Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Last Call For Our Little White Supremacist Domestic Terrorist Problem, Con't

The real story from Trump's debate meltdown last night was his open message to violent white supremacist group Proud Boys: "Stand back and stand by." This is where things could get ugly, folks, and as Alex Yablon writes at Foreign Policy, we've been here before.

Proud Boys, stand back and stand by,” President Donald Trump told his supporters in the far-right street-fighting group from his podium at the first 2020 presidential debate. “Somebody’s got to do something about antifa and the left.” Four years into the Trump era, Americans have struggled to habituate themselves to the persistent presence of armed paramilitaries at demonstrations and flashes of lethal political violence. What do these hard men herald for our political life? Are they stormtroopers waiting for Trump’s signal to hasten the transition from autocratic attempt to autocratic breakthrough and the final demise of American democracy, as some liberals fear? Or are they a sideshow of confused, lonely men acting out fantasies with semi-automatic rifles?

Both hyperventilating over paramilitary fantasists and laughing off potential death squads miss the mark. The whiff of putsch may be more pungent than feels comfortable at the moment, but the far-right’s window for an extra-legal takeover remains quite narrow, especially if polls hold and Biden wins by a healthy margin. At the same time, American politics really has been destabilized by political violence, overwhelmingly perpetrated by the extreme right. But if the United States is heading into an era of fear and violence, it won’t be the first time this has happened in a democracy—or even the first time this has happened in America itself.

If proud boys and vigilantes can’t pull off a coordinated drive for power, they may opt for a time-honored approach in democratic politics: the “strategy of tension.” In a paper published this spring, University of Winchester criminologists Matt Clement and Vincenzo Scalia defined the strategy of tension as a political method of “state crime,” designed to produce “a climate of fear within communities. [Strategies of tension] employ deceit, threats, and acts of violence in order to maintain control across society through fear of the consequences of challenging the government of the day.”

The term was coined in Italy during the Years of Lead from the late 1960s to the 1980s, when political violence exploded, with bombings, kidnappings, and failed coups making weekly headlines. Under the strategy of tension, as the left grows more militant, influential, and strident in its demands, the right tries to inflame social tensions rather than defuse them. The violence has a dual purpose, to both suppress and provoke. The right’s aim is to cordon the left off from power by simultaneously intimidating them, eliciting escalation, getting the police to crack down, and using the chaos to manipulate public opinion and political alliances.

Virtually every member of the Western Alliance has had its own years of lead, not only Italy but Britain during The Troubles in Northern Ireland, France as it tried to cling to Algeria and was targeted by its own paramilitary terror campaign, South America in the years of Operation Condor, Mexico’s Dirty War, and so on. America is no exception. The country has been here several times before: Bleeding Kansas during the 1850s, when slave-owners and abolitionists faced off in murderous confrontations; the birth of the first Klan after the Civil War to resist Radical Reconstruction; and the wave of violence that accompanied the rise of the Third Klan during the civil rights movement. Elements of the left from John Brown to the Italian Red Brigades have also pursued violent accelerationist campaigns in pursuit of social change. But only the reactionaries have enjoyed approval from more mainstream sources of political power. Often, they got logistical support as well as material and legal cover from security services.

Clement and Scalia described the strategy of tension as a vicious cycle. State prevention of emancipatory politics leads to dissent, which is in turn repressed and delegitimized, further isolating social movements. With no outlet for their demands, activists pursue more radical confrontations, leading their opponents to justify almost any violence in maintenance of the oppressive regime.

That dynamic is on display in the response to this year’s BLM protests. Once initial police suppression was met with uprisings, the “good guys with guns,” “patriots,” and militias showed up. Ostensibly there to protect businesses and support law enforcement, the armed right has instead brought Chekhov’s AR-15 onto the political stage. The inevitable exchanges of gunfire and vehicular assaults at protests demonstrate, as Christina Cauterucci recently wrote for Slate, the political ethos of “own the libs” has escalated into “kill the libs.”

This is the kind of thing I expect, multiple low-level incidents where people get hurt or killed, all throughout the Biden administration, a slow grind that just has people scared all the time, stressed all the time, on top of the hell 2020 has been.

Some of them I expect will be bad, Oklahoma City bad or worse.

We'll see.

The State Of State TV, Con't

FOX News has eliminated at least one-quarter of its fact-checking desk at its news operation, because the network exists to serve the Trump regime, not facts.

The recent mass layoffs at Fox News—an estimated body count of around 70, amounting to a little less than 3 percent of the cable channel’s workforce—signal what current and former employees describe as the purposeful devaluing of fact-based journalism in favor of right-wing opinion, race-baiting, and conspiracy-mongering at the top-rated, Donald Trump-friendly cable outlet.

Fox News’ PR department used anodyne corporate-speak to characterize the job losses, namely “restructuring various divisions in order to position all of our businesses for ongoing success.” But the layoffs, outside of the hair and makeup department, cut most deeply into the channel’s straight-news operations at Fox News Digital and elsewhere, according to insiders, while protecting the ratings-heavy, revenue-generating domains of Fox & Friends in the morning, and of Trump cheerleaders Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, and Laura Ingraham in primetime.

The outlet’s so-called “Brain Room,” which the late Fox News founder Roger Ailes established as the 24-year-old channel’s fact-checking and research unit, has been especially hard-hit, losing around one-fourth of its 30-person staff along with two supervisors—a virtual frontal lobotomy, according to sources familiar with the cutbacks.

In October 1996, when the late Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes launched the channel for Rupert Murdoch, Ailes’s idea was to create a right-leaning outlet that challenged the perceived liberal bias of the mainstream media—CNN was a juicy target—but also presented a robust straight-news operation to counter the opinion shows. “Fair and balanced,” was Ailes’s mantra—and, while Ailes was the supreme leader, he managed news and opinion programming separately under different executives. In recent years, however, especially after Ailes was forced out in July 2016 amid sexual harassment and discrimination allegations, that distinction has steadily eroded.

Along with the painful layoffs, fired employees—worried about getting new jobs amid the COVID-19 pandemic—are being forced to sign severance agreements that include draconian non-disclosure requirements that one current staffer described as shocking, in order to receive their severance packages.

The non-disclosure section of the severance agreement requires laid-off employees to “assign to the Company any and all rights to publicity concerning any matter relating to the issues that resulted in your separation from the Company and/or this Agreement. You agree that you will not publish, contribute to or otherwise facilitate the creation of any story, book or other account relating to the Company or any Released Party. In the event you ever receive any compensation for any publicity, story, book or other disclosure relating in whole or part to those issues, all such compensation shall be immediately given over to the Company.”

Manhattan attorney Michael Willemin, a partner at Wigdor, LLP, which has sued Fox News on behalf of alleged victims of workplace discrimination and sexual abuse, told The Daily Beast: “While it is not terribly uncommon for companies to require individuals to sign releases or NDAs in connection with a severance payment, that does not mean that the practice is morally defensible. These are individuals who have just been terminated in the midst of a global pandemic and one of the worst job markets in history. Many of these individuals need these severance payments simply to make ends meet.”
It's only after the death of Roger Ailes that FOX News has transformed into the Trump Regime State TV network that it always was at heart. It's nothing but disinformation and entertainment for Trump's violent white supremacist base, and they will loudly be calling for deadly violence against Biden voters in the weeks and months ahead.


Biden, His Time, Con't

With five weeks to go, the enemy for Trump is now the clock more than Joe Biden. Trump is now in danger of losing his second-tier must-win states of Ohio and Iowa. Amy Walter at Cook Political Report:

One big reason for Trump's continued struggle in these states is his narrowing margins with white, working-class voters.

Let's start with Iowa.

Three public polls have come out in the last couple of weeks.

