Friday, July 3, 2020

Biden, His Time, Con't

The polls continue to look good for Joe Biden heading into July, at least according to the latest Monmouth University national survey of which candidate people know they won't vote for.

Half of the nation’s electorate says they have ruled out voting for Donald Trump in November, while 4 in 10 say the same about Joe Biden. Biden currently holds a 12 point lead in the presidential race according to the latest Monmouth (“Mon-muth”) University Poll. Biden holds a significant advantage among the 1 in 5 voters who do not have a favorable opinion of either candidate. Slightly more voters say they are confident about the challenger’s mental and physical stamina than say the same about the incumbent.

Biden currently has the support of 53% of registered voters and Trump has the support of 41%. This is similar to the Democrat’s 52% to 41% lead in early June. Biden’s edge stood at 50% to 41% in May, 48% to 44% in April, and 48% to 45% in March.

Slightly more voters say they are certain about their support for Biden (40%) than say the same about Trump (34%). Fully half (50%), though, say they are not at all likely to support the incumbent while 39% say the same about the challenger. In addition to Biden’s current firm support, another 3% say they are very likely to vote for him and 9% are somewhat likely, while 6% are not too likely. In addition to Trump’s current firm support, another 2% say they are very likely to vote for him and 6% are somewhat likely, while 6% are not too likely. Among white voters with a college degree, 62% have ruled out a vote for Trump while just 31% say the same about Biden. On the other hand, 56% of white voters without a college degree are not at all likely to support Biden while 37% say the same about Trump. Among voters from other racial or ethnic groups, 61% have ruled out Trump and just 22% say the same for Biden.

“Half of all registered voters have ruled out backing Trump. Trump showed in 2016 that he can thread the needle, but these results suggest the president has even less room for error in 2020. He must convert some of those unlikely supporters if he is to win a second term,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.

A key difference from four years ago is that fewer voters have a negative opinion of the Democratic nominee. Biden’s rating stands at 44% favorable and 44% unfavorable. It was 42%–49% in early June. Hillary Clinton’s rating in July 2016 was 34% favorable and 52% unfavorable. Trump currently has a negative 38% favorable and 55% unfavorable opinion. It was 38%–57% in early June. As a candidate four years ago, he held a 31% favorable and 53% unfavorable rating.

Overall, 21% of all registered voters do not have a favorable opinion of either party’s nominee. Trump did well with this “double negative” group in 2016. The National Election Pool exit poll showed him ultimately winning their vote after Clinton held a small edge throughout the campaign. But he is getting swamped among these voters this time around. Biden leads by 55% to 21% among this group.

No need to tell you once again that the Hillary hate spread by the media in the last two weeks of the election especially was what put Trump in the White House, but it looks like all that is backfiring on Trump four years later.

If half of voters have ruled Trump out, he can't win.

Russian To Judgment, Con't

If it's actually possible, somehow the Russia bounty scandal just keeps getting worse for the Trump regime as the NY Times is reporting that Afghan military contractors were the middlemen when it came to paying Taliban militia for Russian bounties on the heads of US troops.

He was a lowly drug smuggler, neighbors and relatives say, then ventured into contracting, seeking a slice of the billions of dollars the U.S.-led coalition was funneling into construction projects in Afghanistan.

But he really began to show off his wealth in recent years, after establishing a base in Russia, though how he earned those riches remained mysterious. On his regular trips home to northern Afghanistan, he drove the latest model cars, protected by bodyguards, and his house was recently upgraded to a four-story villa.

Now Rahmatullah Azizi stands as a central piece of a puzzle rocking Washington, named in American intelligence reports and confirmed by Afghan officials as a key middleman who for years handed out money from a Russian military intelligence unit to reward Taliban-linked fighters for targeting American troops in Afghanistan, according to American and Afghan officials.

As security agencies connected the dots of the bounty scheme and narrowed in on him, they carried out sweeping raids to arrest dozens of his relatives and associates about six months ago, but discovered that Mr. Azizi had sneaked out of Afghanistan and was likely back in Russia. What they did find in one of his homes, in Kabul, was about half a million dollars in cash.

American and Afghan officials have maintained for years that Russia was running clandestine operations to undermine the U.S. mission in Afghanistan and aid the Taliban.

But U.S. officials only recently concluded that a Russian spy agency was paying bounties for killing coalition troops, including Americans, which the Kremlin and the Taliban have denied.

According to officials briefed on the matter, U.S. intelligence officials believe the program is run by Unit 29155, an arm of the Russian military intelligence agency known as the G.R.U. that has carried out assassinations and other operations overseas.

That a conduit for the payments would be someone like Mr. Azizi — tied to the American reconstruction effort, enmeshed in the regional netherworld, but not prominent enough to attract outside attention — speaks to the depth of Russia’s reach into the increasingly complicated Afghan battlefield, exploiting a nexus of crime and terror to strike blows with years of deniability.

Again, this GRU operation was going for years and was part of a larger in-theater effort by Russia to undermine the US and coalition efforts in Afghanistan. Going from the dryly clinical and theoretical "well it's possible somebody may have paid bounties" to "Yes, we have a guy in custody who we know purchased the death of US troops by corrupting local militia with Russian cash" is a hell of a thing, and the Trump regime knows it.

