22 September 2020

This may not be workable, but, well, we need to think of ways to proceed in our predicament

 So the Constitution provides that federal judges serve during a term of "good behavior." And there is a mechanism for removing them, impeachment. But what if the Congress simply passed a statute that said that judges' terms, as per the Constitution, would end upon the finding of "other than good behavior," and then organized a Congressional commission, to review the performance and conduct of judges, and issue findings of whether they continued to be in a status of "good behavior" or not. And include in the statute a provision that this process is not subject to judicial review. Such a statute might face a court challenge, but could the court legitimately take jurisdiction over the Congress exercising, as it sees fit, both its right to determine what the jurisdiction of the court is, and to put into effect an ambiguous provision of the Constitution to exercise their proper control over the court? The argument would be in any case that impeachment is reserved for 'high crimes and misdemeanors,' but the Constitution seems to provide that there might be another mechanism to, in effect, fire judges who did not maintain "good behavior," clearly a lower standard? What say you to my thoughts here?

David Plouffe on Democratic strategy

No less an Obama Centrist than David Plouffe just said on Hayes's show that, having won the presidency and the Senate, in January Democrats should 1) end the filibuster; 2) expand the Court; and 3) extend statehood to Puerto Rico and DC. These aren't good campaign issues but they are a good governing strategy. To those who say, well what about the Republicans doing the same when they get power back?, I say, look, they have burned down the whole place, and taken no prisoners. This is all out war. We MUST fight back in the same terms they do: raw power. Then do everything we can to keep it, fairly and legitimately, but nonetheless keep it. Norms and traditions can be rebuilt, but not from a position of abject defeat and powerlessness. (He also said Mitch McConnell is "not even human. He's a cyborg sent here from another world to destroy this one." So, obviously, he knows what he's talking about! LOL).  

12 September 2020

Unhealthy Air in Portland

 My city is in a serious crisis of unhealthy air brought on by the firestorms. The entire Willamette Valley is blanketed by an inversion layer and is covered by smoke so thick you can barely see across the street. Running the AC fan to at least filter indoor air somewhat. Airnow.gov shows "very unhealthy," which is really bad.

View from our window; this is smoke not fog.

Portland has the most unhealthy air of any city in the world at the moment. I'm planning a short trip to California next week, but starting to think maybe we should just leave for a while anyway. It affects your throat and lungs, makes you feel a little ill, and burns your eyes. Blecch. 

Fortunately, the actual fires are about 30 miles away at the closest, and there is no wind at all. The fires are east of here, burning away towards the east from theri eastern margins. So we are not in imminent danger from fire. Just really bad air. 

Enter zip code on airnow.gov.  Our zip is 97267.

10 September 2020

Letter from an American

Once again, I'm urging folks to read Heather Cox Richardson's (near-) daily Letter from an American. You can't find a better "instant history" commentary anywhere out there. I have a couple of friends who avoid all the toxicity of cable TV and just read her letter. 

08 September 2020

Re: Heatner Cox Richardson's letters

One or two of my farflung correspondents asked if there was a ray to read Heather Cox Richardson's (almost) daily Letters from an American other than on Facebook. There is.  https://heathercoxrichardson.substack.com/ 


On Sat, Sep 5, 2020 at 3:04 PM David Studhalter (ds@gyromantic.com) <oldionus@gmail.com> wrote:
As a teaser for why you should subscribe on Facebook or wherever you can to Heather Cox Richardson's almost-daily summaries of the state of our union. 

07 September 2020

Heather Cox Richardosn September 6, 2020

  Sunday's letter from historian Heather Cox Richardson is pretty stark, but worth the read. 

Earlier this week, New York Times columnist Farhad Manjoo warned that American democracy is ending. He pointed to political violence on the streets, the pandemic, unemployment, racial polarization, and natural disasters, all of which are destabilizing the country, and noted that Republicans appear to have abandoned democracy in favor of a cult-like support for Donald Trump. They are wedded to a narrative based in lies, as the president dismantles our non-partisan civil service and replaces it with a gang of cronies loyal only to him. ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌

Earlier this week, New York Times columnist Farhad Manjoo warned that American democracy is ending. He pointed to political violence on the streets, the pandemic, unemployment, racial polarization, and natural disasters, all of which are destabilizing the country, and noted that Republicans appear to have abandoned democracy in favor of a cult-like support for Donald Trump. They are wedded to a narrative based in lies, as the president dismantles our non-partisan civil service and replaces it with a gang of cronies loyal only to him.

