Revolted Colonies

U.S. Politics and Culture

Afternoon in America

On Saturday, shortly after mid-day, it was Pan in Pandemonium, not Pandemic. It was the sound of clanking cookware clattering from the windows and on the streets.  Horns honked. People of all colors, wearing masks, danced, spun, and twirled on a triumphant, sunny afternoon.

Moments earlier, television news outlets, including the Fox Decision Desk, checked off the Pennsylvania box for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, putting the Democratic ticket over the top. Meanwhile, Jim Failla, host of the Fox Across America radio show, offered a different story. Failla reported that Pennsylvania remained  undecided, claiming a 1.5% lead for the incumbent. There is no way to square the Fox Across America report with that of Fox election experts.

Failla acknowledged that Democrats and media declared the race over. He reported that the President pledged to fight the contest to the end, taking the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. Lawyers were filing lawsuits in the battleground states to challenge the results. None of those suits had a meaningful impact on counting or stopping the vote, requested willy-nilly by the President’s lawyers, depending upon whether Trump was leading or trailing in a particular state. One of the cases reached the Supreme Court in a way. Justice Samuel Alito, sitting for the Third Circuit, declined Trump’s request to stop the count of ballots received post-Election Day.

Once the consensus election watchers called Arizona and Nevada for Biden the following day, the Pennsylvania vote was no longer necessary to secure Biden’s election. Biden has reached the required 270 votes without Pennsylvania’s 20. Trump’s best chance to discredit the 2020 count became all but irrelevant.

Failla meanwhile shifted into a philosophical mood. Being a commentator reliant on sports analogies, he likened the Trump Presidency to an administration temporarily interrupted but destined to rise again. He compared Trump’s defeat to the premature retirement of Michael Jordan. Jordan is generally considered the greatest best basketball player of all time, who won three championships, took a year off to play minor league baseball, then returned to his Chicago Bulls to win three more before retiring for good.  Failla must think of the Trump administration as a high-water mark in the American government and his loss to Biden, a voluntary intermission. Unlike Michael Jordan, Trump will be leaving involuntarily.  Jordan stepped away after the first of two three-peats and, in large part, as a reaction to his father’s tragic death. Failla’s analogy predicts Trump running and winning in 2024.

On Saturday night, Biden and Harris took the stage, masked and distanced, to declare victory. Biden repeated his desire to be a president to his detractors as well as his supporters. Biden said, “I understand the disappointment tonight. But now let’s give each other a chance. It’s time to put away the harsh rhetoric, lower the temperature… To make progress, we have to stop treating our opponents as our enemies. They are not our enemies; they are Americans.”

Some of the Trumpers heard Biden, quoting Ecclesiastes, proclaim this a time to heal. They were heartened that Biden is a man of faith. Others hung on to Trump’s unsupported claims of widespread fraud. They remain unconvinced that Biden is an honest broker, hoping to find common ground with civility and goodwill. They blame a hostile media and a dishonest opponent for falsifying polls and blocking Trump’s reelection. They will not be part of the Biden fellowship.

When Joe Biden takes office on January 20th, in one sense, the symbolic clock will be turned back to 2010, of the Tea Party and a divided government. Ten years ago, Obama was blocked while trying to achieve progress on significant issues with a hostile House and a Democratic Senate internally split. Now, some problems, like Covid-19 and climate change, are universally existential. Because of the illness and unemployment triggered by the uncontrolled pandemic, an issue like health care may be existential as well, particularly if the Supreme Court declares the entire statute unconstitutional on a case to be argued tomorrow, with a sixth conservative justice joining the nine-member panel. Racial injustice is an existential issue nationally. Some of Trump’s adherents have described the controversy as the continuation of our ongoing civil war. They consider themselves partisans in that inglorious battle.

It is no longer Morning in America, as Ronald Reagan proclaimed decades ago. The pandemic and the crippled economy can be addressed, once the sciences of epidemiology and economics are embraced anew. Racial injustice remains an unsolved problem. It will take art, not science, to make progress on this fundamental issue. It will require civility, goodwill, and empathy. In matters of race, time is not on our side. It’s late afternoon in America, and the clock’s sweep second hand is ticking loudly in all our ears.

