Trump has ruined our inauguration celebration

At least 10,000 members of the National Guard will be stationed to protect Joe Biden’s inauguration. That’s more than the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq combined.

It used to be that the people of the United States looked at presidential inaugurations with a sense of pride. But like just about everything else he touches, Donald Trump has broken that, too.

Even if your candidate lost, you knew the inauguration was momentous — the views of the buildings in Washington, D.C., the swearing-in by the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, the oath of office on the Capitol steps, the proud family members and dignitaries watching, the inaugural parade down Pennsylvania Avenue, the glittering balls that evening. The peaceful transfer of power is a key reminder of our democracy. It was always a powerful moment that unified the country, even if you disagreed with who was taking power.

Instead, the nation will hold its collective breath and pray that no one gets killed.

There was no question that the inauguration of President-Elect Joe Biden would need to be scaled back because of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Whose fault is it that the novel coronavirus is out of control? Trump’s, because he downplayed and ignored its seriousness and gave up doing anything about it months ago.) Instead of welcoming a huge crowd to witness the event, the Presidential Inaugural Committee requested that people watch virtually, either online or on TV. But you couldn’t come if you wanted to; the entire National Mall is closed to the public for several days leading up to Inauguration Day.

There’s no surprise behind that decision by the National Park Service. The deadly Jan. 6 riot by Trump-supporting domestic terrorists who were incited by Trump’s lies about the election outcome and who tried to take over the Capitol in a (thankfully) failed coup attempt has caused everything to go on lockdown in our nation’s capital. “There are fears that violent pro-Trump mobs that stormed the US Capitol will return — and concern for the safety of Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and other dignitaries at the open-air ceremony,” said an analysis by The Washington Post. “When the world watches on Wednesday, it will take away a tragic truth: Two great icons of US democracy, the Capitol and the White House, must now be sealed inside a vast cage to protect them from the people they serve.”

Security officials from the FBI, the Secret Service, and area police are reporting continued threats on Washington and capitals of all 50 states from the same white supremacist, neo-Nazi, and right-wing groups who laid siege to the Capitol. Biden had been planning to take an Amtrak train from Delaware to Washington, as he did during his Senate career, but ongoing threats meant those plans had to be scrapped. There have not been as many security concerns about an inauguration since the 1861 swearing-in of Abraham Lincoln, where there were “endless reports of plots to kidnap or kill him,” according to a story in The Washington Post. It’s probably wise for Biden not to take the train; a bomb was planted on the train that carried Lincoln from Illinois.

So instead of watching in person, plan to tune in for several events leading up to Inauguration Day. There will be a virtual inaugural concert Sunday evening, hosted by Keegan-Michael Key and Debra Messing. Monday is a “United We Serve” National Day of Service; look for some way to help in your own community. There will be a National COVID-19 Memorial on Tuesday in honor of all the lives lost to COVID-19, which now are approaching 400,000. There will be a ceremony in Washington at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, and churches around the country are asked to ring bells simultaneously at 5:30 p.m. Eastern.

On Jan. 20, Biden will take the oath of office as outlined in the U.S. Constitution (the ignorance of Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville notwithstanding, who somehow thought it could be postponed until “after we got this virus behind us a little bit”). He and the new vice president, Kamala Harris, will take part in the military tradition of a “pass in review” to symbolize the peaceful transfer of power. Then Biden, Dr. Jill Biden, Harris, and Douglas Emhoff (the “second gentleman”), will be joined by former President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama, former President George W. Bush and Laura Bush, and former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to lay a wreath at Arlington National Ceremony.

(Donald Trump won’t be joining that list of dignitaries; he’s expected to fly the coop that morning and will not attend the inauguration. No one wants him there anyway.)

A virtual “Parade Across America” will follow, featuring diverse performances in communities across the country. Wednesday evening, actor Tom Hanks will host a “Celebrating America” prime-time special with performers such as Justin Timberlake, Demi Lovato, Ant Clemons, and Bon Jovi.

All of the official events can be found at the Biden Inaugural website.

Trump finally got his ‘American carnage’

Traitors to the United States thought it would be fun to scale the walls while storming the U.S. Capitol. Capitol police barely stopped them.

In his inaugural address in January 2017, Donald Trump promised to end “American carnage.” As his (thankfully single) term in office is about to end, he finally figured out a way to get his deranged followers to deliver that carnage.

As the world watched in horror, thousands of Trump supporters from such white supremacy and ultra-right-wing groups as the Proud Boys stormed the Capitol, the home of Congress, one of the three U.S. branches of government. The yahoos, many armed (illegally, as it’s unlawful to carry guns on such federal property in Washington) broke through four security fences, breached police barricades, scaled walls, and smashed windows to enter the Capitol. They roamed through all parts of the Capitol, some carrying treasonous Confederate flags and Trump paraphernalia — by this point, both of those racist “flags” represent the same thing. The Confederate flag had never been flown in the U.S. Capitol until this riot.

The mob rifled through congressional offices, leaving papers and files strewn on floors. They carried out furniture. One jerk put his feet on on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s desk and stole a piece of mail. As they took over the Senate chamber, another lowlife sat in the dais, where Senate leaders sit while presiding, and shouted that “Donald Trump won.” There was extensive damage throughout the building. All of this occurred as members of Congress lay on the floor in visitors’ galleries or were hurried out to shelter in secure locations.

“The pandemonium would seem to be a natural culmination of what Trump and compliant Republicans have wrought on the nation they swore an oath to protect,” said a story in The Washington Post. “Since his first presidential campaign, Trump has instigated his supporters to express their political views through physical demonstration and violence, and he has declined time and again to repudiate the actions of white supremacists, neo-Nazis and other extremists.”

