Monday, November 30, 2020

It's not whether COVID-19 will change our lives. The question is what and by how much.

What changes after covid–19? I’m betting on everything predicts Megan McArdle at the Washington Post.

"We’re almost there.” That’s what I’ve been thinking recently, and especially during our eerily sparse Thanksgiving celebrations. Things may be unpleasant now, but if everything goes well, then sometime next summer, we should reach the end of this miserable journey through plagueland.

But on closer inspection, the more I realize I don’t really know what “there” will look like. For all the talk of a “return to normal,” large chunks of the old normal are due for a post-covid–19 rethink. And I’m not just talking about movies heading to video or takeout cocktails — though, please, let’s keep the takeout cocktails. The more I think about it, the more I think I’m talking about practically everything.

Just consider our social behaviors now on hold. Do we want all of them back?

… how about the nonmedical things we could be doing to control infectious disease? Are we going to bring handshaking back, and if so, why? Should we accelerate the arrival of a cashless, touchless payment economy, despite the loss of privacy? How much do we need to beef up the ventilation systems in public spaces? Any chance we’ll keep wearing masks on subways, in malls, in movie theaters? And if not, at the very least, can we collectively agree to stop going to work sick — even if that means more generous paid sick leave?

About that “going to work” …

.. a lot of us might just stop going into work — or at least stop going in so much. I doubt that the office is truly over; in fact, the pandemic has highlighted the value of personal contact. But it’s easy to imagine most office workers getting their collegial fix in a couple of days a week.

That trend has nasty implications for all sectors related to business travel. That’s a 60% permanent reduction.

Business travel is also due for reconsideration — and without business travelers, the travel industry will collapse. While you might expect that means some fantastic deals for leisure travelers, it’s more likely to mean the reverse, since travelers on an expense account often subsidize bargain-hunting tourists. The resulting declines will crush hotels, airlines and their workers, plus the budget of every city with a significant tourism or convention business.

I’ll close with another example. Even before the pandemic struck, I was skeptical of the viability of the motion picture industry - at least the theaters part. And after having chained myself during lock-downs to our TV and watching streaming serials, I feel even more strongly negative about that.

Sourcing the stench of the Republican mind

How is it that two groups of human beings can be so divided in their beliefs? And worse, divided in their epistemologies? I’ve been concerned with this matter especially since the political birth of Trumpism.

From Wiki: “the branch of philosophy concerned with knowledge. Epistemologists study the nature of knowledge, epistemic justification, the rationality of belief, and various related issues.”

Here is an Arizona case in point.

Unable to get permission for a formal hearing, “select” lawmakers are holding their own unofficial, away-from-the-Capitol event Monday, Nov. 30, to hear allegations from the Trump legal team on the election.

Rep. Mark Finchem seems to be the legislator driving this sh!t show. Also in the cast of certified nut jobs is state Republican chair Kelli Ward.

… at the same time, Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich and Chief Justice Robert Brutinel are expected to formally certify the Arizona results as accurate.


Timing, state law may work against Finchem and Ward

There are things working against both the lawsuit and any potential legislative intervention.

Arizona law allows a challenge to the official canvass within five days. Federal law also says that all election challenges must be resolved by Dec. 8, with electors set to vote six days later.

The state also has a “faithless elector” provision in law, which requires electors to vote for the presidential candidate who wins the state.

Legislative lawyers said it would take a change in statute to alter how presidential electors are appointed. And they said it’s too late to change that this year given that the electors already were chosen by voters.

OK, here is more to the story - starting with the source of the above quotes followed by a keen analysis by a conservative columnist.

Reprinted in the Daily Star, Howard Fischer of the Capitol Media Services , reports on some GOP officials still fighting Arizona’s vote tally on very day Biden’s win will be certified. Certain GOP officials will go to court, host Trump legal team at meeting trying to overturn Biden’s Arizona win — on the same day it is set to be certified as accurate.

In the NY Times, David Brooks reveals the The Rotting of the Republican Mind. What happens When one party becomes detached from reality.

Thanks to my Editor at Large, Sherry.

Following is the full text of Brooks’ story with block quotes suppressed..

In a recent Monmouth University survey, 77 percent of Trump backers said Joe Biden had won the presidential election because of fraud. Many of these same people think climate change is not real. Many of these same people believe they don’t need to listen to scientific experts on how to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

We live in a country in epistemological crisis, in which much of the Republican Party has become detached from reality. Moreover, this is not just an American problem. All around the world, rising right-wing populist parties are floating on oceans of misinformation and falsehood. What is going on?

Many people point to the internet — the way it funnels people into information silos, the way it abets the spread of misinformation. I mostly reject this view. Why would the internet have corrupted Republicans so much more than Democrats, the global right more than the global left?

My analysis begins with a remarkable essay that Jonathan Rauch wrote for National Affairs in 2018 called “The Constitution of Knowledge.” Rauch pointed out that every society has an epistemic regime, a marketplace of ideas where people collectively hammer out what’s real. In democratic, nontheocratic societies, this regime is a decentralized ecosystem of academics, clergy members, teachers, journalists and others who disagree about a lot but agree on a shared system of rules for weighing evidence and building knowledge.

This ecosystem, Rauch wrote, operates as a funnel. It allows a wide volume of ideas to get floated, but only a narrow group of ideas survive collective scrutiny. “We let alt-truth talk,” Rauch said, “but we don’t let it write textbooks, receive tenure, bypass peer review, set the research agenda, dominate the front pages, give expert testimony or dictate the flow of public dollars.”

Over the past decades the information age has created a lot more people who make their living working with ideas, who are professional members of this epistemic process. The information economy has increasingly rewarded them with money and status. It has increasingly concentrated them in ever more prosperous metro areas.

While these cities have been prospering, places where fewer people have college degrees have been spiraling down: flatter incomes, decimated families, dissolved communities. In 1972, people without college degrees were nearly as happy as those with college degrees. Now those without a degree are far more unhappy about their lives.

People need a secure order to feel safe. Deprived of that, people legitimately feel cynicism and distrust, alienation and anomie. This precarity has created, in nation after nation, intense populist backlashes against the highly educated folks who have migrated to the cities and accrued significant economic, cultural and political power. Will Wilkinson of the Niskanen Center calls this the “Density Divide.” It is a bitter cultural and political cold war.

In the fervor of this enmity, millions of people have come to detest those who populate the epistemic regime, who are so distant, who appear to have it so easy, who have such different values, who can be so condescending. Millions not only distrust everything the “fake news” people say, but also the so-called rules they use to say them.

People in this precarious state are going to demand stories that will both explain their distrust back to them and also enclose them within a safe community of believers. The evangelists of distrust, from Donald Trump to Alex Jones to the followers of QAnon, rose up to give them those stories and provide that community. Paradoxically, conspiracy theories have become the most effective community bonding mechanisms of the 21st century.

For those awash in anxiety and alienation, who feel that everything is spinning out of control, conspiracy theories are extremely effective emotional tools. For those in low status groups, they provide a sense of superiority: I possess important information most people do not have. For those who feel powerless, they provide agency: I have the power to reject “experts” and expose hidden cabals. As Cass Sunstein of Harvard Law School points out, they provide liberation: If I imagine my foes are completely malevolent, then I can use any tactic I want.

Under Trump, the Republican identity is defined not by a set of policy beliefs but by a paranoid mind-set. He and his media allies simply ignore the rules of the epistemic regime and have set up a rival trolling regime. The internet is an ideal medium for untested information to get around traditional gatekeepers, but it is an accelerant of the paranoia, not its source. Distrust and precarity, caused by economic, cultural and spiritual threat, are the source.

What to do? You can’t argue people out of paranoia. If you try to point out factual errors, you only entrench false belief. The only solution is to reduce the distrust and anxiety that is the seedbed of this thinking. That can only be done first by contact, reducing the social chasm between the members of the epistemic regime and those who feel so alienated from it. And second, it can be done by policy, by making life more secure for those without a college degree.

Rebuilding trust is, obviously, the work of a generation.

Sunday, November 29, 2020

20 days of lunacy at its end - ''when it became clear there was no ‘there’ there'''

Quote of the Day: "Literally only the fringy of the fringe are willing to do pressers, and that’s when it became clear there was no ‘there’ there,” - a senior administration official speaking to the Washington Post.

20 days of fantasy and failure: Inside Trump’s quest to overturn the election reports the Post. Here is just a smidgeon of the account of the aftermath of the election that rejected Trump and made Joe Biden the President Elect. You should read the whole story.

The 20 days between the election on Nov. 3 and the greenlighting of Biden’s transition exemplified some of the hallmarks of life in Trump’s White House: a government paralyzed by the president’s fragile emotional state; advisers nourishing his fables; expletive-laden feuds between factions of aides and advisers; and a pernicious blurring of truth and fantasy.

