Saturday, August 15, 2020

Last Call For A Conspiracy Of Dunces, Con't

As Washington Post columnist Paul Waldman points out, we know exactly what the post-Trumpian GOP looks like. It's the party of dangerous cult conspiracy QAnon, a Christian white supremacist group that promotes lethal terrorist violence against a "global cabal" of Democrats, Hollywood actors, wealthy philanthropists, religious figures and tech business leaders as "pedophiles", who justify deadly attacks on people by saying they have to be put down by any means possible in order to "save children".

Should President Trump lose in November, the Joe Biden presidency will be the target of some kind of angry far-right movement consumed with conspiracy theories. We know this because it’s what always happens when a Democrat gets elected. But how widespread it becomes and how much it affects mainstream politics are uncertain; it could be as influential as the tea party during Barack Obama’s time in office, or as fringe as the militia movement was during Bill Clinton’s.

The leading contender is already taking shape and working its way into the GOP: the lunatic conspiracy theory known as QAnon. It already has its first soon-to-be member of Congress, along with a raft of candidates who have captured Republican nominations for a number of offices, including in the U.S. Senate. And it has establishment Republicans confused and uncertain, aghast at what it represents but too cowardly to purge it from their ranks.

In case you’re not familiar, QAnon began a few years ago with posts on 4chan claiming that an anonymous government insider (“Q") was revealing the hidden forces behind all current events. The theory posits that Trump is a messianic figure at war with an international cabal of satanic, cannabalistic pedophiles; at any moment, the president (who in some tellings was partnering in this effort with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III) will expose his enemies and cart them all off to Guantanamo Bay. The FBI believes QAnon poses a domestic terrorism threat.

At Trump rallies, you could see signs and T-shirts promoting QAnon, and the Trump campaign has courted the movement’s adherents. For a president who is, himself, both a consumer and an advocate of all manner of conspiracy theories, it was an easy fit.

To get some clues about what might happen after the election, we can look at the case of Marjorie Taylor Greene, who this week won a runoff in Georgia’s 14th Congressional District, all but guaranteeing her a seat in Congress.

Greene has a lengthy history of not just promoting QAnon but of posting racist, anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim videos online. When she won the runoff, Trump tweeted his congratulations, calling her a “future Republican Star” and “a real WINNER!” Sen. Kelly Loeffler and Rep. Douglas A. Collins, competing for a Senate seat in Georgia, both applauded Greene’s victory. “It’s clear that we need more outsiders with business sense in Washington,” said Loeffler.

If Greene were alone, it might not be so important. But QAnon followers have won Republican nominations for U.S. Senate in Oregon and for House seats in Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, Ohio and Texas. Media Matters for America has identified 70 Republican congressional candidates who have promoted QAnon this year.

And how have Republicans in Congress reacted? Only one, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (Ill.), had the courage to say that there is “no place in Congress for these conspiracies.” In response, the Trump campaign attacked him. Politico reported that the House Freedom Caucus, the home of far-right congressional Republicans, is “actively supporting Greene and recruited her to run for the deep red seat instead of a more competitive one.” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) — who had criticized Greene’s views before — released a statement saying he looked forward to her winning in November.

There are some conservatives condemning Greene and what she represents. But that happened during the early days of the tea party, too.

Greene and the QAnon caucus coming in 2021 will be indicative of the kind of violent backlash Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will be facing should they (hopefully!) win. Make no mistake though, the Biden presidency is most likely going to be marked by waves of deadly white supremacist terrorist violence from the right.

At the very least, it's going to be marked by these conspiracy nutjobs being all over our screens like the Tea Party was ten years ago.

An Orange Man With Mail Pattern Badness

Trump is literally destroying the capacity of the US Postal Service to do its Constitutionally-appointed job by cutting hours, cutting deliveries, and removing mail-sorting machines and destroying them, and the plan to do this has been in the works for months now.

The United States Postal Service proposed removing 20 percent of letter sorting machines it uses around the country before revising the plan weeks later to closer to 15 percent of all machines, meaning 502 will be taken out of service, according to documents obtained by Motherboard outlining the agency’s plans. USPS workers told Motherboard this will slow their ability to sort mail.

One of the documents also suggests these changes were in the works before Louis DeJoy, a top Trump donor and Republican fundraiser, became postmaster general, because it is dated May 15, a month before DeJoy assumed office and only nine days after the Board of Governors announced his selection.

