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.
We’ve reached the end of another wild week in Trump World. The 2020 election is only 38 days away; on Tuesday Biden will meet Trump in the first presidential debate; and we’re still in the first wave of an out-of-control pandemic and the resulting economic meltdown. Today Trump nominates a woman to the Supreme Court who will vote to end the Affordable Care Act and Roe v. Wade. On top of all that, the fake “president” suggests he won’t accept the results of the election if he loses, and he’s counting on the election being decided the newly far right SCOTUS. That’s where we are right now.
Last night at his super-spreader rally in Virginia, Trump doubled down on his promise to disrupt the election. Raw Story: Trump tells supporters he won’t be ‘stupid’ enough for peaceful transition of power if he loses.
President Donald Trump continued to spread debunked conspiracy theories about the 2020 presidential election during a Friday night campaign rally in Virginia.
Trump argued that it was impossible for him to lose the election, thus concluding he would be “stupid” to hand over power peacefully should he lose.
“We not gonna lose this, except if they cheat,” Trump falsely claimed about the 2020 campaign, where he trails Joe Biden in national and battleground polling.
“That’s the only way we’re gonna lose is if there’s, uh, mischief,” he argued. “And it will have to be on a big scale.”
“And we do want a very friendly transition, but we don’t want to be cheated and be stupid and say, ‘oh, let’s transit — we’ll go and we’ll do a transition’ and we know that there were thousands and thousands of ballots that made the difference through cheating,” he said, repeating the debunked conspiracy theories.
“We’re not going to stand for it,” he vowed. “We’re not going to stand for it.”
Yesterday at The Washington Post, Dana Millbank brought out the Hitler comparisons: This is not a drill. The Reichstag is burning.
With his repeated refusals this week to accept the peaceful transfer of power — the bedrock principle that has sustained American democracy for 228 years — President Trump has put the United States, in some ways, where Germany was in 1933, when Adolf Hitler used the suspicious burning of the German parliament to turn a democracy into a totalitarian state.
Overwrought, you say? Then ask Yale historian Timothy Snyder, a top authority on Nazism and Stalinism. “The Reichstag has been on a slow burn since June,” he told me. “The language Trump uses to talk about Black Lives Matter and the protests is very similar to the language Hitler used — that there’s some vague left-wing conspiracy based in the cities that is destroying the country.”
Trump, as he has done before, has made the villain a minority group. He has sought, once again, to fabricate emergencies to justify greater powers for himself. He has proposed postponing elections. He has refused to commit to honoring the results of the election. And now, he proposes to embrace violence if he doesn’t win.
“It’s important not to talk about this as just an election,” Snyder said. “It’s an election surrounded by the authoritarian language of a coup d’etat. The opposition has to win the election and it has to win the aftermath of the election.”
If not? There won’t be another “normal” election for some time, he said. But that doesn’t have to happen, and Snyder is optimistic it won’t. To avoid it, we voters must turn out in overwhelming numbers to deal Trump a lopsided defeat. The military must hold to its oath. Homeland Security police must not serve as Trump’s brownshirts. And we citizens must take to the streets, peacefully but indefinitely, until the will of the people prevails.
“It’s going to be messy,” Snyder said. “He seems pretty sure he won’t win the election, he doesn’t want to leave office,” and he appears to Snyder to have “an authoritarian’s instinct” that he must stay in power or go to prison.
There’s more at the link.
Trump has announced that he will nominate Amy Coney Barrett to replace Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The New York Times: To Conservatives, Barrett Has ‘Perfect Combination’ of Attributes for Supreme Court.
…Judge Barrett…would be the sitting justice with the least courtroom experience, but one viewed as a home run by conservative Christians and anti-abortion activists.
“She is the perfect combination of brilliant jurist and a woman who brings the argument to the court that is potentially the contrary to the views of the sitting women justices,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president of the Susan B. Anthony List, an anti-abortion political group….
Liberal groups have been sounding the alarm over Judge Barrett for two years because of concerns over how she might rule on abortion and the Affordable Care Act.
“Amy Coney Barrett meets Donald Trump’s two main litmus tests: She has made clear she would invalidate the A.C.A. and take health care away from millions of people and undermine a woman’s reproductive freedom,” said Nan Aron, the president of Alliance for Justice, a liberal group.
Jay Michaelson at The Daily Beast: Kiss Your Rights Goodbye When Amy Coney Barrett Joins SCOTUS.
Like Judge Garland, who was denied even a hearing, Judge Barrett is unquestionably qualified. She has written numerous scholarly articles on a wide variety of legal and philosophical issues, and unlike some recent Trump nominees, appears to have a spotless ethical record.
But Barrett is also an arch-conservative who has espoused troubling views about the intersection of her personal beliefs with her role as a judge, and who will fundamentally alter the American legal landscape on a number of issues.
