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23.Oct.2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Social media Permalink to this item

We joined some millions of our fellow Americans and plenty of non-Americans to watch the Final Debate last night, and see Kristen Welker sweep all the awards. Our viewing was slightly buffered and I was following along with my phone's view of Twitter, seeing spoiler pull quotes before they were uttered in our house, and pumping my own pithy snark into the ether, because everybody can play now. Fifteen or so tweets, it felt like more than that.

This is, of course, serious. We should go point by point? (Or, jump to the chase with Mehdi Hasan's fact-check and debunk of lump's 10 biggest whoppers.)

First, the big story, the pandemic we can hope we're halfway through. Sitting here in limbo, the man who I heard say "I take full responsibility" wants to frame this by pointing out the models said TWO MILLION DEAD and see, we're much, much better than that! We beat "do nothing"! Also, the make-believe "ban" of travel from China. Daniel Dale had the pre-check ready for that one. "Tens of thousands of people flew in from China after the restrictions took effect on February 2." Also, the virus came at us from Europe more than from China. Now then, back to the criming:

Don: YOUR family are the criminals!
Don: THEY CRIED IN MY OFFICE (accordion hands)

Funny, we saw them laughing....

Don: "If this is true, he's a corrupt politician."

Every accusation a confession. "He were go again with the Russia Russia Russia thing." Yes, some of us haven't gotten over that. Was that scene so memorably captured by the TASS photographer before or after you coughed up the "I can declassify anything!" bit of Israeli intelligence to put a cherry on the top of your firing the FBI Director to get the Russia Russia Russia thing off your back? Kyle Griffen tweeted Joe Biden's mid-debate all-in-one summary and mic drop:

"What is on the ballot here is the character of this country. Decency. Honor. Respect. Treating people with dignity. Making sure that everyone has an even chance. And I'm going to make sure you get that. You haven't been getting that the last four years."

After the event, and a dose of journalistic assessment from PBS, and then going back to the other news of the day, I noticed a tweet from Justin Amash, boiling the event down to "everyone saw whatever debate they wanted to see," which yes, that tends to be the case (even for those of us who didn't actually want to see another debate, thanks). ICYMI, Amash was the Lone Republican to call for the impeachment of Donald John Trump, before the high crimes and misdemeanors in and around Ukraine had rolled out to public view. Over a weekend in May, 2019,

"Amash tweeted that Trump’s conduct is impeachable, that Attorney General William Barr knowingly misled the public about the conclusions of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, and that his Republican colleagues in Congress are willfully ignoring it all. He came to that conclusion after reading the entirety of the redacted special counsel report."

Is he the only member of Congress that read it all? His former pals in the Freedom Caucus (look, there's Mark Meadows!) "formally censured him" for that, proving his point that members of Congress put party before character. Amash sealed the deal and left the party in a 4th of July WaPo op-ed, which he opened by noting that he's the son of a Palestinian refugee.

Anyway, since it was on Twitter, there was pushback, and he defended himself as "just reporting it as I see it" out of his Twitter feed, "full of people with wildly different takes." I'm sure his is more varied than mine, with 20 times the followed and 900 times the followers. But his comment seemed a bit facile to me, and I said so, asked him what he took away from the debate. Unlike every other member of Congress I've ever tweeted at, he answered, directly:

Trump was reliably dishonest but fairly effective for his purposes. I think the mute button helped him. Biden wasn’t super sharp tonight, but he did well enough to keep his lead.

— Justin Amash (@justinamash) October 23, 2020

What I said (before calling it a night): The mute button cut both ways. The externally-enforced discipline largely kept him from the execrable behavior of the first debate, but it illustrated his lack of self-discipline. (Which is of course "a feature" for his base.) And, having to respond to a question intelligibly for two uninterrupted minutes seemed an insurmountable task for our president here at the end of his term.

My friend and fellow longtime blogger Julie Fanselow asked what plans people had for November 4 and beyond, regardless of The Results and, not having any, I imagined I'd chop wood and carry water, metaphorically. (And this morning, never mind enlightenment, the October sun streaming through the east window reminded me of my once-upon-a-time home on the Palouse where I did, in fact, chop wood and carry water for many years.)

Her Pandemic postcard #31: Waiting to exhale brings back the halcyon days of building and sharing and exploring this World Wide Web that reflects our being bound together. We'd sent men with cameras into space to show ourselves as others see us, alone together in the vastness of space, all on one planet this lifeboat Earth, before it took that turn to the dark side. (Let's do the time warp again: I'm astounded to see The Dark Psychology of Social Networks from Jonathan Haidt and Tobias Rose-Stockwell is not yet one year old. "Why it feels like everything is going haywire.")

She closes with YouTube links to her ring tone song (that I hadn't heard) from 30 years ago, back when history ended, and MaMuse's powerful "We Shall Be Known," covered by the Thrive Choir. It's beautiful to see them singing together, reminding me of the Before Time when I did that every week. Here's another take, MaMuse (Sarah Nutting and Karisha Longaker) themselves: It is time now.

22.Oct.2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Taxing tales Permalink to this item

It's not the main point in Heather Cox Richardson's latest overnight daily (which you should always read) by any means, but as a tax nerd, it's the one that caught my eye and got me writing instead of whatever I'm supposed to be doing this morning, talking about one prong of Biden's tax proposal:

"People would also pay into the Social Security payroll tax for incomes over $400,000. That tax is currently collected only on $137,700 of earnings. Under this plan, the nation’s top 1% of earners would bring home about 15.9% less money after taxes than they do now."

Not sure how much of the plan she's talking about, but I couldn't connect the dots between 15.9% and the proposed FICA increase. Maybe it's +12.4% for (both halves of%) Social Security—starting at 400,000—plus the 2.6% kick in the top ordinary income bracket? But that's only a 15.0% marginal increase for ordinary earnings above $400k.

A president's proposals notwithstanding, it remains congress' job to write the laws that our tax code comprises, eh. Who knows what the next congress will expel from its sausage grinder? Nobody knows. Not least because we don't know what kind of congress we're about to elect.

That doesn't stop people who make a lot of money from planning what to do next! Here's a recent take on proposed changes and year-end planning opportunities from a reputable financial blog, as if one could plan for the year-end of 2020. The signature slogan of Biden's proposal is that he won't raise taxes on anyone making less than $400,000, sort of explaining the proposed "donut hole" for Social Security.