Yes, We Have No Banana Republic

 

The Red

 Today is Election Day in America. For the moment, the U.S. still qualifies as a democratic republic. We may be a banana republic tomorrow. Future ex-president, Donald J. Trump, continues to trash election laws and norms with a retooled federal judiciary backing him. Some judges – state and federal – are pushing back, rolling up the Constitution, and smacking him on the snout with it.

The Red and Blue

The 2020 presidential election depends on a handful of states, where the outcome is in doubt. The antagonists expect the other forty-four states expect to fall into the party line. A state as populous as New York and California is ignored. They will vote Democratic (Blue). The same was true for a state like Texas, reliably Republican in the past.  Texas’ urban population has been swelling with presumably Democratic voters. For this election, the Lone Star State and its 38 electoral votes are “in play.” Trump expects to win; must win. Florida, with 29 electoral votes, is another state up for grabs. It voted for Trump last time, and Obama before that. Conventional wisdom is that Trump must carry the Alligator State to win. Biden can endure a loss there, as long as he holds conventionally Democratic states. A Biden win in Florida will shut the door for Trump in 2020.

Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes remain the elusive grand prize. In 2016, Pennsylvania was called for Trump by a whisker, and the air went out of the Democratic balloon. Obama voters stayed home on Hillary. If Biden can reignite the Obama coalition, he can take back the Keystone State and foreclose almost all Trump paths to reelection.

These three states are swing or battleground states with enough electoral votes to decide the contest. They have been prime targets for voter registration and voter suppression. Recently as red as a baboon’s posterior, Texas has been shading Blue for some time, now resembling a mandrill’s proboscis. If we as a nation are turning banana yellow, it will probably happen in Texas first.

Several Texas pickup trucks kettled a Biden bus on a highway right outside the People’s Republic of Austin on Sunday. Governor Greg Abbott removed all drop-boxes but one for Houston, the most populous city in Texas and fourth nationally. Republicans asked the Texas election commission to throw out 127,000 votes already cast at a drive-thru poll site.

Early voting in the Beef State has already surpassed the state’s entire 2016 total. Trump carried the Jumbo State by 9 points, while most of the 2016 polls predicted Trump winning by a smaller margin.  2020’s pundits and pollsters are predicting that it will break Blue. Trump will lose if he can’t put the Jumbo State in his column. Hence, the Trump Trucks and the Stupid Governor Tricks.

Florida is crucial for a reelection victory. Trump and his grifter clan depend on Sunshine State voters to keep them as squatters on government property. The race was called a toss-up, but yesterday’s data showed a bit of daylight between Trump and Biden, with Nate Silver of Five-Thirty Eight forecasting a Biden win in the Gator State.

The Democrats remain spooked for a good reason. After Orange State voters restored voting rights to a million or so ex-felons, the Republican legislature and governor passed a law denying the right to vote to an ex-felon who has not paid court costs. To paraphrase Justice Clarence Thomas, this amounts to a high-tech poll tax. The federal 11th Circuit Court upheld the law. The Supreme Court had previously voted to keep the law in effect until the Nine – or Eight – get a substantive crack at it. When the Court splits evenly, the decision of the immediately lower court stands.

Florida’s seniors are now a worry for Trump. There is severe fallout at the Villages, long a Republican enclave for septuagenarian swingers. This year a Blue varicose has appeared in its crimson body politic. It has thrown golf games and Viagra inventory into chaos. At the same time, Biden is concerned about low turnout among black men; Biden is asking, “Where’s my Jim Clyburn?” Pollsters are also spotlighting voting by Latino men, whose conservative values defy conventional close-minded Democratic thinking.

Assuming that Trump holds Texas and Florida, Pennsylvania will be in the crosshairs. The Keystone State is also called the Oil State and the Coal State, and those are bad signifiers for Biden. Joe has been somewhat squishy. He has pledged both not to end fracking for natural gas and to end fossil fuels. But then, in 2016, Trump promised to make coal “clean.” No ambiguity this year: Trump plans to frack his way to the top.

The Quaker State is supposed to be Native Son Biden country. Last time it was supposed to be Hillary Clinton Country, but she lost there by just enough to swing the election to Trump. This time, the legal fight in the Commonwealth is over mail-in ballots. Republicans failed to convince the Supreme Court to reject all properly postmarked ballots received after election day.

The electoral problem then and the fear now is female turnout in the Philadelphia suburbs. Biden seems to have brought Main Line women back into the fold. 

