While the letter’s signatories presented no new evidence, they said their national security experience had made them “deeply suspicious that the Russian government played a significant role in this case” and cited several elements of the story that suggested the Kremlin’s hand at work.
Tonight Trump and Biden will meet in the second and final debate before the November 3rd election. I plan to watch, at least for a little while, in case Trump spontaneously combusts or strokes out in a rage over his mike being muted. The New York Times has the basics on how to watch:
The second and final debate between President Trump and former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. takes place on Thursday from 9 to 10:30 p.m. Eastern. Here are some of the many ways you can watch it:
— The Times will livestream the debate, and our reporters will provide commentary and analysis.
— The debate will be televised on channels including ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, C-SPAN, PBS, Fox News and MSNBC.
A debate preview from the AP: Face to face: Trump and Biden to meet for final debate.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, are set to square off in their final debate Thursday, one of the last high-profile opportunities for the trailing incumbent to change the trajectory of an increasingly contentious campaign.
Worried about losing the White House, some advisers are urging Trump to trade his aggressive demeanor from the first debate for a lower-key style that puts Biden more squarely in the spotlight. But it’s unclear whether the president will listen….
Trump on Tuesday called on Attorney General William Barr to immediately launch an investigation into unverified claims about Biden and his son Hunter, effectively demanding that the Justice Department muddy his political opponent and abandon its historic resistance to getting involved in elections.
The president has promoted an unconfirmed New York Post report published last week that cites an email in which an official from Ukrainian gas company Burisma thanked Hunter Biden, who served on the company’s board, for arranging for him to meet Joe Biden during a 2015 visit to Washington. The Biden campaign has rejected Trump’s assertion of wrongdoing and noted that Biden’s schedule did not show a meeting with the Burisma official.
Trump’s attacks on the Biden family have been relentless, including his efforts to get Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden, which led to Trump’s impeachment. It’s part of a determined, yet so-far-unsuccessful effort to drive up his opponent’s negatives, as he did with Hillary Clinton four years ago….
While Biden will defend his own record and his son, aides have said, he hopes to focus on making the case that Trump is unfit for office and let the nation down during a confluence of crises.
As the article notes, Biden has spent the past few days preparing for the debate; Trump has been holding superspreader rallies and raging at Lesley Stahl after she apparently asked him some tough questions in an interview for CBS’s 60 Minutes.
It must have been really awful for Trump, because he cut the interview short and didn’t return for a scheduled “walk and talk” with Stahl and VP Pence. Right after the interview ended, Trump began attacking Stahl on Twitter. Forbes: Trump Attacks ‘60 Minutes’ Host Lesley Stahl After Reportedly Cutting Interview Short.
Trump tweeted a video of Stahl not wearing a mask while interacting with several people, writing, “Lesley Stahl of 60 Minutes not wearing a mask in the White House after her interview with me. Much more to come.”
Trump then threatened to post the interview in advance of its airing so that “everybody can get a glimpse of what a FAKE and BIASED interview is all about,” adding, “Everyone should compare this terrible Electoral Intrusion with the recent interviews of Sleepy Joe Biden!”
Sources familiar with the interview told Forbes the video was taken after the interview with the CBS team, who had all been tested, and that Stahl had a mask on leading into the interview….
The incident comes as Trump and his allies have become increasingly critical of the questioning he receives from the press, with Trump accusing NBC’s Savannah Guthrie of “going totally crazy” in response to her tough line of questioning during a town hall last week.
This morning Trump tweeted:
I cant wait to hear those “magnificently brilliant” responses.
60 Minutes released short clips from the Biden and Trump interviews this morning.
At The Washington Post, Greg Sargent tries to explain Trump’s inexplicable behavior: Why Trump’s endgame is to rage at Lesley Stahl.
A few days ago, I came across an article about Edward Hopper’s paintings of a “stony blonde” woman at Crime Reads. I’m going to use some of the paintings mentioned in the article to illustrate this post. Here’s the article: How Edward Hopper’s Stony Blonde Became A Noir Icon. On The Femme Fatale Who Flipped the Script, by Stephanie Kane.
Best known for his disengaged customers at a neon-lit diner counter and his flapper staring into a coffee cup in a lonely automat at night, Hopper depicted social isolation before a pandemic made it a way of life. It’s no surprise that the famously reclusive artist binged on movies when he was creatively blocked, read pulp fiction, and had a lasting impact on film noir. He even influenced Alfred Hitchcock: the house in Psycho is modeled on a Hopper painting.
