Saturday Soother – Covid in the White House Edition

The Daily Escape:

Near Contoocook NH – September 2020 photo by Karen Randall

The October surprise is off to an impressive start! Wrongo suspected that Trump would either force the Durham investigation to announce a few indictments of members of the Obama administration, or the approval of a COVID-19 vaccine in October. But instead, both Trump and the First Lady have tested positive, throwing the presidential election into chaos.

Former Vice President Joe and Jill Biden tested negative for the virus on Friday. VP Mike Pence and his wife Karen also have tested negative, as did the Trump’s son, Barron.

What other surprises might we expect? Plenty. There are still 31 days left until the election.

Keep in mind that the vast majority of people with COVID, even the vast majority of those with co-morbidities, do not become critically ill, let alone die from it. But, Trump was transported by helicopter to Walter Reed Military Medical Center on Friday evening. If Trump ends up in an ICU, the 25th amendment could come into play.

If you want to bone up on what the US succession plan looks like should Trump become incapacitated, the Brookings Institution has a detailed piece on what happens:

“First, those in the line of succession would need to be protected. It would be important to keep Vice President Pence, Speaker Pelosi, Senator Grassley (President Pro Tempore), and members of the cabinet isolated from the president. It would be especially important to ensure that the vice president have limited contact with individuals generally to reduce his chances of contracting the virus as well.”

Grassley is in the line of succession? Shoot me now. Next:

“If the president is given notice that he is to be administered therapies that will impair his ability to perform the duties of office—for functional reasons, cognitive reasons, or both—under Section 3 of the 25th Amendment to the Constitution, the president can transmit to the House and Senate “his written declaration that he is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”

When Section 3 is invoked, the vice president becomes “acting president” until the president notifies the House and Senate that he is able to perform his duties once again. Section 3 has been invoked three times. Once for Reagan 1985, and twice for GW Bush in 2002 and 2007. Each time was for medical procedures that required anesthesia or heavy sedation.

If a president’s condition declined so rapidly that he was unable to invoke Section 3, Section 4 can be used instead. Under Section 4, the vice president and a majority of the cabinet can send notice to the House and Senate that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. In this case, the vice president also serves as acting president.

Once a president recovers, he can transmit a letter to that effect to the House and Senate, and re-take presidential power, unless the vice president and a majority of the cabinet tell Congress that the president remains incapacitated—at which point Congress must vote on a finding of incapacity.

As of now, Trump isn’t incapacitated, so he’ll continue in office, even at the hospital. Unlike the rest of us, he has the best tax payer-provided health care available, and it only cost him $750:

It’s unlikely anyone will truly relax this weekend, but let’s begin our usual Saturday Soother, designed to help you kick back, unwind, and think about anything other than politics. Here in Connecticut, we are starting to have the fall colors New England promises, but they are a little flat compared with other years.

The weekly coffee remains on hiatus, so it’s time for some soothing music. Today, let’s take a seat near a window, put on the Bluetooth headphones and listen to “Meditation” from Jules Massenet’s opera, “Thaïs”. It is based on the novel Thaïs by Anatole France. It was first performed in Paris in March, 1894.

Today, the Meditation is performed by violinist Janine Jansen in 2006, with the Berlin Philharmonic, conducted by Neeme Järvi. The concert was held at Berlin’s Waldbühne, an outdoor venue with 25,000 in attendance. Would that many Americans show up for an outdoor symphonic concert? Watch this, you won’t be dissapointed:

 

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America’s Frightening Militia Problem

The Daily Escape:

Guildhall, VT – September 2020 photo by Michael Blanchette Photography

Four years into the Trump era, Americans now realize that armed paramilitaries show up at most demonstrations. On some occasions, there is lethal violence. And Trump just called on one such group to “stand by”.  Apparently they are acting like storm troopers waiting Trump’s bat signal to help keep him in power after November 3rd.

The biggest problem will be in the post-election period when there will be a substantial chunk of Americans who won’t believe Biden is a legitimate president when he takes office. It won’t be Trump’s entire 40% of the electorate, but it will be a large group.

