Even conservative pundits like David Brooks have suggested there might be a need for “a sustained campaign of civil action” to preserve democracy in the event of a trump power grab. Sean Illing interviews Harvard political scientist and expert on nonviolent civil resistance Erica Chenoweth on Vox about how we might proceed. Chenoweth suggests there will be a mass mobilization of an unprecedented scale but the need to develop new strategies and plans. She mentions the need to focus on visible defectors from trump support and prominent Republicans, even those who had backed trump, who might oppose an illegal power grab. Business elites might be pivotal, and often opt for market stability supporting their own financial interests rather than a particular political philosophy.
When to take to the streets is not clear but groups are already working to coordinate efforts and coalesce around a clear plan. Triggers might include trump insisting he was the victor before the vote count had been completed, or his refusal to step down after losing. The accuracy of public expectations about how soon we will know the winner of the election — probably not election night (NPR) — will have to be managed.
Chenoweth says the success of resistance to an attempted coup by trump will depend not only on the size of the movement but how diverse and representational it is. It has to penetrate within trump’s pillars of support — civil servants, military leaders, business elements, religious authorities, etc.The movement will have to sustain resistance and disruption as repression escalates, including low-cost actions encouraging widespread support without necessarily asking people to demonstrate in the streets or otherwise take on high levels of risk, e.g. stay-at-home strikes. [Covid may make that easier. – ed.]
Preparations to avoid the movement’s devolution into disarray when attacked will be important, first and foremost training to maintain nonviolence in the face of the predictable violence of the repression. A violent response by activists would allow the regime to push a narrative about the need to protect the people from “criminals” and “terrorists,” often an effective trope. Violence against the state is favorable to the regime because it is fighting on their terms.
And in the case of the trump movement, the fight would not only be against the state apparatus but pro-government paramilitary militias. Essentially the US would likely devolve into civil war perpetuated by non state actors. Chenoweth talks about the value of buying time to prevent the escalation of violence against one’s community, as well as constant everyday forms of resistance against armed actors without meeting violence with violence. “There’s nothing inevitable about violence escalating in this country.” She emphasizes the importance of community, attending nonviolent direct action trainings., and connecting with affinity groups based on work, faith community, neighborhood or political party. Many groups are already organizing around the election aftermath. Realizing that in responding to the call to defend democracy and the Constitution one is among millions of others in the US and around the world will be essential.
Of course, since trump is essentially a weakling and a coward, he might simply seize whatever financial assets he may and flee from the prospects of an unsuccessful coup to a country without an extradition treaty with the US.
‘ trump treats his own supporters as a pack of morons, but they don’t seem to mind and keep on adoring him anyway. …They laugh and cheer, lapping it up as he insults them right to their faces.
It’s such a weird reaction that CNN host Don Lemon aired a supercut of trump complaining at various rallies that he didn’t even want to be there. …This bit, which he repeats ad nauseam, is trump’s apparent closing argument: Since he lowered himself to speak directly to the hoi polloi, the least they can do is vote for him. In order for the joke to work, you have to accept trump’s premise that his supporters are scum and he taints himself by having to speak to them. Despite trump’s insistence that he hates holding his rallies, of course, the truth is that he’s hopelessly addicted to them and their main purpose to feed his ego.
…trump sees his own supporters as dupes. He revels in their adoration, but can’t even pretend to return the feeling. Being a sociopathic bully, he revels in rubbing their noses in the fact that he sees them as idiots… ‘
Milbank is best with these reminder columns. He must keep index cards of trump transgressions compulsively and can whip up compilations for all occasions. Without his cataloguing, I find the trump follies too overwhelming to recall the details.
‘President trump’s face is one color, his hands are another, and it seems the longer his presidency goes on, the more striking the difference is. trump wears makeup because he wants to seem healthy and vigorous while he is performing the character he’s created for himself over the years — because he has always placed a higher value on seeming rather than being. Over his presidency, the performance has become lazier and less capable. But people still support this hollow performance. The legendary urban planner Jane Jacobs wrote about the American tendency to substitute image for substance in her final book, “Dark Age Ahead.” In the book, this tendency — accompanied with a disrespect for science and an absence of logic in policymaking — is a harbinger of doom for this country….’
Levels of protective antibodies in people wane “quite rapidly” after coronavirus infection, say researchers. …The Imperial College London team found the number of people testing positive for antibodies has fallen by 26% between June and September. They say immunity appears to be fading and there is a risk of catching the virus multiple times.
The loss of antibodies with time is greater in seniors and in those with asymptomatic infections as compared with those with fullblown Covid-19. Exactly how this correlates with active immunity is unclear, as there are other components of the immune system besides antibodies. However, antibody levels in general appear to be predictive of who is protected. There are four other coronaviruses which cause disease in humans (causing common cold symptoms), each of which we can catch multiple times in our lives.
