Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Barrett's Religion Is Off Limits; Opus Dei's Agenda Is Not



-by Betty Clermont,
author, The Neo-Catholics: Implementing Christian Nationalism in America

Opus Dei first gained notoriety because of the group’s portrayal in The Da Vinci Code. Unfortunately, the reality is more disturbing than a fictional mad and murderous Albino monk.

The Opus Dei website states its “mission is to spread the Christian message that every person is called to holiness and that every honest work can be sanctified.”  Non-Catholics are welcomed as “cooperators” who “assist the educational and social undertakings promoted by the Prelature.” All memberships are secret except if self-revealed or through official positions held in Opus Dei organization.

Its finances are also secret. An official organization of the Catholic Church, in the U.S. Opus Dei gets a 501(c)(3) tax code as a “religious” organization. Donors not only receive a tax deduction, but their names and amount of donations are secret. Opus Dei's outlays are equally opaque.

At the top of the organizational structure, “Opus Dei is an efficient machine run to achieve world power,” stated investigative reporter Penny Lernoux in her book, People of God (1989).

“Opus Dei members control … a large number of banks and financial institutions,” Martin A. Lee, author of books and articles on far-right movements, wrote in 1983.

“Opus Dei uses the Catholic Church for its own ends which are money and power” noted Robert Hutchison in the introduction to his book, Their Kingdom Come: Inside the Secret World of Opus Dei. “The problem is Opus Dei’s hidden power. [In practice] Opus Dei operates as it wishes, where it wishes, in total obscurity, with or without papal consent, unburdened by any form of oversight,” Hutchison stated.

Opus Dei’s Reach is Global

Hutchison notes that Opus Dei controls the finances (p 363) of the Vatican, an autonomous city state immune to any civil authority save its own. The Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See (APSA) handles the Vatican’s investment portfolio, some commercial real estate and “large amounts of unregistered cash in offshore accounts,” according to the well-connected Vatican reporter, Edward Pentin. APSA’s investments are “hidden behind layer after layer of false fronts and holding companies,” noted John F. Pollard in Money and the Rise of the Modern Papacy (p 149).

APSA is also the Vatican’s treasury and central bank. “APSA has accounts and deposits of its own in central banks all over the world: the U.S. Federal Reserve, the Bank of England, the Deutsche Bundesbank, the Bank of Italy, the Bank for International Settlements, and others,” noted veteran Vatican reporter, Sandro Magister, quoting from a report by Moneyval, the Council of Europe’s financial monitors.

The Vatican Bank “has financial relations with more than a hundred countries; it has banking ties with forty of these and has links with financial entities across the European Union,” stated Vatican attorney Jeffrey Lena.

The Vatican also has financial institutions in the Cayman Islands  and the Turks and Caicos. Both locations are known as havens for off-shore bank secrecy.


Control of the U.S. Judiciary

Leonard Leo can take credit for installing four members of the Supreme Court: John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. “As executive vice president of the Federalist Society, Leo has been the quiet architect of a pivotal shift to the right throughout the federal judiciary” including “dozens of lower court federal judges across the country.” In fact, as of July 7, Trump has appointed 194 of 792 federal judges, or 24% of the total.

It is Leo who prepares Trump’s “list of judges and the people that he’s put on the bench.” That now includes Judge Amy Coney Barrett.

Leo is on the board of directors of Opus Dei’s Catholic Information Center located at 15th and K Street, two blocks from the White House. The Center is “a rallying point for ultra-conservative Catholics eager for a voice in the secular halls of government power” and “advances a hard-right political agenda,” according to Church and State, Americans United for Separation of Church and State’s magazine.

The Department of Justice

Before his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing in January 2019, Attorney General Barr completed a questionnaire. On page 4, he listed a former position as “Director of the Catholic Information Center  (2014-2017).”

Economic Policy

Larry Kudlow is Trump’s director of the National Economic Council. Plutocracy is “just what America needs,” Kudlow wrote in December 2016. “Putting the incredibly wealthy in charge of the U.S. government” is described as Kudlow’s great idea.

Kudlow is one of Fr. John McCloskey’s notable converts to Catholicism. McCloskey was director of Catholic Information Center from 1998-2002.

While Mick Mulvaney was director of Trump’s White House Office of Management and Budget, his visitors included Jeff Bell, architect of Reaganomics, and another member of Opus Dei. Bell told ProPublica that his meeting with Mulvaney covered “religious and political matters.”

Even if Trump loses the presidency, the above men and their unknown but powerful elite Opus Dei members will still be planning for their next opportunities to exert their malevolent influence in the highest government offices.

If we are to have a meaningful democracy and not a government run by and for narrow interests for a privileged few, we must look behind the curtain at institutions like Opus Dei and the power they wield.

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Breaking Democracy Is A Republican Party Thing Now



Slimeball by Nancy Ohanian

I have no idea if George Packer knew he was comparing democracy to religion in his Atlantic essay Trump Is Trying to Trick Americans Into Giving Up on Democracy... but that's how I read it. "Democracy," he wrote "depends on belief in democracy-- on an extraordinary leap of faith by ordinary people that their rulers will abide by the rules, that their votes will count, that their compatriots won’t tear the country apart, that lies won’t become truth. When the checks and balances have all given way, the last barrier to an authoritarian regime is public opinion. It will stand or fall on November 3. According to a new poll by the international organization More in Common, the only issue that matters to Americans across the political spectrum is the integrity of the November presidential election. In the same poll, more than three-quarters of Americans-- again, from left to right-- still express a belief that citizens can change society through their actions. And yet similarly large majorities expect high levels of voter fraud or voter suppression in November; trust in government, the media, and one another is abysmally low. Another recent poll, by YouGov, finds that just 22 percent of Americans expect the election to be free and fair; when told that experts say the election cannot be rigged, only 19 percent believe it. Americans are in the desperate position of clinging to something precious that they expect to betray them."

Yesterday I was talking with western New York congressional candidate, Nate McMurray about a stunt his opponent, hereditary billionaire Chris Jacobs, pulled on Saturday. The Trumpist incumbent, speaking at a rally of extremists where an effigy of Gov. Andrew Cuomo was beaten and hung, was part of a mob. "This district has a history of political climbers like Bill Paxon, Tom Reynolds, Chris Lee and Chris Collins who used the communities and families of NY-27 for personal gain," McMurray told me. "But the hatefulness on display Saturday was a disgraceful new low. Chris Jacobs and his comrades in western New York have fully embraced the worst of Trumpism. Extreme Republicans like Chris know that if every American votes they will lose. So they traffic in conspiracies, lies and the politics of fear to destabilize the electoral process and end democracy as we know it. And their march toward authoritarianism will not end with a whimper but with the bang and butt of a gun. Chris should be ashamed of how far he has debased himself, all to try and win an election."

