Friday, July 31, 2020

Trump’s Desperate, Last-Ditch Effort To Hike Tensions With Iran-- This Might Be The Final Stretch For His Failed Policy Of Maximum Pressure


Iranian civilians are endangered by recent sabotage carried out  against both military and civilian targets. Here a woman sells spices in the bazaar. Photo: Reese Erlich

-by Reese Erlich
author, The Iran Agenda Today: The Real Story Inside Iran and What's Wrong with U.S. Policy.

During the past month, Iran has suffered a half-dozen explosions and fires at military and civilian sites. A bomb blew up near the Parchin missile base outside Tehran, Iran’s capital. Fires broke out at an electric power station and aboard seven ships in a southern port city.

Iranian government authorities say some of the incidents were accidents. But the most serious, it appears, was an act of sabotage.

On July 2, a blast ripped through the main assembly hall at Natanz, a facility that produces centrifuge parts essential for enriching uranium for Iran’s nuclear power program.

No one officially took credit for the sabotage, but the New York Times reported that a “Middle East intelligence” source admitted that Israel was behind the bombing. An Israeli newspaper later identified the source as Yossi Cohen, head of the Mossad intelligence agency.

Analysts say such a brazen attack, which constitutes an act of war, would need the approval of officials in Washington, D.C.

“If the US did not participate in the attack directly, at the very least it gave Israel its consent,” Muhammad Sahimi, a professor at the University of Southern California and Iran expert, says in an interview.

Washington and Tel Aviv think such attacks, along with the unilateral U.S. sanctions, are a low-risk means of pushing back on Iran. They are an escalation of Washington’s “maximum pressure” campaign—which has notably failed and will likely be abandoned after the U.S. presidential election.

“There’s a sense that there’s a bit of desperation right now” in both capitals, says Trita Parsi, executive vice president and co-founder of the Quincy Institute, an anti-interventionist think tank in Washington, D.C. He likens the attempts to those of medieval archers fighting a losing battle: “Empty your quiver... shoot all your arrows.”

October surprise?

Some analysts speculate that the Trump Administration is seeking to provoke Iran into military retaliation. Trump could then launch a war, rally support at home, and win the election. It’s a classic “October Surprise” or even a “Wag the Dog” scenario.

But Foad Izadi does not agree with that analysis.

“Iran is not Iraq,” Izadi, an assistant professor of American studies at the University of Tehran, tells me by phone from Tehran. “Any overt war runs the danger of serious US casualties. He should know, after being President for almost four years, attacking Iran has consequences.”

Izadi does not think that “starting a new war with Iran a few months before the election” is in Trump’s interest. “Even a limited war is not useful for him.”

But that doesn’t preclude other forms of U.S. aggression.

On July 23, a U.S. fighter jet flew close to an Iranian civilian airliner on a routine flight from Tehran, as it crossed Syria on its way to Beirut, Lebanon. The U.S. military claimed to be conducting a “visual inspection” of the plane in order to “ensure the safety of coalition personnel at At Tanf garrison,” says Captain Bill Urban, spokesperson for US Central Command.

Urban claimed the F-15 fighter jet kept 1,000 yards away from the airliner. But a video shot by passengers shows a jet flying much closer. The proximity of the F-15 forced the Iranian pilot to drop 14,000 feet in four minutes, injuring several passengers.

According to Izadi, the US military has no business “inspecting” a civilian airliner flying in a normal civilian air corridor over Syria. In fact, he says, the United States “has no right to be in Syria at all.”

The Trump Administration keeps several hundred troops in Syria in defiance of the Syrian government and without authorization from the United Nations or any other international body.

Iranians are particularly sensitive about US interactions with civilian planes. In 1988, the U.S. Navy shot down an Iranian airliner, killing all 290 passengers and crew. After initially providing false information about where and how fast the plane was flying, Washington admitted to shooting down the airliner and paid compensation to the victims’ families.

“These things unify the Iranian people,” Izadi says. “Whether they like the government or not, Iranians don’t want to be on a plane that will be shot down.”

Iranian response

To date, the Iranian government has not overtly responded to the U.S. provocations. It seems more likely that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is waiting for the U.S. election on November 3, which could result in the election of Joe Biden.

“Iranians are holding their fire, playing the long game,” Parsi says. “They fear it may be a trap to give Trump an excuse to go farther.”

Iran’s conservative hardliners, meanwhile, denounce Rouhani as vacillating in the face of a US and Israeli onslaught. But Parsi says these hardliners “are playing a political game. They understand the logic of not doing anything for now, but that doesn’t prevent them from calling Rouhani weak.”

Sahimi, a close observer of Iranian politics, agrees that “there is a lot of ‘hot’ rhetoric against President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif by the hardliners. But I do not expect any practical action in the near future.”

Depending on what policy the United States adopts after the elections, Sahimi expects “the response to come at a later time and in a manner and at locations where neither Israel nor the US would expect.”

Biden has pledged, if elected, to reverse course on Iran. Izadi believes a Biden Administration would change the Trump policy of maximum pressure. “Whether doing it through rejoining the nuclear agreement or coming up with some other policies, we have to wait and see,” he says.

Parsi, who is familiar with the views of Biden’s Iran advisors, says the new administration would likely call for “compliance for compliance.”

“Biden could lift sanctions by executive order without rejoining the nuclear accord,” he says. “That’s a necessary step, but not sufficient.” The new administration will also have to work with Congress and lay the groundwork for restoring the nuclear accord.

Despite the current crisis, Izadi says, “I’m optimistic. Trump’s policies are not working. The U.S. will have to change, and the change will be for the best.”

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Another Arizona Congressional Seat Ready For A Red To Blue Seat-- The Last Of Crooked Wing-Nut David Schweikert?


Of Congress' 3 most corrupt Republicans, only Schweikert (right) is still in office and not yet headed for prison

In 2016, Trump won David Schweikert's Phoenix area congressional district (AZ-06)-- but he did far worse than either McCain or Romney had. This is one of those rare districts where Hillary outpolled Obama. Entirely within Maricopa County, it includes the northern suburbs of Phoenix, from Paradise Valley and Scottsdale all the way to Fountain Hills in the east and Carefree in the north. The PVI is R+9, but Schweikert isn't as safe as someone in a district that red-- on paper at least-- should be. And his congressional race is the hottest in the state this cycle.

The top two Democrats vying to challenge him are Anita Malik, who ran against Schweikert in 2018 and did poorly, and Hiral Tipirneni, who ran in the much redder (R+13) 8th district in Phoenix's conservative West Valley. As of July 15, Tipirneni is the top fundraiser for the seat, $2,466,261 as opposed to Schweikert's $1,321,631 and Malik's $242,848. Tipirneni, a garden variety establishment Dem backed by the DCCC and EMILY's List, will probably win Tuesday's primary. She doesn't have much to offer woke voters except that she's not Trump or Schweikert and in a heavily college-educated district... being a garden variety Democrat might be enough this cycle. Besides, Schweikert's a mess, a member of the far right House Freedom Caucus, hated by some Republicans who remember the vicious whispering campaign he orchestrated against Dan Quayle's son, Ben in 2012, and many of his constituents have had enough of him.