Beyond that, your QBI and REIT and itemized deductions and capital gains and corporate taxes and your heirs' estate, OMG. What a mess. The short answer for those worried about 6, 7, 8 and beyond-figure incomes (and 7, 8, and beyond-figure estates) "might be all about stuffing their returns with as much income and with as many deductions as possible!" (That would make the pandemic-trimmed +rump looting boom atop the Obama recovery look even better when financial history gets written, fwtw.) Fox News says wealthy Americans are panicking!

Like most people, I imagine, I am totally ok with others who make (a) way more than me, and (b) way more than I'll ever make having to pay more taxes. I'm generally ok with the taxes we pay, especially the income-based ones, since we have income, but man, the system is a crazy mess after all the layers of rises, cuts and loopholes over the years. I've got higher than average tolerance for complexity, but my eyes glazed over about half-way down Jeffrey Levine's speculative advice (that doesn't apply to us in any case).

There is a link to the Penn Wharton Budget Model analysis that boils down the purported Biden plan to a non-numeric bullet list of changes, with links to "Biden's original tax plan" (who cares?) and his "updated plan," from March or so.

Has, uh, anything changed since March?

Investopedia has a whack at explaining Biden's tax plan with a shorter bullet list of a half dozen KEY TAKEAWAYS, but see if you don't go glazed-over before you scroll all the way through it.

The Biden campaign site's tale of two tax policies boils it down to a 6-bullet list eventually, too, the last one being "Asking those making more than $1 million to pay the same rate on investment income that they do on their wages." My guess is, it does matter how nicely you ask, there is zero point zero percent chance those kind of people are going to let their capital gains tax rate double from 20% (now) to 39.6%. You can take that to the bank.

21.Oct.2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

No more bullshit! Permalink to this item

All fall color in one, today

That's what the TRUMP 2020 face mask of a uniformed, armed police officer inside an early voting location in Miami, Florida tells us. That's pretty special. When challenged, he "laughed it off."

If he'd had a BLACK LIVES MATTER mask, that would have been fine, you know. (Not a candidate, not a party.)

IMPOTUS demanding the Attorney General of the United States "act fast" to help out his failing campaign, not fine.

20.Oct.2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

In other rescue news Permalink to this item

Of course the Hiker is found in Zion National Park headline caught my eye after spotting the first draft in the Elko Daily yesterday. The New York Time's bylined story fills in a lot of the blanks, including what went wrong ("she injured her head on a tree with a blow so disorienting that she could not seek help or stray far"), what went right ("she survived by staying near water"—for 12 days!), in the first two sentences. By the third graf, how close she came to losing the fight ("She told me she was so dehydrated she couldn’t open her mouth"), and then a couple of implicit suggestions down in the details. It's good to have health insurance, even if you're an "experienced, fit hiker, capable of handling the rugged trails." Also good to tell someone of your plans when you go out into the wild. ABC News featured an interview with the rescued woman's sister this morning. I like a good rescue story with a happy ending.

Bottom of the NYT page, two more stories in the genre: in late June, they found the body of one of three hikers missing on Mount Rainier, and a year ago May, a hiker who was lost in the forest in Hawaii was found alive after 17 days.

But wait, there's more! The half-dozen teasers that follow seem to be filtered on a "life and death" theme. From the last half-week:

In the life sentence for stealing hedge clippers story, we read that the Louisiana Committee on Parole finally found unanimity where the state's Supreme Court could muster only a singular dissent from its Chief Justice, that Mr. Bryant’s life sentence was “grossly out of proportion to the crime and serves no legitimate penal purpose.”

19.Oct.2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The Alt-news Permalink to this item

"It does sound like journalism," Sarah Koenig said in the 2012 This American Life segment, "Forgive us our Press Passes," about a possible pronunciation of "Journatic." The domain they linked back in the day, is not currently serving up a website.

The NYT story, As Local News Dies, a Pay-for-Play Network Rises in Its Place, about "a nationwide operation of 1,300 local sites publishes coverage that is ordered up by Republican groups and corporate P.R. firms" doesn't have a catalog. It does have a time/geography animation of Timpone ("TIM-pony") network websites, but without a drill-down. "Data via Global Disinformation Index and Ben Decker. Sites were discovered using reverse lookups of Google Analytics and Google Adsense" the footnote says. (GDI has a rich website. From their blog: How brands can disrupt disinformation in the U.S. elections, with a link to a glossy primer on US electoral disinformation.)

I was looking for a list, after a spammy email purporting to be from the Elko Daily Free Press found my inbox, inviting me to "Share [my] views now!" on the question, Could your internet service use some improvements? (Weirdly enough, it's not a topic that excites me just now. Things are ok, thanks!)

If you're not from around here, you have no idea what Elko is, so let me tell you: Elko, Nevada is a town very close to the middle of nowhere. Have you ever seen northeastern Nevada? If you have, I'd guess you were just passing through (as I was one afternoon in 1973). Elko's Shoshoni name, Natakkoa, means "Rocks Piled on One Another," according to the town's Wikipedia entry. Population 20,000-ish. There's a regional airport. Great Basin College. A National Weather Service forecast office. An economy based on the booming and busting of gold mining. It's "the capital of Nevada's goldbelt." Who knew? "Nevada produces more gold than all but four countries, and most of the gold from Nevada is mined near Elko."

It's halfway between Salt Lake City and Reno on Interstate 80, the stretch along the Humboldt river, a ribbon of green in a land of brown. It's a bit over 190 miles south of Boise, as the crow flies. The flight would go over Grandview on the Snake River, east of Riddle, the improbably rectangular Duck Valley Reservation, and then along the Independence Mountains.

The Elko Daily fits the description. A "simple layout" with "articles about local politics, community happenings and sometimes national issues." Just an "ordinary local-news outlet." There's a bull loose on I-80. School construction is on the ballot with pay-as-you-go. Early voting draws a line at convention center. UPDATE: Caller said he killed mom, threatened to shoot more. Local author writes tribute to a very special dog. This week's felony arrests. A California woman (aka "Utah hiker") found in Zion NP (300 miles further south), after she'd been missing 12 days. (AP's story.) Obituaries. Police log. Many homes believed lost in Colorado wildfires. (Believed lost?)

