Monday Reads: Hi from Hurricane Central!!!

Good Day Sky Dancers!

It’s really a gorgeous morning here and last night was great but it’s the proverbial calm before the storm is here.  Temple and I had a great walk at 7:30 to beat the first of the rain bands.  It was in the 70s with a cool breeze.  But, like everything 2020, here comes the turbocharged change!

Fortunately for those of us in the central and western Gulf Coast, Little Hurricane Marco just never quite got going.  He is going to swipe us before puttering along towards Texas.  As long as he doesn’t slow down, he’ll have some water but only enough to dampen the day.

Hurricane Bahamas, Homer Winslow 1937

Hurricane Laura, however, is going to pack a punch!  She is strengthening and likely to cause some problems.  My only solace is that this is a big news event which is likely to somewhat drown out the four nights of Klanfest. The RNC is evidently in disarray because of all Trump’s interference including 4 nights of him giving speeches which is irregular to say the least.  From Vox’s Aaron Rupar: “The RNC disarray is a microcosm of everything Trump did wrong with the coronavirus.  He had no plan. The result is chaos.”

The day it’s set to begin, there is still much we don’t know about what will be happening at the 2020 Republican National Convention. But what we do indicates it’ll have a circus-like quality.

Confirmed speakers include Patricia and Mark McCloskey, the St. Louis couple best known for brandishing firearms at protesters earlier this year, and former Covington Catholic student Nick Sandmann, who became a symbol of white grievance last year after he was filmed in a viral video of a confrontation with Native American demonstrators. President Trump will likely deliver his convention-closing speech from the White House, flouting ethical concerns and laws prohibiting the use of government property for political gain, with other events set to take place on government property located conveniently near the downtown DC hotel he still owns and profits from. On Sunday, the RNC released a speaker list — with Trump scheduled to appear every day.

My TV will be firmly tuned to the Weather Channel if we have power through the week.  It’s generally on mute but on constantly during hurricane times here.

The disaster of a Post Office General is also on full display today.

After the Hurricane, Winslow Homer 1899

We also know that Trump handpicked folks for the UPS positions that evidently have a habit of supporting voter suppression. This from Mary Redden writing for HuffPo: ” Trump’s Handpicked Postal Service Chair Has A Long History Of Voter Suppression. Robert Duncan chaired the RNC during the party’s unprecedented escalation of voter disenfranchisement efforts in swing states.” 

President Donald Trump’s selection for a key Postal Service position, Robert M. Duncan, once had a very different job: steering the Republican Party while it undertook some of its most brazen voter suppression schemes.

Duncan is now the chair of the Postal Service board of governors, but he previously served as general counsel and then chair of the Republican National Committee from 2002 to 2009, a time when the committee and its state counterparts oversaw an unprecedented escalation of voter disenfranchisement efforts in swing states.

From 2004 to 2006, when Duncan was the committee’s general counsel, party officials challenged the eligibility of at least 77,000 voters, a 2007 report by the nonpartisan group Project Vote found.

As it happens, one of the party’s favored tactics relied on the U.S. mail. In 2004, Republicans in Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania sent thousands of nonforwardable letters and postcards to select voters — particularly minority voters — and used the mail returned as undeliverable to come up with voter registration challenge lists.

Duncan’s history is the latest alarm bell for those fearful that Trump is attempting to undermine the U.S. Postal Service in order to win reelection.

We’ve had yet another senseless shooting of an unarmed black man by the police.  This time it is in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The man is in serious condition.

This is from the Kenosha News: “State DOJ will probe officer-involved shooting; man in serious condition”.

Dozens of squad cars from the Kenosha Police and Kenosha County Sheriff’s department and Wisconsin State Patrol converged in the Wilson Heights neighborhood, lining the streets approaching the scene.

The incident was being turned over to the Wisconsin Department of Justice, Division of Criminal Investigation, which will be investigating the officer involved shooting.

At least a half dozen witnesses said that the man had tried to break up a fight between the two women outside a home at 2805 40th St. and that police had attempted to use a Taser on the man prior to the shooting. Then, they heard at least seven gunshots ring out.

Witnesses said he was unarmed and shot in the back.

A video that has since gone viral on social media shows the man walking away from officers and going around the vehicle to get inside. While the man is entering the vehicle the video shows an officer firing a gun at the man inside the vehicle. A woman in the video is screaming as he is being shot.

It was not immediately known whether the man had a weapon.

Residents who live across the street from the residence said while they have heard gunfire in the neighborhood before, never that close until Sunday.

“We’ve never had anything like this happen before,” said Juventino Camputano who has lived in the neighborhood for 40 years.

Annie Louise Hurst, a 50-year resident of the neighborhood, just shook her head.

Fear Of Hurricane Painting by Peter Kallai

So, it continues to be a week where we find out more about the Trump/Kushner family crime syndicate activities too.  This is from The Daily Beast: “Revealed: Jared Kushner’s Private Channel With Putin’s Money Man”.

On a late afternoon in March, a large military aircraft bearing the Russian Federation insignia descended into John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City. Its mission: to deliver personal protective equipment and ventilators to nearby hospitals scrambling to treat patients during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo had pleaded for weeks with the federal government for additional resources, particularly ventilators, to treat the thousands of COVID-19 patients across the state. Yet news of the Russian delivery surprised those in the governor’s office working to obtain additional medical equipment. They’d thought the ventilator support would come from the U.S. stockpile or from an American company.

Officials in the U.S. State Department were surprised, too. Despite a department press release announcing the delivery, several senior officials working on the Russia portfolio in the department and elsewhere in the national security apparatus were unaware exactly how the 45 ventilators had ended up on American soil. Half of the shipment was paid for by the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), one of the country’s sovereign wealth funds, which is under U.S. sanctions. (The sanctions do not prohibit all transactions between U.S. entities and the firm, but they have limited the fund’s interactions with American businesses.) And the fund’s CEO, Kirill Dmitriev, had been scrutinized by Congress and former special counsel Robert Mueller for his communications with Trump transition officials shortly after Moscow had meddled in the 2016 election.

For years, the Trump administration had attempted to find ways to cooperate with Russia on the world stage but largely failed in those efforts because Moscow has continued to engage in activity that threatens U.S. national security, from hacking operations to reportedly offering bounties on American soldiers in Afghanistan. A public display of Russian supplies being offloaded caught some officials in the Trump administration off guard.

But there was a simple answer to the whodunit. The Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) told The Daily Beast it had assigned the State Department “to represent the U.S. in the transaction with the Government of Russia.” But it was President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who helped facilitate the ventilator delivery, according to two senior administration officials. During the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, Kushner headed “Project Airbridge”—the medical supply delivery program that worked to fast-track the delivery of personal protective equipment and other medical supplies by using federal funding to underwrite the cost of shipping. In an effort to supply New York City hospitals with the medical equipment they needed, Kushner looked in multiple places for the equipment and found a safe bet in Moscow, those officials said. While the State Department had been involved in the logistics of the onboarding and offloading, it was Kushner who helped strike the deal.

The ventilators turned out to be faulty and were cast aside by officials in New York and New Jersey, according to local officials who spoke with The Daily Beast. During that same time period, the city of Los Angeles was told by representatives of the federal government that it had lost a bid for N95 masks to a Russian entity, according to two people familiar with the matter. The L.A. officials were never told the Russian outfit’s name.

Kushner held the details of the New York shipment closely and accelerated the order by leaning on his personal relationship with Dmitriev, a confidant of President Vladimir Putin who’d been dispatched to make inroads with the inexperienced 2016 Trump transition team.

Collusion continues.

So, I’m off to try to get some more things cooked just in case the heat goes off.  Don’t want any perishables lying around in a powerless refrigerator and at least the cooked stuff lasts a bit longer.