The New York Times/Siena College poll (September 16-22) found Trump leading Biden among white, non-college voters by just three-points (44 to 41 percent) — a 20 point drop from 2016. Biden's 41 percent is a six-point improvement on Clinton's showing from 2016

The Des Moines Register survey (September 14-17), found Biden leading among white, non-college women by 19 points (56 percent to 37 percent), while Trump held a huge 32-point lead with white, non-college men (64 percent to 31 percent). This translates, roughly, to a 7-8 point lead for Trump with these voters, a 14-15 point drop from 2016.

The Monmouth poll (September 18-20), finds Trump only slightly underperforming his 2016 showing with white, non-college voters, leading Biden by 17 points (56 percent to 39 percent); a six-point drop from 2016.

However, one bit of good news for the president in Iowa is that his job approval rating is in the 48-49 percent range. While that's not off-the-charts good, it's much higher than his national average of 42-43 percent and much better than what we've seen in other battleground states like Michigan, Pennsylvania or Arizona. The Des Moines Register and Monmouth polls also find Trump improving in both vote share and favorability since earlier this summer.

In Ohio, a new Fox News poll (September 20-23) finds Trump slipping even further behind than he was this summer. In late May-early June, Trump trailed Biden by two points (43-45 percent). This most recent poll finds him five points back — 45 to 50 percent.

Trump is basically no better off today in the September Quinnipiac survey (September 17-21), than he was back in mid-June. Back in June, Trump trailed Biden by one-point (46-45 percent). In mid-September, the race was basically in the same place — 48 percent Biden to 47 percent for Trump.

In both polls, Trump is underperforming his 2016 vote among white, non-college voters by 11 to 16 points.

But, Trump's troubles in the state extends into suburban areas that at one time looked impervious to Democratic incursion. Trump carried white, college-educated voters by one-point (47-46 percent) in 2016. And, in 2017-2018, Democrats were unable to flip hotly contested races in suburban Columbus and Cincinnati.

Today, however, even GOPers concede that Rep. Steve Chabot, who represents the suburban Cincinnati 1st CD is in serious danger this year. And, Trump is now trailing among white, college-educated voters anywhere from eight to 11 points in the most recent polls.

Another way to judge the competitiveness of a state, of course, is to check on the resources the campaigns and their allies are investing (or not) into it.

For the Biden campaign, neither state is a "tipping point;" they don't "need" to win either to get to 270 Electoral Votes. Our latest ratings show Biden with an advantage in enough states (and CD's) to get him to 290, without Ohio or Iowa. But, Biden's huge cash hauls over the summer — the former Vice President outraised Trump in August by more than $150M and had more $60M more in cash on hand than Trump — gives Biden the flexibility to spend some money in 'reach' states.

The Trump campaign can't win without either state. But, given Biden's superior financial advantage, they also have to be more judicious with where they spend their money. That means making sure that must-win states like North Carolina and Florida are well-funded.
This is exactly the type of advantage Biden's fundraising haul supplies him: he can hit Trump hard in Ohio and Iowa and force Trump to choose between them and NC/Florida/Georgia with Trump's more limited resources when Trump needs all five states and then some in order to win.  Biden can now strike at ten or twelve states in the final five weeks, he has the money to go after Ohio, Iowa, Texas, and Georgia while still keeping up the pressure in PA, WI, MI, and Arizona and the big battlegrounds of NC and Florida.

Trump is now on the defensive in all those states, all ten he won in 2016.  He may not even win three of them this time around.
Shawna Jensen is among former Donald Trump supporters who are voting for Democrat Joe Biden this year, breaking ranks with family, friends and, in many cases, a lifelong political affiliation. They say it’s caused them anguish, both to personal relationships and their own identity. They wanted change and disruption, until they found out what that actually looked like under a President Trump. 
Trump’s case for reelection rests almost solely on the intensity of support from those who backed him four years ago. Unlike other modern presidents, he has done little to try to expand his base, and there’s no evidence that he has. So he cannot afford to lose many voters like Jensen. 
It’s unclear how many voters like Jensen are out there — white, middle-class people who are pro-gun and anti-abortion rights, solid Republicans in most conventional ways — and how they will affect the election’s outcome. Voters like Jensen could be only a slice of the electorate, but they still represent a flashing caution sign for the president. 
Trump’s support among Republicans has been stable throughout his time in office. For all those voters repelled by Trump, there are diehard legions who remain solidly with him because they believe he honored his campaign promises, shows strengths and has presided over an economy that was flourishing before the pandemic. 
In a tight race — especially in swing states — those who are abandoning Trump could make a difference. 
In two dozen interviews with voters in three traditional swing states and Texas, people discussed why they aren’t voting for him again and what it feels like to leave behind a political allegiance that was part of their personal identity. 
“Everything that I thought I knew doesn’t exist anymore,” said 22-year-old Zach Berly, of North Carolina, who was active in high school and college Republican clubs and enthusiastically cast his first presidential ballot for Trump in 2016 but won’t be voting for him in November. “There has to be another solution. I don’t even know what I am.” 
The bedrock of Trump’s America is white voters who are 45 or older, and they are largely solidly with him, especially in rural areas. According to a Pew Research Center study, the 2018 elections showed a decline in support for Republicans in suburban areas, and if that is true in 2020, it provides an opening for Biden. 
“Joe Biden’s a family man and so am I, and that’s how I’m connecting with him,” said Jensen. “He loves his kids and his wife, you can tell it. For me, he’s the safer of the two candidates. And he doesn’t make fun of people."
People bought the Trump snake oil because they thought he was worth it. He was a con man and a grifter and they resent it. They're leaving him because he failed to make their lives better.
But nearly all are okay with his racism.

And even should Trump lose, we still have to deal with it, and with them.


Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Last Call For The Most Taxing Of Explanations, Con't

The Trump Tax Saga continues, this time with the NY Times zeroing in on Trump's years on NBC's "The Apprentice" and Trump monetizing his fame as a businessman while being hundreds of millions of dollars in debt.


By analyzing the tax records, The New York Times was able to place a value on Mr. Trump’s celebrity. While the returns show that he earned some $197 million directly from “The Apprentice” over 16 years — roughly in line with what he has claimed — they also reveal that an additional $230 million flowed from the fame associated with it.

The show’s big ratings meant that everyone wanted a piece of the Trump brand, and he grabbed at the opportunity to rent it out. There was $500,000 to pitch Double Stuf Oreos, another half-million to sell Domino’s Pizza and $850,000 to push laundry detergent.

There were seven-figure licensing deals with hotel builders, some with murky backgrounds, in former Soviet republics and other developing countries. And there were schemes that exploited misplaced trust in the TV version of Mr. Trump, who, off camera, peddled worthless get-rich-quick nostrums like “Donald Trump Way to Wealth” seminars that promised initiation into “the secrets and strategies that have made Donald Trump a billionaire.”

Just as, years before, the money Mr. Trump secretly received from his father allowed him to assemble a wobbly collection of Atlantic City casinos and other disparate enterprises that then collapsed around him, the new influx of cash helped finance a buying spree that saw him snap up golf resorts, a business not known for easy profits. Indeed, the tax records show that his golf properties have been hemorrhaging millions of dollars for years.

In response to a request for comment, a White House spokesman, Judd Deere, did not dispute any specific facts. Instead, he delivered a broad attack, calling the article “fake news” and “yet another politically motivated hit piece full of inaccurate smears” appearing “before a presidential debate.”

Unlocking the mysteries of Mr. Trump’s wealth has been attempted many times with varying degrees of success — an exercise made difficult by the opaque nature of his businesses, his penchant for exaggerations and lies, and his willingness to threaten or sue those who question his rosy narratives. He has gone to extraordinary lengths to maintain secrecy, most notably his refusal to honor 40 years of presidential tradition and release his tax returns.

