Sunday, July 19, 2020

Last Call For Orange Meltdown, Con't

President Donald Trump’s bad poll numbers are getting worse.

The latest data point: A new ABC News/Washington Post poll released Sunday shows Trump 15 points behind former Vice President Joe Biden among registered voters, 55 percent to 40 percent.

The margin is closer among likely voters, 54 percent for Biden and 44 percent for Trump, but whichever margin you look at, the survey is the fifth consecutive high-quality national poll — those conducted by live phone interviewers — to show Biden ahead of Trump by 10 points or more. Of the nine such polls conducted since the second half of June, Biden has led Trump by double digits in seven of them.

The surveys conducted over the past month put Biden in an enviable, even historic position. He has a greater advantage over the incumbent going into the final few months of the campaign than any challenger since Bill Clinton, who seized the lead in the summer of 1992 after third-party candidate Ross Perot dropped out.

Trump’s poll numbers — so stagnant for the first three years of his presidency — have taken a significant hit as a result of his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Meanwhile, Biden’s long career has left him fairly defined already, as the Trump campaign has begun a barrage of attacks ads on TV nationally and in swing states. And while Trump voters are more enthusiastic about their candidate, Biden voters are also highly interested in voting — if only to oust Trump from the Oval Office.

Trump's starting to be in real trouble now, and his most recent actions show it.

Prior to the release of the ABC News/Washington Post poll Sunday morning, Biden held a 9-point lead in the RealClearPolitics average — a little lower than the live-caller polls suggest, mostly because of the inclusion of a GOP-friendler result from the automated firm Rasmussen Reports.

Still, that 9-point lead puts Biden in unusually commanding territory for a challenger. Only two challengers at this stage of the campaign — John Kerry in 2004 and Michael Dukakis in 1988, who was running against an incumbent vice president — ended up losing, and each held a smaller lead than Biden’s. (Dukakis would even pad his lead before losing it completely, thanks to a convention bump that receded quickly in August.)

For a more recent comparison, Biden’s advantage well outstrips the lead Hillary Clinton had at this point in the 2016 race, when she led Trump by 3 points in the RealClearPolitics average. Clinton’s lead would briefly top out at an 8-point lead in early August, and then again crest to 7 points in the immediate aftermath of the “Access Hollywood” video in October.

Biden is also much closer to earning majority support than Clinton at this point before the last presidential election. As of July 19, 2016, Clinton was only at 44 percent in the RealClearPolitics average, well short of Biden's 49 percent — and that Biden number is before the ABC News/Washington Post poll with him at 54 percent was added to the average.

Trump's response is fourfold: he's already taking hostages on the expected COVID-19 relief bill this week, he's sending out federal troops to terrorize urban and suburban voters, he's gaslighting Americans on voting-by-mail (this ABC/WaPo poll finds 49% of Americans now believe mail-in voting is vulnerable to fraud) and he's trying to demoralize Black and Latino voters like he did successfully in 2016 against Hillary Clinton.

President Donald Trump’s campaign is pouring millions of dollars into a plan to weaken Joe Biden among swing state voters of color — and it’s creating a sense of déjà vu among Democratic operatives.

Trump’s team is airing TV advertisements aimed at Black and Latino voters that attack the presumptive Democratic nominee over his past support of the 1994 crime bill, which led to increased incarceration, particularly among people of color, as well as his mental fitness in Spanish-language spots. It’s a sign that Trump aides, while struggling to find a consistent and effective line of attack against Biden, have settled on at least one strategy: dilute Biden’s strength among minority voters.

“It’s very clear the Trump campaign is trying to use much of the same playbook from 2016,” said Karen Finney, Hillary Clinton’s spokesperson during that campaign. “This should be a blaring call to all Democrats running for office this year, specifically Biden, that you cannot take anything for granted with Black voters, period. Because we made that mistake in 2016, and ended up with, just as an example, Hillary underperforming in Milwaukee, which has a high African American population.”

