit who made a failed bid to fill the seat of retiring Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) in a special election last year. On her Twitter feed, Aldrich falsely called Obama a Muslim and promoted the Pizzagate conspiracy theory. She blamed Obama and 'all his anti-white hate mongers' for 'inciting race riots,' and said he gave 'these #Black Thugs #BLM Carte Blanche to DESTROY AMERICA.'” 

   You might surmise that both Pletner and Aldrich are supporters of our lame-duck president Donald Trump, along with being big contributors to the broader far-right and conservative media networks that support him, and you would be right. Of note:

  • In addition to YouTube interviews and podcasts, Pletner and Aldrich are both contributors to CDMedia, a site run by far-right writer and conspiracy publicist L. Todd Wood. In addition to his own site, Wood's articles reach the Washington Times, Washington Examiner, New York Post, and a long list of other right-wing sites. 

  • Wood is featured on a podcast hosted by Steve Bannon (Breitbart, Trump admin), Raheem Kassam (former editor-in-chief of Breitbart) and Jack Maxey.

  • Wood hails from the financial industry as a bond trader (Cantor), Bannon as an investment banker (Goldman Sacs), as does another person on Wood's contributor list, Peter Cecchini (Cantor). See also: L. Todd Wood

  • Wood has a connection to some degree with the anti-Iranian M.E.K. group, which was once listed as a terrorist organization before rebranding itself and earning U.S. support, including from Newt Gingrich and Rudy Giuliani, both of whom were in attendance at a 2012 rally in Paris for the M.E.K. Also in attendance: Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, former State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley, and former Bush U.N. Ambassador John R. Bolton. “The M.E.K.'s political arm, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, has its headquarters in Paris.” See: Iranian terrorist group

  • Bannon's writing and reputation outpaces Wood's, but both make wide use of many of the same techniques. Bannon was heavily involved with the alt-right news site Breitbart and recently had his account suspended on Twitter after calling for the beheading of Dr. Anthony Fauci. Bannon also faced arrest in August in a case involving the suspected misuse of fundraising dollars. Wood's account was suspended, as well, for spreading fake news and misinformation related to the Bidens.

  • Bannon was VP of the Board of Cambridge Analytics, “a data-analytics firm which allegedly used illegal tactics to target American voters in the 2016 election and is owned largely by the Mercer family, the family that also co-owns Breitbart News.” He was appointed chief executive of Trump's presidential campaign 88 days before the 2016 election, but the two appeared to part ways under public pressure. See Bannon.

  • Bannon has described himself as an economic nationalist and “proud Christian Zionist.” He has also been described as an admirer of paleoconservative commentator Pat Buchanan, with an ideology that “is substantially similar to that of Stephen Miller, Tucker Carlson, Benny Johnson, Raheem Kassam and Matthew Boyle, the latter two having been protégés of Bannon at Breitbart.”  

   While there is widespread ideological agreement among each of these players, Pletner, interestingly, accuses Bannon in one of his articles of conducting a “counter-coup resting on rotten foundations of residual white bigotry, real and imagined white oppression, and white nostalgia for what never was and never will be,” while fully sharing Bannon's Zionist, Democratic-hating, anti-globalist world view. Both men, however, have been apologists, and publicists, for our 45th president. 

   As for the split between Bannon and Trump, read this paragraph from an article by “author and political analyst” Ava Armstrong. The article, titled, Is There a Secret Strategy to the Trump and Bannon Division and Feud?, was posted on the America Out Loud site after Bannon was given the boot from the White House early in Trump's presidency.

   “Consider this, Donald Trump is a very unconventional individual in his thinking and his tactics, a strategist, an asymmetric schemer and out-right pretty clever man,” Armstrong writes. “I believe this was by design, contrived by Trump and Bannon as a tactic of presenting an overt separation between the two – providing an appearance of severing of their political and perhaps ideological ties. But here’s the deception, nothing has really changed as they are clandestinely maintaining a covert dual track strategy designed to destroy the Establishment and the Swamp. This new tiff, albeit artificial and maybe made for politics and the media, perhaps is just part of the perception designed to provide the cover to create the illusion of a severing and separation between Bannon and Trump. The cover story so to speak, to all of this presents the belief that Trump no longer answers to Bannon … and no longer does Bannon have any association or influence with Trump." 

   This may only be one person's opinion, that of Armstrong's, but the attacks on established institutions and norms we've witnessed over the past four years would seem to bear it out, as well as from things Trump himself has said.

