The Enemy Among Us

A few weeks ago I wrote about the county mask mandate where I live now and the many people who turned out to protest it. The police had declared they would not enforce the mandate. Even so, I started seeing a lot more people wearing masks, so I thought we’d made some progress. But maybe not.

This week the county health director resigned. However, I didn’t know until yesterday that she and her family had received threats and harassment. I learned about the threats and harassment only because it was reported in St. Louis media; the local newpaper didn’t bother to mention it.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

Amber Elliott took over as director of the St. Francois County public health department in January, excited to take the position after serving five years as assistant director and a communicable disease nurse for the department.

Elliott was looking forward to tackling issues such as opioid addiction, lead poisoning and childhood trauma with her staff of nearly two dozen employees.

She did not expect that within a few months her small health department about an hour south of St. Louis would be overwhelmed with fighting a pandemic. But what has been even more surprising are the threats and harassment she and her family have faced as she works to protect her community.

“There’s been many over the course of eight months, to personal attacks on Facebook calling me every name in the book, to calling me and cussing me and saying I’m stupid and I’m incompetent and I don’t know what I’m doing, of course the pandemic is fake, and all those type of things,” Elliott said.

People told her they were following her, that they were watching her. They took pictures of her, her husband and her two elementary school-age children in public and posted them online with remarks she doesn’t want to repeat.

Citing the need to protect her children and after receiving another promising job offer as a nurse, Elliott resigned last week as director. Her last day will be Nov. 20.

It turns out that Elliott is the 12th local health director to resign in Missouri since the pandemic hit, according to Kelley Vollmar, chair of the Missouri Association of Local Public Health Agencies. Vollmar also has been threatened.

Vollmar said she has experienced harassment being a director as well. As a domestic violence survivor, she had worked to keep the location of her home private, but people searched her tax records, divorce records, committees she’s served on and posted information online to determine where she lived, she said. …

… A gun shop owner in the county uses his Facebook page to attack her credibility, warning that gun owners will “decide they’ve had enough of the lies.” Someone, she said, called her husband saying she was out with another man. People posted pictures of her on social media, altered to make her look like Adolf Hitler or comparing the health department to Nazis.

I’m assuming most of these thugs are Trump supporters. So our real-world brownshirts who support the fascist dictator wannabe Trump ridicule a health director by comparing her to a Nazi. Work that one out. Not exactly geniuses, these folks.

The Post-Dispatch article goes on to discuss health directors and other officials around the country who have been threatened and harassed for doing their jobs and trying to keep people safe. These thugs live among us, and they aren’t going to evaporate if Donald Trump loses the election.

Yesterday the U.S. reported a world record of more than 100,000 COVID-19 cases in single day. We’re Number One!

St. Francois County is currently averaging 65 new cases of covid per 100,000 residents per day. Most of the people I know here are over 65, and a lot of them have been pretty much housebound since last spring to stay safe from the pandemic. And the county mask mandate has expired and will not be renewed.

If we can get through the next few days without widespread violence related to the election, we’re going to be extremely lucky.

“Militia groups and other armed nonstate actors pose a serious threat to the safety and security of American voters,” said the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, a nonprofit organization that researches political violence and has tracked more than 80 extremist groups in recent months. The project’s report said Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Oregon “are at highest risk of increased militia activity in the election and post-election period.”

Unfounded rumors spreading in right-wing circles on Facebook and throughout conservative media have fixated for weeks on the notion that civil war is nigh. The longtime radio and TV commentator Glenn Beck has plied his millions of followers with the idea that the left has an Election Day “playbook” for civil strife.

“The Left” has no such “playbook.” This is not to say that no U.S. leftie ever committed an act of violence, but the Left right now just wants people to vote and for the votes to be counted. It’s the Right that is much more likely to disrupt the election. See, for example, Self-Proclaimed ‘Proud Boy’ Arrested for Threatening to Blow Up North Dakota Polling Place: Police.

And this:

In Michigan, two right-wing operatives were charged with voter intimidation after robocalls that falsely warned that the names of mail-in voters would be placed in a public database used for arrest warrants and debt collection.

I’m not sure what’s to be done with this situation. It’s going to be with us for a long, long time.

Update: This just reported.

Joe Biden’s presidential campaign canceled a Friday event in Austin, Texas, after harassment from a pro-Trump contingent. …

… But when the Biden campaign bus drove to Austin, it was greeted by a blockade of pro-Trump demonstrators, leading to what one Texas House representative described as an escalation “well beyond safe limits.”…

… Historian Dr. Eric Cervini was driving to help with the Biden campaign stop when he filmed a line of pickup trucks along the highway, many of them flying Trump flags. The drivers were “waiting to ambush the Biden/Harris campaign bus as it traveled from San Antonio to Austin,” Cervini tweeted.

“These Trump supporters, many of whom were armed, surrounded the bus on the interstate and attempted to drive it off the road,” he alleged. “They outnumbered police 50-1, and they ended up hitting a staffer’s car.” …

Footage from a CBS affiliate in Austin shows Trump supporters with signs and bullhorns surrounding the bus when it parked, with one person screaming that Biden was a communist.

Armed protesters against pandemic safety measures rally at the state capitol in Lansing, Michigan on April 15, 2020.

