Saturday Soother – October 17, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Hiram, ME – October 2020 photo by alexishowardphoto

Wrongo and Ms. Right are camped out on Cape Cod for a week. We’re trying to stave off the approaching cold and dark that will be soon be upon us. Also, we wanted to smell the salt air for a few days at least, in our Covid-filled 2020.

And every single person we’ve had to make small talk with in the past two weeks has said this exact sentence: “It gets dark so early now”.

The two things that dominated the week were the Amy Coney Barrett hearings and the continued growth in Covid cases as we run up to the election. Starting with the Barrett hearings, how is it believable that we have a process where aspirants to hold a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court pretend to have never given any thought to fundamental questions that absolutely every American adult has an opinion about?

She’ll be confirmed, and then we’ll move on to some fresh new Republican outrage.

Wrongo has said for months that this is the Covid election. No one wants to see more cases, but with incompetent presidential leadership, this is where we are with 17 days left until the election:

According to the NYT, over the past two weeks, new cases have increased in 43 states, plus DC and Guam. Deaths are increasing in 23 states. But Trump wants us to talk about whether Twitter is burying a story about Hunter Biden.

He’s bet his re-election on saying the pandemic is no big deal. Sadly for Americans, he’s wrong (again).

If the reaction by the anti-maskers (mostly Republicans) stay as they are currently, with some states encouraging residents to go maskless, then the projected number of deaths by February could be close to 400,000.

But if everybody stopped being stupid and wore masks and skipped large gatherings and kept a safe distance from others, then we could see the number of deaths be closer to 300,000.

Finally, a reason for hope: The Democratic candidate fundraising platform ActBlue just reported its most successful fundraising quarter in history. They raised $1.5 billion in three months from individual donors. That total includes some of Wrongo’s and Ms. Right’s money:

“From July through September, 6.8 million donors made 31.4 million contributions through ActBlue, the Democratic Party’s favored online donation platform, averaging $47 per donation. More than 14,223 campaigns and organizations benefited from the surge in donations, the largest single quarter in the platform’s 15-year history, according to figures shared first with POLITICO.”

In September alone, ActBlue processed $758 million. This doesn’t mean that the fight against Citizens United shouldn’t continue, but it does mean that energized voters can compete with the Big Money when it really counts.

Two years ago, no one thought Democrats had much of a chance of flipping the Senate. Now, with competitive races in North Carolina, Georgia (two), South Carolina, Texas, Kentucky, Arizona, Maine, Iowa, and Colorado, there is better than 50% chance of turning the Senate blue. Since Democrat Doug Jones will almost certainly lose in Alabama, if the Dems can flip five red seats, they will have the Senate to go with the House and the White House.

Voting can change the world. Those over 45 years old made our current, crumbling world. People younger than 45 have the power to remake it, if they turn out by November 3.

On to the weekend. After another rock ’em sock ’em week, you definitely need some Saturday Soother time! Let’s start by brewing up a cup of Colombia Hacienda Casablanca, ($20/12oz.), said to be bright, juicy, and cocoa-rich. It comes to us from Toronto’s Stereo Coffee Roasters.

Now settle back and listen to a classic played in a different way. Here is Debussy’s “Clair de lune” played on solo Harp by Mali Llywelyn. Here, she’s playing at St. Martin-in-the-Fields, London in November 2017:

This will both relax and inspire you.

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Ending Republican Hypocrisy Regarding the Courts

The Daily Escape:

Sleepy Hollow Farm, Woodstock VT – October 2020 photo by Kyle Seymour Photography

The Senate started its confirmation hearings on the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett on Monday. There is little doubt that she will be confirmed on a Party-line vote by Republicans sometime before the presidential election on November 3.

There are legitimate questions to ask about the ideological balance on the Court, which will be 6-3 in favor of the conservatives, a ratio that is likely to last for a decade or more. The WSJ had a piece asking “Is the Supreme Court Too Catholic?” The religion of individual justices is of supreme indifference to Wrongo, but after Barrett is confirmed, the Court will have six Catholics, two Jews and one Anglican.

