Spooky Caturday Reads

Happy Halloween!!

da82279d75b1267f9e520a9d862118a9Only three days until the election, and I wish I could go to sleep and wake up in the late afternoon on November 3. Unfortunately, I can’t get to sleep at night. I usually end up getting about 4-5 hours and then I make up for it some days with afternoon naps. I can’t wait until Trump is gone; then maybe I’ll be able to sleep normally again. I only we can get rid of him!

Trump and his thugs are working overtime either to prevent people from voting or to prevent votes from being counted. It’s their only hope to keep him in the White House. Here’s the latest on voter suppression:

Bloomberg: USPS Says Timely Vote Delivery Isn’t a Constitutional Right.

Delivery delays during an election can’t be unlawful, because the Constitution doesn’t guarantee states any particular level of service when it comes to mail-in ballots, the U.S. Postal Service told a federal judge.

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and President Donald Trump are seeking dismissal of a lawsuit brought by New York and other states that claim disruptive changes at the USPS over the summer are violating the Elections Clause of the Constitution by putting election mail at risk.

The Justice Department argued in a court filing Tuesday in Washington that the clause can’t restrict government agencies from carrying out operational changes or other activity that “may have an incidental impact” on voting.

The states’ theory “assumes that because the plaintiff states crafted their election laws with the expectation that USPS will provide a certain level of service, they now have a constitutional right to expect that level of service,” the U.S. said. The clause “does not shield states from any and all external circumstances that may impact state elections.”

f28095eb488e5ad0bfab821f5eb6ca5bThe Washington Post: Judges nominated by President Trump play key role in upholding voting limits ahead of Election Day.

Federal judges nominated by President Trump have largely ruled against efforts to loosen voting rules in the 2020 campaign amid the coronavirus pandemic and sided with Republicans seeking to enforce restrictions, underscoring Trump’s impact in reshaping the judiciary.

An analysis by The Washington Post found that nearly three out of four opinions issued in federal voting-related cases by judges picked by the president were in favor of maintaining limits. That is a sharp contrast with judges nominated by President Barack Obama, whose decisions backed such limits 17 percent of the time.

The impact of Trump’s court picks could be seen most starkly at the appellate level, where 21 out of the 25 opinions issued by the president’s nominees were against loosening voting rules.

The pattern shows how Trump’s success installing a record number of judges in his four years in office has played a critical role in determining how people can vote this year and which ballots will be counted. The president’s imprint on the courts culminated this week with the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett, the third justice he has successfully nominated to the Supreme Court.

ElqTwSCXEAIBfjdMark Joseph Stern at Slate: Judges Are Already Testing How Far Amy Coney Barrett Will Go for Republicans.

Over the last week, four conservative justices on the Supreme Court have signaled their desire to throw out mail ballots that arrive after Election Day. The court will remain deadlocked on this momentous issue—which could affect the outcome of countless races—until Amy Coney Barrett casts her first vote. And the lower courts are taking bets on which side she’ll take. On Thursday night, two far-right judges in the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a lawless order claiming that Minnesota’s extension of the ballot deadline is likely unconstitutional. Their decision radiates partisan bias and flouts Supreme Court precedent, risking chaos and confusion by altering the rules of Minnesota’s election just five days before Nov. 3.

This is no fluke. It is the Barrett effect: Lower court judges are beginning to test the limits of the Supreme Court, trying to figure out how far right they can go without getting reversed. It is an especially dangerous time for federal courts to fabricate a new rule that prevents states from counting lawful ballots. But with no clear check to rein in the judiciary’s accelerating radicalism, some judges have decided it’s time to go all-in for Donald Trump and dare SCOTUS to stop them.

Thursday’s decision involved yet another dispute over state election law—a dispute that should never have landed in any federal court in the first place. A Minnesota statute requires voters to return mail ballots by Election Day. In May, a voting rights group sued the state to block this rule; it alleged that the deadline is unconstitutional in light of the pandemic, which has placed extraordinary pressure on the state’s vote-by-mail system. Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon chose not to fight the lawsuit. Instead, he entered into a consent decree (essentially a settlement) with the plaintiffs, approved by a state court, that halted enforcement of the Election Day deadline. The Minnesota Legislature has expressly authorized the secretary of state to “adopt alternative election procedures” whenever a law “cannot be implemented as a result” of a court order. Pursuant to that law, Simon extended the ballot deadline by one week and informed every voter that their ballot would be counted so long as it is mailed by Election Day and received by Nov. 10.

Read more at Slate.

EVi2YVtWAAAUJs9

By Maggie Vandewalle

The Washington Post: Republicans shift from challenging rules to preparing to challenge individual ballots.

In Nevada, the Trump campaign filed a lawsuit this week seeking images of the signature of every registered voter in Democratic-leaning Clark County — a potential first step toward challenging individual votes on grounds that the signed ballots don’t match the signatures on file.

In Texas, Republican officeholders and candidates sued this week to have more than 100,000 votes invalidated in the Houston area because they were cast at drive-through voting centers the GOP has asked a judge to declare illegal.

And in Minnesota and Pennsylvania, election officials will set aside any mail-in ballots that arrive after Election Day — even if they were mailed before the polls closed — to facilitate potential court challenges.

