Sunday, August 30, 2020

The Divider In Chief Goes Rabid

Whatever I posted earlier on the protests in Portland, it's gotten worse. Via Kanishka Singh at Reuters:

One person was shot dead in Portland late on Saturday as protesters from rival groups clashed in the northwest U.S. city, which has seen frequent demonstrations for months that have at times turned violent...

Sounds of gunfire were heard in the area of Southeast 3rd Avenue and Southwest Alder Street, according to the spokesman’s statement.

The police said they were not currently releasing suspect information.

When asked by Reuters if the shooting was related to clashes between rival protesters in the same area, the spokesman said "it is too early in the investigation to draw those kinds of conclusions..."

The New York Times and the Oregonian newspapers reported that a large group of supporters of President Donald Trump had traveled in a caravan through downtown Portland, with a pro-Trump gathering drawing hundreds of trucks full of supporters into the city.

The Times cited two unidentified witnesses as saying a small group of people got into an argument with other people in a vehicle and someone opened fire.

The man who was shot and killed was wearing a hat with the insignia of Patriot Prayer, a far-right group based in Portland that has clashed with protesters in the past, according to the New York Times. Reuters could not independently verify this...

The New York Times reported that Trump supporters and counter-protesters clashed on the streets, with people shooting paint ball guns from the beds of pickup trucks and protesters throwing objects back at them...

trump is tweeting out praise to the shooter(s) who went in that pro-trump caravan with paintballs and then real guns. he's been attacking the Portland, OR mayor for being weak and allowing the violence to continue in order to make trump "look bad" (when it's trump's own people making things worse). trump hasn't said much about the teen shooter in Kenosha but trump's media allies sure have.

trump has been bashing Black Lives Matter protesters and praising Far Right militias with equal fervor, pushing for division and making calls to violence more frequently, especially as the 2020 election campaigning enters the final round toward November.

What trump is doing is horrifying. In my lifetime, I cannot recall any of our Presidents actively sowing dissension in our own streets (worse, doing so for political points with his rabid base). Whenever there were protests going on, be it under Bush the Elder, Clinton, Bush the Lesser, Obama, the White House message was usually along the lines of "we do not agree with what the protesters are claiming but we respect their right to march as long as they're respectful of the public peace" (There were protests during Reagan's tenure I recall but usually about apartheid and divesting from South Africa and usually too small to make the headlines, I can't recall anything more large-scale). Under trump, every BLM protest is a violent riot and every White Pride riot is a protest.

One of the job duties of a President - along with Commander-in-Chief and Chief of State - is being a Uniter figure, a Mourner-in-Chief in moments of great tragedy (like Reagan with the Challenger disaster) and a Rallier-in-Chief in moments of dark times (when Dubya offered words of condolence and strength - genuine or not - after 9/11).

It is telling that trump has failed since DAY ONE in the White House in the duty of being a Uniter. It requires traits - empathy above all - that trump never had in his soul.

trump can only appeal to the emotional states of greed, rage, and cruelty. Those are the only tools he really has when it comes time to stand at a podium and speak to the nation at large. And it's why when given the chance, trump will always fail to speak to the nation and speak instead to his base of angry voters who care not for empathy, sharing, or compassion.

For all that trump tries to compare himself to Lincoln, trump is actually the polar opposite. Where Lincoln - even in the throes of the civil war where our nation was at its most divided - spoke to the better angels of our nature, trump instead wants that civil war in order to maintain his corrupt hold on power and thus speaks to the worst demons of our nature.

Let me refer to David Frum at the Atlantic, who also got to the same point of realization about trump's crossing of the moral event horizon:

...The Trump campaign probably broke the law—and certainly trashed norms of republican constitutionalism dating to the very origins of the United States—when it made a campaign prop of the White House. But was Trump troubled? Absolutely not. He basked in the moment. He invited his supporters to bask with him. Bask they did.

Donald Trump is a dreadful public speaker, but a master communicator.

When he chooses to deliver a formal oration, as he chose to do on the fourth night of the convention, he visibly bores himself. He comes alive only when he can free-associate onstage about his grievances, bigotries, and hatreds. And while those speeches may seethe with dark energy, they are hemmed in by his shrinking vocabulary and egocentric content...

Mid-speech, Trump expatiated on the greatness of the American past. “Our American ancestors sailed across the perilous ocean to build a new life on a new continent,” he began. Almost any other candidate, even any other Republican, would feel some need to acknowledge the experience of Native Americans and enslaved Africans, to place a question mark over the concept of wild frontier and open range—the literal phrases in his text. But Trump knows that millions of his fellow Americans are sick and tired of having to pretend to care about Black and Indigenous people. He wants them to know that he doesn’t care either. That’s what they love about him.

The night before Trump’s acceptance address, a Trump supporter shot three people, killing two, in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The 17-year-old crossed state lines to carry his AR-15-style rifle to a scene of confrontation that ended in death. Some presidential nominees might have felt obliged to say something about that. Again: not Trump. “In the strongest possible terms, the Republican Party condemns the rioting, looting, arson and violence we have seen in Democrat-run cities like Kenosha, Minneapolis, Portland, Chicago, and New York,” he said. Trump spoke not a word to his followers urging them to put down their guns and quit the provocateur tactics that have so often accelerated disorder into violence. He knows that millions of his fellow Americans regard an armed white vigilante as an honorary law-enforcement officer. He wants them to know that he agrees. That’s something else they love about him...

Trump is a secessionist from the top. As my colleague Ron Brownstein often observes, Trump regards himself as a wartime president of Red America against Blue America. That’s how he can describe riot and disorder as happening in “Biden’s America,” even when it happens under his presidency. In his mind, the majority of the country is already “Biden’s America,” even before Biden enters office—and the remainder of it will continue to be “Trump’s America,” even should Trump leave office.

Since we are two countries, we can have two sets of laws and rules: one for friends, another for enemies. That’s why so many prominent Trump supporters can look at the shooting in Kenosha and perceive the gunman, who went to a city where he did not live with an AR-15-style rifle in hand, as acting in self-defense. The gunman had legitimate rights that must be respected. The dead men did not, and neither did all the many victims this year of police shootings. If those victims had criminal records, then they were criminals—unlike, say, Michael Flynn, who remains a rights-bearing American despite his criminal record. Two countries, two classes of citizen, two systems of law...

One of the points about America is that we're supposed to be The United States of America. Under trump, we are no longer united. As Divider-in-Chief, trump has separated us into a Red America and a Blue America, and he's given the okay to Red America to open fire on the Blue America.

We're in the middle of the Second Civil War, not the beginning. It's just that now we don't have a President in the White House working to save us, it's a Loser of the Popular Vote fighting hard to keep us divided so he can stay in power.

Gods help us.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Superheroes Shouldn't Die 2020 Edition: Wakanda Forever

(Update 8/31: Thank you again Batocchio for the link to Crooks&Liars Mike's Blog Round-Up! Please do click on the link below to John Lewis' eulogy as well, thank ye)

2020 is starting to suck in ways that even 2016 never thought of.

T'Challa died! (well, the actor):

...(Chadwick) Boseman is well known in our realm for playing T’Challa the Black Panther in the Marvel Cinematic Universe but famously also played Jackie Robinson in 42, along with roles in Draft Day, Gods of Egypt, Marshall, and more...

I just wrote this last month, covering the passing of Civil Rights icon John Lewis:

There's a saying in pop culture: Representation matters. It's why little girls look up to giant posters of Wonder Woman and cry when running into Gal Gadot (it's why getting a Wonder Woman movie made period since the superhero movie boom of the late 1980s was a big f-cking deal). It's why not just African-Americans but Africans looked to Black Panther as a role model since the 1960s when Lee and Kirby created his character. It's why the push for Asian heroes to get introduced into the next phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is front-page news.

After Black Panther movie came out, there were serious efforts to get the Wakandan salute done properly in the real world:

photo from Jose Luis Magana (AP Photo)

Comic books, it should be noted, is a place where legends are formed and cultures shaped. The best tales, the best heroes, become larger-than-life figures who can inspire and motivate. It's not that Superman can lift cars over his head, it's that Superman can show up on a ledge next to a teenage girl and talk her down from suicide. It's that Captain Marvel can stand up after all these men knock her down with the awareness she doesn't have to prove a damn thing to them. It's that Black Panther can defend an African nation - all of Africa in some stories - from the scars and damage of colonization to build a better future.

This is a huge passing. Boseman was poised to carry the Marvel Cinematic franchise into the 2020s, playing a character whose legendary status is on par with Wonder Woman, Spider-Man, in some places even Superman. Representation matters. Black Panther is a global hero, and the actor playing him helps build that identity in ways that any replacement actor will struggle to achieve (look to how hard it is to find someone to fill Christopher Reeve's iconic take on Superman, or filling Leonard Nimoy's role as Spock).