Yesterday, Ron Hansen summed up one part of Schweikert's woes in a piece for the Arizona Republic, In deal, Rep. David Schweikert admits 11 ethics violations, to pay $50,000 fine. Basically, Schweikert's crooked and there has been a constant drip, drip, drip about his behavior for several cycles. By admitting his crimes, he's also admitting he's been lying to his constituents about it since 2017, although he's still trying to slither out from under the charges, insinuating for example that though he's ultimately responsible, it was people who worked for him who were the criminals not him (a lie).
The committee found "substantial evidence" of violations by the five-term Arizona Republican stretching from 2010 into 2018 and faulted him for evasive, stalling tactics that helped him skirt more serious violations.

As it was, the violations the committee did find include undisclosed loans and campaign contributions; misuse of campaign funds for personal purposes; improper spending by his office; and an environment where office staffers were pressured to do political work.

...[T]he committee found that Schweikert was less than forthcoming and cooperative. His stonewalling tactics could be sanctioned by themselves, but the delays may have helped avert more serious problems for Schweikert, the committee wrote.

"Throughout the course of this investigation, Representative Schweikert made vague or misleading statements to the (investigative subcommittee) and (the Office of Congressional Ethics) that allowed him to evade the statute of limitations for the most egregious violations of campaign finance laws, his document productions were slow or non-responsive to several of the ISC’s requests for information regarding (Federal Election Commission) errors, and he gave self-serving testimony that lacked candor," the report said.

"Efforts like the ones Representative Schweikert undertook to delay and impede the ISC’s investigation were not only highly detrimental to the Committee’s work and reputation of the House, they were themselves sanctionable misconduct."

The committee’s report said Schweikert’s violations were a troubling example to avoid for other members of the House of Representatives.

"While all of the violations detailed above were concerning, the Committee was disturbed by the events described in counts three and four... in particular. Those counts detailed how Representative Schweikert’s campaign committee falsely reported that he had loaned the campaign $100,000, when no such loan had been made, and then falsely reported making $100,000 in disbursements, which served to adjust the campaign’s reported cash on hand that was propped up by the fictitious loan," the report said.

"These errors were not only flagrant and egregious violations of campaign finance law, the falsely reported loan improperly inflated his campaign’s finances, thus making Representative Schweikert’s campaign appear to meet its financial goals while depriving the public of accurate and transparent accounting of the true state of his campaign."

For nearly two years, Schweikert publicly maintained the matter under investigation was little more than a bookkeeping dispute.

After the separate Office of Congressional Ethics, which helps screen potential cases for the Ethics Committee, revealed its investigative findings against Schweikert's longtime former chief of staff, Oliver Schwab, in June 2019, Schweikert political adviser Chris Baker shifted tone. He acknowledged serious problems had existed and said Schweikert’s trust in Schwab "was grossly misplaced."

...The report deals another blow to Schweikert, whose Scottsdale-based congressional district is historically safe ground for the GOP. But the Republican-leaning district is the kind of suburban, relatively well-educated location that has drifted toward Democrats, especially in the Trump era.

Schweikert has struggled to raise money throughout the current campaign cycle and his best-funded Democrat, Hiral Tipirneni, had a $1 million cash advantage over him through mid-July.

For Schweikert, a member of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, the allegations of misspending hit directly at the heart of his political persona as a budget and finance expert.

Arizona, where there is no mask mandate, is having one of the worst pandemics of any state in the country. Today, another 3,212 new cases were confirmed, bringing the total to 174,010, which comes to a horrifying-- and increasing-- 23,907 cases per million Arizonans. The only state with a worse number is Louisiana. Many independent voters rightly blame the disaster on Trump and his enablers. Gov. Doug Ducey isn't on the ballot but Trump is and extremely unpopular Republican Senator Martha McSally is and both are are expected to be albatrosses around the necks of vulnerable Republican officeholders necks, none more so than David Schweikert.

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Trump Is The Worst Monster On Earth-- But Does Biden Want To Make You Puke Up Your Lunch?


6 states have fewer than a million people; Delaware is one of them. Biden has never been elected to anything-- unless you want to pretend he was elected VP-- outside of Delaware, a state with a pronounced penchant for electing very conservative Democrats. He has often tried to make it seem that he was a favorite son of Pennsylvania, the 6th most populous state in the union but he's never run for anything there. With 20 electoral votes, Pennsylvania is an important prize. Trump managed to win it in 2016-- 2,970,733 (48.18%) to 2,926,441 (47.46%) in a stunning and consequential upset. This year Trump is likely to lose the state-- and badly. Last week's Fox News poll shows Biden ahead 50-39%. It isn't so much that Biden is ahead-- few voters are enthused about Biden as president-- as much as Trump being behind. Voters are very enthused about kicking Trump out of office. At "best" voters are hoping for a 3rd Obama term.

Writing for Newsweek yesterday, Chantal Da Silva reported that most people in Pennsylvania who have decided to vote for Biden are actually voting against Trump, not actually for Biden... and that's a state he claims a solid connection to. A new poll from Franklin & Marshall College "found that 55 percent of Biden backers were motivated to vote for the former vice president so they could see Trump unseated, rather than out of an eagerness to see Biden himself in power. Among those who said they would be voting for Trump, the overwhelming majority expressed the opposing sentiment, saying they were backing their candidate out of support for the president himself, rather than as a vote against Biden." This poll shows losing with 41% to Biden's 50%.

In theory, it isn't too late for Biden to turn that around-- and many idealists with their heads in the clouds hope he will. He won't. Biden is who Biden is and he's not about to change that-- especially with all polls showing him headed for a landslide win, even if it's really a landslide loss for Trump. In an OpEd for the San Jose Mercury News Wednesday, Bernie delegate Norman Solomon wrote that 4 years ago overconfidence and thinly veiled hostility toward the left by the establishment wing of the Democratic Party, "glossed over and shrugged off the disaffection among Sanders supporters, especially young voters. Instead of selecting a vice-presidential candidate who might attract progressives, Clinton chose a pillar of the Democratic establishment, Sen. Tim Kaine. Today, many 'Berners' are frustrated and angry. It’s not only that hopes for a Sanders nomination and presidency were abruptly dashed. More corrosive and significant is a common feeling that, despite his recent nods leftward, Biden remains largely oblivious to social imperatives-- most notably, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Medicare for All."

Nothing would make me vote for Biden, but I suspect, millions Democratic voters would feel a lot more enthusiastic about voting for him if he embraced Medicare-for-All. He won't; in fact, he said he would veto it if it passes Congress, which it won't anyway, Schumer having set up the most conservative Democratic Senate imaginable for 2021.
Virtually every exit poll of Democratic primary voters this year reflected strong majority support for Medicare for All, often by lopsided margins, even in conservative states. National polling has continued to show that two-thirds of all registered voters want Medicare for All.