Obviously, abortion is the highest-profile of these, and it’s easy to see why every major anti-abortion organization in America hailed Barrett when she was appointed to the Seventh Circuit. She has criticized Roe v. Wade as “judicial fiat” and an “erroneous decision.”
And at a Notre Dame Law School event 2013, she asked, rhetorically, “Would it be better to have this battle in the state legislatures and Congress rather than the Supreme Court?”
That, of course, is intrinsically an anti-choice position. We don’t ask whether it would be better or worse for a state to violate constitutional rights–for Mississippi to outlaw Islam, for example, or Vermont to ban the Republican party. If a constitutional right is at issue–as the Supreme Court held in Roe–then the whole point of judicial review is that it doesn’t matter if it would be “better” for legislatures to fight it out.
Barrett has made similar remarks about same-sex marriage and is a guaranteed vote against Obamacare. On Monday, Dakinikat discussed Barrett’s extreme religious beliefs. From the Daily Beast article:
On its own, none of that matters since Barrett’s religious beliefs should have no bearing on her fitness as a Supreme Court justice.
However, Barrett has made several troubling statements regarding how religious belief impacts the roles of lawyers and judges. Most famously, she said in 2006 that a legal career should be “a means to an end,” namely “building the Kingdom of God.” Now, despite much liberal hand-wringing over this comment, it, alone, is not so problematic. It may simply mean to build a more just and equitable world, as the Bible requires. Indeed, Justice Ginsburg herself had Biblical injunctions to pursue justice on her chamber walls.
But when Barrett’s “means to an end” statement is placed in the context of other statements she has made, it raises questions. For example, in her first law review article, published in 1998, Barrett wrote that “Catholic judges (if they are faithful to the teaching of their church) are morally precluded from enforcing the death penalty.”
That is an unusual position, suggesting that a judge cannot discharge her public duty if she has a personal religious belief regarding it. Ironically, if that principle is applied to all cases in which the Catholic Church has stated moral positions, it might require Justice Barrett to recuse herself from cases regarding abortion and homosexuality, as well as the death penalty.
On next Tuesday’s debate, The Washington Post’s Sean Sullivan and Josh Dawsey anticipate vicious Trump attacks: Trump readies a debate onslaught — and Biden allies worry.
President Trump is gearing up to launch blistering personal attacks on Joe Biden and his family in the first presidential debate on Tuesday, while Biden is bracing for an onslaught and worried allies are warning the Democratic nominee not to lose his temper and lash out, according to people with knowledge of the strategies in both camps.
Trump has told associates he wants to talk specifically about his opponent’s son Hunter Biden and mused that the debates are when “people will finally realize Biden is just not there,” according to one adviser. The president is so eager to lay into his rival that he has called aides to test out various attacks, focusing on broadsides that cast Biden as a longtime Washington insider with a limited record of accomplishment, said another adviser, who like many interviewed for this story spoke on the condition of anonymity to candidly describe private talks.
Biden and his advisers are anticipating a venomous barrage, according to a person with knowledge of their thinking, and they are preparing to counter with an affirmative case for a Biden presidency. The Democrat wants to stay focused on how he would address the coronavirus pandemic and the country’s economic problems, which he blames Trump for worsening.
The prospect of a cage match between a president for whom no subject is off-limits and a challenger who can be openly emotional is making some Biden advisers nervous. They see a fine line between Biden’s passion and empathy, which can appeal to voters, and the raw anger that sometimes gets him in trouble and could undercut his pitch as a calming alternative to a president who thrives on chaos.
“When you go at his family, he becomes hotter than hell, which is part of the thing I worry about,” said John Morgan, a Florida trial lawyer and major Biden donor. “I think what Biden has to be careful about is not letting his Irish temper blow when that happens.”
Would it really be so awful for Biden to give Trump a tongue-lashing? I’m not so sure.
Philippe Reines writes, also at The Washington Post: I played Trump in Clinton’s debate prep. Here’s what Biden can expect.
Donald Trump is a very bad debater. Donald Trump is very difficult to debate.
These two seemingly contradictory statements are equally true. He’s a dangerous opponent. In 2016, it was because he had nothing to lose. Now, it’s because he has everything to lose.
I would know. In the last cycle, I had a unique assignment: playing Trump’s stand-in during Hillary Clinton’s mock debates. Before donning the ill-fitting suit I had tailored, my preparation included studying the 11 Republican primary debates in which Trump participated, watching each three times: once start to finish; then only exchanges involving Trump; and finally only Trump, standing at a lectern in my living room with the sound off to focus entirely on his gestures and body language.
Mimicking his appearance, gesticulations and histrionics aside, my overall approach meant zeroing in on the four topics that obsessed Trump: immigration, Obamacare, trade and “the swamp.” When he was on offense, his attacks on (and nicknames for) Clinton were honed and simple by the time the debates began in September. But he rarely, if ever, defended himself. No matter the attack against him — and there were some doozies — he dispensed with them quickly. And in the GOP primary debates, his answers involved three parts: I am great; you are terrible; and a nonsensical digression that often changed the subject entirely.
