Lamb’s Takes

  1. Lying with Statistics
  2. Behind the News, October 21, 2021
    1. Colin Powell based his 2003 address to the UN, making the case for invading Iraq, on intelligence he was led to believe was sound.
    2. USA vs State of Texas
    3. Poll: Is democracy under threat?
    4. Liberal Democracy around the World
    5. False Balance
    6. Meteors in the News
    7. Theranos
    8. Flogging a Live Horse
  3. Covid
    1. Latest on Mandates
  4. Topics from Last Week
    1. Abortion
    2. COLA
    3. Covid
    4. Congress
    5. Facebook
    6. Pandora Papers
    7. January 6 Capitol Breach
  5. Topics
  6. Other Stuff
    1. Supreme Court
    2. Arizona Audit
  7. Behind the News Review and Updates Spring 2021
  8. October 22, 2020
    1. Originalism
  9. October 15, 2020
  10. October 8, 2020
    1. Contents
    2. Breonna Taylor
    3. Child Separation
    4. Debates
    5. Definition of Politics From a Poly Sci Textbook
    6. Economy
    7. Election Forecast
    8. Election Security
    9. Election Violence
    10. If POTUS and VP are both incapacitated
    11. It’s Even Worse than it Looks
    12. Ken Paxton
    13. Election 2020: What’s the problem?
    14. Operation Crossfire Hurricane
    15. QAnon, Antifa, Black Lives Matter
    16. Texas Drop Off Locations
    17. Trump’s Covid
    18. US Response to Covid
    19. Voting by Mail
  11. October 1, 2020
    1. Contents
    2. Amy Coney Barrett
    3. Inferences from Trump’s Tax Returns
    4. Coronavirus
    5. Debate
    6. Economy
    7. Election Forecast
    8. Republicans on Preexisting Conditions

Lying with Statistics

  • Class 1:
    • Statistics Overview
    • How a statistic Lies
      • It’s bogus
      • It’s misleading
      • It’s used as the basis for a bad inference
  • Class 2
    • Bogus Statistics
    • Misleading Statistics
  • Class 3
    • Making bad inferences from good statistics
  • Class 4
    • Case of Sally Clark
    • Statistical Fallacies
    • Statistical Maxims