For months, Republicans have pushed largely unsuccessfully to limit new avenues for voting in the midst of the pandemic. But with next week’s election rapidly approaching, they have shifted their legal strategy in recent days to focus on tactics aimed at challenging ballots one by one, in some cases seeking to discard votes already cast during a swell of early voting.

Head over to the WaPo to read the rest.

Quite a few writers are speculating about what Trump will do after the election–win or lose. These are long articles, so I can’t provide the gist of each one here. You’ll need to explore the links to learn more details.

Pumpkin Tree, by Tom Shropshire

Pumpkin Tree, by Tom Shropshire

Fred Hiatt at The Washington Post: Yes, Trump has an agenda for a second term. It’s all about him.

…to an extraordinary degree, Trump’s actions in the closing days of his first presidential term tip us off to how he hopes to reign — yes, reign — in a second. If we return him to office, we won’t be able to say we didn’t see it coming….

[W]hat Trump is openly showing us is his intention to reshape the U.S. government from an institution designed to serve the nation and its people to one that caters to one man’s whims, prejudices, grudges, vanity and profit.

The most significant tell comes in an executive order that Trump issued on Oct. 21 creating a “Schedule F” for government workers. It would remove civil-service protections from potentially tens of thousands of civil servants, allowing Trump to fire them at will.

How would he use this power? We have seen his willingness to fire those already without protection simply for doing their jobs in an honest way — intelligence community leaders who wouldn’t lie about Russia and Ukraine, for example. We have heard him disparage those he can’t yet fire — the “idiot” scientists who won’t echo his claim that covid-19 is going away.

Schedule F would let the president fire those scientists and anyone else who might stand in his way — who respect facts and data, who resist his efforts to wield government as a weapon.

Tom McCarthy at The Guardian: ‘Red mirage’: the ‘insidious’ scenario if Trump declares an early victory.

Scenarios for how an election disaster could unfold in the United States next week involve lawsuits, lost ballots, armed insurrection and other potential crises in thousands of local jurisdictions on 3 November.

But there is one much simpler scenario for election-night chaos, centering on a single address, that many analysts see as among the most plausible….

ae892fe09bb9a19d1f8b2b155816c241Known as the “red mirage”, the scenario could develop if Trump appears to be leading in the presidential race late on election night and declares victory before all the votes are counted.

The red mirage “sounds like a super-villain, and it’s just as insidious”, the former Obama administration housing secretary Julían Castro says in a video recorded as a public service announcement to voters this week.

“On election night, there’s a real possibility that the data will show Republicans leading early, before all the votes are counted. Then they can pretend something sinister’s going on when the counts change in Democrats’ favor.”

In the scenario, Trump’s declaration of victory is echoed on the conservative TV network Fox News and by powerful Republicans across the US. By the time final returns show that in fact Joe Biden has won the presidency, perhaps days later, the true election result has been dragged into a maelstrom of disinformation and chaos.

There’s much more detail about this scenario at The Guardian.

Politico: Trump may just keep campaigning after Election Day.

Top surrogates for the Trump campaign have been told to keep their Novembers clear for potential campaign events. And Trump campaign advisers said not to rule out the possibility Trump continues his rallies even as election officials continue to count ballots after the Nov. 3 election, according to a campaign surrogate and two Trump advisers.

With the possibility that there might not be a clear winner on election night in key swing states like Pennsylvania and North Carolina, the campaign has discussed putting Trump and his family on the road to give a morale boost to supporters and let the president fire off about the election to crowds….

“There’s been discussions about travel opportunities for Trump and his family if we don’t have a result on election day, but nothing definitive on where he would go or how many people we would deploy,” said one campaign aide. “If we still don’t have results in Michigan and North Carolina or Pennsylvania and Nevada on Nov. 4, he might hit those states individually.”

70c18d9db734cf31302c9ae04559c556Ron Suskind at The New York Times: The Day After Election Day. Current and former Trump administration officials are worried about what might happen on Nov. 4.

America will probably awaken on Nov. 4 into uncertainty. Whatever else happens, there is no doubt that President Trump is ready for it.

I’ve spent the last month interviewing some two dozen officials and aides, several of whom are still serving in the Trump administration. The central sources in this story are or were senior officials, mainly in jobs that require Senate confirmation. They have had regular access to the president and to briefings at the highest level….

Several of them are in current posts in intelligence, law enforcement or national security and are focused on the concurrent activities of violent, far-right and white supremacy groups that have been encouraged by the president’s words and actions. They are worried that the president could use the power of the government — the one they all serve or served within — to keep himself in office or to create favorable terms for negotiating his exit from the White House. Like many other experts inside and outside the government, they are also concerned about foreign adversaries using the internet to sow chaos, exacerbate divisions and undermine our democratic process.

Many of the officials I spoke to came back to one idea: You don’t know Donald Trump like we do. Even though they can’t predict exactly what will happen, their concerns range from the president welcoming, then leveraging, foreign interference in the election, to encouraging havoc that grows into conflagrations that would merit his calling upon U.S. forces. Because he is now surrounded by loyalists, they say, there is no one to try to tell an impulsive man what he should or shouldn’t do.