Hopper apparently had issues with women, and only connected with three of them, one of whom was his wife and fellow artist Jo Nivison. You can read Jo and the other two women in the article. Here are the paintings selected by Kane to illustrate her points:
The blonde first appears in Hopper’s 1906 watercolor, Couple near Poplars, as a petite Gibson girl with a gawky swain. Hair upswept, with a pinafore over her corseted waist, she faces into the wind with her arms tightly crossed and lips grimly set. Forty years later she’s the girl on the porch in 1947’s Summer Evening, provocatively dressed in a pink bandeau and high-cut shorts, staring sullenly down as her date leans in imploringly. In 1932’s Room in New York, she’s the wife in the evening dress at the piano, idly touching a key while her husband ignores her for his newspaper. Her hand on the keyboard is poised to come crashing down.
When she is alone, the blonde tells another story. In 1927’s Automat, she’s a flapper slumped over a coffee cup in a neon-lit cafeteria. If she’s contemplating her next move, it takes her four years. In 1931’s Hotel Room, she sits at the edge of a bed in a chemise, shoes kicked off and bags on the floor, bent over a train schedule in her lap. Preparing to make a run for it, like that collie in the grass.
In 1957’s Western Motel, she flips the script.
Blonde hair pulled back, in a striking red dress, she sits upright at the foot of a neatly made bed. The picture window behind her frames what could be a Western movie set: blue sky, mountains, and an Aztec green Buick sedan with a bull’s-eye chrome bombsite on the hood, raring to go. Tagged and packed, her bags stand at the door. A pair of blue men’s boxer shorts is draped on a chair. She’s leaving without him. And after 50 years, she finally looks straight at the viewer.
Here, as she faces us for the very first time, Hopper’s blonde’s arc ends. In walking out of Western Motel and into the world, this femme fatale chooses life over love or death.
Can you tell I’m not in the mood for politics today? I’m so sick and tired of Donald Trump that I just want to escape from the world for the next two weeks. Of course I can’t really do that, because another part of me is completely obsessed with knowing what is happening in the lead-up to the election.
Yesterday we did get a distraction when the news broke that Jeffrey Toobin was caught masturbating during a Zoom call with his New Yorker colleagues. Vice: New Yorker Suspends Jeffrey Toobin for Masturbating on Zoom Call.
The New Yorker has suspended reporter Jeffrey Toobin for masturbating on a Zoom video chat between members of the New Yorker and WNYC radio last week. Toobin says he did not realize his video was on.
“I made an embarrassingly stupid mistake, believing I was off-camera. I apologize to my wife, family, friends and co-workers,” Toobin told Motherboard.
“I believed I was not visible on Zoom. I thought no one on the Zoom call could see me. I thought I had muted the Zoom video,” he added.
Two people who were on the call told VICE separately that the call was an election simulation featuring many of the New Yorker’s biggest stars: Jane Mayer was playing establishment Republicans; Evan Osnos was Joe Biden, Jelani Cobb was establishment Democrats, Masha Gessen played Donald Trump, Andrew Marantz was the far right, Sue Halpern was left wing democrats, Dexter Filkins was the military, and Jeffrey Toobin playing the courts. There were also a handful of other producers on the call from the New Yorker and WNYC.
Both people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to speak freely, noted that it was unclear how much each person saw, but both said that they saw Toobin jerking off. The two sources described a juncture in the election simulation when there was a strategy session, and the Democrats and Republicans went into their respective break out rooms for about 10 minutes. At this point, they said, it seemed like Toobin was on a second video call. The sources said that when the groups returned from their break out rooms, Toobin lowered the camera. The people on the call said they could see Toobin touching his penis. Toobin then left the call. Moments later, he called back in, seemingly unaware of what his colleagues had been able to see, and the simulation continued.
The New Yorker says they are “investigating,” and CNN has given Toobin some time off to deal with his “personal issue.” It seems to me that Toobin should just be fired, but he’s a powerful white man, so . . . slap on the wrist I guess.
Apparently, Toobin has a history of sexual misconduct. Read about it in this 2010 New York Daily News piece: CNN’s Jeffrey Toobin made ‘shockingly sexual’ proposition to well-known media figure, she claims.