Not since the War of 1812 had Capitol security been breached like this.

At least two pipe bombs were found near the headquarters of both the Republican National Committee and the Democratic National Committee, as well as a truck full of weapons and ammunition. As predicted, mobs of these same traitorous groups attempted to breach statehouses across the country, including in Kansas, Ohio, Washington, and elsewhere.

Five people died, including one Capitol Police officer who died of injuries after MAGA domestic terrorists beat him on the head with a fire extinguisher. But some 60 other police officers were injured, some seriously and some who are still hospitalized. Yet many of those same squads of officers allowed the insurrectionists into the Capitol in the first place, some even holding doors open as the traitors left, not under arrest, and posing for selfies with the rioters. Speaker Pelosi has called for the Capitol Police chief to be fired. The House Sergeant at Arms already has submitted his resignation. Those officers who cooperated with the mob really should be tried as co-conspirators. UPDATES: The Senate Sergeant at Arms and the Capitol Police chief are both out.

The carnage could have been much worse, of course. Imagine if those scaling the walls of the Capitol were Black or Muslim. There would have been a bloodbath. National guard troops arrived only after they were called in by Vice President Mike Pence (Trump refused to activate them). Capitol Police were much more efficient when removing protestors in wheelchairs who were calling for health care reform at representatives’ offices, or tear-gassing peaceful Black Lives Matter protestors to clear the streets so Trump could do a photo op in front of a church, initially holding a Bible upside down. This was an example of white privilege at its worst.

Before the attack, at an event egregiously called a “Save America” rally, the Trump thugs were egged on by Trump himself; his sons, Donnie Jr. and Eric (I can never remember which one is supposed to be Uday and which one is Qusay); and his “lawyers” (and we’re using that term loosely), including the disgraced Rudy Giuliani, who advised the gathered group of thugs that “trial by combat” would be needed to settle the election if the yahoos’ actions to stop the certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s win wasn’t successful. And these same hypocrites later decried the violence.

Many pundits and members of Congress bemoaned that “America is so much better than this” and “this is not who we are.” Actually, under Trump, this is what too many in America have become. The obscenity that will still occupy the Oval Office for nearly two more weeks received 74 million votes in the 2020 election. Sure, Biden received more than 81 million, or 7 million more. But if 74 million people chose to ignore the incompetence Trump displayed and the hatred he spread over the last four years, then the actions of the Capitol rioters showed that, yes, that’s exactly what America is. As described in a story from TRT World:

Americans are perhaps waking up to the prospect that their country, like any other, rests on a fragile social contract that can’t be taken for granted.

And as Americans talk about “coups” and “insurrections” against their democratic order, they might spare a thought about so many other democratic orders that have been overthrown with US backing.

As one observer put it following the events in the US: “You are not more free, civilised or above other nations. Recognise your humanity, ability to err. That’s the first step to setting things right, rising up and doing better.”

How bad is it when the U.S. has to receive condolences on the Capitol riots from Turkey, a country not exactly known for adherence to democracy, with advice to “invite all parties in US to use moderation, common sense to overcome this domestic political crisis”?

America is no longer the gold standard of democracy. Under Donald Trump, it has grown far, far worse, as far-right white supremacists hold white grievance as their reason for being and consider the Second Amendment carte blanche to carry guns wherever and whenever they want. The Capitol Hill riot was ugly, and America will remain ugly as long as Donald Trump and his ilk have influence.

We can only hope and pray that a competent Biden administration steers the country back on a normal track. But it’s not going to be easy.

Stay in Mar-a-Lago, Trump. No one wants you back. (UPDATE)

Trump will cause less damage on the golf course than he would in the White House.

Donald Trump is spending Christmas the way he has spent much of his presidency: tweeting, golfing, being lazy, and ignoring the hard work of being president while trying to destroy the efforts of leaders actually carving out policy.

Over his four years (thankfully coming to an end soon) as president, Trump has played a total of 302 games on the links, as of Nov. 28, 2020. “Trump has spent nearly 22% of his days in office at one of his golf properties,” reported Golf News Net.

All that swinging of clubs on the course doesn’t come cheap for the rest of us. U.S. taxpayers have footed the bill for a total of $143 million over the last four years to give Trump the chance to cheat at golf. That includes transportation on Air Force One or Marine One; lodging for Secret Service agents, often paid directly to Trump properties; golf cart rental by the same Secret Service agents, also paid directly to Trump properties, and more. A GAO report gave a total of nearly $13.6 million in taxpayer funds for four trips to Mar-a-Lago on consecutive weekends in just one month in 2017.

But you know what? Let Trump stay in Florida until President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in on Jan. 20, 2021. No one seriously believes he’s going to show up for the inauguration, so why should Trump return to Washington just to cause more trouble?

Take the COVID-19 relief bill hammered out by Congress. The $908 billion package was finally passed by both houses of Congress, aiming to deliver $600 direct payments, extend unemployment benefits, fund COVID vaccine distribution, and so much more.

Of course, Democrats in the House passed their own version months ago in the form of the CARES Act, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wouldn’t even send it to committee for discussion, much less bring it up for a vote or hammer out differences in conference. Democratic leaders met over the months with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to try to come up with a compromise. Democrats kept agreeing to lower and lower price tags (the original CARES Act would have delivered $1,200 per person in direct payments), all while working with high-ranking administration officials acting with Trump’s blessing. So any talk of the delay being a problem of a “broken Congress” is just lazy reporting and both-sides-ism at its worst: The delay was completely the fault of Senate Republicans.

So there was finally a $908 billion bill to help Americans immediately, coupled with funds to keep the government running. The bill passed both houses of Congress with veto-proof majorities and with promises from the White House that Trump would sign it.

