Living the last four years is like being in a Mario Bava horror anthology film.
Every day is something new, terrible and short-lived. Beyond explanation, only with the Bava film you get awesome cinematography and great storytelling. With tRump you get the misery that goes with a real life nightmare.
Check out these latest horror stories:
Is there some sense that even the Pope is moving on with progress and accepting love is love?
I think I will leave it in that positive note.
This is an open thread.
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!
“Help me….help me…”
Okay, so this isn’t a real act two of The Fly…but it was damn fun to think so.
Here in Georgia, voting in person takes determination…
This is an open thread, try to have a good Wednesday.
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.