Of the current crop of Catholics on the Court, only Justice Sotomayor was appointed by a Democratic president. It is assumed by Republicans that the justices’ Catholicism is a proxy for their presumed (or long hoped-for) willingness to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Another legitimate question is how Democrats should deal with the hypocrisy shown by the Republicans’ about-face on whether a new justice could be confirmed in the last months of a president’s incumbency. Four years ago, the Republican narrative was that Obama was picking a fight by moving to fill a Supreme Court vacancy after Justice Scalia died in February that year.

With a Republican now in the White House, it has become acceptable to jam through a Supreme Court justice nomination within days of the election. While that process conforms to the Constitution, it wasn’t what Republicans did when Obama was president.

Many Democrats are talking about expanding the Court, adding an even number of additional justices to help restore some ideological balance. The Republicans call this “court packing”. It’s worth remembering that FDR’s attempt to pack the court in 1937 was a political disaster for his Party. So Biden and Harris have been unwilling to say much on the subject.

Eric Boehlert points out that much of the mainstream press has picked up on calling it court packing, and are asking Biden to weigh in on the subject:

  • “Biden and Harris Need an Answer on Court Packing” (The Atlantic)
  • “Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Death Revives Talk of Court Packing” (New York Times)
  • “How Democrats Could Pack the Supreme Court in 2021” (Politico)
  • “Harris Dodges Questions on Support for Supreme Court Packing at Debate” (CBS News)

More from Boehlert:

“For conservatives, “packing the courts” is an attack line — Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) said it would “destroy one of the pillars” of the Constitution, while Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) compared it to a “suicide bombing.”….”Expanding the courts” is a more accurate description of what might take place during the next Democratic administration.”

Eric Scholl at Medium points out that Justice Clarence Thomas has suggested recently that the Court should loosen up on one of its guiding principles: that of stare decisis, which means “to stand by things already decided”. To Thomas, it’s high time the Court starts overturning decisions that were previously approved. In part, because there’s now an opportunity to do it.

That’s rank politics, but it’s not new. In 2013, Sen John Cornyn (R-TX) had referred to President Obama’s appointments to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals as an “attempt to pack” the court. In October 2016, when Hillary Clinton was leading in the polls, National Review ran an article arguing that:

“The Senate should decline to confirm any nominee, regardless of who is elected. More than that, it is time to shrink the size of the Supreme Court.”

Instead, Republicans ask Biden if he’s for adding additional Court justices, hoping he falls in a trap, 21 days before the election. Tim Alberta tweeted:

The answer to court-packing Q is “Look, that isn’t our decision to make. Congress would need to pass legislation to expand the Supreme Court, and there’s no use speculating on that possibility when we’ll face immediate challenges on day one of a Biden administration.”

Not hard.

Not a bad answer. It’s good to remember that two Republican governors expanded their State Supreme Courts in 2016:

  • Georgia’s governor Nathan Deal’s three judge expansion shifted the balance of power on Georgia’s Supreme Court. He also added two new judges to the Court of Appeals.
  • Arizona’s Republican governor Doug Ducey added two justices to what was previously a five-judge panel.

So, as if you didn’t know, hypocrisy is alive and well in the Republican Party.

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Monday Wake Up Call – COVID Edition, October 12, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Camelback Lake, PA – photo by Craig Conklin

Yesterday, Wrongo said Covid is the biggest issue of the 2020 election. Today let’s talk about the death cult that Republicans seem to be when it comes to Covid. They won’t mask up, and they are unwilling to observe social distance in public. Some won’t even self-isolate when they are infected.

If you think this is an exaggeration by Wrongo for political purposes, you would be incorrect.

America is experiencing the long-predicted fall surge in Covid cases, and the surge is concentrated in states that are either Republican-run or are Republican by sentiment. Dan Goodspeed is a blogger who has made an interactive chart that shows the growth in Covid cases since June 1. He chose June 1 because it was about then that countries worldwide had the opportunity to beat back the number of cases with proven preventative measures.