We’ve heard the names of these armed militias: the Proud Boys, the boogaloo movement, the Oathkeepers, the Three Percenters, and many others. Unlike other countries, the armed far-right doesn’t need a covert network to supply it with military equipment because America is awash in legal weapons. Militias and vigilantes don’t have to maintain underground communication networks because social media enables them to operate freely. Experts estimate that there are around 300 mostly right-wing militia groups.

On the same day that Trump asked the Proud Boys to stand by, the FBI issued an intelligence report warning of an imminent “violent extremist threat” posed by another far-right militia, the Boogaloo. The report, entitled “Boogaloo Adherents Likely Increasing Anti-Government Violent Rhetoric and Activities, Increasing Domestic Violent Extremist Threat in the FBI Dallas Area of Responsibility,

The term “Boogaloo” refers to a coming second American Civil War, which the fiercely anti-government group has declared its intention to bring it about. They are willing to foment a race war, if it supports their goals.

The FBI report concludes by citing concerns of the Boogaloos’ “increased ‘patrolling’ or attendance at events”. Remember that at the presidential debate, President Trump called for his supporters to patrol polling places:

“I’m urging my supporters to go into the polls and watch very carefully because that’s what has to happen…”

It’s illegal for them to “go into the polls’.

A troubling aspect is the deep involvement of America’s military and law enforcement in these militias. The Atlantic has a long article on the Oath Keepers where the author reviewed its members list: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“About two-thirds had a background in the military or law enforcement. About 10% of these members were active-duty….There were members of the Special Forces, private military contractors, an Army psyops sergeant major….There were Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, a 20-year special agent in the Secret Service, and two people who said they were in the FBI.”

The NYT also wrote about the military involvement in the militia movement: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“Although only a small fraction of the nation’s 20 million veterans joins militia groups, experts in domestic terrorism and law enforcement analysts estimate that veterans and active-duty members of the military may now make up at least 25% percent of militia rosters. These experts estimate that there are some 15,000 to 20,000 active militia members in around 300 groups.”

This toxic stew has been on a low boil while the top leaders of the Department of Homeland Security directed agency analysts to play down threats from white supremacist groups, according to a whistle-blower complaint released earlier in September.

These militias have proclaimed themselves enforcers of Trump administration policies, and as protectors of businesses in cities with BLM protests. The confrontations with protesters have also dovetailed with actions to protest coronavirus containment measures as in Michigan.

But the threats have recently focused on Antifa, Black Lives Matter, and others on the left. And between here and the election, we may well see Trump encourage their help with certain state and local governments around the ballot counting process.

The common denominator of these militias is armed intimidation and violence in the service of a political agenda. They alone will decide to act if triggered, or if they think in their sole judgement, that the Constitution has been violated. In a functioning democracy operating under the rule of law, it’s difficult to see these movements as anything other than a demand for the benefits of the society they want, with none of its obligations.

They want to “solve” what they perceive to be the nation’s problems through Second Amendment absolutism that legitimizes armed confrontation instead of political activism.

Back to the post-election scenario: There could easily be incidents where people get hurt or killed, a slow grind that keeps people scared and stressed all the time.

Please, this November, we must vote in overwhelming numbers.

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Hot Take on the Bad Debate

The Daily Escape:

Sentinel Pass at Lake Moraine, Banff, Alberta, CN – 2020 iPhone 11 photo by Zestful9

I’m old enough to remember when Al Gore got slammed for sighing during a debate in 2000. And now, Trump has taken us to a galaxy far, far away. Trump had three messages last night:

First, the rules don’t apply to me. If I want to talk, I talk. I’m above other men. Paraphrasing from 2016, “When you’re a star, they let you do it”. Chris Wallace, playing the role of wimpy Moderator, says: “You agreed to the rules”. But Trump shows he sets the rules, not the wimpy moderator guy. Classic primate dominance behavior. All Wallace had to do was just keep telling the president to stop until he did. Hard to imagine Trump being more rude.

Second, Trump’s strategy wasn’t to try for more votes, but to discourage people from voting. A smaller turnout helps Trump stay in office. If you’re turned off by his truculent performance, maybe you’ll decide it’s too much trouble to wait in line to cast your ballot. Of course, Trump’s shit show may have had the opposite effect. It may have motivated you to stand in the rain, snow or hurricane to vote him out of office.

