Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Federal judge nixes DOJ's attempt to represent Trump in defamation case

Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog) reports that a federal Judge blocks DOJ’s gambit in Trump’s E. Jean Carroll case. After a woman accused Trump of sexual assault, he lashed out at his accuser, prompting a defamation case. The DOJ wants to intervene; a judge won’t let it.

Donald Trump’s private legal team have repeatedly tried and failed to make E. Jean Carroll’s defamation lawsuit go away. As regular readers may recall, the Justice Department filed court documents last month, declaring its intention to represent the president in the case.

That doesn’t appear to be going well. CNBC reported this morning

A federal judge on Tuesday rejected an effort by the Department of Justice to have the United States government replace President Donald Trump in a lawsuit in which he is accused of defaming writer E. Jean Carroll after she said he raped her in the mid–1990s. The DOJ had argued that Trump was acting in his capacity as a government employee when he said Carroll was lying and motivated by money. Because of that, the DOJ said, the government should be the defendant in Carroll’s civil lawsuit, not the president.

U.S. District Court Judge Lewis Kaplan rejected the Justice Department’s arguments, clearing the way for Carroll and her attorneys to sue the president for defamation personally.

For those who may need a refresher on the controversy, let’s revisit how we arrived at this point.

Carroll spent years as a prominent writer, media figure, and advice columnist, including having hosted a show on America’s Talking, which later became MSNBC. As regular readers may recall, in June 2019, she also joined a long list of women who’ve accused Trump of sexual misconduct.

Indeed, in a book published last year, Carroll alleged an encounter in a New York department store in the mid–1990s, which the writer described as a violent sexual assault committed by the future president. Though definitively proving or disproving Carroll’s claim is difficult – there is no security footage to review – the writer said she confided in two friends shortly after the alleged incident, telling them at the time what she said occurred. Those friends soon after came forward with on-the-record accounts.

She also wrote in her book, “The Donna Karan coatdress still hangs on the back of my closet door, unworn and unlaundered since that evening.” It’s led Carroll to seek Trump’s DNA as part of her case.

The president has denied the claim, arguing, among other things, that his latest accuser is a “liar” who isn’t his “type.” Following those comments, Carroll sued Trump for defamation. (When the allegations first surfaced over the summer, Trump issued a statement claiming that he’d never met E. Jean Carroll. There is, however, a photograph of the two interacting at an event in the mid–1980s.)

In August, a New York judge rejected the latest in a series of efforts to delay the case, and soon after, the Trump/Barr Justice Department decided to intervene.

In fact, the Justice Department peddled a very strange argument, asserting that the president was “acting within the scope of his office” when he lashed out at the woman who accused him of sexual assault, which meant not only that American taxpayers should pay for Trump’s legal defense, but also that the United States government should be the defendant in the case.

And since the government can’t be sued for defamation, the gambit appeared to be an effort on the part of the Justice Department to make the entire case go away.

Former acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal described the Justice Department’s position last month as “insane,” adding that DOJ officials “are doing everything they can to appear to be Trump’s personal law firm.”

The judge in the case, not surprisingly, also failed to find the Justice Department’s argument persuasive, concluding that Trump clearly was not acting in his official capacity when he publicly targeted Carroll. “His comments concerned an alleged sexual assault that took place several decades before he took office, and the allegations have no relationship to the official business of the United States,” Kaplan wrote.

Today’s ruling will very likely be appealed. Watch this space.

Postscript: It’s also worth noting for context that the public was confronted with a recording from 2005 in which Trump was heard bragging about committing sexual assaults. The Republican said that he kisses women he considers attractive – “I don’t even wait,” Trump claimed at the time – which he said he could get away with because of his public profile.

“When you’re a star, they let you do it,” Trump said on the recording. “You can do anything. Grab ’em by the p***y.”

Among the claims raised by Carroll was an allegation, denied by the president, that Trump “forced his fingers around my private area.”

Why Republicans needed to pack the supreme court

Heather Cox Richardson reviews yesterday’s good, bad, and ugly.

The big news yesterday was the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett.

Shortly after the ceremony, Trump released a video of the event with Barrett walking alongside him through the doors of the White House onto a balcony where the two stood for the crowd. It was a triumphant demonstration of Trump’s power, and undermined the illusion that Barrett will be a nonpartisan judge. Traditionally in America, Supreme Court justices keep a distance from political leaders, yet she has just appeared in a campaign commercial for the president.

The thing is, Barrett signaled her intentions in her acceptance speech which seemed more like a campaign ad.

So what we have tonight is the Republican Party under Trump ramming through a third Supreme Court justice who is far out of sync with the vast majority of the American people, an authoritarian ceremony for an election ad, and a sign that partisans are working to steal the upcoming election.

More bad news for Tump and the GOP

The administration is sinking in bad news. It has given up on combatting the coronavirus, which infected 74,323 more Americans today and killed at least 534. Reflecting that the rising infection numbers mean a slower economic recovery, the stock market today had its biggest drop in a month. Financiers are so tired of Trump’s volatility, including his tweets, that they are pouring five times more money behind Biden. Meanwhile, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, who admitted the coronavirus policy on Sunday, is so hated that 18 administration officials talked to Josh Dawsey of the Washington Post about him; one White House advisor said “It’s hard to count the ways Meadows has failed as a chief of staff…. It’s been an unmitigated disaster.”

A Trump appointee who chaired the Federal Salary Council overseeing federal pay resigned today in protest over Trump’s recent Executive Order enabling him to fire key federal workers. “[T]he Executive Order is nothing more than a smokescreen for what is clearly an attempt to require the political loyalty of those who advise the President, or failing that, to enable their removal with little if any due process,” Ron Sanders wrote, “As a matter of conscience, I can no longer serve him or his administration.”

And staffers at the Department of Health and Human Services are openly looking for other jobs. Three of them told Politico’s Dan Diamond that they are voting for Joe Biden. “I’ve never voted for a Democrat for president, but Biden hit the sweet spot. I know he’s not too far left and he understands how to make government work,” one said. "And I know he’ll never make fun of [Anthony] Fauci in public.”

Biden’s campaign, run quietly and steadily, has picked up steam until he is ahead in the polls by about 9 or 10 points nationally, and there is no sign that Trump is closing that gap. Clearly, the president had hoped the malarkey about the Hunter Biden laptop story—which we learned today White House lawyers tried to pitch to the Wall Street Journal before Rudy Giuliani took it to the New York Post– would create the same stampede from Biden that the email laptop story caused from Clinton in 2016, but that stampede has not materialized.

On Sunday, nine days before the election, about 58.6 million Americans had already voted early, more than the total number who voted early or by mail in 2016. Registered Democrats have made up 51% of those votes, while registered Republicans have made up 31%, leading Trump officials to attack the legitimacy of mail-in ballots and to insist that “the huge majority of President Trump’s supporters” were planning to vote on Election Day. But Black Americans, the heart of the Democratic Party, are turning out in huge numbers. “This election is for saving the U.S.” business consultant Dave Richards told CNN’s Faith Karimi.

People like Biden. They think he’s a decent man, who cares about someone other than himself. He has plenty of that old word, fallen into disuse in the last four years: character. He has principles, honor, a work ethic, and he treats people with respect—attributes we should demand in our officials. He has provided detailed plans about how he would address the country’s problems: systemic racism, economic inequality, and coronavirus, among others. At the same time, he offers a positive vision of America, a welcome contrast to Trump’s dark vision of American carnage. Biden constantly repeats that there is nothing Americans can’t do if we do it together.

And that, right there, is why the Republicans needed to pack the Supreme Court.

Two Lincoln Project ads

David Gordon at Blog for Arizona presents two ads from the Lincoln Project.

Please watch the Lincoln Project Ad “Fairy Tale”.

The Lincoln Project Presents its Closing Argument for Joe Biden.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Lincoln Project Times Square ads trigger legal battle - good read.

Ever since a group of former GOP strategists and conservative columnists founded the Lincoln Project, there’s been a steady stream of hard-hitting ads that annoy the Trumpkins to no end. Most recently, the Project has billboards in Times Square that expose Ivanka and Jared as the grifters they are. They struck back with a threat to sue unless the Project takes down the billboards. (Remember that one of Trump’s bullying methods is to sue those who threaten his ego.) Here is the counter punch from the Project’s counsel. Read and form your own conclusions.

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NH Union Leader says Biden 'is the president we desperately need.'

Heather Cox Richardson, in the October 25, 2020 Letters from an American, writes about how the Trump administration has conceded defeat - not that they were ever serious about controlling COVID–19.

While the administration is working to fire up Trump’s base, it is also working to downplay the coronavirus, even as infections continue to rip across the nation. Daily infection numbers are the highest they have ever been during this crisis, with 78,702 new cases reported on Saturday and more than 20 states at record levels of infection. We have had more than 8.5 million infections in the country and have lost almost 225,000 Americans in the official count to Covid–19. Wisconsin has opened a field hospital; Utah is so overwhelmed it is preparing to ration care.