Goodspeed also contrasted the case data with states’ political affiliations, using the Cook Partisan Voting Index. The results suggest that there is a strong correlation between a state’s political leanings and its ability to slow the spread of COVID:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of the top 25 states that had increasing Covid cases since June, 23 of them are Republican. Remember, that the data show cases per million of population, making direct comparisons possible.

If you view this graph at Goodspeed’s site, the bars quickly progress in total cases from June until October. That progression clearly shows what can happen when one Party politicizes a public health emergency. Or when its citizens cherry-pick what facts they’ll believe based on their politics and ideology.

It turns out that red states have done a particularly poor job of dealing with the pandemic, most likely because their citizens have been the most resistant to taking basic precautions, such as wearing face masks, physically distancing and self-isolating.

Yes, it seems that the preventative measures prescribed by infectious disease professionals actually DO work.

If Americans had uniformly accepted that these simple rules at the outset of the pandemic were a smart way to protect public health, the country’s outcome would be different. Instead, more than 214,000 Americans have already died. And the outlook is worsening. Thirty-two states have more new cases this week than last week, according to Johns Hopkins data. Covid is nowhere under control.

Trump stood on a White House balcony Saturday, claiming the coronavirus is “disappearing” while hundreds of people watched from below. Although 2,000 invitations had been sent out, the crowd on Saturday was only a few hundred. The White House said that Trump would speak for 30 minutes, but he spoke for just 18 minutes, instead of the usual 90 minutes or more. Many in the crowd were maskless.

It’s clear that contracting Covid has taught him nothing, and he will continue to endanger Americans until Election Day. He’s planning at least three campaign rallies next week in Florida, Pennsylvania and Iowa. CNN reports that he said:

“We are starting very, very big with our rallies and with our everything”

Since January, Trump has questioned the science. In some cases he’s undermined the scientific authorities who have tried to get the true information out about what we know, and what we should be doing about it.

Trump isn’t going to change. That puts the onus on those around him to do the right thing, and stop enabling his antics. First on the list right now must be his personal physician, Dr. Conley, who has said that Trump poses no threat to others. If that is true, where’s the evidence of Trump’s string of negative Covid tests?

Conley in particular has surrendered his credibility in order to enable Trump’s recklessness. Ultimately, he will become another administration official on the growing list of Trump enablers who can’t justify their colossal misjudgment.

Time to wake up, America! Republicans have become a death cult. Republicans refuse to believe that Covid is dangerous, they refuse to trust the scientists, and they seem willing to get sick for Trump’s sake. Beware what they might do if Trump returns to power for another four years.

If you are one of the few remaining undecided voters, the fact that 23 of the 25 states with the most new cases since June are Republican ought to tell you all you need to know about how Trump will protect America.

Trump’s insisting that his followers vote in person 3 weeks from now. And most of them will happily do it.

If you live in a red state, maybe you should think twice about that.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – October 11, 2020

For Republicans, life begins at conception, and ends when the government requires you to wear a mask.

Wrongo thinks that this election is really about one thing: COVID-19. You may think differently, but you should watch the video linked below. It’s a timeline of Trump’s response to the pandemic. As things stand now, 215,000 (and growing) Americans have died. The argument that if Trump hadn’t played down the seriousness of a pandemic that he KNEW to be serious, untold thousands would still be alive today. This should be convincing to all but the most fanatic Trumpers.

If you are on the fence, this video makes a pretty damning case. The only defense Trump ever uses is that he stopped flights from China on February 2. But even that is untrue. According to a report in The NYT, at least 430,000 people arrived in the US on direct flights from China after the outbreak was reported on the last day of 2019. This included nearly 40,000 in the two months after the February restrictions were put in place.

Here’s the roughly 10 minute video produced by a UK group, Led by Donkeys:

https://twitter.com/ByDonkeys/status/1313830983007973376

On to cartoons.

Trump’s message from the White House on Saturday was “you can beat this”:

How is a virtual debate different from what the rest of us have been doing?