Take care!  Be safe!  Be kind and gentle with yourself!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Lazy Caturday Reads: Outrage Builds Over Trump’s Attacks on the U.S. Post Office

Good Morning!!

On Thursday and Friday, Dakinikat and I wrote about Trump’s assault on the U.S. Postal Service, in  hopes of suppressing Democratic votes in November. Last night the story began building into a five alarm fire of public outrage. Rachel Maddow focused on the story on her show last night.

Media columnist Margaret Sullivan at The Washington Post: Trump’s attacks on the Postal Service deserve sustained, red-alert coverage from the media.

Listen to President Trump long enough, and, despite his penchant for falsehood, you’ll eventually hear some unvarnished truth.

That happened Thursday when he stated his intentions clearly in an interview with Fox Business Network. He doesn’t want to approve billions in emergency funding for the cash-strapped and struggling U.S. Postal Service for a simple reason: Democrats want to expand mail-in voting during the pandemic.

His words were stark: “Now, they need that money in order to have the Post Office work, so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots.” He added that holding back funding means “they can’t have universal mail-in voting, they just can’t have it.”

In other words, he doesn’t want American citizens, fearful of exposure to the coronavirus, to have every opportunity to vote in November.

It’s not his first effort to cripple the Postal Service, one of the most essential — and popular — institutions in America. His statements Thursday came after he installed a Republican megadonor, Louis DeJoy, as the new postmaster general. In turn, DeJoy has unseated dozens of veteran postal officials. He and his minions have banned overtime and told carriers to leave mail behind at distribution centers, letting it pile up for days. Sorting machines that speed mail processing have been removed.

“Things are already going wrong,” Philip F. Rubio, an expert on the Postal Service and history professor at North Carolina A&T State University (and a former letter carrier himself), told Politico. There are “widespread mail slowdowns of all kinds of mail — first-class, marketing mail, parcels. Even the Veterans’ Administration has complained that veterans are not getting their medications on time.”

Read Sullivan’s commentary on the media coverage and why they need to “turn up the heat” at the WaPo link.

Today the news is full of stories about Trump’s attempted sabotage of a beloved American institution that is enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. As Maddow said last night, “pressure works.

CNN: USPS will stop removing letter collection boxes in Western states until after the election, spokesman says.

In a statement Friday night, Rod Spurgeon — a USPS spokesperson for the service’s the Western region — told CNN that the service will stop the removal of letter collection boxes in 16 states and parts of two others until after the election.

That means, according to Spurgeon, the USPS will stop collecting the letter collection boxes only in: Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Idaho, Montana, South Dakota, North Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Iowa, Alaska, Nebraska and small parts of Wisconsin and Missouri.

It’s not clear if the removal freeze would go into effect across the nation. Kim Frum — a spokeswoman for USPS based at headquarters — could not say if the freeze would go into effect across the country and would not comment on the freeze in the Western region.

Officials say that in the last week the USPS has removed letter collection boxes in at least four states: New York, Oregon, Montana and Indiana. The USPS has also begun notifying postal workers in at least three states — West Virginia, Florida and Missouri — that they will start to reduce their retail operating hours, according to union officials.

Montana Senator John Tester appeared on Maddow’s show last night to discuss the removal of mailboxes in his state. KLUR 8.com: Montana officials ask for answers from USPS Postmaster General following removal of blue mail drop-off boxes.

BIG SANDY, Mont. – U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, Sen. Steve Daines, Rep. Greg Gianforte and Gov. Steve Bullock asked for answers from the U.S. Postal Service Postmaster General, Louis DeJoy, after the USPS removed blue mail drop-off boxes in some Montana towns.

Sen. Tester confirmed the reports of the U.S. Postal Service’s removing of the blue mail drop-off boxes throughout Montana on Friday, releasing the following statement:

“Since ringing the alarm on the removal of collection boxes from communities across Montana, it has become clear that these reports are accurate. These actions set my hair on fire and they have real life implications for folks in rural America and their ability to access critical postal services like paying their bills and voting in upcoming elections. Postmaster General DeJoy must immediately provide Montanans with an explanation for the actions of the USPS, or he can do it under oath before a Senate Committee.”

Sen. Tester and Sen. Daines also sent out statements saying the USPS has paused its removal of mail collection boxes in towns across Montana.

New Jersey Representative Bill Pascrell, Jr. made a criminal referral to the New Jersey Attorney General last night. Pascrell appeared last night on MSNBC’s The Eleventh Hour with substitute host Ali Velshi.

The Daily Beast: NJ Rep, Inspector General Investigate What the Hell Is Going On With USPS.

Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ) made a criminal referral to the New Jersey Attorney General on Friday night, asking him to impanel a grand jury to look at possible breach of state election laws by President Trump, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and others for “their accelerating arson of the post office,” he said. Alarming headlines have emerged in recent days as many states prepare to facilitate widespread mail balloting due to the coronavirus pandemic. President Trump openly admitted he was withholding federal aid from the postal service to prevent mail-in voting, and USPS has notified 46 states and D.C. that it will struggle to deliver some mail ballots on time.

Pascrell’s announcement came after USPS’s internal watchdog said it would review policy changes and potential ethical conflicts under DeJoy, a Trump donor who owns a $30 million stake in a competitor to USPS. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and other Democratic lawmakers requested a review into DeJoy’s actions, like eliminating overtime and slowing certain types of mail delivery, and whether he “met all ethics requirements.”

Attorneys General from several other states, including Washington, Connecticut, Arizona, and Maine, are considering taking action on the issue and the Post Office inspector general is getting involved. CNN: Exclusive: Postal service inspector general reviewing DeJoy’s policy changes and potential ethics conflicts.

The internal watchdog at the United States Postal Service is reviewing controversial policy changes recently imposed under Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, and is also examining DeJoy’s compliance with federal ethics rules, according to a spokeswoman for the USPS inspector general and an aide to Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who requested the review.

Lawmakers from both parties and postal union leaders have sounded alarms over disruptive changes instituted by DeJoy this summer, including eliminating overtime and slowing some mail delivery. Democrats claim he is intentionally undermining postal service operations to sabotage mail-in voting in the November election — a charge he denies.
Agapi Doulaveris, a spokeswoman for the USPS watchdog, told CNN in an email, “We have initiated a body of work to address the concerns raised, but cannot comment on the details.”

Last week, Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, and eight other Democratic lawmakers asked the inspector general to launch an inquiry into DeJoy on a number of fronts, including the nationwide policy changes he’s made since taking over in June, as well as whether DeJoy has “met all ethics requirements.” [….]

It’s unclear if the inspector general has launched a full-scale investigation into possible politicization at USPS by DeJoy, a Trump ally and Republican donor, or if it’s just reviewing the matter for Congress.

CNN first reported earlier this week that DeJoy still owns at least a $30 million equity stake in his former company — a USPS contractor — and that he recently bought stock options for Amazon, a USPS competitor. These holdings likely create a major conflict of interest, ethics experts told CNN, though DeJoy and USPS maintain that he has complied with all federal requirements.

At The Week, Ryan Cooper writes: Trump’s Post Office meddling is plainly illegal.

Trump now openly admits he is sandbagging the Post Office to prevent Americans from voting by mail. Obstructing the ability to vote of the American people is a crime at the federal level and in every state. Not for the first time, the president has confessed to criminal acts on television.

First, the president does not get to prevent certain kinds of voting just because he alleges there is fraud happening. Election administration is largely governed at the state level, and several states — like Washington, Oregon, Colorado, and Utah — have had universal mail-in voting as the foundation of their systems for years (where it has worked just fine). Trump’s throwing a monkey wrench into the gears of the Post Office is a likely unconstitutional infringement of state authority to run their own elections, in addition to being directly criminal (see below).