In the past three weeks alone, the Trump team has spent more than $2 million on the advertisements in six swing states and nationally, according to Advertising Analytics. The blueprint is similar to the one they successfully executed against Clinton in 2016, when the campaign helped drive down turnout among African American voters in key battleground states by focusing on her past comments about “superpredators" and advocacy for the crime bill. In 2016, Black voter turnout dropped in a presidential race for the first time in two decades, plummeting from nearly 67 percent to just under 60 percent, per Pew.

Biden campaign officials contend that there are key differences between now and 2016: Trump was widely expected to lose, they point out, making it easier at the time to persuade people to stay at home. Now, voters have seen 3½ years of his job performance, including, they say, his mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic that has disproportionately harmed Black and Latino Americans as well as his fanning the flames of racism amid nationwide protests against police brutality.

At the same time, “We're taking nothing for granted — the Vice President has a long history with the African-American community and we are reinforcing that," wrote Patrick Bonsignore, Biden’s director of paid media, in a June memo obtained by POLITICO.

I'm glad the Biden camp is taking this seriously, because they are going to need every vote.  Trump has shown his hand and he's playing some of his most powerful cards, and we still have 15 weeks to go.

But all of that leads up to this.

President Trump declined to say whether he will accept the results of the November election, claiming without evidence that mail-in voting due to the coronavirus pandemic could “rig” the outcome.
In a wide-ranging interview with “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace, the president also continued to play down the severity of the coronavirus crisis in the country, declined to say whether he is offended by the Confederate flag and dismissed polls showing him trailing former vice president Joe Biden by a significant margin.

The interview comes as the 2020 campaign has been upended by the pandemic, which has claimed more than 137,000 lives in the United States. Most in-person events have been canceled, and both political parties are planning to hold smaller-scale conventions to limit the spread of the virus.

Several states switched to primarily vote-by-mail primaries earlier this year, and the U.S. Postal Service is bracing for an onslaught of mail-in ballots this fall as states and cities seek alternatives to in-person voting.

In the “Fox News Sunday” interview, Wallace asked Trump whether he considers himself a “gracious” loser.

Trump replied that he doesn’t like to lose, then added: “It depends. I think mail-in voting is going to rig the election. I really do.” Trump’s comment echoed unfounded claims he has made in recent weeks that mail-in voting is susceptible to widespread fraud.

“Are you suggesting that you might not accept the results of the election?” Wallace asked.

Trump responded, “No. I have to see.”

Later in the interview, pressed on whether he will accept the results of the November election, Trump again declined to say

Trump does bluster a lot, but he's also made good on a lot of his threats.

The odds of a peaceful transition to the Biden administration is very, very low.

We need to be ready.

The Regime Goes Viral, Con't

The Trump administration is trying to block billions of dollars for states to conduct testing and contact tracing in the upcoming coronavirus relief bill, people involved in the talks said Saturday.

The administration is also trying to block billions of dollars that GOP senators want to allocate for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and billions more for the Pentagon and State Department to address the pandemic at home and abroad, the people said.

The administration’s posture has angered some GOP senators, the officials said, and some lawmakers are trying to push back and ensure that the money stays in the bill. The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to reveal confidential deliberations, cautioned that the talks were fluid and the numbers were in flux.

The negotiations center around a bill Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is preparing to unveil this coming week as part of negotiations with Democrats on what will likely be the last major coronavirus relief bill before the November election.

The regime is prepared to run out to clock at this point in order to burn is all down before November.

The two political parties are far apart on a number of contentious issues, such as unemployment insurance, but the conflict between Trump administration officials and Senate Republicans on money for testing and other priorities is creating a major complication even before bipartisan negotiations get under way. Some lawmakers are trying to reach a deal quickly, as enhanced unemployment benefits for millions of Americans are set to expire in less than two weeks.

One person involved in the talks said Senate Republicans were seeking to allocate $25 billion for states to conduct testing and contact tracing, but that certain administration officials want to zero out the testing and tracing money entirely. Some White House officials believe they have already approved billions of dollars in assistance for testing and that some of that money remains unspent.

Roughly 3.7 million Americans have already tested positive for coronavirus in the United States, according to a Washington Post analysis. Wait times for test results can vary by state, but in some places people have to wait more than a week to find out if they have tested positive.