Packer wrote that "Democratic faith turns out to be as fragile as it is necessary, and Trump specializes in undermining it. When he repeatedly asserts massive fraud months before Election Day, announces that he won’t respect results that go against him, and refuses to promise a peaceful transfer of power-- the litmus test of democracy-- he is forcing Americans into a mental trap that can resemble madness. The president says that the election is rigged, and he also insinuates that he will rig the election. To believe him is frightening; to discount him is foolish. Either way, Trump becomes ever more powerful, while the people-- on whose consent his power entirely depends-- slip into passivity and paralysis, or are pushed into rage, even political violence.This is exactly the atmosphere of chaos in which Trump thrives. He makes it almost impossible to hold on to the idea that the election can be free and fair. But the survival of democracy, which lives and dies in our minds before anywhere else, depends on that idea. For the election to succeed, we have to think and act as if it will succeed.
Trump uses words the way Russian intelligence employs “active measures” operations: not to inform or persuade, but to poison the mental atmosphere, to confuse and agitate the public until it begins to lose faith in rational discourse and, ultimately, in democracy. Whether or not this continuous ink spray could actually lower voter turnout, Morris said, it will degrade “our belief in each other as common citizens of a republic.” Sizable numbers of Americans in both parties are now willing to tolerate political violence in the aftermath of an election, according to a Democracy Fund Voter Study survey last spring: 20 percent of Republicans in the event of alleged vote fraud, 20 percent of Democrats if Trump loses the popular vote but wins the Electoral College. Americans are edging toward civil conflict.

In the coming weeks, anyone who cares about our democracy has to hold two conflicting ideas in mind while remaining sane. The first is that Trump should be taken at his word when he warns that he will do whatever is necessary to stay in power. This dark prospect requires a constant state of alertness, a refusal to seek comfort in hoping for the best or looking to Trump’s party or his judges for some glimmer of salvation. At this stage of his presidency, naivete is unforgivable.

But the second idea, even more demanding, is that our votes still matter. Not just that they’ll be counted, but that they are sacred, if anything in a secular democracy can be called by that word. This idea means refusing to give way to panic or despair or, most crippling of all, the sullen resentment into which subject populations are worn down by authoritarian rulers. The more we dwell on what Trump might do, the likelier he’ll be to get away with something. He’ll have become the omnipotent central character in the drama, occupying the place that rightfully belongs to a democratic people, who are reduced once more to watching in outrage. We have to believe that power still lies in the people, or else we’ve already surrendered it.

For weeks, Belarusians have filled the streets of their cities to insist that their votes are sacred. Beatings, grenades, flashbangs, arrests, torture, and disappearances by the state have neither deterred them nor driven them to violence. Some commentators have said that the United States is not yet Belarus. This is true enough, though we are closer than seemed imaginable just a few years ago. The real question is whether Americans have what it takes to be Belarusians.
Tuesday, Nick Ackerman, a former Watergate prosecutor, was on CNN, where he said that after reading the NY Times piece on Trump's taxes, he realized that Trump makes Nixon look like a rookie amateur. He sees Trump going to trial if he loses the election because what he's guilty of is not tax avoidance but full-blown tax fraud. "Tax evasion is a 5 year felony. It's a pretty serious crime and the more money that's stolen, the longer you go to jail for... The only thing saving him at this point is the Department of Justice’s guideline that says you can’t indict a sitting president."

Ah... yes, the Department of Justice. It's like when The Mob takes over the FBI. CREW-- Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington-- made an abuse of power case for impeaching Barr. Pelosi is bound to ignore it for narrow partisan reasons but CREW made the case that Barr abused the powers of his office by engaging in a course of conduct that impaired the Special Counsel investigation of Trump, "the conduct of lawful inquiries by the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) and the purpose of that agency, and the oversight and impeachment powers of the United States House of Representatives. These actions violate DOJ’s founding principal to maintain the independence and impartiality of federal prosecutions from political intervention." There can be little doubt that Barr is also guilty of directing federal law enforcement officers to violate the First and Fourth Amendment rights of American citizens who gathered to engage in peaceful protest outside of the White House and across the country. They want to see an impeachment inquiry by the House that focuses on whether Barr abused the powers of his office by engaging in a course of conduct that was 'seriously incompatible with our system of constitutional government.' At a minimum, that inquiry should consider whether Barr:
Corruptly subverted the Special Counsel investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and of President Trump for obstruction of justice;
Interfered with the lawful functions of the Department of Justice by overturning the actions of career prosecutors in the cases of Roger Stone Jr. and Michael Flynn and by firing United States Attorney Geoffrey Berman;
Obstructed lawful investigations of the United States House of Representatives; and
Abused and exceeded the powers of the Attorney General to violate the First and Fourth Amendment rights of American citizens.

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Last Night Was Hard To Watch For Normal Americans-- But A Great Night For The Neo-Nazi Proud Boys



Trump/Biden Debate by Nancy Ohanian

Trump was a national embarrassment. That's what you get when you practice debating with Rudy Giuliani. And Biden was, at best... a weak foil. Instant polls and focus groups, though, showed Trump decisively losing the first-- and hopefully-- last debate of 2020. Republican focus group-meister asked his panel of 15 swing state undecided voters, "You just saw 90 minutes; how can you still be undecided?" 11 are still undecided; 4 are voting for Biden and two made up their lizard-minds to vote for Trump. One of the Biden converts described the debate as "trying to win an argument with a crackhead." Trump didn't grow his support. Politico:
Despite their indecisiveness, most described Trump in a negative light, including one of the participants who was leaning toward voting for the president. The voters characterized Trump as “unhinged,” “arrogant,” “forceful," a “bully,” “chaotic” and “un-American.”

When asked to describe Biden they offered: “better than expected,” “politician,” “compassion,” “coherent,” and a “nice guy lacking vision.”
John Harris termed the whole mess as an epic moment of national shame, "a new low in presidential politics," and "an embarrassment for the ages" that caused many viewers "at frequent intervals... [to] lower the sound, wince and look away." Maybe that's what Trump wanted, although I doubt it. He thinks he won. No one else does though. "Trump," wrote Harris, "plainly arrived to shred the official debate rules, and shed any pretense of decorum. At numerous points, his honking interruptions blared without interruption. So did his putdowns, including mocking Biden’s performance in college 56 years ago-- “You graduated either the lowest or almost the lowest in your class,” before adding, “There’s nothing smart about you, Joe.” He also brought up Hunter Biden’s drug problems and inaccurately said he received a dishonorable discharge from the Navy." Biden's best moments were when he called Trump a "clown."

Writing for the New Republic, Walter Shapiro noted that Donald's unhinged performance is a sign he knows he's losing. He concluded his column by writing that watching caused him to grieve for American democracy. "And I am frightened by the specter of two more presidential debates as moderators insist on playing by rules of civil discourse in the face of Trump the Termagant." NBC's Jonathan Allen agreed with Shapiro that Trump's performance was a sign that he fears Biden and knows he's losing. "In the end," he wrote, "what voters saw was a president who was deeply fearful of the result of a fair election determined on the actual positions and records of the two candidates. And yet, his desire to dominate the debate stage-- to talk over both his opponent and the moderator, Chris Wallace-- made it more likely that the race will be a referendum on him than a choice between him and Biden." BINGO! A referendum on Trump is exactly what's brewing... which is why as unsatisfactory a candidate as Joe Biden is going to win in a landslide and why Republicans are going to lose control of the Senate and lose dozens of House seats.

In her Washington Post OpEd, Karen Tumulty noted that "the nightmare that played out Tuesday evening on a debate stage in Cleveland served at least one useful purpose. It encapsulated, in a single 98-minute span, the entire presidency of Donald... All of the impulses that drive Trump were unleashed: The lying. The rage. The bluster. The incoherence. It is hard to imagine that anyone but the most obdurate of partisans could have watched the spectacle and thought, Gee, wouldn’t it be great to have four more years of this?"
Joe Biden spoke for the rest of us when he at one point blurted out: “Will you shut up, man? This is so unpresidential.”

Granted, this was not Biden’s finest hour either. He failed to achieve the most fundamental mission for a challenger, which is to present a vision of the alternate direction in which he would take the country.