We learned last night that at least five people on the staff of Vice President Mike Pence have tested positive for the coronavirus, including Pence’s chief of staff, Marc Short. Nonetheless, the vice president is not going to quarantine; he is going to continue to campaign. According to White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, Pence can travel because he is working and he is “essential personnel.” According to other officials, Meadows was hoping to keep the outbreak out of the news.

Today, Meadows told CNN’s Jake Tapper that the administration was “not going to control the pandemic.” Instead, “What we need to do is make sure that we have the proper mitigation factors, whether it’s therapies or vaccines or treatments to make sure that people don’t die from this.”

Other countries have managed to bring their numbers of infection and death downward, but the White House plan seems to be simply to let the disease take its course. South Korea, with 55 million people, got the disease at the same time we did. It has had fewer than 500 deaths. With our population of about six times theirs– 331 million— we have almost 225,000.

But Trump is trying to demonstrate that all is well by rejecting mask use, holding rallies, and telling people, “It is going away.” He has held nearly three dozen rallies since August, usually at airport hangars, appearing to revel in speaking before crowds. In an investigation, USA Today discovered that, in at least five counties, Covid–19 cases rose after Trump’s rallies. “We are coming around, we’re rounding the turn, we have the vaccines, we have everything,” Trump said in New Hampshire on Sunday. “Even without the vaccines, we’re rounding the turn. It’s going to be over.”

The staunchly conservative New Hampshire Union Leader, from Manchester, New Hampshire, isn’t buying it. Objecting to the president’s dramatic expansion of the national debt by more than “7 TRILLION dollars” (their capital letters), as well as his weaponizing of social media, the editors note that “We may be turning a corner with this virus, but the corner we turned is down a dark alley of record infections and deaths.”

The Union Leader is backing Joe Biden. “We have found Mr. Biden to be a caring, compassionate and professional public servant. He has repeatedly expressed his desire to be a president for all of America, and we take him at his word. Joe Biden may not be the president we want, but in 2020 he is the president we desperately need. He will be a president to bring people together and right the ship of state.”

Sunday, October 25, 2020

The city upon a hill - less shining, more tarnished, hurtling through a darkest hour

Tim Miller, writing at The Bulwark appraises the current state of our shining city upon a hill.

I’m sure many of you have watched Reagan’s powerful farewell address over the years. I’d ask you to do it again.

Because I don’t see how you can look at America in 2020 and believe that we are living up to Ronald Reagan’s call. We are not acting like a city atop a hill standing on rocks stronger than oceans. Nor are we a land teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace.

What I see instead is a country of pilgrims hurtling through the darkness … yearning for home.

I hope we can still find it.

The past few days when I’ve been at that window upstairs, I’ve thought a bit of the shining “city upon a hill.” The phrase comes from John Winthrop, who wrote it to describe the America he imagined. What he imagined was important, because he was an early Pilgrim - an early “Freedom Man.” He journeyed here on what today we’d call a little wooden boat, and, like the other pilgrims, he was looking for a home that would be free.

I’ve spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don’t know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind, it was a tall proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, wind swept, God blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace - a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity, and if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors, and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here.

That’s how I saw it, and see it still. How Stands the City?

And how stands the city on this winter night? More prosperous, more secure and happier than it was eight years ago. But more than that: after 200 years, two centuries, she still stands strong and true on the granite ridge, and her glow has held steady no matter what storm.

And she’s still a beacon, still a magnet for all who must have freedom, for all the Pilgrims from all the lost places who are hurtling through the darkness, toward home.

Somehow, I cannot see Donald Trump making anything approaching that speech.

See Miller’s post for a litany of why not.

Trump's nonexistent health plan - a Lincoln Project chronology

As one of the characters in the Mad Max movies put it: “Plan? There ain’t no plan.”

The Lincoln Project takes on Trump’s laughably nonexistent health care plan reports Aldous J Pennyfarthing at Daily Kos.

Donald Trump has been pretending he has a health care plan for at least four years — and it’s usually just two weeks from being unveiled.

He has no health care plan. Never has.

Other than risibly claiming he’s going to protect guaranteed issue for people with preexisting conditions — in the ether, as Joe Biden pointed out last night — he has nothing at all. He reminds me of a mob capo driving his victim out to the Pine Barrens. Yeah, the health care plan is just up ahead. Who’s that in the back seat? Never mind. He’s my girlfriend’s cousin. Don’t worry about it.

Well, The Lincoln Project has noticed, and they put together this comical supercut.

Nearly every substantive promise Trump has ever made has been vaporware. The one big thing he managed to get done — a giant tax cut that went overwhelmingly to the wealthy and big corporations — sucked donkey bits.

There’s zero chance he has a health care plan. …

Why Trump is Finished - but let's crush it. Vote!

Jonathan V. Last in The Bulwark makes the case for Trump finished.

Yesterday morning [Oct 22] I wrote about how the polling data are all lined up in a way that makes logical and numerical sense. I painted the picture of a race where the range of outcomes runs from Biden landslide to narrow Trump win.

But by late afternoon, I saw two pieces of data that changed my mind and I have now settled into a view that, barring some unforeseen event—such as a terrorist attack, or a candidate death—the election is over. You can read my reasoning here; it mostly has to do with the level of turnout that we’re seeing.

(A Trump victory would mean that there was a giant polling error and such errors are more common in low-turnout scenarios. The higher the turnout, the more accurate polls tend to be, because math.)

A lot of readers were uncomfortable with this analysis and worried that I was taking a victory lap prematurely.

So allow me to reassure you that this was not my intent. Let me explain.

Over the last two weeks we published two extraordinary pieces at The Bulwark. One was from James Carville, one of the great political minds of his generation in Democratic politics. The other from Stuart Stevens, who is the same, but from the GOP.

I cannot tell you how proud I am to be associated with an institution where these two men—each brilliant, but each having spent their careers opposing the other—could publicly link arms. This is, literally, what it means to put country over party.

I want to quote each of them to you, as a way to explain why I thought it was important to say—now, out loud—why Trump is finished.

Here’s James:

In just a short time, America will go from its darkest hour to its finest hour.

Very seldom in American history have there been periods when people can nobly wage a crusade to create real and lasting change. But when these crusades do occur, when those moments arrive, what we do to vanquish the threat to freedom builds something everlasting into the framework of our society… .

We find ourselves again at such a turning point. Donald Trump’s authoritarian presence behind the Resolute Desk is amongst the gravest threats America has ever faced from within. And Americans have risen to meet this threat… .

I can say with certainty that in all my years, joining in this crusade to take America back from the brink of destruction is the greatest thing I have ever been a part of in my life.

This crusade is something noble.

And here’s Stuart:

I sense a strange lack of confidence with Democrats, as if they have been juggling eggs for most of a marathon and can’t believe they actually might cross the finish in first place.

In these last two weeks, I would plead with Democrats to change that mindset and banish the timidity. If I ran the Democratic party, here’s what I’d be telling my troops:

We are going to crush Donald Trump and the sickness he represents. There are more of us than there are of them. We are right. They are wrong. This is our moment. This is our destiny. Walk with confidence. Do not falter. Victory will be ours.

Let us go forward in this final stretch with the confidence that our mission is vital and our opponent is weak.

Do not hesitate to swagger. These last two weeks belong to you. Years from now you will look back on these last days as some of the best in your lives. An evil was unleashed in the country you love and you rose to smite it. You will slay this dragon… .

Now is when you turn a victory into a rout. We are all tired, but the other side isn’t just tired. They are frightened and confused. As they should be. Because they are losing the fight for the soul of this country. And they know it.

If you’d permit me to put aside my professional detachment for a moment, I agree with both of these good and honorable men. Completely.

Which is why I thought it was important to say what I thought, out loud, rather than hedging and weaseling and positioning.

He’s going to lose.

New Biden ad narrated by actor Brad Pitt

Brad Pitt Narrates the latest Biden/Harris Ad reports David Gordon at Blog for Arizona.

During Game Four of the 2020 World Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Tampa Bay Rays, the Biden/Harris Campaign released an ad called “Make Life Better,” emphasizing Joe Biden’s commitment to inclusiveness, unity, and his desire to work hard for everyone, including the people who did not vote for him.

The ad is narrated by actor Brad Pitt.

The ad starts with video clips of the 2020 Democratic Presidential Nominee meeting the American People on the campaign trail, always smiling, always personable, and always displaying his humanity.

Brad Pitt then starts narrating saying:

“America is a place for everyone. Those who chose this country. Those who fought for it. Some Republicans. Some Democrats. And most, just somewhere in between. All looking for the same thing. Someone who understands. Their hopes. Their dreams. Their pain. To listen. To bring people together. To get up every day and work to make life better for families like yours. To look you in the eye and treat you with respect and tell you the truth. To work just as hard for the people who voted for him as those who didn’t. To be a President for all Americans.”

If you are undecided about voting for another four years of Trump, you must read this NOW

The Washington Post’s Editorial Board warns undecided voters about why Trump’s America in 2024 would be America not at all. Here it is in full with block quotes suppressed. (Thanks to Scriber’s Editor-at-large Sherry.)

MANY PEOPLE may find it hard to understand, but just over a week before the election, some voters remain undecided. To them we would say: A vote for a second Trump term is a vote for an America in decline and an American democracy in danger.