Under STATE & REGIONAL, the attention grabbing headline about murder, federal execution and "cut baby from womb," everything but the blood dripping off of it. The AP story's dateline is Washington (D.C.) the crime was in Missouri, the convict is in Indiana. Other executions are in the story, one done in Terre Haute, another set for December, about a crime in Texas, victims from Iowa. It's a big "region," but a useful theme, as the story notes.

"Anti-death penalty groups say President Donald Trump is pushing for executions during the campaign season in a bid to burnish a reputation a law-and-order leader."


"Before the resumptions of executions this summer, federal authorities had executed just three prisoners in the previous 56 years."

Give those two, maybe three executions credit for judicial process, at least. +rump has been celebrating the killing of Michael Reinoehl (to the cheers of his rally-goers) as if it were an extrajudicial killing, carried out by U.S. Marshals under his orders. "There has to be retribution" he says, as any tinpot dictator would.

As we learned a month and a half ago, the killers were not U.S. Marshals, but rather four Washington state locals: two Pierce County Sheriff's deputies, a police officer from Lakewood and a Washington State Department of Corrections officer. Directed? Empowered? as US Marshal's deputies.

The Elko Daily does have a genuine local color section for Mining, which is not just about the local pit. There are stories out of Manitoba, Toronto, Colorado, Montana, as well as the new track-mounted deep hole drill at First Drilling.

In the Daily's footer, there is no "About" link, but it tells us it's "Powered by BLOX Content Management System from, generically enough. The Career Opportunities link whooshes us to a half-404 Lee Enterprises page, with a link labeled "Lee Enterprises Careers" that points to JOBVITE in a near-perfectly generic presentation featuring the Lincoln Journal Star and The Times.

There are positions open in Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, South Carolina, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Washington, Indiana and so on. Nothing in Elko. Or Nevada. The options list has the Albany Democrat-Herald, Amplified Digital-Davenport, Amplified Digital-St Louis, Amplified Local, Arizona Daily Star, Arizona Daily Sun, Billings Gazette, Bismarck Tribune, Capital Newspapers, Casper Star-Tribune, Columbus Telegram, Herald & Review, Independent Record, Journal Gazette/Times Courier, La Crosse Tribune, Lee Design Center-Madison, Lee Design Center - Munster, Lee Enterprises, Lee Finance-St Louis, Lincoln Journal Star, Midwest Messenger, Missoulian, Quad City Times, Ravalli Republic, Sioux City Journal, St. Louis Post Dispatch, The Chippewa Herald, The Courier, The Daily News, The Journal Times, The Montana Standard, The Pantagraph, The Southern Illinoisan, The Times, The Times and Democrat, Times-News, TownNews, and the Wisconsin State Journal, though.

I recognize that last name from my time in Madison, not long after I went through Elko. Its history goes back to 1839, slightly before the World Wide Web. Its "becoming a Republican organ" was back when that was maybe a good thing, in the sixties. The 1860s.

The motto of TownNews is "Transform • Connect • Thrive," and it features a logo potpourri selection from the "more than 2,000 local media organizations that rely" on it. It does have an "About" that says it's "fueled by a passion for local media," with seven personal testimonials, "why I've dedicated my career to local media" to prove it. "Born in 1989 in the back shop of a Montana weekly" (the Bigfork Eagle) and come to feed "web, print, mobile and social media products" to thousands of "newspaper, broadcast, magazine, and web-native publications." Lee Enterprises of Davenport, Iowa, became majority partner in 1996, and now it's HQ'd in Moline, Illinois.

NiemanLab wrote about the merger of the country's two largest newspaper publishers, the GateHouse Media and Gannett a year ago, and Lee Enterprises got a buried mention for "want[ing] to rationalize its debt," and possibly becoming a partner in McClatchy, the new number two after GateHouse and Gannet became one.

And searching NiemanLab's site for Timpone brought me to their map of hyperpartisan sites masquerading as local news from July. They'd tracked down 429 of them, 98.1% "conservative-leaning." Elko, NV is not on their map. Boise is, though, with Idaho Business Daily, and nearby Kuna has Rural Today on the Franklin Archer Metro Business network, run by Brian Timpone's brother Michael.

The sobering facts Permalink to this item

In his superspreader events promoting his re-election, +rump has begun saying that we've "turned a corner" in the pandemic. That's true. It's not the good news. Two states are "trending better." Five "caution warranted." Thirteen "trending poorly" and the rest—thirty states—have uncontrolled spread of Covid-19.

Andy Slavitt, on Twitter: "COVID-19 has moved from a region by region crisis to a national one."

Comments ensue, of course, just one to highlight: "It was always a national crisis." The national map is from the website, a non-partisan group of public health and crisis experts with experience working at the White House, HHS, and on the Ebola epidemic in West Africa across multiple administrations.

National map datagraphic from

The testing tabulation shows Idaho at almost 30% positivity, South Dakota over 36%, Nevada over 37%. In the last two weeks, Idaho cases have increased by 41%. In sixteen states it's increasing faster than that. Their "How is My State Doing on Key Measures?" table puts Idaho in the red, with contact tracing "unlikely." (One "green" item: "only" half our ICU beds are occupied.)

Idaho cases datagraphic from

Not sure where they get their positivity data, but I think I looked before and saw that they weren't appropriately smoothed. Idaho's Department of Public Health dashboard does not show anything like 30% positivity. The "Laboratory Testing" tab shows an early July peak of 14.8% going down to 6.7% two months later, and now ramping back up to 11.4% for specimens collected the week ending Oct. 10. Just over 25k PCR tests in the week, with daily totals varying from below 1,000 to over 6,000.

Data from Idaho DPH Tableau dashboard

16.Oct.2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Dueling visions Permalink to this item

Camael Shirt design and image

On the one hand, we have raging conspiracy theories, the desperate (and failing) attempt to keep #TrumpCrimeFamily finances secret, celebration of extrajudicial killing, another round of Russian disinformation, and, as Heather Cox Richardson observes, an "administration [that] seems to have turned into a revenge operation."

Quite "remarkable," as @MikeCrapo would say.