There have been very few documented cases of people getting Covid-19 disease twice, but that may be because immunity is just now beginning to fade since the peak infection rates in the spring. It is hoped, although not clear, if a second infection will be milder than the first because of residual “immune memory.”
If antibody levels and protective immunity fade after an infection, what are the implications for the induction of immunity after vaccination? Researchers say that the vaccine response may behave differently than the response to a natural infection. But it is possible, as for certain other immunizations, that even if the vaccine works people might need follow-up booster doses to restore fading immunity over time.
‘In 2016, President Trump lost the national popular vote to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. He lost it by a lot — 2,865,075 votes, to be precise.
Meanwhile, the Senate just voted to confirm Trump’s third nominee to the Supreme Court. The vote was almost entirely along party lines, with Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) crossing over to vote with all 47 members of the Senate Democratic caucus.
Yet, while pro-Barrett senators control a majority of the Senate, they represent nowhere near a majority of the entire nation. Indeed, the senators who voted against Barrett represent 13,524,906 more people than the senators who voted for her. (I derived this figure using 2019 census estimates of each state’s population. You can check my work using this spreadsheet.)
These two numbers — 2,865,075 and 13,524,906 — should inform how we view the actions Barrett will take now that she is one of the nine most powerful judges in the country. Barrett owes her new job to two of our Constitution’s anti-democratic pathologies…’
Jeannie Suk Gersen in The New Yorker reviews the lack of political will to apply the provisions of the 25th Amendment to trump despite abundant and widespread concern about his mental fitness for office, even before his Covid infection and steroid treatment. But at first I thought it would veer off into the question of Biden’s possible cognitive decline, in line with the theme which has run through the campaign of the “two septuagenarians.” In fact, she argues for a new willingness to use the provisions of the amendment as a tool to remove trump from office if he refuses to give up power after losing on November 3:
‘If, as seems likely, voters deliver a loss for Trump, the Twenty-fifth Amendment comes into different focus, as an essential support to the democratic electoral process rather than an end run around it. In the event that the President’s mental state leads him to try to circumvent the election result in order to stay in power, having Congress remove him via the Twenty-fifth Amendment as “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office” would be as legitimate a function of constitutional democracy as can be imagined….’
Arguably, the period from November 3 to Inauguration Day is likely to be, in the words of psychiatrist John Gartner, “the most dangerous moment” in trump’s presidency. Enraging a malignant narcissist by public humiliation will inevitably lead to their desire to regain power by acting out through sadistic aggressive action. Gartner likens the US to the victim of domestic battering by an abusive spouse. The most dangerous moment in the relationship inevitably comes when the hitherto paralyzed victim finally summons up the will and the resources to leave their abuser.
[Editor’s note: Surely you have noticed by now my shift to using lower case in referring to the Orange Menace here. I hope it is clear that this is not a typo but a small symbolic enactment of my inability to show him any respect.]
A reprise of my traditional Hallowe’en post of past years:
It is that time of year again. What has become a time of disinhibited hijinx and mayhem, and a growing marketing bonanza for the kitsch-manufacturers and -importers, has primeval origins as the Celtic New Year’s Eve, Samhain (pronounced “sow-en”). The harvest is over, summer ends and winter begins, the Old God dies and returns to the Land of the Dead to await his rebirth at Yule, and the land is cast into darkness. The veil separating the worlds of the living and the dead becomes frayed and thin, and dispossessed dead mingle with the living, perhaps seeking a body to possess for the next year as their only chance to remain connected with the living, who hope to scare them away with ghoulish costumes and behavior, escape their menace by masquerading as one of them, or placate them with offerings of food, in hopes that they will go away before the new year comes. For those prepared, a journey to the other side could be made at this time.
With Christianity, perhaps because with calendar reform it was no longer the last day of the year, All Hallows’ Eve became decathected, a day for innocent masquerading and fun, taking its name Hallowe’en as a contraction and corruption of All Hallows’ Eve.
All Saints’ Day may have originated in its modern form with the 8th century Pope Gregory III. Hallowe’en customs reputedly came to the New World with the Irish immigrants of the 1840’s. The prominence of trick-or-treating has a slightly different origin, however.
The custom of trick-or-treating is thought to have originated not with the Irish Celts, but with a ninth-century European custom called souling. On November 2, All Souls Day, early Christians would walk from village to village begging for “soul cakes,” made out of square pieces of bread with currants. The more soul cakes the beggars would receive, the more prayers they would promise to say on behalf of the dead relatives of the donors. At the time, it was believed that the dead remained in limbo for a time after death, and that prayer, even by strangers, could expedite a soul’s passage to heaven.
Jack-o’-lanterns were reportedly originally turnips; the Irish began using pumpkins after they immigrated to North America, given how plentiful they were here. The Jack-o-lantern custom probably comes from Irish folklore. As the tale is told, a man named Jack, who was notorious as a drunkard and trickster, tricked Satan into climbing a tree. Jack then carved an image of a cross in the tree’s trunk, trapping the devil up the tree. Jack made a deal with the devil that, if he would never tempt him again, he would promise to let him down the tree.