Third, Trump activated his fascist supporters, the Proud Boys. What he told them by saying “Proud Boys — stand back and stand by” is that the rest of us should stay home on November 3, or we might find some trouble.

That wasn’t a dog whistle, it was a dog bullhorn. Brandy Zadrozny and Ben Collins of NBC News call the Proud Boys:

“…a self-described ‘Western chauvinist’ organization, is considered a violent, nationalistic, Islamophobic, transphobic and misogynistic hate group.”

Finally, as Wes Kennison says, Biden is a stutterer. Kennison points out that stutterers have great difficulty with abusive tones of voice, rapid fire interruptions, zigzagging change of topic, personal insult and humiliation, all are tripwires that can scramble a stutterer’s ability to speak. From Kennison: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“There was nothing unplanned or spontaneous in the President’s strategy. The bastards did not prep him to attack Joe. They prepped him to attack Joe’s disability hoping that by triggering his stuttering they might deceive an audience unfamiliar with the disability into thinking that Joe was stupid, weak, uncertain, confused, or lost to dementia.”

The media today has again fallen into the “Both sides” trap, saying how awful Trump AND Biden were. How uncouth, unpresidential and impolite. Given the context, was saying “Shut up man” uncouth? Wrongo listened to BBC, who was full of: “With so many difficulties facing the world, this crap is what the next leader of the free world decides to talk about”?

More debates? The Commission on Presidential Debates wants “additional structure” for remaining debates. But whatever they do won’t materially change Trump’s performance. Trump has no upside even if he puts on a better, more compliant act going forward. The damage is done.

When you think about it, Biden is the conservative in the race. He values established institutions and alliances. He recognizes the need for change, but wants a moderate, considered approach. He has a strong moral sense. He values the rule of law, while Trump and the GOP in general, value none of those things.

The only rational response to this debate debacle is to vote, and make sure your friends vote.

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Monday Wake Up Call – September 28, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Dead Horse State Park in Moab, UT – September 2020 photo by schumats1

Few people have the imagination for realityJohann Wolfgang von Goethe

Here are a few stark realities that we couldn’t have imagined even five years ago:

First, a minority faction governing the majority with increasingly unpopular policies imposed through increasingly undemocratic means is not exactly a formula for a stable democracy. This is something that Wrongo wrote about last week. If somehow after the November election, that script is flipped, and we have a majority governing an ethno and religious-purity minority who won’t recognize the majority’s legitimacy to govern, we’re headed for dark times.

Once Coney Barrett’s confirmed, we’ll again be living in a Phyllis Schlafly country. Schlafly’s far-right, anti-feminist ideology rules the Republican Party, and soon, the Supreme Court. But it’s still contrary to American public opinion. A majority of Americans think abortion should remain legal, and 75% support Schlafly’s old enemy, the ERA.

But, unpopular ideologies can prevail whenever we’re complacent about our beliefs.

Second, we have a president who is a faker and a liar. The NYT has gotten its hands on many years’ worth of Trump’s federal income tax documents. You know, the ones he and his attorneys have worked so hard to suppress. From Eric Boehlert:

“In life outside the MAGA bubble, the tax return revelation is a big one because it’s hard to explain why, for the last decade, Trump has written off $26 million worth of dubious “consulting” fees. And it certainly appears the Trump Organization paid Ivanka Trump massive consulting fees for no-show work. All of this coming just five weeks before the election. The Times blockbuster is one of the more seismic scoops in campaign history.”

The Times’ story will most likely be a huge problem for Trump among independents and suburban voters who may have voted for him in 2016. Trump’s “fake news” dismissal of the tax story will only work among his super-loyal followers.

Kevin Drum turned the NYT’s reporting into a graph:

Long story short, since 2012 Trump’s been losing money every year. He’s lost money at pretty much everything he’s ever done. The only exception is The Apprentice and the licensing money it enabled.