“That guy you saw in the debate,” a second former senior intelligence official told me, after the first debate, when the president offered one of the most astonishing performances of any leader in modern American history — bullying, ridiculing, manic, boasting, fabricating, relentlessly interrupting and talking over his opponent. “That’s really him. Not the myth that’s been created. That’s Trump.”

None of Suskind’s sources claimed to know what Trump will do. Read more about what they told him at the NYT link.

Batmolbile by Maggie Vandewalle

Batmolbile by Maggie Vandewalle

One more by Garrett Graff at Politico Magazine: ‘There Are No Boundaries’: Experts Imagine Trump’s Post-Presidential Life if He Loses.

In interviews, historians, government legal experts, national security leaders and people close to the administration have a prediction that will disquiet his critics: The Trump Era is unlikely to end when the Trump presidency ends. They envision a post-presidency as disruptive and norm-busting as his presidency has been—one that could make his successor’s job much harder.They outline a picture of a man who might formally leave office only to establish himself as the president-for-life amid his own bubble of admirers—controlling Republican politics and sowing chaos in the U.S. and around the world long after he’s officially left office.

“Can he continue to make people not trust our institutions? Can he throw monkey wrenches into delicate negotiations? Absolutely,” one former Trump administration official says. “He can be a tool. He’ll be somewhere between dangerous and devastating on that extent.”

A president unwilling to respect boundaries in office is almost certain to cross them out of office. Experts envision some likely scenarios—a much-rumored TV show and plans to use his properties to profit off his lifetime Secret Service protection, perhaps even continuing to troll the Biden administration from his hotel down Pennsylvania Avenue—and some troubling if less certain ones, like literally selling U.S. secrets or influence to foreign governments.

Click the link to read the rest.

 

 


Friday Post Zeta Reads: We’re all hanging on and the bumpy rides keep comin’

This is an old fish/seafood market turned woodshop across the street from me. It’s lost its old tin roof.

Good Day Sky Dancers!

It’s been a few overwhelming days for me and I’m quite exhausted.  New Orleans was very fortunate that Hurricane Zeta was a fast mover because she was like 1 mph off a Category 3 hurricane when she hit and hit she did.  We’re going to be digging out of shredded leaves, downed trees, and infrastructure messes for awhile.  Fortunately, only six families lost their homes and one person died.  It could’ve been way worse.

I was really fortunate that the city and the power company had done several things to stop tree damage on my avenue and in my neighborhood just a few weeks ago. The Tree Trimmers got the old oaks trimmed of dead branches and the power company reinforced the lines with brackets and and pole supports.  A large number of homes through out the metro area or still out of power.  Mine came back on Thursday morning.

However, both my phone and my cable tv and internet at the house are acting hinky.  I was about to check the weather channel one last time last night when I found that the only channel I had on the entire cable set up was MSNBC which was the last thing I was watching. Fortunately, the entire compliment of channels returned this morning.  The Wifi has been slow off and on.  I couldn’t get mobile data on my phone Wednesday night so I was completely cutoff from everything except texts and phone calls.  My understanding is that the Sprint Tower had damage and that network completely went down so something similar must’ve happened with the Verizon Tower.  My cable company still is showing a lot of outages and problems in the neighborhood so I’m just lucky I’ve got what I’ve got.

It looks like a leaf shredding bomb went off every where. Fortunately, our neighborhood kids decided to clean the avenue up for us old folks. They got some fresh bananas from my tree and some cash for their good work!

I spent Wednesday night reading the rest of a book on Kindle–which was amply charged for the event–by hurricane lamp light.  We were totally in the center of the eyewall when it came through which was the most ethereal experience I think I’ve ever had.  The city was texting us to stay inside but I wanted to get Temple out for a quick in and out walk.  It was quiet and the clouds to the west, east, and north of me were swirly dark grey clouds with an eerie purple tinge. To the south, over the river, the sky was a brilliant orangish gold.  I failed to bring my phone camera out with me but some others have captured the moment so I’m sharing some pictures I took but those were taken by others.

Today, I learned that a lot of polling places may not be up in time since about 70% of our schools are without power or damaged some how. I think my fire station is likely okay but I’m going to go check them out on Temple’s next Trot around the neighborhood.

And the final days of the 2020 presidential campaign look ugly.

I can’t really say I’ve been reading much or watching much TV on any of this because I’m rather traumatized enough from everything going on .  But, everything I’ve seen

My kitchen stairs or one of the sites of the leaf shredding hurricane debris

makes me glad I’ve been incognito for a few days. The desperation around the Trump campaign is just frighteningly damaging to every one including his cult.  I still can’t believe they abandoned a bunch of Omahans on an Airfield in freezing weather or let a group of Floridians pass out from heat exhaustion.  Both were finally rescued by actions of the local fire departments which the Kremlin Potted Plant in the White House wasn’t going to praise until he found out if it was a friend or a foe.  WTF?

The COVID 19 pandemic–despite Trumpist attempts to ignore and downplay it–is getting worse.  NPR reports that they’ve been hiding statistics also.  No surprise that!  “Internal Documents Reveal COVID-19 Hospitalization Data The Government Keeps Hidden”

As coronavirus cases rise swiftly around the country, surpassing both the spring and summer surges, health officials brace for a coming wave of hospitalizations and deaths. Knowing which hospitals in which communities are reaching capacity could be key to an effective response to the growing crisis. That information is gathered by the federal government — but not shared openly with the public.