The title of the presentation, as well as language used in the notice to union officials, undermines the Postal Service’s narrative that the organization is simply “mov[ing] equipment around its network” to optimize processing, as spokesperson Dave Partenheimer told Motherboard on Thursday. The May document clearly calls the initiative an “equipment reduction.” It makes no mention of the machines being moved to other facilities. And the notice to union officials repeatedly uses the same phrase. Multiple sources within the postal service told Motherboard they have personally witnessed the machines, which cost millions of dollars, being destroyed or thrown in the dumpster. USPS did not respond to a request for comment.

In May, the USPS planned to remove a total of 969 sorting machines out of the 4,926 it had in operation as of February for all types of letters and flat mail. The vast majority of them—746 out of 3,765 in use—were delivery bar code sorters (DBCS), the type that sort letters, postcards, ballots, marketing mail and other similarly sized pieces. But a subsequent document distributed to union officials in mid-June said 502 of those machines would be removed from facilities.

The May document, titled “Equipment Reduction,” breaks down the exact number of machines the USPS slated to remove by region and facility. Although the document uses terms like “proposed reduction” and “reduction plan” and does not reflect the USPS’s final plan, it provides a general picture of the sweeping changes previously reported by Motherboard about mail sorting machines being removed around the country. It also shows that USPS management is undertaking a broad reduction of the agency’s ability to sort and process all types of mail, except for packages which have been steadily increasing in recent years before booming during the pandemic.

Further, the timeline of the May document did not come to pass. It proposed a plan resulting in the machines being removed by the end of July, but that didn’t happen. Interviews with six postal workers and union officials around the country, who spoke to Motherboard on condition of anonymity because they’re not authorized to speak to the media, revealed these machine removals are still occurring in Michigan, West Virginia, Massachusetts, Maryland, and Texas.

More machine removals are planned in the months ahead. The document sent to union officials in June shows an updated plan to extend the machine removal timeline through the first quarter of 2021.

The Postal Service now says thanks to Trump shooting them in the head on Fifth Avenue, that it can no longer guarantee mail-in ballots can be delivered on time to state voting officials in November.

Anticipating an avalanche of absentee ballots, the U.S. Postal Service recently sent detailed letters to 46 states and D.C. warning that it cannot guarantee all ballots cast by mail for the November election will arrive in time to be counted — adding another layer of uncertainty ahead of the high-stakes presidential contest.

The letters sketch a grim possibility for the tens of millions of Americans eligible for a mail-in ballot this fall: Even if people follow all of their state’s election rules, the pace of Postal Service delivery may disqualify their votes.
The Postal Service’s warnings of potential disenfranchisement came as the agency undergoes a sweeping organizational and policy overhaul amid dire financial conditions. Cost-cutting moves have already delayed mail delivery by as much as a week in some places, and a new decision to decommission 10 percent of the Postal Service’s sorting machines sparked widespread concern the slowdowns will only worsen. Rank-and-file postal workers say the move is ill-timed and could sharply diminish the speedy processing of flat mail, including letters and ballots.

The ballot warnings, issued at the end of July from Thomas J. Marshall, general counsel and executive vice president of the Postal Service, and obtained through a records request by The Washington Post, were planned before the appointment of Louis DeJoy, a former logistics executive and ally of President Trump, as postmaster general in early summer. They go beyond the traditional coordination between the Postal Service and election officials, drafted as fears surrounding the coronavirus pandemic triggered an unprecedented and sudden shift to mail-in voting.
Some states anticipate 10 times the normal volume of election mail. Six states and D.C. received warnings that ballots could be delayed for a narrow set of voters. But the Postal Service gave 40 others — including the key battleground states of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Florida — more-serious warnings that their long-standing deadlines for requesting, returning or counting ballots were “incongruous” with mail service and that voters who send ballots in close to those deadlines may become disenfranchised.

“The Postal Service is asking election officials and voters to realistically consider how the mail works,” Martha Johnson, a spokeswoman for the USPS, said in a statement.

In response to the Postal Service’s warnings, a few states have quickly moved deadlines — forcing voters to request or cast ballots earlier, or deciding to delay tabulating results while waiting for more ballots to arrive.

Pennsylvania election officials cited its letter late Thursday in asking the state’s Supreme Court for permission to count ballots delivered three days after Election Day. But deadlines in many other states have not been or cannot be adjusted with just weeks remaining before the first absentee ballots hit the mail stream. More than 60 lawsuits in at least two dozen states over the mechanics of mail-in voting are wending their way through the courts.

