In the months since March, many Americans have habituated to the horrors of the pandemic. They process the election’s ramifications. They plan for the holidays. But health-care workers do not have the luxury of looking away: They’re facing a third pandemic surge that is bigger and broader than the previous two. In the U.S., states now report more people in the hospital with COVID-19 than at any other point this year—and 40 percent more than just two weeks ago.
Emergency rooms are starting to fill again with COVID-19 patients. Utah, where Nathan Hatton is a pulmonary specialist at the University of Utah Hospital, is currently reporting 2,500 confirmed cases a day, roughly four times its summer peak. Hatton says that his intensive-care unit is housing twice as many patients as it normally does. His shifts usually last 12 to 24 hours, but can stretch to 36. “There are times I’ll come in in the morning, see patients, work that night, work all the next day, and then go home,” he told me. I asked him how many such shifts he has had to do. “Too many,” he said.
Hospitals have put their pandemic plans into action, adding more beds and creating makeshift COVID-19 wards. But in the hardest-hit areas, there are simply not enough doctors, nurses, and other specialists to staff those beds. Some health-care workers told me that COVID-19 patients are the sickest people they’ve ever cared for: They require twice as much attention as a typical intensive-care-unit patient, for three times the normal length of stay. “It was doable over the summer, but now it’s just too much,” says Whitney Neville, a nurse based in Iowa. “Last Monday we had 25 patients waiting in the emergency department. They had been admitted but there was no one to take care of them.” I asked her how much slack the system has left. “There is none,” she said.
The entire state of Iowa is now out of staffed beds, Eli Perencevich, an infectious-disease doctor at the University of Iowa, told me. Worse is coming. Iowa is accumulating more than 3,600 confirmed cases every day; relative to its population, that’s more than twice the rate Arizona experienced during its summer peak, “when their system was near collapse,” Perencevich said. With only lax policies in place, those cases will continue to rise. Hospitalizations lag behind cases by about two weeks; by Thanksgiving, today’s soaring cases will be overwhelming hospitals that already cannot cope. “The wave hasn’t even crashed down on us yet,” Perencevich said. “It keeps rising and rising, and we’re all running on fear. The health-care system in Iowa is going to collapse, no question.”
Revelations just keep on coming about Trump’s crazy efforts to overturn the 2020 election. The New York Times and CNN have obtained emails that show how the White House tried to get the Justice Department to investigate insane claims about election conspiracy theories, including a baseless theory about Italian satellites changing votes.
Katie Benner at The New York Times: Trump Pressed Official to Wield Justice Dept. to Back Election Claims.
An hour before President Donald J. Trump announced in December that William P. Barr would step down as attorney general, the president began pressuring Mr. Barr’s eventual replacement to have the Justice Department take up his false claims of election fraud.
Mr. Trump sent an email via his assistant to Jeffrey A. Rosen, the incoming acting attorney general, that contained documents purporting to show evidence of election fraud in northern Michigan — the same claims that a federal judge had thrown out a week earlier in a lawsuit filed by one of Mr. Trump’s personal lawyers.
Another email from Mr. Trump to Mr. Rosen followed two weeks later, again via the president’s assistant, that included a draft of a brief that Mr. Trump wanted the Justice Department to file to the Supreme Court. It argued, among other things, that state officials had used the pandemic to weaken election security and pave the way for widespread election fraud.
The draft echoed claims in a lawsuit in Texas by the Trump-allied state attorney general that the justices had thrown out, and a lawyer who had helped on that effort later tried with increasing urgency to track down Mr. Rosen at the Justice Department, saying he had been dispatched by Mr. Trump to speak with him.
The emails, turned over by the Justice Department to investigators on the House Oversight Committee and obtained by The New York Times, show how Mr. Trump pressured Mr. Rosen to put the power of the Justice Department behind lawsuits that had already failed to try to prove his false claims that extensive voter fraud had affected the election results….
The documents dovetail with emails around the same time from Mark Meadows, Mr. Trump’s chief of staff, asking Mr. Rosen to examine unfounded conspiracy theories about the election, including one that claimed people associated with an Italian defense contractor were able to use satellite technology to tamper with U.S. voting equipment from Europe.