Then again, it is hard to blame the former vice president, who had assumed that he was showing up for a debate, not a shipwreck. For the most part, Biden retained his composure. He in no way resembled the doddering and feeble old man that Trump and his compatriots have sought to portray him as.

Biden also resisted Trump’s efforts to align him with the more liberal members of his party and positions that fall to the left of where most Americans are on issues such as health care. “I am the Democratic Party right now," Biden said. "The platform of the Democratic Party is what I, in fact, approved of.”
Trump lied his way through the debate but did anyone expect he even knew how to do otherwise? Lying is what he does-- always; it comes as naturally as it does to Lindsey Graham when someone asks him if he's gay. I love the response Mike Reese, sheriff of Multnomah County (Portland, Oregon) gave after Trump lied about being endorsed by him:

Even after his catastrophic performance last night, Donald is going through with his super-spreader events in Green Bay and La Crosse, Wisconsin on Saturday, two cities where coronavirus cases are surging... Trump’s rallies, which are known for their size and lack of social distancing, will be held in two cities with some of the highest rates of coronavirus infections in the country. La Crosse has the second-highest rate of infection...and Green Bay has the sixth-highest number of cases per capita. Coronavirus cases around the state are skyrocketing and hospitalizations are at a record high. As of Monday, every county in the state has high virus activity, according to the state Department of Health Services. The Green Bay area, especially, is seeing high numbers of coronavirus patients in their health care centers. At Bellin Hospital in Green Bay, coronavirus patients occupy three-quarters of the hospital's intensive care unit beds and two-thirds of medical unit beds-- roughly double the number from two weeks ago. Last week, the Bellin Hospital emergency room was so overwhelmed that hospital workers had to tend to patients on gurneys in the hallway. Meanwhile, 150 Bellin Hospital employees are quarantining at home."

Reporting for the Washington Post on Trump's plans to kill more Cheeseheads, Lena Sun noted that during the debate, "Trump defended his events as opportunities for his supporters to gather to hear him and claimed that there has been 'no negative effect' from his rallies, even though health officials in Tulsa said a spike in covid-19 cases was 'likely' sparked by an indoor Trump gathering in June." [Herman Cain started trending on Twitter.] Señor T, lying again, said "he was 'okay with masks' but falsely claimed that scientists are divided over their value. Health experts have said mask-wearing, hand-washing, social distancing and being careful about crowds currently make up the best defense against the virus. Biden, by contrast, said Trump has been 'totally irresponsible' in the way he has handled social distancing and masks, and in holding large rallies. 'Basically he has been a fool on this,' Biden said of Trump."
“If you could get the crowds, you would have done the same thing,” the president responded. “But you can’t. Nobody can.”

In addition to the White House task force’s guidance, local concern has been growing in Wisconsin about Trump’s planned events, which are scheduled for outdoor airplane hangars without universal mask mandates. Gov. Tony Evers (D) said Tuesday in a news briefing that Trump should either cancel the events or require mask-wearing by everyone who attends.

“This virus is real, and it is devastating our communities, and it will continue to do so until we all get on the same team,” Evers said in a press call about the recent spike in the state’s cases.

He told Wisconsin residents that wearing a mask is not a substitute for social distancing or staying at home, and he asked them to cancel family barbecues, play dates or dinner parties, and make all large gatherings virtual.

Ryan Westergaard, the state’s chief medical officer, said Tuesday that Wisconsin is “in a crisis right now,” given the rate of community spread.

While Biden has made a point of keeping his events small and attendees distant from one another, Trump has largely dismissed the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention against holding mass gatherings during the pandemic.

The president has crisscrossed the country to hold rallies, mostly in outdoor spaces but sometimes indoors, where mask-wearing is optional. At the events, he regularly mocks virus mitigation efforts, like social distancing, as little more than political ploys by Democratic state leaders bent on punishing him.

“We don’t call these ‘rallies’ anymore, because in Dem states like where you have a governor who’s a Democrat, you’re not allowed to go to church and not allowed to go to a restaurant. You’re not allowed to go to your friend’s house. You can’t move from your house unless you’re related to the governor,” he said at a rally in Newport News, Virginia, on Friday.

“You can’t do anything, unless of course it’s a peaceful protest. Okay?” he continued. “So what we do is we call these peaceful protests, and we’re getting big crowds.”
Goal ThermometerFor Biden, the only good outcome is that watching Trump act like last night that certainly got Democrats-- and perhaps others-- reaching for their wallets. His campaign and that of other Democrats-- had huge fundraising booms during and after the debate. ActBlue brought in around $8 million between 9 and 11, almost half of which went to Biden. I asked Twitter followers to consider contributing $5 to their favorite Democratic congressional candidates here every time Trump lied. Please consider doing that today by clicking on the Blue America 2020 congressional thermometer on the right.

David Frum asserted in his Atlantic column that Donald was a dead duck before he set foot on the stage. He explained that Trumpanzee "arrived at the first debate with a theory and a plan. The theory was that American voters crave dominance, no matter how belligerent or offensive. The plan was to hector, interrupt, and insult in hope of establishing that dominance. His theory was wrong and his plan was counter-productive."
Trump walked onto that stage in Cleveland seven or eight points behind, because the traditional Republican advantage among upper-income and educated voters has dwindled; because non-college-educated white women have turned against him; because he is losing older voters to his mishandling of COVID-19; because the groups he needs to be demobilized—African Americans, the young—are up-mobilized. On the present trajectory, nearly 150 million votes are likely to be cast in 2020. If Trump wins 43 percent of them and Joe Biden 50 percent, not even the Electoral College can convert that negative margin into a second Trump term.

He needed to do something to change that reality.

Instead, he talked to Facebook conspiracists, to the angriest of ultra-Republican partisans, and to violent white supremacists. He urged the Proud Boys to 'stand by' because 'somebody’s got to do something' about 'antifa and the left.' He refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power in the (likely) event that he loses. He threatened months and months of chaos if the election does not go his way.

Trump yelled, threatened, interrupted-- and changed nothing. All he did was confirm the horror and revulsion of the large American majority that has already begun to cast its ballots against him.

Correction, Trump did one thing. On the Cleveland stage, Trump communicated that he will seize any opportunity to disrupt the vote, and resist the outcome. He communicated more forcefully than ever that the only security the country has for a constitutional future is that Biden win by the largest possible margin.

...Who and what Trump is, could not have been more vividly displayed in all the psychological reality. Debate one was not Donald Trump versus Joe Biden, or red versus blue. It was zookeepers versus poop-throwing primates.

Biden may be faded from what he was: perhaps less crisp, less sharp, less fast. But when Biden spoke, he spoke to and about America. Trump spoke only about his wounded ego. Biden communicated: I care about you. Trump communicated: I hate everybody. Biden succeeded in putting his most important messages on record: your healthcare, your job, your right to equal respect regardless of race or creed-- all against Trump’s disregard and disrespect. Trump may have imagined he projected himself as strong. The whole world witnessed instead the destructive rage of a bully confronting impending defeat. Trump disgraced the presidency on that stage. He may just have delivered the self-incapacitating wound that pushes the country toward self-salvation.

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Do You Think Donald Worships Jesus?


Fox News judge Andrew Napolitano makes a big deal about being a conservative Catholic brimming over with "conservative Catholic values." The day before Fox suspended him-- for his second wild gay sex scandal-- he was on TV celebrating the nomination of another conservative Catholic to the Supreme Court. I doubt Amy Coney Barrett is in a gay closet like Napolitano. But she is a profoundly bigoted homophobic fanatic (which, presumably is how she defines her conservative Catholic values.