Behind the News, October 21, 2021

Record the Show

Colin Powell based his 2003 address to the UN, making the case for invading Iraq, on intelligence he was led to believe was sound.
  • To Start a War: How the Bush Administration Took America into Iraq, Robert Draper
    • Dinner for three at the White House: Powell, Rice and Bush, August 2002
      • Rice sat silently while Powell, over the course of two hours, proceeded to do what no one else in the Bush administration had done or would do: tell the president to his face that things in Iraq could go horribly wrong. “If you break it, you own it,” he famously told Bush. Postwar governance would be an expensive and dreary slog. It would swallow whole his agenda. “This will become your first term,” he warned the president.
    • Jack Straw, British foreign secretary and friend of Powell’s:
      • “Powell kept saying to me, ‘Removing Saddam is the easy part, but then you end up becoming the proud owner of twenty-five million Iraqis in eighteen fractious provinces,’” he recalled. “And he was absolutely right. And he kept saying that. The other thing—it was completely obvious, but never properly factored in—is that if we removed Saddam, Iran would be strengthened.” 
    • Powell’s preparation for his UN Speech
      • For the next three days, Powell sat in Tenet’s conference room on the seventh floor in CIA headquarters with his speechwriting team. Line by line, data point by data point, the secretary read out the text of the National Intelligence Estimate that Saddam Hussein had WMDs. And then he asked: Does that sound right? What’s the source on this? Opposition? Kurdish? Asylum seeker? Can we trust him? If the answer did not suit him, Powell’s reply was “I’m not comfortable with that. Throw it on the floor.”
      • What Colin Powell could not have known was that George Tenet had assembled his own yea-sayers. In his agency, there were analysts who seriously doubted that Saddam had reconstituted his nuclear program. There were analysts who had come to doubt that the Iraqi regime was using trucks for CW decontamination. And there were analysts who had questions about whether Iraq had mobile BW laboratories. Those analysts were not in the conference room.
    • UN Speech, Feb 5, 2003
      • At 10:30 the following morning, Secretary Powell stood before the international body. For the next seventy-six minutes…he laid out the U.S. government’s case against Saddam. “My colleagues, every statement I make today is backed up by sources, solid sources,” Powell said in his calm but resolute and sonorous baritone. “These are not assertions. What we’re giving you are facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence.”
  • Iraq War role was a stain on Powell’s record — one he openly said he regrettedWaPo
    • Speaking to television journalist Barbara Walters after stepping down in 2005, Powell said he was “devastated” when he learned that some within the intelligence community had harbored earlier doubts about the sources cited in his presentation.
    • Subsequent investigations suggested that intelligence officials had cautioned then-CIA director George Tenet before Powell’s speech about concerns surrounding the main source behind the claim that Hussein was using mobile laboratories to advance the country’s biological weapons development, a man code-named Curveball.
    • The investigation found that Tenet did not tell Powell of those warnings. Tenet himself has said he did not learn of the concerns about the source until later.
  • Colin Powell’s Fateful Moment, Dexter Filkins, NYR
    • What happened that day at the U.N.? Powell did not talk about it much, but his friend and confidant Lawrence Wilkerson did. In an interview around the height of the Iraq War, in 2006, Wilkerson, who had been Powell’s chief of staff, told me that Powell had been deeply suspicious of the George W. Bush Administration’s efforts to push the country into war, and that, when he was tapped to make the case for the invasion at the United Nations, he insisted on vetting the evidence himself. In the lead-up to the presentation in New York, Powell and Wilkerson huddled with the nation’s top two intelligence officials at the C.I.A. headquarters—the agency’s director, George Tenet, and John McLaughlin, his deputy—to review the evidence that Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction. The four men spent several days in Tenet’s office, with Wilkerson, a former platoon commander in Vietnam, sleeping on the office couch. At the end of the session, Powell and Wilkerson came away sufficiently confident that the case for war was solid. “We had three or four sources for every item that was substantive in his presentation,” Wilkerson told me.
    • What Powell later learned, Wilkerson said, was that the “three or four” independent sources for the intelligence often turned out, in many cases, to be only one—a source brought to the intelligence agencies of the United States or one of its allies by the Iraqi National Congress, the opposition organization headed by Ahmed Chalabi, an Iraqi exile who had gained the trust of senior officials in the Bush Administration and had convinced them of the necessity of destroying Saddam’s regime. Powell discovered that the story of one I.N.C.-sponsored defector, codenamed “Curveball,” had been made to appear as though it had come from multiple sources. As Wilkerson put it, “A lot of these sources sort of tinged and merged back into a single source, and that inevitably that single source seems to be either recommended by, set up by, orchestrated by, introduced by, or whatever, by somebody in the I.N.C.”
    • Such an orchestration, it should be said, could only have reasonably been accomplished with the help of senior officials in the U.S. government—in the White House, intelligence agencies, and elsewhere. Wilkerson told me that he suspected that Tenet and McLaughlin had been warned off the shaky intelligence by German allies, but that they had used it anyway, without warning Powell. We know, in fact, that Tenet was under enormous pressure from the White House, where President Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney had seemingly already made up their minds about invading Iraq, to come up with a solid case to publicly justify the decision.
USA vs State of Texas
  • The United States of America seeks
    • a declaratory judgment that SB 8 is invalid under the 14th Amendment and the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution.
    • a preliminary and permanent injunction against the State of Texas—including all officers, employees, and agents, including private parties who would bring suit under S.B. 8—prohibiting any and all enforcement of SB 8
  • First Argument
    • SB 8 deprives women in Texas of their constitutional right to an abortion, by providing that “a physician may not knowingly perform or induce an abortion . . . if the physician detect[s] a fetal heartbeat.”
    • The United States has the authority and responsibility to ensure that a state does not deprive individuals of their constitutional rights
  • Second Argument
    • The Supremacy Clause of the Constitution prohibits states from interfering with the federal government’s exercise of its constitutional powers
      • Various federal laws require the United States to assist people who need abortions. Millhiser
        • Prison regulations provide that medical officials in federal prisons “shall arrange for an abortion to take place” when a pregnant inmate requests one. 
        • Under certain circumstances, the Defense Department is required to provide abortions. Medicaid may be required to cover medically necessary abortions.
    • But, under SB 8, federal officials who fulfill these legal obligations can be sued and potentially forced to pay bounties. And the federal government will have to pay for the cost of transporting at least some abortion patients in Texas across state lines. Millhiser
Poll: Is democracy under threat?

