Tuesday, November 24, 2020

AMERICAN POLITICS - Biden Transition Offically Starts

"Transition process formally under way.  GSA action allows briefings, funding for Biden team." by U-T News Services, San Diego Union-Tribune 11/21/2020

NOTE:  This is copied from the e-newspaper, therefore no link to article.

President Donald Trump’s government on Monday authorized president-elect Joe Biden to begin a formal transition process after Michigan certified Biden as its winner, a strong sign that the President’s last-ditch bid to overturn the results of the election was coming to an end.

Trump did not concede, and vowed to persist with efforts to change the vote.  But the President said on Twitter on Monday night that he accepted the decision by Emily Murphy, the administrator of the General Services Administration [GSA], to allow a transition to proceed.

In his tweet, Trump said that he had told his officials to begin “initial protocols” involving the handoff to Biden “in the best interest of our country.”

Murphy’s designation of Biden as the apparent victor provides the incoming administration with federal funds and resources and clears the way for the president-elect’s advisers to coordinate with Trump administration officials.

The decision from Murphy came after several additional senior Republican lawmakers, as well as leading figures from business and world affairs, denounced the delay in allowing the peaceful transfer of power to begin, a holdup that Biden and his top aides said was threatening national security and the ability of the incoming administration to effectively plan for combating the coronavirus pandemic.

And it followed a key court decision in Pennsylvania, where the state’s Supreme Court on Monday ruled against the Trump campaign and the President’s Republican allies, stating that roughly 8,000 ballots with signature or date irregularities must be counted.

In Michigan, the statewide canvassing board, with two Republicans and two Democrats, voted, 3-0, to approve the results, with one Republican abstaining.  It officially delivered to Biden a key battleground that Trump had wrested away from Democrats four years ago, and rebuffed the President’s legal and political efforts to overturn the results.

By Monday evening, as Biden moved ahead with plans to fill out his Cabinet, broad sectors of the nation had delivered a blunt message to the President: His campaign to stay in the White House was nearing the end.

Murphy said she made her decision Monday because of “recent developments involving legal challenges and certifications of election results,” most likely referring to the certification of votes by election officials in Michigan and a nearly unbroken string of court decisions that have rejected Trump’s challenges in several states.

In conversations earlier in the day with top aides — including Mark Meadows, the White House Chief of Staff; Pat Cipollone, the White House Counsel; and Jay Sekulow, the President’s personal lawyer — Trump was told that the transition needed to begin.  He did not need to say the word “concede,” they told him, according to multiple people briefed on the discussions.  But they emphasized that in the United States, transitions are hugely important.

Some of the advisers drafted a statement for the President to issue.  But Trump continued to solicit opinions from associates, including Rudy Giuliani, who told him there were still legal avenues to pursue, the people briefed on the discussions said.

In the end, Trump did not put out a statement, but aides said the tone of the proposed statement was similar to his tweets in the evening, in which he appeared to take credit for Murphy’s decision to allow the transition to a new administration to begin.

“Our case STRONGLY continues, we will keep up the good fight, and I believe we will prevail!” he wrote.  “Nevertheless, in the best interest of our Country, I am recommending that Emily and her team do what needs to be done with regard to initial protocols, and have told my team to do the same.”

In a letter to Biden, Murphy rebutted Trump’s assertion that he had directed her to make the decision, saying that “I came to my decision independently, based on the law and available facts.” She said she was “never directly or indirectly pressured by any executive branch official — including those who work at the White House or the GSA.”

“I do not think that an agency charged with improving federal procurement and property management should place itself above the constitutionally-based election process,” she wrote, defending her delay by saying that she did not want to get ahead of the constitutional process of counting votes and picking a President.

Murphy said she had received threats online, by phone, and by mail “directed at my safety, my family, my staff, and even my pets in an effort to coerce me into making this determination prematurely.”

“Even in the face of thousands of threats, I always remained committed to upholding the law,” the letter said.

She did not describe Biden as the “president-elect” in her letter, even as she said the transition could begin.

One associate with knowledge of Murphy’s thinking said that she always anticipated signing off on the transition but that she needed a defensible rationale to do so in the absence of a concession from Trump; the pro-Biden developments in Michigan and Pennsylvania, as well as in Georgia, provided a clear justification for moving ahead.

That decision was part of a cascade of events over the last several days that appeared to signal the end of Trump’s attempts to resist the will of the voters.

Large counties in Pennsylvania were formalizing Biden’s victory in the state.  And in a major break with the President, General Motors announced it would no longer back the administration’s efforts to nullify California’s fuel economy rules.

On Capitol Hill, most of Trump’s Republican allies had stood by his side for the past two weeks as he [Trump] tried to overturn the vote.  But on Monday, some of the Senate’s most senior Republicans sharply urged Murphy to allow the transition to proceed.

Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who is retiring, issued his second call in recent days for a prompt transition.

“Since it seems apparent that Joe Biden will be the president-elect, my hope is that President Trump will take pride in his considerable accomplishments, put the country first and have a prompt and orderly transition to help the new administration succeed,” said Alexander, a close friend of Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) the Senate majority leader.  “When you are in public life, people remember the last thing you do.”

Earlier in the day, Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, both Republicans, issued statements breaking from Trump and calling for Biden to begin receiving coronavirus and national security briefings.

“At some point, the 2020 election must end,” Capito said.

The pressure on Trump extended beyond the political sphere.  More than 100 business leaders sent a letter to the administration on Monday asking it to facilitate a transition, and a group of Republican national security experts implored Republican members of Congress to demand that Trump concede.

One of the President’s staunchest supporters, Stephen Schwarzman, the chief executive of the private equity firm Blackstone, did not sign the business leaders’ letter but said in a statement that “the outcome is very certain today and the country should move on.”