Republican hypocrites like Napolitano are rending their garments and setting their hair on fire because the godless Democrats are supposedly questioning Coney Island about her conservative Catholicism. Now, I don't know how devout Joe Biden is, but he sure seems more religious than the ones who are accusing the Democrats of being anti-Catholic... as usual. And they back DONALD!

The McKay Coppins piece in yesterday's Atlantic Trump Secretly Mocks His Christian Supporters, was the kind of really good writing we've come to expect from him. Does it surprise you that former Trump aides say that in private, Señor T has spoken with cynicism and contempt about religious believers, mocking their leaders as charlatans, recognizing them as they same kinds of hustlers and scam artists that he's been for his entire life? Trump, never one for nuance, didn't mince words: "They’re all hustlers."

Coppins wrote that his unlikely "alliance with religious conservatives has long been premised on the contention that he takes them seriously, while Democrats hold them in disdain. In speeches and interviews, Trump routinely lavishes praise on conservative Christians, casting himself as their champion. 'My administration will never stop fighting for Americans of faith,' he declared at a rally for evangelicals earlier this year. It’s a message his campaign will seek to amplify in the coming weeks as Republicans work to confirm Amy Coney Barrett-- a devout, conservative Catholic-- to the Supreme Court. But in private, many of Trump’s comments about religion are marked by cynicism and contempt, according to people who have worked for him. Former aides told me they’ve heard Trump ridicule conservative religious leaders, dismiss various faith groups with cartoonish stereotypes, and deride certain rites and doctrines held sacred by many of the Americans who constitute his base."
From the outset of his brief political career, Trump has viewed right-wing evangelical leaders as a kind of special-interest group to be schmoozed, conned, or bought off, former aides told me. Though he faced Republican primary opponents in 2016 with deeper religious roots-- Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee-- Trump was confident that his wealth and celebrity would attract high-profile Christian surrogates to vouch for him.

“His view was ‘I’ve been talking to these people for years; I’ve let them stay at my hotels-- they’re gonna endorse me. I played the game,’” said a former campaign adviser to Trump, who, like others quoted in this story, spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private conversations.

It helped that Trump seemed to feel a kinship with prosperity preachers-- often evincing a game-recognizes-game appreciation for their hustle. The former campaign adviser recalled showing his boss a YouTube video of the Israeli televangelist Benny Hinn performing “faith healings,” while Trump laughed at the spectacle and muttered, “Man, that’s some racket.” On another occasion, the adviser told me, Trump expressed awe at Joel Osteen’s media empire-- particularly the viewership of his televised sermons.

In Cohen’s recent memoir, Disloyal, he recounts Trump returning from his 2011 meeting with the pastors who laid hands on him and sneering, “Can you believe that bullshit?” But if Trump found their rituals ridiculous, he followed their moneymaking ventures closely. “He was completely familiar with the business dealings of the leadership in many prosperity-gospel churches,” the adviser told me.

The conservative Christian elites Trump surrounds himself with have always been more clear-eyed about his lack of religiosity than they’ve publicly let on. In a September 2016 meeting with about a dozen influential figures on the religious right-- including the talk-radio host Eric Metaxas, the Dallas megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress, and the theologian Wayne Grudem-- the then-candidate was blunt about his relationship to Christianity. In a recording of the meeting obtained by The Atlantic, the candidate can be heard shrugging off his scriptural ignorance (“I don’t know the Bible as well as some of the other people”) and joking about his inexperience with prayer (“The first time I met [Mike Pence], he said, ‘Will you bow your head and pray?’ and I said, ‘Excuse me?’ I’m not used to it.”) At one point in the meeting, Trump interrupted a discussion about religious freedom to complain about Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska and brag about the taunting nickname he’d devised for him. “I call him Little Ben Sasse,” Trump said. “I have to do it, I’m sorry. That’s when my religion always deserts me.”

And yet, by the end of the meeting-- much of which was spent discussing the urgency of preventing trans women from using women’s restrooms-- the candidate had the group eating out of his hand. “I’m not voting for Trump to be the teacher of my third grader’s Sunday-school class. That’s not what he’s running for,” Jeffress said in the meeting, adding, “I believe it is imperative … that we do everything we can to turn people out.”

The Faustian nature of the religious right’s bargain with Trump has not always been quite so apparent to rank-and-file believers. According to the Pew Research Center, white evangelicals are more than twice as likely as the average American to say that the president is a religious man. Some conservative pastors have described him as a “baby Christian,” and insist that he’s accepted Jesus Christ as his savior.

To those who have known and worked with Trump closely, the notion that he might have a secret spiritual side is laughable. “I always assumed he was an atheist,” Barbara Res, a former executive at the Trump Organization, told me. “He’s not a religious guy,” A. J. Delgado, who worked on his 2016 campaign, told me. “Whenever I see a picture of him standing in a group of pastors, all of their hands on him, I see a thought bubble [with] the words ‘What suckers,’” Mary Trump, the president’s niece, told me.

Greg Thornbury, a former president of the evangelical King’s College, who was courted by the campaign in 2016, told me that even those who acknowledge Trump’s lack of personal piety are convinced that he holds their faith in high esteem. “I don’t think for a moment that they would believe he’s cynical about them,” Thornbury said.

Trump’s public appeals to Jewish voters have been similarly discordant with his private comments. Last week, the Washington Post reported that after calls with Jewish lawmakers, the president has said that Jews “are only in it for themselves.” And while he is quick to tout his daughter Ivanka’s conversion to Judaism when he’s speaking to Jewish audiences, he is sometimes less effusive in private. Cohen told me that once, years ago, he was with Trump when his wife, Melania, informed him that their son was at a playdate with a Jewish girl from his school. “Great,” Trump said to Cohen, who is Jewish. “I’m going to lose another one of my kids to your people.”

One religious group that the Trump campaign is keenly fixated on this year is Mormons. In 2016, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints rejected the Republican ticket in unprecedented numbers. To win them over in 2020, the campaign has made Donald Trump Jr. its envoy, sending him to campaign in Utah and other Mormon-heavy states. The president’s son has cultivated relationships with high-profile conservatives in the faith. Earlier this year, he invoked Mormon pioneers in a call with reporters to describe his father’s “innovative spirit.”

In fact, according to two senior Utah Republicans with knowledge of the situation, Don Jr. has been so savvy in courting Latter-day Saints-- expressing interest in the Church’s history, reading from the Book of Mormon-- that he’s left some influential Republicans in the state with the impression that he may want to convert. (A spokesman for Don Jr. did not respond to a request for comment.)

I’ve been curious about the president’s opinion of Mormonism ever since I interviewed him in 2014 at Mar-a-Lago. During our conversation, Trump began to strenuously argue that Mitt Romney’s exotic faith had cost him the 2012 election. When I interrupted to inform him that I’m also a Mormon, he quickly changed tack-- extolling my Church’s many virtues, and then switching subjects. (He remained committed to his theory about 2012: During his September 2016 meeting with evangelical leaders, Trump repeatedly asserted that “Christians” didn’t turn out for Romney “because of the Mormon thing.”) I’ve always wondered what Trump might have said if I hadn’t cut him off.

