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Trump’s top health official lies and says the US is doing as well as the rest of the world on COVID

The Trump administration is a disaster. It was a garbage fire when it began, but that ongoing fire, stoked by the entire Republican Party, has led to an increase in authoritarian use of law enforcement and ICE forces to dehumanize people all across our country. On top of all of that, the bad economic policies and general culture of avarice and self-serving incompetence promoted by Trump and the Republican Party have led us to the precipice of an economic depression, and a public health crisis the likes of which has not been seen in generations has pushed that depression into the territory of collapse.

With just over two weeks until Election Day, Trump's surrogates—the ones not sick with COVID-19 or hiding out to pretend they aren't still milking the poisonous Trump cow—have taken to the airwaves to pretend everything is going according to plan. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar was on Meet the Press Sunday, to implore Americans in his most imploring-sounding voice, to wear masks and follow the basic general protections against spreading the COVID-19 virus that experts have been promoting since the beginning of this pandemic. Azar even scripted his statement as a plea to Chuck Todd's "viewers." This, obviously, surprised even Meet The Press host Chuck Todd, since Donald Trump and his administration have done the opposite now for, oh, about ... seven months.

Secretary Azar's message to Chuck Todd's viewers was specifically about large "indoor gatherings." This is relevant due to upcoming Halloween festivities and Thanksgiving celebrations. Todd remarked that Azar's statement was strange considering that just last week, Azar attended an indoor rally with President Trump—the same President Trump that still may very well be COVID-19 positive. Azar said that everyone at the indoor rally was socially distanced—sort of—and were all offered masks. Of course, this means nothing if you don't wear said mask. Todd pointed out that the message being sent doesn't seem consistent, as states like Wisconsin see surges in COVID-19 cases, while Donald Trump flies into those areas to promote big superspreader events.

It is here that Azar attempts to promote misinformation that does two things: It attempts at justifying the Trump administration's current anti-public health farewell tour, while also absolving the administration's criminally negligent handling of a pandemic that has claimed almost a quarter of a million American lives. Azar says that lots of countries in lockdown are having big surges. The implication here is that you're damned if you do and damned if you don't.

This isn't true. The fact of the matter is that the United States, for the first time in years, is actually No. 1 in the world in something: death rates due to COVID-19 and death rates in general during the pandemic. We are also a leader in the world in cases per 100,000 and deaths per 100,000. I guess Azar is talking about how places like Aruba and Bahrain have a worse case rate? Todd asks why it's been so "difficult for the president" to promote a public health message that would actually save thousands, if not tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of lives.

ALEX AZAR: I think it's a difficult message for all western democracies. We're seeing that in Europe. The American people have given so much. People of Europe have given so much, Chuck. They've been locked down, isolated. But they're tired. But the point is, we're so close. Hang in there with us. We're so close ...

Azar has been a Trump hack throughout this process and can be justifiably blamed for much of the misinformation and confusion among certain sections of the American public in regard to COVID-19. He has attacked Americans and frontline responders instead of the virus. If we lived in a just universe, Alex Azar would soon find himself doing some prison time along with the hundreds of Republican operatives and scam artists who have brought us to where we are now.

HHS Secretary Alex Azar says wear a mask but that it doesn't really matter www.youtube.com

news & politics

The birth of American supremacy — and the carefully constructed myth of 'isolationism'

The so-called Age of Trump is also an age of instantly forgotten bestselling books, especially ones purporting to provide the inside scoop on what goes on within Donald Trump's haphazard and continuously shifting orbit. With metronomic regularity, such gossipy volumes appear, make a splash, and almost as quickly vanish, leaving a mark no more lasting than a trout breaking the surface in a pond.

Remember when Michael Wolff's Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House was all the rage? It's now available in hardcover for $0.99 from online used booksellers. James Comey's Higher Loyalty also sells for a penny less than a buck.

An additional forty-six cents will get you Omarosa Manigault Newman's "insider's account" of her short-lived tenure in that very White House. For the same price, you can acquire Sean Spicer's memoir as Trump's press secretary, Anthony Scaramucci's rendering of his tumultuous 11-day stint as White House communications director, and Corey Lewandowski's "inside story" of the 2016 presidential campaign.

Bibliophiles intent on assembling a complete library of Trumpiana will not have long to wait before the tell-all accounts of John Bolton, Michael Cohen, Mary Trump, and that journalistic amaneusis Bob Woodward will surely be available at similar bargain basement prices.

All that said, even in these dismal times genuinely important books do occasionally make their appearance. My friend and colleague Stephen Wertheim is about to publish one. It's called Tomorrow, the World: The Birth of U.S. Global Supremacy and if you'll forgive me for being direct, you really ought to read it. Let me explain why.

The "Turn"

Wertheim and I are co-founders of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, a small Washington, D.C.-based think tank. That Quincy refers to John Quincy Adams who, as secretary of state nearly two centuries ago, warned his fellow citizens against venturing abroad "in search of monsters to destroy." Were the United States to do so, Adams predicted, its defining trait -- its very essence -- "would insensibly change from liberty to force." By resorting to force, America "might become the dictatress of the world," he wrote, but "she would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit." While his gendered punchline might rankle contemporary sensibilities, it remains apt.

A privileged man of his times, Adams took it for granted that a WASP male elite was meant to run the country. Women were to occupy their own separate sphere. And while he would eventually become an ardent opponent of slavery, in 1821 race did not rank high on his agenda either. His immediate priority as secretary of state was to situate the young republic globally so that Americans might enjoy both safety and prosperity. That meant avoiding unnecessary trouble. We had already had our revolution. In his view, it wasn't this country's purpose to promote revolution elsewhere or to dictate history's future course.

Adams was to secretaries of state what Tom Brady is to NFL quarterbacks: the Greatest Of All Time. As the consensus GOAT in the estimation of diplomatic historians, he brought to maturity a pragmatic tradition of statecraft originated by a prior generation of New Englanders and various slaveholding Virginians with names like Washington, Jefferson, and Madison. That tradition emphasized opportunistically ruthless expansionism on this continent, avid commercial engagement, and the avoidance of great power rivalries abroad. Adhering to such a template, the United States had, by the beginning of the twentieth century, become the wealthiest, most secure nation on the planet -- at which point Europeans spoiled the party.

The disastrous consequences of one European world war fought between 1914 and 1918 and the onset of a second in 1939 rendered that pragmatic tradition untenable -- so at least a subsequent generation of WASPs concluded. This is where Wertheim takes up the story. Prompted by the German army's lightning victory in the battle of France in May and June 1940, members of that WASP elite set about creating -- and promoting -- an alternative policy paradigm, one he describes as pursuing "dominance in the name of internationalism," with U.S. military supremacy deemed "the prerequisite of a decent world."

The new elite that devised this paradigm did not consist of lawyers from Massachusetts or planters from Virginia. Its key members held tenured positions at Yale and Princeton, wrote columns for leading New York newspapers, staffed Henry Luce's Time-Life press empire, and distributed philanthropic largesse to fund worthy causes (grasping the baton of global primacy being anything but least among them). Most importantly, just about every member of this Eastern establishment cadre was also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). As such, they had a direct line to the State Department, which in those days actually played a large role in formulating basic foreign policy.

While Tomorrow, The World is not a long book -- fewer than 200 pages of text -- it is a tour de force. In it, Wertheim describes the new narrative framework that the foreign-policy elite formulated in the months following the fall of France. He shows how Americans with an antipathy for war now found themselves castigated as "isolationists," a derogatory term created to suggest provincialism or selfishness. Those favoring armed intervention, meanwhile, became "internationalists," a term connoting enlightenment and generosity. Even today, members of the foreign-policy establishment pledge undying fealty to the same narrative framework, which still warns against the bugaboo of "isolationism" that threatens to prevent high-minded policymakers from exercising "global leadership."

Wertheim persuasively describes the "turn" toward militarized globalism engineered from above by that self-selected, unelected crew. Crucially, their efforts achieved success prior to Pearl Harbor. The Japanese attack of December 7, 1941, may have thrust the United States into the ongoing world war, but the essential transformation of policy had already occurred, even if ordinary Americans had yet to be notified as to what it meant. Its future implications -- permanently high levels of military spending, a vast network of foreign bases stretching across the globe, a penchant for armed intervention abroad, a sprawling "national security" apparatus, and a politically subversive arms industry -- would only become apparent in the years ahead.

While Wertheim is not the first to expose isolationism as a carefully constructed myth, he does so with devastating effect. Most of all, he helps his readers understand that "so long as the phantom of isolationism is held to be the most grievous sin, all is permitted."