While Biden is now calling for a “public option” that would be an improvement on the 10-year-old Affordable Care Act, he hasn’t budged from his opposition to making Medicare universal-- at a time when tying medical coverage to jobs has been exposed as a grim travesty. A new study says that 5.4 million American workers lost their health insurance due to losing their jobs between February and May.

While touting his “Build Back Better” program, Biden declared in a July 9 speech: “Let’s finish the job of Obamacare by ensuring everyone has access to quality, affordable health care.” By clinging to timeworn and evasive buzzwords like “access” and “affordable,” Biden affirmed his alignment with the multi-trillion-dollar health care industry more than with Americans who want health care to be treated as a human right in reality instead of in mere rhetoric.

Just as Biden’s chances of winning the presidency would improve if he embraced Medicare for All, his prospects would also be enhanced by adopting popular positions that are especially important to racial minorities. For instance, he could do the right thing by finally supporting the legalization of marijuana, which would be a major step toward ending racist law-enforcement practices.

Young African-Americans share with other young people a distinct lack of enthusiasm-- and a likelihood of low turnout-- for Biden. A similar problem exists with Latino voters, who heavily backed Sanders in the 2020 primaries and caucuses.
Solomon cites polling showing that 12% of Bernie voters having decided, like me, to forgo casting a ballot for the lesser evil and he thinks they will-- unlike me-- vote for Biden if Biden adopts progressive policies. Biden never will. He's aggressively anti-progressive and always has been and always will be. Wednesday John Nichols reported how 700 delegates to the convention say they will oppose the party platform unless it includes Medicare for All. It won't-- and does their threat matter at all? The Democratic conservative establishment has captured the party. Get used to fighting it. The platform will reflect Biden's conservatism on every single issue-- from healthcare, a Green New Deal, Israel and a jobs guarantee to marijuana legalization and ending qualified police immunity. Biden is on the Republican side of every issue. Yesterday, after I tweeted a list of Republican senators who should be asked if they support Trump's call to postpone the election-- Susan Collins, Steve Daines, Cory Gardner, Dan Sullivan, Martha McSally, Miss McConnell, Lindsey Graham, Joni Ernst, Thom Tillis, David Perdue-- @VastLeft responded that he thought for a second that it was Biden's Supreme Court nominee list.

Nichols wrote that "it is hard sell to claim that this is the boldest Democratic platform in American history. The 1900 Democratic platform began by 'warn[ing] the American people that imperialism abroad will lead quickly and inevitably to despotism at home.' That was bold. The 1932 Democratic platform announced, in the midst of the Great Depression, that the party was committed to 'stamping out monopolistic practices and the concentration of economic power.' That was bold. The 1944 Democratic platform asserted, in a time of Jim Crow segregation when the party relied on the 'solid South' as a part of its coalition, that 'racial and religious minorities have the right to live, develop and vote equally with all citizens and share the rights that are guaranteed by our Constitution.' And it argued that 'Congress should exert its full constitutional powers to protect those rights.' That was bold. The 1960 Democratic platform declared, at a point when new technologies were transforming workplaces, that 'we will provide the government leadership necessary to insure that the blessings of automation do not become burdens of widespread unemployment.' That was bold. The 1972 Democratic platform promised 'to rethink and reorder the institutions of this country' to address systemic racism and sexism and classism-- and it outlined a plan to 'restructure the social, political and economic relationships throughout the entire society in order to ensure the equitable distribution of wealth and power.' That was bold. So, too, was the document’s recognition that a for-profit health care system was failing the United States-- and its commitment to 'establish a system of universal National Health Insurance which covers all Americans with a comprehensive set of benefits including preventive medicine, mental and emotional disorders, and complete protection against catastrophic costs, and in which the rule of free choice for both provider and consumer is protected. The program should be federally-financed and federally-administered.'"
From the 1940s through 1980, on health care issues, Democratic platforms took bolder stands than does the party’s 2020 draft platform. “Progressive ideas are nothing new,” notes Representative Ro Khanna, a cochair of the California delegation to this year’s convention, who argues that “there’s no reason we can’t finish enacting those policies today.”

Unfortunately, the platform committee does not propose to do so.

A Medicare for All amendment advanced by supporters of the 2020 presidential bid of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders was rejected overwhelmingly on Monday, garnering just 36 “yes,” versus 125 “no,” votes from a committee dominated by Biden backers. Proposals to lower the Medicare eligibility age and expand access for children were also rejected.

The party’s refusal to support Medicare for All is wrongheaded practically, as Michael Lighty noted Monday when he urged platform committee members to join civil rights groups in supporting Medicare for All. “It’s vital that we meet this moment that demands health justice and Medicare For All to create a system to address the health inequities exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic when Blacks and Latinos are dying at rates two-, two-and-a-half-times that of whites,” said the veteran single-payer activist.

The party’s refusal to support a single-payer system is also wrongheaded politically, as the campaigns of Sanders and a rising generation of Democratic members of Congress have popularized the Medicare for All agenda to such an extent that recent polling finds it is supported by 69 percent of all Americans and 88 percent of Democrats.

“The Democrats are making a fatal mistake by turning their backs on Medicare for All,” argues Winnie Wong, a former senior political adviser to the Sanders campaign, more bluntly. She labeled the committee votes “shameful” at a time “when the country is in the death grip of a global pandemic and people are dying” because they can’t afford health care.
This is Obama's party. He's calling the shots. He was in office for 8 years and I never heard any serious talk about Medicare-for-All, did you?. His wing of the party doesn't want it and it's not going to happen. Nothing in the progressive agenda will. That was decided on Super Tuesday. Do you know what a general strike is? Fighting about a platform isn't going to get anyone anything.

And most of all, at John Lewis' funeral, Bill Clinton-- the most corporate Democrat of our lifetimes-- wants to thank Jim Clyburn-- more than Obama or Bush or Pelosi... Why? For killing the peoples' campaign behind Bernie, that's why. It's less than a minute, just listen... and watch the ugly smirk from this serial rapist pig.

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What's Wrong With The Florida Democratic Party?


FDP chair Terrie Rizzo-- Not just Florida's but America's fate could be in her hands

On February 18, just in time for the March presidential primary in Florida, the secretary of state reported that there are currently 5,103,540 registered Democrats, 4,823,917 registered Republicans and 3,619,456 No Party Affiliation voters. And yet... the Florida legislature is made up of 73 Republicans and 46 Democrats in the House and 23 Republicans and 17 Dems in the Senate. Those are weird disparities for a 50/50 state. Obviously, you can blame it on gerrymandering and you would be correct... or partially correct.