Benner reports much more insanity in this article. Here’s just a bit more:
Much of the correspondence also occurred during a tense week within the Justice Department, when Mr. Rosen and his top deputies realized that one of their peers had plotted with Mr. Trump to first oust Mr. Rosen and then to try to use federal law enforcement to force Georgia to overturn its election results. Mr. Trump nearly replaced Mr. Rosen with that colleague, Jeffrey Clark, then the acting head of the civil division.
Mr. Rosen made clear to his top deputy in one message that he would have nothing to do with the Italy conspiracy theory, arrange a meeting between the F.B.I. and one of the proponents of the conspiracy, Brad Johnson, or speak about it with Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer.
“I learned that Johnson is working with Rudy Giuliani, who regarded my comments as an ‘insult,’” Mr. Rosen wrote in the email. “Asked if I would reconsider, I flatly refused, said I would not be giving any special treatment to Giuliani or any of his ‘witnesses’, and reaffirmed yet again that I will not talk to Giuliani about any of this.”
The emails also provide new detail into how Mark Meadows, then-White House chief of staff, directed Rosen to have then-Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Clark — who reportedly urged Trump to make him acting attorney general instead of Rosen — investigate voter fraud issues in Georgia before the US attorney there resigned in January.
Amid the pressure, Rosen said he refused to speak to Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani about his false claims that the 2020 election was stolen.
When Meadows sought to have Rosen arrange an FBI meeting with a Giuliani ally pushing a conspiracy theory that Italy was using military technology and satellites to somehow change votes to Joe Biden, Rosen said he would not help Giuliani.
“I flatly refused, said I would not be giving any special treatment to Giuliani or any of his ‘witnesses,’ and re-affirmed yet again that I will not talk to Giuliani about any of this,” Rosen wrote to Donoghue.\The new emails provide additional detail to reports earlier this month from CNN, The New York Times and others on Meadows’ emails to Rosen after the election, which revealed how the top White House aide had urged the Justice Department to take action for Trump’s benefit. The emails included a list of complaints about voting procedures in New Mexico, alleged “anomalies” in a Georgia county and the claims about Italian satellites.
The emails also show how Trump directed allies toward Rosen, who had been named acting attorney general following Barr’s December 2020 resignation after Barr had publicly said there had not been widespread fraud in the election.
Kurt Olsen, a private attorney, reached out to John Moran at the Justice Department on December 29 requesting a meeting with Rosen, promising he could meet at the Justice Department with an hour’s notice. He attached a draft complaint modeled after the Texas Supreme Court lawsuit unsuccessfully challenging the election results in four states, and wrote in a follow-up email that Trump directed him to meet with Rosen to discuss the US bringing a similar action.
“The President of the United States has seen this complaint, and he directed me last night to brief AG Rosen in person today to discuss bringing this action,” Olsen wrote. “I have been instructed to report back to the President this afternoon after the meeting.”
The same day, Trump’s White House assistant also forwarded the draft complaint to Rosen and Donoghue to review, saying it had also been shared with Meadows and White House counsel Pat Cipollone.
By the end of the year, it was clear Rosen and Donoghue had tired of the pressure campaign from the White House.
At least it’s good to know there was pushback from some Trump appointees.
The insanity continues in Arizona and elsewhere. Will Sommer at The Daily Beast: Republicans Now Want to ‘Audit’ Election Results in States That Trump Won.
In the wake of the Arizona audit’s success at grabbing publicity across right-wing media, Republican lawmakers in states that Trump won are demanding Arizona-style audits or other election inspections of their own.
The Republican hunt for voter-fraud evidence even in states that voted for Trump reveals how far inside the party the idea has spread that the election was stolen.
Focusing on fraud claims allows Republican officials to raise money and attention from devoted Trump supporters, according to former Republican National Committee communications director Doug Heye. It also helps lawmakers align themselves with Trump’s claims of widespread fraud, ingratiating themselves with the energized Trump grassroots as they try to claim more power in the party.“
This is about two things, and these are symbiotic,” Heye said. “The continued fealty for all things Trump, and placating the base or the portion of the base that still can’t accept a clear loss.” [….]
The prospect of audits that could somehow dispute Biden’s electoral college win have become articles of faith for Trump supporters unable to get over the former president’s defeat, as Republican-held legislatures across the country use a sense that the election was stolen to push voting restrictions across the country. Some Republican voters have also become fixated on a “domino theory” about the election, which holds that if Arizona’s audit finds fraud in their election, other states that voted for Biden will fall like dominos.
