Spooky Caturday Reads

Happy Halloween!!

da82279d75b1267f9e520a9d862118a9Only three days until the election, and I wish I could go to sleep and wake up in the late afternoon on November 3. Unfortunately, I can’t get to sleep at night. I usually end up getting about 4-5 hours and then I make up for it some days with afternoon naps. I can’t wait until Trump is gone; then maybe I’ll be able to sleep normally again. I only we can get rid of him!

Trump and his thugs are working overtime either to prevent people from voting or to prevent votes from being counted. It’s their only hope to keep him in the White House. Here’s the latest on voter suppression:

Bloomberg: USPS Says Timely Vote Delivery Isn’t a Constitutional Right.

Delivery delays during an election can’t be unlawful, because the Constitution doesn’t guarantee states any particular level of service when it comes to mail-in ballots, the U.S. Postal Service told a federal judge.

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and President Donald Trump are seeking dismissal of a lawsuit brought by New York and other states that claim disruptive changes at the USPS over the summer are violating the Elections Clause of the Constitution by putting election mail at risk.

The Justice Department argued in a court filing Tuesday in Washington that the clause can’t restrict government agencies from carrying out operational changes or other activity that “may have an incidental impact” on voting.

The states’ theory “assumes that because the plaintiff states crafted their election laws with the expectation that USPS will provide a certain level of service, they now have a constitutional right to expect that level of service,” the U.S. said. The clause “does not shield states from any and all external circumstances that may impact state elections.”

f28095eb488e5ad0bfab821f5eb6ca5bThe Washington Post: Judges nominated by President Trump play key role in upholding voting limits ahead of Election Day.

Federal judges nominated by President Trump have largely ruled against efforts to loosen voting rules in the 2020 campaign amid the coronavirus pandemic and sided with Republicans seeking to enforce restrictions, underscoring Trump’s impact in reshaping the judiciary.

An analysis by The Washington Post found that nearly three out of four opinions issued in federal voting-related cases by judges picked by the president were in favor of maintaining limits. That is a sharp contrast with judges nominated by President Barack Obama, whose decisions backed such limits 17 percent of the time.

The impact of Trump’s court picks could be seen most starkly at the appellate level, where 21 out of the 25 opinions issued by the president’s nominees were against loosening voting rules.

The pattern shows how Trump’s success installing a record number of judges in his four years in office has played a critical role in determining how people can vote this year and which ballots will be counted. The president’s imprint on the courts culminated this week with the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett, the third justice he has successfully nominated to the Supreme Court.

ElqTwSCXEAIBfjdMark Joseph Stern at Slate: Judges Are Already Testing How Far Amy Coney Barrett Will Go for Republicans.

Over the last week, four conservative justices on the Supreme Court have signaled their desire to throw out mail ballots that arrive after Election Day. The court will remain deadlocked on this momentous issue—which could affect the outcome of countless races—until Amy Coney Barrett casts her first vote. And the lower courts are taking bets on which side she’ll take. On Thursday night, two far-right judges in the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a lawless order claiming that Minnesota’s extension of the ballot deadline is likely unconstitutional. Their decision radiates partisan bias and flouts Supreme Court precedent, risking chaos and confusion by altering the rules of Minnesota’s election just five days before Nov. 3.

This is no fluke. It is the Barrett effect: Lower court judges are beginning to test the limits of the Supreme Court, trying to figure out how far right they can go without getting reversed. It is an especially dangerous time for federal courts to fabricate a new rule that prevents states from counting lawful ballots. But with no clear check to rein in the judiciary’s accelerating radicalism, some judges have decided it’s time to go all-in for Donald Trump and dare SCOTUS to stop them.

Thursday’s decision involved yet another dispute over state election law—a dispute that should never have landed in any federal court in the first place. A Minnesota statute requires voters to return mail ballots by Election Day. In May, a voting rights group sued the state to block this rule; it alleged that the deadline is unconstitutional in light of the pandemic, which has placed extraordinary pressure on the state’s vote-by-mail system. Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon chose not to fight the lawsuit. Instead, he entered into a consent decree (essentially a settlement) with the plaintiffs, approved by a state court, that halted enforcement of the Election Day deadline. The Minnesota Legislature has expressly authorized the secretary of state to “adopt alternative election procedures” whenever a law “cannot be implemented as a result” of a court order. Pursuant to that law, Simon extended the ballot deadline by one week and informed every voter that their ballot would be counted so long as it is mailed by Election Day and received by Nov. 10.

