Thursday Reads


Good Morning!!

EnMDYlJW4AIiOstToday is another agonizing day in the ongoing disaster of the dying Trump Administration. We still have to make it through another 62 days until he has to leave the White House. Long after that day, we’ll be paying the price for Trump’s godawful reign.

Yesterday, deaths from the coronavirus in the U.S. passed a quarter of a million. The New York Times: The Coronavirus Has Now Killed 250,000 People in the U.S.

The United States passed a grim milestone on Wednesday, hitting 250,000 coronavirus-related deaths, with the number expected to keep climbing steeply as infections surge nationwide.

Experts predict that the country could soon be reporting 2,000 deaths a day or more, matching or exceeding the spring peak, and that 100,000 to 200,000 more Americans could die in the coming months.

Just how bad it gets will depend on a variety of factors, including how well preventive measures are followed and when a vaccine is introduced.

“It all depends on what we do and how we address this outbreak,” said Jeffrey Shaman, a Columbia University professor of environmental health sciences who has modeled the spread of the disease. “That is going to determine how much it runs through us.”

245592_rgb_768Back in March, when the virus was still relatively new and limited mainly to a few significant pockets like New York, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the top infectious disease expert in the country, predicted that it might kill up to 240,000 Americans.

It has now passed that mark, with no end in sight.

Since the very beginning, preventive measures like wearing masks have been caught up in a political divide, and that remains the case today, as the Trump administration resists beginning a transition of power to President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. and cooperating on a pandemic strategy….

There is always a lag in deaths, compared with the rate of infection and hospitalizations, and with the latter measure now hitting records every day — 76,830 Americans were hospitalized on Tuesday, according to the Covid Tracking Project — the death toll is certain to go on rising.

Also from The New York Times: States That Imposed Few Restrictions Now Have the Worst Outbreaks. Click on the link to see explanatory charts.

Coronavirus cases are rising in almost every U.S. state. But the surge is worst now in places where leaders neglected to keep up forceful virus containment efforts or failed to implement basic measures like mask mandates in the first place, according to a New York Times analysis of data from the University of Oxford….

The index comes from Oxford’s Blavatnik School of Government, where researchers track the policies — or lack thereof — governments use to contain the virus and protect residents, such as contact tracing, mask mandates and restrictions on businesses and gatherings. Researchers aggregate those indicators and assign a number from 0 to 100 to each government’s total response….Most states imposed tight restrictions in the spring even if they did not have bad outbreaks then. After reopening early, some Sun Belt states, including Arizona and Texas, imposed restrictions again after case counts climbed. Now, Midwestern states have among the worst outbreaks. Many have also done the least to contain the virus.

lk111220daprWhen cases first peaked in the United States in the spring, there was no clear correlation between containment strategies and case counts, because most states enacted similar lockdown policies at the same time. And in New York and some other states, “those lockdowns came too late to prevent a big outbreak, because that’s where the virus hit first,” said Thomas Hale, associate professor of global public policy at the Blavatnik School of Government, who leads the Oxford tracking effort.

A relationship between policies and the outbreak’s severity has become more clear as the pandemic has progressed.

“States that have kept more control policies in a more consistent way — New England states, for example — have avoided a summer surge and are now having a smaller fall surge, as opposed to states that rolled them back very quickly like Florida or Texas,” Mr. Hale said. “I think timing really matters for the decisions.”

The worst outbreaks in the country now are in places where policymakers did the least to prevent transmission, according to the Oxford index. States with stronger policy responses over the long run are seeing comparatively smaller outbreaks.

Iowa, North Dakota, and Utah have finally mandated masks, but the Governor of South Dakota is still resisting.

The Guardian: Kristi Noem rigidly follows Trump strategy of denial as Covid ravages South Dakota. Noem has been sucking up to Trump for a long time, and she is still doing it even though he lost the election.

The actual lives of many South Dakotans could depend, in turn, upon that decision given the terrifying surge of Covid-19 cases that is battering the state under Noem’s contentious leadership. South Dakota has been listed by Forbes as one of the 10 most dangerous states in the Union, all of them in the Midwest.

