Thursday, December 10, 2020

More Than 3,000 In One Day

We lost 2,403 at Pearl Harbor and went to war.

For the first time in the course of the coronavirus pandemic, the United States reported more than 3,100 deaths in a single day, according to a Washington Post analysis. With overtaxed intensive care units running out of beds in many parts of the country, there was also a record number of those hospitalized with covid-19 at 106,000 on Wednesday.

The pandemic’s new heights in the United States came as Britain began to distribute the Pfizer-BioNTech two-dose coronavirus vaccine, which Canada approved Wednesday. An advisory panel will meet Thursday to decide whether to recommend the Food and Drug Administration approve the vaccine in the United States.

Meanwhile, Trump spent his day playing with a dreidel and claiming he really won.  Honest.

Monday, December 7, 2020

Chickens Little

From the Washington Post, this completely unsurprising bit of news.

Just 27 congressional Republicans acknowledge Joe Biden’s win over President Trump a month after the former vice president’s clear victory of more than 7 million votes nationally and a convincing electoral-vote margin that exactly matched Trump’s 2016 tally.

Two Republicans consider Trump the winner despite all evidence showing otherwise. And another 220 GOP members of the House and Senate — about 88 percent of all Republicans serving in Congress — will simply not say who won the election.

Those are the findings of a Washington Post survey of all 249 Republicans in the House and Senate that began the morning after Trump posted a 46-minute video Wednesday evening in which he wrongly claimed he had defeated Biden and leveled wild and unsubstantiated allegations of “corrupt forces” who stole the outcome from the sitting president.

[…]

The results demonstrate the fear that most Republicans have of the outgoing president and his grip on the party, despite his new status as just the third elected president to lose reelection in the past 80 years. More than 70 percent of Republican lawmakers did not acknowledge The Post’s questions as of Friday evening.

In response to the congressional Republicans who have called Biden president-elect identified in the Post survey, Trump tweeted Saturday: “I am surprised there are so many. We have just begun to fight. Please send me a list of the . . . RINOS,” the disparaging acronym for Republican in name only.

The rest of the GOP is largely hiding from answering questions about the election, neither congratulating Biden nor embracing Trump’s most strident positions and false claims. Just eight Republicans, 3 percent of all GOP lawmakers, voiced support for Trump’s current strategy of claiming victory and asking state legislatures to declare him the victor in states that he lost.

This GOP nonresponse stands in stark contrast to Democrats in 2016. The morning after media outlets called Trump the winner, Hillary Clinton conceded and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N. Y) fielded a call from Trump. Schumer issued a statement shortly thereafter congratulating the president-elect and calling for Americans to “come together.”

Today, most Republicans just want to avoid the Trump question altogether, following the lead of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), whose office pointed to his recent comments about the election and declined to participate in the survey.

It’s pretty simple: they’re very aware of the political ramifications of defying their Dear Leader. They’ve seen what their base is like — laying siege to the state capitol building in Michigan by ammosexuals in cammie-jammies and assault rifles and reenacting Charlottesville in Kenosha — and they are deathly afraid of Trump’s thumbs from his bathroom at 2 a.m. (The two who completely deny that he lost are just delusional and need medical attention.) But what is motivating them is cowardice in the form of looking out for their own job security and counting on their silence as a way of standing up for their own beliefs. We’ve been hearing stories about how privately most Republicans will admit that the jig is up and Joe Biden won. But to admit it publicly and acknowledge reality is a bridge too far for them and their anticipated run for re-election in 2022 or 2024 when they hope the short-term memory of their base has moved on to the next shiny object, Trump is hawking gold-plated crap on HSN, and they can attempt to say with a straight face that they never really backed him and next question, please.

But if there is justice and karma in the universe, they will be remembered.  They stood by as the nation went through a pandemic and economic turmoil while their hero railed against imagined crimes and non-existent fraud.  The only election that was rigged was the one where 74 million voters thought this charlatan and vulgarian was worthy of being put back in office, supported by his enablers, his abetters, and his barnyard full of cackling cowards who cared only about their own skins.

Friday, December 4, 2020

Happy Friday

Trump’s new role model is Grover Cleveland.

On the day that President Grover Cleveland left the White House after losing his bid for re-election, his wife, Frances, told the staff to take care of the mansion. “I want to find everything just as it is now when we come back again,” she said. “We are coming back just four years from today.” And they did.

Nearly 128 years after the Clevelands’ triumphal comeback, President Trump is signaling that he may try to become only the second president in American history to win another term after being defeated. Even as he insists that he did not lose the 2020 election, Mr. Trump has been laying plans to run again in 2024 with a kickoff as early as this month or possibly on his successor’s Inauguration Day.

If Trump runs in 2024 — and there’s every indication he will — he would throw a huge turd in the punch bowl for the rest of the GOP aspirants such as Ted Cruz, Tom Cotton, Marco Rubio, and Josh Hawley, all of them who represent some element of Trumpism, be it snotty behavior, warmongering, evangelical Christian nutsery, and racism. Their only hope is that Trump is under indictment to clear the field, but even then, it’s unlikely that would dissuade him. Trump would wipe them out and then lead the party again down the abyss of another defeat since Trump has yet to crack 47% of the popular vote. So, by all means emulate Mr. Cleveland.

Relaxation Therapy:

An orchid from Taylor Nurseries, Monroe, Michigan.

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Death And Glory

From NPR:

A top election official in Georgia had strong words for President Trump and other top Republican leaders who have attacked Georgia’s election system in recent weeks after reports of harassment and death threats against officials overseeing the state’s recount.

“Someone’s going to get hurt, someone’s going to get shot, someone’s going to get killed,” Gabriel Sterling, with the secretary of state’s office, said Monday afternoon in an emotional and forceful news conference. “It’s not right.”

Among other things, a Twitter thread accusing a young technician working on the recount of altering votes led to his identity being released and calls for him to be “hung for treason.”

Meanwhile, caravans of horn-honking Trump supporters constantly parade past Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s private residence and his wife has reportedly received sexually explicit threats. The president himself, who has falsely suggested he won Georgia’s 16 electoral votes, has called on Republican Gov. Brian Kemp to overturn the election.

In a tweet Tuesday evening responding to Sterling’s news conference, Trump again falsely alleged massive voter fraud in Georgia.

Sterling, a fixture in recent weeks as a calm, even-tempered source of election information and factoids about the complicated counting processes, unloaded on Trump, both Republican Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue and other GOP officials that have egged on the party’s base to believe in widespread fraud.

“It has to stop,” he said. “Mr. President, you have not condemned these actions or this language. Senators, you have not condemned this language or these actions. This has to stop. We need you to step up. And if you take a position of leadership, show some.”

“A 20-something tech in Gwinnett County today has death threats and a noose put out saying he should be hung for treason because he was transferring a report on batches from an EMS to a county computer so he could read it,” Sterling said.

“His family is getting harassed now. There’s a noose out there with his name on it. And it’s not right,” he said, adding: “I’ve got police protection outside my house. Fine. You know, I took a higher profile job. I get it, the Secretary ran for office, his wife knew that too. This kid took a job. He just took a job, and it’s just wrong.”

This is madness, and while the First Amendment protects Trump’s Twitter feed, a competent lawyer could make a case for incitement if someone gets injured or killed by some deranged Trumper.

And for what?  None of Trump’s lawsuits have gotten past any court or any judge, many of them appointed by Trump himself.  Sen. Ted Cruz says he hopes the Supreme Court will take up the Cause with an appeal of the Pennsylvania ruling, but it’s hard to imagine that SCOTUS will even give it a review.