In today’s news, Trump continues to flog the Hunter Biden non-story. He went on Fox News this morning to rant about it. Raw Story: Trump publicly demands Bill Barr appoint special counsel to investigate Joe Biden in off-the-rails Fox News interview.
In a wide-ranging and off-the-rails Fox News interview President Donald Trump is demanding Attorney General Bill Barr appoint a special counsel to investigate his Democratic opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, over Russian disinformation spread by his personal attorney and a conservative media outlet owned by his friend.
Trump told “Fox & Friends” Barr has “got to act” against the former vice president and his son Hunter Biden, insisting the Attorney General give credence to the disinformation before Election Day.
“We’ve go to get the Attorney General to act, and he’s got to act, and he’s got to act fast. He’s got to appoint somebody. This is major corruption and this has to be known about before the election,” Trump demanded, before declaring, “we’re going to win the election.”
But more than 50 former intelligence officials say the Hunter Biden story is Russian disinformation. Natasha Bertrand at Politico:
More than 50 former senior intelligence officials have signed on to a letter outlining their belief that the recent disclosure of emails allegedly belonging to Joe Biden’s son “has all the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation.”
The letter, signed on Monday, centers around a batch of documents released by the New York Post last week that purport to tie the Democratic nominee to his son Hunter’s business dealings. Under the banner headline “Biden Secret E-mails,” the Post reported it was given a copy of Hunter Biden’s laptop hard drive by President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who said he got it from a Mac shop owner in Delaware who also alerted the FBI.
“If we are right,” they added, “this is Russia trying to influence how Americans vote in this election, and we believe strongly that Americans need to be aware of this.”
Nick Shapiro, a former top aide under CIA director John Brennan, provided POLITICO with the letter on Monday. He noted that “the IC leaders who have signed this letter worked for the past four presidents, including Trump. The real power here however is the number of former, working-level IC officers who want the American people to know that once again the Russians are interfering.”
Read more at Politico.
Anyway Trump’s kids are blatantly profiting from their dad’s corrupt presidency. Biden should bring that up in the debate on Thursday night.
Joan Venocchi at The Boston Globe: Enough about Hunter Biden. What about Ivanka Trump?
Trump’s strategy is clear. His own children are brazenly trading on the Trump family name to advance the Trump Organization’s business interests. Changing the subject to “What about Hunter Biden?” becomes a way to project the corruption spotlight onto the Bidens and away from the Trumps. Plus, if the final weeks of the campaign are all about Hunter Biden, that allows Trump to distract from what are the real issues: Trump’s failed leadership, especially regarding the coronavirus pandemic; Trump’s ongoing commitment to dividing the country by race and political ideology, rather than trying to unite it; and Trump’s utter lack of character, integrity, and honesty….
At least Joe Biden acknowledges it was a mistake for his son to join the Burisma board and is pledging that no family members will have any involvement with any foreign government if he’s elected president. Trump, meanwhile, calls the Bidens “an organized crime family,” yet takes no responsibility for the conflicts of interest corrupting his own presidency.
“Can you imagine if my kids did what this guy Hunter has done,” Trump said at a campaign rally in Florida. “Ivanka! Oh my beautiful, my wonderful Ivanka. She’s a good kid. Can you imagine? “
We can do more than imagine. According to Forbes, the Chinese government has granted 41 trademarks to companies linked to Trump’s daughter. And “the trademarks she applied for after her father became president reportedly got approved roughly 40 percent faster than those she requested before her father’s victory in the 2016 election,” Forbes reported.
Read the whole thing at the Globe.
Former RNC Chairman Michael Steele has endorsed Joe Biden. He explains at NBC News: I’m a Republican voting for Joe Biden over Trump. Because I’m an American first.
So here we are, faced with the re-election of President Donald Trump and the prospect of a nation still struggling against Covid-19, reeling from the ravages of a flattened economy and in pain from civil unrest and our genuine concern for how we treat one another.
Rather than binding up the nation’s wounds, Trump exacerbates division. Rather than standing up to the world’s dictators, Trump cravenly seeks the favor of thugs. Rather than fostering free enterprise, Trump embraces economic principles not only outdated in Lincoln’s time, but made even worse today by a leader who lost close to a billion dollars in a single year running a casino. Rather than seeking to build on the legacy of the Republican Party’s founders, of which Trump is surely ignorant, Trump has posited a single purpose for the GOP — the celebration of him.