Second, Trump is lying. We know he’s lying because countless studies have found mail-in voter fraud to be virtually nonexistent compared to the number of ballots cast, because it doesn’t even make sense as a way to commit election theft, and most of all because Trump himself has voted through the mail repeatedly — in 2017 and 2018 in New York, and just this week for the primary election in Florida. His argument is a scam and obviously so.

Third, we can also see what the game is by how new postmaster general Louis DeJoy, who met with Trump last week and is undeniably a partisan lackey, is slashing the Post Office’s baseline capacity. As David Dayen argues at The American Prospect, even 100 percent mail-in voting would barely burden the agency at all, given that it delivers 182 million pieces of mail every day (or used to, anyway), and most ballots have a very short transit route — from county election offices to homes and back again. That is why DeJoy is ending postal carrier overtime, destroying automated letter-sorting machines that cost millions of dollars, and pulling up hundreds of outdoor mailboxes. Voting by mail is so trivial for the USPS that it is necessary to seriously damage the agency to render it incapable of carrying it out. Sure enough, the agency has already warned that mail-in ballots could fail to be delivered in time in nearly every state….

The point of hamstringing the Post Office is to prevent as many people from voting by mail as possible, because 72 percent of Democrats say they are likely to vote by mail, as compared to 22 percent of Republicans. Trump and his stooge are using their federal power to forcibly disenfranchise American citizens. We have it straight from the horse’s mouth.

Let’s compare that behavior to 18 U.S. Code § 594, which states: “Whoever intimidates, threatens, coerces, or attempts to intimidate, threaten, or coerce, any other person for the purpose of interfering with the right of such other person to vote or to vote as he may choose” in a federal election faces fines and up to a year in prison. (By the way, someone who “knowingly and willfully obstructs or retards the passage of the mail” also faces fines and up to six months in prison.)

Cooper writes that there are also state laws against “stealing elections.” Read the whole thing at the link.

Charles Pierce writes that Trump is violating his oath of office:

Let’s all not sprain something pretending that this is simply some “sweeping organizational and policy overhaul” wha-dee-doo-dah. It’s ratfcking under color of law, pure and simple—a more complicated version of the “accidental” Election Day water-main break in front of the mayoral challenger’s headquarters. (Hi, Jim Curley!) Except, of course, this little monkey-wrenching keeps veterans from getting their prescription medicines, and rural customers from sending or receiving their packages. It also is a clear violation of the president*’s oath of office. He promised to take care that even the postal laws are faithfully executed. That doesn’t mean having your fat-cat apparatchik slow-walk the U.S. Mail to get you re-elected. Impeachable offenses are exhausting to carry around.

Read the rest at Esquire.

Protesters were outside DeJoy’s home this morning, according to WUSA9.

A group of protesters staged a “noise demonstration” Saturday morning outside of United States Postal Service Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s home in Northwest D.C. amid allegations of limiting mail-in voting for the 2020 Presidential election.

The demonstration was organized by the direct action group Shut Down D.C. They gathered in Kalorama Park in Adams Morgan on the corner of Kalorama Road and 19th Street and marched towards DeJoy’s home.

Members of the group came together to protest against DeJoy’s leadership ahead of mail-in voting for the 2020 Presidential election.

The organization believes DeJoy is “dismantling” the U.S. Postal Service in favor of President Donald Trump’s re-election. They said his actions contribute to voter suppression.

“DeJoy has fired or reassigned much of the existing USPS leadership and ordered the removal of mail sorting machines that are fundamental to the functioning of the postal service. Meanwhile, mail delivery is slowing down under other decisions made by DeJoy, such as eliminating overtime for postal workers,” the group said in a statement.

Let’s hope all this outrage will continue until Trump and DeJoy are forced to back down and/or are prosecuted. Of course that won’t stop Trump from trying to steal the election. Democrats are going to have to fight back like never before.

Have a great weekend, Sky Dancers!! Take care and be kind to yourselves, other people, and animals.


Friday Readings: Vote because Our Lives depend on it

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

The mural to the left is of Georgia gubernatorial Candidate Stacey Abrams located on a building in the Edgewood neighborhood of Atlanta. This building is just blocks from MLK Jr.’s childhood home. White Republicans in Georgia are actively trying to beat her any way they can.

You can tell there is a lot at stake in this election due to the SCOTUS gutting of the Voting Rights Act because there is increasing opportunity and effort to suppress the votes of indigenous peoples in North Dakota and Black people in every southern state and else where.  Republicans are trying to hold power in the Senate to continue the reign of terror and murder of US democracy.

The struggle continues . Dozens of black seniors on their way to early voting in Georgia were ordered off a bus in Jefferson County.

As early voting began Monday in Georgia,a group of black senior citizens gathered for a voter outreach event at Jefferson County’s Leisure Center. Members of Black Voters Matter, one of the groups behind the event, offered to drive the group of about 40 seniors to the polls.

But shortly after the seniors boarded the organization’s bus, county officials stopped the trip, prompting new accusations of voter suppression in a state already dealing with several such controversies.

The event, according to ThinkProgress’s Kira Lerner, was a part of Black Voters Matter’s “The South is Rising” bus tour across seven states to host voter outreach and engagement events. Black Voters Matter is nonpartisan, and the group’s leadership did not encourage the senior citizens to vote for a particular candidate or political party, according to LaTosha Brown, the organization’s co-founder.

Jefferson County Administrator Adam Brett countered that the Monday event constituted “political activity,” noting that a local Democratic Party chair helped sponsor it.

“This is voter suppression, Southern style,” Brown told Think Progress. According to recent Census figures, Jefferson County is 53 percent black, and voting rights advocates cite a lack of transportation as a particularly high barrier to voting for black Georgians. Civil rights groups most recently raised this point in August when a majority-black Georgia county proposed closing all but two of its polling places.

 

There seems to be nothing White Republican men will do these days to hold on to power. It’s astonishing but not surprising. It’s not even subtle any more.  One of the more strange things coming out of Georgia is forcing voter registration clerks to “match signatures” as if they’re experts on handing writing analysis.  From Slate: “Georgia Is Using Amateur Handwriting Analysis to Disenfranchise Minority Voters.  The scourge of “signature mismatch” laws strikes again.”

Say you live in Georgia. You’re eager to vote in this year’s election—a tight race between Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Trump acolyte Brian Kemp—so you fill out an absentee ballot and mail it in. Then, days or weeks after the election, you receive a notice in the mail. The signature on your absentee ballot, it explains, looked different from the signature on your voter-registration card. So an election official threw out your ballot. There is nothing you can do. Your vote has been voided.

If Georgia’s signature-mismatch law remains in effect through the November election, this fate will befall thousands of would-be voters. The statute directs elections officials to apply amateur handwriting analysis to voters’ signatures and reject any potential “mismatch.” Nearly 500 ballots in Gwinnett County alone have already been rejected for mismatch, a disproportionate number of them cast by minority voters. Now the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia is suing, demanding that the state give all citizens an opportunity to cure ballots rejected for mismatch. Its suit will help determine how successfully Georgia will suppress minority votes in the upcoming race.

Signature-mismatch laws are a scourge of American elections. The very premise makes no sense: In a similar lawsuit filed in New Hampshire, a forensic document examiner testifiedthat effective signature comparison requires 10 signature samples “at a minimum” to account for variability. Even then, experts may struggle to verify a signature, because our signatures often change over time. Voters who are disabled or elderly, or are nonnative English speakers, are especially likely to have variation between signatures. That’s one reason why New Hampshire’s mismatch law disproportionately impacted seniors, California’s disproportionately impacts first-generation Asian Americans, and Florida’s disproportionately impacts Hispanics.

But there’s likely something more insidious going on here too. The extreme racial disparitiesamong those affected by mismatch laws may also reflect the broad discretion that election officials have to toss ballots. In states with stringent mismatch rules, a handful of election officials are frequently responsible for the vast majority of ballots voided for mismatch. And those officials routinely work in counties with large minority communities.