The Americans who see democracy most at risk? Republicans. Philip Bump WaPo

Liberal Democracy around the World
  • US is a Representative, Constitutional, Presidential, Federal, Liberal Democracy
    • Representative vs Direct
    • Constitutional vs no written constitution
    • Presidential vs Parliamentary
    • Federal vs Unitary
  • What is a liberal democracy?
  • Go to Democracy
False Balance
  • Texas school official tells teachers that Holocaust books should be countered with ‘opposing’ viewsWaPo
    • A North Texas school district apologized late Thursday after an administrator advised teachers that if they have books about the Holocaust in their classrooms, they should also include reading materials that have “opposing” perspectives of the genocide that killed millions of Jews.
    • During a training session on what books teachers can have in their classroom libraries, Gina Peddy, executive director of curriculum and instruction for the Carroll Independent School District, referenced a new Texas law that requires educators to present multiple perspectives when discussing “widely debated and currently controversial” issues.
    • “Just try to remember the concepts of [House Bill] 3979,” Peddy said on Oct. 8, according to a recording obtained by NBC News, which first reported the story. “And make sure that if you have a book on the Holocaust that you have one that has an opposing, that has other perspectives.”
    • When Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) signed HB 3979 into law on Sept. 1, the state prohibited teachers from discussing “a particular current event or widely debated and currently controversial issue of public policy or social affairs.” The law states that if a teacher does engage in that kind of discussion in the classroom, the educator is required to “explore such issues from diverse and contending perspectives without giving deference to any one perspective.”
  • View False Balance
Meteors in the News
  • Meteorite Crashes Through Ceiling and Lands on Woman’s BedNYT
    • Ruth Hamilton was fast asleep in her home in British Columbia when she awoke to the sound of her dog barking, followed by “an explosion.” She jumped up and turned on the light, only to see a hole in the ceiling. 
    • She called 911 and, while on the phone with an operator, noticed a large charcoal gray object between her two floral pillows.
    • “Oh, my gosh,” she recalled telling the operator, “there’s a rock in my bed.”
    • The 2.8-pound meteorite had barely missed Ms. Hamilton’s head, leaving “drywall debris all over my face,” she said.
    • Ms. Hamilton’s rock was one of two meteorites that hit Golden that night. In a field less than a mile away, a second meteorite was found, after triangulating its location based on photographs and videos that several people around the area had sent in.
  • Did a Meteor Explode Over New Hampshire? That May Explain the Boom.NYT
    • Satellite imagery suggests that a meteor might have exploded in the atmosphere over New Hampshire, according to those meteorologists, who say that explanation is not at all far out.
    • This time of year is known for intense meteor showers: the Draconids that peaked two days earlier and the Orionids that continue until November. The fireballs that explode in a bright terminal flash are known as bolides.
  • Terminology
    • A meteor is the glowing streak in the sky.
    • A meteoroid is the object doing the streaking, a piece of an asteroid or comet.
    • A meteorite is a meteoroid that makes it to the Earth’s surface.
    • A bolide is a meteoroid that explodes before it hits the ground.
  • Trial of Elizabeth Holmes NYT
    • Holmes is fighting 12 counts of fraud for her role in building Theranos into a $9 billion company that collapsed when it was revealed that its blood tests did not work. She has pleaded not guilty; if convicted, she faces up to 20 years in jail.
  • Elizabeth Holmes founded Theranos (thair-a-nos) in 2003, when she was 19.
  • She claimed her testing device could run hundreds of blood tests on a few drops from a finger pinprick rather than from a venous draw.
  • She persuaded high-powered people to invest in the company:
    • James Mattis, Board member
    • George Shultz, Board member
    • Henry Kissinger, Board member
    • Rupert Murdoch, Investor
  • In 2013 Walgreens announced that it had partnered with Theranos to establish wellness centers inside its pharmacies.
  • Yet earlier, in 2010, Kevin Hunter at Walgreens, who had worked for Quest Diagnostics for eight years, had unsuccessfully tried to persuade his colleagues to run tests comparing the Theranos’ testing machine with conventional blood-testing equipment. He was sidelined by his boss at the urging of Holmes.
  • In 2015 John Carreyrou of the Wall Street Journal published a series of articles revealing that the company’s technology didn’t work.
  • The company went out of business in 2018.
  • Elizabeth Holmes Trial: Retailers Vetted Theranos Without Testing Devices, Oct 13 WSJ
    • Walgreens and Safeway
  • Department of Justice (DOJ)
    • Elizabeth Holmes and Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani are charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and nine counts of wire fraud.  According to the indictment, the charges stem from allegations that Holmes and Balwani engaged in a multi-million-dollar scheme to defraud investors, and a separate scheme to defraud doctors and patients.
      • [Wire fraud is fraud using telecommunications or the Internet.]
  • Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup, by John Carreyrou
  • Key takeaways from the sixth week of the Elizabeth Holmes trial.NYT
    • But in emails, Mr. Burd became increasingly frustrated with Ms. Holmes and Theranos.
    • Wade Miquelon and Nimesh Jhaveri, two former Walgreens executives, offered a similar tale. 
    • In opening statements, Robert Leach, an assistant U.S. attorney leading the prosecution, said Theranos had created a 55-page report that prominently displayed the logos of pharmaceutical makers like GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer and Schering-Plough and that appeared to validate Theranos’s technology. Theranos used the report to solicit investments.
    • Jurors recently spent six days hearing from the former Theranos lab director Adam Rosendorff, who testified about his work on highly technical elements of the blood testing. The job required long hours, intricate knowledge of the science behind the tests, and frequent communication with executives, doctors and patients, he said. Dr. Rosendorff left over Theranos’s lab practices and sent damning information to The Wall Street Journal.
    • He was replaced by a dermatologist.
  • John Carreyrou
    • So, I’ve been fielding queries from reporters asking me to confirm that former Theranos lab director Adam Rosendorff, who is currently testifying at Elizabeth Holmes’s trial, was my source. I can now confirm it. Alan Beam = Adam Rosendorff.
Flogging a Live Horse
  • Trump’s never-ending parade of election falsehoodsWaPo Fact Checker
    • During a nearly two-hour speech in Des Moines Oct. 9, filled with his usual falsehoods, the former president devoted more than 20 minutes to claiming, in detail, how the 2020 presidential election supposedly was stolen from him.
    • Trump’s technique from the start has been to overwhelm his listeners with details — usually irrelevant details — to leave an impression of an election system that is highly suspicious and fraudulent.
    • Example
      • Trump
        • “In Michigan, the legislature found that over 300,000 people were listed on the voter rolls, even though they hadn’t voted in over 20 years.”
      • Fact Check
        • This is another figure that is meaningless to the 2020 election result — especially if these people did not vote in the election.
    • The Pinocchio Test
      • Is there any doubt? But truly, Four Pinocchios is not enough.