No empathy for you:

Why are we not surprised:

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Saturday Soother – Domestic Terrorism Edition, October 10, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Mt. Moran, Jackson, WY – October 2020 photo by campsG.  The snow is said to resemble an electric guitar.

The plan to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer is truly disturbing. According to the FBI, who foiled the plot, the conspirators intended to move her across state lines to Wisconsin where she would be tried by a kangaroo court for “treason.”

Let’s wander back in time to April in Michigan. On April 15, there was a drive by “Operation Gridlock” protest in Lansing. The organizer of that rally received financial assistance from the DeVos family. You know, the one that includes Trump’s Secretary of Education. Then on April 17, Trump tweeted, “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!”

Then came April 30 when a bunch of armed right-wingers showed up and took control inside the state Capitol building, intimidating people with their semi-automatic rifles. One of them had a Whitmer doll with a noose around its neck.

That was followed on May 6 by a lawsuit by Republicans against Whitmer: “Michigan House of Representatives and Michigan Senate v. Whitmer”. And on October 6, the Michigan Supreme Court decided in a 4-3 ruling along partisan lines, that Whitmer did not have the authority to issue COVID-related executive orders after April 30, 2020.

Now we learn that the would-be kidnappers, who called themselves the “Wolverine Watchmen” according to FBI documents filed in court, wanted to create a “self-sufficient” society free from what they called unconstitutional state governments. They discussed plans to storm the Capitol and take hostages, and planned Whitmer’s kidnapping. They allegedly began meeting in June.

These guys were well organized and very well armed. They planned to set off explosives under a bridge to distract authorities while they carried out Whitmer’s kidnapping at her weekend home. At least two of the men arrested Thursday, were also present in the takeover of the state Capitol building.

So the political discord, division, unrest, and violence in this country, fomented by the maskless president has come to this. From David Neiwert at the Daily Kos: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“This remains the indelible lesson from these arrests: Trump’s profoundly irresponsible rhetoric has concocted a cauldron of hatred that the nation will be dealing with long after he has departed the scene, resulting in an army of authoritarian followers eager to mete out terroristic violence against any politician or person who opposes them—a sociopolitical plague that could come to rival the COVID-19 virus in lethality. It certainly seems unlikely to subside anytime soon…”

Trump set the tone for this by refusing to help Whitmer when she asked for federal assistance. He refused to allow Pence, as COVID-19 Task Force chair, to speak to Whitmer, and he encouraged violence with his “LIBERATE MICHIGAN” tweet after the first protest against Whitmer’s orders.

Even after learning of the arrests of the kidnapping conspirators, Trump attacked Whitmer via tweet, saying:

“…I do not tolerate ANY extreme violence. Defending ALL Americans, even those who oppose and attack me, is what I will always do as your President! Governor Whitmer—open up your state, open up your schools, and open up your churches!”

By the way, despite all the Republican whining about opening bars and not wearing masks, Whitmer’s early stay-home orders and restrictions on businesses crushed the virus in Michigan, with cases plunging from a daily high of 1,878 on April 3, to just 56 cases by June 15.

Cases have risen again, largely because of Republican pressure to reopen the economy. There were 1,230 new cases on Wednesday, but deaths have stayed low: From 232 on April 21 to just 8 on Wednesday. Neiwert said in the same article:

“…Trump’s rhetoric and policies have unleashed a second pandemic in the form of far-right domestic terrorism.”

What will Trump’s tweets spawn next as we head into the second wave of COVID-19?

Wrongo knows how difficult it is to relax at times like these, so no coffee for you. Instead take a few moments to remember John Lennon, who was born 80 years ago (10/9/1940) and died at age 40.

His tune, “Imagine” was released on October 8, 1971, itself 49 years ago. And the world has been running from its message ever since.

It’s hard to imagine that Lennon’s been gone for as long as he was alive. Could he have imagined the world in our triple header of a social, political, economic crisis, along with a global pandemic topping it off? Take a break, and think an impossible thought or two on this Saturday. This video starts with a slow walk by John and Yoko, but ultimately, it shows John singing with Yoko by his side.