They can't blame this on Obama or Biden. They can't pretend this is fake news, either. More details keep coming out, and it's absolutely devastating.

No, this won't lead to Trump resigning or a magical impeachment scenario, that's dangerous magical thinking for a despot who knows if he leaves office, he spends the rest of his life in prison. But it can lead to a Biden victory so overwhelming that Trump heads for the nearest flight out of town on January 19th.

Again, this one has legs, guys.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Last Call For Tales Of The Trump Depression

The country recovered 4.8 million jobs in June, a massive number that supports evidence of the "V-shaped recovery" that the Trump regime promised. Unfortunately, the evidence doesn't hold up on further inspection.

The US unemployment rate fell to 11.1% as the economy added a record 4.8 million jobs in June, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Thursday. 
The data was far better than economists predicted, and the unemployment rate also fell more than expected. It was the second-consecutive month of growth after more than 20 million jobs were wiped out in April during the coronavirus lockdown. The reopening of the economy is easing the burden on America's stressed labor market. 
But after two months of rampant growth, the American economy is still down nearly 14.7 million jobs since February. Although the unemployment rate has come down from 14.7% in April, it remains higher than at any point during the Great Recession. 
A full job market recovery is far from certain as long as the US economy remains in its current, deep recession, and "with the spread of the virus accelerating again, we expect the recovery from here will be a lot bumpier and job gains to be more muted," said Michael Pearce, senior US economist at Capital Economics, in a note. 
America is dealing with a severe joblessness crisis and millions of people are relying on government aid to make ends meet. 
The Department of Labor also reported Thursday that 1.4 million workers -- more than expected -- filed for first-time unemployment benefits last week. While the claims data is collected weekly, the survey for the jobs report wraps around the middle of each month. 
The number of Americans filing for unemployment at least two weeks in a row rose slightly, to 19.3 million. These numbers do not include claims filed for pandemic unemployment assistance. 
For the fourth month in a row, the Labor Department noted that its data collectors misclassified some workers as "employed not at work," when they should have been classified as "unemployed on temporary layoff." If it weren't for that issue, the unemployment rate would have been as high as 12.3% in June. 

Senate Republicans have made sure that help for American workers runs out this month and there's still no plans to take up any more stimulus measures. Rent moratoriums and pandemic unemployment insurance end this month as well.  Basicall, all federal measures to help Americans through the pandemic have ended or will end in the next couple of weeks.

Americans are on their own again. We're still trapped in a deep recession far worse than 2008, if not a major economic depression on par with 1929. And all indications are that from this point forward, things are going to get substantially worse for America.

We're still in the Trump Depression.  It gets bad from here.

The Country Goes Viral, Con't

A new Yale University medical study suggests that the true number of COVID-19 deaths in the US is 25-30% higher than the 130,000 we're at now.

The number of confirmed U.S. deaths due to the coronavirus is substantially lower than the true tally, according to a study published Wednesday in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Using National Center for Health Statistics data, researchers at Yale University compared the number of excess U.S. deaths from any causes with the reported number of weekly U.S. Covid-19 deaths from March 1 through May 30. The numbers were then compared with deaths from the same period in previous years.

Researchers found that the excess number of deaths over normal levels also exceeded those attributed to Covid-19, leading them to conclude that many of those fatalities were likely caused by the coronavirus but not confirmed. State reporting discrepancies and a sharp increase in U.S. deaths amid a pandemic suggest the number of Covid-19 fatalities is undercounted, they said. 
“Our analyses suggest that the official tally of deaths due to Covid-19 represent a substantial undercount of the true burden,” Dan Weinberger, an epidemiologist at Yale School of Public Health and a lead author of the study, told CNBC. Weinberger said other factors could contribute to the increase in deaths, such as people avoiding emergency treatment for things like heart attacks. However, he doesn’t think that is the main driver. 
The study was supported by the National Institute of Health. 
The 781,000 total deaths in the United States in the three months through May 30 were about 122,300, or nearly 19% higher, than what would normally be expected, according to the researchers. Of the 122,300 excess deaths, 95,235 were attributed to Covid-19, they said. Most of the rest of the excess deaths, researchers said, were likely related to or directly caused by the coronavirus. 
Covid-19 affects nearly every system in the body, including the circulatory system, leading to an uptick in heart attacks and strokes that physicians now believe were indirectly caused by the virus.

The number of excess deaths from any causes were 28% higher than the official tally of U.S. Covid-19 deaths during those months. The researchers noted the increase in excess deaths in many states trailed an increase in outpatient visits from people reporting an “influenza-like illness.”

So we're really around 165K-170K COVID-19 deaths and that number is most likely going to go up dramatically in the weeks ahead. 50,000 new cases nationally per day will quickly mean several thousand deaths per day by the middle to the end of the month.

As bad as everything is, the reality is much worse.

Stay home, stay safe, mask up.

Black Lives Still Matter, Con't

Senate Republicans are signaling that they will have a two-thirds majority for passing this year's defense appropriation act with Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren's amendment that will rename several military bases named for Confederate traitors, and will easily be able to override an expected Trump veto.