Latest on Mandates
  • Texas governor bars Covid vaccine mandates.NYT
    • Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) on Monday banned any entity in his state — including private businesses — from mandating coronavirus vaccines for workers or customers, expanding prior executive orders from his office that prohibited state government entities from imposing similar requirements.
  • American and Southwest Airlines reject the Texas order banning vaccine mandates. NYT
  • Federal vaccine mandates can override Texas’ sweeping new ban, experts say.NYT
    • An order by the governor of Texas barring nearly all Covid-19 vaccine mandates in the state appears sweeping. But legal experts say that it does not supersede President Biden’s orders requiring vaccine mandates for many kinds of employees, and that it is likely to be challenged in court, where the case law so far has been heavily in favor of the validity of vaccine requirements.
  • Biden administration: Texas abortion ban, in place despite constitutional questions, offers road map for other statesWaPo
    • Allowing the ban to stand, they said, provides a road map for state legislatures to craft laws that infringe on other constitutional rights. States could ban the sale of firearms, the expression of particular views or worship by certain faiths.
    • “If Texas’s scheme is permissible, no constitutional right is safe from state-sanctioned sabotage of this kind,” the Justice Department told the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit. “Partisans of one stripe or another might cheer these outcomes, but they should horrify anyone committed to the principle that this diverse nation is bound by one Constitution.”
    • A three-judge panel could rule as soon as this week on whether to leave the ban in place while litigation continues.