Though Trump ultimately failed in his quest to steal the election, his weeks-long jeremiad succeeded in undermining faith in elections and the legitimacy of Biden’s victory.

This account of one of the final chapters in Trump’s presidency is based on interviews with 32 senior administration officials, campaign aides and other advisers to the president, as well as other key figures in his legal fight, many of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to share details about private discussions and to candidly assess the situation.

Thanks to our Editor at Large, Sherry.

What it cost Trump to increase Biden's Wisconsin lead by 87 votes

Wisconsin recount confirms Biden’s win over Trump, cementing the president’s failure to change the election results reports the Washington Post.

The recount of presidential ballots in Wisconsin’s two largest counties finished Sunday, reconfirming that President-elect Joe Biden defeated President Trump in the key swing state by more than 20,000 votes.

After Milwaukee County completed its tally Friday and Dane County concluded its count Sunday, there was little change in the final breakdown of the more than 800,000 ballots that had been cast in the two jurisdictions. As a result of the recount, Biden’s lead over Trump in Wisconsin grew by 87 votes.

Under Wisconsin law, Trump was required to foot the bill for the partial recount — meaning his campaign paid $3 million only to see Biden’s lead expand.

By my calculation, each of Biden’s 87 new votes cost Trump $34,482.76. Now only a business man of Trump’s stature could have made that deal.

P. S.: It would be interesting to know the cost of each law suit Trump filed and lost. As of right now, the win-lost ratio is 1 win to 39 losses.

Maybe his accountants got their training at Trump U.

Some thoughts about Donald's delusion, Biden's victory, and Pope Francis' views on limits of the power of the church

One of my favorite authors is Heather Cox Richardson who writes Letters from an American.

Here are a couple of tweets she highlights from the Nov 29 Letter.

Marc E. Elias
I regularly tweet out Trump’s record in court to make clear that nothing Trump or his allies are doing, or can do, will change the fact that Joe Biden won the election and will be sworn in on January 20. Trump and his allies are 1–39 in post-election litigation.

Brian Klaas
A grim milestone: for the first time, the US recorded 200,000 new coronavirus cases in a single day. That’s more than Japan - a country of 127 million people - has had since the beginning of the pandemic in total.

Klass reports that, as of Nov. 27, new cases 205,460 - up 17%, and new deaths 1,412 - up 36%.

From the November 27, 2020 letter:

As he lays out his plans for his first hundred days in office and begins to fill positions, President-Elect Joe Biden is making it clear he intends to rebuild the institutions and alliances Trump has gutted. At the same time, his focus on rebuilding the economy for ordinary Americans as a community, rather than as individual men, is new.

[But] Trump seems to be trying to tie Biden’s hands and leave him with messes both at home and abroad. In addition to the fences Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has tried to put around coronavirus relief by clawing back congressionally appropriated money, Trump has tried to burrow loyalists into the government to stop its normal operation.

From the November 28, 2020 letter:

It seems as if Trump and President-Elect Joe Biden are in a contest to see who can will their vision of the future into life.

Trump continues to maintain that he won the 2020 election. Wedded to this alternative reality, his supporters are circulating articles wondering how Biden–who was ahead by significant numbers in all pre-election polls– could possibly have won the election… against a president who, for the first time since modern polling began, never cracked a 50% approval rating.

Trump’s vision is destroying faith in our electoral system and spreading death. It is destabilizing our democracy, an outcome that helps those who are eager to see America’s influence in the world decline.

In contrast, Biden is trying to will into existence a country in which we can accomplish anything, saving ourselves from the ravages of coronavirus, rebuilding the economy, and joining those countries eager to defend equality before the law.

These two visions are in a fight to control our government.

The reality is that Biden was elected president in 2020. He has won more votes than any president in American history, over 6 million votes more than Trump and 306 Electoral College votes to Trump’s 232. This is not close. Trump has challenged this election in a number of court cases; he has lost all but one of them, giving him a record of 1–39.

Yesterday, a federal appeals court made up of Republican-appointed judges rejected Trump’s attempt to overturn Pennsylvania’s certification of its election results. Judge Stephanos Bibas, a Trump appointee, wrote the opinion, which said the campaign’s challenge had “no merit.” “Charges of unfairness are serious. But calling an election unfair does not make it so. Charges require specific allegations and then proof. We have neither here,” the opinion said. "Voters, not lawyers, choose the President. Ballots, not briefs, decide elections.”

Pope Francis vs. SCOTUS That’s Scriber’s take on the recent Supreme Court defense of the ability of churches to hold spreader events. Richardson has a more measured response.

Finally, while Biden has pledged science-based policies and protection of civil rights, Trump’s Supreme Court appointees on Wednesday indicated they will defend religion. Trump-appointed Justice Amy Barrett cast the deciding vote to strike down restrictions on religious services to combat the spread of Covid–19. In two similar cases in the past, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s vote had swung the court the other way. The decision claimed that secular businesses had received preference over religious gatherings; the dissenters pointed out that the distinction was not the nature of the gathering, but rather its chances of spreading a deadly disease.

Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan said the majority was being reckless. “Justices of this court play a deadly game,” they said, “in second-guessing the expert judgment of health officials about the environments in which a contagious virus, now infecting a million Americans each week, spreads most easily.”

While the majority on the court claimed to be speaking for religious interests, on Thursday, Pope Francis published an op-ed in the New York Times that seemed to side with Biden. He noted that most governments have tried to protect their people from the coronavirus, but “some governments… shrugged off the painful evidence of mounting deaths, with inevitable, grievous consequences.” He scoffed at those who refused to accept public health restrictions, “as if measures that governments must impose for the good of their people constitute some kind of political assault on autonomy or personal freedom!”

He called for a fairer economic system, a political system that gives voice to marginalized people, and protection for the environment.

According to Pope Francis, “This is a moment to dream big, to rethink our priorities — what we value, what we want, what we seek — and to commit to act in our daily life on what we have dreamed of.”

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Exhibiting legal incompetence, Trump campaign keeps losing

Quote of the Day: Marc E. Elias has been keeping score: “Trump and his allies are 1–38 in post election litigation.” - AZ Blue Meanie.

You would think (or maybe not) that the Trump campaign would get the message and give it up.

But no, the more the Trump campaign tries, the more they lose. That’s a variation on the well-known deefinition of insanity. Following are a couple of examples.

Third Circuit Rejects Trump’s Pennsylvania Appeal In A Scathing Opinion reports the AZ Blue Meanie at Blog for Arizona. Here are some snippets.

A Republican panel of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, in an opinion written by a Trump appointee, unanimously rejected Trump’s election appeal from Pennsylvania in a scathing opinion.

In a 21-page unanimous and scathing unpublished opinion, the Third Circuit has rejected the appeal of the Trump campaign in the Pennsylvania federal case challenging the election results. Judge Bibas, a Trump appointee, begins the opinion: “Free, fair elections are the lifeblood of our democracy. Charges of unfairness are serious. But calling an election unfair does not make it so. Charges require specific allegations and then proof. We have neither here."

This is an utter repudiation of the Trump campaign’s ridiculous lawsuit by three Republican-appointed judges. It shows the absurdity of the litigation: besides the fact that the case was poorly lawyered—Rudy Giuliani’s oral argument was the worst I have heard in 25 years of following election law cases–the case was as weak and conclusory in its allegations of wrongdoing as it was spectacularly anti-democratic in seeking to disenfranchise all of Pennsylvania’s voters by putting the matter after the fact into the hands of the state legislature. It was an awful lawsuit, and it was right to be rejected by the court, but it is still good to see the courts hold and not allow for a lawsuit that would have overturned the results of a legitimate election on the flimsiest of pretexts.

The Trump campaign can try to take this to the Supreme Court—if it is indeed true as reported in the NY Times that Giuliani is being paid $20,000 a day for his work, why wouldn’t he?–but it will get no better reception there. As divided as the Supreme Court is ideologically, this kind of absurd and dangerous litigation will not get a friendly reception there.

Quoting the court’s opinion:

Voters, not lawyers, choose the President. Ballots, not briefs, decide elections. The ballots here are governed by Pennsylvania election law. No federal law requires poll watchers or specifies where they must live or how close they may stand when votes are counted. Nor does federal law govern whether to count ballots with minor state-law defects or let voters cure those defects. Those are all issues of state law, not ones that we can hear. And earlier lawsuits have rejected those claims.

Seeking to turn those state-law claims into federal ones, the Campaign claims discrimination. But its alchemy cannot transmute lead into gold. The Campaign never alleges that any ballot was fraudulent or cast by an illegal voter. It never alleges that any defendant treated the Trump campaign or its votes worse than it treated the Biden campaign or its votes. Calling something discrimination does not make it so. The Second Amended Complaint still suffers from these core defects, so granting leave to amend would have been futile.