One of the most important ways to circumvent being stopped at the polls or slowed down at the polls on election day is to vote early.  Early votes are pouring into Virginia. The number of absentee ballots arriving to be counted is nearly unbelievable. It’s another reason that Republican legislatures are trying to shorten early voting periods and create long drives to early voting sites.

The number of voters in Virginia who have cast early ballots ahead of the November elections is dramatically up compared with last year, suggesting an electorate that is energized by several hotly contested races for Congress that are spread across the state.

Virginia allows voters to cast “absentee” ballots in person if they have valid excuses for not being able to vote on Election Day.

Nearly 78,000 people have completed ballots since absentee voting began Sept. 15 — more than double the number who voted early by this point last year, according to an analysis of voting data by the nonprofit Virginia Public Access Project.

That number is still shy of the 123,221 absentee ballots cast during the 2014 midterm elections, state data shows.

But with a little less than three weeks before the Nov. 6 elections, local election officials say this year’s absentee totals are on pace to eclipse 2014 and may even approach the turnout for the presidential election of 2016, when a near-record 496,452 Virginians cast their ballots early.

“It’s actually quite shocking,” said Richard Keech, deputy director of the elections office in Loudoun County, which has seen a 239 percent jump in absentee voting this year, with 11,106 ballots either already cast or mailed to voters so far.

“This would be the first time without a president on the ballot that we’ve seen this kind of increase,” Keech said

Fairfax County, the state’s largest jurisdiction, has seen a roughly 100 percent increase since last year, with 21,582 absentee votes cast so far, officials said. Nearby, Prince William County, the ­second-largest jurisdiction, has climbed by about 114 percent to 4,693 absentee ballots cast.

Here’s a suggestion from MIchelle Goldberg to prevent “political despair”.   She suggests we “join the women trying to save America from Trump.”

This week, a friend texted me, “I feel a panic that won’t stop.” I didn’t have to ask what she meant; we are, after all, less than three weeks from the midterms. “#MeToo,” I replied.

Many women I know — though, of course, not only women — are walking around with a churning knot of terror in their stomachs. The confirmation of the cruel former frat boy Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court brought back the anguish and degradation so many of us felt after the 2016 election. Donald Trump grows more thuggish and mendacious by the day; “gaslighting,” a term taken from a play about an abusive husband trying to drive his wife insane, has become a byword of our national life.

Republicans are increasingly explicit about campaigning to preserve male power. Criticizing the #MeToo movementearly this month, Trump said it’s “a very scary time for young men in America.” Republican congressman Andy Barr of Kentucky ran a commercial attacking his opponent, former Marine fighter pilot Amy McGrath, for describing herself as a feminist. The Washington Post wrote about how an “outbreak of male resentment” is poised to play a “defining role” in the midterms.

I too have this underlying, nagging anxiety all the time.  No matter how many times I say the mani and take deep breaths. I cannot shake the feeling that the bad guys are pulling out all the stops to stop the rest of us from rising.

Meanwhile, Georgia still stands out as the worst example while the ghost of Lester Maddox grins somewhere from hell.

A handful of states, most of them led by Republicans, are using someone’s decision not to vote as the trigger for removing them from the rolls. No state has been more aggressive with this approach than Georgia, where Brian Kemp, the secretary of state, oversaw the purging of a growing number of voters ahead of his own run for governor, according to an APM Reports investigation. Voting rights advocates call it a new form of voter suppression, and they fear it will soon spread to other states.

Even by Georgia standards, the voter purge of late July 2017 was remarkable. In a single day, more than half a million people — 8 percent of Georgia’s registered voters — were cut from the voter rolls. Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp, an avid supporter of President Donald Trump who has described himself as a “politically incorrect conservative,” oversaw the removals eight months after he’d declared himself a candidate for governor.

The purge was noteworthy for another reason: For an estimated 107,000 of those people, their removal from the voter rolls was triggered not because they moved or died or went to prison, but rather because they had decided not to vote in prior elections, according to an APM Reports analysis. Many of those previously registered voters may not even realize they’ve been dropped from the rolls. If they show up at the polls on Nov. 6 to vote in the heated Georgia governor’s race, they won’t be allowed to cast a ballot.

Kemp’s opponent, Democrat Stacey Abrams, is vying to become the first African-American woman in U.S. history to serve as a governor. The state has undergone a dramatic influx of African Americans and Latinos whose votes could challenge Republican dominance, and her campaign is trying to turn out people of color, who are more likely to be infrequent voters. If the race is close, the July 2017 purge could affect the outcome.

The APM Reports analysis is the first estimate of the so-called “use it or lose it” policy’s possible impact in Georgia. While 107,000 people may seem like a small number in a state with a population of 10.4 million, elections have been decided by far smaller margins. For instance, the 2016 presidential election was decided in favor of Donald Trump by a total of 77,744 votes in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

Using someone’s decision not to vote as the trigger to remove that person from the rolls is a highly controversial — yet legal — tactic that voting rights advocates say is a potential tool for voter suppression. And its use is on the rise.

APM Reports found that at least nine states — most of them with Republican leadership, including the key battlegrounds of Georgia and Ohio — have purged an estimated hundreds of thousands of people from the rolls for infrequent voting since the 2014 general election. States with these policies are removing voters at some of the highest rates in the nation, no matter the reason.

People are fighting for our right to vote. They have fought over the years and decades to expand the right to vote for all of us. We have the duty and obligation to honor their hard work. I live in a state that seems hopeless and a city that is well represented by Americans of all backgrounds. This election will send my Congressman Cedric Richmond back to the leader of the Congressional Black Caucus. But, I have to admit that I am paying a lot more attention to the judicial races than I used to.  Every race counts these days.

There is one ballot amendment here that will be a statewide vote that would bring significant justice to those incarcerated for major crimes with juries that are not unanimous. Overturning this law would be a significant step forward for Louisiana and I fully support this ballot effort to do so.

What would this ballot measure change about convictions?

Amendment 2 would require the unanimous agreement of jurors to convict people charged with felonies. As of 2018, Louisiana requires the agreement of 10 of 12, or 83 percent, jurors to convict people charged with felonies. Amendment 2 would not affect juries for offenses that were committed before January 1, 2019.[1]

Do other states allow for non-unanimous jury convictions?

As of 2018, Louisiana is one of two states—the other being Oregon—that does not require the unanimous agreement of jurors to convict people charged with felonies. Oregon does, however, require unanimous convictions in murder trials.[2][3]

Have the courts addressed the non-unanimous juries rule?

In Apodaca v. Oregon (1972), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution required unanimous juries to convict persons in federal criminal trials, but that the Fourteenth Amendment did not extend the requirement of unanimous juries to state criminal trials.[4][5]

Oddly enough, the Koch network is supporting this ballot initiative too. As we say, politics can sometimes make for odd bedfellows.

A conservative organization funded by the Koch network launched a digital ad Monday aimed at ending Louisiana’s law that allows split juries to convict people of serious felony crimes, an outreach effort that puts the group at odds with some of its usual allies.

Americans for Prosperity-Louisiana announced the online advertising campaign will be combined with direct-mail pieces and other outreach in support of the constitutional change on the Nov. 6 ballot that would do away with the Jim Crow-era law.

Currently, some serious felony trials in Louisiana, including some murder cases, can be resolved when 10 out of 12 jurors agree on a person’s guilt. Louisiana and Oregon are the only two states that allow non-unanimous verdicts in felony cases. But even Oregon requires a unanimous verdict in murder trials.

Amendment 2 would require jury verdicts in Louisiana to be unanimous to convict someone in all felony cases.