He is right to be worried.

Just the past few days have demonstrated that key aspects of democracy are under attack.

Democracy depends on the rule of law. Today, we learned that Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, who rose to become a Cabinet official thanks to his prolific fundraising for the Republican Party, apparently managed to raise as much money as he did because he pressured employees at his business, New Breed Logistics, to make campaign contributions that he later reimbursed through bonuses. Such a scheme is illegal. A spokesman said that Dejoy "believes that he has always followed campaign fundraising laws and regulations," but records show that many of DeJoy's employees only contributed money to political campaigns when they worked for him.

Democracy depends on equality before the law. But Black and brown people seem to receive summary justice at the hands of certain law enforcement officers, rather than being accorded the right to a trial before a jury of their peers. In a democracy, voters elect representatives who make laws that express the will of the community. "Law enforcement officers" stop people who are breaking those laws, and deliver them to our court system, where they can tell their side of the story and either be convicted of breaking the law, or acquitted. When police can kill people without that process, justice becomes arbitrary, depending on who holds power.

Democracy depends on reality-based policy. Increasingly it is clear that the Trump administration is more concerned about creating a narrative to hold power than it is in facts. Today, Trump tweeted that "Our Economy and Jobs are doing really well," when we are in a recession (defined as two quarters of negative growth) and unemployment remains at 8.4%.

This weekend, the drive to create a narrative led to a new low as the government launched an attempt to control how we understand our history. On Friday, the administration instructed federal agencies to end training on "critical race theory," which is a scary-sounding term for the idea that, over time, our laws have discriminated against Black and brown people, and that we should work to get rid of that discriminatory pattern.

Today, Trump tweeted that the U.S. Department of Education will investigate whether California schools are using curriculum based on the 1619 Project from the New York Times, which argues that American history should center on the date of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans to Chesapeake shores. Anyone using such curriculum, he said, would lose funding. Government interference in teaching our history echoes the techniques of dictatorships. It is unprecedented in America.

Democracy depends on free and fair suffrage. The White House is trying to undermine our trust in the electoral system by claiming that mail-in ballots can be manipulated and will usher in fraud. While Trump has been arguing this for a while, last week Attorney General William Barr, a Trump loyalist, also chimed in, offering a false story that the Justice Department had indicted a Texas man for filling out 1700 absentee ballots. In fact, in 2017, one man was convicted of forging one woman's signature on a mail-in ballot in a Dallas City Council race. Because mail-in ballots have security barcodes and require signatures to be matched to a registration form, the rate of ballot fraud is vanishingly small: there have been 491 prosecutions in all U.S. nationwide elections from 2000 to 2012, when billions of ballots were cast.

Interestingly, an intelligence briefing from the Department of Homeland Security released Friday says that Russia is spreading false statements identical to those Trump and Barr are spreading. The bulletin says that Russian actors "are likely to promote allegations of corruption, system failure, and foreign malign interference to sow distrust in Democratic institutions and election outcomes." They are spreading these claims through state-controlled media, fake websites, and social media trolls.

At the same time, we know that the Republicans are launching attempts to suppress Democratic votes. Last Wednesday, we learned that Georgia has likely removed 200,000 voters from the rolls for no reason. In December 2019, the Georgia Secretary of State said officials had removed 313,243 names from the rolls in an act of routine maintenance because they were inactive and the voters had moved, but nonpartisan experts found that 63.3% of those voters had not, in fact, moved. They were purged from the rolls in error.

And, in what was perhaps an accident, in South Carolina, voters' sample ballots did not include Democratic candidates Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, although they did include the candidates for the Green, Alliance, and Libertarian parties. When The Post and Courier newspaper called their attention to the oversight, the State Election Commission, which is a Republican-majority body appointed by a staunch Trump supporter, updated the ballots.

Democracy depends on the legitimacy of (at least) two political parties. Opposition parties enable voters unhappy with whichever group of leaders is in power to articulate their positions without undermining the government itself. They also watch leaders carefully, forcing them to combat corruption within their ranks.