NPR has obtained documents that give a snapshot of data the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services collects and analyzes daily. The documents — reports sent to agency staffers — highlight trends in hospitalizations and pinpoint cities nearing full hospital capacity and facilities under stress. They paint a granular picture of the strain on hospitals across the country that could help local citizens decide when to take extra precautions against COVID-19.

Withholding this information from the public and the research community is a missed opportunity to help prevent outbreaks and even save lives, say public health and data experts who reviewed the documents for NPR.

“At this point, I think it’s reckless. It’s endangering people,” says Ryan Panchadsaram, co-founder of the website COVID Exit Strategy and a former data official in the Obama administration. “We’re now in the third wave, and I think our only way out is really open, transparent and actionable information.”

Super Dome in the middle of the eye and yes these were the colors I saw.

Susan B Glasser writes this at The New Yorker: Denialism, Dishonesty, Deflection: The Final Days of the Trump Campaign Have It All. The President is ending his reëlection bid with scandals that call into question the legitimacy of next week’s vote.”

Whether or not Trump once again succeeds in pulling an unlikely win out of a near-certain defeat, this fall’s campaign may well go down as one of the most scandalous periods of his norm-shattering Presidency. Trump in recent weeks has openly flirted with white supremacy and bizarre conspiracy theories. He has demanded that the U.S. government investigate and jail Biden—it is not clear for what—and he has publicly threatened to fire the F.B.I. director and the Attorney General for failing to do so. He has held rallies at which his supporters chanted “Lock him up,” and did and said nothing to stop them. He has broadcast so much misinformation that social-media platforms such as Twitter have, for the first time, regularly warned readers about the veracity of his posts. He has lied so much that the Times found seventy-five per cent of his statements during a single rally to be untrue. He has issued orders that threaten to politicize the government long after he is gone, including an executive order, last week, which would remove key protections from the professional civil service; the potential consequences of this move are so significant that, on Monday, the Republican Trump appointee who would have to oversee it resigned in protest, warning that the decision will “replace apolitical expertise with political obeisance” across the government.

In recent weeks, scandalous revelations about Trump’s corruption include the Times’reporting on hundreds of millions of dollars of debt that Trump is personally liable for. (He will not say to whom.) The Washington Post disclosed this week that Trump has used his power to direct at least eight million dollars from the U.S. government—–and his political supporters—into his personal businesses since he took office. The consequences of Trump’s Presidency, meanwhile, include the forcible separation of at least twenty-six hundred migrant children from their parents at the southern border, and last week the awful news came out that five hundred and forty-five of these children are now stranded alone in the United States, owing to the authorities being unable to locate their mothers or fathers.

And this parade of horrors, of course, also includes Trump’s record on the coronavirus, a disastrous performance that, as of this week, has left more than two hundred and twenty thousand Americans dead. Universal mask-wearing could prevent perhaps a hundred and thirty thousand Americans from dying, according to a study in the scientific journal Nature which was released earlier this month. Yet Trump not only refuses to issue a national mask mandate; he has repeatedly and publicly questioned the need for mask-wearing during the fall campaign and has held numerous White House events with packed crowds of unmasked attendees.

This is my friend Grace Athas’ photo of the center of the eye over her uptown home.

Then, yesterday, the NYTs dropped what would be an October Surprise that kills Trump’s chances if we still lived in what was the normal United States of America.  Here it is summed up by New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait: “Trump Corruptly Meddled With Probe Into Crimes by Bank in Turkey.” The MSNBC coverage of this is evidently what got my TV stuck on the channel.  I was glued to the screen.  This is like immediate impeachment material for Trump, Barrett, and the Goddesses know who else?

In 2016, Turkish strongman Recep Tayyip Erdogan asked then-Vice-President Joe Biden to lean on federal prosecutors who were investigating a Turkish bank for financial crimes and to hand over a dissident cleric living in the United States. The requests seemed to be on Biden’s mind when he publicly addressed reporters and piously explained that, in the United States, the justice system doesn’t work like that. “I suspect it’s hard for people to understand that as powerful as my country is, as powerful as Barack Obama is as president, he has no authority under our Constitution to extradite anyone,” Biden explained to reporters. “Only a federal court can do that. Nobody else can do that. If the president were to take this into his own hands, what would happen would be he would be impeached for violating the separation of powers.”

Well, the justice system works like that now.

The New York Times has a comprehensive report on Erdogan’s successful efforts to recruit top Trump administration officials into his corrupt scheme.

Scandals tend to be complicated, especially scandals involving banks. But this one is extremely simple. The basic elements:

1) The Justice Department was prosecuting financial crimes by a Turkish bank.

2) Turkey’s president asked President Trump to quash the investigation.

3) Trump has personally received more than $1 million in payments from business in Turkey while serving as president.

4) Two attorneys general loyal to Trump, Matthew Whitaker and William Barr, both pressured federal prosecutors to go easy on the Turkish bank.