The New York Times and The Washington Post contributed to this report.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

MUSIC - "Holy Mother" Eric Clapton, Luciano Pavarotti

I am not Catholic but good music is good music, especially when performed by two artists I love.

Also considering what is happening today with COVID-19 and Trump, this song is appropriate.


Monday, November 09, 2020

VOTE 2020 - Rundown Sunday 11/08/2020

"Vice President-elect Harris’ win brings many historic firstsPBS NewsHour 11/08/2020


SUMMARY:  Kamala Harris gave her victory speech wearing all white on Saturday night after her glass ceiling-shattering win as Vice President-elect.  Barbara Perry, Director of Presidential Studies and co-chair of the Presidential Oral History Program at the University of Virginia's Miller Center, joins Hari Sreenivasan to discuss the historic nature of Harris’ election and the road it took to get here.



"Dems won the race but the GOP will control the presidencyPBS NewsHour 11/08/2020


SUMMARY:  While Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are headed to the White House, Democrats who were hoping to increase their margins in the House and take control of the Senate, failed to strengthen their position in Congress.  Jeff Greenfield joins to discuss the election results and how the Senate runoff in Georgia will determine the future of Biden’s presidency.

VOTE 2020 - Rundown Saturday 11/07/2020

"Lack of evidence make Trump’s legal challenge an uphill battlePBS NewsHour 11/07/2020


SUMMARY:  President Trump has vowed to challenge the election results, which have declared Joe Biden as the President-Elect.  The legal challenges began well before Election Day with lawsuits over mail-in voting and which ballots were “legally” cast.  Guy-Uriel Charles, professor of law at Duke University and co-director of the Center of Law, Race and Politics joins to discuss.



"Biden will take over a deeply divided nation in crisisPBS NewsHour 11/07/2020


SUMMARY:  With news outlets from the Associated Press to Fox News calling the election in favor of Joe Biden on Saturday, President Trump’s camp continued their legal efforts to contest the election results, and many Republican leaders remained silent.  Yamiche Alcindor joins Hari Sreenivasan to discuss Trump’s strategy, as well as Kamala Harris’ historic win as the first woman of color to be elected Vice President.



"Georgia to be ‘center of the American political universe’ during recount, runoff electionPBS NewsHour 11/07/2020


SUMMARY:  Nearly 5 million ballots were cast in Georgia, where razor-thin margins in the presidential election mean the state will enter a recount process in the coming weeks, and a January runoff will decide the fate of both the state’s Senate seats.  Georgia Public Broadcasting’s Rickey Bevington joins Hari Sreenivasan to discuss why, between now and January’s runoff election, all eyes will be on Georgia.



"‘More lawsuits are coming:’ Trump’s lawyers layout plans as AP calls race for BidenPBS NewsHour 11/07/2020


SUMMARY:  Shortly after the Associated Press and other TV networks call Pennsylvania and the entire race for Joe Biden, President Trump’s lawyers lay out their plans for a long legal fight over the results.  NewsHour’s Dan Bush joins from Philadelphia to discuss the moment Biden’s victory was called and the Trump campaign's plan of action.

OPINION - Shields and Brooks on Vote 2020

"Shields and Brooks on election results, national divisionsPBS NewsHour 11/06/2020


SUMMARY:  Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week in politics, including surprises from a very close presidential election whose result is still unknown, which groups of voters increased their support for President Trump, political challenges for the Democratic Party and what national divisions say about the future of the country.

Judy Woodruff (NewsHour):  And now to the analysis of Shields and Brooks.  That is syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

So, hello to both of you.

We don't have a result yet, but the votes are being counted like mad.  We know the results in a lot of states.

We're waiting.

David, what do you make of what we know so far?

David Brooks, New York Times:  Well, if ever there was a campaign that was going to be a blowout, I thought this was it.  I thought we had an unpopular President that people were ready to get rid of.  I expected a large margin.  And I was wrong.  It's a 2.8 percentage margin nationally.

And so I think what we have learned is that we a very evenly divided nation, two groups of people in non-overlapping universes.  For a time, it seemed — and I think people in both camps thought, well, the people on my team could eventually crush the people on the other team, and my team will get to rule.

I think we now have to face reality.  That's just never going to happen.  The other side is never going to go away.  And we have got to find a way to live with each other.

And so, to me, that's the biggest takeaway of where we are right now.

Judy Woodruff:  Mark, divided country.

Mark Shields, syndicated columnist:  Divided country, Judy.

But if you look at it in historical perspective, in the last century, only three presidential challengers, nominees have defeated an elected President seeking reelection.  And it's a pretty impressive group, if you think about it.  It was Franklin Roosevelt, it was Ronald Reagan, and it was Bill Clinton, all of whom were at least two-term presidents.  One was a four-term president, and I think history would say successful Presidents.

So, Joe Biden joins a pretty awesome group of people.  He will end up, in my judgment, with a 52-47 popular vote percentage, decisively, and decisively in the Electoral College.

David's right.  It was close.  We are divided.

What surprised me, as much as anything, was the loyalty and the enthusiasm of Donald Trump's constituency.  They turned out in surprisingly impressive numbers.  And Donald Trump, if he got over his hissy fits and sort of the silly actions since the election, could take credit for the Republicans picking up House seats in 2020 and retaining their majority in the Senate.

With the exception of Susan Collins, every other Republican Senate candidate who won, won with Donald Trump.  Susan Collins had a 17-point split in Maine.  That was the only ticket-splitting state in the country.

Judy Woodruff:  So, David, I know you have also — you have had a chance to look inside some of these numbers, why voters voted, who voted how, and why people voted the way they did.

I mean, even as we're waiting for the final numbers, what does that tell you about the country, about who we are?

David Brooks:  Well, I mean, the surprises were the gains that Republicans made among Latinos and African-Americans.  Donald Trump had a higher share of the non-white vote than any Republican in 60 years, as he said.