From Drum:

“Trump’s ability to squander the money he inherited is breathtaking. He’s also deeply in debt, it turns out, with about $300 million in loans coming due over the next few years. It’s no wonder he’s been so assiduous at trying to turn the Oval Office into his own private ATM.”

That kind of financial exposure makes Trump a national security risk.

Third and finally, here’s Wrongo’s framing of the issues for Tuesday’s debate. This, from Michael Grunwald in Politico: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“The US budget deficit tripled this year to $3.3 trillion, by far the highest ever. The US economy shrank at a 31.7% annual rate in the second quarter, by far the worst ever. The trade deficit is at its highest level in 12 years. Consumer confidence is at its lowest level in six years. Unemployment claims, which had never topped 700,000 in a week before March, have topped 700,000 every week since March.

Farm bankruptcies are rising…Homicides are rising in America’s cities after decades of decline, while a series of police killings of unarmed Black Americans has triggered…civil unrest. The West Coast is on fire, and 2020 may turn out to be the hottest year in recorded history. America’s reputation abroad is the worst it’s been since the Pew Research Center began doing international surveys.”

And remember that virus thingy that Trump says isn’t a big deal? It has already killed 200,000+ Americans and is still spreading in 29 states.

Biden ought to just read that as his opening statement in tomorrow night’s debate, and then just say:

“Do you think you’ll be better off with four more years of these disasters that Trump has brought us? “

Time to wake up America! We have to imagine realities that would have been fiction just a decade ago. Once we wake up to how terrible our present state is, we need to vote in overwhelming numbers to gain sufficient political control to deliver a progressive future for all.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – September 27, 2020

Trump has announced that Amy Coney Barrett is his nominee to the Supreme Court. She will make the sixth Catholic member of the court.

This highlights the impact that Leonard Leo of the Federalist Society has had on the makeup of the Court. Leo selects Trump’s judicial nominees. In addition to his role at the Federalist Society, Leo is a board member of Opus Dei’s Catholic Information Center. Attorney General Bill Barr and White House Counsel Pat Cipollone have also been board members.

No one should object to Catholics, or even to having a majority of them on the Court. But, the Court, like the Electoral College, have become the last bastions of power for the minority in America. As currently constituted, they will block the rise of a broad coalition of diverse progressives from power for at least another generation. On to cartoons:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Saturday Soother – September 26, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Fall, Polebridge, MT – 2020 photo by Drew Silvers

There are just 38 days to go until the election, and another 78 days after that until the inauguration, almost a lifetime in Trump years. Today, we’ll jump among a few unbelievable news items.

First, the nation’s leading newspaper’s story about the US president refusing to commit to a peaceful transfer of power should he lose the election appeared on page 15. How can it be page one in everyone’s mind, but on page 15 of the NYT? And what political story did the NYT find space for on Thursday’s front page? An article about how Trump is running well in the virtually all-white suburbs north of Milwaukee. But we all know there’s a liberal bias in the news.

Even if the media tries to do it, we can’t normalize Trump.

Second, Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s coffin was in the US Capitol rotunda on Friday. She was the first American woman so honored. But, even that brought more naked politics: Although they were invited, neither of the top Republicans, Senate Majority Leader McConnell, nor House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy attended.

Third, Wrongo keeps saying that Trump’s willful failure to deal with the COVID pandemic is by far the largest story of the year, and the issue that should decide the election. Another 885 Americans died from COVID-19 yesterday, and 45,178 more were infected, according to The NYT COVID-19 map and case count.

Cases are rising in 29 states and Puerto Rico. Deaths are increasing in 12 states. Think about how difficult it will be to tell COVID from the flu now that we’re starting the flu season. Some perspective:

  • During World War II, an average of 220 US soldiers died per day.
  • During the Civil War, an average of 540 soldiers died per day.
  • So far during this pandemic, an average of 946 Americans have died per day.
  • New cases are trending up again, with the 14-day average up 17%.

Finally, turnout on November 3: The Cook Political Report has introduced an interactive page that lets you tinker with turnout levels for various demographic groups. It’s based on 2016 numbers, and without the 6% third-party vote, Joe Biden wins 307-231, very similar to Trump’s win of 306-232.