According to the folk tale, after Jack died, he was denied entrance to Heaven because of his evil ways, but he was also denied access to Hell because he had tricked the devil. Instead, the devil gave him a single ember to light his way through the frigid darkness. The ember was placed inside a hollowed-out turnip to keep it glowing longer.
Nowadays, a reported 99% of cultivated pumpkin sales in the US go for jack-o-lanterns.
The idea behind ducking, dooking or bobbing for apples seems to have been that snatching a bite from the apple enables the person to grasp good fortune. Samhain is a time for getting rid of weakness, as pagans once slaughtered weak animals which were unlikely to survive the winter. A common ritual calls for writing down weaknesses on a piece of paper or parchment, and tossing it into the fire. There used to be a custom of placing a stone in the hot ashes of the bonfire. If in the morning a person found that the stone had been removed or had cracked, it was a sign of bad fortune. Nuts have been used for divination: whether they burned quietly or exploded indicated good or bad luck. Peeling an apple and throwing the peel over one’s shoulder was supposed to reveal the initial of one’s future spouse. One way of looking for omens of death was for peope to visit churchyards
Although probably not yet in a position to shape mainstream American Hallowe’en traditions, Mexican Dia de los Muertos observances have started to contribute some delightful and whimsical iconography to our encounter with the eerie and unearthly as well. As this article in The Smithsonian reviews, ‘In the United States, Halloween is mostly about candy, but elsewhere in the world celebrations honoring the departed have a spiritual meaning…’
Reportedly, more than 80% of American families decorate their homes, at least minimally, for Hallowe’en. What was the holiday like forty or fifty years ago in the U.S. when, bastardized as it has now become with respect to its pagan origins, it retained a much more traditional flair? Before the era of the pay-per-view ’spooky-world’ type haunted attractions and its Martha Stewart yuppification with, as this irreverent Salon article from several years ago [via walker] put it, monogrammed jack-o’-lanterns and the like? One issue may be that, as NPR observed,
‘“Adults have hijacked Halloween… Two in three adults feel Halloween is a holiday for them and not just kids,” Forbes opined in 2012, citing a public relations survey. True that when the holiday was imported from Celtic nations in the mid-19th century — along with a wave of immigrants fleeing Irelands potato famine — it was essentially a younger persons’ game. But a little research reveals that adults have long enjoyed Halloween — right alongside young spooks and spirits.’
Is that necessarily a bad thing? A 1984 essay by Richard Seltzer, frequently referenced in other sources, entitled “Why Bother to Save Hallowe’en?”, argues as I do that reverence for Hallowe’en is good for the soul, young or old.
“Maybe at one time Hallowe’en helped exorcise fears of death and ghosts and goblins by making fun of them. Maybe, too, in a time of rigidly prescribed social behavior, Hallowe’en was the occasion for socially condoned mischief — a time for misrule and letting loose. Although such elements still remain, the emphasis has shifted and the importance of the day and its rituals has actually grown.…(D)on’t just abandon a tradition that you yourself loved as a child, that your own children look forward to months in advance, and that helps preserve our sense of fellowship and community with our neighbors in the midst of all this madness.”
That would be anathema to certain segments of society, however. Hallowe’en certainly inspires a backlash by fundamentalists who consider it a blasphemous abomination. ‘Amateur scholar’ Isaac Bonewits details academically the Hallowe’en errors and lies he feels contribute to its being reviled. Some of the panic over Hallowe’en is akin to the hysteria, fortunately now debunked, over the supposed epidemic of ‘ritual Satanic abuse’ that swept the Western world in the ’90’s.
The horror film has become inextricably linked to Hallowe’en tradition, although the holiday itself did not figure in the movies until John Carpenter took the slasher genre singlehandedly by storm. Googling “scariest films”, you will, grimly, reap a mother lode of opinions about how to pierce the veil to journey to the netherworld and reconnect with that magical, eerie creepiness in the dark (if not the over-the-top blood and gore that has largely replaced the subtlety of earlier horror films).
The Carfax Abbey Horror Films and Movies Database includes best-ever-horror-films lists from Entertainment Weekly, Mr. Showbiz and Hollywood.com. I’ve seen most of these; some of their choices are not that scary, some are just plain silly, and they give extremely short shrift to my real favorites, the evocative classics of the ’30’s and ’40’s when most eeriness was allusive and not explicit. And here’s what claims to be a compilation of links to the darkest and most gruesome sites on the web. “Hours and hours of fun for morbidity lovers.”