When I shared this story with Cohen, he laughed. Trump, he said, frequently made fun of Romney’s faith in private-- and was especially vicious when he learned about the religious undergarments worn by many Latter-day Saints. “Oh my god,” Cohen said. “How many times did he bring up Mitt Romney and the undergarments …”
Our old friend Frank Schaeffer is always who I consult about these kinds of things, basically because he always has a solid, well-informed perspective and can tell me what I'm missing. This morning he pointed out that "Trump mocks evangelicals behind their backs. Duh! Ask yourself this: when Trump is out of office do you think he’ll ever call Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell Jr. (in rehab) or Ralph Reed just to chat? Will he drop by First Baptist in Dallas for old time’s sake? Evangelical's delusion about Trump begins with their delusions about their own pastors and leaders who-- as I well know because I grew up as one of them-- also mock rank and file church goers. The grifters who run the Big Time God Biz are cut from the same cloth as the Trump clan. They too run nepotistic family businesses. They too run fake universities and pad expense accounts. And they too 'love the uneducate' as Trump said he does. The Trump clan and the evangelicals leaders share a lot and one thing is utter contempt for the people who trust them, fund them and worship them."

A little note about why Trump is courting Mormons. It isn't because of Utah. He has those 6 electoral votes locked up. Same with Idaho, which has the third biggest Mormon population. The second biggest Mormon population is in California and they're not go to swing that state's votes for him. But the big Mormon populations in Wyoming, Montana and Alaska are part of Trump's base in those in-the-bag states. What Trump's efforts are all about are the 423,056 Mormons in Arizona (6.1% of the state's population) and, to a lesser extent, the 182,617 Mormons in Nevada (6.21 of that state's population). Mormon voters are not likely to deliver Nevada to Trump but without a massive turnout by Arizona's Mormon voters, that state's 11 electoral votes are going to Biden. Ditto for Florida's 154,921 Mormons. They're only 0.75% of Florida's population but in a state where elections are won by the smallest of margins, that many Mormons would be worth Trump, Jr. pretending he's converting.

Now, let me share a Tiny Desk home concert (just one song, "Soccer") by the Good Ones with you. What a ray of sunlight! My old friend Ian Brennan just sent it to me. He produced it, recorded it in Rwanda. By the way, that thermos Janvier Havugimana is using for percussion, is filled with milk.

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Of Course, An Anti-Trump Landslide Is Baked Into The Cake



Saving America by Nancy Ohanian

At this point, national polling for the presidential race isn't nearly as important as swing state polling. In 2016, Hillary won 65,853,514 (48.2%) votes nationally to Trump's 62,984,828 (46.1%). But Hillary's 2,968,626 vote victory didn't mean squat in the electoral college, where Trump won 304 votes to her 227. Polling shows that the vast majority of Americans have already made up their minds on the key issue of this election-- do they want Trump in the White House for 4 more years or not. The debates aren't going to change many minds, although they could be impactful in a few states that are close.

These were the polling averages (Real Clear Politics) in the swing states on Tuesday morning:
Wisconsin- Biden +5.5%
Florida- Biden +1.1%
Pennsylvania- Biden +5.7%
North Carolina- Biden +0.8%
Michigan- Biden +5.2%
Arizona- Biden +3.4%
Minnesota- Biden +9.4%
Ohio- Biden +3.3%
Iowa- tie
Nevada- Biden +5.3%
New Hampshire- Biden +5.5%
Maine- Biden +15.3%
Virginia- Biden +11.0%
Georgia- Trump +1.3%
Texas- Trump +3.6%
Colorado- Biden +10.0%
New Mexico- Biden +14.5%
Alaska- Trump +3.0%
Writing for Sabato's Crystal Ball yesterday, Alan Abramowitz reported that an analysis of recent state polls shows Trump losing. Trump is ahead in 15 states with 154 electoral votes and he's losing in 20 states with 298 electoral votes. That's enough to win, even though there is insufficient polling data available for 15 states and the District of Columbia (86 electoral votes). But, going beyond the current polling Sabato's Crystal Ball has some state by state predictions that give Biden 27 states and the District of Columbia with 352 electoral votes and Trump 23 states with 186 electoral votes. Here's a state by state prediction (along with Hillary's 2016 performance):

According to their analysis, Trump will do worse in November than he did in 2016 in every state except very marginally in DC, where Hillary won with 86.8% but where Biden may "only" get 81.4%. Trump's numbers have fallen drastically even in the deepest red hellholes like Wyoming, West Virginia, Oklahoma, Alabama the Dakotas and Idaho. But more importantly, he is down significantly in every swing state-- every single one, and enough so to remove Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin (119 electoral votes) from the Trump column.

Abramowitz concluded that In 2016, Señor Trumpanzee "shocked the political world by pulling off a victory in the Electoral College despite losing the popular vote by more than two percentage points. The key to his victory was winning several large swing states including Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin by very narrow margins. Based on recent polling data, however, Trump appears unlikely to duplicate his 2016 feat. He is currently trailing in every 2016 swing state, including Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, although the margin in Florida is very close. Meanwhile, he is being forced to invest time and money defending several states that he won easily in 2016. In contrast, Joe Biden appears to be comfortably ahead in every state that Hillary Clinton won in 2016. Barring a major comeback in the final weeks of the campaign or very large and systematic polling errors, the incumbent appears to be headed for a decisive defeat in both the popular vote and the electoral vote."

Trump has thrown everyone under the bus-- congressional Republicans are next

Trump's toxicity spells very bad news for Republican Senate-- and, presumably, House-- incumbents. While these numbers aren't directly helpful in predicting House races, they show it that Senate incumbents Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Martha McSally (R-AZ), Cory Gardner (R-CO), David Perdue (R-GA), Kelly Loeffler (R-GA), Joni Ernest (R-IA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Steve Daines (R-MT), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and John Cornyn (R-TX) each has a giant albatross hanging around his or her neck going into November. It isn't likely they'll all lose, but it is very likely that Chuck Schumer is going to be the next majority leader (God help us all).


Midnight Meme Of The Day!



by Noah

Well, well, well! It's the $750 Man! President Deadbeat paid a whole $750 in taxes in his first year as president. He gamed the IRS and, by extension, all of us. I'm shocked I tell ya! Shocked and, definitely appalled and pissed, really pissed. Here's what our 6 most recent presidents paid in their first year in office. Compare and Contrast:
1. President Ronald Reagan- $165,202
2. President H. W. Bush- $101.382
3. President Bill Clinton- $62,670
4. President George W. Bush- $250,221
5. President Barrack Obama- $1,792,414
6. Herr Trump, aka Dear Leader- $750
Yep, everyone I know paid more taxes than Trump did. Oh, and what we've seen so far shows that Trump is no billionaire but we already knew that. He just plays one for the suckers and fools. He's a hoax, a hoax, a hoax, a hoax! From any angle Donald Trump and his entire grifting family are a hoax. Always have been. Now let's see Trump's bank transactions and a complete record of the ruble laundering and, while we're at it, how about that missing DNA test and his medical records, the real ones. No need to see his school records since he had other students take his tests. Oh, and a detailed record of where all that COVID relief money went would be nice. That's where it gets tricky though. There's just too many people involved in that one so I'll settle just for how much went to his syndicate of associates and we'll see where that leads. We need a wiki-leaks for Swiss bank accounts.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Write A Negative Hotel Review-- Go Directly To Jail, Do Not Pass Go



Roland fantasizes about when we can get on the road again. The other day he asked me where I want to go most. He's all in on either Thailand and Indonesia or Sri Lanka and India. I'm thinking of France or Italy or Spain and Morocco. These are all places we've been to before and numerous times. The next day another friend of mine asked me the same question, but when I started answering, he said "no, those countries are closed to Americans." THat's when I figured out he meant NOW, not in a few years, after the pandemic when it's safe again. He wants to fly to someplace exotic and exciting now. He's cracking up.