Never cared much for Yoko, but seeing her looking at John is this video changed my mind:

Imagine a world where people understand and tolerate each other.

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A Tale of Two Debates

The Daily Escape:

Sunset, Shenandoah NP, VA – photo by juliend73

Two debate topics. First, the VP debate. What stood out for Wrongo was that Pence ignored the moderator’s cues that his time was up, and to stop talking. Ms. Right felt that his dismissive mansplaining would turn off any remaining undecided women. And there sure are a lot of women who easily recognize Pence as one who fits that pattern.

The moderator, Susan Page, asked great questions. Sadly, few were answered.

While Harris missed several opportunities with Covid and with the Trump economy, Josh Marshall sums up the event for Wrongo:

“I wouldn’t say Harris wowed. There weren’t a lot of zingers. But she hit every last point the campaign could have asked for. Just methodically. Killing the ACA, Charlottesville, the horrific failure of the COVID response. She didn’t really care about Mike Pence. She was there to make a case against Donald Trump. And she did….They needed a performance that locked down a lead that is already in place and confirmed the themes they want at the center of the campaign conversation. They got it. She hit the points they wanted and in ways Joe Biden couldn’t.”

And, there was Pence’s fly. The best meme Wrongo saw was this:

Finally, early in the debate with Pence going over his time, this occurred:

Moderator: “I think we should move on, Mr. Vice President.”

Pence: “No, I want to go back”.

Isn’t that the perfect metaphor for everything Republican in the last forty years?

Second, the presidential debates: Was this the last debate of this election cycle? We heard on Thursday that the Commission on Presidential Debates announced that the second presidential debate would be virtual instead of in-person, owing to Trump’s Covid infection.

Trump then said he wouldn’t participate, and his campaign announced vague plans instead to hold an in-person rally. Trump told Fox Business:

“I’m not going to do a virtual debate….I’m not going to waste my time on a virtual debate. That’s not what debating’s all about. You sit behind a computer and do a debate — it’s ridiculous. And then they cut you off whenever they want.”

There’s always a chance Trump will change his mind before next week, but that rarely happens. Biden is now saying that if Trump won’t show up, he’ll hold his own event with voters. He also proposed that the town hall debate be held instead on Oct. 22, the original date of the third debate.

If there isn’t another debate, that’s fine. The presidential debate format isn’t designed to include a candidate like Trump, who categorically refuses to be honest, or to follow the rules.

Have you noticed that Trump is always the victim? That people (Deep State, Obama, and Clinton) are all out to get him? He’s been wronged continuously since before his election in 2016, according to his wild fantasies, and the crazy shit he mainlines from Fox.  And he demands retribution.

If you think that it’s too wild to speak of retribution, consider this: ProPublica is reporting that an email sent last week by the DOJ’s Public Integrity Section to prosecutors around the country says that if a US attorney’s office suspects election fraud involving postal workers or military employees, federal investigators are empowered to undertake investigative steps even before the polls close.

That’s regardless of whether those actions could affect the outcome of the election, or not. The email directive was sent to the DOJ’s district election officers, who monitor election procedures and take complaints on Election Day from the public.

From ProPublica:

“Avoiding election interference is the overarching principle of DOJ policy on voting-related crimes. In place since at least 1980, the policy generally bars prosecutors not only from making any announcement about ongoing investigations close to an election but also from taking public steps — such as an arrest or a raid — before a vote is finalized because the publicity could tip the balance of a race.”

If America were still a functioning democracy, there would be no question about who would be the winner of the November 3 election, but Bill Barr is very concerned.

We have to realize that a Democratic landslide will be prima facie evidence that the election was rigged, so Bill Barr will ride in with the cavalry to try and rescue Trump.

Let’s close with this October 8 tweet by Sen Mike Lee (R-UT):

“Democracy isn’t the objective; liberty, peace, and prospefity are. We want the human condition to flourish. Rank democracy can thwart that.”

