Associate Supreme Court Justice Amy Barrett

The Daily Escape:

Cape Cod pond  with red shack – October 2020 by Michael Blanchette Photography

Amy Coney Barrett is now a Supreme Court Associate Justice.

It is the first time in 151 years (since Edwin Stanton in 1869) that a justice was confirmed by the Senate without the support of a single member of the minority party. Even Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WVA), who backed Brett Kavanaugh in 2018 (and Barrett for her circuit court seat three years ago), didn’t support her this time.

As Marsha Coyle noted on PBS, the Supreme Court went 11 years until 2005 without a change in Justices. In the next four years, the Court saw seven new Justices. Now we’ve seen three more in just four more years.

Justices are staying on the Court longer. In the 19th Century, the average tenure of a Justice was less than 10 years, due mainly to shorter life expectancy. Now that it’s becoming increasingly common for them to serve into their 80s, Justices are serving for 25 years, or more.

All of this is background to what we’ll have to get used to from Amy Barrett in the next few decades, including this quasi-campaign event:

There were understandably a few negative reactions:

Whatever happens going forward, please, please let’s not call her “ACB” as if she is some great legal mind akin to Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Barrett is to RBG what Clarence Thomas is to Thurgood Marshall; a facsimile of a Supreme Court Justice.

The NYT has a series of articles on How to Fix the Supreme Court that are worth your time. In one article, Emily Bazelon says this:

“….Republican dominance over the court is itself counter-majoritarian. Including Amy Barrett, the Party has picked six of the last 10 justices although it has lost the popular vote in six of the last seven presidential elections…”

The Republican Party doesn’t represent the majority of Americans. So it tries to achieve its goals by other means, even if that means perverting the intent of our Constitutional system.

We know that clear majorities of Americans favor reproductive rights, limiting political donations, stricter gun control and reversing climate change. But since the GOP controls the courts, it hopes to prevent these viewpoints from ever becoming law.

Movement conservatives are using a theory of judicial construction (Originalism) that didn’t exist until about 40 years ago. And they’re using it to overturn long-standing precedents, while also inventing novel constructions not found in the Constitution when it suits them (see Shelby County vs. Holder).

Among the options addressed in the Times’ article are: (i) Dividing the work of the Supreme Court into two parts, Constitutional issues and all others that concern interpretation of existing laws and statues. This would establish a Constitutional Court, an idea that several other countries have instituted (among them, France, Germany, and South Africa); (ii) Term limits for Supreme Court Justices; (iii) Adding more Justices to the Supreme Court; and (iv) Expanding the lower Federal Courts.

The Framers rejected the idea of a judicial retirement age. It was envisioned that a lawyer would need a lifetime of experience to become fully versed in the precedents that would govern their decisions as a Supreme Court Justice. But now, we have Amy Barrett serving as a Justice at age 48. The youngest Supreme Court judge ever was Republican Joseph Story, who was 32 when James Madison appointed him.

OTOH, term limits almost certainly require a Constitutional Amendment, since it would create an involuntary retirement from the Court.

Biden has said he will convene a commission to study Supreme Court reform. That kicks the can down the road. This is probably a good idea for now, until we see the decisions made by the current conservative majority in a few of the signature cases coming up this term. There is now a 6-3 MODERATE conservative majority on the Court, and depressingly, a 5-4 REACTIONARY majority on the Court.

For now, all we can do to change the Court is vote out of power those Republicans who denied Obama an appointment, only to cram three Justices through on Trump’s watch. We start by flipping the Senate in November.

Republicans are doing everything they can to lay the groundwork to overturn the election in the courts. The good news is that stopping them is easy: VOTE.

May the confirmation of Barrett be the last thing that the national Republican Party ever accomplishes.

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Trump Says: “What Coronavirus?”