But if turnout is lower or much higher, it wouldn’t take much for Biden to lose. For example, if 2016’s turnout of white non-college voters goes from 55% to 60%, Biden wins the popular vote by more than 3 million, but loses the electoral vote 306-232.

And if there was a 4-point shift in the Black vote, with Trump going from 8% to 12%, Biden would win the popular vote by more than four million, but lose the electoral vote 276-262. Biden would pick up PA and WI, but Trump keeps FL, MI, and AZ. A combination of a 10% Trump Black vote, and a 2% drop in Black turnout also leads to electoral loss for Biden.

On the upside, if Biden’s share of white college voters goes up just three points from 54% in 2016 to 57%, he wins Georgia, NC, and Florida and he rolls in the Electoral College, 350-188. The same would happen if he does 3 points better with non-college white voters, winning 34% instead of Hillary’s 31%.

If somehow, he was able to do both, Biden would keep the same electoral margin, but he wins the popular vote by almost 12 million.

Some history: In 2004, 122 million people voted. In 2008, the number was 130 million. We had 129 million votes in 2016, and that’s the baseline for all of the current modeling. The big question about 2020 is whether turnout rises or falls by a crazy number? Crazy would be say, 150 million on the high side, or 110 million on the low side.

While there’s both upside and downside to think about, turnout is everything. Do whatever you can to help improve turnout over 2016.

On to the weekend. Indian Summer seems to be upon us in Connecticut, along with continuing near-drought conditions. Looking ahead to winter, Teresa Hanafin of the Boston Globe offers this: “The Old Farmer’s Almanac says chionophobia is the fear of snow. Mitchophobia is the fear of snow jobs.”

Saturday coffee is taking a break this week, so settle into a space outdoors and listen through your Bluetooth head set to Gerald Finzi’s “Introit for Solo Violin & Small Orchestra – Op. 6 (Molto Sereno)”. The piece was written in the mid-1920s. Here it is performed by the Northern Sinfonia, conducted by Howard Griffiths with violin solo by Lesley Hatfield:

 

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The Seat is Lost, The Election Isn’t

The Daily Escape:

Fall comes to Grand Portage, MN –September 2020 photo by Valjcoo

We now know that the Republicans have the votes to confirm another conservative Supreme Court justice before the election. Mitt Romney announced Tuesday that he supports moving forward with a Senate vote on Trump’s nominee to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg. This means that Democrats have no shot at stopping the confirmation process before November’s election.

More tyranny by the minority. This might as well also be Romney’s announcement that for better or for worse, he’s running for president in 2024.

Substantively, a 5-3 conservative vs. liberal breakdown on the Supreme Court was already going to result in the death of the ACA when the justices hear the case on November 10. So, a 6-3 division probably doesn’t mean that we’re going to be all that much worse off, legally.

The remaining question is whether the nominee will be the Cuban-American judge from Florida. Choosing her will probably secure the state for Trump in November, so why not just go ahead and make the entire Supreme Court a political fiasco?

In fact, getting the complete conservative takeover of the Supreme Court done before the election may keep more than a few Trumpists away from the polls on November 3d.

Choosing an ideologically pure judge is far more important to Republicans than it is to Dems, who rarely make it an article of faith in our elections. During the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings, the Dems will take the opportunity to demonstrate again how ineffectual they are.

They need to be careful not to engage in something suicidal just before what is truly the most important election in our lifetimes. As Wrongo has said, the loss of this seat was predetermined by Hillary’s loss in 2016.

Of course Democrats should drill deeply into whomever the Republicans nominate; that’s how the game is played.  Of course they should oppose the nominee in the Judiciary Committee, and then lose by a straight-party vote. Of course they should make principled speeches in the well of the Senate before they lose another straight party line vote that will confirm Trump’s nominee.

They should scream about it, say the gloves are off, and then go out and take the White House and the Senate.

Dems need to get back to the totally mismanaged COVID response. It’s the overriding issue of this election, even more significant than the death of Ginsburg. There will be at least 250,000 COVID deaths by the time of the election, and no Republican cares or will say anything about it.

