Sunday Reads: Atlas

Good morning…

Some tweets to think about:

So proud to say…these are my senators:

This looks like it could be one hell of a story:

I had lunch with one of my old friends yesterday who told me this word for word:

She and I fully understand that we don’t agree on things like tRump…and the pro-choice rights of women…we love each other. She is like my family. It is so hard for me to hear some of the things she says. I spent the last year away from this family and we reconnected lately. I love her… and want her in my life.

Family and friends in the time of tRumpism. Even though he is out of office…his disruptive wake is still rocking boats that are moored in the bay.

This is an open thread.

Be careful, and take care of yourself.


Lazy Caturday Reads: Trump and GOP Try to Destroy U.S. Democracy

“Yellow Cat Romps Butterfly” by Kim Hong-do (1745-1806)

Good Afternoon!!

I was so taken with the Korean folk art paintings that Dakinikat posted on Monday that I decided to focus on Korean cat art today. I hope these paintings will help you deal with today’s news, which is mostly stupid coup stories. Now that the Supreme court has rejected Trump’s last ditch effort to overturn the election results, he is melting down in even more embarrassing ways than ever. Will U.S. democracy survive? 

The New York Times: Supreme Court Rejects Texas Suit Seeking to Subvert Election.

The Supreme Court on Friday rejected a lawsuit by Texas that had asked the court to throw out the election results in four battleground states that President Trump lost in November, ending any prospect that a brazen attempt to use the courts to reverse his defeat at the polls would succeed.

The court, in a brief unsigned order, said Texas lacked standing to pursue the case, saying it “has not demonstrated a judicially cognizable interest in the manner in which another state conducts its elections.”

The order, coupled with another one on Tuesday turning away a similar request from Pennsylvania Republicans, signaled that a conservative court with three justices appointed by Mr. Trump refused to be drawn into the extraordinary effort by the president and many prominent members of his party to deny his Democratic opponent, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., his victory.

Korean folk art - Magpie and Tiger

Korean folk art – Magpie and Tiger

It was the latest and most significant setback for Mr. Trump in a litigation campaign that was rejected by courts at every turn.

Texas’ lawsuit, filed directly in the Supreme Court, challenged election procedures in four states: Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. It asked the court to bar those states from casting their electoral votes for Mr. Biden and to shift the selection of electors to the states’ legislatures. That would have required the justices to throw out millions of votes.

Mr. Trump has said he expected to prevail in the Supreme Court, after rushing the confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett in October in part in the hope that she would vote in Mr. Trump’s favor in election disputes.

None of the three justices Trump appointed were willing to hear the case. But Republican support for Trump’s efforts have done permanent damage to our country. 

The New York Times: ‘An Indelible Stain’: How the G.O.P. Tried to Topple a Pillar of Democracy.

The Supreme Court repudiation of President Trump’s desperate bid for a second term not only shredded his effort to overturn the will of voters: It also was a blunt rebuke to Republican leaders in Congress and the states who were willing to damage American democracy by embracing a partisan power grab over a free and fair election.

The court’s decision on Friday night, an inflection point after weeks of legal flailing by Mr. Trump and ahead of the Electoral College vote for President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Monday, leaves the president’s party in an extraordinary position. Through their explicit endorsements or complicity of silence, much of the G.O.P. leadership now shares responsibility for the quixotic attempt to ignore the nation’s founding principles and engineer a different verdict from the one voters cast in November.

Many regular Republicans supported this effort, too — a sign that Mr. Trump has not just bent the party to his will, but pressed a mainstay of American politics for nearly two centuries into the service of overturning an election outcome and assaulting public faith in the electoral system. The G.O.P. sought to undo the vote by such spurious means that the Supreme Court quickly rejected the argument.

Cat looking at butterlfly Byeon Sang-byeok, mid 18th century

Cat looking at butterfly, Byeon Sang-byeok, mid 18th century

Even some Republican leaders delivered a withering assessment of the 126 G.O.P. House members and 18 attorneys general who chose to side with Mr. Trump over the democratic process, by backing a lawsuit that asked the Supreme Court to throw out some 20 million votes in four key states that cemented the president’s loss.

“The act itself by the 126 members of the United States House of Representatives, is an affront to the country,” said Michael Steele, the former chairman of the Republican National Committee. “It’s an offense to the Constitution and it leaves an indelible stain that will be hard for these 126 members to wipe off their political skin for a long time to come.”

Read more at the link.

In response to the SCOTUS decision, Texas GOP chairman Adam West suggested that states that supported the lawsuit should secede from the union. Speaker Nancy Pelosi offered a more rational response:

Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued this statement after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to reject the sham GOP lawsuit demanding that Electoral College votes in four states be overturned and awarded to Donald Trump:

“The Court has rightly dismissed out of hand the extreme, unlawful and undemocratic GOP lawsuit to overturn the will of millions of American voters.

“The 126 Republican Members that signed onto this lawsuit brought dishonor to the House.  Instead of upholding their oath to support and defend the Constitution, they chose to subvert the Constitution and undermine public trust in our sacred democratic institutions.

“The pandemic is raging, with nearly 300,000 having died and tens of millions having lost jobs.  Strong, unified action is needed to crush the virus, and Republicans must once and for all end their election subversion – immediately.”

Trump reacted by skipping last night’s superspreader White House Christmas party and proceeding to melt down on Twitter. He was at it again this morning. I won’t reproduce the tweets; you can read them on Twitter if you want to endure the idiocy.

8298e29df3d8f2e58b972a7aa85ee14dSome thoughtful reactions to  Trump and GOP attacks on democracy:

Tom McCarthy at The Guardian: After the fact: the five ways Trump has tried to attack democracy post-election.