And then there’s AG Barr, a sycophant if there ever was one, who told the Associated Press that there’s no evidence of “widespread fraud,” enough to overturn any election.

I wouldn’t put it past Trump to fire Barr for this lese majeste, but if I were in Mr. Barr’s neighborhood, I’d keep an eagle eye out for dudes in pick-up trucks.

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

A Fool And Their Money

…Are probably Trump supporters.

Trump’s political operation has raised more than $150 million since Election Day, using a blizzard of misleading appeals about the election to shatter fundraising records set during the campaign, according to people with knowledge of the contributions.

The influx of political donations is one reason Trump and some allies are inclined to continue a legal onslaught and public affairs blitz focused on baseless claims of election fraud, even as their attempts have repeatedly failed in court and as key states continue to certify wins for President-elect Joe Biden.

Much of the money raised since the election is likely to go into an account for the president to use on political activities after he leaves office, while some of the contributions will go toward what’s left of the legal fight.

There are always going to be pigeons to be plucked.

The surge of donations is largely from small-dollar donors, campaign officials say, tapping into the president’s base of loyal and fervent donors who tend to contribute the most when they feel the president is under siege or facing unfair political attacks. The campaign has sent about 500 post-election fundraising pitches to donors, often with hyperbolic language about voter fraud and the like.

“I need you now more than ever,” says one recent email that claims to be from the president. “The Recount Results were BOGUS,” another email subject line reads.

“Our democracy and freedom is at risk like never before, which is why I’m reaching out to you now with an URGENT request,” reads an email to donors from Vice President Pence. “President Trump and I need our STRONGEST supporters, like YOU, to join the Election Defense Task Force. This group will be responsible for DEFENDING the Election from voter fraud, and we really need you to step up to the front lines of this battle.”

Your dollars will help put another gold-plated toilet in Mar-a-Lago.

Monday, November 30, 2020

Little Men

Charlie Pierce has it in for the leftovers of Trumpism, Marco Rubio and Bobby Jindal.

Self-abasement is a hard habit to break. As El Caudillo del Mar-a-Lago’s time in office runs out, the habits of sycophancy, while lacking a focus, are still very active among some prominent Republicans. Take, for example, Senator Marco Rubio, somebody who certainly has plans for the future. As was the case with everyone who ran against the president* in 2016, Rubio fell into slavish harness almost immediately. On Tuesday, Rubio showed that his taste for the yoke remains undiminished.

Biden’s cabinet picks went to Ivy League schools, have strong resumes, attend all the right conferences & will be polite & orderly caretakers of America’s decline. I support American greatness. And I have no interest in returning to the ‘normal’ that left us dependent on China.

Good for you, Mighty Mouse. That is a very Trumpist pronouncement on an administration that is still two months away from taking over. The sneering at “Ivy League schools” and “the right conferences” is the polite cousin to all those anti-science, anti-expert punchlines that the superspreader crowds sucked up like virus-laden air. And, considering his fealty to the current administration*, Rubio should take a seat on talking about “America’s decline” and “American greatness.”

And then, lo and behold, from the back rows of the peanut gallery on the electric Twitter machine, the Undead shared some thoughts.

.@GavinNewsom attends bday dinner for lobbyist friend and sends children to private in person school; Brooklyn Dems attend bday dinner; @SpeakerPelosi gets hair cut at salon same night she criticizes Trump for going maskless; Dems crack down on church services not anti-police protests; CA leges fly to Hawaii for lobbyist-sponsored conference. When caught, Pelosi cancels dinner for new members & @NYGovCuomo cancels Thanksgiving plans. Hypocrisy undermines these politicians’ severe restrictions for the rest of us.

Good Lord, of all the Not Happening Men of the GOP, this guy is one of the most Not Happening of them all. But, in the fulminations of both of these pieces of sadly warped presidential timber, you see the Republican Party’s basic problem. They no longer have the person of Donald Trump to whom they can suck up. But they still have to polish the knob of Trumpism. They can gussy it up with Bible verses and deliver it bilingually. They can smile while they pitch it, or ooze sadness for our nation’s lost glories. But, ultimately, it’s all sneering and posturing and Owning The Libs. If they have been nothing else, the last four years have been clarifying on this one point: Trumpism is all they have left.

Need I point out to Mr. Rubio that a good deal of the majority of Trump’s cabinet also attended Ivy League schools and, according to their Dear Leader, he hired only “the best people.”

Fred Hiatt at the Washington Post is a bit more generous to the senior senator from Florida — at least refraining from ad hominem attacks on his stature — but reminding us that he has spent the last four years “excusing and supporting a president who fawned over North Korea’s odious dictator, encouraged China’s ruling tyrant to build his concentration camps, took the word of Russia’s strongman over U.S. intelligence agencies and celebrated the Saudi despot who orchestrated the dismemberment of a dissident journalist.”

Rubio has yet to acknowledge that Trump lost the election and basically setting himself up to wage war and raise money for his re-election effort here in Florida by being the yapping little chihuahua behind the neighbor’s fence: annoying but eventually inconsequential to the overall body politic.  The country is basically exhausted from the noise and the screaming hypocrisy.

To put it succinctly, unless you have something constructive to say, shut the hell up.

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Thursday, September 24, 2020

No What-Ifs About It

There is a lot of talk about Barton Gellman’s article in The Atlantic considering the very likely possibility that Trump will not concede if he loses and in fact will do everything he can to cling to power.

There is a cohort of close observers of our presidential elections, scholars and lawyers and political strategists, who find themselves in the uneasy position of intelligence analysts in the months before 9/11. As November 3 approaches, their screens are blinking red, alight with warnings that the political system does not know how to absorb. They see the obvious signs that we all see, but they also know subtle things that most of us do not. Something dangerous has hove into view, and the nation is lurching into its path.

The danger is not merely that the 2020 election will bring discord. Those who fear something worse take turbulence and controversy for granted. The coronavirus pandemic, a reckless incumbent, a deluge of mail-in ballots, a vandalized Postal Service, a resurgent effort to suppress votes, and a trainload of lawsuits are bearing down on the nation’s creaky electoral machinery.

Something has to give, and many things will, when the time comes for casting, canvassing, and certifying the ballots. Anything is possible, including a landslide that leaves no doubt on Election Night. But even if one side takes a commanding early lead, tabulation and litigation of the “overtime count”—millions of mail-in and provisional ballots—could keep the outcome unsettled for days or weeks.

If we are lucky, this fraught and dysfunctional election cycle will reach a conventional stopping point in time to meet crucial deadlines in December and January. The contest will be decided with sufficient authority that the losing candidate will be forced to yield. Collectively we will have made our choice—a messy one, no doubt, but clear enough to arm the president-elect with a mandate to govern.

As a nation, we have never failed to clear that bar. But in this election year of plague and recession and catastrophized politics, the mechanisms of decision are at meaningful risk of breaking down. Close students of election law and procedure are warning that conditions are ripe for a constitutional crisis that would leave the nation without an authoritative result. We have no fail-safe against that calamity. Thus the blinking red lights.

“We could well see a protracted postelection struggle in the courts and the streets if the results are close,” says Richard L. Hasen, a professor at the UC Irvine School of Law and the author of a recent book called Election Meltdown. “The kind of election meltdown we could see would be much worse than 2000’s Bush v. Gore case.”