Consequently, America has watched as the Republican Party stopped pursuing its animating principles of freedom and opportunity. It has given up its voice on things that mattered and instead bent the arc of the party towards the baser motives of one man, who is neither a Republican nor a conservative.
Read the rest at the link. I don’t agree with most of it, I’m glad Steele came out publicly. More and more never Trump Republicans are announcing that they will vote for Biden, and we need all the help we can get.
More stories to check out:
The New York Times: Voters Prefer Biden Over Trump on Almost All Major Issues, Poll Shows.
Financial Times: US voters turn against Donal d Trump’s economic policies.
Brian Karem at The Bulwark: The Donald Trump Show Must Go On. The madness continues on the campaign trail.
The Daily Beast: Even Parts of Trumpworld Are Like: Rudy, WTF Are You Doing?
The New York Times: U.S. Diplomats and Spies Battle Trump Administration Over Suspected Attacks.
Julia Ioffe at GQ: The Mystery of the Immaculate Concussion.
Margaret Sullivan at The Washington Post: What Kristen Welker can learn from Savannah Guthrie about dealing with Trump.
Have a nice Thursday everyone, and please check in with us in the comments if you have the time and inclination.
Everything is still awful in the land of Trump, but the election is only 19 days away. Meanwhile, there is some good news: Joe Biden and Democrats in general are rolling in money and Democrats are voting early in massive numbers.
Politico: Biden raised whopping $383M in September.
Joe Biden announced Wednesday evening that his campaign and affiliated committees raised $383 million in September, breaking a record he had just set the prior month as his campaign continues to ride a surge of online donations.
Biden, the Democratic National Committee and the campaign’s joint fundraising committees started the final 34 days of the campaign with $432 million in the bank, Biden campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon tweeted.
Democratic candidates and left-leaning groups raised $1.5 billion through ActBlue over the last three months — a record-smashing total that reveals the overwhelming financial power small-dollar donors have unleashed up and down the ballot ahead of the 2020 election.
From July through September, 6.8 million donors made 31.4 million contributions through ActBlue, the Democratic Party’s favored online donation platform, averaging $47 per donation. More than 14,223 campaigns and organizations benefited from the surge in donations, the largest single quarter in the platform’s 15-year history, according to figures shared first with POLITICO. Just in September, ActBlue processed $758 million.
The Washington Post: Across the country, Democratic enthusiasm is propelling an enormous wave of early voting.
The picture is so stark that election officials around the country are reporting record early turnout, much of it in person, meaning that more results could be available on election night than previously thought.
So far, much of the early voting appears to be driven by heightened enthusiasm among Democrats. Of the roughly 3.5 million voters who have cast ballots in six states that provide partisan breakdowns, registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by roughly 2 to 1, according to a Washington Post analysis of data in Florida, Iowa, Maine, Kentucky, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.
Additionally, those who have voted include disproportionate numbers of Black voters and women, according to state data — groups that favor former vice president Joe Biden over President Trump in recent polls.
The bad news is that the coronavirus pandemic is getting worse, not better, as we head into winter and flu season; and it’s becoming clear that Amy Coney Barrett is more extreme than any of the current “conservative” SCOTUS justices.
Deborah Birx may have been even worse than I thought. Science: The inside story of how Trump’s COVID-19 coordinator undermined the world’s top health agency.
On the morning of 13 July, more than 20 COVID-19 experts from across the U.S. government assembled in a conference room at the Department of Health and Human Services, steps from the Capitol. The group conferred on how best to gather key data on available beds and supplies of medicine and protective gear from thousands of hospitals. Around the table, masks concealed their expressions, but with COVID-19 cases surging out of control in some parts of the country, their grave mood was unmistakable, say two people who were in the room.
Irum Zaidi, a top aide to White House Coronavirus Task Force Coordinator Deborah Birx, chaired the meeting. Zaidi lifted her mask slightly to be heard and delivered a fait accompli: Birx, who was not present, had pulled the plug on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) system for collecting hospital data and turned much of the responsibility over to a private contractor, Pittsburgh-based TeleTracking Technologies Inc., a hospital data management company. The reason: CDC had not met Birx’s demand that hospitals report 100% of their COVID-19 data every day.