At best, the demise would be gradual — a descent into diminished prosperity, constricted opportunity for your children and grandchildren, waning influence overseas and continued erosion of democratic norms at home.

This is not a matter of conjecture; it is a judgment based on President Trump’s record and promises.

What are the sources of U.S. prosperity — of our ability to generate and enjoy more than 15 percent of the global economy with just over 4 percent of the world’s population? They include a predictable rule of law; a professional civil service; a position as global leader that lets us help set the rules and have the U.S. dollar accepted as the only true international currency; and high, if not world-leading, standards of health care and education.

Also key has been a broadly shared commitment to fairness and equal opportunity, even if we argue ferociously about how to translate that commitment into policy. We have prospered, while other developed nations have begun to stagnate, by attracting talented, entrepreneurial and ambitious immigrants from all over the world. Our commitment to freedom has allowed immigrants and native-born alike to contribute to the fullest extent of their abilities.

Mr. Trump would undermine all of those strengths. He replaces rule of law with presidential whim, picking and choosing corporate favorites and twisting the criminal system to favor his friends. At an accelerating pace, he is politicizing, corrupting and sapping the morale of our government — our foreign service, our health and scientific agencies, our keepers of statistics. Many will hesitate to invest — to build new factories or create new jobs — if law and governmental power become unpredictable, wielded to reward cronies and punish the disfavored.

He craves the approval of autocrats who wish our country ill while abandoning and insulting allies; the latter will not stand by and take his abuse for four more years, while the former will exploit his credulity. Already the United States finds itself humiliatingly isolated on key issues, like relations with Iran. As Mr. Trump fulfills long-held ambitions to undermine alliances with Europe, Japan and South Korea, the United States will be further enfeebled; China, increasingly dominant; the world, ever less stable.

He is in court seeking to overturn the Affordable Care Act, so that no one with a preexisting health condition could be sure of obtaining insurance; tens of millions of Americans could lose access to health care.He pretends to object only to undocumented immigration, but he has cut legal immigration in half. The most talented scientists and computer engineers of the next generation are choosing Canada, Australia, China — anywhere but Donald Trump’s America.

That America, in Mr. Trump’s vision, is one in which groups are pitted against each other, not encouraged to cooperate. States and cities with Democratic-leaning populations are enemy territory. He is contemptuous of any movement for equal justice and friendly to white supremacists. He has named 56 men and women to the nation’s highest courts—the Supreme Court and federal appeals courts. Not a single one is Black.

In Mr. Trump’s America, science and truth are treated with contempt. With his mangled response, the novel coronavirus has claimed more lives here than in any other country, and the pandemic and its accompanying recession could drag on long into a second Trump term. The contempt for science likewise shapes Mr. Trump’s utter failure to respond to climate change. The Earth is ailing; the damage from four more years of regression could be irreparable.

In Mr. Trump’s America, political rivals are traitors who must be prosecuted and jailed. Congressional oversight is an inconvenience that can be ignored and, eventually, suppressed. Journalists seeking to report on his administration are enemies of the people. He welcomes foreign interference to help his campaign, undermines confidence in the election and threatens not to accept its results. If he remains in power, fairly or fraudulently, there is no reason to believe that in a second term Mr. Trump will not act on his authoritarian impulses. His incompetence in government, though real, will be no protection; he has shown himself, in the past year, increasingly adept at evading the checks and balances we thought the Constitution guaranteed.

Finally: Mr. Trump has proven himself, in the covid–19 catastrophe, incapable of leading in crisis. What if the next virus is far more deadly — which health experts say is entirely possible? What if the next emergency involves a risk of nuclear war, given Mr. Trump’s abject failure to rein in the nuclear programs of Iran or North Korea? Can anyone trust him to manage such a challenge, atop an administration from which he has hounded almost all knowledgeable and experienced officials?

As we’ve written before, we believe former vice president Joe Biden well-suited to be president. You, undecided voter, may be less sure; maybe you disagree with some of the policies he espouses — that’s fine. We would simply ask you to weigh your concerns about the unknowns of a Biden presidency against the certain dangers of a second Trump term. On the one hand, a tax, a minimum wage, an energy policy you might not like; on the other, the demise of U.S. democracy, prosperity and global leadership. It shouldn’t be a hard call.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

No October surprise - Wall Street Journal

In The Bulwark morning email, Charlie Sykes predicts that Donald Trump is Finished. Here is one reason why - there is no October surprise, at least no HunterGate.

WSJ vs. WSJ: This. Is. Amazing.

For days, we’ve been hearing that the Wall Street Journal was working on a big investigative piece on Hunter Biden. At first, last night, it looked like it was this opinion piece by Kimberly Strassel that rehashed the details of Hunter’s attempts to launch a business venture in China. But within a few minutes, the Wall Street Journal’s news department weighed in with a dueling article, essentially debunking the whole thing.

Text messages and emails related to the venture that were provided to the Journal by Mr. Bobulinski, mainly from the spring and summer of 2017, don’t show either Hunter Biden or James Biden discussing a role for Joe Biden in the venture.

Mr. Gilliar told the Journal: “I would like to clear up any speculation that former Vice President Biden was involved with the 2017 discussions about our potential business structure. I am unaware of any involvement at anytime of the former Vice President. The activity in question never delivered any project revenue.”

So, to sum up: Hunter may have had some sketchy ideas; the deal never happened; there is no evidence that Joe Biden played any role; and the whole thing happened in 2017, after the former VP had left office.

Pfffffffft.

We can expect continued heavy-breathing from TrumpWorld and self-stroking from the usual suspects in the conservative media, but this is not going to be the October Surprise of Trump’s dreams.

Friday, October 23, 2020

Trump was Trump - and he lost the debate

The Scribers watched the Biden/Trump debate last night. The Trump performance was not as bad as in the previous debate - but that’s a pretty low bar for a particularly low man. He interrupted and frequently spoke over moderator Kristen Welker - who nevertheless managed to enforce a modicum of order. And then he turned to ad hominem attacks on Biden and his family. Here are some other responses.

Frank Bruni, writing at the NY Times, says That’s the Last We Need to Hear From Trump. He was nasty. He was dishonest. Next, please. (Thanks to Editor at Large Sherry for this one.)

It’s funny that everybody talks about Joe Biden as the old jalopy in this race, because on Thursday night in Nashville, it was Donald Trump who seemed to be running on fumes.

I don’t mean physically: He had his full repertoire of facial expressions (cocky, kooky, menacing, martyred) and the usual grating bray. I mean metaphorically. I mean politically.

He needed to show voters something different from what he had been showing them over the course of this wretched year, and he just didn’t have it in him.

He needed to part company with his foul temper, but that’s really the only weather left in him. His calmness during the first third or so of the debate gave way to the usual excitability during the rest of it. He was back to his characteristic grandiosity, his customary falsehoods, his mocking, his taunting.

“We can’t lock ourselves up in a basement like Joe does,” he pouted. “He has this thing about living in a basement.”

Then, later, addressing Biden directly: “Don’t give me the stuff about how you’re this innocent baby.” What a perfect example of Trump’s habit of assigning his opponents caricatures that apply perfectly to him.

(That’s known as psychological projection,)

For most of the evening, Biden shook his head in disbelief, smiled the way you do at an incorrigible toddler, said less than he could or should have and counted down the minutes until it was all over. …

[Biden’s] message in general and his closing comments in particular were that we’re better than this and that we can move past it. He delivered them just sturdily enough that he probably will get the chance to lead us into our next chapter.

What [Trump] needed on Thursday night was a “Hail Mary,” not a “Biased Lesley,” which was his tack in the hours beforehand, as he pressed an obsessive, unwarranted attack on Lesley Stahl of “60 Minutes,” one of the most popular and trusted news shows on American television. That pique and petulance followed him onto the stage in Nashville. While his advisers had urged him to smile more than he usually does, he sneered and scowled as much as he always does.

… what I’ve come to appreciate about Biden is that he’s not claiming greatness, not the way Trump does with just about every breath. He’s claiming steadiness. He’s claiming good intentions. If he wins, he may be the rare president who’s not convinced that he’s the smartest person in every room.

I nodded along with his final remarks, when he said, yet again: “What is on the ballot here is the character of this country: decency, honor, respect, treating people with dignity.” He’s right about that. And he’s the right person because of that.

“You know who I am, you know who he is,” Biden said earlier. “Look at us closely.” I don’t need to turn my eyes toward Trump anymore. I’ve seen all that I can take, and I’m long past ready for a different view.

In her October 22, 2020 Letters from an American Heather Cox Richardson has another take on the debate.

The bottom line:“Instant polls gave the debate to Biden by the same margins showing in the polls in general. CNN had Biden at 53% and Trump at 39%; Data Progress had Biden at 52% and Trump at 41%; US Politics had Biden at 52% and Trump at 39%.”

This was not a good day for the president’s reelection campaign. He seemed unable to get over how angry he was at Lesley Stahl from CBS’s 60 Minutes after yesterday’s interview for a special program Sunday evening, and ultimately decided to post on Facebook the video the White House took during it. Trump’s team had said they were recording “for archival purposes only,” and posting the video meant Trump violated his agreement with the network.