The GOP is preparing to replay their 2009-2016 playbook, a fallback strategy of deepening the recession to cripple an incoming Democratic administration. Aside from that pernicious, anti-American sabotage, the choice for leadership comes down to this:

(D) A decent, experienced guy, maybe not as sharp as he used to be, but who can recognize his limitations, acknowledge mistakes, and WORK WITH OTHERS; or/p>

(R) An increasingly unstable, homicidal psychopath who can't tolerate dissent, is threatened by expertise, failed to build a competent administration to begin with, burned away talent at every organizational level, is obsessed with concealing his crime organization, and loves to incite drooling mobs to racist violence; or

Joe can also climb stairs two at a time, and is happy to stay after class to take more questions from regular people, off camera.

15.Oct.2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Built on bullshit Permalink to this item

The Washington Post has an entertaining feature on the smart, funny, talented, beautiful Sarah Cooper, between the TikTok-fueled launch of her stardom and her Netflix special, coming out later this month. You can see why the Orange Lord might want to drive TikTok back to China!

The article has "BS" in print just once (I note you can't spell "absurd"—or CBS—without BS), but when it came to the one-on-one with Geoff Edgers, back in July, WaPo decorously bleeped out the word, as if, what, the excrement of male bovines is obscene? Those were simplier, tidier times.

Send-up of Palmolive schtick

But it's like Madge used to say: we're soaking in it! The Post's national arts reporter restates the thesis as "the world is basically built on BS and ... [+rump] is built on BS" and there at 2:48 in the 5:32 interview, Cooper's eyebrows pop in reflexive comedic genius. By Geoff, you've got it! You've solved the puzzle!

And for those in the back who weren't paying attention the first 50,000 times, here it is in the full, 11 second TikTok that launched Cooper into orbit: "How to Leadership"

It's a dark comedy, to be sure, considerably more obscene than "bullshit." That "leadership" ability is what +rump and boy blunder Jared (and a platoon of protégés, the Apprentice's Apprentices!) were applying to the US response to the pandemic on its way to killing hundreds of thousands of Americans before the effort could be scaled down in a quiet "Mission Accomplished" destaffing, while holding super-spreader public events and gaspy-gaslighting indignation that "the Biden family treated the vice presidency as a for-profit corporation," just imagine what that would be like.

Speaking of obscenities and that word we can now say along with "Merry Christmas," while the 3rd wave of the pandemic breaks on American shores and teeming lawyers work to run out the clock on +rump's crime family financial disclosures, the "zone" is being flooded with Bannon-esque and Guiliani-esque shit, in the form of that supposed scandal out of Ukraine, tailor-made for... impeachment, wasn't it? I need you to do us a favor, though.

While the US Postal Service is monkeywrenched in an inside job, the Census is buggered for another decade, the National Weather Service is rewritten with a Sharpie, the Senate rubber-stamped illegally acting Chad Wolf, and William Perry Pendley says he can't hear that court ruling while he has the support of the president, and the head Built-on-Bullshit guy (and his Fed-on-Bullshit sidekick) make a "committee" and "decisions" that erode trust in the world’s pre-eminent public-health organization. According to the Wall Street Journal. ProPublica's examination Inside the Fall of the CDC:

"When the next history of the CDC is written, 2020 will emerge as perhaps the darkest chapter in its 74 years, rivaled only by its involvement in the infamous Tuskegee experiment, in which federal doctors withheld medicine from poor Black men with syphilis, then tracked their descent into blindness, insanity and death.

"With more than 216,000 people dead this year, most Americans know the low points of the current chapter already. A vaunted agency that was once the global gold standard of public health has, with breathtaking speed, become a target of anger, scorn and even pity."

14.Oct.2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Being sold down the river of dark money Permalink to this item

In Senator Sheldon Whitehouse's 28 minute lecture to the Judiciary Committee and us all, he details our story in process. "The political ram job" and the GOP supporting the nominee before a nominee was actually named are one and the same. This year's RNC "platform" of "whatever Pres. Psychopath wants" was a tell.

"When you find hypocrisy in the daylight, look for power in the shadows," Whitehouse said. Sure, but same old same old, what's at stake? Just your personal autonomy, your right to marriage, and your access to healthcare. For starters.

"We want to terminate health care under Obamacare." is what +rump said he wants. Take the autocrat at his word.

Fun fact about just one of those cases in the news this moment, NFIB v. Sebelius, which is to say the National Federation of Independent Business v. Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services, and a ton of et alii. You may recall that Chief Justice John Roberts tipped the 5-4 decision to uphold the individual mandate, and there was a large monkey-wrench thrown into the Medicaid expansion part of the Affordable Care Act. But say more about this NFIB:

In 2009, before they filed their suit, the largest donation they'd received was $21,000. In 2010-11, just 10 wealthy donors gave NFIB $10 million. Pretty much the whole Senate GOP signed on to Judicial Education Project's brief written by Carrie Severino; 8 years later, many are still in power. McConnell, Collins, Cornyn, Crapo, Grassley, Ron Johnson, Mike Lee, Murkowski, Rand Paul, Risch, Rubio, among them.

Then there's the Federalist Society (where Severino went next) and its anonymous donors, empowered by the GOP to pre-select Supreme Court Justices. The Judicial Crisis Network got $35 million to promote Gorsuch and Kavanaugh.

Donors Trust, "a gigantic identity scrubbing organization," serves the Federalist Society, Bradley Foundation, many others. Anti-ACA. Anti-consumer protection. Anti-labor.

In the original, unredacted copy of the email on DocumentCloud showing the Federalist Society's Leanord Leo answering the Bradley Foundation's Michael Hartmann's question about an alternative dark money scrubber, avast! certified the message "free from viruses and malware," ironically.

Email image from DocumentCloud

"I've never seen this around any court that I've ever been involved with where there's this much dark money, and this much influence being used," Whitehouse said.

Never, except for the last decade, that is, since this story is not fresh off the boat: the $250 MILLION IN DARK MONEY slide refers back to a May, 2019 Washington Post report on conservative activist Leonard Leo and the behind-the-scenes $QUARTER BILLION campaign to remake the judicial system.