Historians could mark 2020 as the moment when Republicans applied the same zeal they have used to attack democracy in advance of elections, through voter suppression and gerrymandering, to attacking democracy on the back end, by trying to deny and overturn the results.

Here is a list of five post-election attacks on democracy by Donald Trump and Republicans that were new in 2020 but might haunt elections for years to come. 

Here’s McCarthy’s list–read the article for details: 1) Especially reckless and sustained election fraud charges, 2) Political pressure on local elections officials, 3) External legal challenges to the certification of state election results, 4) Internal political challenges to the certification of state election results, 5) The president’s role.

McCarthy on Trump’s behavior:

Should a president of the United States, after an election, be calling up county election officials in charge of certifying the results? Should a president invite lawmakers weighing an intervention in their state’s certification process for lunch? Should a president call out the mob on Twitter against a local election official or a state secretary of state who has resisted his schemes?

Whatever damage US democracy has sustained in 2020, much of it traces back to the source, to a president who did not see anything wrong in 2019 with coercing a foreign leader to try to take out a political opponent, who made the fealty of state governors a condition of pandemic aid, and who now has twisted the arms of elected officials across the United States in an effort to subvert the will of American voters.

The role that Trump has played in attacking the integrity of the American system is the most outrageous and unprecedented of all the unholy perversions of democracy that 2020 has seen. Whether that role will be replicated or reprised in future White Houses, and in future elections, could make all the difference.

Painting of Cats and Sparrows, drawn by Byeon Sang-bteij during the late period of Korean Joseon Dynasty, 1392-1910

Painting of Cats and Sparrows, drawn by Byeon Sang-bteij during the late period of Korean Joseon Dynasty, 1392-1910

William Saletan at Slate: Trump Is Finishing Russia’s Smear Campaign Against America.

Donald Trump’s presidency has been a gift to Russia. He has undermined NATO, withheld military aid to Ukraine, and abandoned America’s commitments to democracy and human rights. He has excused Vladimir Putin’s crimes, yielded to Russian troops in the Middle East, and dismissed Russia’s 2016 election interference as a hoax. Now Trump has been voted out by Americans, but he’s still serving Russia. He’s devoting his final days in office—and suggesting he might devote his post-presidency—to a long-standing Russian objective: destroying faith in U.S. elections.

For weeks, Trump has rejected Joe Biden’s victory as a fraud. In interviewstweetsspeeches, and a campaign rally in Georgia, Trump has accused Democrats of using dead people, undocumented immigrants, and software to manipulate the outcome. These allegations aren’t just lies. They’re replications, almost word for word, of propaganda that was spread by Russia in the United States and adopted by the Trump campaign in 2016. Russia expected Trump to lose that election, and it planned to portray his loss as evidence that American elections were rigged, that the U.S. government was illegitimate, and that the United States wasn’t really a democracy. Now that Trump has lost to Biden, that campaign of slander is underway. But it’s not being driven by Russians. It’s being driven by Republicans.

Russia’s strategy is detailed in three reports: one by the U.S. Intelligence Community, another by special counsel Robert Mueller, and a third by the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee. The ultimate goal of the operation wasn’t to elect Trump. It was to spread the idea that “U.S. election results cannot be trusted.” In 2016, Putin’s propagandists used fake Facebook pages and Twitter accounts (“Army of Jesus,” “Secured Borders,” “Tea Party News”) to plant bogus rumors of “voter fraud” in multiple states. They told the same horror stories and used the same trigger words Republicans use now: “rigged,” “dead people,” “illegal aliens,” globalist-controlled voting machines, “tens of thousands of ineligible mail in … votes,” and “voter fraud caught in Philadelphia.”

Trump and his followers parroted this propaganda during the 2016 campaign. Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump retweeted fake “#VoterFraud” updates written by Russian operatives. Kellyanne Conway, Brad Parscale, Michael Flynn, and other Trump campaign advisers also retweeted messages from the Russian accounts. When the Russians circulated a false rumor that voting machines were rigged against Trump, he repeated it on Fox News. After the election, when Russian front groups spread the word that “illegals” and “machines” had robbed Trump of the popular vote, he repeated that, too. “I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally,” he declared.

There’s much more at the link.

CUL_Tiger_Persimmon_Body02Ryan Cooper at The Week: The Constitution has an answer for seditious members of Congress. Cooper notes that the pandemic is growing exponentially, while Trump and the GOP do nothing about it. At the same time Republicans supported Trump’s effort to overturn the election results.

In short, material conditions in this country have not been this bad since 1932 at least, and the political situation has not been this bad since 1860. The logical endgame of the rapidly-accelerating Republican attempt to destroy democracy while the country burns would be civil war — if it weren’t for the high probability that Democratic leaders would be too cowardly to fight.

But it’s worth thinking about what a party seriously committed to preserving democracy would do when faced with a seditious opposition party — namely, cut them out of power and force them to behave. Democrats could declare all traitors ineligible to serve in national office, convene a Patriot Congress composed solely of people who have not committed insurrection against the American government, and use that power to re-entrench democracy….

All members of Congress swear an oath to protect and defend the Constitution, which establishes a republican form of government. The whole point of a republic is that contests for power are conducted through a framework of rules and democratic elections, where all parties agree to respect the result whether they lose or win. Moreover, the premise of this lawsuit was completely preposterous — arguing in effect that states should not be allowed to set their own election rules if that means more Democrats can vote — and provides no evidence whatsoever for false allegations of tens of thousands of instances of voter fraud….