A lot of people, including Joe Biden, the Democratic Party nominee, have mis­conceived the nature of the threat. They frame it as a concern, unthinkable for presidents past, that Trump might refuse to vacate the Oval Office if he loses. They generally conclude, as Biden has, that in that event the proper authorities “will escort him from the White House with great dispatch.”

The worst case, however, is not that Trump rejects the election outcome. The worst case is that he uses his power to prevent a decisive outcome against him. If Trump sheds all restraint, and if his Republican allies play the parts he assigns them, he could obstruct the emergence of a legally unambiguous victory for Biden in the Electoral College and then in Congress. He could prevent the formation of consensus about whether there is any outcome at all. He could seize on that un­certainty to hold on to power.

Trump’s state and national legal teams are already laying the groundwork for postelection maneuvers that would circumvent the results of the vote count in battleground states. Ambiguities in the Constitution and logic bombs in the Electoral Count Act make it possible to extend the dispute all the way to Inauguration Day, which would bring the nation to a precipice. The Twentieth Amendment is crystal clear that the president’s term in office “shall end” at noon on January 20, but two men could show up to be sworn in. One of them would arrive with all the tools and power of the presidency already in hand.

“We are not prepared for this at all,” Julian Zelizer, a Prince­ton professor of history and public affairs, told me. “We talk about it, some worry about it, and we imagine what it would be. But few people have actual answers to what happens if the machinery of democracy is used to prevent a legitimate resolution to the election.”

Let’s just go with the foregone conclusion that no matter what the vote count is on Election Night or in the days after as the mail-in and absentee and overseas and military ballots are counted, Trump will never concede. He will not do what every losing candidate has done in living memory: take the stage in some hotel ballroom or some gathering in front of somber supporters and staff and say in some fashion that he called the president-elect to congratulate him and mutter some platitude about how the system works and God bless America. He is mentally and physically incapable of doing that. Indeed, he’s admitted as such with his ominous threat yesterday about “we’ll have to see” about the outcome. And we can be sure that he’s already drafted an army of lawyers to challenge every mail-in vote in every state — except, of course, his own — and there’s even talk about going to the various state legislatures where he has allies to overturn the electors that will be the ones who actually cast the votes that matter in the Electoral College in December to try to persuade them to vote for him regardless of the actual vote count in the state. He could drag this out to January 20, 2021 when he shows up — maskless, of course — and demand that Chief Justice Roberts swear him in to a second term, even if Joe Biden is standing there. So, what do we do?

What we do is show up at the polls in early voting where it’s done and on Election Day in such overwhelming numbers for Biden and the Democrats that no matter what Trump says or does, the landslide we deliver makes the 1980 Reagan/Carter election night look like a close one. We fight back with every lawyer who ever passed the bar that still believes in the Constitution to be ready to counter every argument in court, and we have to make sure that the “what-ifs” about this election and the nightmare of four more years of Trump are the stuff of apocalyptic political pot-boilers that you find in paperback novels at the airport.

We have to win this election as if our lives depend on it.  Because it does.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Politicizing The Air

It’s inevitable in an election year.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden excoriated President Trump on Monday over his environmental record as wildfires continued to burn through much of the West and as the president used a trip to California to question the scientific consensus that climate change is a leading cause of the devastating blazes.

Biden said during a speech in Wilmington, Del., that the “undeniable, accelerating, punishing reality” of global warming was playing out in the wildfires and hurricanes that have marked the end of summer, arguing it is a problem that “requires action, not denial.”

Across the country in California, Trump sought to pin the blame for the fires on another culprit — forest management — while shrugging off warnings that human-caused climate warming will continue to make Western states a tinderbox with annual fires that destroy communities.

“It will start getting cooler. You just watch,” he said during a briefing with state and local leaders in McClellan Park, Calif.

Yeah, funny how that works. It’s called “change of seasons.” Trump has a habit of waiting for nature to take its course, just as he did with Covid-19: “It will go away when it gets warm.”

Yeah. How’d that work out? Let’s ask my dad.

As for “poor forest management,” the overwhelming majority of forest land that is on fire is under the management of the federal government, either the Department of the Interior for the parks and the Department of Agriculture for the national forests. California has control over about 3%. And yet somehow it’s Gov. Newsome’s fault for not sweeping the forest floor.

The dueling appearances injected the issue of climate change squarely into a presidential campaign that has been dominated by the coronavirus pandemic, a faltering economy, racial justice protests and questions about which candidate has the character to lead. But the warming of the planet and its impact on daily life are now difficult to ignore, with millions of acres burning in California, Oregon and Washington state, leading to dozens of deaths, tens of thousands displaced and skies filled with a smoky, dangerous haze that blocks out the sun.

Biden called Trump a “climate arsonist” who had belittled the factors worsening the wildfires, and he likened the president’s stewardship of natural disasters to his handling of the pandemic and racial tensions across the country that flared this summer following police shootings of Black people.

“Donald Trump’s climate denial may not have caused these fires and record floods and record hurricanes,” Biden said Monday. “But if he gets a second term, these hellish events will continue to become more common, more devastating and more deadly.”

While heavily criticizing the president for what he called a lack of vision, Biden stuck to promoting climate policies with wide support and avoided addressing politically thorny topics like the Green New Deal many liberal activists have demanded.

Joe Biden has no real need to propose anything new or radical other than going back to what he and President Obama and the rest of the world agreed to in the Paris Accords. It’s pretty obvious that the only reason Trump and the Republicans reject that policy is because it was put forth by Obama because he’s Obama.

Monday, August 31, 2020

That’s Insane

From the Washington Post:

Trump on Sunday amplified his call for federal forces to help subdue protests in American cities, denouncing local Democratic leaders and fanning partisan tensions a day after a deadly clash between his supporters and social justice protesters in Portland, Ore., underscored the threat of rising politically motivated violence.

Scenes of Trump faithful firing paint and pellet guns at protesters during a “Trump cruise rally” caravan through downtown Portland — a liberal bastion that has been the site of weeks of street demonstrations — raised the specter that the nation’s summer of unrest had entered a new phase in which the president’s backers are rallying to defend businesses and fight back against Black Lives Matter and other groups he has labeled “anarchists” and “terrorists.”

One man, thought to be a member of a pro-Trump group, was shot and killed Saturday night during the Portland unrest.

In tweeting a video of the caravan on the move, Trump called the participants “GREAT PATRIOTS!” The reaction marked a sharp contrast to his silence during a large and peaceful civil rights march on Friday in Washington that drew thousands to the Mall, where some speakers denounced his leadership.

This is after he went on a Tweet-rant Sunday morning — and we’re talking before sunrise — where he sounded more like a raving lunatic than someone in the position to blow up the world.

Trump on Sunday morning posted or reposted a barrage of tweets about the clashes in Portland, with many of them assailing the city’s Democratic mayor, Ted Wheeler. The president retweeted a video showing his supporters shooting paintballs and using pepper spray on crowds in Portland before the fatal shooting. Mr. Trump wrote that “the big backlash going on in Portland cannot be unexpected,” a remarkable instance of a president seeming to support confrontation rather than calming a volatile situation.

Any rational person, regardless of political affiliation, would do whatever it takes to stop the violence and the killing. Not Trump; he’s actually working actively to make it worse and using the baffling argument that in order to make things better in America, keep the people in power who caused this situation in the first place.