Coronavirus in South Dakota is running at an intensity only surpassed in the US by its neighbor North Dakota. The state has an alarming positivity rate of almost 60% – nearly six out of 10 people who take a Covid test are infected – second only to another neighbor, Wyoming.

Viewed through the lens of cases and deaths, South Dakota is also at the top of the league table. More than 66,000 South Dakotans have contracted the disease and at least 644 have died, a number likely to rise as hospitals reach breaking point.

badlands-cartoonAmid this devastating contagion, Noem is rigidly sticking to the strategy she has adopted since the pandemic began. It consists of a refusal to accept mask mandates and repeated denial of the science around the efficacy of wearing masks; resistance to imposing any restrictions on bars and restaurants; no limits on gatherings in churches or other places of worship; and no orders to stay at home.

While the statistics are clear – the virus is running wild in South Dakota – Noem has turned a public health emergency into an issue of “freedom” and “liberty”, consistently lying about the trajectory of the disease under her watch. “We’re doing really good in South Dakota. We’re managing Covid-19,” she has said.

She has also embraced the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for Covid, even after it was proven to be ineffective and potentially dangerous.

If all of this sounds familiar, that’s because it is. Since the start of the pandemic, Noem has consciously adopted the posture of a mini-Trump, following the president’s every move in the handling of the health crisis.

Read the rest at The Guardian.

Meanwhile, Trump is hunkered down in the White House, tweeting and trying to find some way to steal the election.

Eric Lutz at Vanity Fair: As His Bogus Election Fraud Charges Go Up in Flames, Trump goes into Hiding.

Still yet to concede to Biden, Donald Trump and his allies are continuing to hold up his successor’s transition team, putting America’s national security at risk and threatening to complicate the rollout of the forthcoming COVID vaccine while his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, fights his hopeless legal battle against the election results. (It isn’t going great.) Giuliani, working his first federal case in nearly two decades, wasn’t much sharper in court than he was in the Four Seasons Total Landscaping parking lot the day the race was called for Biden. His arguments—a tangle of easily disproved lies and already-debunked conspiracy theories—seem exceedingly unlikely to succeed, something he may be aware of himself. According to the Washington Post’s Robert Costa, Giuliani has privately suggested his real strategy isn’t so much to land a long-shot victory in court, but to push the fight to Capitol Hill by getting officials in key states to refuse to certify the results. GOP members of the board of canvassers in Wayne County, Michigan, tried to do just that Tuesday, voting against certifying the election results there, with one official saying she’d sign off on other jurisdictions but not Detroit, a majority Black, Democratic-voting city. But after public outrage, the board reversed course and unanimously certified the results later that night.

20201117edbbc-aWith Giuliani losing his games of 3-D and regular chess, Trump’s campaign and legal teams have reportedly been thrown into disarray, with backstabbing and chaos and power struggles. Trump himself, meanwhile, has been pretty much AWOL since he lost the election. He’s only made two public appearances—showing up late to Arlington National Cemetery on November 11 to spend 10 minutes at a Veterans Day ceremony; remarks touting recent progress on the COVID vaccine—since his despotic rant in the briefing room of the White House on November 5, when he baselessly alleged a massive voter fraud conspiracy was being perpetrated against him. 

“It feels like bunker mentality,” an administration official told CNN on Tuesday. Indeed, the Trump White House these days has been more like Grey Gardens, with the reclusive president emerging only to play golf at his nearby Virginia club. Appearing to have largely abandoned his presidential duties, to the extent he ever sought to fulfill them, Trump’s only activities of late have been settling scores with insufficiently loyal officials—Chris Krebs, the top cybersecurity official in the Department of Homeland Security, became the latest purge victim after defending the integrity of the election—and wailing on and on about voter fraud on Twitter, which has slapped a warning label on a majority of his posts in recent days.

Click the link to read the rest.

Today those Michigan Republicans are trying to take back their votes to certify the election. The Washington Post: Wayne County Republicans ask to ‘rescind’ their votes certifying election results.

In affidavits signed Wednesday evening, the two GOP members of the four-member Wayne County Board of Canvassers allege they were improperly pressured into certifying the election and accused Democrats of reneging on a promise to audit votes in Detroit.

