Tuesday, November 24, 2020

His Biggest Fear

Everyone else knows it’s over.

Trump effectively surrendered his three-week protest of the election results Monday by submitting to the government’s official transition to the incoming Biden administration, bowing to a growing wave of public pressure yet still stopping short of conceding to President-elect Joe Biden.

Trump authorized the federal government to initiate the Biden transition late Monday, setting in motion a peaceful transfer of power by paving the way for the president-elect and his administration-in-waiting to tap public funds, receive security briefings and gain access to federal agencies.

Though procedural in nature, Trump’s acceptance of the General Services Administration starting the transition amounted to a dramatic capitulation and capped an extraordinary 16-day standoff since Biden was declared the winner on Nov. 7.

By continuing to subvert the vote and delay the transition, Trump risked becoming isolated within his own party as a growing chorus of Republican officials recognized Biden as president-elect following a succession of defeats in courts by the Trump campaign.

On Monday, the Michigan Board of State Canvassers certified Biden’s win there, while earlier in the day dozens of business leaders and Republican national security experts had urged Trump to accept the result because refusing to begin the transition was endangering the country’s security, economy and pandemic response.

And so Trump yielded, writing Monday night on Twitter that he had agreed to support the Biden transition “in the best interest of our country.”

Yet the president also vowed to continue his push to overturn the results, adding, “Our case STRONGLY continues, we will keep up the good … fight, and I believe we will prevail!”

A number of Republicans are telling Trump to give up and concede, but it’s a waste of time and energy. He’s locked in the bunker, staring at his thumbs, and railing about betrayal and how he’s going to launch a final assault that will stun his enemies as the bombs are falling.

I wouldn’t give too much credit to the Republicans for stating the obvious.  They’re out to save their own asses after their thundering silence during Trump’s most odious and anti-American tweets and actions over the last four years, and now that they’re figuring that it’s okay to boo from the cheap seats, they’re suddenly finding what is left of their spines and dignity.  They’re now moving on to planning how to make Joe Biden a one-term president, and Trump is becoming irrelevant.  Or so they’d like us to think.

The reason Trump is carrying on isn’t just because he’s lost the election and in his fevered mind he’s never lost anything.  It’s a combination of being rejected by the country, the realization that he’s fading into history as the worst president since James Buchanan, and the looming awareness that there are at least two District Attorneys lying in wait for him to lose the protection of the presidency before a number of statutes of limitation expire.  (There’s a school of thought that he sought the presidency for that reason alone, although I think it’s giving him too much credit for forethought.)  And under all of this is the devastating awareness that he couldn’t pull off the last act of his biggest con.  To quote Harold Hill, festooned in tar and feathers, he finally got his foot caught in the door.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Slammed Into Reverse

Hard-core Trumpists in Wayne County, Michigan, which is Detroit and the most heavily-Democratic part of the state, tried to subvert the election by refusing to certify the votes in that county. This intransigence lasted about as long as a Trump rally, and they reversed themselves.

Republican appointees on a key board in Michigan’s most populous county Tuesday night reversed their initial refusal to certify the vote tallies in the Detroit area, striking a last-minute compromise with Democrats that defused a political fight over the process to formalize President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the state.

The unexpected twist came after the four-member Wayne County Board of Canvassers had deadlocked on the day of the deadline for Michigan counties to certify the vote — a move President Trump celebrated on Twitter as “a beautiful thing.”

The Trump campaign has alleged irregularities in the vote count in the county seat of Detroit, accusations city officials have vigorously denied. Democrats accused GOP officials of seeking to disenfranchise voters in the majority-Black city of Detroit.

State Democrats say Trump has no hope of overturning Biden’s 148,000-vote lead.

For all their stalwart claims about standing tall with their Dear Leader, these guys can’t even keep up the sham for one news cycle. And a good thing, too.

Killing The Messenger

This doesn’t surprise anyone.

Trump on Tuesday fired a top Department of Homeland Security official who led the agency’s efforts to help secure the election and was vocal about tamping down unfounded claims of ballot fraud.

In a tweet, Trump fired Christopher Krebs, who headed the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) at DHS and led successful efforts to help state and local election offices protect their systems and to rebut misinformation.

Earlier Tuesday, Krebs in a tweet refuted allegations that election systems were manipulated, saying that “59 election security experts all agree, ‘in every case of which we are aware, these claims either have been unsubstantiated or are technically incoherent.’ ”

Krebs’s statement amounted to a debunking of Trump’s central claim that the November election was stolen.

Trump, who has not conceded the election to President-elect Joe Biden, said on Twitter: “The recent statement by Chris Krebs on the security of the 2020 Election was highly inaccurate, in that there were massive improprieties and fraud — including dead people voting, Poll Watchers not allowed into polling locations, ‘glitches’ in the voting machines which changed votes from Trump to Biden, late voting, and many more. Therefore, effective immediately, Chris Krebs has been terminated as Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.”

Late Tuesday, following Trump’s tweet, acting DHS secretary Chad Wolf called Krebs’s deputy, Matthew Travis, to inform him that the White House had overruled CISA’s succession plan that named him acting director, essentially forcing him to resign, Travis said.

DHS spokesman Alexei Woltornist said the White House had not asked him to resign.

Krebs wasn’t fired for telling the truth. He was fired because he refused to go along with Trump’s lies, and he did his best to shore up confidence in the election. That won’t work in Trump’s world of magical thinking.

The attempts to overturn the election in court are losing at every turn because Trump’s lawyers know they can’t suborn perjury in court, and they have no evidence to present.

I hope President-elect Biden offers Mr. Krebs a job.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Sunday Reading

Learning From Mom — Sue Halpern in The New Yorker about what she learned about voting from her mother (and it sounds very familiar).

Five years ago, when my mother was in her late eighties, she volunteered for Hillary Clinton’s Presidential campaign. Most days, she drove twenty minutes to an office park in Virginia Beach and made phone calls for four or five hours at a stretch. Hillary was her candidate—not because she was a woman on track to make history (my mother isn’t sentimental that way) but because years before, when Clinton was considering a run for the Senate, my mother heard her speak at a fund-raising dinner and was impressed by her intelligence, humor, and, yes, warmth. My husband, a 2016 Bernie surrogate, could not persuade her to change her allegiance. She was “all in for Hillary.”

The 2016 campaign marked a turning point for my mother: it was the first in decades in which she did not go door to door, urging strangers to vote for whichever candidate she happened to be supporting. (One year, that candidate was my uncle, a progressive Democrat, who was running a quixotic campaign for Congress in a conservative Republican district in New York. Needless to say, he lost.) She said she was finally too old to be a door knocker, a task that she was very good at because, over the years, she had acquired the ability to talk to anyone, anywhere. Still, her biggest campaign triumph was pulling up at a rally in suburban Connecticut, where we lived at the time, with a huge Jimmy Carter sign atop her Oldsmobile 88, and getting a shout-out from the actor Paul Newman. This was in 1976. It probably kept her campaigning for the next forty years.