One can speculate as to why, to quote Tennessee Williams, he chose this particular moment to lose his mind, assuming he was rational in the first place. Bad ratings from the convention? Sinking poll numbers in battleground states? Too much mustard on his Whopper? But trying to figure out why is a waste of time. That would require rational thinking of irrational acts, and it doesn’t work that way.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

It’s Not The Sex

I don’t care what someone else does in the privacy of their own home and life to get their rocks off, and if Jerry Falwell, Jr. and his wife need to have a hot 20-year-old pool boy to get to le petit mort, then knock yourself out.  But when you spend your life and scam millions of tax-free dollars from gullible and useful idiots to carry on like white trash in a hurricane to raise a stink about other peoples’ sex lives, then you deserve the karma and the mockery and the public shaming that comes with it.

Jerry Falwell Jr. agreed to resign as president of Liberty University on Monday, according to the university’s general counsel, after a series of sordid scandals rocked the school he has led since 2007.

Falwell, a real estate developer who became a passionate defender of President Trump, took over the Christian university his father helped found to evangelize the world in 2007. His leadership dramatically increased the school’s growth and clout, but critics increasingly worried he had lost sight of the university’s spiritual mission.

Falwell agreed to resign from the school’s presidency and board of directors Monday but then reversed course, according to a statement from David M. Corry, the university’s general counsel, telling his attorneys not to tender the letter for immediate resignation.

The school’s executive committee met Monday and plans to meet again Tuesday morning, followed by a conference call with the full board of trustees.

Opposition to his presidency had been growing but came to a dramatic head after two new reports about a young man Falwell and his wife befriended at a Florida pool, went into business with and who allegedly was sexually connected to the couple. One report painted Falwell as the victim of an obsessive affair, the other as an eager participant manipulating a naive young man. On Monday night, Falwell said that a Reuters report, which described him as having watched his wife having sex with another man, is false.

This sort of shenanigans is nothing new for televangelists and con men — often the same thing — and the number of them who have been caught in a love nest with rent boys and prostitutes is legion. It’s the hypocrisy and the fleecing of the flock that is the scandal, not to mention the fact that they have been able to do all of it while not paying a dime in taxes.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Sunday Reading

Losing It Over Kamala — Molly Jong-Fast in Vogue.

Since Joe Biden named Kamala Harris as his running mate, the last week has seen an onslaught of alternating sexism and racism from both the president and the Trump industrial-media-complex (Fox News, The Federalist, OANN, the lunatic-fringe conspiracy site The Gateway Pundit). Ditto the Republican office-holders who increasingly seem to compete with each other over who can out-Trump Trump. Example A: Soon after Harris was added to the Democratic ticket, John Kennedy, the U.S. senator from Louisiana, went on Fox and joked that his Senate colleague was like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez “but without the bartending experience.”

I shouldn’t be surprised – but I am furious, in a way that I don’t think I was back in 2016 when Trump beat Hillary Clinton for the presidency. In 2016, I was “with her” but I was a sweet summer child filled with the belief that sexism was a problem that we could overcome.

What a difference the Trump administration makes. The last three days have been absolutely infuriating. But they’ve also seemed kind of pathetic, with Trump trying to figure out how he can make his attacks land on Harris, in ways that worked for him in 2016 with the risible chants of “Crooked Hillary”and “Lock her up.” Harris is not as easy a target, which Trump knows. (Despite a tweet he sent out saying Harris was “the kind of opponent everyone dreams of!”, White House insiders have been telling reporters he would have preferred either Susan Rice or Karen Bass on the ticket.) And, as a former prosecutor, Harris can give as good as she gets. She flashed a glimpse of what Trump can look forward to on the campaign trail this fall when she declared on Wednesday that, based on their mishandling of the pandemic, “The case against Donald Trump and Mike Pence is open and shut.”

A few hours after she had been announced as Biden’s running mate, Trump used term “nasty” four times to describe the presumptive Democratic nominee. The president’s dumbest child Eric “liked” a tweet referring to Kamala as a “whorendous pick.” The Trump fundraising campaign sent a New York Times reporter an email calling Harris “the meanest, most disrespectful, MOST LIBERAL of anyone in the U.S. Senate.” And later, Trump himself called her a “madwoman” for her questioning of Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearings, adding, “she was so angry and — such hatred with Justice Kavanaugh. I mean, I’ve never seen anything like it. She was the angriest of the group and they were all angry.” The idea of a woman doing her work the she was elected to do  and not being motivated by her emotions seemed inconceivable to Trump.

It took only a day for Trumpworld to bring back birtherism, which Trump used as his foray to originally get into politics. It all started with an opinion piece in Newsweek, written by John Eastman, who a few years earlier wrote a piece about how Ted Cruz could be president despite the fact that he was born in Canada. (An aside: The opinion section of Newsweek is now run by Josh Hammer, who writes for the far right blogs Amgreatness and Townhall and was described in one profile as someone who “has spent years stoking anti-Palestinian sentiment and is now fighting Black Lives Matter.”) Trump ran with this immediately discredited claim during one of his daily “coronavirus” briefings, saying “I heard today that she doesn’t meet the requirements.” And then, later,  Marc Short, the chief of staff to Mike Pence. suggested during an appearance on Fox Business that Harris has “imported” socialist policies “from overseas.” This idea that Kamala is “the other” plays to the fundamental racism that lies deep in the heart of Trumpism.

And that’s not where it ends. Trumpworld is furious! Earlier this week, I watched Tucker Carlson during his basement studio meltdown about mispronouncing Kamala’s name, and then becoming even more apoplectic when he was corrected, as if the vice presidential candidate didn’t merit having her name pronounced correctly. Then, Trump’s favorite TV pundit, Judge Box of Whine (aka Jeanine Pirro) said “I believe Joe Biden isn’t even going to be on the ticket in the end because I can’t believe he would pick this woman.” The implication here is that Kamala is being controlled by some other force or that Biden is being controlled by some other force or that Judge Box of Whine is being controlled by some other force.  And that’s not the only disgusting attack against Kamala. After all the coverage about her being the first Black woman to join a national ticket, members of the conservative media immediately hit back, saying she wasn’t really Black, which for those of you keeping track at home is what we call racism and also something the right wing media did to Obama.

But I think these sexist racist assaults on the senator from California are going to backfire. It’s possible that American women have finally had enough of the racism and the sexism and the being put in our place by the president with all the sexual assault allegations. You know, the president who paid off two women during his campaign. The president who is currently being sued by the E Jean Carrol for defamation. The president that his former fixer, Michael Cohen, is about to come out with a new book about that, according to The New York Times, promises “stories involving the president and everything from ‘golden showers in a sex club in Vegas, to tax fraud, to deals with corrupt officials from the former Soviet Union.’” Yes, that president.

It’s been an extremely annoying four years for American women. We saw Dr. Christine Blasey Ford harassed, degraded and ignored, while, in the end, Kavanagh was confirmed by just two votes, the narrowest margin for a Supreme Court justice since 1881. Trumpworld still heralded this as an enormous victory, but for a lot of us women it was yet another moment of degradation, of humiliation – of Trumpworld saying women’s voices don’t matter. (Are you listening Susan Collins?)

And it’s not like white men have been killing it or anything. For the last almost four years we have been governed a government made up almost entirely of white men, and they have been a complete disaster. They have been corrupted like Scott Pruitt who spent his time in the Environmental Protection Agency ordering tactical pants and used mattresses. They have been moronic, like the comically inept Jared Kushner, who predicted the economy would be “really rocking again” by July. (Hey, Jared, it’s August. Have you seen the latest unemployment figures?) They have ignored a pandemic, they have refused testing, they have focused on making themselves and their friends richer. Now they are furious by the idea that they may actually be replaced by people who know what they’re talking about. And one of them is a woman and she’s Black!