And that was a surprise to me.  He doubled his support among the LGBTQ community.  And so a lot of people are voting by different narratives.  There is a certain narrative that he's a racist and that he's just a force for racism.  I think there's a lot of truth to that narrative, but a lot of people clearly have different narratives in their head.

And so I think people — we should be humble about generalizing across groups of people, especially people we have never met.  And so I think that.

The second thing is that the Republican Party really is the party of the — of people without college degrees, much more so than ever before.  We saw swings of moderates, swings of college-educated suburbanites to the Democratic Party.

And I think the Republican Party can — if they're going to be — feel good about this election, they can see the potential of a future party as a multiracial working-class party.  If they can win support across racial lines among those without college degrees, then that's a very viable party, and they should really focus all their attention on, what can we do for people without college degrees of all groups?

Judy Woodruff:  What about that, Mark?

And, as you look at how people voted, which way they went, what do you see?  What does it tell you about us?

Mark Shields:  Picking up on what David said, you can't make generalizations about people you do know, David.  You have to make generalizations about people you don't know.


But the point is that David touched on it on the white blue-collar male vote, one out of three voters in the country.

This was the backbone of the Democratic coalition that elected Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman, and Jack Kennedy.  It was the message of the entire New Deal, Fair Deal, and New Frontier, that government had a responsibility to guarantee jobs, that you weren't the nation of self-reliance and independence completely, especially in the face of a Great Depression.

But the important thing to remember is that the 346 firefighters who walked into the jaws of death and the fires of hell on September 11 to save strangers that never met and gave their lives so doing were white non-college males, for the most part.

Those who volunteer to defend our country, whether it's joining the Marine Corps or the armed forces, and fight and die, it's their families, and they're the families of white, overwhelmingly white, not-college-educated males.

And the Democrats' problem, I think, is one of attitude as much as it is of platform.  I mean, the Democrats, that were once a shot and a beer party have become a Sauvignon blanc party arguing about which wine is more sensitive.

And I really — I really do think this is a problem for Democrats.  And they have to — they have to approach with some humility this very important constituency, which Donald Trump beat them almost 2-1 and beat Joe Biden, I mean, who is really probably the personification of what the New Deal was, in terms of personal style, personal values, and personality.

So, he wasn't beating an elitist Ivy Leaguer.  So I think that's a real problem for Democrats.  And I would add the Hispanics.  I think we have learned painfully, did Democrats, that they're there anything but a monolithic constituency, as most proved by the results in Florida.

Judy Woodruff:  I want to turn you, David, to the president's reaction so far to the results of the lashing out, the accusations of fraud and the rest of it.

How much does all that matter?  I mean, does the delay in announcing — in knowing the result, how much will that matter in the end?

David Brooks:  Yes, well, I thought the President in his press conference last night was awful, horrific, if we weren't used to him, but also wan.  He looked like he was not really fighting; he was just constructing rationalizations for a man who can admit that he can lose at anything.

And I think I have been heartened, I mean, as we heard from William and others, that there is a lot of crazy stuff going around on the Internet, a lot of conspiracy theories, as if the Democrats have this elaborate vote-rigging thing in which they lose the Senate.  Like, it doesn't pass even surface plausibility.

But what has heartened me is that, so far, our system seems to be holding better than many people feared.  A lot of Republicans are happy to see Trump go and are ushering statements or just non-statements and not getting on this train.

And state legislators in places like Pennsylvania have said, we're not getting involved in this.  And the nightmare scenario was that you would get competing slates of electors from places like Pennsylvania.  But that would require the complicity of a lot of the politicians in these states.

Judy Woodruff:  Yes.

David Brooks:  And, so far, they don't want to get involved.

So, that's — I think the system is doing way better than we could have feared.

Judy Woodruff:  You do have Lindsey Graham out there echoing what the President is saying.

David Brooks:  Oh, yes, for sure, there are some.  And FOX is divided.  The all-important FOX News seems to be divided.

But, so far, we have not seen violence that much in the streets.  So far, it looks like calmer than many predicted.

Judy Woodruff:  Mark, what's your — what is your take on the President and how he is reacting so far and what it says?


Mark Shields:  David, he's younger and more optimistic.

I have to say, I haven't found that many good Germans among the Republicans who are resisting the — just think, Judy.  The President, before the largest audience in the history of humankind, according to him, took an oath to solidly preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

I just wish he would reflect on that for 30 seconds.  What he is doing is undermining confidence and trust in our — in each other, in our country, in our ways.

I have been incredibly impressed by the quality of the secretaries of state who have come on, almost overwhelmingly women, Republicans and Democrats, who have explained what they're doing, have done it in a thoughtful and informed and intelligent way.  I have been impressed by the seriousness of purpose that the people have taken in counting.

But I'm waiting for the Republicans.  I'm waiting for Rob Portman of Ohio, who everybody says is such a good guy.  I'm waiting for him to stand up and say, no, Mr.  President, this is wrong.

And we're hearing from the usual suspects.  Lindsey Graham makes Tonto look like an independent spirit when it comes to President Trump.

Judy Woodruff:  And, David, here at the end, I mean, you're not worried about the fact that — I mean, we don't know how long it's going to take.  I mean, there may be a call tonight, for all we know, but it is taking days.

Do you have concern that leaves — casts a pall over this somehow?

David Brooks:  Well, for sure.

I mean, there will be a large number of Americans who — if Biden wins, who think Joe Biden is an illegitimate President.  We're not — we shouldn't pretend that we're ending an age of polarization.

I'm just hopeful.  We're having a different sort of polarization.

Donald Trump was a cultural figure.  He was not a policy person, not a government person.  It was always: My tribe is good.  Your tribe is evil.

And so we have had that kind of polarization.  I'm hopeful, if Donald Trump is off the scene, at least there won't be a guy at the top waging a holy war against another identity group every single day.

And so I'm sticking with my blind and completely unrealistic optimism, no matter what's Mark says.