Both my parents were dyed-in-the-wool Democrats, members of a local activist group pushing for reforms in the Party, but they recognized that American democracy did not work without a loyal opposition, and they sometimes voted for Republicans. The polarization that now characterizes our shared political life had not yet taken hold, and the concept of a moderate Republican was not anathema to either the Republican Party or liberal Democrats. Our corner of Connecticut was represented—and represented well—by two such Republicans, Lowell Weicker, in the Senate, and Stewart McKinney, in the House. They, and their fellow-travellers, had some gravitational pull in their party, and that was a good thing.

When I turned eighteen, I registered to vote as a Democrat. Then I wrote to Representative McKinney and told him I’d done that, and asked for a summer job. He brought me on as an assistant to his press secretary. And, although that experience cured me of any desire to work on the Hill, it was a hands-on education in the political give-and-take necessary to meet the needs of constituents. Today, as we watch Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refuse to acknowledge the legitimacy of Joe Biden’s victory and encourage spurious claims of voter fraud; when we hear reports that McConnell, if he retains his leadership position, will block Biden’s Cabinet appointees if he deems them too radical; and when only four sitting Republican senators have reached across the aisle to congratulate the President-elect, we are seeing irrefutable evidence that McConnell’s Republican Party has little interest in governing. It is difficult to see how a two-party system works when the animating ideology of one of them is nihilism. Actually, that’s not true. We have empirical evidence from the past four years: it works nominally, but that is all. Unfortunately, democratic norms are not automatically revived by the election of a Democratic President, though it’s a start.

On November 8, 2016, my mother went to the Clinton campaign office for her last shift. The Times she read that day with her morning coffee calculated that Hillary had an eighty-five-per-cent chance of winning the Presidency. (The paper likened her chance of losing to an N.F.L. kicker missing a thirty-seven-yard field goal.) Everyone in the office was giddy, my mother told me when she got home that afternoon. The young people she’d worked alongside for months urged her to come back that evening for a watch party and victory celebration. “I’m not going,” she said. “He’s going to win.” At the time, I thought that she was hedging her bets so as not to jinx it. But, for months, she’d been telling me that most of the young and middle-aged women she was calling (and who she assumed were white) told her that they were voting for Trump, or at least that they would not be voting for Clinton. “I don’t get it,” she often said, but, on the night that those sentiments mattered, she did get it. She stayed home, and watched Trump glide into office.

My mother is a first-generation American. Both her parents came to this country from Europe, at the turn of the last century. She was born a year before the Great Depression and came of age during the Second World War. Hers was the generation that planted victory gardens, bought war bonds, and sent loved ones abroad to fight Nazism and fascism. They had a more visceral understanding of what was at stake in 2020 than many of us did. They had seen men like Trump before. The idea that their lives would be bookended by racist, authoritarian strongmen was almost unbearable. (Though Trump still carried seniors nationally, a post-election report from the Brookings Institution notes that there was “less Republican support among older segments of the population” than in 2016; among white people aged forty-five to sixty-four, support for Trump fell nine percentage points from 2016. There were no exit polls of nonagenarians, as far as I can tell.)

The pandemic—and Trump’s politicization of public health—meant that we could not be with my mother to celebrate her birthday, and that she could not attend her granddaughter’s wedding. Her book group went on hiatus, her mah-jongg crew was sidelined, and the municipal gym where she walked the track most mornings shut down. The isolation has been extreme, but she’s not complaining, nor are her friends. I suspect that their youth prepared them for behaving in the public interest. Their generation may be the last with a lived experience of comity, though the mutual-aid groups spawned by the pandemic may yet turn out to be instructive to the rest of us. When I posted, on Twitter, that my ninety-two-year-old mother had waited two hours to cast a ballot during Virginia’s early voting, the tweet received more than forty-four thousand likes. The overriding comments were of thanks.

Many people cast this election as the most consequential of their lives. They said that they were voting for the future—for their children and grandchildren, for the health of the planet, for the survival of democracy. But, for those of us with relatives and friends of a certain age, we were also voting for them.

Georgia On My Mind — John Nichols and Joan Walsh in The Nation on the January run-off elections that could determine the future of Joe Biden’s presidency.

As he prepared to claim the presidential victory he secured by more than 4 million votes, Joe Biden said, “What is becoming clearer each hour is that record numbers of Americans—from all races, faiths, regions—chose change over more of the same.” But his ability to deliver that change is still to be determined by the voters of Georgia.

Because the Democrats did not gain control of the US Senate on November 3, the defining moment for Biden’s presidency will come January 5, when a pair of runoff elections in Georgia could displace GOP incumbents and position Vice President–elect Kamala Harris to end Republican Mitch McConnell’s destructive tenure as Senate majority leader.

The Georgia runoffs give the Democrats a rare opportunity to finish the essential work of elections in which they fell short. The 2020 fight was always about more than defeating Donald Trump. McConnell had to be displaced, or Biden would serve as a virtual lame duck struggling to achieve incremental change with executive orders, tepid appointments, and a constrained agenda.

While Biden prevailed, the bid for Senate control stumbled. Instead of the net gain of four seats that they needed, Democrats beat Republican incumbents only in Arizona and Colorado, while Democratic Senator Doug Jones lost in Alabama. So many vulnerable Republican incumbents survived that it looked as if McConnell and the GOP could hang on to power with a 52-48 advantage.

There was plenty of blame to go around for what was clearly a disappointing result. Progressives complained that Biden ran a campaign so narrowly focused on upending Trump that it never developed the urgent issue agenda that could inspire full-ticket Democratic voting. But it was not just that. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee put their thumbs on the scales for uninspired centrists who then disappointed. The most frustrating example was in the race against McConnell in Kentucky, where DC insiders favored Amy McGrath in the primary over Charles Booker, a legislator who had a far better plan for building an urban-rural Hood to the Holler movement in the state. Nearly $90 million was poured into McGrath’s campaign, yet she won just over 38 percent of the vote—not even 3 percentage points better than Tennessee progressive Marquita Bradshaw, whose insurgent Senate bid got little attention from DC Democrats.

Democratic strategists must get better at mounting coherent national campaigns that develop an issue-driven identity for the party. They must also learn to respect the wisdom of grassroots Democrats in the states rather than impose candidates from above. But political blame laying is of value only if it provides lessons for getting it right the next time. Luckily for the Democrats, the next time is now.

Georgia can prevent McConnell from becoming the grim reaper of Biden’s presidency. That’s because, unlike most states, Georgia holds runoff elections when no candidate receives a majority of the votes in the initial balloting. The state held two Senate contests this year: a regular race for the seat held by Republican incumbent David Perdue and a special election for the seat held by Kelly Loeffler, an extreme right-wing Republican who was appointed in 2019. It was immediately clear that the Rev. Raphael Warnock had finished ahead of Loeffler in a multicandidate contest and would face her again in a runoff. In Perdue’s race, the initial count had him finishing above the 50 percent mark needed to avoid a runoff with Democrat Jon Ossoff. But things turned Ossoff’s way in the same tabulation of absentee ballots that put Biden ahead in the state. Perdue dropped to 49.7 percent, and the Democrat declared, “We have all the momentum.” There are still hurdles for Ossoff. Perdue is likely to demand a recount in the hope of clawing his way over the 50 percent threshold. But recounts rarely work.

So this is the time for everyone who wants to see a successful Biden presidency to go all in for Warnock and Ossoff. Georgia is deep into a process of political transformation, thanks to demographic shifts and the remarkable voter mobilization work of Stacey Abrams and a new generation of multiracial, multiethnic grassroots activists.