A day or two later the Washington Post published a story that was so popular that they re--published it a few days later, When Will Americans Be Able To Travel To Europe Again?. Author Natalie Comptom asked 4 travel insiders. We'll get to it in a second, but I just want to point out that Americans aren't just barred from all but 6 European countries-- North Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia, Albania, Belarus and Turkey-- but that Europe is going through a big second wave and it is completely unsafe to travel there. These were the new cases reported Sunday and ---> Monday in a dozen European countries [Basketcase Sweden has basically stopped reporting]:
France- +11,123 ---> +4,070
Russia- +7,867 ---> +8,135
U.K.- +5,693 ---> +4,044
Spain- +5,321 ---> +2,425
Ukraine- +3,130 ---> +2,671
Netherlands- +2,995 ---> +2,914
Belgium- +1,827 ---> +1,376
Italy- +1,766 ---> +1,494
Romania- +1,438 ---> +1,271
Poland- +1,350 ---> +1,306
Germany- +1,313 ---> +2,279
Czechia- +1,303 ---> +716
None of them are doing as badly as the U.S., but none of those numbers look remotely inviting to me. I have a feeling we'll be postponing until either Christmas 2021 or summer 2022. Now, back to Natalie Comptom. She wrote that "The closure of European borders to American tourists in March, with no clear off-ramp, has been one painful blow of the pandemic. Six months later, Americans are starting to travel again, but international destinations are still limited." She agrees with my assessment that "there doesn’t seem to be a clear end in sight to the travel ban." She spoke with her 4 experts
Rick Steves, America’s Godfather of European travel, sounds sullen on a phone call to discuss the pandemic and its impact on travel.

“It’s whack-a-mole until we get a grip on the virus,” Steves says, explaining that when one pocket of the United States starts to reduce its cases of the coronavirus, others lighten restrictions and see new surges of cases. “I’m really disappointed that people are so impatient and they don’t realize that you can’t just jump back to normalcy when things start to look good.”

Earlier this year, Steves’s company was scheduled to take tens of thousands of Americans to Europe on guided tours; those trips were of course canceled and refunded, and now he’s started a waitlist-- already 10,000 families deep-- for potential 2021 tours.

...Steves says he’s hopeful for Americans to be able to return to Europe in 2021, although he’s more concerned that the businesses that make European travel so special won’t survive the economic fallout from tourism remaining on hold, not to mention the economic crisis would-be American travelers are facing at home.

“We have more immediate needs right now, and that’s dealing with the reality of the economic division in our own society here,” Steves says. “When the easy money from the government runs out and this pandemic stretches on because of our inability to get a grip on it, I think are our concerns are not going to be, ‘Can I get a flight to London?’”

Eduardo Santander, executive director of the European Travel Commission, an association that represents the European Union’s national tourism organizations, says he had been hopeful for a summer tourism bounce-back.

“Obviously that didn’t crystallize in the end, because of the beginning of the second wave of outbreaks in different countries and regions,” Santander says from his home in Brussels. “For the first half of 2020, [European tourism was] down 66 percent, but now we are down in some places even by 90, 93 percent. So things are not looking very good at the moment.”

Santander says he understands why Americans feel confusion and frustration about not being able to travel to Europe, or know when it may be possible. In the beginning of the summer, the ETC tried to convince E.U. member states and members of the Schengen zone to agree on a consistent protocol for resuming tourism. With every country carrying out different covid-19 strategies, Santander says the consequence has been an even more fragmented map of Europe.

While domestic tourism in Europe has resumed, Santander says American travelers have been absolutely missed. However, they will likely not be allowed back to Europe before Christmas due to the status of the pandemic.

“We are actually advocating that governments, the U.S. administration and also the European Union, work together,” Santander says. “Because if we come [up] with standardized protocols for testing and tracing, not only in Europe but also worldwide-- or if you want it just between the U.S. and the European Union if that makes it easier-- I think traveling is not at risk at all.”

Santander says he doesn’t discourage Americans to plan or book trips to Europe for 2021, as long as the reservations are adjustable or refundable: “People should not stop dreaming about traveling.”

Access Italy is a luxury travel company that primarily guides American customers, including former president Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey, on private tours. With the company’s main season running from March to November, its CEO (and son of its founder), Simone Amorico, says they knew early on that 2020 would be a wash.

The company has been taking this time for research and development. Amorico says his team has been exploring Italy and developing ways for clients to have safer experiences, like finding private villas and yachts to book.

Amorico doesn’t expect Americans to be able to return in 2020. “I just hope it will be before spring of 2021, which I believe most certain it will happen,” he says, adding that he thinks by March or April there will be tools (like faster coronavirus testing) in place to facilitate safer travel between the United States and Italy.

Meanwhile, Amorico says requests for 2021 bookings are already trickling in despite the unpredictable situation.

“Our suggestion is not to confirm anything yet, but once the border opens, to try and book as fast as possible, because there’s going to be a huge demand for next year,” he says. “Americans just can’t wait to come back to Europe, especially Italy, especially after they’ve been told that they cannot come next year.”

In the years leading up to the pandemic, American tourism in Finland was on the rise. Sanna Kyyrä, chief specialist of tourism policy for Finland’s Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, says Americans were among Finland’s biggest spenders, making the United States a significant part of Finland’s tourism income.

As far as when Americans will be able to get back to the land of happiness, saunas, karaoke and Northern Lights, “unfortunately, it looks very difficult at the moment,” Kyyrä says.

Kyyrä says Finland has been following and taking part in E.U. discussions regarding which countries will be included on the “green list” for travel, and hoping it will be possible to make a long-term plan by spring to help American travelers and Finnish tourism businesses prepare for a reopening.
So what about Asia? Well... Turkey again. And a few countries admit Americans with certain restrictions-- like Cambodia. That's a cool place but not only do you have to get tested, you also have to leave a $2,000 COVID-deposit. Dubai requires a test as well and proof of valid international health insurance. And South Korea will let you in-- after a 2 week quarantine (same as England, by the way). Armenia is also open to Americans, but requires a test at the airport or a two week quarantine-- same for Bangladesh.

So I was surprised over the weekend when I read about an American being arrested in Thailand. Turns out he was at an island resort on Koh Chang, complained about the hotel on several online travel sites and was arrested and thrown in jail for two days after the resort complained to the local police. He wasn't a tourist though; he's an American teacher living there. He had to post a $3,200 bail. And he faces a 2 year prison term if found guilty of defamation.

“The Sea View Resort owner filed a complaint that the defendant had posted unfair reviews on his hotel on the TripAdvisor website,” Pol Col Thanapon Taemsara of the Koh Chang police told AFP.

He said Mr Barnes was accused of causing “damage to the reputation of the hotel”, and of quarrelling with staff over not paying a corkage fee for alcohol he had brought to the hotel.

According to the TripAdvisor review that Mr Barnes posted in July, he encountered “unfriendly staff” who “act like they don’t want anyone here.”

Tom Storup, the rooms division manager at the resort, replied to Mr Barnes in a post dated July 20. He said that guests bringing their own liquor “goes against our rules, as it does in any hotel or resort I have worked or visited around the globe.” He said Mr Barnes used “abusive language” toward a staff member who explained the 500-baht corkage charge to him.

The resort’s food and beverage manager intervened “for the safety and comfort of our staff and guests who were having a peaceful dinner”, Mr Storup wrote. “It was then when another guest at your table took over the conversation with our F&B manager and he apologised profusely and shook hands after a short chat.