Judy Woodruff:  All right, we're going to let you do that, David Brooks.  And we're all going to wait and see what happens.

David Brooks, Mark Shields, thank you.

VOTE 2020 - Rundown Friday 11/06/2020

"Biden campaign remains confident as Trump escalates false claimsPBS NewsHour 11/06/2020


SUMMARY:  Former Vice President Joe Biden is leading President Trump in three of the five states yet to be called by the Associated Press.  Still, it’s not clear when vote counting will conclude.  Meanwhile, Trump lashed out at the voting process in a Thursday news briefing, and his campaign is filing lawsuits to challenge results.  Yamiche Alcindor reports and joins John Yang and Judy Woodruff to discuss.



"When election disinformation is a domestic threatPBS NewsHour 11/06/2020


SUMMARY:  The week has seen a flood of disinformation about the election -- much of it coming from President Trump and his allies.  In addition to false claims about voter fraud, there have been allegations that polling firms conspired to discourage Trump supporters from voting, and social media misinformation remains difficult to control.  William Brangham joins Judy Woodruff to discuss facts vs. falsehoods.



"The data behind some surprising election resultsPBS NewsHour 11/06/2020


SUMMARY:  What trends and shifts accounted for unexpected election results this week?  Amna Nawaz and Lisa Desjardins take a look at data from Pennsylvania, Georgia, Iowa, and more states critical to the outcomes of the presidential race and the balance of power in the House and Senate.

VOTE 2020 - Rundown Thursday 11/05/2020

"The stark difference between Trump’s and Biden’s responses to vote countingPBS NewsHour 11/05/2020


SUMMARY:  The outcome of the presidential race is still unknown, as a handful of states continue counting ballots.  In the meantime, legal challenges to the electoral process and protests are being mounted.  Lisa Desjardins reports, and Yamiche Alcindor and John Yang join Judy Woodruff to discuss President Trump’s “misinformation machine” and how the Biden campaign is responding to Trump’s court action.



"The status of vote counts in Pennsylvania, Michigan and GeorgiaPBS NewsHour 11/05/2020


SUMMARY:  What’s happening on the ground in the critical states where ballots are still being counted -- and how many votes remain to be totaled?  Judy Woodruff gets updates from Daniel Bush in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, William Brangham in Detroit, Michigan, and Miles O’Brien in Atlanta, Georgia.



"Key House and Senate races that have yet to be calledPBS NewsHour 11/05/2020


SUMMARY:  Although uncertainty over the presidential race’s outcome is the dominant political story, there are still important congressional contests to settle, as well.  Amna Nawaz and Lisa Desjardins provide an update on electoral votes, key Senate races in Georgia and North Carolina and the shifting balance of power in the House of Representatives.



"Arizona’s top election official on security of vote-counting processPBS NewsHour 11/05/2020


SUMMARY:  Ballots are still being counted in the battleground state of Arizona, although the Associated Press called the state for Joe Biden on Wednesday.  Officials are set to release more vote totals later Thursday evening.  Arizona’s top election official, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, joins Judy Woodruff to discuss processes and progress, the presence of election observers and the threat of litigation.

VOTE 2020 - Rundown Wednesday 11/04/2020

"Trump lashes out at vote counting as Biden urges patiencePBS NewsHour 11/04/2020


SUMMARY:  With votes still being counted in several states, the outcome of the U.S. presidential election remains unknown.  Former Vice President Joe Biden expressed confidence in his chance of winning but urged Americans to be patient for results.  President Trump, meanwhile, launched unfounded attacks on the integrity of the vote.  Yamiche Alcindor reports and joins Judy Woodruff and John Yang to discuss.



"Presidential election updates from 5 key statesPBS NewsHour 11/04/2020


SUMMARY:  Several U.S. states were still counting ballots Wednesday, and some of them will decide the outcome of the presidential race.  We get updates from Daniel Bush in Pennsylvania, William Brangham in Michigan, Zac Schultz of PBS Wisconsin, Miles O’Brien in Georgia, and John Ralston of the Nevada Independent about the election status in those five states.



"How the GOP unexpectedly gained ground in the HousePBS NewsHour 11/04/2020


SUMMARY:  What shifts in the electoral map drove results in the 2020 presidential and congressional races?  Amna Nawaz and Lisa Desjardins review the data behind outcomes for President Trump, former Vice President Joe Biden and party control of the House and Senate.



"What happened with the suburban voters Democrats were targeting?PBS NewsHour 11/04/2020


SUMMARY:  Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report and host of the podcast “Politics with Amy Walter” has been analyzing the results of Tuesday’s election.  She joins Judy Woodruff to provide insights and help us understand why voters made the decisions they did.



"What we know about vote counting and election-related lawsuitsPBS NewsHour 11/04/2020


SUMMARY:  President Trump has made it clear he is willing to challenge the results of state vote counts that have not yet been completed.  What legal recourse do candidates have in this situation?  Amna Nawaz talks to Tammy Patrick, an expert on election administration with the Democracy Fund and a former Arizona election official, and Stanford Law School’s Nate Persily of the Healthy Elections Project.



"Michigan’s secretary of state on the process of counting votesPBS NewsHour 11/04/2020


SUMMARY:  Former Vice President Joe Biden was declared the winner of Michigan’s electoral votes Wednesday evening by the Associated PressAlthough some votes are still being counted, Jocelyn Benson, Michigan’s Secretary of State, said she has been impressed by the efficiency of election workers in delivering accurate results.  Benson joins Judy Woodruff to discuss Michigan’s process and progress.

VOTE 2020 - Rundown Monday 11/02/2020

"What Trump and Biden are telling supporters as campaigns wind downPBS NewsHour 11/02/2020


SUMMARY:  As the final hours of the 2020 presidential campaign tick away, nearly 100 million Americans have already cast their ballots -- representing more than two-thirds of all 2016 votes.  Meanwhile, the candidates appealed to voters in swing states, including Pennsylvania, which is shaping up to play a critical role.  Yamiche Alcindor reports and joins Judy Woodruff and Lisa Desjardins to discuss.