Warnock and Ossoff are different candidates who have run distinct campaigns. Yet it’s likely they will rise or fall together in what could well be the most expensive Senate competition in American history. Loeffler is reputedly the richest politician on Capitol Hill, Perdue is a multimillionaire, and McConnell will steer every special-interest dollar he can find into Georgia. That money will fund vicious campaigning. In the run-up to the November elections, Perdue mounted attacks on Ossoff, who is Jewish, that were widely condemned as anti-Semitic. Loeffler is already signaling that she’ll attack Warnock, who is running to become Georgia’s first Black senator, for what she labels “his radical policies and his agenda.”

But these Democrats bring strengths to the competition. Ossoff, who built name recognition and fundraising prowess with a high-profile 2017 bid in suburban Atlanta’s Sixth Congressional District, shredded Perdue in a late-October debate. Ossoff still has high support in the Sixth, where he narrowly lost in 2017 but African-American gun-control activist Lucy McBath won in 2018 and 2020. Warnock, the senior pastor of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, the spiritual home of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., finished ahead of Loeffler, thanks to an urban-rural coalition with a proven capacity to mobilize voters. Former president Barack Obama has already campaigned for the Georgia Democrats, reminding an Atlanta crowd just before the November 3 elections, “You’ve got the chance to flip two Senate seats.”

Abrams agrees. She dismisses the notion that runoffs disadvantage Democrats just because the big top-of-the-ticket races are settled. “We will have the investment and the resources that have never followed our runoffs in Georgia for Democrats,” she told CNN’s Jake Tapper. Ossoff and Warnock “are going to make certain that Joe Biden has the leadership, the support, and the congressional mandate that he needs to move this country forward.”

Ossoff told The Nation recently that his mentor Representative John Lewis, who died in July, urged him to work to revive the Black-Jewish electoral coalition that made major gains in Georgia in the 1960s and ’70s. Ossoff and Warnock, running as a ticket, could be precisely the team the Democrats need in 2021—working to win two races in Georgia and prevent McConnell from obstructing another Democratic presidency.

Doonesbury — Art Smart.

Friday, November 13, 2020

Happy Friday

It’s a Friday the 13th, just in case that gives you pause to go out and risk your superstitions.  These days, who can tell a sign of bad luck from just the new normal, anyway?

In a gesture to sanity, Arizona has been finally called for Joe Biden, bringing his electoral count to 290 and in alignment with what the Associated Press said it was back on November 4.  Trump himself hasn’t been heard from other than his Twitter account since his appearance in the White House briefing room a week ago; an appearance that was abruptly terminated on many news outlets when it was obvious he was sowing bullshit.  Since then he’s had his tantrums and extended periods of pouting, sulking, and spates of vengeance by firing the Defense Secretary and seeding the Pentagon with his toadies, who have 68 days to bring us to the brink of Armageddon.

Meanwhile, the incoming Biden administration is end-running Trump’s refusal to concede by going ahead with staffing and policy outlines, perhaps a precursor to how he’ll govern when he actually takes office and has to deal with Mitch McConnell and the nutsery that survived.  If this was any other time, the fact that Trump and his cronies are largely inert would be seen as a blessing; out of sight out of mind.  But with the number of Covid-19 infections reaching record levels every day, they are doing worse than doing nothing.

On days like these, even Friday the thirteenth, the best you can hope for is that if a black cat crosses your path, she’ll cuddle up and purr.

 

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Tantrum

We knew this was coming.

Trump fired Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper on Monday, upending the military’s leadership at a time when Mr. Trump’s refusal to concede the election has created a rocky and potentially precarious transition.

Mr. Trump announced the decision on Twitter, writing in an abrupt post that Mr. Esper had been “terminated.”

The president wrote that he was appointing Christopher C. Miller, whom he described as the “highly respected” director of the National Counterterrorism Center, to be the acting defense secretary. Mr. Miller will be the fourth official to lead the Pentagon under Mr. Trump.

Two White House officials said later on Monday that Mr. Trump was not finished, and that Christopher A. Wray, the F.B.I. director, and Gina Haspel, the C.I.A. director, could be next in line to be fired. Removing these senior officials — in effect decapitating the nation’s national security bureaucracy — would be without parallel by an outgoing president who has just lost re-election.

Democrats and national security veterans said it was a volatile move in the uncertain time between administrations, particularly by a president who has made clear that he does not want to give up power and that he would be reasserting his waning authority over the most powerful agencies of the government.

Meanwhile, the GOP on Capitol Hill are doing what they do best: cowering like the cowards that they have been for the last five years, sucking up to Trump even though there’s nothing he can do to them.

Leading Republicans rallied on Monday around President Trump’s refusal to concede the election, declining to challenge the false narrative that it was stolen from him or to recognize President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory even as party divisions burst into public view.

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the top Republican in Congress, threw his support behind Mr. Trump in a sharply worded speech on the Senate floor. He declared that Mr. Trump was “100 percent within his rights” to turn to the legal system to challenge the outcome and hammered Democrats for expecting the president to concede.

And now the Republicans in Georgia are rallying themselves into a circular firing squad.

A rift among Georgia Republicans exploded into public view on Monday as the state’s incumbent senators, both locked in fierce runoff fights for their seats, lashed out at the Republican officials who oversaw last week’s election and leveled unfounded claims of a faulty process lacking in transparency.

The all-out intraparty war erupted as the vote count in Georgia on Monday continued to show President Trump narrowly trailing President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler of Georgia took the extraordinary step of issuing a joint statement calling for the resignation of the Republican secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, and condemning the election as an “embarrassment.”

“We believe when there are failures, they need to be called out — even when it’s in your own party,” the senators said in their statement, which did not offer any specific allegations or elaborate on how they believed Mr. Raffensperger had fallen short, except to accuse him of “mismanagement and lack of transparency.”

Even lawyers set to defend Trump in court are having second thoughts.

Doing business with Mr. Trump — with his history of inflammatory rhetoric, meritless lawsuits and refusal to pay what he owes — has long induced heartburn among lawyers, contractors, suppliers and lenders. But the concerns are taking on new urgency as the president seeks to raise doubts about the election results.

Some senior lawyers at Jones Day, one of the country’s largest law firms, are worried that it is advancing arguments that lack evidence and may be helping Mr. Trump and his allies undermine the integrity of American elections, according to interviews with nine partners and associates, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect their jobs.

In real news, more than 133,000 new cases of Covid-19 were reported yesterday with a total of 240,162 lives now lost to the pandemic. I can’t remember the last time the White House held a briefing on their efforts to combat the plague, but it doesn’t really matter since they’re not doing anything about it except reporting that more members of the White House staff and cabinet have tested positive for it.  The only person who is taking the lead on dealing with it is President-elect Biden.

Coronavirus cases surged to a new record on Monday, with the United States now averaging 111,000 cases each day for the past week, a grim milestone amid rising hospitalizations and deaths that cast a shadow on positive news about the effectiveness of a potential vaccine.