The Daily Escape:

DH Day Barn in Glenn Arbor, MI photo by seedy_reedy_photos

From the WaPo:

“The presidential campaign was roiled this weekend by a fresh outbreak of the novel coronavirus at the White House that infected at least five aides or advisers to Vice President Pence….With the election a little over a week away, the new White House outbreak spotlighted the administration’s failure to contain the pandemic as hospitalizations surge across much of the United States and daily new cases hit all-time highs.

The outbreak around Pence, who chairs the White House’s coronavirus task force, undermines the argument Trump has been making to voters that the country is “rounding the turn,” as the president put it at a rally Sunday in New Hampshire.

Further complicating Trump’s campaign-trail pitch was an extraordinary admission Sunday from White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows that the administration had effectively given up on trying to slow the virus’s spread.”

The WaPo reported that one of Trump’s top staffers acknowledged on Sunday that he (Trump) had tried to avoid disclosing these new White House cases to the public. Some in the VP’s office suggested that White House doctors should release a statement saying that [Marc] Short [Pence’s Chief of Staff] was positive, and that Pence was still okay to travel. But that idea was scuttled by Meadows and others. Meadows later said:

“We’re not going to control the pandemic,” Meadows said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “We are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigations.”

There is no plan, and no strategy. Trump again said on Sunday in New Hampshire that the country is “rounding the turn”, but there’s no truth to that. Here are the 7-day average Covid statistics as of October 26: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“Yesterday there were 60,789 new confirmed cases, 16,222 recoveries, 340 deaths. The current 7-day rolling average of 68,768 new cases/day grew 38.8% from 14 days ago, while the average of 794 deaths/day grew 13.3%…”

If cases continue to grow at those rates, the number of cases will look like this:

9,221,976 cases in 7 Days; 9,888,654 cases in 14 Days; 12,042,648 cases in 30 Days

Even if you accept the view that: we can’t stamp out the virus, so we’ve just got to live (or die) with it, this just leads you to the other big idea: We knew back in March that even if we couldn’t stop the virus, we had to slow it down enough so that it doesn’t overwhelm our so-called “Greatest Health Care System in the World”.

If the GOP invested as much energy into fighting COVID as they do in voter suppression, we would have fewer cases and they wouldn’t need to suppress votes. Everyone expected that the virus would spread. But the least we should have been able to expect from Trump was an honest effort to inform the public; to do whatever it would take to contain it like the majority of other countries did; and to stop trying to blame someone else for it.

The Covidusa web site says that we’ve already reached a quarter of a million deaths (225,495) in this country. It’s clear that we’re being led by a pack of liars who think it’s more important to win an election than it is to save American lives. And they have the gall to call themselves “pro-life.”

And remember, there are 78 days after the election for Trump to fumble the Coronavirus before he leaves office.

Here’s another Trump delusion: This sheet was left on the seat of every member of the press on Airforce One yesterday. (Hat tip: Automatic Earth)

This suggests that the Trump camp expects a Red tsunami on Election Day. That may be true, but it will be very difficult to undo the massive early voting that is already in the books in all the battle ground states.

Every four years we say “this is the most important election of our lives.” This time, it’s true.

Why? Because if Trump wins again, we may see the freedoms we’ve long taken for granted curtailed, or in some cases, eliminated. You may think that Wrongo is well, wrong, and an alarmist. But do you REALLY want to take a chance that this isn’t the most important election of your life?

Your job is to vote for Biden, and to elect Democrats to the Senate.

There are seven days to go until the election. It’s certainly possible that you may never cast a more important ballot in your life. We have no control over what may happen in the future, but we can control what happens in seven days.

We can elect competence, sanity, and a reaffirmation of our democracy, but only if we all vote.

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Monday Wake Up Call – Early Voting Edition, October 26, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Fall color at Godfather Mountain, near Asheville NC – October 2020 photo by kathmandu04

Just eight days remain until the presidential election, and the WaPo reports that 58.4 million Americans have cast votes in the presidential election. That already is 124% of the total early voting tally in 2016:

“Registered Democrats are outvoting Republicans by a large margin in states that provide partisan breakdowns of early ballots. Republicans, however, are more likely to tell pollsters they intend to vote in person, and the GOP is counting on an overwhelming share of the Election Day vote going to Trump.”