This article is based on an examination of data from those returns, which include personal and business tax filings for Mr. Trump and his companies spanning more than two decades. Every dollar is disclosed for the first time: $8,768,330 paid to him by ACN, a multilevel marketing company that was accused of taking advantage of vulnerable investors; $50,000 from the Lifetime channel for a “juicy nighttime soap” that never materialized; $5,026 in net income from a short-lived mortgage business; and $15,286,244 from licensing his name to a line of mattresses.

In addition, it draws on interviews and previously unreported material from other sources, including hundreds of internal documents from Bayrock Group, an influential early licensing partner whose ties to Russia would come back to haunt the president as questions swirled about his own dealings there.

Together, the new information provides the most authoritative look yet at a critical period in Mr. Trump’s business career that laid the foundation, and provided something of a preview, of his personality-based and fact-bending presidency.
The argument from the right here is that Trump simply plays the game better than anyone else on the planet, that's why he's in the Oval Office. But if you don't think the tens of millions of Americans who lost their jobs this year are wondering how it's fair that "billionaire" Trump paid $750 in taxes when they paid thousands and more, then you're kidding yourself.

Trump has been spouting lies about middle class prosperity for years right now, and the fact of the matter is he's gaming the system, and signed a bill into law that allowed him to game the system even more at our expense.

Breonna Taylor's Life Mattered, Con't

In a highly unusual move, one of the grand jurors in the Breonna Taylor case has filed a lawsuit to release the grand jury transcript and recordings of proceedings. Daniel Cameron's office says it will comply.
A juror in the Breonna Taylor case contends that the Kentucky attorney general misrepresented the grand jury’s deliberations and failed to offer the panel the option of indicting the two officers who fatally shot the young woman, according to the juror’s lawyer.

The unnamed juror filed a court motion on Monday seeking the release of last week’s transcripts and permission from a judge to speak publicly to set the record straight. Hours later, the office of Attorney General Daniel Cameron granted both requests, saying that the juror is free to speak and that recordings of the session will be made public.

The grand jury did not indict the two white officers who killed Ms. Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman, after one officer was shot by her boyfriend. It charged a third officer whose bullets entered a neighbor’s apartment after missing Ms. Taylor with the lesser felony of wanton endangerment.

“This is something where the juror is not seeking any fame, any acclaim, any money,” said Kevin M. Glogower, the juror’s lawyer.

The lawyer said the juror came to him last week feeling anxious after Mr. Cameron repeatedly said at a news conference that the law did not permit him to charge Sgt. Jon Mattingly and Detective Myles Cosgrove, the two officers who shot Ms. Taylor on March 13 — and that the jury had agreed with him.

“While there are six possible homicide charges under Kentucky law, these charges are not applicable to the facts before us because our investigation showed — and the grand jury agreed — that Mattingly and Cosgrove were justified in the return of deadly fire after having been fired upon,” Mr. Cameron said, one of several moments in the news conference where he emphasized such a consensus.
As I said yesterday, the evidence appears to support the theory that Kentucky AG Daniel Cameron lied when he told reporters that the 9mm bullet that hit Mattingly in the leg could not have been fired by any other gun than the one Taylor's boyfriend was using, as he had the only 9mm weapon present at the scene.
But the ballistics report says that Hankinson had been issued a 9mm Glock by the LMPD. It was the bullet that hit Mattingly that led to the officers returning fire, fearing for their lives.

If the bullet could have come from Hankinson's Glock 9mm however, and the grand jury was never told about it, well..Cameron is in a lot of trouble.

Gov. Beshear has called for the transcripts and recording of the grand jury proceedings, but if one of the grand jurors themselves is suing to make that happen, then Cameron is possibly in unbelievable amounts of trouble here. Prosecutorial misconduct is a thing, folks. The kind of thing that gets you disbarred.

Let's not forget that Beshear was Kentucky's previous Attorney General too. He knows what this means.

This case is far from over.

Breonna Taylor's life mattered.

It's About Suppression, Con't

 Good morning.

The Trump campaign used Steve Bannon's Cambridge Analytica company to profile and target 3.5 million Black voters in 2016 to stop them from voting for Hillary Clinton, according to UK Channel 4 News.

Channel 4 News has exclusively obtained a vast cache of data used by Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign on almost 200 million American voters.

It reveals that 3.5 million Black Americans were categorised by Donald Trump’s campaign as ‘Deterrence’ – voters they wanted to stay home on election day.

Tonight, civil rights campaigners said the evidence amounted to a new form of voter “suppression” and called on Facebook to disclose ads and targeting information that has never been made public.

The ‘Deterrence’ project can be revealed after Channel 4 News obtained the database used by Trump’s digital campaign team – credited with helping deliver his shock victory to become president four years ago.

Vast in scale, it contains details on almost 200 million Americans, among more than 5,000 files, which together amass almost 5 terabytes of data – making it one of the biggest leaks in history.

It reveals not only the huge amounts of data held on every individual voter, but how that data was used and manipulated by models and algorithms.

In 16 key battleground states, millions of Americans were separated by an algorithm into one of eight categories, also described as ‘audiences’, so they could then be targeted with tailored ads on Facebook and other platforms.

One of the categories was named ‘Deterrence’, which was later described publicly by Trump’s chief data scientist as containing people that the campaign “hope don’t show up to vote”.

Analysis by Channel 4 News shows Black Americans – historically a community targeted with voter suppression tactics – were disproportionately marked ‘Deterrence’ by the 2016 campaign.

In total, 3.5 million Black Americans were marked ‘Deterrence’.

In Georgia, despite Black people constituting 32% of the population, they made up 61% of the ‘Deterrence’ category. In North Carolina, Black people are 22% of the population but were 46% of ‘Deterrence’. In Wisconsin, Black people constitute just 5.4% of the population but made up 17% of ‘Deterrence’.

The disproportionate categorising of Black Americans for ‘Deterrence’ is seen across the US. Overall, people of colour labelled as Black, Hispanic, Asian and ‘Other’ groups made up 54% of the ‘Deterrence’ category. In contrast, other categories of voters the campaign wished to attract were overwhelmingly white.

The 2016 campaign preceded the first fall in Black turnout in 20 years and allowed Donald Trump to take shock victories in key states like Wisconsin and Michigan by wafer-thin margins, reaching the White House despite losing the popular vote to Hillary Clinton.

Trump’s digital campaign, called ‘Project Alamo’ and based in San Antonio, Texas, involved a team from the now defunct British company Cambridge Analytica, working with a team from the Republican National Committee. Two senior members of the Cambridge Analytica team are working on the Trump 2020 campaign.

Cambridge Analytica collapsed after investigations by Channel 4 News, The Observer and the New York Times in 2018.
We knew Cambridge Analytica was doing this back in 2017. The new information is that they were working directly with the Trump campaign and with Facebook to build these voter profiles of 200 million Americans and targeting them with such pinpoint accuracy that Trump won exactly the states he needed by exactly the margins he needed.

And now we know precisely what the purpose of those profiles were: to categorize tens of million of Americans in order to find and attract the voters they needed with Facebook and social media, and suppress those they needed to stay home in key states with targeted ads.

They nailed the entire electorate. They divided us like never before. They used this and voter ID laws and they got away with it. They had our number, all 200 million of us, and bought an election.
Here's the thing though. For this deterrence plan to work, and it did, Black turnout was cut by 19% overall in PA, MI, WI and OH, for this to have worked at all, it had to be close enough for them to cheat.

It never should have been close enough for them to do so.

But Trump voters made it so.


Monday, September 28, 2020

Last Call For Carolina On My Mind, Con't

Trump needs North Carolina to win the electoral college as much as he needs Florida, and everyone on both sides knows it.