Also at Blog for Arizona, Larry Bodine reports that the Legal Community Calls for an End to Baseless Claims of Election Fraud.

More than 1,200 prominent lawyers from across the country have signed an open letter calling for an end to baseless claims that by the Trump campaign that the 2020 presidential election was fraudulent as part of Trump’s desperate attempt to overturn the decisive vote of the American people.

The letter, organized by the nonpartisan Lawyers Defending American Democracy, also calls on courts to hold the lawyers making the false claims accountable to the oath they swear to uphold the Constitution and honestly discharge their duties.

"A lawyer’s oath is a sacred vow,” the letter states. “Americans have a right to expect, and courts must require, that those who undermine the Constitution by perpetuating false allegations to prevent citizens from having their vote counted – effectively denying them the right to vote – be held to account.”

“Knowingly making false claims in court submissions as part of a scheme to delay vote certifications and enable GOP-controlled legislatures to seat pro-Trump electors against the will of the voters is profoundly unethical and poses a direct threat to our democracy,” Pearson said.

“Every candidate has a right to ensure that an election is conducted lawfully. However, court challenges, if any, must be based on facts, on evidence. These principles are fundamental to securing every citizen’s right to vote and to our democracy,” the letter states.

“If ever there were a time for the nation’s bar associations to speak out for the rule of law, it is now,” writes Lauren Stiller Rikleen in The National Law Journal. “This is neither about politics nor partisanship. It is about the ability to keep our republic, as Benjamin Franklin challenged following the Constitutional Convention of 1787.”

The full letter is available here with signatures.

Friday, November 27, 2020

If Trump lives by numbers, ...

… then he dies by them (politically speaking, of course).

Catherine Rampell as the Washington Post, viewsTrump’s legacy, by the numbers

As covid–19 hospitalizations hit another new high on Tuesday, President Trump called a news conference to boast about a different record: the stock market.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average, he crowed, had just pierced 30,000. “That’s a sacred number, 30,000,” he said.

It was a bizarre statement even for Trump. After all, Trump has argued for years that any stock market gains that occur after a presidential election should be credited to the new president-elect, not the guy on his way out the door. In reality, neither presidents nor presidents-elect control stock markets, of course; but even if Trump did unilaterally control equity prices, and even if he had done so for the entire duration of his presidency, his record would still pale in comparison with his predecessor’s.

More important, 30,000 hardly seems like a “sacred number" — or a particularly significant one, in the context of this administration’s overall record. Here is a compendium of more memorable metrics that should forever be linked with the Trump legacy:

(Scriber: Assume block quotes for all that follows.)

261,000 (and growing): If anything is “sacred,” it is human life. This number is the minimum tally of U.S. lives lost to the novel coronavirus as of Wednesday night. By the time Trump leaves office it will be higher. Even by Thanksgiving morning, it will be higher.

$750: The amount Trump reportedly paid in federal income taxes the year he won the presidency. He paid the same amount his first year in the White House, too.

14.7 percent: The unemployment rate in April 2020. Also the highest unemployment rate on record since modern statistics on joblessness began in 1948 and likely the highest rate since the Great Depression.

$421 million: The amount of loans and other debts for which Trump is personally responsible, with most of it reportedly coming due within four years — that is, a period when Trump had hoped to serve his second presidential term.

100.1 percent: Federal debt held by the public as a share of gross domestic product, in the fiscal year that recently ended, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The last time this measure exceeded 100 percent was just after World War II.

$1.9 trillion: The 10-year cost of Trump’s 2017 tax cut. (This is “dynamic” cost — that is, it accounts for the effects of economic growth.) This contributes to the debt number above.

$130,000: The amount Trump paid an adult-film actress with whom he had an affair; this bought her silence ahead of the 2016 election.

26: The number of women who have publicly accused Trump of sexual misconduct.

26 million: The number of American adults who reported that their household didn’t have enough to eat just ahead of Election Day.

Eight: The number of Trump associates to date charged with or convicted of criminal offenses. The former aides and advisers are: onetime 2016 campaign chairman Paul Manafort; 2016 deputy campaign chair Rick Gates; former national security adviser Michael Flynn, whom Trump pardoned Wednesday; foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos; informal Trump foreign policy adviser George Nader; political adviser Roger Stone; personal attorney Michael Cohen; and strategist Stephen K. Bannon.

666: The number of separated migrant children whose parents still have not been found, because the Trump administration didn’t keep sufficient records.

23,035: The number of false or misleading claims Trump had made as of mid-September, according to the Washington Post Fact Checker team. Presumably that number will continue to grow during Trump’s final weeks in office.

$3: The amount that Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club charged taxpayers for a glass of water served to Trump.

289: The number of times Trump visited a golf course while president. So far.

15: The number of times that people have to flush their toilet, according to Trump. (Why he made this claim on the campaign trail I do not know.)

One: The number of viewers Trump officials sought to reach during their TV appearances (the infamous “audience of one”).

49 percent: The peak share of Americans who said they approved of Trump’s performance as president, according to Gallup.

306: The number of electoral college votes Trump won in 2016, which he called a “landslide.”

306: The number of electoral college votes Joe Biden won in 2020.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Criminal justice reform - Trump style

Trump’s Pardon of Flynn Signals Prospect of a Wave in His Final Weeks in Office. Political allies and associates are starting to press for clemency as the president also considers extending his criminal justice overhaul by commuting lengthy sentences for other offenders.

Thanks to our Editor at Large Sherry for this one

Here are some of the NY Times’ concluding observations.

Mr. [Allan] Dershowitz is exploring applying for pardons on behalf of Greg E. Lindberg, a North Carolina businessman who was sentenced in August to more than seven years in prison for his role in a bribery scheme that shook the state’s Republican Party, and Eliyahu Weinstein, a New Jersey man sentenced to more than 20 years in prison for a real estate Ponzi scheme.

Mr. Dershowitz said he had not approached Mr. Trump about either case, though he recalled an earlier conversation in which he explained his general philosophy on the importance of pardons to Mr. Trump.

The president, Mr. Dershowitz said, “was very interested in the concept of the pardon power being more than just clemency, but being part of the system of checks and balances for *excessive legislative or judicial actions.*”

Others seeking creative ways to forge ties to the president include Joseph Maldonado-Passage, the former Oklahoma zoo owner who is better known as Joe Exotic. His representatives have been running a carefully orchestrated campaign to try to persuade Mr. Trump to pardon Mr. Maldonado-Passage, who is one year into a 22-year sentence for trying to hire a hit man to kill an animal-rights activist.

I guess trying to hire a hit man is an example what’s OK in Trump’s criminal justice reform. There will be more. Wait for it.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

What we give thanks for - 'it feels like a miracle'

Yes, we still have serious problems facing our nation. Many more citizens will die before the vaccines are widely available. But we are on the road to recovery - physically, politically, psychologically. And the one thing driving that is why we should give thanks.

The Biden Era Is Really Here, and It Feels Like a Miracle. Imagine: The guy whose every sentence will potentially be news will be a normal and decent human being who understands in a sincere way that he is a public servant. So observes Michael Tomasky at The Daily Beast.

And suddenly, things felt different Tuesday. It was that cowardly GSA woman finally throwing in the towel. It was Laura Ingraham admitting it was over the night before. It was Donald Trump pardoning the turkeys, a self-abasing ritual for a president in the best of circumstances, but these were the worst of circumstances, and it was actually the first time in his presidency that I felt any empathy for him as I sat there imagining for, oh, at least 1.3 seconds what it must have taken for him to haul his lazy septuagenarian girth out there to do that.

But more than any of those images, it was the sight of Joe Biden and his new national security team standing up there and introducing themselves to America. Serious people. Public servants, who are in this for the right reasons. Not a grifter or gonef in the bunch. People who are qualified for the jobs to which they’re nominated, and people who will be given rein to do those jobs without having to worry that the president is going to tweet at 5:37 a.m. that he’s been rethinking things and maybe it’s time to sell Alaska after all.

And later on Tuesday, it was Biden again, solo this time, giving his first big transition-period interview to NBC’s Lester Holt. He talked like a president. Imagine. He didn’t pout or lash out or accuse Holt of bad faith. He gave answers that reflected that he has the public welfare in mind. And while he sounded notes of realism about the Senate he’ll probably have to deal with, he also laid out his ambition, which is not just to recover but to do more: “It’s a crisis that’s causing real mental stress for millions of people, and it’s in our power to solve it, and to grow the economy at the same time.”

Add all this up, and it comes to one simple point: It’s real now. I mean, it was real from that Saturday morning at 11:28 a.m., but now it’s really real. The Trump era is ending, and the Biden era is beginning.