Read more at Slate.

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By Maggie Vandewalle

The Washington Post: Republicans shift from challenging rules to preparing to challenge individual ballots.

In Nevada, the Trump campaign filed a lawsuit this week seeking images of the signature of every registered voter in Democratic-leaning Clark County — a potential first step toward challenging individual votes on grounds that the signed ballots don’t match the signatures on file.

In Texas, Republican officeholders and candidates sued this week to have more than 100,000 votes invalidated in the Houston area because they were cast at drive-through voting centers the GOP has asked a judge to declare illegal.

And in Minnesota and Pennsylvania, election officials will set aside any mail-in ballots that arrive after Election Day — even if they were mailed before the polls closed — to facilitate potential court challenges.

For months, Republicans have pushed largely unsuccessfully to limit new avenues for voting in the midst of the pandemic. But with next week’s election rapidly approaching, they have shifted their legal strategy in recent days to focus on tactics aimed at challenging ballots one by one, in some cases seeking to discard votes already cast during a swell of early voting.

Head over to the WaPo to read the rest.

Quite a few writers are speculating about what Trump will do after the election–win or lose. These are long articles, so I can’t provide the gist of each one here. You’ll need to explore the links to learn more details.

Pumpkin Tree, by Tom Shropshire

Pumpkin Tree, by Tom Shropshire

Fred Hiatt at The Washington Post: Yes, Trump has an agenda for a second term. It’s all about him.

…to an extraordinary degree, Trump’s actions in the closing days of his first presidential term tip us off to how he hopes to reign — yes, reign — in a second. If we return him to office, we won’t be able to say we didn’t see it coming….

[W]hat Trump is openly showing us is his intention to reshape the U.S. government from an institution designed to serve the nation and its people to one that caters to one man’s whims, prejudices, grudges, vanity and profit.

The most significant tell comes in an executive order that Trump issued on Oct. 21 creating a “Schedule F” for government workers. It would remove civil-service protections from potentially tens of thousands of civil servants, allowing Trump to fire them at will.

How would he use this power? We have seen his willingness to fire those already without protection simply for doing their jobs in an honest way — intelligence community leaders who wouldn’t lie about Russia and Ukraine, for example. We have heard him disparage those he can’t yet fire — the “idiot” scientists who won’t echo his claim that covid-19 is going away.

Schedule F would let the president fire those scientists and anyone else who might stand in his way — who respect facts and data, who resist his efforts to wield government as a weapon.

Tom McCarthy at The Guardian: ‘Red mirage’: the ‘insidious’ scenario if Trump declares an early victory.

Scenarios for how an election disaster could unfold in the United States next week involve lawsuits, lost ballots, armed insurrection and other potential crises in thousands of local jurisdictions on 3 November.

But there is one much simpler scenario for election-night chaos, centering on a single address, that many analysts see as among the most plausible….

ae892fe09bb9a19d1f8b2b155816c241Known as the “red mirage”, the scenario could develop if Trump appears to be leading in the presidential race late on election night and declares victory before all the votes are counted.

The red mirage “sounds like a super-villain, and it’s just as insidious”, the former Obama administration housing secretary Julían Castro says in a video recorded as a public service announcement to voters this week.

“On election night, there’s a real possibility that the data will show Republicans leading early, before all the votes are counted. Then they can pretend something sinister’s going on when the counts change in Democrats’ favor.”

In the scenario, Trump’s declaration of victory is echoed on the conservative TV network Fox News and by powerful Republicans across the US. By the time final returns show that in fact Joe Biden has won the presidency, perhaps days later, the true election result has been dragged into a maelstrom of disinformation and chaos.

There’s much more detail about this scenario at The Guardian.

Politico: Trump may just keep campaigning after Election Day.

Top surrogates for the Trump campaign have been told to keep their Novembers clear for potential campaign events. And Trump campaign advisers said not to rule out the possibility Trump continues his rallies even as election officials continue to count ballots after the Nov. 3 election, according to a campaign surrogate and two Trump advisers.

With the possibility that there might not be a clear winner on election night in key swing states like Pennsylvania and North Carolina, the campaign has discussed putting Trump and his family on the road to give a morale boost to supporters and let the president fire off about the election to crowds….