Dems need to get back to asking if Trump has delivered a better life to us. He hasn’t. There were no big wage gains, and no 5% annual GDP growth. He’s only delivered huge unemployment, and unnecessary deaths. The rich have gotten enormously richer, and there is the hate, and all of the lies.

But the Electoral College still looms large. Wrongo’s former colleague is driving across America on the back roads, photographing what he sees. And what he sees is mostly empty spaces. As he moves from urban and suburban areas to exurban and rural areas, the Biden signs disappear, Trump signs dominate, and finally become exclusive. He documents front yards with temporary canopies set up to hand out Trump paraphernalia. Pickups looking ISIS-like with Trump and American flags flying from poles mounted in the truck beds. Here’s a photo of his taken in Virginia City, NV on 9/20:

September 2020 photo by OHeldring

The flags are for Trump, the Kansas City Chiefs, and “Don’t Tread on Me.” Add in the vintage Ford, and it’s an ordinary day in rural America!

An important indicator for November 3d will be voter participation in rural areas, which we should expect to be very high. This November, Wyoming will cast three Electoral College votes, one for every 190,000 residents, while California will cast 55 votes, or one for every 715,000 residents. One person, one vote has died. Here’s Steve Coll with some perspective about the Electoral College:

“The system is so buggy that, between 1800 and 2016….members of Congress introduced more than eight hundred constitutional amendments to fix its technical problems or to abolish it altogether.”

He reminds us that in 1969, the House passed a Constitutional Amendment to establish a national popular vote for the White House. At the time, Nixon called it “a thoroughly acceptable reform”. Alas, it was filibustered by Southern Senate segregationists.

These days, just two words sum up the state we’re in: “Stay Safe.”

It only took four years for Trump to wreck everything. Whenever the Trump years pass, our democracy, assuming that it endures, needs a major repair job.

That starts on November 3.

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We’ll Be Ruthless in November

The Daily Escape:

Capitol Peak, CO from the Upper Capitol Creek Trail – September 2020 photo by CampsG

“Stand your ground. Do not fire unless fired upon. But if they mean to have a war, let it start here.” – Col. John Parker, Commander of rebel forces, Battle of Lexington

America is already at war with itself. And that was before the thermonuclear bomb of Justice Ginsburg’s death. We need to avoid getting distracted by the shenanigans of Republicans around a Ginsburg replacement, and instead, use it to take back the White House and the Senate.

Wrongo believes that the efforts by Republicans over the next 42 days to ram through another conservative justice may be successful at shaping the direction of the Supreme Court. But successful or not, it will increase the number of likely anti-Trump voters.

One thing that points to better Democrat engagement is that the Democrat’s fund raising site, ActBlue, has raised more than $100 million since RBG’s death. This suggests that the looming court vote is energizing Democrats in a way that Biden hasn’t.

And it’s fantasy to ask Republicans to throw away the chance to get a third Supreme Court justice. They’ve spent the last four years losing their dignity defending Trump. And they’re not throwing it away now, particularly if they think Biden wins in November. So stop showing old sound bites or op-eds by Republicans saying they wouldn’t support a lame duck appointment of a Supreme Court justice. The President and Senate control the nomination process. Nothing in the US Constitution prevents them from filling a vacancy, whenever it occurs, assuming they have the votes.

Sure, it’s a violation of tradition. Not like we haven’t seen plenty of that since 2016.

But if Trump’s nominee makes it through the Senate, Trump may be making himself redundant to conservatives. The fear that a Democratic president will appoint justices who will swing the Court far to the left will be gone.

But there’s a wildcard that could upset the Senate vote count for a nominee to replace Ginsburg, if it happens after the election. The NYT reports:

“The winner of the Arizona Senate race could be seated in time for a vote on a Supreme Court pick…”

Should Mark Kelly, the Democratic nominee for Senate in Arizona, beat sitting Sen Martha McSally, he could be sworn in as early as Nov. 30, since Sally is filling an expiring term. Hypothetically, a Kelly win would narrow the Republicans’ majority to 52-48. This could make it difficult for McConnell to round up enough votes, since Sens Collins and Murkowski have said they think the nomination should come after the inauguration on January 20, 2021.