Except Trump threw a hissy fit, claiming that $600 was “too low” — the figure needed to be $2,000 per person. This was after his own Treasury secretary and other White House officials promised they were acting in good faith.

Likely, Mnuchin and company did have promises that Trump would sign the bill. Trump is just trying to throw wrenches in the waning days of his presidency, to keep the spotlight on himself and to try to hobble the economy for incoming President Biden.

If Trump, pretending to be a populist once more, really cared about the U.S. populace, why was he AWOL for all these months of budget negotiations? A normal president (oh, who are we kidding) would have engaged with congressional leaders from both sides to hammer out a deal. But Trump was too busy tweeting lies about how the 2020 election, which he lost by over 7 million votes, was “rigged” (it was the most secure election in modern history); that there was “widespread voter fraud” (only, as it turns out, by a Pennsylvania GOP voter); and that voting machines were “switching Trump votes to Biden votes” (a claim so spurious that Dominion Voting Systems is suing the Trump campaign and conservative media for promoting the baseless lies).

Democrats gladly said, “$2,000 per person? Let’s do it!” Since the House isn’t in session, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tried to get the House to pass a separate measure by unanimous consent, but House Republicans balked at the dollar figure. So Congress is back to — exactly where?

Trump didn’t threaten a veto, he just felt like fuming. Will he actually sign the bill? Will he sit on the bill, ignoring it while he’s out on the links? Since a new Congress will be sworn in on Jan. 3, this bill could suffer the fate of a pocket veto, leaving millions of Americans with no extra money in their pockets. Even worse, the COVID relief package was tied to the budget measure funding the government, which runs out early next week. Pelosi says she’ll bring the House back into session right after Christmas for a new vote.

The Senate doesn’t want to revisit it. McConnell only finally brought the COVID relief package to a vote in an attempt to save the two Georgia Senate seats that might be lost in a Jan. 5 special election. Incumbents David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler were getting hammered on the campaign trail for their inaction on COVID relief (and for the fact that they both profited handsomely from buying stocks that did well in pandemic times).

All of this could be avoided by a little bit of Trump chicken scratching. Then he could head back to the links, issuing pardons for crooks and cronies in between golf swings. And we could finally start ignoring him.

Jan. 20 can’t come soon enough.

UPDATE: OK, Trump caved and signed the bill. But he only did so after there will be a lag in benefits. And while he demanded changes in the package — on items that his own proposed budget specifically requested — House Democrats basically said, “Not gonna happen.” As New York Rep. Rita Lowey, chair of the House Appropriations Committee who is retiring from Congress, said in an official statement: “The House Appropriations Committee has jurisdiction over rescissions, and our Democratic Majority will reject any rescissions submitted by President Trump. By turning the page on this request, we will allow the BIden-Harris administration to begin to Build Back Better.”

Biden Cabinet picks show the adults are back in charge

Well, that’s refreshing. The men and women President-Elect Joe Biden has chosen for his Cabinet and Cabinet-level posts so far not only look like America, as he promised, but also are capable of doing their jobs in a way to reassert America’s standing in the world and to reassure U.S. allies that they will no longer be abandoned.

As a Washington Post editorial put it: “Here’s a change: A national security team with integrity, experience and skill.”

Gone are the poorly qualified people who made up the revolving door of sketchy appointments made by soon-to-be-ex-President Donald Trump. Instead, we have:

  • Antony Blinken for Secretary of State. He was deputy secretary of state in the Obama administration and has held senior foreign policy positions in two administrations over three decades. He also has his own rock band (Ablinken) and has explained the refugee problem to Grover on Sesame Street.
  • Alejandro Mayorkas for Secretary of Homeland Security. He would be the first immigrant (he was born in Cuba) and first Latino to head the department. He led the development and implementation of the DACA program, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which Biden has promised to reinstate. He also negotiated cybersecurity and homeland security agreements with foreign governments.
  • Avril Haines for Director of National Intelligence. She was the first woman to serve as deputy director of the CIA. Another first: She would be the first woman to head DNI.
  • Linda Thomas-Greenfield for U.N. Ambassador. She’s a career diplomat and a 35-year veteran of the U.S. Foreign Service who has served on four continents. She also practiced gumbo diplomacy, in which she invited foreign officials to help her make her homemade gumbo (she is a Louisiana native, after all).
  • Jake Sullivan for National Security Advisor. He’s a State Department veteran who was a lead negotiator in the initial talks that paved the way for the Iran nuclear deal. 
  • John Kerry for Special Presidential Envoy for Climate. The former senator and secretary of state was key in drawing up and passing the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015. Trump may have pulled out of the pact, but Biden promises to rejoin on day one of his presidency. Climate action has been on Kerry’s agenda since he left government at the end of the Obama administration.

There are more nominees to come, including Janet Yellen as Treasury Secretary. Others will be announced in coming weeks.

In case you want to review the Biden appointees, you can check out the growing list at BuildBackBetter.gov. The fact that the transition website now has a “.gov” extension means it’s official.

Depending on which two candidates win the Senate runoff contests in Georgia in January, Biden will have a tougher time (if the Republican candidates win) or an easier time (if the two Democrats win) getting his picks through a Senate confirmation process. Already, Republicans senators with presidential ambitions are tweeting nonsense about “American greatness” or going on Fox News to spin lies or making false claims about “war enthusiasts” in hitting back at some of the nominees. No matter which party controls the Senate come 2021, it’s going to be a sharply divided chamber, and you can count on right-wing media to give Republicans plenty of airtime.