Because the Trump regime is deliberately destroying the US Postal Service, the next several months will now be one huge chaotic binge of voting lawsuits that critically breaks our capacity to hold free and fair elections, with Donald Trump anticipating that he'll be able to steal the election regardless of the outcome with the help of enough GOP state legislatures, Republican US House delegations, and the US Supreme Court.

The Republican party would rather destroy American democracy than allow half the country to vote during a pandemic.

If we do not fight this now, they will destroy it.

Your members of Congress are home for the rest of the month.  It's time to give your Representatives and Senators a call at their home offices and make it clear this isn't going to be allowed to happen without a fight.


Time To Vote In Kentucky

In a major win for democracy and voting rights here in Kentucky, Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear and GOP Secretary of State Michael Adams announced at a joint press conference a deal to allow all Kentuckians concerned about COVID-19 to request ballots to vote by mail as soon at the end of next week.

Kentucky will not be using no-excuse absentee voting by mail for the upcoming Nov. 3 elections, Gov. Andy Beshear and Secretary of State Michael Adams announced Friday.

Unlike with the June 23 primaries, Kentucky's registered voters will have to provide a reason for why they need to vote by absentee ballot in November. Anyone concerned about their own health or compromising another persons' health can request an absentee ballot.

All ballots have to be postmarked by Nov. 3 and received by county clerks by Nov. 6. County clerks will have drop-off boxes for anyone concerned about sending in their ballots by mail.

No-excuse early voting, which was permitted for the first time in June for two weeks leading up to Election Day for the June primaries, is included in Beshear's and Adams' plan for November.

Starting on Oct. 13, registered voters will have the option to cast their ballot early in-person for three weeks heading into Nov. 3. And while polls were open for early in-person voting Monday through Friday in June, this time around, they will also be open on Saturday.

Beshear, a Democrat, praised Adams, a Republican, for "putting ideology on the shelf."

"I don't really think that this was too much of a negotiation going back and forth (on Adams' plan)," Beshear said Friday. "I think we both wanted a successful election where we could protect people's health, and we believe will be one of the larger turnouts we've seen because of there are so many options to vote."

The online portal for requesting ballots should be up by August 21, Beshear said.  And three weeks of early voting, including Saturdays? That's just as amazing.

This is a good deal and I'm shocked by how good it is.
Hey, I fear COVID-19, I have several comorbidity issues, I'm requesting my ballot ASAP and voting and turning it in.

If you can do the same in your state, do it. Get that ballot, mail it in well before November 4th.

The Country Goes Viral, Con't

The real death toll from COVID-19 in the United States is over 200,000 and growing, because states and counties don't have the resources to properly test and autopsy every death anymore thanks to Trump. The number of additional deaths in the US are at least that high above CDC statistics.

Across the United States, at least 200,000 more people have died than usual since March, according to a New York Times analysis of estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This is about 60,000 higher than the number of deaths that have been directly linked to the coronavirus.

As the pandemic has moved south and west from its epicenter in New York City, so have the unusual patterns in deaths from all causes. That suggests that the official death counts may be substantially underestimating the overall effects of the virus, as people die from the virus as well as by other causes linked to the pandemic.

When the coronavirus first took hold in the United States in March, the bulk of deaths above normal levels, or “excess deaths,” were in the Northeast, as New York and New Jersey saw huge surges.

The Northeast still makes up nearly half of all excess deaths in the country, though numbers in the region have drastically declined since the peak in April.

But as the number of hot spots expanded, so has the number of excess deaths across other parts of the country. Many of the recent coronavirus cases and deaths in the South and the West may have been driven largely by reopenings and relaxed social distancing restrictions.

Counting deaths takes time and many states are weeks or months behind in reporting. The estimates from the C.D.C. are adjusted based on how mortality data has lagged in previous years. Even with this adjustment, it’s possible there could be an underestimate of the complete death toll if increased mortality is causing states to lag more than they have in the past or if states have changed their reporting systems.

But comparing recent totals of deaths from all causes can provide a more complete picture of the pandemic’s impact than tracking only deaths of people with confirmed diagnoses.

The numbers are staggering.

When the history of 2020 is written, it will be America's lasting shame for generations.

Well, that is if Biden and Harris win.  If they don't, Trump will write that history.
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