“There’s been discussions about travel opportunities for Trump and his family if we don’t have a result on election day, but nothing definitive on where he would go or how many people we would deploy,” said one campaign aide. “If we still don’t have results in Michigan and North Carolina or Pennsylvania and Nevada on Nov. 4, he might hit those states individually.”

70c18d9db734cf31302c9ae04559c556Ron Suskind at The New York Times: The Day After Election Day. Current and former Trump administration officials are worried about what might happen on Nov. 4.

America will probably awaken on Nov. 4 into uncertainty. Whatever else happens, there is no doubt that President Trump is ready for it.

I’ve spent the last month interviewing some two dozen officials and aides, several of whom are still serving in the Trump administration. The central sources in this story are or were senior officials, mainly in jobs that require Senate confirmation. They have had regular access to the president and to briefings at the highest level….

Several of them are in current posts in intelligence, law enforcement or national security and are focused on the concurrent activities of violent, far-right and white supremacy groups that have been encouraged by the president’s words and actions. They are worried that the president could use the power of the government — the one they all serve or served within — to keep himself in office or to create favorable terms for negotiating his exit from the White House. Like many other experts inside and outside the government, they are also concerned about foreign adversaries using the internet to sow chaos, exacerbate divisions and undermine our democratic process.

Many of the officials I spoke to came back to one idea: You don’t know Donald Trump like we do. Even though they can’t predict exactly what will happen, their concerns range from the president welcoming, then leveraging, foreign interference in the election, to encouraging havoc that grows into conflagrations that would merit his calling upon U.S. forces. Because he is now surrounded by loyalists, they say, there is no one to try to tell an impulsive man what he should or shouldn’t do.

“That guy you saw in the debate,” a second former senior intelligence official told me, after the first debate, when the president offered one of the most astonishing performances of any leader in modern American history — bullying, ridiculing, manic, boasting, fabricating, relentlessly interrupting and talking over his opponent. “That’s really him. Not the myth that’s been created. That’s Trump.”

None of Suskind’s sources claimed to know what Trump will do. Read more about what they told him at the NYT link.

Batmolbile by Maggie Vandewalle

Batmolbile by Maggie Vandewalle

One more by Garrett Graff at Politico Magazine: ‘There Are No Boundaries’: Experts Imagine Trump’s Post-Presidential Life if He Loses.

In interviews, historians, government legal experts, national security leaders and people close to the administration have a prediction that will disquiet his critics: The Trump Era is unlikely to end when the Trump presidency ends. They envision a post-presidency as disruptive and norm-busting as his presidency has been—one that could make his successor’s job much harder.They outline a picture of a man who might formally leave office only to establish himself as the president-for-life amid his own bubble of admirers—controlling Republican politics and sowing chaos in the U.S. and around the world long after he’s officially left office.

“Can he continue to make people not trust our institutions? Can he throw monkey wrenches into delicate negotiations? Absolutely,” one former Trump administration official says. “He can be a tool. He’ll be somewhere between dangerous and devastating on that extent.”

A president unwilling to respect boundaries in office is almost certain to cross them out of office. Experts envision some likely scenarios—a much-rumored TV show and plans to use his properties to profit off his lifetime Secret Service protection, perhaps even continuing to troll the Biden administration from his hotel down Pennsylvania Avenue—and some troubling if less certain ones, like literally selling U.S. secrets or influence to foreign governments.

Click the link to read the rest.

Have a great Halloween, Sky Dancers!!


Tuesday Reads: Democratic National Convention and Other News

Good Morning!!

I’m sorry to say that I saw very little of the first night of the Democratic National Convention. I wasn’t interested in watching a lot of Republicans and Bernie Sanders. I wanted to see Michelle Obama’s speech, but I fell asleep before she came on.

Here’s The Washington Post’s report on the first night of the virtual event: On Democratic convention’s first night, speakers blame Trump for America’s woes.

Democrats kicked off their virtual nominating convention Monday with a focused denunciation of President Trump, showcasing dozens of testimonials that culminated in lancing criticism from former first lady Michelle Obama, who cast Trump as incapable of meeting America’s needs and said Joe Biden would usher in racial justice and ease the coronavirus pandemic.

In the centerpiece speech of the night, a searing indictment of her husband Barack Obama’s successor, Obama declared that Trump has mishandled the pandemic and failed to respond to outcries over the deaths of Black Americans. She warned that the nation would suffer more if he is elected to a second term.