Contained within that all is a cavalcade of forceful actions and grotesque miscalculations, successes and failures, notable achievements and immense tragedies both during World War II and in the decades that followed. While beyond the scope of Wertheim's book, casting the Cold War as a de facto extension of the war against Nazi Germany, with Soviet dictator Josef Stalin as a stand-in for Adolf Hitler, represented an equally significant triumph for the foreign policy establishment.

At the outset of World War II, ominous changes in the global distribution of power prompted a basic reorientation of U.S. policy. Today, fundamental alterations in the global distribution of power -- did someone say "the rise of China"? -- are once again occurring right before our eyes. Yet the foreign-policy establishment's response is simply to double down.

So, even now, staggering levels of military spending, a vast network of foreign bases, a penchant for armed intervention abroad, a sprawling "national security" apparatus, and a politically subversive arms industry remain the taken-for-granted signatures of U.S. policy. And even now, the establishment employs the specter of isolationism as a convenient mechanism for self-forgiveness and expedient amnesia, as well as a means to enforce discipline.

Frozen Compass

The fall of France was indeed an epic disaster. Yet implicit in Tomorrow, The World is this question: If the disaster that befell Europe in 1940 could prompt the United States to abandon a hitherto successful policy paradigm, then why have the serial disasters befalling the nation in the present century not produced a comparable willingness to reexamine an approach to policy that is obviously failing today?

To pose that question is to posit an equivalence between the French army's sudden collapse in the face of the Wehrmacht's assault and the accumulation of U.S. military disappointments dating from 9/11. From a tactical or operational perspective, many will find such a comparison unpersuasive. After all, the present-day armed forces of the United States have not succumbed to outright defeat, nor is the government of the United States petitioning for a cessation of hostilities as the French authorities did in 1940.

Yet what matters in war are political outcomes. Time and again since 9/11, whether in Afghanistan, Iraq, or lesser theaters of conflict, the United States has failed to achieve the political purposes for which it went to war. From a strategic and political perspective, therefore, the comparison with France is instructive, even if failure need not entail abject surrender.

The French people and other supporters of the 1930s European status quo (including Americans who bothered to pay attention) were counting on that country's soldiers to thwart further Nazi aggression once and for all. Defeat came as a profound shock. Similarly, after the Cold War, most Americans (and various beneficiaries of a supposed Pax Americana) counted on U.S. troops to maintain an agreeable and orderly global status quo. Instead, the profound shock of 9/11 induced Washington to embark upon what became a series of "endless wars" that U.S. forces proved incapable of bringing to a successful conclusion.

Crucially, however, no reevaluation of U.S. policy comparable to the "turn" that Wertheim describes has occurred. An exceedingly generous reading of President Trump's promise to put "America First" might credit him with attempting such a turn. In practice, however, his incompetence and inconsistency, not to mention his naked dishonesty, produced a series of bizarre and random zigzags. Threats of "fire and fury" alternated with expressions of high regard for dictators ("we fell in love"). Troop withdrawals were announced and then modified or forgotten. Trump abandoned a global environmental agreement, massively rolled back environmental regulations domestically, and then took credit for providing Americans with "the very cleanest air and cleanest water on the planet." Little of this was to be taken seriously.

Trump's legacy as a statesman will undoubtedly amount to the diplomatic equivalent of Mulligan stew. Examine the contents closely enough and you'll be able to find just about anything. Yet taken as a whole, the concoction falls well short of being nutritious, much less appetizing.

On the eve of the upcoming presidential election, the entire national security apparatus and its supporters assume that Trump's departure from office will restore some version of normalcy. Every component of that apparatus from the Pentagon and the State Department to the CIA and the Council on Foreign Relations to the editorial boards of the New York Times and Washington Post yearns for that moment.

To a very considerable degree, a Biden presidency will satisfy that yearning. Nothing if not a creature of the establishment, Biden himself will conform to its requirements. For proof, look no further than his vote in favor of invading Iraq in 2003. (No isolationist he.) Count on a Biden administration, therefore, to perpetuate the entire obsolete retinue of standard practices.

As Peter Beinart puts it, "When it comes to defense, a Biden presidency is likely to look very much like an Obama presidency, and that's going to look not so different from a Trump presidency when you really look at the numbers." Biden will increase the Pentagon budget, keep U.S. troops in the Middle East, and get tough with China. The United States will remain the world's number-one arms merchant, accelerate efforts to militarize outer space, and continue the ongoing modernization of the entire U.S. nuclear strike force. Biden will stack his team with CFR notables looking for jobs on the "inside."

Above all, Biden will recite with practiced sincerity the mantras of American exceptionalism as a summons to exercise global leadership. "The triumph of democracy and liberalism over fascism and autocracy created the free world. But this contest does not just define our past. It will define our future, as well." Those uplifting sentiments are, of course, his from a recent Foreign Affairs essay.

So if you liked U.S. national security policy before Trump mucked things up, then Biden is probably your kind of guy. Install him in the Oval Office and the mindless pursuit of "dominance in the name of internationalism" will resume. And the United States will revert to the policies that prevailed during the presidencies of Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama -- policies, we should note, that paved the way for Donald Trump to win the White House.

The Voices That Count

What explains the persistence of this pattern despite an abundance of evidence showing that it's not working to the benefit of the American people? Why is it so difficult to shed a policy paradigm that dates from Hitler's assault on France, now a full 80 years in the past?

I hope that in a subsequent book Stephen Wertheim will address that essential question. In the meantime, however, allow me to make a stab at offering the most preliminary of answers.

Setting aside factors like bureaucratic inertia and the machinations of the military-industrial complex -- the Pentagon, arms manufacturers, and their advocates in Congress share an obvious interest in discovering new "threats" -- one likely explanation relates to a policy elite increasingly unable to distinguish between self-interest and the national interest. As secretary of state, John Quincy Adams never confused the two. His latter-day successors have done far less well.

As an actual basis for policy, the turn that Stephen Wertheim describes in Tomorrow, The World has proven to be nowhere near as enlightened or farseeing as its architects imagined or its latter day proponents still purport to believe it to be. The paradigm produced in 1940-1941 was, at best, merely serviceable. It responded to the nightmarish needs of that moment. It justified U.S. participation in efforts to defeat Nazi Germany, a necessary undertaking.

After 1945, except as a device for affirming the authority of foreign-policy elites, the pursuit of "dominance in the name of internationalism" proved to be problematic. Yet even as conditions changed, basic U.S. policy stayed the same: high levels of military spending, a network of foreign bases, a penchant for armed intervention abroad, a sprawling "national security" apparatus, and a politically subversive arms industry. Even after the Cold War and 9/11, these remain remarkably sacrosanct.

My own retrospective judgment of the Cold War tends toward an attitude of: well, I guess it could have been worse. When it comes to the U.S. response to 9/11, however, it's difficult to imagine what worse could have been.

Within the present-day foreign-policy establishment, however, a different interpretation prevails: the long, twilight struggle of the Cold War ended in a world historic victory, unsullied by any unfortunate post-9/11 missteps. The effect of this perspective is to affirm the wisdom of American statecraft now eight decades old and therefore justify its perpetuation long after both Hitler and Stalin, not to mention Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, are dead and gone.

This paradigm persists for one reason only: it ensures that statecraft will remain a realm that resolutely excludes the popular will. Elites decide, while the job of ordinary Americans is to foot the bill. In that regard, the allocation of privileges and obligations now 80 years old still prevails today.

Only by genuinely democratizing the formulation of foreign policy will real change become possible. The turn in U.S. policy described in Tomorrow, The World came from the top. The turn needed today will have to come from below and will require Americans to rid themselves of their habit of deference when it comes to determining what this nation's role in the world will be. Those on top will do all in their power to avert any such loss of status.

The United States today suffers from illnesses both literal and metaphorical. Restoring the nation to good health and repairing our democracy must necessarily rate as paramount concerns. While Americans cannot ignore the world beyond their borders, the last thing they need is to embark upon a fresh round of searching for distant monsters to destroy. Heeding the counsel of John Quincy Adams might just offer an essential first step toward recovery.

Andrew Bacevich, a TomDispatch regular, is president of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. His most recent book is The Age of Illusions: How America Squandered Its Cold War Victory.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Books, John Feffer's new dystopian novel (the second in the Splinterlands series) Frostlands, Beverly Gologorsky's novel Every Body Has a Story, and Tom Engelhardt's A Nation Unmade by War, as well as Alfred McCoy's In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power and John Dower's The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II.

Copyright 2020 Andrew Bacevic

election '20

Trump could sink vulnerable Senate Republicans even in states he manages to win

Donald Trump's parting gift to vulnerable Senate Republicans is that he appears to be a drag on them with both his most loyal supporters and the swing voters they need to win their reelection bids.