"Why Philadelphia and its surrounding suburbs are ‘absolutely critical’ for BidenPBS NewsHour 11/02/2020

SUMMARY:  Pennsylvania could be a critical milestone in any path to victory during this presidential contest.  Daniel Bush is on the ground in the swing state, and he joins Judy Woodruff to discuss why Philadelphia and its surrounding suburbs are so important to both candidates, how local election officials are preparing for the vote count and when we might have an understanding of the state’s results.



"Trump and Biden representatives on final campaign strategiesPBS NewsHour 11/02/2020 Excerpt

SUMMARY:  President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden are making their final pitches to voters in the presidential campaign’s closing hours.  We check in with representatives for each: Erin Perrine, communications director for Trump’s reelection campaign, and Symone Sanders, a senior adviser to Biden.  They join Judy Woodruff to discuss strategies and messages for the lead-up to Election Day.



"Why some Americans have chosen not to vote this yearPBS NewsHour 11/02/2020 Excerpt

SUMMARY:  In most recent American elections, about four in 10 eligible voters didn’t cast ballots.  Tens of millions are poised to do the same this year.  What are non-voters saying about their rationale for sitting out the election -- one that both candidates and many Americans consider the most important in the country’s modern history?

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

U.S. MARINES - Major General Relieved of Command for Racial Slurs

 "Marine 2-Star Under Investigation for Racial Slur Has Been Relieved of Command" by Gina Harkins, Military.com 10/20/2020

COMMENT:  Being retired military (Navy 22yrs) I know regardless of result of the investigation this ends Maj. Gen. Stephen M. Neary's carrier.


A Marine general officer was removed from a high-profile post overseeing troops in Europe and Africa as an investigation continues into claims that he used a degrading term about Black people in front of his troops.

Maj. Gen. Stephen Neary was relieved as head of Marine Corps Forces Europe and Africa on Monday by the service's top general.  Commandant Gen. David Berger lost trust and confidence in Neary's ability to lead, the service announced Tuesday.

Neary did not immediately respond to a request for comment about his relief.  He remains under investigation after reportedly using the N-word while his Marines were conducting physical training while listening to rap music outside the command's headquarters in Germany, Stars and Stripes reported earlier this month.

After the word was used in one of the songs, Neary asked junior Marines how they would feel if he said it, a lance corporal told the paper.  Black, white and Latino Marines "were jolted when the general said the word," according to Stripes, which spoke to individuals who witnessed the event.

"He lost respect right there," a Marine told the paper.

Though the investigation into the allegations remains ongoing, Capt. Joe Butterfield, a Marine spokesman at the Pentagon, said the probe's initial findings led Berger to lose confidence in Neary's ability to lead the command.

Neary assumed duties as commander of Marine Corps Forces Europe and Africa in July.  The command oversees hundreds of Marines assigned to locations across Europe and Africa.

Col. James Iulo will serve as the acting commander until a replacement is determined, according to the Marine Corps.  Information about Neary's current assignment was not immediately available.

The investigation follows a military-wide effort to end racism in the ranks as cities across the country continue seeing protests following the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died in police custody earlier this year.

The Marine Corps in June became the first service to officially ban Confederate flag displays on base, and Berger said last month that signs of racism in the service must immediately be rooted out.

"Nothing crushes cohesion faster," he said at a September event hosted by Defense One.  "...  It just starts to tear apart the fabric at the tactical level.  We can't have that."

Defense Secretary Mark Esper in July outlined a series of steps each service should take to eliminate discrimination, prejudice and bias in the ranks.

"Hard work remains, and we will continue to learn as we move forward," Esper said.

Thursday, October 01, 2020

VOTE2020 - Trump Turns Presidential Debate into a Brawl

 "Trump sets the tone for the worst Presidential debate in living memory" by Dan Balz, The Washington Post 9/2/2020


No one alive has ever seen a Presidential debate like Tuesday night’s unseemly shout fest between President Trump and former vice President Joe Biden — 90 minutes of invective, interruptions and personal insults.  It was an insult to the public as well, and a sad example of the state of American democracy five weeks before the election.

On the margins, the debate probably did more to help Biden than the President, at a moment when Trump needed to change the shape and trajectory of the campaign.  But that’s not what people will remember.  Even partisans locked into their choices were probably dispirited at what they were witnessing.  One can only imagine what the next two debates between the two men will look like.

For decades, general-election debates have provided Americans with the opportunity to measure the candidates in an open forum, with moderators aiming to stay out of the way when possible.  They have always included showmanship and sharp exchanges, but within the boundaries of what people expect of their Presidents.  All of that went out the window Tuesday night.

The tone of the debate was established by Trump in the opening minutes, and it never changed to the end of the evening.  The President constantly ignored moderator Chris Wallace’s repeated pleas to maintain order as he took every opportunity and more to verbally hector Biden, throw his rival off balance and take up as much space as possible.  This was the Trump who lives on Twitter, not someone who occupies the highest office in the land.

Biden, advised to maintain his cool, constantly looked peevish at Trump’s behavior, responding at times with well-prepared rejoinders but also with dismissive verbal broadsides.  Exasperated at one point, he shot back at the President, “Will you shut up, man?”  Biden cleared the low bar of expectations that the Trump campaign had inexplicably set for him but hardly delivered a shining performance.

The dreary debate fittingly ended as it began, in a moment that foreshadowed a tumultuous and divisive end to the election, as Trump pressed his argument, without evidence, that mail ballots are rife with fraud and the election therefore will be invalid.