Four years later, Trump is not different, but the circumstances are. The Trump we see at the first presidential debate in Cleveland on Tuesday may be even harder to debate than last time, because whatever ability he possessed to engage has been subsumed by a constant need to launch into tirades over grievances. (“I sort of prepare every day by just doing what I’m doing,” he told “Fox and Friends” about his pre-debate regimen.) He exists in a double bubble — isolated in the Oval Office, consuming and regurgitating nothing but friendly right-wing media and Twitter bile. And he’s desperate: The debate presents the first big chance to shake up a race he’s losing, but he doesn’t seem to have a plan to turn things around other than to hope for Joe Biden to collapse.
Read Reines’ suggestions for Biden at the link.
Finally, at The New York Times, Hannah Beech reports that the world pities the USA: ‘I Feel Sorry for Americans’: A Baffled World Watches the U.S.
BANGKOK — Myanmar is a poor country struggling with open ethnic warfare and a coronavirus outbreak that could overload its broken hospitals. That hasn’t stopped its politicians from commiserating with a country they think has lost its way.
“I feel sorry for Americans,” said U Myint Oo, a member of parliament in Myanmar. “But we can’t help the U.S. because we are a very small country.”
The same sentiment prevails in Canada, one of the most developed countries. Two out of three Canadians live within about 60 miles of the American border.
“Personally, it’s like watching the decline of the Roman Empire,” said Mike Bradley, the mayor of Sarnia, an industrial city on the border with Michigan, where locals used to venture for lunch.
Amid the pandemic and in the run-up to the presidential election, much of the world is watching the United States with a mix of shock, chagrin and, most of all, bafflement.
Click the link to read the rest.
That’s it for me. What’s happening from your point of view? I hope you all have a great weekend, and please check in at Sky Dancing blog if you have a moment free.
Get Angry and Stay Angry!!
The worst (so far) has happened with the heartbreaking loss of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Trump and McConnell are determined to replace her with a right wing ideologue before the election. Democrats must fight tooth and nail to keep them from succeeding, because that was Justice Ginsburg’s dying wish.
Nina Totenberg at NPR: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Champion Of Gender Equality, Dies At 87.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the demure firebrand who in her 80s became a legal, cultural and feminist icon, died Friday. The Supreme Court announced her death, saying the cause was complications from metastatic cancer of the pancreas.
The court, in a statement, said Ginsburg died at her home in Washington, D.C., surrounded by family. She was 87.
“Our nation has lost a justice of historic stature,” Chief Justice John Roberts said. “We at the Supreme Court have lost a cherished colleague. Today we mourn but with confidence that future generations will remember Ruth Bader Ginsburg as we knew her, a tireless and resolute champion of justice.”
Architect of the legal fight for women’s rights in the 1970s, Ginsburg subsequently served 27 years on the nation’s highest court, becoming its most prominent member. Her death will inevitably set in motion what promises to be a nasty and tumultuous political battle over who will succeed her, and it thrusts the Supreme Court vacancy into the spotlight of the presidential campaign.
Just days before her death, as her strength waned, Ginsburg dictated this statement to her granddaughter Clara Spera: “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”
She knew what was to come. Ginsburg’s death will have profound consequences for the court and the country. Inside the court, not only is the leader of the liberal wing gone, but with the court about to open a new term, the chief justice no longer holds the controlling vote in closely contested cases.
This morning, Totenberg discussed her long friendship with Justice Ginsburg: A Five-Decade-Long Friendship That Began With A Phone Call.
In 1971, newly assigned to cover the Supreme Court, I was reading a brief in what would ultimately be the landmark case of Reed v. Reed. It argued that the Fourteenth Amendment equal protection clause applied to women. I didn’t understand some of the brief, so I flipped to the front to see who the author was, and I placed a call to Rutgers law professor Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
By the time I hung up an hour later, I was so full of information that I was like a goose whose innards were ready for fois-gras. I soon began calling professor Ginsburg regularly, and eventually I met her in person at a conference in New York. We never did agree what the subject of that conference was, but take my word for it, it was boring. So boring that we…well, we went shopping.
We would become professional friends, and later, close friends after she moved to Washington to serve on the federal appeals court here and later, on the U.S. Supreme Court.
Some of the stories that follow have little to do with her brilliance, hard work, or devotion to the law, or even her pioneering role as the architect of the legal fight for women’s rights in this country. Rather, they are examples of her extraordinary character, decency, and commitment to friends, colleagues, law clerks — just about everyone whose lives she touched. I was lucky enough to be one of those people.
Read Totenberg’s reminiscences at the NPR link.
Linda Greenhouse at The New York Times: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Supreme Court’s Feminist Icon, Is Dead at 87.