In other news, today the Biden administration released a “National Strategy for Countering Domestic Terrorism.” You can read the White House statement at that link.
The New York Times: Biden Administration Forms Blueprint to Combat Domestic Extremism.
The Biden administration is aiming to bolster information sharing with technology companies, potentially expand hiring of intelligence analysts and improve screening of government employees for ties to domestic terrorism as part of a much-anticipated plan expected to be released on Tuesday detailing how the federal government should combat extremism.
President Biden ordered the review of how federal agencies addressed domestic extremism soon after coming into office, part of an effort to more aggressively acknowledge a national security threat that has grown since the Capitol riot on Jan. 6.
The 32-page plan synthesizes steps that have been recommended by national security officials — including bolstering relationships with social media companies and improving information sharing among law enforcement agencies — into one blueprint on how to more effectively identify extremists in the country after years of heightened focus on foreign terrorists.
“We cannot ignore this threat or wish it away,” Mr. Biden wrote in the strategy document. “Preventing domestic terrorism and reducing the factors that fuel it demand a multifaceted response across the federal government and beyond.”
The new strategy was widely expected to detail a position on whether the government should establish a domestic terrorism law that prosecutors could use to investigate and charge homegrown extremists instead of relying on assault, murder and hate crime charges. The strategy instead indicates that the administration is focused for now on bolstering methods of combating extremism already used by the government, despite Mr. Biden calling for such a law during the presidential campaign.
The White House has published its first ever national strategy for countering domestic terrorism five months after a violent mob stormed the US Capitol in Washington.
The framework released on Tuesday by the national security council describes the threat as now more serious than potential attacks from overseas but emphasises the need to protect civil liberties.
Anticipating Republican objections that Joe Biden could use counterterrorism tools to persecute supporters of Donald Trump, the strategy is also careful to state that domestic terrorism must be tackled in an “ideologically neutral” manner.
It cites examples such as “an anti-authority extremist” ambushing, shooting and killing five police officers in Dallas In 2016; a lone gunman (and leftwing activist) wounding four people at a congressional baseball practice in 2017; and an “unprecedented attack” on Congress on 6 January.
“They come across the political spectrum,” a senior administration said on a media conference call. “We acknowledge the shooting at the congressional baseball, the attack on police officers in Dallas, just as we acknowledge the attack in Charlottesville and the attack on the Capitol on January 6.
“So it’s not motivating politics or ideology that matters for us or, more importantly for the strategy and its implementation. It’s when political grievances become acts of violence and we remain laser focused on that.”
Of course Biden is in Europe right now, and he will meet with Vladimir Putin soon. David Rothkopf at The Daily Beast: Here’s What Biden’s Team Expects From His Meeting With Putin.
The political world and the media have zeroed in on President Joe Biden’s meeting this week with Vladimir Putin as the most important diplomatic event in which this young administration has participated. But the truth is that the heaviest diplomatic lifting with regard to the US-Russia relationship, and American national security, will have already taken place before the meeting in Geneva begins—or it will come in its wake.
National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said that Biden would be arriving at the Geneva meeting “with the wind at his back.” What he meant by that, according to a senior official traveling with the president, is that “in many respects, the most important part of the president’s message to Putin will have been made in the days before the meeting.” The official cited the achievements associated with Biden’s meetings with the U.K. leadership, G7 leaders, his NATO counterparts and top officials from the EU.
Trump not only distinguished himself from all previous American presidents by publicly bending the knee before his political sponsor Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, on Twitter and whenever he had the chance, the only coherent part of Trump foreign policy was that he effectively rejected three-quarters of a century of U.S. history by seeking to dismantle the international order America had tried to build since World War II. He attacked our allies. He condemned NATO. He disparaged the EU. And whenever he was given a chance, he rewarded Putin despite his invasion of Ukraine, his murder of his opponents (including on foreign soil), his freelancing in Syria, his efforts to erode the west’s relationship with Turkey and more.