Topics from Last Week

  • Federal Judge Halts Strict Texas Law Banning Most AbortionsNYT
    • In his 113-page ruling, Judge Robert L. Pitman, a Federal District Court judge in Austin, sided with the Biden administration, which had sued to halt a law that has changed the landscape of the abortion fight and further fueled the national debate over whether abortion will remain legal.
    • “From the moment S.B. 8 went into effect, women have been unlawfully prevented from exercising control over their own lives in ways that are protected by the Constitution,” he wrote in his opinion.
    • “It is ordered that the State of Texas, including its officers, officials, agents, employees and any other persons or entities acting on its behalf, are preliminarily enjoined from enforcing Texas Health and Safety Code,” Judge Pitman wrote.
    • Judge Pitman said state court judges and state court clerks who had the power to enforce or administer the law were not to do so.
    • “S.B. 8 says if an injunction is dismissed, you are still accountable for abortions you did while you were protected by that injunction,” said John Seago, the legislative director for the anti-abortion group Texas Right to Life.
  • Why the Social Security COLA is jumping next year AP
    • Rising inflation has triggered a sizable increase in Social Security’s annual cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, for 2022: 5.9%
    • Over the last 10 years, the Social Security COLA has averaged about 1.7% annually as inflation remained low. 
    • The Great Recession saw a COLA increase of 5.8% for 2009.
    • For a larger COLA increase you have to go back nearly 40 years, 7.4% for 1983.
    • A 5.9% COLA will increase the average Social Security payment for a retired worker by about $92 a month
  • Pfizer Asks F.D.A. to Authorize Its Covid-19 Vaccine for Children 5 to 11 NYT
    • Approval depends not only on the strength of the clinical trial data, but on whether Pfizer can prove they can manufacture a new pediatric formulation.
    • Pfizer has proposed giving children one-third of the adult dosage.
  • U.S. Coronavirus Death Toll Surpasses 700,000 Despite Wide Availability of VaccinesNYT
    • An overwhelming majority of Americans who have died in recent months were unvaccinated.
    • People who died in the last three and a half months were concentrated in the South, where vaccinations have lagged. Many of the deaths were reported in Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas.
    • Those who died were younger. In August, every age group under 55 had its highest death toll of the pandemic.
    • See Map
  • Merck’s Antiviral Pill, Molnupiravir (mull-new-PEER-a-veer)
    • The drug is for people with Covid who are not hospitalized.
    • The pill reduces the risk of hospitalization and death by 50 percent.
    • By contrast, monoclonal antibodies reduce hospitalizations and deaths by 85 percent, but are administered intravenously. 
    • Molnupiravir, a fake piece of RNA, tricks the coronavirus into using it to replicate:
      • A coronavirus invades a human cell, forcing it to make millions of new coronaviruses, using the virus’ RNA.
        • Viruses have genes but can’t make proteins or replicate by themselves.
      • An infected cell absorbs a Molnupiravir molecule.
      • The molecule becomes embedded in the virus’ RNA.
      • The infected cell continues to make new viruses but their RNA is screwed up so they can’t replicate.
    • Molnupiravir and Remdesivir are similar but undermine viral replication differently.
  • Vaccine Mandates
    • ‘Mandates Are Working’: Employer Ultimatums Lift Vaccination Rates, So Far NYT
    • N.Y.C. Schools’ Vaccine Mandate Is in Place. 96% of Teachers Got a Shot.NYT
      • The mandate is the first full vaccine requirement for any group of city workers and affects well over 150,000 teachers and staff members.
      • About 95 percent of all full-time school employees have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, the mayor said, including 96 percent of teachers and 99 percent of principals.
  • Biden Sides with the Liberals on his Agenda
    • $1 Trillion Infrastructure Bill
      • Fixes the nation’s roads, bridges, pipes, ports, and Internet connections. 
      • Has already passed the Senate
      • Moderate House Democrats wanted an immediate vote on the bill.
    • $3.5 Trillion Build Back Better Act
      • The reconciliation bill authorizes $3.5 trillion to expand Medicare (dental, hearing, vision), combat climate change, and boost lots of federal aid programs.
        • What’s in the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill? CBS News
        • Here’s What’s In The Democrats’ $3.5 Trillion Budget Blueprint NPR
      • Supported by liberals
      • Manchin and Sinema want to reduce the price tag to $1.5 trillion, prompting liberals to block the infrastructure bill as leverage in the ongoing talks.
      • Possible $2 trillion compromise