Pure Republicanism. Lee’s not only anti-democratic, but apparently anti-spelling.

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Trump’s Closing Argument? More Covid, Less Stimulus

The Daily Escape:

Littleton ME, October 2020 photo by Kim Smith-Williams. The trees were planted by her grandfather in 1942.

It was amazing to see Trump turn down an offer from the Democrats to inject $ trillions of stimulus into his weak economy just days before the election. Wouldn’t that have helped his chances?

And he did this the day after his “helicopter salute” ceremony that raised questions about his Covid strategy. Based on what he said, it sounds a lot like “Don’t worry about it, you’ll be fine, it’s no worse than the flu”. Trump resurrected “Same as the Flu“, and killed the economic stimulus package on the same day.

Sadly, Covid is much worse than the flu. Trump says that the flu claims more than 100,000 lives some years. Maybe it did when he was a kid, but for the past 10 years, the seasonal flu has killed between 12,000 and 61,000 Americans a year. In fact, Covid has killed more Americans in the past 8 months than the flu has killed in the past 5 years combined.

So his Covid strategy is: “Grandma’s gotta die because people need to go to restaurants”. Not a winning message.

Let’s move to Trump saying he won’t pass a new stimulus until he’s reelected. Republicans have been divided on more money for states, individuals and businesses, with those in close races generally more amenable to a bigger stimulus package.

But the hard-core conservatives have been opposed to a bigger package, and Trump is particularly hostile to providing funds to state and local governments. OTOH, while negotiations weren’t going anywhere fast, they weren’t that far apart. The House had passed a $2.2 trillion bill, while Mnuchin’s offer was $1.6 trillion.

According to the WSJ, the trigger for Trump’s pulling out of a possible deal was an update from Mitch McConnell, who said that even if Mnuchin and Pelosi came to an agreement, he wasn’t likely to have enough Republican votes in the Senate. There would have been sufficient votes in the Senate to pass the bill, but it would have required Democratic Senators to put it over the top, an unacceptable look for Trump.

Somebody should have told Trump the master negotiator, that if you walk away from a deal, you don’t get anything you want, either.

The stock market didn’t like Trump’s bailing on another stimulus. And on Wednesday, Trump reversed course and talked instead about bailing out the airlines :

“The House & Senate should IMMEDIATELY Approve 25 Billion Dollars for Airline Payroll Support, & 135 Billion Dollars for Paycheck Protection Program for Small Business. Both of these will be fully paid for with unused funds from the Cares Act. Have this money. I will sign now!”

If seems likely that the CEO of Delta might have suggested to Trump that mass layoffs in Atlanta wouldn’t be helpful to his re-election. But Trump apparently hasn’t learned that when you’re dealing with people with actual leverage (instead of a contractor who can’t afford to sue you), you actually have to give up something to make a deal.

The CARES Act was the high-water mark of federal government response to the pandemic-caused economic disaster. That was six months ago, and nothing substantial has happened since. It’s hard for Trump or his Party to say, going into the last three weeks that they really care at all about those who have lost their jobs to the pandemic.

Through a series of bad decisions and foolish actions by Trump, America has been hit harder by the coronavirus than any other industrialized nation. The outbreak has killed 210,000 and caused large numbers of people to change how they live their lives.

And those changes have created enormous economic disruptions, everywhere.

There are just 27 days to go until the election. All of those people who are out of work have to make rent. And all of them, when they worked, supported other businesses with their spending. That’s all gone.

The only thing which will “fix” the economy are masks, physical distancing, and a vaccine. Nothing gets us back to “normal” until then.

The only question is whether or not the federal government will spend the money to keep as many people and businesses afloat as possible until a vaccine gets here.

Trump and the Republicans won’t work on either Covid or help those hurt by the pandemic. So no one should vote for them.