…this lawsuit, even though it didn’t succeed, is a flagrant attempt to overturn the constitutional system and impose through authoritarian means the rule of a corrupt criminal whose doltish incompetence has gotten hundreds of thousands of Americans killed. It is a “seditious abuse of the judicial process,” as the states of Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin jointly wrote in their response to Texas trying to steal their elections.

137837cc1c976c7b6ac3e2db96f77e4dThe Constitution, as goofy and jerry-rigged as it is, stipulates that insurrectionists who violate their oath are not allowed to serve in Congress. Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment, written to exclude Confederate Civil War traitors, says that “No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress … who … having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress … to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same[.]” How the Supreme Court ruled, or whether Republicans actually believe their lunatic claims, is irrelevant. It’s still insurrection even if it doesn’t work out.

Democrats would have every right, both under the Constitution and under the principle of popular sovereignty outlined in the Declaration of Independence, to convene a traitor-free Congress (also including similar acts committed by Republican senators like Lindsey GrahamDavid Perdue, Kelly Loeffler, and others), and pass such laws as would be necessary to preserve the American republic. That might include a national popular vote to decide the presidency, ironclad voting rights protections, a ban on gerrymandering either national or state district boundaries, full representation for the citizens of D.C. and Puerto Rico, regulations on internet platforms that are inflaming violent political extremism, a clear legal framework for the transfer of power that ends the lame duck period, and so on. States would be forced to agree to these measures before they can replace their traitorous representatives and senators. If the Supreme Court objects, more pro-democracy justices can be added.

Unfortunately the Democrats are probably too cowardly to take these necessary actions. Two more articles to check out along these lines.

The Hill: Democrat asks Pelosi to refuse to seat lawmakers supporting Trump’s election challenges.

Greg Sargent at The Washington Post: Chris Murphy’s surprise floor speech raises tough questions for Democrats.

That’s all I have for you today. Have a nice weekend, and please stop by and leave a comment if you have the time and inclination.


Thursday Reads: Trump is Delusional and Republicans Are Enabling His Madness.

http://www.art-vangogh.com/

Vincent van Gogh, Winter scene with Arles in the background

Good Morning!!

I don’t even know how to think or write about what Trump is doing right now. He has somehow convince 17 state attorney generals to join a stupid lawsuit that asks the Supreme Court to overturn the 2020 election. The man behind the suit is Texas AG Ken Paxton, who is currently under investigation by the FBI.

Mark Joseph Stern at Slate: Texas AG Ken Paxton, Under FBI Investigation, Asks SCOTUS to Overturn the Election.

On Tuesday morning, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton asked the Supreme Court to effectively declare Donald Trump the winner of the 2020 election. Paxton’s lawsuit falsely accuses Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin of counting invalid votes in violation of the Constitution. It asks the justices to remedy this alleged misconduct by forcing all four states’ legislatures to throw out every vote and appoint electors who support Trump. Many Republican lawmakers have already endorsed such a scheme, but Paxton is the first to ask SCOTUS to facilitate it. If the Supreme Court took up his invitation, it would commit the single biggest act of vote nullification in American history, voiding millions of ballots to hand Trump an unearned second term.

The Supreme Court, however, is not going to take up Paxton’s invitation. It has asked for a response from the four defendant states by 3 p.m. on Thursday; in light of the court’s hasty disposition of similarly laughable complaints, we can safely assume that the justices intend to dispatch this case promptly. Paxton’s suit is shot through with conspiracy theories and constitutional claims with no basis in law. Texas Solicitor General Kyle Hawkins, who typically authors the office’s lawsuits, did not sign on to this one, nor did his deputies; instead, Paxton brought in a “special counsel” from outside the agency. His suit is so ridiculous that it led some commentators to wonder whether the attorney general might have another motive for filing it. Paxton, after all, is reportedly under investigation by the FBI for alleged bribery and abuse of office. Trump, meanwhile, has been distributing pardons to his allies like candy. Paxton’s suit makes more sense as pardon-bait than it does as a legal document. And he may need presidential clemency to escape the federal criminal charges that could be imminent.

So this may just be an attempt by Paxton to get a pardon from Trump, but 17 other Republican-controlled states are going along with this assault on the democracy. In the article, Stern enumerates Paxton’s long history of criminal conduct and corruption. Read about it at the link.

Caspar David Friedrich, Winter Landscape

Caspar David Friedrich, Winter Landscape

Trump has also joined the lawsuit. CNN: Trump asks Supreme Court to invalidate millions of votes in battleground states.

President Donald Trump asked the Supreme Court on Wednesday to block millions of votes from four battleground states that voted for President-elect Joe Biden.

Trump’s request came in a filing with the court asking to intervene in a lawsuit brought by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton seeking to invalidate millions of votes cast in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

The President is being represented by a new attorney, John Eastman, who is known for recently pushing a racist conspiracy theory questioning whether Vice President-elect Kamala Harris was eligible for the role because her parents were immigrants….

“Our Country is deeply divided in ways that it arguably has not been seen since the election of 1860,” the petition states. “There is a high level of distrust between the opposing sides, compounded by the fact that, in the election just held, election officials in key swing states, for apparently partisan advantage, failed to conduct their state elections in compliance with state election law.”

Echoing arguments made by Texas, Trump says the battleground states used the pandemic “as an excuse” and “ignored or suspended the operation of numerous state laws designed to protect the integrity of the ballot.”

He asks the court to block the states from using “constitutionally infirm 2020 election results” unless the legislatures of the states “review the 2020 election results.”