This administration has sought to delegitimize Democrats as "socialists" and "radicals" who are not legitimate political players. Just today, Trump tweeted: "The Democrats, together with the corrupt Fake News Media, have launched a massive Disinformation Campaign the likes of which has never been seen before."

For its part, the Republican Party has essentially become the Trump Party, not only in ideology and loyalty but in finances. Yesterday we learned that Trump and the Republican National Committee have spent close to $60 million from campaign contributors on Trump's legal bills. Matthew Sanderson, a campaign finance lawyer for Republican presidential candidates, told the New York Times, "Vindicating President Trump's personal interests is now so intertwined with the interests of the Republican Party they are one and the same — and that includes the legal fights the party is paying for now."

The administration has refused to answer to Democrats in Congress, ignoring subpoenas with the argument that Congress has no power to investigate the executive branch, despite precedent for such oversight going all the way back to George Washington's administration. Just last week, a federal appeals court said that Congress has no power to enforce a subpoena because there is no law that gives it the authority to do so. This essentially voids a subpoena the House issued last year to former White House counsel Don McGahn, demanding he testify about his dealings with Trump over the investigation into the ties of the Trump campaign to Russia. (The decision will likely be challenged.)

On September 4, U.S. Postal Service police officers refused Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) entry to one USPS facility in Opa-Locka, Florida and another in Miami. Although she followed the procedures she had followed in the past, this time the local officials told her that the national USPS leadership had told them to bar her entry. "Ensuring only authorized parties enter nonpublic areas of USPS facilities is part of a Postal Police officer's normal duties, said Postal Inspector Eric Manuel. Wasserman Schultz is a member of the House Oversight and Reform Committee.

And finally, democracy depends on the peaceful transition of power. Trump has repeatedly suggested that he will not leave office because the Democrats are going to cheat.

So we should definitely worry.

But should we despair? Absolutely not.

Convincing people the game is over is one of the key ways dictators take power. Scholars warn never to consent in advance to what you anticipate an autocrat will demand. If democracy were already gone, there would be no need for Trump and his people to lie and cheat and try to steal this election.

And I would certainly not be writing this letter.

Americans are coming together from all different political positions to fight this attack on our democracy, and we have been in similar positions before. In 1858, Abraham Lincoln spoke under similar circumstances, and noted that Americans who disagreed on almost everything else could still agree to defend their country, just as we are now. Ordinary Americans "rose each fighting, grasping whatever he could first reach---a scythe---a pitchfork-- a chopping axe, or a butcher's cleaver," he said. And "when the storm shall be past," the world "shall find us still Americans; no less devoted to the continued Union and prosperity of the country than heretofore."






Russia: https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/voting-by-mail-russia-trump-barr/2020/09/04/e3f0e500-ee60-11ea-99a1-71343d03bc29_story.html













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05 September 2020

Heatner Cox Richardson's letters

As a teaser for why you should subscribe on Facebook or wherever you can to Heather Cox Richardson's almost-daily summaries of the state of our union. 

03 August 2020

Trump's Criminal Conspiracy to disrupt the election

Think about this paragraph from Josh Marshall's piece on Trump's "Criminal Conspiracy" to disrupt the election in Talkinpointsmemo.com today.

«Often we think about his chatter as though it's annoying and distracting but as long as he finally respects the results and doesn't take steps to prevent people from voting that it will all have been words. No harm, no foul. But of course that isn't remotely the case. Think about it this way. How much time are you thinking about who will win the election in the ordinary sense: i.e., who will get the most electoral college votes in a more or less free public vote. And how much are you thinking about whether the President will use his executive powers to disrupt the election or remain in power despite losing? I venture to say you're probably spending quite a bit of time in that second mental space.»

02 August 2020

Senseless Tragedy

My friend and piano teacher Nick just let many of his friends know that good friend and housemate committed suicide this week. This is so very heartbreaking. I felt that what he wrote about how it affects others is so worth repeating that I am sharing it with most of the people I know. I have personally known several people, some very close to me, who experienced a "near miss," as in an attempted suicide that they later realized was a barely avoided narrow escape from a terrible loss not just to themselves but to others in their lives. It is never as bleak as it seems, and life has a way of reforming itself into a new outlook, every time. 