Boing Boing does homage to a morbid masterpiece of wretched existential horror, two of the tensest, scariest hours of my life repeated every time I watch it:
‘…The Thing starts. It had been 9 years since The Exorcist scared the living shit out of audiences in New York and sent people fleeing into the street. Really … up the aisle and out the door at full gallop. You would think that people had calmed down a bit since then. No…’
Meanwhile, what could be creepier in the movies than the phenomenon of evil children? Gawker knows what shadows lurk in the hearts of the cinematic young:
‘In celebration of Halloween, we took a shallow dive into the horror subgenre of evil-child horror movies. Weird-kid cinema stretches back at least to 1956’s The Bad Seed, and has experienced a resurgence recently via movies like The Babadook, Goodnight Mommy, and Cooties. You could look at this trend as a natural extension of the focus on domesticity seen in horror via the wave of haunted-house movies that 2009’s Paranormal Activity helped usher in. Or maybe we’re just wizening up as a culture and realizing that children are evil and that film is a great way to warn people of this truth. Happy Halloween. Hope you don’t get killed by trick-or-treaters.’
In any case: trick or treat! …And may your Hallowe’en soothe your soul.
The 1976 National Emergencies Act gives the President almost unlimited and veto-proof discretion to declare a national emergency under whatever circumstances he chooses.Such a declaration triggers standby powers, some quite narrow and reasonable but some broad enough to make a dictator’s mouth water, including imposing martial law, suspending habeas corpus, freezing anyone’s assets and seizing their property, shutting down the broadcast media and “wire communications facilities,” potentially including the internet, seizing control of transport, restricting travel, and incarcerating so-called subversives.
The scope of emergency power in emergency has been further expanded by a number of extra-legislative Presidential Emergency Action Documents (PEADs) which has steadily proliferated over recent decades. A president-elect is briefed on these powers at the time of his inauguration (at the same time he receives the nuclear launch codes).
Presidential abuse of emergency powers has a venerable history in American politics. FDR used that authority for the internment of Japanese-Americans after Pearl Harbor. The growth in subsequent decades of the vast illegal domestic spying operations used to suppress the civil rights and antiwar movements in the ’60s and ’70s has also been justified by emergency powers, as was the ordering of foreign assassinations and the financing of the Vietnam War and other undeclared foreign interventions.
There are statutes that specifically prohibit interference in elections which cannot be waived by the emergency powers, however, but emergency powers not specifically related to elections, such as the authority to deploy federal troops to suppress civil unrest, could be deployed at will at such times. If they interfere with the election process, they are illegal, but — in a word — so what?
Andrew Cockburn writes in the November 2020 issue of Harper’s of the long history of the failure of Congressional oversight of these powers, whose existence has largely escaped the public’s attention until donald trump began to brag about them (“I have the right to do a lot of things that people don’t even know about…”).
In June, a group including former Carter administration official Joel McCleary, Clinton administration security official Mark Medish, and former senators Gary Hart and Tom Wirth, issued a warning about the president’s emergency powers.
“It looks as though a rolling coup is underway, with Trump and his confederates testing the waters for ways to scupper the election,” Medish [said] recently. Democratic leaders are meanwhile cautious, he said, “about doing anything that might demoralize voters by drawing too much attention to unconventional election threats,” which they feel would risk depressing the vote. As McCleary pithily remarked, when the president decides to ignore it, the Constitution turns out to be “no more than a gentleman’s agreement.”
‘Campaigners have hailed a “new chapter” after a key step by the United Nations towards banning nuclear arms. Honduras has become the 50th country to ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons so it will now come into force in 90 days time…
The accord was approved by 122 countries at the UN General Assembly in 2017 but needed to be ratified by at least 50 before being enacted…’
For months trump has hinted that he might not concede power if he loses in November. His response to questions about committing to a peaceful transfer of power was, “There won’t be a transfer, frankly. THere’ll be a continuation.” Is this plausible? There has been endless speculation about ways trump could orchestrate a power grab on November 4th:
‘The possibilities include familiar tactics—contesting mail-in ballots and turning the process into Bush v. Gore on steroids—and others that sound straight out of a police state. For example, Trump could summon federal agents or his supporters to stop a recount or intimidate voters. According to some experts, this would constitute an autogolpe, or “self coup”: when a President who obtained power through constitutional means holds onto it through illegitimate ones, beginning the slide into authoritarianism…’
Organizing to combat these possibilities has been proceeding. There’s the 50-page downloadable manual Hold the Line: A Guide to Defending Democracy and the work of Quaker sociologist George Lakey, known for his 1964 Manual for Direct Action (which is often referred to as the bible for participants in the civil rights movement) and training activists throughout the world in their struggles against repressive regimes. American activists accustomed to the slow pace of organizing for social change would need an entirely new skill set to defeat a fast-moving coup.
A group Lakey helped form this summer called Choose Democracy has been asking people to take a pledge to commit to nonviolent direct action if a coup is attempted. So far it has more than 30,000 signatures. The group is giving training sessions on “Beating an Election-Related Power Grab” in Zoom based on the studies of successful occasions when citizens of a country were able to rise up and defeat a coup. Common factors have included the rapid construction of an alliance drawing from a broad cross-section of society, focusing on the center of the political spectrum, remaining nonviolent, and refusing to compromise with the wannabe despot.