Tuesday, we started the morning with a look at one of the star recruits for the state legislature this cycle, Jared West in Polk County's 41st district. But he wasn't a recruit of the Florida Democratic Party. He was recruited by the Florida Environmental Caucus, 90 For 90 and... by himself and people in his community who thought he would be a much better member of the legislature than garden variety conservative Republican Sam Killebrew. It struck me as exceedingly odd that the Florida Democratic Party hadn't recruited a candidate and haven't embraced West. Why exceedingly odd? Well, Polk County has been getting bluer and bluer and will probably be its own congressional district after the next maps drawn and because HD-41 is already a district with a Democratic voters advantage. You read that right-- the Florida Democratic Party was ready to concede a district to a Republican incumbent in a district with 47,409 registered Democrats, 41,497 registered Republicans, 37,128 NPA voters. What the hell is that about?

Is that how Terrie Rizzo and Juan Peñalosa think they're going to win back the legislature? Is that how Terrie Rizzo and Juan Peñalosa think they're going to build a vibrant Democratic Party? Is that how Terrie Rizzo and Juan Peñalosa think they're going to develop a Democratic bench? Is that how Terrie Rizzo and Juan Peñalosa think they're going to win Florida-- a state with notoriously close elections-- for Biden? Why are Terrie Rizzo and Juan Peñalosa running the Florida Democratic Party? It's almost as though they were appointed by Ron DeSantis and Joe Gruters.

And then I noticed that the Polk County district wasn't unique in that way. HD-15 is entirely in Duval County and has another conservative Republican incumbent, Wyman Duggan who the Florida Democratic Party was willing to give a free pass to reelection with the old Debbie Wasserman Schultz tactic of recruiting "Democratic candidates" in districts her favored Republicans represented who don't actually run. The Florida Democratic Party was satisfied with pretend-Democrat Tammyette Thomas, a pastor who does not match the affluent district profile, announced for the seat last year, but raised no money and, on examination, appears suspiciously like Kim Daniels, a Republican in Democratic clothing. HD-15 is one of the most obviously flippable seats in the whole legislature. In a county fuming over the Trump/DeSantis pandemic, there are 43,584 registered Dems, 41,249 registered Republicans and 22,912 NPA voters. There's also a real Democrat in the primary, Jay McGovern, a well known Navy veteran and former congressional candidate. McGovern is looking good to win the primary and offer Duggan some competition-- unless the FDP sabotages him.

HD 105 is another interesting district that deserves some scrutiny. Most of it is in Miami-Dade with small pieces of Broward and Collier counties. In a wave year like 2020, it should definitely be a blue district, if for no other reason, because of the registration numbers-- 27,289 Dems, 27,064 Republicans, 29,769 NPA. The Republican incumbent, Ana Maria Rodriguez, is retiring rather than face Democrat Javier Estevez again. He almost won in 2018, just 417 votes separating the two of them in a 50.4% to 49.6% decision. This is a seat that defines the word flippable. But instead of rallying around Estevez, the local version of EMILY's List-- Ruth's List-- is playing identity politics games, putting up a primary challenger, Maureen Porras.

Andy Mele is a respected and well-liked environmental activist on Manatee County. HD-71 is pretty red-- 46,605 Republicans, 37,074 Democrats and 28,271 NPA voters, but not too far gone for a wave election year. Again, no interest by the Florida Democratic Party to take on a GOP incumbent, this time Will Robinson. The Manatee County district-- with a bit of Sarasota County-- is inside the crucial 16th congressional district, where Florida Democrats are hoping that state Rep. Margaret Good will flip Vern Buchanan's seat. Why would the FDP leave an uncontested HD inside a coveted flippable CD that the DCCC is playing hard for? Andy Mele is making it a real contest, exciting Democratic voters who are also going to get out and vote for Good and for Biden. And the contribution of the FDP? Reusing to give him access to the voter files for the district.

Charlie Crist, a former Republican who served as both Attorney General and Governor managed to flip a red congressional seat. Inside his congressional district sits HD-65 (Pinellas County), where powerful Republican Chris Sprowls-- in line to become Speaker if Republicans maintain the majority-- is the incumbent. The FDP decided, for whatever reason, to give him a free pass. This is INSANE! Another ex-Republican, like Crist, was recruited by the Florida Environmental Caucus and 90 For 90 and she-- if not the FDP-- is taking Sprowls on. The district has 51,475 registered Republicans, 38,121 Democrats and 35,640 NPA voters-- tough but not impossible... well, not impossible if you try. Impossible if you don't try.

HD-5 is a red hellhole in the Panhandle, spread over Walton, Jackson, Washington, Holmes and Bay counties. Right-wing nut Brad Drake is the incumbent and, as usual the FDP decided to ignore the district. But the environmental caucus didn't; they recruited a progressive firebrand, Annie Huffman. But... it is the only district that had the Democratic candidate disqualified due to a supposed filing error. The case is currently being litigated, in order to get Huffman on the ballot. Because she's a Bernie supporter she doesn't have the “blessing” of the Walton County DEC Chair, Samantha Hope Herring. There's something very strange here and many people suspect dirty dealing. It's a tough district but there are 32,872 registered Democrats and if they don't turn out for Biden, it's going to be that much harder to win the state. Having Annie Huffman fighting for progressive values would help turn out those Dems-- not to mention help turn some of the 18,847 NPA voters in the legislative district.

Goal ThermometerOne more I want to mention-- HD-116, fully in Miami-Dade-- and home to right-wing power-house Daniel Perez (in line to be Speaker in 2024 if the Democrats keep allowing the GOP to hold onto their majority. They didn't bother recruiting anyone to run against Perez, of course. But the Environmental Caucus and 90 for 90 did-- Bob Lynch, who is kicking butt and taking no prisoners. He has Perez the ropes in a race where he expected (was promised?) no opposition. Like in all Florida swing district races, the winner will be determined by the NPA voters and in HD-116 there are 31,995 of them. If Lynch can appeal to them and turn out the nearly 30,000 Democrats in the district, he'll replace Perez in November. Lynch was on air with Jonathan Tasini at Working Life yesterday. Take a look and listen to what he has to say. If you like it... well, Lynch its the guy who is going to lead the impeachment movement against Ron DeSantis in Tallahassee next year. So, that ActBlue 2020 Florida thermometer on the right? Please click on it and show these candidates some love. They sure don't get any from the lame state Democratic Party. Florida voters aren't forgetting how DeSantis' and his puppets in the legislature have let them down. Yesterday another 9,446 new cases in the state, bringing the total to 451,423, already 10,000 more than New York. There are 21,018 cases per million Floridians, one of the worst in the country. Over 6,000 Floridians have died-- 216 more yesterday-- and the hospitals are full and overflowing. This is a good year for Democrats to run against Republicans, especially Republicans like Daniel Perez.