Trump and other White House officials have been pushing for states to own more of the responsibility for testing and have objected to creating national standards, at times seeking to minimize the federal government’s role.

The last major coronavirus spending bill Congress approved, in April, included $25 billion to increase testing and also required the Health and Human Services Department to release a strategic testing plan. The agency did so in May, but the plan mainly reasserted the administration’s insistence that states -- not the federal government -- should take the lead on testing.

Several Senate Republicans including Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) are exploring pushing a testing and tracing provision in the next stimulus package but are expected to meet resistance from the White House.

“Cases and deaths are now both rising again, including in many red states,” said Sam Hammond, a policy expert at the right-leaning think tank the Niskanen Center, which has been working with Senate Republicans on testing legislation. “Senate Republicans have asked for funding to help states purchase test kits in bulk. As it currently stands, the main bottleneck to a big ramp-up in testing is less technical than the White House’s own intransigence.”

That may be true, but the White House is going to make sure Senate Republicans go down with him. Either agree with the ridiculous regime theory that cutting testing will cut cases, and that state governors are fully responsible, not Trump, or there's no bill and the misery factor will ensure scorched earth awaits politicians in relatively safe races (and may take out some Democrats with the sheer amount of collateral damage.)

But the real threat is to the tens of millions of Americans who are in true need of help right now, and Trump is signaling his intention to turn his back on them and let the chips fall where they may.

In other words, if Trump loses, America loses.

As horrific is that is, it's what we now face: a leader who will take as many of us as possible with him should he not be publicly absolved for his sins. He sees COVID-19 efforts as "efforts to blame me for this" and he will fight both until the bitter, bitter end.

Nothing about COVID-19 will improve in the US as long as Trump remains in power.  Period. And we know this because we know he gave up on fixing COVID-19 months ago.

Each morning at 8 as the coronavirus crisis was raging in April, Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, convened a small group of aides to steer the administration through what had become a public health, economic and political disaster.

Seated around Mr. Meadows’s conference table and on a couch in his office down the hall from the Oval Office, they saw their immediate role as practical problem solvers. Produce more ventilators. Find more personal protective equipment. Provide more testing.

But their ultimate goal was to shift responsibility for leading the fight against the pandemic from the White House to the states. They referred to this as “state authority handoff,” and it was at the heart of what would become at once a catastrophic policy blunder and an attempt to escape blame for a crisis that had engulfed the country — perhaps one of the greatest failures of presidential leadership in generations.

Over a critical period beginning in mid-April, President Trump and his team convinced themselves that the outbreak was fading, that they had given state governments all the resources they needed to contain its remaining “embers” and that it was time to ease up on the lockdown.

In doing so, he was ignoring warnings that the numbers would continue to drop only if social distancing was kept in place, rushing instead to restart the economy and tend to his battered re-election hopes.

Casting the decision in ideological terms, Mr. Meadows would tell people: “Only in Washington, D.C., do they think that they have the answer for all of America.”

For scientific affirmation, they turned to Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the sole public health professional in the Meadows group. A highly regarded infectious diseases expert, she was a constant source of upbeat news for the president and his aides, walking the halls with charts emphasizing that outbreaks were gradually easing. The country, she insisted, was likely to resemble Italy, where virus cases declined steadily from frightening heights.

On April 11, she told the coronavirus task force in the Situation Room that the nation was in good shape. Boston and Chicago are two weeks away from the peak, she cautioned, but the numbers in Detroit and other hard-hit cities are heading down.

A sharp pivot soon followed, with consequences that continue to plague the country today as the virus surges anew.

Even as a chorus of state officials and health experts warned that the pandemic was far from under control, Mr. Trump went, in a matter of days, from proclaiming that he alone had the authority to decide when the economy would reopen to pushing that responsibility onto the states. The government issued detailed reopening guidelines, but almost immediately, Mr. Trump began criticizing Democratic governors who did not “liberate” their states.

Mr. Trump’s bet that the crisis would fade away proved wrong. But an examination of the shift in April and its aftermath shows that the approach he embraced was not just a misjudgment. Instead, it was a deliberate strategy that he would stick doggedly to as evidence mounted that, in the absence of strong leadership from the White House, the virus would continue to infect and kill large numbers of Americans.