Anyway, here are his powerful words: 

" If you are considering doing something like this, I beg you not to. The people who love you, love you more than it will ever be possible for you to know, and there are people you are yet to meet who will love you even more, that you are robbing yourself of the chance to meet and experience. And I know this is cliche to say, but this is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. And you won't be here to feel the relief of the "solution." The people who are left behind will be left with a hole for the rest of their lives. Love yourself. At least allow others to love on you, and believe them when they say they care. You are not a burden. You are needed. You are loved. And if you stick around, you will slowly and gradually come to realize how much so you really are, and how much your mere existence enriches the lives of us all. If nothing else, know that -I- love you, and that -I- need you here as long as you can be."

We are all stressed in this difficult time, but we should remember that others are in pain and may need us to reach out to them. 

Stay well and remember that others love you, everyone. 


21 July 2020

This happened in the last 2 weeks

• The Federal government sends storm troopers, pretextually in response to mostly peaceful protesters' causing minor property damage to Federal facilities but actually to patrol streets... to an American city without insignia, ID, or even agency identification, dressed in military camo, against the outraged objections of both Senators, the district's congressman, the Governor, the state's AG, and even the local US Attorney. An AG in another state files charges against right wing vigilantes who brandish guns at peaceful protesters in clear violation of the law, and immediately the governor of the state announces that he will pardon the violators if they are convicted. A governor of another state issues an edict forbidding local jurisdictions from requiring basic sanitary precautions in the midst of a lethal pandemic.
It's not supposed to be like this. We must sweep these people out of power at all levels of government, with the greatest urgency, lest we lose the small-d democracy we so righteously claim to care about in this nation.

13 July 2020

Important Perspective on Where We Are

Please read this. Every word. This is a perspective that every American needs to fully understand and keep forefront in their minds as we move forward to utterly defeat Trump and decimate his Death Cult Party in November, so we can elect Biden and Democrats to "Build Back Better." (Not the best slogan in the world, but it does catch the basic plan).  (Post on Facebook by Heather Cox Richardson, Prof. of History and author of a new book, How the South Won the Civil War. 

