Monday, October 26th, 2020


I See Dead People

Bill Clinton was the president who famously said he didn't inhale. Donald Trump is the president who won't stop exhaling; traveling from sea to shining sea, gathering large boisterous crowds, and acting as a modern day Typhoid Mary. No one expected Trump to rise to the moment and effectively fight the pandemic. But few expected him to be an active super spreader. Watergate, meet Propa-gate. Want to predict where Covid-19 hotspots will pop up? Just follow the path of Err Force One. USA Today: Trump's campaign made stops nationwide. Coronavirus cases surged in his wake in at least five places. We know the president yearns to go viral, but this is too much. His admirers see a rally. I see dead people.

+ Not to be outdone, five of Vice President Mike Pence's aides (otherwise known as the braintrust behind the Coronavirus Task Farce) including his chief of staff and his senior political adviser, have tested positive for Covid-19. (Pence tested negative, proving that Trump's ass is the safest place to avoid the virus.) "In consultation with the White House Medical Unit, the Vice President will maintain his schedule in accordance with the CDC guidelines for essential personnel." (If Pence's were an essential worker, he'd be paid a lot less and Stephen Miller would be trying to deport him.)

+ "One campaign follows best pandemic practices. The other doesn't. It's not that Biden and Harris can't draw a big crowd. It's that they're choosing not to. And scenes Saturday from both campaigns clarified the divergent and disorienting state of the presidential race 10 days from Election Day." Donald Trump rallied in a town that canceled its beloved pumpkin festival because of the coronavirus. Donald Trump speaking at a rally is a pumpkin festival. Except even a jack-o-lantern wouldn't "push a conspiracy theory that hospitals are over-classifying coronavirus deaths because 'doctors get more money and hospitals get more money.'"

+ "There are different ways of holding the we-all-gotta-go-sometime view. Someone who grasps it lightly might incline a little more toward risk-taking than caution in her personal choices. But over the course of the pandemic, the President and many of his followers have come to cling to it tightly, even triumphantly, brandishing it as a kind of ideology." Dhruv Khullar in The New Yorker: How Trump Became the Pro-Infection Candidate.

+ Mark Meadows, the White House Chief of Staff (Infections). "We're not going to control the pandemic." San Francisco: We are. Jacinda Ardern: We did.

+ NYT: The Trump Administration Shut a Vaccine Safety Office Last Year. What's the Plan Now? (Operation Warped.)

+ Why is all of this so bad right now? Because The Third Wave of Covid-19 in the U.S. Is Officially Worse Than the First Two. And the administration's performance is worse than ever.


Euro Thrash

In Europe, the latest wave is being taken both seriously and literally. And one imagines, sadly, especially in places like Italy. The country, "hit hard by the virus in March, has closed gyms, theatres and swimming pools in a bid to bring down case numbers." And "doctors in the Belgian city of Liège have been asked to keep working even if they have coronavirus amid a surge in cases and hospital admissions."


The Untoward and the Shield

"A lot of what we've done over the last four years will be undone sooner or later by the next election. They won't be able to do much about this for a long time to come." So said Mitch McConnell, as the Senate moved towards its final SCOTUS confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett.

+ It's apt that McConnell would contrast his moves with an election, as this is all about creating obstacles between the will of the people and the will of those attempting to halt, for as long as possible, the nation's demographic and opinion shifts. Ron Brownstein in The Atlantic: What the Rush to Confirm Amy Coney Barrett Is Really About.


Minority Report

Here are two stories that will provide you with a very clear overview of what's going on behind the scenes while we fixate on Trump's bombast. "Not only do most Americans disapprove of the way Mr. Trump is handling his job, but an unprecedented majority now embraces ethnic diversity and racial equality, two essential pillars of multiracial democracy. Yet translating this new multiethnic majority into a governing majority has been difficult. Democracy is supposed to be a game of numbers: The party with the most votes wins. In our political system, however, the majority does not govern. Constitutional design and recent political geographic trends — where Democrats and Republicans live — have unintentionally conspired to produce what is effectively becoming minority rule." Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt in the NYT: End Minority Rule.

+ And the excellent Dahlia Lithwick: This Is What It Feels Like to Live Under Minority Rule. "Like Barrett's appointment, the project of Donald Trump's entire presidency is to remind you that you don't have a say in your governance. And because you don't have a say, you don't need any actual information from which to decide. This is what we learned again last week in an interview with CBS's Lesley Stahl in which Trump announced that he won't disclose his new long-promised health care plan to protect Americans dying from a pandemic until after the Supreme Court strikes down the Affordable Care Act. It doesn't matter what his new plan is, anyway, he implies. The very definition of flooding the zone with shit is that nothing matters, because you have no choices left to make."