“I rescind my prior vote,” Monica Palmer, the board’s chairwoman, wrote in an affidavit reviewed by The Washington Post. “I fully believe the Wayne County vote should not be certified.”

William Hartmann, the other Republican on the board, has signed a similar affidavit, according a person familiar with the document. Hartmann did not respond to a message from The Post.

Jonathan Kinloch, a Democrat and the board’s vice chairman, told The Post it’s too late for the pair to reverse course, as the certified results have been sent to the secretary of state in accordance with state rules. He lashed out at the Republicans over their requests.

“Do they understand how they are making us look as a body?” he said. “We have such an amazing and important role in the democratic process, and they’re turning it on its head.”

245689_rgb_768This has gone way beyond ridiculous. I have to wonder if this country will ever return to any kind of  normality. At the Atlantic, Anne Applebaum writes: The World Is Never Going Back to Normal. Other countries are learning to live without America. Biden can’t restore the pre-Trump status quo.

In the hours and days after American news networks declared him the victor on November 7, President-elect Joe Biden received congratulatory tweets and statements from American allies around the world. Even Fox News sounded excited by the list of well-wishers, who, the channel noted, included “British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, French President Emmanuel Macron, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin, and Spanish President Pedro Sánchez Pérez-Castejón.” Biden himself made a point, on November 9, of calling the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, and Great Britain to thank them in return. A few days later, he spoke with the leaders of Australia, Japan, and South Korea too.

Had it not been for the intervening four years, the tweeted congratulations would have seemed entirely unremarkable, nothing more than the predictable pleasantries so common to global diplomacy in the era before Donald Trump. Readouts published by Biden’s transition team noted, for example, that “the President-elect underscored that the United States and Australia share both values and history”—boilerplate cliché, unless you remember that President Trump’s first call with the then–Australian prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, ended in a nutty argument about refugees. According to the readout of a call with South Korea’s leader, Moon Jae-in, America’s president-elect “thanked President Moon for his congratulations, expressing his desire to strengthen the [two countries’] alliance as the linchpin of security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region.” This was also pretty boring, unless you remember that Trump publicly mused about withdrawing U.S. troops from South Korea—a move that would have left the country vulnerable to invasion from the North….

And yet there was something misleading about all of these statements and compliments, for after the Trump era, there can be no return to normal. None of America’s relationships, with either our friends or our enemies, is the same as it was four years ago. None of the major diplomatic institutions, international or domestic, is the same either. Some on the Biden team, veterans of the Obama administration, will be tempted to restart relationships and reboot old plans as if nothing has happened. That would be a mistake.

B7OQBWOVHJAAJHJHQZVAZ2WH3MSince 2016, America’s international reputation has been transformed. No longer the world’s most admired democracy, our political system is more often perceived as uniquely dysfunctional, and our leaders as notably dangerous. Poll after poll shows that respect for America is not just plummeting, but also turning into something very different. Some 70 percent of South Koreans and more than 60 percent of Japanese—two nations whose friendship America needs in order to push back against Chinese influence in Asia—view the U.S. as a “major threat.” In Germany, our key ally in Europe, far more people fear Trump than fear Russia’s Vladimir Putin, China’s Xi Jinping, or North Korea’s Kim Jong Un.

Read the rest at The Atlantic.

More stories to check out:

Slate: Does Anyone Really Want to Do This After Every Election for the Rest of Our Lives?

The New York Times: Threats and Tensions Rise as Trump and Allies Attack Elections Process.

The Washington Post: As defeats pile up, Trump tries to delay vote count in last-ditch attempt to cast doubt on Biden victory

Politico: Could GOP states ignore voters and send Trump delegates to the Electoral College?

Laurence Lessig at USA Today: State legislatures do not have the power to veto the people’s choice in an election.

Jonathan Mahler at The New York Times on whether Trump should face prosecution.

Raw Story: Mueller prosecutor explains why Biden will be forced to indict Trump whether he wants to or not.

Kurt Bardella at USA Today: Biden’s top unification task: Expose Trump team wrongdoing, restore trust in government.

AP: Biden approaches 80 million votes in historic victory.

Hang in there, Sky Dancers! Take care of yourselves and please take a minute to let us know how you’re doing today. We love to hear from you.