WaPo says that early voting in battleground states is 49.5% of total early voting:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One significant factor this year is early voting by people between the ages 18-24. Here are some early turnout numbers by youth voters from Tufts University. The youth vote in Florida is nearly six times higher than in 2016. It’s eight times higher in North Carolina and 19 times higher in Michigan. Tufts also reported on youth voting in a few other states, which show similar large increases over 2016:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Tufts reports that there was no data available for Texas and Pennsylvania in 2016).

We know that the youth vote will skew Democratic, so this is encouraging news for Biden and down-ballot Democrats. Politico reports that Democrats have opened up a yawning gap in early voting over Republicans in six of the most crucial battleground states, but that’s not the only story of their advantage heading into Election Day: (Emphasis by Wrongo)

“In a more worrisome sign for Republicans, Democrats are also turning out more low-frequency and newly registered voters than the GOP, according to internal data shared with POLITICO by Hawkfish, a new Democratic research firm owned by Michael Bloomberg, which was reviewed by Republicans and independent experts.”

We can’t trust an early lead will take us home. In 2004, John Kerry had the race won based on exit polling. So we shouldn’t trust an early lead this time, because Republicans bat last. Both sides are bracing for a giant wave of in-person Republican voters on Nov. 3. And we have no way to model the voter suppression that can take place with vote-by-mail, or by intimidation at physical polling places.

But voters age 45 and under are where the Democrats’ untapped strength lies. If they vote in large numbers, they’ll run America. Enough power applied in the right spots at the right time can make the Senate swing to the Democrats. If that happens in November, a change in power will certainly bring change in America.

Wrongo reported on how the site 538 predicts that 2020 turnout should be around 154 million voters. That would be an increase in voter participation by 12.5% over 2016. Since early voting so far is 24% higher than total early voting in 2016, it augurs well for hitting 538’s target.

Overall turnout when Obama was elected in 2008 was 61.6%. In modern times, we haven’t seen what would happen if turnout hit 70-80% of American voters.

Democrats represent those aspirational American values we all cherish, while the other Party is happy to share their tent with Donald Trump, a compromised, moral disgrace. They also welcome the dangerous lunacy of QAnon.

So, while the early voting reports are encouraging, Stay Awake, America! Encourage everyone you know to vote. Drive them to the polls if you can. Take bottles of water to people standing in long lines at your polling place. Get out the vote in any way you can!

These last eight days belong to you. Years from now, you will look back on these last days of the Trump era as among the best in your lives. An evil was unleashed in the country you love and you rose with millions of other Americans to slay the dragon.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – October 25, 2020

Gov. Steve Bullock of Montana is the state’s Democratic candidate for the US Senate. He’s running slightly behind the incumbent Republican, Sen. Steve Daines. Daines is a first-term Senator with few accomplishments, while Bullock is a sitting governor ending his second term. Bullock has high approval ratings for his handling of the pandemic, but his principled stand on masking may cost the Dems a chance to flip the Senate, since Montana happens to be a state where anti-maskers are vocal in their opposition to Bullock.

Bullock issued a mask mandate in the summer, but as the NYT reports, politicians and law enforcement in Montana’s Ravalli County opted not to enforce the order, citing individual rights. Another county, Flathead, has also been somewhat hostile to masking.

At the end of last week, Montana had 25,640 cases of Coronavirus, with 278 deaths. On Friday, Montana tallied a record for new cases at 932, so Bullock announced the state is cracking down on businesses in Flathead County that have refused to comply with masking and social distancing mandates.

That the outcome of a Senatorial election may depend on voters who won’t wear masks in a pandemic says much about what America has become. Many people say that they’ll do anything for America. Some of them even carry their guns in the supermarket. But when they’re asked to take simple protective measures, keep their distance, show patience and courtesy, they just can’t.