Black voters in the Big Scrapple may stay home though, damaging the Democrats because they do not see Biden and Trump’s difference. This point of view sums up what many young voters say. It is pretty much what Ralph Nader said in 2000 when he drew Florida votes away from Al Gore, and what Donald Trump argues brashly to voters of color soured on the Democratic establishment: what have you got to lose? If I had a Trump-supporting police officer’s jackboot on my neck, I would think there was everything to lose.

Today, November 3, 2020, people are lining up to make themselves heard. Hopefully, all of their votes will be counted. Things may look different, though, on November 4, when battalions of election lawyers line up like storm troopers on courthouse steps of many of the battleground states.

Fuel and its Fossils

The seismic event taking place near the end of the third presidential debate was caused by Joe Biden. In a moment of candor, he stated that his goal is to end the fossil fuel industries. The wave of heat and motion unleashed by Biden’s declaration exploded from the Nashville debate stage all over the world. One reason for its impact is that it fits in with Donald Trump’s hysteria over a Biden presidency. He portrays Biden as a Trojan Horse. Once he is in the Oval Office, Democratic Socialists will burst from his flanks, forcing anti-democratic policies on the peaceably, anti-scientific world that is Trump’s alternate reality.

The idea of Biden as a socialist is laughable. He is one of the surviving centrists of late twentieth century American politics, a believer in the quaint arm-twisting and aisle-crossing days of old. He is an incrementalist at heart. As Barack Obama’s Vice-President, Biden spearheaded the nuts-and-bolts recovery plan needed to restart the national economy in 2009. He also was instrumental in the legislative combat needed to establish the Affordable Care Act, a relatively modest plan for healthcare policy. Recall that Obamacare was vilified on the left as a middling program lacking a public option, unable to deal the drug and the insurance lobbies.

Biden is offering a phased approach to energy overhaul. The Future is green, he argues, to be built while the oil-soaked Present recedes into history, following rikshaws and stage coaches. Dependent on natural forces instead of natural resources, a renewable energy supply would bank and recycle the power of wind and sun, rather than draw down from the diminishing sources of fossil fuels. Extraction of petroleum and coal is an increasingly destructive way to sustain the world’s energy needs. trashing the planet, while its CO2 by-product blasts holes in the planet’s atmospheric cocoon. Climate hawks dispute Biden’s go-slow approach, but his approach complements his fundamentally conservative political outlook.

The battle over energy policy is political. One can only harness wind and solar power, not possess it as if it were a vein of coal or field of oil. Renewable energy has the potential of being a more egalitarian source of fuel. For that reason, it’s an abomination to those industrialists, such as Charles Koch, perched atop the Pecuniary Pyramid. Trump has been a well-digger for Koch and his ilk, trying to stop time. Trump’s is a regressive world-view, which explains why Trump has no plans for a second term. He traffics only in the past. For Trump, the future is today, and today is transactional.

The year 2020 – the pandemic, the recession, election and the year itself – symbolizes the struggle between the Past, represented by Trump and his anti-scientific horde of nostalgic barbarians, and the Future. He can’t deal with a novel virus because in his world, nothing really is novel. At most, it’s a restatement of the old, even ancient. Trump admires Putin but he emulates Louis XIV, the Sun King.

Trump will continue to support his benefactors’ flagging industries, with tax cuts and by running up debt to patch the holes caused by his policies and trade wars. After all, bad debt and bankruptcy are Trump’s M.O. He has always used other people’s money for his projects, and his projects all have been old-school losers : casinos, golf courses, a football league, and water – yes, water! He invested in steak while vegetarian culture was becoming more mainstream. As President, he will continue to remake America according to his own Luddite vision.

As a nation, we need to invest wisely; to foster new industries; to enrich our world as well as fill our wallets. We can’t survive on the transitory, sleight-of-hand nature of the Trump’s retrogressive economy. His rollback of regulations has extended the life of the destructive fossil fuel industries or short-term gain, without furnishing oxygen to new, sustainable business models. Given more time, Trump may well make the United States his seventh bankruptcy.

Trump fantasizes about building beach resorts in North Korea. He thinks about creating 19th century playgrounds for the wealthy in the 21st Century. He is a grotesque sentimentalist, unsuitable as a custodian, much less the leader, of a nation desperately in need of insight and innovation. Biden may not be a visionary, but he understands that, for a world confronting an existential threat, standing still means going backward.