Trump was trying to blame governors for everything from day one.  Now he's ready to bring down America in order to coerce people into saving his relection prospects.  It's not just the biggest modern failure in decades, it's outright criminal dereliction of his oath of office.

If we survive the next six months and emerge with President Biden, the reckoning has to be both swift and brutal. If we still have Trump in charge in January, then America, and millions of us, are dead.

It really is that simple.

Sunday Long Read: Virus, Inc.

There actually have been plenty who have been helped by Donald Trump during the pandemic, it's just all of them are either Trump himself, or the corporations of the tycoons who donate to the GOP.

On June 22nd, in the baking heat of a parking lot a few miles inland from Delaware’s beaches, several dozen poultry workers, many of them Black or Latino, gathered to decry the conditions at a local poultry plant owned by one of President Donald Trump’s biggest campaign contributors. “We’re here for a reason that is atrocious,” Nelson Hill, an official with the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, told the small but boisterous crowd, which included top Democratic officials from the state, among them Senator Chris Coons. The union, part of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., represents some 1.3 million laborers in poultry-processing and meatpacking plants, as well as workers in grocery stores and retail establishments. Its members, many defined as “essential” workers—without the option of staying home—have been hit extraordinarily hard by the coronavirus. The union estimates that nearly thirty thousand of its workers in the food and health-care sectors have contracted covid-19, and that two hundred and thirty-eight of those have died.

For the previous forty-two years, a thousand or so laborers at the local processing plant, in Selbyville, had been represented by Local 27. Just two years earlier, the workers there had ratified a new five-year contract. But, Hill told the crowd, in the middle of the pandemic, as the number of infected workers soared, the plant’s owner, Mountaire Corporation—one of the country’s largest purveyors of chicken—conspired, along with Donald Trump, to “kick us out.”

Hill, who is Black and from a working-class family on the Delmarva Peninsula—a scrubby stretch of farmland that includes parts of Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia—was used to the area’s heat and humidity. But, as he spoke to the crowd, behind dark glasses, his face glistened with anger. “It’s greed, that’s what it is,” he said. “It’s a damn shame.”

The jobs at Mountaire rank as among the most dangerous and worst paid in America. Government statistics indicate that poultry and meat-processing companies report more severe injuries than other industries commonly assumed to be more hazardous, including coal mining and sawmilling. Between 2015 and 2018, on average, a slaughterhouse worker lost a body part, or went to the hospital for in-patient treatment, about every other day. Unlike meatpackers, two-thirds of whom belong to unions, only about a third of poultry workers are represented by organized labor—and those who are unionized face mounting pressure. The industry, which is dominated by large multinational corporations such as Mountaire, has grown increasingly concentrated, expanding its political influence while replacing unionized employees with contract hires, often immigrants or refugees. These vulnerable workers are technically hired by temp agencies, relieving poultry plants of accountability if documentation is lacking. Trump has weakened federal oversight of the industry while accepting millions of dollars in political donations from some of its most powerful figures, including Ronald Cameron, Mountaire’s reclusive owner. In 2016, Cameron gave nearly three million dollars to organizations supporting Trump’s candidacy.

Founded in Little Rock, Arkansas, but incorporated in Delaware, Mountaire has operations in five states. It reportedly generated more than $2.3 billion in revenue last year. Because it is owned almost entirely by Cameron—and because it supplies poultry to other companies that put their own labels on the meat—the company’s public profile is virtually nonexistent. Cameron himself has received almost no media attention. “I’ve tried mightily over the years to bump into him, but he lays low,” Max Brantley, a longtime editor at the Arkansas Times, told me. According to trade journals, however, Mountaire has been spectacularly successful. Arkansas Business reported that the company’s sales in 2019 were a billion dollars higher than they were in 2010, nearly doubling the size of the business. Information on profits isn’t available, but as Mountaire’s revenues have risen wages for poultry workers have fallen even further behind. In 2002, workers were paid twenty-four per cent less than the national average for manufacturing jobs; today, they are paid forty-four per cent less. On average, poultry workers now earn less than fourteen dollars an hour.