   If there's one thing that Pletner, Aldrich, Bannon, Wood, and all the rest seem fixated on it's destruction. They want to destroy their opponents, not merely win or beat them at the polls. They want to destroy the establishment, not merely improve it, build on it, or reform it, or even replace it. Concepts like diplomacy and compromise are rarely mentioned. And they assure themselves, without evidence, that their enemies want to destroy them in return.

   This is not a sign of healthy minds, nor of good intentions with respect to the future of our country and the world.

   On Nov. 7, 2020, Biden accepted the election results as president-elect of the United States, as the world awaits final certification of the results, as well as the results of various court challenges the Trump campaign has filed. Given the depth and history of the anti-globalist conspiracy, and the sheer number of voters who remained loyal to the president in his re-election bid, such fanaticism could very well intensify.

For further reading: 

Information and Politics


How Do You Know 

What You Know?

By James Grandone

EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. - 11/9/2020 - How do you get your information about politics, COVID-19 and local events? If you get most of it from friends and family, where do they get it?

Jim Grandone

Most likely the answer is from the media, either print or broadcast news or online news sources. I get mine from news aggregators online. They scour all the major news outlets and publish the most important stories every day from primary news sources, such as major daily newspapers, network news and cable news networks.

We cannot keep up with all the news because we can’t be everywhere news happens. That is the function of reporters.

Often news drives policy in Washington, D.C., state capitols and city halls. Politicians and our reactions to the news influence the formulation of public policy.

Most of the time, news outlets just report what is being debated in deliberative bodies like Congress and state legislatures. But what if the news outlets made policy directly by telling politicians what to support and what to oppose?

That is how Fox News Channel operates, according to a new book by CNN Media Correspondent Brian Stelter, “HOAX: Donald Trump, Fox News and the Dangerous Distortion of Truth.”

In a review of the book in The New Republic, Stelter says it was the late Roger Ailes who convinced Trump to do a weekly call in to Fox & Friends program. Rather than ask Trump what his position was on the day’s topics, Ailes told Trump what to say on the program.

These positions became Trump’s positions and contributed to his positions on issues and his fixation on news ratings in determining his actions as president. By the way, Fox does not have many reporters and gets most of its “news” from online news publications, including the right-wing conservative Breitbart and The Drudge Report. Makes sense. This affects the national divide in the United States over policy issues like gun control, Black Lives Matter and other controversial subjects. Fox has a very loyal following, and so does Trump. In most polling, it would seem that Trump has a solid 30 percent support, which comprises his “base.” Where does his base get their news? From Fox News Channel programming. Research has shown that a full 34 percent of voters get their news from Fox News Channel. Where does Trump get his position on issues? Fox News Channel and, in particular, his buddy Sean Hannity. See the circle?

The rest of us get our news from what is commonly called “mainstream news outlets.” They are staffed by journalists and reporters who adhere to standards of objectivity and fairness as best they can. Journalists who write news, rather than commentary, strive to present a story looking at all sides of an issue, rather than supporting an ideological point of view, like Fox News Channel. Local newspapers, such as The Intelligencer, often serve as the sole source of local news. The “I” recognizes that people have many options for national and world news and have chosen to be the best source for local news. It is a niche for other community newspapers to consider filling. So, it’s important to really think about what you know and how you know it. If you don’t watch television news or read newspapers and get most of your information from family and friends, from where do they get their information?

I think we should try to formulate our opinions based on all the information available. Then we can make a rational decision about voting for the best-qualified candidate.


Jim Grandone is a long-time resident of Edwardsville, Ill. He was the architect of the 'East County...If You Only Knew' marketing campaign promoting the Metro East to businesses in St. Louis in the 1990s. Grandone holds a BA in political science from the University of Illinois at Springfield and was a Coro Fellow and serves on a variety of boards. He lives in Leclaire with his wife, Mary.

Reprinted with permission. This article originally ran in the Edwardsville Intelligencer

Government Transparency

DHS, ICE Sued For Withholding

Documents On COVID-19 Precautions

By Steve Rensberry 
RP News

EDWARDSVILLE - (RP News) - 11/9/2020 - Documents withheld by the Department of Homeland Security and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement involving the COVID-19 pandemic are the subject of a lawsuit filed on Nov. 6 by the American Civil Liberties Union.

According to a news release about the filing, ICE has reported 490 active cases of COVID-19 among those currently being detained. Critics suggest the number is much higher, however, given limited testing.