Senate Republicans were unfazed Wednesday by President Donald Trump’s threat to veto the annual defense policy bill over his opposition to the renaming of U.S. military installations honoring prominent Confederate figures.

The reactions from GOP senators reflected a political reality this week as the Senate prepares to pass the National Defense Authorization Act: That the provision is unlikely to be stripped from the final bill to placate the president.

“It was expected,” Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), an Armed Services Committee member who was supportive of the proposal to rename bases, said of Trump’s veto threat. “You always want to be able to show your support for our military men and women, and that’s what this is about — providing protection for them.”

In fact, most Republican senators said they had no problem at all with Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) amendment, and they said Trump should not veto a bill as vital as the National Defense Authorization Act over minor objections.

“The NDAA is so important and there are so many important elements in it that I don’t believe that alone should be a reason to even vote against it or veto it,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said.

“Ultimately, I don’t think the name of a facility should be something that’s divisive or offensive to people, especially if there are better alternatives to it,” Rubio added. “But it has to be through a process — a considered process.”

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) acknowledged that it might be difficult to work through the amendment process on the behemoth yearly bill, but he noted that it would be several months before the legislation actually reaches Trump’s desk, during which time it could be changed as a result of negotiations between the Senate and House.

“The veto would take place sometime probably in November,” Inhofe said. “And we have a long, long time between now and November. So we’ll see.”

The blasé responses from Senate Republicans followed a midnight tweet from the president in which he said he would veto the defense bill unless the Senate scrubs an amendment from Warren that requires the Pentagon to remove the names of Confederate military figures from all U.S. bases, aircraft and other facilities and equipment within three years.

It’s highly unlikely that Warren’s amendment will be removed from the legislation; it would take 60 votes on the Senate floor to get rid of it. And even if Trump were to veto the bill, it is expected to pass with a veto-proof majority in both chambers.

In other words, the negotiations are "this doesn't pass until the lame duck session after the election."  It saves Trump from an overridden veto showing how weak he is, but it also means Mitch McConnell will sit on the bill for another four months minimum and that it won't help Democrats until after the election, lest McConnell pull the bill entirely and leave the resulting fallout for Biden to clean up.

Which might happen anyway.

Black Lives Still Matter.  Confederate traitors, not as much.


Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Last Call For It's About Suppression, Con't

The fight over restoring voting rights to the more than 750,000 people with felony convictions in Florida who are being forced to pay court fees is far from over as the entire 11th Circuit will now take up the state's "poll tax" law stating felons must repay all court costs before they can vote, partially struck down earlier this year by a three-judge panel.  The 11th Circuit agreed to hear GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis's case en banc and ordered voter registration for felons without the fees put on hold.

A federal appeals court on Wednesday halted the voting registration of thousands of Florida felons who cannot pay fines or fees, just weeks after a lower court threw out the state law mandating payment of all legal financial obligations before voting.

The 11th Circuit decision granted Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis’ request to suspend voter registration until the full court hears the case.

The Atlanta-based appeals court did not signal if any decision would occur before the November elections. An initial hearing is set for Aug. 11, which is past the registration deadline for Florida’s Aug. 18 primary elections.
Last year, the Campaign Legal Center, American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP sued Florida over SB 7066, a law requiring felons to pay all restitution, fines and fees before they are eligible to vote.

Republican lawmakers passed the controversial measure just months after Florida voters overwhelming approved Amendment 4, a constitutional amendment restoring voting rights to most felons “after they complete all terms of their sentence including parole or probation.” The amendment did not mention restitution or fines.

After an eight-day trial in May, U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle ruled the 24th Amendment prohibits Florida from conditioning voting on payment of fines and fees. The law, Hinkle said, was a “pay-to-vote system.”

DeSantis lodged the appeal days later. The 11th Circuit had previously upheld an injunction against SB 7066 and will now rehear the case en banc.

The case, Jones v. DeSantis, could have lasting implications for politics statewide and nationally as Florida’s elections typically have razor-thin margins. In the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump took the state with less than 120,000 votes.

More than 774,000 Florida felons have some type of legal financial obligation, according to a study submitted to the court.

It's also important to note that Trump has appointed six of the 23 judges on this circuit court now, giving it a 14 of 23 Republican lean, where before it was 9-8 Democratic with 17 judges.

There's a very good chance now that the court won't act until after the election, and when it does, it will overwhelmingly side with DeSantis, meaning the Florida GOP will be given the green light to be able to keep adding more hoops to jump through for felons or, you know, for other previously registered Floridians who will mysteriously find themselves purged from the rolls.

I called this five weeks ago.

We'll see how far this gets before the GOP finds a friendly 11th Circuit Court to stay the order ahead of November. Don't count on Hinkle's order to stand through the election at all. This is far from over. What I'm afraid of is an appellate stay order or ruling that allows Florida to continue to disenfranchise over a million felons who have served their time and then SCOTUS won't hear the case until after the election, and then a 5-4 decision siding with DeSantis.