July 12, 2020 (Sunday)
The big news today was the administration's escalating insistence that our public schools must reopen on schedule for the fall. Today, on Fox News Sunday, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos told Chris Wallace (who is one of the Fox News Channel's actual reporters), "We know that children contract and have the virus at far lower incidence than any other part of the population, and we know that other countries around the world have reopened their schools and have done so successfully and safely."
Wallace asked her if it was fair to compare countries that have as few as 20 new cases a day with the U.S., which is currently seeing 68,000. DeVos dodged the question.
She vowed to cut off federal funding for public schools that do not reopen. Wallace asked "Under what authority are you and the president going to unilaterally cut off funding, funding that's been approved from Congress and most of the money goes to disadvantaged students or students with disabilities?" "You can't do that," he continued.
Then DeVos said something interesting: "Look, American investment in education is a promise to students and their families. If schools aren't going to reopen and not fulfill that promise, they shouldn't get the funds, and give it to the families to decide to go to a school that is going to meet that promise," she said.
This is the best explanation I've seen for why the administration is so keen on opening up the schools. DeVos is not an educator or trained in education or school administration. She is a billionaire Republican donor and former chair of the Michigan Republican Party. She is a staunch proponent of privatizing the public school system, replacing our public schools with charter schools, as her wealthy family managed to do with great success in Michigan, which has been flooded with low-performing charter schools, which have very little oversight.
It seems she is hoping to use the coronavirus pandemic to privatize education across the nation.
Indeed, the administration has responded to the pandemic by continuing its assault on the activist government Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the Democrats put into place in the 1930s, and on which we have come to rely.
FDR's New Deal and, after it, Republican President Dwight Eisenhower's similar Middle Way, used the government to regulate business, provide a basic social safety net, and promote infrastructure, like roads and bridges. But that government has been under siege ever since it was built by men eager to get rid of government regulation and the taxes necessary to provide a social safety net and infrastructure. In their view, returning the government to the form it took before the 1930s will allow a few wealthy men to dominate society without government interference, thus protecting their liberty and permitting those who know best how to run the country to be in charge.
Since 1981, when President Ronald Reagan took office promising to scale back the federal government, Republican leaders have promised to cut regulation and taxes, and to return power to individuals to arrange their lives as they see fit. But they have never entirely managed to eradicate the New Deal government.
When he took office, Trump set out to do what those before him had not. He has left offices unfilled, slashed regulations and taxes, and did all he could to privatize the functions of the U.S. government.
The administration's response to the pandemic highlighted the attempt to replace government functions with private efforts. Trump put his son-in-law Jared Kushner in charge of managing the crisis, and Kushner promptly created a task force of young people from venture capital and private equity firms. With no experience in emergency preparation and no contacts in the relevant industries, the volunteers on the task force were ineffectual, simply gumming up the efforts of the career officials whom they were trying to replace.
Notably, when states turned to the federal government to help direct the national response, Trump turned them away, telling them to manage on their own. At the same time, Project Airbridge, the new federal system designed to get critical supplies to the states, used the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to fly supplies to the U.S., but then turned them over to private distributors to get them to their customers. This public-private partnership, as the administration called it, frustrated state governors whose incoming supplies were sometimes confiscated for redistribution to places the administration deemed more urgent.
After the first coronavirus bills shored up the economy, Trump began to talk of tax cuts for businesses and investors, arguing—as has been Republican orthodoxy since Reagan—that tax cuts will stimulate the economy (although there is no evidence that this is the case). States and cities and towns are reeling from the loss of tax dollars, but Republicans have been reluctant to support them, apparently hoping to permit them to declare bankruptcy. This has been a long-term plan on the part of Republican leaders, for in a bankruptcy restructuring, the social safety nets of Democratic states like New York could be slashed.
Not helping local governments through this crisis will also cut public school funding.
And finally, with the support and encouragement of the administration, Republicans are downplaying the seriousness of the coronavirus to urge children back to school and their parents back to work. Today, White House officials started trying to discredit Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and one of the president's leading advisors on the pandemic. Fauci has warned that the country is not doing enough to shut down infections, and that things will get worse if we don't. Unless the economy regains traction, we are facing extraordinary economic dislocation that can only be addressed with the social safety net the Republicans want to get rid of altogether.
In all of this, the administration sounds much like that of President Herbert Hoover who, when faced with the calamity of the Great Depression, largely rejected calls for government aid to starving and displaced families, and instead trusted businessmen to restart the economy. To the extent relief was necessary, he wanted states and towns to cover it. Anything else would destroy American individualism, he insisted.
But by 1932, the same Americans who had supported Hoover in 1928 in a landslide recognized that his ideology had led the nation to catastrophe and then offered no way out. They rallied around Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who worked together with Congress to create an entirely new form of national government, one that had been unthinkable just four years before.
Last week, presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden explicitly echoed the dynamic of the 1932 election, highlighting the economy and economic opportunity. His policy paper reads: "Even before COVID-19, the Trump Administration was pursuing economic policies that rewarded wealth over work and corporations over working families. Too many families were struggling to make ends meet and too many parents were worried about the economic future for their children. And, Black and Latino Americans, Native Americans, immigrants, and women have never been welcomed as full participants in the economy."
Biden's economic plan for the country is, according to his campaign, the "largest mobilization of public investments in procurement, infrastructure, and R&D since World War II." Called "Build Back Better," the plan calls for investment in infrastructure and R&D to revitalize high-paying American industries and bring critical American supply chains back home. He calls for a revival of trade unions—gutted after 1981—and higher wages, as well as higher taxes on corporations (although not to the levels they were at before Trump's tax cuts). The document is a strong one politically, undercutting both Trump's "America First" language and promising concrete policies for voters suffering in the Republican economy. But it is interesting as well for how clearly it marks a return to a vision of a government that stops privileging an elite few, and instead works to level the economic playing field among all Americans. 

10 July 2020

The OTHER major Supreme Court decision yesterday, a surprise and unusually progressive opinion by Goruch

The two Trump related SC decisions yesterday sucked all the oxygen, but a third major decision is extremely important and shows the way towards recognition of the enforcement of treaties with native peoples in the future. This summary by historian Heather Cox Richardson is informative. 