.Barely five feet tall and weighing 100 pounds, Justice Ginsburg drew comments for years on her fragile appearance. But she was tough, working out regularly with a trainer, who published a book about his famous client’s challenging exercise regime.
As Justice Ginsburg passed her 80th birthday and 20th anniversary on the Supreme Court bench during President Barack Obama’s second term, she shrugged off a chorus of calls for her to retire in order to give a Democratic president the chance to name her replacement. She planned to stay “as long as I can do the job full steam,” she would say, sometimes adding, “There will be a president after this one, and I’m hopeful that that president will be a fine president.”
When Justice Sandra Day O’Connor retired in January 2006, Justice Ginsburg was for a time the only woman on the Supreme Court — hardly a testament to the revolution in the legal status of women that she had helped bring about in her career as a litigator and strategist.
Her years as the solitary female justice were “the worst times,” she recalled in a 2014 interview. “The image to the public entering the courtroom was eight men, of a certain size, and then this little woman sitting to the side. That was not a good image for the public to see.” Eventually she was joined by two other women, both named by Mr. Obama: Sonia Sotomayor in 2009 and Elena Kagan in 2010.
After the 2010 retirement of Justice John Paul Stevens, whom Justice Kagan succeeded, Justice Ginsburg became the senior member and de facto leader of a four-justice liberal bloc, consisting of the three female justices and Justice Stephen G. Breyer. Unless they could attract a fifth vote, which Justice Anthony M. Kennedy provided on increasingly rare occasions before his retirement in 2018, the four were often in dissent on the ideologically polarized court.
Justice Ginsburg’s pointed and powerful dissenting opinions, usually speaking for all four, attracted growing attention as the court turned further to the right. A law student, Shana Knizhnik, anointed her the Notorious R.B.G., a play on the name of the Notorious B.I.G., a famous rapper who was Brooklyn-born, like the justice. Soon the name, and Justice Ginsburg’s image — her expression serene yet severe, a frilly lace collar adorning her black judicial robe, her eyes framed by oversize glasses and a gold crown perched at a rakish angle on her head — became an internet sensation.
Read the rest at the NYT.
Ginsburg biographer Irin Carmon at New York Magazine: The Glorious RBG: I learned, while writing about her, that her precision disguised her warmth.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg used to instruct her clerks to get it right and keep it tight, so I’ll try to do the same. Only someone so stubborn and single-minded, someone so in love with the work, could have accomplished what she did — as a woman, survived discrimination and loss; as a lawyer, compelled the Constitution to recognize that women were people; as a justice, inspired millions of people in dissent. (I asked her once in an interview what she had changed her mind about and she refused to answer. “I don’t dwell on that kind of question,” she said. “I really concentrate on what’s on my plate at the moment and do the very best I can.”) What made her RBG would also enact the most tragic and sickening ironies of today.
The feminist with a fundamentally optimistic vision, who believed that people, especially men, could be better, might be soon replaced by the rankest misogynist. The litigator and jurist who long subordinated her own immediate desires to the good and legitimacy of institutions, who had preached that slow change would stave off backlash, lived long enough to see Trump and the Federalist Society tear off the Court’s thin veneer of legitimacy anyway. In the 2013 voting-rights dissent that earned her the Notorious RBG nickname, Ginsburg offered an addendum to Martin Luther King Jr.’s suggestion that the arc of history eventually bent toward justice: “if there is a steadfast commitment to see the task through to completion.” She was thus committed. Still, today she leaves the work not only unfinished but at risk of being undone.
Ginsburg was born in 1933 in Flatbush, and her stoicism was forged in a childhood spent in a house that, she said, bore “the smell of death.” When she was 2, her only sister died of meningitis; one day short of her high-school graduation, her mother died of cervical cancer. Celia Bader, who had once broken her nose reading while walking down the street but whose sweatshop wages had gone to her brother’s education, left behind secret college savings for her daughter and a will to accomplish what Celia had been denied.
Click the link to read more about Ginsburg’s life.
What can Democrats do to honor Ginsburg’s dying wish? Some possibilities:
David Corn at Mother Jones: To Honor Ginsburg, Democrats Have One Choice: Go Nuclear.
What is coming, at least as the Republicans see it, is a grand political clash. They have been hellbent on reshaping the entire federal judiciary and especially drool over the prospect of locking the highest court into a right-wing course that will last decades and counter demographic trends that favor Democrats. This is their Holy Grail….So Ginsburg’s departure is a gift for Trump. If there has been any erosion occurring on the edges of his conservative and evangelical base, his effort to shove another anti-choice, pro-corporate conservative on to the highest court could certainly shore up that ground for him….