Trump declined to say that he would ask his supporters to stay calm until a final count had been validated and instead chillingly indicated that he plans to rile up his backers to challenge and contest the counting everywhere possible.  He said he would accept the outcome only if he believed the election had been fair.

Biden said he would accept the outcome and predicted that Trump would too, once the votes were counted, no matter the winner.  Perhaps.

The reality TV star President knows one speed on a debate stage: to attack, to bully his opponent and to ignore the rules.  For Wallace, a tough and skilled interviewer, the debate was a nightmare.

“Mr.  President! Mr. President,” he exclaimed at one point as Trump refused to stay silent when Biden was answering a question.  “Gentlemen!” he said at another moment as the two sparred loudly about Trump’s attack on Biden’s son Hunter.

Rare were the moments when the two nominees actually discussed their differences calmly and clearly in a debate that ranged across several topics, including the coronavirus pandemic, the Supreme Court, the economy, racial justice, and violence in American cities.  More often than not, rather than engaging in exchanges that even bordered on civil, Trump and Biden talked over and past each other.

Judging the debate by traditional standards gives the evening more credit than it deserves.  For most people, this was unwatchable, a grab-the-remote, change-the-channel moment in a forum that in past election years has served the country well.  What two more debates like this will accomplish is hard to imagine, other than to heighten tensions in a country already on edge.

Biden came ready to make his points and at times was far more focused in doing so than was the President.  In an opening question about the Supreme Court vacancy created by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, he touched on the Affordable Care Act, abortion, public health and the 200,000 deaths from COVID-19.  He repeatedly branded Trump a liar who didn’t know what he was talking about.

Trump played a different game, one of attack and belittle.  He hit Biden hard, particularly on law and order in the one moment when he seemed to have a prepared and consistent line of criticism and that his supporters were probably applauding.  He tried repeatedly to hang the socialist label around his rival, and Biden, perhaps to the dismay of some on the left, ran away from any suggestion that he is captive to the liberal wing of the party.

At times, each declined to answer direct questions about his positions and policy proposals.  Biden wouldn’t say whether he would support expanding the Supreme Court if he won the election and Democrats captured the Senate.  Trump wouldn’t answer a direct question about whether, as the New York Times reported, he paid just $750 in federal income taxes for 2016 and 2017.

Trump needed this debate more than did Biden, given the current shape of the race.  Four years ago, he came to the first debate with the polls narrowing and in a year when there was more movement and seeming volatility in his contest with Hillary Clinton.

This year there has been only modest movement in the polls, with Biden steadily leading by an average of nine points before the two national conventions, according to a Washington Post average of polls, and now leading by eight points.

Potentially more troubling for Trump has been his inability to break across a barrier that would move his support into the high 40s.  He has been stuck in poll averages somewhere around 43 percent or 44 percent since the late spring, while Biden has been around 50 percent or above since the beginning of last summer.

Trump’s challenge Tuesday was to change the race from a referendum on his presidency into a clear choice between him and Biden.  That is the goal of any incumbent President but especially for this President, who has used his office to make himself front and center in every way he can but in ways that now are hurting him politically.

Instead he [Trump] chose otherwise, and it could cost him.  Biden may have missed opportunities, but his only real goal was to do nothing to change the race.  On that minimal goal, he succeeded.  But that’s not what will be remembered about Tuesday night.  Instead it will be the degree to which democracy itself has suffered and could suffer more as the election plays out to its conclusion.

This has been called the most important election in generations — some say in the life of the country.  But that’s not what people who tuned in saw.  Partisans will call winners and losers as they see them, and those judgments will be predictable.  Collectively, this was not a night when the country could claim victory.  Instead, it was quite the opposite.

Monday, September 28, 2020

OPINION - Shields and Brooks 09/25/2020

 "Shields and Brooks on Ginsburg’s legacy, Trump’s election rhetoricPBS NewsHour 09/25/2020 Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week in politics, including the legacy of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the battle over filling her Supreme Court seat, President Trump’s continuing rhetoric about the integrity of voting by mail and concerns over election confusion or dissent.

Judy Woodruff (NewsHour):  It feels like a world away since we last heard the analysis of Shields and Brooks.  A lot has happened.

But that is syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

Hello to both of you on this Friday night.

Not much to ask you about, Mark.

But why don't we start with not only Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who I had planned to begin with, but now we have learned in the last hour or so, our colleague Yamiche Alcindor confirmed that the President does plan to name the appellate Judge Amy Coney Barrett to be the next nominee to the court.

I guess I'm asking you to wrap it together.  Early reaction to Barrett, but also final thoughts about Justice Ginsburg, whom we have seen honored this week.

Mark Shields, syndicated columnist:  Honored, indeed, in a wonderful send-off.

I was just, quite frankly, amazed and touched by how much she had touched women in this country.  I mean, I knew she was a folk hero and a rock star, but the real emotion that her passing generated.

In a marvelous way, she probably meant more as a litigator than she did as a jurist, not to offend anybody.  But she was the person who pleaded those cases before — and won them before the Supreme Court, especially on expanding the 14th Amendment, which was written after the Civil War, to extend not simply the — against racial discrimination, but gender discrimination.

And she won five of the six cases.  She changed America in the process.  And she gave us a marvelous example of how to reach across partisan divide.  Her friendship with Justice Antonin Scalia should be an example for all of us in Washington.

Judy Woodruff:  And, David, she did come to the court with a legacy already.

David Brooks, New York Times:  Yes, it's amazing to me first that she's the first woman to lie in state.  That is mind-boggling in 2022, that this is the first time that has happened.

She — judges, when they go and go to before their confirmation hearings, they all say their personal feelings won't affect how they judge; it's the legal automatons.  I think that's never true.  It was certainly not true with Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

She comes from a neighborhood and a culture I know very well, the Flatbush in Brooklyn, the Jewish immigrant culture there.  And when you grew up in that culture, A) you have a strong preference for the underdog.  You have a strong love of America.  She said one of her heroines was Emma Lazarus, the author of the poem on the Statue of Liberty.