Biden’s choices so far are great. In addition to the foreign policy team unveiled Tuesday afternoon in Wilmington, Janet Yellen for Treasury is absolutely an inspired choice. A former Fed chair has instant cred with those kinds of people, and she has very serious Keynesian cred too. This is not Tim Geithner redux by a longshot, and it’s perhaps a sign that whereas Barack Obama felt he had to calm the markets by taking in people like Geithner, Biden knows that he doesn’t haven’t to kowtow to “a bunch of fuckin’ bond traders” in the way that both Obama and Bill Clinton did, or felt they did (the quote was Clinton’s, during his transition). So this is exciting news.

Of course, we’ll have to see if all these people can get confirmed in Mitch McConnell’s Senate. Here’s a trivia question for you. Who was the last Democratic president to assume office without a majority in the Senate from his own party?

You have to go back—are you ready?—to Grover Cleveland. And not even the second term, after the four-year interregnum, but his first term. Yep—1885 was the last time a Democratic president didn’t have a Senate majority to help push his appointees through.

It’ll be very interesting to see how McConnell plays this when the time comes. I have to think that Mitt Romney, Lisa Murkowski, and Susan Collins will vote for most Cabinet nominees, and maybe even a few other Republicans here and there. But McConnell will choose two or three to mess with, just because he can. They’ll gin up some phony scandal on the person, because that’s how they start the “corrupt Biden administration” narrative that they’ll need to be in fifth gear by the time the midterms come around.

But all that’s for later. What’s for right now is the very good news that this is happening. States are certifying the results. It’s done. Of course, as soon as I write that, I think uh-oh, I better not, but it sure seems done. And now, we can begin to imagine a future where, well, we’re not exactly rid of him, but where we don’t have to give a fuck about whatever steaming bullshit flies out of his mouth. His statements, his tweets, won’t be news anymore. MSNBC and CNN won’t (I hope and assume) cover them, because soon they won’t be policy. He can say whatever he wants about the markets or a cop shooting or North Korea or anything, and we just don’t have to care.

And meanwhile, the guy to whom we will be listening, the guy whose every sentence will potentially be news, is a normal and decent human being who is also knowledgeable about policy and about the world and is also, and this is the main thing, someone who knows and understands in a sincere way that he is a public servant.

I loved that moment last week at that presser when someone asked him about the consequences of the Trump people not sharing virus info with him and his people. He didn’t talk about himself. He didn’t say how it affected him. He said he was concerned that more people would die.

That’s a president. It should be unremarkable, but after four years of this infantile and solipsistic behavior, it feels like a miracle.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Transtion moves ahead as GSA ascertains Biden win

Michigan certifies Biden win despite Trump’s GOP overtures.

The move is another setback in Trump’s efforts to use unconventional means to undermine the results of the Nov. 3 election and comes even after he made direct overtures to Republican officials in the state by inviting them to the White House last week.

Trump’s efforts to stave off the inevitable — formal recognition of his defeat — faced increasingly stiff resistance from the courts and fellow Republicans with just three weeks to go until the Electoral College meets to certify Biden’s victory. Time and again, Trump’s challenges and baseless allegations of widespread conspiracy and fraud have been met with rejection as states move forward with confirming their results.

GSA ascertains President-elect Joe Biden as winner, beginning formal transition process.

The General Services Administration has ascertained that President-elect Joe Biden is the “apparent winner” of the Nov. 3 election, clearing the way for the start of the transition from Donald Trump’s administration.

Now why, you ask, did this take two weeks? Doers anyone believe the GSA administrator’s claims that she was not pressured by Trump to block the transition?

Monday, November 23, 2020

GOP campaign in Georgia runoff is more and more unhinged ...

… and entertaining.

Judd Legum at describes A Confederacy of Dunces.

Background: Sidney Powell is whackadoodle

On Saturday night, Sidney Powell, one of the top attorneys on Trump’s legal team, appeared on Newsmax and alleged a massive conspiracy involving thousands of people to rig voting machines against Trump. The scandal, Sidney Powell said, is “so big no one wants to wrap their heads around it.”

The scheme, according to Powell, has been in the works for “multiple decades” and was initially created by Hugo Chavez with technology he obtained from the CIA. She claims that Dominion voting machines are set up so that people can “literally drag and drop hundreds of thousands of votes wherever they want them.”

All of this is false. Dominion machines have no connection to Chavez or Venezuela. There is one company involved in voting technology with Venezuelan founders, Smartmatic. But it is a separate company, and Dominion told The Dispatch that “no Smartmatic software has ever been used by the company.” Claims that Dominion machines were found shifting votes from Trump to Biden were also definitively debunked.

Powell said that Georgia Governor Brian Kemp (R) and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R), two outspoken Trump supporters, were part of the scheme to steal the election for Biden. This scheme also involved, according to Powell, “thousands” of other people, including “the people running the machines at each of the polling centers.”

Why would Kemp and Raffensperger conspire to steal an election from a president they both support? Powell suggested, without providing any evidence, that they were paid off. “The state bureau of investigation ought to be looking into the financial benefits received by Mr. Kemp and the Secretary of State’s family,” she said.

Powell also said that Hillary Clinton stole the 2016 primary from Bernie Sanders by rigging the same machines. Sanders was told what happened but stayed quiet in exchange for “money to buy another fabulous house.”

Powell promised a “biblical” new legal filing in Georgia next week that will “blow up” the state. She’s also not worried about the fact that the election results in Georgia were already certified in Georgia and elsewhere. “I could wait a month to file the fraud case, and everyone would have to undo their certifications because it’s so bad,” Powell said.

Notably, in the Newsmax interview, Powell claimed that, on Election Day, the voting machines were rigged in favor of Senator Kelly Loeffler (R-GA), who will face Raphael Warnock in a January run-off election. Powell said that the “real vote” would show that Congressman Doug Collins (R-GA) would have won and face Warnock.

We don’t know who bought their election… I’m sure it crosses party lines… I’m reasonably certain [the Republican nominee for Senate in Michigan] John James was ripped out of his seat, and he was entitled to have won that election by the real vote, and the same thing is true for Doug Collins in Georgia.

Popular Information highlighted these comments on Twitter on Tuesday afternoon, and the information went viral. A Loeffler victory in Georgia is critical for the Republican effort to maintain their Senate majority. Now Powell is suggesting that Loeffler cheated to advance to the run-off.

WTF? Read on.


Legum tweeted:

Trump’s legal team is now asserting that DOUG COLLINS, not KELLY LOEFFLER would be participating in the January 5 runoff if Brian Kemp hadn’t rigged the voting machines.

Does LOEFFLER agree? Or will she admit that the Trump campaign’s claims of voter fraud are BS.

“We don’t know who bought their election.. I’m sure it crosses party lines.. I’m reasonably certain John James was ripped out of his seat, and he was entitled to have won that election by the real vote, and the same thing is true for Doug Collins in Georgia.” — @SidneyPowell1

Trump’s legal strategy has never made any sense but, over the last few days, it has managed to become even more unhinged.

Last Thursday, Powell spoke at an official Trump campaign press conference with Rudy Giuliani and other members of the Trump campaign legal team.

And Powell has repeatedly appeared on television as a representative of the Trump campaign.

UPDATE: Moments ago the Trump campaign sent a press release claiming that Sidney Powell, who has participated in press conferences with Trump’s legal team, is not a member of Trump’s legal team and is “practicing law on her own”

This is false. On November 14, Trump tweeted that Powell was part of his legal team.


Such is the sound of Powell being thrown under the bus.

McConnell’s choice

With a few exceptions, Republican elected officials have adopted the posture of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). McConnell says that Trump is “100 percent within his right” to pursue litigation and refuses to acknowledge that Biden won.

But Trump isn’t pursuing a rational legal strategy. Judges have repeatedly rejected Trump’s claims as baseless — as a matter of fact and law. Those are the arguments that McConnell and most other elected Republicans are still legitimizing. And if they continue to do so, things will continue to deteriorate.

I can’t wait!

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Trump insists that he won in a landslide. He got that right - if you sub 'Biden' for 'he'

Here is some of the November 21, 2020 (Saturday) Letter from Heather Cox Richardson.

We are faced with the odd prospect of a president fighting desperately to keep a job he evidently doesn’t want. Trump has continued to insist he did not lose the 2020 election, and yet seems to have given up on governing. He has not taken any questions from reporters since Election Day and has spent a great deal of time golfing. Today the G20, the “Group of Twenty, which consists of leaders of developed or developing countries from around the world, met virtually. After speaking briefly, Trump turned his attention back to tweeting false information about the 2020 election. Then, while members of the G20 began to talk about responses to the global pandemic, Trump went golfing. This was his 298th golf trip during his presidency. Today America surpassed 12 million coronavirus infections.