The Times adds plenty of new detail to the last point, which is yet another blow to anybody who hoped Barr might preserve some shred of respect for the rule of law. “In mid-June 2019, when [Geoffrey] Berman met with Mr. Barr in Washington, the attorney general pushed Mr. Berman to agree to allow the Justice Department to drop charges against the defendants and terminate investigations of other suspected conspirators,” the Times reports. When Barr subsequently fired Berman, who resisted his pressure, Justice Department officials cited his stubbornness on the Turkey case “as a key reason for his removal.”

If you read one thing today make it this article. It is imperative he be voted out of office and removed as quickly as possible along with his appointments at the DOJ.

In the eye of a hurricane
There is quiet
For just a moment
A yellow sky

So, we’ve got a bit further to go on our Country’s Bumpy Ride. Tomorrow is Halloween.  Sunday is All Saints Day. Tuesday the votes are counted and I take my soul to the poll. Wednesday I turn 65.  What a long strange ride this is.

Take care!  Check in !

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Thursday Reads

Good Afternoon!!

244896_rgb_768Dakinikat survived Hurricane Zeta and got her power back this morning. I heard the storm also hit Georgia pretty hard; its now headed for North Carolina. I hope you’re safe if you’re in Zeta’s path.

In just five days, voting in the long 2020 election will draw to a close. Joe Biden looks likely to win; but we still have to navigate voter suppression (AKA cheating) by the Trump campaign and the GOP, aided by the U.S. Supreme Court, as well as the possibility that Trump will try to use the Court to overturn the election results if he loses. Nothing less than the health and safety of the American people will depend on the outcome.

Ed Yong at The Atlantic: America Is About to Choose How Bad the Pandemic Will Get.

In the 2020 election, on top of every routine test of character and capability, the candidates must answer the challenge the coronavirus has brought to this country. Trump’s response has been so lax as to effectively cede the country to a virus whose spread is controllable. He has, by his own admission, repeatedly downplayed the threat after he became aware of how dangerous the new coronavirus could be. He caught the virus himself and seems to have learned nothing from the encounter….

As November nears, the coronavirus is surging again, with cases rising to record-breaking heights for the third time. To control the pandemic, changes are necessary, but Trump has proved that he does not learn from his mistakes—perhaps the most costly of his failings. If he is reelected, he will continue on the same path, and so will the coronavirus. More Americans will be sickened, disabled, and killed. Donald Trump is unchanging; the election offers an opportunity for the country to change instead.

Nick Anderson cartoonThe near-term future is already set. Trump has repeated the lie that numbers are spiking because the U.S. tests extensively; in fact, the climbing cases have far outpaced the rise in testing, and are due instead to the rapidly spreading virus. Thanksgiving and Christmas are approaching. Several generations of family members will gather in indoor spaces for prolonged periods of close proximity and spirited conversation—the very conditions in which the coronavirus most readily spreads….

As I wrote last month, there is a real risk that Americans will become habituated to this horror, and that COVID-19 will become another unacceptable thing that the U.S. learns to accept. That is all but inevitable if Trump wins a second term. His administration has given no indication that it will dramatically change its strategy. If anything, it has doubled down. It is allowing the virus to freely spread among younger people in the hopes of reaching herd immunity—an unfeasible strategy that has been widely panned by the scientific community. Such a strategy could leave millions dead, and many others with chronic illness.

It’s quite clear now that Trump has decided to let the virus run rampant, believing falsely that this will lead to “herd immunity.”

The Daily Beast: Trump’s COVID Advisers: He’s Now Pushing Herd Immunity.

Despite publicly downplaying it, President Donald Trump and his team of White House advisers have embraced the controversial belief that herd immunity will help control the COVID-19 outbreak, according to three senior health officials working with the White House coronavirus task force. More worrisome for those officials: they have begun taking steps to turn the concept into policy.

lk102820daprOfficials say that White House adviser Scott Atlas first started pushing herd immunity this past summer despite significant pushback from scientists, doctors and infectious disease experts that the concept was dangerous and would result in far more Americans getting sick and dying. Since then, various White House advisers have tried to play down the idea that the administration has implemented a strategy for COVID-19 based on herd immunity, which holds that if enough people contract a disease and become immune from it, then future spread among the broader population will be reduced.

Trump and Atlas publicly claim that they aren’t pushing this disastrous strategy, but it’s pretty clear that’s what’s happening. Experts say the policy could lead to between 2 and 5 million deaths in the U.S. In addition, many people who survive the Covid-19 develop long-term health problems.

Though Atlas insists he has not pushed “herd immunity,” another official said Atlas actually began advocating for the concept—and the president became receptive to it—at the same time as task force officials were being sidelined from conversations about how the administration planned to handle what many predicted would be a difficult fall season. Since then, officials said, the White House has been largely focused on getting a vaccine out to the American people and has left the fight against the community spread to one task force official: Dr. Deborah Birx. Birx, the White House task force coordinator, has been on the road for months trying to convince Americans to wear masks and social distance.In her absence, and with the task force meeting less regularly, Atlas has thrived as a presidential confidant.

244866_rgb_768“This is all Atlas,” said one of the officials who spoke with The Daily Beast. “I find it disturbing… bordering on ludicrous. Everything that comes out of Atlas’ mouth is geared towards letting it rip and then just worry about protecting the vulnerable. Everything he says points to the fact that he believes herd immunity is a good option. Yet he denies he’s pushing herd immunity as a strategy saying ‘No that’s not what I’m doing.’ But he is.”