The en banc hearing accomplishes just that without the possibility that SCOTUS will refuse to hear the case.  It's entirely possible that we could get a precedent that allows a new Jim Crow era in all the 11th Circuit states, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida.

Republicans will always find ways to continue to disenfranchise voters.  It's the only way they can win.

Black Lives Still Matter, Con't

A Suffolk University Law School undercover investigation found massive, systemic discrimination by Boston real estate agents against Black renters and Section 8 housing voucher holders. Black renters faced some sort of illegal discrimination more than 70%of the time.

The law school’s Housing Discrimination Testing Program — which aims to eliminate illegal housing discrimination through testing, enforcement, education and research — undertook the study with Analysis Group, an international economics consulting firm. The study was funded by The Boston Foundation and the Racial Justice Fund. The researchers said they hope their data will help shape public policy and end discrimination in the housing market. 
“I want people to understand that this kind of discrimination is real, and it’s happening now in our community — and something needs to be done about it,” said William Berman, director of The Housing Discrimination Testing Program, who led the study. 
Greg Vasil, chief executive of Greater Boston Real Estate Board, said his organization rejects all discrimination, adding that when it comes to fair housing and preservation of the fair housing laws in the Commonwealth, “we absolutely stand firm: We will not tolerate or condone” people who violate those laws. 
“We work pretty hard to educate people to make sure they understand the law,‘' he said. “If some of these people are members, that’s something that we . . . just can’t stand for. That’s wrong.” 
Researchers at the Testing Program, which has conducted 700 undercover tests on housing discrimination over the years, set out to determine whether someone’s race or housing voucher status prevented them from getting appointments to see properties, get a rental application, and learn about financial incentives properties offer. They also tested how levels of service differed based on race or voucher. 
They selected, trained, and deployed 200 participants or “testers” to conduct 50 tests at properties across Greater Boston from August 2018 to July 2019. Four testers went to each site: One Black person and one white person would each separately tell an agent, property manager, or landlord that they could pay market rate rent. Another pair of Black and white testers, approaching the broker or landlord separately, would say they had a voucher. All of the testers had jobs and could afford the units they were seeking. They were similar in many other ways, too, including their age, income level, credit score, and family status. 
The researchers assigned the undercover testers “race-associated” names such as Aisha, Hakim, and Darnell for Black testers and Jill, Allison, and Brad for whites. (Researchers said they limited the race of the participants to only Black and white to identify the effect of race from housing vouchers more clearly. They said further research is required to understand the extent of discrimination for other people of color.) 
All testers were asked to make an appointment for a tour of 50 randomly selected apartments in Greater Boston. The properties included those that accepted vouchers from the Boston Housing Authority. 
The participants were unaware of the role they played in the study and were asked to clandestinely document their experiences in writing, which were then analyzed and assessed by the researchers. 
The results indicate that whites paying market rent were able to arrange to view apartments 80 percent of the time. Similarly situated Black market-rate testers seeking to view the same apartments were able to visit the property only 48 percent of the time, the study said. 
Whites were frequently informed about other apartments available, offered more incentives such as free parking and rent discounts, and were given more positive feedback about a unit or property they were seeking, the study says. 
Meanwhile, Black people were less likely to get appointments for site visits, an application, or financial incentives. Unlike whites, they were often told negative things about the units they were seeking.

When agents dealt with Black testers, the incidence of “ghosting” — or no follow-up calls from the agent — was much higher. White testers continued to hear back from agents 92 percent of the time. Black testers heard back only 62 percent of the time, Suffolk officials said.

Even controlling for similar employment, income and credit scores, if you are Black in Boston, you only get to see a rental property less than half of the time, and get ghosted two out of five times, and on top of that you're told how bad the place is.

If you are white, you get free parking.

That's America. The shackles on every Black person you know are invisible and come with four centuries of weight added to everything you try to do, including existing as a sentient human being.

There are millions who don't even consider us to be that.

It's not up to Black America to fix this, either.

Black Lives Still Matter.

The Country Goes Viral, Con't

It's official: "re-opening the economy safely" has utterly failed, as I have been predicting for months now, and in a brutal assessment from the deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control during testimony on Capitol Hill today,  the CDC all but declared COVID-19 is now spreading totally beyond control in the United States.

The coronavirus is spreading too rapidly and too broadly for the U.S. to bring it under control, Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Monday. 
The U.S. has set records for daily new infections in recent days as outbreaks surge mostly across the South and West. The recent spike in new cases has outpaced daily infections in April when the virus rocked Washington state and the northeast, and when public officials thought the outbreak was hitting its peak in the U.S.

“We’re not in the situation of New Zealand or Singapore or Korea where a new case is rapidly identified and all the contacts are traced and people are isolated who are sick and people who are exposed are quarantined and they can keep things under control,” she said in an interview with The Journal of the American Medical Association’s Dr. Howard Bauchner. “We have way too much virus across the country for that right now, so it’s very discouraging.” 
New Zealand’s outbreak peaked in early April, when the country reported 89 new cases in a single day, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. On June 8, officials declared that there no more active infections in the island country of almost 5 million. Since then, a handful of cases have entered the country from international travelers, but health officials have managed to contain infections so far to fewer than 10 new daily cases per day through June. 
South Korea was among the first countries outside of China to battle a coronavirus outbreak, but health officials managed to contain the epidemic through aggressive testing, contact tracing and isolating of infected people. The outbreak peaked at 851 new infections reported on March 3, according to Hopkins’ data, but the country has reported fewer than 100 new cases per day since April 1.