Biden has been one of those who helped build the international system Trump attacked. He has been committed to undoing the damage Trump did. Just in the last week, Biden announced an effort to revitalize the Atlantic Charter, mended ties within the G7, made an unprecedented pledge of 500 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine as part of the G7’s commitment to provide 1 billion doses to needy nations worldwide, and re-engaged with our allies on terms more consistent with the pro-democracy, anti-autocracy message of our past.
Read the rest at The Daily Beast.
That’s it for me. What’s on your mind today?
The coronavirus pandemic is worsening by the day, and the Trump administration refuses to do anything about it. Yesterday, the defeated “president” emerged from his hidey hole for an appearance in the former Rose Garden. He proceeded to falsely claim credit for the Pfizer vaccine and pretend that the election is still undecided.
Maeve Reston at CNN thinks Trump is beginning to accept reality: Trump wavers between reality and election fiction with eye on his legacy during Rose Garden vaccine address.
President Donald Trump had an eye on his legacy as he strode to the microphone in the White House Rose Garden Friday and touted the administration’s “unequaled and unrivaled” efforts to help produce a coronavirus vaccine through Operation Warp Speed. Then, for a brief moment, he seemed close to acknowledging the reality that his presidency is almost over.
“I will not — this administration will not be doing a lockdown,” Trump said, speaking for the first time in a week as coronavirus cases in the US shatter records and hospitalizations are surging. “Hopefully whatever happens in the future — who knows which administration it will be — I guess time will tell, but I can tell you this administration will not go to a lockdown.”
It was a fleeting shift in tone suggesting that the reality of President-elect Joe Biden’s substantial win is seeping into Trump’s psyche even as he and his advisers publicly deny it.
The Democrat now has 306 electoral votes to Trump’s 232 as a result of wins in two longtime Republican states, Arizona and Georgia, CNN projects — far above the 270 threshold that Biden needed to clinch the presidency. But the indisputable math has not prevented the President from continuing to try to whip up outrage among his supporters on Twitter with unfounded accusations that the election has been stolen from him.
Friday’s speech in the Rose Garden was a portrait of a President clinging to power as his legal challenges to the election results crumble around him, mindful that he ought to show Americans what he’s been doing with the power of government as he spends his days tweeting conspiracy theories about lost or deleted votes in the midst of a pandemic that is coursing through the United States.
Except he isn’t really doing anything about the most pressing problem facing the country–the pandemic. Philip Bump at The Washington Post: Trump also refuses to admit he lost the fight against the coronavirus.
“Case levels are high, but a lot of the case levels are high because of the fact that we have the best testing program anywhere in the world,” he said. “We’ve developed the most and the best tests, and we test far more than any other country. So it shows obviously more cases.”
This is false for a variety of reasons. The most obvious misstatement is that the current surge in new cases, leading to 1 in every 350 Americans contracting the virus in the past week, is solely a function of more testing. In reality, the number of new cases during this surge (which began around Sept. 12) has easily outpaced the increase in the number of tests being conducted. The rate at which tests are coming back positive is more than 9 percent at the moment, twice what it was a month ago.
It’s also important to remember that the United States has conducted so many tests because we’ve had to. Countries like South Korea effectively contained the virus and therefore didn’t have to keep testing hundreds of thousands of people a week. It’s our failure to contain the virus that necessitates a broad deployment of testing….
“The federal government has 22,000 beds immediately available for states and jurisdictions that need additional capacity,” Trump said Friday. “But we think that it’s going to start going down possibly very quickly. We’ll see what happens. But with the vaccine, you’ll see numbers going down within a matter of months. And it’ll go down very rapidly.”
There’s no indication that the need for hospital capacity is going to go down quickly. It’s also not clear where that federal capacity is or how states can access it. It may be the case that the vaccine will drive down new infections and hospitalizations, but even limited distribution of the vaccine is weeks away. For most Americans, it’s months away, and cases are surging now.
Read more at the WaPo.
As I wrote in a comment yesterday, I think Trump should be prosecuted for negligent homicide. At Alternet, via Raw Story, Cory Fenwick writes: The Trump plan for mass death is unfolding before our eyes.
On Friday, the COVID Tracking Project reported that the number of positive coronavirus infections in the last day had reached 170,000, the highest record ever and a number that was, just a few months ago, hard to imagine. It’s now our daily reality, and it’s likely to only get worse.