[B]You have a reverential respect for law.  And I think she carried those values, not being unfaithful to being a judge, to the judicial system, but carry those values.  And I think she's admired because of those values.

Amy Coney Barrett also has values.  She's a conservative.  She is well-regarded.  When she was Supreme Court clerk to Antonin Scalia, all of the clerks, regardless of party affiliation, admired her.  When she was on the Notre Dame Law faculty, all of the faculty members, regardless of party ideology, admired her, that, personally, she seems — I have never met her.

She seems reputed to be a wonderful person.  But she has a conservative record.  She was a law professor for a long time and wrote a lot of articles, some of which were controversial and, in her 2017 confirmation hearings, were brought up.

I think it'll be hard to mount personal attacks, given what we know now.  But there will be some conservative attacks.

Judy Woodruff:  And, Mark, she does come with a record, as David say.  It's a conservative record.

Mark Shields:  She does, Judy.

She — you could say, if you're a conservative, she's probably not going to be John Roberts.  She is a true-blue and committed conservative.

But I would point out, as David laid out sort of the political land mines for Democrats, she has admirable personal credentials, the mother of seven, two adopted children.  She brought a Down syndrome pregnancy to birth, a child, is raising it, and was endorsed by both, not only the conservative members of the law faculty at Notre Dame, but all the liberals as well.

I think it's a potential land mine for both sides.  To the degree that abortion becomes the centerpiece issue, it's going to be a problem for Republicans among suburban women.  To the degree that it becomes an issue and the Democrats go on the offensive against Amy Coney Barrett, then Joe Biden's hopes of reaching out across to blue-collar white voters who had flirted with Trump in the past, maybe former Democrats, becomes a problem.

And I think if, in fact, there is any sort of a mean personal attack mounted against her, it will only — it will only hurt the Democrats.

So, I think it's very, very delicate politically for both sides.

Judy Woodruff:  Let's talk about that and the process.

David, we look back.  There's never been, in an election year, someone nominated to the Supreme Court in 230 years of the republic this close to an election.  The closest we could find was, what, 1892.  It was four months before the election.

We're now within weeks, even days, by the time there'd be a vote.  What does that say about where we are, Republicans and Democrats, and what we should look forward to in the next several weeks?

David Brooks:  Well, in a platonic, ideal world, I think Presidents should be able to nominate justices until Inauguration Day.  You're elected to a four-year term, not a three-and-a-half-year term.

So I think, in an ideal world, Trump is right.  You should be able to nominate somebody.

The problem is with Merrick GarlandOnce the Republicans set a standard, to then shred the standard so quickly shows a complete sign of opportunism, a complete sign that we're not a nation of laws and precedents, that we're just a ruthless power grab.

And so, in this case, I think it's an error.

As for the process, I think it favors the Democrats, frankly.  I think it would not favor the Democrats if they go after, as Mark said, Barrett personally, or if they go after her faith, that she's a member of a Christian community people have praised.  And some people have said that's a kind of cult.

I have been reading their magazine, "Vine & Branches."  It's a very good magazine, very intelligent magazine.  They seem to be a completely mainstream, charismatic Christian community.  And I don't find anything creepy about it at all.

But I think it's going to be an advantage for a Democrat, because I don't think it's going to be abortion as the main issue, as it normally is in the Supreme Court.  I think it's going to be health care.

I think the Democrats are smart enough not to go after her faith.  They're smart enough to say, health care is a real issue.  People are concerned about losing Obamacare.  And this could tip the balance in the court, so that Obamacare comes under threat.

And I think that's a very strong argument that Democrats can make, and it puts one of their best issues at the top of the agenda.

Judy Woodruff:  Mark, it does look like Democrats are focusing on health care.

How does that shift what's going on?  And just, if you would, address the speed of this.

Mark Shields:  Well, health, health care, Judy, workers' rights, immigrant rights, women's rights, consumer rights, I think they have to expand it, no question about it.  And it is legitimate.

I mean, the Affordable Care Act faces extinction in the Supreme Court on the 10th of November.  There were 20 million people added under the Affordable Care Act who got health insurance during Barack Obama's last six years in office, while that — while it was in effect.

During Donald Trump's time in office, 2.8 million Americans have lost their health insurance.  And that number will be increased dramatically with the repeal of the Affordable Care Act that goes with it, and all the empty promises that Republicans have made about a health care act.

I would simply point out that, since Richard Nixon in 1969, there has never been a Republican health care plan offered by any President or any Congress.

John Boehner, the speaker of the House said:  In 25 years, I have never seen a Republican health care plan.  I have worked on health care, and there has never been one.

And that is the reality.  And I think it has to be central to the debate.  So I think — and Democrats would do well on that issue.

And what you — we saw today was that a Washington Post/ABC poll, by a margin of 3-2, over — close to 60 percent believe that the decision, naming of Supreme Court justice to replace Justice Ginsburg ought to be done by the next President, the one who is elected in November.

And so I think the Democrats have that on their side.

The only thing worse than a liar, said Tennessee Williams, is a liar who's a hypocrite.  And that's exactly where Lindsey Graham, the chairman of the Republican — the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and too many of his colleagues stand tonight.

Judy Woodruff:  David, I do want to ask you both about what President Trump has been saying, raising questions about the legitimacy of the results if he's not the winner, casting doubt about mail-in ballots, virtually every day talking about that.

And you just heard the interview that William Brangham did with Bart Gellman.

Are we — should Americans be worried, as we are almost — we're just, what, a little more than five weeks from this Election Day?

David Brooks:  Yes, I was in a call, a conference call, with a bunch of scholars and political observers yesterday, and we all said, how scared are you, from one to five?  And we were pretty much at 4.5.  Some people were at nine and 10.