Trump seemed to think showing the clip would illustrate how poorly the media treats him, but in fact it shows Stahl behaving professionally, asking solid questions and fact-checking the president, while Trump argues and denigrates her. If the clip was supposed to generate sympathy for him, it backfired.

The debate did him no favors either. Debate moderator Kristen Welker of NBC News was far more effective at keeping control over the debate than the previous two moderators were, especially at first, when the two men appeared to be afraid of her cutting their mics. Trump could not contain himself for long, though, and slipped pretty quickly back into talking over Welker and Biden both. Still, he was far more restrained than he was at the first debate.

More significantly, he made little effort to use his time to connect with voters. He focused simply on badgering Biden and rehearsing the talking points that have become almost set pieces in his performances. They are not entirely comprehensible to someone who is not reading or watching right-wing media, but they are quite shockingly full of lies. And while his language is familiar to his usual audience, it is unlikely to attract new voters, who will likely be confused at best and, possibly, bored after hearing the same phrases for so long.

While Biden, too, strayed from the truth on occasion, CNN fact checker Daniel Dale put it this way: “For a fact checker, you’re kind of sitting there w/Biden. Occasionally you’re like oh that’s wrong. With Trump you’re like the ‘I Love Lucy’ episode in the chocolate factory. You don’t know which one to pick up because there’s just so much.” He noted, “From a lying perspective, Trump is even worse tonight than in the first debate.”

Trump did not make much of a case for his reelection tonight. He seemed to have no plans for what he would like to accomplish in a second term, although he did say he hoped to create a new healthcare plan (he has said repeatedly he already has one). He mocked Biden for talking about the so-called “kitchen table issues” that are important to ordinary voters, and insisted that Biden should have done everything he talks about accomplishing in the future back when he was vice president under President Barack Obama. At one point, Trump talked about what he would do “when I become president.”

For his part, Biden largely ignored Trump’s wild answers and tried to outline his policies, which he described with more detail than clarity, but which were interesting nonetheless because they offered something new when compared with Trump’s rote performance, worn thin by familiarity. Biden had no major slips. Trump pounced on Biden’s declaration that the nation must transition away from oil, instantly responding, “Will you remember that Texas, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Ohio?” But Pennsylvania and Ohio produce just a tiny bit of crude oil—they are both primarily natural gas states—and Trump’s identification of Texas and Oklahoma was a self-own. He is worried about carrying Texas and Oklahoma?

Most telling was that Trump was unprepared for Welker’s final, excellent but softball question: if they were to be elected, what would they say on Inauguration Day to voters who did not support them. Trump claimed that rebuilding the economy “to make our country totally successful as it was prior to the plague coming over from China” would bring Americans together, and then pivoted to attacking Biden, warning that if he were elected, “you will have a depression the likes of which you’ve never seen.”

Biden, though, recognized that Welker had deliberately lobbed them the opportunity to make a final pitch to voters. He promised to represent all voters, not just those who voted for him, and promised to put “science over fiction” and “hope over fear.” “We’re going to choose to move forward because we have enormous opportunities, enormous opportunities to make things better,” he said. “We can grow this economy, we can deal with the systemic racism, and at the same time we can make sure that our economy is being run and moved and motivated by clean energy creating millions of new jobs. That’s the fact.”

On the ballot this year, he said, are “Decency, honor, respect, treating people with dignity, making sure that everyone has an even chance, and I’m going to make sure you get that.”

FiveThirtyEight - In simulations Biden is favored to win the election UPDATE - Oct. 23

Paraphrasing the morning email from 538:

We simulate the election 40,000 times to see who wins most often. Results cited below are from a sample of 100 times. The most recent result is listed first.

Friday, Oct 23: Biden wins 88 in 100, Trump wins 12 in 100. The simulation results seem to have stabilized during the past week.

Thursday, Oct 22: Biden wins 87 in 100, Trump wins 12 in 100. The simulation results seem to have stabilized during the past week.

During the past 2 weeks Biden gained 5 points while Trump lost 5 points. You can track that history by clicking on the “more” tag.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

FiveThirtyEight - In simulations Biden is favored to win the election UPDATE - Oct. 22

Paraphrasing the morning email from 538:

We simulate the election 40,000 times to see who wins most often. Results cited below are from a sample of 100 times. The most recent result is listed first.

Thursday, Oct 22: 18: Biden wins 87 in 100, Trump wins 12 in 100. The simulation results seem to have stabilized during the past week.

During the past 2 weeks Biden gained 5 points while Trump lost 5 points. You can track that history by clicking on the “more” tag.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Biden has 'sizable cash advantage', Bloomberg investing $100M in Florida

Kerry Eleveld, Daily Kos Staff, reports that Trump’s final ad buy shows just how broke his campaign really is.

On a call Monday, Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien revealed the campaign’s total ad buy for the last two weeks of the presidential race would be a whopping a paltry $55 million … split between no fewer than 11 states.

Um, just wow. And that’s not only the Trump campaign, it represents coordinated spending with the Republican National Committee (RNC) too. Far from being a muscular way to close out the race, it feels more like a cry for help. By comparison, Biden campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon said last week that she still anticipates raising another $234 million through the election.

What is perhaps most interesting in these final weeks is just how small Trump is playing even as Team Biden has played very big—and not just in terms of overall spending. As this Politico piece explains, the Biden campaign has seen so many paths to 270 open up that in some cases they realized it would be more cost effective to make national buys rather than spending astronomical amounts in smaller battleground markets. It’s a worth a read.

Under normal circumstances, most campaigns at this point would be making buys to leverage their position in 10 or even fewer states. But the Biden campaign realized that making some national buys through the networks would actually cost only slightly more, for instance, than purchasing air time in states with major Senate races like Arizona, North Carolina, and Georgia, where pricing had gone through the roof. The big upside of the national buys was that they had the advantage of not only reaching the desired markets in key battlegrounds but also establishing a Biden presence in states that were newly on the radar, like Texas.

“We are looking at a very wide map right now,” Becca Siegel, the Biden campaign’s chief analytics officer, said. “Normally at this stage of the campaign, we would be narrowing in. But at this stage of the campaign, we have a lot of pathways that have opened up.”

So as Trump closes out with a whimper, Biden is heading out with a roar, and his sizable cash advantage has made all that possible.

Bloomberg Says He’ll Spend $100 Million in Florida to Help Biden. The move came as polls show a tight race in Florida, and after criticism that the New York billionaire had not delivered on his promise to put his fortune behind defeating President Trump. (Updated Sept. 18, 2020)

That distribution of funds will free up Biden campaign funds for investing in other critical states. For example:

… Mr. Bloomberg’s campaign manager, Kevin Sheekey, had told Democrats privately that if Mr. Bloomberg were not the nominee he would form a new super PAC and mount an enormous effort against Mr. Trump in the country’s biggest swing states.

The new $100 million commitment in Florida will be routed through one of Mr. Bloomberg’s super PACs, Independence USA, as well as other Democratic groups, according to a spokeswoman. The effort is expected to emphasize communications with Hispanic voters, the spokeswoman said.

In a statement issued Sunday, Mr. Sheekey said Mr. Bloomberg’s latest commitments “will mean Democrats and the Biden campaign can invest even more heavily in other key states like Pennsylvania, which will be critical to a Biden victory.”

Trump in Tucson - false coronavirus claims and sexist insult to GOP Sen. McSally

Tim Steller’s opinion: In Tucson, Trump sends erroneous signal the pandemic is over. Actually, Trump blared self-agrandizing bullsh!t. The pandemic is not over. Here are some observations from Steller.

A recent Centers for Disease Control study on Arizona showed how the state’s COVID–19 cases spiked after emergency measures were lifted in mid-May, then dropped sharply after cities and counties started imposing mask requirements in mid-late June.

Before that improvement, we had scary weeks of June and July, when cases surged and our hospitals overflowed. Then after the mask mandates took effect, the positivity rate for diagnostic tests dropped sharply.

We had a manageably low positivity rate of about 4% for five consecutive weeks, from late August to early October. But then the rate rose to 6% the second week of October and 8% the third week.

The “Rt,” a measure of effective spread that the governor’s office frequently cited in July and August when it was low, has risen in Arizona to about 1.10, meaning the spread is accelerating here now.

And that means more deaths.

Sen. Martha McSally was another target of Trump’s invective.

In Prescott, introducing Arizona GOP chair Kelli Ward, Trump also said something intriguing about Ward: “She would have been, if she didn’t have three, four people running at the same time, she would have been your senator. I hate to say it. She would have been your senator.”

The comment was a slight to McSally, who defeated Ward in 2018 to win the Republican nomination. McSally went on to lose the general election to Democrat Kyrsten Sinema. He was also probably wrong — it’s unlikely Ward would have done better than McSally against Sinema. (After McSally’s loss, Ducey appointed her to Arizona’s other Senate seat after John McCain died.)