As the number of infected Americans passed 10 million and governors struggled to manage the pandemic, President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. tried on Monday to use his bully pulpit — the only tool at his disposal until he replaces President Trump in 72 days — to plead for Americans to set aside the bitterness of the 2020 election and wear a mask.

“It doesn’t matter who you voted for, where you stood before Election Day,” Mr. Biden said in Delaware after announcing a Covid-19 advisory board charged with preparing for quick action once he is inaugurated. “It doesn’t matter your party, your point of view. We can save tens of thousands of lives if everyone would just wear a mask for the next few months. Not Democratic or Republican lives — American lives.”

This would all be rather ridiculous and worthy of some sit-com were it not for the simple fact that lives are at stake every day, and not just from Covid-19. Disruption and disarray in the leadership of our defense forces, subject to the whims and tantrums of a child-like despot, reminiscent of a certain bunker scene in April 1945, can only lead to mischief from our enemies and mistrust from our remaining allies.

We’ve got 71 days.

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Friday, November 6, 2020

Happy Friday

Overnight the vote count in the state of Georgia put Joe Biden in the lead, and he is picking up mail-in votes still being counted in Pennsylvania.  The Associated Press has been saying that Biden won Arizona for three days now which gives him 264 electoral votes, six shy of 270 and the win.  Other news outlets have Biden at 253.  Either way, all Biden has to do is pick up Pennsylvania and he’s the president-elect.

Yesterday afternoon Trump went into the White House briefing room to make a statement about the state of the election.  It was so full of bullshit that several TV networks, including MSNBC, cut away after about ten seconds, refusing to participate in the shit show.  His campaign is filing multiple lawsuits to try to stop the count in various places such as Michigan and Pennsylvania, claiming fraud and conspiracy, and just as promptly being dismissed.

So, things at this point are looking good.

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Monday, November 2, 2020

Don’t Let Them Get To You

So, one more day until Election Day.  Dog knows how many more days until it’s official, and Trump and his minions are already sowing doubt about what happens after the polls close, trying to say that any votes counted after don’t count.  That’s bullshit and they know it, but they’re counting on the same mentality that they’ve been exploiting for the last five years or so; the same people who believe Hillary Clinton ran a pedophile ring out of the basement of a pizza parlor that doesn’t even have a basement will believe that a ballot postmarked on November 2 is too late to be counted.  By the way, military ballots from overseas won’t have arrived by the deadline tomorrow, either.  Are they truly going to deny our soldiers — the ones they say are the bulwarks of democracy (and who most likely vote Republican) — the right of having their votes counted?

It sounds to me as if they are truly terrified of the outcome.  They know that if every vote is counted fairly, they will lose.  That’s not a political bias, it’s the plain fact.  That is why they have engaged in voter suppression for nearly a century, and it’s why they’re engaging in voter intimidation now with their butch-assurance big-ass trucks and blaring horns.  They know the jig is up, the shit is heading towards the fan, and despite all the bloviation and threats, they are up against a tremendous tide, and they will do everything they can, legal and otherwise, to stop it.  As Adam L. Silver noted, demoralization is the point.

The whole point of all the chaos that the President, his campaign, his surrogates, and his supporters are calling for, and the actual chaos that he, his surrogates, and his supporters are creating, are all intended to do one thing: demoralize everyone.

[…]

Among other actions, it includes subverting the legislative process to subvert the judicial system and the rule of law. Part of the reason that Senator McConnell jammed Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination through in under six weeks just before the election is to demoralize the majority of Americans. It is why he’s already stated publicly that during the lame duck, regardless of the results of the election, he’s not going to bring a COVID relief package to the floor. Rather, all he’s going to do is fill the remaining Federal judicial vacancies in order to achieve a legislative demoralization two for: further packing the courts with Leonard Leo chosen reactionaries and extremists and ensuring that Americans don’t get the help and assistance they need to survive the pandemic.

[…]

Things are going to be unsettled, uncomfortable, unpleasant, and dangerous no matter what happens on Tuesday night. Especially if what the data tells us is going to happen happens and VP Biden wins. The President, his key subordinates in his administration, in Congress, on the Federal courts, in state governments, his surrogates, and his supporters will ramp up their destructive rhetoric and, in some cases, behavior. Not because it will somehow undo the results of the election, but because in reality they actually hate America; especially the real promise and ideals of America. Just as they hate the vast majority of Americans. And if they can’t control America and rule it and over the vast majority of Americans, then they’ll try to see it damaged so no one else can.

So what do we do?  What can you do to not let them win?  It sounds simple to say “don’t let them get to you,” but that’s about all it takes.  Shut off the noise.  Change the channel.  Read a book. (Yesterday I picked up “Coot Club” by Arthur Ransome and I’m re-reading it for the first time in fifty years.  Nice to be back with my old friends right where I left them.)  If you’ve already voted, know that it will count.  If you are waiting until Election Day, don’t let them stop you.

Most importantly, know that you are not alone.  Think of the coalition that has come together to defeat the Trump machine: leftists from Bernie Sanders to recovering Republicans in the Lincoln Project.  Over 90 million votes have already been cast.  Yes, there are some for Trump in the mix, but the turnout in the face of lies, intimidation, and Covid-19 is astounding, and it’s going to count for something in every sense of the word.

In the meantime, go to your happy place.  For me, it’s sunset on a calm summer evening looking over a bay in northern Michigan.  Come and sit with me.

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Sunday Reading

Latinos Con Biden — Stephania Taladrid in The New Yorker on how grassroots organizing is turning out the Latinx vote in Miami.

On a scorching afternoon in early October, Miguel Sahid walked over to a freshly painted mural in Wynwood, Miami’s art district. When Sahid reached the wall, tears began flowing from his closed eyes. Looming above him was an image of a Taíno woman wrapped in a Puerto Rican flag, her lips sealed with the word “Reclama,” or “Demand.” Her right arm was raised as high as Lady Liberty’s, but instead of a torch, she held a banner reading “Tu Voto es Mi Voto”—“Your Vote Is My Vote.” Sahid and others had commissioned the mural as a memorial to the victims of Hurricane Maria—but also as a rallying cry for the nearly nine hundred thousand eligible Puerto Rican voters in Florida, urging them to make their voices heard this November.

Sahid became involved in politics only recently—he was groomed in the world of theatre, and now runs an actors society for Latino youth. At forty-six, he comes across as a sturdy man, with carefully combed hair, warm eyes, and a jaunty smile. Like other Puerto Ricans, he has taken Donald Trump’s demeaning of the island personally, and sees Maria as a thorn in the President’s side. To this date, he vividly remembers the call he placed to his parents back on the island when the hurricane made landfall, in September of 2017. “Many of the phone lines were down, because everyone was calling,” he said. When he finally got his father on the phone, he learned that their apartment was flooded ankle-deep in seawater. Shortly after, Puerto Rico slipped into a blackout, and eight days passed before Sahid was able to reach his parents again. Trump’s callousness and ineptitude stunned him. “Everything changed when I saw he wasn’t paying the slightest attention to Puerto Rico, and that all he bothered to do was throw paper towels at us,” he said. “It felt as if he were offering a Band-Aid at a time when we desperately needed surgery.”