Ginsburg, a hero of female empowerment and of the Supreme Court, deserves much mourning. But Democrats and progressives can waste no time prepping for the battle royal that lies ahead. After all, it took Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell mere minutes after the news of RBG’s passing to declare that the GOP-controlled Senate will vote on whoever Donald Trump sends its way to fill the Supreme Court vacancy—a direct eff-you to the Democrats after McConnell in 2016 refused to consider President Barack Obama’s SCOTUS nominee Merrick Garland with the phony-baloney argument that the Senate should not consider new justices during an election year. So yes, Dems will have to organize, but they must do more: They have to get ready to rumble….
It will be bare-knuckles politics from the right. Do or die. By any means necessary. To replace Ginsburg with a young right-wing extremist. And for the Democrats to have a chance of thwarting them, they must realize that this fight is not only a matter of persuasion….
The win-over-reasonable-Republicans-with-reason strategy is weak sauce. That leaves the Democrats with one other choice: total political warfare. The Senate’s Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer—with the backing of Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi—needs to threaten massive retaliation. Should McConnell try to ram a Trump nominee through, Schumer ought to vow that the Democrats, if they win back the Senate and Biden is elected president, will demolish the filibuster, which will allow the Senate to proceed to make Washington, DC, a state (two more senators, who are likely to be Democrats!) and that they will move to add two or four more seats to the Supreme Court. (There is nothing in the Constitution that limits the court’s size to the current nine justices.) In other words: They will implement a Republican nightmare (which, as it happens, can be justified on arguments of equity and fairness).
Michael Tomasky at The Daily Beast agrees with Corn: Here Are the Ways to Stop Mitch and Trump From Replacing RBG.
Trump and McConnell will move to put a hard right-winger on the court before the election. Don’t be naive. Don’t think: “They wouldn’t possibly try that.” Of course they would. And if (I hate to be macabre here, but I’m just making a point) Stephen J. Breyer were to perish tomorrow, they’d move to put two right-wingers on the bench before Election Day. It is who they are.
What power can stop them? There are only three that potentially could. Let’s look at them.
One, the Democrats. Some Democratic senators who might have Mitch’s ear, say Joe Manchin, will go to him. And Mitch will say: Fuck off. However, the Democrats have a card to play here, if Joe Biden will play it. The number nine (of Supreme Court justices) is neither in the Constitution nor law. Biden, and Chuck Schumer, can say: If you fill this seat now, if Biden wins, we’re expanding the Court to 11 or 13, and your majority is dead. And they should be ready to do it.
Two, public opinion. I expect polls will appear in the coming days showing majorities agreeing that no appointment should come until after we have a new president. As I’ve often written, our democracy is corrupted and screwed, but it’s still enough of a democracy that public opinion actually matters. Sometimes. And I think this is probably one of these times.
Three, kind of an ancillary point to public opinion: the fate of Republican senators up for re-election in tough states. Already, Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, not up for re-election, has apparently said she will not confirm a justice until the next president is sworn in. That’s one. Democrats would need three more to say that they’ll follow Murkowski’s lead. Susan Collins, Cory Gardner, and Martha McSally seem the obvious choices. There are others. It all depends on the degree of progressive mobilizing in those states, to make those GOP senators know that if they acquiesce to McConnell’s games, they will lose. And of course there’s Mitt Romney, who does not face re-election but who might cast another conscience vote.
So all is not lost yet. But gear up for a fight. And as you do, always leave time in your mind for this remarkable, towering American. Everything we do in this corrupt period should be to honor all that she stood for.
We are already far down the road to autocracy, as Dakinikat wrote yesterday. We have to honor Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s life by fighting as hard as we can. As David Corn wrote, we have to bring a bazooka to the GOP’s gunfight.
Anger is an energy.
I could hardly bring myself to read news this morning, but I forced myself to see what stories are out there. My offerings:
The biggest one is about Trump ignoring reports of Russians trying to kill American troops in Afghanistan.
American intelligence officials have concluded that a Russian military intelligence unit secretly offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing coalition forces in Afghanistan — including targeting American troops — amid the peace talks to end the long-running war there, according to officials briefed on the matter.
The United States concluded months ago that the Russian unit, which has been linked to assassination attempts and other covert operations in Europe intended to destabilize the West or take revenge on turncoats, had covertly offered rewards for successful attacks last year.
Islamist militants, or armed criminal elements closely associated with them, are believed to have collected some bounty money, the officials said. Twenty Americans were killed in combat in Afghanistan in 2019, but it was not clear which killings were under suspicion.
The intelligence finding was briefed to President Trump, and the White House’s National Security Council discussed the problem at an interagency meeting in late March, the officials said. Officials developed a menu of potential options — starting with making a diplomatic complaint to Moscow and a demand that it stop, along with an escalating series of sanctions and other possible responses, but the White House has yet to authorize any step, the officials said.
An operation to incentivize the killing of American and other NATO troops would be a significant and provocative escalation of what American and Afghan officials have said is Russian support for the Taliban, and it would be the first time the Russian spy unit was known to have orchestrated attacks on Western troops.