Americans for Prosperity’s 30-second online ad — set to music and without narration — targets libertarian-leaning and conservative voters with a focus on constitutional rights, saying Amendment 2 will “protect American freedom and liberty.” It says Louisiana’s current law makes it “easier to send innocent people to prison.”

“Louisianans deserve a justice system that values, above all else, the rights of the accused in a jury trial. A system that places a higher value on conviction rates than the pursuit of the truth is a system that has no place in our society,” John Kay, Louisiana state director of Americans for Prosperity, said in a statement.

The organization is the main political advocacy group for billionaire Charles Koch, who has supported criminal justice overhauls in several states, including Louisiana. With support of the unanimous jury amendment, along with the criminal-sentencing-law changes, the Koch network has diverged from some other high-profile conservatives in Louisiana, including Republican Attorney General Jeff Landry and several tough-on-crime district attorneys.

But Amendment 2 has drawn an unlikely, bipartisan coalition of support across the political spectrum, from conservative and religious groups to liberal activists.

The constitutional amendment required two-thirds support of lawmakers to reach the November ballot. When Sen. J.P. Morrell, a New Orleans Democrat, first proposed the idea, passage during the regular legislative session was seen as a longshot.

The legislation became the surprise measure of the session, reaching a public vote with widespread support from Democrats and Republicans, picking up steam each step of the process.

gettyimages-891268960black_wide-9bc5d0ff764446aa5c26b48114480562347aa416-s800-c85I would like to say the only stand out thing about the Louisiana Election this year is that we are working to remove this Jim Crow Era law . Our Republican Secretary of State has also purged voter rolls. I made sure I checked my registration earlier this week.  Our State AG is a doozy. We pretty much hate him here in New Orleans.  “AG Landry: Free election day bus rides illegal”.

Lafayette City-Parish Councilman Bruce Conque withdrew a resolution from Tuesday’s agenda that would have provided free bus rides in the city of Lafayette on election days.

Conque said he spoke with Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry who concurred with city-parish attorneys’ advice that free bus service is not legal.

“Jeff (Landry) … said he considers it a violation of the Louisiana constitution and he would legally challenge it if we moved forward,” Conque said.

Landry told The Daily Advertiser the Louisiana Secretary of State asked for advice on the matter, so Landry sent him a 1996 Attorney General opinion. That opinion said a school board could not use school buses to bring voters to election polls.

Even though the Lafayette buses would not directly bring riders to the polls, Landry said it is not allowed. The facts of the opinion may differ from the Lafayette case, he said, but the principle behind the conclusion is the same.

This impacts the poor and the elderly. Additionally, here’s some evidence of the Secretary of State’s voter suppression tactics from the Daily  Beast.  Rachel Maddow has been focusing on this issue of voter suppression over the country. We have not yet been featured but Louisiana has done it too.  Here’s our experience with voter purges from Louisiana Weekly.

In July 2018, the Brennan Center for Justice released a report analyzing voter purging across the country showing that between 2014 and 2016 officials removed more than 16 million people from voting rolls nationwide. That’s four million more names than states removed between 2006 and 2008 (the last time frame analyzed).

The center attributes this increase in purging to an increase in the use of sometimes flawed data matching software across states to remove names, as well as conservative activist groups lobbying for, and sometimes suing to get, more purges and tougher legislation to protect against potential non-citizen voters.

Louisiana’s last voter purge was in 2017, a routine post-election clean up that resulted in 55,000 names removed from an inactive voter list of more than 100,000. (There are some three million registered voters in total in the state).

Voters become inactive after they don’t vote in a federal election and, “we don’t have a way to reach them by mail or phone,” says Louisiana secretary of state’s spokeswoman Meg Casper Sunstrom. “In other words, we can’t verify they are living where they are registered to vote. As soon as they participate and vote, they can be removed from the inactive list.”

Some voting rights advocates have criticized past purges in Louisiana, particularly a post-Katrina purge that resulted in a federal lawsuit against the state in 2007. Many displaced people registered for driver’s licenses and acquired temporary residences in other states, and data matching systems subsequently flagged their names as potential “double voters” – people registered to vote in multiple states. Millions of people are registered in two places, and research shows that since 2000, around 30 cases of voter fraud have been validated in the United States.

Despite little to no evidence of illegal voting across the country, the Trump Administration has aggressively pursued efforts to curtail even the possibility of fraud – creating a now defunct national voter fraud task force and asking states to turn over detailed information on individual voters. Then, Louisiana secretary of state Tom Schedler declined the task force’s request, offering only the same (less extensive) data available for purchase to political candidates online.

We must stop this dreadful disenfranchisement and removal of rights from citizens.  If we don’t attack it by voting and by bringing attention to voter suppression efforts it will only get worse.  It can only benefit Trump and the white patriarchy who oppresses the majority of people in the country and can only contain them with gerrymandering and voter suppression.  Increased voter participation by the rest of this lessens the chance they are successful.

Don’t forget to vote!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 


Friday Reads

Good Morning!

I thought I’d try to get off the topic of the midterm elections specifically and get on to some general things about why the U.S. Political System seems so completely screwed up right now.  What exactly has led us to the point where the Republicans seem to be a combination of the John Birch banksy-dreams_00349040Society and Theocrats and the Democratic Party sits idly by and twiddles its thumbs hoping the process works like it used to?

William Pfaff has a few things to say about this in an article titled “How Ronald Reagan and the Supreme Court Turned American Politics Into a Cesspool”.   One of the things that does completely amaze me is how the entire Reagan Presidency has turned into a narrative that’s more saga and drama than reality.  There’s some really interesting points here.  How did this election get so removed from reality in that people voted for one set of priorities when it came to issues like marijuana legalization and the minimum wage but then sent people to the District diametrically opposed to these policies?

The second significance of this election has been the debasement of debate to a level of vulgarity, misinformation and ignorance that, while not unprecedented in American political history, certainly attained new depths and extent.

This disastrous state of affairs is the product of two Supreme Court decisions and before that, of the repeal under the Reagan Administration, of the provision in the Federal Communications Act of 1934, stipulating the public service obligations of radio (and subsequently, of television) broadcasters in exchange for the government’s concession to them of free use in their businesses of the public airways.

These rules required broadcasters to provide “public interest” programming, including the coverage of electoral campaigns for public office and the independent examination of public issues. The termination of these requirements made possible the wave of demagogic and partisan right-wing “talk radio” that since has plagued American broadcasting and muddied American electoral politics.

Those readers old enough to remember the radio and early television broadcasting of pre-Reagan America will recall the non-partisan news reports and summaries provided by the national networks and by local stations in the United States. There were, of course, popular news commentators professing strong or idiosyncratic views as well, but the industry assured that a variety of responsible opinions were expressed, and that blatant falsehood was banned or corrected.

The two Supreme Court decisions were “Buckley v. Valeo” in 1976 and “Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission” in 2010. Jointly, they have transformed the nature of the American political campaign, and indeed the nature of American national politics. This resulted from the nature and characteristics of mass communications in the United States and the fact that broadcasting has from the beginning been all but totally a commercial undertaking (unlike the state broadcasters in Canada and Britain, and nearly all of Europe).

The two decisions turned political contests into competitions in campaign advertising expenditure on television and radio. The election just ended caused every American linked to the internet to be bombarded by thousands (or what seemed tens of thousands) of political messages pleading for campaign money and listing the enormous (naturally) sums pouring into the coffers of the enemy.

Previously the American campaign first concerned the candidate and the nature of his or her political platform. Friends and supporters could, of course, contribute to campaign funds and expenditures, but these contributions were limited by law in scale and nature. No overt connection was allowed between businesses or industries and major political candidates, since this would have implied that the candidate represented “special interests” rather than the general interest.

The Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission verdict is well known and remains highly controversial since it rendered impossible the imposition of legal limits on political campaign spending, ruling that electoral spending is an exercise in constitutionally-protected free speech. Moreover, it adjudged commercial corporations as legal citizens, in electoral matters the equivalent of persons.