In the aftermath of the hurricane, Trump declared that he had done an “A-plus” job in Puerto Rico. During his only visit to the island, which lasted less than four hours, the President blamed local authorities for any problems and downplayed the damage. In reality, the official government death toll was 2,975, a higher number of victims than during Katrina, the hurricane that devastated New Orleans, in 2005. In parts of Puerto Rico, American citizens were left without electricity or clean water for months. The island has yet to fully recover from the disaster, which wrought an estimated hundred billion dollars in damage on a population whose local government was already heavily burdened by debt. Last month, in a transparent, last-minute effort to earn votes, Trump pledged a package of thirteen billion dollars in federal disaster funding to Puerto Rico. But many, including Sahid, saw this as a cynical political ploy by a President who reportedly wanted to hand over the U.S. territory to the highest foreign bidder. “First he wanted to sell us, then he wanted to swap us for Greenland, and now he wants to buy us?” he said ruefully. Feeling increasingly frustrated, Sahid looked for ways to become more engaged in politics and came across the grassroots groups Boricuas con Biden and Cubanos con Biden. “There, I found thousands of people airing similar grievances,” he said. “It made me realize that I’m not alone.”

According to the Pew Research Center, Latinos make up seventeen per cent of the electorate in Florida—the largest share of any battleground state. A staple of Florida politics is that Cuban-Americans reliably vote Republican; this year, they are expected to overwhelmingly support Trump. There are, in fact, more Puerto Rican eligible voters in the state than Cuban-Americans, and, together with myriad other groups, including Mexicans, Dominicans, Nicaraguans, and Ecuadorians, they constitute nearly three-quarters of the community’s voters. The result of the battle for their support could decide whether Trump or Biden wins the state. “Unlike 2016, this has been a much more contested environment,” Carlos Odio, the co-founder of the research group EquisLabs, told me. “If you’re Biden, what you’re trying to do is maximize votes. Trump has an easier job—he just needs to bat a few balls away.” To win Florida, Odio estimates that Joe Biden likely must secure around seventy per cent of the non-Cuban Latino vote—a level of support reached both by Barack Obama, in 2012, and Hillary Clinton, in 2016. The last time that Equis polled for Biden, his support hovered around sixty per cent. But he’s since made modest gains in Miami-Dade, Florida’s most populous county, aided by a heavy investment in advertising thanks to Michael Bloomberg’s half-million-dollar donation there and a wave of volunteers working to turn out the vote.

Addressing a small crowd of organizers in Miami Springs last weekend, Obama, who was in Florida to promote his Vice-President, emphasized just how momentous their work could prove, saying, “If you bring Florida home, this thing’s over.” Initially, the number of registered Democrats who had cast their ballots early in Florida outpaced Republicans by two-to-one. But in the last week, registered Republicans have steadily closed that gap, and now trail Democrats by less than a hundred thousand votes. In Miami-Dade, a Democratic stronghold, Republicans have an advantage in turnout of more than eight per cent. The numbers also reveal that half of Latino registered voters have yet to cast their ballots in the state. Privately, Latino political activists, and even Biden campaign staffers in the state, say that the Florida Democratic Party, which runs Biden’s coördinated campaign, has not invested enough money in direct voter contact among Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, Colombians, Venezuelans, and other potential supporters. “I’ve emptied my pockets,” one of the staffers said, of having to make up for the lack of budget with personal money. The staffer has overheard others say they’re “being sent to the front lines just like soldiers without bullets.” But the campaign contends it has spent six figures over the last week in get-out-the-vote efforts and events at early polling locations. “We are leaving no stone unturned,” Christian Ulvert, a senior adviser in Florida, said.

Although research has long shown that there is a racial and ethnic disparity in the use of vote-by-mail, some are frustrated by what they see as the state campaign’s failure to invest more heavily in Latino turnout, despite the Biden campaign having raised a record $1.5 billion nationally, and working with a hundred-million-dollar donation from Bloomberg. But they also recognize an all-too-familiar pattern, which, in their view, explains why Democrats have not won a statewide election in Florida since 2012: the Democratic Party is not making a large enough effort in a state where demographics trends favor them. “Florida doesn’t have to go to the margins,” the staffer said. Now some of them are dreading a Trump victory or a repeat of the 2000 Presidential election, when the contest was settled in George W. Bush’s favor by five hundred and thirty-seven votes. If Republicans continue to turn out their voters in droves, Biden staffers fear that they may not be able to keep up with their lead. “If we don’t get the Hispanic vote out today and tomorrow, it’s game over,” the staffer told me on Saturday. “At this rate, they’re going to catch up to us by Monday.” Another staffer argued that it was impossible to make up in a matter of days for work that should have been done over the last year. “At this point, I’m praying for a miracle,” the staffer said.

What may offset the campaign’s neglect is that many Latino voters believe their livelihoods and integrity are on the ballot this year. For the nearly fifty thousand Puerto Ricans who moved to Florida after Hurricane Maria, November 3rd may well determine the future for their relatives back home. For the nearly two hundred thousand Venezuelans, Hondurans, and Salvadorans living in Florida, it may be a question of undoing Trump’s attacks on the Temporary Protected Status program, which allows immigrants from countries beset by violence, repressive regimes, or natural disasters to remain in the United States. And for the more than three hundred thousand voters of Mexican descent, it may be a matter of standing up for their dignity. Across nationalities, Latino voters are fed up with being treated as second-class citizens. What’s more, some say that they see in Trump the authoritarian instincts displayed by leaders of the nations they fled. “The reason why I’m horrified by Trump is because I see Daniel Ortega in him,” Carolina Chamorro, a Nicaraguan sociologist who moved to Florida in the nineteen-eighties, said, referring to the Sandinista leader. “All he’s doing is manipulating the masses.”

Much of Trump’s bigoted rhetoric has been aimed at Latinos—and, in cases like the mass shooting of twenty-two people last year in El Paso, in which the gunman set out to kill as many Mexicans as possible, it’s proved fatal. For Maria José Wright and Fred Wright, the notion that Trump is viewed as a pro-life leader is painfully ironic. Their son, Jerry, was one of the forty-nine victims of the Pulse night-club shooting, in Orlando, in 2016. Until that year, the Wrights had invariably voted Republican. “A lot of people don’t know this, but the shooter at Pulse, who took my son’s life, got radicalized because Trump started talking about banning [immigrants from] Muslim states,” Fred, an Ecuadorian-American businessman, said. “To us, he is pro-death.” Maria José expressed regret that many conservative Latinos who support the President limit their pro-life defense to the unborn, when more than a hundred Americans are killed by guns every day, and more than two hundred and thirty thousand have died as a result of COVID-19. “It’s shameful,” she told me. Maria José said she was troubled by the G.O.P.’s personality cult, and by Trump’s debasement of the press, scientists, and his opponents. “It scares the living crap out of me,” she said.

In a closely contested election riven by fear and hostility, the work done at the grassroots level could prove decisive in increasing turnout. Weeks before the start of early voting, Sahid joined dozens of volunteers, including Daniela Ferrera, the co-founder of the grassroots group Cubanos con Biden, and began rallying voters by organizing caravanas, rallies on wheels. When early voting began, they started visiting polling places to counter the presence of Trump supporters, whose vehemence they fear will deter Biden voters from turning out. A week ago, in the city of Hialeah, a Republican stronghold north of Miami, Maria Caridad Fernandez, a Cuban-American voter, wept after seeing fellow Biden supporters outside her polling site. Fernandez told me that she had been doubting whether to vote or not—her neighbor’s pro-Biden yard signs had been stolen, and she found the current political climate deeply dispiriting. But the sight of Biden supporters evoked a feeling of belonging—one that was comparable to what Sahid had felt. “I want this country to be proud of us and to never feel ashamed of having welcomed us in,” Fernandez said.