Just a Little Longer …

As anxious as most of us are now, It might be worse next week. There’s a long article by Ron Suskind at the New York Times that I’ve been encouraging people to read all the way through, if they can. I realize not everybody subscribes, so here’s just a bit:

Nov. 4 will be a day, said one of the former senior intelligence officials, “when he’ll [Trump] want to match word with deed.” Key officials in several parts of the government told me how they thought the progression from the 3rd to the 4th might go down.

They are loath to give up too many precise details, but it’s not hard to speculate from what we already know. Disruption would most likely begin on Election Day morning somewhere on the East Coast, where polls open first. Miami and Philadelphia (already convulsed this week after another police shooting), in big swing states, would be likely locations. It could be anything, maybe violent, maybe not, started by anyone, or something planned and executed by any number of organizations, almost all of them on the right fringe, many adoring of Mr. Trump. The options are vast and test the imagination. Activists could stage protests at a few of the more crowded polling places and draw those in long lines into conflict.

A group could just directly attack a polling place, injuring poll workers of both parties, and creating a powerful visual — an American polling place in flames, like the ballot box in Massachusetts that was burned earlier this week — that would immediately circle the globe. Some enthusiasts may simply enter the area around a polling location to root out voter fraud — as the president has directed his supporters to do — taking advantage of a 2018 court ruling that allows the Republican National Committee to pursue “ballot security” operations without court approval.

Trump supporters, of course, fervently believe that everyone who isn’t a Trump supporter is part of some demonic, anti-American subversive force who must be stopped from voting. And since we may not know a winner until the end of the week, if not longer, there will be plenty of time for the hotheads to get out of control.

Still, some states will be called on election night, which might tell us which way the wind is blowing. FiveThirtyEight has published a handy guide to when to expect election results in every state. We should know the result in Florida, which could go either way, on election night, for example. Many of the early-reporting states will go for Trump, but it would be telling if his margin of victory is lower than in 2016. Some of the early-reporting states, such as Montana, South Carolina, and Colorado have critical Senate races.

The early voting suggests a really big turnout, which is supposed to favor Democrats. It looks like younger people are voting in higher numbers than usual. That should favor Democrats. I am hopeful the votes will give us a good result, if they are all counted.

Trump is on the stump declaring Covid has been vanquished and Hunter Biden Hunter Biden. See Paul Waldman, Republicans are trapped by Trump’s insane ideas about how to win this election.

Trump and the conservative media are locked in a self-reinforcing cycle in which this “issue” — fed, we should note, by bizarre and ludicrous disinformation — is all they can think about. He talks about it at his rallies, so Fox and other right-wing outlets devote endless airtime to it, and since Trump spends hours every day watching Fox, he becomes yet more convinced that it’s both vitally important and the key to his victory. And the cycle spins on.

It’s not just Hunter. One striking thing about not just Trump’s rallies but also his interviews and even his debates with Joe Biden is that Trump regularly tosses out references to a series of faux scandals and outrages that most Americans don’t understand, without bothering to explain. If you aren’t steeped in what is sometimes jokingly called the Fox News Cinematic Universe, you have no idea what Trump is talking about when he mentions Bruce Ohr or “ballots in a ditch” or “the hard drive from hell.”

I keep seeing new videos of recent rallies in which Trump repeats his “covid,covid, covid” whine, which on the local teevee news tends to be juxtaposed with recent reports of increases in cases and hospitalizations. Several of the so-called swing states are seeing a big spike in cases right now.

Paul Krugman:

On Tuesday the White House science office went beyond Trump’s now-standard claims that we’re “rounding the corner” on the coronavirus and declared that one of the administration’s major achievements was “ending the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Who was that supposed to convince, when almost everyone is aware not only that the pandemic continues, but that coronavirus cases and hospitalizations are surging? All it did was make Trump look even more out of touch.

Hang in there, peeps. Vote early if you can.

The Race Is Not Getting Tighter

The contest between Trump and Biden was supposed to tighten up in the last days of the campaigns, but here we are in the final week and Biden’s lead overall is wider. The nerds now have Trump’s chance of winning down to 11 percent, and Biden’s at 88 percent. That’s the biggest advantage for Biden yet.

In 2016, with a week to go, the nerds had Clinton 45, Trump 42. See also Harry Enton, CNN, 8 days to go: Biden’s lead over Trump is holding, while Clinton’s was collapsing at this point.

The Trump campaign continues to step into doodoo. The headlines this morning told us that hundreds of Trump supporters were stranded for hours in freezing temperatures at a rally venue in Omaha, waiting for buses to take them back to their cars in far-away parking lots. Many of these people were elderly. Police did what they could, but the road to the airport where the rally had taken place was clogged. Seven people were hospitalized, according to the local newspaper. It’s possible Air Force One got back to Washington before some of those rally attendees got home.

This is not a good look for Trump, who has run short of money for television ads and is relying on rallies to get publicity. But if he’s using Air Force One to fly around the country to his rallies he’s supposed to reimburse us taxpayers for that. Not cheap. The time-honored trick of incumbent presidents to get around that is to schedule some kind of official presidential event at some place that just happens to have a campaign event nearby. But I can’t tell from news stories that there was anything going on in Omaha but the rally. Trump flew in; Trump flew out.

And it says something that Trump thinks he needs to shore up support in Nebraska. In 2016 Trump beat Clinton 58.7 percent to 33.7 percent in Nebraska. See also the Cook Political Report, Biden’s Path to 270 Widens, Trump’s Path Narrows, as Texas Moves to Toss Up.