It will be hard to derail these excellent choices. These Biden picks already are known around the world and have strong relationships with other world leaders. They will be able to hit the ground running upon confirmation.

“America is back, ready to lead the world,” Biden said in introducing his team. Good thing, because President Biden is going to have his hands full working on the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the Post editorial put it:

Still, if they are confirmed, beginning next year, the United States will have national security principals who are capable, conscientious, well-versed in the issues they will face and not vulnerable to being undercut by presidential tweets. That’s a big step toward recovery.

America needs these competent leaders to reestablish the trust in the United States that the Trump administration squandered over the last four years.

You lost, Trump. Get over it and step aside.

With the news that PRESIDENT-ELECT Joe Biden has taken the lead in votes in Georgia and Pennsylvania, it’s now clear that the Donald Trump era in America will soon be coming to an end. Adding those two states’ counts to Biden’s total puts Biden over the 270 Electoral College votes he needs to win the presidency.

You’d like to say, “It’s all over but the shouting.” But in Trump’s case, shouting is all he has left, even if it’s just tweeting in all caps.

That, plus a whole boatload of ill-considered and frivolous lawsuits in multiple states, all of which are doomed to fail. The Trump team is spewing out baseless charges of mail-in voter fraud, demands to “stop counting votes” (in states where Trump used to be ahead), and clamors to “count the votes” (in states where Biden still is ahead). Other legal complaints involve supposedly being unable to “closely” monitor the counting of votes. So in Pennsylvania, Republican observers were allowed to move in closer to the poll workers. Didn’t change the outcome.

No doubt Trump thinks the U.S. Supreme Court will save his presidential bacon. As a Trump campaign legal adviser claimed on the Fox Business Network, “Meanwhile, we’re waiting for the United States Supreme Court, of which the president has nominated three justices, to step in and do something. And hopefully Amy Coney Barrett will come through and pick it up.” That wouldn’t exactly be calling balls and strikes, as Chief Justice John Roberts described the role of the Supreme Court at his confirmation hearing in 2005.

Trump shouldn’t count on a SCOTUS bailout. As summed up in a USA Today piece:

But the 6-3 conservative majority that Trump and Senate Republicans built over the past four years likely is in no position to save his presidency. It would take a razor-thin margin or a major legal dispute in a state whose electoral votes could hand the White House to Trump or Democrat Joe Biden. Such a reprise of the Bush v. Gore case in 2000, when the court ruled 5-4 along ideological lines that vote recounts in Florida had to stop after a month-long dispute, is not anticipated. 

Trump took to the podium in the White House briefing room to spew what an analysis in The Washington Post described as a speech of historic dishonesty.

For 15 minutes, he delineated nonsensical allegations about the state of the presidential election, claiming to be the victim of nefarious efforts to prevent him from earning a second term. And when he finished, after espousing obviously false claims to a room of reporters who knew better, he didn’t even have the courage to face their inevitably probing and challenging questions.

The Post, which has kept track of Trump’s lies over his time in office, reports that his number of falsehoods has topped 22,000, and that during the campaign he was averaging more than 50 lies or misleading claims a day. His rants two days after the election hit a new low, even for Trump.

It’s time for several things to happen.

All news organizations need to call the election for Biden. They need to start referring to him as the president-elect. With the exception of Fox News (and it hasn’t been total), most media organizations are finally starting to use the word “lie” when it comes to Trump, and are reporting that his claims are baseless. For now, news organizations are being reluctant to make a final call, as Georgia and other states may be heading for a recount. And “Fox News is instructing its talent not to call Joe Biden the ‘President-elect’ when the network calls the race,” according to memos obtained by two reporters.

Republicans need to call Trump out. I won’t hold my breath for people such as South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham to come clean, as his lips are firmly stuck to Trump’s behind with Super Glue. But a few Republicans are showing some backbone: Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie slammed the president after Trump’s lie-laden remarks for “refusing to provide evidence for his dishonest claims about winning the race and ‘illegal’ votes.” Pennsylvania Sen. John Toomey (who already announced his intention not to run for reelection in 2022), rebuked Trump’s attacks on his state, telling CBS This Morning that “The President’s speech last night was very disturbing to me because he made very, very serious allegations without any evidence to support it.”

Courts need to reject all of Trump’s lawsuits. Already, judges appointed by Trump and other Republicans have dismissed lawsuits from the Trump campaign. There should be no doubt in the minds of the American people that this election was won fair and square by Joe Biden, who already is more than 4 million votes ahead of Trump in the popular vote — a total that only keeps growing. That’s true even though wild-eyed Trumpanistas may never accept the inevitable. Biden is starting to receive increased Secret Service protection, and airspace over Biden’s home in Wilmington, Delaware, is now National Defense Airspace.

Biden, the only adult in the presidential contest, is calling for patience and says “the process is working.” His campaign already has launched a transition website, Build Back Better, even though it’s largely empty right now. As he told supporters, “Democracy is sometimes messy. Sometimes it requires a little patience, as well.”

Donald Trump will not leave willingly. He likely will never invite Biden to the White House, as presidents do for presidents-elect, but Biden’s been there plenty of times already. Trump may not even attend the inauguration.

You know what, Donnie? We won’t miss you if you’re not there.

There’s a whole lotta voting going on

An Illinois voter inserts his absentee ballot envelope into a locked ballot drop-off box. Boxes are emptied every night to keep absentee ballots secure. On this particular day of early voting, the container was completely filled by noon.

Have you voted yet? If you have, you’re like more than 47 million other Americans. And there’s still more than a week until Election Day.