.....major victory for indigenous peoples. In a 5-4 decision in McGirt v. Oklahoma, the court upheld the claim of the Creek Nation that a large chunk of Oklahoma, including much of Tulsa, remains a reservation for the purposes of criminal prosecutions. This means that natives on the land cannot be tried by state court; they must be tried in tribal or federal courts. While this will affect state convictions of Creeks, tribal leaders say it will have little impact on non-natives.
Oklahoma had argued that while Congress had initially established a reservation for the Creeks, it had ended that reservation when it pushed Creek individuals onto their own farms in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. But Congress had never explicitly gotten rid of the reservation. Neil Gorsuch joined the majority and wrote the decision, saying "Today we are asked whether the land these treaties promised remains an Indian reservation for purposes of federal criminal law. Because Congress has not said otherwise, we hold the government to its word."
The decision details the history of U.S. and Creek interactions, and notes that the federal government often went back on the promises it made to the Native Americans. The decision holds the federal government to the treaties it negotiated with the Creeks, and as such, the decision has the potential to affect a number of other conflicts in which federal agreements were overruled by other state or federal actions, but were never explicitly ended. The decision certainly has the potential to apply to four other reservations in eastern Oklahoma whose histories mirror that of the Creek lands.

26 June 2020

Heather Cox Richardson and my plan to devise an "Oregon Plan" for America

If you liked Heather Cox Richardson's piece I sent around, she has a Facebook page in which she delivers folksy but scholarly and  fascinating American history lectures via live stream and also makes cogent and succinct (as well as historically informed) comments on current affairs. I can't say I listen every week, but she is interesting and engaging and makes you realize that understanding the history of how we got to this ridiculous predicament is helpful in thinking about how the hell we navigate ourselves out of it. 

Apropos, I'm thinking of writing a long open letter to "President-elect-to-be" Biden, and Schumer and Pelosi, laying out an "Oregon Plan" for a step by step approach to repairing our republic and our society. If I actually do it, I'll share it first and maybe hone it a bit, incorporating any changes and good ideas suggested by others. I don't kid myself that I, a mere retiree in a remote West Coast state with no political connections and no financial heft, have any chance at actually being influential, but sometimes ideas are "in the air," and when individuals make the effort to actually express them,it contributes to the overall process of their becoming real potential policy. 

23 June 2020

Please indulge a little rant about the COVID response

It was bad enough, as in searing blue-fire anger, when the Trump Death Cult and their administration did nothing during the long lockdown... a time which the American people sacrificed precisely so that their government could organize a real, and effective response to the Pandemic. The experts were unanimous and perfectly clear what needed to be done. We needed to stage a massive mobilization, comparable to a major World War of the 20th century, to develop tens and tens of millions of tests, administer them broadly and widely, hire an almost literal army of contact tracers, train, organize, and deploy them; and organize and deploy a massive system of isolation and quarantine of people testing positive. We knew this; epidemiologists explained all this to the government officials with the power to make it happen. And to a great extent other countries have done this, and as a result have come close to containing the virus; are able to manage outbreaks. We are not. We are on the verge of the whole thing commencing another out of control geometric increase. Here it is nearly 90 days out, and not only has our government not done what was needed, they are bragging about doing nothing, denying the truth of the pandemic, feeding their foolish followers lies and propaganda, and cutting back even on what minimal efforts were made. This is not negligence. It is not even recklessness. This is criminality, and we must not tolerate it further. We have marched for racial justice, for an end to police violence. Now it is time to demand that this do-nothing, malevolent government step the fuck aside and let others take the lead and serve the American people in their time of need. Demand that Trump resign now. We should be prepared to take to the streets to demand action. It is not enough to just vote him out of office. We need to organize and demand that there be a real response to this threat to our peoples' health, their livelihood, and the very economy these idiots claim to be trying to protect!

21 June 2020

Heather Cox Richardson : good summation of the State of Trumpworld at this very moment

This is a rather good post lifted from the Facebook page of the political historian Heather Cox Richardson. Good summation of the current state of Trumpworld. My impression is that CNN and MSNBC are floundering a little over the weekend to put together a coherent narrative. (I don't usually even watch either of them on weekends, but I get the impression the ongoing meltdown of the Trump campaign and presidency is sort of coming to a head right now). Even the Post and Times seem a little unfocused. This piece is tight and informative. 