Also lost in this passing is a good person, who had been fighting colon cancer (stage 3, which is serious) while starring in a string of movies - not just Black Panther and the Avengers movies, but played Thurgood Marshall in a biopic and in a Spike Lee Da 5 Bloods Vietnam War tale - since 2016. Boseman was an actor with range, pathos, and wit.

If anything, Boseman helped confirmed the folly of white people and potato salad forever:

"Ah Hell Naw, Karen, keep your bland-ass potato salad to yourself!" "In the face!"


Friday, August 28, 2020

In Memoriam: Thirty Years Later from Gainesville

I wrote this five years ago, about what happened in Gainesville at University of Florida:

We shouldn't forget the lives taken that didn't need to go.  There are so many of them taken from us every day across the globe, and the sorrow of it is how much waste and loss and pain there is when that happens.

If the killer had never been, right now Sonja or Christina or Christa or Tracy or Manuel would be my age or close to it, in their 40s.  Likely married or with kids of their own.  Kids old enough to be attending UF themselves by now, twenty-five years later.  All five of them could be working somewhere, as doctors or engineers or teachers.  Writing books, or painting, or composing music.  Creating, adding to the world.

We are them and they could have been us.  Maybe doing better, maybe not.  But we'll never know, we'll never see.  

All that loss during a cold week in August 1990.

In memoriam.

The anniversary didn't make a lot of national news and the pandemic forced any public gathering to cancel, but the local paper Gainesville Sun covered the look back in sorrow (by Cindy Swirko):

...At other anniversary points of this pivotal tragedy, the Gainesville community has gathered for vigils or services of commemoration. This time, with the coronavirus pandemic preventing that, the anniversary might seem overlooked.

The University of Florida stopped anniversary recognitions such as tolling the carillon bells of Century Tower five times after the 25th anniversary. There are lasting reminders on campus, however. There are also five palm trees planted in the median near the wall in memory of the students, as well as five trees on campus near Library East...

New students to Gainesville might see the memorial of trees and placards in the median of Southwest 34th Street south of Second Avenue and not realize who it’s for.

Or they might see the center panel on the graffitied wall beside the road and not realize it is a sacred spot...

Photo by Sam Thomas for the Sun

The locals defend that spot. Anybody tries to paint over it, within hours the spot is repainted so the five names - Sonja, Christina, Christa, Manuel, Trudy - and the hearts are put back up.

The sin and sorrow of murder is the void we endure when the lives are gone. They could be doctors, teachers, parents, artists, travelers, thinkers, dreamers... All that potential gone.

And it's just these five lives. There are so many others killed in acts of rage and lust all across the world, all that pain and sorrow to endure more and more.

Just want to live in a stronger loving world, can't we just have that, someday...?

Thursday, August 27, 2020

The Only Thing You Need To Know About trumpCon's Debasement of The Presidency Tonight

trump is going to give his big convention speech from the South Lawn of the White House... which is a violation of the Hatch Act. Along with a number of other things trump did to break that law. Via Sam Gringlas at NPR:

The Hatch Act prohibits federal employees from engaging in most political activity inside federal buildings or while on duty. Though the president and vice president are exempt from the civil provisions of the Hatch Act, federal employees like Pompeo, Wolf and any executive branch employees who helped stage the events are not.

Ethics watchdogs harshly criticized Trump's merging of official and campaign acts during the Tuesday night telecast.

The horrifying thing: It seems like the only ones who can investigate trump's criminality here is a Department of Justice that's totally in trump's pocket:

On Tuesday, House Democrats opened an investigation ahead of Pompeo's speech, but it's unlikely that any Trump administration officials will face reprimand for using their office to promote the president's reelection.

The Office of Special Counsel can investigate allegations of Hatch Act violations and weigh in on them, but in many cases, it's up to the employee's supervisor to act on the advice...

And trump has made it clear he's the supervisor and he doesn't give a rat's ass about the Hatch Act.

So just try to remember this, every non-Republican voter out there, and even some of you Republican voters who still give a damn about the law: The only way to hold trump accountable for all these law-breaking acts he's done is to vote the Shitgibbon out this November 2020.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

As Chaos Reigns, More Blood In The Streets

There is chaos across the globe. Not just with the Pandemic, not just with nations wrapped in a decade's worth of civil wars, not just with the caging and pain of minority groups in both China and the United States...

There's a Category 4 Hurricane about to hit the coast of Louisiana, we're about to get another replay of 2005's Katrina, and it's not even in the top five stories tonight.

This weekend saw yet another Cop-on-Black shooting, this time in Kenosha Wisconsin, prompting a fresh round of protests because the cops are still abusing their power and still piling up a body count of unarmed victims.

Only this time, the cops in Kenosha allowed a number of Far Right white supremacists with their own firearms to show up and confront the Black Lives Matter protesters, and things got bloody. Via Adam Mahoney, Julia Wong, and Victoria Bekiempis in the Guardian:

Hours before a 17-year-old white man allegedly killed two people and injured a third at protests over a police shooting in Kenosha, Wisconsin, a local militia group posted a call on Facebook: “Any patriots willing to take up arms and defend our city tonight from evil thugs?”

It’s not yet clear if Kyle Rittenhouse, the Illinois teenager arrested on suspicion of murder after last night’s shootings in Kenosha, was among the people who responded to the call the militia group had posted, which was later featured on the conspiracy theory site InfoWars.

A Facebook account listed under Rittenhouse’s name included images of the young white man posting with a military-style rifle, as well as multiple posts expressing support for law enforcement.

It's been confirmed for years - Adam L. Silverman over at Balloon Juice has been writing about the Right-Wing terrorism that's been building in this nation since 2016 - that the Far Right militias have been spoiling for a fight, convinced they're at war with the librul commies and dark-skinned Others (encompassing Blacks, Latinos, Muslims, even Hindus and Greeks). The recent rash of law enforcement killings of unarmed Blacks has been their clarion call, and they've been rushing out to each protest eager to show off their AR-15 murdersticks.

Well, in Kenosha not only did the gun-toting wingnuts find protesters to threaten, they found a police force willing to look the other way regarding their efforts to destabilize peaceful protests... and worse. Back to the Guardian article:

Before the shooting, the presence of armed white men at the Black Lives Matter protests in Kenosha on Tuesday night prompted criticism from protesters – and some support from law enforcement.

In a widely circulating video from Tuesday night, Kenosha police can be heard thanking and tossing bottled water from an armored vehicle to what appear to be armed civilians walking the streets.

“We appreciate you being here,” an officer is heard saying over a loudspeaker.

But David Best, the county sheriff, told media outlets after the shooting that people patrolling the streets in Kenosha were a “like a vigilante group”, and said that the shooting was evidence of why suggestions to deputize citizens to help law enforcement contain the unrest in the city had been a bad idea.


It's like the local law enforcement still hasn't grasped the idea that the best way to keep protests peaceful is to reduce the presence of weapons and means of vandalism, rather than encouraging trigger-happy extremists who WANT to start a fight and earn their blood-stripes.

This incident is more evidence that our police forces across the United States are in bed with - or at least comfortable hanging out with - a Far Right group composed of racists and neo-Nazis who want to increase violence (even against the cops who are all so chummy with them).

The wingnuts are presenting every sign of wanting to go to literal civil war with everyone they hate in America. Even the guys in Homeland Security on trump's payroll tried to warn him and the Republican leadership. Here's how Betsy Swan at Politico reported it:

For Neumann, her nightmare scenario of globalized white supremacist terrorism was coming to life. Meanwhile, the U.S. government was doing far too little about its own homegrown extremists — often "lone wolves" radicalized online by white supremacist websites and fueled by hostility toward immigrants and minorities. But White House officials didn’t want to talk about the rising domestic extremist threat or even use the phrase “domestic terrorism.” The administration’s relentless, single-minded focus on immigration enforcement — coupled with nonstop turnover on the National Security Council — constantly pulled senior DHS leadership away from everything else. And her ultimate boss, President Donald Trump, was part of the problem...

Trump often expressed irritation when he saw the DHS secretary anywhere other than the border. Miles Taylor, who was Nielsen’s chief of staff, told POLITICO Trump used to lambaste her if she didn’t physically spend enough of her time there...

Early in Nielsen’s tenure as secretary, she and Taylor discussed the domestic terror threat at length. In the months before her confirmation, a far-right extremist named Jeremy Christian had murdered two men on a train after harassing two Black teenage girls. One of the girls wore a hijab, according to news reports, and Christian yelled “fuck Muslims” at them. Just days after Nielsen was confirmed, a man with a swastika marking on his leg murdered two students at a high school in New Mexico before killing himself.