Filling the Hot Seat

Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s death last night was announced as many were beginning the long chain of feasts and fasts called the Jewish High Holidays. It made for a bittersweet experience, normally reserved for Passover.  At dinner, there was a couple about to marry, a hostess who has been indomitable through all the difficulties life has flung at her, and a senior couple who have weathered the storms of distance and intimacy over the long span of their lives, yet remain standing.

The grim news started popping on unsilenced iPhones. Several people experienced the stomach-tightening dread  of 2016.  The dinner proceeded under that pall, as thick in its way as the skies of the West Coast, now shrouded by the ash and smoke of uncontrollable wild fires. The celebrants shared memories and plans, and repeatedly circled back to the loss of RBG, at times only in silent reflection.

The dark cloud now enveloping our nation’s skies may yet give way to sunlight. Sadness gave way to anger and defiance. Moscow Mitch McConnell laced his statement of condolence with the assurance that he will force a vote for the still-warm seat of the deceased jurist, to be filled with an ass of Donald Trump’s choosing. McConnell is too besotted with his power to resist a chance to turn the High Court into an extended MAGA rally.

There is a good chance, though, that enough GOP senators (four is the minimum necessary) will fend off a vote that would carry a nomination.  The potential failure probably won’t deter Trump from trying to bludgeon his way to a clear conservative majority on the Court. On the other hand, McConnell may have a tougher choice to make, and he has shown the ability to take controversial steps if they are politically opportune. It’s unclear so far if his opportunism and Trump’s run on parallel tracks.

Trump thinks only about Trump and McConnell about McConnell, but their agendas may not overlap. Trump has nothing to lose by going full bore, but McConnell has some risk for himself and his Senate majority.  Several Senate races – in Arizona, Colorado, his own Kentucky seat, Maine, Montana, North Carolina, and South Carolina. – are up for grabs.  Both parties have reason to believe that the battle over the Supreme Court will energize their voters.  It’s not clear if any of the vulnerable Senate incumbents fear that  by deferring to McConnell, they will hurt their individual chances in November.  For that matter, it’s clear that some voters don’t understand what’s going on.  For example, on learning of Ginsburg’s death one  Gen Z college graduate was overhead saying, “She was like a congressman, right?”

As the hours rolled on, the defiance began waxing and the sadness waning. A 6-3 right-wing majority in the Supreme Court will guarantee national regression on the federal protection on women’s reproductive rights. It would lock in a safe haven for unlimited, anonymous campaign investment, The restoration of the voting rights protections lifted by the Court in 2006 would be a nonstarter.

There is no time for grieving. Hand-wringing or defiance – the Democrats have to choose if they will fight as viciously as their Republican opponents.  A lackluster fight will cause a knee on the Democratic body politic to buckle.

The Democrats are a shaky coalition of progressives,, moderates and overlapping racial, sexual and regional interests, whose simmering conflicts have been subdued momentarily in favor of a united effort to win the White House — with the understanding that their intramural brawl will resume promptly afterward.

© Revolted Colonies 2020

“Russia, are your listening?”

Rah Rah Sis Boom Bah!

If the Constitution had established an office of National Cheerleader, Donald Trump would have been given pom poms. Instead, he was given the power of the chief executive,  about which he is clueless.  Trump only knows how to be a booster —  to sell. Well – lie and sell. He doesn’t know how to plan, manage, oversee, or guide. What’s more, he lacks the wisdom or vision to set a course for subsequent generations. Worse still, he doesn’t give a damn.

He’s transactional, nothing more. Every piece of official business he has proposed has been tied to his personal interests: hotel revenues, campaign contributions, help from foreign governments. He is nothing other than a fast-talking salesman.  He promises first, then he brutalizes his production team to deliver on the crazy promise. When the team can’t deliver, he feigns ignorance and blames them. But he’s the President, not a salesman, and he is responsible for all of it. Beyond any doubt,  he has failed the American people, including the minority that elected him.

Today’s news carried two stories depicting his failures. In taped interviews conducted by Bob Woodward concerning his handling of Covid-19, Trump states that he knew as early as January how deadly the virus was and being airborne, how easily it is spread. During the critical month of February, he dithered.  He should have been calling for masks and other personal protection equipment, telling all that the gear helps to contain the airborne virus. Instead,  Trump spent February taking a star turn.  He played golf and crowed about beating back the House impeachment. Finally, he took revenge against those who testified against him. When infrequently he spoke of the virus in February, he was vague. He insisted that the country was “in great shape.” Later that month, Trump falsely assured Americans that things were under control — the virus soon would disappear.