    • Biden Pulls Back on Infrastructure Bill, Tying It to Social Policy Measure, NYT
      • Biden told Congressional Democrats that a vote on the Infrastructure bill must wait until Democrats pass the social policy and climate change package.
  • Debt Ceiling Increased through Early December.
    • Senate Leaders Agree to Vote on Short-Term Debt Ceiling Increase NYT
      • Top Senate Democrats and Republicans said they had struck a deal to allow the debt ceiling to be raised through early December.
    • The Disagreement
      • Senate Democrats want to increase the debt ceiling with bipartisan support, requiring 10 Republican votes.
      • McConnell has said Democrats are on their own and must use budget reconciliation.
    • As the U.S. Hurtles Toward a Debt Crisis, What Does McConnell Want? NYT
      • McConnell has said the government must not be allowed to stop paying its debts.  He has also said he will not let any Republicans vote to raise the debt limit.
      • Mr. McConnell has prescribed a single alternative for Democrats: Use budget reconciliation to maneuver around the Republican filibuster that he refuses to lift.
      • The Senate Budget Committee must produce a resolution that includes instructions to raise the debt ceiling, which must then pass the House and Senate and weather a barrage of hostile amendments. Then the House must draft and vote on a separate bill to lift the debt ceiling, which would then go to the Senate, where it could not be filibustered but would again have to survive an onslaught of politically difficult votes. Any proposal could be considered, and if any were adopted, the measure would be forced back to the House.
    • Why is McConnell making Democrats use budget reconciliation?
    • Debt
      • Failing to increase the debt limit would have catastrophic economic consequences.
    • Democrats Weigh Filibuster Change to Solve Debt Ceiling Fight NYT
    • Minting a $1 trillion platinum coin to bypass the debt ceilingAP
      • A quirky law from more than 20 years ago seems to allow the administration to mint coins of any denomination without congressional approval as long as they’re platinum.
      • The Treasury can’t introduce new currency into circulation, only the Fed can do that. In theory, the coin would be minted and deposited with the Fed and its value would make its way into Treasury’s general account and used to pay a whole lot of bills.
        • Yellen to the Fed “I’d like to make a deposit.”
    • The debt limit fight is a scam. The GOP counts on voters not knowing that. Bruce BartlettWaPo (Bruce Bartlett was a domestic policy adviser to President Ronald Reagan.)
      • No matter how far they take their threat this time, McConnell and Republicans are counting on Americans not understanding what the debt ceiling is — that’s the only way this scam can work.
      • The debt limit is a legal formality. It isn’t an economic constraint on the federal government’s ability to borrow. A vote to raise it isn’t a vote for more debt; it’s a vote to fund the debts the government already owes.
  • Why act at the 11th hour when you’ve got 59 minutes left?
  • Ex-Facebook manager criticizes company, urges more oversightAP
    • While accusing the giant social network of pursuing profits over safety, Frances Haugen, a former Facebook data scientist, told Congress Tuesday she believes stricter government oversight could alleviate the dangers the company poses, from harming children to inciting political violence to fueling misinformation.
    • Haugen’s accusations were buttressed by tens of thousands of pages of internal research documents she secretly copied before leaving her job in the company’s civic integrity unit.
    • Haugen said a 2018 change to the content flow contributed to more divisiveness and ill will in a network ostensibly created to bring people closer together.
Pandora Papers
  • They finally opened Pandora’s Box. Inside were 11.9 million financial documents.
  • Key findings from the Pandora Papers investigationWaPo
    • The Pandora Papers investigation has revealed the flows of money, property and other assets concealed in the offshore financial system.
    • The documents were obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
    • A few findings:
      • Country leaders on five continents use the offshore system, e.g. King Abdullah of Jordan
      • Some American states have become central to the global offshore system, e.g. South Dakota
January 6 Capitol Breach
  • Cases
  • House panel subpoenas organizers of Jan. 6 Trump rallyAP
    • A House committee investigating the violent Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection has subpoenaed 11 officials who helped plan rallies in support of former President Donald Trump ahead of the attack.
    • The announcement follows a first round of subpoenas last week that targeted former White House and administration officials who were in contact with Trump before and during the insurrection.