Perhaps Trump is seeing the polls that show McSally losing to Kelly and preemptively distancing himself. Or maybe he didn’t like it when McSally wouldn’t answer directly a question about whether she was proud of her support for Trump during a senatorial debate.

Paul Ingram at the the Tucson Sentinel covers Trump’s sexist denigration of McSally, Trump blasts Biden and praises border wall at Tucson rally.

Trump pauses to praise Arizona politicians

During his speech, Trump praised Gov. Doug Ducey, and Sen. Martha McSally, who he said is “saving your Second Amendment.”

“She’s been a great, great senator,” he said. And, then he pointed to her, “Martha, come here, honey.” McSally briefly took the stage as Trump continued, “She has been a great, great senator and just go out and vote for Martha McSally. Save your Second Amendment, save your Second Amendment.”

“Thank you, darling,” he said, and McSally left the stage.

“She’s done a great job, she’s a worker, and a great fighter pilot,” he said. “They told me all about her, the other pilots, they said she was a great fighter pilot.”

What might explain his insulting, sexist barbs at a senator from his own party (McSally) and from a state he needs to win (Arizona)? Try this. Trump is on record insulting another GOP senator (McCain) saying he does not respect “losers.” As of today, October 21, McSally is losing to Democratic challenger Mark Kelly.

FiveThirtyEight - In simulations Biden is favored to win the election UPDATE - Oct. 21

Paraphrasing the morning email from 538:

We simulate the election 40,000 times to see who wins most often. Results cited below are from a sample of 100 times. The most recent result is listed first.

Wednesday, Oct 21: 18: Biden wins 88 in 100, Trump wins 12 in 100. The simulation results seem to have stabilized during the past week.

Monday, Oct 19: Biden wins 88 in 100, Trump wins 12 in 100. That spread has been gradually increasing.

Sunday, Oct 18: Biden wins 87 in 100, Trump wins 12 in 100, a point down. That spread has been gradually increasing - but now perhaps has stabilized. That probability seems locked in for now so I will only post again if there is some change.

Friday, Oct 16: No change - Biden wins 87 in 100, Trump wins 13 in 100. That spread has been gradually increasing - but now perhaps has stabilized.

Thursday, Oct 15: No change - Biden wins 87 in 100, Trump wins 13 in 100. That spread has been gradually increasing - but now perhaps has stabilized.

Wednesday, Oct 14: No change - Biden wins 87 in 100, Trump wins 13 in 100. That spread has been gradually increasing.

Tuesday, Oct 13: Biden wins 87 in 100, Trump wins 13 in 100. That spread has been gradually increasing.

Monday, Oct 12: Biden wins 86 in 100, Trump wins 13 in 100. That spread has been gradually increasing.

Friday, Oct 9: Biden wins 85 in 100, Trump wins 14 in 100. That spread has been gradually increasing.

Wednesday, Oct 7: Biden wins 83 in 100, Trump wins 17 in 100. That spread has been gradually increasing.

Tuesday, Oct 6: Biden wins 82 in 100, Trump wins 17 in 100. That spread has been gradually increasing.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Post-election prospects for Trump - 'Maybe I'll have to leave the country.'

Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog) reports Facing possible defeat, Trump ponders ‘leaving the country’. “Maybe I’ll have to leave the country,” Trump said. It’s likely this was a clumsy attempt at humor, though it’s a curious thing for him to joke about.

It’s become a strange running joke at Donald Trump’s campaign rallies: the president keeps telling audiences that they’ll never see him in their home state again if he loses the 2020 race. At a recent event in Iowa, for example, the Republican said if he comes up short in the Hawkeye State, “I may never have to come back here again…. I’ll never be back.” He used the same line in Minnesota, Ohio, Florida, and North Carolina.

But campaigning in Georgia on Friday night, Trump used a new line for the first time.

“Could you imagine if I lose? What am I going to do? … I’m not going to feel so good. Maybe I’ll have to leave the country. I don’t know.”

It’s likely this was a clumsy attempt at humor, though it’s a curious thing for the president to joke about.

For one thing, Trump has spent several years embracing a performative patriotism, surrounding himself with American symbols as a way to demonstrate love of country. But his apparent joke in Georgia suggests the Republican has actually adopted a conditional patriotism: Trump loves the United States, and plans to stay here, just so long as he believes enough of the electorate loves him back.

What’s more, the president weighing the possibility of “leaving” his own country raises notable questions about extradition. As New York’s Jon Chait noted over the weekend, “He faces serious legal jeopardy by prosecutors in Manhattan and New York State for what seems to be, on its face, fairly cut-and-dried criminal fraud in his private business dealings. It is also possible that, having left office, prosecutors may turn over some rocks and discover more criminal behavior as president of the United States. (The Department of Justice has a policy of not charging the president with crimes, but that expires if he leaves office.)”

But it’s also worth emphasizing that for all of Trump’s bravado, chest-thumping, and dubious confidence about an overwhelming 2020 victory, it’s likely the president is talking this way because he’s slowly coming to terms with the fact that his defeat is a distinct possibility.

As he confronts increasingly long odds, Trump is apparently thinking less about changing his electoral strategy and more about where he might go after Election Day.

Mad King Trump heads toward the bottom with attempted bribery and expressed vulgarity

Heather Cox Richardson reports on the Mad King’s latest Journey Off the Rails in the October 19, 2020 Letters from an American.

The biggest story, by far, remains coronavirus. While we are all understandably buffeted by the craziness of politics these days, no historians will ever write about this election without noting that over it hangs the pall of more than 220,000 Americans dead of Covid–19 and more than 8 million infected, and that numbers, once again, are rising. Today the U.S. had 58,387 new cases, along with at least 445 deaths.

After Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert and, theoretically anyway, an adviser to the White House, was quoted on CBS’s 60 Minutes last night criticizing the administration’s response to coronavirus, Trump attacked him this morning in a conference call with staff to which reporters had been invited. “Fauci is a disaster,” Trump said. “If I listened to him, we’d have 500,000 deaths." Later he increased that number to 700,000 or 800,000. “People are tired of Covid,” he said. “I have the biggest rallies I’ve ever had. And we have Covid. People are saying: ‘Whatever. Just leave us alone.’ They’re tired of it.”

In Prescott, Arizona, this afternoon, Trump expanded on this idea. He told the crowd: “They are getting tired of the pandemic, aren’t they? You turn on CNN, that’s all they cover. ‘Covid, Covid, Pandemic, Covid, Covid.’ You know why? They’re trying to talk everybody out of voting. People aren’t buying it, CNN, you dumb bastards.”

Just in case you missed it, as Trump coninues to lose more and more in the polls, his demeanor and language becomes less and less presidential.

Indeed, we are all tired of it, but as cases are surging and hospitals and medical staff again appear to be on the verge of being overwhelmed with cases of Covid–19, a majority of Americans trust Fauci’s cautious advice more than we trust that of the White House, which is embracing the idea of simply letting the disease spread to try to create immunity. Trump’s final push for reelection centers on holding in-person rallies, trying to illustrate that there is nothing to fear from the disease and that the country needs to get back to normal despite it.

The Exxon bribe: “it never happened”

Trump’s anger at Fauci seems to be part of his general anger these days, seemingly sparked by the polls that show him trailing Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. He is using his rallies both to express his grievances and to boast of his own power. Today, in Prescott, he boasted “I call the head of Exxon. I’ll use a company. ‘How, how are you doing, how’s energy coming? When are doing the exploration? Oh, you need a couple of permits, huh?’ But I call the head of Exxon, I say, ‘you know, I’d love you to send me $25m for the campaign.’” This sort of a bribe—the official term is quid pro quo—is illegal. Exxon promptly clarified: “We are aware of the President’s statement regarding a hypothetical call with our CEO… and just so we’re all clear, it never happened.”

Monday, October 19, 2020

FiveThirtyEight - In simulations Biden is favored to win the election UPDATE - Oct. 19

Paraphrasing the morning email from 538:

We simulate the election 40,000 times to see who wins most often. Results cited below are from a sample of 100 times.

I reversed the reporting so as to put the most recent result first.

Monday, Oct 19: Biden wins 88 in 100, Trump wins 12 in 100. That spread has been gradually increasing.

Sunday, Oct 18: Biden wins 87 in 100, Trump wins 12 in 100, a point down. That spread has been gradually increasing - but now perhaps has stabilized. That probability seems locked in for now so I will only post again if there is some change.

Friday, Oct 16: No change - Biden wins 87 in 100, Trump wins 13 in 100. That spread has been gradually increasing - but now perhaps has stabilized.

Thursday, Oct 15: No change - Biden wins 87 in 100, Trump wins 13 in 100. That spread has been gradually increasing - but now perhaps has stabilized.

Wednesday, Oct 14: No change - Biden wins 87 in 100, Trump wins 13 in 100. That spread has been gradually increasing.

Tuesday, Oct 13: Biden wins 87 in 100, Trump wins 13 in 100. That spread has been gradually increasing.

Monday, Oct 12: Biden wins 86 in 100, Trump wins 13 in 100. That spread has been gradually increasing.

Friday, Oct 9: Biden wins 85 in 100, Trump wins 14 in 100. That spread has been gradually increasing.