In several of the most crucial Senate races, Trump is running ahead of his Senate GOP counterparts. In some cases, Trump might even win the state while the corresponding Senate Republican loses their race. In others, they both appear poised to lose the state but the Senate Republican could suffer a bigger defeat.

What this suggests is that Trump's wild support among MAGA enthusiasts isn't making the 1-to-1 transfer to his Senate colleagues—meaning their blind loyalty to Trump hasn't paid the dividends they anticipated. At the same time, Senate Republicans' studied obsequiousness to Trump has hobbled their chances of winning enough moderate and independent voters to be assured they can prevail in their reelection bids.

In North Carolina, for instance, Trump and GOP Sen. Thom Tillis are both losing to their Democratic rivals according to polling composites, but Tillis is running behind Trump. According to Washington Post aggregates of the races, Trump has 45% support to Tillis' 41%.

In Georgia, the Post has Trump running slightly ahead of Joe Biden, 48% to 46%, but Sen. David Perdue only garners 46% support. It's worth noting the some aggregates show Biden just slightly ahead or virtually tied. But more crucially to Sen. Perdue, if he can't clear the 50% threshold in the state, he'll be forced into a two-way runoff with Democrat Jon Ossoff.

South Carolina's Senate race is wild and GOP incumbent Senator Lindsey Graham is still favored to win reelection, though Democrat Jamie Harrison has made a real race of it. But in last week's New York Times/Siena poll, for instance, Trump enjoyed a "very favorable" rating among 79% of GOP voters while only 54% said the same of Graham. The survey also showed Trump up by 8 points, while Graham was winning by 6 points.

In Iowa, polls show a dead heat between Trump and Biden in the presidential race but incumbent Senator Joni Ernst is fairing worse against her Democratic challenger Theresa Greenfield. The Post aggregates have Trump winning 46% of voters to Ernst's 44% of voters.

It's kind of beautiful, when you think about it. After Senate Republicans built Trump into a monster by underwriting every abhorrent thing he's done and then acquitting him of all wrongdoing to boot, they're getting punished for selling out America on both sides of the electoral equation.

economy

Struggling Wisconsin voters are unimpressed with Trump bragging about the economy

In 2016, President Donald Trump became the first Republican presidential candidate to carry Wisconsin since Ronald Reagan in 1984. But four years later, many polls are showing Trump struggling in the midwestern Rust Belt state. Between the coronavirus pandemic, unemployment and the state of Wisconsin's economy — journalist Dominic Rushe emphasizes in an article for The Guardian — Trump is facing an uphill climb in Wisconsin this time.

"Trump beat Clinton in Wisconsin by just 0.77% in 2016," Rushe explains. "The polls currently have Biden ahead by a clear 6.5% in the state, but in a year that feels like no other, anything can happen between now and 3 November. In this volatile environment, progressives have been making gains with voters, reflecting on the fragility of the economy Trump had hoped would re-elect him."

For many years, Wisconsin had a reputation for being a deep blue state. Former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis, a Democrat, lost the popular vote by 8% to Republican Vice President George H.W. Bush in 1988's presidential election, but he carried Wisconsin. However, Republicans gained a lot of ground in Wisconsin during the Barack Obama years, and Trump's narrow victory in Wisconsin in 2016 was a very unpleasant surprise for Democrats.

"The Republicans have been remarkably successful in their economic messaging, not least in Wisconsin," Rushe notes. "Since Ronald Reagan, the Republican Party has promulgated the idea that there is a simple formula for economic success: lower taxes, less regulation and smaller government. That message, repeated over and over for 40 years, helped Wisconsin shift from a bastion of progressive politics to a union-bashing laboratory for right-wing economic experiments led by Scott Walker, the former governor, and Paul Ryan, the former House speaker, and backed by the Koch Brothers."

But now, Rush explains, many Wisconsin residents are struggling badly.

"Until February, Trump could have confidently boasted that he had made good on his promises," Rush writes. "Unemployment had fallen to record lows in the state, manufacturing was coming back — albeit at the same, snail-paced crawl that it had under Obama. The headline figures looked good. Then came the coronavirus — a disease that is now ravaging the state and has, in its wake, exposed the fault lines beneath those headline figures."

Dana Bye, campaign director for the group The Hub Project, emphasizes that Wisconsin residents who are hurting economically are unimpressed when Trump brags about the stock market.

Bye told The Guardian, "Nationally and in Wisconsin, people look at the stock market and the jobs figures and think that's the economy. But often, their personal experiences are not reflected in those macro figures…. The pandemic has crystalized the idea that there is one economy for the rich and another for working folk."

culture

How toxic masculinity became a threat to public health

As if the first two waves of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the United States weren't enough to inspire serious political changes to stop the coronavirus, health experts have sounded the alarm that a third wave is underway. Coronavirus cases and hospitalizations are rising across the nation, specifically in the Dakotas, Nebraska, and Montana, as the seasons change and the election nears.

It's certainly taken a lot of resilience and strength to persevere through this pandemic — particularly given the backdrop of political chaos, uncertainty and immense change in our daily lives. Yet perhaps it is this attitude of "staying strong," and acting stoically — which is rooted in a culture that favors and thrives off toxic masculinity — that has hurt and continues to hurt us the most.

Toxic masculinity, which has become a household phrase over the last few years, is when the archetypal image of masculinity, like displaying strength, becomes harmful to oneself. In 2005, in a study of men in prison, psychiatrist Terry Kupers defined toxic masculinity as "the constellation of socially regressive male traits that serve to foster domination, the devaluation of women, homophobia, and wanton violence." The phrase is used to describe the issues men face or sometimes, wrongfully, justify them. Certainly, in a patriarchal society, toxic masculinity not only defines people but politics — as its mores trickle into our entertainment, discourse and politics.

Notably, the pandemic response is being led by the most psychologically compromised, toxic men in America. As I wrote last weekend, President Donald Trump's insistence on depicting himself as so strong as to be able to "work through" his COVID-19 illness is deeply harmful, and apt to put Americans' lives at risk who mimic his behavior — either by working while sick or hiding symptoms.

Meanwhile, Trump's re-election campaign has tried to frame Trump as a "warrior" — masculine, strong and void of emotion. The administration's individualistic, pick-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps rhetoric personifies toxic masculinity, and trickles down to Trump's underlings, too. In June, Vice President Mike Pence wrote an op-ed essay in The Wall Street Journal claiming there was no second wave of COVID-19, despite all the evidence to the contrary. "We are winning the fight against the invisible enemy," Pence wrote then, adding "our greatest strength is the resilience of the American people."

Yet as psychologists will warn, there is a dark side to resilience.

"There is no doubt that resilience is a useful and highly adaptive trait, especially in the face of traumatic events," psychologists Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic and Derek Lusk wrote in Harvard Business Review. "However, when taken too far, it may focus individuals on impossible goals and make them unnecessarily tolerant of unpleasant or counterproductive circumstances." In other words, self-sufficiency is not always a show of strength; humans, as social creatures, rely on others for society to function and to remain healthy. Denying that means hurting ourselves, either by delaying care or eschewing guidance that may help us or save others.

I've often wondered how much my so-called "resilience" in all of this is just making me numb and tolerant, in an unhealthy way. When looking at which countries have the pandemic somewhat under control, we look and judge their leaders. It's interesting to do this through a gendered lens. For example, New Zealand has some of the lowest coronavirus numbers in the world under Prime Minister Jacinda Adern's leadership. That's partly because she never advertised grandiose ideas about being above or stronger than the coronavirus. As I've previously written, the strengths—such as empathy and compassion— Ardern has brought throughout her tenure are the very same traits that have been used against women seeking leadership positions in the workplace and in the public sector. When male leaders display traditionally feminine qualities, they can also be maligned as weak — former House Speaker John Boehner, for example, used to shed tears in public; Politico's response was to ask, "Why Does John Boehner Cry So Much?"

It's obvious the Trump administration is terrified of appearing "weak" during the pandemic. But where has that gotten us? Prioritizing the economy over our health. Over 8 million infections, and 218,000 Americans dead. And the politicizing of wearing masks, as though wearing them were a sign of weakness — something Trump mocked his opponent Joe Biden for at their first and so far only debate.

As much as toxic masculinity's social repercussion are harmful to our physical health, it is also taking a toll on our mental health. A study published in JAMA Network Open in September showed that three times as many Americans met criteria for a depression diagnosis during the pandemic compared to before it. According to an analysis of Google Trends, symptoms of anxiety increased too.

Why? In part, it could be a result of having to power through these extraordinarily abnormal times without seeking help — that "bootstraps" mentality innate to toxic masculinity. One's attempts to hold it together can devolve into emotional suppression, which in return can cause more emotional distress. In July 2018, Penn State researchers found that women tried to suppress their fears about the Zika virus reported higher levels of fear later. "It turns out that not only is suppression ineffective at handling fear, but it's counter-productive," one researcher said. "It creates a cycle of fear — and it's a vicious cycle."