Payback is a bitch. On 2016, we did not get the first female president that many thought was an inevitability. Instead we got a reality television host with a raft of sexual assault allegations. Well, now we have Kamala Harris, and Kamala Harris is brilliant and tough and smart and very forceful in a way women of the older generation might have been afraid to be. I, for one, am counting down the days until Kamala Harris gets to question Mike Pence during the October 7th vice presidential debate, because Trumpworld is really going to melt down and I will drink a one big cup of their tears.

Signal to Noise: How Trump Plans to Sabotage the Election — Sasha Abramsky in The Nation.

The Noise? After Biden picked Kamala Harris as his running mate, Trump resorted to one of his favorite insults against female opponents: “nasty.”

What an extraordinarily worn soundtrack he’s falling back on.

In 2016, when Trump called Hillary Clinton “nasty,” he was an outsider, a mold-breaker, a shock-jock-style entertainer, an alt-right punk, and didn’t yet have the responsibilities that come with political power.

In 2020, Trump is president, the man who is, at least ostensibly, in charge of this country—the leader who is supposed to craft grand coalitions, alliances, and brain trusts to beat back a pandemic and bring economic relief to the tens of millions of families at risk of destitution in the face of Covid-19.

At a Wednesday afternoon campaign event with Biden, Harris issued a full-throttle call to conscience against the Trump administration. She used her prosecutorial skills to construct what sounded almost like the introduction to a legal case against this corrupt, nepotistic, incompetent, and cruel administration. It was succinct and powerful—and, I suspect, an opening shot in a campaign that will use Harris to brutal effect to concisely and clearly detail Trump’s failings.

It strikes me that calling Harris “nasty” will neither get under her skin nor scare off potential Biden-Harris voters.

Which brings me to the Signal: Trump isn’t just going to lob juvenile insults and then retreat. The insults may get the attention, but the actions behind the scenes will be far more consequential. He’s going to resort to every dirty trick under the sun in the next 11 weeks to retain his hold on power.

Hence his campaign’s ludicrous efforts to help Kanye West get on the ballot in swing states, in the hope that he will siphon votes away from Biden. Jared Kushner has met with the rap star, and the two reportedly talk frequently to discuss strategy.

Hence the ratcheting up of Trump’s rhetoric against voting by mail. He has recently threatened to withhold federal funds from states that make it easier to vote by mail, and on Thursday he openly admitted that he refused to sign off on desperately needed funding to shore up the US Postal Service because he knew it would inhibit voting by mail. Trump has even alleged that household pets are being sent ballots in a nefarious animal-Democrat alliance to rob him of power.

Hence Ted Cruz and Donald Trump Jr.’s recycling of Russian-troll-generated misinformation about alleged Bible-burning episodes among Portland protesters.

Hence Trump’s overtly racist appeals to “suburban housewives,” whom he believes can be scared into supporting him if he tells them often enough that Biden wants poor Blacks to move into their neighborhoods. He’s upped the ante by averring that Senator Cory Booker (yes, a Black man, horrors!) might be put in charge of these alleged efforts to eviscerate the suburbs.

Meanwhile, as Trump fiddles and faffs, Rome continues to burn. Last week marked the 20th week in a row that more than 1 million Americans filed new unemployment claims. Trump has no coherent anti-poverty strategy, and no ability or desire to force the GOP-led Senate to negotiate with House Democrats to forge a relief package. What he does have, in abundance, is animus.

In addition to the funding crisis afflicting the Postal Service, an even bigger funding crisis is about to swamp USCIS, the agency responsible for passport, visa, and naturalization services. At month’s end, absent an injection of cash that the Senate and White House are in no hurry to grant, the agency is going to have to furlough more than half of its staff. Analysts predict the entire immigration system will grind to a halt—which would suit Trump, Stephen Miller, and the other anti-immigration hard-liners in their orbit just fine.

Want to renew that passport? Prepare for a months-long wait. Want to get that visa processed so you can visit loved ones or arrive in time to start work at your new job? Don’t hold your breath. Want to naturalize in time to vote in the election? That’s almost certainly not going to happen.

Meanwhile, the administration is mulling something extraordinary even by its debased standards: It wants to allow border officials discretion to deny entry into the country to any US citizen who officials believe might have been exposed to Covid-19.

Not surprisingly, their efforts are reportedly focused on the border with Mexico. As a result, hundreds of thousands of US citizens who live south of the border could find themselves at the mercy of officers at ports of entry.

Doonesbury — You gotta believe…

Friday, August 7, 2020

Racism Up North

What we’re up against in trying to end the pandemic and get back to some form of normal:

A local road commission meeting in northern Michigan on Monday started with one commissioner asking another why he wasn’t wearing a mask amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The unmasked official responded with a racist slur and an angry rant against the Black Lives Matter movement.

“Well, this whole thing is because of them n—–s in Detroit,” Tom Eckerle, who was elected to his position on the Leelanau County Road Commission in 2018, told his colleague at the start of the public meeting.

The commission chairman, Bob Joyce, immediately rebuked his colleague, but Eckerle continued his diatribe.

“I can say anything I want,” Eckerle said at the meeting, which the public could listen to via a dial-in number, the Leelanau Enterprise first reported. “Black Lives Matter has everything to do with taking the country away from us.”

Eckerle’s remarks came the same week Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-Mich.) declared racism a public health crisis because of the disparate impact the coronavirus pandemic has had in Black, Native American and Latino communities. Michigan has reported at least 94,656 cases and 6,506 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

[…]

The racist remark spurred widespread condemnation of Eckerle, who is Republican, and calls to resign from party officials. Despite the backlash, Eckerle doubled down on his comments on Thursday, defending his position and using the slur repeatedly in an interview with the local public radio station.

“I don’t regret calling it an n—-r,” Eckerle told Interlochen Public Radio. “A n—-r is a n—-r is a n—-r. That’s not a person whatsoever.”

About 93 percent of Leelanau County’s 21,761 residents are white, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Fewer than 1 percent of the people who live there are black.

“It’s horrible,” Joyce told the Detroit News. “It’s absolutely horrific.”

He told the News that the other three road commissioners are pressing Eckerle to resign.

“We do not tolerate that,” he told the newspaper. “That’s not who we are.”

But Eckerle has not wavered. State Rep. Jack O’Malley (R), who represents Leelanau County, said he had a conversation with Eckerle and also asked the commissioner to step down.

I spent summers of my childhood in Leelanau County, and I lived in that part of Michigan year-round for seven years. Mr. Eckerle and his views are not an anomaly. Certainly not everyone is like him, but they’re there. They may not be on the record and spoken so bluntly, but it was my experience that racism and those kinds of epithets are an undercurrent in a part of the state that is over 90% white. I knew a number of people who moved there not only for the natural beauty but to get away from what they called the “mess” in downstate Michigan, meaning Detroit. Along with putting up with the “fudgies” — the local term for tourists who came in search of the legendary chocolate confection — getting away from Other people was a fair price to pay for living Up North.

This wouldn’t be news — gee, a racist on a county board in a snow-white community in rural Michigan — except for the fact that his hatred and racism is helping spread Covid-19 and kill people in the process.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

But Her E-mails

Dana Milbank in the Washington Post:

Nearly 5 million covid-19 cases in the United States. One-hundred fifty-seven thousand dead. Thirty-two million out of work. Tens of millions facing eviction, foreclosure and hunger.

What do we do now?

Simple: We talk about Hillary Clinton’s emails!