Instead of actually doing the job of POTUS in the midst of an out-of-control pandemic and economic disaster, Trump is spending all of his time claiming he actually won the election that he lost and trying to convince judges and lawmakers to help him with execute a coup and turn the U.S. into an authoritarian state.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir - Skaters in the Bois de Boulogne

Pierre-Auguste Renoir – Skaters in the Bois de Boulogne

The Washington Post: On record day for covid-19 deaths, Trump falsely proclaims at packed Hanukkah party, ‘We’re going to win this election.’

At the end of the nation’s deadliest day so far during the coronavirus pandemic, President Trump on Wednesday night emerged at an indoor Hanukkah party to speak with a crowd mostly wearing masks but not adhering to social distancing in the East Room of the White House.

Then, the president falsely said again that he won the election, boasting that victory was on the horizon in the form of long-shot legal efforts that have been repeatedly defeated in multiple states.

“All I ask for is people with wisdom and with courage, that’s all,” Trump told the crowd, according to a video of the event shared by Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh. “Because if certain very important people, if they have wisdom and if they have courage, we’re going to win this election in a landslide.”

The crowd responded by breaking into a chant of, “Four more years!”

The moment highlighted a consistent theme of Trump’s actions in the past month, as he has declined to address a dramatically worsening pandemic while focusing instead on his thus-far failed efforts to overturn the election results.

Wednesday’s White House holiday party came on the same day that 3,140 people died of covid-19 in the United States, a single-day record for deaths, according to a Washington Post analysis. Nationwide, 106,000 people were hospitalized with covid, another record.

The Hanukkah party was among at least 25 indoor parties planned in a packed holiday season at the White House, which ignored warnings from the Trump administration’s own public health experts to avoid large groups and limit travel.

Also from The Washington Post: Trump pressures congressional Republicans to help in his fight to overturn the election.

President Trump is shifting his focus to Congress after the courts roundly rejected his bid to overturn the results of the election, pressuring congressional Republicans into taking a final stand to keep him in power.

Trump’s push is part of a multipronged approach as he also seeks to lobby state and federal lawmakers to give him cover for his unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud, as well as rally support for a last-gasp legal challenge in the Supreme Court that election law experts almost universally dismiss.

The president has been calling Republicans, imploring them to keep fighting and more loudly proclaim the election was stolen while pressing them on what they plan to do. He spoke to Arizona GOP Party Chairwoman Kelli Ward and Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.), head of the conservative Republican Study Committee, on Wednesday, and is expected to meet Thursday at the White House with several state attorneys general. Meanwhile, Rudolph W. Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer and point man in the legal fight, has been making similar calls from the hospital, where he is being treated for covid-19.

Claude Monet, Snow Scene at Argenteuil, 1875

Claude Monet, Snow Scene at Argenteuil, 1875

The president also has enlisted Vice President Pence to reach out to governors and other party leaders in key states to see what else can be done to help the president. A person familiar with the calls said Pence has not exerted pressure on lawmakers to take specific actions and sees them as “checking in.” [….]

Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, Trump’s conservative allies in the House have been privately buttonholing GOP senators, seeking to enlist one to join in objecting to slates of electors on Jan. 6, according to multiple people familiar with their effort who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss their plans.

On that day, Congress will meet in a joint session to count the electoral votes and declare Joe Biden as the 46th president — with Pence presiding. But if a member of the House and a member of the Senate challenge a state’s results, the whole Congress would vote — and the GOP plotting all but assures the routine process could take a dramatic turn, forcing Republicans to choose between accepting the election results or Trump’s bid to overturn the outcome.

Unbelievable. Read much more about the Republican efforts to support Trump’s power grab. 

I can’t understand why journalists are not writing that Trump’s behavior is simply insane. He is insane, and that needs to be discussed publicly. 

According to CNN’s Manu Raju, GOP senators ready to acknowledge Biden won but struggle with Trump’s refusal to concede.

A growing number of Senate Republicans are ready to publicly acknowledge what’s been widely known for weeks but what they’ve refused to say: Joe Biden won the presidency and will be sworn in on January 20.

What they’re less certain about: What President Donald Trump will do after the Electoral College votes on Monday and how they plan to respond if he won’t concede after Biden is the official winner.

“Trump’s going to do what Trump is going to do,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, who has asserted that Biden will be the President-elect once the Electoral College votes on Monday, but told CNN that it’s Trump’s call on conceding the race. “That’s the only answer I’m going to give you.”

Ivan Shishkin, In the Wild North, 1891

Ivan Shishkin, In the Wild North, 1891

For weeks, Republicans in the House and Senate have refused to acknowledge Biden’s victory, arguing that Trump has a right to pursue his case in court and staying mostly silent as the President wages a rhetorical assault on a foundation of democracy by arguing baselessly that the election was “stolen” and “rigged.”

And after interviews with more than two dozen Republican senators, many of them have pointed to December 14 as the defining moment — when electors meet in their state capitals to make the results official. Yet they are also confronting a new reality: Biden will officially clinch the necessary electoral votes to assume the presidency and the President is showing no signs of letting up.

Many Republicans won’t say if they’ll acknowledge the electoral reality next week. But others are ready to move on and acknowledge Biden won.

Finally, The Washington Post Editorial Board warns that Trump’s behavior could encourage his delusional supporters to act out violently: The danger is growing that Trump’s lies about the election will lead to violence.

PRESIDENT TRUMP’S lying about the election has become dangerous — and not just in the sense that it damages democratic norms. It also increasingly threatens to spur physical violence against Americans who have done their duty to oversee a free and fair vote.

Officials in Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Kentucky, Minnesota, Vermont and Wisconsin have reported receiving threats or harassment. The Arizona Republican Party asked its Twitter followers Tuesday if they were willing to give their lives to overturn the election and “die for something.”