All signs are that the number of votes cast in the 2020 general election on Nov. 3 will shatter previous records in modern-day elections, both in numbers and in percentages. Approximately 138 million Americans, or 55.5% of U.S. adults of voting age population, voted in 2016, which was roughly the same percentage as other recent elections, give or take a few percentage points. Almost 92 million eligible Americans did not vote in the 2016 presidential election.

That likely won’t be the case this year.

As of Oct. 22, more than 47 million Americans already had cast their ballots, either with an absentee ballot or through in-person early voting. That’s already 89% of 2016 early voting totals. The most thorough website with voting statistics, the U.S. Elections Project, is updated daily by election expert and University of Florida professor Michael McDonald to make timely election data available. Numbers are broken down by state, and totals are searchable. McDonald publishes a weekly analysis of all the early voting data, with details by state and by political party. Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight estimates that the total turnout in the 2020 election could be about 154 million people.

The total U.S. population is estimated at about 331 million people. It’s hard to get a fix on the number of total registered voters, as some states were still accepting voter registration through October, and some allow registrations as late as Election Day. The civic champions of Maine have 77% of the state’s eligible adults registered to vote. And the civic champions of Minnesota have the highest voter turnout at 74%.

But voter registration growth may be lagging in 2020. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many voter registration efforts got bogged down. Fewer people visited state drivers’ license facilities, at which they also can register to vote. Many groups that regularly hold voter registration drives were limited in their outreach due to the necessity of social distancing. The Brennan Center for Justice found that voter registration has declined by an average of 38 percent in 17 of the 21 states the group analyzed, compared with 2016 registration rates.

Republicans are claiming superior numbers on new voter registrations, especially in some swing states such as Florida, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania, although new registrations were closing the gap with Democrats rather than surpassing them. And although Democratic voter registration plummeted during the early months of the pandemic, it surged during the Black Lives Matter protests in the summer. Several states, including battlegrounds like Texas, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, are approaching or passing voter registration records.

There’s no surprise as to why early voting numbers are so high. Many voters, fearful of the novel coronavirus, want to vote safely from home. Many early voters want their votes locked in and want to avoid what could be long lines on Election Day. The number of polling places has dropped by 20% nationwide, with nearly 21,000 fewer election sites than in 2012 and 2016, especially in California, Maryland, Kentucky, New Jersey, Nevada, and North Dakota.

I voted early, as I have for more than a decade, in general, primary, and municipal elections. Until this year, the longest I ever had to wait to vote was about 15 minutes. This year, the voting line stretched around the block, and I waited 90 minutes for the chance to cast my ballot. Even the line to drop off absentee ballots was about a dozen people.

Voting enthusiasm by both Democrats and Republicans seems to be through the roof, mainly because of the chance to vote against or for Donald Trump. A new Gallup Poll showed that 80% of Democrats and 75% of Republicans are “more enthusiastic than usual” about voting. Don’t forget that there was record turnout in the 2020 primary elections, with the biggest turnout surges by Democrats. And this was after the record turnout of 60% in the 2018 midterm elections. This year, 20% of the early ballots cast — so far — came from voters who did not vote in 2016. A Pew Research Center poll reported that 83% of registered voters said it “really matters” which presidential candidate wins this year.

President Barack Obama reminded everyone of the importance of voting in a barn-burner of a campaign speech in Philadelphia for Joe Biden, his vice president and the Democratic presidential nominee. As described by Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin:

Obama made clear that voting is not about making things perfect — just about making things better. And in a much-needed moment of uplift he declared: “America is a good and decent place. But we’ve just seen so much noise and nonsense that sometimes it’s hard for us to remember. Philadelphia, I’m asking you to remember what this country can be.” …

“We can’t be complacent. I don’t care about the polls. There were a whole bunch of polls last time. Didn’t work out. Because a whole bunch of folks stayed at home and got lazy and complacent. Not this time. Not in this election.”

Don’t stay home this time. Vote.

America is ready to change the channel on Trump

The Donald Trump show has jumped the shark.

After four years of watching Trump in his natural habitat of bad TV, U.S. voters are ready to tell him that his show is canceled.

Yes, it’s still possible that Trump might win the election on Nov. 3, which is now less than three weeks away. Possible, but highly unlikely. 538’s aggregate polling average has former Vice President Joe Biden leading Trump by 10.2 points — a lead that has only grown, bit by bit, in recent weeks after being remarkably steady all year. In all of its 40,000 election simulations, 538 gives Biden the win 87 times out of 100, compared with Trump wins in only 13 out of 100.

Biden’s lead is growing bigger because so many Americans, especially women, just can’t stomach Trump any more. His disastrous, bullying performance at the debate with Biden; his own bout with COVID-19 after he continually downplayed the disease’s seriousness; his reckless behavior in refusing to control the spread of the novel coronavirus; his mocking of those wearing masks; his dishonesty about the pandemic when he knew how deadly it was back in February; and so much more.

More than anything else, his failure to take serious actions to control the pandemic all but killed his chances at reelection. He keeps falsely claiming that the pandemic is over, despite the fact that there have been nearly 8 million cases and over 216,000 deaths related to COVID in the U.S. alone. Nearly 57% of Americans disapprove of Trump’s handling of coronavirus, and Americans trust Biden over Trump on the issue, 57% to 40%.

Many polling and news organizations, citing multiple state polls, give Biden an easy path to go over the 270 Electoral College votes needed for victory. That threshold may not be reached on Election Night — a real possibility, given the huge number of absentee ballots that will need to be counted — but it will be reached. For instance, even with some swing states such as Florida, Iowa, and Ohio still in the toss-up category, this NPR count gives Biden 290 electoral votes to Trump’s 163. Other news organizations such as CNN, the Los Angeles Times, and Politico, all have Biden with more than enough votes to become the president-elect and the 46th president on Jan. 20, 2021.