President Donald Trump is fighting to fill a Supreme Court vacancy, howling with unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud and warning that violent mobs are infiltrating the suburbs.

But on a recent morning along Arbor Street, a peaceful tree-lined road with stately brick Colonials and Tudors near Winston-Salem, the women who are the targets of Trump’s messages were confronting much more tangible threats.

As conservative activists canvassed the neighborhood, one young mother, a baby in her arms, shouted through a closed window that she was in quarantine. Across the street, another was focused on teaching her children their daily lessons at the kitchen table.

And a few doors down, 49-year-old Christina Donnell, an independent who voted for Trump four years ago, said through a black face mask that Trump’s “terrible” handling of the pandemic and divisive leadership more broadly are her chief concerns.

“It’s embarrassing to the country,” Donnell, a lawyer who previously lived in Washington, said of Trump’s leadership. “He’s an embarrassing role model.”

In one of the nation’s most consequential swing states, Trump’s push to inject new dynamics into the final weeks of the 2020 election is being overshadowed by the frightening realities of everyday life during a pandemic. Trump and his allies hope the escalating Supreme Court nomination fight will help unify a fractured Republican Party that has lost its grip on college-educated suburban voters, particularly white women.

But for many, the coronavirus and the related economic challenges are much more pressing issues.

Trump’s challenge is acute here in North Carolina, a state that his senior aides describe as a “must-win.” A loss in the state, which Democrats have carried only once at the presidential level in the last 30 years, would make Trump’s path to a second term incredibly difficult and signal dire challenges elsewhere on the electoral map.

Public polling, backed by private discussions with strategists from both Trump’s and Democrat Joe Biden’s campaigns, indicate that North Carolina remains a true tossup five weeks before Election Day. And lest there be any doubt about Trump’s concerns about his standing here, he has traveled to North Carolina every week for the last five weeks, second only to Pennsylvania.

Trump’s standing will also help decide races for governor and senator, a set of competitive contests that has drawn more political advertising dollars to North Carolina than any other state in the nation. More than $246 million has been spent or reserved to communicate with North Carolina voters online and on television about the presidential and Senate contests so far, according to the media tracking firm Kantar-CMAG. Florida follows with $236 million and then Arizona with $223 million.

Trump has also dispatched Vice President Mike Pence to North Carolina twice over the last five weeks in addition to four visits by Trump’s children.

The president’s daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, a North Carolina native, led a Women for Trump event in the rural eastern part of the state last week to help energize the president’s base. She was scheduled to visit again on Monday.

“This is a must-win state for whoever is to become the next president,” Lara Trump said in an interview.
She's wrong. Biden doesn't have to win North Carolina. He can win with PA, MI, and WI. He doesn't even have to win Florida or Arizona and could even afford to lose Nevada or New Hampshire as long as he wins those three states.
But Trump has to win NC, Florida, Arizona and one of those three rust belt states. He has no other choices. He's now down double digits in Minnesota and Nevada is only worth 6 EVs (and it's close to a double digit lead there for Biden too.)

And this is all before the tax cheat story broke over the weekend.


Breonna Taylor's Life Mattered, Con't

I warned you that Kentucky GOP AG Daniel Cameron would sandbag the Breonna Taylor grand jury investigation and he did exactly that as none of the officers were indicted for her murder, and one of them was indicted on causing damage to her neighbors' apartments with his gun. Now as Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear is calling for the public release of the grand jury information, the Louisville Courier-Journal is reporting that Cameron lied about the ballistics report in the shooting.

A Kentucky State Police ballistics report does not support state Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s assertion that Breonna Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, shot a Louisville police officer the night she was killed.

Cameron told reporters Wednesday the investigation into Taylor’s March 13 death had ruled out “friendly fire” from ex-Louisville Metro Police officer Brett Hankison as the source of the shot that went through LMPD Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly’s thigh, prompting him and officer Myles Cosgrove to return fire, killing Taylor.

The KSP report says “due to limited markings of comparative value,” the 9-mm bullet that hit and exited Mattingly was neither “identified nor eliminated as having been fired” from Walker’s gun.  
Cameron said Hankison had been eliminated as the shooter because the three officers were all carrying .40 caliber handguns, while Walker had a 9.

But appearing later that night on CNN, Steve Romines, one of Walker’s attorneys, said he had obtained a LMPD record showing Hankison had been issued a 9-mm weapon as well.

Romines declined to share the record from Hankison’s personnel file with The Courier-Journal, and LMPD spokeswoman Jessie Halladay said she could only release it in response to an open-records request.

The Courier Journal filed one, but the department hasn’t responded.

Another attorney for Walker, Rob Eggert, provided the ballistic report, which was first reported by Vice.

Walker has admitted he fired what he has described as a single warning shot from his Glock handgun at Taylor’s apartment because he thought intruders were breaking in. Police were attempting to serve a "no-knock" search warrant shortly before 1 a.m. March 13 at Taylor's home as part of a larger narcotics investigation. 
Officer Mattingly being shot by a 9mm caliber firearm and friendly fire being impossible because only Walker had a 9mm firearm is the main evidence for dismissing any charges against the officers, and the main justification for the immediate use of lethal force that took Breonna Taylor's life.

Except, surprise, that's a lie.

The fact that one of the other officers on the scene had been issued a (mm firearm might have been interest to a grand jury. It would have been exceedingly simple for Cameron to say "One of the officers was issued a 9mm sidearm but he did not have it on him during this incident."

But Cameron didn't say that.  He said that the ballistics report was not 100% positive on Walker's gun, but that the unconfirmed ballistics report was irrelevant because it was the only 9mm at the scene, and since it was irrelevant, the shooting was justified, and no indictments were issued for Breonna Taylor's death.
This is a cover-up, guys.
And Cameron just got caught.

The Most Taxing Of Explanations

 Good morning.

That's it, that's the whole story.

Donald J. Trump paid $750 in federal income taxes the year he won the presidency. In his first year in the White House, he paid another $750.

He had paid no income taxes at all in 10 of the previous 15 years — largely because he reported losing much more money than he made.

As the president wages a re-election campaign that polls say he is in danger of losing, his finances are under stress, beset by losses and hundreds of millions of dollars in debt coming due that he has personally guaranteed. Also hanging over him is a decade-long audit battle with the Internal Revenue Service over the legitimacy of a $72.9 million tax refund that he claimed, and received, after declaring huge losses. An adverse ruling could cost him more than $100 million.

The tax returns that Mr. Trump has long fought to keep private tell a story fundamentally different from the one he has sold to the American public. His reports to the I.R.S. portray a businessman who takes in hundreds of millions of dollars a year yet racks up chronic losses that he aggressively employs to avoid paying taxes. Now, with his financial challenges mounting, the records show that he depends more and more on making money from businesses that put him in potential and often direct conflict of interest with his job as president.

The New York Times has obtained tax-return data extending over more than two decades for Mr. Trump and the hundreds of companies that make up his business organization, including detailed information from his first two years in office. It does not include his personal returns for 2018 or 2019. This article offers an overview of The Times’s findings; additional articles will be published in the coming weeks.

The returns are some of the most sought-after, and speculated-about, records in recent memory. In Mr. Trump’s nearly four years in office — and across his endlessly hyped decades in the public eye — journalists, prosecutors, opposition politicians and conspiracists have, with limited success, sought to excavate the enigmas of his finances. By their very nature, the filings will leave many questions unanswered, many questioners unfulfilled. They comprise information that Mr. Trump has disclosed to the I.R.S., not the findings of an independent financial examination. They report that Mr. Trump owns hundreds of millions of dollars in valuable assets, but they do not reveal his true wealth. Nor do they reveal any previously unreported connections to Russia.