“I said, ‘Look this is a pretty big deal right now, it’s getting serious, a lot of it’s racially motivated,’” Taylor recalled telling Nielsen. “‘I don’t think we are well positioned against it. We’ve got to do more, but it’s really got to start with the president.’”

At the time, then-national security adviser H.R. McMaster was overseeing the drafting of a new national counterterrorism strategy. The document would lay out priorities for using resources from across the U.S. government to combat terrorism.

Taylor wrote a “dream draft” emphasizing everything DHS would want from the strategy document — including a focus on domestic terrorist threats, along with threats from radical Islamist terrorism and other foreign actors. Four months after Nielsen started as DHS secretary, Trump replaced McMaster with John Bolton. The process of drafting the counterterrorism strategy continued under Bolton’s leadership.

“What ended up getting significantly dropped was all the stuff we talked about on domestic terrorism,” Taylor said. “We got a draft back from John Bolton that barely referenced domestic terrorism...”

Part of this is the Republicans' obsession against immigration - which is racially-tinged to begin with - blinding them to the problems of domestic violence, and a lot of this is the Republicans' refusal to clean their own house of Far Right extremism they rely on to keep their voting base happy. There is no other way to explain this inaction.

And it's this inaction that keeps ending up with more American blood spilling into our American streets. The wingnut in Kenosha left behind two dead and one severely wounded, and more than just that community torn apart by the escalation of hostilities.

This is not going to end well, not even if Biden wins this November.

And yet, we dare not let the gun-toting militia extremists win. Damn them. We have better things to live for than their goddamned rage and fear.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Republicans Without A Plan

There's a thing on Twitter about #WAP that's not exactly safe for work but it's out there and well-known.

What's also out there now is another WAP and this abbreviation stands for Without A Plan because that's where the modern Republican Party has led itself (via Annie Lowry at the Atlantic):

The GOP in general is remarkably quiet on how it would govern and what it seeks to accomplish in the coming years. Breaking with precedent, the party decided against producing an original platform for the 2020 convention. (Put differently: It no-platformed itself.) And Republican leadership has gone dark on a huge swath of issues: balancing the budget, reforming entitlement programs, tackling climate change, improving public education, reducing student-loan debt, and ameliorating racial inequalities—as well as getting the country through the pandemic and out of the recession.

With the planet burning, the virus killing, the economy collapsing, and millions of Americans preparing to vote, the country’s leading political cabal has moved into a queasy post-policy space: Its aperture has narrowed to just a few issues; its desire to try to pass major, proactive legislation has withered. This is not just proof that a man as interested in his own image as he is uninterested in briefing books should not be president. It is also a sign that American democracy is in peril...

What the Republicans did was posit a party platform that was copied and pasted from the 2016 agenda, and edited most everything out except for a new paragraphRESOLVED, That the Republican Party has and will continue to enthusiastically support the President’s America-first agenda. Without clarifying exactly what trump's agenda really means.

Basically, the Republican Party is saying "We're gonna do whatever Our Lord and False Idol donald trump tells us what to do."

This is both refreshing and horrifying. Refreshing in that at least the Republicans have stopped pretending outright that they care about issues. Horrifying in that they're demonstrating they care only about appeasing a despotic wannabe who lusts after the money and the power.

Also horrifying is the implication that the Republican voting base is not expecting anything more out of the party leadership than the ongoing pandering to their partisan identity... and worse, pandering to the fears and racism that trump offers them in lieu of effective policies. Back to Lowry:

For the many Republicans who don’t benefit much from tax cuts, and never received the promised populist policies, identity politics and racial resentment are strong enough forces to tie them to the party. A study by the political scientists Alan Abramowitz and Jennifer McCoy, for instance, showed that Trump’s dog-whistling worked. In 2000, George W. Bush won two in three working-class white voters who evince considerable racial resentment, measured by asking them whether or not they agree with statements such as “If Blacks would only try harder, they could be just as well off as whites.” Trump got nine in 10 of them.

Trump electrifies the party’s broader base with revanchism, nativism, and white nationalism, catering to the anxieties of a historically hyper-dominant group fast becoming a minority. Just take a look at who is speaking at the GOP convention to see what red meat looks like for red America: the couple who brandished guns at Black Lives Matter protesters in St. Louis and Nick Sandmann of Covington Catholic High School, whose interaction with the Native American activist Nathan Phillips in front of the Lincoln Memorial went viral in 2019. Or, in the absence of a national 2020 manifesto, take a look at the Texas platform: Delegates picked top priorities including banning gender-confirmation procedures, protecting monuments, purging the voter rolls, and preventing teenagers from getting abortions or obtaining birth control without parental consent, all potent fronts in the culture war. “Policy doesn’t matter much” to winnable conservative voters, Brent Buchanan, a Republican pollster, told me. “It’s more about personalities and principles.”

This is, in many regards, the final victory of Roger Ailes and Harry Treleaven, campaign handlers for Richard Nixon back in 1968. If you read The Selling of the President, which chronicled the rise of television-based marketing of elections, you might remember the breakthrough Treleaven developed regarding the electoral process. It's not about the issues - although they matter - it's about the emotional appeal a candidate or party offers to potential voters. Lemme quote:

It was Treleaven, working on a 1966 Congressional campaign in Texas for this businessman named George HW Bush, who noted that "logical persuasion" was difficult to sell because he found "probably more people vote for irrational, emotional reasons than professional politicians suspect." (p.45)  He found that image worked wonders, as long as he presented Bush as likable, hard-working, and expressing empathy for the voter...

The issues may be things that a party can rally around, but the driving force behind voter interest and voter turnout are the emotional and irrational appeals to that interest. The Beltway pundits may demand the candidates talk about "the issues" but when you watch and read how they cover the campaigns they almost always discuss non-issues about the candidates that cover personalities, follies, and worse.

When I look back at the Presidential campaigns I've witnessed, I've noticed the issues only mattered to a point: What mattered to the voters seemed to be the beliefs - based a lot on gut feelings - of which candidate appealed on an emotional level. It mattered if the voters had an irrational perception of the candidate, not the rational. A rational voter base would have swarmed to Hillary due to her experience and stances on issues that did resonate with Americans... but she couldn't achieve a majority vote because of the irrational fearmongering that had followed her for decades. Biden isn't as strong a candidate on paper when it comes to the issues... but his public persona is so likable he could (and did) make a few gaffes and still see his popularity polls go upward.

So it makes some sense, to be fair, that the parties find ways to appeal to not only their own bases on an emotional level, but also as many Americans as possible. It's a lesson learned from the 1970s, and it all depends - like the Republicans in 1980 with Reagan, with the Democrats in 1992 with Clinton - if the gamble pays off.

The problem is that since 1992 when Bush the Elder was losing control of the coalition that won them the 1980s, the Republican Party decided to pursue emotional prodding not through empathy or likability - although they'd LOVE to have another Reagan to come along and seduce the masses again - but through demonization of the Other. It had been there with the dog whistles on race and abortion under Reagan, but when Bush signed off on battling Dukakis with the Willie Horton ad, it was like a dam bursting loose.

The Republican turn to mudslinging (also known as Swiftboating when it was Kerry they insulted in 2004) came at the same time the Republicans were losing ground with their actual agendas of gay-bashing, tax-cutting, deregulating, and more. The views of the voting base shifted from conservative to liberal, even as the Republicans clung harder to their tax-cut Utopia ways. By 2012, their own strategists were warning the party that the younger more Progressive voters were going to outnumber the older more Republican voters by 2024 (2028 at the latest) and that no amount of irrational campaigning was going to win them over.

Instead, the Republicans doubled down. They focused on suppressing the voters they can't control - minorities, women, college-age blocs - and allowed their more racist leanings - expressed with anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim fervor - to dominate their agenda in 2016.

That lead to trump winning.

And it lead to the Republicans realizing that, even as they race towards that demographic brick wall in 2024, this is the only way left for them to win.

It's not much of a plan: Stoke outrage and let Overlord trump reap the benefits.

The horrifying thing is if they can drive enough Americans insane to make it work again in 2020.

We dare not let them.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Four Nights of donnie's... Ugly Face

So now that we've endured the long week of a Democratic national convention - where we didn't see enough AOC or Julian Castro but watched a beautiful state-by-state roll call and witnessed Joe Biden use his best skill set (empathy) - we now have to endure the long week of the Republican party host their own convention to renominate trump and push their platform to a global audience.