We can only hope that the reality show presidency is nearly over. As Washington Post columnist Alyssa Rosenberg put it:

The thing about running your life — or your presidential administration — like a television show is that eventually TV shows end. And as Election Day approaches, the Trump Show looks like a fading program that’s hoping to earn a renewal — but knows deep down that its stars will probably have to settle for money earned in syndication. …

In the waning days of what might prove to be its final season, the Trump Show feels as if it’s given up on the prospect of bringing in new viewers. Instead, it’s replaying the hits for longtime fans.

Trump is going back to the ego-driven rallies that cable news carried endlessly four years ago, which got us into the Trump mess in the first place. The networks (except, of course, for Fox News) seem to have wised up and no longer give him so much free publicity.

But some networks are slow to learn. With Trump’s case of COVID-19, the Commission on Presidential Debates made the responsible decision to run the Oct. 15 town hall-style debate between Trump and Biden as a virtual event instead, with both candidates participating remotely. Trump refused, because he wouldn’t be able to try to browbeat Biden in person, thus possibly triggering his stuttering. And the debate moderator would be able to cut Trump off by muting him. So the commission took the responsible avenue to cancel the town hall debate.

ABC gave Biden the option of his own town hall, as it already had aired one for Trump a month ago. Now NBC is upping the ante by holding its own Trump town hall at the exact same time. Trump’s town hall will be shown on NBC affiliates such as MSNBC, CNBC, and Telemundo. Why reward Trump with free air time when he threw a hissy fit about a virtual town hall? The dueling town halls are a made-by-TV rivalry, as one NBC staffer put it. As media critic Eric Boehlert said in his Press Run newsletter, “There’s a good chance Biden will draw more viewers for his town hall Thursday night. Debunking the media myth about how Trump remains some sort of Must See TV president and that he’s a cultural phenomenon — a Reality TV star! — whose every word Americans hang on, ratings have consistently shown that most of the country tuned Trump out long ago.”

In a way, this falls perfectly into Trump world. He will measure each candidate’s success in TV ratings. The campaign is pushing its MAGA-hatted fervent supporters to tune in, just to juice the ratings. Let’s all give Trump a ratings failure he can’t ignore and tune in to ABC on Oct. 15.

Despite Biden’s current polling advantage, no Democratic voter is complacent about the election outcome. Unexpected (and certainly unethical, if not illegal) actions to suppress Democratic turnout are still happening. There are still draconian voter ID laws in many states. Too many still-active voters have been scrubbed from voter rolls, mainly in states run by Republicans, such as Georgia. Those same states closed many polling places in areas with higher Democratic turnout, especially those with a lot of minority voters. And with a surge of absentee ballots this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, some of those voters, especially those filling out an absentee ballot for the first time, are bound to make mistakes, with some states requiring extra “secrecy” envelopes and multiple witness signatures. Those votes might not be counted if the ballots are disqualified.

Then there’s the problem of Trump casting doubt on election results. For months, Trump has been selling the lie that mail-in ballots will lead to widespread fraud, despite the fact that voter fraud is almost nonexistent. The Electronic Registration Information Center found a mail-in ballot fraud rate of only 0.0025 percent in 2016 and 2018 in three vote-by-mail states. Trump constantly claims that the only way he can lose the election is if it’s rigged. (Actually, that’s only if “rigged” means that more people voted for Joe Biden than for Trump. A LOT more.) There’s also the possibility of the Trump team challenging election results in court, and if the Senate confirms nominee Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, she would be another Trump-leaning conservative justice.

But the truth is, too many people are just tired of Trump’s lies, his antics, and his erratic behavior. No, the Trump show is in its final season. And a majority of Americans will be only too happy to deliver to Donald Trump the catchphrase that made him famous on The Apprentice:

“You’re fired.”

How does the $750 tax man spend $70,000 on that hair?

Donald Trump spent $70,000 on THAT?

The bombshell story from The New York Times on Donald Trump’s taxes is filled with appalling revelations about tax avoidance, likely tax fraud, dodgy deductions, failed businesses, vast write-offs, infusions of questionable foreign funds, and much, much more. But the item that most struck me was the report of how much he spent on his hair.

Many disclosures in the story are much worse, of course, including the report that Trump paid only $750 in income taxes in both 2016 and 2017. As the Washington Post story about the Times investigation put it:

The average middle-class American household paid approximately three times as much in federal income taxes in 2016 and 2017 as President Trump, a billionaire real estate mogul with properties and developments all over the world. … In 2016, households in the middle 20 percent of the U.S. income distribution paid an average of $2,200 in federal income taxes.

“His income tax burden is certainly much lower than the average taxpayer,” said Brian Galle, a law professor and tax expert at Georgetown Law. “He’s likely paying less than the shoeshine guy who works in the foyer of the Trump Tower.”

There’s plenty more eye-opening and detailed reporting in the Times story on Trump’s decades-long practice of tax avoidance. In the 15 years before he became president, Trump paid zero in income taxes for 10 of those years. The whole investigation quickly moves into “holy shit” territory. But the hair styling deduction for seventy grand? Considering what Trump’s hair looks like? As the Times story put it:

Mr. Trump has written off as business expenses costs — including fuel and meals — associated with his aircraft, used to shuttle him among his various homes and properties. Likewise the cost of haircuts, including the more than $70,000 paid to style his hair during “The Apprentice.” Together, nine Trump entities have written off at least $95,464 paid to a favorite hair and makeup artist of Ivanka Trump.

I will concede that someone making regular TV appearances needs a professional stylist. The wash-and-go approach that many of us were forced to use during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown didn’t leave us with many styling options. Those who tried home hair coloring and home haircuts, for ourselves or for other family members, often had, shall we say, mixed results.

