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.
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