The results in 80 cases that were (1) decided 5-4; (2) decided a partisan majority; and (3) with an identifiable Republican donor interest were 80-0. It was a sweep. A rout. In service to:

  1. Unlimited, and dark money in politics; the most undemocratic arrangement possible.
  2. Demean and diminish the civil jury, knock it "down to a nub," never mind that it is in the Constitution, in the Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Indepenence. "It's annoying to corporate power." "It's a crime to tamper with a jury; it's standard practice to tamper with Congress."
  3. Weaken regulatory agencies - "polluter money" flocks to this cause.
  4. Voter suppression and gerrymandering - Shelby County overrode Congress, supposedly "on a factual basis," but without any reference to an actual body of facts. The 5-member, partisan majority just didn't think the Voting Rights Act was that important any more.

H/t to Cathy Learoyd's comment under Heather Cox Richardson's daily for the lead to Sen. Whitehouse's presentation.

Today in court packing Permalink to this item

Betsy Russell's Eye on Boise featured Idaho's moment in the confirmation hearing for Amy Coney Barrett, Senator Mike Crapo professed to have found "the one clue we have" about how a Justice Barrett would be Just Fine when it comes to hacking off another limb of the Affordable Care Act but leaving the neck and torso intact.

Why just last month, ACB was in a moot court Zoom session and look there, “I voted to say that it was unconstitutional but severable,” so, fiddle dee dee! Crapo ran with it.

"I’ll just say to the viewers, the one clue we have is your ruling in this moot court case. And I think that’s kind of an answer, frankly. To a lot of those who are raising this specter that you’re going to try to take the whole Affordable Care Act away from everyone because of this very narrow case that is in front of the Supreme Court."

Except of course it wasn't any kind of an answer. "It was a mock exercise," Judge Barrett said.

Just like Sen. Crapo's and the Republicans' performance in these hearings. "It wasn’t designed to reflect my actual views," Barrett said. Crapo responded, "I understand that, very much" so there goes our one clue, eh.

This mock exercise will have unfortunately real consequences, as the GOP's top priority is not dealing with the health and economic concerns of the pandemic, but rather pushing through one more reactionary SCOTUS appointment before the current corrupt regime collapses.

Crapo then had the temerity to say that oh yes, "requiring coverage for people with pre-existing conditions was widely supported among senators from both parties" back in the day, and how "passionate" he is about ensuring that. As if by magic?

He knows that the individual mandate and requiring coverage of pre-existing conditions were a package deal to make insurance work. If you can opt in or out of insurance, and still be guaranteed coverage, you'd only need insurance when you were sick, which is not how insurance can ever work.

The Republican "plan" has been sabotage for a solid ten years. But for an election, they'll pretend they have your best interests at heart for a little while.

It's "like a miracle." After a while "it just goes away." The only sure-fire plan from Crapo and his colleagues that we've seen in the last ten years is "thoughts and prayers." This is your country on Republicanism. Good night and good luck.

Meanwhile, in pandemic news Permalink to this item

Reading the daily newspaper is a good treatment for low blood pressure. Today's school/pandemic news ranged from Ada County schools moved back to the "red zone", which means fully remote learning (and sports "paused") to Middleton's school board (in Canyon county) unanimously approving a plan to move into full-time, in-person learning for kindergarten through 5th grade later this month, to West Ada "split on transparency and online classes."

All that happening in the context of Idaho health care leaders warn about 3rd surge of COVID-19: "The state’s average daily incidence rate has steadily increased since mid-September and has returned to peak levels seen in July. The rate hit a new high Sunday with 32.3 new cases per 100,000, based on a seven-day average, according to the state’s coronavirus dashboard." The last week's average of confirmed and probable cases was just over 600 per day.

As doctors urge careful behavior, we're getting decidedly less careful as a group: "Idaho currently ranks sixth in the country for new cases per capita, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University."

One way or another, it's going to be a unique learning experience for all who survive.

Data from Idaho Coronavirus dashboard, retrieved 10/14/2020

12.Oct.2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Wheel of Fortune, fast forward Permalink to this item

The Kabuki Senate committee is in session this morning, the oleaginous Lindsey "use my words against me" Graham presiding, to "consider" the nomination of the next Supreme Court justice. Other than a sufficient number of Senators keeling over from Covid-19 (which might still happen), the deal was precooked for whomever Don the Con put forward. Incredibly. That makes "hearing" kind of a sad joke, but it is worth hearing what Senator Amy Klobuchar had to say about this political moment.

We can only imagine what it would be like to receive an "honor" from a man who knows none. A salute, a medal around the neck, a lifetime appointment, a tweeted endorsement, your personal ticket to some leftover fame and fortune. In crisis, there is opportunity. In disaster, opportunities for looting. It's a specialty of the man at the top, and the crime syndicate that gyres and gimbals in his wake.

In a bravura act of gaslighting, the GOP parade on the Sunday morning shows, spilling over into the start of SCOTUS confirmation hearings while we're having a presidential election, Joe Biden's refusal to take the bait and say something about the manufactured "court packing" counter-issue is in the news. No, seriously, it is. NPR even.

Is the New York Times front page story with five more inside, The Swamp That Trump Built, too detailed, too comprehensive a picture of the depth and breadth of corruption that the GOP continues to co-sign? I mean... after four years of hiding is financial dealings, now that it's sufficiently spilling out, we're so beat down we can hardly talk about it, really?

NYT graphic

We watched the second half of Showtime's amazing docudrama, The Comey Rule and it sure as hell brings 2016 and 2017 back to life. Not that we didn't see it all happening the first time, but I'll be the first to admit that the full duplicity and ugliness of +rump was too preposterous to absorb as it was unfolding. We heard about the dinner-for-two, but we weren't right there in the room with the two of them before.

We did see the moments of Sean Spicer's and Sarah Huckabee Sanders' epic gaslighting the first time around, but somehow we laughed them off as if they were Baghdad Bob. I look back at what I saw (and wrote), of Sally Yates, of Spicer in the Bushes, Rex and Sergey, Comey's firing, the intense and immediate blowback to the president’s stunning decision to fire James Comey (that blew over?!), the TASS photo of +rump and the Sergeys yucking it up in the Oval, just before Don coughed up a little free nugget of classified intel on the Israelis to sweeten the day....