Greg Sargent writes that the newest polls show a dip in support for Trump among White voters, including not-college-educated White voters. Most of this shift from red to blue is because of Trump’s botched pandemic response, Sargent says, although a lot of it is disgust at Trump’s race-baiting.

It’s also the case that Trump clearly had counted on fanning the Hunter Biden scandal to squeak out another Electoral College win, but this time major news media haven’t gone along. See Tina Nguyen at Politico, MAGA scrambles to repair the Hunter Biden narrative. “The Wall Street Journal and Fox News have both reported finding no evidence that former Vice President Joe Biden benefited from the Hunter Biden business dealings that have drawn scrutiny,” Nguyen writes.

The Biden laptop and Clinton email scandals differ in some substantial ways, seems to me. One, the FBI really was investigating Clinton’s emails, and the concern over Clinton’s private server goes back to 2009. It wasn’t a controversy the Trump campaign had to generate. But beside the fact that Hunter Biden isn’t even the candidate, from the beginning the White House and Trump campaign not only had their fingerprints all over the Biden-Ukraine story, they’ve been the sole source of information on new developments, such as the laptop from hell and the alleged Hunter Biden sex tapes (from China via Steve Bannon). Outlets like Breitbart and Gateway Pundit have published everything the Trumpers put out about Hunter Biden, but the more establishment sections of right-wing media have been much more cautious with the stuff. See also Trump Had One Last Story to Sell. The Wall Street Journal Wouldn’t Buy It. by Ben Smith at the New York Times.

About a hundred years ago, when I was a student at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, we students got warned about taking jobs with tabloids. Note that the professors at this J School were not academic types but people with years of experience as working journalists. One old newswriting prof named Tom Duffy used to tell us great stories about covering Chicago mobsters as a newspaper reporter in the 1930s, for example. He was a hard ass, but he knew newspapers.

Anyway, the word was that we seniors might get job offers from the supermarket tabloids like the National Enquirer, and that these offers would be tempting because the tabloids paid a lot better than regular newspapers. But, we were told, if you take that job, it’s the only journalism job you will ever have. There was no moving from the supermarket tabloids to legitimate journalism, they told us. I thought of that when I read about the Wall Street Journal playing down the laptop story. Trump will be gone soon enough, but the Wall Street Journal will still live or die by its reputation as a legitimate news source. I guess there are places it won’t go.

One can’t say the same about the New York Post, which is part of the Murdoch empire, but at least one reporter withheld his byline from a Hunter Biden story.

On the other hand, David Graham at the Atlantic complains that the press is giving Trump a free pass and not reporting on some recent scandals, such as his stripping of civil service protections from federal employees.. But if you read Graham’s article, you notice that Graham is learning about the scandals from newspaper stories, like this one. I infer that his gripe is that lots of stuff going on is not being covered on the teevee news. But yeah, we need media reform, bug time. We’ve needed it for years.

But this is Trump’s most recent outrage — Trump to strip protections from Tongass National Forest, one of the biggest intact temperate rainforests.

President Trump will open up more than half of Alaska’s Tongass National Forest to logging and other forms of development, according to a notice posted Wednesday, stripping protections that had safeguarded one of the world’s largest intact temperate rainforests for nearly two decades.

As of Thursday, it will be legal for logging companies to build roads and cut and remove timber throughout more than 9.3 million acres of forest — featuring old-growth stands of red and yellow cedar, Sitka spruce and Western hemlock. The relatively-pristine expanse is also home to plentiful salmon runs and imposing fjords. The decision, which will be published in the Federal Register, reverses protections President Bill Clinton put in place in 2001 and is one of the most sweeping public lands rollbacks Trump has enacted.

Next week, if Joe Biden finds himself called upon to give a victory speech, I want him to issue a warning to the developers and the logging companies that the protections will be back in place as soon as he’s inagurated, so don’t bother moving equipment to start ripping up the Tongass National Forest.

What Will We Do About the Supreme Court?

The nation’s editorial pages are full of SCOTUS commentary today. Here is a sampler.

Let’s start with the New York Times, which is running a Supreme Court special section of op eds headlined How to Fix the Supreme Court.  Emily Bazelton’s How We Got Here is worth reading. She describes several times in past history in which the Supreme Court was smacked down by the other branches. For example, the number of justices was increased to nine (in 1869) by Congress in anticipation of their interference with Reconstruction. Bazelton continues,

The most pressing question now is whether the conservative majority will issue rulings on voting, the census, redistricting and other foundations of fair and free elections that threaten the majoritarian nature of American democracy itself. If the conservative justices take these steps, they will entrench the power of the Republican Party that gave them their seats just as an increasingly multiracial electorate shifts away from the current Republican coalition.

Even now, Republican dominance over the court is itself counter-majoritarian. Including Amy Barrett, the party has picked six of the last 10 justices although it has lost the popular vote in six of the last seven presidential elections, and during this period represented a majority of Americansin the Senate only between 1997 and 1998 (if you count half of each state’s population for each senator).

That’s a dangerous proposition for our constitutional order. The court can hold its conservative impulses in check with an eye to the future. Or it can ramp up a power struggle with the other branches that in the end — Marbury or no Marbury — it is destined to lose.

Larry Kramer, former dean of Stanford Law School, says it’s time to “pack” the court.