As a society, many of us — particularly men — haven't been authorized to express sadness publicly, and these studies reflect that. With over 200,000 Americans dead of coronavirus, their loved ones are grieving. Seven months later, we've yet to have a moment of national reflection to mourn.

As it is with the death of a loved one, grief isn't lessened by ignoring one's uncomfortable emotions. Instead, it requires collective vulnerability, compassion and patience. As author David Kessler told HBR:

Emotions need motion. It's important we acknowledge what we go through. [...] We tell ourselves things like, I feel sad, but I shouldn't feel that; other people have it worse. We can — we should — stop at the first feeling. I feel sad. Let me go for five minutes to feel sad. Your work is to feel your sadness and fear and anger whether or not someone else is feeling something. Fighting it doesn't help because your body is producing the feeling. If we allow the feelings to happen, they'll happen in an orderly way, and it empowers us. Then we're not victims.

As we try to stay strong through this pandemic, the strength we seek to feel will come from falling apart and allowing ourselves to feel the loss and the chaos—physically and emotionally. By persevering through that, still standing in so much unknown, we can experience real strength. In other words, the non-toxic kind.

science

A physics Nobelist has an odd theory about black holes and the universe. Here's the evidence for it

University of Oxford mathematical physicist Sir Roger Penrose won a Nobel Prize earlier this month for a lifetime of work studying black holes, singularities from which not even light can escape. Yet he is also behind a provocative and controversial theory about the formation of the universe — namely, that the Big Bang did not mark the beginning of the universe as we know it, but merely started the next iteration of our universe. In his theory, known as conformal cyclic cosmology, our current conception of the universe is merely one of a series of infinite universes that came before it and which will come after, too.

Cosmology, of course, is full of theories of assorted degrees of harebrainedness, and many of the most famous ones — such as string theory — lack any observational evidence. But Penrose's prediction is different, as there is some evidence in observations of the cosmic background radiation — meaning the average background temperature of the entire night sky, in which one can see remnant heat from the Big Bang and differentiate bright patches in the sky. As pictured in the featured photo on this story, some of those "bright spots" could be, as Penrose believes, radiation emanations from ancient black holes that predate this universe.

"The idea of Roger's 'conformal cyclic cosmology' [CCC], is based on three facts," Pawel Nurowski, a scientist at the Center for Theoretical Physics at the Polish Academy of Sciences, explained to Salon by email.

"The idea of Roger's 'conformal cyclic cosmology' [CCC], is based on three facts," Pawel Nurowski, a scientist at the Center for Theoretical Physics at the Polish Academy of Sciences, explained to Salon by email. Specifically, Nurowski says, in order for Penrose's theory to make sense, one would have to observe a universe that has a positive cosmological constant (meaning the mysterious, constant repulsive force that pushes everything in the universe which is not gravitationally bound away from everything else), as well as a universe that would look similar at its end as it did in its beginning. Observations of our universe suggest that it will end in a disordered, empty state, with all matter converted to stray photons that never interact with each other.

Nurowski concluded, "We believe that every possible universe will have all these three features," that "we have an infinite sequence of universes (eons)" and that "Penrose considers this sequence of conformally glued eons as the full physical Universe."

"In this picture, our standard cosmology Universe is only one of the eons," Nurowski added. "So the main difference between 'conformal cyclic cosmology' and the standard cosmology is that our Universe is only a part of Penrose's universe," whereas adherents to the traditional idea of a Big Bang believe that that specific event began our current universe.

This brings us to the recent discovery that may support Penrose's CCC hypothesis. According to a paper co-authored by Penrose, Nurowski and two other scientists, unexpected hot spots that have been discovered in the cosmic microwave background of the universe suggest that there are "anomalous regions," perhaps enormous black holes left over from previous universes that have yet to decay. These regions are known as "Hawking Points," after Stephen Hawking, who first came up with the theory that black holes would very slowly decay over unimaginably long timescales, emitting what is called Hawking radiation in his honor. The discovery of these Hawking points suggests that Penrose's cosmological model is accurate.

"The existence of such anomalous regions, resulting from point-like sources at the conformally stretched-out big bang, is a predicted consequence of conformal cyclic cosmology (CCC)," the paper explains, adding that these so-called Hawking points would be caused by radiation emanating from "supermassive black holes in a cosmic aeon prior to our own."

It must be emphasized that Penrose's Nobel Prize was not awarded because of his theory of a conformal cyclical cosmology. Harvard astrophysicist Avi Loeb clarified in an email to Salon: "In 1939, Albert Einstein wrote a paper in Annals of Mathematics doubting that black holes exist in nature. Roger Penrose demonstrated that black holes are a robust prediction of Einstein's general theory of relativity and in doing so invented a new mathematical tool to depict spacetimes, called Penrose diagrams."

Loeb added, "He also showed that it is possible to extract energy from a spinning black hole as if it was a flywheel, through the so-called Penrose Process."

Loeb says that Penrose's belief that the hot spots prove that the black holes in question came from previous universes is controversial.

"The particular theory advocated by Penrose, Conformal Cyclic Cosmology, asserts that the Big Bang expansion repeats in succession of cycles of expansion, implying that one can see through our current Big Bang into past Big Bangs, giving rise to patterns in cosmic microwave background," Loeb explained. "Penrose made the controversial claim that such patterns are seen in data, but it was shown by others that the patterns he identified are not statistically significant.... and so his claim is controversial."

There are skeptics in the astrophysics community. Ethan Siegel, an astrophysicist who pens a science blog that is published in Forbes magazine, was very critical of Penrose's theory. Last week, he penned an article titled "No, Roger Penrose, We See No Evidence Of A 'Universe Before The Big Bang.'"

"The predictions that [Penrose] has made are refuted by the data, and his claims to see these effects are only reproducible if one analyzes the data in a scientifically unsound and illegitimate fashion," Dr. Siegel wrote. "Hundreds of scientists have pointed this out to Penrose — repeatedly and consistently over a period of more than 10 years — who continues to ignore the field and plow ahead with his contentions."

Nurowski and Loeb both pushed back against Siegel's claims.

"The person that wrote this article seems to never read our recent Monthly Notices paper," Nurowski wrote to Salon, linking to he and Penrose's article showing evidence for Hawking points. "[Siegel] also seems not to read our three other papers. He gives a quote of a picture from an old paper with Penrose and Gurzadyan. He has not a single argument against our newest MNRAS [Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society] paper.... I stress that the statistical analysis in our paper is at the highest astronomical standards."

He added, "I am happy to answer any critics, provided that I hear a single argument against this what we have written, and not the repetition of this what the standard cosmology says. Either we are talking about facts or beliefs. Our paper is about facts. But to talk about them, one has to read the paper first."

Loeb seemed to echo this view, despite his own skepticism about CCC.

"My problem with Penrose's theory is that it is not fully worked out and that there is no statistically irrefutable evidence to support the patterns that he claims to have identified in the cosmic microwave background, but we should remain open minded to new ideas on what preceded the Big Bang," Loeb explained. "This is the story of where we came from, our cosmic roots. The simple picture we have now is clearly incomplete and requires more scientific work. Not more bullying of any new idea."

belief

Attacking COVID, not religion: New York City, state have the right approach

The two Brooklyn federal judges who reviewed New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s new temporary COVID restrictions in stretches of that borough and Queens both rightly decided that the rules do not unfairly intrude on religion. The lawsuits seeking to set aside the 10-person cap on worship services, one brought by Orthodox Jews and the other by Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, were properly denied by Judges Kiyo Matsumoto and Eric Komitee.Matsumoto noted, in fact, that Cuomo gave extra latitude to faith, as nonessential gatherings of any size are banned entirely. However, still undefined is what com...

human rights

Trump expresses all his pent-up contempt for women in two words to NBC's Savannah Guthrie

The takeaway from Trump's self-immolation at his Town Hall on Thursday can be found exactly at the 1:57 mark in the video above, when he sarcastically expresses his contempt for moderator Savannah Guthrie, who has clearly gotten under his skin. He mutters it, underneath his breath, and you could be forgiven for missing it, but for a fleeting second we get a glimpse of all the animosity, all the malice, all the narcissism, all the misogyny and contempt this man feels towards women. You can just hear it in his voice:

"Ha Ha. So cute."

From The Independent:

The president and the Ms Guthrie exchanged barbs during a heated opening to the NBC event.
Mr Trump even sarcastically told the TV host "so cute" when she pressed him to denounce QAnon's wild conspiracy theories.