By March, Trump began backtracking.  He convened a group of CEOs, an infomercial for investors.  He puffed and built up each of the companies, explained why they were there and how they would save us all from the suddenly horrific plague.   At the same time, he has ignored expert advisers. He previously had gutted the CDC, dismantling the pandemic response team established under Obama’s administration. He has attempted to cow the FDA.  At the Ides of March, he pledged that the country would “reopen” by Easter, only two weeks away.  All the while he blamed China, the World Health Organization, Obama, and even millennials.

Trump told Woodward in early March that he intentionally downplayed the seriousness of the virus and withheld critical information from Americans. He wanted to avoid a panic, he said, oblivious about the people relying on him, who went without masks and refused to maintain social distance. And the poor soul from Kansas who drank disinfectant on Trump’s recommendation.

He was counting no doubt on the Blue coastal states to absorb the brunt of the damage.  He encouraged his followers to rebel against the mask-wearing Democratic elite. He browbeat some of the Republican governors to reopen prematurely, causing widespread harm in several states, some of them swing states that hold the key to the upcoming election.

Today’s other noteworthy story revealed that the Department of Homeland Security received orders from the White House to understate its intelligence reports of Russian election interference and overstate the presence of ANTIFA and “anarchists” at Black Lives Matter protests.  DHS altered its statements to fit Trump’s campaign and ginned-up law and order crisis.  This may also explain why intelligence officials were barred from giving any more oral reports to Congress last week.

In “Disloyal,” Michael Cohen’s forthcoming book,  the former fixer writes that Trump never wanted to be president. He saw it as a “branding opportunity.”  This explains Trump’s ashen appearance following his post-election Oval Office meeting with Barack Obama.  Obama told him about the most critical situations he would face. He also told him not to hire Michael Flynn; advice which, if followed, would have spared him two years of grief.   It appeared that Trump first realized at that meeting what he had gotten himself into.  In a couple of months, he would become the nation’s first-string quarterback. Unfortunately, he only wanted to be a cheerleader.

There’s one more story.  Benjamin  Ginsberg, a top GOP election lawyer, published an opinion piece in today’s Washington Post.  Perhaps Ginsberg was moved to speak out by Trump’s direction to his North Carolina supporters to vote twice – once by mail and once in person.  Ginsberg wrote:

The president, who has been arguing that our elections are “rigged” and “fraudulent,” last week instructed voters to act in a way that would fulfill that prophecy. On Wednesday in North Carolina, he urged supporters to double vote, casting ballots at the polls even if they have already mailed in absentee ballots. A tweet claiming he meant only for people to check that their ballots had been received and counted sounded fine — until Trump renewed his original push on Thursday evening in Pennsylvania and again Friday at a telerally.

The president’s actions — urging his followers to commit an illegal act and seeking to undermine confidence in the credibility of election results — are doubly wrong….

Ginsberg then addressed Trump’s strategy of claiming the election to be rigged or the results unreliable.

The president has said that “the only way we can lose … is if cheating goes on.” He has asserted that mail-in voting is “very dangerous” and that “there is tremendous fraud involved and tremendous illegality.”

The lack of evidence renders these claims unsustainable. The truth is that after decades of looking for illegal voting, there’s no proof of widespread fraud. At most, there are isolated incidents — by both Democrats and Republicans. Elections are not rigged. Absentee ballots use the same process as mail-in ballots — different states use different labels for the same process.

The instruments of federal power have been slow to line up against Trump. They now are assembling as a powerful array: retired generals, past presidents, cabinet officers, judges — even a former GOP lawyer —  to say that Trump’s election-rigging argument is bunk. All but his acolytes and the feckless Republican members of the House and Senate, who have quaked in terror for the last four years.

 

© Revolted Colonies 2020

Russia, are you listening?

 

Louis the Liquidator

Just who is this businessman cum Republican Party hack now running (or ruining) the United States Postal Service?  Louis DeJoy is the retired CEO of New Breed Logistics. New Breed was sold to XPO Logistics, which now does business with the Postal Service. A lot of business: $57 million alone in 2017.  DeJoy remains a multi-million dollar stockholder of XPO. The USPS ethics panel didn’t seem to have a problem with his obvious conflict.

