27 September 2020

Misattribution of Fauci quote

I am advised that the piece I sent around as by Anthony Fauci is misattributed. It is actually the work of Amy Wright, of Asheville, NC. But although not written by Fauci, it is still correct in its details and essential point. Sorry for the misinformation. 

Fauci, sidelined by Trump, takes the gloves off and tells it like it is

This piece by Anthony Fauci is longish, but PLEASE READ IT. Everyone needs to understand this perspective on COVID.

"Chickenpox is a virus. Lots of people have had it, and probably don't think about it much once the initial illness has passed. But it stays in your body and lives there forever, and maybe when you're older, you have debilitatingly painful outbreaks of shingles. You don't just get over this virus in a few weeks, never to have another health effect. We know this because it's been around for years, and has been studied medically for years.
"Herpes is also a virus. And once someone has it, it stays in your body and lives there forever, and anytime they get a little run down or stressed-out they're going to have an outbreak. Maybe every time you have a big event coming up (school pictures, job interview, big date) you're going to get a cold sore. For the rest of your life. You don't just get over it in a few weeks. We know this because it's been around for years, and been studied medically for years.
"HIV is a virus. It attacks the immune system and makes the carrier far more vulnerable to other illnesses. It has a list of symptoms and negative health impacts that goes on and on. It was decades before viable treatments were developed that allowed people to live with a reasonable quality of life. Once you have it, it lives in your body forever and there is no cure. Over time, that takes a toll on the body, putting people living with HIV at greater risk for health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, diabetes, bone disease, liver disease, cognitive disorders, and some types of cancer. We know this because it has been around for years, and had been studied medically for years.
"Now with COVID-19, we have a novel virus that spreads rapidly and easily. The full spectrum of symptoms and health effects is only just beginning to be cataloged, much less understood.
So far the symptoms may include:
Acute respiratory distress
Lung damage (potentially permanent)
Loss of taste (a neurological symptom)
Sore throat
Difficulty breathing
Mental confusion
Nausea or vomiting
Loss of appetite
Strokes have also been reported in some people who have COVID-19 (even in the relatively young)
Swollen eyes
Blood clots
Liver damage
Kidney damage
COVID toes (weird, right?)
"People testing positive for COVID-19 have been documented to be sick even after 60 days. Many people are sick for weeks, get better, and then experience a rapid and sudden flare up and get sick all over again. A man in Seattle was hospitalized for 62 days, and while well enough to be released, still has a long road of recovery ahead of him. Not to mention a $1.1 million medical bill.
"Then there is MIS-C. Multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children is a condition where different body parts can become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs. Children with MIS-C may have a fever and various symptoms, including abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, neck pain, rash, bloodshot eyes, or feeling extra tired. While rare, it has caused deaths.
"This disease has not been around for years. It has basically been 6 months. No one knows yet the long-term health effects, or how it may present itself years down the road for people who have been exposed. We literally *do not know* what we do not know.
"For those in our society who suggest that people being cautious are cowards, for people who refuse to take even the simplest of precautions to protect themselves and those around them, I want to ask, without hyperbole and in all sincerity:
How dare you?
"How dare you risk the lives of others so cavalierly? How dare you decide for others that they should welcome exposure as 'getting it over with,' when literally no one knows who will be the lucky 'mild symptoms' case, and who may fall ill and die? Because while we know that some people are more susceptible to suffering a more serious case, we also know that 20 and 30-year-olds have died, marathon runners and fitness nuts have died, children and infants have died.
"How dare you behave as though you know more than medical experts, when those same experts acknowledge that there is so much we don't yet know, but with what we DO know, are smart enough to be scared of how easily this is spread, and recommend baseline precautions such as:
Frequent hand-washing
Physical distancing
Reduced social/public contact or interaction
Mask wearing
Covering your cough or sneeze
Avoiding touching your face
Sanitizing frequently touched surfaces
"The more things we can all do to mitigate our risk of exposure, the better off we all are, in my opinion. Not only does it flatten the curve and allow health care providers to maintain levels of service that aren't immediately and catastrophically overwhelmed; it also reduces unnecessary suffering and deaths, and buys time for the scientific community to study the virus in order to come to a more full understanding of the breadth of its impacts in both the short and long term.
"I reject the notion that it's 'just a virus' and we'll all get it eventually. What a careless, lazy, heartless stance."