From the New York Times:

"Why aren't you asking Joe Biden questions about why doesn't he condemn antifa?" Mr. Trump asked her.
"Because you're here," she said, matter-of-factly.
"So cute," Mr. Trump responded, in a condescending tone that was unlikely to endear him to the suburban women voters he has been trying to win back.

x

I think the suburban women will love Trump telling Savannah Guthrie sarcastically that she is "so cute."
— Abby D. Phillip (@abbydphillip) October 16, 2020

And one other note; As of 9:55 EST, nearly a half hour after his own town hall ended, Joe Biden is still there, answering voters' questions.

more news

Democrats are missing a big chance to increase turnout and take down the Trump machine

The anxiety over changes and irregularities with the United States Postal Service (USPS) in August finally spilled over. A functioning postal service undergirds many of our society’s most basic functions, so there was no shortage of reasons to be alarmed. However, one concern—the threat to November’s election—overwhelmingly rose to the top. And the public outcry over that threat pushed a normally lethargic House majority into action, winning some mild but incomplete reversals from USPS.

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A Supreme Court case decided over a decade ago may come back to haunt Judge Amy Coney Barrett

A Supreme Court case that was decided over a decade ago may come back to haunt Judge Amy Coney Barrett as America enters an impending post-election 2020 judicial nightmare; one in which the sitting president may deny a peaceful transfer of power.

Caperton v. A.T. Massey Coal Co. was argued in 2009 with the primary holding that a judge cannot hear a case that centers on the financial interests of someone who supported him substantially in his campaign for election. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for the majority that "recusal may be constitutionally required even where a judge is not actually biased, if there is a 'serious risk' of actual bias."

Justice Antonin Scalia criticized the majority for constitutionalizing the judge's recusal decision "in a manner ungoverned by any discernable rule," but wrote that "in the best of all possible worlds, [judges should] sometimes recuse [themselves] even where the clear commands" of the Constitution don't require it.

"The question for Barrett, if it arises, will not be whether she personally believes she can be fair in deciding an election case but, rather, whether a reasonable person would conclude that her impartiality would be inescapably overborne by the flood of influences brought to bear on her," wrote former U.S. Court of Appeals Judge J. Michael Luttig in a column for the Washington Post.

seated in time to decide the election cases. These bludgeoning pressures alone are at once singular and unprecedented, unsurpassed and quite possibly unsurpassable in their magnitude. By comparison, the pressures believed put on the West Virginia judge in Caperton pale."

Watch the video below.

Barrett faces questions on health care and voting rights on third day of hearings


Barrett faces questions on health care and voting rights on third day of hearings www.washingtonpost.com


The Senate Judiciary Committee on Oct. 14 questioned Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett after a nearly 12-hour session where she avoided saying how she'd rule on key issues the previous day.

Trump's Downfall: A Neuroscientist Explains What Happens When a Narcissist Starts to Lose Power

The list of people close to President Donald Trump who have recently turned on him just keeps growing. His personal lawyer and longtime companion, Michael Cohen, has already implicated him as a co-conspirator in felony crimes. Last week, two Trump loyalists were granted immunity—National Enquirer publisher David Pecker and Trump organization CFO Allen Weisselberg—in exchange for potentially damaging information on Trump. If that weren’t enough, a doorman at the Trump World Tower whose hush contract expired is claiming that Trump had an additional affair which resulted in an illegitimate child. Needless to say, things don’t look good for The Donald. As the possibility of impeachment looms over the president, and as more damaging information comes out, we should be prepared for the erratic and impulsive behavior to which we’ve grown accustomed to get worse.

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Mark Kelly’s lead over Martha McSally widens following testy debate

Arizona Democrats, more and more, are looking at a possibility that would have seemed unimaginable 20 or 30 years ago: hat the once-red state could end up with two Democratic U.S. senators. And if a new Monmouth University poll is any indication, one of them is likely to be former astronaut Mark Kelly.

Monmouth's poll finds incumbent Republican Sen. Martha McSally trailing Kelly by 10% in Arizona's 2020 U.S. Senate race. Released following McSally's recent debate with Kelly, the poll (which was conducted October 9-13) indicates that the debate didn't do McSally any good.

According to Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, "Both campaigns have been trying to paint their opponents in a negative light. Among that all-important group of independent voters, the image of McSally as a rubber stamp for (President Donald) Trump has more resonance than Kelly being portrayed as in lockstep with the left."

The Monmouth poll is not an outlier. A Reuters/Ipsos poll released after the debate found Kelly ahead by 11%.

If Kelly wins on November 3, he will be joining centrist Democratic Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema in the U.S. Senate next year and taking over the seat that was once held by Sen. Barry Goldwater and later, Sen. John McCain — whose widow, Cindy McCain, has endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden over President Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential race.

The possibility of Arizona having two Democratic U.S. senators is shocking to anyone who remembers the Arizona of the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. Back then, Arizona was a deep red state and was synonymous with the phrases "Goldwater conservative" and "Goldwater Republican." But in recent years, Arizona has evolved into a swing state — and embracing Trumpism, Monmouth's poll indicates, is not helping McSally. Monmouth found that Kelly has a 37-55% advantage over McSally with Arizona voters under 50 and a 40-55% advantage over her with voters who are 65 or older. McSally's strongest support comes from voters in the 50-64 age range — that is, a combination of Baby Boomers and older Gen-Xers.

Even Fox News refused to publish Giuliani’s 'sketchy' Hunter Biden email story

Months ago President Donald Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani approached Fox News with the story published last week by the New York Post. The infamously anti-Biden, pro-Trump conservative media outlet refused to publish it.

Giuliani, according to a Mediaite exclusive, ended up going to the less-reputable Post (both are owned by Rupert Murdoch) because, as he said, he wanted a publisher to not vet the information he gave them.

And even now, Fox News isn't pushing the apparently fraudulent story, which alleges that Giuliani got hold of a laptop former Vice President Joe Biden's son Hunter dropped off at a Delaware repair shop, did not leave his name, and never returned to retrieve.

In fact, two sources tell Mediaite that "the lack of authentication of Hunter Biden's alleged laptop, combined with established concerns about Giuliani as a reliable source and his desire for unvetted publication, led the network's news division to pass."

Fox News' top anchors are running away from the story.

"Let's say, just not sugarcoat it. The whole thing is sketchy," Bret Baier said.

Calling the story "suspicious, Chris Wallace said, "I can understand the concern about this story. It is completely unverified and frankly, Rudy Giuliani is not the most reliable source anymore. I hate to say that, but it's just true."

Ammon Bundy is building a far-right theocratic army under the guise of defending ‘rights'

There's been a buffoonish quality to Ammon Bundy's brand of far-right "constitutionalist" politics over the past six months, primarily organized in a typically paranoid response to COVID-19-related public-health measures: Protesting at the home of a police officer who had arrested an anti-vaccination fanatic for violating the closure of a playground. Trying to bully his way inside a health-board meeting. Getting arrested twice in two days for ignoring his ban from the Idaho Statehouse. Going maskless at a Caldwell High School football game that forced the game to be called off, for which he was not only ejected but banned from future games by the local school district.

The endless antics, however, have always obfuscated a darker, much more dangerous agenda. A disturbing new in-depth report by Devin Burghart at the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights reveals that all the time that Bundy has been gathering media time and headlines, he's been building a massive army of volunteers—a network called People's Rights—intent on imposing a far-right authoritarian state, all under the guise of defending individual rights.

Bundy first announced the formation of the People's Rights network in March, when he held a gathering not far from his home in Emmett, Idaho, discussing plans to organize people to form ad-hoc gatherings to "defend" local citizens against COVID-19-related "tyranny." Bundy told the audience that they didn't need to obey the governor's stray-at-home or business-closure orders. And he pledged to bring fellow "Patriots" to the rescue if anyone felt pressure from "authorities" to comply.

"I will be there," Bundy told the Idaho Press. "I will bring as many people as we can. We will form a legal defense for you, a political defense for you, and we will also, if necessary, provide a physical defense for you, so that you can continue in your rights."

As it has played out on the ground, these gatherings have become bellicose, and frequently armed, mobs protesting police officers at their homes, breaking into health-board meetings that were being held online, and breaking down the doors inside the Statehouse and attending committee meetings unmasked in order to intimidate state legislators.

The incident resulting in the cancellation of the football game between Caldwell and Emmett high schools is emblematic of these anti-democratic intimidation tactics at work.

Bundy, whose son plays for Emmett High, showed up in Caldwell for the game without a mask—though one was required for entry—and refused to put one on, first taking a seat in the stands, then moving to a fenced area away from the stands. As he livestreamed the exchange, Bundy refused to leave when game officials asked him to.