As far as tactics go, Lakey dismisses the impact of mass protests. We know from the last four years that they have no impact on trump and his cronies. Instead, there have to be ways of depriving trump of the institutional support he would need to govern by focusing on institutions such as banking, business, the military, the media, law enforcement and the judiciary as well as local bureaucracies.
There are alarming challenges in the US to avoiding violence, mostly the millions of US citizens who are loyal trump supporters and own guns — and not just guns but semi-automatic weapons.
‘Lakey acknowledged, “There are a lot of alarming things going on already in this country with regard to what I call Trump’s ‘irregulars.’ ” He said that protesters should plan their rallies for places where it would be difficult for violence to break out: in the lobby of an office building or in a car caravan. He told participants to imagine that they were Proud Boys looking to “rumble.” “Ask, ‘What would they welcome?’ And then not do that!” he said. One tip, from the civil-rights movement: “When in doubt, sit down. It’s counterintuitive. But it has been used in multiple cultures, and it works.” (Except with tear gas. Then, he said, “walking slowly would be best.”)…’
In the last analysis, outbreaks of right-wing violence could horrify the public and bring a surge of indecisive people into the opposition. ‘That’s what happened during Thailand’s military coup, in 1992, when soldiers shot into a crowd of nonviolent demonstrators.’
Taking the Zoom training may help people feel empowered and more hopeful. Forewarned is forearmed.
‘Asteroid 2018 VP1 is scheduled to graze Earth on Nov. 2, the day before the US elections. It has a real but exceedingly slim (0.41%) possibility of entering our planet’s atmosphere, at which point it would harmlessly disintegrate. But Oreo isn’t taking any chances. The company has built a concrete doomsday vault in Norway to house its cookies.
The vault design is inspired by the famous seed vault in the Arctic that’s meant to preserve the world’s botanical legacy against natural or human-caused disasters. Oreo’s version is much smaller, but it shows the cookie company’s commitment to riding out a truly epic PR stunt….’
‘To bring back our long-lost excitement for hard pieces of data, aka maps, plans, and geographic drawings, we’re gonna need to start from the very best of them. Luckily, there’s a whole online community on Reddit (created by Patrick McGranaghan, who started the subreddit in 2011 while living in Taiwan) dedicated to the most unusual charts of geographic areas that took maps to a whole new level….’
“I don’t know what happened. But years ago, you know, he [Sacha Baron Cohen] tried to scam me and I was the only one who said no way. That’s a phony guy and I don’t find him funny… To me, he’s a creep…”
Baron Cohen in response:
“Donald—I appreciate the free publicity for Borat! I admit, I don’t find you funny either. But yet the whole world laughs at you. I’m always looking for people to play racist buffoons, and you’ll need a job after Jan. 20. Let’s talk!”…’
Inside the bizarre, secret meeting between Malcolm X and the Ku Klux Klan in January 1961:
‘The meeting was the beginning of an uneasy alliance between the NOI and the Ku Klux Klan on shared goals of racial separation. It was also the beginning of Malcolm’s disillusionment with the Black Muslim organization and his embrace of the more mainstream civil rights movement….’
‘The environmental group claims that the 1.23 million metric tons of water stored at the plant — scene of the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster — contains “dangerous” levels of the radioactive isotope carbon-14 and other “hazardous” radionuclides, which it says will have “serious long-term consequences for communities and the environment” if the water is released into the Pacific Ocean.
To cool fuel cores at the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) has pumped in tens of thousands of tons of water over the years. Once used, the water is put into storage.
But nine years on from Japan’s worst nuclear disaster, storage space is running out, and the government is still deciding what to do with the water….’
‘Two researchers claim that a single number they call the “political stress indicator” can warn when societies are at risk of erupting into violence. It’s spiking in the US, just like it did before the Civil War….’
‘“I’ve never seen a campaign more miscalibrated than the Trump campaign. Frankly, his staff ought to be brought up on charges of political malpractice,” Republican pollster Frank Luntz said…
“It is the worst campaign I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been watching them since 1980. They’re on the wrong issues. They’re on the wrong message. They’ve got their heads up their asses,” he added. “Your damn job is to get your candidate to talk about things that are relevant to the people you need to reach. And if you can’t do your damn job then get out.”
Luntz said that “nobody cares about Hunter Biden,” the son of Democratic nominee Joe Biden and a favored target of right-wing media attacks. With weeks before Election Day, the Trump camp has seized aggressively on a dubious story published by the New York Post that alleges the Bidens were involved in high-level political corruption….
“Hunter Biden does not help put food on the table. Hunter Biden does not help anyone get a job. Hunter Biden does not provide health care or solve COVID. And Donald Trump spends all of his time focused on that and nobody cares,” Luntz said…’
‘The end of the world has a soundtrack, thanks to CNN.