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Don’t Cry For Me, Dr. Fauci

The Daily Escape:

Autumn view from Lovers Leap Bridge, New Milford CT – November 2017 photo by Mike Jacquemin

The show must go on, and it did for Trump once he returned to the White House from his short stay at Walter Reed Hospital. His Evita-like photo op on the Truman Balcony was designed to show (to which demographic in America?) that his “recovery” is one for the ages, that he’s a strongman. Since he is only a few days into the course of the disease, his recovery might also be a myth.

He has now thoroughly politicized the pandemic. Before he tested positive, all of his efforts to deal with COVID looked first at the political value, before the value to the public’s health. Now he’s incorporated his illness into a mythology about COVID. From Charlie Sykes of the Bulwark:

“Last night, we got the full cinematic roll-out of “The Orange Evita,” PRODUCED, DIRECTED, AND STARRED IN by DONALD J. TRUMP.”

Sykes goes on:

“The video production of his triumphant return to the White House was quintessentially Trumpian. All the power moves: the helicopter, the music, the pageantry, the balcony, the dramatic removal of the mask — all perfectly choreographed by a man famous for his finely honed instincts for entertainment.”

And here’s what Trump said:

“I learned so much about coronavirus….And one thing that’s for certain: don’t let it dominate you. Don’t be afraid of it. You’re going to beat it….Don’t let it dominate you…Don’t let it take over your lives…I stood out front, I led…nobody that’s a leader would not do what I did….Now I’m better, and maybe I’m immune, I don’t know…”

He ignored that, as of Monday night, 210,117 Americans have died from COVID, none of whom received anywhere near the level of medical care that Trump did at Walter Reed.

Most of us would go through an experience like contracting COVID, and if we recovered, would think about what we learned now that we’re back to health. We’d consider ourselves fortunate. We’d also be extra cautious, having just survived an encounter with a potentially deadly virus. We’d almost certainly follow the proper precautions even if we may have previously ignored them. We’d now know that COVID is potentially deadly, and that we’re incredibly lucky to have survived it mostly intact.

But that isn’t Donald Trump showman, your president.

Trump could have shown empathy for those who have died from the virus. The NYT reports that some in the campaign thought that if Trump recovered quickly and then appeared sympathetic to the public about his own experience, he could have something of a political reset.

But instead, he channeled Evita, opting to show strength. Yet, in the video, he didn’t look strong or even all that healthy. He didn’t look robust, he looked reckless.

And then on Tuesday morning he tweeted that flu season is coming, and that the flu is more lethal than COVID, something he also said 210,000 deaths ago. BTW, Twitter has taken Trump’s tweet down as misleading.

It isn’t too soon to wonder how many more thousands will die because of Trump’s recklessness and refusal to take the threat of COVID-19 seriously.

And rather than the songs from Evita, Wrongo is reminded of this from Andrew Lloyd Webber:

Every time I look at you
I don’t understand
Why you let the things you did
Get so out of hand
You’d have managed better
If you’d had it planned

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Monday Wake Up Call – October 5, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Fall on the T Lazy B Ranch. Ennis, MT – October 2017 photo by Ed Coyle photography

Lost in the noise on Trump’s COVID diagnosis Friday was that the US Supreme Court agreed to hear two Arizona cases that could end the Voting Rights Act, and hurt the prospects of the Democratic Party. Ian Millhiser wrote the linked article for Vox, and he calls it the biggest threat to voting in decades:

“The specific issue in the Democratic National Committee (DNC) cases concerns two Arizona laws that require certain ballots to be discarded. One law requires voting officials to discard in their entirety ballots cast by voters who vote in the wrong precinct (rather than simply not counting votes for local candidates that the voter should not have been able to vote for).

The other law prohibits “ballot collection” (or “ballot harvesting”) where a voter gives their absentee ballot to a third party, who delivers that ballot to the election office. (Arizona is one of many states that impose at least some restrictions on ballot collection.)”

These cases are being brought under the Voting Rights Act of 1965, (VRA) signed by LBJ, which prohibited racist voting laws that were prevalent at the time. In 2013, the Supreme Court in Shelby County vs. Holder effectively deactivated the Act’s preclearance regime that required states with a history of racist voting practices to “preclear” new election rules with officials at the DOJ.

