Bedlam Farm Blog Journal by Jon Katz

28 October

Dogs In The Rain

by Jon Katz

It’s easy to forget that dogs are den and cave animals, and in their natural lives, retreat to their dens in bad weather. I have a border collie, Lab and a Boston Terrier.

All three are among the more active dog breeds, but on a rainy day like today, they are more like bars, curling up in front of our wood stoves and in Zinnia’s case, snoring at my feet while I write.

This morning, Bud headed right for the wood stove, Zinnia and Fate looked outside at the rain, they didn’t want any part of it.

Even the hyper-active Fate gets quiet in the rain, sleeping on a carpet in Maria’s studio. I have a great fondness for rainy dogs, they are especially good for writing.

I’m heading off to Albany to visit Bishop Maginn for the first time in months and meet some of the refugee students. It’s supposed to snow shortly after I get back. It will be nice to have Zinnia lying by my feet snoring.

28 October

One Man’s Truth: Biden Wins 89 out of 100 Outcomes

by Jon Katz

I’m heading to Albany this morning for my first visit to Bishop Maginn High School since March. I’m excited about it.

Zinnia is coming to do her therapy work and I will be confined to the nurse’s office with my mask, I’ll do some interviews with the refugee kids at a distance.

I’m interviewing a young refugee girl who was beaten so badly at a public school soon after she came to America,  that she had to be hospitalized.

She is very happy at Bishop Maginn. She might need some tuition help. Bishop Maginn doesn’t turn people away over money.


From FiveThirtyEight this morning:

Once in a blue moon, you see a poll that makes you blink twice to make sure you’re not seeing things. This morning’s ABC News/Washington Post survey of Wisconsin was just such a poll. It showed Joe Biden 17 points (not a typo) ahead of President Trump, 57 percent to 40 percent, among likely voters. To put it mildly, this is a stunning margin in what is supposed to be one of the most competitive state races in the country — a place that Trump carried by less than 1 percentage point in 2016.

And this is not an easy poll to disregard. ABC News/Washington Post adheres to what we consider the gold-standard methodology (meaning they use live phone interviewers, call cell phones as well as landlines and participate in the American Association for Public Opinion Research’s Transparency Initiative or the Roper Center For Public Opinion archive) and earns an A+ grade in FiveThirtyEight’s polling database.  Biden’s chances of winning the state have reached a new high as a result — 93 in 100.”

In the meantime, FiveThirtyEight, the nation’s best and most conscientious polling site, reports today that with less than one week to go, Biden is favored to win the election.

They simulate the election 40,000 times to see who wins most often. The sample of 100 outcomes below gives you a good idea of the range of scenarios their model thinks is possible.

Trump wins 11 in 100 outcomes. Biden wins 89 of 100 outcomes, the best position for Biden so far.

Every poll taken so far shows that coronavirus is the dominant campaign issue in just about every state in the country.

That is not good for Donald Trump, who keeps insisting – even in states with skyrocketing infection rates where most of his rallies are – that the virus is just about over.

Trump is either a political genius or he has completely lost his mind.

Several respected Republican pollsters have told reporters that his is the worst political campaign in modern political history.

At this point in the race, Biden’s polling numbers are well about Hillary Clinton’s at this point in the 2016 election. By now, her numbers were plummeting and it was clear she was in trouble.

Biden is holding steady.

Trump is often delusional about his prospects. Since he pulled off a miracle in 2016, he and his supporters are convinced they can do it again. I think they are just setting themselves up for a Clinton-style trauma.

But 2020 is nothing like 2016. That is a good mantra for Biden supporters to repeat over the weekend.

The numbers are unlikely to change too much before next Tuesday. This does not promise or guarantee a victory for Biden, and it is still statistically possible for Donald Trump to win the election.

For me, this is the only number worth paying much attention to each day, state and local polls and fevered speculations are not meaningful.

States like Michigan and Pennsylvania are still close, Wisconsin gets better for Biden every day and a number of Southern states are too close to call, which is a promising sign for Biden, as these states are traditionally reliably conservative and Republican states.

The bigger win Biden has, the more difficult it will be for Trump or the Republicans to challenge the outcome. It is unlikely the winner will be known on election night unless the win is a landslide.


For me, the big story today is seeing the refugee children again. They have been through Hell and back this year. They made it this far. They are the reason I got interested in politics again. They are the point for me.

