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Opinion: Portland is a victim of Trump’s thuggery

Federal officers wear camouflage uniforms and gas masks while patrolling Portland, Oregon
Federal officers stand as protesters gather during a demonstration in Portland, Ore., on Thursday.
(Beth Nakamura / Oregonian)

Good morning. I’m Paul Thornton, and it is Saturday, July 18, 2020. Let’s take a look back at the week in Opinion.

Over the last few days, federal agents clad in camouflage have been roaming Oregon’s largest city at night, dashing out of unmarked vans to detain seemingly peaceful protesters for no apparent reason other than they look like trouble. It shouldn’t take any cerebral invocation of our fundamental constitutional rights to show why this is wrong. Rather, merely describing what’s happening in Portland ought to shake anyone with a decent moral sense.

This is so self-evidently wrong that reacting to it with anything but guttural, inarticulate outrage seems pointless, but this episode reflects just how dangerous the flailing Trump presidency is at this moment. We might laugh at the clownish sideshow of a president flashing two thumbs up over a display of highly processed foods in the Oval Office, but it is precisely the deployment of a secret police force to a major American city that jerks us back into an unforgiving reality: Donald Trump is still president, and he’s still very powerful.

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I may be able to summon only blurts of anger over such an egregious display of authoritarianism, but thankfully in Opinion we employ writers who can more intelligently articulate the heinousness of the federal government’s response in Portland. Read editorial writer Scott Martelle’s piece dismantling the Trump administration’s legal rationale for its thuggish show of force and warning why we might be in for more of this from a president whose reelection campaign relies on sowing division and anger.

Trump is also dangerous on public health. To hear the president and his allies tell it, he’s waging a heroic battle to save the country from public health experts whose advice has put us at the top of the global list of COVID-19 hot spots. In reality, says The Times’ Editorial Board, the president is kneecapping our federal health agencies just as we need them most, as evidenced by his administration’s undermining of Dr. Anthony Fauci and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. L.A. Times

Of course, it isn’t all Trump’s fault. California has reentered coronavirus shutdown mode, and there’s no one to blame but ourselves, says editorial writer Mariel Garza. COVID-19 might be surging, but the good news as we begin another round of closures is that we have a much better understanding of how the virus spreads and how we can better protect ourselves. The L.A. Times Editorial Board says that means it would be foolish for any local official not to enforce mask rules or other state mandates. Columnist Virginia Heffernan calls the right’s refusal to mask up self-defeating and foolish.

Should schools remain closed? The L.A. Times Editorial Board calls the L.A. Unified School District’s decision to continue with distance learning only this fall painful but necessary, given the COVID-19 surge in California. Most of our letter writers agree, but one physician asserts that the evidence shows it’s worth the risk to put teachers and students back into the classroom. Editorial writer Kerry Cavanaugh, who like me is a parent of homebound school-age children, said she cried a bit when L.A. Unified made its announcement and expressed dismay that our leaders seemed more concerned with reopening bars and restaurants than schools.

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A tale of two loyalists: Roger Stone lied on behalf of the president and got sentenced to prison for it and ended up with his sentence commuted by Trump in one of the most flagrant abuses ever of presidential pardon power. Jeff Sessions, the former attorney general who allowed Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation to proceed and groveled to Trump when he ran for his old job as a U.S. senator from Alabama, just lost his state’s primary and probably his political career.

Proposition 13 has been a drag on equality and tax revenue; it’s time to fix it. The 1978 ballot initiative sets taxes at 1% of a property’s assessed value and strictly limits annual increases. Problem is, it treats commercial property the same as residential property, and homeowners can’t pull the kinds of tricks that allow a mega-corporation like Disney to continue to pay taxes on Disneyland based on the 1978 assessment. Jacques Leslie writes that Proposition 15 would fix this disparity. L.A. Times

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As always, you can share your feedback by emailing me at paul.thornton@latimes.com.

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