It's not gonna be pretty (hat-tip to Betty Cracker at Balloon Juice):

Trump is micro-managing the shit out of the event because of course he is. He will go to his grave believing he’s a media genius because venal media types propped him up and wiped the racist drool off his chin so they could first sell a serially bankrupt fraud as a successful businessman on a reality TV show and then sell that same buffoon as a presidential candidate.

But the truth is, the network professionals aren’t running this shit-show, Trump is. And he scraped clean through the bottom of the barrel early in his administration, so the hires executing this event are decidedly of the lowest quality...

Betty then quotes from the NY Times:

Republicans involved in the planning admit that anxiety began to set in two weeks ago. But on Saturday, they said that they were now confident that a fully realized lineup was in place — and that in contrast to the Democrats’ virtual event, voters could expect something more akin to a regular convention, with a focus on live onstage moments featuring Mr. Trump, whom aides described as the week’s “talent in chief.”

Typically, the nominee makes a mundane appearance early in the convention — waving or watching from the wings — before a major speech at the end. Mr. Trump has dismissed that model and now plans to directly address the nation in prime-time on each of the convention’s four nights. The president wants the opportunity to rebut charges made against him throughout the Democratic program, aides said, particularly on his handling of the coronavirus crisis...

trump is basically hijacking the 10PM prime time pundit slots on the major cable networks - if not the regular networks (who I hope redecide to air Agents of SHIELD reruns instead) - to do his craven rally stump speeches for four straight nights.

This is unprecedented in the modern political convention era, if not ever. Most early - pre-Primary (1970s) - conventions didn't even have a confirmed nominee (even incumbents weren't safe back in the 1800s) until the final ballot of attendees, so nobody spoke all four nights. Once we got into the era where the nominee was set by March-June thanks to the state Primaries, it became custom for the convention week to promote up-and-coming fresh faces (like Bill Clinton in 1988 or Barack Obama in 2004) in the prime time slots to keep their future bright and shiny to motivate the party faithful.

Not this time. trump's ego is overriding party needs and he's going to be shilling himself four straight nights, both to keep his own energy up - like an emotion vampire, he thrives on the rage and sadism of his crowds - and to make sure the whole thing is about him him him.

Problem is, there's a good reason you want to keep your Presidential nominee to just one big night to give The Big Speech: You reduce the odds of your nominee laying a stinkbomb of an egg on national television. You'll notice the acceptance speeches of every candidate in the modern era is a rather boring, push-the-buttons, avoid-the-gaffes affair. And they only do it one night, hit-or-miss: But they've gotten the speech-making part down to a science, so it's usually a hit (even trump's ode to his own ego - "I alone can fix this" - hit all the right notes in an acceptance speech). trump is tempting fate here: he is multiplying the risks of a badly received speech by a factor of four.

And trump is threatening to use these four nights to rebut the Democratic party accusations of how trump has 1) mismanaged international affairs, 2) mismanaged the coronavirus response, 3) mismanaged the government, 4) mismanaged the economy. We are going to get a combination of gaslighting, lies, projection, and self-grievance on a scale rarely seen at an official party convention.

Going negative this early - and the odds of it happening have gone up now - on the national stage is a recipe for disaster. Yes, it will embolden the party base of Republican voters who are already wolfing down the rage and hate that trump's been selling them the last four years along with the rage and hate the GOP's been selling since 1992. But you run the serious risk of alienating the independent, still-on-the-fence voters who look for a broad sense of unity, national spirit, and call to empathy (and yes, these voters do exist). 

Reagan won big in 1980 (and even moreso in 1984) by making such broad appeals even when his actual agenda was more hardline conservative and harsh. It's why Biden and the Dems hosted this year's convention as a call to Big Tent unity with appeals to centrist Republicans (inviting John Kasich in an effective "Crossroads" presentation to bring those "Reagan Democrats" back) and lofty displays of families and teens calling for a better America.

trump's potential Four Nights of Airing Grievances is going to rub a lot of Americans the wrong way.

It's gonna look like the Rose Garden Melania just bulldozed into a grassy bikepath: flat and grey and MY GOD WHAT THE FCK DID THEY DO TO THE TREES.

The article title, by the by, is a reference to a Survival Horror game series called "Five Nights At Freddie's" which is mostly a set of jump scares you have to endure.

trump's Carnie show is going to be worse than that.

The best fcking move America can do is not watch this train wreck. Don't give trump and his cronies any viewing numbers to crow about. Look away. WALK AWAY. Run if you have to.

Just think of the Chernobyl supervisors who thought to themselves "What could POSSIBLY go wrong?" Think of everything that can go wrong with a hasty, last-minute, what-the-hell-are-we-doing national spectacle micromanaged by the worst boss in modern history.

Just don't watch, people.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Even The Postperson Knows The GOP Is Committing Fraud

(Update 8/22/20: Thanks to Tengrain for adding this article to Crooks&Liars' Mike's Blog Roundup! Please leave a comment (I know it's clunky but I got tired of the Chinese spam and I abhor anonymous trolls...))

Oh, to wake up this morning to the news about yet another Republican strategist/VIP getting caught with his hand in the cookie jar. Take it away, Southern District of New York!

Audrey Strauss, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Philip R. Bartlett, Inspector-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the United States Postal Inspection Service (“USPIS”), announced the unsealing of an indictment charging BRIAN KOLFAGE, STEPHEN BANNON, ANDREW BADOLATO, and TIMOTHY SHEA for their roles in defrauding hundreds of thousands of donors in connection with an online crowdfunding campaign known as “We Build the Wall” that raised more than $25 million.  The defendants were arrested this morning.  KOLFAGE will be presented today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Hope T. Cannon in the Northern District of Florida.  BANNON will be presented today in the Southern District of New York.  BADOLATO will be presented today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas Wilson in the Middle District of Florida.  SHEA will be presented today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Kristen L. Mix in the District of Colorado.  The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres in the Southern District of New York.

Acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said:  “As alleged, the defendants defrauded hundreds of thousands of donors, capitalizing on their interest in funding a border wall to raise millions of dollars, under the false pretense that all of that money would be spent on construction.  While repeatedly assuring donors that Brian Kolfage, the founder and public face of We Build the Wall, would not be paid a cent, the defendants secretly schemed to pass hundreds of thousands of dollars to Kolfage, which he used to fund his lavish lifestyle.  We thank the USPIS for their partnership in investigating this case, and we remain dedicated to rooting out and prosecuting fraud wherever we find it.”

The USPIS? Oh yes, by the by the Postal Service DOES have its own police force! Considering they've been around since DAY ONE of the United States (actually they date back to 1772 before the Declaration of Independence!) created to deter mail theft or any fraudulent use of mail, they are the oldest law enforcement agency on the books. The Mail Cops can arrest people, and take them to court for anything ranging from pilfering boxes off of porches to committing financial fraud through mailed-in donations to fake non-profits.

And the kind of fraud these clowns were involved with triggered a lot of red alerts with the postal police:

Starting in approximately December 2018, BRIAN KOLFAGE, STEPHEN BANNON, ANDREW BADOLATO, and TIMOTHY SHEA, and others, orchestrated a scheme to defraud hundreds of thousands of donors, including donors in the Southern District of New York, in connection with an online crowdfunding campaign ultimately known as “We Build The Wall” that raised more than $25 million to build a wall along the southern border of the United States.  In particular, to induce donors to donate to the campaign, KOLFAGE repeatedly and falsely assured the public that he would “not take a penny in salary or compensation” and that “100% of the funds raised . . . will be used in the execution of our mission and purpose” because, as BANNON publicly stated, “we’re a volunteer organization.”

Those representations were false.  In truth, KOLFAGE, BANNON, BADOLATO, and SHEA received hundreds of thousands of dollars in donor funds from We Build the Wall, which they each used in a manner inconsistent with the organization’s public representations.  In particular, KOLFAGE covertly took for his personal use more than $350,000 in funds that donors had given to We Build the Wall, while BANNON, through a non-profit organization under his control (“Non-Profit-1”), received over $1 million from We Build the Wall, at least some of which BANNON used to cover hundreds of thousands of dollars in BANNON’s personal expenses.  To conceal the payments to KOLFAGE from We Build the Wall, KOLFAGE, BANNON, BADOLATO, and SHEA devised a scheme to route those payments from We Build the Wall to KOLFAGE indirectly through Non-Profit-1 and a shell company under SHEA’s control, among other avenues.  They did so by using fake invoices and sham “vendor” arrangements, among other ways, to ensure, as KOLFAGE noted in a text message to BADOLATO, that his pay arrangement remained “confidential” and kept on a “need to know” basis...