In response to a letter summarizing The Times’s findings, Alan Garten, a lawyer for the Trump Organization, said that “most, if not all, of the facts appear to be inaccurate” and requested the documents on which they were based. After The Times declined to provide the records, in order to protect its sources, Mr. Garten took direct issue only with the amount of taxes Mr. Trump had paid.

“Over the past decade, President Trump has paid tens of millions of dollars in personal taxes to the federal government, including paying millions in personal taxes since announcing his candidacy in 2015,” Mr. Garten said in a statement.

With the term “personal taxes,” however, Mr. Garten appears to be conflating income taxes with other federal taxes Mr. Trump has paid — Social Security, Medicare and taxes for his household employees. Mr. Garten also asserted that some of what the president owed was “paid with tax credits,” a misleading characterization of credits, which reduce a business owner’s income-tax bill as a reward for various activities, like historic preservation.

The tax data examined by The Times provides a road map of revelations, from write-offs for the cost of a criminal defense lawyer and a mansion used as a family retreat to a full accounting of the millions of dollars the president received from the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow.

Together with related financial documents and legal filings, the records offer the most detailed look yet inside the president’s business empire. They reveal the hollowness, but also the wizardry, behind the self-made-billionaire image — honed through his star turn on “The Apprentice” — that helped propel him to the White House and that still undergirds the loyalty of many in his base.

Ultimately, Mr. Trump has been more successful playing a business mogul than being one in real life.
Donald Trump has fought tooth and nail to keep the American people from finding out about his tax returns. He has used his office to shield himself from their release for roughly 1400 days. 

Now we finally know why.

Donald Trump is broke and most likely committed massive tax fraud. He's nowhere close to being a billionaire, if anything he owes hundreds of millions. He took money from Putin and his cadre of Russian oligarchs and from money laundering international big banks like Deutsche Bank to stay afloat. He owes them everything, including his presidency, and is beholden to foreign interests like no other elected American official has ever been. 

The bills he has coming due are 100% contingent on him remaining in office, and he's using and abusing the power of his office to protect himself from nine-digit fines and years of prison time. And should God forbid he get a second term, he will be nearly a half-billion in debt as a national leader, making him completely compromised. The evidence is piling up that he used his family as part of his tax schemes, paying his own children massive sums and then writing it all off as campaign expenses.

Most of all, so far in his term, he has paid a grand total of $1500 in federal taxes, and the one major piece of legislation he has signed in his four years has been a massive tax giveaway to professional international corporate tax cheats like himself. He literally signed a bill whose entire purpose was to make people like him richer by making it even more legal to cheat Uncle Sam out of their fair share of taxes. Period.

That's it. That's the story. That has always been the story. He ran for President to enrich himself and he found out once he won that the entire GOP was gladly willing to help him get away with looting the place. You paid more in taxes than Donald Trump because Donald Trump signed a law to make sure he would always be able to pay less in taxes than you.

The best part? The NYT promises more articles are coming in the future.  Even if you believe this won't hurt his reelection chances, it will obliterate any chance of changing the narrative to a Trump comeback.

Dude is most likely toast. He's going to get his Supreme Court pick, but it's going to cost him everything.

Have a nice day, Donald.


Sunday, September 27, 2020

Last Call For Biden, His Time Con't

The latest CBS battleground poll of Georgia and both Carolinas (and yes, all three are legit battleground states with four Senate races to boot) has good news for Biden-Harris and Team Blue.

Voters say the Supreme Court vacancy has added to the already high stakes of the presidential election.

In the battlegrounds of Georgia and North Carolina, most say it makes the election feel even more important — it's one more factor in an election in which most voters from both parties think their culture and way of life are at stake.

President Trump's voters here think the Democrats want society to change too fast, and Joe Biden's voters think Republicans want to go back to the past. The court fight may not be changing votes, since most were already locked in, but many describe it as adding even more motivation to the race. Both sides are about equally likely to say they'll vote (and some already have). In two contests that will turn almost entirely on turnout, that's essential.

And as important as the Supreme Court is, voters tell us it is just one of the major topics on their minds. Issues of race continue to split voters in these fast-growing, changing Southern states, and views on the protests are a major factor, too. The Black voters who make up sizable shares of the electorate here voice agreement with the Black Lives Matter movement, as do White Democrats, but the president's supporters say too much attention is being paid to discrimination against Black people today.

And it all adds up to a razor-thin horse race: Georgia remains a toss-up, with Mr. Trump up just a point; it favored Biden by a point this summer. North Carolina sees Biden up two; he had a four-point edge this summer.

In each state the president has consolidated support, maintains leads with non-college White voters and men, and is seen as better on the economy. Biden's support remains steady, bolstered by performing well with women and Black voters, and by improving on Democrats' 2016 performance among White women with college degrees.

It's a pattern across all the states we've been polling of late as we head into the first debate: Biden has not added to the big leads he had all summer, and things show a general, if slight, tightening toward the president's way overall.

Mr. Trump is up comfortably in neighboring South Carolina, but that state offers some real Senate drama of its own.
Biden winning either NC or Georgia would be the end of the Trump campaign, and both sides know it. Frankly, Biden being within a point in Georgia is the sword of Damocles hanging over Trump's orange head. 

And here's the thing: if Biden wins Michigan, PA, and Wisconsin, all states where he has a much larger margin than in NC, he wins the electoral college even if Trump runs the table on the actual tossups.

Keep in mind as of this week, the actual tossups are all states Trump won in 2016 too: NC, GA, FL, OH, Iowa, and Arizona.  Biden is set to win without any of those states, and yet he could take one or all six. Biden's lead in the national polls remains right at seven points, where it's been since mid-March, give or take a point.

And just past those six states? Texas. Biden's lead in PA is about the same as Trump's in the Lone Star State, 52-47 for Biden in PA, and 51-48% Trump in Texas, respectively.

I know I keep having Post-traumatic voter syndrome flashbacks to 2016, but the fact is with five weeks to go, Biden remains in a commanding position.

We have to make it happen. Get those votes in early.

The Race To Replace, Con't

Huckleberry Graham said on FOX News State TV last night that the regime's rubber stamp court pick, Amy Coney Barrett, will be confirmed by the Senate Judiciary by October 22, leaving Mitch McConnell the ultimate October surprise, a week to hold a full Senate confirmation floor vote before the election.
Republican and Democratic leaders reacted largely along party lines to President Donald Trump's nomination on Saturday of a conservative federal judge to fill the seat left by the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Overwhelmingly, Republicans called Amy Coney Barrett a well-qualified candidate and pushed for a confirmation in the upcoming weeks. Democrats continued to criticize the timing, with some outright saying they wouldn't meet with the nominee.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., confirmed that the hearings would begin on Monday, Oct. 12 with opening statements from Barrett and members of the Judiciary Committee. The next two days would be reserved for questioning from the committee. Testimony from those who know Barrett and legal experts would either come following questioning on Wednesday or on Thursday.

In an interview with Fox News Saturday night, Graham said, "I expect the nominee will be challenged and that's appropriate to challenge the nominee. If they treat Judge Barrett like they did Justice [Brett] Kavanaugh it's going to blow up in their face big time."

Graham said he hopes to move Barrett out of committee by Oct. 26 -- just eight days before Election Day.

A clear majority of voters believes the winner of the presidential election should fill the Supreme Court seat left open by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, according to a national poll conducted by The New York Times and Siena College, a sign of the political peril President Trump and Senate Republicans are courting by attempting to rush through an appointment before the end of the campaign.

In a survey of likely voters taken in the week leading up to Mr. Trump’s nomination on Saturday of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the high court, 56 percent said they preferred to have the election act as a sort of referendum on the vacancy. Only 41 percent said they wanted Mr. Trump to choose a justice before November.