While the president golfs, President-Elect Joe Biden is trying to pressure Congress to pass another coronavirus bill as the economy lurches toward another drop. Incoming presidents usually want to hold their influence in reserve to take credit for new policies, but Biden is pushing forward because he is so concerned about the economy. Unless Congress passes a new bill, about 12 million Americans will lose their unemployment benefits at the end of the year. Hunger and homelessness will follow.

With Prejudice in Pennsylvania

Here is a retweet from Neal Katyal with the summary of the court’s ruling in a Pennsylvania case.

In larger print

And here is the legal definition of “with prejudice.” In brief, that means that the judge said in effect go away and don’t come back.

From Wikipedia: Two of the more common applications of the word are as part of the terms “with prejudice” and “without prejudice”. In general, an action taken with prejudice is final. For example, “dismissal with prejudice” forbids a party to refile the case, and might occur either because of misconduct on the part of the party who filed the claim or criminal complaint, or the result of an out of court agreement or settlement. Dismissal “without prejudice” (in Latin, salvis iuribus) allows the party the option to refile, and is often a response to procedural or technical problems with the filing that the party could correct when filing again.

Trump vaccine - only Fox news could imagine that

Nicole Wallace alerts us to this gem by Brian Williams. This is a must view!

Trump 'keeps smashing into the brick walls of ballot math and election law' - and keeps losing.

Near the end of the Harry Potter series, Harry faces off against the principal villain, Lord Voldemort, each wielding powerful magic. Harry gains the upper hand and Voldemort literally explodes into pieces.

Now imagine that Voldemort represents Trump’s legal actions against the voters of this country. What we are witnessing is the explosion of Trump’s strategy, if you want to call it that, as Trump and his sycophants run up against the superior forces of ballot math and election law. No magic there. Just cold hard numbers and the rule of law.

In this morning’s NY Times, we learn that Trump’s Legal Team Sets a Precedent for Lowering the Bar. President Trump and his lawyers are engaged in a spectacle that would be funny if it weren’t so dangerous, and if the stakes weren’t so high.

One definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. By that definition, Trump’s post election efforts to wreck our election system, if not also Trump himself, is just plain insane. Consider: as of Saturday night, Trump’s courtroom score is two wins and 34 losses. The judges are openly contemptuous of the shenannigans of Trump’s lawyers.

Here are excerpts from the NY Times report.

On Thursday, the president had claimed on Twitter that he had “a very clear and viable path to victory” and that “pieces are very nicely falling into place” for his re-election.

Nobody who has been paying attention to the evidence believed this.

“Working as an engineer throughout my life, I live by the motto that numbers don’t lie,” said Georgia’s secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, at a news conference on Friday. He reiterated this while confirming Mr. Biden’s victory in the state after a hand recount of ballots.

It was merely the latest setback for Mr. Trump, whose helter-skelter effort to reverse Mr. Biden’s victory keeps smashing into the brick walls of ballot math and election law.

"Trump’s legal strategy seems like the product of the same mind that gave us hydroxychloroquine as a Covid cure,” said Ben Ginsberg, the Republican election lawyer who represented George W. Bush in 2000 in his Florida recount dispute with Vice President Al Gore.

… On Friday, the conservative website Power Line reported that the president’s lawyers filed documents claiming fraud in Michigan — and then cited townships in Minnesota.

"I have to say, it’s been strange,” said Mark Aronchick, a veteran Philadelphia lawyer who is representing four Pennsylvania counties against the Trump campaign’s challenge. “We have a robust legal system where we’re trained to focus on evidence and precedent. And then you go into a court of law and suddenly Rudy Giuliani is talking like he’s in the driveway of Four Seasons Total Landscaping.” (Four Seasons was the site of a Giuliani news conference on Nov. 7 in Philadelphia, between a crematory and an adult book shop, where the former mayor announced that Mr. Trump would not concede.)

One of Mr. Trump’s lawyers, Sidney Powell, went so far as to claim this week that the president had in fact won the election “not just by hundreds of thousands of votes, but by millions of votes.” However, she added, votes that were cast for Mr. Trump had been nefariously shifted to Mr. Biden by a software program “designed expressly for that purpose.”

Ms. Powell also said that the C.I.A. had previously ignored complaints about the software. She urged the president to fire Gina Haspel, the C.I.A. director.

As the past four years have shown, Mr. Trump’s say-anything style has been mimicked by his minions, like Ms. Powell, and can prove brutally effective in certain political and media settings. But it has limits in more rigorous and rule-oriented places, like court.

“You’re alleging that the two individual plaintiffs were denied the right to vote,” Judge Matthew W. Brann of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania said Tuesday in Williamsport, addressing Mr. Giuliani. “But at bottom, you’re asking this court to invalidate more than 6.8 million votes, thereby disenfranchising every single voter in the commonwealth. Can you tell me how this result can possibly be justified?”

Mr. Giuliani did not immediately answer. The judge appeared to be losing his patience.

(Thanks to our Editor at Large Sherry.)

Saturday, November 21, 2020

'Democracy requires at least two healthy political parties.' Trump is trying to kill off one of them

Michael Tomasky reports onTrump’s Last Hurrah: Trying to Kill American Democracy. If he somehow gets away with this, if he persuades four state legislatures to somehow invalidate Biden electors and seat Trump electors, then American democracy is dead.

Why is that?

In her November 20, 2020 Letter, Heather Cox Richardson explains why we need a vigorous 2-party system.

The news today remains Trump’s unprecedented attempt to steal an election in which voters chose his opponents, Democratic candidate Joe Biden and his running mate, Senator Kamala Harris, by close to 6 million votes, so far. A close second to that news is that the leadership of the Republican Party is not standing up to the president, but is instead seemingly willing to let him burn down the country to stay in office.


Aside from the outcome of this particular election, this attempt of Republican leaders to delegitimize the Democratic Party is an assault on our democracy. Here’s why:

Democracy requires at least two healthy political parties, so there is always an organized opposition to the party in power. Having a party that stands in opposition to those in power does two things: it enables people to disagree with current leadership while staying loyal to the nation, and it provides a means for oversight of the people running the government.

Until the early 1700s, in Europe, the monarch was the state. Either you were loyal to the king, or you were a traitor. Gradually, though, the British political thinkers from whom Americans drew their inspiration began to object to the policies of the British monarchy while remaining loyal to the government. They developed the idea of a loyal opposition. This was an important development in political thought, because it meant that a person could be loyal to the country (and keep his head firmly on his shoulders) while criticizing government policies.

It also meant that the people in power would have oversight to keep them on the straight and narrow. There’s nothing like opponents watching you for any potential scandal to keep corruption to a minimum.

During the establishment of the early American republic, the Framers of the Constitution briefly imagined that since the colonists had thrown off the king they would no longer need an opposition. But almost immediately—as early as President George Washington’s administration—men who disagreed with Washington’s policies organized their own party under Thomas Jefferson to oppose those in power. Jeffersonians offered to voters an alternative set of policies, and a way to put them into practice without overthrowing the government itself. This recognition of a loyal opposition was key to more than 200 years of peaceful transfers of power.…

until now.

Trump is rejecting the idea that Democrats can legally win an election. As this crisis drags on, more and more of his followers are echoing his insistence that the Democrats could not possibly win except by cheating. There is no evidence to support this claim. Trump’s lawyers have repeatedly admitted as much in court. It is rather a rejection of the possibility that Democrats can legitimately govern.

Our democracy depends on our ability both to criticize our government and to believe that we can legitimately elect a different set of leaders to advance different policies. If we lose the concept of a loyal opposition, we must all declare allegiance to the king.

No matter how politically and psychologically corrupt and unfit for high office.

Trump interferes with Michigan legislature

In their latest Ad, the Lincoln Project advised Michigan Legislators to Pick America over Trump reports David Gordon at Blog for Arizona.

The people at the Lincoln Project, rightfully not trusting Donald Trump or any person supporting him in his apparent coup attempts two weeks after Joe Biden was called the winner of the 2020 Presidential Election, have released a new ad called “Michigan.”

Noting that Donald Trump won Michigan by less than 11,000 votes in 2016 and Joe Biden emerged victorious there by about 153,000 ballots in 2020, the narrator reveals that:

“Donald Trump is attempting to steal the election by demanding that Michigan Presidential Electors vote for him.”

The narrator immediately points out that Trump’s attempt to circumvent the will of the people in Michigan (where Biden won by a landslide) is “illegal and UnAmerican.”

Furthermore, the ad continues by asserting that Trump’s inviting of the Michigan State House and Senate Republican leaders to accomplish this goal is wrong and treasonous.