An ex-intern supposedly unearthed a long-rumored video that CNN founder Ted Turner vowed to broadcast in the event of an apocalypse scenario. As Turner pledged when the 24-hour news channel launched in 1980, the video (above) shows a brass band playing “Nearer My God To Thee,” the same song that onboard musicians reportedly performed as the Titanic sank.
“People thought he was joking,” Michael Ballaban wrote of Turner on Jalopnik. “We have proof that he wasn’t.”
Ballaban said he found the tape in a network archive under the name “TURNER DOOMSDAY VIDEO” while interning for “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer” in 2009.
…Turner’s words to celebrate the June 1, 1980, network launch were: …“We’re gonna stay on until the end of the world. When that time comes, we’ll cover it, play ‘Nearer My God To Thee’ and sign off.” …’
‘If things don’t go Donald Trump’s way on Election Day, the President may face more serious matters than how to pack up the West Wing.
Without some of the protections afforded him by the presidency, Trump will become vulnerable to multiple investigations looking into possible fraud in his financial business dealings as a private citizen — both as an individual and through his company. He faces defamation lawsuits sparked by his denials of accusations made by women who have alleged he assaulted them, including E. Jean Carroll, the former magazine columnist who has accused him of rape. And then there are claims he corrupted the presidency for his personal profits.
As President, Trump has been able to block and delay several of these investigations and lawsuits — including a yearlong fight over a subpoena for his tax returns — in part because of his official position. Many of those matters have wound through the courts and will come to a head whether he is reelected or not.
But with the polls showing that Democratic rival Joe Biden is leading in the race, the stakes become much higher for Trump if he loses the election. A raft of legal issues, including a criminal investigation by New York prosecutors, will come into focus in the weeks after Election Day….’
A final pre-election case for understanding the president as a noisy weakling, not a budding autocrat.
‘Across the last four years, the Trump administration has indeed displayed hallmarks of authoritarianism. It features egregious internal sycophancy and hacks in high positions, abusive presidential rhetoric and mendacity on an unusual scale. The president’s attempts to delegitimize the 2020 vote aren’t novel; they’re an extension of the way he’s talked since his birther days, paranoid and demagogic.
These are all very bad things, and good reasons to favor his defeat. But it’s also important to recognize all the elements of authoritarianism he lacks. He lacks popularity and political skill, unlike most of the global strongmen who are supposed to be his peers. He lacks power over the media: Outside of Fox’s prime time, he faces an unremittingly hostile press whose major outlets have thrived throughout his presidency. He is plainly despised by his own military leadership, and notwithstanding his courtship of Mark Zuckerberg, Silicon Valley is more likely to censor him than to support him in a constitutional crisis.
His own Supreme Court appointees have already ruled against him; his attempts to turn his voter-fraud hype into litigation have been repeatedly defeated in the courts; he has been constantly at war with his own C.I.A. and F.B.I. And there is no mass movement behind him: The threat of far-right violence is certainly real, but America’s streets belong to the anti-Trump left….’
‘Trump is already undertaking a nuclear buildup and seems set on dismantling the one remaining treaty between the world’s two main nuclear powers. And there is a real fear that a second Trump term would embolden the authoritarians around the world who have lined up to support him. Not all of his bluster translates into impact—corporations are largely navigating his trade wars, and global climate policy is working around Washington for now—but his abandonment of the international arena is almost certain to have big downstream effects as China rises to fill the gap.
“Whoever occupies the Oval Office from January has to appreciate that America’s alliance network is its greatest comparative advantage over China,” says former NATO Secretary General and Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen. Trump is deliberately letting that network wither.
While the Trump administration notched a win for Middle East stability this year by securing deals between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, the world as a whole has not responded well to his presidency. In a recent Pew survey of 13 democracies, confidence in his leadership on world affairs ranged from 9 percent in Belgium to a high of 25 percent in Japan. Trump is the least trusted of all major world leaders; even among supporters of Europe’s far right parties, his approval never rises above 45 percent.
This means “America First” has huge and mounting costs for America: Increasingly, it is losing the ability to rely on the easy cooperation of old allies, and the global respect that fuels U.S. soft power has almost vanished…’
‘Asked if she has questions about the President’s capability to serve in the office right now, Pelosi said, “What I said about the President was that we don’t know if somebody who — I’ve not said this, I’ve quoted others to say there are those who say that when you’re on steroids and/or if you have Covid-19 or both that there may be some impairment of judgment, but again that’s for the doctors and the scientists to determine.”
The comments prompted an angry retort from Trump, who retweeted several messages suggesting that Pelosi is trying to mount a coup. Trump ultimately responded to Pelosi: “Crazy Nancy is the one who should be under observation. They don’t call her Crazy for nothing!”
Trump puts his own spin on his health as doctors reveal little
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell dismissed the efforts by House Democrats as “absurd” Friday.
“That’s absurd. Absolutely absurd. Again, right here in the last three weeks before the election, I think those wild comments should be largely discounted,” he said speaking at a news conference in Kentucky.