“During the investigation of Hillary Clinton over her email server, James Comey, the FBI director, had a press conference, as you know, on July 5 where he . . . said ‘no reasonable prosecutor’ would prosecute that case,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) said at Wednesday’s hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “Did you know before July 5, 2016, that he was going to do that?” Cornyn asked.

The witness, Sally Yates, a former Obama administration deputy attorney general called before the panel to testify, told Cornyn she had not known.

Cornyn pressed on. “When he reopened the case after Anthony Weiner’s computer was looked at, did you know he was going to reopen the case beforehand?”

“That was more than four years ago now,” Yates replied, “and I didn’t go back and try to review any of that.”

But Cornyn was not to be disturbed from his time warp. He went on about Comey’s conduct, Loretta Lynch’s tarmac meeting with Bill Clinton, and Rod Rosenstein’s memo justifying Comey’s firing. “Director Comey was out of control,” the senator concluded.

Maybe so. But you know who’s out of control now? Cornyn — and Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and all the others trying to change the subject from the crises now gripping the nation to their greatest hits from 2016. As the Trump administration drifts and millions lose their unemployment benefits, the Senate Judiciary Committee staged yet another hearing Wednesday about the Steele dossier, Carter Page, George Papadopoulos, Peter Strzok, Andrew McCabe, Bruce Ohr, Fusion GPS and other golden oldies.

Graham, the committee chairman, seemed defensive about his choice of hearing topic, for he kept posing and answering rhetorical questions: “So what’s the purpose of this hearing? . . . And to the public, why does this matter to you? . . . Why are we having these hearings? . . . And again, why does it matter?” And those were just the ones from his opening statement.

[…]

It’s much the same with “Obamagate.” An inspector general concluded that the Trump-Russia probe had a legitimate basis, and he found no evidence of political bias. Yet even now, in the midst of national crises and collapse, Trump’s allies are still talking about Anthony Weiner’s laptop.

“BIG NEWS!” Trump tweeted in response to Wednesday’s hearing. “The Political Crime of the Century is unfolding. ObamaBiden illegally spied on the Trump Campaign, both before and after the election. Treason!”

In reality, Yates testified that President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden “did not in any way attempt to direct or influence any kind of investigation” and she repeatedly asserted that a genuine “counterintelligence threat,” not politics, was behind the Trump-Russia investigation.

Not that it mattered. “What I want to let the American people know,” Graham said after three hours of questioning Yates, “is I don’t buy for a minute that there were only two people at the FBI who knew the dossier was garbage.”

The nation, because of a worst-in-the-world pandemic response, is on the cusp of depression — and that’s what Graham wants Americans to know?

God help us.

What’s worse is that both Cornyn and Graham are up for re-election this year. And they will probably be re-elected.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Beyond Petty

From the Washington Post and HBO:

As three former presidents gathered in Atlanta last week to offer stirring tributes to John Lewis, President Trump was absent. And in a new interview that aired on Monday night, Trump had few kind words of his own for the former Democratic congressman and Civil Rights leader, who died July 17.

Asked by interviewer Jonathan Swan how history would remember Lewis’ contributions to the nation, Trump demurred.

“I don’t know. I don’t know John Lewis,” Trump said in the “Axios on HBO” interview. “He chose not to come to my inauguration.”

Pressed by Swan on whether he found Lewis “impressive,” Trump was likewise noncommittal.

“I can’t way one way or another,” Trump said, before noting again that Lewis had skipped his inauguration and his State of the Union speeches, adding, “Nobody has done more for Black Americans than I have. He should have come.”

This is pathetic.

It should be noted that John Lewis didn’t attend the inauguration of George W. Bush. Mr. Bush came to the funeral,

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Speaking Of Demons

Someone who is now unfriended posted the video mentioned in the article on my Facebook page.  That was annoying and easily dealt with.  Too bad America cannot instantly unfriend Trump.

After social media companies removed a viral video showing doctors spreading unsubstantiated information about the novel coronavirus, a phrase inspired by one doctor’s past claims began trending on Twitter: demon sperm. It turns out Stella Immanuel has a history of making particularly outlandish statements — including that the uterine disorder endometriosis is caused by sex with demons that takes place in dreams.

The video showed a group that has dubbed itself America’s Frontline Doctors, standing on the steps of the Supreme Court and claiming that neither masks nor shutdowns are necessary to fight the pandemic, despite a plethora of expertise to the contrary. It was live-streamed by the conservative media outlet Breitbart and viewed more than 14 million times — fueled by a tweet by Donald Trump Jr. and multiple retweets by President Trump, which have since been deleted.

Facebook, YouTube and Twitter have removed the various iterations of the video. Twitter told The Washington Post that they were “in violation of our covid-19 misinformation policy.”

The true authority on having sex with demons is Stormy Daniels.

What About These Guys?

Attorney General William Barr carried on yesterday about “protestors” (his air-quotes) who are threatening life, liberty, and the pursuit of white bread by a Wall of Moms.  They are, according to him, real threats so they must be met with tear gas and rubber bullets.  But when a bunch of armed ammosexuals stormed the Michigan state capitol and threatened to kill the governor, he knew nothing about it, and besides, that’s Michigan’s problem.

So don’t expect federal troops to respond to these guys.

Before his political awakening this spring, Peter Diaz lived a quiet life near this leafy liberal bastion at the base of the Puget Sound. He ran a tree-trimming service and a business that built office cubicles. He was 37 and had never voted.

Now he has formed his own political party and is the leader of American Wolf, a roving band of civilians who have anointed themselves “peacekeepers” amid months of tense protests over racism and policing. In the name of law and order, members of his informal group have shot paintballs at demonstrators and carry zip ties and bear spray as they look for antifascists. Diaz has done “recon” in Minneapolis and Seattle’s “autonomous zone,” and drove his American Wolf mobile home to Mount Rushmore to celebrate Independence Day with President Trump.

America’s summer of anxiety and rage has swept up men like Diaz, energizing conservatives who are deploying to the front lines of the culture war. Across the country, conservative armed civilians have surged into public view — marching on statehouses, challenging Black Lives Matter protests, chasing Internet rumors — and bringing the threat of lethal force to local politics. Their emergence has prompted congressional hearings on the surge in anti-government militias and domestic extremism and has alarmed researchers who track hate groups.

Unlike the old image of militiamen as fringe elements motivated by a desire to overthrow the federal government, these groups often rally in defense of the president and see themselves as pro-government allies of local law enforcement.

“We’re the silent majority,” Diaz said, standing outside his house with a .45-caliber Remington handgun on his belt. “It’s time to act.”

[…]

The federal agents clashing with protesters in Oregon are “our Portland heroes,” Diaz wrote on Facebook last week — not performing illegal arrests, as critics have alleged, but making “strategic detentions” of high-value targets. Diaz visited Portland, Ore., earlier this month to offer federal agents free beer and homemade medals of valor as a show of his appreciation.

Gun-toting civilians have stormed the Michigan Capitol demanding the state lift coronavirus restrictions, and rushed to the battlefield in Gettysburg following a flag-burning hoax. After a member of a civilian militia in New Mexico shot and critically injured a man, a prosecutor in Albuquerque earlier this month sued the militia in an attempt to stop it from showing up as a military unit at protests and assuming law enforcement duties.

With a hodgepodge of military garb and over-the-counter assault rifles, such self-styled “patriots” come from lots of backgrounds, but they are predominantly white and male. They are often veterans who say the mission now is to defend the Constitution and the freedoms they fought for in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Yet a naked lady and a guy with a leaf blower are the real threat to Democracy.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

It’s Like They Want To Lose

The GOP version of the stimulus bill to replace the one that expires on Friday has some interesting elements in it.