Other Stuff

Supreme Court
  • Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization
    • The law, enacted in 2018 by the Republican Mississippi Legislature, banned abortions if “the probable gestational age of the unborn human” was more than 15 weeks. The statute included narrow exceptions for medical emergencies or “a severe fetal abnormality.” Lower courts said the law was plainly unconstitutional under Roe, which forbids states from banning abortions before fetal viability.
  • New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. Bruen
    • The case is a challenge to a New York state law requiring anyone who wishes to carry a handgun in public to demonstrate “proper cause” to obtain a license.
  • The Supreme Court Has Gone Off the Rails, Donald Ayer NYT (Donald Ayer was a U.S. attorney and principal deputy solicitor general in the Reagan administration and deputy attorney general in the George H.W. Bush administration.)
    • “My concerns about what the Supreme Court might do now are fed by its actions in the recent past. Last term was marked by a number of radical departures from precedent and existing law to elevate certain constitutional rights of individuals in a way that can stop government at all levels in its tracks.”
Arizona Audit
  • Fact check: Arizona audit affirmed Biden’s win, didn’t prove voter fraud, contrary to Trump claim USA Today
  • Arizona Vote Review ‘Made Up the Numbers,’ Election Experts Say NYT
    • Both Cyber Ninjas and the Republican-controlled State Senate have refused to disclose the details of the Ninja’s hand count.
    • But a worksheet in a report for the Arizona Senate contained results of the hand count by Cyber Ninjas of 40 of the 1,634 boxes of ballots.
      • For the 40 boxes
        • Ninja investigators counted 32,674 ballots
        • The official count was 48,371 ballots
        • An Arizona Senate machine recount was 48,366 ballots.
    • So the Ninja count was 15,692 less than the official count.
    • See Audit Guys Report