Other figures are just as frightening. Hospitalizations — one of the clearest signs of the seriousness of the out break —have reached a new high at 69,000, according to the project. Deaths are at a disturbing 1,300, though that rate is almost certain to spike in recent weeks following the more recent spike in cases. And as the newest and largest wave yet engulfs the country, reports have begun to appear of hospitals being overwhelmed with patients, which is almost certainly a precursor to a spike in the case fatality rate.
It’s our horrifying new status quo, and one that experts and observers have been warning would unfold this fall for months. But the ming-boggling truth is that for the Trump administration, everything is pretty much going as planned.
Ever since the first wave in the spring, President Donald Trump has seemed increasingly drawn to the so-called (and, indeed, misleadingly named) “herd immunity” approach to the pandemic. On this approach, you reject government restrictions meant to stop people from getting the virus. What advocates of this strategy believe is that it’s best that more people get the virus, because eventually, enough people will have had it, they’ll immune, and life will return to normal.
Click the link to read the rest.
This piece by Ed Yong at The Atlantic is a must read: ‘No One Is Listening to Us.’ More people than ever are hospitalized with COVID-19. Health-care workers can’t go on like this.
There’s much more at the link. I hope you’ll take the time to read it.
It’s so sad to see North Dakota, my birthplace and the state where my parents were born and raised, experiencing such a terrible health emergency. USA Today: The Dakotas are ‘as bad as it gets anywhere in the world’ for COVID-19.
South Dakota welcomed hundreds of thousands of visitors to a massive motorcycle rally this summer, declined to cancel the state fair and still doesn’t require masks. Now its hospitals are filling up and the state’s current COVID-19 death rate is among the worst in the world.
The situation is similarly dire in North Dakota, with the state’s governor recently moving to allow health care workers who have tested positive for COVID-19 to continue working if they don’t show symptoms. It’s a controversial policy recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in a crisis situation where hospitals are short-staffed.
And now — after months of resisting a statewide mask mandate — North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum changed course late Friday, ordering masks to be worn statewide and imposing several business restrictions.
“Our situation has changed, and we must change with it,” Burgum said in a video message posted at 10 p.m. Friday. Doctors and nurses “need our help, and they need it now,” he said.
Both North and South Dakota now face a predictably tragic reality that health experts tell USA TODAY could have been largely prevented with earlier public health actions.
Governor Kristi Noem of South Dakota is still resisting. Sioux Falls Argus Leader: If Joe Biden enacts mask mandates, lockdowns, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem won’t enforce them.
The office of Gov. Kristi Noem said in a statement to the Argus Leader Friday that the first-term governor, who’s risen to stardom in the Republican party for her hands-off approach to managing the pandemic, has no intention of using state resources to enforce any federal COVID-19 orders.
“It’s a good day for freedom. Joe Biden realizes that the president doesn’t have the authority to institute a mask mandate,” said Ian Fury, communications specialist for Noem. “For that matter, neither does Governor Noem, which is why she has provided her citizens with the full scope of the science and trusted them to make the best decisions for themselves and their loved-ones.”
Famous last words?
More stories to check out today:
The New York Times: It’s Traumatizing: Coronavirus Deaths are Climbing Again.
Susan Rice at The New York Times: Here’s How Trump’s Stalling Risks Our National Security.
The New York Times: Christopher Krebs Hasn’t Been Fired, Yet.
Have a nice weekend, Sky Dancers!
Only 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:
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.”
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.
Mark 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.
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.
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.
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….
Known 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.
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.”
Ron 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.
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.
Have a great Halloween, Sky Dancers!!
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.
The 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.
Officials 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.
“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?” [….]
As 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.
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.
Toluse Olorunnipa at The Washington Post: As Election Day nears, Trump ponders becoming one thing he so despises: A loser.
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:
The coronavirus pandemic is getting worse as colder weather and the holidays approach. Here in Massachusetts, we are seeing more new cases every day, after months of holding steady against the virus. In many states, cases and deaths are rising at an even more alarming pace.
Meanwhile, Trump happily makes things even worse with his daily superspreader rallies. If we can’t get rid of this horrible man, he is going to kill millions of Americans and reduce our country to rubble.