There are nine days left until the election. Nine days. Remember that in 2016 in Wisconsin, Hillary’s loss averaged out to just two votes per precinct. Help get your friends to vote. On to cartoons.

The criterion for debate success has fallen too far:

What you get when you do nothing:

In-person voting won’t be easy this time:

Let’s hope the swing hits fast and hard:

Rudy shows a laptop:

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Saturday Soother – Post Debate Edition, October 24, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Lone Cypress, Pebble Beach, CA – October 2020 photo by cookdog1117

Was there any joy in Trumpville after Thursday’s debate? Predictably, those on the right said Trump won decisively, while most mainstream media said Biden held serve. All but the right agreed on one thing, that Trump lied his way through the hour and a half debate. As Eric Alterman noted afterwards:

“One of Trump’s (and the Republican Party’s) greatest victories in their efforts to undermine our democracy is how little attention is being paid to the fact that virtually everything he said last night was a lie.”

But did Trump help himself? Probably not enough. Jonathan Last at The Bulwark reported on a new poll from Gallup that asked: “Does President Donald Trump deserve to be reelected?” The answer:

  • No = 56%
  • Yes = 43%

Only 1% had no opinion. Last correctly says that this should spell electoral death for Trump. He also points out that in the same poll, 60% of respondents said that their member of Congress deserves reelection while just 35% say their member doesn’t deserve reelection. So for the two federal offices that every American can vote on in two weeks, the average member of Congress is +25 on reelect; while Trump is -13 points.

Finally, Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight is now predicting a total turnout of between 144 million and 165 million votes, with their most likely being 154 million votes. It’s worth remembering that turnout in 2016 was 137 million votes. In 2004, 122 million people voted. In 2008, the number was 130 million. So, it was up eight million from 2004 to 2008, and then up another seven million from 2008 to 2016.

Imagine a 2020 election where turnout rises by 17 million over 2016! If 154 million voters actually turnout, Trump will be looking at the most resounding defeat of an incumbent president in at least 40 years.

When you take those two numbers together: Trump down by -13 on “deserves reelection” with turnout in the vicinity of 154 million, the only open question is the magnitude of Trump’s loss.

Your pre-election anxiety is no longer warranted.

So relax on this October Saturday. The leaves keep falling on the fields of Wrong, but the weather is unseasonably warm. Most of our yard work is done, the Bluebird houses have been taken in for another winter. Next, the Meyer lemon tree must come inside, where our Christmas cactus has already set its buds. It should be in bloom by Thanksgiving.

So today, take the morning off. It was another tough week in Covid-raging America. Start by brewing up a vente cup of Hawai’i Puna Anaerobic Washed ($19.95/4 oz.) from Paradise Roasters, located in Hawaii and Minneapolis, Minnesota. This cup is said to be fruit-and honey-toned, with flavors of Lychee, tamarind, and almond brittle. That cup seems to be doing a lot of work!

Now settle back and listen to “The Love” by the Black Eyed Peas and Jennifer Hudson. This is the third version of a song released by the Peas. It is an updated version of the Black Eyed Peas’ 2003 hit, “Where is the Love?’ Lyrics include:

“I think the whole world is addicted to the drama.

Only attracted to things that’ll bring the trauma.”

This version interweaves parts of Joe Biden’s acceptance speech with the lyrics of the Black Eyed Peas song. This is among the most powerful videos you will watch this election season:

Have a soothing Saturday.

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Debate #2: Less of a Shitshow, But the Race is Unchanged

The Daily Escape:

Fall at North Lake, Bishop, CA – October 2020 photo by pixiprism

The second Trump vs. Biden debate was very conventional by comparison to Debate #1. Once again, Trump seemed to have more speaking time than Biden, which he mostly used to throw BS at Biden, hoping that some would stick.

Each talked to the audiences they wanted to reach, mostly the way they wanted to. Trump did not hurt himself like he did at the first debate, but it’s doubtful that he moved the needle in his favor.