More striking, the voters Mr. Trump and endangered Senate Republicans must reclaim to close the gap in the polls are even more opposed to a hasty pick: 62 percent of women, 63 percent of independents and 60 percent of college-educated white voters said they wanted the winner of the campaign to fill the seat.

Interviews with more than a dozen Democratic senators revealed broad support for disrupting the Supreme Court confirmation process, even if the strategy yields some collateral damage. Yet Democrats facing tough reelections and those who typically spurn delay tactics overwhelmingly support the hardball campaign, potentially putting them at increased risk of losing their seats.

“We know that the votes are not there [to block the nominee], but you do what you can to call attention to it,” said Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.), the most vulnerable Democratic incumbent who could be pulled off the campaign trail as a result. “The issue is that this is a power grab.”

“We can’t do business as usual in a situation that’s so extraordinary where the Republicans are breaking their word to rush a nominee so they can kill the Affordable Care Act,” added Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.). “We can’t just say, oh, yeah, that’s normal. Sorry.”

The goal, senators and aides say, is to highlight what Democrats see as hypocrisy and a blatant abuse of power on the part of McConnell (R-Ky.), who blocked President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee in 2016 but is pressing forward with the goal of confirming President Donald Trump’s pick, Amy Coney Barrett, before Election Day. McConnell only needs a simple majority after Republicans eliminated the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees in 2017. And if Democrats can prevent Barrett from being seated on the court before Nov. 10, she likely wouldn’t be able to rule on the Trump administration’s effort to invalidate Obamacare.

Democratic senators were quick to justify the retaliation effort, which is only getting started with less than 40 days until the Nov. 3 election.

“Process is everything,” said Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.). “So if you’re going to use the process to try to steal an election, then we’re going to use the process to try to do everything for that not to happen.”
Dems are saying "We're trying to save Obamacare and millions of people here." It's a good plan. It won't keep Barrett off the court before January, but it could save the ACA for now.
It's a gamble. Dems have to win control of the Senate and Biden has to win as well, and we have to defeat whatever measures the Trump regime will take to outright steal the election.
We'll all need to be ready, starting with early voting.

Sunday Long Read: Riders On The Storm

With climate change causing more tornadoes and more intense storms that can do as much or more damage than a twister itself, storm chasing is turning into big business -- and a big tourism draw for extreme outdoors thrillseekers. Writer Linda Logan travels to the tornado hunter capital of the US, Tulsa, Oklahoma, for this week's Sunday Long Read.

I've been hooked on tornadoes since I was a kid. I used to dream I was lying in my backyard as a black funnel cloud passed silently—and safely—over me. A shrink later told me the dream represented “safe danger,” but I never understood half of what he said, including that. As I grew older, I became a climate dilettante. I read about global warming and the coming ice age, wondered why barometric pressure affected dogs, and drew cloud charts in my daily planner. I saw Twister, of course. And I kept having that dream.

I wanted to see a real storm for myself, but there was the business of finishing grad school and raising kids. So I back-burnered tornadoes for decades and nearly forgot about them. Then, last winter, I saw a blurb in a travel magazine about stormchasing tours. I thought only Hollywood actors or meteorology nerds were allowed to chase tornadoes. But for $2,300 a week, I could, too. I justified it to my now adult children, saying that if I died, at least it would be while doing something incredibly cool.

And I did. Not die—do something cool.

I decided to book the Mayhem 1 tour with Extreme Chase Tours, one of some 20 stormchasing outfits in the country, which promises a 90 percent chance of seeing a tornado over the course of six days. Not only was the company vetted by the review site StormChasingUSA, it had fewer people per van and was relatively affordable compared with others (many run $2,500 and up). All trips are based out of Tulsa, Oklahoma, the epicenter of Tornado Alley, a swath of land that runs from central Texas to South Dakota and spawns many of the approximately 1,200 events each year.

While I knew Oklahoma and the southern plains were likely to produce tornadoes in May and early June, a period when cold fronts from the Arctic that haven’t been weakened on their way south meet the warm air from the Gulf of Mexico, I still had to manage my expectations—there are never guarantees when it comes to weather. But after arriving at my motel in Tulsa last summer and turning on the Weather Channel, it reported a tornado near the town of Buffalo, a little over three hours west, around 6:30 P.M. I was optimistic.

The next morning, I met owner and operator Lanny Dean: think Michael Moore with the baseball cap turned backwards. A tuft of hair sprouted through what my daughters call the “ponytail hole.” He’s a big, affable man in his mid-forties and was wearing a T-shirt with “Outlaw Chasers” printed on the front. (The back read “Show Me or Blow Me.”) With him was a guy named Mike, a forty-something out of San Antonio and my fellow chaser. Mike had already been on ten chasing tours, many of them with Dean. There was supposed to be another couple with us, but they bailed at the last minute.

Dean was seven years old and sitting in the back seat of the family car when he first saw a twisting, funnel-shaped black cloud skitter across the Texas landscape, plucking boards off the side of a barn. “Shit, yes, it terrified me,” he said. “It was the most scary, awe-inspiring thing I’ve ever seen. It’s what hooked me.”

The fear turned into fascination. At Missouri State, he did some undergraduate work in atmospheric science (“a kick-ass field,” he said) and ended up with a Bachelor of Science in electronic engineering telecommunication. He later became a severe-weather reporter and photographer and starred in TruTV’s Tornado Hunters. Since launching his guiding company in 1999, he’s seen 581 tornadoes and 13 major hurricanes up close and has held hail the size of a softball in his hand. He’s a frequent video contributor to Good Morning America. His 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan has some 300,000 miles on it. The van’s been battered and busted, it’s sloshed through the kind of deep mud puddles you only see in car commercials, and has a shattered side mirror. But it’s clean, well-maintained, and Dean only smokes at gas stops. Between this van and his previous chase vehicle, he figures he’s driven 700,000 miles since he started as a guide. He’d been thinking of springing for a new rig.

Mike rode shotgun. A Lenovo computer was mounted to the passenger-side dashboard and a monitor to the back of its seat, so I could see what they were looking at. After Mike pulled up RadarScope, a weather app used by everyone from meteorologists to emergency responders, he and Dean started chatting about base reflectivity, super-res velocity, something called CAPE, and rear-flank downdraft. Dean eyed me in the rearview mirror, saying, “You’re gonna hear a lot of verbiage. You’re not gonna understand it, but I’ll keep yakking until you do.”

“It’s a good chase day,” he told us. “There’s a mess of convection near Gotebo, so we’re busting south.” We hauled out of Tulsa and soon passed Oklahoma City. “We’re going to play the dry line”—a separation between the warm, humid air from the Gulf and the hot, dry air from the desert Southwest—“and go for broke.” In other words, a flurry of movement driven by a rising air mass was a promising enough indicator for a superstorm that Dean felt the three-hour drive to Gotebo was worth it.

A few hours later, a mass of red dots appeared on the monitor. “Those are other chasers,” Mike explained.

“And those are just the guys with their beacons on,” Dean added. “For every dot you see, there are probably five to ten other guys like me who’ve turned their icons off.” If you click on a dot, the chaser’s name and phone number pops up. Since Dean’s a professional stormchaser, if his icon is on, chasers will start chasing him, like bikers drafting off the lead cyclist during the Tour de France.

Anyone can call themselves a chaser. There’s no licensing or certification required, just enough gall to get close to a storm and enough brains to know when to retreat. Equipment helps, but having a cell phone with a couple of apps like Dark Sky and RadarScope and tuning into the NOAA Weather Radio station will do. Stormchasing started catching on after the movie Twister came out in 1996. (Dean hated it. “Nobody—nobody—drives through a cornfield,” he said. “They just don’t.”) Spurred by its success, a handful of stormchaser shows further helped capture people’s imaginations, while the development of new technology, such as GPS units made for civilian use, made it possible for others to do it themselves. Since then it’s not only become a popular pastime among meteorologists, researchers, and photographers but adrenaline junkies who treat it as an obsessive quest, on a par with eclipse chasers and high pointers. According to Dean, the addiction is very real—77 percent of his guests are repeat customers.