The New York Times: Trump’s Closing Argument on Virus Clashes With Science, and Voters’ Lives.

As an immense new surge in coronavirus cases sweeps the country, President Trump is closing his re-election campaign by pleading with voters to ignore the evidence of a calamity unfolding before their eyes and trust his word that the disease is already disappearing as a threat to their personal health and economic well being.

The president has continued to declare before large and largely maskless crowds that the virus is vanishing, even as case counts soar, fatalities climb, the stock market dips and a fresh outbreak grips the staff of Vice President Mike Pence. Hopping from one state to the next, he has made a personal mantra out of declaring that the country is “rounding the corner.”

Mr. Trump has attacked Democratic governors and other local officials for keeping public-health restrictions in place, denouncing them as needless restraints on the economy. And venting self-pity, the president has been describing the pandemic as a political hindrance inflicted on him by a familiar adversary.

“With the fake news, everything is Covid, Covid, Covid, Covid,” Mr. Trump complained at a rally in Omaha on Tuesday, chiding the news media and pointing to his own recovery from the illness to downplay its gravity: “I had it. Here I am, right?” [….]

cb102720daprAs a political matter, the president’s approach amounts to an Obi Wan-like attempt to wave his hand before the electorate and tell voters that they are not experiencing a pandemic that is tearing through their neighborhoods and filling hospitals. His determination to brush aside the ongoing crisis as a campaign issue has become the defining choice of his bid for a second term and the core of his message throughout the campaign’s endgame.

This kind of insanity only works with Trump’s brainwashed cult followers. It really does look like Biden will win by a lot, although I won’t be able to let myself believe it until the votes are counted.

Vox: Exclusive: Biden leads Trump by 12 points in a national UT Dallas poll.

Former Vice President Joe Biden leads President Donald Trump by more than 10 points in a national poll by researchers at the University of Texas Dallas. Fielded a few weeks prior to Election Day, the poll is among recent ones finding Biden with a steady lead.

The results, which are part of UT Dallas’s Cometrends survey, found Biden with 56 percent support and Trump with 44 percent support.

The poll — which included 2,500 respondents — is one of several recent surveys showing Biden ahead of Trump at the national level. It was fielded online between October 13 and October 26, with many of the responses coming in by October 17. The survey has a sampling margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points, and its results included a broad sample of respondents that have not been weighted for likely voters.

Overall, the survey finds broader support for Biden from some demographic groups than former Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton received in 2016 exit polls. Among both men and white respondents overall, in particular, Biden’s backing in the UT Dallas survey is stronger. Fifty-four percent of men in the poll say they back Biden, compared to 41 percent who said they supported Clinton in a 2016 exit poll. Similarly, 44 percent of white respondents say they back Biden, compared to 37 percent who said they supported Clinton.

Read the rest at Vox.

244698_rgb_768Toluse Olorunnipa at The Washington Post: As Election Day nears, Trump ponders becoming one thing he so despises: A loser.

Trailing in the polls and with little time left to change the trajectory or closing themes of the presidential race, President Trump has spent the final days of the campaign complaining that the coronavirus crisis is getting too much coverage — and openly musing about losing.

Trump has publicly lamented about what a loss would mean, spoken longingly of riding off into the sunset and made unsubstantiated claims that voter fraud could cost him the election. He has sarcastically threatened to fire state officials if he doesn’t win and excoriated his rival Joe Biden as someone it would be particularly embarrassing to lose to.

“If I lose, I will have lost to the worst candidate, the worst candidate in the history of presidential politics,” Trump said at an Oct. 17 campaign rally in Janesville, Wis. “If I lose, what do I do? I’d rather run against somebody who’s extraordinarily talented, at least, this way I can go and lead my life.”

The president, who said at the same rally that “we’re not going to lose, we’re going to win,” has certainly not abandoned his showman’s approach to the campaign trail. But his unscripted remarks bemoaning a potential loss — and preemptively explaining why he might suffer one — offer a window into his mind-set as he barnstorms the country in an attempt to keep himself from becoming the one thing he so derisively despises: a loser.

Trump has told rallygoers he had the presidential race won until the pandemic hit, and he has accused media outlets of focusing on the ongoing health crisis to hurt him politically.

Read more at the WaPo.

Trump has also suggested at his rallies that he might have to leave the country if he loses. This is pretty wild but, at this point, anything is possible:


Wednesday Reads: Never Gonna Give

The last 24 hours have been so disappointing. I’ve lost myself in classic and campy horror movies…but even that cannot remove the anxiety that weighs on me…especially when I see something like this:

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Posting for those who need it.

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That smacks hard. People have to prepare for a completely new life, just because of the bigotry and hatred of the fucking Republicans.

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Justice Amy is no feminist

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It’s TIME for change… ⏰

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🙃

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Pay attention, because this may be the US in a few months:

In other news:

Follow the events of last night here:

More at the thread.

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Mexico, perhaps.

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A cartoon by @lizatlarge. #NewYorkerCartoons

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Hope you have a pleasant day, well…as good of day that can be expected.