New Breed describes itself as follows:

New Breed Logistics transforms the way organizations do business by building intelligent supply chains and providing comprehensive solutions. New Breed manages millions of square feet of ISO-quality warehouse space across more than 70 distribution centers and employs more than 7,000 people worldwide. Services range from distribution center operations and transportation management to highly sophisticated, technology-enabled solutions for product assembly, reverse logistics and repair, lean manufacturing support, materials management, procurement, and aftermarket services.

It is said that DeJoy has no USPS experience, but that’s baloney.  For more than 25 years, New Breed was a contractor to the Postal Service, “supplying the organization with logistics support.” XPO succeeded New Breed in going postal.  In other words, DeJoy knows where the mail carriers are and how to bury them.

Besides, DeJoy being a Fox-in-the-Henhouse Postmaster is only part of the problem. Shortly after his appointment, DeJoy asked for $25 billion to modernize the Postal Service. What New Breed,  XPO, and now, the Postal Service call modernization mean robotics and layoffs.  DeJoy is a 21st-century version of Larry the Liquidator, the fictional corporate takeover king in “Other People’s Money,” who bought traditional companies,  then gutted them of employees and in many cases dismantled them.

Never mind that the USPS is a major employer whose workers are part of the steadily diminished working class. The Postal Service is mandated by the Constitution. This has not stopped fiscal conservatives from gaggling over the cost of operations and making previous attempts to break it. During Bush II’s Compassionate Conservativism, Congress passed the Postal Accountability Enhancement Act, requiring the Postal Service to fund 75 years of retirement benefits in a ten-year period.  The PAEA is one of the reasons that the Postal Service is always in the red.  The Postal Service is supposedly non-profit – a service – but then it is judged as if it were a business and excoriated for “losing money.”  One has to wonder how many businesses would be pushed into collapse if the same funding rules applied to them.

Enter Louis the Liquidator to downsize the post office, make it look “profitable,” and then push the government to privatize it; sell it to some appropriate company – XPO Logistics – at a bargain price. DeJoy’s removal of mail sorting machines and mailboxes meshes with Trump’s plan to make voting by mail more difficult and unreliable. Due to public outcry, DeJoy was forced to stop the dismantling until Election Day.  Now, that’s a neatly delivered package.

Trump isn’t doing this just to save the government money.  He is trying to kill postal services ahead of the 2020 election  The USPS became one of his bargaining chips in the Covid-19 relief funding battle.  He said that he will extend USPS funding (although it’s not certain that a Senate majority would) if the Democrats take some of their other relief demands off the table. Put another way, the Democrats can have mail-in voting but only on the backs of the unemployed and underemployed being deprived of needed relief during the pandemic. Put yet another way, we can choose to vote or to eat, but maybe we can’t choose to do both.

 

 

Don’t Just Mail It In

We can count on future ex-president Trump to make things up, but we can also count on him to dream things up.  Rule of thumb – what already has happened mostly is untrue, what has not yet happened – you never know. If you don’t want another four years of this administration, make up your mind to vote in-person.

Vote by Mail has been a Republican institution and for this very, unusual year, a Democratic rallying cry.   To all of those advocating a no-excuse vote by mail rule, be careful what you wish for.  Trump is predicting that vote by mail will be a disaster.  I believe he intends to make it one. The more votes that are thrown out, the better his chance to win.  His voters will go to the polls, even if they have to be delivered in hearses.

The pandemic continues to erupt in new places. Coastal states got battered on the front end. Now the Midwest, South, and Southwest can’t breathe.  It might be a health risk to stand in a line – socially distanced, I hope. Eventually, you will get to the front of the line. You will cast your ballot, and you will be heroic for doing so.

On the other hand, if you rely on the mail, it could take up to 2 weeks to get your ballot and two weeks to have it returned by the Post Office, currently under the control of a Trump appointee, whose mission will be to slow down the vote.  No ballots, no votes.  It’s like no tests, no infection, but a delayed test result still counts.

You don’t need to be a conspiracy theorist to dream up the ways for Trump to trash the election, just to wind up in court, now packed with his appointees. His numbers are sinking, and his prospects are dismal.  Why not roll the dice?