The new proposal would create a commission of 17 people — eight appointed by Republicans and eight appointed by Democrats — as well as a chair selected by the entire body. That commission could study the President’s health as well as request an exam of the President. If the President refused, the commission could make a judgment on the President’s condition with the information they already had. A majority of the commission could vote to remove the President, but only with the Vice President….’
Finally, this possibility is being taken seriously, but for the wrong reasons. Trump’s malignant narcissism and possible cognitive deterioration, have raised questions about his fitness to serve since soon after his election. As I have written about several times here, consideration of invoking the 25th amendment process were led by a group of concerned psychiatrists. I am glad the issue is being raised again, but the cognitive and personality impairments caused by Covid infection and/or steroid use are transient. A bipartisan investigation would be deadlocked for so long that it would be a moot point, even if it were not three months to Inauguration Day. Related: What happens if a nominee dies shortly before or after the election. Washington Post: “It’s complicated.” To what extent would these considerations apply if a nominee were unfit to continue his candidacy?
‘In an unprecedented move, the New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday published an editorial written by its editors condemning the Trump administration for its response to the Covid-19 pandemic — and calling for the current leadership in the United States to be voted out of office….’
‘In May, the House of Representatives passed a $3 trillion economic relief bill. Over the next four and a half months, Republicans in the White House and Senate dithered, alternating between good-faith engagement and lethargy. The apparent final blow came in the form of a series of tweets by President Trump announcing an end to negotiations.
It is possible Trump — who just yesterday declared his desire to cut a deal — intends this as one of his “clever” negotiating ploys, enabling him to turn around and make a deal that he can paint as a capitulation by his panicked foes. But even if that happens, the window to boost the economy in time to help him (obviously the only consideration Trump cares about) is closing fast. Walking away from the extended hand of an opposition party willing to pump trillions of dollars into the economy may go down as the single greatest political blunder in the history of presidential elections….’
‘Russian investigators said Saturday they were looking into “a possible ecological catastrophe” in the eastern Kamchatka region, after scores of dead sea creatures washed up in one of it bays and surfers reported burns to their eyes and throats. Images of dead seals, octopi, starfish and urchins on the Khalaktyrsky Beach in the Avacha Bay have been shared on social media for several days. Surfers in the area have also complained that the sea had an unnatural smell and color….’
‘Americans of all political stripes wished President Trump well in his battle with covid-19. Now he is repaying our compassion with reckless disregard and callous contempt for the well-being of anybody but himself. Trump, announcing via Twitter on Monday afternoon that he was ending his hospitalization at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center after three days, told Americans that the pandemic is no big deal. “Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life,” he wrote. “I feel better than I did 20 years ago!” he added. A more selfish man has never occupied his high office. He received a cutting-edge treatment, monoclonal antibodies, unavailable to virtually all other Americans. He received an antiviral, remdesivir, that is rationed for ordinary Americans. He required oxygen and steroids. Full coverage of the coronavirus pandemic Yet Trump has the audacity to tell Americans the virus is no biggie. No doubt the families of the 209,000 dead are greatly reassured….’
‘I think it’s important to note that this sort of casual, blatant lying is normal with the Trump administration. It doesn’t represent a specific effort to conceal the severity of his present condition beyond the usual level of bullshit about everything….’
‘How do you protect a culture that is being wiped out?
For Uighurs, this is more than just a hypothetical. Repressive measures against the ethnic minority have progressively worsened: the Chinese government has corralled more than 1 million of them into internment camps, where they have been subjected to political indoctrination, forced sterilization, and torture.
The targeting of the Uighurs isn’t limited to the camps: Since 2016, dozens of graveyards and religious sites have been destroyed. The Uighur language has been banned in Xinjiang schools in favor of Mandarin Chinese. Practicing Islam, the predominant Uighur faith, has been discouraged as a “sign of extremism.”
Beijing frames these moves as its way of rooting out terrorism, separatism, and religious extremism. But the aim of China’s actions in Xinjiang is clear: to homogenize Uighurs into the country’s Han Chinese majority, even if that means erasing their cultural and religious identity for good. What is taking place is a cultural genocide….’