Dean’s safety and expertise are among the reasons many chasers return to chase with him rather than attempt to head out on their own. And those are good reasons when it comes to this activity—according to the Congressional Research Service, tornadoes are one of the main causes of property destruction in the U.S., second only to hurricanes, which also wreak significant havoc, as we recently witnessed when Hurricane Laura made landfall. Despite this, records of stormchasing incidents show that weather-related fatalities are low compared to the risk posed by other chasers. In 2019, the community website Stormtrack reported that 12 of the 15 known stormchasing-related deaths were the result of car collisions.

I remember watching Storm Chasers on Discovery Channel some 10 years ago, and that's as close as I ever want to get to an actual tornado. Besides, I've been through a couple of hurricanes and a blizzard or two, and frankly it's not as fun as you might think.

Sadly, we're going to see a lot more tornadoes to chase in the future thanks to climate change. Disaster tourism shouldn't be a growth industry, but here we are.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Last Call For Retribution Execution, Con't

Steve M. has this all sorted out. Like the egomaniacal Bond villain he is, Trump has happily given away his evil plan ahead for the next two months because he believes that nobody can possibly stop him.
We're assuming that the likely outcome is a Biden win that's obvious to all objective observers. But in a Trump/Fox/QAnon world, objective reality has no meaning to roughly 40% of the population. It's also likely that Biden will win (if he does win) by less than the current 7-point margin the polls are showing for him, because of Republican vote suppression, incorrectly submitted mail ballots, and the usual problem Democrats have persuading many people who don't like Republicans that they need to vote Democratic to keep Republicans out of office.

So I'm expecting a Biden win by about 4 points nationwide, with the states that put him over the top being very close. And that's where Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham, Kevin McCarthy, and the rest of the GOP "establishment" come in. They've accepted -- or openly endorsed -- nearly everything Trump has done to degrade our country. "Establishment" Republicans were yelling "Voter fraud!" long before Trump was, back in the Bush years. Why should we assume that they'll abandon Trump when he's making the same claim after the election?

After the election, Trump won't be saying he lost but won't leave -- he'll be saying he won, and in all likelihood McConnell, Graham, and others will be saying the same thing. Fox News and the New York Post and The Federalist and The Washington Post's Marc Thiessen and Hugh Hewitt will be saying the same thing. Trump will find lawyers who will file court briefs saying the same thing. And some judges will agree -- maybe even Supreme Court justices.

In other words, Trump won't try to reject the election outcome. He'll attempt to change it. And we'll have to fight more than just Trump if we don't want this effort to succeed.
Nancy LeTourneau also lays out Trump's plan for November.  There's a distinct reason why Trump wants to appoint a justice now.
All of these efforts have one thing in common: they are designed to cast doubt in the public’s mind about the legitimacy of the election. It is yet another example of how Trump and his enablers have become “merchants of doubt.” When using that descriptor to explain how Republicans were attempting to spread lies about Biden’s’ involvement in Ukraine, this is how journalist Paul Waldman described the origins of that strategy (emphasis mine):

In 1969, a memo written at the Brown & Williamson tobacco company explained how they and their colleagues in the industry could push back against the growing public perception that their products were giving people cancer. It wasn’t necessary to disprove the scientific consensus, the author wrote, only to inject a sufficient amount of doubt into public debate so it would be seen as an unresolved controversy with two sides.

There is no unresolved controversy about the validity of mail-in ballots. But by injecting doubt into the public discourse, the merchants of doubt are attempting to create a level of chaos, unlike anything we’ve ever seen in a presidential election. That is precisely what Trump is counting on.
Trump wants there to be enough chaos doubt that he can say "Well the only fair thing to do is to throw the election to a 6-3 conservative Supreme Court."  He will be assisted by Republicans at the national level and in the states that are going to be disputed.

He will also be assisted by the media covering Trump rallies in these states. He will encourage massive demonstrations by his armed supporters, assisted by local law enforcement and by state Republicans, to "liberate" these states from "Democrat voting fraud". We've seen this same play 20 years ago, and it worked then.

There's a very good chance it will work again. Only this time, it'll be the last free election we'll have.

Orange Meltdown, Con't

A federal judge in Montana has ordered the removal of acting Bureau of Land Management head William Pendley and is forcing him to step down, as he has been in the position for over a year without any Senate confirmation.


Chief District Judge Brian Morris of the US District Court of Montana ruled that Pendley has served unlawfully for 424 days, in response to a lawsuit brought by Democratic Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation. 
Morris additionally ruled Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt cannot pick another person to run the Bureau of Land Management as its acting head because that person must be appointed by the President and Senate-confirmed. 
The judge gave both sides of the case 10 days to file briefs about which of Pendley's orders must be vacated. 
"Pendley has served and continues to serve unlawfully as the Acting BLM Director," Morris wrote in his opinion. "His ascent to Acting BLM Director did not follow any of the permissible paths set forth by the U.S. Constitution or the (Federal Vacancies Reform Act). Pendley has not been nominated by the President and has not been confirmed by the Senate to serve as BLM Director." 
He added, "Secretary Bernhardt lacked the authority to appoint Pendley as an Acting BLM Director under the FVRA. Pendley unlawfully took the temporary position beyond the 210-day maximum allowed by the FVRA. Pendley unlawfully served as Acting BLM Director after the President submitted his permanent appointment to the Senate for confirmation -- another violation of the FVRA. And Pendley unlawfully serves as Acting BLM Director today, under color of the Succession Memo." 
Pendley was nominated to be the permanent director of the agency in July but the Trump administration withdrew his nomination in September after a series of controversial statements -- including saying that climate change is not real and falsely saying that there was no credible evidence of a hole in the ozone layer -- were made public by CNN's KFile.
Good for Bullock to stick it to this climate denier asshole. 

Having said that, the Trump regime plans an immediate appeal that will take months if not years, and Pendley will remain at the post because the law in America means whatever five Supreme Court justices says it means. Either Pendley gets the boot in a Biden administration, or he'll continue to serve well into Trump's second term.

Of course if the latter happens, there won't be much federal land to manage, will there?

Florida Goes Viral, Con't

Florida led the nation this week in COVID-19 deaths, but Gov. Ron DeSantis has now completely reopened restaurants, bars, and all other businesses, saying that local governments would have to justify any further measures as the pandemic is apparently "over" just in time for early voting to start.
Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday signed an executive order lifting all remaining statewide coronavirus-related restrictions on businesses in Florida, including bars and restaurants.

The executive order rolls back nearly every measure in Florida put in place to combat the spread of the coronavirus and puts the state into the last phase of its reopening plan.

The order immediately allows all businesses that had been shut down due to the pandemic to reopen, and it guarantees restaurants can operate at a minimum of 50 percent capacity.

Under the order, announced Friday in a news conference in downtown St. Petersburg, municipalities must justify any local restrictions of restaurant capacity between 50 and 100 percent. It does not force municipalities to increase capacity in bars beyond 50 percent, DeSantis said, though cities and counties are free to do so.

“(Restaurants) have worked as hard as anybody to create safe environments," said DeSantis, who spoke to reporters Friday afternoon from an empty ballroom inside the Birchwood restaurant on Beach Drive NE. "The idea that government dictating this is better than them making decisions so that their customers have confidence, I think is misplaced.”

DeSantis said the order allows local governments to have some “reasonable regulations” but said it’s time for businesses to be reopening.

“You can’t say ‘no’ after six months and just have people twisting in the wind,” he said.

DeSantis made the announcement surrounded by local business owners and other public officials, who cheered the news.