Democrats can encourage vote-by-mail for the old and disabled, but the dominant message should be, “Drag Your Sorry Ass to the Polls!”  Think about Wisconsin. The voters showed up, waited, and voted, and their candidate was elected.  Then think about New York, where the voting was delayed to June 23, and voting by mail was fully available.  The results are still being counted. Over a month later.

Imagine the Trump campaign filing a lawsuit in every battleground state. It isn’t hard to do. The litigation will be ongoing until the 2022 midterms. Even if Joe Biden is seated, the losing force will proclaim the election illegitimate. There will be no unity or healing, just a continuation of the rancor and divide of the last twenty-eight years.

I wouldn’t give my life for the “economy,” like the Texas Lt. Gov. pledged to do.  But I would stand in line to save democracy. It will take that and more to derail a corrupted, manipulated election process run by and for someone who feels he has to win whatever the cost.

Voters have to put on their masks and face shields,  and get to the polls, perhaps with a folding chair and a copy of the Mueller Report.  If this is your sole outing between now and November 3rd, it will be worth it.

 

The Brown Shirts are Leaving Portland

Trump’s troops will be removing their tear gas, batons, stun grenades, and themselves from Oregon. Their next stop is anybody’s guess.  It probably not Chicago,  Albuquerque, or any of Trump’s Indigo Blue election targets.

Oregon authorities have pledged to safeguard the federal courthouse, whose security was cited by A.G.  Bill “Dis” Barr as the reason Trump federales were sent to Portland. Contra Trump, who announced that he was sending troops because Black Lives Matter had gone too far and to “quell anarchy.”

In the future, protesters would be wise to pick non-federal venues for demonstrations. After all, racism is not exclusively a federal horror. Thoughtful protesters can find more apt state and municipal targets.  Legend has it that at one time, federal justice was a force against hatred. There is no reason to give an increasingly desperate incumbent the chance to lay waste cities that are proclaiming outrage over governmental malfeasance.

Removing the camouflaged paramilitary from the board deprives Trump of a weapon in his fascist arsenal. State sovereignty survives for now, and for now, it is a good thing. The Oregon governor has pushed back against an authoritarian trying to consolidate power by enfeebling the state government. Voting is a state function. Know what I’m saying?

This pushback may prevent Trump from using a similar pretext to go into swing districts of other cities in November. It may prevent him from seizing control of the election process, which is the ultimate danger. For now, the illegitimacy of the troops — anonymous troops — has been beaten back by an outraged citizenry.

The true identity of the troops in Portland remains a mystery. Administration officials, including Barr,  have said that they are compliance officers with ICE, DHS, and the Bureau of Prisons. Why would they not wear uniforms and badges then? After all,  they are supposedly acting as Special US Marshals.

 

 

 

 

A Tale of Two Systems

New York has always been two cities: those who have enough, those who do not.  It is densely populated, so at the onset of the Covid19 pandemic in the U.S., New York became the epicenter;  in effect, the nation’s petri dish.

At New York’s peak, the lab data roughed out a picture of disparity.  Manhattan did not sustain the number of infections and fatalities being registered in Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens.  Manhattan is dominated by private hospitals, and the outer boroughs, particularly for indigent patients, are served by public hospitals.

Public and private hospitals are distinguished in part by the ratio of staff to patient.  Public hospitals are government-funded. The government cannot afford the staff size of private hospitals, funded by philanthropy, and capital  markets and other for-profit practices.

The New York Times recently published the results of its reporting on the pandemic in New York during March and April.  The report described the situation in a public hospital such as Elmhurst, one of those hit hardest .  There were more Covid19 patients than could be handled adequately by staffing.   A nursing ratio in a private hospital might by 4 patients to a nurse. In the public hospital, the ratio could be as high as 9 to 1.  Doctors, nurses and aides were overwhelmed by the sheer volume of patients.  It turned out that ventilators were not the answer. As understanding of the disease increased, patient monitoring and care became  crucial factors in treatment and life-saving measures.

The Big Apple has come a long way in its battle of Covid19.  For the moment, the infection rate in New York has dropped. The 11th of July was  the first day since March that no Covid-related deaths were reported in New York. At the same time, the virus is raging in the south and southwest, with infection rates and deaths topping records almost every day.  When the data is compiled, a similar story like will unfold.

A person’s chances of survival depend on the type of medical care received. Even under universal care, there is no expectation that care will be equal.  Power and wealth equate with better care, whatever the economic system.  Covid19 has cast a light on how precise are those differences  in care and how those differences can mean life or death.