According to two officials in the meeting, one CDC staffer left and immediately began to sob, saying, “I refuse to do this. I cannot work with people like this. It is so toxic.” That person soon resigned from the pandemic data team, sources say.
Other CDC staffers considered the decision arbitrary and destructive. “Anyone who knows the data supply chain in the U.S. knows [getting all the data daily] is impossible” during a pandemic, says one high-level expert at CDC. And they considered Birx’s imperative unnecessary because staffers with decades of experience could confidently estimate missing numbers from partial data.
“Why are they not listening to us?” a CDC official at the meeting recalls thinking. Several CDC staffers predicted the new data system would fail, with ominous implications. “Birx has been on a monthslong rampage against our data,” one texted to a colleague shortly afterward. “Good f—ing luck getting the hospitals to clean up their data and update daily.”
And that’s just the beginning. Read the entire sad story at the link.
The New York Times: As Virus Spread, Reports of Trump Administration’s Private Briefings Fueled Sell-Off.
On the afternoon of Feb. 24, President Trump declared on Twitter that the coronavirus was “very much under control” in the United States, one of numerous rosy statements that he and his advisers made at the time about the worsening epidemic. He even added an observation for investors: “Stock market starting to look very good to me!”
But hours earlier, senior members of the president’s economic team, privately addressing board members of the conservative Hoover Institution, were less confident. Tomas J. Philipson, a senior economic adviser to the president, told the group he could not yet estimate the effects of the virus on the American economy. To some in the group, the implication was that an outbreak could prove worse than Mr. Philipson and other Trump administration advisers were signaling in public at the time.
The next day, board members — many of them Republican donors — got another taste of government uncertainty from Larry Kudlow, the director of the National Economic Council. Hours after he had boasted on CNBC that the virus was contained in the United States and “it’s pretty close to airtight,” Mr. Kudlow delivered a more ambiguous private message. He asserted that the virus was “contained in the U.S., to date, but now we just don’t know,” according to a document describing the sessions obtained by The New York Times.
So the White House gave a heads up to wealthy donors, who then told their friends, allowing the superrich to protect themselves financially before the public understood how bad the pandemic would be.
The New York Times: 8 Million Have Slipped Into Poverty Since May as Federal Aid Has Dried Up.
After an ambitious expansion of the safety net in the spring saved millions of people from poverty, the aid is now largely exhausted and poverty has returned to levels higher than before the coronavirus crisis, two new studies have found.
The number of poor people has grown by eight million since May, according to researchers at Columbia University, after falling by four million at the pandemic’s start as a result of an $2 trillion emergency package known as the Cares Act.
Using a different definition of poverty, researchers from the University of Chicago and Notre Dame found that poverty has grown by six million people in the past three months, with circumstances worsening most for Black people and children.
Significantly, the studies differ on the most recent month: While the Columbia model shows an improvement in September, the Chicago and Notre Dame analysts found poverty continued to grow.
“These numbers are very concerning,” said Bruce D. Meyer, an economist at the University of Chicago and an author of the study. “They tell us people are having a lot more trouble paying their bills, paying their rent, putting food on the table.”
Gee, no kidding. And Republicans don’t care. They’re just thrilled with their latest addition to SCOTUS.
Amy Coney Barrett’s Joke of a Confirmation Hearing
Jennifer Rubin at The Washington Post: Barrett seeks refuge in ignorance and evasion.
Barrett was certainly less poised on Wednesday than during previous days. She seemed irritated with Harris, saying she did not know where Harris’s line of questioning was heading. (It didn’t matter. She needed to answer the questions.) She also sounded testy when Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) grilled her on the Affordable Care Act. The Post reported:“I have no animus or agenda for the Affordable Care Act,” she insisted under questioning from Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who was citing the judge’s past comments and writings on the ACA and noting that Barrett’s apparent stance was that the law’s individual mandate was unconstitutional.Like many panel Democrats before her, Klobuchar at one point raised Barrett’s 2017 law review article criticizing Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.’s opinion upholding the health-care law, asking whether she had been aware that Trump wanted to overturn the ACA when she wrote it.This time, Barrett seemed to have lost her patience.“You’re suggesting this was like an open letter to President Trump,” Barrett protested. “It was not.”