This new video (below), while not Florida specific, certainly applies to Florida. And, besides, the Lincoln Project just released it a few minutes ago. I knew you'd want to be among the first to watch it. Sure, they're conservative Republicans over there at the Lincoln Project, but they sure know how to make a strong statement with their ad campaigns. This one will help defeat Trump and help elect Democrats up and down the ballot... like Bob Lynch and the other recruits for the Florida state legislature:

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Trump, Hoping To Get People's Mind Off His Economic Disaster, Floated The Idea Of Postponing The Elections


Maybe he just wanted to get peoples' minds off the worst economic report in American history, but Trump's tweet (above) about postponing the election didn't go over well. Now every Republican running in November is being asked if they support Trump's call for postponing the election.

Meanwhile, back in the Senate, the Trumpist dysfunction has caused a breakdown in government's ability to meet the most basic needs of the American people. Late Wednesday evening, before the dire economic news broke, Washington Post reporters Erica Werner, Jeff Stein, Seung Min Kim and Rachel Bade wrote that "Negotiations on a new coronavirus relief bill hit an impasse on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, leaving no clear path forward even as millions of Americans face a sudden drop in unemployment benefits, and the economy teeters on the brink. A meeting between top White House officials and Democratic leaders ended with no agreement on extending emergency unemployment benefits that expire Friday or on reviving a moratorium on evictions that lapsed last week. That means some 20 million jobless Americans will lose $600 weekly enhanced unemployment benefits that Congress approved in March, which could send the economy reeling."

That, as much as anything, defines Trumpism for us... or against us. Though the House Democrats passed a $3 trillion package that would avert the coming catastrophe Trump and McConnell are leading the country into, "Each side," wrote The Post team, "said the other was to blame for the failure. Paying the price will be the unemployed at a moment of deep uncertainty and fear, with coronavirus cases spiking and states pulling back on reopening as deaths near 150,000 in the United States. The talks could get back on track in coming days, but the signs Wednesday were not promising. 'I don’t know that there is another plan, other than no deal,' said White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. 'Which will allow unemployment, enhanced unemployment, I might add, to expire... No deal certainly becomes a greater possibility the longer these negotiations go... We are nowhere close to a deal.'"
“Our Republican friends don’t seem to come close to meeting the moment. … They’ve put us up against the wall. We have two cliffs because they wouldn’t negotiate for months,” Schumer said.

“They’re tied in a total knot because of the disunity in their caucus, because of their inability to gather votes, because the president says one thing one day, he says another thing the other day,” Schumer added. "We want to come back and keep talking to them. But they don’t have anything to say.”

...Earlier Wednesday Trump had called for a quick fix to address the unemployment benefits and eviction moratorium, saying other issues could wait.

“The rest of it, we’re so far apart, we don’t care, we really don’t care,” Trump told reporters outside the White House, referring to divisions between the two parties.

But Democrats called that approach wholly inadequate.

“We don’t know why the Republicans come around here with a skinny bill that does nothing to address really what’s happening with the virus, and has a little of this and a little of that. We’re not accepting that," Pelosi said. "We have to have the comprehensive full bill.”

McConnell has not embraced the piecemeal approach either, insisting any bill must include a five-year liability shield for businesses, healthcare providers and others-- a non-starter for Democrats.

More than 20 million Americans remain unemployed and have been receiving a $600 weekly emergency unemployment payment that Congress approved in March, on top of whatever benefit their state offers. That extra federal benefit runs out Friday.

Democrats want to extend the extra jobless payment at its current level. The Senate GOP bill released Monday proposes cutting it to $200 weekly until states can phase in a new system that would aim to replace 70 percent of a worker’s wages before unemployment.

Underscoring the continued need, the head of the Federal Reserve said Wednesday that rising coronavirus cases since mid-June are beginning to weigh on the economy, based on consumer credit card spending and hotel occupancy data as well as some labor market indicators.

“On balance, it looks like the data are pointing to a slowing in the pace of the recovery," Federal Reserve Chair Jerome H. Powell said during a news conference Wednesday. "I want to stress it’s too early to say both how large that is and how sustained it will be.”

Powell said funding from the $2 trillion Cares Act passed in March was key to keeping people in their homes and jobs. He pointed to the success of the small-business Paycheck Protection Program for getting money directly to businesses that couldn’t necessarily have been saved through a Fed lending program.

“Lending is a particular tool, and we’re using it very aggressively, but fiscal policy is essential here," Powell said. “As I’ve said, more will be needed from all of us, and I see Congress is negotiating now over a new package, and I think that’s a good thing."

...Some Republicans don’t want to spend any more money at all, and there are deep divisions over the $1 trillion bill McConnell released Monday, which proposes to send a new round of $1,200 stimulus checks to individual Americans and inject more money into the Paycheck Protection Program, among other provisions. McConnell said in his PBS interview that there are about 20 GOP senators who would prefer to take no additional action because of deficit concerns.

Trump's only concerns seem to be personal-- legislating a 100% deduction for fat cat restaurant meals, which would result in millions of dollars added to his hotels' and restaurants' bottom lines, and a $1.8 billion fund that would keep the FBI in a building Trump fears would otherwise become a hotel that competes with his own. This guy should be tarred, feathered and run out of town on a rail-- and then brought back for a trial. And the pandemic that most of the world has gotten a handle on and that Trump has made into one of the worst catastrophe's to ever hit America... just keeps rolling on. Yesterday there were 68,569 more confirmed cases reported nationwide, bringing the U.S. total cases to 4,634,985. Most of the states with the worst daily reports, once again, are state with Trumpist governors who have followed his insane denialism and who seem to have embraced his tragic incompetence as though it was a policy-- while their constituents continue contracting the disease more rapidly than anyplace else on earth. These were the dozen governors-- actually 10 governors and 2 state legislatures-- who gave their states the worst one day new cases yesterday:
Ron DeSantis (R-FL) +9,956 (21,482 cases per million Floridians)
Greg Abbott (R-TX) +8,843 (14,943 cases per million Texans)
Gavin Newsom (D-CA) +8,174 (12,503 cases per million Californians)
Brian Kemp (R-GA) +3,963 (17,169 cases per million Georgians)
Doug Ducey (R-AZ) +2,525 (23,465 cases per million Arizonans)
The North Carolina Republican legislature +2,588 (11,499 cases per million North Carolinians)
Bill Lee (R-TN) +2,049 (15,063 cases per million Tennesseans)
Kay Ivey (R-AL) +1,980 (17,491 cases per million Alabamans)
Tate Reeves (R-MS) +1,775 (19,347 cases per million Mississippians)
Henry McMaster (R-SC) +1,726 (17,009 cases per million South Carolinians)
The Louisiana Republican legislature +1,708 (24,626 cases per million Louisianans)
Mike Parson (R-MO) +1,712 (8,043 cases per million Missourans)

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Midnight Meme Of The Day!


by Noah

And I for one have stopped stepping on the scale... Problem solved! I am no longer overweight! Nothing beats Trump logic!

But, seriously folks, Trump logic aside, the temperature has been hitting 90 degrees or higher in most of this great infected land for a bigly tremendous amount of days now and those coronavirus cases haven't disappeared by any miracle that I can see! In fact, in the real world that the minds of non-Trumpies live in, COVID-19 cases have been multiplying exponentially by the hour, and it seems that the hotter the state, the wider the spread. Trump logic kills.