Armed “protesters” menaced Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D) and her family in their home over the weekend. “Someone’s going to get killed,” said Gabriel Sterling, a senior Georgia election official, as he detailed last week the death threats he and others have received. Yet, Mr. Trump continues to pour gasoline on the fire, tweeting Wednesday that “We will soon be learning about the word ‘courage’, and saving our Country.” Kim Ward, the majority leader of the Pennsylvania state Senate, told the New York Times that if she refused to cooperate with efforts to challenge the election result, “I’d get my house bombed tonight.” [….]

…passions are not dissipating; they are exploding. Republicans across the country, from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) down to county GOP chairs, are inflaming them with their encouragement or their acquiescence. Violence seems ever more possible when President-elect Joe Biden’s victory becomes official — if not before. Short of that, Mr. Trump is creating a new playbook for failed candidates: Rile the base; delegitimize your opponent’s victory; pressure state officials to flip the results. This strategy could be far more potent in a closer election. It threatens the foundations of U.S. democracy.

There’s plenty of other news, so please use the comments to share the stories you are following today.


Lazy Caturday Reads

Good Morning!!

NOTE: Today’s illustrations are from the Baroque Bohemian Cats Tarot Deck.

Have you heard the news?

Trump “aced” a cognitive “test” that is typically given to people who may have dementia or other cognitive deficits. He is very proud of his performance and claims the doctors couldn’t believe how well he did.

Maggie Haberman at The New York Times: Trump Says He ‘Aced’ Cognitive Test, but White House Won’t Release Details.

President Trump on Thursday volunteered to Sean Hannity, the Fox News host, that he “very recently” took a test at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center measuring his mental acuity and “aced” it, but the White House would not say when he took it or why.

Mr. Trump boasted that his success on the test surprised his doctors as he continued his attempt to make a campaign issue of whether his presumptive Democratic opponent, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., was mentally fit.

“I actually took one when I — very recently, when I — when I was — the radical left were saying, is he all there? Is he all there? And I proved I was all there, because I got — I aced it. I aced the test,” Mr. Trump, 74, said in his interview with Mr. Hannity.

He went on to say that Mr. Biden should also take the test.

“And he should take the same exact test, a very standard test. I took it at Walter Reed Medical Center in front of doctors,” Mr. Trump said. “And they were very surprised. They said, that’s an unbelievable thing. Rarely does anybody do what you just did. But he should take that same test.”

Mr. Trump described taking the test after Mr. Hannity mentioned that Mr. Biden had said he had taken several cognitive tests. The president insisted that Mr. Biden must have meant tests he took for the coronavirus and that his rival “couldn’t pass” a cognitive test.

What kind of “test” did Trump take? Mediaite: What’s on the Cognitive Test That Trump Brags He ‘Aced?’ Drawing a Cube, Correctly Identifying a Camel, and More!

[T]he Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MOCA), the test that Trump first took as president in 2018 according to then-White House physician Dr. Ronny Jackson.

At a now-infamous press conference, Dr. Jackson told reporters that Trump had scored a “30 over 30” on the MOCA, and that the test was not “clinically indicated,” but Trump insisted on taking it.

The test is used to screen for mild cognitive issues, and consists of 8 sections with a total of 12 tasks, successful completion of which are awarded points. Those tasks are:

— Connecting lettered and numbered dots in order– Drawing a cube

— Drawing a clock (These tasks are worth up to five points)

— Correctly identifying pictures of a lion, a rhinoceros, and a camel (up to 3 points)

— Recalling a list of five words (no points)

— Reading a list of numbers (2 points)

— Reading a list of letters (1 point)

— Counting backwards from 100 by sevens (3 points)

— Repeating the phrases “I only know that John is the one to help today” and “The cat always
hid under the couch when dogs were in the room. (2 points)

— Explaining the similarities between objects like “train – bicycle” and “watch – ruler”
(2 points)

— Recalling the five words from earlier in the test, in any order (5 points)

— Knowing where you are, and what the date, time, and day of the week are. (6 points!)

According to Dr. Jackson, Trump is the first president to take the MOCA test, which means there’s no way of knowing whether President Barack Obama could play connect-the-dots or recognize a camel. But according to Trump, he’s done it at least twice now.

Sample page:

One more bit of humiliating news for Trump from NBC News:

Concern over turnout was factor in postponing Trump rally, GOP advisers say.

Well before the call was made to postpone President Donald Trump’s Saturday re-election rally in New Hampshire, the warning lights were flashing red.

There were no signs of the typical throngs of supporters camped out days in advance for a good spot; the Republican governor said he would skip it, advising anyone at high risk to stay home over coronavirus concerns; fears of a repeat of Tulsa’s disappointing turnout weighed heavily; and then came the stormy weather reports, which could have further stifled attendance.

By the time the campaign announced that the Portsmouth event was off, citing “safety concerns” over a tropical storm barreling toward the Northeast on Friday afternoon, people close to the campaign said fears over low turnout also motivated the decision to scrap the event.

The coastal town is not currently expected to be hit directly by the storm, but the decision to reschedule over bad weather is a “convenient excuse” for the Trump 2020 team, one outside adviser told NBC News.

Unfortunately there actually is some serious news and comment to check out today.

The Washington Post Editorial Board: Trump’s commutation of Roger Stone’s sentence is an unforgivable betrayal of his office.

THERE ARE no doubt thousands of people in federal prison who deserved a presidential commutation more than Roger Stone. But after President Trump’s intervention on Friday, Mr. Stone will serve none of his prison sentence. The president may have had the power to help his longtime friend. But that does not make it any less a perversion of justice — indeed, it is one of the most nauseating instances of corrupt government favoritism the United States has ever seen.