No matter how much some of us may argue for equality of care, the better marker is adequacy of care. As a nation, we are building toward a consensus about universal care but it is meaningless without establishing a baseline. Overcrowded and understaffed hospitals may mean no care at all. New York has demonstrated exemplary public service in managing the rate of infection.  At the same time, the state and city have  failed a stress test on managing  shortfalls of public healthcare.

If the national government can break the gridlock on the healthcare debate, the establishment of meaningful benchmarks  must be part of the discussion. If we decide to accept public systems that cannot meet those benchmarks, then we must incorporate rational, temporary backup systems to carry us through, rather than down, in a crisis.

A New Birth of Fiefdom

A new batch of psychological profiles of Donald Trump, future ex-president of the United States, has been circulating. They cover familiar territory: amoral, narcissistic, misogynistic, a sociopath and pathological liar. It’s very likely that these are all correct, but it will not get him removed from office, as we have seen. They offer some new ones, such as the lack of an interior narrative.

It doesn’t matter why he is a miserable son of a bitch. The most obvious problems are all that anyone needs to know. He thinks he has absolute power, and he exercises it to intimidate and injure those who challenge or criticize him. He fawns over those who flatter him. He worships money and power, and the fact that one can give him the other. It doesn’t matter where this fits in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or if it appears there at all.

He’s destroying America, and he keeps finding new ways to do it. We are in the middle of the worst scourge in human memory, more than one hundred years from the Spanish Influenza of 1918. He is the chief executive of the nation, and yet he has favored some states and punished others because their governors, not their citizens, have sued him or criticized him.

California, New York, and Washington have been particularly aggressive in trying to fight unfair or illegal policies, as they have a right to do. He slow-walked meeting the needs of these places in the pandemic, much as he neglected Puerto Rico when Hurricane Maria leveled it in 2017.

As Michigan is beginning to experience surging cases, Governor Gretchen Witmer has called on the federal government to step up to meet national needs. “What I’ve gotten back is that vendors with whom we’ve procured contracts — they’re being told not to send stuff to Michigan,” Whitmer said in an interview.

In his defense of withholding aid to Michiganders, he blamed Whitmer for not being “appreciative” of his efforts. “I say, ‘Mike, don’t call the governor in Washington, you’re wasting your time with him. Don’t call the woman in Michigan,’ ” Trump said. “You know what I say. If they don’t treat you right, I don’t call.”

Trump does not consider himself  a public servant. He views himself as a monarch, treating criticism as a personal insult, which he equates with treason. In response to pleas from governors for personal protection equipment and ventilators, he has told the states to get them themselves, at the same time telling vendors not to sell to them. His conduct is inhumane. He passed vengeful a couple of exits back.

New York has reported a little under 40,000 cases. Andrew Cuomo, its governor, called for 30,000 ventilators. To date, it has gotten 4,000. Trump said on Fox this past Friday, “I don’t believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators.”

Cuomo, who has won praise for stalwart leadership during this crisis, responded, “I hope no one needs a ventilator. But — I don’t operate on what I hope or what I would like to see or what my expectation is. I operate on the data and on the numbers and on the science. And every projection I have, from multiple sources, and these are worldwide health experts, say that we have to be prepared for an apex of 140,000 hospital beds and 40,000 ICU beds with ventilators.”

If it’s Trump’s belief against Cuomo’s data, the choice would be clear. Actually, Trump is giving Cuomo the back of the hand.  Whether he is exacting personal revenge or flaunting his power, it is an indifference to human suffering. He may believe that New Yorkers will turn on Cuomo and blame the Democratic party for Trump’s high-handed treatment. We don’t, and we won’t.

His truculence extends to critics in red states as well. Red Louisiana is crashing. According to the Center for Disease Control, the virus is widespread in Purple Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, and in Red North Carolina and Utah. Red Texas is undetermined because it refuses to test. Three Republican governors, Baker of Massachusetts, DeWine of Ohio, and Hogan of Maryland, took action in conflict with White House policy against shutdowns. Voters won’t forget.

Until now, Trump’s followers have ignored his unprofessional behavior. Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick said that he was willing to die to save the economy, a thought explained and apparently seconded by former journalist Britt Hume. Patrick and other true believers may soon have an awakening when the daily dispatch of death notices hits closer to home.

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