Oh, and of course two of these crooks were Florida guys. Just to keep it crazy as usual.

A lot of this wouldn't have happened if trump had not been in the White House, abusing the office of the Presidency to push for a goddamned border wall to shill to his voting base to prove he was being tough against "those people" of the Dread OTHER.

It also is part of the ongoing reality that there's a lot of people who exist in trump's orbit - Paul Manafort, trump's lawyer Michael Cohen, a lot of players in the 2016 campaign tied into Russian sabotage of the elections - who keep getting caught committing felonies especially along the lines of bank fraud, tax fraud, other financial misdeeds, and now mail fraud.

That is the world trump comes from: Not a world of business but a world of con artists and thievery, surrounded by people who are driven to line their own pockets at the expense of everyone else.

We're talking about trump whose family Foundation had to shut down because it was violating a ton of regulations set in place to ensure not-for-profit entities would truly spend toward charities and public good.

And how can any of this be shocking to the Republicans STILL eager to support trump, while their own party routinely gets caught committing financial crimes at the state and federal level so often? There's a scandal in Ohio right now involving the Republican State Speaker caught in a bribery/kickback deal with a utility company that's ensnared so many of his own colleagues and is costing the state's residents in hiked fees and wasted tax dollars.

But what did you expect from a Republican Party that worships unregulated greed as a virtue?

Of course the Republicans - from the elected officials to the power brokers to the lobbyists all the way down the line - are going to get caught over and over again committing acts of fraud.

It's all profit even after they go to jail, when they come back out hailed as martyrs against the evil libruls, and they can get a rich book deal and continue popping up on Fox Not-News as part of the tour to raise even more money on questionable schemes to keep lining their pockets.

Because there's still enough Republican voters out there blinded by racism, sexism and pure hate who never care to learn how their "heroes" are ripping them off every donation, every hat sale, every book signing, every way to squeeze the money out of them until they're broke and dead.

That's how fraud thrives in this nation: The willingness of the victims to keep pouring more into the scam.

Even the Postal Service can't save them from themselves. I doubt God can. 

And the trumpian con job rolls on to the next ripoff.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Anniversary: The Vote Mattered Then, It Matters Now

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, which guaranteed this:

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.

Before this, elections and thus political representation could only be done by men. Even though women counted in the Census towards the congressional apportionment, even as women came to own property and run businesses, even with women showing centuries worth of spilling the same blood, sweat, and tears as men.

The right to vote had long been a struggle even before the Constitution was made, with the feminists of the Revolutionary era calling for equal rights of women to vote and hold office. Even as the abolitionists were arguing for Blacks to be free, a good number of them also didn't see a reason to let women vote. The entitlement of patriarchy was pretty strong.

But the struggle grew, not just here but across much of the planet where any elective body existed. The suffrage movement was a universal one, and by the 1900s the Progressive reformers that had gained control of the United States policy making got around to getting the right to vote for women set in stone.

The struggle to get women elected into office took a while longer, with few winning their way into Congress well into the 1970s. Every so often there would be a wave of women candidates expanding the representation in office, but that wave would ebb and the number would never get to near-equal the number of men (in a planetary demographic where the male-female gender split is roughly half-and-half, it's a bit shocking to see we're STILL below a quarter of the Senate AND House of Representatives by 2020). 

What matters about voting is the power the voters have in choosing people who will enact laws and reforms that benefit their needs. In issues that matter most to women - equal pay at work, better social aid for family care, legal protections against harassment and rape and exploitation, equal access to higher education and career opportunities, better health care and the freedom of health care choices - they are not seeing enough women in leadership roles working to resolve those issues (and few male elected officials caring enough to resolve them as well).

Getting women to vote mattered in 1920 and earlier, getting women to vote matters today because there remains so much work left to be done to ensure equality and justice for all regardless of gender or race or orientation or faith.

It matters today because our overall right to vote is under attack more so than it has been since the 1960s, not just for minorities but for every demographic that is not Rich White Male.

A hundred years ago women won their power to vote in elections. This year, everyone needs to express that power to vote to stop the corruption of a vote-suppressing Republican Party before we - not just women but men - lose that power.

Get the damn vote out, America. Women as well as men.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Honest Bumper Stickers 2020: Could This Election Cycle Get ANY Crazier? ...Yes, It Can...

The Honest Bumper Stickers will take some time to reach a sizable number, but in the meanwhile I've got these created in the quick:

More are sure to follow.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

How To Pronounce Kamala

With Harris now selected to be the Vice President for Joe Biden should they win this November, I have to admit to my eternal shame that I was pronouncing her first name wrong. I was going by Ka-Muhl-ah, my bad.

In light of all the SOBs on the Far Right coming out of the woodwork to reignite their Birther bullshit, I realized we need to confirm the proper pronunciation of her name so we can show our respect.

So here we go: This is how you pronounce "Kamala":


Rhymes with AMERICA, you FOOKS.

Also, this:

Are we going to have to go through all that racist Birther shit again? Yes we are, because the fooking Republicans have no other way to rally their voters to them.

P.S. I may be mispronouncing fook. I blame Karl Tanner (Burn Gorman).

Anniversary: Woodstock from 2020

 Another year, another time to remember the Woodstock Festival of 1969.

And as always, a salute to Mr. Taggart, Hero of the Woodstock Festival.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

trump Is Destroying the US Postal Service

The destruction of the United States Postal Service has been going on for the past few weeks - as trump's Acting Postmaster General DeJoy, yet another unqualified appointee who has personal financial conflicts of interest, has been eliminating services and sorting equipment - but today trump just... blurted it out (again), via Barbara Sprunt at NPR:

While President Trump has long railed against mail-in voting, falsely claiming it leads to rampant fraud, he appeared to confirm Thursday morning that he opposes Democrats' proposed boost in funding for the U.S. Postal Service because he wants to make it harder to expand voting by mail.

Trump gave that explanation during an interview with Maria Bartiromo on Fox Business Network after she asked why the White House and congressional Democrats are still miles apart on approving a new stimulus deal.

Trump said one major factor is the Democrats' push for an injection of funds into the U.S. Postal Service to expand voting by mail.

"They [the Democrats] want three and a half billion dollars for something that'll turn out to be fraudulent — that's election money basically," Trump said...

trump is going by a long-debunked claim that massive voter fraud happens, and that a lot of that fraud is through mail-in ballots. he's straight up lying, but it's the excuse he can use to suppress voter turnout any way he can for 2020.

In the process, trump and DeJoy are deliberately slowing down the sorting, sending and delivering of anything that's within the same rate service as the mail-in (also known as Absentee) ballots. Not only will that all get affected... but other essential shipments like medical supplies to ailing homebound, people in rural/long-distance places, and veterans are getting hit by this stunt. Medical supplies are getting delayed. Please raise your anger up a notch about that.

This is going to hurt more people than ever before... especially during a pandemic when in-person pickups are a serious risk.

trump's kneecapping of the Post Office is also part of an ongoing privatization push by Republicans to underfund if not abolish federal agencies and services they claim can be better done through the private sector... which by the by never works out. I digress, let's stick to this point.

Thing is, the Postal Service is one of the specific tasks spelled out in the bedrock foundation: The Constitution of the United States makes it clear in Article I, Section 8, Clause 7: "Congress shall have power to...  To establish post offices and post roads..." with the implication that it is Congress' duty to ensure people can send and receive mail, that businesses can ship and receive parcels, that the communications vital to the strength of the nation never wavers nor slows.

trump is intentionally saying Fuck You to all of that.

And trump along with his lackey DeJoy are both breaking the law. Via Cornell's online US Code:

18 U.S. Code § 1703.Delay or destruction of mail or newspapers

(a)Whoever, being a Postal Service officer or employee, unlawfully secretes, destroys, detains, delays, or opens any letter, postal card, package, bag, or mail entrusted to him or which shall come into his possession, and which was intended to be conveyed by mail, or carried or delivered by any carrier or other employee of the Postal Service, or forwarded through or delivered from any post office or station thereof established by authority of the Postmaster General or the Postal Service, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.

trump is bragging that he's delaying the mail.

We could note that technically trump is not a Postal Service employee, but he MAY be considered an officer: one of the hats of the Presidency Loser of the Popular Vote is head of the Executive branch which oversees the Post Office. This law should well apply to DeJoy who is directly employed as an officer - the fricking Acting Postmaster General! - and his ass needs to be called to the U.S. House committee in charge of making sure the agency is running well.

This is a serious problem. For all the technological wonders of the Intertubes, our nation still relies on physical mail for much of our personal and professional lives. trump is threatening all of that because he's desperately trying to steal an election he dare not lose.