Wednesday, Oct 7: Biden wins 83 in 100, Trump wins 17 in 100. That spread has been gradually increasing.

Tuesday, Oct 6: Biden wins 82 in 100, Trump wins 17 in 100. That spread has been gradually increasing.

The ongoing Russian disinformation campaign

Heather Cox Richardson (Letters from an American) in her post October 18, 2020 (Sunday) alerts us to the ongoing Russian disinformation campaign. Unfortunately, American GOP law-makers are complicit.

Last Wednesday morning, October 14, the tabloid New York Post ran a complicated and unbelievable story about Hunter Biden dropping off three laptops at a repair store and never going back for them, the FBI subpoenaing hard drives, and the repair shop owner making copies before turning them over and then giving the copies to Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who gave them to the New York Post. Allegedly, the material on the laptops was incriminating.

The story was pretty transparently bogus from the start, especially since Giuliani has been hanging around with Andrii Derkach, a Ukrainian lawmaker who, according to the Treasury Department, is a longtime Russian agent. According to the Treasury, Derkach has been working to promote “false and unsubstantiated narratives concerning U.S. officials in the upcoming 2020 election.” Giuliani was an eager listener.

Today, Katie Robertson at the New York Times reported that the New York Post article was so suspect that its lead author refused to put his name on it. The two main sources for the story were Stephen Bannon, Trump’s former advisor who is under federal indictment for fraud, and Giuliani. Giuliani said he took the story to the Post because “either nobody else would take it, or if they took it, they would spend all the time they could to try to contradict it before they put it out.” One woman whose name finally appeared on the story is a former associate producer for Sean Hannity’s show and has been at the newspaper only since April. The other did not work on the story and only discovered her name was on it after it was published. The New York Times, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal have all said they could not verify the story.

The startling new “revelations” about Hunter Biden mirror classic disinformation campaigns in Russia, and look a great deal like the last-minute “revelations” about Hillary Clinton’s emails “discovered” on a laptop in Fall 2016, all of which later came to nothing. Former CIA officer Evan McMullin tweeted: “For weeks, there’s been awareness in intel circles of Russian plans to return (with Trump) to their bogus Biden-Burisma narrative and, as I’ve warned, their plan to expand that to include bonkers pedophilia and human trafficking allegations against the Bidens. Don’t fall for it!”

And yet, certain Republican lawmakers are running with the story. Republican Representative Lee Zeldin of New York tweeted that “Joe Needs to answer some questions ASAP about this dirty $ setup.” Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) went onto the Fox News Channel to suggest that the computer at the center of this story, allegedly belonging to Hunter Biden, had child pornography on it. This prompted intelligence specialist Malcolm Nance to tweet: “Whoa. The Republicans tried to tie Hunter Biden to child pornography. This is a 100% FSB [Russian Intelligence Agency] tactic. The FSB ALWAYS claims/plants Child porn on their opponents.”

For at least a year now, intelligence officers have warned us that Russia is interfering in this election, trying to swing it to Trump. Despite the fact that Trump’s polling numbers are abysmal, our Electoral College system means that the swing of relatively few voters in key states could enable him to eke out a victory, just as he did in 2016. It is worth remembering that Trump’s plan in 2020 has never been to win a majority; it has been to win by gaming the system. It seems to me also worth remembering that Trump has consistently refused either to criticize Russia or to acknowledge that Putin’s agents are working to help him get reelected.

While many Trump campaign officials are already trying to blame each other for their candidate’s apparent weakness, Trump and his loyalists remain adamant that he is going to win. They are allegedly taking names of those whom he considers insufficiently supportive. He is mad at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who has rejected the president’s plans for a coronavirus relief bill and who publicly criticized the White House approach to the pandemic. He has gone after Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) for her coolness toward Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, and Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) for his condemnation of the president in a phone call with constituents. Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT), who has made his dislike for Trump clear in recent statements, is also on the outs.

Tim Murtaugh, communications director for the Trump campaign, says, “President Trump won in 2016 without the vocal support of the political insider crowd, and he’s going to do it again. The President enjoys the support of over 90 percent of Republicans….”

It is certainly possible that the Trump campaign is putting a brave face on the terrible polls, but the ham-handed attempt to dump disinformation about the Bidens is an excellent reminder that foreign operatives have been trying to influence our elections since 2016, and they have not gone away.

The GOP senators about to pay for 'their Faustian bargain'

Charlie Sykes at The Bulwark explains why it’s Too late for the GOP.

I’ll suppress top level quotes for your readability.

There’s a lot of buzz about the newfound eagerness of some GOP senators to distance themselves from Trump as he slouches toward defeat. But, actually, with the exception of Ben Sasse, there is precious little evidence that they are really breaking with the Orange God King in any meaningful way.

Because they can’t. It’s too late for them to take an off-ramp now.

My latest in the New York Daily News:

For better or worse, they are stuck with the die they cast long ago, to let themselves become Trumpian lickspittles. The bill for their Faustian bargain has come due.

Over the last four years, they ignored one chance after another to take an off-ramp from Trump. And while they might now boast about driving on his highway at 55 rather than 65, they’re driving on it nonetheless….

Frightened by the prospect of a presidential tweet, they ignored his crude xenophobia, his exploitation of racial divisions, his personal corruption, and his fascination with authoritarian thugs.

They could have said “stop” at any point. They could have raised their voices and used their votes to rebuff him. But they didn’t.

They told themselves that judges or tax cuts made it all worthwhile. They told themselves that this is what the GOP base wanted.

So they didn’t push back as a torrent of falsehoods flowed from the White House, or even when he targeted their own Senate colleagues with insults.

They watched impotently as Trump attacked and betrayed our allies and threatened to withdraw from NATO. They could have bailed when he downplayed the Russian attack on our elections, or when he sided with Vladimir Putin rather than our own intelligence agencies in Helsinki.

GOP senators had a chance to take an off-ramp when Trump fired the FBI director, or referred to immigrants from “shithole countries,” or when he praised the racist protesters in Charlottesville as including “very fine people.”

On October 2017, Jeff Flake tried to prick their consciences. Speaking on the floor of the Senate, the Arizonan made a plea for a return to decency.

“We must never regard as normal the regular and casual undermining of our democratic norms and ideals,” he said. “We must never meekly accept the daily sundering of our country. The personal attacks, the threats against principles, freedoms and institution, the flagrant disregard for truth and decency.”

Rather than join in an awakening, not a single one of his colleagues joined Flake. Instead, they watched his Putinesque political defenestration and cowered in fear that they would share his fate.

Last fall, Trump critic Sasse, who many conservatives considered a bright light of the Senate, made his peace with Trump in exchange for the president’s support for his re-election.

“For Sasse,” wrote The Washington Post’s James Hohmann, “the past several months have represented something akin to surrender in the war for the soul of modern conservatism.”

If only Sasse’s surrender were an outlier. For Republicans, that has been the story of the last four years.

They continued to support Trump even when they saw families being separated at the border and kids in cages. They remained loyal when he helped the Saudis cover up the murder of a Washington Post journalist, and when it was revealed that he had called American soldiers “suckers and losers.”

They could have spoken out when he spread baseless conspiracy theories, or when he obstructed justice by dangling or giving pardons….

You can read the rest here.The cowards’ comeuppance: It’s too late for a radical reinvention of the Trump GOP.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Some things to consider as you 'fly the friendly skies'

Here are two reports on research results for air travel in the age of the COVID–19 pandemic.

Kenya’s “pulse” reports Coronavirus: International Air Transport Association (IATA) welcomes US Military Report on Low Risk of Catching COVID–19 on a Flight. Here is the report in full.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) welcomed the release of the results of testing by the United States Transportation Command (US Transcom) confirming the low risk of COVID–19 transmission onboard an aircraft.The US Transcom testing, which was conducted in August, found that “the overall exposure risk from aerosolized pathogens, like coronavirus, is very low” on the types of airline aircraft typically contracted to move Department of Defense (DOD) personnel and their families, US Transcom stated. More than 300 aerosol releases, simulating a passenger infected with COVID–19, were performed over eight days using United Airlines Boeing 767–300 and 777–200 twin aisle aircraft. “Last week, IATA reported that since the start of 2020 there have been 44 cases of COVID–19 reported in which transmission is thought to have been associated with a flight journey, out of 1.2 billion passenger journeys in 2020. The US Transcom research provides further evidence that the risk of infection onboard an aircraft appears to be very low, and certainly lower than many other indoor environments,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO. The US Transcom testing showed that the aerosol was “rapidly diluted by the high air exchange rates” of a typical aircraft cabin. Aerosol particles remained detectable for a period of less than six minutes on average. Both aircraft models tested removed particulate matter 15 times faster than a typical home ventilation system and 5–6 times faster “than the recommended design specifications for modern hospital operating or patient isolation rooms.” Testing was done with and without a mask for the simulated infected passenger. The testing was conducted in partnership with Boeing and United Airlines, as well as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Zeteo Tech, S3i and the University of Nebraska’s National Strategic Research Institute.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of International Air Transport Association (IATA).