Any involvement with the Taliban that resulted in the deaths of American troops would also be a huge escalation of Russia’s so-called hybrid war against the United States, a strategy of destabilizing adversaries through a combination of such tactics as cyberattacks, the spread of fake news and covert and deniable military operations.
Read more about this at The Washington Post: Russian operation targeted coalition troops in Afghanistan, intelligence finds.
I wonder if GOP senators are going to do anything about this, or will they think it’s just fine for Trump to keep being pals with Putin no matter what he does?
The New York Times has another big story on how the coronavirus pandemic sneaked up on us: How the World Missed Covid-19’s Silent Spread.
Dr. Camilla Rothe was about to leave for dinner when the government laboratory called with the surprising test result. Positive. It was Jan. 27. She had just discovered Germany’s first case of the new coronavirus.
But the diagnosis made no sense. Her patient, a businessman from a nearby auto parts company, could have been infected by only one person: a colleague visiting from China. And that colleague should not have been contagious.
The visitor had seemed perfectly healthy during her stay in Germany. No coughing or sneezing, no signs of fatigue or fever during two days of long meetings. She told colleagues that she had started feeling ill after the flight back to China. Days later, she tested positive for the coronavirus.
Scientists at the time believed that only people with symptoms could spread the coronavirus. They assumed it acted like its genetic cousin, SARS.
“People who know much more about coronaviruses than I do were absolutely sure,” recalled Dr. Rothe, an infectious disease specialist at Munich University Hospital.
But if the experts were wrong, if the virus could spread from seemingly healthy carriers or people who had not yet developed symptoms, the ramifications were potentially catastrophic. Public-awareness campaigns, airport screening and stay-home-if-you’re sick policies might not stop it. More aggressive measures might be required — ordering healthy people to wear masks, for instance, or restricting international travel.
Dr. Rothe and her colleagues were among the first to warn the world. But even as evidence accumulated from other scientists, leading health officials expressed unwavering confidence that symptomless spreading was not important.
In the days and weeks to come, politicians, public health officials and rival academics disparaged or ignored the Munich team. Some actively worked to undermine the warnings at a crucial moment, as the disease was spreading unnoticed in French churches, Italian soccer stadiums and Austrian ski bars. A cruise ship, the Diamond Princess, would become a deadly harbinger of symptomless spreading.
Read the rest at the NYT.
More interesting Covid-19 articles:
The New York Times: New Numbers Showing Coronavirus Spread Intrude on a White House in Denial.
Bloomberg Opinion: A Horrifying U.S. Covid Curve Has a Simple Explanation.
Bloomberg Law: Virus Fatality Picture Is Obscured by Ultimate Lagging Indicator.
The Daily Beast: Here’s What It Looks Like When People Don’t Wear Masks.
Meanwhile, as the virus rages through the South and West, Trump is trying to finally kill Obamacare. The Washington Post: Trump administration’s move to end Obamacare amid pandemic reignites political fight.
The Trump administration touched off another politically charged battle over the future of Obamacare with its latest maneuver to dismantle the law amid a pandemic — a move that Democrats immediately weaponized for competitive campaigns this fall and few Republicans defended.
The 82-page brief filed late Thursday to the Supreme Court in a high-profile case brought by GOP state attorneys general undercuts President Trump’s repeated pledges to ensure coverage for people with preexisting conditions as his administration and the broader Republican Party seek to wipe away that protection.
Trump vowed as recently as last weekend, at a campaign rally in Tulsa, that he would “always protect patients with preexisting conditions, always, always.” But his own administration’s position in court is that the 2010 Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate is unconstitutional, and therefore so is the entire law — even its most popular provisions, such as coverage for those with preexisting conditions….
Republican officials and strategists working on competitive campaigns were privately aghast Friday at the administration’s decision to reignite the issue, particularly as health care is at the forefront of voters’ minds because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The ties between the pandemic and access to Obamacare were underscored this week with a new report from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which found that 487,000 Americans used a special enrollment period for the health care law after losing their own coverage, probably due to job losses.
Trump wants to throw protesters in jail if they try to take down Confederate monuments. Politico: Trump issues executive order warning cities, protesters over destruction of monuments.
President Donald Trump on Friday ordered the Justice Department to prioritize prosecution of protesters who damage federal monuments and limit federal funding for local governments that are perceived to not be adequately protecting those monuments.
The executive order also emphasized strict sentencing, with a maximum of 10 years in prison, for those found guilty of such acts, a key plank of Trump’s law and order strategy the president has repeatedly tweeted and talked about in recent weeks.
The order characterizes protesters as actively seeking to undermine the integrity of the United States government — referring to them as “Anarchists and left-wing extremists” — and comes a day after Trump labeled demonstrators as “terrorists” who will face “retribution.”
Judge Amy Berman Jackson said yesterday that Roger Stone won’t get a 2-month delay before heading to jail. The Washington Post: Roger Stone ordered to report to prison July 14, as judge denies request for two-month delay.