“The American people need more help, they need it to be comprehensive and they need it to be carefully tailored to this crossroads,” McConnell said. “That is what this Senate majority has assembled.”

But the GOP legislation contains a number of provisions not directly related to the coronavirus, including $1.8 billion for construction of a new FBI headquarters in Washington. President Trump has taken a personal interest in this project, but White House officials have not stipulated why they believe the language needed to be inserted in the coronavirus bill. Critics have alleged Trump is trying to keep the FBI building at its current location, which is diagonal from a Trump hotel property in downtown D.C.

The Trump administration previously squashed a plan to relocate the FBI building to the suburbs, which could leave the lot near the Trump hotel open for development.

“That’s a good question,” said Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.), when asked what the FBI project had to do with the coronavirus. He said the administration had sought its inclusion.

McConnell and his team worked for days to try to put together a $1 trillion package that could unite Republicans in a way that would strengthen their negotiating power with Democrats, but there were signs Monday that Republicans remain split over how to proceed. Congress already pumped $3 trillion into the economy in March and April, a level that many Republicans believe is sufficient.

“There is significant resistance to yet another trillion dollars,” said Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.). “The answer to these challenges will not simply be shoveling cash out of Washington; the answer to these challenges will be getting people back to work. And as it stands now, I think it’s likely that you’ll see a number of Republicans in opposition to this bill and expressing serious concerns.”

[…]

In the new GOP plan, Senate Republicans propose cutting weekly emergency unemployment benefits from $600 to $200 until states can bring a more complicated program online. The $600 weekly jobless benefit expires in a few days, and House Democrats have proposed extending it until January because the unemployment rate remains very high.

Senate Republicans want to put the $200 in place until states can implement a new approach that would pay the unemployed 70 percent of the income they collected before they lost their jobs. The states are supposed to phase in the new formula within two months under the new GOP plan, though it’s unclear how cumbersome that process could prove to be.

So their idea of “help” is a boondoggle construction project to boost the property values in Trump’s neighborhood while cutting the emergency relief benefit by 2/3 because they want to encourage people to “get back to work,” which means go out there and expose yourself to the pandemic that’s killed over 145,000 Americans because it’s socialist to stay home.

If I didn’t know better, I’d say that the Republicans are doing everything they can now to tank their re-elections so that they don’t have to deal with the pandemic and the economic collapse, and under it all, be bound to the cratering flaming meteor strike that is Trump. It’s like they want to guarantee that he loses by such a big margin that only the looniest of the QAnonistas will claim it’s some vast conspiracy. They can then slink home in January 2021, collect their fat pensions, and yell from the cheap seats or a gig at Fox News — same thing — at how terrible things are now that Joe Biden is in charge and it’s all Obama’s fault and rally the surviving MAGA’s for another Confederate flag-draped march the take their country back to those heady days of graft, corruption, and choke-holds on those uppity Others.  But only if they can stay home.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Fatal Attraction

It’s not uncommon for a governor of a state to want to get along with a president.  After all, the federal government can be helpful and even a lifesaver in tough times like a hurricane or some event that requires more than just what the state can provide.  It’s not uncommon for a governor of the opposition party to do his or her best to be on good terms with that president; politics should stop when the emergency declaration is signed.  Of course, in recent years we’ve seen governors of the opposition staunchly refuse to go along with the president because of political consideration even at the peril of their citizens.  Gov. Rick Scott’s (R-FL) bullheaded refusal to accept the benefits of Obamacare and Medicare expansion in a state where a lot of the citizens (including this writer) count on Medicare was done for no other reason than it was coming from President Obama, and Scott would face electoral backlash from his base of right-wingnuts if he accepted it.

In 2018 Scott got himself elected to the Senate, and while it would be far more preferable that someone else was in office, at least he’s out of Tallahassee and can’t cause any further immediate damage to the state.  But he was replaced by someone worse; someone more craven, more ignorant, and a bigger toady to Trump and his proto-Fascist base than Rick Scott.  In ordinary times, all it would mean is that he spends his weekends on his knees in Palm Beach.  But as we are reminded every day, these are no ordinary times, and his sycophancy and political ambition are killing Floridians in record numbers.

As Florida became a global epicenter of the coronavirus, Gov. Ron DeSantis held one meeting this month with his top public health official, Scott Rivkees, according to the governor’s schedule. His health department has sidelined scientists, halting briefings last month with disease specialists and telling the experts there was not sufficient personnel from the state to continue participating.

“I never received information about what happened with my ideas or results,” said Thomas Hladish, a University of Florida research scientist whose regular calls with the health department ended June 29. “But I did hear the governor say the models were wrong about everything.”

DeSantis (R) this month traveled to Miami to hold a roundtable with South Florida mayors, whose region was struggling as a novel coronavirus hot spot. But the Republican mayor of Hialeah was shut out, weeks after saying the governor “hasn’t done much” for a city disproportionately affected by the virus.

As the virus spread out of control in Florida, decision-making became increasingly shaped by politics and divorced from scientific evidence, according to interviews with 64 current and former state and administration officials, health administrators, epidemiologists, political operatives and hospital executives. The crisis in Florida, these observers say, has revealed the shortcomings of a response built on shifting metrics, influenced by a small group of advisers and tethered at every stage to the Trump administration, which has no unified plan for addressing the national health emergency but has pushed for states to reopen.

DeSantis relies primarily on the advice of his wife, Casey, a former television reporter and host, and his chief of staff, Shane Strum, a former hospital executive, according to Republican political operatives, including a former member of his administration.

“It’s a universe of three — Shane and Casey,” said one Republican consultant close to DeSantis’s team who spoke on the condition of anonymity to offer a candid assessment.

The response — which DeSantis boasted weeks ago was among the best in the nation — has quickly sunk Florida into a deadly morass. Nearly 5,800 Floridians have now died of covid-19, the disease caused by the virus — more deaths than were suffered in combat by Americans in Afghanistan or Iraq after 2001. One out of every 52 Floridians has been infected with the virus. The state’s intensive care units are being pushed to the brink, with some over capacity. Florida’s unemployment system is overwhelmed, and its tourism industry is a shambles.

DeSantis began the year as a popular governor, well-positioned to help his close ally President Trump win this crucial state in November’s election. DeSantis is now suffering from sagging approval ratings. Trump is polling behind Democrat Joe Biden in recent polls of Florida voters. And both men, after weeks of pushing for a splashy Republican convention in Jacksonville, succumbed to the reality of the public health risks Thursday when Trump called off the event.

Trump asked DeSantis in a phone call in May whether he would require masks for the convention and whether the virus would be a problem, according to a person with knowledge of the conversation. DeSantis said he would not require masks and the virus would not be a major problem in August in Florida.

“You were elected to be the governor of our state and make decisions about what is best for us in Florida,” Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernández said of DeSantis. “If he was more concerned with what the president thought of him, the outcomes are here.”

The good news — if there is any — is that DeSantis’s political future at the state and federal level is, to quote Col. Potter, lower than a gopher’s basement, and for the first time in nearly 100 years, Florida is on the verge of becoming a state that the Republicans will lose with a GOP incumbent. If Trump loses Florida, Gov. DeSantis will become the Bobby Jindal of 2024, assuming he can get re-elected in 2022.  Despite the fact that the Florida Democratic Party has basically been running on fumes since Lawton Chiles was in office (Bill Nelson was a cypher his last term), they have a real shot of at least winning the governor’s seat, and they may even make inroads in the state legislature, depending on how many un-masked Freedum-shouters make it out of The Villages alive.