Liberals say that if Joe Biden wins the election, Democrats should answer by adding justices to the Supreme Court. Republicans respond with faux outrage that this would politicize the judiciary. But they have already politicized the judiciary. The question is whether only one side should play that game. Besides, not only is enlarging the Supreme Court legal, its size has changed seven times over its history.

Adding judges would be a political response to a political act. But the extremes to which Republicans have been willing to go leave the Democrats no other choice. Not for revenge or because turnabout is fair play, but as the only way back to a less politicized process.

This is a lesson we learned decades ago from economists and game theorists: Once cooperation breaks down, the only play to restore it is tit-for-tat. It’s the only way both sides can learn that neither side wins unless they cooperate.

Another fix Kramer suggests is to choose a new justice with each Congress, and the nine most recently appointed justices would be the ones to hear cases. The older justices would still be on the Court and could fill in when a current judge is unavailable. This is a way to put in term limits that would not require a constitutional amendment.

Kent Greenfield, a professor at Boston College Law School, suggests creating a new court that would deal with constitutional questions.

The most contentious and important legal issues — whether states can ban abortion, or whether the president can refuse subpoenas or mandate travel bans — should be shifted from the Supreme Court to a new court created to decide such issues….

… This court would be made up of judges from other federal courts, selected by the president from a slate generated by a bipartisan commission to create legitimacy and balance. The judges would serve limited terms, then return to their previous courts. Staggered terms would guarantee each president several appointments.

Also at the New York Times, see Melody Wang, Don’t Let the Court Choose Its Cases.

At Washington Monthly, see Garrett Epps, Independent Judiciary, RIP.  “If We the People accept without serious reform this new marsupial court as it is being contemptuously thrown to us, we do not deserve self-government.”

At the Washington Post, see Paul Waldman, There’s no more doubt: Democrats have to expand the Supreme Court.

Keep this image in your mind: Justice Amy Coney Barrett, standing with President Trump on a balcony at the White House, smiling in satisfaction as the crowd below them whoops and hollers with joy after Barrett was sworn in to the Supreme Court.

Barrett no longer needs to pretend that she’s anything other than what she is: a far-right judge, installed on the Supreme Court by a president who got fewer votes than his opponent and confirmed by a Republican majority that represents fewer voters than their Democratic colleagues, whose job it will be to do everything in her power to maintain minority GOP rule while carrying out a conservative judicial revolution.

That picture of Barrett and Trump reveling in their mutual triumph was so vivid that the Trump campaign literally turned it into an ad for the president’s reelection. A different person might have said, “Mr. President, it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to participate in such a nakedly political event.” But Barrett wasn’t concerned. She didn’t shout “MAGA 2020! Suck it, libs!” but she might as well have.

Trump and Barrett after Barrett’s swearing-in at the White House.

Waldman continues,

“A lot of what we’ve done over the last four years will be undone, sooner or later, by the next election,” he [Mitch McConnell] said Sunday about Barrett’s nomination. “But they won’t be able to do much about this for a long time to come.”

But they can, and they should, no matter how much Republicans whine about it. If voters give them the White House and the Senate, they’ll have the legal right and the moral obligation to do so. Without it we won’t have a real democracy.

Of course, people are asking if Joe Biden has the cojones to expand the court. I don’t know, but a Democratic-controled Congress wouldn’t have to wait for Joe Biden. Congress could pass a bill for Biden to sign, and I believe he would sign it.

Other commentary from WaPo:

At Talking Points Memo, Josh Marshall writes See the Corrupt Court for What It Is. This is a members-only article, so I’ll quote a bit.

If you needed to know anything more about Amy Coney Barrett – I didn’t, but if you did – she made her first act last night appearing at a splashy campaign event for President Trump. Once the Senate voted to confirm her on a party line vote, she had a lifetime appointment and literally no need for anything from President Trump. Indeed, she would quite likely have marginally improved the odds that the corrupt conservative Court majority would remain in place by declining such an appearance.

She did it anyway and that was a choice.

Also, too:

Meanwhile, Justice Kavanaugh, himself a former Republican political operative rinsed and rebranded as a High Court Justice, issued another ruling to restrict voting access in the current election. Critically and ominously he added what amounted to a threat to use the Court to block vote counting after election day or mail-in votes altogether. Kavanaugh laundered Trump’s tweet threats into SCOTUS-ese. But the message was the same. He aped the Trump’s line about “chaos” and uncertainty if there’s no definitive result on election night even though the election night result is purely a function of election calls by media organizations. No states publish or certify election results on election night. It always takes days and usually weeks to do.

We all understand that we’re used to knowing who won on election night and we’d all like this to be done. But Kavanaugh’s gambit highlights the fact that knowing the results on election night or halting the counting of votes on election night is purely a figment of press schedules and cannot have any legal or constitutional standing. He is simply part of the greater Republican corruption and its increasingly open program to use the power and legitimacy of the Supreme Court to engineer Republican election victories even its candidates can’t muster the most votes. It is a corrupt program; it is a corrupt Court.

Related: Mark Joseph Stern at Slate, Brett Kavanaugh Signals He’s Open to Stealing the Election for Trump.

At the Atlantic, see Emma Green, The Amy Coney Barrett Hail-Mary Touchdown.