But wasn’t there a producer around during the taping of The Apprentice to say that Trump’s hair results weren’t particularly stylish or flattering, or even looked human? If the blond-orange mane that lives on his head was the best he could do for $70K, maybe Trump is the one who was defrauded.

The Times story is overwhelming in its reporting on Trump’s dishonesty; not only Trump, but his entire organization. There are reasons that #TrumpTaxReturns, #TrumpCrimeFamily, and #TrumpIsBroke are trending on Twitter.

But back to the Trumpian mane. Chicago Tribune columnist Heidi Stevens, who has taken ribbing over the years for her own tresses, wonders about the whole thing.

I have no idea whether this information, published five weeks before the election, will turn voters away from this president. I stopped trying to read the taste and tolerance of the American electorate after Trump mocked a disabled reporter and denigrated Mexicans and bragged about grabbing women by their genitals and still sailed to victory in 2016.

But I do know this. When my husband and I sit down to do our taxes, we sweat every deduction like an IRS auditor is peering over our shoulders as we calculate. Did we get a receipt from that Salvation Army donation? Does $48 hospital parking count as a medical expense? Do we have the tax ID for that summer camp that might be tax deductible under the Child and Dependent Care Credit? I bet most Americans can relate.

It never occurred to me that I could deduct my hair care. Now, I also never had my own reality TV show. Or a presidential campaign. So maybe my hair never counted as a work-related expense.

Maybe $70,000 is chump change (or should that be Trump change?) in the grand scheme of things when someone as dishonest as Donald Trump is ripping off taxpayers. But it’s something that rings true.

It’s hardly the most damning detail in the New York Times investigation. But it’s another piece of overwhelming evidence that the man running this country lives and works by his own dubious rules, even as he crows on and on about law and order.

Appearance isn’t everything. No matter how much money you spend (or lose) trying to make it so.

I’m sure this reporting from The New York Times won’t change the minds of the Trumpanistas in his die-hard base. So it’s up to the rest of us to vote in overwhelming numbers to kick him and his tax-avoiding family out of the White House.

Please, America, send this grifter — and his hair — packing on Nov. 3. And tell him to take his hair spray with him.

Kamala Harris is wearing Chuck Taylors and I’m all for it

What DIDN’T we see when Kamala Harris stepped off the campaign plane? High heels.

By making a definite fashion statement about comfortable footwear, Kamala Harris has taken a bold step forward for women everywhere.

The Democratic vice presidential candidate took a campaign trip to Wisconsin on Labor Day to speak to Black union members, business leaders, and the family of Jacob Blake, the Kenosha man shot seven times in the back by police and who is still hospitalized. It would be a day with much running back and forth, so she chose her shoes with care — classic Converse All-Stars from Chuck Taylor, or “Chucks,” as they’re sometimes known.

It isn’t that long ago that such a footwear choice might have raised some eyebrows. And although the shoes were noted on Twitter, they barely rated a mention from reporters.

Actually, various news organizations did mention her choice of footwear, but always in a way that basically said, “It’s about damn time.” As Harris told New York Magazine in 2018:

I run through airports in my Converse sneakers. I have a whole collection of Chuck Taylors: a black leather pair, a white pair, I have the kind that don’t lace, the kind that do lace, the kind I wear in the hot weather, the kind I wear in the cold weather, and the platform kind for when I’m wearing a pantsuit.

Since Joe Biden chose the California senator as a running mate, the world has learned that Harris is a first in many ways as a candidate, being Black and the child of two immigrants. “She is also the first to prominently wear sneakers on the campaign trail,” said a story in The Guardian.

Yes, Harris has worn her Chuck Taylors many times while campaigning. Doesn’t that just make sense? Candidates are mostly on their feet, whether they’re giving speeches, answering questions at a town hall, meeting and talking to voters, or chomping on an ear of corn at the Iowa State Fair. Any women forced to wear high heels for hours on end has pinched toes and sore feet at the end of the day.

One supporter even personalized her own shoes.

When Maine Republican Sen. Margaret Chase Smith declared her candidacy for president in 1964, she became the first woman to actively seek the presidential nomination of a major political party and took her candidacy all the way to the convention. A newsreel from January 1964 with her announcement was labeled, “Bonnet in the Ring” (I am not making that up).

Her Senate office was inundated with deliveries of women’s hats as gifts, such as this one sent by Rose Hornstein of the Glen Ellyn Hat Shop in Illinois. The description reads, “It is made of pink netting material and has silk flowers glued all over it. It has a pink velvet headband and a label inside the hat states ‘Juli-Kay Chicago.’ “

Somehow, I doubt that many people sent hats to Barry Goldwater, who ended up with the nomination.

After her announcement at the National Women’s Press Club (apparently even those kinds of political speeches were separated by gender in those days), she answered some questions:

MODERATOR: What would you do as a candidate to break down discrimination against women?

SMITH: Well, if the people of this country don’t know what I would do from what I have done, I don’t think that I could add any information to that.

Yes, some things such as discrimination against women haven’t changed.

Many women still wore hats in the 1960s, and most weren’t throwing them into political rings. Even when more women started running for office, they were often held to different and higher fashion standards than men. Suits with skirts were expected.

The group “Name it. Change it,” a nonpartisan joint project of the Women’s Media Center and She Should Run, works to identify, prevent, and end sexist media coverage of female candidates. Its extensive research gives numerous examples of such coverage of female candidates of both parties. Examples include a Boston radio station endorsing a female candidate because she had a “banging little body” and a “tight little butt,” and a male pundit describing a female candidate as being “absolutely adorable.”