Call your Congresscritter today. Try 202-224-3121 and tell them your District (if you don't have that at hand, your mailing ZIP code should do). Be polite, the person answering is likely an unpaid intern and deserves your sympathy as much as trump deserves your rage.

Get the big guns out. Start the investigations into this and force trump to put OUR Postal Service back together again.

It's not just our voting rights at stake, it's our very lives.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Official: It's Biden / Harris 2020

Word dropped this afternoon, all the speculation is done, all the fighting steps up a notch, and we finally have a WINNER!

It's DAN QUA- wait wrong Veep announcement.


As mentioned often before, the selection of the Vice President doesn't do much to improve - or worsen - a Presidential campaign as long as the pick is a sensible, solid one. It's a first test for the President: showing off his/her decision-making of who'll they also pick as Cabinet members, agency bosses, what have you. It underscores the direction and theme of the campaign as well: Picking someone with foreign policy cred is one thing, picking a Veep with economic reform ideas is another.

Biden picking Kamala Harris says four things:

1) He is looking at keeping a big tent going for the Democratic Party. Much of Harris' voting record is a solid Left history. Despite her image and reputation as a state Attorney General, her history as a U.S. Senator ranks her pretty high on the liberal scoring charts (govtrack ranks by "most conservative" so in liberal measurements Harris is at the other end). Biden is recognized as more Center than Left, so getting a solid Liberal Left candidate should appeal to many at that end of the spectrum (she's closer to Bernie Sanders than Elizabeth Warren).

2) He is showing no ill-will to the time in the debates when Kamala went after Biden for his school busing stance and other not-good positions early in his Senatorial career. Once Harris dropped out of the primaries, she eventually backed Biden for the ticket to show party fealty, and Biden as a long-time player had to respect that. There's also Biden's Passive-Positive traits of Congeniality and team-building: He has a world-view of bipartisan outreach, and repairing bridges to party leaders who opposed him fits that world-view. This is Biden's way of signaling to other factions in the Democratic Party (and any moderate factions left among Republicans) that he will have an Open Door of sorts to his Oval Office.

3) He is demonstrating to the Party and to the general voters that he keeps his word: Biden promised he would choose a woman as a Vice President and so he did.

4) He is living in his comfort zone. Not that he and Harris will see eye-to-eye on every issue, it's that Biden is one of those Senators who viewed his time in that setting as membership in an exclusive club. Senators tend to favor Senators as political allies even when they're disagreeing on issues (note how John McCain wanted fellow Senator Joe Lieberman as his Veep in 2008 even though Lieberman was a Democrat(!)). Biden had to be thinking "If Kamala was cool enough for the Senate she's cool enough for my campaign."

Voting, of course, still matters. Turnout remains key for Democrats to overcome the obstruction and suppression the Republicans are already signalling to the world. What today's decision does is move the campaign closer to cohesion and planning for the big run to November. It's a moment to stir up support and fundraising and momentum in the media (by the buzz on Twitter today, it seems to have done all three).

It also means I need to make more 2020 bumper stickers!

Sunday, August 09, 2020

What If: Considering How trump Will Cheat in 2020

I wrote earlier that donald trump has no honest way to win the 2020 Presidential election.

So that means trump is going to cheat.

We're already seeing some of the steps trump is deploying to rig the turnout and thus the results. his latest Postmaster General is sabotaging the United States Postal Service to ensure mailing delays that could prevent mail-in ballots from getting received in time to count.

Other things in play, aside from trump's accusations that mail-in balloting is voter fraud, are AG William Barr's efforts to misdirect investigations into Russian (and other nations') meddling into the 2020 general vote. There's hints aplenty that Barr is setting up "October Surprises" to discourage voter turnout for Joe Biden. 

All of this culminates into a lot of worried speculation - and yes, I am piling onto that dread - of how trump and cronies are going to cause enough disruption into the results that he can shrug off a Popular Vote and also an Electoral College count that would otherwise confirm a Joe Biden victory. 

But can it really happen?

Infidel753 pointed me to a link to a website Electoral-Vote that took stock of all the fears and tried to look at the actual numbers and likely results for November 2020. What the blogger there found was, well here's a few paragraphs:

If we assume there is enough "fog" to give cover to state legislatures to start thinking about shenanigans, that still leaves the pro-Trump forces with some daunting math to confront. Let's start with the states that have Democratic trifectas. Joe Biden is expected to win all of these, and there are not going to be any EV-stealing shenanigans in Trump's favor in these places:

That already puts us (note: well, Biden) at 195 EVs. Now let's add in the states where Biden is expected to win, and the Democrats control at least one chamber of the state legislature (note: meaning the GOP can't automatically fck with the EV):


We're up to 233 EVs. Biden isn't going to lose any of these due to shenanigans, either. Note, incidentally, that Minnesota is the only one of the five additional states that has a split legislature. The four others have both chambers with Democratic control.

Now, let's add states where Biden is favored to win, and where there is at least one Democrat who has to sign off on the results (either the governor, the secretary of state, or both):

Now we are up to 305 EVs. Getting into the weeds of what could happen in each state is a bit much, but several things are already evident: (1) Republican-controlled legislatures in swing states would have to be very unified to pull off this scheme; (2) they would face pushback on that, including lawsuits, in many places; and (3) their likely best case scenario, even if they are unified and they prevail in court, is to deny anyone an electoral victory (by muddying the waters until the deadline for the EC to meet has passed) and to throw the election to the House...

So the good news, as long as the voter turnout matches what the polling is currently telling us, is that Biden can easily pass the 270 EV hurdle much like Obama did in 2008 and 2012. And the blogger at Electoral-Vote hasn't counted states like Florida, Ohio, Iowa, and Georgia that can still go Blue for Biden this November.

So the bad news is this: Now we know why trump and his GOP cronies are eager to fck up ballot-by-mails (aka Absentee balloting) to try and mess with ALL states results to create enough chaos to ruin this math. And now we know why Barr is readying the DOJ to cause the chaos, not prevent it.

Going through a current pandemic crisis that can hamper in-person voter turnout is probably one of the reasons - he'll never admit it, but you have to admit the thought has crossed so many people's minds that SOMEBODY in trump's orbit whispered it into his ear - why trump is failing to respond to the crisis at all.

Another element of bad news is, while the Electoral-Vote blogger - I'm not sure whose name in on it, it's either Votemaster or Zenger (hmm, as a Journalism grad I know that name) - knows the Popular vote AND Electoral vote all favor Biden, we can still see that trump and the GOP's endgame is to throw the chaos into the U.S. House. The example here isn't the 2000 Election madness - the conditions for that were different - but the 1800 and 1876 Elections, where political bias favored the Party in control of the House.

The sick rule of the House solution is that the votes are not tallied by Representative - which favors Democrats - but by State Delegation (the group per state) meaning 50 votes not 435 (and DC has not vote in this matter). Thanks to gerrymandering, delegations skew to the Republicans who currently control 26 delegations over Democrats' 23 (one delegation is split). THIS is what worries Never Trumpers, more so that messing with the Electoral College: Barr could either trick or bully enough state legislatures to not accept the popular voting in their states to award Electors, forcing the College to cancel and pass it all to a GOP-bent House.

Thing is, the Electoral-Vote blogger thought of that as well:

An even bigger problem is Harper v. Virginia Board of Elections (1966). While that one was specifically about poll taxes, it also established the broad principle that once the right of people to vote has been extended, the state cannot intervene to dilute the potency of that vote. Taken together, what Bush and Harper suggest is that a state might be on firm ground if they announce on, say, Jan. 1, 2020, that "this year, the state legislature is just going to award our EVs." However, once states allow people to cast actual ballots, that method for awarding EVs is locked in and cannot be altered...

It had happened before, by the way: In 1860, South Carolina didn't host a popular vote, their legislature went and awarded their results to the pro-Slavery Democratic candidate (Beckinridge). This time, it's too late: Any GOP state that's watching the polls swing to Biden (hi, Florida!) right now in August cannot cancel the vote and nominate the Electors. They can do everything else - suppress votes, rig machines, undercount results - but they still run the risk that the popular vote won't go their way.

Which is partly why they're waiting on Barr to release "reports" of mail-in ballots being "rigged" in order to justify negating the popular vote results... but THAT all depends on if the difference in results relies on the mail-ins counting or not (if Biden wins by a wide margin without mail-ins, forget it: Barr would have to argue a way to negate the WHOLE thing, which even conservative courts would choke on).

This is the point where headaches start forming, and the stress of paranoia/despair kicks in. The solutions rely on a lot of things outside of control at our (yours and mine) level. The Democratic Party has to be ready to call on a legion of lawyers across every state to fight Barr's likely meddling in any and every possibility.