Sahid recently led a Sunday-morning caravan of Biden enthusiasts through downtown Miami. Previous caravans had numbered in the hundreds, but, this time, two thousand cars had registered on the eve of the event. Dressed in jeans and a tight “Latinos con Biden” shirt, Sahid welcomed people with a broad smile as they drove in: “¡Hola, hola, hola! How are you guys doing?!” Within less than an hour, there were more cars than the street could fit. People brought their elderly parents, their children, and pets and carried cardboard signs, some homemade, that said “Abuelas Cubanas con Biden,” “100% Anti-Comunista, 100% con Biden,” and “Republican voters against Trump.” Other signs referenced Trump’s treatment of Puerto Rico and his talk of trading away the U.S. territory, such as, “Prohibido Olvidar” and “Puerto Rico no se vende.” Next to their Biden flags, people brandished Puerto Rican, Mexican, Venezuelan, and Uruguayan flags. Leading the way was a pickup truck, playing at full volume a classic Puerto Rican song, whose lyrics went “¡Pa’ fuera! ¡Pa’ la calle! ” or “Get out, to the street.”

On the caravan’s way to Tropical Park, when Trump supporters drove by, their shouts of “Communists!” were drowned out by the cheering and honking of Biden supporters. “This is how you know the street is on your side,” Sahid said proudly. “Two months ago, you saw none of this.” His husband, Andres Mejia, sat to his right and joked that Sahid has had to replace his car horn three times. “It went mute during the first caravan,” Mejia said, as Sahid kept honking. By the time that Sahid reached the main boulevard in front of the park, more than a thousand people were lined up on the street’s edges, waving signs and dancing. An elderly Dominican man expressed astonishment at the size of the pro-Biden crowd in a park where Trump supporters convene regularly. “Trumpists had been here for a year,” he said in disbelief. “One never gets to see anything like this in Miami.” The turnout had exceeded Sahid’s expectations, but he was cautiously enthusiastic.

The following week, he and a group of volunteers put together another caravan, which drew several hundred cars from different parts of the city. The plan was to meet at the Freedom Tower, on Biscayne Boulevard—an iconic building where Cubans long petitioned for asylum, and which is known as the “Ellis Island of the South.” As Sahid and others got closer to the monument, a growing number of Trump supporters showed up in their cars. When the Biden supporters finally reached their meeting point, the boulevard was blanketed with Trump 2020 flags. Leading the caravan in support of the President were the Proud Boys, a far-right extremist group. They had hired a parade float, which featured a large-sized cutout of a bridge and which read “TRUMP UNITY.” It included a singer, too—a boisterous man who performed the Village People’s “Y.M.C.A.” with the letters “M.A.G.A.” Members of the rival caravans engaged in a screaming match. Some people shouted “¡Comunistas! ”; others “¡Asesino! ” A girl on an electric scooter carried a megaphone and repeatedly yelled, “Biden is a pedophile!” Another kneeled on the backseat of a car and twerked in the direction of a crowd of Biden supporters. There were different ways one could read the effort to sabotage the caravan—as a desperate attempt to regain the streets or a troubling show of force designed to intimidate Democrats. Sahid didn’t rule out either scenario. “It’s going to be darn hard to win this thing,” he said.

Democracy vs the Corrupt Federal Judiciary: Which Side Are You On? — Josh Marshall in TPM.

We now have another case in Texas where the state Republican party is going to court to attempt to throw out roughly 100,000 ballots cast via curbside voting in Harris County, Texas. They lost their bid in state courts. So now they’re rushing to federal court where a thoroughly corrupted federal judiciary is likely open to this wholesale disenfranchisement. Federal judges are buying into the theory proposed by four justices on the pre-Barrett Court that only state legislatures can make any changes to voting procedures. Mark Joseph Stern of Slate says state Republicans have drawn one of the most partisan federal judges in Texas to hear the case.

Here we have yet another opportunity for a corrupted federal judiciary to rig the election in favor of the Republican party. It’s akin to the kind of things we see in broken democracies like Russian and Turkey, where notional democratic procedures are backstopped by courts which intervene if the elections are going in the wrong direction.

People need to open their eyes to the reality of what has happened. The federal judiciary has been thoroughly corrupted. The issue is not principally one of ideology. It is that a large number of Republican judges see their role as backstopping the electoral fortunes and policy choices of the Republican party. For this they are willing to use states-rights federalism or federal intervention depending on situational convenience. They manufacture new interpretive theories wholesale to achieve these ends. This can sound hyperbolic. But it’s not.

For democracy to survive the federal judiciary must be reformed. We’re focused on Trump right now. But even if he’s defeated next week the federal judiciary will remain in place in its corrupted state and likely expand its efforts to interfere in elections and exercise vetoes over Democratic policy-making. For democracy to survive the federal judiciary must be reformed. That starts with expanding the Supreme Court with at least four new Justices. But it should apply to the rest of the federal judiciary as well.

Doonesbury — Closing argument by the numbers.

Friday, October 30, 2020

The Uncertainty Principle

Listening to the polling on NPR, the experts are telling me that Biden has a very good chance, but there’s still room for Trump to pull off a win.  It all depends on how the votes are counted, even if they are counted, and because of the overwhelming number of mail-in ballots, we won’t know who wins Tuesday night.

I know that’s probably the smart way to think, but at a foundational level, I don’t like not being certain about an outcome, and I’m pretty sure a lot of people don’t either.  And nothing has defined this year more than uncertainty.

Everything has been touched, magnified exponentially by Covid-19 and our inability to control it or even know to initially respond to it.  Add to that the politicization of it by Trump, who thrives on uncertainty because he’s uncertain himself and only succeeds by making others uncertain, and you have a toxic mix that stupefies and calls everything into question.  The mind-boggling quotient is that in what we used to nostalgically call “normal times,” choosing between an incompetent and thoroughly loathsome narcissist and a calm, competent, and compassionate challenger would lead to a very certain outcome: the buffoon would have been drawing single-digit poll numbers before Labor Day, and even allowing for the standard warnings about complacency and in-utero barnyard fowl tabulations, it would be a landslide of epic proportions.  But… too much is uncertain.  Will the votes be counted accurately without interference or injunction?  Will the Postal Service deliver?  Will the asteroid hit?

News outlets and print media count on uncertainty; it sells ad space and newspapers.  And by all standards of decency and journalism, they have a duty to report the news and the prospects of various scenarios, be it the election or Covid-19.  But the one thing they cannot control is our own feelings of queasy uncertainty, and that filters down into our everyday lives.  Will my office be open; will I even have a job?  Will my kids be able to go to school, and what dangers do they face when they’re there?