Republicans look to the Supreme Court as a firewall for their agenda. Conservative advocacy groups spent millions on swing-state ads meant to pressure Republican senators, points out James Wallner, a Republican former senior Senate staffer and current fellow at the R Street Institute. “It’s nonsense to suggest it’s not supposed to be political,” he told me.

Even after four years of controlling the Senate and the White House, along with two years of holding the House of Representatives, “Republicans don’t have a lot to show for [themselves],” Wallner said. “Confirming Barrett right before Election Day is a continuation of a trend: We have to do something.” In the absence of major legislative achievements, he said, the judiciary has become an arena where Republicans, the party of small government, look to entrench their power. The party’s instinct “is not to check the Court. It’s to control the Court,” Wallner said.

Also at the Atlantic: Angus King Jr. and Heather Cox Richardson, Amy Coney Barrett’s Judicial Philosophy Doesn’t Hold Up to Scrutiny.

Originalism is an intellectual cloak drummed up (somewhat recently) to dignify a profoundly retrogressive view of the Constitution as a straitjacket on the ability of the federal government to act on behalf of the public. Its real purpose is to justify a return to the legal environment of the early 1930s, when the Court routinely struck down essential elements of the New Deal. Business regulation, Social Security, and Medicare? Not so fast. The Affordable Care Act, environmental protections, a woman’s right to choose? Forget it. And this despite the Constitution’s preamble, which states that one of its basic purposes is to “promote the general welfare.”

I wrote my own opinion of originalism a few days ago; see A Tyranny of the Dead.

Expanding the Supreme Court and other federal courts may be just the beginning, but I don’t think there’s any question it has to be done. To re-quote Garrett Epps from above, “If We the People accept without serious reform this new marsupial court as it is being contemptuously thrown to us, we do not deserve self-government.”


Here are reading recommendations. There’s a great commentary by David Atkins at Washington Monthly saying that Republican voters are not prepared for Trump to lose, and that’s a problem. Democrats are hoping for a win and increasingly expect to win, but I think I speak for most when I say we’re braced for a loss. But while Republican party leaders may realize the poll numbers don’t look good for them, Republican voters appear to be oblivious to this.

Republican voters have been primed to believe that every reputable poll is a lie, that official elections results are not to be trusted, and that they have a silent majority millions of voters strong. If 36% of the country’s voters walk into election night with that belief and Biden ends up winning easily with over 350 electoral votes, it is impossible to predict what might happen.

Atkins goes on to say that “It is improbable that triumphalist bullies who have spent the last four years hailing their president as a God Emperor and posting memes about drinking liberal tears will easily accept resounding electoral defeat.”

There’s a likelihood of organized violence, of course. Many on the Right will not accept a Biden victory as legitimate. But we’re not obligated to be anyone’s grief counselors. The snowflakes can suck it up, as we did, or face penalties if they get out of line.


See also Paul Waldman, We May Not Be Facing Apocalypse, but the Near Future Doesn’t Look Good.


At NBC News, Sahil Kapur writes that the GOP bets Democrats won’t expand Supreme Court. Progressives say: Call their bluff.

When Senate Republicans voted on a rainy Sunday to put Amy Coney Barrett on a glide path to a lifetime Supreme Court appointment one week before Election Day, they were making a bet that Democrats wouldn’t retaliate and erase conservative gains.

“A lot of what we’ve done over the last four years will be undone, sooner or later, by the next election,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Sunday after the 51-48 procedural vote against Democratic objections. “But they won’t be able to do much about this for a long time to come.”

But it’s not just progressives talking about expanding the Court. I’m seeing Washington establishment fixtures like Ruth Marcus and E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post say that Dems don’t have a choice but to expand the court. This is a big, fat signal that Dems would get at least some cover in media if they expand the Court. Joe Biden probably doesn’t want to do it, because he knows what firestorm will follow, but he hasn’t ruled it out. IMO there’s a good chance that if Biden wins and the Dems control the Senate, they will increase the number of justices on the court. And not by just a couple. I’m thinking a total of 17 justices would ensure that no one future president will get enough nominations to make that much difference. They may expand some other federal courts as well.

The most common counter-argument for this is that Republicans will add a bunch more justices to the court when they regain power. To which I say — pass laws to end political gerrymandering and protect voting rights. Make Washington DC a state, and Puerto Rico, too, if it wants to be a state. Then watch the Hard Right fail to claw its way back for a long, long time.


Worthless entitled privileged wonder Jared Kushner stepped in a big ol’ pile of racist doodoo.


Trump has failed utterly to stop the flow of manufacturing jobs going overseas. See Trump’s Carrier deal fades as economic reality intervenes.


Covid Covid Covid Covid Covid

I don’t know how many times I saw this clip on the teevee news yesterday.

Headline at CNN: US reports second-highest day of coronavirus cases since the pandemic began. The highest day was Friday.

I’ve seen an extended version of this clip; from here Trump goes on to complain that there are only so many cases because we test too much. His comments about immunity reveal he has no grasp whatsoever about the issue and hasn’t been paying attention to the scienctists, who have said all along that people appear to have only short-term immunity, if any, after an infection. After all this time, after everything that’s happened, he still doesn’t understand the pandemic and clearly doesn’t care enough to try to understand it.

See David Atkins, A Trump Win Would Condemn Hundreds of Thousands to Die Needlessly from COVID.