The narrator concludes:

“Tens of thousands of Michiganders have died defending the Democracy Donald Trump now tries to overthrow. Nothing like this has happened in American History. The Republican Party of Michigan must decide if it is loyal to America and our Constitution, or to Donald Trump. All America is watching. The world is watching. What will (Michigan) Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and House Speaker Lee Chatfield do? Will they go down in history as good citizens who did their duty or traitors who attempted a failed coup? Donald Trump or America? Voters chose America. Now Michigan Republicans must do the same.”

Friday, November 20, 2020

Rudy's wretched wreck rolls on - to more legal losses for his master

I gotta ask: How could hiring Rudy as chief counsel NOT go wrong?

Rudy Giuliani Is a Hot Mess observes John Cassidy at The New Yorker.

Nearly two weeks ago, Rudy Giuliani, Donald Trump’s legal point man in his effort to reverse the result of the 2020 election, virtually broke the Internet when he held a press conference at Four Seasons Total Landscaping, a yard-care business situated next to a sex shop, in a North Philadelphia mini-mall. For his latest public outing, which came on Thursday, he chose a different location: the headquarters of the Republican National Committee, on Capitol Hill. But if the setting for this Giuliani event was more salubrious than the last one, its content was even more bizarre. As the former New York mayor stood under the television lights for about forty minutes and accused the Biden campaign of orchestrating an elaborate nationwide voter-fraud scheme, he sweated like a sumo wrestler in a sauna. At one point, he was forced to dab away with a handkerchief two streams of what appeared to be hair dye that were running down each of his cheeks. When he finally ceded the lectern to Sidney Powell, another member of Trump’s legal dream team, he immediately cracked open a water bottle and gulped down its contents like a camel happening upon an oasis.

By that stage, Giuliani had earned the twenty thousand dollars a day he had reportedly requested for representing Trump in a crusade that even many of the lame-duck President’s Republican defenders privately regard as a lost cause. (Did he not see Lindsey Graham giving Kamala Harris a fist bump on the floor of the Senate on Tuesday?) Barely stopping to draw a breath, Giuliani claimed that Biden operatives, working in cahoots with big-city Democratic machines, corrupt judges, and a voting-software company tied to Communist governments abroad (I kid you not), contrived to reverse the early leads that Trump held on Election Night in states such as Georgia, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. “What I am describing to you is a massive fraud,” Giuliani insisted at one point. At another, he said that the evidence he and his colleagues had gathered was “enough to overturn any election.”

And what is that evidence? Giuliani claimed that Trump’s legal team had gathered hundreds of affidavits from poll watchers and election officials alleging perfidious acts. But when reporters asked him to release these documents, he replied, “I can’t do it. I can’t put a witness’s life in jeopardy.” Much of the evidence Giuliani did point to has already been discredited, including claims from Republican poll watchers of malfeasance in Wayne County, Michigan, which includes the city of Detroit. Last week, a Wayne County judge dismissed the case to which these witnesses’ affidavits were attached. He said that the witnesses did not attend a session on the ballot-counting process hosted by election officials and their statements were “rife” with speculation.

Giuliani also claimed that in Pennsylvania more than six hundred thousand mail-in ballots weren’t inspected—which rendered them “null and void.” This claim was based on another dubious allegation from the Trump camp: that Republican poll watchers weren’t allowed to get close enough to the vote counters. To back it up, Giuliani invoked Joe Pesci’s performance in the 1992 film “My Cousin Vinny.” Aping a scene in which Vinny, a Brooklyn lawyer, gets a key witness to acknowledge that she might not have seen what she thought she did, the former mayor held up two fingers and said, “How many fingers do I got up?” He went on, “These people”—the poll watchers—“were further away than my cousin Vinny was from the witness. They couldn’t see a thing.”

Giuliani didn’t mention that Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court has already dismissed this argument out of hand. In an important ruling handed down last week, it said that poll watchers don’t have the right to inspect individual signatures. Having failed in state court, Giuliani is now fronting a case in federal court, but that isn’t going well, either. Turning to Georgia, he claimed that thousands of ballot signatures weren’t properly matched with voter-registration records and that, as a result, such votes should not be counted. Election officials, including Brad Raffensperger, the Republican secretary of state, have already explained that Georgia has an electoral law that was specifically designed to separate signature matching from vote counting in order to insure that votes are kept secret.

"Give us an opportunity to prove it in court, and we will,” Giuliani declared at one point. The truth is that Trump’s legal team has suffered a long series of legal setbacks, including three on Thursday alone: in Arizona, Georgia, and Pennsylvania. Virtually none of their claims have been substantiated. Despite all this, Giuliani persisted with his tale of a grand conspiracy against Trump, even claiming that Joe Biden himself was involved in putting it together. “The logical conclusion is this is a common plan, a common scheme—it comes right directly from the Democratic Party, and it comes from the candidate,” he said. “That’s the reason why he probably didn’t have to go out and campaign. He had to have known what they were going to do.”

What’s really going on here? Trump and Giuliani are surely aware that their allegations have no basis. Their game is to delay the vote certifications and rile up the maga base, which can then be mobilized to put pressure on Republican state legislatures to usurp the voters and appoint slates of Trump loyalists to the Electoral College. As part of this strategy, Trump has invited Republican lawmakers from Michigan to the White House on Friday, reports on Thursday afternoon said.

This outlandish, anti-democratic venture has no antecedent in modern American history, but Trump and Giuliani gave up caring about precedent long ago. Just as with Ukraine, they will push their foul scheme as far as they can, secure in the knowledge that every day it lasts is another day of fund-raising for the Trump election-defense fund; another day of legal fees for Giuliani; and another day in which Trump doesn’t have to acknowledge that he’s a loser. And so the circus will go on—until the courts, or the calendar, or the American people bring it to a conclusion. (The Republican Party? As the location of Giuliani’s press conference demonstrated, it is part of the scheme.)

Toward the end of his clammy peroration, Giuliani declared, “We cannot allow these crooks—because that is what they are—to steal an election from the American people.” He was right about that, anyway. He is one of the ringleaders.

Con, coup, and the [GOP] clowns fueling Trump's pathetic losing

The Coup Stage of Donald Trump’s Presidency. Masha Gessen of the New Yorker compares Trump’s con to a coup. Scriber follows on by pointing out a progression from con to coup get’s us to the same, bad place.

Across a reassuringly wide political spectrum, observers hold that Trump’s refusal to concede the election results is not tantamount to a coup attempt. In the Washington Examiner, Timothy Carney wrote, “Trump is a con man, and his insistence that he can overturn the election is his latest grift.” In The Nation, Jeet Heer argued that, while Trump’s behavior is concerning, “it is very different than a coup. It is more accurately viewed as a cover-up,” adding that Trump is “interested in keeping his con game afloat.” My colleague Susan Glasser posed the question “Is it a coup or a con?” to a dozen of her smartest Washington sources, and they, too, tilted the needle closer to “con.”

But, as I said …

"Con versus coup” might be a false dichotomy. A coup is a power claim made illegitimately, often but not always with the use of force, sometimes illegally but sometimes within the bounds of a constitution. A con is a mushy term: it can be a criminal act or simply an unethical one, perhaps just wily and manipulative. A con, in other words, is an illegitimate act of persuasion. A coup always begins as a con. If the con is successful—if the power claim is persuasive—then a coup has occurred.

Gessen reviews all he weird legal maneuvers that end up failing and closes with this:

Trump’s bad con continues to show how easy it would be to stage a good one. Then we would call it a coup.

Susan B. Glasser, also at the New Yorker, takes us on a ride with Trump’s Clown Coup Crisis. On another terrible week for American democracy.

… [Trump] is no longer merely pursuing spurious lawsuits in state courts; in recent days, he and his lawyers have confirmed publicly that Trump now is trying to directly overturn the election results and the will of the American people by pressuring Republican state legislators to appoint electors who will vote for Trump in the Electoral College instead of Biden.

Since the end of this campaign, which did not result in that victory, Trump has engaged in what I’m increasingly certain history will record as one of the worst offenses of his Presidency: a systemic attack on the integrity of the election itself. This escalated dramatically this week, as his first wave of lawsuits began collapsing under the scrutiny of skeptical judges and nonexistent evidence. Rather than retreat, however, Trump has redoubled his efforts in key states, such as Georgia, Michigan, and Arizona, publicly pressuring local Republican officials not to certify the election results.