We all want this to be over, some to the point that they don’t care about the outcome.  Well, I do care about the outcome, and I’ve done what I can to ensure it comes out the way I hope it does: I voted, I took my two Covid-19 tests (both negative, thank you), and I went to work to make sure that my school is running for the kids no matter if they’re in class or on line.  I think that’s the only way we can deal with uncertainty: be certain of the small things that touch your life — your family, your work, your friends.  As the Serenity prayer says, we all need the strength, the courage, and the wisdom.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Laughingstock

Charles P. Pierce looks at the trolling that Barack Obama did to Trump.

I say this with all possible respect: Barack Obama has some formidable natural blogging skills—or skillz, as the kids say. If you’ve caught him during his recent tour of the 2020 battlegrounds, you know what I’m talking about. We all know Inspirational Obama, and Devotional Obama, and Better Angels Obama, but Snarkmaster Obama is having a ball out there setting up light housekeeping in the president*’s cerebellum. If you’re going to shoot the dozens with this guy, bring your A-game. On Tuesday, he was in Orlando, and he took El Caudillo Del Mar-a-Lago downtown.

What’s his closing argument? That people are too focused on COVID. He said this at one of his rallies, “COVID, COVID, COVID.” He’s jealous of COVID’s media coverage. …

I lived in the White House for a while. You know, it’s a controlled environment. You can take some preventive measures in the White House to avoid getting sick. Except this guy can’t seem to do it. He’s turned the White House into a hot zone. …

Last week, when Trump was asked if he’d do anything differently, you know what he said? He said: Not much, not much. Really?! Not much? You can’t think of anything that you might be doing differently, like maybe you shouldn’t have gone on TV and suggested we might inject bleach to cure COVID? That’s not something you said, you know, maybe I shouldn’t have said that? …

He whines that 60 Minutes is too tough. You think he’s going to stand up to dictators? He thinks Lesley Stahl’s a bully. Just yesterday, just yesterday, he said that Putin of Russia, XI of China and Kim Jong Un of North Korea want him to win. We know, we know because you’ve been giving them whatever they want for the last four years. Of course, they want you to win. That’s not a good thing. You shouldn’t brag about the fact that some of our greatest adversaries think they’d be better off with you in office. Of course they do. What does that say about you? I think about that. Why are you bragging about that? Come on.

The obvious joy Obama is taking in trolling the president* makes these appearances appointment television, especially in a country subjected to two or three of the White House wankfests a day. It is excellent TV, and nobody knows that better than our favorite reality-TV president*. At one of his rallies, on Monday evening in Pennsylvania, the president* departed the rails.

And they say, “Oh, he’s so rhetorical…” (sic) I never thought he was a good speaker. Really. I never did. And then they say, “Oh, he’s so handsome.” But they don’t want to show his crowd, and they don’t want to show this crowd, but for different reasons.

I don’t even want to guess how deeply that psychopathology goes. There are areas of the human psyche that are SuperFund sites, and that’s one of them.

Meanwhile, his predecessor shows every intention of cracking wise at his expense throughout the last week of the campaign. This, of course, violates the first rule of The Ex-Presidents Club: Thou shalt not harsh thy successor’s mellow. And one more traditional norm goes into the woodchipper. But hey, the current president* spent four years trying to erase the Obama presidency from the statute books and from the country’s historical memory. Obama is getting his own back magnificently and, hell, we all deserve a laugh.

I have long been a believer in the idea that the best way to deal with a bully is to laugh at him. And wow, do we need it now.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

One Week Left

I’ve pretty much stayed away from obsessing over the polling…  well, not a lot.  Well, okay, just once a day or so…

After 2016, I swore off trying to read the polls to glean some glimmer of hope from the debris that left so much piled up.  All those smart people who this close to Election Day four years ago said Hillary Clinton had it in the bag have been chastened and are being cautious.  But — fingers crossed — it looks favorable for Joe Biden, according to Five ThirtyEight.

One question we posed after the last presidential debate was: Will the presidential race tighten?

Since its peak on Oct. 19, Joe Biden’s lead over President Trump in national polls narrowed from 10.7 percentage points to 9.4 points, while Biden’s popular vote margin in our presidential forecast also shrank from 8.4 points to 7.9 points during the same time period. Although, as you can see in the chart below of how the forecast has changed, Biden’s odds have been relatively stable.

So what gives? Is the race tightening? And if it is, why is our forecast different from our national polling average?

Well, two things. First, we’re still expecting some tightening toward Trump in our forecast, so we’re pricing that in a little in our model. And second, the forecast is mostly based on state polls, which have been more consistent with an 8-point Biden lead than the 9-to-10-point Biden lead we’ve seen nationally. (Remember, if used properly, state polls actually give you a more accurate projection of the national popular vote than national polls, which is why our forecast so heavily relies on them!)

But let’s unpack the latest polls conducted entirely (or mostly) after the last presidential debate to better answer that question of just how much the race is tightening. Overall, we have six national surveys and eight battleground state polls, and on average, these 14 polls show essentially no change from before the debate.

In fact, the post-debate polls have arguably been pretty good for Biden. Gravis Marketing, for instance, last tested Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin in July, but now finds Biden in better shape in all three states, including double-digit leads in Michigan and Wisconsin. Meanwhile, Ipsos and the New York Times Upshot/Siena College found essentially no movement in Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin. Most national polls also showed little to no change, too. International Business Daily/TIPP’s five-day nationwide tracking poll had shown Biden declining, but has recently found his lead back up in the high single-digits.

There may have been a bit of tightening before the debate, but at this point, there doesn’t seem to be any evidence of the race tightening since the debate. In fact, only two polls found clear, negative shifts for Biden, and they both come from pollsters that might have a particular interest in casting the president’s chances in a positive light.

First, a new InsiderAdvantage survey sponsored by the Center for American Greatness, a conservative media think tank, gave Trump a 3-point lead in Pennsylvania, which marks a 6-point swing in margin from its previous poll in mid-October. We, of course, can’t discount that this might be the case, but the ideological leanings of the pollster’s sponsor do give us pause. Similarly, a national poll from Rasmussen Reports/Pulse Opinion Research found Trump ahead by 1 point, a 4-point shift from its last survey, but Rasmussen has a well-known GOP house effect, or put another way, it consistently shows better results for Republican candidates than other polling firms.

We choose to be very inclusive when it comes to our forecast, so we toss almost everything into the polling kitchen sink. But on the whole, these recent polls may indicate some post-debate widening in the race rather than tightening, especially if you take the two quasi-partisan polls with a small pinch of salt (which we’d recommend).

Relax.  Take a walk with your dog; play with your cat; teach your parakeet to recite The Jabberwocky.  Read a book.  It will — one hopes — all be over soon.

Friday, October 23, 2020

Happy Friday

Hey, I didn’t throw anything at the TV last night and Trump restrained by Kristen Welker was more annoying than when he was off the rails back in September.  Joe Biden was Joe Biden.  I count it as a win.

I’ve been paying attention to the wildfires in Colorado that burning through Rocky Mountain National Park and threatening Estes Park.  Friends are reporting that they have evacuated to Longmont and Lyons.  One fire is creeping closer to the town of Glen Haven where two of the Cheley Camps are located.

A view of Estes Park and Longs Peak, July 1991.

 

Thursday, October 22, 2020

If They Were Winning

I smell more desperation.