Meanwhile, Mitch McConnell is pushing the Senate to confirm nutjob Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court tomorrow. The local news here is full of interviews of small business owners who aren’t sure how they’re going to go on much longer with the virus restrictions. A lot of virus restrictions were lifted for a time but are being put back because the cases and posivity rates are going up. There is absolutely no excuse for the government not providing some kind of support to keep people afloat for a few more months, but Mitch can’t be bothered. The priority is to get a sixth hard-right reactionary on the Supreme Court to foul up government policy for the next forty years. Maybe they’ll find some creative way to restrict voting to white men only, 15th and 19th amendments be damned.

It says something that even former Dem Senate leader Harry Reid is calling for the end of the filibuster. See also E.J. Dionne, Enlarging the Supreme Court is the only answer to the right’s judicial radicalism.

Speaking of local news: St. Louis has nearly broken down into civil war over high school sports. For a time the county executive had restricted contact sports, like football. What, no football? The parents of seniors were all over the teevee practically weeping because their darlings will be robbed of their last year of high school football, along with their chances to get scholarships to some major conference school. That’s sad, but I can remember my senior year, when the guys in my class all faced the draft and potentially being sent to Vietnam. That was sadder. Anyway, the St. Louis high schools are playing a shortened football season now. We’ll see what happens to basketball.

Also, too: Several in Mike Pence’s inner circle have tested positive.  Pence, chair of the White House pandemic task force, has been exposed to several of these people but will not quarantine. Meanwhile, WH Chief of Staff Mark Meadows admits “We are not going to control the pandemic.”

See Nicholas Kristof, America and the Virus: ‘A Colossal Failure of Leadership’:
In its destruction of American lives, treasure and well-being, this pandemic marks the greatest failure of U.S. governance since Vietnam.

There’s plenty of blame to go around, involving Democrats as well as Republicans, but Trump in particular “recklessly squandered lives,” in the words of an unusual editorial this month in the New England Journal of Medicine. Death certificates may record the coronavirus as the cause of death, but in a larger sense vast numbers of Americans died because their government was incompetent.

As many Americans are dying every 10 days of Covid-19 as U.S. troops died during 19 years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the economists David Cutler and Lawrence Summers estimate that the economic cost of the pandemic in the United States will be $16 trillion, or about $125,000 per American household — far more than the median family’s net worth. Then there’s an immeasurable cost in soft power as the United States is humbled before the world.

It says something that even the notriously right-wing New Hampshire Union Leader is endorsing Joe Biden.

The great Alexandra Petri has a column up about the candidates’ closing message. Biden talks vaguely about plans and scientists. Trump shrieks hysterically about giant bird-killing windmills. It’s satire, but it’s not that far from the truth.

Right-wing websites are ignoring the pandemic and instead are flogging a new Hunter Biden story. This story claims there Hunter Biden sex videos have been uploaded on a Steve Bannon-connected Chinese website. I’m not going to link to any of this, but you can read about it at Steve M’s place.

And I don’t give a hoohaw whether the videos are authentic or not. Hunter Biden isn’t running for office. Serial rapist Donald Trump is running for office. Hello? Wingnuts? Do you not see how sex scandals might be of limited use to you in this election?

The FiveThirtyEight polling average has been pretty much frozen in place for several days. I think people have made up their minds on this election. I’m going to be uneasy about the Electoral College until we get states called, but I am hopeful, and I’m hopeful about the Senate also. Tonight is the last big potentially game-changing television event, which is the 60 Minute interviews in which, by all accounts, Trump comes across as a whiny, petulant child. I may watch.

The New York Times editorial board has an editorial up headlined R.I.P., G.O.P.

Of all the things President Trump has destroyed, the Republican Party is among the most dismaying.

“Destroyed” is perhaps too simplistic, though. It would be more precise to say that Mr. Trump accelerated his party’s demise, exposing the rot that has been eating at its core for decades and leaving it a hollowed-out shell devoid of ideas, values or integrity, committed solely to preserving its own power even at the expense of democratic norms, institutions and ideals.

Do read the whole thing. And it says something that the cautious New York Times published this.

If we and the nation survive this year, we may look back and decide that it took the combination of Trump and covid to wake people up to the debilitated state of our politics and government. It’s been screwed for a long time before Trump became POTUS, but with the help of complicit news media it managed a charade of normal. But Trump plus covid blew that fiction out of the water. And maybe a fire has been lit under the Democrats so that they will stop being nothing but the party that’s not as bad as the other party.

Elsewhere: Will Bunch at the Philadelphia Inquirer, Trump, TV pundits don’t have a fracking clue about Pennsylvania and fossil fuels.

Early Voting News and Other Stuff

The pandemic is raging out of control, especially in the Midwest and western Mountain states. Will this impact in-person voting on election day?

I’m not the only one wondering. Ed Kilgore writes about the surge in early voting by Democrats and wonders if Republican voting suppression efforts are backfiring.

Yes, the surge could mean massive overall turnout — or it could simply reflect fears of health risks for in-person voting on Election Day, or unusually early mail-in or in-person voting based on concerns about postal delivery or long lines. And the Democratic skew could mean a big sweep, or simply the partisanship in voting methods resulting from the president’s endless and false attacks on voting by mail….

…My colleague Eric Levitz recently speculated that Trump’s devious tactics might backfire if ongoing spikes in COVID-19 cases keep Republicans the president has convinced to vote in person instead of voting by mail to stay home on November 3. So it’s possible the GOP effort to shape an electorate in its own image could backfire twice, by scaring away Republicans and turbocharging angry Democrats. What goes around comes around, for sure.