Wrongo thinks that Trump performed substantially better this time, sticking to the script that his handlers provided. We’ve come to expect that when Trump gets frustrated, he starts to lash out. If he doesn’t, then he exceeds expectations.

Depending on your perception, that possibly earned him a tie with Joe. Biden seemed to be rattled by many of Trump’s accusations, with his stutter evident at several points when he was given time to respond to Trump.

Tonight, a tie should be marked down as a win for the guy leading the race, although Biden didn’t do near as well as he did in Debate #1. He was occasionally boring, and missed a few opportunities, particularly about how best to deal with the Coronavirus, when Trump said about Corona, “We’re learning to live with it. We have no choice. We can’t lock ourselves up in a basement like Joe does.” Biden should have leveled him.

Biden scored a few points here and there. Trump pouted whenever he wasn’t speaking.

So, did the needle move enough for Trump? We shouldn’t expect a skunk to lose its smell, or its inclination to spray when confronted. And Trump sprayed in large volumes. Most of Trump’s words sounded like he was selling a rooftop condo that he hasn’t yet built to a Russian with lots of cash.

As expected, Trump tried to inject Hunter Biden and his purported laptops into the air. He also included a few weird tangents about pillows, emails and $3 million in payments from Russia. The Hunter Biden thing was certain to come up, and the moderator, though trying hard, was not able to keep Trump from bringing it up several times.

Trump’s closing question was about what he’d say at his second inaugural to those who didn’t vote for him. Instead, he talked about how Biden would kill the economy if elected.

Biden definitely stuck the landing. He was heartfelt and truthful. He said he would be president of all Americans. This might have played well with people who don’t spend very much time following politics, assuming that any of them were still tuned in.

That coming after Trump went on about how Biden was a socialist, highlighted nicely where Trump’s concerns lie: Americans are simply pawns in his game.

Biden has run a solid campaign. He hasn’t had many gaffes of the type that he’s known for. This is in part because Biden’s few misstatements don’t matter all that much in the face of Trump’s firehose of BS.

In last night’s debate, Biden wasn’t as disciplined as he might have been, but it probably doesn’t matter. He attacked Trump occasionally, and stood back to let Trump punch himself in the face a few times as well.

He’s provided an attractive alternative to anyone still undecided.

If the idea is to give voters a sense of leadership abilities, a better use of time would be to place the candidates in an Escape Room with their VP candidate, and see how they work things out.

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The Closing Arguments

The Daily Escape:

Autumn on Icefields Parkway, Jasper Alberta, CN – September 2020 photo by Argen Elezi Photography

Welcome to the longest 14 days of our lives! The way actual time has blurred between Trump and Covid, November 3 has remained the one date that has stayed fixed in our consciousness. As the calendar days tick off, it gets closer and closer. Now, we’re all sitting in the backseat yelling “Are we there yet”?

The next two weeks will feel like an eternity.

As time winds down to the election, the polls tell us that maybe we’re at least momentarily, a tiny bit less polarized than we were pre-Covid. Many Republicans say they are voting for Biden. Certain groups, the majority of whom supported Trump in 2016, are moving in significant numbers to supporting Biden.

There is growing agreement that controlling Covid and restoring our economy are the top two issues facing the next president and Congress. There is less agreement about what should be done to move us down the path to achieving both.

The big question post-election will be: What do we agree on? Or more accurately, what will the majority of us agree can be done to repair the damage done in the past few years? The next two weeks will have Biden and Trump making their closing arguments on why they deserve our votes.

Crucially the same NYT/Siena College poll referenced above says that Americans see Biden as more capable of uniting the country by nearly 20 points.

Both candidates’ arguments may become clearer after Thursday night’s debate, but as of now, Trump’s closing argument is: Covid doesn’t matter, people are tired of hearing about it. He said on Tuesday that “People aren’t buying it” as America’s biggest problem.