“Let me be as honest and clear as I possibly can: Donald Trump is the wrong president for our country. He has had more than enough time to prove that he can do the job, but he is clearly in over his head. He cannot meet this moment. He simply cannot be who we need him to be for us,” she said, before quoting a line Trump used about covid-19 deaths in a recent interview: “It is what it is.”

She spoke passionately about protests over police brutality this year — and Trump’s response of declaring those in the streets to be anarchists.

“Here at home as George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and a never-ending list of innocent people of color continue to be murdered, stating the simple fact that a Black life matters is still met with derision from the nation’s highest office,” Obama said, wearing a necklace that read “Vote.” [….]

Other testimonials against Trump’s stewardship ranged from democratic socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to Ohio’s Republican former governor John Kasich, both of whom have pleaded with the country to set aside ideological differences to defeat Trump. The daughter of a covid-19 patient angrily blamed her father’s death on Trump during the broadcast, which repeatedly showed victims of the coronavirus.

The unprecedented virtual convention program, without crowds, floor fights or sign waving, reflected the extraordinary limits of current public health guidelines, as the country continues to keep socially distant in the face of a pandemic that has killed more than 167,000 Americans this year. Occasional live shots of Democratic delegates watching at home were cut in throughout the night to replicate some sense of a normal event.

Here’s the full speech.

The Daily Beast on Michelle Obama’s speech: Michelle’s New Stance: When They Go Low, We Square Up.

Concluding the opening night of a Democratic Convention that until a few minutes earlier had felt overly platitudinous, centrist and bloodless, Michelle Obama delivered a speech that was the opposite—impassioned, uplifting and, at the same time, full of truths about America that this country rarely likes to acknowledge about itself. One of the most astounding moments in a speech filled with them came when the former first lady revisited a line that has been endlessly quoted since she uttered it 2016.

But this time around, the ex-FLOTUS—in tacit recognition of the toll that four years of Donald Trump’s bottom-feeding, “no low is too low” style of leadership has taken on the nation—necessarily amended her words to line up with the darkness of our times. It’s worth quoting her at length here: “Over the past four years, a lot of people have asked me, “When others are going so low, does going high still really work?” My answer: going high is the only thing that works, because when we go low, when we use those same tactics of degrading and dehumanizing others, we just become part of the ugly noise that’s drowning out everything else,” Obama stated. “But let’s be clear: going high does not mean putting on a smile and saying nice things when confronted by viciousness and cruelty…. Going high means standing fierce against hatred while remembering that we are one nation under God, and if we want to survive, we’ve got to find a way to live together and work together across our differences.” [….]

She did not mince words, and instead spoke honestly about the cruelty of this president and his abettors with a full-throatedness we haven’t seen from her in the past. This was Michelle going after Trump, and to a certain degree, the voters that would prop up this president, in a way that was both eloquent and frank, relatable and empathic—all while showing how the current president lacks all of those traits.

In fact, a whole section of the speech was essentially a damning laundry list of the ways in which Trump’s endless narcissism and incompetence have damaged the country. She noted the 150,000 dead and the economic devastation that have resulted from “a virus that this president downplayed for too long.” She called out how Trump has tarnished America’s image abroad, destroying “alliances championed by presidents like Reagan and Eisenhower.” And she went hard at Trump for the most overt characteristic of this presidency, its unchecked, vicious racism.

In other news and opinion . . .

A former Trump administration official endorsed Joe Biden yesterday.

Miles Tayor at The Washington Post: At Homeland Security, I saw firsthand how dangerous Trump is for America.

After serving for more than two years in the Department of Homeland Security’s leadership during the Trump administration, I can attest that the country is less secure as a direct result of the president’s actions….
I wasn’t in a position to judge how his personal deficiencies affected other important matters, such as the environment or energy policy, but when it came to national security, I witnessed the damning results firsthand.

The president has tried to turn DHS, the nation’s largest law enforcement agency, into a tool used for his political benefit. He insisted on a near-total focus on issues that he said were central to his reelection — in particular building a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico. Though he was often talked out of bad ideas at the last moment, the president would make obviously partisan requests of DHS, including when he told us to close the California-Mexico border during a March 28, 2019, Oval Office meeting — it would be better for him politically, he said, than closing long stretches of the Texas or Arizona border — or to “dump” illegal immigrants in Democratic-leaning sanctuary cities and states to overload their authorities, as he insisted on several times.