Suppression tactics such as Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s limiting drop-off boxes to one per county and shenanigans with the mail have inspired Democrats to get their votes in as early as possible, by mail and by early in-person voting. See ‘Warning flare’: New swing-state data shows massive Democratic early-vote lead at Politico. Trump voters appear to be planning to vote on election day — just in time for peak covid.

There has also been a pattern of covid spikes following in the wake of Trump rallies. Way to go, Trumpers.

(Update: See Trump campaign flouted agreement to follow health guidelines at rally, documents show.)

Elsewhere — see Jenny Gross at the New York Times, Far-Right Groups Are Behind Most U.S. Terrorist Attacks, Report Finds.

The report, published Thursday by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, found that white supremacist groups were responsible for 41 of 61 “terrorist plots and attacks” in the first eight months of this year, or 67 percent.

The finding comes about two weeks after an annual assessment by the Department of Homeland Security warned that violent white supremacy was the “most persistent and lethal threat in the homeland” and that white supremacists were the most deadly among domestic terrorists in recent years.

The report also warned that violence could rise after the election.

Also elsewhere, Jared and Ivanka are upset about these billboards in Times Square.

Jared and Ivanka are suing the Lincoln Project, who paid for the billboards. The quote attributed to Jared is from this Vanity Fair article that said Kushner, in charge of acquiring PPE and other supplies and getting them to where supplies were needed, made the political decision to let the states manage on their own. Blue states, and especially New York City, were being hit hard at the time.

“Free markets will solve this,” Kushner said dismissively. “That is not the role of government.”

The same attendee explained that although he believed in open markets, he feared that the system was breaking. As evidence, he pointed to a CNN report about New York governor Andrew Cuomo and his desperate call for supplies.

“That’s the CNN bullshit,” Kushner snapped. “They lie.”

According to another attendee, Kushner then began to rail against the governor: “Cuomo didn’t pound the phones hard enough to get PPE for his state…. His people are going to suffer and that’s their problem.”

When the Lincoln Project received a warning from the couples’ lawyer demanding the billboards be removed, the Lincoln Project tweeted this response.

Well, So Much for the Debates

I was thinking this morning that at least we’re past the debates, but I know a lot of people may still be confronted with gubernatorial and senatorial debates. But, really, who needs them now? Do you not know who you are voting for? If not, you learn more about the candidates’ positions on issues by going to their websites, anyway. The debates are just theater.

I’m seeing a lot of commentaries that say last night’s debate was more “substantive” than the first one. But I wouldn’t call last night’s debate “substantive” at all. It was still just sound bytes and too many claims left unchallenged. And while people are tripping all over themselves praising moderator Kristen Welker, I’d give her a C+, B at most. She was better than Chris Wallace or Susan Page, at least.

I’ve said before, and I’ll say again, I hope that before we have another presidential election, the parties, the debate commission (if it isn’t disbanded), and the networks need to work out an entirely different kind of debate structure that slows down the pace, allows for more time to answer questions in depth, allows more time for challenges of factual claims, and includes robust use of mic cuts.

The fact-check thing remains a problem. Today nearly every newspaper and media outlet has a big honking fact check of the debate that takes everything Trump said last night apart. But most voters are not going to read those fact checks. If it’s not on the teevee, they don’t see it.

However, it’s also the case that lies don’t necessarily work. Some of the claims Trump made about Biden taking millions of dollars from foreign governments were new to me — I take it this stuff is from the right-wing media echo chamber — and I question whether independent viewers who don’t soak their heads in Breitbart and RedState found it credible. See also Trump’s sideshow fizzles out by Ryan Lizza at Politico.

I also doubt anyone but die-hard Trump groupies believe Trump’s promises that the pandemic is almost gone and he’ll have a great new health care plan any minute now.

Oh, and is New York City really a ghost town? Check out the live cams of Times Square and judge for yourself. Times Square has been more crowded, certainly, but that’s not a ghost town.

Regarding the pandemic, it’s possible Trump really doesn’t know that it’s hitting some rural, red-state areas especially hard right now. But the virus is everywhere now, in red states and blue. It’s not confined to one or two hot spots. I looked up states with the highest positivity rates — the top ten right now are South Dakota, Idaho, Wyoming, Iowa (22.3), Kansas, Nebraska, Nevada, Alabama, Mississippi, and Utah. And South Dakota’s rate is a whopping 35.2, which I understand may be the highest on the planet. States with the lowest rates, from lowest to highest, are Maine (0.6), Massachusetts, New York (1.3), Washington DC, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, and Rhode Island (2.4). However, cases are increasing in some of those states. Cases are increasing pretty much everywhere, I understand.

My point is that the American people are not always as stupid as we seem. U.S. politicians can easily get away with lying about stuff going on elsewhere, but when they lie about things going on in people’s real-world lives, at least some of us catch on. Anywhere you live, the local news is telling you how many new cases are in your county, and if the hospitals are full, and how many people have died.

There’s also a story at Politico that says the early voting in battleground states is overwhelmingly Democratic.

Democrats have opened up a yawning gap in early voting over Republicans in six of the most crucial battleground states — but that only begins to tell the story of their advantage heading into Election Day.