It’s worth noting that despite Trump’s boredom with the virus, there were more than 64,000 new cases just yesterday. And the death toll passed 220k. So, maybe people actually are buying that it’s a big deal.

Trump’s second argument is that he has grievances: Against Fauci, the media, and Joe and Hunter Biden. When Trump talks about his personal grievances, few voters outside the Trump/GOP bubble agree that these are problems that need the time and attention of the next president.

Biden’s closing argument is likely to be “Let’s end the chaos”. That’s totally an anti-Trump argument. But to Biden’s point, we’ve never had a President wage war on America during a national crisis by actively working to undermine the country’s health and well-being.

According to a recent Cornell University study, Trump represents the “the single largest driver of misinformation around Covid” in the world.

Over the weekend Twitter took down a tweet posted by Dr. Scott Atlas, a neuroradiologist who is the latest Trump coronavirus guru, when he linked to an article that claimed wearing a mask does not help slow the spread of the virus. The article also referred to the virus as “some seasonal flu.”

Biden is also likely to say in closing, as he did in his Gettysburg speech on October 6, that some semblance of bipartisanship is necessary to defeat the COVID-19 pandemic and rebuild a battered economy. He also said then that the country must “decide to cooperate” toward the necessary recovery of our public health, and our economy.

Wrongo is reminded of this, written by Jan Flynn in June:

“We now live in a nation where tolerance of our differences is no longer an assumption in the social contract. Hate and judgment are normalized, but no less destructive than they’ve ever been. We retreat further and further into our ideological bunkers, from which we lob fearful words, memes, posts, rocks, bottles, rubber bullets, or actual bullets at our countrymen on the other side.”

How will we build tolerance for our differences? In the real world, we can’t unfriend or turn off the comments of Facebook friends we disagree with.

If Trump wins, the lobbing of words, memes, rubber bullets and actual bullets will continue, and likely get worse.

If Biden wins, he has a massive job ahead of trying to find a coalition of voters and politicians who will work cooperatively, helping bind up our self-inflicted wounds, and moving the nation forward.

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How Republican Use of the Term “Freedom” Hurts Our Coronavirus Response

The Daily Escape:

Fall turning towards winter, Capitol Peak near Aspen, CO – October 2020 photo by campsG

Following up on yesterday’s column on our failing response to Covid, we know that many on the right refuse to wear a mask to help their towns and states stop the growth in coronavirus cases. They say it’s their right to refuse to wear a mask, because the mask requirement impinges on their personal freedom.

They are wrong. Refusing to wear a mask doesn’t mean you are free. It means you are limiting the rights of your fellow citizens to be safe and secure. Axios reported on Monday that Coronavirus hospitalizations are increasing in 39 states, and are at or near their all-time peak in 16 of the 39.

We’re not at a panic point, but rising hospitalization rates are a sign that we’re losing control, and things are getting worse.

Michael Tomasky wrote an interesting op-ed for the NYT on how the right in America seemingly own the use of the term freedom. He quotes Mike Pence at the Amy Coney Barrett coming out party:

“We’re about freedom and respecting the freedom of the American people…”

Tomasky also quoted John Stuart Mill: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“In ‘On Liberty,’ he wrote that liberty (or freedom) means ‘doing as we like, subject to such consequences as may follow, without impediment from our fellow creatures, as long as what we do does not harm them even though they should think our conduct foolish, perverse or wrong.’ ”

Tomasky points out that freedom doesn’t include the freedom to make someone else sick. It does not include the freedom to refuse to wear a mask in the grocery store, or sneeze on someone in the produce section. How is that freedom for the person who is sneezed upon?

For the sneezee, the sneezer’s “freedom” potentially leads to illness, and in a few cases, even to death. Society has lost its social cohesion if that action is part of the definition of freedom.

Ralph Nader, who wrote “Unsafe at Any Speed”, the book that launched America’s national seat belt law, says this about the anti-maskers:

“The same people who don’t want to do social distancing and face masks get in their car and put their seat belt on….Nice irony, huh?”