“The F&B manager then decided that, in order to avoid further disturbance, to allow you to have that liquor without charging you for the corkage fee.”

The Sea View Resort told AFP on Saturday that legal action was only taken because Mr Barnes had written multiple reviews on different sites over the past few weeks.

At least one was posted in June on TripAdvisor accusing the hotel of “modern day slavery”-- which the site removed after a week for violating its guidelines.

“We chose to file a complaint to serve as a deterrent, as we understood he may continue to write negative reviews week after week for the foreseeable future,” the hotel said, adding that staff had made “multiple attempts” to contact Mr Barnes but they were ignored, leading the business to resort to a legal complaint.

Mr Barnes did not immediately respond to requests from AFP for comment.

“We agree that the defamation law may be viewed as excessive for this situation,” the resort said in its statement, but it said the guest had included “fabricated stories” in reviews posted on both TripAdvisor and Google.

“The guest refused to respond to our attempts at communication and instead continued to persistently post negative and untrue reviews of our business. We simply want to ensure that these untrue reviews are stopped, and we had no way of negotiating the matter with the guest until after our filing the complaint with the authorities.”

...Sea View, a 156-room resort on Kai Bae Beach was founded in 1989 and is ranked 10th out of 85 properties on Koh Chang that have been reviewed on TripAdvisor. It has received 1,922 reviews, with 1,090 of them rating the resort excellent, 580 very good, 170 average, 48 poor and 32 terrible.

Defamation laws in Thailand have long been seen as problematic, as they are frequently used by businesses and influential figures to intimidate critics.

The maximum sentence under the law is two years in prison, along with a 200,000-baht fine.

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Congressional Races Heating-- As GOP Goes Berserk Looking At Probable November Losses



The other day someone wrote a comment here about how the country is ready to explode in Civil War and all that's needed is a Ft Sumter incident. I don't agree but some kind of a half-assed insurrection would be a fitting and predictable denouement for the illegitimate, completely divisive Trump regime.

I'm no Andrew Cuomo fan and I wasn't that shocked to see some Trumpist yahoos in western New York hang him in effigy after a mock trial over the weekend, but what did surprise me was that a Republican congressman-- albeit a knee-jerk Trumpist-- took part in the proceedings. The spoiled son of a billionaire, Rep. Chris Jacobs, spoke at the pro-COVID/pro-gun/pro-QAnon/anti-Black Lives Matter largely maskless event in front of the Hamburg city hall. What Jacobs did might or might not have been sedition, but it was certainly a violation of the House Code of Ethics.

Goal ThermometerHis opponent is Nate McMurray, who came within a thousand votes of winning (a fraction of a percent) in 2018, despite antipathy from the DCCC which reflexively opposes progressives running in red districts. Pelosi's DCCC head, Cheri Bustos, is again working behind the scenes to sabotage McMurray's campaign and make sure Jacobs, a fellow conservative, is reelected. The Democratic Party has had nothing to say about the Jacobs rally but McMurray pointed out in a press release yesterday that the district "has a history of political climbers like Bill Paxon, Tom Reynolds, Chris Lee, and Chris Collins who used the communities and families of NY-27 for personal gain. But the hatefulness on display Saturday was a disgraceful new low. Chris Jacobs and his comrades in Western New York have fully embraced the worst of Trumpism. Extreme Republicans like Chris know that if every American votes, they will lose. So they traffic in conspiracies, lies and the politics of fear to destabilize the electoral process and end democracy as we know it. And their march toward authoritarianism will not end with a whimper but with the bang and butt of a gun. Chris should be ashamed of how far he has debased himself, all to try and win an election. Chris Jacobs is showing us who he is and we should believe what we see. And while his behavior is deeply troubling, we need not accept it. We've got to send a message, and vote these dangerous charlatans out of office this November."

Meanwhile, Democrats who normally vote with the Republicans in the House are, somewhat ironically, the ones who are most savagely attacked by the NRCC. It's hilarious that they single out the most extreme right-wing Democrats, some of whom have voting records that are to the right of some Republicans, and call them socialists and Pelosi and AOC puppets. No one would dispute, for example, that Collin Peterson (Blue Dog-MN) is one of the most conservative Democrats in the House. His Progressive Punch lifetime crucial vote score is 39.09%. In other words, he earned his "F" rating by voting with Republicans against progressive legislation far more often than for anything remotely progressive. But look at the misleading ad the GOP is running against him this week. You'd get the idea he's a liberal.

Same treatment for one of the worst right-wing Democratic freshmen, Xochitl Torres Small of New Mexico. Her "F" rating is backed up with a 43.75 crucial vote score. Conservatives don't need Republicans if they have Democrats like Torres Small. In fact, she has been so relentlessly against the interests of the working class, that she was endorsed this month by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce against the GOP candidate, far right sociopath, Yvette Herrell, who Torres Small narrowly beat in 2018 by less than 1 point, 101,489 (50.9%) to 97,767 (49.1%). She's the kind of "Democrat" the DCCC supports, rather than an independent-minded FDR-oriented progressive like McMurray. Suggestion. Click on that thermometer above and contribute what you can to McMurray's campaign. So far Jacobs has put over half a million dollars of his inheritance into his own campaign and accepted around $200,000 in bribes from corporate and ideological PACs.

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COVID Pandemic Is Expected To Surge In The Lead-Up To The Election And The Inauguration-- And Trump And His Allies Are Making It Worse, Much Worse



"...And I Won't Lose One Voter" by Nancy Ohanian

Although the states that have been experiencing the most new cases over the last couple of months-- California, Texas, Florida, Georgia-- have peaked and are on the downtrend (for now), other states have started peaking like mad: Wisconsin, Tennessee, Illinois, Missouri, Minnesota, Utah... On Monday, CNN reported that Twenty-one states are reporting increased Covid-19 cases as experts warn of a fall surge. Madeline Holcombe and Dakin Andone wrote that "As of Sunday, the number of new coronavirus cases has increased by at least 10% or more compared to the week before in 21 states... Cases are rising in Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington state, Wisconsin and Wyoming." The conclusion is that "The US could see an explosion of Covid-19 cases in the fall and winter as people exercise less caution and spend more time indoors, where there is a greater likelihood of transmission."

The University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) model predicts a "huge surge" expected to take off in October "and accelerate in November and December." By late December the daily death rate will have gone from the current rate of about 765 to 3,000.

Some Trumpist governors seem to be cheerleading for COVID, none more egregiously that Ron DeSantis (R-FL), who prematurely dropped restrictions on bars and restaurants as though he were determined to see Florida's hospital system collapse by winter. CNN reported that "the mayor of Miami warned that the governor's decision to fully reopen such establishments and to limit local governments' ability to enforce their own restrictions could have devastating consequences."
"I think it's going to have a huge impact," Mayor Francis Suarez told CNN Saturday about Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' decision to allow restaurants, bars and other businesses to open at full capacity and to suspend fines for all outstanding penalties issued to those who didn't follow Covid-19 restrictions-- such as not wearing a mask in public. "You know, I just don't know how many people are actually going to do it now."

...Mandating mask wearing in public and slowly reopening has helped to keep the coronavirus case count down in Miami, Suarez said. He's concerned the changes in the state are coming as flu season ramps up and schools prepare for in-person learning to begin in mid-October.