Actually, Klobuchar was pointing out that everyone in the hearing room perfectly understood why Barrett was picked: because she has been an outspoken critic of precedent on abortion, the ACA and other conservative policy targets.
There’s more at the WaPo link.
In keeping with her evasive answers on other key issues—from voting rights to reproductive rights to climate change—President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett on Wednesday refused to say whether she believes Social Security and Medicare are constitutional, prompting progressive advocacy groups and lawmakers to warn the judge’s confirmation could pose an existential threat to the programs.
“Social Security has been law of the land for 85 years, Medicare for 55,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said in response to Barrett’s comments. “Tens of millions are dependent upon these programs for retirement security and healthcare. And Judge Barrett doesn’t know if they are constitutional. Really? That’s what right-wing extremism is all about.”
“This is Republicans’ end game: confirm conservative judges who will undermine overwhelmingly popular programs like Social Security and Medicare and rip away healthcare from millions.”
—Sen. Ron Wyden
Questioned by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) during Wednesday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Barrett would not say whether she agrees with a right-wing scholar who has argued that Medicare and Social Security are unconstitutional because they exceed the spending powers of Congress. The Supreme Court deemed the Social Security Act of 1935 constitutional in a series of rulings in 1937.
Bess Levin at Vanity Fair: Amy Coney Barrett Says She Hasn’t Yet Committed to Letting Millions of Americans Die a Miserable Senseless Death.
When Republicans inevitably announced they were going to ram through Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court confirmation before the November election, after they blocked Merrick Garland’s nomination because of the made-up “election-year” rule, it wasn’t just because they’re colossal hypocrites. Oh sure, they are, but the actual reason they’re doing so is because in Barrett they have found a judge who they can reliably expect will, given the opportunity, help overturn Roe v. Wade, ax the Affordable Care Act, gut voting rights, protect guns, scrap same-sex marriage, and potentially deliver Donald Trump a second term. They know this because in her work as a judge and law professor, she has made her positions abundantly clear. Really, it’s not a secret! It’s all right there with her name on it! Yet even though Barrett’s confirmation is in the bag, on Tuesday, she felt the need to pretend she might not actually strip health care for millions of Americans or reverse the landmark abortion decision or do a solid for Trump should the 2020 election be litigated in court, as the president has said it should be. Whether this was to give Republicans cover or because she knows a clip of her saying, for example, “Why yes, I look forward to forcing women into back-alley abortions” wouldn’t be a great look, Barrett went to absurd lengths to act like her opinions aren’t already widely known.
Despite being a mother, Barrett is expected to help overturn the Affordable Care Act. (After she was asked about this possibility, which would strip health insurance from millions, Grassley raged at his Democratic colleagues that “As a mother of seven, Judge Barrett clearly understands the importance of health care.”) She will also very likely go after Roe v. Wade, if given the chance, which some mothers would point out prevents their daughters—or even women they didn’t give birth to!— from being forced into back alley abortions. And even though she’s a mom of seven children, she apparently thinks the jury is still out on whether or not it’s bad to separate small children from their parents, if they happen to be from another country:
This woman is truly a monster, and she responds with crazy evasions in a whiny seven-year-old’s voice. I feel for the other justices who will have to keep straight faces when she presents her “legal arguments.”
Yes, it’s another ghastly day in Trump world, but there’s a good chance we can get rid of him in less than three weeks. Hang in there and vote!
NOTE: The paintings in today’s post are by Suzanne Valadon, artists’ muse, self-taught painter, and mother of another famed artist.
I’m grateful to Dakinikat for covering the Senate hearing on Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to SCOTUS. I’m not going to spend much time on it today, because her confirmation is pretty much a forgone conclusion. It’s horrible, but we are just going to have to deal with it somehow.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) acknowledged on Monday that Democrats do not have “some secret, clever, procedural way to stop” the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, arguing that the only way for Americans to “change the trajectory of this nomination” is by voting.
The big picture: Klobuchar and other Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee used day one of Barrett’s confirmation hearings to criticize the process of rushing through a nomination after voting in the 2020 election has already begun, attacking it as a “sham” and “illegitimate.”
— They also painted Barrett’s confirmation as a proxy fight for health care, with a number of Democratic senators displaying posters of constituents who have benefited from protections under the Affordable Care Act.