Nader thinks mask wearing will just take time. Tomasky says that politicians on the right have appropriated “freedom”:

“Freedom belongs almost wholly to the right. They talk about it incessantly and insist on a link between economic freedom and political freedom, positing that the latter is impossible without the former. This was an animating principle of conservative economists in the 20th century like Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman.”

That linkage ignores that other western economies, like the Scandinavian countries, would have had limited economic success instead of their realities of great economies. These countries all have state-controlled economies, but still enjoy political freedom.

If Von Mises, Hayek and Friedman were correct, advanced democratic countries that had state-controlled economies would experience bad economies, along with little political freedom. There are no examples of this outside of the former Soviet Union. China has a robust state-planned economy, while lacking political freedoms.

So why do Democrats let Republicans own freedom as a concept? Why do they allow Republicans to use the concept to defend spreading the Coronavirus, potentially killing other citizens? A last thought from Tomasky:

“Democrats….aren’t very good at defending their positions on the level of philosophical principle…..they’ve been on the philosophical defensive since Ronald Reagan….Well, it’s high time they played some philosophical offense, especially on an issue, wearing masks, on which every poll shows broad majorities supporting their view….Freedom means the freedom not to get infected by the idiot who refuses to mask up.”

Biden has been pretty good at showing the alternative viewpoint on personal freedom. At his Miami town hall, he said:

“I view wearing this mask not so much protecting me, but as a patriotic responsibility. All the tough guys say, ‘Oh, I’m not wearing a mask, I’m not afraid.’ Well, be afraid for your husband, your wife, your son, your daughter, your neighbor, your co-worker. That’s who you’re protecting having this mask on, and it should be viewed as a patriotic duty, to protect those around you.”

Without social cohesion we’re doomed as a society. Coronavirus should be helping bring us together, but Trump keeps using it to drive a wedge deeply into our social fabric.

Just 14 days remain until the election. Help heal America by voting!

Let’s end Trump’s tired act.

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Monday Wake Up Call – October 19, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Price Lake Blue Ridge Mountains – October 2020 photo by Muhammad Sumon

For decades, people around the world have thought the US was “exceptional” in most things. Covid has shown that not only is America unexceptional when it comes to pulling together to beat the virus, we’re close to chaotic.

We do remain exceptional in Covid cases and deaths, leading the world in sheer numbers of each. We’re now back to more than 70,000 reported cases a day, and our current response seems mostly to be indifference.

Wrongo and Ms. Right are in our temporary bubble in Truro on Cape Cod, where almost everyone is still masking, and attempting to achieve sufficient physical distance. But across America, a whole lot of people seem to just be done with Covid. They are moving on.

Only a few states are still taking new infections seriously enough to try to do anything at all to stop the spread. Those states with strong mask requirements still have them, but most states seem to have given up trying to control their citizens.

The persistent growth in new cases is above all, a social cohesion problem. People aren’t willing to forego any comfort, or engage in social distancing unless it helps them personally. So, bad behavior has made the number of Americans sick with Covid much worse than it had to be.

Not enough people are willing to follow rules. Too many believe that putting others at risk is an inalienable personal right. While health professionals and politicians say that “compliance is key”, no one has offered any new ideas on how to bring about more adherence with mask wearing and physical distancing.

Covid is also a leadership problem. Trump has prioritized the health of the economy over the health of our citizens. He only put up a fight against the virus when he got sick, but not while it ravaged the rest of us. And once he got better, he’s spread even more pernicious disinformation about Covid.

We need to do better, but it’s unclear what a Biden presidency can do to make it better.

A national lockdown doesn’t seem legal, and would lead to dissipating a large amount of Biden’s political capital. That could put in jeopardy whatever changes to our economy and politics he might be able to accomplish, if Democrats hold the House, Senate and the White House.

We can expect the CDC to once again provide leadership on how to deal with the virus while we wait for effective vaccines to become widely available. But at this point, it seems too late to re-lock down, and start over.