So hey, I better check in with Trump's doctors! Calling Dr. Bornstein! Paging Dr. Immanuel, Dr. Demon Sperm herself! What happened to that "One day like a miracle it will go away. It will disappear when the hot weather comes" claim that the Orange Menace To Society made? Looks like I better quickly find a White House doctor quack and order up some alien DNA and wash it down with a Hydroxy-Bleach cocktail, inject more Lysol, and chant the magic Trump best words! God, I hope they remember to send the Demon Sperm chant! And, hopefully, a magic republican spell or two, too!

Now what do I do to ward off those demons and witches that the Trumps and their new family doctor believe in? Might cause a case of the virus by visiting me in my dreams? I know! I'll ask Mikey Pence! He and "Mother" will know exactly what to do!

Need the skinny on the new Trump doctor, the one he says is "impressive" and "spectacular?" Here ya go. Just keep in mind, sane folks want nothing to do with her:

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Thursday, July 30, 2020

JD Scholten To Cheri Bustos: "Keep Out Of My Race"


One of the things that always attracted Blue America to J.D. Scholten has been his independent spirit. I don't see him in Congress as just another Democrat-- not even as just another progressive Democrat. I see him as a guy standing up for working families regardless of whatever some shifting party priorities happen to be at the moment. And he was always a lot more than just a way to replace racist Republican Steve King. In fact, King lost his primary to far right state legislator Randy Feenstra who actually attacked King from the right-- someone who couldn't deliver for Trump! Scholten is someone with solid values who will make a crucial member of Congress, the way Pramila, AOC, Ted Lieu and Jamie Raskin do.

Yesterday, writing at The Intercept, Aída Chávez broke the story about how JD told Cheri Bustos, one of the most conservative Democrats in Congress, that he's running his campaign his way, not her way, regardless of her threats to go back on her word and not spend any DCCC money to help him. She had promised to make the IA-04 contest a top 5 race, which generally means at least $3 million in advertising plus a field operation, media help and a big fundraising boost with institutional Democratic Party donors and fat cats. But she insisted he allow the DCCC to take over the campaign. He told her to take a hike.

Yesterday J.D. told me that "It's clear that the DCCC has written off this district... again. But that hasn't changed the stakes. Rural Iowa families are still struggling to stay in their communities, make ends meet, and have the fullest opportunities. Our campaign is fueled by the hunger for change and won't bend to the whims and interests of those in power. We're in this for the long haul to deliver real relief to the communities of Iowa’s 4th congressional district."

Chávez wrote that "Scholten is especially frustrated by the DCCC’s approach to supporting moderate candidates who focus on traditional fundraising from big-dollar donors. 'The DCCC-type of campaign where you sit at home and fundraise all day doesn’t win respect, trust, or elections in these parts and wouldn’t be a good start to addressing the serious challenges facing rural America,' Scholten wrote... 'We have an authentic campaign that reflects who I am and my vision for this district,' Scholten said in a statement announcing the decision. 'We won’t be beholden to special interests or the DCCC; instead, we’re reaching out to folks across the political spectrum to earn votes.'"
Last week, Scholten reached out to Bustos to check in and see where the DCCC was at, and what she meant by her promise to go “all in” on his bid. During their phone call, Scholten laid out everything they had accomplished last cycle and made his case for why the race, despite King’s loss, could present a huge opportunity. “And it just got to the point where they’re trying to dangle carrots in front of us and I was like, you know what, I’m not having it,” he said. “They wanna be in all our meetings, they want us to use their consultants and stuff like that. And I don’t feel comfortable doing that at this time.”

After discussing with his team, Scholten said, he decided, “We don’t need them and what we want is to run the campaign similar to last time and that’s what’s going to win this race.” Completely refusing the DCCC’s help also means the campaign will have to provide its own field program and do its own mailing, which Red to Blue candidates are provided for free. “That’s part of it: We didn’t feel that what they do provides enough value for what we’re trying to do,” he said.

“JD Scholten is a strong candidate working to earn voters’ trust in rural Iowa,” Cole Leiter, a DCCC spokesperson, said in a statement. “We have built a big battlefield and every candidate is going to make their own decisions about how to run their race. We wish him well.”
Goal ThermometerThat's how Rahm Emanuel, Bustos' mentor taught her to tell candidates to go to hell. Blue America and other progressives groups are working to help J.D. make up for some of the help he was expecting from the DCCC. Please consider clicking on the 2020 Blue America congressional thermometer on the right and contributing what you can to J.D.'s campaign. In 2018 the DCCC helped elect 2 utterly useless conservative Democrats in Iowa, Cindy Axne and Abby Finkenauer, each of whom quickly earned F ratings from ProgressivePunch-- very, very low F-ratings. Both can always be counted on to betray working families and to betray values like peace and join a dozen or two other Democrats from the conservative wing of the Democratic Party-- the Cheri Bustos wing. It's important for Congress that we replace truly terrible conservatives with truly great progressives, not with some in-between hybrids like Axne and Finkenauer, someone who working families can always count on to have their backs, not big donors' backs.
Though King’s defeat changed the dynamics of the race, Scholten’s campaign believes that the issues, namely Medicare for All and his vow to take on the corporate interests exploiting the second largest agricultural district in the country, will help flip the district come November. Scholten’s platform stands in stark contrast to the more moderate talking points and messaging the party establishment pushes on Democratic candidates running in red districts.

In 2018, for example, the DCCC commissioned a survey and analysis to help develop its messaging on health care. The messaging handouts, The Intercept reported at the time, “made clear where the party wants its candidates to stand when it comes to health care reform: preferably nowhere, but certainly not with single-payer advocates.” Party elites also end up influencing campaign strategy, Scholten noted. In a few weeks, his campaign will launch a tour that will go through all 375 towns in the district (while adhering to health and safety guidelines.)

“They would not agree that I should go to all 375 towns even though that’s how we earn votes,” he told The Intercept. “They want me to stay at home and just fundraise, be on the phone from the minute I wake up to the minute I go to bed.”

The Scholten campaign brought in a haul of nearly $620,000 in the second quarter of the fundraising year, making it the largest ever in a second quarter for any Democrat who has run for the seat. About 96 percent of the campaign’s contributions last quarter were under $200, thanks to its online small donor base.

“The way the DCCC’s system is, candidates like me, they don’t really care much about,” he said. “If I could self fund, they’d be all over me. I mean, the organizing and just the grassroots organization, we created something that’s so authentic and so organic that I don’t think they know how to deal with something like that. We need more working-class people in D.C., and their system is not made for that.”

