Thursday Reads

Good Morning!!

rabiesEverything 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.

Politico: ActBlue’s stunning third quarter: $1.5 billion in donations.

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.

long linesThe Washington Post: Across the country, Democratic enthusiasm is propelling an enormous wave of early voting.

With less than three weeks to go before Nov. 3, roughly 15 million Americans have already voted in the fall election, reflecting an extraordinary level of participation despite barriers erected by the coronavirus pandemic — and setting a trajectory that could result in the majority of voters casting ballots before Election Day for the first time in U.S. history.

In Georgia this week, voters waited as long as 11 hours to cast their ballots on the first day of early voting. In North Carolina, nearly 1 in 5 of roughly 500,000 who have returned mail ballots so far did not vote in the last presidential election. In Michigan, more than 1 million people — roughly one-fourth of total turnout in 2016 — have already voted.

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.

20201013edshe-bSo 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.

Coronavirus News

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.

042720.op.wct.toon1.BirkOn 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.

AR-200429695Other 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!”

bad airBut 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.

Nick Anderson cartoonThe 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.

“Are you saying that you … refuse to agree with a known fact?” That was the follow-up question Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) asked Amy Coney Barrett after the Supreme Court nominee refused to affirm that there is discrimination in voting. Eventually Barrett did affirm there is discrimination, but her repeated efforts to avoid making statements on rudimentary moral principles (e.g., it is wrong to forcibly separate families) and basic facts (e.g., corporations have more power than an individual employee; the president cannot unilaterally change the date of the election as set in statute) made Barrett come across as disingenuous, evasive and clueless. She even refused to affirm the peaceful transition of power after an election. Either she has lived her life in a soulless vacuum, or she is terribly afraid of offending President Trump.

cannot tell a lieBarrett 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.

Raw Story: Amy Coney Barrett’s threat to Social Security and Medicare is ‘what right-wing extremism is all about’: Progressive senator.

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.

Barret woman“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.

244204_rgb_768More from Bess Levin: Amy Coney Barrett, Mother of Seven, Not Sure if Separating Migrant Children from their Parents is Bad.

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!