The blog entry was titled "Can't keep up" and it seems I wasn't the only one who couldn't. The film's version of that last scene wasn't satisfying, because they couldn't match the original, quite, which is all too familiar. But of course all we have of it are the stills that TASS put out; they kept whatever video (and audio) recording they made to themselves.

What the film does capture, inimitably, is the why +rump grabbed people and pulled them in close, for the whispered twist and coercion, for the deep malevolence of a crime boss. The characters orbiting around him, Flynn, Priebus, Sessions, Jared, seem like pathetic cartoons. And Rod Rosenstein, the saddest sack of the lot of them, used and discarded, soiled.

It's a hell of a story. I would like to live in less interesting times now.

TASS photo

Wheel of Fortune Permalink to this item

At (Zoom) church yesterday, the main topic was Indigenous Peoples' Day, and the Discovery doctrine was mentioned. I looked it up. One of those things (like reading about George Washington's history as a slaveholder) that sure, was always a part of history that wasn't secret, but "less featured." When you pull it out and look at it by itself, it seems more than a little incredible.

2018 photo

The Supreme Court settled a land ownership dispute (involving holdings of the esteemed governor of the "Indiana," no less, future president William Henry Harrison). Chief Justice John Marshall "had large real estate holdings that would have been affected if the case were decided in favor of Johnson. Rather than recuse himself from the case, however, the Chief Justice wrote the decision for a unanimous Supreme Court." The upshot of the "landmark" (!) case was that "only Native American conveyances of land which can create valid title are sales of land to the federal government," which resolved the problem at the time, and incidentally gave us a "prinicple" based on fair-and-sqaure-theft.

The Age of Discovery and all, Christian monarchs sending out their marauders to plant flags and claim land, making treaties among themselves to divvy up the "New World," that was inconveniently already populated. Another of our famous slave-holders, Thomas Jefferson, weighed in as US Secretary of State in 1792, to say we were a player too, even without a monarch and stuff.

These days, a body of that pesky United Nations has noted the Doctrine of Discovery "as the foundation of the violation of Indigenous people's human rights." And it still comes up from time to time, "as recently as 2005, in City of Sherrill v. Oneida Indian Nation of New York. Writing for the majority, Ruth Bader Ginsburg stated that "Under the 'doctrine of discovery...' fee title [ownership] to the lands occupied by Indians when the colonists arrived became vested in the sovereign—first the discovering European nation and later the original states and the United States."

You know, real estate deals need a firm foundation, so the show must go on. Property rights! (It should be noted, as Wikipedia does, that at least the Dutch West India Company and the Quakers in Pennsylvania did limit clear title to those who actually paid for the land "from the Indian owners." A quibble of conscience that crept in.) ICYMI, Randy Newman set it to music: The Great Nations of Europe boils down 400 years of history in 2 minutes and 48 seconds.

Last year Idaho's own governor issued a Proclamation that October 14, 2019 would be called "Indigenous Peoples' Day," but I see his office doesn't actually trouble itself to provide a web archive of what all they proclaim. You can call (208 334-2100) or write ( to request a copy.

Here are five ideas for celebrating today from the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. If you're up to attend an online Indigenous Peoples' Day celebration, here's one: Honor & Action, featuring Tara Houska, Ojibwe, on Standing Rock Resistance and Our Fight for Indigenous Rights, and author/botanist Robin Kimmerer, Potawatomi, on Honorable Harvest.

Update: H/t to Margaret Carmel and Rachel Spacek for their last-year's piece on the celebration, in the Idaho Press.

9.Oct.2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Last full month at the bottom of the swamp Permalink to this item

The eye-catching bits of NYT's choices for Top News and Business:

Streaming, as I write: Pelosi leads the Commission on Presidential Capacity after Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis. Not necessarily about this president, she's saying, but you know, just so we're never in this awkward situation again.

When your president is a psychopath and becomes completely unhinged, how can you tell? HCR's take on the "apparent meltdown" in process:

"[H]e has called for the imprisonment of his Democratic opponent, Joe Biden, as well as his own predecessor, President Barack Obama, and called Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris a “monster” and a “communist” ....

"He released a video addressed to seniors, who are leaving him in droves, calling them “my favorite people in the world,” and speculated that he could continue to hold rallies as early as this weekend, before his quarantine period is over. He called into the Fox News Channel twice, ranting. Of his bout with coronavirus, he said: “I’m back because I’m a perfect physical specimen and I’m extremely young.”

(If you take the jump, spit-take warning on the "exit ramp" for Dear Leader.) Speaking about those calls for imprisonment of all and sundry, Adam Davidson's friend of a friend sounds about right:

Good insight from a friend:

Trump may be bringing up jailing Obama and Biden to head-off the inevitable prosecution of Trump and family.

The more we scream: don't jail the opposition, the safer he is.

— Adam Davidson (@adamdavidson) October 9, 2020

Not that IMPOTUS is playing N-dimensional chess on us—he really is mentally ill, even a Doctor of Osteopathy can see that—it's just that psychopathy gives advantages. Amy Crawford, in Smithsonian Magazine, talking about Kevin Dutton's book, The Wisdom of Psychopaths: What Saints, Spies and Serial Killers Can Teach Us About Success, new 8 years ago: "ruthlessness, fearlessness, mental toughness, charm, persuasiveness and a lack of conscience and empathy," check. I wouldn't go as far as "intelligent," but we can stipulate he's not fully stupid. And not "violent," because he's ultimately a cowardly bully.

Maybe Dutton will write a sequel with a deeper look at "useful in modern society" and add one more occupation to the list of bad career choices for a psychopath.

8.Oct.2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

A win for the Great Old Broads Permalink to this item

Judge Candy Dale of Idaho's US District Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, Anne Hausrath, John Wheaton, Joanie Fauci, Meg Fereday, Roger Rosentretter, Kathryn Railsback, Dale Reynolds, and Great Old Broads for Wilderness; and against the US Department of the Air Force, defendant, to say no, she will not dismiss the suit, and yes, the USAF must conduct a bona fide Environmental Impact Statement under NEPA before they proceed with "Urban Close Air Support training missions" out of Mountain Home AFB, over nine southern Idaho cities, including Boise, the capital and largest city in the state, in as many as 160 exercises a year, day and night.

Said "urban warfare training" involves F-15s and "plain clothes ground teams." Thanks to those plaintiffs, and Advocates for the West in helping to keep the peace around here, at least until the EIS is done.

