Make A Voting Plan. Then Do It.

[ Posted Tuesday, September 22nd, 2020 – 17:11 UTC ]

My apologies, because I don't really have enough time for a full column today. The reason for this is that I went down to my county registrar this afternoon to verify my voting registration and signature.

I'm one of those people who enjoys the ceremony of showing up in person to cast my vote, so before this year, my signature wasn't really all that important. However, due to the pandemic, this year California is mailing every registered voter a ballot directly, so signature-matching has become crucial. Whether you mail in your ballot or drop it off at a drop box or show up on Election Day and hand it in in person, the mechanics of voting will be the same -- the ballot goes in an envelope that must be signed. This signature will have to be verified in order for your vote to be counted. I'm assuming this is true, I should add, as I have yet to actually receive my ballot in the mail.

But better safe than sorry. Since for the past twenty years I haven't had to re-register, and since my signature has changed somewhat over time, I wanted to verify that it would match whatever they had on file. So I trucked on down to the county building and was able to verify that the signature on file is pretty much what I use today. Close enough, in other words. This set my mind at ease.

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R.I.P., R.B.G.

[ Posted Monday, September 21st, 2020 – 16:37 UTC ]

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg now rests in peace.

For the rest of us, there will be no rest and very little peace for the next few months -- of that much we can be certain. Because while the phrase is occasionally overused, it is no hyperbole to say that Ginsburg's death has now left America in what can only be called a true constitutional crisis.

There are all sorts of ways this could play out, ranging from the reasonable to the apocalyptic. At this point, the paths to reasonableness seem few and narrow, while the paths to chaos are much more wide and numerous. It's not even overstating the case all that much to say that we have never been closer to a second civil war in this country.

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Friday Talking Points -- Trump's Disgusting Supporters

[ Posted Friday, September 18th, 2020 – 17:35 UTC ]

Olivia Troye used to be a high-level staffer for Vice President Mike Pence, and she worked closely with him on the coronavirus task force which he led. She recently quit in disgust and went public this week with her support for Joe Biden (in yet another "Republican Voters Against Trump" video). The most damning thing she had to say about the president was the following:

When we were in a task force meeting, the President said "maybe this COVID thing is a good thing, I don't like shaking hands with people, I don't have to shake hands with these disgusting people." Those disgusting people are the same people that he claims to care about. These are the people still going to his rallies today, who have complete faith in who he is.

Now, as you'll remember, Hillary Clinton was famously raked over the coals by both the media and Republicans for labelling Republican voters as a "basket of deplorables." But she was talking about opposition voters, not her own. This time, President Donald Trump is calling his own followers -- the ones who stand in line for days, at times, so they can be in the front row and get a chance to shake Trump's own hand -- "disgusting people."

If you're waiting for the same level of outrage from Republicans that they exhibited when Clinton used the "deplorable" term, you've likely got a long wait coming. Because now, apparently, it's OK to call Republican voters "disgusting people."

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The Emperor's New Healthcare Plan

[ Posted Thursday, September 17th, 2020 – 16:56 UTC ]

There's one thing you should know about President Donald Trump's new healthcare plan: it does not exist. It has never existed. Perhaps in some metaphysical sense it does exist, but only when you ponder the question: "Does a thought of something that does not exist actually exist?" That is the only realm in which Trump's magic healthcare plan might be said to have an existence; as a vague, ill-defined wish for a magic plan to cure all ills, both medical and political. Other than that, it exists precisely as much as the Emperor's new clothes exist, which is to say: "Not at all."

Not unlike those regal garments, though, Trump will soon demand that all his faithful sycophants praise his new yet-to-be-revealed healthcare plan to the skies as the best thing to come along since sliced bread. This is because his hand was forced at a recent town hall event by George Stephanopoulos, who asked Trump why he hadn't released his wondrous plan that he's been promising to the American public almost nonstop for the past four or five years. Stephanopoulos pointed out a few examples (among many) of Trump promising journalists that his healthcare plan was almost ready and would be announced within a matter of weeks -- only to have these deadlines repeatedly pass with no plan in sight. Trump was put on the spot, so he upped the ante. The magic new plan was not merely aspirational (a few weeks in the future), but actually existed right now. It was "all ready to go," Trump promised the country, and it would be better than anything George had seen in his entire lifetime. Since then, his aides have been echoing this rosy assessment of the plan (which does not, in fact, exist).
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Debate Prep Made Easy

[ Posted Wednesday, September 16th, 2020 – 16:46 UTC ]

President Donald Trump just made Joe Biden's debate preparation a whole lot easier. Appearing at an ABC town hall last night, Trump showed exactly what he's going to be like in the upcoming presidential debate. By so obviously telegraphing his moves and strategy, Trump essentially handed Team Biden a playbook for how Biden should debate him. And since Trump is reportedly not even doing real debate prep, the chances he will get better or even in any way different in the next two weeks are minimal.