Moreover, members of his network watching on Facebook sprang into action and began phoning 911 dispatchers in Caldwell—not merely to complain, but to threaten and intimidate. The flood of threats was so overwhelming and worrisome that at halftime, officials announced the game was being cancelled.

"The threats made to dispatch appear to have stemmed from the dispute between Mr. Bundy and the Caldwell School District personnel that requested he wear a mask while attending the game," a Caldwell police spokesman told the Idaho Statesman. "The calls did specifically reference the football game."

Ten days later, the district voted unanimously to ban Bundy from Caldwell school grounds for the next year.

The IREHR report explores how this is all being organized. The People's Rights network, it explains, has seen rapid growth fueled by "a fusion of Bundy's core of the far-right paramilitary supporters built up over years of armed standoffs with a mass base of new activists radicalized in protest over COVID-19 health directives."

Bundy devised a secure online system built on SMS text messaging to enable the network to organize without public scrutiny or exposure. IREHR managed to obtain access to the network, however, and reports that "Bundy has assembled a team of 153 'assistants' in sixteen states." It goes on to identify all of those people, and found that their backgrounds include significant activism in radical right causes—and that, somewhat unusually, the majority of those local assistants are women (though the national and state leadership remain dominated by men).

This network is not engaged in the usual far-right battle against "government tyranny," which is the usual rhetoric that surrounds "Patriot" groups. Bundy's network instead is pro-government—but one that has no compunction about erasing the rights of people its participants have deemed morally depraved:

Instead of a more traditional "anti-government" narrative, People's Rights leaders have expressed a desire for governmental power to be used to protect the "righteous" against "wicked" liberals, antifa, Black Lives Matter activists, and others. Several People's Rights leaders are running for elected office—to become the government. Absent that sort of intervention, leaders have proposed a type of armed enclave-style "neighborhood" nationalism, where "righteous" neighbors stand against the "wicked." People's Rights leaders have often defined the "wicked" using far-right conspiracism, racism, antisemitism, anti-indigenous, and anti-transgender sentiment.

Moreover, in addition to building an "Uber-like" paramilitary response system that can be mobilized whenever people believe their rights are under attack from godless liberals, IREHR's report explains that discussion within the surreptitious network go well beyond such imagined "self-defense" measures.

Some of the People's Rights network participants are running for elective office, hoping to promote the group's theocratic-state agenda from within the halls of power. Mario Perea, a People's Rights assistant from Idaho, told would-be participants in a rally for a political candidate: "We claim, and we use, and we defend our rights. In order to defend our rights, we have to get people into these government positions. That is a form of defense because we're being attacked politically. So we need to fight back and resist politically."

The politics include a sensibility attuned to modern "Patriot" movement rhetoric, particularly the rising "Boogaloo" talk about broad social breakdowns and violence surrounding the coming election. Mostly, there is a fairly typical eagerness for the battle to begin.

"Are you ready for Civil War November 4?" asked People's Rights leader Tony Pellegrino in a Facebook post.

Trump touted a major new factory — but all Wisconsin got was ‘empty promises and empty buildings’: report

President Donald Trump and his supporters were hoping that a deal with the Taiwanese electronics company Foxconn would create 13,000 new manufacturing jobs in Wisconsin, guaranteeing that he would win the state this election year and convince voters that he made good on his promise to bring new jobs to the Rust Belt. But the Foxconn deal, journalist Josh Dzieza emphasizes in an article for The Verge, has been a flop — and the LCD plant that was promised never materialized. Instead of a manufacturing renaissance, all Wisconsin got were "empty promises and empty buildings," according to The Verge.

"Hopes were high among the employees who joined Foxconn's Wisconsin project in the summer of 2018," Dzieza explains. "In June, President Donald Trump had broken ground on an LCD factory he called 'the eighth wonder of the world.' The scale of the promise was indeed enormous: a $10 billion investment from the Taiwanese electronics giant, a 20 million-square-foot manufacturing complex, and, most importantly, 13,000 jobs."

In a press release touting the factor in 2017, the White House employed the hard sell.

"This $10 billion investment will create thousands of new American jobs," it claimed. "The construction of this facility represents a major advancement in regaining America's place in advanced electronics manufacturing."

And the White House didn't hesitate to criticize others who were critical of these grandiose claims.

"While pundits have said for years that electronics manufacturing in the U.S. was a lost cause, the policies and focus of President Trump's administration are producing results that show America can eventually re-emerge as a dominate country in advanced manufacturing," it said. "The new Foxconn plant has the potential to be one of the largest non-energy manufacturing job creators in modern U.S. history, and powerfully illustrates that nothing is beyond America's capabilities."

Trump himself boasted: ""Foxconn joins a growing list of industry leaders who understand that America's capabilities are limitless and that America's workers are unmatched, and that America's most prosperous days are just ahead."

These words now ring quite hollow.

According to Dzieza, the building in Wisconsin that Foxconn "calls an LCD factory" is "about 1/20th the size of the original plan" and "is little more than an empty shell." And in September, Dzieza adds, Foxconn "received a permit to change its intended use from manufacturing to storage."

The Foxconn debacle, Dzieza laments, not only failed to create the 13,000 jobs that were promised, but also, had a high cost in Wisconsin.

"State and local governments spent at least $400 million, largely on land and infrastructure Foxconn will likely never need," Dzieza observes. "Residents were pushed from their homes under threat of eminent domain, and dozens of houses bulldozed to clear property Foxconn doesn't know what to do with."

In 2018, former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker — a Republican Trump ally who was voted out of office in the 2018 midterms — exalted the Foxconn project as "Wisconn Valley" — that is, a Wisconsin equivalent of Silicon Valley. But Walker's talk of "Wisconn" didn't help him in the gubernatorial election: that year, Walker lost to Democrat Tony Evers, now Wisconsin's governor.

Dzieza notes, "Rather than the 1040 people Foxconn intended to hire by the end of 2018, per its contract with the state — or even the 260 needed in order to receive subsidies — an audit found the company had managed to hire only 113."

An engineer who was supposed to work at "Wisconn Valley," interviewed on condition of anonymity, told The Verge, "The most common misunderstanding with Foxconn is people here thought Foxconn had a strategy and a business plan when they were coming into Wisconsin. They did not. They had no plans at all."

Robert Reich on the public, personal and total hypocrisy of the GOP

Trump and many Republicans insist that the decisions whether to wear a mask, go to a bar or gym, or work or attend school during a pandemic should be personal. Government should play no role.

Yet they also insist that what a woman does with her own body or whether same-sex couples can marry should be decided by government.

It's a tortured, topsy-turvy view of what's public and what's private. Yet it's remarkably prevalent as the pandemic resurges and as the Senate considers Trump's pick for the Supreme Court.

By contrast, Joe Biden has wisely declared he would do "whatever it takes" to stop the pandemic, including mandating masks and locking down the entire economy if scientists recommend it. "I would shut it down; I would listen to the scientists," he said.

And Biden wants to protect both abortion and same-sex marriage from government intrusion. In 2012 he memorably declared his support of the latter before even Barack Obama did so.

Trump's opposite approaches, discouraging masks and other Covid restrictions while seeking government intrusion into the most intimate decisions anyone makes, have become the de facto centerpieces of his campaign.

At his "town hall" on Thursday night, Trump falsely claimed that most people who wear masks contract the virus.

He also criticized governors for ordering lockdowns, adding that Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer "wants to be a dictator." (He was speaking just one week after state and federal authorities announced they had thwarted an alleged plot to kidnap and possibly kill Whitmer.)

Attorney General William Barr – once again contesting Trump for the most wacky analogy – has called state lockdown orders the "greatest intrusion on civil liberties in American history" since slavery.

Yet at the very same time Trump and his fellow-travelers defend peoples' freedom to infect others or become infected with Covid-19, they're inviting government to intrude into the most intimate aspects of personal life.

Trump has promised that the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, establishing a federal right to abortion, will be reversed "because I am putting pro-life justices on the court."

Much of controversy over Trump's nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court hinges on her putative willingness to repeal Roe.

While an appeals court judge, Barrett ruled in favor of a law requiring doctors to inform the parents of any minor seeking an abortion, without exceptions, and also joined a dissenting opinion suggesting that an Indiana state law requiring burial or cremation of fetal remains was constitutional.

A Justice Barrett might also provide the deciding vote for reversing Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 Supreme Court decision protecting same-sex marriage. Only three members of the majority in that case remain on the Court.

Barrett says her views are rooted in the "text" of the Constitution. That's a worrisome omen given that earlier this month Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito opined that the right to same-sex marriage "is found nowhere in the text" of the Constitution.

What's public, what's private, and where should government intervene? The question suffuses the impending election and much else in modern American life.