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Many Republicans Besides Just Louie Gohmert Are Public Health Threats


I'm sure you know by now that Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert tested positive for COVID-19... in between chatting, maskless, with William Barr (also maskless) and boarding AirForce One for a flight to Texas with Trumpanzee, the reason he was tested. He was then rejected as a passenger. Louie, a general all-around neo-fascist three-ring circus, was one of the leaders of the House Anti-Masque Caucus. He's so anti-mask, in fact, that he now claims he got COVID by wearing a mask, which he rarely does. He was the last straw for Pelosi, who finally instituted a mask mandate on the chamber floor last night.

Jake Sherman, who broken the story about the now COVID-infected Gohmert received an e-mail from a nameless Gohmert staffer: "Jake, thank you for letting our office know Louie tested positive for the Coronavirus. When you write your story, can you include the fact that Louie requires full staff to be in the office, including three interns, so that ‘we could be an example to America on how to open up safely.’ When probing the office, you might want to ask how often were people berated for wearing masks."

Sherman wrote that most people in DC are taking masking up seriously, "but not everyone. And all it takes is one irresponsible person-- an armchair scientist who decides masks aren’t for them, or their entire office should work in person in the middle of a pandemic-- for many of us to get sick with a virus that could kill us. Members of Congress arrive here from all over America nearly every week. They can’t conduct their business from afar-- fair enough... The Capitol has superspreader written all over it. People are coming off planes, out of cars, and many of them can’t be relied upon to follow basic masking rules that are mandatory across the country. Gohmert went back to his office after he tested positive to talk to his staff!"

As Mike Tillis reported for The Hill, that Steny Hoyer "hammered Gohmert and Rep. Gym Jordan (R-OH), another conservative Freedom Caucus member who refuses to wear a mask, saying they jeopardized the health of everyone around them. '[Gohmert] came into the room without a mask on. Jordan did the same. Totally irresponsible behavior, not for themselves-- clearly irresponsible for themselves-- but irresponsible to everybody else who was in that room. Everybody else they've come in contact with, Hoyer said." His point is that these anti-mask Republicans are a public health threat.
For members of a Republican Party that often touts the importance of personal responsibility, those lawmakers have exhibited "no personal responsibility or consideration for others," Hoyer charged.

"Very frankly, too many Republicans have continued to act extraordinarily irresponsibly," Hoyer told reporters on a press call.
Reporting for the Washington Post Griff Witte, Ariana Eunjung Cha and Josh Dawsey wrote had Ohio Governor Mike DeWine (R) was one of the first governors to take medical advise and grok what the pandemic was all about. He moved a lot faster and a lot smarter than Cuomo or Newsom in shutting down his state. But when he tried mandating masks, the far right freaks flipped out. "The backlash," they wrote, "came instantly. An avalanche of abuse on social media. Calls from anguished citizens. Angry recriminations and threats. The next day, a chastened DeWine backed down. Asking people to wear a mask 'is offensive to some of our fellow Ohioans,' the Republican declared somberly. 'And I understand that.' It would be three months-- plus tens of thousands of cases and thousands of deaths-- before the governor would try again.

The catastrophe that DeWine averted in March with his early efforts have been erased by the lunatic fringe. The state is a COVID-hotspot now. Tuesday, the state reported 1,325 new cases, 11th worst in the country, and yesterday Ohio reported another 1,362 cases, bringing the state total to 87,893, which translates to a steadily increasing 7,519 cases per million Buckeyes. Many Republicans in this state run by Republicans refuse to wear masks.
The mask is the simplest and among the most effective weapons against the coronavirus in the public health arsenal. Yet from the start, America’s relationship with face coverings has been deeply fraught.

Faulty guidance from health authorities, a cultural aversion to masks and a deeply polarized politics have all contributed. So has a president who resisted role modeling the benefits of face coverings, and who belittled those who did.

The result, experts say, is a country that squandered one of its best opportunities to beat back the coronavirus pandemic this spring and summer. In the process, the United States fell far behind other nations that skipped the fuss over masks, costing lives and jeopardizing the recovery heading into the fall.

“Some countries took out their masks as soon as this happened,” said Monica Gandhi, an infectious-disease specialist from the University of California at San Francisco, “and their rates of death are very low.”

In a coronavirus response that has been full of missteps and unforced errors, delayed acceptance of universal masking, Gandhi said, may be the single biggest mistake the United States has made.

In interviews, elected leaders, health specialists and mask advocates say it did not have to be that way-- and very nearly wasn’t.

The country hit a tipping point on widespread mask use only this month, with a majority of states and the nation’s largest retailers all mandating them. But the science has long been pointing toward the efficacy of masks-- even if the guidance from health authorities wasn’t.

...In the last week of March-- as the official case count was approaching 100,000-- the CDC presented what was then considered a radical proposal to the White House, recommending routine masking by the public. Senior administration officials, particularly members of the vice president’s office on the coronavirus task force, pushed back, arguing it was unnecessary.

The new guidance was somewhat of a compromise. It encouraged-- but did not require-- people to cover their faces in “public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.”

On April 3, President Trump stood at the White House podium and issued the recommendation. “It may be good” advice, he offered. But he immediately undercut the guidance by announcing he would not be wearing a mask himself.

“Somehow sitting in the Oval Office, behind that beautiful Resolute Desk” as he met with “presidents, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens,” Trump said, “I don’t know, somehow I don’t see it for myself.”

Initially, some Trump aides said they did not like the idea of him wearing a mask publicly because they believed it would be bad politically and make the president look weak. They thought it might lead others to panic or think the pandemic was worse than it was. There were also fears among some in the president’s circle that his supporters would rebel against anything that smacked of a government directive.

Among some of Trump’s most ardent fans, anti-mask insurrections were already brewing. In dark corners of the Internet, mask conspiracy theories took shape. On the steps of state capitol buildings, activists shouted their objections to a masked attack on “liberty.”

Some of the president’s advisers, including chief of staff Mark Meadows, expressed repeated skepticism of masks and whether they made a difference, campaign and White House officials said. Trump campaign masks were produced and presented to the president but never sold. Some aides were fearful of selling merchandise he did not wear and appearing to profit off a pandemic, officials said.

“The President’s position has been consistent on this,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Matthews said in a statement. “In late March, before there was even a recommended but not required guidance given by the CDC on mask-wearing, he supported facial coverings.”

With little hope for progress at the White House, Howard had begun to make his data-based case for masks to the governors, focusing especially on Republicans who had shown a willingness to embrace a scientific approach to attacking the coronavirus. DeWine was at the top of his list.

The 73-year-old Ohioan had won plaudits from public health experts for the speed with which he shut down gatherings, businesses and schools in March when the coronavirus began to spread in the state. Cases stayed low, even as the economic damage rippled.

As pressure intensified on DeWine to reopen the state in late April, the governor seized on a mask requirement in stores and other businesses as a way to do so safely.

Masks would not be “forever,” the governor announced April 27, “but if we want to get back to work, we have to protect our employees.”

Within hours, as protests over the governor’s assault on “freedom” poured in, DeWine knew it had been a mistake that would need to be reversed.