Like South Korea, Singapore found early success in preventing the spread of the virus through aggressive testing and tracing. However, in April the virus began to circulate among the island country’s migrant worker community, ballooning into an outbreak that peaked on April 20, when the country reported about 1,400 new cases, according to Hopkins’ data. Daily new cases have steadily dropped since then and on Sunday, the country reported 213 new cases, according to Hopkins’ data. 
While the outbreaks in New Zealand, South Korea and Singapore have been of different magnitudes and followed different trajectories, officials in all three countries now quickly respond to every new infection in order to stamp out what remains of the outbreak, Schuchat said. The U.S. stands in stark contrast as it continues to report over 30,000 new infections per day.

“This is really the beginning,” Schuchat said of the U.S.’s recent surge in new cases. “I think there was a lot of wishful thinking around the country that, hey it’s summer. Everything’s going to be fine, we’re over this and we are not even beginning to be over this. There are a lot of worrisome factors about the last week or so.”

Containment failed, "re-opening the economy" failed, it all failed. What we needed was a lockdown and then months and months of strict social distancing.  Instead, we half-assed everything because the Trump regime didn't want to deal with it, and the 130,000 dead we have now will be just the start of the catastrophic butcher's bill that will come in the next several months.

We are in the middle of the worst-case scenario right now.

You and your loved ones need to plan accordingly. Wear masks if out and about, stay isolated otherwise.  Better yet, don't go out. Stay home, stay safe.

Because Republican governors and the Trump regime will do nothing to protect you.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem says the thousands of people who attend the July 3 celebration for Independence Day at Mount Rushmore with President Donald Trump will not be required to practice social distancing despite an increase in coronavirus cases across the country.
"We will have a large event at July 3rd. We told those folks that have concerns that they can stay home, but those who want to come and join us, we'll be giving out free face masks, if they choose to wear one. But we will not be social distancing," Noem, a Republican, said in an interview Monday night on Fox News' "The Ingraham Angle."

State officials have told the people of South Dakota "to focus on personal responsibility," said Noem, adding, "Every one of them has the opportunity to make a decision that they're comfortable with."

Trump is expected to attend the celebration and deliver remarks at the event, a day before the July Fourth holiday. Mount Rushmore is located within a national park in Keystone, S.D. The event will happen amid a surge in coronavirus infections across the U.S., which has caused some states including Texas to pull back on their plans to further reopen.

I repeat: GOP governors will do nothing, nothing at all, to protect you. You are on your own if you live in a red state.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis told reporters on Tuesday that the state will not reinstate restrictions or close businesses to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Why it matters: More than 50% of coronavirus infections in the U.S. are from states like Florida, Texas, California and Arizona, Axios' Marisa Fernandez reports
NIAID director Anthony Fauci warned at a Senate committee hearing earlier on Tuesday that states "skipping over" checkpoints in federal reopening guidelines are contributing to hot spots in states including Florida, Texas and Arizona.

Driving the news: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) urged people to stay home last week to fight the "rampant" spread of COVID-19, as the state paused its reopening. Abbott said in a Friday interview that he regretted how quickly bars were allowed to reopen in the state.

What he's saying: When asked by reporters on Tuesday if he would tell people to stay home as Abbott did, DeSantis explained that social distancing has been recommended throughout the state's reopening and that protecting the elderly and vulnerable are the state's priorities. 
"We're not going back, closing things. I don't think that that's really what's driving it, people going to a business is not what's driving it," DeSantis said. "I think when you see the younger folks, I think a lot of it is more just social interactions, so that's natural." 
"We're open, we know who we need to protect, most of the folks in those younger demographics, although we want them to be mindful of what's going on, are just simply much much less at risk than the folks who are in those older age groups."

Where it stands: Florida's current phase of reopening does not put a limit on how many visitors can be in stores or gyms and allows bars to serve half as many guests as they normally would, although the state has suspended on-premises consumption of alcohol at bars. Social distancing is encouraged at all businesses.

I fully expect another round of viral spread at July 4th activities across the country, and just as with Memorial Day activities causing the situation we're in right now. We're going to make everything worse and by the beginning of August we're going to be looking at more than a half-million new cases per week unless closures, social distancing, and mask mandates start immediately.

It's going to take hospitals becoming morgues and people dying on gurneys in hallways because of triage procedures before people pay attention now.  Even staring down close to 50,000 new cases a day, Republicans are still making a deadly pandemic a matter of political opinion rather than scientific fact.

And all of it could have been prevented.


Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Last Call For McGrath Meets McConnell

Amy McGrath survived her primary against Charles Booker...barely...but she ended up winning by 2.8% in a race where she was ahead by 20% at one point.