The townhall last night was moderated by George Stephanopoulos, who apparently made the decision to just let Trump talk for as long as he wanted on most subjects. Very occasionally, Stephanopoulos would gently interject some facts and truth, but it was rare. Even when he did so, Stephanopoulos spoke in such low and quiet tones that Trump mostly just ignored him altogether.
This will likely not be the case in the presidential debate, for a number of reasons. The first is that Chris Wallace has a much more direct style, and will likely challenge both candidates with the facts in a forthright fashion. The second is that there will be time limits on the answers, meaning Trump won't get to just filibuster forever, as he repeatedly did last night. And the third is that Joe Biden will be free to interrupt at any time, which he should do whenever Trump drops a whopper of a lie (which he did last night about every 20 seconds or so).
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Michael Caputo Is Freaking Out, Man

[ Posted Tuesday, September 15th, 2020 – 16:10 UTC ]

[Editor's Note: It helps if you read the following topic sentence in an internal "Cheech And Chong" sort of hippie accent.]

Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary Michael Caputo is absolutely freaking out, man. The dude really needs to mellow out.

Think that's too retro-colloquial? Well, you be the judge....

Exhibit A in defense of my theme today is the following tidbit from a Politico article today on Caputo's perhaps-imminent departure from his job. He may quit, he may take a medical leave, nothing's certain at this point. But what was reported is that he's meeting with his boss (the secretary of H.H.S.) today, and Caputo convened a rather odd staff meeting before it:

[H.H.S. Asst. Sec. Michael] Caputo also disputed anonymous White House criticism about his mental health -- saying that some of his comments have been taken out of context -- and concluded the meeting by encouraging his staff to listen to music by the Grateful Dead.

To which we can only reply: Far out, man.

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Electoral Math -- The Race Tightens

[ Posted Monday, September 14th, 2020 – 18:11 UTC ]

It has been four whole weeks since we took a look at the presidential race at the state level, and much has happened in the meantime. Both parties held their national conventions, multiple new scandals have emerged for President Donald Trump, and Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have begun hitting the campaign trail in person.

The race has tightened somewhat in the polls, but not in any dramatic "post-convention bounce" fashion. There are three things at work here, really, and it's impossible to separate them out for each individual poll. The first is that the conventions happened and a whole bunch of people watched them. The ratings for the Democrats were noticeably higher than for the Republicans, for whatever that's worth. The second thing in play is the calendar, as we're now beyond Labor Day, which is when voters traditionally start paying more attention to the race.

But the third thing is more subtle, because as we approach the actual election, the pollsters all switch over from counting "all voters" or "registered voters" to a narrower focus on "likely voters." Who exactly is a "likely voter" is determined by each polling organization, but they use different metrics. Some use past voting behavior as a key (counting, for instance, only voters who report having voted in the past two elections), while others use voter enthusiasm as a yardstick (asking how likely it is that the voter will actually bother to vote, and then only counting those who report they are totally committed to doing so, for example).

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Friday Talking Points -- How Low Can Trump Go?

[ Posted Friday, September 11th, 2020 – 17:55 UTC ]

Another week, another stunning revelation about the dishonesty and shallowness of our president, it seems. Last week, you'll remember, it was the low regard Trump held ("suckers" and "losers") for American soldiers who died in wartime, American soldiers who were wounded ("nobody wants to see that"), and American soldiers and veterans in general. This week, Bob Woodward leaked a few key excerpts (backed up by audio recordings) from his upcoming book Rage, which showed that Trump understood how serious the coronavirus was going to be and then lied to the American public about it. There simply is no bottom, with Trump -- every time you think that he's reached the lowest of the low, he will once again prove that he can go even lower.

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Don't Panic! Except When I Tell You To...

[ Posted Thursday, September 10th, 2020 – 16:03 UTC ]

We have a new contender for the biggest Trump lie yet. This is mostly due to its all-encompassing nature. Trump is lying not only about the issue of the day, but about his entire political career as a whole, as well.

The revelation from Bob Woodward's book that started all of this was that President Donald Trump knew how dangerous the COVID-19 pandemic would be and then flat-out lied to the American public, downplaying the issue all he could. Woodward has tapes of Trump, making the accusation impossible to deny.

This has left Trump and his defenders flat-footed, flailing around for a way to make the issue go away or even attempt to explain it in any way. Yesterday, Trump attempted to do so with an enormous whopper:

If you said "in order to reduce panic," perhaps that's so. I'm a cheerleader for this country. I don't want people to be frightened. I don't want to create panic.

Later, on Sean Hannity's show, Trump tried this line of reasoning again:

I'm the leader of the country, I can't be jumping up and down and scaring people. I don't want to scare people. I want people not to panic, and that's exactly what I did.

Got that? As the Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy put it: "Don't panic!"

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Trump Lied. People Died.

[ Posted Wednesday, September 9th, 2020 – 16:20 UTC ]

It's now official: Trump lied, people died.

Bob Woodward is out with a new book, and today he released some excerpts -- with some tapes to back them up. The most damning revelation is that President Donald Trump knew full well -- in early February -- that COVID-19 was a very serious threat and much more dangerous than the flu. But that was in private conversation with Woodward. Publicly, Trump kept right on downplaying the threat for approximately the next five weeks. If America had moved more quickly during this period, tens of thousands of Americans would still be alive today. Quod Erat Demonstrandum: Trump lied, people died.

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