If you are fired up to prevent Trump from placing a third conservative justice on the Supreme Court, send money to Mark Kelly at markkelly.com.

The tyranny of the minority is something that Wrongo has written about before. Our Constitution gives an unfair advantage to underpopulated states. By 2040, according to a University of Virginia analysis of census projections, half of America’s population will live in eight states. About 70% of people will live in 16 states, meaning that 30% of the population will control 68% of the Senate.

From Heather Cox Richardson:

“Both of the last two Republican presidents—Bush and Trump– have lost the popular vote, and yet each nominated two Supreme Court justices, who have been confirmed by the votes of senators who represent a minority of the American people. The confirmation of a fifth justice in this way will create a solid majority on the court, which can then unwind the legal framework that a majority of Americans still supports.”

When Scalia died in 2016, Republicans had a 54-46 majority in the Senate, despite the fact that Democratic senators represented about 20 million more people than Republicans in 2016. Two years ago, Neil Gorsuch became the first member of the Supreme Court in American history to be nominated by a president who lost the popular vote and who was confirmed by a bloc of senators who represent less than half of the country. The second was Brett Kavanaugh.

It also impacts the selection of Presidents. The tyranny of the minority has allowed five men who lost the popular vote to become president: Trump, George W. Bush, Benjamin Harrison, Rutherford B. Hayes, and John Quincy Adams. A scary thought is that some analysts think Biden needs to win the 2020 popular vote by at least 6% to carry the Electoral College.

It’s time to remember that Trump has confirmed 53 Republican Appellate court justices in four years, compared to 55 in 8 years for Obama.

It’s time to punch back.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – RIP RBG

RIP RBG:

After Trump won in 2016, Wrongo was certain that the great failure in Hillary Clinton’s loss would be that Trump could replace three Supremes in his first term. Later, Wrongo became convinced that RBG would make it until the 2020 election, if not until after the 2021 inauguration, limiting Trump to two new Justices.

Maybe we all needed to believe that she would hold on, but when Wrongo’s phone lit up in a BBQ joint on Friday night, he was sad, but not surprised.

Just when we thought 2020 couldn’t get worse, we’re about to become a part of an even uglier political fight than we thought we’d be having. If you’ve been working on “2020 Worst Case Scenarios,” it’s time to start over.

This new court vacancy obviously has long term consequences for many social issues, for voting rights and immigration. But think about the implications of a contested election and a potential 4-4 or 5-3 split if the decision on who becomes the next president is decided by the Supreme Court.

It’s doubtful that the nation as we knew it will survive.

When RBG’s death was announced on Friday, Senate Majority Leader McConnell vowed to hold a vote on a replacement for RBG. Trump tweeted on Saturday morning that Senate Republicans have an “obligation, without delay” to act on his nominee to the Supreme Court.

But the big question is whether McConnell can get the votes to confirm a Supreme Court Justice with only six weeks left before the presidential election.

There are two scenarios that could play out. McConnell might bring up a Trump nominee before the election, and try to get the needed 51 votes to confirm, but that looks like a long shot. He could also wait, and take the vote after the election in the lame duck session, regardless of who wins the presidency.

McConnell has a 53-47 majority in the Senate, so he can afford to lose three Republican votes, either before or after the election, since Vice President Pence could break a tie, casting the deciding vote.

The first scenario may prove difficult, since there’s just six weeks until the election, and one-third of the Senate wants to be at home campaigning.

In the lame duck session, assuming a Biden win, and a coming change in power in the Senate on January 1, it looks like Sens Collins (R-ME) and Murkowski, (R-AK) wouldn’t vote for a Ginsburg replacement. Sen Romney (R-UT) isn’t a sure supporter of a vote either. Sen Thom Tillis (R-NC) is in a tough fight, but has said he will vote for Trump’s nominee. Sen Martha McSally (R-AZ) has indicated that she will also vote to confirm. Sen Cory Gardner (R-CO) may be a swing vote for a Ginsburg replacement in the lame duck session.

Imagine a scenario where Trump loses the election, and the Senate, but tries to push through a conservative justice before January 1st. There would be public outrage, but there isn’t any legal barrier to the Republicans doing that.