But the sexism doesn’t have to be so blatant. “When the media focuses on a woman candidate’s appearance, she pays a price in the polls,” one of the group’s studies found. “This finding held true whether the coverage of a woman candidate’s appearance was framed positively, negatively, or in neutral terms.”

Hillary Clinton broke ground when she ran for New York senator in 2000 and wore her trademark black pantsuits on the campaign trail. In her victory speech that November, she joked, “62 counties, 16 months, three debates, two opponents, and six black pantsuits later, because of you, here we are.”

Anyone watching the multiple Democratic women running for president this election cycle saw them dressed more comfortably in pantsuits, jackets, and slacks than dresses in nearly all campaign appearances. The same was true for the debate stage, from Tulsi Gabbard’s signature white pantsuit to the darker shades adopted by other candidates. It’s just not an issue anymore.

During this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, many women are working from home. Gone are business suits and high heels. Loose, comfortable clothing like sweatpants and sneakers rule the day. When those women do go back to the office, I think they’ll leave the high heels in the closet.

It’s about time that women running for office aren’t evaluated by what they’re wearing and measured by what they stand for.

And thanks to the example set by Kamala Harris, as long as those women are running, more are going to be wearing comfortable shoes.

Trump has jumped off the QAnon cliff

Donald Trump claims that protestors like these in Kenosha are flown in to cause trouble. (CNN photo)

If the latest wacko conspiracy theories aren’t enough for Donald Trump, don’t worry — he’ll just make up some new ones, this time involving Democrats in dark shadows and planes carrying protesting thugs.

In an interview with Fox News’ Laura Ingraham, no stranger to conspiracy theories herself, Trump played his usual cards to distract the country from his failure with the COVID-19 pandemic (currently more than 183,000 dead in the U.S., with 6 million cases). He offered new, even crazier theories about the protests over police brutality and killings of unarmed Black citizens. Turns out — in Trump’s claim, anyway — it’s because of secret people in “dark shadows” who are controlling Democratic Presidential Nominee Joe Biden. Trump’s tin-foil hat theories are crazier than the QAnon fantasies about Democratic leaders running pedophile rings out of pizza restaurants.

Among the claims, according to an NBC News story:

  • People in these “dark shadows” are “pulling Joe Biden’s strings.”
  • To try and disrupt the Trump-centric Republican National Convention, a plane was “almost completely loaded with thugs wearing these dark uniforms, black uniforms with gear and this and that, they are on a plane.” Trump added, “I’ll tell you sometime, but it’s under investigation right now.”
  • Trump also compared police shootings to golf, saying, “There’s a whole big thing there, but they (officers) choke just like in a golf tournament, they miss a 3-foot putt.” So — when police shoot and kill someone, do they turn to a fellow officer and say, “That’ll be a mulligan”?

I’d like to know more about these scary-sounding planes. Never mind the fact that you can’t even board a plane these days with a full-size tube of toothpaste, much less weapons and riot gear. Are they being funded by left-leaning billionaire financier George Soros? As one frequent Trump critic, pastor and author John Pavlovitz, sarcastically tweeted, “I only fly ANTIFA Air.”

Trump only amplified his Looney Tunes theories with more explanation on the supposed plane full of badduns: “The entire plane [was] filled up with the looters, the anarchists, the rioters, people that obviously were looking for trouble.”

No doubt Trump will continue to push his theories in a visit to Kenosha, Wisconsin, site of the latest unrest after police shot Jacob Blake six times in the back. Blake still lies in a hospital bed, paralyzed. Trump is traveling to Kenosha against the wishes of Wisconsin’s Democratic governor, Tony Evers, and Kenosha’s Democratic mayor, John Antaramian. “I don’t know how, given any of the previous statements that the president made, that he intends to come here to be helpful, and we absolutely don’t need that right now,” said Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes.

In protests that turned into violence in subsequent days, some out-of-town, self-described “militia” types arrived in Kenosha, assault-style weapons in hand, to confront protestors. One, Kyle Rittenhouse, crossed state lines from Illinois to show his support for the boys in blue by allegedly killing two protestors and shooting another. He faces six criminal counts, including first-degree intentional homicide.

Of course, Trump defended Rittenhouse, claiming he was only defending himself. Actually, the 17-year-old Rittenhouse was too young to be carrying an AR-15 legally, in either Illinois or Wisconsin, and too young to have a concealed-carry permit, according to Politifact.

So what does Joe Biden, the guy supposedly under the influence of people in “dark shadows,” have to say about all this? Biden said — accurately — that Donald Trump has made America a more dangerous place.

In a speech in Pittsburgh, Biden scorched Trump’s “law and order” message, saying it is designed to instill fear. Biden said Trump is ignoring the reality that “he is President, whether he knows it or not.” According to a CNN story:

He also condemned Trump, whose armed supporters have been involved in violent clashes with protestors, saying Trump’s refusal to call on his own supporters to “stop acting as an armed militia in this country shows how weak he is.”

Biden was unequivocal about his feelings about protests: No violence. He called it “an affront to the tactics of civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. and John Lewis.”

“I want to be clear about all of this: Rioting is not protesting. Looting is not protesting. Setting fires is not protesting. None of this is protesting. It’s lawlessness, plain and simple. And those who do it should be prosecuted,” Biden said. “Violence will not bring change, it will only bring destruction. It’s wrong in every way.”

After Trump no doubt stirs up trouble with his visit to Kenosha, Biden said he, too, might visit Kenosha to meet with Blake’s family. Something tells me that his words will be received better than Trump’s violence-laden rhetoric.

It’s nine weeks until Election Day. Make sure you have all the information and time you need to vote.

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