With much more on safety while flying, National Geographic asks How clean is the air on planes? And they answer: High-tech filters and low-tech masks: How technology and personal responsibility might make flying safer than you think.

Here are excerpts.

THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC has reminded us that having access to clean air is a global health priority. While industrial pollution has dominated headlines for decades, COVID–19 brings the conversation indoors. The quality of indoor air—which way it flows, how much it does or doesn’t allow for pathogens to disperse or disappear—can make the difference between staying well or getting infected. Among the interiors repeatedly named as potential hot zones for infections (churches, nursing homes, and cruise ships) airplane cabins are a focal point of anxiety.

So it’s a surprise to find that the air inside a plane is cleaner than you might think. Thanks to HEPA filters and efficient circulation on commercial aircrafts, the air you breathe in flight—though not necessarily entirely virus-free—is much cleaner than the air in restaurants, bars, stores, or your best friend’s living room. Here’s why you don’t need to fear the air up there.

How airplane air gets cleaned

Most, but not all, commercial aircraft are equipped with HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filters. That means that, on HEPA-equipped planes, the airflow “mirrors the laminar airflow of an operating room with no or minimal crossover of air streams,” says Dr. Bjoern Becker of the Lufthansa Group of airlines. “Air is pumped from the ceiling into the cabin at a speed of about a yard per second and sucked out again below the window seats.”

About 40 percent of a cabin’s air gets filtered through this HEPA system; the remaining 60 percent is fresh and piped in from outside the plane. “Cabin air is completely changed every three minutes, on average, while the aircraft is cruising,” says Becker. (Lufthansa has a video showing how HEPA filters work.)

Officially, certified HEPA filters “block and capture 99.97 percent of airborne particles over 0.3 micron in size,” says Tony Julian, an air-purifying expert with RGF Environmental Group. The efficiency of these filters, perhaps counterintuitively, increases for even smaller particles. So while the exhaled globs that carry SARS-CoV–2 can be quite small, HEPA filters effectively remove the vast majority from the air.

How reliable are filters?

HEPA’s 99.97 percent filtration effectiveness sounds reassuring, and airline execs count on that. But the biggest problem with those systems, says Bates, is that the “filter only guarantees the quality of the air that has passed through it. If the air that someone breathes in has not gone through that filter, then those numbers don’t matter.”

That’s why, in addition to good filters, airline cabins also need good passengers. This means everyone onboard should wear a mask.

Ways to keep yourself safer in flight

The biggest risk when flying just might be the airport, boarding, and take off/landing experience. People in close indoor proximity, perhaps not wearing masks, could spell infection. Keeping that six feet (or more) of social distance while getting to your gate, into your seat, or deplaning is probably more important than anything else you can do (except covering your face).

If you must fly, choose an airline that enforces its own protective rules. At a minimum, you’ll be less stressed that you’ll have to be a mask enforcer. As of mid-August 2020, it seems that Alaska Airlines is being the most vigilant of U.S. carriers about mask wearing.

On board, minimize contact with surfaces and wash your hands well before touching your face (including your mask). There’s no need to fly in a HAZMAT suit, however, says Dr. Ken Perry, an emergency physician in Charleston, South Carolina. “People would be much better off being fastidious with their mask use rather than worrying about gloves and other devices.”

Scientists no longer think that touching objects and then touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with dirty hands is the primary source of COVID–19 transmission. However, a recent report involving inflight transmission suggests an asymptomatic person spread the disease via surfaces in the toilet.

Airlines have upped their cleaning regimes, including disinfecting planes with electrostatic sprayers. And with just-announced emergency approval from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, American Airlines will start treating high-touch areas (seat backs, tray tables) with SurfaceWise2, a coating said to kill coronavirus for up to seven days.

In flight, Fagbuyi recommends keeping your mask on as much as possible. That means avoiding eating and drinking while airborne. Cleaning your hands with sanitizer onboard is fine, Fagbuyi says, but “wash your hands with soap and water once you get off” the plane, and especially before removing your mask.

And though it might be uncomfortable, Dr. Joyce Sanchez, medical director of the Travel Health Clinic at Froedtert and the Medical College of Wisconsin, says masking up doesn’t affect your oxygen or carbon-dioxide levels. “The overwhelming majority of people, including those with chronic lung and heart problems, can safely wear them,” she says.

Turns out the best way to make the skies friendlier right now is to cover up your smile.

Tom Frieden - Herd immunity is the dead wrong solution for the pandemic

Quote of the Day: There is a saying that for every complicated problem, a solution exists that is quick, simple — and wrong. That applies here: Pursuing herd immunity is the wrong, dead wrong, solution for the pandemic. – Tom Frieden.

I thought it, “herd immunity”, was really “herd mentality” pushed by Trump sycophants to justify his gross negligence and inaction.

A half-million more people could die if America pursues a ‘herd immunity’ plan. Opinion by Tom Frieden, a physician, is president and CEO of Resolve to Save Lives, an initiative of the global public health organization Vital Strategies, and former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2009–2017).

As the covid–19 pandemic continues in the United States and many parts of the world, millions of Americans are increasingly impatient for the economy and society to regain a more normal footing. Some “maverick scientists” with “an audience inside the White House,” as The Post reported last week, argue for “allowing the coronavirus to spread freely at ‘natural’ rates among healthy young people while keeping most aspects of the economy up and running.”

Their aim is to achieve “herd immunity,” the concept that if enough people are immune, those without immunity can be protected. Usually this refers to immunity gained from vaccination; the goal of herd immunity has typically not been applied to a disease for which there is no vaccine.

There is a saying that for every complicated problem, a solution exists that is quick, simple — and wrong. That applies here: Pursuing herd immunity is the wrong, dead wrong, solution for the pandemic. Discussing such a reckless approach shouldn’t be necessary, except that it echoes the misguided ideas of neuroradiologist Scott Atlas, who in recent months has become an influential medical adviser to President Trump.

Atlas, The Post reported, has relied on similar-minded scientists “to bolster his in-house arguments.” Less than 15 percent of Americans have been infected by the virus that causes covid–19. If immunity among those who have been infected and survived is strong and long-lasting (and it may well be neither), and if herd immunity kicks in at 60 percent infection of the population (and it might be higher), with a fatality rate of 0.5 percent among those infected, then at least another half-million Americans — in addition to the 220,000 who have already died — would have to die for the country to achieve herd immunity. And that’s the best-case scenario. The number of deaths to get there could be twice as high.

The route to herd immunity would run through graveyards filled with Americans who did not have to die, because what starts in young adults doesn’t stay in young adults. “Protecting the vulnerable,” however appealing it may sound, isn’t plausible if the virus is allowed to freely spread among younger people. We’ve seen this in families, communities and entire regions of the country. First come cases in young adults. Then the virus spreads to older adults and medically vulnerable people. Hospitalizations increase. And then deaths increase.

The vulnerable are not just a sliver of society. The 65-and-over population of the United States in 2018 was 52 million. As many as 60 percent of adults have a medical condition that increases their risk of death from covid–19 — with many unaware of their condition, which can include undiagnosed kidney disease, diabetes or cancer. The plain truth is that we cannot protect the vulnerable without protecting all of us.

A one-two punch is needed to knock out the virus — a combination approach, just as multiple drugs are used to treat infections such as HIV and tuberculosis. That in turn will allow the accelerated resumption of economic and social activity.

First, knock down the spread of the virus. The best way to do this is — as the country has been trying to do, with uneven success — to reduce close contact with others, especially in crowded indoor spaces with poor ventilation. Increase adherence to the Three W’s: wear a mask, watch your distance and wash your hands (or use sanitizer). Where restrictions have been loosened, track early-warning triggers and activate strategic closures to prevent an explosive spread.

Second, box the virus in to stop cases from becoming clusters and clusters from becoming outbreaks. Rapid testing should focus on those at greatest risk of having been exposed. The sooner people who are infectious get isolated, the fewer secondary cases there will be. That means rapid testing and rapid action when tests are positive. Close contacts need to be quarantined so that if they develop infection, the chain of transmission will stop with them.

A safe and effective vaccine may become available in the coming months — or it may not. Yet even if it were widely administered (a big if), it wouldn’t end the pandemic. Even if a vaccine that’s 70 percent effective is taken by 70 percent of people — optimistic estimates — that leaves half of the population unprotected. For the foreseeable future, masks will be in, at least indoors, and handshakes will be out.

Although there’s no quick fix, this pandemic will end one day. In the interim, there are actions individuals, families and communities across the country can take to reduce risk. The sooner the virus is under control, the quicker and more complete the recovery will be.

Logistical considerations for global COVID-19 vaccinations

From the Daily Beast’s Rabbit Hole via email: Even When We Have a Vaccine, The Rollout Will Take Years

How long will it take to protect the entire world from the coronavirus?

Only now is it becoming clear that, in the best-case scenario, it will take at least 18 months, beginning early in 2021, for vaccines to reach every part of the world where they are urgently needed.

One measure of the magnitude of the task is that to deliver a single dose of vaccine to the world population of 7.8 billion people would take the equivalent of 8,000 flights by the world’s largest cargo airplane, the Boeing 747.