+ And about that big health plan book that White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany handed to Lesley Stahl after Trump stormed out of their interview ... it didn't contain any health plans. In this administration, the only disease more widespread than Covid is the lying.


The Inmates Are Running Asylum

"'The asylum program is a scam,' Trump said. 'Some of the roughest people you've ever seen—people that look like they should be fighting for the UFC. They read a little page given by lawyers that are all over the place—you know, lawyers. They tell them what to say. You look at this guy and say, ‘Wow, that's a tough cookie!' He paused, gesturing like he was reading from a statement and launching into his best big-galoot voice. ‘I…am…very…fearful for my life. I am very worried that I will be accosted if I am sent back home.' He stopped to raise his right index finger. 'No, no: He'll do the accosting.' The crowd laughed, ate it up. 'Asylum'—and here he tried out a whiny, bleeding-heart voice—'Oh, give him asylum! He's afraid! He's afraid! We don't love the fact that he has tattoos on his face. That's not a good sign. We don't love the fact that he's carrying the flag of Honduras or Guatemala or El Salvador, only to say he's petrified to be in his country.' He stopped again, one more time, and held his arms out wide. 'To confront this border crisis, I declared a national emergency.'" MoJo with a look at how Trump really talks about the border and what his policies have done to asylum programs. Donald Trump took a broken system and turned it into a machine of unchecked cruelty.

+ We now send asylum seekers to refugee camps. You can hate it. You can like it. But like family separations, you can't deny it. This is America right now. The NYT's By Caitlin Dickerson: Inside the Refugee Camp on America's Doorstep. "The members of this displaced community requested refuge in the United States but were sent back into Mexico, and told to wait. They came there after unique tragedies: violent assaults, oppressive extortions, murdered loved ones. They are bound together by the one thing they share in common — having nowhere else to go."


Crap Smear

"As the debate ended, The Wall Street Journal published a brief item, just the stub of Areddy and Duehren's reporting. The core of it was that Bobulinski had failed to prove the central claim. 'Corporate records reviewed by The Wall Street Journal show no role for Joe Biden,' The Journal reported." Ben Smith: Trump Had One Last Story to Sell. The Wall Street Journal Wouldn't Buy It.

+ This smear didn't stick. And, aside from the (admittedly growing) QAnon fringe, none of the other ones have either. WaPo: Joe Biden has emerged more popular as he closes in on a job he has wanted for decades. No presidential candidate sees their approval ratings go up during a campaign. Until now.


Come Health or High Water

"As had been true at Palin rallies, reporters at Tea Party events caught attendees comparing me to animals or Hitler. Signs turned up showing me dressed like an African witch doctor with a bone through my nose. Conspiracy theories abounded: that my health-care bill would set up 'death panels' to evaluate whether people deserved treatment, clearing the way for 'government-encouraged euthanasia,' or that it would benefit illegal immigrants, in the service of my larger goal of flooding the country with welfare-dependent, reliably Democratic voters. The Tea Party also resurrected an old rumor from the campaign: that I was not only Muslim but had actually been born in Kenya, and was therefore constitutionally barred from serving as President." In a book excerpt, Obama looks back on his toughest fight. Obamacare is still his toughest fight, and then and now, that fight is about a hell of a lot more than health care. The New Yorker: The story behind the Obama Administration's most enduring—and most contested—legacy.


Voting With Their Feet

"The result is a total of 58.6 million ballots cast so far, more than the 58 million that The Associated Press logged as being cast through the mail or at in-person early voting sites in 2016." People are fired up and lining up, and people are voting.


Row and Wade

"When you love someone so completely drawn to a thing as enigmatic and apathetic as the sea, you learn to understand mortality as constantly looming rather than as a condition of some distant, nebulous future. 'Every time I talked to her, she was so delighted to be out in the middle of the ocean, which I never understood,' Deb recalled. 'It's hard not to be supportive when that just makes somebody so happy.'" Andrew Lewis in Outside: A Death at Sea on the Row of Life. (This is a heavy edition. If you need some perspective widening, this article will provide it.)


Bottom of the News

"Perhaps we should consider a Christmas 'circuit-breaker'. A 24-hour lifting of restrictions on gatherings and celebrations, a break in the war on Covid, just like the pause in the First World War on the Western Front in 1914, when the British and German troops laid down their guns and met in no man's land to celebrate Christmas."
He added: "Couldn't we allow for one day of normality in the midst of our relentless war against the virus?" The Bishop of Paisley has called for a one day ceasefire ... with Covid-19.