By long-standing custom, labor contracts are binding for at least three years, giving a union time to prove its value to members. But in April a laborer at the Selbyville plant, Oscar Cruz Sosa, raised a legal objection to the contract, arguing that he’d been forced to join the union and pay dues against his will. He wanted a vote on whether to decertify the union. Mountaire maintains that it played no role in Cruz Sosa’s actions, and that the move to decertify the union was “entirely employee-driven.” But Cruz Sosa has had some outside help. His case was supported by lawyers from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, the foremost anti-union advocacy group, which is funded by undisclosed tax-deductible donations. Meanwhile, a mysterious group calling itself the Oscar Cruz Committee for Employee Rights sent out mailings, in English, supporting Cruz Sosa’s complaint. (Cruz Sosa speaks only Spanish.) The return address was the Rehoboth Beach branch of MailBiz, which rents post-office boxes.

Jonathan Williams, a spokesperson for the union, suspects that Cruz Sosa was a stalking horse. “It’s not hard to find one individual, who may get special privileges from management, and who maybe is offered a future position,” he told me. “It’s very, very rare, though, when an employee does the research, contacts the Department of Labor, and goes through all this effort. Usually, someone is being coached.” (Cruz Sosa didn’t respond to interview requests.)

When the union reached out to Cruz Sosa, his lawyers filed a grievance with the National Labor Relations Board, claiming harassment. The specific legal dispute is abstruse. Mark Mix, the president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, has called the contract’s language “illegal,” claiming that it didn’t make sufficiently clear that—as stipulated by law—new employees had thirty days to decide whether to join the union. The union argues that applications presented to new employees are unambiguous about the time frame, and says that the current contract has virtually the same boilerplate used in every contract with Mountaire since 1982.

After Cruz Sosa got thirty per cent of his co-workers to sign a petition, the National Labor Relations Board ordered an election at the Selbyville plant. When the union protested that this would violate the customary bar on overturning contracts before three years, the N.L.R.B. decided to broaden the case, reëxamining the entire concept of barring challenges to settled union contracts. The move has shocked labor-law experts. By statute, the N.L.R.B. has five members and is bipartisan, but the Trump Administration has filled only three seats, all with Republicans.

Given the pandemic, the union argued that there was no way an in-person election could be safely and fairly held in Sussex County, where Selbyville is situated. Delaware’s governor had declared a state of emergency on March 23rd, because of the surge in covid-19 cases, almost half of them in Sussex County, which has many poultry plants. The union asked for a stay, but on June 24th the N.L.R.B. moved to proceed with the election, by mail. The ballots that were sent out must be received by July 14th. Meanwhile, the board will weigh the larger question of whether such elections are legal, potentially overturning a precedent that dates back to the New Deal.

“We’re really being let down by the federal agencies,” Williams, the union spokesperson, said. He also lamented a shift at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the division of the Labor Department that enforces workplace safety. Since osha’s inception, in 1970, the agency has enforced federal law that makes it illegal to subject employees to “recognized hazards.” But during the pandemic the Times editorial board has been prompted to ask, “Why is osha awol?” Democrats pushed for the agency to issue an emergency rule forcing businesses to comply with the Centers for Disease Control’s health guidelines for covid-19, but the Labor Department refused.

Instead, on April 28th, forty-eight hours after Tyson Foods, the world’s second-largest meat company, ran a full-page ad in several newspapers warning that “the food supply chain is breaking,” Trump issued an executive order defining slaughterhouse workers as essential. The White House had appointed Cameron to an advisory board on the pandemic’s economic impact. The executive order commanded meat-processing facilities to “continue operations uninterrupted to the extent possible.” The Labor Department released an accompanying statement that all but indemnified companies for exposing workers to covid-19. It assured employers in essential industries that the agency wouldn’t hold them responsible if they failed to follow the C.D.C.’s health guidelines, as long as they made a “good faith” effort.

Meat and poultry workers had to keep working and risk infection—or lose their jobs. By July 7th, osha had received more than six thousand coronavirus-related workplace complaints but had issued only one citation, to a nursing home in Georgia. David Michaels, a professor of public health at George Washington University, who headed osha during the Obama Administration, told me that the agency was “saying that the Labor Department would side with the employers if workers sued,” and added, “That would be unthinkable in any other Administration. osha’s job isn’t to protect corporations—it’s to protect workers!”