There is no doubt about Mr. Stone’s guilt. During the 2016 presidential campaign, he tried to play intermediary between WikiLeaks, which had become a front for the Kremlin, and the Trump campaign, which reaped the benefits of WikiLeaks’s publication of stolen Democratic emails. A jury concluded that Mr. Stone obstructed Congress, lied to investigators and tampered with a witness in the investigations that followed the 2016 race — “covering up for the president,” as the judge in his case noted.

Though Attorney General William P. Barr moved to reduce Mr. Stone’s sentencing recommendation after conviction, even he called the case against Mr. Stone a “righteous” prosecution. He was sentenced to 40 months in prison and was due to surrender on Tuesday — thus prompting Mr. Trump’s Friday night action.

As Mr. Trump discussed granting clemency to his criminal friend, Mr. Barr publicly defended the sentence, perhaps to prevent a mutiny among Justice Department staff who signed up because they believe in the rule of law, not the arbitrary rule of an unusually petty man in the White House.

Now, the department’s career investigators and prosecutors must absorb yet another insult to their profession from political leaders who abuse their trust. We can only sympathize with their impossible position.

The Washington Post: Coronavirus update: U.S. death toll rises as new infections reach record levels.

The daily coronavirus death toll in the United States increased this week after months of decline, as new infections soared to record levels and hospitals in the South and West faced a crush of patients.

More than 4,200 deaths were reported nationally in the past seven days, and experts warn that the trend could continue to get worse. Texas, Arizona and South Carolina have all seen their death toll rise by more than 100 percent in the past four weeks. Four more states — Mississippi, Tennessee, California and Louisiana — have seen at least a 20 percent jump in that time span.

Here are some significant developments:

The United States reported its largest single-day caseload increase — more than 67,000 new infections — on Friday.

More than 131,000 people have died of coronavirus in the United States since the pandemic began, and at more than 3.1 million confirmed cases have been reported.

Republican governors who have opposed or even blocked orders mandating mask-wearing are watching from the sidelines as local officials impose strict measures to contain the spread.

More details at the link.

In Texas, Gov. Abbot is finally coming around to taking the virus seriously, not that it’s too late. The Texas Tribune: Gov. Greg Abbott warns if spread of COVID-19 doesn’t slow, “the next step would have to be a lockdown”

With Texas continuing to break records for new coronavirus deaths and hospitalizations this week, Gov. Greg Abbott reiterated Friday afternoon that things will continue to get worse. And if people keep flouting his new statewide mask mandate, he said, the next step could be another economic lockdown.

“Things will get worse, and let me explain why,” he told KLBK TV in Lubbock. “The deaths that we’re seeing announced today and yesterday — which are now over 100 — those are people who likely contracted COVID-19 in late May.

“The worst is yet to come as we work our way through that massive increase in people testing positive.”

Texans will also likely see an increase in cases next week, Abbott said, and people abiding by his face mask requirement might be the only thing standing between businesses remaining open and another shutdown.

“The public needs to understand this was a very tough decision for me to make,” Abbott told KLBK of his face mask mandate. “I made clear that I made this tough decision for one reason: It was our last best effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. If we do not slow the spread of COVID-19 … the next step would have to be a lockdown.”

Trump won’t like what Angela Merkel had to say about the pandemic. CNN: ‘You cannot fight the pandemic with lies’ — Angela Merkel knows how to insert a dagger.

Angela Merkel may not scream down the phone at President Donald Trump — but she knows how to insert a dagger.

Trump, as well as Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro and Russia’s Vladimir Putin, must have felt his ears burning when the German Chancellor demolished their approaches to the coronavirus in a speech Thursday. “As we are experiencing firsthand, you cannot fight the pandemic with lies and disinformation any more than you can fight it with hate or incitement to hatred,” Merkel said. “The limits of populism and denial of basic truths are being laid bare.”

Merkel and Trump were destined to clash. A former scientist, she is cool, cautious, self-contained, fact-oriented and quiet despite her toughness. Trump is … none of those things. Late in 2016, the outgoing US President, who Merkel sometimes referred to as “Liebe (dear) Barack,” flew to Berlin on a mission — to convince her to run for another term. Once Trump was in the Oval Office, Obama reasoned, Merkel would need to lead the liberal international order.

One more from investigative journalist and novelist Jonathan Greenberg at The Washington Post: Twelve signs Trump would try to run a fascist dictatorship in a second term.

I first reported on Trump in 1982, when he conned me into putting him on the Forbes 400 rich list. That Trump was just a younger version of this Trump, and now I worry that what happened in June was a mere prelude; he’s certainly capable of a far worse Reichstag-fire-like event that would allow him to steal the 2020 election. And if he does win a second term, legitimately or not, his words and actions of the past four years provide 12 indicators that he would seek to replace our democracy with a fascist dictatorship.

Here are the twelve signs–head over to the WaPo to read more details.

1. Trump uses military power and federal law enforcement to suppress peaceful political protest.

2. Trump persistently lies about voter fraud, setting the stage for him to use emergency powers to seize control of the election or challenge the results if he loses.

3. Trump has repeatedly suggested that he might remain in office after a second term and has offered reason to doubt he’d leave peacefully after this first term.

4. Trump appears to believe he has the power to outlaw speech critical of him, and he calls the free press “the enemy of the people.”

5. With Fox News promoting Trump’s lies as truth, the president controls one of the most powerful propaganda machines ever created.