The judge said the USAF "violated NEPA by not assessing baseline noise conditions in areas subject to the overflights; failed to assess likely impacts on human sleep, speech, outdoor recreation, birds and wildlife, and minority or low income communities, and wrongly refused to consider any alternatives to the proposed action."

She also denied the Air Force's request to strike the declaration of Dr. Jesse Barber, Associate Professor with the Department of Biological Sciences at Boise State University, who detailed the inadequacy of the Environmental Assessment the USAF did do.

The way forward Permalink to this item

Seems like a personal failing to go days—how many has it been?—without blogging just now, when omg omg omg. We've had the climactic Covita balcony scene leaving us all gasping for breath, how do you top that? We've got a Coast Guard Admiral infected, and the Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Army chief of staff, the Naval Operations Chief, the Air Force chief of staff, the CyberCom Commander, the SpaceForce operations chief, the director of the NSA, the Chief of the National Guard, and the deputy commandant of the Marine Corps self-quarantining, while the White House refuses to bring in the CDC to help with contact tracing.

As Heather Cox Richardson put it in her Oct. 6 Letter, "the administration appears to be committed to a strategy of community spread, rejecting the use of masks and of distancing." That might not have been the biggest story of the day? There was also IMPOTUS' roid-raging tweet storm (aka "Tuesday," but on steroids), and the news that Beauregard III was not, in fact, a jolly elf, but leading a program of deliberate cruelty with Rod Rosenstein's help to dissuade immigrants at the southern border. Stephen Miller's ally Gene Hamilton excused them by saying they were just following orders. (That explanation seems familiar...)

After the Chairman of the Federal Reserve said a new coronavirus relief bill is imperative, and Gaspy McTweeter said I AM ENDING ALL NEGOTIATIONS UNTIL YOU REELECT ME and "vulnerable Republican senators panicked" and Gaspy tried a new tack, and Goldman Sachs forecast (a) Democrats will take the WH and Senate, and (b) that will be better for the economy, and the market rebounded, Joe Biden gave a speech in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

In case you were longing for something in a more presidential vein. It's not as succinct as Lincoln's address; the current American carnage hasn't quite reached the horror of the Civil War, even though 3,155 killed in three days of 1863 is eerily similar to the current death rate from Covid-19.

"There is no more fitting place than here today in Gettysburg to talk about the cost of division — about how much it has cost America in the past, about how much it is costing us now, and about why I believe in this moment we must come together as a nation. ...

It's a hell of a speech that I might have missed entirely were it not for Heather Cox Richardson. The swirl of chaos and corruption happening right now is so profound. I recommend it to you.

"Today we are engaged once again in a battle for the soul of the nation.

"The forces of darkness, the forces of division, the forces of yesterday are pulling us apart, holding us down, and holding us back.

"We must free ourselves of all of them.

"As president, I will embrace hope, not fear. Peace, not violence. Generosity, not greed. Light, not darkness.

"I will be a president who appeals to the best in us. Not the worst."

The side show Permalink to this item

Speaking of distractions, a vice-presidential debate would normally be the definition of anti-climactic, but here we are.

It must be noted: Mike Pence is a facile liar. As Pete Buttigieg put it, "he's pretty comfortable telling a total lie in a just a calm, reassuring voice that would make you think what he was saying is God's honest truth." He should know, as a fellow Hoosier, and the stand-in Veep for Kamala's debate prep.

It's that "alternate reality force-field" that had the guy in charge of the Covid-19 task force deflecting the question he didn't want to answer (why are we doing the worst of any nation in the world?) by dog-whistling "we are so Pro Life!" Tell that to John Prine and Herman Cain, and 211,915 other Americans who have died since last winter.

We should not underestimate the alternative reality force-field of cognitive dissonance. Which side you're on determined how that debate went in your mind, and one of the RWNJ feeds I get has the headline "Pence Schools Harris," as if. Richard North Patterson claimed the middle ground, with Harris Won By Not Losing. He provides this perfect paragraph of description, with all the words I've used (and a few I haven't), put together properly:

"The imperatives for Pence began with transcending his vice-presidential persona: an obsequious toady who will do anything to ingratiate himself with his narcissistic master. With his pipe organ voice, bobblehead nods, and the oleaginous manner of an unctuous church elder, he seems so devoid of wit or self-awareness that he becomes a parody of provincial Republican piety. And his calculated fusion of ostentatious religiosity with corporate subservience and disdain for the rights of minorities and women stunts his appeal beyond the GOP base."

"Nonetheless, Pence is a seasoned debater who dispenses partisan attack lines with a serene disregard for truth that renders him incapable of insulting his own integrity or intelligence."

Or was it The Fly that won the debate? Says here the Biden-Harris campaign sold $350,000 worth of fly swatters, so go figure.

3.Oct.2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Lives in the balance Permalink to this item

History coming at us like we drove up the EXIT ONLY ramp and got on the freeway going the wrong way. As the US death toll for Covid-19 ticked up into the tens and then hundreds of thousands, there was ample occasion to combine "murderous" with "psychopath" in a literal rather than hyperbolic sense. Reading Heather Cox Richardson on Saturday morning brings that back to mind in a new way. While decent people attempt to suppress their Schadenfreude, and express sympathy & Get Well Soon (Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Barack Obama, Bill and Hillary Clinton all did), not everyone cleared that hurdle. There are so many facts that shock our conscience.

As the Who's Who of Who's Got It expands through the political right (at least), and the unfortunate staff who serve them, a couple dozen Names We Recognize, the Johns Hopkins CSSE dashboard shows 54,441 new cases in the US yesterday. Fifty-four thousands. Yesterday. Worldwide, nearly 300,000 new cases were reported. A million lives newly upended, in ONE DAY.

There have been more than 7.3 million confirmed cases in the US since this started late last winter. Closer to home, Ada County stands at 13,343 total cases, more than 80 or 90 whole countries on the list. Idaho—population <2M—has more than 43,000 cases, compared to South Korea—population 52M—with 24,000.