Here is a link to NHC website for the latest on #Zeta

https://www.nhc.noaa.gov/

This is an open thread.


Tuesday Reads: SCOTUS and the Upcoming Election

Good Afternoon!!

Voting Day Coming Up Soon Oh Boy Painting by Richard Hubal

Voting Day Coming Up Soon Oh Boy Painting by Richard Hubal

Election day is one week away. I haven’t slept normally since the pandemic began, and–along with millions of other Americans–I’ve been stressed out since Trump was elected. It’s exhausting. I honestly don’t think I can survive another four years of this insanity. The polls are looking good for Biden; but as of yesterday we now have to worry about the possibility that the Supreme Court could overturn the election results if Trump loses. 

Mark Joseph Stern at Slate: Amy Coney Barrett’s First Votes Could Throw the Election to Trump.

Although George W. Bush prevailed in the Bush v. Gore decision, it’s often forgotten that the Supreme Court declined to affirm his chief legal argument. This claim was so radical, so contrary to basic principles of democracy and federalism, that two conservative justices stepped back from the brink. Instead, the majority fabricated a novel theory to hand Bush the election—then instructed lower courts never to rely on it again.

But the court has changed. Republican lawmakers revived the original Bush v. Gore argument in fraught election cases this year, and, following Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination, four sitting justices appeared to endorse it. Barrett’s confirmation on Monday will almost certainly tip the balance to make that argument the law of the land on the eve of an election. The result would be an immediate invalidation of thousands of disproportionately Democratic ballots in Pennsylvania and North Carolina—two swing states that could decide the outcome of the election. Put simply, Barrett’s first actions on the court could hand Donald Trump an unearned second term, and dramatically curtail states’ ability to protect the right to vote….

We vote by Patricia Clark TaylorIn an unsigned opinion that allegedly spoke for the five conservative justices, the court held that Florida’s recount used procedures that violated “the equal dignity owed to each voter.” Because the standards used to recount ballots varied between counties, the court concluded, the process violated the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause. Then, in an unprecedented move, the court declared that this analysis was a ticket good for one ride only, and that lower courts should never invoke its made-up principle again. 

The reason the Court said this argument shouldn’t be used again is that is took away a state’s ability to control it’s own elections. If repeated, the argument would turn the SCOTUS into a national arbiter of election laws. 

It is black letter law that state courts hold ultimate authority to determine the meaning of their own state’s statutes and constitution. And the Florida Supreme Court had simply provided its best interpretation of a “legal vote” under Florida law. Secretary of State Katherine Harris rejected ballots with “hanging chads” on which voters had indicated their preference but failed to punch through the hole all the way. The Florida Supreme Court disagreed, citing a state statute that required the counting of defective ballots “if there is a clear indication of the intent of the voter.” Federal judges had a constitutional obligation to accept that (eminently plausible) reading of the law. By refusing to do so, Rehnquist, along with Scalia and Thomas, impermissibly substituted the Florida Supreme Court’s judgment with their own.

But now Republicans are again trying to get the Court to rule on individual states’ election policies, and yesterday they intervened in Wisconsin’s election decisions. The New York Times: Supreme Court Won’t Extend Wisconsin’s Deadline for Mailed Ballots.

The Supreme Court refused on Monday to revive a trial court ruling that would have extended Wisconsin’s deadline for receiving absentee ballots to six days after the election.

By Charlie Palmer

2008 voting line, by Charly Palmer

The vote was 5 to 3, with the court’s more conservative justices in the majority. As is typical, the court’s brief, unsigned order gave no reasons. But several justices filed concurring and dissenting opinions that spanned 35 pages and revealed a stark divide in their understanding of the role of the courts in protecting the right to vote during a pandemic.

The ruling was considered a victory for Republicans in a crucial swing state, which polls have shown Mr. Trump trailing in after winning by about 23,000 votes in 2016.

Returning to the Slate article:

By confirming Barrett on Monday, Senate Republicans may well create a five-justice majority that is ready, willing, and able to make Rehnquist’s position the law of the land. There are currently two cases pending before SCOTUS that ask the justices to nullify thousands of mail ballots in Pennsylvania and North Carolina. Both rest on Rehnquist’s Bush v. Gore concurrence. Both give the far-right majority a chance to stomp on states’ ability to protect voting rights.

I urge you to go read the whole piece at Slate. Right now, Massachusetts rules allow votes to be counted if they arrive 6 days after the election and are postmarked by November 3. Will the SCOTUS decision in Wisconsin also force Massachusetts and other states to throw out ballots received after election day?

A banner urging people to vote in the midterm elections is displayed in Houston

A 2918 banner urging people to vote in the midterm elections displayed in Houston, Texas. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton

Ian Millhiser at Vox: The radical implications of the Supreme Court’s new ruling on Wisconsin mail-in ballots.

The Supreme Court just handed down an order in Democratic National Committee v. Wisconsin State Legislaturedetermining that a lower federal court should not have extended the deadline for Wisconsin voters to cast ballots by mail.

The ruling, which was decided by a 5-3 vote along party lines, is not especially surprising. The lower court determined that an extension was necessary to ensure that voters could cast their ballot during a pandemic, but the Court has repeatedly emphasized that federal courts should defer to state officials’ decisions about how to adapt to the pandemic. Monday night’s order in Democratic National Committee is consistent with those prior decisions urging deference.