Former Marine Corps pilot Amy McGrath held off a surging Rep. Charles Booker Tuesday to win the Democratic Primary for U.S. Senate in Kentucky a week after ballots were cast, setting up a big money showdown with U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in November.

Booker, who won 42.6 percent of the vote, won Kentucky’s three largest cities — Louisville, Lexington and Bowling Green — but the more liberal voters in those cities weren’t enough. McGrath surrounded Booker, winning victories throughout rural Kentucky to win 45.4 percent of the vote.
“While each of our experiences are unique, as a woman in the military, I had to repeatedly fight the establishment during my 20-year career,” McGrath wrote Tuesday in a statement declaring victory. ”...A year after showing the country that Kentucky won’t hesitate to replace an incompetent and unpopular incumbent Republican like Matt Bevin, let’s do it one more time.”

Booker conceded the race in an emailed statement shortly after 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, noting that he had only narrowly lost after being a relative unknown when he entered the race. He said that meant Kentucky was ready for “big, bold solutions.”

“From this moment on, let’s take the frustration we feel and commit to fighting for change like never before,” Booker wrote. “Let’s dedicate to the work of beating Mitch, so that we can get him out of the way. Yes, I would love to be your nominee, but know I’m still by your side. Thank you for giving me this opportunity.”

It was an unusual primary. Delayed by a month over concerns about the spread of COVID-19, then conducted largely via absentee ballot, Kentuckians were left waiting a full week after Election Day for results.

McConnell’s campaign greeted the news by saying it was “great to have” McGrath in the general election.

“Extreme Amy McGrath is lucky to have gotten out of the primary with a victory, but her reputation sustained significant damage all across Kentucky,” said Kate Cooksey, McConnell’s spokeswoman. “McGrath is just another tool of the Washington Democratic establishment who has no idea what matters most to Kentuckians.”

I fully expect Mitch to run another lazy campaign tying McGrath to Pelosi, Biden, the Clintons and Obama, complete with "Will Washington liberal Joe Biden dare show his face in Kentucky?" and count on McGrath's unforced errors to win.

Sadly, he'll most likely win as a result.  What I fear is that McGrath is going to make the same mistakes Alison Lundergan Grimes did in 2014, as Joe Sonka's postmortem from six years ago details.

There isn’t a Kentucky political reporter whose opinion I respect more than CNHI’s Ronnie Ellis, who says one of the biggest errors of Grimes’ campaign was not putting ads on the air during McConnell’s primary fight with Matt Bevin so she could fully introduce herself to voters. The only problem with that theory is it assumes she ever fully introduced herself to voters at any point in the campaign. To a large extent, she never did.

Grimes’ reluctance to give in-depth interviews has been written about extensively, as well as her robotic talking-point answers that too often failed to provide detail on her positions. (I only received eight minutes to interview her in the entire campaign, and she didn’t directly answer a single question.) This was surprising to many who covered her 2011 race for secretary of state, where she came across as intelligent, candid and warm.

There were only about six things people knew about Alison Lundergan Grimes from this campaign, and she repeated them – and little else – over and over again. She is for increasing the minimum wage. She is for gender pay equity legislation and the Violence Against Women Act. She is for union rights. She is for creating jobs in Kentucky. She is not Mitch McConnell, who is against all of these things. She is for coal and gun rights, and she is not Barack Obama.

There were some other policies she mentioned and some details here or there, but they were never effectively presented. How many Kentuckians read her jobs plan, or knew how she was going to pay for any of its proposals?

Nor were voters given any real glimpse into who Grimes is as an individual. The fabulous writer Anne Marshall attempted to answer that last question in her profile of Grimes for Louisville Magazine, but was repeatedly stymied at the gates of the Grimes bubble. When Marshall asked Grimes campaign manager Jonathan Hurst to provide an interesting nugget about Grimes that few people know, he replied, “She loves Swedish Fish.” Eventually Marshall got her very quick interview with Grimes and talked about some personal details, but those were limited to subscribers to the magazine, and buried within a story that quite correctly portrayed her as a talking point machine that remains a mystery to many voters.

McGrath is in the same bubble now that Grimes was then.

She has to break out of it, and that means embracing Charles Booker and several of his policies.  If she runs a defensive campaign, she will lose and lose badly.

It's time to go after Mitch, and go after him hard.

The Donald, Deleted

Online forum Reddit is finally taking action, deleting some 2,000 forums that violate its new content rules. Reddit has finally gotten rid of The_Donald, the political hotbed of racism, bigotry, and general disgusting online meme fungal colony, but it also booted the Chapo Trap House forum for the same political reasons.

Reddit will ban r/The_Donald, r/ChapoTrapHouse, and about 2,000 other communities today after updating its content policy to more explicitly ban hate speech. The policy update comes three weeks after Black Lives Matter protests led several popular Reddit forums to go dark temporarily in protest of what they called the company’s lax policies around hosting and promoting racist content. It marks a major reversal for a company whose commitment to free expression has historically been so strong that it once allowed users to distribute stolen nude photos freely on the site.

“I have to admit that I’ve struggled with balancing my values as an American, and around free speech and free expression, with my values and the company’s values around common human decency,” Reddit CEO Steve Huffman said in a call with reporters.