12 Comments on “Thursday Reads”

  1. NW Luna says:

    This has gone way beyond ridiculous. I have to wonder if this country will ever return to any kind of normality.

    Indeed. The fact that the US turned so quickly to autocracy, combined with Trump’s damaging and insulting foreign relations means that our (former?) allies will be quite wary. Biden will be reassuring, though.

    For those of us who voted in 2016 for HRC and in 2020 for Biden, to know that such a large % of other Americans liked Trump makes us more than uneasy. Pessimistic? Realistic, maybe.

  2. bostonboomer says:

  3. dakinikat says:

    So, now this …

    RED COVID ALERT 🚨 #NOLA positive test rate has nearly DOUBLED in the last week. This indicates active outbreak. 🆘😷↔️ 📈 Treat everyone you interact with as if they have #COVID19 😷… because they may! 👀 😷Mask up 🚫Avoid crowds ↔️Social distance 🧼Wash hands

    They have to shut the damn bars again!!

  4. dakinikat says:

    and January 21 can’t come soon enough. The Trump base is an insane group of reality deniers.

  5. dakinikat says:

    They’re covid shaming my mayor for cancelling Mardi Gras parades.

  6. dakinikat says:

    He’s trying to twist their nuts into throwing the election.

  7. djmm says:

    Even if Michigan legislators named electors to vote against the popular vote, it is not enough to switch the election results. They would have to do that in more than one state. And in the article linked to in the excellent post today, Mr. Lessig makes a persuasive argument that it is not possible under federal law. It would be a career-ending event for any legislator who attempted to do so — the payback from voters would be severe,

    What gives me comfort is the almost 80 million of us who voted for Biden. I think more potential voters will join us in 2022 if Democrats prove to be worthy of their trust.

    • dakinikat says:

      What I don’t understand is this:

      “Why Republican voters say there’s ‘no way in hell’ Trump lost”

      WTF is wrong with these people? Are the so used to believing preachers that full them so full of shit they’ll believe anything? What makes them such fucking gullible rubes? Is it they’re stuck in areas where there are only people like them? I found that even in Omaha. They just deliberately cluster where every one tells them the same thing which even drove me nuts as a kind.

      Nothing will convince Fryar and many others here in Sundown – including the town’s mayor, another Patriots member – that Democrat Joe Biden won the Nov. 3 presidential election fairly. They believe Trump’s stream of election-fraud allegations and say they’re preparing for the possibility of a “civil war” with the American political left.

      “If President Trump comes out and says: ‘Guys, I have irrefutable proof of fraud, the courts won’t listen, and I’m now calling on Americans to take up arms,’ we would go,” said Fryar, wearing a button-down shirt, pressed slacks and a paisley tie during a recent interview at his office.

      The unshakable trust in Trump in this town of about 1,400 residents reflects a national phenomenon among many Republicans, despite the absence of evidence in a barrage of post-election lawsuits by the president and his allies. About half of Republicans polled by Reuters/Ipsos said Trump “rightfully won” the election but had it stolen from him in systemic fraud favoring Biden, according to a survey conducted between Nov. 13 and 17. Just 29% of Republicans said Biden rightfully won. Other polls since the election have reported that an even higher proportion – up to 80% – of Republicans trust Trump’s baseless fraud narrative.

      Trump’s legal onslaught has so far flopped, with judges quickly dismissing many cases and his lawyers dropping or withdrawing from others. None of the cases contain allegations – much less evidence – that are likely to invalidate enough votes to overturn the election, election experts say.

      And yet the election-theft claims are proving politically potent. All but a handful of Republican lawmakers have backed Trump’s fraud claims or stayed silent, effectively freezing the transition of power as the president refuses to concede. Trump has succeeded in sowing further public distrust in the media, which typically calls elections, and undermined citizens’ faith in the state and local election officials who underpin American democracy.

      In Reuters interviews with 50 Trump voters, all said they believed the election was rigged or in some way illegitimate. Of those, 20 said they would consider accepting Biden as their president, but only in light of proof that the election was conducted fairly. Most repeated debunked conspiracy theories espoused by Trump, Republican officials and conservative media claiming that millions of votes were dishonestly switched to Biden in key states by biased poll workers and hacked voting machines.