26 September 2020

My top Constitutional Amendments... if and when they become possible.

It's virtually impossible to amend the Constitution in our highly polarized political situation today. But if and when it again becomes possible, here are a few I think absolutely top of the list.
◘ Senatorial Reform. Increases the number of Senators to 120. Each of the 52 states (including Puerto Rico and D.C.) gest one senator for the core group. The remaining 68 senators are allocated to those states which, by population exceed the threshold for the fairest allocation by population, to be reallocated as necessary according to each Census, beyond the 1 per state. Many lower-population states would have only the one. Some basic rules to allow the efficient operation of the Senate and prevent any party from preventing votes on legislation should be included in the Constitution. (Same for the House).
◘ National Popular Vote of President/Abolition of the Electoral College; Creates a National Presidential Election Commission whose sole function is to accept, tabulate, and certify the result of the elections in the states. If no candidate receives an absolute majority of the popular vote, the top two would be subject to a run off three weeks after the November election. The president/vice president candidates would be considered as a unit, as they are now. Alternatively, states would be allowed to designate an automatic runoff by ranked voting, which would be recorded as the votes of the citizens of that state for purposes of a runoff.
◘ Federal Campaign Finance Reform and a series of Constitutional Declarations to the effect that 1. Corporations are not persons and the Congress may make such restrictions on corporations, as public trusts, including prohibiting from exercising political influence, as it deems fit and necessary. 2.That the regulation of the use of private money in political campaigns is not to be considered speech, subject to the protections of the First Amendment, except that Congress cannot completely prohibit the expenditure and solicitation of contribution of reasonable amounts to conduct political campaigns. 3. Explicitly permits the Congress to enact public financing of political campaigns and to restrict private contributions to political campaigns, and defining any other payments to politicians, political action committees campaign organizations as bribes, subject to existing legal sanctions against bribery.
◘ Enshrine a Constitutional Right to Vote, and explicitly define the minimum requirements for ensuring voting fairness, non-discrimination, prevention of voter suppression, restoration of felon's voting rights after completion of sentences, and access to voting without undue restriction as a mandate for all the states. Require that all elections be conducted with a physical record of each vote, subject to audit and authentication.

Ginsburg Judicial Reform Act of 2021 (proposed key provisions)

 Here's my idea for the Ginsburg Judicial Reform Act of 2021 (key provisions).
◘ Canon of Judicial Ethics to be applicable to Supreme Court Justices as well as all federal Judges, a Judicial Council created for all Federal Judges to refer conflicts of interest, crimes, and other conduct unbecoming of a judge to Congress for potential impeachment.
◘ Create a new level of Courts for prosecution of more minor offenses and Civil cases of lesser stakes
◘ Create approximately 200 new judgeships, including to populate this new branch
◘ Create 2 new Circuits of the Court of Appeal and resdistribute the existing circuits so that all of them, except DC, are approximately the same population. Create approximately 50 (48?) new justice positions to be distributed equally among the 12 Circuits
◘ Create Four new justices of the Supreme Court, and specify in the statute that the court may, according to its own rules as it may create, divide into two sections of six, with the chief justice to break ties.
◘ Specify certain restrictions, as deemed necessary, on the jurisdiction of the court, including, specifically that under no circumstances will the Supreme Court decide the outcome of an election; the limit of their power on suits involving voting in national elections would be to refer the matter for disposition by the Congress where an outcome based on the accurate count of popular vote cannot be determined.
As I understand it, all of these reforms are within the statutory power of the Congress and would not require a Constitutional amendment.

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.