In a blog post that cites the company’s new rules, Huffman said users of the r/The_Donald subreddit had violated the site’s policies for years. (The site has no official connection to President Donald Trump, although he did do an Ask Me Anything there as a candidate in 2016.) “The community has consistently hosted and upvoted more rule-breaking content than average (Rule 1), antagonized us and other communities (Rules 2 and 8), and its mods have refused to meet our most basic expectations,” Huffman said.

Similarly, r/ChapoTrapHouse had also hosted content that violates the site’s rules, Huffman said. The subreddit is a spinoff of the popular left-wing podcast.

Reddit’s new policy begins with a first rule that requires users to “consider the human.” It reads:

Remember the human. Reddit is a place for creating community and belonging, not for attacking marginalized or vulnerable groups of people. Everyone has a right to use Reddit free of harassment, bullying, and threats of violence. Communities and people that incite violence or that promote hate based on identity or vulnerability will be banned.

That formed the basis of a policy framework that bans hate speech.

“Reddit’s mission is to bring community and belonging to everybody in the world, and there is speech in the world and on Reddit that prevents other people from doing so,” Huffman told reporters. “Harassing speech or hateful speech prevents people from coming to Reddit and feeling safe and sharing their vulnerabilities ... So if we have speech on Reddit that’s preventing people from using Reddit the way that we intend it to be used, or that prevents us from achieving our mission, then it’s actually a very easy decision.”

The introduction of the new policies has resulted in the removal of about 2,000 subreddits so far, and the company says “the vast majority” were inactive. Only about 200 of them had more than 10 daily users, the company said.

Putting Chapo Trap House in the same box as the Trump regime is still pretty damn funny.

Black Lives Still Matter

ZVTS readers were right, as you usually are.

Now we know why last week's GOP Sen. Tim Scott "police reform" bill was such a screamingly obvious trap to try to turn white voters against Black Lives Matter and the Democrats, and Sens. Cory Booker and Kamala Harris in particular. Something that terrible needed a Trojan Horse introduction, and it got one through former Obama adviser turned CNN "race expert" Van Jones.

Jones went on CNN’s Inside Politics with John King and Anderson Cooper 360 to enthusiastically commend Trump’s executive order—even as it was being criticized as cynical and unproductive by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and “delusional” by the Color of Change, an influential racial justice organization that Jones himself co-founded in 2005.  
CNN viewers weren’t informed that he had actually attended secret White House meetings with his new friend Jared Kushner, discussing ways to frame the presidential project. 
According to a knowledgeable White House source, who expressed satisfaction that there were zero leaks, Jones and California human rights attorney Jessica Jackson, who runs #cut50, a prison-reform group that Jones also founded, actively participated with law enforcement officials and White House staffers to help fashion the order and guide the politics of the discussion to what they considered “the sweet spot” between law enforcement and “the reasonable middle” and “the reasonable left.” 
Skyping from his Los Angeles home, with a biography of Nelson Mandela and a Black Panther graphic novel visible on the bookshelf behind him, Jones told viewers of CNN’s noon show Inside Politics: “The executive order is a good thing, mainly because you saw the support of law enforcement there... There is movement in the direction of a database for bad cops. We have never had a federal database for bad cops, that’s why all these cops go all over the place doing bad stuff… The chokeholds, that’s common ground now between Nancy Pelosi and Trump. Good stuff there.” 
Hours later, Jones doubled down on Anderson Cooper 360—again without disclosing his role advising the Trump White House. “What do you make of this executive order?” Cooper asked him. 
“I think it’s pushing in the right direction,” Jones told the CNN anchor. “What you got today is, I think, a sign that we are winning,” he added. “Donald Trump has put himself on record saying we need to reform the police department… We are winning! Donald Trump had no plan a month ago to work on this issue at all. The fact that we are now in the direction of moving forward, I think, is good.” 
During a Rose Garden ceremony that was actually a Trump campaign event—at which the president defended the police, touted his commitment to “law and order,” boasted about the stock market and the pre-coronavirus economy, and attacked Joe Biden—Trump was flanked by uniformed officers and police union officials as he signed the executive order in response to the pandemic of unjustified killings of unarmed Black Americans by white cops. 
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was quick to call the event “a photo op” and the executive order “seriously short of what is required”; Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer panned it as “weak tea” and the Rev. Al Sharpton—a longtime ally of Jones going back to the 1990s, when Jones was a self-avowed “radical” and social justice activist in Oakland—derided it as “toothless and meaningless” because it gives lip service, but no legal mandate, to banning chokeholds (unless officers decide their lives are at risk), improving police training, making use of mental health professionals, and keeping a national registry of bad cops. 
“I did not think the executive order was worth the paper it was written on,” Sharpton told The Daily Beast. “Van’s experiment with Trump is a case of him having more faith than I have, but I’m not going to attack him for doing it…I think he’s well-intentioned, but I think he totally underestimates the kind of guy he’s dealing with. I just disagree that the people he’s dealing with have a sincere bone in their body. But I can’t fault him for trying.”