In Georgia, this ploy appears to have failed, with the Republican secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, openly feuding with the President and denouncing Trump’s efforts to undermine the vote count. On Thursday night, after a hand recount, Georgia officials said that Biden had once again emerged as the winner in the state—the first Democrat to do so since 1992—and that Raffensperger will certify the results on Friday. …

… Mitt Romney, the Utah senator who was the only Republican to vote to convict Trump in his impeachment trial, earlier this year, issued a statement that might well have been the toughest I have ever seen about a President from a member of his own Party. “Having failed to make even a plausible case of widespread fraud or conspiracy before any court of law, the President has now resorted to overt pressure on state and local officials to subvert the will of the people and overturn the election,” Romney said. “It is difficult to imagine a worse, more undemocratic action by a sitting American President.”…

Last week, I wondered in this column about just what Trump was up to in challenging the results: Was it an attempted coup, or just another Trump con? The past few days have seemed to offer an answer, and not a reassuring one. The truth is that even if Trump’s would-be coup looks like a con, even if it seems to be a clown show that’s surely doomed to fail, it must still be taken seriously as long as it is happening. Look at how far Republicans have gone along with Trump’s folly after an election that was decisively won by Biden, a contest in which he beat Trump by more than five million votes and garnered three hundred and six electoral votes—exactly the electoral-college “landslide” that Trump secured in 2016. Republican excuses have grown increasingly pathetic: We’re just giving him time. We’re just letting the process play out. He’s entitled to pursue his claims in the courts. In explicitly demanding that Republican state officials disregard the will of the voters, Trump has, once again, made his Party’s leaders out as stooges and patsies.

The G.O.P. knows all too well that this is not the process by which American elections are decided, not now and not ever. What Trump is doing is not like the 2000 Florida recount. It is not like anything before in American history. Republican leaders can end this today by finally saying publicly what so far they have only had the courage to admit in private. But will they, at long last, tell Trump what the voters said loudly and clearly: It’s over, you lost, and Joe Biden won?


‘These are the words and actions of an attempted coup’ reports Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog), It’s just now starting to become clear that Trump is serious. He intends to overturn an election in which he was defeated.


In the wake of the 2010 midterms, House Republicans made a dangerous threat. The newly elected GOP majority in the chamber said it had no intention of raising the debt ceiling, at least not unless the Obama White House met Republicans’ unconditional demands.

There was, however, a small problem: few took the threats seriously. The political mainstream assumed the party was simply engaged in hollow posturing; investors shrugged; and even Democrats found it hard to believe Republicans would crash their own country’s economy on purpose. The widely held assumption was that the GOP was bluffing, thumping its chest to make a point, but with no intention of trashing the full faith and credit of the United States.

Eventually, the political world confronted a difficult realization: Republicans weren’t kidding. The threats weren’t hollow. The far-right party was quite sincere in its hostage strategy, and it didn’t much care about the consequences.

As this reality came into focus, anxieties spiked. Markets fell. Job growth abruptly slowed to a near halt. Phone lines on Capitol Hill crashed, as the public reached out to lawmakers.

It took a little while, but people began to say, “Wait, Republicans are actually going through with this. The nightmare scenario is actually happening.” It was the first crisis of its kind in U.S. history, and though few wanted to believe it would happen, it did.

Nearly a decade later, Donald Trump signaled his willingness to nullify his own country’s presidential election. Many weren’t altogether sure what to make of the threats, but it was widely assumed that cooler heads would prevail.

Trump is trying for a coup and that is not hyperbole

It’s just now starting to become clear that Trump is serious. He intends to overturn an election in which he was defeated. We should, in the words of Masha Gessen, “Believe the autocrat. He means what he says. Whenever you find yourself thinking, or hear others claiming, that he is exaggerating, that is our innate tendency to reach for a rationalization.”

And so, as the political world confronts another first-of-its-kind crisis, brought on by yet another radicalized Republican, stark realizations are coming into view. The front page of the Star Tribune in Minneapolis features a striking headline in a large font this morning: “Trump trying to nullify election: He wants GOP lawmakers to ignore will of voters.”

The front page of the New York Times included an all-caps headline that told readers, “Trump targeting Michigan in ploy to subvert vote.” The lede on the front-page article alerted readers to the president’s attempts “to overturn the 2020 election” through an “audacious use of brute political force.”

The Washington Post ran a front-page headline that read, “Trump wages full assault to overturn election.” The accompanying article reads:

President Trump is using the power of his office to try to reverse the results of the election, orchestrating a far-reaching pressure campaign to persuade Republican officials in Michigan, Georgia and elsewhere to overturn the will of voters in what critics decried Thursday as an unprecedented subversion of democracy. After courts rejected the Trump campaign’s baseless allegations of widespread voter fraud, the president is now trying to remain in power with a wholesale assault on the integrity of the vote by spreading misinformation and trying to persuade loyal Republicans to manipulate the electoral system on his behalf.

Note, this isn’t an opinion column; it’s just a factual description of what’s unfolding. The United States is, in fact, currently led by a man “trying to remain in power with a wholesale assault on the integrity of the vote.”

In the immediate aftermath of Election Day 2020, the White House’s allies suggested the president has the right to pursue every possible avenue. Just this morning, Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) argued, “The president has every right to see that every ballot’s counted.”

But we’re well past that point now. Trump and his team don’t want to count ballots; they want election results in some states to be invalidated. A member of the president’s legal team was explicit on this point yesterday on Fox Business, arguing, “The entire election, frankly, in all the swing states should be overturned and the legislatures should make sure that the electors are selected for Trump.”*

With this in mind, the president is still scheduled to meet this afternoon with GOP leaders from the Michigan legislature, who were yesterday summoned to the White House for unsubtle reasons.

Reuters reported that Trump’s strategy for “retaining power despite losing the U.S. election is focused increasingly on persuading Republican legislators to intervene on his behalf in battleground states Democrat Joe Biden won.” The Post’s report added the president’s hopes that Republicans in some states will simply “flip” results in his favor, voters’ will be damned.

“These are the words and actions of an attempted coup, according to historians and other experts,” the article said.

It matters, of course, that Trump will almost certainly fail. But the fact that he’s making such an attempt is itself a scandal of historic proportions, and he’s creating new norms, standards, and strategies that will outlive what remains of his failed term.

As with the GOP’s debt-ceiling crisis in 2011, few wanted to believe this would, or even could, happen. But here we are.

Trump's lawyers make outlandish claims - without a shred of evidence.

In her November 19, 2020 letter, Heather Cox Richardson summarizes Trump’s attempts to overturn the election - while noting that the Georgia SoS called Georgia for Biden.

Today Trump continued his assault on our democracy, trying to overturn what at this point is a very clear victory for Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris.

Today, Trump’s lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell alleged—without evidence—widespread fraud in the election and that Biden won because of “the massive influence of communist money through Venezuela, Cuba, and likely China and the interference with our elections here in the United States.” On his Fox News Channel show, personality Tucker Carlson noted that Powell refused to produce any evidence for any of her outlandish claims. The Washington Post described the press conference in which Trump’s lawyers made these allegations as “truly bonkers.”

Rick Hasen, an election law expert, wrote, “This is very dangerous for our democracy, as it is an attempt to thwart the will of the voters through political pressure from the President…. Even though it is extremely unlikely to work, it is profoundly antidemocratic and a violation of the rule of law. It’s inexcusable.” And yet, the official Twitter account of the Republican Party endorsed Powell’s statements.

The goal of Trump’s team is not to make a coherent argument; they have lost 31 lawsuits so far, and have racked up only 2 quite minor wins that do not affect the outcome. They are simply creating a narrative to muddy the waters, apparently either to get legislatures to replace Democratic electors with Republican ones, or to delay the certification of ballots to throw the election into the House of Representatives, where they think Trump has a chance of winning. They are making no pretense that Trump is the choice of a majority of voters– Biden is ahead by almost 6 million votes. Rather, they are trying to game the Electoral College.

This is a long shot that gets longer every day. Today, Trump invited to the White House Michigan lawmakers and the Republican canvass board members from Wayne County who first certified the ballots that elected Biden, and then, after Trump reached out to them, declared they wanted to “rescind” their approval of the ballot counts. But it was too late to change the certification of the ballots.

Tonight, the Republican secretary of state from Georgia, Brad Raffensperger, announced the result of the hand audit of ballots there, too. He confirmed that Biden has won Georgia. It turned out there were indeed some minor errors in the original count, but they were concentrated not in Democratic counties, but in Floyd County, which is Republican.

Also in the news,

the House Committee on Oversight and Reform called out Emily Murphy, the administrator at the General Services Administration responsible for refusing to acknowledge Biden’s victory. Her refusal has kept Biden’s people from access to intelligence and federal staffers who could help them prepare to hit the ground running when Biden takes office in January. The committee members wrote a letter pointing out that Biden has won by nearly six million votes and has been identified as the winner of the 2020 election by all major news media outlets. At this point, members of the committee say, “there is no conceivable argument that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are not ‘the apparent successful candidates for the office of President and Vice President,’” the standard the law sets for recognizing an incoming administration.