What is surprising, however, is two concurring opinions by Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, each of which takes aim at one of the most foundational principles of American constitutional law: the rule that the Supreme Court of the United States has the final word on questions of federal law but the highest court in each state has the final word on questions of state law.

This division of power is implicit in our very system of government. As the Supreme Court has explained, the states and the federal government coexist in a system of “dual sovereignty.” Both the federal government and the states have an independent power to make their own law, to enforce it, and to decide how their own law shall apply to individual cases.

If the Supreme Court of the United States had the power to overrule a state supreme court on a question of state law, this entire system of dual sovereignty would break down. It would mean that all state law would ultimately be subservient to the will of nine federal judges.

cjones11162018With Barrett on the Court, 

last week’s decision allowing a Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision to stand could be very short-lived. That decision, after all, was 4-4, with Chief Justice John Roberts voting with the Court’s three liberals. With Barrett, the Court’s right flank may well be getting a fifth vote to toss out the state supreme court’s decision — and to order an unknown number of ballots tossed out in the process.

In her first few weeks at SCOTUS, Barrett will also have the opportunity to vote on cases involving the Affordable Care Act, Trump’s taxes, abortion, and a case about whether a Catholic agency can refuse to place foster children with LGBT couples. 

The only recourse for Democrats in the future may be to increase the size of the Supreme Court–if they can take the Senate, that is.

At The Los Angeles Times, Nicholas Goldberg sees a possible silver lining in the Barrett confirmation:

So now it is official: The same Republican senators who in 2016 refused to consider Merrick Garland’s appointment to the Supreme Court because, with eight months to go, it was supposedly too close to the presidential election, have now confirmed Amy Coney Barrett with just eight days left before the election.

This is so unprincipled, so inconsistent and so cynical that it defies the imagination. It is the flip-flop of the century, undertaken by the Republicans for one reason: Barrett’s confirmation ensures a conservative majority on the high court for the foreseeable future.

But here is one good thing that could come of this shameful episode. With millions of people still casting their votes before Nov. 3, perhaps the Barrett confirmation will open Americans’ eyes, once and for all, and show them who they’re dealing with. Perhaps it will persuade them to reject the radical and hypocritical Senate Republicans at the polls.

Barrett’s confirmation, after all, is only one of many irresponsible moves by the Senate majority, led by the craven Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), who long ago threw his lot in with President Trump. In recent years, he and his caucus have grown not just more extreme in their ideology but more unscrupulous in their tactics.

Not only did they refuse a hearing to Garland (giving that seat instead to Trump appointee Neil M. Gorsuch), but not long after, McConnell and his colleagues rammed Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination through without a comprehensive investigation of the sexual assault allegations against him.

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Voting Line, by Charly Palmer

Maybe. It seems unlikely that many votes are going to change at this late date, but I hope Goldberg is right. On the other hand, it’s possible the evidence that the pandemic is getting worse might influence some voters to reject Trump and other Republicans.

One more from The New York Times Editorial Board: The Republican Party’s Supreme Court. The quest to entrench political conservatism in the country’s highest court comes with a steep cost.

What happened in the Senate chamber on Monday evening was, on its face, the playing out of a normal, well-established process of the American constitutional order: the confirmation of a president’s nominee to the Supreme Court.

But Senate Republicans, who represent a minority of the American people, are straining the legitimacy of the court by installing a deeply conservative jurist, Amy Coney Barrett, to a lifetime seat just days before an election that polls suggest could deal their party a major defeat.

As with President Trump’s two earlier nominees to the court, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, the details of Judge Barrett’s jurisprudence were less important than the fact that she had been anointed by the conservative activists at the Federalist Society. Along with hundreds of new lower-court judges installed in vacancies that Republicans refused to fill when Barack Obama was president, these three Supreme Court choices were part of the project to turn the courts from a counter-majoritarian shield that protects the rights of minorities to an anti-democratic sword to wield against popular progressive legislation like the Affordable Care Act.

The process also smacked of unseemly hypocrisy. Republicans raced to install Judge Barrett barely one week before a national election, in defiance of a principle they loudly insisted upon four years ago.

I hope you’ll read the whole thing, but here’s a bit more:

Of all the threats posed by the Roberts Court, its open scorn for voting rights may be the biggest. In 2013, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the lead opinion in the most destructive anti-voter case in decades, Shelby County v. Holder, which gutted the central provision of the Voting Rights Act and opened the door to rampant voter suppression, most of it targeted at Democratic voters. Yet this month, Chief Justice Roberts sided with the court’s remaining three liberals to allow a fuller count of absentee ballots in Pennsylvania. The four other conservatives voted against that count. In other words, with Justice Barrett’s confirmation the court now has five justices who are more conservative on voting rights than the man who nearly obliterated the Voting Rights Act less than a decade ago.

I hope I haven’t ruined your day with this post, but the Barrett confirmation is clearly the most important issue of the day.  I can only hope that the outcome of next week’s election will be a landslide that prevents SCOTUS from overturning the results. 

Please take care today and protect your health and sanity over the next week. I hope you’ll stop by and leave a comment or two.