Luckily, Covid isn’t particularly deadly for a highly contagious virus. We know that it’s terrible for those with preexisting conditions. We’re learning that there are serious long-term health problems for some people who get the disease, the so-called “long haulers”.

We all know these things, but we need to do a better job of thinking through what could change the minds of people who simply won’t comply with the basic rules. They know they can get it, but they don’t think they will die from it. So they figure they’ll be OK, and maybe as Trump says, become immune after having something that’s perceived as not much worse than the seasonal flu.

This is mostly true for America’s White population. It’s far less true for America’s Black and Latino populations. This is how racial privilege works in the US. Possibly, if we experience more cases than right now, there may be the stomach for another lockdown. That’s if it’s accompanied by additional government financial support for those who will suffer financially from any lockdown.

Another idea is to employ rolling lockdowns that impact only the hot spots. The governor of Connecticut is doing this in our few hot spots, and it seems to be reasonably well-supported by citizens. The logic is: “We let you do it your way, now you need to do it our way”. Not all will comply, but most will understand that what they did didn’t work; so it’s time to try something different.

Massachusetts has Covid color codes by town, with red designating towns with more than eight cases per 100k. Reports say that it has changed policies in many places, as people who have a choice try to avoid the hottest Covid spots.

There are lots of possibilities for what may happen going forward, but we need to be smarter about how we deal with Covid. Our policy can’t just be: “we all die of something”.

There’s a lot of value in putting off death for as long as possible.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – October 18, 2020

If confirmed, Amy Coney Barrett’s first major case on the Supreme Court could be Trump’s plan to remove undocumented immigrants from the Census count. This will cost states like California, Illinois and New York multiple Congressional seats, and billions in federal funding:

“The Supreme Court announced Friday that it will review President Trump’s attempt to exclude undocumented immigrants when calculating how congressional seats are apportioned among the states.”

A three-judge panel in New York said that Trump’s July 21 memorandum on the matter was “an unlawful exercise of the authority granted to” him by Congress. It blocked the Commerce Department and the Census Bureau from including internally generated information about the number of undocumented immigrants in their reports to the president after this year’s census is completed.

The census does not ask a citizenship question, so how the Census Bureau would come up with the immigration status of people counted is as a practical matter, suspect.

The Supremes put the case on a fast-track, saying that they will hold a hearing Nov. 30. By then, it will likely again be a nine-member court, assuming Judge Amy Coney Barrett is confirmed. It’s unclear how the case will divide the court. But the Census is yet another issue that has been transformed from a largely bureaucratic exercise into a partisan battle.

The decision to hear the case follows the Supreme Court’s earlier decision that the Trump administration could stop the Census count of Americans immediately, instead of on October 31.

This newest controversy involves the Constitutional mandate that apportionment of seats in the House of Representatives be based on the “whole number of persons in each State.” That has been interpreted to mean every resident, regardless of immigration status. But this summer, Trump issued a memorandum that said: “It is the policy of the United States to exclude from the apportionment base aliens who are not in a lawful immigration status.”

Trump directed Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to provide him with two sets of numbers, one that includes unauthorized immigrants and one that does not, “to the maximum extent feasible and consistent with the discretion delegated to the executive branch.”

Thus, the need for a decision about the Constitutionality of counting every person. We’ll see what happens. On to cartoons:

Coney Barrett says she’s a neutral arbiter of the law. Tell that to the Elephant:

Amy Coney Barrett keeps her opinions close to the robe:

It’s a felony to intimidate voters or obstruct voting. Coney Barrett says she can’t say if that’s illegal. The Constitution states that Congress shall determine the date of the election. Coney Barrett says she can’t say whether or not a president could unilaterally postpone an election.

A competent judge should have acknowledged explicit text in federal statutes and the Constitution itself, while reserving the right to apply it to a specific set of facts that might be presented to her.

Our Election Day fear:

Voting no longer takes just a few minutes:

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