“Florida’s hospitality industry has been decimated by COVID-19,” Carol Dover, president and chief executive officer of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, said later in a statement. “We look forward to welcoming back our wonderful guests and to reopening the Sunshine State.”

But some other restaurant owners are circumspect about the idea of adding more tables following the order.

“The most important thing for us is for our staff and our guests to continue to feel safe," said restaurateur Richard Gonzmart, whose Columbia Restaurant Group owns The Columbia, Ulele and Goody Goody. "We are evaluating each of our restaurants and will add some tables and seats, but not anything close to 100 percent capacity at this time.”

Tom DeGeorge, owner of Ybor City’s Crowbar, also said he’d reopen at his own pace.

“I certainly am not going to sit there and open my doors 1,000 percent,” DeGeorge said. “I’m probably going to do exactly what I was going to do when I felt comfortable doing it and not worry about the government and what they told me.”

Jeff Gigante, co-founder of Forbici Modern Italian in Hyde Park Village, said the restaurant plans to maintain its protocols, meaning 50 percent capacity inside and full capacity outside. But his restaurant has a large interior space, so he understands why other establishments might want to increase their capacity.

“Smaller places that choose to bump it up to 75 or 100 percent will get no judgment from us,” he said. “I understand how hard this has been even to break even and not lose money."
So as flu season gets underway just in time for the election, expect a massive jump in Florida's cases and deaths as we head into October and November. Gotta die for Trump and the economy, right, Florida retirees?

7,000,000 cases and counting.

The Race To Replace, Con't

With Justice Ginsburg lying in state at the Capitol on Friday, and a week since her death, Trump is wasting no time nominating another terrible right-wing lunatic for her seat, a 6-3 conservative majority that could end civil rights, women's right's, abortion, and LGBTQ+ equality in a matter of months, and end the Affordable Care Act in a matter of weeks.
President Donald Trump intends to choose Amy Coney Barrett to be the new Supreme Court justice, according to multiple senior Republican sources with knowledge of the process. 
In conversations with some senior Republican allies on the Hill, the White House is indicating that Barrett, a federal appellate judge and Notre Dame law professor, is the intended nominee, multiple sources said. 
All sources cautioned that until it is announced by the President, there is always the possibility that Trump makes a last-minute change but the expectation is Barrett is the choice. He is scheduled to make the announcement on Saturday afternoon. 
A former law clerk to the late right-wing beacon Justice Antonin Scalia, Barrett would tilt the balance of power on the court further to the right, possibly ahead of a consequential case on health care to be argued the week after Election Day. If her Senate confirmation is successful before the November election, the appointment would mark Trump's third Supreme Court pick in one presidential term, cementing a conservative stronghold in the court for a generation. 
She has been the leading choice throughout the week, since Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died. She is the only potential nominee known to have met with the President in person, according to two of the sources. One source said Trump was familiar with Barrett already and he met with her since she was a top contender the last time there was a Supreme Court vacancy, when the President chose Justice Brett Kavanaugh instead. 
Barrett was seen at her South Bend, Indiana, home on Friday. It was not clear if Barrett had been told she is the choice. Often that is done as late as possible to maintain secrecy around the announcement. 
"The machinery is in motion," one of the sources said.

Barrett’s elevation to this position has been a long time coming. Her nomination has been made with one issue in mind: abortion. The conservative men who have been attacking a woman’s right to choose for a generation have long pined for a woman to do the final work of denying women their right to their own bodies. They’ve said so: Ramesh Ponnuru, longtime editor at National Review and fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, has written: “The main reason I favor Barrett, though, is the obvious one: She’s a woman…. If Roe v. Wade is ever overturned—as I certainly hope it will be, as it is an unjust decision with no plausible basis in the Constitution—it would be better if it were not done by only male justices, with every female justice in dissent.”

Barrett will not disappoint conservatives when it comes to abortion. While other jurists hoping to sit on the Supreme Court have at least attempted to be coy with their opposition to Roe v. Wade, Barrett has not. She has said that abortion is “always immoral.” She has said that Roe creates a framework of “abortion on demand” (a patently false claim given that Roe explicitly created a fetal viability standard after which the state was allowed to limit women’s fundamental rights). Barrett has put herself on the record against abortion rights generally, and Roe specifically, more than any person I can think of nominated for the Supreme Court after that 1973 decision.

Over the next few weeks, Barrett and her moderate Republican defenders will likely try to tell people that she’s been lying all this time. They’ll try to tell us that she hasn’t already made up her mind about abortion, that she respects 50 years of Supreme Court precedent, that she’s not being elevated to the Supreme Court just because she’s a woman who happens to hate a woman’s right to choose.

But no matter how hard Barrett tries to obfuscate her position in the coming days, hard-right conservatives know that her elevation to the court is a reliable vote against women’s rights. Why are they so sure about her legal views? Because Barrett herself has argued that she cannot and, more important, should not enforce secular laws that go against her religious beliefs.

If you read one thing about how Amy Coney Barrett’s religion would affect her ability to serve as a Supreme Court justice, read her own words. She addressed that matter in an article for the Marquette Law Review titled: “Catholic Judges in Capital Cases.” There, Barrett argued that Catholic judges should recuse themselves from cases that involve the death penalty. She argued that the Catholic Church’s moral stance against the death penalty might make it impossible for Catholic judges to dispense the impartial justice citizens are entitled to. Here’s part of the abstract for the whole long article:

Although the legal system has a solution for this dilemma by allowing the recusal of judges whose convictions keep them from doing their job, Catholic judges will want to sit whenever possible without acting immorally. However, litigants and the general public are entitled to impartial justice, which may be something a judge who is heedful of ecclesiastical pronouncements cannot dispense. Therefore, the authors argue, we need to know whether judges are legally disqualified from hearing cases that their consciences would let them decide. While mere identification of a judge as Catholic is not sufficient reason for recusal under federal law, the authors suggest that the moral impossibility of enforcing capital punishment in such cases as sentencing, enforcing jury recommendations, and affirming are in fact reasons for not participating.

This article is, frankly, a refreshing dose of truth of the sort most aspiring Supreme Court justices assiduously avoid. Barrett is straight-up explaining that her own religious biases may prevent her, or a judge like her, from upholding secular law. It is rare to find a would-be justice who is willing to admit that their personal convictions shape how they see the law, because they get trashed by the opposition party for such admissions, even though we all know that a judge’s personal beliefs and lived experiences must impact how they apply the law.

President Donald Trump’s Saturday announcement of his Supreme Court pick will spark a lightning-quick confirmation attempt by Senate Republicans that now seems almost certain to occur before the election. After Trump’s reveal, Senate Judiciary Chair Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is expected to quickly lay out a hearing schedule for October, and the nominee will begin meeting with individual senators next week, according to senators and aides.

Provided no surprising information is unearthed that upends the nomination, Republicans and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are set to make history: Never has a Supreme Court justice been confirmed so close to a presidential election. Other than two dissenting GOP senators, no one thus far in the 53-member conference is arguing to wait for a lame duck session — let alone the next Congress — to hold a confirmation vote. McConnell only needs a simple majority.

“There’s not much of a margin for error. But we don’t have much error,” said Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.). “We have our [party] meetings and no one has ever gotten up and made the case for why we should do this after the election.”

“There’s going to be plenty of time, plenty of time for both the nominee and the committee for questions, plenty of time to vote. I’m not worried about the timing,” added Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), who serves on the Judiciary Committee. “I’m obviously not Mitch McConnell, but I think we’ll have a vote before the election."
So, unless Chuck Schumer is willing to go full scorched earth, Barrett will be confirmed before the Senate adjourns for the election campaign on October 9.
The Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments on the Affordable Care Act on November 10.

The battle begins.

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