“After 40 years of representing Ohioans in many different jobs, I’ve got a pretty good ability to gauge these things,” he said in an interview. “And with the pushback we got, my instinct was that this was too far.”

Unlike closing schools-- which could happen with the stroke of a pen-- requiring masks would involve getting “millions of Ohioans making individual decisions dozens of times a day.”

And unlike in Asia-- where DeWine had traveled pre-pandemic and seen the widespread use of face coverings to ward off disease-- there was no culture of mask-wearing for public health benefits in the United States.

The president’s unwillingness to set an example by wearing a mask didn’t help.

“I would have liked to have seen the president do that,” DeWine said.

Also unhelpful, the governor said, was guidance from some public health authorities that continued to be contradictory, even as the science behind masks became increasingly clear.

Studies suggesting masks could be effective in curbing the risk of transmission continued to accumulate. But the WHO-- which has been criticized throughout the pandemic for being slow to respond to emerging data-- took until June 5 to issue a mask recommendation for the general public. Even then, it was tepid and full of asterisks, with the global health body insisting the change was consistent with its original guidance.

U.S. officials have been more forthright in acknowledging their advice has shifted, arguing it was in response to shifting data.

“If you acted on the best information you had at the time and then later you get new evidence that points in a different direction, does that mean what you did three months ago was wrong? Well, existentially, yes it was. But it was based on the evidence we had at the time,” Fauci said in an interview Friday.

Once policy did shift, Fauci said, medical officials were united in getting behind the new recommendation. But other senior administration officials weren’t on board.

“That was a problem,” he said.

Trump was foremost among those who weren’t interested in promoting masks.

When, in late May, he toured a Ford plant in Michigan where masks were required, he refused to put one on in front of the cameras. “I didn’t want to give the press the pleasure of seeing it,” he said.

Over Memorial Day weekend, he retweeted a mocking criticism of his election opponent, former vice president Joe Biden, for wearing a mask.

Videos began going viral as Americans squared off on what to do about customers in stores who refused to mask up. Social media groups devoted to casting doubt on their efficacy proliferated. Face coverings had become debate points in the U.S. presidential campaign and potent symbols in the culture war.

Public health specialists could only shake their heads.

The debate radiated through big cities and small ones as the coronavirus began a resurgence in June, with many areas that had dodged the first round of infection getting hammered this time.

Joplin had no active cases at the start of June. Weeks later, the city of 50,000 in southwest Missouri had one of the nation’s fastest rising infection rates.

For five hours in late June, the city council debated whether to mandate masks, only to defeat the motion by a single vote.

Two weeks later, with hospitals hitting their capacities, the council voted again. This time, the mask mandate passed 6 to 3.

Mayor Ryan Stanley was among those who changed his mind. He had initially thought that a mandate was unenforceable and that, in a deeply conservative, pro-Trump region, it would only encourage defiance. But when he visited local businesses the weekend after the requirement kicked in, he was astonished by what he saw.

“We were getting 15 percent adoption before. I was crossing my fingers and hoping for 50 to 60 percent,” he said. “But now it’s at 90 to 95 percent. It’s certainly doing its job.”

Stanley said mask opponents had been loud-- staging noisy demonstrations and dominating the debate. But they hadn’t actually been that numerous.

Public opinion polls bear that out, with large majorities of voters overall favoring mandates, although Republicans are less supportive.

Policies have begun to match those attitudes. A cascade of states-- including Ohio-- have instituted requirements in recent weeks, with DeWine identifying compliance as critical to the state’s hopes of bringing down infection rates and opening schools.

Major retailers such as Walmart have as well, making shopping trips difficult without a mask.

Evidence shows the mandates are working.

“There were seat belts in cars for decades. There were lots of public service announcements, people saying, ‘Wear seat belts’” said David Keating, who worked with Howard to found the nonprofit advocacy group #Masks4All. “But it’s when the law started requiring it that seat belt usage soared.”

Even the president has joined in-- though still somewhat tepidly. On a visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center earlier this month, he wore a mask in public for the first time. Last Tuesday, he tweeted a photo of himself in a mask with the explanation that “many people say that it is Patriotic to wear a face mask when you can’t socially distance.”

Trump wore a mask again on Monday while touring a biotechnology plant. But as recently as last week, he was barefaced while in public at his hotel in D.C., despite local rules that require a face covering.

Political advisers and campaign officials say there has been a concerted effort around Trump-- from aides to family members to advisers to lawmakers-- to show that wearing a mask is the right thing to do. Aides have encouraged people to praise the president for wearing a mask, hoping that he will continue to embrace it, officials said.

It had been clear for months-- as America’s coronavirus case count has climbed above 4 million and the death toll closes in on 150,000-- that masks are a public health imperative. But with grim polls showing Trump trailing in almost every key state, they have now become a political one, too.

“He was basically on an island even among his own supporters,” said Brendan Buck, a longtime Republican operative who last worked for then-Speaker Paul D. Ryan. “It doesn’t take a genius to understand that this pandemic is why he’s losing so badly.”
I travel a lot and I've been wearing masks on planes for a couple of decades. When I got back from Thailand last January and understood that what was starting in Wuhan would soon be in the local Trader Joe's in my neighborhood. By the first week in February I had stopped going out without a hospital mask, even though I would invariably get bad vibes. By the end of February I stopped fooling around with the hospital masks, laughed at the cloth masks that do almost nothing and started wearing an N-99 (better than an N-95), along with wrap-around goggles and disposable latex gloves. In grocery stores there was a fantastic bonus-- people fled when they saw me walking down the aisles. About a month later half the people in my neighborhood were wearing masks. Then it became mandatory in L.A. and soon after mandatory in California. Unfortunately, it was too late for almost 9,000 dead Californians (almost half of whom are Angelinos). Too bad Newsom didn't have the guts to do what the 6 Bay Area counties did in mid-March.

Today 11 governors of states with out-of-control pandemics still have not issued statewide mask mandates. Can you guess what they all have in common, besides lots of dead and dying constituents?
Doug Ducey (R-AZ)- 168,273 cases (23,118 per million Arizonans)
Ron DeSantis (R-FL)- 451,423 cases (21,018 per million Floridians)
Tate Reeves (R-MS)- 55,804 cases (18,750 per million Mississippians)
Brian Kemp (R-GA)- 178,323 cases (16,795 per million Georgians)
Henry McMaster (R-SC)- 85,846 cases (16,673 per million South Carolinians)
Bill Lee (R-TN)- 100,822 cases (14,763 per million Tennesseans)
Kim Reynolds (R-IA)- 43,277 cases (13,717 per million Iowans)
Pete Ricketts (R-NE)- 25,157 cases (13,005 per million Nebraskans)
Kristi Noem (R-SD)- 8,641 cases (9,768 per million South Dakotans)
Kevin Stitt (R-OK)- 34,623 cases (8,750 per million Oklahomans)
Doug Burgum (R-ND)- 6,227 cases (8,171 per North Dakotans)

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