I have never been more pessimistic about where this country is than I am right now, I mean, in my whole life.  We have had a bad few years with the social fabric fraying.  We have had a President ripping us to top from the — ripping us apart from the top.

The Supreme Court fight maximizes the sense that people have on both sides of the other side is completely illegitimate and not playing by the rules.  And then we walk into an election night, as Barton Gellman said, where all sorts of bad things could happen.

And I think he makes the core point.  I mean, the two moments that I think I'm most afraid about is, one, election night, when we're sitting there and it looks like Trump is ahead, and what that psychology does to the country, and then the crucial distinction that he makes, which is, it's not that Trump is going to lose and refuse to go.

It's that the results could be genuinely unclear, and then we start monkeying with the electors, especially in states like Arizona and Florida, where you have a Republican governor, Republican state legislator.  A lot of key states, Pennsylvania, Michigan, you have got a Republican legislator, Democratic governor.

There's all sorts of mayhem.

And one of the things we have learned is that our system depends on the goodwill of the players involved.  And if that goodwill isn't there, then the spiral of accusation and animosity and enmity — I don't think we're going to see physical violence, but we will see a level of psychological violence that we just haven't seen since 1865.

Judy Woodruff:  Mark, less than a minute.

Words of reassurance for the American people or not?

Mark Shields:  Reassurance, Judy, I mean, let's just hope the example of Al Gore in 2000, who won the popular vote and said, this is a time when partisanship must yield for patriotism.

Donald Trump, this is not a new song for him.  He lost by 2,868,686 votes to Hillary Clinton in 2016.  And what was his explanation?  Three to five million illegal undocumented immigrants voted.  That's the only reason he didn't win the popular vote.

So he appointed a commission to examine all those.  There were no examples, Judy.  There were no examples of fraud.  They came up with nothing.

This is a total fraud.  And we will find out, I mean, what this man is made of.  Is there a scintilla of patriotism in his soul?  Will he abide by the judgment, as John McCain did so gallantly in 2008, in saying, I called Senator Obama, who was my opponent, and is now my President?

That's the example.  And I stand with David.  I'm concerned deeply.  And I just hope an aroused country and citizenry will not tolerate that kind of behavior, as well as Republicans.

I'm looking, they are — hoping not that they're an invertebrate, that there is some beat of a soul still left in the party of Abraham Lincoln.

Judy Woodruff:  Well, time for reflection for all of us and for as much transparency as possible in covering this election.

Mark Shields, David Brooks, we thank you.



AMERICAN POLITICS - The "Orange King" Threatens Democracy


"Trump prompts controversy with refusal to accept a potential election defeatPBS NewsHour 09/24/2020 Excerpt
SUMMARY:  The U.S. presidential race is preoccupied Thursday with a stunning question: Might President Trump refuse to abide by the results of an election he loses?  So far, Trump has declined to confirm he would accept defeat, prompting widespread criticism and disbelief.  But Republican lawmakers are insisting that if Trump loses, a peaceful transition of power will occur.  Amna Nawaz reports.





"Trump says voting by mail isn’t reliable.  What does the evidence show?PBS NewsHour 09/24/2020 Excerpt
SUMMARY:  President Trump’s refusal to commit to a peaceful transition of power is tied to his criticism and false statements about voting by mail, which is expected to reach record levels in this election.  Trump insists it can't be trusted -- but many state and local election officials disagree.  Miles O’Brien reports on how voting by mail works -- and what past experience indicates about its reliability.





"Why Trump’s statements on mail-in ballots, election results are ‘extremely problematic’PBS NewsHour 09/24/2020 Excerpt
SUMMARY:  Amid President Trump’s refusal to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses the election, new scrutiny is being applied to the security and integrity of American voting.  Kathleen Hall Jamieson is director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center, and she joins Judy Woodruff to discuss Trump’s “deeply problematic” statements and what they say about U.S. democracy.


VOTE 2020 - Reminder, Vote Accordingly



 "How Ruth Bader Ginsburg became the ‘Notorious RBG’PBS NewsHour 09/23/2020 Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Ruth Bader Ginsburg made legal history in academia beginning in her 20s, working her way through the legal ranks to become a Supreme Court justice at age 60.  But when she was in her 80s, something surprising happened: she became a pop culture icon.  Jeffrey Brown reports as part of our ongoing arts and culture series, Canvas.



U.S. SENATE - Push to Confirm Trump's SCOTUS Nominee

aka "Saving Trump's Presidency"


"Sen. Hassan: GOP ‘changed the rules’ about SCOTUS hearings in 2016" "The Senate’s tight timeline to confirm Trump’s SCOTUS nomineePBS NewsHour 09/21/2020 Excerpt
SUMMARY:  Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death leaving an opening on the U.S. Supreme Court mere weeks from the presidential election, a political battle is escalating over whether President Trump and Senate Republicans should push through a nominee before the country votes.  Can Democrats stop them?  New Hampshire Sen. Maggie Hassan joins Judy Woodruff to discuss Ginsburg's legacy and what comes next..





"The Senate’s tight timeline to confirm Trump’s SCOTUS nomineePBS NewsHour 09/22/2020 Excerpt
SUMMARY:  President Trump has said he will announce his choice to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the U.S. Supreme Court this Saturday.  And although it appears the Republican-led Senate will have enough votes to move forward with confirmation hearings for the nominee, the timeline for them to approve the appointee before Election Day is tight.  Lisa Desjardins joins Judy Woodruff to discuss.





"Barrasso: Why this Supreme Court battle is different from that of 2016PBS NewsHour 09/22/2020 Excerpt
SUMMARY:  Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death has left an opening on the Supreme Court only weeks before Election Day.  President Trump and the Senate GOP say they plan to fill the vacancy before the country votes.  Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, the Senate’s third-highest ranking Republican, joins Judy Woodruff to discuss why he supports moving forward with confirmation hearings for Trump’s choice of successor.