27 October

One Man’s Truth: Faith And Hope In The Worrying Time

by Jon Katz

For people inclined to worry, there is plenty to worry about. The election is a week away, the race is tightening in some key states (Pennsylvania especially), and many Democrats don’t have much faith in the polls after  2016.

That makes a bitter and unsettling campaign even harder to bear.

At this point, some worrying might be healthy for Democrats since it will encourage them to do something other than fret, like volunteer as a poll watcher, drive people to the polls, or make sure to vote.

For the worriers, I’d recommend an honest,  detailed, and thoughtful piece of writing in Politico; it’s by political writer Tim Alberta (he was around in 2016) called “One Last Funny Feeling About 2020.

It’s a brilliant piece of analysis.

“I’ve got one last funny feeling about 2020 to share,” he wrote, “and it won’t leave much doubt as to my expectations for November 3 and beyond.”

“This is nothing like 2016,” he added, and he explains why in persuasive and credible detail.

“The good news for Trump supporters,” writes Alberta, ” is that his position today is similar enough to the one he was in four years ago: trailing badly in the polls, largely left for dead, needing some electoral miracle to win the election. They saw him defy the odds once; because of that, he will do it again.

But, he added: The bad news for Trump supporters: 2020 is nothing like 2016. Amen to that.

If you want to understand the reality of this election, including the ghosts of 2016, I don’t believe you will ever read a better piece of political analysis and reporting than this one.

Understanding politics isn’t just about polls; it’s about observation, intuition, and gut feeling. I’m with Alberta and have been for months. And I’m not into wishful thinking. In my experience, worry and fear block perception and instinct.

The 2016 election has as much to do with this one as Australian weather forecasts.

It’s quite possible, says Alberta at the end of his piece, that the President will be victimized by his own kept promises; that some anti-abortion evangelicals who agonized over the decision to support him in 2016, and did so precisely because they worried about the future of the courts, can now in good conscience vote against him, or stay home, happy with the right’s takeover of the judiciary.

I was interested in reading that.

This was in part because today, I got an e-mail from an evangelical deacon in South Carolina who has been reading my rants against the evangelical movement for months.

‘You might be interested to know I never voted for  Trump. I voted for what he could do for our movement, and he has done it. I will never vote for him again. On election day, I’ll be praying for the unborn, not for the President.”

Biden’s speech in Georgia (see below) and the deacon’s message seemed important to me, they evoked a powerful image and feeling for me. Religion is playing a key role in America’s politics; Biden seems to understand that Trump can’t.

At FiveThirtyEight, polling wizard Nate Silver is worried about what it will mean to Biden’s campaign if he loses Pennsylvania.

In the meantime, Biden is favored to win the election. FiveThirtyEight simulated the election 40,000 times today to see who wins the most often. Their sample of 100 outcomes shows the range of scenarios their model thinks is possible. In those outcomes, Trump wins 12 out of 100 times, Biden wins 88 out of 100.

It is still possible for Trump to win? Of course.

Today, Biden traveled to Georgia to preach unity and healing. His trip there is significant as George is considered a solidly red state. His campaign senses an opportunity there. Recent polls show Biden and Trump, who won Georgia easily in 2016, in a dead heat.

That is shocking.

Democratic Presidential candidates haven’t campaigned there in decades.

I thought Biden gave an important speech in Georgia, one of his best. Biden, a practicing Catholic, referred to a recent encyclical from Pope Francis that he said, “warns us against this phony populism that appeals to “the basest and most selfish instincts.”

“The Bible tells us,” said Biden, “there is a time to break down and a time to build up. This is that time. God and history have called us to this moment and this mission.”

That is a powerful mission statement for a presidential candidate in American in the Fall of 2020. I think it’s the message many Americans are eager to hear.

Trump has nothing that comes close to it for inspiration or hope. Today, in front of a bloodthirsty rally in Michigan, he cast doubt on the plot to bomb Michigan’s governor while his followers chanted “lock her up.”

Trump loves playing the tough guy, but the women, the moderate and independent voters he needs so badly right now are feeling chills up and down their spine.

I have a gut feeling Biden will win Georgia.

He wouldn’t have gone there if he wasn’t pretty sure.

The New York Times reports today that overall,  the race appears stable; it doesn’t appear to have changed much this week at all. “There is not much data yet from polls conducted after the final presidential debate,” reports the paper today, “but what there is shows no real sign of movement. With the clock ticking down, that’s good news for Joseph R. Biden Jr. and unwelcome news for President Trump.”