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

Apparently Trump supporters are waiting until election day to vote. How many of them are going to test positive between now and then? Wisconsin, Florida, and Pennsylvania aren’t the worst states, but they all have positivity rates above 10. The pandemic could end up suppressing Trump votes.

That said, I doubt that last debate will make any difference or change any minds, which in effect makes it a Biden win. We’ll see if the polls budge in the next two or three days.

There is one more big televised campaign event, which will be the October 18 edition of 60 Minutes on CBS. “The Republican and Democratic candidates for president take questions from Lesley Stahl and Norah O’Donnell, next Sunday,” the promo says. That’s the interview Trump ended abruptly because Lesley Stahl reminded him that he is the president. How dare she! But everything I’ve heard about the interview says it makes Trump look very, very bad. I’ve neard nothing about the Biden interview.

I saw a meme this morning that said, “Let’s simplify this … vote for the guy you’d trust to watch your dog for a week.” So, bottom line: When you pick the dog up from the Biden’s, he’d be fine and probably have a couple of new chew toys. When you pick the dog up from the Trump’s, they will have gone off to one of their other properties, the dog will be missing, and no one on the staff will know who you are and that you’d left a dog.

Stuff to Read

Nancy LeTourneau, Washington Monthly, Fox News May Be Heading Towards an Epic Election-Night Showdown

Greg Sargent, Washington Post, Trump is drowning in his own lies. Here are the latest signs of it.

Paul Krugman, New York Times, How Many Americans Will Ayn Rand Kill?

Thomas Wright, The Atlantic, Real Problems Do Not Exist for Trump

David Frum, The Atlantic, Trump Doesn’t Care

Frank Bruni, New York Times, That’s the Last We Need to Hear From Trump

Update: A couple more – –

Nicholas Lemann, The New Yorker, The Republican Identity Crisis

Jennifer Rubin, Washington Post, Trump’s Three Fatal Flaws

Forget Taking the Heat; Trump Can’t Take Lukewarm.

As threatened, Trump has released his team’s video of the Lesley Stahl 60 Minutes interview. I have not watched it, so I defer to the headline at Daily Beast: Trump Exposes Himself as Whiner-in-Chief in Leaked ‘60 Minutes’ Interview.

Matt Wilstein writes, “what anyone who watches all 38 minutes will see is that the president spent the bulk of his time openly whining about how ‘tough’ the questions were while refusing to actually answer any of them in a coherent manner.”

For example, Stahl’s first tough question was “Why do you want to be president again?” I take it from reading about it that she also pressed him on his second term priorities, and he couldn’t answer that one, either.

On Thursday morning, CBS “This Morning” aired a short preview of Trump’s “60 Minutes” interview that he reportedly walked out on because he was unhappy with “60 Minutes” anchor Lesley Stahl’s tough questioning.

The short clip aired by CBS “This Morning” shows Stahl asking Trump what his “biggest domestic priority” is, but the President proceeded to boast about his supposed economic achievements while dodging the question. Stahl pushed back on Trump’s assertion that his administration “created the greatest economy in the history of our country” by telling him “you know that’s not true.”

And, of course, it’s not true. And it wasn’t true before the pandemic, either.

Trump also got caught with his pants down on health care:

Democrats seized Thursday on Trump’s acknowledgment in his “60 Minutes” interview that he would like the Supreme Court to end the Affordable Care Act, saying that it is further evidence that he is trying to take health care away from Americans.

During the interview — a recording of which the White House released ahead of its scheduled airing Sunday — Trump told CBS News journalist Lesley Stahl that he hopes the court abolishes the policy, commonly known as Obamacare.

“I hope that they end it; it’ll be so good if they end it,” Trump said.

Pressed by Stahl how he would respond to millions of Americans losing their health insurance, Trump insisted that he has a plan, even though he has not released one.

Trump also complained (several times, I take it) that Stahl asked Joe Biden easier questions. Stahl responded (several times, I take it) that someone else was interviewing Joe Biden for 60 Minutes; she hadn’t asked Joe Biden anything. But if it’s anything like the dueling town halls, it was Trump who got the easier questions. Biden got asked about his vote on the Clinton era crime bill and about what he will do with the Supreme Court. Trump bungled softball questions on wearing face masks and repudiating QAnon.

In the past few days a number of media commenters have said Trump is too far lost in his own fake information bubble to navigate real-world interviews. And it enrages him when people try to make him inferface with reality. See, for example, My Wild 2 Weeks Inside the Trump Campaign Bubble by Ryan Lizza:

Trump set about creating a closed information ecosystem where he defines for his supporters what is true and what isn’t. …

…The rallies are crucial to Trump, not just because they feed his famously insatiable ego, but because they are the main vehicle by which he “informs” his supporters what he thinks they should know that professional reporters aren’t telling them. At a Trump rally, the pandemic is almost over, a vaccine is imminent, Biden is an obvious criminal (and also mentally “gonzo”), Trump saved millions of people from Covid, he is ahead in the polls in most swing states, “the Christmas season will be canceled” by Democrats, and there is widespread fraud with mail-in balloting .

That’s the reality Trump lives in, and any attempt to make him respond to, you know, commonly experienced reality is met with defensive antagonism.

Tonight is the last debate, as as of early this afternoon Trump hasn’t chickened out yet.  I’ll probably “watch” it the way I “watched” the first debate. On the New York Times live stream, with the sound off, following the running comments. Although I may try to Washington Post live stream this time.