The one thing WE can do at our level is turnout the vote. THAT'S the math we can control. As long as the turnout FOR Biden and the Democrats is high enough, the Republicans can't rig a damn thing. They'll yell and scream, they'll present bad evidence to argue their side, but if Biden is winning places by double-digits in enough states and at percentages close to polling, the Republicans will have a hard time arguing rigged results... and they run the risk at state levels of alienating enough residents to diminish state-level control by the 2022 midterms, if not outright street protests by an outraged majority that will never stop (hi, Belarus!).

Democrats need to ensure enough of their numbers are registered and ready to vote, confirmed to vote for Biden against a corrupt trump that is one step away from tinpot dictator status that haunts all the failed Republics we've seen over the decades.

Elections matter, Americans. Voter turnout matters, Democrats. Come hell or high water or COVID or police crackdowns, every one of us opposed to trump's misrule, every one of us opposed to McConnell's obstructionist destruction, we have to do the math and vote and make it count and make the Republicans answer for their cheating, corrupt ways.

Saturday, August 08, 2020

But the Suburbs Have No Charms to Soothe

Some will sell their dreams for small desires
Or lose the race to rats
Get caught in ticking traps
And start to dream of somewhere
To relax their restless flight
Somewhere out of a memory
Of lighted streets on quiet nights

In the high school halls
In the shopping malls
Conform or be cast out
In the basement bars
In the backs of cars
Be cool or be cast out

Any escape might help to smooth
The unattractive truth
But the suburbs have no charms to soothe
The restless dreams of youth

- "Subdivisions" Rush

Okay, to be honest, this quick little rant about donald "Fearmongering Shitgibbon" trump trying to scare White Suburbanites into fleeing from Biden and Democrats is mostly so I can quote from a song I grew up to since the 1980s.

Which is kind of a thing for me, being a Generation Xer who grew up in the suburbs, in the north Pinellas County region of Tampa Bay Florida where I literally watched entire neighborhoods spring up from the paved remnants of orange groves and dirt hills. Florida's population boom of the Eighties? I was there, and it was all 3-4 bedrooms houses with manicured lawns and pink (excuse me, that color is CORAL, thank you very much) painted exteriors.

So if anything I speak from experience. So with this, I question trump's attempt to appeal to what he called the Suburban Lifestyle Dream.

He's attempting to appeal to those who, when the Civil Rights movements of the 1960s gave Blacks more political freedom (but not economic equality), fled from places due to be desegregated - cities - outward to planned and deed-restricted neighborhoods where the obsessions over property values would encourage segregation in ways that couldn't be called out. It was called White Flight and you shouldn't be surprised to meet a lot of White folk who won't talk about it or claim it never happened that way. (Ask White folk about Redlining and watch their heads explode)

trump's appeal is based on the view of the suburbs being traditionally White Conservative enclaves, home to thousands of middle-class workers who habitually vote in favor of the world of Ronald Reagan's Eagleland, a place where people work hard play hard obey the traffic laws and worship an Evangelical-approved Deity every Sunday.

There's a problem with that image of Suburbia. It's a little out of date.

A lot has changed since the 1980s. The economic makeup of suburban communities have shifted away from the Blue Collar manufacturing conservatism that made up the neighborhoods from the Sixties through the Eighties. If anything - and from what I've seen - the suburbs has seen a rise in White Collar professionals - due to the loss of manufacturing jobs since the Seventies - made up of technology, health care, education, office-oriented work forces... which have more diverse and more educated demographics.

The racial shift of the suburbs has also taken place since the Nineties. Hispanic population growth in various states - not just in the South - has filled in a void where White residents kept fleeing from encroaching metropolitan politics. Another element has been "Black Flight" where the rise of educated White Collar workers in that demographic allowed them to flee cities much the way Whites fled decades earlier. (Yeah, we uh don't talk about that either, except for the part where hip young White couples are moving back into the cities to gentrify everything... ugh another Starbucks?)

As a result, it's not that the suburbs are now White enclaves... it's that the suburbs are now White Collar enclaves, filled with professional-level, college-educated home owners of varying ethnicity. And all of them eager to enforce that NO SOLICITING sign in front of the main entrance to their walled-off subdivisions.

We're talking teachers, doctors and nurses, computer/technology workers, lawyers, public service (city/county) employees, financial experts, store managers, warehouse supervisors, anything that requires a 4-year degree minimum. All of them living the Suburban Lifestyle Dream.


Because there's also another thing that trump is overlooking about the suburbs: Those neighborhoods are getting hit HARD during trump's own regime, especially in trump's failure to handle the Conoravirus pandemic. I just listed the professions above, nearly every one of them affected negatively - especially those in the medical/health care fields - by trump's continued inability to answer the challenges of leadership needed to keep the nation quarantined and reducing the risks of infection. As a result, it's also affecting those professionals in businesses and workplaces that are being forced to exposure, especially the teachers and educators facing the risks of COVID exposure at school.

As a result, I am not imaging a high number of suburbanites who view trump with any level of favorability or support. trump had been bleeding off suburban types throughout his tenure, especially among women, but lately that leak has turned into a gusher. And the polls are backing me up on this.

trump can't appeal to a broad range of educated, ethnically-diverse Americans. he's been too busy appealing to racist Whites to keep his voting base happy.

and trump can't comprehend how his ineptitude and failures have turned the Suburban Lifestyle Dream into a nightmare. Which is why he's going to make things worse for American suburbanites.

For the LOVE OF GOD, Suburban America, wake up and vote trump out.


Tuesday, August 04, 2020

Anyone Remember The Year 2010 And How It Seemed So Crazy Then

I am suddenly nostalgic and in the mood to look back ten years to 2010 and try to remember what the hell the world looked like back then.

Back then this was under a completely different name - Amendments We Need - and the blog's focus was supposed to be on political reforms and high-minded philosophizing. But even then the postings were sliding into weekly (and then daily) words of outrage over the partisan nightmare the Republicans were creating during the Obama years, so I changed it (and busted a lot of links to earlier articles in the process, sigh).

I realize looking back the amount of writing (85) was minimal compared to recent years where I break 100 easily, although the years 2015 (205) and 2016 (307) are outside the norms. Back then I was still finding a voice, and coping with a lot of bad stuff in the Real World.

2010 was the middle of my lost years, between late 2008 when I lost my full-time job as a librarian before regaining a new librarian post in early 2013. Roughly four-plus years of career searching, thanks to the Great Recession that killed off the civil service job market: A lot of city, county, and state revenues relied on property taxes, and the collapsed housing market cut into those revenues well up to now.

Best I could find were part-time jobs, inventory checking here, temp Census taking there, unable to hold either for long while I kept hunting anything in editing (Journalism), research (Libraries), or tech (Computer skills, and studying for A+ certification on a job-hunting grant).

In terms of what I was writing on the blog, it bounced between the serious endeavors - lamenting the failures of mainstream media and such - and the quick posts - thus and so - in order to keep myself engaged with writing while the real world was bumming me out.

Man I was pretty depressed back then (and sadly that depression is chronic and not far from my mind)

I notice I was linking a lot to Glenn Greenwald back then... and that faded away in favor of Ta-Nehisi Coates at the Atlantic as well as the general team of misfits at Balloon Juice, upon which a lot of my current blogging is based. I also started linking to David Frum and Conor Friedersdorf as kinds of counter-balance of conservative viewpoints, because I try to accept the larger scope of things (even as I got to find conservative viewpoints skewing further to a vicious extreme).

I was also taunting Erik Erickson often because the SOB threatened to shoot census workers at a time I was enumerating. Grrr.

If there were any personal bright spots, my brother Phil took me to a Rays game that ended up the team's first No-Hitter. WOOHOO!

Looking back, I'm finding something that had me looking forward: I wrote an article "Daddy What Did YOU Do During the Republican War on America" projecting all the way up to the far-flung year of 2020 (oh, hi). Oh good God, re-reading this article is breaking my heart. Not just the fanciful idea that I'd actually be married with kids by now (looks forlornly across an empty house as a Florida thunderstorm rages outside), but that ten years ago some form of sanity would prevail. That somehow, the crazed Tea Party efforts by the Far Right - the media, the GOP Congresscritters, the Birthers that would metastasize into QAnon nuts six years later - would implode on itself, that enough Americans would rise up against the tax-cut obsessions and racist/sexist bullshit.

Now I know why I was looking back now. Why I'm in such a mood. Part of me remembered this, remembered the hope I had for brighter happier days in the 2010 decade. All to see it come crashing down thanks to Mitch and trump and 62 million insane neighbors.

That was 2010, ten years gone.