The prospect of food shortages understandably caused concern in the White House. Yet reports show that in April, as Tyson and other producers were warning that “millions of pounds of meat will disappear” from American stores if they had to shut down, exports of pork to China broke records—and Mountaire’s chicken exports were 3.4 per cent higher than they were a year earlier. The next month, the company’s exports were 10.9 per cent lower than in 2019, but its exports to China and Hong Kong grew by 23.1 per cent in April and by fourteen per cent in May, according to statistics provided by Christopher Rogers, an analyst with Panjiva, which tracks the food-supply chain. Tony Corbo, a lobbyist for Food and Water Watch, a progressive nonprofit advocacy group, said, “They were crying about shortages, and yet we’re still exporting meat. The shortage was phony.”

The damage to the nation's workers from the Trump regime is incalculable, but it's somewhere in the trillions overall, plus the misery, the pain, the physical damage, and now, death by COVID-19.

So many are being sacrificed for Trump's Mammon Machine right now.

Last Call For State Of The Police State

As I warned weeks ago about the prospect of Donald Trump and Bill Barr turning to federal troops to invade cities and conduct illegal operations, mass detainment, and assaulting American citizens, we've now reached the point where the brownshirt police force is reality.

U.S. Attorney Billy Williams said Friday he wants an investigation into actions of federal officers who have pulled Portland protesters off the street and into unmarked vehicles.

Federal officers with U.S. Customs and Border Protection have come under significant scrutiny after OPB first reported Thursday that they may have been involved in constitutionally questionable arrests in Portland.

The officers, along with employees of the U.S. Marshals Service and the Federal Protective Service, have had an increased presence in the city as protests over police brutality have continued for more than six weeks.

“Based on news accounts circulating that allege federal law enforcement detained two protesters without probable cause, I have requested the Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General to open a separate investigation directed specifically at the actions of DHS personnel,” Williams said in his statement.

At least one officer with the Marshals Service is under investigation for severely injuring a Portland protester July 11 by shooting him in the face with an impact munition round.
In his statement, Williams said federal officers have spent the past 50 nights in Portland defending the Mark O. Hatfield federal courthouse and other federal property. That building has seen significant graffiti, and been a frequent gathering place for protesters opposing police violence.

“(Federal officers) have rebuffed efforts to enter the building by force and have been met with an onslaught of commercial fireworks, laser strikes, glass, mortars, paint and anything else near at hand,” Williams said. “They have endeavored to find the individuals within the crowd who are committing these violent acts and arrest them in a manner that is safe for both the officers and nearby non-violent protesters.”
However, Williams said in “limited instances” federal officers may have engaged in questionable conduct, such as the unmarked vehicle arrests, and that he believes investigations by the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General are appropriate.

Civil rights advocates and Oregon lawmakers — both federal and local — have strongly condemned the actions of federal officers.

Oregon Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley took to Twitter to criticize President Donald Trump and the Department of Homeland Security’s focus on protests in Portland.

“Get your DHS lackey and uninvited paramilitary actions out of my state. Our communities are not a stage for your twisted reelection campaign,” Merkley said.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Oregon, also said the Oregon Congressional Delegation has asked for an immediate inspector investigation into the “violent actions of unrequested federal law enforcement officials here in Portland.”

Straight up paramilitary goon squad nonsense right here, troops pulled from Customs and Border Patrol to invade a city and start rounding up "suspected Antifa members" where everyone who isn't a Trump voter in Portland counts as such.

I'd laugh at the predictability of it all, where I've been warning of Trump's increasing slide towards full military dictatorship for four years now, and with months t go before his doomed reelection, Trump's all but signaling that he'll have his Praetorian Guard in the streets leading up to Election Day and after, that he will violently put down anything that looks like resistance, and with overwhelming lethal force.

The next step down this particular road is a massacre and martial law, where Trump simply takes over a city or three to "restore order under emergency powers".

After that, we get into death squads and worse.

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