— The Supreme Court is set to hear a case seeking to invalidate the ACA on Nov. 10. Klobuchar argued that “you don’t have to be a lawyer or a senator to figure out” that Barrett was nominated to help President Trump overturn the Affordable Care Act.
What they’re saying: “My point today is, you cannot divorce this nominee from the moment we’re in, in time. And that we do not have some secret, clever, procedural way to stop this sham. Let’s be honest,” Klobuchar told reporters after Monday’s hearing.
— “And as good as we are, it’s probably not going to be some brilliant cross-examination that is going to change the trajectory of this nomination, but there is one thing that will. And that is the people of this country, that is them voting, that is them understanding exactly what the Republican Party and this administration are doing right now and how it’s going to affect their lives.”
— “Because this is not Donald Trump’s country. This is your country, America’s country, and this should not be Donald Trump’s judge. It should be your judge.”
So what are the likely consequences of Barrett being elevated to SCOTUS?
At Vox, Anna North writes about the future without Roe v. Wade: This is the future of abortion in a post-Roe America.
Some have predicteda Handmaid’s Tale-esquefuturein which women are forced to bear children. Meanwhile, anti-abortion groups have begun quietly preparing for a baby boom once all Americans are forced to carry their pregnancies to term.
But the reality is that overturning Roe won’t end abortion in America. What it will end, across much of America, is legal abortion.
That will have devastating consequences for many people, especially low-income Americans and people of color in red states where the fall of Roe would likely shut down the few remaining clinics. “This is already an abortion desert,” Laurie Bertram Roberts, the executive director of the Mississippi Reproductive Freedom Fund, told Vox. If Roe falls, “you’re just talking about an abortion wasteland.”
But that doesn’t mean people who want to end a pregnancy would be completely without options. Abortion funds around the country would continue their work, in some cases helping patients travel to blue states to get the procedure. Community-based providers, who perform abortions outside the official medical system, would likely continue to operate. And self-managed abortion, in which people perform their own abortions with pills, would take a bigger role.
Preparing for that reality will require a lot from advocates and providers, from raising money to campaigning against laws that can send people to jail for self-managing an abortion. But people have been ending their pregnancies in America since long before Roe v. Wade or even abortion clinics existed, and a court decision isn’t going to stop them. It’s just going to change what their options — and the risks involved — look like.
At The Washington Post, Ruth Marcus claims that the Affordable Care Act will survive, but we have a lot more to worry about: There are many reasons to fear Barrett’s confirmation. The Affordable Care Act isn’t one of them.
In the midst of a pandemic, on the eve of an election, with yet another challenge to the Affordable Care Act coming before the Supreme Court next month, it’s no surprise that Democrats decided to focus on the future of the health-care law at the confirmation hearings for nominee Amy Coney Barrett.
As a matter of substance, not so much. Barrett’s nomination is about so much more than a law that has already survived two challenges and is likely, even with a Justice Barrett on the court, to survive this one.
Read Marcus’ detailed argument at the WaPo.
In other news, Trump held a superspreader rally in Florida last night, even though he could still be contagious.
Though Trump has declared himself now “immune” to the virus — which has killed more than 214,000 Americans and infiltrated the White House — he and his team have not clarified for the public the last time he tested negative before his covid-19 diagnosis was announced Oct. 2. This has raised questions about whom Trump may have infected before isolating himself at the White House and then at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
On Monday afternoon, however, Trump’s doctor, Sean P. Conley, said in a memo released by the White House that the president had tested negative for the virus “on consecutive days,” using the Abbott rapid testing machine, and was no longer contagious.
The Abbott antigen test produces quick results but has a greater chance of false negatives than the more reliable polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, test. Conley said other diagnostic factors were considered when determining that the president did not pose a threat to others.
Either Trump is afraid to take the more accurate PCR test, or he tested positive on it and the White House is covering it up.
Some of Trump’s aides and associates initially hoped that his coronavirus diagnosis would help focus him on the pandemic, allowing him to emerge as a sympathetic figure with a newfound sense of seriousness and empathy.
That, so far, has not happened.
“The cure cannot be worse than the problem itself can. The cure cannot be worse,” Trump told the Sanford crowd — many of whom were not wearing masks — referring to public health restrictions in many states. “But if you don’t feel good about, if you want to stay, stay relaxed, stay. But if you want to get out there, get out. One thing with me, the nice part, I went through it. Now they say I’m immune . . . I feel so powerful.”