I just finished reading a fascinating book about Trump’s rallies, Liar’s Circus: A Strange and Terrifying Journey Into the Upside-Down World of Trump’s MAGA Rallies, by Carl Hoffman. It’s sort of a sociological/anthropological investigation into the phenomenon. I want to quote a paragraph from the last chapter:
…what was occurring at Trump’s rallies showed Trump’s narcissism and his urgent need to rule, which ultimately differed little from any other autocrat who’d risen to power. He had to win, had to have complete loyalty. He had no choice but to kill everyone else and survive over a battlefield of the dead and all of those sycophants on the stage [Republican political leaders] were letting him. They had submitted and kept on submitting, and if nothing got in his way, he would keep winning, winning, winning, until the whole system, the whole structure of American law and culture and politics was his to wield, his to control. It couldn’t be any other way. There was no other option. Trump didn’t believe in moral goodness or a higher God or the Constitution or democracy. If he wasn’t kept in check, Trump would destroy American because he couldn’t stop himself.
Hoffman argues that the rise of Trump is proof once and for all that “American exceptionalism” is a myth. We are just as vulnerable to authoritarian takeover as any other country. We have just 10 days left to stop Trump. But even if he loses the election, he will still have until January 20 to damage our government and aid and abet the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans from a virus that he chose not to deal with. I don’t know what is going to happen; I only hope we can begin stop him with our votes on November 3.
The Latest on the Pandemic:
The Washington Post: America hits highest daily number of coronavirus cases since pandemic began.
The New York Times: Covid in the U.S.: Latest Map and Case Count.
At least 925 new coronavirus deaths and 85,085 new cases were reported in the United States on Oct. 23. Over the past week, there have been an average of 64,257 cases per day, an increase of 34 percent from the average two weeks earlier.
As of Saturday morning, more than 8,540,300 people in the United States have been infected with the coronavirus and at least 223,900 have died, according to a New York Times database.
Case numbers in the United States are rising rapidly as states in the Midwest and Rocky Mountains struggle to control major outbreaks, and as new hotspots emerge elsewhere in the country.
The national trajectory is only worsening. Wisconsin has opened a field hospital. North Dakota, which not long ago had relatively few cases, now has the most per capita in the country. And across the rural West, states like Alaska, Wyoming and Montana that had long escaped the worst of the pandemic have seen case numbers soar to alarming new records.
Deaths, though still well below their peak spring levels, averaged around 700 per day by mid October, far more than were reported in early July.
There’s lots of good information and maps at the NYT link.
More than a half million people in the United States could die from COVID-19 by the end of February, but around 130,000 of those lives could be saved if everybody were to wear masks, according to estimates from a modelling study on Friday.
The estimates by researchers at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation showed that with few effective COVID-19 treatment options and no vaccines yet available, the United States faces “a continued COVID-19 public health challenge through the winter.”
“We are heading into a very substantial fall/winter surge,” said IHME Director Chris Murray, who co-led the research.
He said the projections, as well as currently rising infection rates and deaths, showed there is no basis to “the idea that the pandemic is going away,” adding: “We do not believe that is true.”
The president has participated in nearly three dozen rallies since mid-August, all but two at airport hangars. A USA TODAY analysis shows COVID-19 cases grew at a faster rate than before after at least five of those rallies in the following counties: Blue Earth, Minnesota; Lackawanna, Pennsylvania; Marathon, Wisconsin; Dauphin, Pennsylvania; and Beltrami, Minnesota.
Together, those counties saw 1,500 more new cases in the two weeks following Trump’s rallies than the two weeks before – 9,647 cases, up from 8,069.
Although there’s no way to determine definitively if cases originated at Trump’s rallies, public health experts say the gatherings fly in the face of all recommendations to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
USA TODAY reviewed coronavirus case counts in the counties where Trump attended rallies starting from mid-August through mid-October. The news organization examined the rate of increase in virus cases for the two weeks before and after campaign events. For rallies occurring within the past two weeks, not enough time has passed to draw conclusions.
Public health officials additionally have linked 16 cases, including two hospitalizations, with the rally in Beltrami County, Minnesota, and one case with the rally in Marathon County, Wisconsin. Outside of the counties identified by USA TODAY with a greater case increase after rallies, officials identified four cases linked to Trump rallies.
Presidential Campaign Reads:
Philip Bump at The Washington Post: The electoral map is very weird right now.