However it unfolds, we mourn Ginsburg’s absence from the Supreme Court. She was one of the great lawyers of her generation, one whose judicial career largely was focused on being a witness to, and a dissenter from, a series of attacks on the Constitution.

We need to mourn the evisceration of our process of selecting Supreme Court justices. We also mourn the toxic politics that we’re going to wallow in for the next 44 days until the election and then, for the 78 days until the inauguration.

RIP Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

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Saturday Soother – September 19, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Afternoon rain, Candlewood Lake, Brookfield CT – photo by Kevin Lane

We’re 10 days away from the first presidential debate on Sept. 29 at Notre Dame in South Bend, IN. The debates should have zero meaning for the election, since Trump will lie his way through all three of them. That has been the reality since 2016, and it’s continued, non-stop. From Politico:

“Four years after he won the Midwest by vowing to revitalize the US manufacturing workforce, President Donald Trump is campaigning for reelection on a job well done. The numbers tell a different story.”

It’s highly doubtful that economic anxiety alone won the Midwest for Trump. We should remember that there was a near-perfect conjunction among racism, sexism and Whites voting for Trump in 2016.

Here’s Trump lying on Sept. 10 at a rally near Saginaw, Michigan:

“You better vote for me, I got you so many damn car plants….And we’re going to bring you a lot more.”

So many car plants: That would be zero.

And Michigan was down 66,500 manufacturing workers for the year from July 2019 to July 2020. Much of those losses were due to the pandemic, but there were 10,200 fewer manufacturing workers in Michigan in February 2020 than there were in February 2019. Earlier, Trump lied in Ohio at a Whirlpool factory:

“Over the last six months, we’ve witnessed one manufacturing miracle after another”.

Ohio was down 48,000 manufacturing workers in July vs. last year. Pre-pandemic, it had lost 2,200 workers in February from last year. Politico quotes Mark Muro, a Brookings economist:

“Trump has been all in on this huge resurgence of manufacturing employment, and that has not materialized.”

More:

“…the White House’s trade wars kicked the [manufacturing] sector into another slump in 2019, with Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Pennsylvania facing declines or plateaus in manufacturing employment even back in February — well before Covid-19 forced layoffs at dozens of plants.”

The trend is the same nationwide. Manufacturing across the US is down 720,000 workers from February, despite gaining 29,000 jobs in August.

And then there’s the pandemic. Trump blamed “blue states” for increasing the nation’s death rate from coronavirus, suggesting that if “you take the blue states out” of the equation the US would be far more competitive with other countries.

He’s making no bones about the fact that he’s president of only those who live in red states (149 million vs. 179 million in blue states.) Since he’s ignorant of most facts, here’s one: 53% of coronavirus deaths have occurred in blue states, and 47% have occurred in red ones. More than 90,000 people have died in red states, while about 100,000 have died in blue states. So, another lie, and not exactly a stellar record in red states.

Of course we will have to wait and see if reality vs. lies told in debates make any difference. Gimme the damn ballot.

It’s Saturday, so let’s take a short break from politics for our Saturday Soother.

The leaves are starting to fall here in Connecticut, long before any fall color arrives. We’re expecting the first frost over the weekend, and as usual, there’s yard work ahead. The last of our tomatoes need to be harvested, along with a few remaining jalapenos. Sounds like salsa to Wrongo. Oh, and the water fountain needs cleaning, too.

Before all of that, take time to brew up a vente cup of Kenya Gatuya coffee ($21.00/12oz.) from Lake Tahoe’s perfectly named for a Saturday, Drink Coffee Do Stuff. The roaster says the 6,000ft elevation at Lake Tahoe makes their coffees sweeter. You be the judge.

Now, put on a sweater and think about the eternal changing of the seasons. And remember that one day, like a miracle, Trump will just disappear. Now, listen to Yo Yo Ma play Ennio Morricone’s “Gabriel’s oboe and The Falls” from the movie “The Mission.”

Music like Morricone’s whispers to us, and carries us beyond our trivial endeavors. Consider yourself soothed:

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