‘What if slime moulds were pointing towards a different way of being: something softer and more transformative? Instead of cringing away from a texture I am told is terrible and wrong, what would happen if I marvelled at its iridescence?…’
Okay, so it is interesting to discuss whether plane spotters’ observation of two E-6B takeoffs and trump’s tweet about his CoViD positivity minutes later were related (probably not, it appears). But the backstory about these aircraft is more fascinating:
‘…E-6Bs, which are based on Boeing 707s, are essentially communication relay stations built to receive military orders from the president of the US and the secretary of defense, and then convey those commands to US ballistic missile submarines. They’re also equipped to remotely control Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missiles through a platform called the Airborne Launch Control System. The idea is for E-6Bs to serve as a redundancy in case ground-based communication systems are disrupted. And they’re also crucial for establishing line-of-sight communication connections that require proximity. The E-6B mission overall is known as TACAMO, or Take Charge And Move Out…
The planes have some dramatic capabilities. One of the most significant is their Very Low Frequency communication platform, which is used to reach nuclear ballistic missile submarines down to 60 feet below the ocean’s surface. These stealth submarines must conceal their positions and often can’t rise to shallower depths or send up buoys to aid communication. Instead, both communication relay planes and the submarines themselves must be equipped with massive antennas, and even then VLF systems are still extremely low-latency, low-bandwidth, and low-throughput, meaning it takes a long time to send very small amounts of data. To transmit even the shortest messages to deep-sea submarines, E-6Bs perform special airborne maneuvers. These are essentially steep, tight turns that go on for long periods of time, looping the plane around and around to get the antennas in a vertical position transmitting straight down into the water. Other military planes are also equipped for VLF communication, but it is especially core to the mission of E-6Bs…’
‘In 2003, Wenner and Rolling Stone engaged in a complementary act of canon-building with a list of the “500 Greatest Albums of All Time,” a massive undertaking. The list’s flaws were apparent from the beginning. “Predictably,” Edna Gundersen wrote, in USA Today that year, “the list is weighted toward testosterone-fueled vintage rock.” Here was an institution, Rolling Stone, made up primarily of white men, saying that most of the best music ever was made by white men, and leaning on their authority as a counterculture icon to do so. A new Rolling Stone list was revealed last week, with a hundred and fifty-four new entries and some major moves in the rankings. It reflects an admirable attempt by Rolling Stone to evolve with the times and exhibit a more comprehensive consideration of music history. The resulting list was clearly animated by a critical push toward poptimism and an attempt to diversify the critical class.
In a column in the Guardian, from 2018, titled “Bland on Blonde: Why the Old Rock Music Canon Is Finished,” the critic Michael Hann accurately summarized the problems with the current canon: the inherent superiority of rock assumed in the long-standing hierarchy of popular music; the domination of the conversation by white men; and the construction of the canon with albums, a format that many of us still value but which is, quite frankly, obsolete. Hann predicted the rapid fading of the rockist canon and the rise of a new one defined by a more inclusive critical tribunal…’
Trump—by virtue of his age, gender, and weight—is at relatively high risk for serious complications from the coronavirus infection. People over the age of sixty-five account for more than eighty per cent of covid-19 deaths in the United States. Compared to a twentysomething, a septuagenarian is more than five times as likely to be hospitalized and is ninety times more likely to die of the coronavirus. For Americans in their seventies, the case fatality rate—a measure of a person’s chance of dying after being diagnosed—is around ten per cent. The true rate of death in that age group is almost certainly lower, since some people who contract the virus never develop symptoms and are never tested for it. On the other hand, we know that older men are more likely to die than women, possibly because of gendered differences in the way the immune system responds to the virus. At six feet three and two hundred and forty-three pounds, the President is also obese, which increases the risk of hospitalization, I.C.U. admission, and death.
In all likelihood, however, he will survive, as the vast majority of infected people do, but especially given his early diagnosis and the world-class attention he has already started, and will continue, to receive. On the other hand, this virus is a capricious killer. Almost surely at the current vantage point, his symptoms are worse than represented.
With his schedule of events and his execrable disdain for masks and social distancing, he is a potential superspreader at a White House with a crippled approach to the coronavirus. Given this, and the false negative rate for CoViD testing among the asymptomatic and presymptomatic, reassurances that other administration figures including Mike Pence are healthy should be viewed with skepticism and should not necessarily obviate the need for quarantine regardless of test results.
Trump did not get the ‘October surprise’ he bargained for. His infection means that his bungling of the pandemic is now guaranteed to remain the overriding story of the last month of the campaign. Those who hope for his speedy return to health should recognize that if his symptoms remain mild he will almost use his recovery as ammunition to scoff at the advice of medical experts while the virus continues to kill a thousand or more Americans per day.
‘…Given the current makeup of the executive branch, it’s not hard to imagine a scenario in which Secretary of State Mike Pompeo might, with the help of an aggressive attorney general, William Barr, challenge any attempt by Nancy Pelosi to ascend to the presidency if both Trump and Pence are incapacitated by Covid-19—perhaps even preemptively putting out a legal opinion that Pompeo is legally next in line for the acting presidency.
Could Nancy Pelosi assume the acting presidency and fire Barr to get her own contrary legal opinion? Would Barr treat such an order as legitimate? Would the Supreme Court weigh in? How those questions would be answered would almost certainly hinge less on actual legal fights and more on vague public sentiments—questions such as whether the president or vice president looks likely to recover.
“The nation could thus be deeply divided, in a hard-to-resolve way, on the very basic question: Who is the (acting) president of the United States?” legal scholars Jack Goldsmith and Ben Miller-Gootnick wrote back in March at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic…’