A federal judge has ordered Roger Stone to report to prison July 14, granting him a two-week delay because of the coronavirus pandemic, but not the two months that President Trump’s confidant had requested with prosecutors’ assent.
Stone, 67, had been due to surrender June 30 to a federal prison in Jesup, Ga., while he appeals his November conviction on charges of lying and witness tampering in a congressional investigation.
In an order and sealed opinion late Friday, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson granted a two-week delay. Prosecutors had not opposed Stone’s request for a delay until Sept. 3, saying the Justice Department’s policy during the pandemic has been to grant up to a 60-day extension upon defendants’ request “without respect to age, health, or other COVID-19 risk factors.”
More stories to check out, links only:
The Washington Post: Barr forms task force to counter ‘anti-government extremists’
Above the Law: Bill Barr Has Thoughts On ‘Blacks’
The New York Times: U.S. Must Release Children From Family Detention Centers, Judge Rules.
Los Angeles Times: Working-class white women are turning on Trump.
The New York Times: How Trump and the Black Lives Matter Movement Changed White Voters’ Minds.
Harry Enten at CNN: Candidates who recover from Trump-like deficits are rarely incumbents.
Take care of yourselves and have a nice weekend everyone!
Just as I suspected, Trump has financial motives for pushing an unproven drug with dangerous side effects during a global pandemic.
The New York Times reported yesterday:
If hydroxychloroquine becomes an accepted treatment, several pharmaceutical companies stand to profit, including shareholders and senior executives with connections to the president. Mr. Trump himself has a small personal financial interest in Sanofi, the French drugmaker that makes Plaquenil, the brand-name version of hydroxychloroquine….
Some associates of Mr. Trump’s have financial interests in the issue. Sanofi’s largest shareholders include Fisher Asset Management, the investment company run by Ken Fisher, a major donor to Republicans, including Mr. Trump. A spokesman for Mr. Fisher declined to comment.
Another investor in both Sanofi and Mylan, another pharmaceutical firm, is Invesco, the fund previously run by Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary. Mr. Ross said in a statement Monday that he “was not aware that Invesco has any investments in companies producing” the drug, “nor do I have any involvement in the decision to explore this as a treatment.”
As of last year, Mr. Trump reported that his three family trusts each had investments in a Dodge & Cox mutual fund, whose largest holding was in Sanofi.
Ashleigh Koss, a Sanofi spokeswoman, said the company no longer sells or distributes Plaquenil in the United States, although it does sell it internationally.
And of course Jared is involved. I wonder if he stands to gain financial from this drug pushing?
Several generic drugmakers are gearing up to produce hydroxychloroquine pills, including Amneal Pharmaceuticals, whose co-founder Chirag Patel is a member of Trump National Golf Course Bedminster in New Jersey and has golfed with Mr. Trump at least twice since he became president, according to a person who saw them.
Mr. Patel, whose company is based in Bridgewater, N.J., did not respond to a request for comment. Amneal announced last month that it would increase production of the drug and donate millions of pills to New York and other states. Other generic drugmakers are ramping up production, including Mylan and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries.
Roberto Mignone, a Teva board member, reached out to the team of Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, through Nitin Saigal, who used to work for Mr. Mignone and is a friend of Mr. Kushner’s, according to people informed about the discussions.
Mr. Kushner’s team referred him to the White House task force and Mr. Mignone asked for help getting India to ease export restrictions, which have since been relaxed, allowing Teva to bring more pills into the United States. Mr. Mignone, who is also a vice chairman of NYU Langone Health, which is running a clinical study of hydroxychloroquine, confirmed on Monday that he has spoken with the administration about getting more medicine into the country.
Yesterday we also learned that Peter Navarro, Trump’s wacky trade adviser was warning about a pandemic back in January. Axios: Navarro memos warning of mass coronavirus death circulated in January.
In late January, President Trump’s economic adviser Peter Navarro warned his White House colleagues the novel coronavirus could take more than half a million American lives and cost close to $6 trillion, according to memos obtained by Axios.
The state of play: By late February, Navarro was even more alarmed, and he warned his colleagues, in another memo, that up to two million Americans could die of the virus.
Navarro’s grim estimates are set out in two memos — one dated Jan. 29 and addressed to the National Security Council, the other dated Feb. 23 and addressed to the president. The NSC circulated both memos around the White House and multiple agencies.
In the first memo, which the New York Times was first to report on, Navarro makes his case for “an immediate travel ban on China.”
The second lays the groundwork for supplemental requests from Congress, with the warning: “This is NOT a time for penny-pinching or horse trading on the Hill.”
Why it matters: The president quickly restricted travel from China, moved to delay re-entry of American travelers who could be infected, and dispatched his team to work with Congress on stimulus funds.