It is nonsensical to argue, as do Trump and his allies, that government cannot mandate masks or close businesses during a pandemic but can prevent women from having abortions and same-sex couples from marrying.

The underlying issue is the common good, what we owe each other as members of the same society. During wartime, we expect government to intrude on our daily lives for the common good: drafting us into armies, converting our workplaces and businesses, demanding we sacrifice normal pleasures and conveniences. During a pandemic as grave as this one we should expect no less intrusion, in order that we not expose each other to the risk of contracting the virus.

But we have no right to impose on each other our moral or religious views about when life begins or the nature and meaning of marriage. The common good requires instead that we honor such profoundly personal decisions.

Public or private? We owe it to each other to understand the distinction.

NY Post reporter refused to allow his byline on flawed Hunter Biden story: NYT

We've all seen this absurd Hunter Biden October "surprise" story by now.

In short, it makes no sense. A mystery figure dropped off a wet laptop at a Delaware computer shop, didn't leave his name, and never picked it up. It had all sorts of incriminating info on it, as well as a Beau Biden Foundation sticker. Uh huh. Because that's ordinary human behavior. And somehow Rudy Giuliani, who's been searching high and low for Hunter Biden dirt, got hold of it. And in no way is this the kind of Russian disinformation campaign the White House received a warning about just last year — a warning that specifically noted Giuliani's gullibility, by the way.

Well, it gets worse. One of the original authors of the story refused to put his byline on it because, well, he smelled bullshit.

The New York Times:

The New York Post's front-page article about Hunter Biden on Wednesday was written mostly by a staff reporter who refused to put his name on it, two Post employees said.
Bruce Golding, a reporter at the Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid since 2007, did not allow his byline to be used because he had concerns over the article's credibility, the two Post employees said, speaking on the condition of anonymity out of fear of retaliation.

Well, that's some interesting information they neglected to share.

As deadline approached, editors pressed staff members to add their bylines to the story — and at least one aside from Mr. Golding refused, two Post journalists said. A Post spokeswoman had no comment on how the article was written or edited.

So who got the byline? Well, that's an interesting story. The lead author of the piece was Emma-Jo Morris, a former associate producer for the always scrupulous Sean Hannity. And, whoa, she never had a byline in The Post before. Her co-author? Gabrielle Fonrouge, who's been with the newspaper since 2014. And that's an interesting story, too.

Ms. Fonrouge had little to do with the reporting or writing of the article, said three people with knowledge of how it was prepared. She learned that her byline was on the story only after it was published, the people said.

Rudy Giuliani is not mentally all there, and yet The New York Post staked its reputation — such as it is — on the melange of coffee breath molecules and gross loose skin that comprise his essence.

Just shows you how desperate they've become.

Let's support Joe, and let's make sure we give him a Democratic Senate.

We have them on the run. Let's drown them in the river.

Why I'm on a hunger strike to stop Donald Trump

by Ted Glick

I am on a 30-day, water-only hunger strike until Election Day to defeat Donald Trump. My mission is not so much to convince conservatives they should have a change of heart (though that would be great), but to convince progressives who may still harbor some hesitations about going all out for Biden. They don't just need to vote for him, they need to work for him.

I'm trying to dramatize that the possibility of a Trump reelection poses an existential threat to democracy, public health, the climate, and everything progressives hold dear.

So if you're in the left wing of the Democratic party, if you supported Sanders or Warren, if you embrace the Green New Deal and Medicare for All, and even if you weren't happy when Biden emerged as the nominee and found him too moderate, it's time for you to put yourself on the line to get him and Harris elected.

Likewise, if you're an independent voter like me who finds some of Biden's positions problematic, it's time to get clear that Trump is such a threat to the country, it's appropriate and necessary to overcome your hesitation and throw your support behind Biden.

Donald Trump has been a disaster for the climate, democracy, the rule of law, people of color, women, low-income people, truth, civility, and human decency. His response to the indictments of 13 far-right, Trump-supporting extremists for plotting to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has been to repeatedly criticize Whitmer, and not the extremists. In fact, he's clearly appealing to extremists to disrupt this election. While trailing in the polls, Trump refuses to say he'll accept a peaceful transition of power if he loses, continues to undermine mail-in voting, and repeats his call for his supporters to descend on polling places on November 3.

I'm motivated by all these things, but especially by the climate emergency. I'm a lifelong progressive activist, and ran as the Green Party candidate for U.S. Senate from New Jersey in 2002. Since 2003 the primary focus of my work has been the climate crisis. Seventeen years ago, it felt like I and other climate activists were the proverbial voices crying in the wilderness. Today, a majority of Americans agree with us. They support climate action, including transitioning rapidly from fossil fuels to renewable energy and battery storage.

Trump and his supporters are a minority, bent on hijacking the widespread call for climate action. The only solution for that is to remove Trump from the White House. To dramatize the life-and-death stakes, I began a month-long, water-only Fast to Defeat Trump on October 3 and won't end it until November 3.

I started thinking about doing this over the Christmas/New Year holidays. I was working for the Bernie Sanders campaign and the climate movement, and observing the unfolding of the Presidential race. After the Democratic and Republican conventions, I decided I needed to make a life-on-the-line statement about the importance of defeating Trump.

I don't encourage anyone to try this at home, especially in the pandemic. It takes knowledge and experience to fast relatively safely, and I have plenty of both. I have done three previous water-only fasts of 25 days or longer: once for 40 days in the summer of 1972 for an end to the war in Vietnam, once for 42 days in the fall of 1992 in opposition to the planned government celebrations of Columbus' quincentennial, and once for 25 days in 2007 to demand action on the climate emergency.

But I do encourage everyone to support the Democratic ticket. There's only one way to get Trump out, and that's to replace him with Biden. Once that is accomplished, the rising progressive movement can move forward with its campaigns for a Green New Deal, Medicare for All, police demilitarization and restructuring and more. But first, we need to do this.

I also hope that my action will motivate young people who are turned off by electoral politics, especially by the unedifying spectacle they're getting treated to this year. I urge them to register now and vote because getting Trump out is our best hope for making the fundamental transformation their generation needs and has a right to demand from its leaders.

And I hope I will help motivate people to do more than just vote. We need to work concertedly from now until November 3 to help generate a historic voter turnout, especially in the battleground states. There is nothing more important to do in the weeks ahead than to go all in to get Trump out.

Ted Glick is a nationally known progressive and climate justice activist who has led and participated in hundreds of actions. He served as the National Coordinator of the Independent Progressive Politics Network, and was National Campaign Coordinator of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. His latest book is Burglar for Peace: Lessons Learned in the Catholic Left's Resistance to the Vietnam War.

Watchdog group accuses Amy Coney Barrett of 'unconscionable cruelty' in teen rape case

Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett has been accused of "unconscionable cruelty" by a watchdog group over her role in an appellate court decision overturning a district court which found a Wisconsin county liable for millions in damages to a woman who alleged she had been repeatedly raped by a jail guard.

"After a 19-year old pregnant prison inmate was repeatedly raped by a prison guard, Amy Coney Barrett ruled that the county responsible for the prison could not be held liable because the sexual assaults fell outside of the guard's official duties. Her judgment demonstrates a level of unconscionable cruelty that has no place on the high court," Kyle Herrig, president of the progressive watchdog group Accountable.US, told Salon. "The only thing more concerning than the rush to confirm by Senate Republicans is what we are learning about Amy Coney Barrett's extremist record. It is hardly surprising that she has dodged question after question during her testimony."

Barrett was one of the three judges on a Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals panel which reversed a $6.7 million verdict against Milwaukee County in 2018 after a corrections officer was charged with repeatedly raping a pregnant 19-year-old inmate.

Former corrections officer Xavier Thicken was charged with multiple counts of sexual assault in 2013 after the woman alleged that he had raped her during and after her pregnancy at a jail run by the controversial former Sheriff David Clarke. Those charges were dropped when he agreed to plead guilty to felony misconduct in public office in 2014.

The woman later filed a lawsuit against Milwaukee County. In her testimony, she alleged that Thicklen had raped her in different parts of the jail when she was eight months pregnant and demanded that she perform oral sex on him after giving birth.

A jury awarded the woman $6.7 million in 2017, which was upheld by District Judge J.P. Stadmueller before the Seventh Circuit Court overturned the ruling in September 2018.

Barrett joined Judges Daniel Manion and Robert Gettleman in reversing the district court ruling against the county, though it upheld the judgement against Thicklen. Mannion wrote in the unanimous opinion that the county was not responsible for the guard's conduct.

"Conduct is not in the scope if it is different in kind from that authorized, far beyond the authorized time or space, or too little actuated by a purpose to serve the employer," he said.