Our sympathy and compassion are heavily taxed just now. Dear Leader is taken to hospital in Marine One out of an "abundance of caution" while Senators, advisors, another campaign manager, journalists, Secret Service members, and 11 staffers from the Cleveland debate figure out how to deal with their infections. Money can't buy you love, or protection from this pandemic:

"The 30-50 Republican donors who met with Trump Thursday night at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, are “freaking out,” one report noted. Tickets had cost up to $250,000, and Trump met privately with about 19 people for 45 minutes. Trump knew his adviser Hope Hicks had tested positive when he left for the club, but he went anyway. He did not wear a mask."

It's said that there is no honor among thieves. Truly:

"Reporter Chris Wallace of the Fox News Channel, who moderated Tuesday’s debate and so was one of those the Trumps’ entourage endangered, revealed today that Trump arrived too late on Tuesday for a COVID-19 test, as the venue required. Instead, there was an “honor system.” Organizers assumed the people associated with the campaigns would not come unless they had tested negative. Trump’s people arrived wearing masks, which they had to have to enter the auditorium, but then removed them shortly after sitting down, and refused to put them back on. During the debate, Trump mocked Biden for his habit of wearing a mask."

The Biden camp was not informed by the +rump campaign; they learned about their exposure from media reports. As did former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, "who spent four days in close quarters with Hicks and Trump, helping the president prepare for the debate."

Generously, the Democratic campaign pulled back on their negative ads, as Biden called for unity. "This cannot be a partisan moment. It must be an American moment. We have to come together as a nation." Trump campaign spokesperson Tim Murtaugh told CNN they wouldn't respond in kind. Kindness would be absurdly out of character. Can a hypothetical be sarcastic humor if it's probably true?

If the situation had been reversed, Donald Trump would have said Biden should drop out of the race by now.

— The Hoarse Whisperer (@TheRealHoarse) October 2, 2020

As many observers pointed out, the government is lavishing the very best, cutting-edge medical treatment available on our head man, never mind that he barely pays any taxes, while his administration is "literally suing in the courts to take our healthcare protections away."

One week into the lame duck/interregnum, conceivably before the election is decided, the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments in the case now politico-poetically captioned California v. Texas and 20 million Americans could immediately lose health coverage. If the Court has only 8 members, and deadlocks 4-4, the decision of a US District Judge in Texas, backed by a three judge panel of the 5th Circuit will stand, and the Affordable Care Act will fall, after a decade-long campaign of sabotage by the Republican party.

The argument made by GOP attorneys general (and that the +rump administration is siding with) is breathtaking in its duplicity and bad faith, built on a "feature" of the tax-cut bonanza the Republicans cooked up in late 2017. They argue that eliminating the ACA's penalty for not having insurance eliminates the "tax" element that Chief Justice John Roberts concluded in 2012 made the law constitutional. The map of the two sides is not quite a straight overlay of Red America vs. Blue America, or our last Civil War, but close. The deep South and most of the Plains, plus Mike Pence's Indiana, and West Virginia vs. New England and the West Coast. 20 states and the District of Columbia for the ACA, 18 states against. A dozen states standing back and standing by. Population-wise (not that that should matter), the states in favor of keeping what's left of the ACA have 57% of the disputants. Kind of like the margin we hope for in Biden/Harris vs. the other pair.

California (et al.) v. Texas (et al.)

2.Oct.2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Surprise, Surprise, Surprise Permalink to this item

Yesterday turned out to be a pretty big day. In Kimberly Guilfoyle's triumphal shriek for the RNC in August, she promised THE BEST IS YET TO COME! and word is her number one audience member thought it was one of the greatest speeches he'd ever seen; "so much energy." We don't suppose the first day of October was what she had in mind, but omg did it ever deliver.

Still from Guilfoyle's performance

After a trip to the lake for the sunrise, on the way home while waiting for a light, one of our local big-butt pickup trucks went by with flags bravely still a-flappin', the Stars and Stripes, and the TRUMP PENCE 2020 NO MORE BULLSHIT banner so beloved of our local fauna.

Back at home, first read was Heather Cox Richardson's Letter from an American. The October 1 edition was held over past her usual midnight rule, because, you know why. One shoe was down 4 hours ahead of deadline, and... "curious" that the other shoe was still in the air. But last things first:

Texas! Governor Greg Abbott is taking extraordinary—outrageous and embarrassing—measures to suppress the vote, limiting all of his state's counties to a SINGLE drop-off location each. 4.7 million folks in Harris County? One location. 2.6M in Dallas Co.? One location. 2.1M in Tarrant Co., 2.0 in Bexar Co., 1.2M in Travis Co., 1M in Colin Co.? One to a customer! There are a lot of counties in Texas, and some of them are tiny. Eight have population under 1,000; 88 under 10,000. 90% of the population is in the largest 65 counties; 99% is in 178 counties. Then there are seventy-seven more.

"Conservative scammers Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman have been charged by Michigan prosecutors with multiple felony counts for allegedly orchestrating robocalls in Detroit and other cities to suppress the vote in the November election," reports BuzzFeedNews.

Jane Mayer broke The Secret History of Kimberly Guilfoyle’s Departure from Fox News. She went from 20% co-hosting "The Five" to Don John's "Four More Tour," not as voluntarily as she had claimed. It turns out there was a complaint of "degrading, abusive, and sexually inappropriate behavior," "[speaking] incessantly and luridly about her sex life" and stuff (in "a confidential, forty-two-page draft complaint") AND alleged suborning perjury from the victim when an outside law firm started investigating WTF. Literally WTF, you might say.

Quite the story, which you should read, and I won't try to outline. The punchline involves a payoff of "upward of four million dollars" from FNC to the alleging party to keep things quiet. Also, the plot twist that "when the #MeToo movement erupted, Fox News turned to Guilfoyle as an on-air expert on legal issues, including sexual harassment," because she'd been a prosecutor in San Francisco, and married to its mayor at the time, now California Governor, Gavin Newsom.

Speaking of the F word, FLOTUS' two-years-ago profane rant is described by the Gray Lady sans a mask of asterisks. A former aide, Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, is monetizing her time within the +rump circle with "a tell-all book," and some listener discretion-advised audio.

“I’m working like a — my ass off at Christmas stuff,” Melania whines in a recording CNN broadcast last night. “You know, who gives a fuck about Christmas stuff and decoration?”

Quoted right there in the fucking newspaper!


Tom von Alten
ISSN 1534-0007