Can we build a global network that respects vaccine critical temperatures?

The whole program depends on whether there will be enough airplanes to deliver the vaccine doses—and whether the will and means exist to build a global network able to meet the exacting standards required to keep vials of vaccine at critical temperatures, from when they leave the manufacturer to when they finally reach the places where they will be administered, no matter how far and remote.

This infrastructure involves special handling via dedicated warehouses, moving through airports where customs and border controls, a frequent choke point, must allow fast tracking, and similarly secure and dedicated ground transportation.

Make no mistake, this is truly a moonshot moment. A new global airlift for life-saving meds has to be built at a speed that has never before been accomplished. And, once more, the planning has exposed significant disparities in the resources of advanced nations and those of the underdeveloped world.

In North America, Europe, Russia, China and Southeast Asia, the means exist to rapidly ramp up supply chains and safely deliver vaccines to large populations during 2021.

In Africa, Central and South America and the Indian subcontinent, critical infrastructure will have to be created from scratch. (India has no air cargo infrastructure equal to the needs of its 1.35 billion population.)

And experts warn that even in the developed world, there are serious challenges to overcome.

At the heart of these challenges is the cold chain. This is an already well-established system that ensures that vaccines and other temperature-critical medications are maintained at precise temperatures for the entire time they spend in transit, no matter if the journey takes many days and passes through great variations in climate and handling through airports and ground delivery.

The cold chain was initially created because vaccines to treat smallpox, measles and ebola needed to move through it in order to safely and swiftly get where they were needed—indeed, the world eradication of smallpox would not have been possible without it.

This was one of the greatest leaps ever in global infrastructure in the cause of preventing needless deaths, but it is dwarfed by what confronts a world desperate to gain control of the coronavirus pandemic. The cold chain will have to be hugely expanded.

COVAX, an alliance of vaccine producers and international health agencies created to handle the pandemic, aims to produce two billion doses by the end of 2021. This assumes that all nine of the present vaccines being developed and tested in the COVAX program will prove safe and effective. (Six of them are part of the U.S. government’s $6 billion Operation Warp Speed, and two of them are being developed in China.)

Expecting instant success of all of the vaccines is already a roll of the dice. As The Daily Beast has reported, the vaccines have been developed at an unprecedented speed, their long-term effects are still unknown, and testing is far from complete.

And the problem for the cold chain is that there are basically two groups of vaccines in the pipeline. One group has to be kept in very deep freeze, at a temperature of minus 112 degrees Fahrenheit, the other at between 35 and 46 degrees Fahrenheit.

This means that vaccines requiring the deep freeze will likely be confined to parts of the world where such demanding standards of the cold chain can be assured, while the others get directed to places where the handling and distribution systems will be less sophisticated and, in many cases, don’t even exist yet.

Geopolitical hazards

Glyn Hughes, global head of cargo at the International Air Transport Association, IATA, which represents all the world’s airlines, is closely involved in planning the massive airlift. He told The Daily Beast:

“There is no time to be lost. In many of the countries in Africa, Central America and South America you cannot rely on the same infrastructure for a temperature-controlled environment as you can in the developed world. For them, to create what is needed will probably require a combination of commercial and military resources.”

Another gap in the coverage would be the inability to establish secure cold chain infrastructure in “black hole” nations like Venezuela, Yemen, Syria and Iraq, where either war or endemic corruption make it near impossible to carry out safe delivery and distribution.

And there is another specter to watch out for. In countries like Nicaragua, where Daniel Ortega has been the strongman since 2007, or the Philippines, where Rodrigo Duterte rules with an equally iron grip, there is little doubt that the ruling juntas would get priority and perhaps even withhold the vaccines from their opponents, which would amount to biological warfare.

And there is lots more in this report that follows.

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FiveThirtyEight - In simulations Biden is favored to win the election UPDATE - Oct. 18

Paraphrasing the morning email from 538:

We simulate the election 40,000 times to see who wins most often. Results cited below are from a sample of 100 times.

I reversed the reporting so as to put the most recent result first.

Sunday, Oct 18: Biden wins 87 in 100, Trump wins 12 in 100, a point down. That spread has been gradually increasing - but now perhaps has stabilized. That probability seems locked in for now so I will only post again if there is some change.

Friday, Oct 16: No change - Biden wins 87 in 100, Trump wins 13 in 100. That spread has been gradually increasing - but now perhaps has stabilized.

Thursday, Oct 15: No change - Biden wins 87 in 100, Trump wins 13 in 100. That spread has been gradually increasing - but now perhaps has stabilized.

Wednesday, Oct 14: No change - Biden wins 87 in 100, Trump wins 13 in 100. That spread has been gradually increasing.

Tuesday, Oct 13: Biden wins 87 in 100, Trump wins 13 in 100. That spread has been gradually increasing.

Monday, Oct 12: Biden wins 86 in 100, Trump wins 13 in 100. That spread has been gradually increasing.

Friday, Oct 9: Biden wins 85 in 100, Trump wins 14 in 100. That spread has been gradually increasing.

Wednesday, Oct 7: Biden wins 83 in 100, Trump wins 17 in 100. That spread has been gradually increasing.

Tuesday, Oct 6: Biden wins 82 in 100, Trump wins 17 in 100. That spread has been gradually increasing.

New ads from the Lincoln Project

The Vindmans Strike Back and the Swamp gets Drained in the latest Lincoln Project Ads reports David Gordon at Blog for Arizona.

Here is the link to the Vindman’s counter to Trump’s treatment of them.

And here is the link to the Florida Gators’ COVID–19 cases.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Lincoln Project airs pro Kamala Harris ad, 'Girl in the Mirror'

David Gordon is doing a great job tracking the Lincoln Project and now its the Pro Harris “Girl in the Mirror” Ad.

In its latest ad, “The Girl in the Mirror,” the Lincoln Project reminds voters that Donald Trump is a chauvinistic pig and Senator Kamala Harris is a role model all young ladies could look up to.

The one minute spot starts off with a girl looking in a mirror with the narrator telling the viewer (with clips of Condolezza Rice and Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the background, that:

“She is searching for role models in the world that will to give her hope that one day, she, too, can make a difference.”

The ad then pivots to the young ladies watching the Chief Executive Chauvinistic Pig belittling and mocking White House Women Journalists, other Female News Figures, and Senator and Democratic Vice Presidential Nominee Kamala Harris.

The narrator then tells the viewers:

“Now imagine a different future for her, a future with a President who doesn’t just value a female voice, but chooses one to be his right-hand woman. A strong woman, a woman with compassion, a woman unafraid to take on a bully.”

The ad then shows a video clip of one of the several times in the Vice Presidential Debate where Senator Harris had to remind Pence that “I’m speaking.”

The narrator then concludes with:

” A woman who not only believes in the American Dream, she embodies it. Imagine that little girl in the mirror, because that little girl is yours, and your actions on November 3 will define who she sees. Vote for change. Vote for Her.”

Evidence that more and more Republicans are abandoning Trump

Heather Cox Richardson, in her October 16 Letters from an American, documents the growing number of Republicans, individuals and groups, bailing out on Trump. For the short of it, think rats and sinking ships.

Here are a few examples.

… the former chair of the New Hampshire Republican Committee, Jennifer Horn, urged “my fellow Republicans” not to vote for Trump’s reelection. In a piece in USA Today, Horn reminded Republicans of “the overwhelming sorrow and grief that this president” has inflicted on the country. …

The audience numbers for last night’s town halls was also revealing, as Biden attracted 700,000 more viewers on just one ABC outlet than Trump did on the three NBC outlets that carried his event. Biden’s town hall was the most watched event since the Oscars in February. It appears that people are simply tired of watching the president and are eager for calm and reason.

Today, a group called “43 Alumni for Biden” released an ad called “Team 46." It says that they are all lifelong Republicans, but because they recognize the qualities of leadership—including empathy– everyone “on this team” is voting for Biden. “Let’s put Joe Biden in the White House.” The ad features a number of pictures of President George W. Bush, the forty-third president, and is narrated by someone whose voice sounds like his. Former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance notes, “This looks awfully close to an endorsement of Biden from George W. Bush.”

… Caroline Giuliani, the daughter of Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani, urged people to end Trump’s “reign of terror” by voting for “a compassionate and decent president,” Joe Biden. …

Today CNN began teasers for a special on Sunday that will explain how former senior Trump officials believe Trump is unfit for the presidency. …

… a third career prosecutor from the Department of Justice resigned after publicly attacking Attorney General William Barr for abusing his power to get Trump reelected. …

Signs of troubles ahead

Even if we assume that Biden is elected, there is ample time for the present administration to wreak havoc on our democratic institutions. For example:

There are signs people in the administration are preparing for Trump to lose the election. His cabinet is rushing to change regulations to lock in Trump’s goal of giving more scope to businessmen to act as they see fit. Normally, changes in regulations require setting aside time for public comment on the changes, but the administration is shortening or eliminating those periods over changes in, for example, rules allowing railroads to move highly flammable liquefied natural gas on freight trains, what constitutes “contract” work, how much pollution factories can emit, and who can immigrate to America.

The road ahead is bumpy.