BanksyCleaningUpWhat role has Citizen’s United played in our elections? 

Don’t think Citizens United made a difference for the GOP in Tuesday’s midterms? The plaintiff in the landmark Supreme Court case thinks so.

Citizens United, our Supreme Court case, leveled the playing field, and we’re very proud of the impact that had in last night’s election,” said David Bossie, chairman of the conservative advocacy organization.

He complained that Democratic lawmakers were trying to “gut the First Amendment” with their proposed constitutional amendment to overturn the 2010 ruling, reported Right Wing Watch, which allowed corporations to pour cash into campaigns without disclosing their contributions.

Bossie said this so-called “dark money” was crucial to Republicans gaining control of the U.S. Senate and strengthening their grip on the U.S. House of Representatives.

“A robust conversation, which is what a level playing field allows, really creates an opportunity for the American people to get information and make good decisions,” Bossie said.

Besides the role of dark money, the number of states that will continue to enact voter suppression measures between now and 2016 is expected to increase.

Voters across the country trying to cast votes in Tuesday’s elections ran into hurdles erected by Republican legislatures, governors and secretaries of state. Along with mechanical glitches and human error — which occurred in states with leaders on both sides of the political spectrum — voters faced new laws and policies that made it harder to vote.

In Alabama, a last-minute decision by the attorney general barred people from using public housing IDs to vote. Voter ID laws in North Carolina and Texas sowed confusion. Georgia lost 40,000 voter registrations, mostly from minorities. In all, the group Election Protection reported receiving 18,000 calls on Election Day, many of them having to do with voter ID laws. The group noted that the flurry of calls represented “a nearly 40 percent increase from 13,000 calls received in 2010.”

In the presidential election year of 2016, it looks unlikely that those problems will subside — especially if Congress fails to restore the Voting Rights Act. The two states that had the closest vote tallies in the last presidential election — Florida and Ohio — will go into the presidential election year with Republicans controlling the offices of governor and secretary of state and holding majorities in their state legislatures.

In Florida, Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who won reelection yesterday, will be able to appoint a secretary of state and will enjoy the support of a veto-proof Republican majority in the state House.

In Ohio, controversial Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted won reelection on Tuesday, along with Gov. John Kasich. They’ll be able to work with a strengthened GOP majority in the state legislature.

In North Carolina, where a Republican legislature and governor have cracked down on voting rights, the GOP held onto its majority. Republican secretary of state candidates in the swing states of Colorado, Iowa and Nevada also won elections yesterday.

Two influential elections for voting rights also took place in states unlikely to be presidential swing states. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a national ringleader for advocates of restrictive voting laws, won reelection. In Arizona, which has been working with Kansas to defend their states’ respective tough voting requirements, Republican candidate Michele Reagan also won her contest.

Suppression of voting rights and purposeful spread of lies, propaganda, and disinformation are likely to continue as the 2016 Presidential Political season begins.Will the Democratic Party learn anything from the last two disastrous mid term elections? banksy-w1200

This fall, Democrats ran like they were afraid of losing. Consider the issues that most Democrats think really matter: Climate change, which a United Nations report just warned will have “severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts” across the globe. The expansion of Medicaid, so millions of poor families have health coverage. Our immoral and incoherent immigration system. Our epidemic of gun violence, which produces a mini-Sandy Hook every few weeks. The rigging of America’s political and economic system by the 1 percent.

For the most part, Democratic candidates shied away from these issues because they were too controversial. Instead they stuck to topics that were safe, familiar, and broadly popular: the minimum wage, outsourcing, and the “war on women.” The result, for the most part, was homogenized, inauthentic, forgettable campaigns. Think about the Democrats who ran in contested seats Tuesday night: Grimes, Nunn, Hagan, Pryor, Hagan, Shaheen, Landrieu, Braley, Udall, Begich, Warner. During the entire campaign, did a single one of them have what Joe Klein once called a “Turnip Day moment”—a bold, spontaneous outbreak of genuine conviction? Did a single one unfetter himself or herself from the consultants and take a political risk to support something he or she passionately believed was right?

I’m not claiming that such displays would have changed the outcome. Given President Obama’s unpopularity, Democratic victories, especially in red states, may have been impossible.

But there is a crucial lesson here for 2016. In recent years, some Democrats have convinced themselves they can turn out African Americans, Latinos, single women, the poor, and the young merely by employing fancy computer systems and exploiting Republican extremism. But technologically, Republicans are catching up, and they’re getting shrewder about blunting, or at least masking, the harshness of their views.

We saw the consequences on Tuesday. According to exit polls, voters under 30 constituted only 13 percent of the electorate, down from 19 percent in 2012. In Florida, the Latino share of the electorate dropped from 17 to 13 percent. In North Carolina, the African-American share dropped from 23 to 21 percent.

If Hillary Clinton wants to reverse those numbers, she’s going to have to inspire people—people who, more than their Republican counterparts, are inclined toward disconnection and despair. And her gender alone won’t be enough. She lost to Obama in 2008 in part because she could not overcome her penchant for ultra-cautious, hyper-sanitized, consultant-speak. Yet on the stump this year, she was as deadening as the candidates she campaigned for. As Molly Ball put it in September, “Everywhere Hillary Clinton goes, a thousand cameras follow. Then she opens her mouth, and nothing happens.”

Then, there is this: Former Republican Committeemen Claim Election Judges Coerced Into Voting GOP. banksy-wallpaper-tumblr-12-wide

A day after the election, officials are still counting ballots and the investigation into who made robocalls that allegedly persuaded many judges not to show up Tuesday is heating up.

Two former Republican committeemen are telling 2 Investigator Pam Zekman they were removed because they objected to those tactics.

Judges of election are appointed by their respective parties and they look at a judge’s primary voting records as part of the vetting process. But in these cases the former committeemen we talked to said that vetting crossed a line when judges were told who they had to vote for in the Tuesdays’ election.

One says it happened at a temporary campaign headquarters at 8140 S. Western Ave, which we’ve confirmed it was rented by the Republican Party where election judges reported they were falsely told they had to appear for additional training.

And a former 7th ward committeewoman says she witnessed the same thing at 511. E. 79th Street campaign workers calling judges to come in for additional training. She says there wasn’t any training.

“They were calling election judges, telling them to come in so they could get specific orders to vote for the Republican Party,” said Charon Bryson.

She says she is a Republican but objected to the tactic used on the judges.

“They should not be be pressured or coerced into voting for someone to get a job, or to get an appointment,” said Bryson.

Bryson says she thinks it is like “buying a vote.”

“If you don’t vote Republican you will not be an Republican judge, which pays $170,” she said.

The Board of Elections is now investigating whether calls to judges assigned citywide resulted in a shortage that infuriated the mayor.

“What happened with the robocalls was intentional. As far as we can tell somebody got a list, a list with names and numbers, called them, not to educate, not to promote the democratic process, but to sew confusion,” Emanuel said.

imagesScared by polls that show that people do not want Republican policies and by changes in demographics, Republicans have been pulling out the stops to turn back the tide.  However, none of these fundamentals seem to be driving voting trends or turnout.  WTF is wrong with people?  As a member of the White Women Constituency who seem to be one of the groups that continues to vote against their own interest, I can agree that we should all get our acts together now.  Nowhere was this more evident than in the Wendy Davis campaign.

Once more, with feeling: Greg Abbott and the Republican Party did not win women. They won white women. Time and time again, people of color have stood up for reproductive rights, for affordable health care, for immigrant communities while white folks vote a straight “I got mine” party ticket—even when they haven’t, really, gotten theirs.