“We know, from discovery in more than 50 suits the ACLU has filed against ICE around the country, that the agency has fundamentally refused the basic precautions to keep people safe from COVID,” ACLU-DC Senior Counsel Arthur Spitzer said. “ICE claims it is spending hundreds of millions of dollars on the medical needs of detained people, and yet they’re still getting sick, and some are dying. The American people deserve to know what horrors people are being subjected to on our soil.”

Requested records include the following:

  • The transfer or deportation of detained people who have tested positive for COVID-19 or exhibited symptoms.

  • Any documentation from the start of the Trump administration and onward related to planning for a possible infectious disease outbreak.

  • Models or predictions related to infection and mortality rates of detained people, ICE employees and contractors, and employees of third-party contractors.

  • Any suspected or confirmed exposures, infections, and deaths of people living or working in immigration detention facilities.

  • The risk of spreading COVID-19 to surrounding communities via staff, third-party contractors, visitors, detained people, and transfers.

  • Access to hygiene products and personal protective equipment, and the possibility of social distancing.

  • The testing of detained people, ICE employees and contractors, and employees of third-party contractors at ICE facilities, and testing, treatment, and care of detained people.

  • Directives, policies, protocols, and trainings related to COVID-19 in immigrant detention.

  • Congressional or state-based inquiries into coronavirus-related issues.

The notice said public health experts had been sounding the alarm for months that such centers could become COVID-19 hotspots, and that FY 2020 (ending Sept. 30) was one of the deadliest for ICE detention in 15 years. “This year has also seen numerous reports about the lack of even basic COVID precautions taken by ICE, as well as evidence that ICE has attempted to silence detainees who tried to speak out for better care,” the release stated.

“In a year with so many disasters in the headlines, the escalating humanitarian crisis at ICE detention centers has not received the kind of alarm it deserves,” said Eunice Cho, senior staff attorney at the ACLU’s National Prison Project. “The abuse, neglect, and degradation our clients regularly face in ICE custody have only worsened since the pandemic began: This year alone, we've seen allegations of sexual abuse, increased use of force, rampant use of solitary confinement, attempts by ICE to minimize its role in the deaths of detained people, and hunger strikes to protest the horrendous conditions. The decisions and policies that ICE uses to guide it during this pandemic are a matter of life or death for tens of thousands of detained people and the staff who work at these facilities. It is simply unacceptable that this agency thinks it can act with so little transparency and accountability.”

U.S. Elections

Civil Rights Organizations 

Fight Attempt to Block Valid Ballots

HARRISBURG, Penn. (ACLU) - 11/5/2020 - Voting rights organizations are fighting back against an attempt by Republican candidates in Pennsylvania to invalidate valid ballots cast by eligible voters.

   State representative candidate Joseph Hamm and U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly, along with four voters, filed a lawsuit in Commonwealth Court on Election Day, claiming that county election officials who were following guidance from the Pennsylvania Department of State had violated state election law by notifying voters that their mail-in ballots had been rejected. The petitioners asked the court to invalidate all provisional or replacement ballots cast by Pennsylvania voters whose mail-in ballots were canceled, and all mail-in ballot that were “cured” after voters were notified about a problem with their initial ballot.

In an amicus brief filed Nov. 5, leading organizations representing voters came together to oppose the attempt to deprive Pennsylvanians of the opportunity to cast a valid ballot. The brief was filed by the Black Political Empowerment Project, Common Cause Pennsylvania, the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania, and NAACP Pennsylvania State Conference.

These organizations were represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Pennsylvania, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the Public Interest Law Center, and pro bono counsel from Covington & Burling.

“This attempt to disenfranchise Pennsylvania voters must be rejected,” the brief reads. “Nothing in the Election Code prohibits a county board of elections from providing notice that a voter’s mail-in ballot has been rejected so that the voter can be contacted and afforded an opportunity to cast a valid ballot.”

A mail-in ballot can be canceled when the voter made certain technical mistakes, such as not using a secrecy envelope. By notifying voters that their ballots cannot be accepted, the amici assert, Pennsylvania counties have given voters a chance to make their voice heard. Invalidating provisional ballots would eliminate the only recourse that voters whose mail-in ballots would be rejected have to be able to participate in the election.

“Every vote counts, and this latest effort to discard valid ballots in Pennsylvania should be rejected,” said Sophia Lin Lakin, deputy director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project. “Every voter must have their voice heard. No more shenanigans by those who oppose this foundational principle of our democracy.”

Source: ACLU news release