During a pro-Trump rally earlier this month in Nevada City, Calif., enthusiastic supporters in cars and trucks crowded into the parking lot of the county government center.

As many as 300 people played music, cheered and called out through a megaphone, according to Natalie Adona, a county election official who could see the gathering from her second-floor office at the Eric Rood Administration Center.

But unlike usual Trump rallies, this one was happening at the site of one of the most popular drive-up ballot boxes in the county. And early voting was already underway.

That afternoon, voters were forced to navigate through the pro-Trump crowd, and some felt the electioneering amounted to voter intimidation.

I think the reason you see all these pro-Trumpers showing up at early voting sites is because they’re seeing that the shit is about to hit the fan. If they were truly confident they were going to win, they wouldn’t have to carry on as if their home was in a tree. They’re desperate. The jig is up and they know it.

Running Interference

Via the Washington Post:

U.S. officials on Wednesday night accused Iran of targeting American voters with faked but menacing emails and warned that both Iran and Russia had obtained voter data that could be used to endanger the upcoming election.

The disclosure by Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe at a hastily called news conference marked the first time this election cycle that a foreign adversary has been accused of targeting specific voters in a bid to undermine democratic confidence — just four years after Russian online operations marred the 2016 presidential vote.

The claim that Iran was behind the email operation, which came into view on Tuesday as Democrats in several states reported receiving emails demanding they vote for President Trump, was leveled without specific evidence. Other U.S. officials, speaking privately, stressed that Russia still remained the major threat to the 2020 election.

On Thursday, Iran summoned the Swiss envoy in Tehran, which handles U.S. affairs there, to condemn the “baseless accusations of meddling in the U.S. election.” Hours after Ratcliffe’s announcement, the spokesman for Iran’s mission at the United Nations also described the allegations as “absurd.”

“These accusations are nothing more than another scenario to undermine voter confidence, & are absurd. Iran has no interest in interfering in the U.S. election & no preference for the outcome,” tweeted Alireza Miryousefi.

The emails claimed to be from a pro-Trump group called the Proud Boys, but evidence had mounted that they in fact were the work of another, hidden actor. U.S. officials said that was Iran, a nation that increasingly has clashed with the president in recent years.

However, officials also stressed that the integrity of the election was intact. “We are not going to tolerate foreign interference in our elections or any criminal activity that threatens the sanctity of your vote or undermines public confidence in the outcome of the election,” said FBI Director Christopher A. Wray, standing next to Ratcliffe. “When we see indications of foreign interference or federal election crimes, we’re going to aggressively investigate and work with our partners to quickly take appropriate action.”

According to NPR, about 90% of the e-mails were caught in the spam filters. Also, the e-mails themselves are suspect:

For one thing, there are no spelling or glaring punctuation or grammar errors, so it was written by someone who is well-educated in the English language, which is rare among the right-wing nutsery. But the message itself is written in the same manner as the ones you get from the mysterious stranger who is telling you to send them $388 in bitcoin or they will release your private pictures to everyone on your contact list.  Anyone who thought it was genuine is the same person who would send money to a televangelist, so going phishing after Democrats is, by and large, a waste of time.

If this is an attempt by Iran or Russia to elect Biden, it’s pretty clumsy.  It seems more like they’re messing with us because they can.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

I Voted

It took twenty minutes from the time I got out of the car, walked across the parking lot of the Pinecrest Library through the phalanx of campaigners for various candidates, some I’d never heard of (I live in a different community than this particular early-voting location), got my ballot, marked up the three pages of candidates, constitutional amendments, and charter amendments for Palmetto Bay, got my I VOTED! sticker, and got back in my car.  There were a lot of voters, and the parking lot was full, but apparently in anticipation of a large turn-out, the county had set up a lot of polling stations.  Social distancing was enforced, and everything went smoothly.

Don’t ask me how I voted because other than the Big One, I don’t actually remember all the names.  Frankly, for a lot of the local races, I rely on seeing who has yard signs along side the candidates I do know.  So if a candidate for vice-mayor in Palmetto Bay is next to the one for the presidential candidate I support, they probably get my vote.  Yeah, I know, I should be doing better research, but a lot of it is hard to find, Google notwithstanding.  That said, I did read up and research the state constitutional amendments and made my informed choices.

The most important thing, though, is that I voted.  You can listen to all the hype, the pundits, the Twitter feeds, the Facebook posts, your friends, your neighbors, the crazy uncle, and the guy at the gas station, but it doesn’t do anything until you stand alone in that little portable polling station, with the ballot printed out and the ball-point pen that you use to fill in the little bubble on the page next to the name.  It is the most important act in our journey as a country and as a civilization.  And in those twenty minutes — the average length of a TV sitcom episode — I was doing something that people have fought and died for: the simple act of casting a vote.  Doing the one thing that will actually count.

What I will never understand, especially this year, are those who have the vote and don’t use it.  The state and county has made it as easy as they can even with the pandemic: early voting at a lot of locations with ample parking and open for 12 hours a day; absentee and mail-in secure ballots, doing practically everything but coming to your house.  How much easier can they make it, and what’s stopping you?

To be honest, I don’t want to hear your excuses for not voting because it’s not worth hearing, and if you don’t care about the outcome, then I really don’t want to be around you.  This is too stark a choice not to have a voice.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Last Gasps

I know we still have two more weeks of this, but it’s beginning to sound more desperate than usual.

Trump dismissed precautions to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus and attacked the nation’s top infectious-disease expert as a “disaster” Monday, arguing that people are getting tired of all the focus on a pandemic that has killed more than 219,000 Americans and continues to infect thousands of people in communities across the country.

The president claimed that voters do not want to hear more from the country’s scientific leaders about the pandemic, responding angrily to a critical interview Sunday night with CBS’s “60 Minutes” by Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

“People are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots,” Trump said in a call with his campaign staff Monday that was intended to instill confidence in his reelection bid two weeks before Election Day. He baselessly suggested that Fauci’s advice on how best to respond to the outbreak was so bad it would have led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands more people.

I and a lot of people are over the outrage of his flailing at everyone else for his complete failure to deal with the pandemic. Calling Dr. Fauci a disaster and mocking Joe Biden for listening to him is just noise now, and anyone who pays any heed to what he’s saying is already so besotted with his toxicity that there’s no point in trying to convince them otherwise. All that’s left is to just keep our heads in the game, concentrate on end of this as it approaches, and not be distracted by the distraction.

One of those distractions is the inevitable stories that show the race tightening; that polls are saying the race is getting closer and that even if Joe Biden is up nine points nationally, state-by-state it’s much closer.  That may easily be; that’s how polling works.  And we’re being reminded again and again how wrong we were four years ago when it looked like Hillary Clinton had it in the bag, which now generates the usual warnings about complacency.  (Everybody does it.  I’d be surprised if you weren’t able to find the same kind of warnings from the Reagan ’84 campaign, too.)

I’m not trying to minimize the flaming stupidity and dictatorial tendencies of Trump and the people who slather their fealty to him.  It’s not going to end when the election is over — whenever that is — and the aftershocks are going to last well into the next cycle that begins on November 4.  The surest way we can end this sooner rather than later is to get out there and vote in whatever way works for you and guarantee that it is counted.