The trend is echoed in national politics; we saw it play out across the country last night. To be sure, there are many factors that contributed to America’s rightward dive over the cliff: In a post-Citizens United electoral landscape, racist gerrymandering and voter ID laws appear to have had their intended effects of dividing and disenfranchising already marginalized voters.

But there’s another factor at play that Democrats fail to grapple with, and the Republican Party capitalizes on, time and time again: the historical crisis of empathy in the white community, one much older than gerrymandered congressional districts or poll taxes.

Let’s talk about what a vote for Wendy Davis meant: It meant a vote for strong public school funding, for Texas Medicaid expansion, for affordable family planning care, for environmental reforms, for access to a full spectrum of reproductive health-care options.

On the flip side, a vote for Greg Abbott meant a vote for the status quo, for empowering big industry and big political donors, for cutting public school funds and dismantling the Affordable Care Act, for overturning Roe v. Wade.

White women chose Greg Abbott Tuesday night. We did not choose empathy. Texas has been red for two decades. We do not choose empathy. We choose the fact that our children will always have access to education, that our daughters will always be able to fly to California or New York for abortion care, that our mothers will always be able to get that crucial Pap smear.

We chose a future where maternal mortality—but not our maternal mortality—rates will rise. We chose a future where preventable deaths from cervical cancer—but not our deaths—will rise. We chose a future where deaths from illegal, back-alley abortions—but not our illegal, back-alley abortions—will rise. We chose ourselves, and only ourselves.

Is white privilege such an enticing thing to us that we’ll sell ourselves out just to protect what scraps we’re thrown?

Anyway, between dark money, voter suppression, and the number of voters willing to vote against their policy beliefs and interests, we’re in trouble as a nation.  The Democratic Party just bailed on Mary Landrieu and I’m about to get a Senator that wants to raise Social Security eligibility to age 70, privatize Medicare with vouchers,  and defund student loans.  This doesn’t even count that he voted no to hurricane relief for his own constituents after Hurricane Isaac. At this rate, every white person in the country should get a tube of astrolube with their ballot.  Bend over folks, cause you’ve done it to yourselves!

What’s on your reading and blogging list?


Monday Reads: Is it the End of the World as We Know It?

Good Morning!

I’m really hoping this week goes well but I’m not really looking forward to Tuesday.  It’s my birthday and a tough one at that. It’s also election day, and it still looks like some crazy Republicans will be headed to Washington DC.  However, I will start with my good news this morning.  There are two day-of-the-dead-celebration-bostonthings.  I got to hug and say hi to Hillary Clinton on Saturday.  I also got to wave good bye to the dread Daylight Savings Time which I hate with a passion.  It’s basically a ploy to get people to stop and shop and go to golf courses on their way home from work.  That’s especially true since they extended it into hours where it makes no sense whatsoever. 

Daylight Saving Time is the greatest continuing fraud ever perpetuated on American people. And this weekend, the effects of this cruel monster will rear its ugly head again. On Sunday morning, Americans across the country will have to set their clocks back one hour, and next week, the sun will begin its ambling lurch to eventually setting at 4:30 in the afternoon.
Technically-speaking, this sleep cycle-wrecking practice of setting our clocks back is because we will be going back to Standard Time after our flirty summer with DST. And the unsettling shift back to these hours, and the hour “we gain,” is the back-end of the time-bargain we have to pay for setting our clocks forward in March to “maximize daylight”—a phrase probably better suited to organisms that rely on photosynthesis—during the spring and summer hours.

Why we try and “maximize daylight” like we’re plants is actually an archaic practice first thought up in the late 1700s and often attributed to Benjamin Franklin. As some elementary school teacher may have explained to you, this was a practice to accommodate agricultural workers and farmers (wrong, and we’ll get to this in a minute) or lower the nation’s electricity usage.

A lot of that is prime b.s. There is actually no benefit or rhyme or reason we have to endure this weekend’s time shift and no reason we should even be playing with the idea of losing and gaining hours.

Basically, it doesn’t save energy, it’s bad for your health, and the shifts in time kill work productivity because it gives you jet lag.  I always hate seeing little children having to get up in the pitch black to stand on corners for school buses.  The other thing I hate is that they have to walk home or stand out to get those same buses in the worst heat of the day.

“God, I love getting up an hour earlier,” said no one ever. “Me too. I can’t wait to have my schedule messed up in the fall,” no one replied.

A 2011 Rasmussen poll (for what it’s worth, Rasmussen can be a bit skewed when it comes to conservative politicians but seems to have no known bias against time zones) found that 47 percent (ha, Romney, ha) of Americans said DST was not worth the hassle.

So how do we fix all of this? Over at Quartz, there’s an idea to just have two timezones. But let’s be clear here. The real evil here is change. No one really minds if 4 a.m. is 4 a.m. They (and their possible heart attacks) mind if for some reason or another that 4 a.m. is now 5 a.m and will be 4 a.m. in a few months. It’s time to stop this insanity.

day-of-the-deaSo, what if the worst happens?  What if we wake up to a Republican led Senate with Mitch McConnell’s ugly face and personality at the helm?   Will we face more years of nothing getting done but everything going to pieces?   Here are two things that will happen.

2. Senate confirmations: The battlefield tilts

A GOP-controlled Senate will make it even tougher for Obama to confirm nominees, a process that hasn’t exactly been plain sailing even with Democrats in charge.

Although Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has said she is staying put, it remains plausible that Obama could be faced with a third chance to put his stamp on the court. Republicans would find it much easier to block his choice if they held the majority in the Senate.

Obama will also nominate a replacement for retiring Attorney General Eric Holder, and the confirmation process will likely be fraught whomever he chooses.

Obama also isn’t like to face any shortage of executive branch, ambassador and federal judicial nominations in his final two years in office. They will all need Senate confirmation.

3. Obama to stock up on veto pens

Obama has had to pick up his veto pen on just two occasions since he took office in 2009, largely because Democrats have controlled at least one chamber of Congress throughout that time.

He will need to check he has a plentiful supply of ink if Republicans take the Senate majority. He can expect to spend his final two years using his veto to protect earlier legislative victories, rather than seriously attempting to rack up new ones.

There is some chance of bipartisan progress on issue such as immigration reform and global trade deals. But it also seems likely that Obama will need to rely on executive action if he wants to pursue many of his priorities.

 But, will the Republicans get anything positive out of taking over the Senate besides the thrill up their legs from frustrating Obama?images (2)

The fact that the races in all of the presidential battleground states stayed close, despite an older and whiter electorate, suggests that Mr. Obama is not yet so unpopular as to cause the voters who remained Democratic-leaning through 2012 to vote Republicans into federal office.
This is perhaps most evident in Iowa, an overwhelmingly white state. It has tilted just slightly Democratic. If Republicans were going to gain voters who used to lean Democratic, Iowa would be the place where we would see it. Mr. Obama’s approval ratings in Iowa are particularly weak, in part because the state is full of white voters without college degrees — the group where Mr. Obama’s support has always been weakest.
The Democratic Senate candidate in Iowa, Bruce Braley, has not run a great campaign. He committed one of the more cringe-worthy gaffes of the cycle when he belittled Senator Charles E. Grassley for being “a farmer from Iowa who never went to law school” at a fund-raiser with a group of lawyers. Yet Mr. Braley is locked in a tight race with his Republican opponent, Joni Ernst. If Ms. Ernst wins by a margin of a point or two, that suggests she probably would have lost with a presidential-year electorate.
The story is perhaps even more troubling for Republicans in the South, where Democratic candidates are doing well among white voters.

If Republicans cannot maintain their exceptional margins among Southern white voters in the post-Obama era, their path to victory will get very narrow in states like Georgia and Florida. In both, the white share of the electorate has dropped by more than 10 percentage points since 2000.

Here are some late polls from the PPP that show McConnell will still return to the Senate and that Mary Landrieu has a fighting chance.