Since contracting the virus, Trump has remained dismissive of the threat posed by the pandemic, reappearing in public seemingly invigorated by his survival. He has doubled down on his push for reopening the country while continuing to discount social distancing and other public health practices.
In the real world, we’re still living through a global pandemic, and the U.S. still leads world in cases and deaths. Coronavirus news:
The study of Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine has been paused due to an unexplained illness in a study participant.
A document sent to outside researchers running the 60,000-patient clinical trial states that a “pausing rule” has been met, that the online system used to enroll patients in the study has been closed, and that the data and safety monitoring board — an independent committee that watches over the safety of patients in the clinical trial — would be convened. The document was obtained by STAT.
Contacted by STAT, J&J confirmed the study pause, saying it was due to “an unexplained illness in a study participant.” The company declined to provide further details….
J&J emphasized that so-called adverse events — illnesses, accidents, and other bad medical outcomes — are an expected part of a clinical study, and also emphasized the difference between a study pause and a clinical hold, which is a formal regulatory action that can last much longer. The vaccine study is not currently under a clinical hold. J&J said that while it normally communicates clinical holds to the public, it does not usually inform the public of study pauses.
Read more at the link.
David Wallace-Wells at New York Magazine: The Third Wave of the Pandemic Is Here.
When Donald Trump checked into Walter Reed medical center more than a week ago, it appeared likely to have marked the beginning of the end stage of his presidency. But it was also a milestone for the pandemic, and not just because COVID-19 had infected its most prolific and prominent skeptic and dissembler. In recent weeks, a third wave of the coronavirus has come to the U.S. at almost precisely the time of year scientists warned us about in the spring. But the country has hardly noticed, so paralyzed and preoccupied by the spectacle of the presidential campaign it could barely acknowledge any new cases but Trump’s. There were nearly 50,000 new U.S. infections reported on the day the president was hospitalized, along with 835 new deaths. That’s two 747 crashes’ worth.
When the country passed 100,000 deaths, a spectacularly bleak edition of the New York Times marked the occasion with a six-column headline for a flood of obituaries that ran the full length of the front page (and onto several additional pages). When the toll passed 200,000, it did not even mark the tragic landmark on A1. They are running out of hospital beds in Wisconsin — which used to qualify as a battleground state, incidentally — and in North Dakota, which hasn’t imposed a mask mandate, they are down to 39 open ICU spots. But while the pandemic does indeed appear to be getting worse almost everywhere in the country, it also seems unlikely to return to the center stage of America’s attention until after Election Day — at which point perhaps 25,000 more Americans might have died.
But things won’t really change immediately after November 3, either. The apparent collapse of last-minute stimulus negotiations means that our sclerotic Congress won’t likely extrude any meaningful pandemic relief until January 20. There also won’t be a national testing program erected, or a federal contact-tracing system belatedly instituted, or, probably, a vaccine or novel therapeutics in wide distribution before the next presidential inauguration, either. At which point there might be 100,000 more American deaths than there are today, each a tragedy unfolding amid a considerably uglier humanitarian catastro phe — poverty and hunger, evictions and loss of health insurance, mass joblessness without commensurate federal support — than the pandemic has produced to this point. In other words, the third wave will likely be worse, nationally, than the first; much less buffered by political action and support, at least on the federal level; and, as long as the election eclipses the full attention of the news media, many times less salient. We’ve already tuned it out, and nothing is likely to help anytime soon.
More stories to check out today:
Paul Krugman: Mitch McConnell’s Mission of Misery.
The Daily Beast: Dr. Fauci: The Trump Campaign Is ‘In Effect, Harassing Me.’
Mary McNamara at The Los Angeles Times: Column: Make way for Slayer Pete. Buttigieg is the Biden campaign’s ruthless secret weapon.
The New York Times: California Republican Party Admits It Placed Misleading Ballot Boxes Around State.
The New York Times: As Trump Flouts Safety Protocols, News Outlets Balk at Close Coverage.
Joshua Holland at Alternet: Here’s the truth behind the Republicans’ big lie about ‘court-packing.’
Hang in there Sky Dancers. Only 20 more days until the election. Take care, and please check in with us today if you have the time and inclination.