6. Trump believes that he has the power to do what he wants, regardless of Congress or the courts.

7. Trump acts as if he owns our government and can fire any official who defends the law.

8. Trump uses federal prosecutorial powers to investigate his opponents and anyone who dares scrutinize him or his allies for the many crimes they may have committed.

9. Trump viciously attacks his critics and has publicly implied that the Ukraine whistleblower should be hanged for treason.

10. Trump has messianic delusions that are supported with religious fervor by millions of his supporters.

11. Trump subscribes to a doctrine of genetic superiority and incites racial hatred to scapegoat immigrants and gain power.

12. Trump finds common ground with the world’s most ruthless dictators while denigrating America’s democratic allies.

Have a great weekend, Sky Dancers! What stories have you been following?


Lazy Caturday Reads

Good Morning!!

My state remains number three in coronavirus cases behind New York and New Jersey, despite the act that Gov. Charlie Baker has acted responsibly and Massachusetts citizens are overwhelmingly supportive of the state’s social distancing and other mitigation efforts.

The Washington Post: In educated and affluent Massachusetts, coronavirus cases surged. The decline has yet to come.

Massachusetts has one of the most educated and affluent populations in the country. It’s home to some of the nation’s most preeminent medical centers. And it has political leaders who have worked cooperatively, across party lines, in the face of a crisis.

Massachusetts also has the third-highest number of confirmed state coronavirus cases, along with the fourth-highest death toll. And despite predictions that numbers would be falling by now after a month and a half of people staying at home, new case counts have instead remained stubbornly high.

The state’s struggle to combat the coronavirus reflects just what a tenacious adversary it really is. Even for a place that has a lot going for it, the toll has been severe — and it is growing by the day.

As of Friday, Massachusetts had more than 64,000 cases — behind only New York and New Jersey, its larger northeastern neighbors. New cases totaled 2,106, continuing a dismal streak lasting more than two weeks of at least 1,500 additional cases per day. Deaths hit 3,716, behind only New York, New Jersey and Michigan….

The persistence with which people keep getting sick in Massachusetts has been matched in other hard-hit states. Rather than a precipitous decline, the number of new cases in places such as Illinois, California and the D.C. metro area has instead been leveling off slowly.

Experts say that is to be expected, even if it means a long road ahead.

“If social distancing is done well — and Massachusetts has done it pretty well — the effect is going to be to flatten the curve and spread it out over more time,” said David Hamer, professor of global health at Boston University and an infectious-disease physician at Boston Medical Center. “Instead of a peak, it’s a prolonged plateau. It’s going to be a gradual decline.”

Massachusetts is also working to incorporate cases and deaths that may have been left out of official counts. That will make our numbers look worse. Boston Magazine: Brace for Bigger Numbers of Official Massachusetts COVID-19 Cases.

The warnings have come again and again over the past several weeks: The official count of confirmed cases of COVID-19 is not what it seems. Month-to-month death totals show spikes that far outpace existing data on virus-caused fatalities. Antibody tests suggest neighborhood infection rates as high as one-in-three, far outpacing the number officially confirmed by nasal swabs. People wary of leaving home to seek treatment for any illnesses—pandemic-related or not—may choose to ride out their symptoms at home and may never get official confirmation of what ails them. Without a massive effort to swab every single person in Massachusetts all at once, which would be impossible, it seems the best we can do is make an informed guess about how many people have been touched by this thing, and what we should do in response.

So a new effort to make that guess more accurate may produce some shocking figures, but they shouldn’t come as a surprise. State public health officials now say they are working to count even unconfirmed COVID-19 cases in pandemic-tracking data, and expect to see the official numbers jump upward as a result. The new approach will see those with milder symptoms, or those who have not been tested and do not meet more stringent criteria for classifying illnesses as COVID, added to the tally in hopes of better tracking and responding to the spread of the disease.

In aggregate, more accurate data can give us a look at how the pandemic is trending overall. But the specifics of the results from the tests themselves, it seems, don’t tell us very much. There just aren’t enough tests to tell us conclusively who has had the virus and when, and how they got it, and where.

Read more at the link.

When will the state reopen? The Boston Globe: Expect a painfully slow reopening process, Mass. business leaders say.

Safely resuscitating an economy laid low by the coronavirus likely will be painfully slow and require a gradual return to the workplace supported by mandatory face masks, social distancing, and an expansion of state testing that could cost $720 million a year.

That is the sobering assessment of a high-powered Massachusetts business group — backed by research from top medical academics and professionals — that has the ear of the advisers who Governor Charlie Baker will rely on as he weighs how and when to begin lifting COVID-19 restrictions.

Stephen Pagliuca, the private equity investor and co-owner of the Boston Celtics, has been circulating a 70-page report that details the necessary conditions for reopening and recommends that companies bring back workers in phases, based on age and industry, with white-collar employees who can work remotely the last to come back.

“It’s going to be a while before we get back to normal,” Pagliuca, cochairman of Bain Capital, said during an online presentation to business leaders Friday. The report was put together by the Massachusetts High Technology Council and incorporates research from Bain Capital, McKinsey & Co., and a long list of academics including Brandeis professor Michael Rosbash, who won the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2017.

So that’s the situation where I am. I’d love to hear what’s going on in other Sky Dancers’ states.

Meanwhile, states like Georgia and Texas are risking reopening businesses even as cases and deaths rise.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution yesterday: Georgia’s COVID-19 death toll increases to 1,165; cases nearly reach 27.5K.

UPDATE [6:30 p.m.]: Since 11:30 a.m., state officials have increased Georgia’s coronavirus death toll by 18, meaning 1,165 Georgians have died due to the outbreak.