Man, the best part of the article is Al Sharpton coming in with "Well at least he tried" church senior pastor to the junior pastor who went out on his own and got his wings clipped by city council shade I've seen in some time.

I understand that the perfect cannot become the enemy of the good, believe me.  But Van Jones and Trump's toothless executive order weren't good at all.  It was designed to e a palatable trap, and Van Jones helped them do it.

That pisses me off something fierce.


Monday, June 29, 2020

Last Call For Orange Meltdown, Con't

Legendary journalist Carl Bernstein takes to CNN for long read piece on Donald Trump's phone calls to foreign leaders, and how they are so awful, how Trump is such a belligerent numbskull, that even his most basic interactions with our allies and our enemies are nearly all perfect examples of major national security breaches by and of themselves.

In hundreds of highly classified phone calls with foreign heads of state, President Donald Trump was so consistently unprepared for discussion of serious issues, so often outplayed in his conversations with powerful leaders like Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Erdogan, and so abusive to leaders of America's principal allies, that the calls helped convince some senior US officials -- including his former secretaries of state and defense, two national security advisers and his longest-serving chief of staff -- that the President himself posed a danger to the national security of the United States, according to White House and intelligence officials intimately familiar with the contents of the conversations. 
The calls caused former top Trump deputies -- including national security advisers H.R. McMaster and John Bolton, Defense Secretary James Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and White House chief of staff John Kelly, as well as intelligence officials -- to conclude that the President was often "delusional," as two sources put it, in his dealings with foreign leaders. The sources said there was little evidence that the President became more skillful or competent in his telephone conversations with most heads of state over time. Rather, he continued to believe that he could either charm, jawbone or bully almost any foreign leader into capitulating to his will, and often pursued goals more attuned to his own agenda than what many of his senior advisers considered the national interest. 
These officials' concerns about the calls, and particularly Trump's deference to Putin, take on new resonance with reports the President may have learned in March that Russia had offered the Taliban bounties to kill US troops in Afghanistan -- and yet took no action. CNN's sources said there were calls between Putin and Trump about Trump's desire to end the American military presence in Afghanistan but they mentioned no discussion of the supposed Taliban bounties. 
By far the greatest number of Trump's telephone discussions with an individual head of state were with Erdogan, who sometimes phoned the White House at least twice a week and was put through directly to the President on standing orders from Trump, according to the sources. Meanwhile, the President regularly bullied and demeaned the leaders of America's principal allies, especially two women: telling Prime Minister Theresa May of the United Kingdom she was weak and lacked courage; and telling German Chancellor Angela Merkel that she was "stupid."

Trump incessantly boasted to his fellow heads of state, including Saudi Arabia's autocratic royal heir Mohammed bin Salman and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, about his own wealth, genius, "great" accomplishments as President, and the "idiocy" of his Oval Office predecessors, according to the sources. 
In his conversations with both Putin and Erdogan, Trump took special delight in trashing former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama and suggested that dealing directly with him -- Trump -- would be far more fruitful than during previous administrations. "They didn't know BS," he said of Bush and Obama -- one of several derisive tropes the sources said he favored when discussing his predecessors with the Turkish and Russian leaders. 
The full, detailed picture drawn by CNN's sources of Trump's phone calls with foreign leaders is consistent with the basic tenor and some substantive elements of a limited number of calls described by former national security adviser John Bolton in his book, "The Room Where It Happened." But the calls described to CNN cover a far longer period than Bolton's tenure, are much more comprehensive — and seemingly more damning -- in their sweep. 
Like Bolton, CNN's sources said that the President seemed to continually conflate his own personal interests -- especially for purposes of re-election and revenge against perceived critics and political enemies -- with the national interest. 
To protect the anonymity of those describing the calls for this report, CNN will not reveal their job titles nor quote them at length directly. More than a dozen officials either listened to the President's phone calls in real time or were provided detailed summaries and rough-text recording printouts of the calls soon after their completion, CNN's sources said. The sources were interviewed by CNN repeatedly over a four-month period extending into June. 
The sources did cite some instances in which they said Trump acted responsibly and in the national interest during telephone discussions with some foreign leaders. CNN reached out to Kelly, McMaster and Tillerson for comment and received no response as of Monday afternoon. Mattis did not comment. 
The White House had not responded to a request for comment as of Monday afternoon. 
One person familiar with almost all the conversations with the leaders of Russia, Turkey, Canada, Australia and western Europe described the calls cumulatively as 'abominations' so grievous to US national security interests that if members of Congress heard from witnesses to the actual conversations or read the texts and contemporaneous notes, even many senior Republican members would no longer be able to retain confidence in the President.

The piece is long, with Bernstein's usual attention to detail, a story researched over several months with multiple named and anonymous sources within the Trump regime itself confirming the facts. It is also a crushing indictment of the Trump regime, and in particular, of Trump himself.

The people who come out looking the worst here are once again the people who enabled Trump time and time again, who knew of this behavior and not only did nothing to stop it, they encouraged it in order to keep him happy, placating a man so unstable and fragile that he remains incapable of anything that isn't of a transactional nature that directly benefits him and his ego.

Pathetic, the whole lot.

They need to go to jail.
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