June 20, 2020 (Saturday)
Yesterday's standoff between Attorney General William Barr and the interim U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman, whom Barr was trying to fire, was only one of today's significant stories.
Last night, Barr announced Berman was "stepping down." Berman retorted he was doing nothing of the sort and that Barr had no authority to fire him. This morning, Berman showed up for work. Then Barr wrote Berman a letter saying he was "surprised and disappointed by the press statement you released last night…. Because you have declared that you have no intention of resigning, I have asked the President to remove you as of today, and he has done so." Barr gave no reason for the firing.
Because Berman was an interim U.S. Attorney, appointed by the court rather than confirmed by the Senate, it was not clear if Trump had the authority to fire him (although it was clear Barr did not). But that point became moot quickly, when Trump told reporters: "That's his department, not my department…. I'm not involved." The president's disavowal of Barr's declaration means Barr, the Attorney General, has lied in writing twice in the past two days.
And Berman had gained his point. Barr's letter said he would not replace Berman with an outside candidate—which was highly irregular—but would follow normal procedure and permit Berman's deputy, Audrey Strauss, to become acting U.S. Attorney in his place. With this win for the Southern District of New York's U.S. Attorney's office, Berman said he would leave his post. A former SDNY prosecutor said: "After all this what did they gain by getting rid of Berman? Nothing."
Berman's office has been handling a number of cases involving Trump and his allies, including one involving Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani and political operatives Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who are charged with funneling Russian money to Republican candidates for office. The three have also been involved in the attempt to smear Joe Biden's son Hunter Biden by digging up witnesses in Ukraine who are willing to testify against the Bidens, although after repeated investigations there is no evidence either Biden committed any wrongdoing.
It may be these cases, or others, that the Trump administration is eager to quash. My guess is that we have not heard the end of its attempt to stifle the SDNY, but there is yet another roadblock in their way. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and usually a staunch Trump supporter, said he had not been consulted on the proposed replacement for Berman. He added that he would follow Senate tradition, and permit the Senators from New York, where the office is based, to veto the nomination if they wished. Nominee Jay Clayton has never been a prosecutor, and New York's Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrats both, will almost certainly not accept his candidacy.
There was another loss for the administration today. A federal judge decided against Trump's attempt to stop the release of former National Security Advisor John Bolton's memoir of his days in the Trump administration. U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth said it would be impossible to stop the distribution of the book, which has already begun to circulate.
The judge also blasted Bolton for moving ahead with publication without an official government sign-off on the book certifying that it did not reveal classified information. He warned that Bolton might face prosecution if he has exposed national security secrets in the book. Bolton's lawyer welcomed the decision and said "we respectfully take issue… with the Court's preliminary conclusion at this early stage of the case that Ambassador Bolton did not comply fully with his contractual prepublication obligation to the Government…. The full story of these events has yet to be told—but it will be."
The other big story today was, of course, Trump's rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, designed to jumpstart his campaign and reunite him with the crowds that energize him. His campaign manager, Brad Parscale, along with the president himself, has spent days crowing that almost a million tickets had been reserved, and the campaign had built an outside stage for overflow crowds.
But far fewer than the 19,000 people Tulsa's BOK Center could hold showed up: the local fire marshal said the number was just under 6,200. Young TikTok users and fans of Korean pop music (so-called "K-Pop stans"), along with Instagram and Snapchat users, had quietly ordered tickets to prank the campaign. The technological savvy of their generation has turned political: they knew that the Trump campaign harvests information from ticket reservations, bombarding applicants with texts and requests for donations. So they set up fake accounts and phone numbers to order the tickets, then deleted the fake accounts. They also deleted their social media posts organizing the plan to keep it from the attention of the Trump campaign.
The poor turnout after such hype was deeply embarrassing for the campaign. Trump's people took down the outside stage and Trump blamed "protesters" who had kept supporters out of the venue for the small size of the rally, but there were few reports of any interactions between Trump supporters and protesters and no one was turned away.
The rally itself did not deliver the punch Trump's people had hoped. The speech was disjointed as the president rambled from one topic to another, rehashing old topics that no longer charged up the crowd, many of whom were caught on camera yawning or checking their phones. It was clear that The Lincoln Project's needling of his difficulty raising a glass to his mouth and walking down a ramp at last week's West Point graduation has gotten under Trump's skin: he spent more than ten minutes pushing back on those stories—the ramp was "like an ice skating rink," he claimed-- which, of course, only reinforced them.
Much more damning, when discussing coronavirus, he told the audience falsely that the recent spikes in infections are because there has been more testing: "When you do more testing to that extent, you are going to find more people, you will find more cases. I said to my people, 'Slow the testing down, please.'"
This is an astonishing admission. More than 120,000 Americans have died of Covid-19 so far, and while in some states hard hit early on numbers of cases are declining, cases are right now spiking in a number of other states in far higher numbers than increased testing would show. Experts agree that the administration's odd reluctance to test for coronavirus cost American lives. Within hours of his statement, it was being used in a political ad against the president.
Far from energizing Trump's 2020 campaign, the rally made Trump look like a washed-up performer who has lost his audience and become a punchline for the new kids in town. According to White House reporter Andrew Feinberg, a Trump campaign staffer told him that Biden "should have to report our costs to the [Federal Election Commission] as a contribution to his campaign."