PPP’s final polls in Arkansas and Kentucky find Republicans in a strong position to win the Senate seats in those states on Tuesday, but the Louisiana Senate race still has the potential to be pretty competitive.images (3)

In Kentucky Mitch McConnell leads Alison Lundergan Grimes 50/42, with Libertarian David Patterson getting 3%. In a head to head match up, McConnell’s lead is 53/44. McConnell remains unpopular, with only 39% of voters approving of him to 50% who disapprove. But his campaign succeeded in making Grimes just as unpopular- her 39/49 favorability rating is nearly identical to his approval rating. For the millions and millions of dollars spent on this race it’s ended up right back around where it started- when we first polled it in December of 2012 McConnell led Grimes by 7 and in this final poll he leads by 8.

In April we found Grimes leading McConnell 45/44. At that time Grimes led McConnell by 37 points with Democrats and trailed him by 2 points with independents. Now she leads him by 35 points with Democrats and by 2 points with independents, nearly identical numbers to what they were 7 months ago. The story of McConnell’s comeback is one of getting his party to pretty universally vote for him, even if it’s still not in love with him. In April McConnell led Grimes by only 49 points with Republicans, 69/20. Now he leads her by 76 points with Republicans, 85/9. His resurgence with the GOP is the story of the race.

In Arkansas, we find Republicans leading the races for Governor and the Senate by 8-10 points. Tom Cotton is up 49/41 on Mark Pryor, and Asa Hutchinson is up 51/41 on Mike Ross. At the end of the day Barack Obama’s unpopularity in the state may be too much for the Democratic candidates to overcome- only 29% of voters approve of the job he’s doing to 62% who disapprove. The Republican candidates have proven to be relatively strong in their own right though. Hutchinson has a 49/35 favorability rating and Cotton’s is 48/40, better than we’re seeing for most candidates across the country this year.

Republicans lead all the down ballot races as well. The one where Democrats have the best chance at pulling out a win is Attorney General, where Republican Leslie Rutledge leads Democrat Nate Steel only 44/40. GOP nominees are ahead by 8-12 points in the rest of the contests. There is one piece of positive news for progressive voters in the Arkansas poll- the state’s initiative to raise the minimum wage leads for passage 65/31. It has near unanimous support from Democrats (88/9), majority support from independents (55/41), and even GOP voters are pretty much evenly divided on it (46/47).

In Louisiana it looks like Mary Landrieu will finish first in Tuesday’s election. She’s polling at 43% to 35% for Bill Cassidy, 15% for Rob Maness, and just 1% for ‘someone else.’ We find that a head to head between Landrieu and Cassidy would be pretty close at this point, with Cassidy ahead just 48/47. Whether a runoff election would really be that close depends on whether Landrieu can get Democratic leaning voters, especially African Americans and young people, to come back out and vote again in December.

There’s been little movement in this race over the last 6 weeks. Landrieu led Cassidy 42/34 in late September. This is yet another contest where neither candidate is well liked. Landrieu has a 45/50 approval rating, but Cassidy also has a 36/44 favorability rating.

images (4)The Republicans will probably not fair well if they do manage to take over the Senate and will likely make 2016 a strong Democratic year.

“So what might Republicans actually do if they have majorities in both houses of Congress,”asks Reason.com’s Nick Gillespie, the longtime libertarian. “If past behavior is any indication of future performance, the short and likely answer is: screw it all up.”

There’s been plenty of pieces written in the progressive media about what a Republican-majority Senate is likely to mean. But sometimes the better source comes from the ‘takes-one-to-know one’ universe of ideological Republicans who are well acquainted with their current and possibly incoming senators.

“What Republicans can’t do is spend their time trying to chop chunks of government, obsess on the spending side, cut holes in the safety net, perpetuate cronyism or let paranoia gut anti-terror measures (e.g. drones, NSA),” wrote the Washington Post’s “Right Turn” blogger Jennifer Rubin, in a recent advice-filled column. “Senate gadflies are about to learn that being in the majority is different than throwing spitballs from the minority. They will need to show they can problem-solve (or they will confirm concerns that they cannot).

What Gillespie and Ruben both are confirming, actually, is that the Republicans are not likely to do much of anything other than be the fight-picking, time-wasting, obstructionist legislators that they have pledged to be on the 2014 campaign trail.

In other words, it is all too likely that there will be efforts to: dismantle Obamacare; ignore climate change and block all kinds of pro-environmental activities; repeal pro-consumer laws; block increases in the minimum wage; ignore immigration reform; block federal judicial nominees, and maybe even pursue impeachment. Georgia’s Republican senatorial candidate David Perdue haspledged to “prosecute the failed record” of the Obama administration. Iowa’s Joni Ernst wants to ban abortions and same-sex marriage.

These examples, gleaned from recent pieces in The New York Times, Washington Post, The Nation, and other reputable outlets, suggest that the race to the bottom in American politics is about to sink even deeper into the muck. The New Yorker’s sharp political writer, John Cassady, just wrote a piece entitled, “The Empty Elections of 2014,” where he is spot-on in noting that there’s been little substance—but a deluge of idiotic stereotypes and character assassinations—behind the “enervating output of political admen, spin doctors, and negative research shops for whom this is, first and foremost, a profit-making industry.”

Cassady’s point is that Americans are deluding themselves if they are thinking that party is somehow secretly campaigning on substance. The political ads “aren’t just an annoying sideline to, or distraction from, the real issues in the campaign. To a large extent, they are the campaign,” he wrote. “They represent the main source of information about candidates and issues. Which, if you think about it, is pretty alarming.”

There are two big late trends that are not good.  One is voter suppression. The other is the problem created by Citizen’s United.  Dark Money has entered races at the last minute. download

A stealthy coterie of difficult-to-trace outside groups is slipping tens of millions of dollars of attacks ads and negative automated telephone calls into the final days of the midterm campaign, helping fuel an unprecedented surge of last-minute spending on Senate races.

Much of the advertising is being timed to ensure that no voter will know who is paying for it until after the election on Tuesday. Some of the groups are “super PACs” that did not exist before Labor Day but have since spent heavily on political advertising, adding to the volatility of close Senate and House races.

Others formed earlier in the year but remained dormant until recently, reporting few or no contributions in recent filings with the Federal Election Commission, only to unleash six- and seven-figure advertising campaigns as Election Day draws near. Yet more spending is coming from nonprofit organizations with bland names that have popped up in recent weeks but appear to have no life beyond being a conduit for the ads.

The voter suppression efforts are in states with Republican Governors like Wisconsin.

Alexander won her office with a late race-baiting flier against her African American opponent. She’s appeared at CPAC, was named a “rising star” by dark money group American Majority, illegally accepted free legal representation from a Bradley Foundation funded lawyer, supports gay bashing Chick Fil A and has accused Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis of supporting infanticide.

Yeah, she’s a real pip, alright.

So it comes as no surprise to us in Milwaukee that she used taxpayer money to mail out 7,000 copies of her newsletter which included the information that a photo ID would be needed to vote on Election Day:

The first problem with this is the fact that US Supreme Court blocked the implementation of this voter suppression law for this election.

But wait! There’s more. There’s always more.

This matter was quickly brought before the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board who ordered her to immediately send out another postcard – again at the taxpayer expense – to correct the misinformation she distributed.images (5)

Per her Facebook page, on Friday – just days before the election – she sent out the correction notice. It is doubtful that the postcards will get to the people in time before Election Day.

Despite the fact that it cost taxpayers thousands of dollars to send out the original mailer and thousands of dollars more to send out the correction, I have a feeling that we won’t hear from the conservatives about this waste and fraud.

So, I’m going to just bury my head in work until the end of the year if all this comes true.  Then, I’ll look forward to the presidential primaries where Hillary Clinton will likely shine and the Republican Clown Car will just fill up with the worst the country has to offer.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?