"We'll see in the next couple of weeks whether (the governor's) right about his perspective. But if he's wrong about his perspective... it's going to be very, very, very difficult for him and it's going to be a very difficult time, because it's in the middle of flu season," Suarez said.
Over the weekend, Florida surpassed 14,000 COVID deaths and breezed through the 700,000 cases mark, 32,618 cases per million Floridians. The only European country with more cases than Florida is Spain (735,198) and Florida has more than double the cases per million numbers than any European country. In fact, there is no real country in the world with a worse cases per million number.

And it isn't just Trumpist governors like DeSantis, Kristi Noem (R-SD), Billy Lee (R-TN), Mike Parson (R-MO), Brian Kemp (R-GA) Greg Abbott (R-TX), Doug Ducey (R-AZ), Henry McMaster (R-SC) and Kay Ivey (R-AL)-- not to mention the Wisconsin state legislature-- who are driving up the numbers. On Monday morning NBC reported that Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was overheard on an airplane speaking with a colleague and saying that the newest crackpot Trump put on the White House coronavirus task force, Scott Atlas, is pushing out misinformation to the public. "Everything he says is false," complained Redfield. Atlas is a neuroradiologist with no background in infectious diseases or public health but is a political ally of Trump's and is willing to push policies and narratives designed to help Trump's reelection efforts, while killing Americans.
Redfield testified before Congress this month that he suspects that a face covering could protect him from Covid-19 better than any future vaccine. Most public health officials share the view that masks are essential to stop the spread of the virus. Still, Trump has repeatedly cast doubt on how useful wearing them may be.

"If every one of us did it, this pandemic would be over in eight to 12 weeks," Redfield said before offering a stark warning that contradicted the president's assertion that the country is "rounding the corner" on the pandemic.

"We're nowhere near the end," Redfield said.

The Bill Lee Pandemic

Today, Tennessee reported 879 more COVID cases, bringing the state's total to 194,611-- 28,497 cases per million Tennesseans. Bill Lee and Trump have now killed 2,420 Tennesseans so for and there were 31 new deaths reported today, 7th worst in the U.S. But Gov. Lee is far from done. This afternoon, The Tennessean reported that he's done a Big Trumpy-- ending all coronavirus restrictions on all businesses. Public health officials, from Fauci on down have warned governors that this is a prescription for an out-of-control pandemic, likely starting in October and driving up death rates in November and December.

Fortunately, the county health departments in the state's 6 largest cities-- Nashville, Memphis, Knoxville, Chattanooga, Clarksville and Murfreesboro-- will be free to ignore the sociopath and continue to set their own regulations. And speaking of sociopaths, Lee told the GOP-controlled state legislature that "I want the economy to move forward. I don't want any business to have any reason to not function as fully as they possibly can. I'm advocating for that in our big six counties, as well." There are now no limits to sizes of gatherings in bars, restaurants or anywhere else. I would urge all DWT readers to avoid Tennessee like the plague.

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I Doubt The Tax Returns Will Lose Him Any Votes, But They May Send Him To Prison-- And Wouldn't You Prefer That Anyway?



Lawless Zone by Nancy Ohanian

Will the NY Times blockbuster from Sunday night matter election-wise. It will matter to some people, but those people have by and large already decided they're not voting for Trump. Maybe there are some Republican businessmen and women who dutifully pay their taxes and will resent Trump enough to sit out election day-- though I wouldn't bet on that being too many. At best the stories that will emanate from him being a tax swindler will knock Trump off his game and keep him rattled and on the defensive.

In his Bloomberg News oped yesterday, Trump's Taxes Show He's a National Security Threat, Timothy O'Brien raised something more important that how Trump's base will react. "What trade-offs," he asked, "would a president with this level of indebtedness be willing to make to save face? And few people know as much about the tax-swindling nature of Donald than O'Brien who had tangled with him in and out of court for years. "Step away from the tragicomic tawdriness and grift that the tax returns define," wrote O'Brien, "however, and focus on what they reveal about Trump as the most powerful man in the world and occupant of the Oval Office. Due to his indebtedness, his reliance on income from overseas and his refusal to authentically distance himself from his hodgepodge of business, Trump represents a profound national security threat-- a threat that will only escalate if he’s re-elected. The tax returns also show the extent to which Trump has repeatedly betrayed the interests of many of the average Americans who elected him and remain his most loyal supporters."
According to The Times, Trump has about $421 million in debts which he has personally guaranteed and which are coming due over the next several years. This is consistent with earlier reporting about how much debt he carries, a chunk of which could be gleaned from the personal financial disclosures he is required to file with the federal government. But Trump’s overall indebtedness is greater than the Times tally, I believe.

...Dan Alexander, a senior editor at Forbes, has been covering Trump’s business interests since 2016 and has a new book out about the president’s financial conflicts of interest, White House Inc. Alexander, in a helpful tally he shared Sunday evening, estimates Trump’s total indebtedness to be about $1.1 billion...

Trump has been bloviating about being worth $10 billion ever since he entered the 2016 presidential race, a figure that simply isn’t true. He’s worth a fraction of that amount, and the larger his indebtedness becomes, the more strain it puts on his assets. The Covid-19 pandemic has taken a particularly brutal toll on the sectors in which the Trump Organization operates-- real estate, travel and leisure. If Trump is unable to meet his debt payments, he’s either going to have to sell assets or get bailed out by a friend with funds. Trump has never liked to sell anything, even when it’s hemorrhaging money. So if he’s tempted to save himself by getting a handout, that makes him a mark.

...If Vladimir Putin, for example, can backchannel a loan or a handout to the president, how hard is Trump going to be on Russia? Not that we should worry about Trump’s relationship with Putin. That’s just a hypothetical question.
And then there's Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the Emirates, Israel, China, Brazil, the Philippines... and number of countries run by unscrupulous politicians who Trump would be more than willing to take bribes from. Will it change votes? Nah, but, hey, how bad to you want to see that slob rotting in prison?

Yesterday, Morris Pearl, the Chair of the Patriotic Millionaires and a former managing director of BlackRock, Inc. wrote that "It seems obvious that Trump has committed some amount of criminal tax evasion, but that's not the biggest issue here. The real problem is a system that provides such absurd loopholes to the ultra-wealthy in the first place, and a deliberately underfunded IRS that lacks the capacity to properly prosecute rich people's criminal tax evasion. Trump's case may be particularly egregious, but he's far from unique. This is just evidence of the rot in our tax system, which is designed to allow rich people to avoid paying their fair share. This has been the case for decades, but the tax code is even more skewed in favor of the rich and powerful after Trump was able to rewrite the entire tax code to his liking in 2017 with the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The American people should be angry about President Trump's tax evasion, but that's not all. They should be much more angry about how much of what Trump did is legal. The American people should be more angry about how many other millionaires and billionaires are able to avoid supporting the country that made them rich in the first place. Most of all, the American people should be pissed off about the fact that instead of offering them health care, or affordable childcare, or financial support during a pandemic, their government instead prioritizes protecting the wealth of the rich, powerful, and selfish."

This morning, Ted Lieu (D-CA), co-chair of the of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, reminded me that "When Trump announced that he was running for President he said he would run the government like a business. Unfortunately, he meant a Trump business. Now we know why he was so intent on not releasing his tax returns. It has now come to light that Trump has grossly mismanaged his business and personal finances the same way he has mismanaged our government. He has also paid virtually no federal income tax over the past 15 years, which makes it extra rich when he insults hard working immigrants-- many of whom have contributed far more to this country than Trump ever will. But perhaps the most important aspect of this is the implications for our national security. Trump's massive debt makes him a security liability. Who exactly does he owe more than $400 million to?"

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