09 June 2020


I can't cite chapter and verse scientifically. But (for a change) let me try to keep this brief.
1. Unlike (paradigmatically) New Zealand, and slighly less so other countries including some in Europe, the US has simply FAILED to do what is necessary to prevent the virus from roaring back when "social distancing" etc. is loosened. We can't get the time back and it's very clear we are NOT going to do the massive test, contact trace, isolate regimen that was the only option to actually suppress the virus.
2. The lockdown regime, stay home stay safe, is not sustainable. People just won't do it, so they have to be given an alternative. It's very much like "just say no" in past campaigns against teen pregnancy or drug use. Abstinence alone is not a viable option.
3. We may, just may, have gotten lucky. There may be a bit of a summer reprieve underway, at least in places where there was a lockdown in place long enough to bring the numbers way down. There are parts of the US where this is NOT happening, and short term peaks are still in the offing.
4. So what to do? If you live in an area (Oregon, even New York now, Washington, California), where the virus is somewhat controlled, given what we now know about how the virus spreads, this seems to be the best advice:
Always wear a mask when you go out in public places where you will be within 10 feet of other people.
Carry and use hand sanitizer and wash hands frequently and thoroughly, especially when outside the house.
Avoid public places where you aren't six feet apart, unless absolutely necessary, and when it is, wear a mask and don't linger in such places. Restaurants MAY be reasonably safe, if they are spread out enough and you are in a group that's only "household."
Avoid activities that involve yelling, singing, strenuous physical activity, etc. with others. This is tough, but it's really necessary. (Playing music with others is a big problem. Possibly outdoors or with maximal separation. But choral groups are screwed. There's just no way to do that safely now. )
Obviously, avoid big crowds. Malls, movie theaters, concerts... these things are best avoided for now. Sad, but I see no way around this.
A good thing. It is reasonable in harm reduction mode (that's what this is) to make pacts with a FEW friends and relatives to form extended "double" groups, but not too many. What this means is you agree to certain standards you will all follow with regard to social distancing, masks, etc., but then you will admit each other into your virtual household so you can socialize with them, with reasonable hygienic precautions, as if they were part of your own household. We all need some social contact. This is fraught. It's like high school. Are you in my "in" group, or not? But it's really the only safe way to have intimate social contact with people outside your household.
Another good thing. Apart from strenuous physical activity, outdoor recreation, maintaining physical distancing, is pretty safe. Go for walks, hikes, even swims, boating, etc. Just dont' party too close. Backyard gatherings (masks and hand sanitizer preferred) are safe if physical distance is maintained. Meet friends for dog walks, etc.
Minimize physical contact (except with actual family members). Don't hug. Don't shake hands.
This sucks. Some day there will be an effective treatment or vaccine and we can set all this aside. But as I see it, something like this modified harm reduction protocol is NECESSARY. If we want to avoid another 100,000 deaths (or more), especially in Fall, when there is nothing really in place other than peoples' behavior to prevent a recurrence of rapid spreading, we have no choice but to pretty radically change our lifestyle semi-permanently.
Thoughts? (Other than that, as usual, I didn't manage to keep it brief).