In the past 24 hours, the Georgia Department of Public Health has recorded 33 COVID-19 deaths.

In addition, the DPH confirmed 358 cases of COVID-19 since 11:30 a.m., bringing the state’s total to 27,492. Of those, more than 5,300 patients have been hospitalized at some point in Georgia, which is about 19.3% of all cases. At least 1,229 patients have been admitted into a hospital’s intensive care unit due to the virus.

More than 168,000 tests have been conducted in Georgia, and about 16.3% of those have returned positive results.

ABC News: COVID-19 cases on rise in state that starts 1st phase of reopening.

Texas reported its highest daily number of COVID-19 deaths, just a day before Governor Abbott’s stay-at-home order expired and the state began reopening.

On Thursday, the Lone Star State death toll reached 50, bringing the total number of coronavirus fatalities in the state to 782. Positive cases increased by 1,033, the biggest one-day jump in three weeks.

These numbers precede phase one of the governor’s reopening plan, taking effect May 1. Under the new guidelines, all retail stores, restaurants, movie theaters, and malls may reopen, but must limit their capacity to 25% of their listed occupancy. Museums and libraries are permitted to open under the same guidelines, while churches and places of worship remain open.

“As we open Texas, we are each called upon to be Texans; to act responsibly as we reengage in the economy, to continue following all health precautions and sanitizing guidelines, and to care for our vulnerable neighbors. Lives depend on our actions. I know you will respond as Texans,” Gov. Greg Abbott stated in his report to open the state.

The Texas Democratic Party has criticized the Republican governor, posting on twitter, “Governor Abbott’s slow reaction to the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent rush to reopen the state is shameful.

Though the state has eased restrictions, many cities are keeping their own safeguards in place.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration is working overtime to cover up their mistakes in dealing with the pandemic.

The Washington Post: White House blocks Fauci from testifying before House panel next week.

The White House is blocking Anthony S. Fauci from testifying before a House subcommittee investigating the coronavirus outbreak and response, arguing that it would be “counterproductive” for him to appear next week while in the midst of participating in the government’s response to the pandemic.

The White House issued a statement about Fauci’s testimony shortly after The Washington Post published a story Friday afternoon quoting a spokesman for the House Appropriations Committee, who said the White House was refusing to allow Fauci to appear at a subcommittee hearing next week.

In fact, Fauci is expected to appear at a Senate hearing related to testing the following week, according to a senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal planning.

The Republican Senate, that is.

A Cat Accepts a Lick from a Cow at a Dairy Farm in Massachusetts, photo by Ira Block

Los Angeles Times: Trump administration blocks public disclosure on coronavirus supplies.

The Trump administration is refusing to disclose how it is distributing medical supplies for the coronavirus response that were brought to the U.S. at taxpayer expense through a White House initiative known as Project Air Bridge.

The administration instead has allowed six multibillion-dollar medical supply companies that are receiving government aid to import the supplies to block public release of the data, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Trump Administration continues its whole-of-government response to COVID-19, including safely opening up America again and expediting vaccine development, it is counterproductive to have the very individuals involved in those efforts appearing at congressional hearings,” said White House spokesman Judd Deere. “We are committed to working with Congress to offer testimony at the appropriate time.

“At this time, FEMA does not have the authority to release this information,” a spokesperson for the agency said in response to questions from The Times.

A spokesperson for McKesson Corp., one of the companies, denied making any demand that information be kept secret. “Consistent with McKesson’s commitment to fighting this pandemic, McKesson is cooperating with FEMA to facilitate the release of state-by-state data as appropriate,” the spokesperson said.

Nevertheless, the lack of disclosure effectively hinders any public accounting of which states are receiving the most assistance and what formulas are being used to distribute the equipment, despite a public investment of tens of millions of dollars in the airlift operation.

The lack of transparency about distributions comes on top of the administration’s refusal to provide information about the financial terms the White House struck with the medical distribution companies, which together reported more than $2 billion in profits last year.

The New York Times: Trump Moves to Replace Watchdog Who Identified Critical Medical Shortages.

President Trump moved on Friday night to replace a top official at the Department of Health and Human Services who angered him with a report last month highlighting supply shortages and testing delays at hospitals during the coronavirus pandemic.

The White House waited until after business hours to announce the nomination of a new inspector general for the department who, if confirmed, would take over for Christi A. Grimm, the principal deputy inspector general who was publicly assailed by the president at a news briefing three weeks ago.

The nomination was the latest effort by Mr. Trump against watchdog offices around his administration that have defied him. In recent weeks, he fired an inspector general involved in the inquiry that led to the president’s impeachment, nominated a White House aide to another key inspector general post overseeing virus relief spending and moved to block still another inspector general from taking over as chairman of a pandemic spending oversight panel.

Mr. Trump has sought to assert more authority over his administration and clear out officials deemed insufficiently loyal in the three months since his Senate impeachment trial on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress ended in acquittal largely along party lines. While inspectors general are appointed by the president, they are meant to be semiautonomous watchdogs ferreting out waste, fraud and corruption in executive agencies….

[Ms. Grimm’s] report, released last month and based on extensive interviews with hospitals around the country, identified critical shortages of supplies, revealing that hundreds of medical centers were struggling to obtain test kits, protective gear for staff members and ventilators. Mr. Trump was embarrassed by the report at a time he was already under fire for playing down the threat of the virus and not acting quickly enough to ramp up testing and provide equipment to doctors and nurses.

That’s all I have for you today. I’m getting ready for a visit from my brother and at least one of my nephews. They can’t some inside, but we can take a walk and sit on a bench outside on this lovely spring day.

Have a nice weekend, Sky Dancers!