Are we going to let 2020 ruin everything between now and 2030?

Are we even going to see 2030?

Sunday, August 02, 2020

There Is Only One Safe Place In America Right Now: Home

We are eight months into 2020 and we are still coping with a Coronavirus pandemic that shows no sign of slowing, all because our national political leadership remains unfocused on fighting it to the point where trump and his handlers behave like it's still not real.

The scary thing is we are closing in on the traditional start of our national education system returning from summer breaks, where classrooms open in August through December for Christmas/New Years holidays. trump is insisting the schools open. Coronavirus is telling us differently (via Adrianne LeFrance at The Atlantic):

“This push to open schools is guaranteed to fail,” says Peter Hotez, a pediatrician and molecular virologist, and the dean for the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine. I’ve been corresponding with Hotez, and with several epidemiologists, over the course of the pandemic, and have noticed a starkness in their views in recent weeks. “The social-distancing expectations and mask requirements for the lower grades are unrealistic,” Hotez told me. “In communities with high transmission, it’s inevitable that COVID-19 will enter the schools. Within two weeks of opening schools in communities with high virus transmission, teachers will become ill. All it will take is for a single teacher to become hospitalized with COVID and everything will shut down.”
Hotez has good reason to be pessimistic. There were 68,605 new cases in the United States yesterday, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The seven-day average has stayed above 60,000 new cases per day since July 13. Reaching 100,000 cases per day, once seen as an apocalyptic, worst-case-scenario warning from Anthony Fauci, is no longer difficult to imagine. Indeed, my conversations with epidemiologists in recent days were all strikingly dark. They agreed: Schools should not risk reopening, probably not even for the youngest children, in the coming weeks. “We can’t pretend like everything’s fine,” said Gary Simon, the director of the infectious diseases division at George Washington University. “If I had a school-age kid, I wouldn’t want to send him to school.”
The evidence is all around us. There is the summer camp in Georgia where hundreds of kids and counselors—nearly half the camp—got infected after only a few days together. Then there’s the school in Indiana where, just hours after reopening last week, a student tested positive for the coronavirus. (“We knew it was a when, not if,” the superintendent told The New York Times, but officials were “very shocked it was on Day 1.”)

We had months to prepare, ever since the official shutdown in March. We needed extensive testing in place, enough labs to generate results in days so we could quarantine fast enough. We needed more hospital beds and supplies, overflow facilities to handle the waves of infected we're still trying to heal. We needed to plan for home child care, providing workplaces the means to redirect work from office to home so parents could keep an eye on their families. We needed the funding to set up virtual schooling, mobile WiFi hotspots to families in rural areas, free Internet to suburbs and cities, and loaner laptops so that kids could get classes and submit work to and from home, where they'd be safe.

None of that happened. The scope and size of such endeavors can't be done state by state. It had to be done at the federal level. Yet trump and his Republican allies in the Senate are DOING NOTHING except give orders to the states and to school systems that can't even begin to solve the problems they're being told to fix. Back to LeFrance:

“The problem is the White House and the task force could never organize themselves to lead a federal response and bring virus transmission down to containment levels,” said Hotez, who has argued for the necessity of a federal containment plan that, if executed effectively, might allow the nation to reopen comprehensively as soon as October. “Instead they took a lazy and careless route, claiming schools are important, as we all know, and the teachers and principals need to figure it out. What they did was deliberately set up the teachers, staff, and parents to fail. It’s one of the most careless, incompetent, and heartless actions I’ve ever seen promoted by the executive branch of the federal government.”

All of this disaster gets laid at the feet of the trump family. Like every other crisis, trump handed this off to his son-in-law Jared Kushner, who proceeded like all his previous endeavors to mismanage the situation to where we're screwed now. As pointed out in this article in Vanity Fair by Katherine Eban:

Six months into the pandemic, the United States continues to suffer the worst outbreak of COVID-19 in the developed world. Considerable blame belongs to a federal response that offloaded responsibility for the crucial task of testing to the states. The irony is that, after assembling the team that came up with an aggressive and ambitious national testing plan, Kushner then appears to have decided, for reasons that remain murky, to scrap its proposal. Today, as governors and mayors scramble to stamp out epidemics plaguing their populations, philanthropists at the Rockefeller Foundation are working to fill the void and organize enough testing to bring the nationwide epidemic under control...
Rather than have states fight each other for scarce diagnostic tests and limited lab capacity, the plan would have set up a system of national oversight and coordination to surge supplies, allocate test kits, lift regulatory and contractual roadblocks, and establish a widespread virus surveillance system by the fall, to help pinpoint subsequent outbreaks.
The solutions it proposed weren’t rocket science—or even comparable to the dauntingly complex undertaking of developing a new vaccine. Any national plan to address testing deficits would likely be more on the level of “replicating UPS for an industry,” said Dr. Mike Pellini, the managing partner of Section 32, a technology and health care venture capital fund. “Imagine if UPS or FedEx didn’t have infrastructure to connect all the dots. It would be complete chaos.”
The plan crafted at the White House, then, set out to connect the dots. Some of those who worked on the plan were told that it would be presented to President Trump and likely announced in the Rose Garden in early April. “I was beyond optimistic,” said one participant. “My understanding was that the final document would make its way to the president over that weekend” and would result in a “significant announcement.”
But no nationally coordinated testing strategy was ever announced. The plan, according to the participant, “just went poof into thin air.”
In a statement, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said, “The premise of this article is completely false...”
By early April, some who worked on the plan were given the strong impression that it would soon be shared with President Trump and announced by the White House. The plan, though imperfect, was a starting point. Simply working together as a nation on it “would have put us in a fundamentally different place,” said the participant.
But the effort ran headlong into shifting sentiment at the White House. Trusting his vaunted political instincts, President Trump had been downplaying concerns about the virus and spreading misinformation about it—efforts that were soon amplified by Republican elected officials and right-wing media figures. Worried about the stock market and his reelection prospects, Trump also feared that more testing would only lead to higher case counts and more bad publicity. Meanwhile, Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, was reportedly sharing models with senior staff that optimistically—and erroneously, it would turn out—predicted the virus would soon fade away.
Against that background, the prospect of launching a large-scale national plan was losing favor, said one public health expert in frequent contact with the White House’s official coronavirus task force.
Most troubling of all, perhaps, was a sentiment the expert said a member of Kushner’s team expressed: that because the virus had hit blue states hardest, a national plan was unnecessary and would not make sense politically. “The political folks believed that because it was going to be relegated to Democratic states, that they could blame those governors, and that would be an effective political strategy,” said the expert.
That logic may have swayed Kushner. “It was very clear that Jared was ultimately the decision maker as to what [plan] was going to come out,” the expert said...
On April 27, Trump stepped to a podium in the Rose Garden, flanked by members of his coronavirus task force and leaders of America’s big commercial testing laboratories, Quest Diagnostics and LabCorp, and finally announced a testing plan: It bore almost no resemblance to the one that had been forged in late March, and shifted the problem of diagnostic testing almost entirely to individual states...

We saw the results of that: A number of Republican-controlled states - Florida, Texas, Georgia, and Arizona above all - decided to push for quick re-openings, acting as though COVID was under control when it was merely waiting for super-spreader events to cause a second wave. Those Red states - no longer the Blue states (save California) - are now the hot spots threatening our citizenry to the detriment of REPUBLICAN governors who are now the ones to blame.

The means to track and isolate carriers through testing fell apart: Not enough funding and help from the federal level where it had usually been. We're at a point where people are waiting more than 7 days for results... during which time they're infecting everyone else as asymptomatic victims of the Coronavirus.

In the meanwhile, trump's Far Right fan base and media allies pushed against EVERY tool of combating the pandemic as though the fight itself offended their "freedoms", especially waging a war against mask-wearing in public places even though months of evidence demonstrated here and elsewhere that masks reduce the spread of COVID. Unless trump himself comes out and repudiates his earlier stances, we are not going to see an end to that fearmongering over masks (it may already be too late if trump tries).

There are no good solutions except the hard choice of going back to Shut Down like we did in March. The hard choice for the U.S. Senate - which is FAILING to pass much-needed extensions of financial aid to the unemployed and renters in dire need of paychecks - to continue federal support that most conservatives despise. These hard choices may be unpalatable to the Far Right... but without those decisions, we are facing both an expansion of a lethal pandemic killing more Americans and a worsening economic situation that can't repair itself without yet another massive bailout.

First things first, Americans.

Keep our kids and families safe as possible. Keep them home. Give them the tools to study in safe places and learn as best they can without the exposure to death they'll be facing in the close quarters of classrooms.

Stay At Home, America.

Stay Safe.