"Even when viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to (the woman) and the verdict, we hold no reasonable jury could find the sexual assaults were in the scope of his (Thicklen's) employment," the opinion stated. "The evidence negates the verdict."

Manion noted that the training materials stated guards were prohibited from having sex with inmates.

"The undisputed facts and reasonable inferences point ineluctably to the conclusions that Thicklen's abhorrent acts were in no way actuated by a purpose to serve county," he wrote. "He raped (the inmate) for purely personal reasons, the rapes did not benefit county but harmed it, he knew the rapes did not serve county, and the rapes were outside the scope."

With the ruling, the judge acknowledged that the woman "loses perhaps her best chance to collect the judgment. But (the law) does not make public employers absolute insurers against all wrongs."

In a similar case this year, however, Barrett joined a majority of the full Seventh Circuit Court to find that Wisconsin's Polk County was liable in a case where a jail guard sexually assaulted five women hundreds of times.

The case was filed after former prison guard Daryl Christensen was convicted of sexually assaulting the women hundreds of times over three years in 2016. Two of the victims, identified as J.K.J. and M.J.J., sued Christensen and Polk County in federal court, according to Courthouse News.

A complaint filed by one of the women alleged that the Polk County Sheriff's Department was liable, because it failed to protect her from Christensen and chose not to accept state-provided training materials on prison rape.

The lawsuit largely echoed the allegations in the criminal complaint, accusing Christensen of leading women inmates to areas of the jail where there were no security cameras before digitally penetrating them and forcing them to perform oral sex on him.

Christensen was sentenced to 30 years in prison, and a jury awarded the women $11.5 million in compensatory and punitive damages, according to Courthouse News. Polk County was ordered to pay $4 million of the award, which the outlet noted was "the only part of the award the women will ever possibly receive."

A split three-judge Seventh Circuit Court panel overturned the ruling against the county last year, with the majority arguing that it should not be held liable for actions taken by a "rogue guard" in violation of the jail's policy.

The full court voted to rehear the case in December, and it voted 7-4 to hold the county responsible in May. Barrett joined the majority.

"The jury was furnished with sufficient evidence to hold Polk County liable not on the basis of Christensen's horrific acts but rather the county's own deliberate choice to stand idly by while the female inmates under its care were exposed to an unmistakable risk that they would be sexually assaulted — a choice that was the moving force behind the harm inflicted on J.K.J. and M.J.J.," Judge Michael Scudder wrote in the majority opinion.

Scudder added that "the jury was entitled to conclude that if Polk County had taken action in response to the glaring risk that its female inmates' health and safety were in danger, J.K.J. and M.J.J.'s assaults would have stopped sooner, or never happened at all."

Barrett penned an influential decision last year which made it easier for college students accused of sexual assault to sue their universities over the handling of investigations.

She wrote the decision for a Seventh Circuit panel which ruled that Purdue University might have discriminated against a male student accused of sexual assault when it suspended him for one year, costing him a spot in the Navy ROTC program.

"It is plausible that [university officials] chose to believe Jane because she is a woman and to disbelieve John because he is a man," Barrett wrote in the decision.

Barrett said the discrimination claim was plausible, in part because the Obama administration had pressured schools to prioritize sexual assault investigations and later opened two investigations into Purdue.

"The Department of Education made clear that it took the letter and its enforcement very seriously," Barrett wrote. "The pressure on the university to demonstrate compliance was far from abstract."

Emily Martin, the vice president for education and workplace justice at the National Women's Law Center, expressed concerns that Barrett's description of the Education Department's efforts to go after campus sexual assault was evidence of discrimination against men.

Martin told The Washington Post that late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a champion of women's rights and lamented the prospect of "replacing someone like that with a judge who is eager to use the language of sex discrimination in order to defend the status quo and to use the statutes that were created to forward gender equality as swords against that very purpose."

Beth Barnhill, the executive director of the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault, penned an op-ed this week warning that Barrett "holds extreme positions on areas of the law on which victims of sexual assault depend."

"Survivors want and deserve a Supreme Court that works for all of us, yet a previous ruling from Barrett made it easier for students who are held accountable for sexual assault to sue their schools for sex discrimination," Barnhill wrote. "She suggested that a school's commitment to taking sexual misconduct seriously is evidence of sex discrimination against the people who caused harm. This is deeply problematic and troubling for survivors."

Kamala Harris team strikes back after David Perdue's 'incredibly racist' attack on her name

Republican Sen. David Perdue of Georgia was denounced for being "incredibly racist" Friday night after he willfully mispronounced the name of his Senate colleague Kamala Harris, the Democrat from California and her party's vice presidential nominee, at a campaign rally for President Donald Trump.

Perdue—currently in a heated reelection campaign of his own against Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff—was just completing his introduction for Trump at the rally in Macon, Georgia when he referred to Harris as "Kah-mah-lah? Kah-MAH-lah? Kamala-mala-mala" and then said: "I don't know. Whatever."

Watch:

Sen. David Perdue mispronounces Sen. Kamala Harris's first name youtu.be

While the Perdue campaign said the GOP senator "didn't mean anything by it," it was clear from the laughter by the predominantly white Republican crowd that the overt dogwhistle had its intended effect.

As the Washington Post's White Hosue bureau chief Phil Rucker noted, any feigned ignorance should not be taken seriously. "Perdue has served with Kamala Harris in the Senate for four years," tweeted Rucker. "He knows how to properly pronounce her name."


"Well that is incredibly racist," said Sabrina Singh, Harris' press secretary, in a tweet responding to Perdue's comment. "Vote him out," Singh added, "and vote for Ossoff."

According to CNN:

Kamala is pronounced "'comma-la,' like the punctuation mark," according to the California senator. Harris wrote in the preface of her 2019 memoir, "The Truths We Hold," "First, my name is pronounced 'comma-la,' like the punctuation mark. It means 'lotus flower,' which is a symbol of significance in Indian culture. A lotus grows underwater, its flower rising above the surface while its roots are planted firmly in the river bottom."
If elected in November, Harris will become the nation's first Indian-American vice president, the first Black vice president, the first female vice president and the first Jamaican-American vice president. Harris' father was born in Jamaica and her late mother was born in India.

For his part, Ossoff denounced the remarks as part of pattern of discriminatory attacks by Perdue and said Georgians and other Americans "are better than this." Later Friday night, Ossoff appeared on MSNBC where he further characterized the attack on Harris as the "kind of vile, race-baiting trash talk" that Trump "has unleashed from sitting Republican members of the Senate."


In a statement, Nikema Williams, state chairwoman of Georgia's Democratic Party, said "Perdue's intentionally disrespectful mispronunciation of Senator Harris's name is a bigoted and racist tactic straight from President Trump's handbook. He owes Georgians an apology for his offensive display."

A Quinnipiac poll released Wednesday showed Osoff, who had been trailing, moving ahead of Perdue with a 6 percentage point lead (51% to 45%), though poll averages show the contenders in more or less a dead heat with just over weeks until Election Day.


‘You have no standing’: CNN's Tapper corners Lara Trump after she links stuttering to ‘cognitive decline’

CNN host Jake Tapper on Sunday ended an interview with Trump campaign spokesperson Lara Trump after she suggested stuttering is a sign of cognitive decline.

"Joe Biden as we all know has worked to overcome a stutter," Tapper said before explaining that Biden had been an inspiration for children who stutter.

"How do you think it makes little kids with stutters feel when they see you [mocking Joe Biden]?" the CNN host asked.

"First and foremost, I had no idea that Joe Biden ever suffered from a stutter," Trump replied. "I think what we see on stage with Joe Biden, Jake, is very clearly a cognitive decline."

"First and foremost, I had no idea that Joe Biden ever suffered from a stutter," Trump replied. "I think what we see on stage with Joe Biden, Jake, is very clearly a cognitive decline."

"OK," Tapper replied. "You have no — it's so amazing to me that — a cognitive decline. I think you were mocking his stutter."

"And I think you have absolutely no standing to diagnose someone's cognitive decline," he added. "I would think that somebody in the Trump family would be more sensitive to people who do not have medical licenses diagnosing politicians from afar. Plenty people have diagnosed your [father-in-law] from afar. And I'm sure it offends you."

"I'm not diagnosing him," Trump insisted.

"You just talked about cognitive decline," Tapper said and then pivoted to his final question. "I have one last question for you, Lara."

But Trump continued to talk about Biden's mental state.

"It's very concerning to a lot of people," she said, "that this could be the leader of the free world. That is all I'm saying. I genuinely feel sorry for Joe Biden."

With that, Tapper ended the interview early.

"Thank you, Lara, I appreciate it," Tapper said. "I'm sure it was from a place of concern. We all believe that."

Watch the video below from CNN.


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