But Trump was far slower to publicly acknowledge the sort of scenarios Navarro had put in writing.
A couple of interesting psychological analyses of Trump catastrophic performance:
At the New York Times, Jennifer Senior writes: This Is What Happens When a Narcissist Runs a Crisis.
Since the early days of the Trump administration, an impassioned group of mental health professionals have warned the public about the president’s cramped and disordered mind, a darkened attic of fluttering bats. Their assessments have been controversial. The American Psychiatric Association’s code of ethics expressly forbids its members from diagnosing a public figure from afar.
Enough is enough. As I’ve argued before, an in-person analysis of Donald J. Trump would not reveal any hidden depths — his internal sonar could barely fathom the bottom of a sink — and these are exceptional, urgent times. Back in October, George T. Conway III, the conservative lawyer and husband of Kellyanne, wrote a long, devastating essay for The Atlantic, noting that Trump has all the hallmarks of narcissistic personality disorder. That disorder was dangerous enough during times of prosperity, jeopardizing the moral and institutional foundations of our country.
But now we’re in the midst of a global pandemic. The president’s pathology is endangering not just institutions, but lives.
Head over to the NYT to read the rest.
In practicing the art of lying while retaining a hold on the allegiance of his base, Trump utilizes a propaganda principle—the Big Lie—best explained by Hitler. Now, please note that we are not equating Trump and Hitler; they are very different people. However, like Hitler, Trump is involved in the business of selling himself as an angry, righteous savior to the masses, resulting in a growing number of cultic devotees. So, it may behoove us to consider Hitler’s explanation of why the Big Lie is more successful than mere untruths. Here’s his explanation of the principle in Mein Kampf:
[I]n the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation.
Consider just two of many possible examples of the Big Lie: Trump’s bizarre claim that the military was out of ammunition when he took office and his equally bizarre claim that the father of Ted Cruz was involved with the assassination of Lee Harvey Oswald, adding, “It’s horrible.” It is the outrageousness of the Big Lie that a listener normally expects would create self-conscious awkwardness in the liar. In turn, this results in a need for a great liar to hide any nervousness that might give away the fact that he is attempting to deceive his audience. In poker, the failure to hide completely the lie inherent in a bluff is called a “tell,” the subtle behavior unwittingly exhibited when bluffing.
Click the link to read the rest. It’s a really interesting piece.
Republicans in Wisconsin have been working overtime to undermine democracy, and yesterday the Supreme Court gave them a big assist.
On Monday, by a 5–4 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court approved one of the most brazen acts of voter suppression in modern history. The court will nullify the votes of citizens who mailed in their ballots late—not because they forgot, but because they did not receive ballots until after Election Day due to the coronavirus pandemic. As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in dissent, the court’s order “will result in massive disenfranchisement.” The conservative majority claimed that its decision would help protect “the integrity of the election process.” In reality, it calls into question the legitimacy of the election itself.
Wisconsin has long been scheduled to hold an election on April 7. There are more than 3,800 seats on the ballot, and a crucial state Supreme Court race. But the state’s ability to conduct in-person voting is imperiled by COVID-19. Thousands of poll workers have dropped out for fear of contracting the virus, forcing cities to shutter dozens of polling places. Milwaukee, for example, consolidated its polling locations from 182 to five, while Green Bay consolidated its polling locations from 31 to two. Gov. Tony Evers asked the Republican-controlled legislature to postpone the election, but it refused. So he tried to delay it himself in an executive order on Monday. But the Republican-dominated state Supreme Court reinstated the election, thereby forcing voters to choose between protecting their health and exercising their right to vote.
Because voters are rightfully afraid of COVID-19, Wisconsin has been caught off guard by a surge in requests for absentee ballots. Election officials simply do not have time, resources, or staff to process all those requests. As a result, a large number of voters—at least tens of thousands—won’t get their ballot until after Election Day. And Wisconsin law disqualifies ballots received after that date. In response, last Thursday, a federal district court ordered the state to extend the absentee ballot deadline. It directed officials to count votes mailed after Election Day so long as they were returned by April 13. A conservative appeals court upheld his decision.
Now the Supreme Court has reversed that order. It allowed Wisconsin to throw out ballots postmarked and received after Election Day, even if voters were entirely blameless for the delay. (Thankfully, ballots postmarked by Election Day but received by April 13 still count, because the legislature didn’t challenge that extension.) In an unsigned opinion, the majority cited the Purcell principle, which cautions courts against altering voting laws shortly before an election. It criticized the district court for “fundamentally alter[ing] the nature of the election by permitting voting for six additional days after the election.” And it insisted that the plaintiffs did not actually request that relief—which, as Ginsburg notes in her dissent, is simply false.
According to the Roberts court, voters should have to choose between voting and possibly dying and protecting their health. And of course the Republican primary is meaningless, so only Democrats have to worry about that.
That’s all I have for you today. What stories are you following?