It’s one thing to try to curry favor.  It’s another thing to be complicit in depraved indifference for the sake of your job.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Sunday Reading

A Lesson on Decency — David Remnick in The New Yorker.

One could be forgiven for thinking that rhetorical dynamism long ago vanished from the hallways and chambers of the United States Congress. It has been a hundred and sixty-four years, for example, since Charles Sumner, the anti-slavery Republican from Massachusetts, rose in the humid air of the Old Senate Chamber to unleash a five-hour, fully memorized onslaught against the idea of Kansas joining the Union as a slave state. Along the way, Sumner paused to lash two of his Senate colleagues, calling Stephen Douglas, of Illinois, a “noisome, squat, and nameless animal,” and accusing Andrew Butler, of South Carolina, of taking up with a “polluted” mistress—“I mean the harlot, Slavery.” You can still hear such acidic flourishes in other legislatures around the globe, but the language of the U.S. Congress is rarely so vivid. Generally, it is as flavorless as day-old gum.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a first-term Democrat from New York, provided a rare exception Thursday as she stepped to the microphone in the House chamber to make a hash of Ted Yoho, a veterinarian, Tea Party member, and veteran Republican from Florida.

The story began earlier this week, when Yoho reportedly approached Ocasio-Cortez on the Capitol steps to inform her that she was, among other things, “disgusting” and “out of your freaking mind.” His analysis was directed at her (hardly novel) public statements that poverty and unemployment are root causes of the recent spike in crime rates in New York. On matters of criminal-justice reform, Yoho is of a decidedly conservative bent. Not long ago, he voted against making lynching a federal hate crime, saying that such a law would be a regrettable instance of federal “overreach.”

According to a reporter for The Hill, Yoho did not cease in his expressive disdain for Ocasio-Cortez even as she walked away. Once he believed her to be out of hearing range, Yoho reportedly described his colleague as a “fucking bitch.”

On Wednesday, once the news of the encounter had circulated, Yoho delivered a statement that could best be described as the sort of non-apology apology that begins, “I am sorry if you understood me to be saying. . . .” Yoho began by explaining that he wanted “to apologize for the abrupt manner of the conversation I had with my colleague from New York.”

But his remorse was, at best, confined. “No one was accosted, bullied, or attacked,” he went on. “This was a brief policy discussion, plain and simple, and we have our differences. . . . The fact still remains, I am not going to apologize for something I didn’t say.” With confused logic, Yoho invoked his wife and daughters and said that he objected to Ocasio-Cortez’s views because he had experienced poverty when he was young. “I cannot apologize for my passion or for loving my God, my family, and my country,” he said. It was unclear who had asked him to apologize for his religious faith, his patriotism, or his love of family, but he was ardent all the same.

In all, Yoho’s was at best a deflective, jittery performance that was in no wise enhanced by his spokesman, Brian Kaveney, who e-mailed the Washington Post to say that Yoho “did not call Rep. Ocasio-Cortez what has been reported in the Hill or any name for that matter. . . . Instead, he made a brief comment to himself as he walked away summarizing what he believes her policies to be: bulls—.”

As a first-termer, Ocasio-Cortez has been a star, even if she has had her stumbles, including an initially troubled relationship with the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi. Ocasio-Cortez has been at the forefront of major issues, including climate change, immigration, campaign-finance reform, and income inequality. Her ability to skewer a balky witness in committee hearings has proved as uncanny as it is entertaining. She came to the House floor Thursday to rebut Yoho, insisting that, after delivering a short retort via Twitter, she might have kept her counsel had he not delivered such a lame non-apology. Her speech, which was then echoed by other colleagues from the Democratic caucus, was not in the Charles Sumner category in either length or style—she favored righteous sincerity where Sumner employed florid invective—but the devastation was of a similar scale. The sporting equivalent might be Billie Jean King’s measured yet unmistakable destruction of Bobby Riggs. The video of Ocasio-Cortez’s speech is available online, of course; it should be studied for its measured cadence, its artful construction, and its refusal of ugliness.

She began with narrative, setting the scene: “I was minding my own business, walking up the steps, and Representative Yoho put his finger in my face. He called me ‘disgusting.’ He called me ‘crazy.’ He called me ‘out of my mind.’ And he called me ‘dangerous.’ ” Then she broadened her scope: “This issue is not about one incident. It is cultural. It is a culture of lack of impunity, of accepting violence and violent language against women and an entire structure of power that supports that.” Ocasio-Cortez made it clear that she was not going to fall down and faint. She had heard it all before, on the subway and as a bartender. But she wasn’t going to let this pass, not from a fellow-member of Congress: “I could not allow my nieces, I could not allow the little girls that I go home to, I could not allow victims of verbal abuse, and worse, to see that. To see that excuse, and see our Congress accept it as legitimate and accept it as an apology and to accept silence as a form of acceptance. I could not allow that to stand.” What’s more, she was not going to allow Yoho, in his clumsy way, to use his family as a “shield” for his barrage.

“Having a daughter does not make a man decent. Having a wife does not make a decent man. Treating people with dignity and respect makes a decent man. And when a decent man messes up, as we all are bound to do, he tries his best and does apologize,” she said. “I am someone’s daughter, too.”

The politics of our moment are dominated by a bully of miserable character, a President who has failed to contain a pandemic through sheer indifference, who has fabricated a reëlection campaign based on bigotry and the deliberate inflammation of division. His language is abusive, his attitude toward women disdainful. Trump is all about himself: his needs, his ego, his self-preservation. Along the way he has created a Republican Party in his own image. Imitators like Ted Yoho slavishly follow his lead. On the House floor Thursday, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez exemplified a different sort of character. She defended not only herself; she defended principle and countless women. And all in just a few short minutes on the floor of the House of Representatives.

As Good A Time As Any — Charles P. Pierce on the possibility that we’ve been visited from afar.

OK, 2020, why the hell not?

Pentagon officials will not discuss the program, which is not classified but deals with classified matters. Yet it appeared last month in a Senate committee report outlining spending on the nation’s intelligence agencies for the coming year. The report said the program, the Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon Task Force, was “to standardize collection and reporting” on sightings of unexplained aerial vehicles, and was to report at least some of its findings to the public every six months…Eric W. Davis, an astrophysicist who worked as a subcontractor and then a consultant for the Pentagon U.F.O. program since 2007, said that, in some cases, examination of the materials had so far failed to determine their source and led him to conclude, “We couldn’t make it ourselves.” The constraints on discussing classified programs — and the ambiguity of information cited in unclassified slides from the briefings — have put officials who have studied U.F.O.s in the position of stating their views without presenting any hard evidence. Mr. Davis, who now works for Aerospace Corporation, a defense contractor, said he gave a classified briefing to a Defense Department agency as recently as March about retrievals from “off-world vehicles not made on this earth.”

Excuse me?

Mr. Reid, the former Democratic senator from Nevada who pushed for funding the earlier U.F.O. program when he was the majority leader, said he believed that crashes of vehicles from other worlds had occurred and that retrieved materials had been studied secretly for decades, often by aerospace companies under government contracts. “After looking into this, I came to the conclusion that there were reports — some were substantive, some not so substantive — that there were actual materials that the government and the private sector had in their possession,” Mr. Reid said in an interview.

We are overdue in this weird, disastrous year for some unalloyed Good Weirdness. Let it all out. If there ever was a time in history to learn we’re not alone, this is it.

Doonesbury — Nice work if you can get it.