And the Court’s decision in Abbott v. Perez (2018) held that lawmakers enjoy a strong presumption of racial innocence so that it is now extremely difficult to prove that lawmakers may have acted with racist intent (for example, in gerrymandering a district) except in the most egregious cases.

These two Arizona DNC cases involve a different element of the VRA, the so-called “results test” that prohibits many election laws that disproportionately disenfranchise voters of color.

Now that the Supreme Court has agreed to hear these cases, the Court’s Republican-appointed majority could potentially dismantle the results test. It might water down that test to such a degree that it no longer provides a meaningful check on racism in elections.

As a federal appeals court said in an opinion striking down the two laws:

“…uncontested evidence in the district court established that minority voters in Arizona cast [out of precinct] ballots at twice the rate of white voters.”

Sound racist to you? Of course!

One reason that people in Arizona may vote in the wrong location is that some Maricopa County voters, for example, must travel 15 minutes by car to vote in their assigned polling location, having passed four other polling places along the way.

In addition, many Arizona voters of color lack easy access to the mail and are unable to easily travel on their own to cast a ballot. As the Arizona appeals court explained:

“…in urban areas of heavily Hispanic counties, many apartment buildings lack outgoing mail services,”

And only 18% of Native American registered voters in Arizona have home mail service. The appeals court also said that Black, Native, and Hispanic voters are:

“…significantly less likely than non-minorities to own a vehicle and more likely to have inflexible work schedules.”

Thus, their ability to vote might depend on being able to give their ballot to a friend or a canvasser who will take that ballot to the polls for them. In any event, a majority of the appeals court judges who considered Arizona’s two laws decided that they violated the Voting Rights Act.

So, now it is appealed to the Supreme Court. More from Vox:

“As a young lawyer working in the Reagan administration, Chief Justice John Roberts unsuccessfully fought to convince President Reagan to veto the law establishing this results test; some of his memos from that era even suggest that the results test is unconstitutional. And Roberts is, if anything, the most moderate member of the Supreme Court’s Republican majority.”

This case will be decided by the Court without Amy Coney Barrett. That means it will take at least two conservative justices to side with the three remaining liberal justices, a tall order in these times. Of course, a four-to-four decision would let the appeals court decision stand.

Time to wake up America! Nothing we can do now will change the decision on these cases. That chance was lost in 2016. And the rights of voters of color to cast their ballots is in greater peril now with Ginsburg off the bench.

What we can do today and most importantly on November 3, is to stop the right wing in its tracks.

There can be no further gutting of voting rights in the future.

 

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – October 4, 2020

As many others have stated, Wrongo doesn’t wish COVID on anyone, and wishes Trump and the other Republicans with the virus the best. That said, there are now three Republican Senators who have just tested positive after being at an event with the president: Ron Johnson (R-WI), Tom Tillis (R-NC) and Mike Lee (R-UT).

The Amy Coney Barrett hearings are due to start on October 12th and conclude by October 22nd. Coney Barrett herself just tested negative for the virus, and barring complications, the sick Republicans probably could be back on the job in time for a vote at the end of the month.

The U.S. economy added 661,000 jobs last month, and the unemployment rate dipped to 7.9% from 8.4% in August. The data show that the rate of economic recovery is slowing down. September was the first jobs report since April that showed net hiring below 1 million new jobs. Here are a few stats:

  • More than half of the jobs lost in March-April have now been recovered, but that means there are still 10.7 million fewer people with jobs than before the pandemic.
  • At the current rate, it would take 16 months to recoup all those jobs. But that’s a poor assumption, since the pace of hiring is slowing down. Some jobs are never coming back.

On to cartoons. Reports from the White House were comforting:

Walter Reed doctors report all is normal:

 

Trump’s debate performance was worse than Nixon’s:

The silence of the Elephants:

Karma isn’t always a bitch. Sometimes it’s a virus:

 

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