According to the newspaper, Biden is ahead among likely voters by six points in Pennsylvania and nine points in Wisconsin. Both margins are beyond the margin of error.

So far, more than 65.5 million votes have already been cast around the United States, surpassing the 58.3 million total pre-election votes cast in 2016. Put another way, that’s just about half of the total presidential votes cast four years ago.

According to election officials around the country, early voters are young, more racially diverse, and more likely to be Democratic than they were in advance of the 2016 election in the key states expected to decide the election.

Trump has awakened the women’s movement, Metoo, Black Lives Matter, journalism, and early voting data suggests he is finally drawing the young into national politics.

That difference is backed up by some new data: 2020 is already a record-shattering year for early voting among young people. Early voting among people aged 18 to 29 is up across the 14 critical states, according to data from Catalist, a company that provides data, analytics, and other services to politicians,  academics and is providing insights into who is voting before November.
Polling has found that Republicans are much more likely to say they prefer to vote on Election Day this year. If that happens, they could match or even outdo the march of the young.

I hope to be spiritual, not a religious person, and  I believe hope and faith can generate a powerful energy field. I see reasons for hope all around me. The election is listening.

They are sitting right there out in plain sight, the curtain of fear and gloom the only thing that keeps us from seeing them and cheering them.

27 October

Wood Stove Time

by Jon Katz

Today was a milestone day at the farm, we lit up the wood stoves for the first time. Maria and I grabbed the wood cart, opened the back door to the woodshed, and loaded up enough wood for a day or two.

Yesterday, Fred from Braymer Fuels came to clean out the oil heater in the basement, our back-up in the bitter cold. Between our solar system and the wood stoves, we should have record low heating oil and electric bills for this year.

But we love the wood stoves for more than that. The heating is warm, even, and comfortable. The two stoves warm up the whole house in a comfortable way.

Since I’m the one working in the house all day – Maria has electric baseboards in her studio – I’m especially grateful for the stoves. And there are few things sweeter than sitting in front of a wood fire at night reading.

I’ve got to find a chimney sweep, ours is no longer reachable. Usually, that means they’ve moved to Florida. Zinnia was fascinated.

We’re in diarrhea day two: Fate and Bud both. I fed them boiled hamburger and white rice to bind up their stomachs.

27 October

Army Of Good’s Hunger Project. No Matter What.

by Jon Katz

No matter what happens next week, there is a great need for people who wish to do good rather than fight about it. I have my mission, it exists outside of politics.

Last week, I wrote about the Army Of Good’s new Hunger Project for the Bishop Maginn High School refugee community and the Mansion aides.

With the donations I have received, I’ve begun to stockpile gift cards from the Price Chopper Markets and Wal-Mart to help refugees experiencing hunger insecurity and to be ready to help during the holiday season, which will be difficult and painful for them.

I want to make sure I have help on hand when it arises.

Many of the refugee families are devout Christians, and Christmas is a big day for them, a time of gifts, celebration, and dance.

They are surrounded with difficulties – the government no longer wishes to help them, many have lost their jobs during the pandemic, some have gotten sick, schools have changed.

These will be dark days for them, I believe we can keep them in warm and healthy food and also help them have as bright a Christmas as possible. Sue Silverstein tells me this will be their hardest time.

I also want to be able to help the three to five of the Mansion aides who have worked so hard all year to keep the residents safe – not one case of coronavirus there – and who are struggling to feed their families and buy their kids some toys for Christmas. There may be more than four or five who need help with gifts.

I am grateful for the score of gift cards that arrived over the past few days.

I hope to have more gift cards on hand, first for hunger, then for Thanksgiving, then for Christmas. We are also planning an Amazon Wish List so the refugee families can buy some Christmas gifts for their children.

The gift cards I have are wonderful, but they won’t last too long. If you wish to help, you can purchase additional gift cards from Wal-Mart or Price Chopper in any amount.

They need to be sent to me, Jon Katz, at 2502 State Route 22, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816. If you don’t wish to shop online, you can send a food donation to me at any time and I will purchase the cards, I’ve got it down. Jon Katz, Hunger Project, P.O. Box 205, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816.

You can buy Price Chopper Gift Cards here.

You can buy Wal-Mart gift cards here.

Thanks to the good people who have already send me some cards.

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