Miles Taylor

Trump’s indiscipline was also a constant source of frustration. One day in February 2019, when congressional leaders were waiting for an answer from the White House on a pending deal to avoid a second government shutdown, the president demanded a DHS phone briefing to discuss the color of the wall. He was particularly interested in the merits of using spray paint and how the steel structure should be coated. Episodes like this occurred almost weekly.

The decision-making process was itself broken: Trump would abruptly endorse policy proposals with little or no consideration, by him or his advisers, of possible knock-on effects. That was the case in 2018 when then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced, at the White House’s urging, a “zero tolerance” policy to prosecute anyone who crossed the border illegally. The agencies involved were unprepared to implement the policy, causing a disastrous backlog of detentions that ultimately left migrant parents and their children separated.

Read the whole thing at the link if you haven’t already. Here’s video of Taylor’s endorsement:

Louis DeJoy, the man Trump handpicked to destroy the U.S. Postal Service will testify before House and Senate committees. That means Kamala Harris will have an opportunity to cross examine him.

Politico: DeJoy agrees to testify amid Dem fury over Postal Service changes.

On Sunday, Democrats moved up a request for DeJoy to testify to Monday, Aug. 24, calling it an “urgent” matter. The Oversight and Reform Committee hearing is likely to be tense, with Democrats loudly objecting to changes that have slowed mail delivery in numerous parts of the country amid President Donald Trump’s calls to restrict the use of mail-in ballots for the November election.

A number of Democrats have called on him to resign, and moderate House member Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), even said that he wanted DeJoy, a major Republican Party fundraiser, arrested by the House sergeant at arms if he didn’t agree to testify.

“Over the past several weeks, there have been startling new revelations about the scope and gravity of operational changes you are implementing at hundreds of postal facilities without consulting adequately with Congress, the Postal Regulatory Commission, or the Board of Governors,” House Oversight Chair Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) wrote to DeJoy on Sunday, giving him a deadline of Monday to respond to the testimony invitation.

“Your testimony is particularly urgent given the troubling influx of reports of widespread delays at postal facilities across the country—as well as President Trump’s explicit admission last week that he has been blocking critical coronavirus funding for the Postal Service in order to impair mail-in voting efforts for the upcoming elections in November.”

The Washington Post: Senate will hold Postal Service hearing with DeJoy on Friday, as mail delay fears grow.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a hearing Friday with Postmaster General Louis DeJoy on the U.S. Postal Service’s vote-by-mail financial requirements, according to two people familiar with the decision.

It will be DeJoy’s first opportunity to publicly answer lawmakers’ questions about the nation’s embattled mail service, which is experiencing delays as a result of policies DeJoy implemented cutting overtime and eliminating extra trips to ensure on-time mail delivery….

Democrats have alleged that DeJoy, a former Republican National Convention finance chairman, is taking steps that are causing dysfunction in the mail system and could wreak havoc in the presidential election….

The Postal Service is in the process of removing 671 high-speed mail-sorting machines nationwide this month, a process that will eliminate 21.4 million items per hour’s worth of processing capability from the agency’s inventory.

On Thursday and Friday, it began removing public collection boxes in parts of California, New York, Pennsylvania, Oregon and Montana. The agency said Friday that it would stop mailbox removals, which it said were routine, until after the election.

Lawsuits are also being prepared. ABC News: Multiple states ready suit against Trump admin over mail-in voting fears.

A group of Democratic state attorneys general are now in the final stages of preparing legal action against the Trump administration for recent cost-cutting changes made to the United States Postal Service, a lawsuit that one official said could demand a halt to any cutbacks that could impede mail-in voting.

As many as 10 state attorneys general are now involved, two state officials involved in the effort told ABC News. Among them is New York’s Letitia James, who called recent changes at the postal agency “deeply disturbing” in a statement released Monday.

The suit is expected to mount two major constitutional challenges to the recent cutbacks, according to one of the officials, a state government attorney. States will assert that the federal government is trying to impede their constitutional right to oversee their own elections. And they will argue that the Trump administration is interfering with every American’s individual right to participate in the election.

The lawsuit will also argue that Postmaster General Louis DeJoy failed to follow administrative procedures when he made cuts to overtime and decommissioned equipment – steps the states will ask the courts to halt, the attorney said….

The attorneys general from Connecticut and New York have joined a growing list of state leaders including those from Virginia, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Minnesota and Washington — all Democrats — in discussing how to sue the administration, sources said. Those conversations remain ongoing.

I’ll add more news links in the comment thread. I hope you all have a nice Tuesday!