The Lincoln Project's latest ad tags 2024 GOP wannabes.

In their new Ad, the Lincoln Project said 2024 Republican Presidential Contenders are Anything But “Leader”s reports David Gordon at Blog for Arizona.

In their latest ad, “Leaders,” the Lincoln Project paints potential 2024 Republican Presidential Candidates Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, Tom Cotton, Mike Lee, and Niki Haley as cowards, liars, enablers, and traitors to the American Ideal and Political System.

In the Trump campaign's 'last dying gasp' Trump's legal team makes elementary goofs - like misspelling 'poll' as 'pole'.

As in pole watcher and poll cat?

The Associated Press reports on Trump’s failed legal tactics in this morning’s email. You can find more in the Daily Star reporting Trump’s election lawsuits plagued by elementary errors.

Trump, allies make frantic steps to overturn Biden victory; Biden flips Georgia; It’s his birthday, at 78, he’ll be oldest U.S. president

Refusing to countenance the clear reality of a comprehensive election defeat, Donald Trump and his allies are taking increasingly frantic and desperate steps to subvert the results.

That includes summoning Republican state legislators from Michigan today for an extraordinary meeting at the White House as part of a longshot bid to overturn Joe Biden’s victory. Trump also has personally called local election officials who are trying to rescind their certification votes in Michigan.

His legal team has suggested that a judge order Pennsylvania to set aside the popular vote there. And his allies are pressuring county officials in Arizona to delay certifying vote tallies.

Election law experts see this as the last, dying gasp of the Trump campaign and say there is no question whatsoever that Biden will walk into the Oval Office come January. Colleen Long, Zeke Miller, Jill Colvin and David Eggert have the latest developments.

It seems Trump hasn’t perhaps assembled a team of legal eagles to do his electoral bidding. He has launched a barrage of lawsuits across at least five states. But his attorneys have repeatedly made elementary errors in those high-profile cases: misspelling “poll watcher" (P-O-L-L) as “pole watcher” (P-O-L-E), forgetting the name of the presiding judge during a hearing, filing a Michigan lawsuit before an obscure court in Washington by accident and having to refile complaints after erasing entire arguments they’re using to challenge results, Nomaan Merchant reports.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Trump lost. He knows it. He is setting fires on the way out. And the GOPlins are aiding and abetting.

Trump’s latest X/AntiX nomination is exposed by Catherine Rampell at the Washington Post:Republicans are trying to jam through Judy Shelton. She has no business working at the Fed.

Republican lawmakers are about to start an arms race politicizing a government institution critical to the country’s functioning, one that spent decades painstakingly establishing its credibility as a neutral, apolitical body of professionals.

No, not the Supreme Court. This time it’s the Federal Reserve.

The Senate is expected to vote as soon as this week on Trump’s nomination of Judy Shelton to the Fed. Simply put, Shelton is a demonstrably unqualified partisan quack who has no business working at the world’s most powerful central bank. Her nomination has been condemned by hundreds of economists and Fed alumni, including prominent Republicans and at least seven Nobel laureates. The senators poised to confirm her appear to know she is unfit; ahead of February hearings, a former Republican Senate Banking Committee aide said that “the idea of even calling her as a witness for something was beyond the pale” not long ago.

Republican lawmakers who now support Shelton’s appointment to one of the most important economic policymaking jobs in the world have struggled to explain why. In damningly faint praise, they admit that sure, she might believe ridiculous things, but she’d serve alongside competent people. So she can’t cause that much damage, right?

To be clear, these lawmakers have generally not endorsed Shelton’s stances.

Perhaps most objectionable is her multi-decade effort to bring back the gold standard. This might be popular among the right-wing fringe, but it was abandoned worldwide long ago and remains almost unanimously rejected by economists. For good reasons, including that gold prices are volatile. Linking the dollar to gold can also restrict liquidity when the economy needs it most — as happened during the Great Depression.

She has also questioned whether the Fed should even exist — before she was nominated to serve on its board.

So … why?

It’s unclear why Republicans are lowering the bar now — in the midst of a historic economic crisis. Another pending Fed nominee, Christopher Waller, is qualified for the job and still hasn’t gotten a vote; yet somehow Shelton is getting jammed through ahead of him.

One possible explanation: a desire to salt the earth for incoming President-elect Joe Biden.

Heather Cox Richardson (Letters from an American) sees it the same way.

Trump appears to be doing all he can to cripple Biden’s administration before it begins. Officials have told CNN that Trump is withdrawing troops worldwide in order to box Biden in before he takes office. A senior official told CNN that the goal is “to set so many fires that it will be hard for the Biden administration to put them all out.”

This has passed incompetence. It’s clearly vengeful malice perpetrated by the political equivalent of a school yard bully.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Why does Trump want the job he cannot do and does not give a damn about

Max Boot at WaPo takes a stab at the answer in Trump fights to keep a job he shows no interest in performing.

Imagine if, in November 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt had decided to check out of World War II because it wasn’t going as well as he had hoped. Imagine if he had secluded himself in the Oval Office, listening to the radio all day, laughing at “Fibber McGee and Molly” and cursing at Walter Winchell’s news program. Imagine if, instead of attending meetings with his military chiefs, he spent his time purging government officials who weren’t loyal New Dealers and screaming about supposed fraud in the midterm elections (a big Republican victory).

That’s roughly where we stand today with President Trump and the coronavirus. A million new cases of covid–19 were recorded in the United States last week. On Saturday alone, we lost more than 1,300 people — equivalent to some three Boeing 747 crashes. To put our tragedy in perspective: As economist Jeremy Horpedahl pointed out, South Dakota (pop. 885,000) has about 25 percent more covid–19 deaths than South Korea (pop. 51 million). On the current trajectory, the United States will lose more lives by March 1 — roughly 440,000 — than the number of Americans who died in all of World War II.

Yet instead of providing leadership in a time of crisis, Trump prefers to golf, nurse his grudges and try to overturn the results of the election. The Post reports that “the president has not attended a coronavirus task force meeting in ‘at least five months,’” “is no longer regularly briefed on the pandemic by his team of doctors,” “rarely reads the daily virus reports” prepared by his staff and “has all but ceased to actively manage the deadly pandemic.”

Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, asked Trump to call for reducing in-person dining in restaurants and bars. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, asked him to stress the importance of mask-wearing and to let health officials work with the Biden transition team. Trump has simply ignored these urgently needed requests.

It is left to President-elect Joe Biden to urge mask-wearing. But his words are likely to be ignored by Trump’s cult followers. Imagine how much good the president could do if he were to rebuke the dangerous rantings of Rep.-elect Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.). This QAnon supporter just tweeted that “masks are oppressive”: “In GA, we work out, shop, go to restaurants, go to work, and school without masks. My body, my choice.” That’s like saying that stoplights, seat belts and drunken driving laws are oppressive: “My car, my choice.” Yet Trump is silent even though scientists estimate that universal mask use could save 130,000 lives by the end of February.

Trump is ignoring the scientists just as he is ignoring the economists. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell keeps warning that it’s imperative to pass a new stimulus bill to give a boost to the economy, which is likely to stagger under the weight of renewed closings. “The next few months could be challenging,” Powell said on Thursday, despite promising vaccine news.

Yet hopes for an economic stimulus package in the lame-duck Congress are fading, with Democrats and Republicans too far apart in their demands. Democratic leaders are asking for at least $2.4 trillion, while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) wants to spend only $500 billion. This is the kind of impasse where presidential leadership — even from a lame-duck president — could make all the difference in forcing Republicans to negotiate in good faith, while the president-elect pressures Democrats to do the same.

But Trump is missing in action in stimulus talks just as he is in strategy sessions to fight the pandemic. On Oct. 27, he promised: “After the election, we’ll get the best stimulus package you’ve ever seen.” But he has done next to nothing to deliver on his promise beyond sending out a solitary tweet on Saturday demanding that Congress pass a “Covid Relief Bill” — “Get it done!” Tweeting is no substitute for legislating.

Trump’s focus in his final days seems to be on replacing competent officials with unqualified loyalists. A purge directed by his 30-year-old former “body man” has heads rolling at the Defense Department, Homeland Security, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Energy Department and even at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration — where a climate-change denier has been put in charge of the U.S. Global Change Research Program. These capricious personnel moves simply heighten the United States’ vulnerability while Trump still refuses to work with the Biden transition team.

Trump could not be doing more damage if he were consciously attempting to sabotage the U.S. government. For the record: I don’t believe that he is deliberately burning everything down on his way out the door to punish Americans for rejecting him. He is merely salving his ego, and is heedless of the causes, as always. But it wouldn’t look much different if he were. Why is he fighting to keep a job that he shows no interest in performing? He should resign now and give Vice President Pence a chance to govern in the administration’s waning days.