Behind the News
Review and Updates
Spring 2021

From Vaccination Mandates

  • ‘A tipping point’: Government officials, health groups move to require coronavirus vaccines for workersWaPo
    • The Department of Veterans Affairs, which runs one of the nation’s largest health systems, announced Monday it would mandate coronavirus vaccines for its front-line workers, becoming the first federal agency to do so and signaling what some experts said could be a national pivot to such requirements.
    • Faced with the explosive growth of a new virus variant, the state of California and the city of New York gave workers a choice: Get vaccinated or face weekly testing.
    • And an array of hospitals from coast to coast, including the prestigious Mayo Clinic, declared they would require staff to get vaccinated, following a joint plea from the nation’s major medical groups.
  • Biden orders tough new vaccination rules for federal workersAP
    • Federal workers will be required to sign forms attesting they’ve been vaccinated against the coronavirus or else comply with new rules on mandatory masking, weekly testing, distancing and more. 
  • Walmart and Disney Join a Growing Group of Businesses Requiring VaccinesNYT
    • Walmart and the Walt Disney Company introduced new requirements that some employees be vaccinated. They followed similar announcements this past week from Google, Facebook, Uber and others.
  • Here are the companies mandating vaccines for all or some employees NBC News
  • Colleges Requiring a Coronavirus Vaccine for Fall US News
  • The H.H.S. will require its health workers to get the Covid vaccine. NYT
  • Pentagon orders all active and reserve military personnel to be vaccinated WaPo
  • F.D.A. Fully Approves Pfizer-BioNTech’s Vaccine, a First for a Covid-19 ShotNYT
    • The Food and Drug Administration on Monday granted full approval to Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine for people 16 and older, a decision that is likely to set off a cascade of vaccine requirements by hospitals, colleges and universities, corporations and other organizations.
    • Within hours, the Pentagon, CVS, the State University of New York system and the New York City school system, among others, announced that they would enforce mandates they had prepared but made contingent on the F.D.A.’s action.
  • Delta steps up pressure on employees to get vaccinated. NYT
    • Delta Air Lines is intensifying pressure on employees to get vaccinated with a series of increasingly burdensome requirements over the coming weeks and months, though it stopped short of the mandates that other airlines and businesses have put in place.
    • In a letter to employees on Wednesday, the carrier’s chief executive, Ed Bastian, said:
      • those who had not been vaccinated would immediately be required to wear masks indoors.
      • Starting on Sept. 12, they will also have to take weekly coronavirus tests.
      • On Sept. 30, unvaccinated workers will lose pay protection for employees who test positive for the virus and miss work while having to quarantine.
      • Finally, starting on Nov. 1, any employee who remains unvaccinated will have to pay an additional $200 per month to remain on the company’s health care plan.
  • Supreme Court won’t block Indiana University vaccine mandate as Justice Barrett rejects student pleaWaPo
    • The lower courts relied on a Supreme Court precedent from 1905. In Jacobson v. Massachusetts, the court backed a government requirement that people get vaccinated against smallpox or pay a fine.
  • Jacobson v. Massachusetts
    • Wikipedia
      • Jacobson v. Massachusetts, 197 U.S. 11 (1905), was a United States Supreme Court case in which the Court upheld the authority of states to enforce compulsory vaccination laws. The Court’s decision articulated the view that individual liberty is not absolute and is subject to the police power of the state.
    • From the ruling by Justice John Marshall Harlan (Legal Information Institute)
      • “But the liberty secured by the Constitution of the United States to every person within its jurisdiction does not import an absolute right in each person to be, at all times and in all circumstances, wholly freed from restraint. There are manifold restraints to which every person is necessarily subject for the common good. On any other basis organized society could not exist with safety to its members. Society based on the rule that each one is a law unto himself would soon be confronted with disorder and anarchy. Real liberty for all could not exist under the operation of a principle which recognizes the right of each individual person to use his own, whether in respect of his person or his property, regardless of the injury that may be done to others.”
    • New Yorker
      • In 1905 the Supreme Court considered a Massachusetts law that empowered cities’ boards of health to mandate vaccination of all residents if they found it “necessary for the public health or safety.” After an outbreak of a virulent strain of smallpox, the Cambridge board determined that vaccination was “necessary for the speedy extermination of the disease” and required all residents to receive the vaccine. A pastor from Sweden, who claimed that he had been made sick by a vaccine as a child, refused and was criminally convicted and fined. He challenged the law as a violation of due process, arguing that compulsory vaccination was “hostile to the inherent right of every freeman to care for his own body and health in such way as to him seems best, and . . . nothing short of an assault upon his person.”
      • The Court, in Jacobson v. Massachusetts, disagreed, reciting the principle that individual liberty is not absolute in the face of “the common good,” and that “real liberty for all” depends on restraining individual exercises of liberty that harm others. The Court, as Justice John Marshall Harlan wrote, was therefore “unwilling to hold it to be an element in the liberty secured by the Constitution of the United States that one person, or a minority of persons, residing in any community and enjoying the benefits of its local government, should have the power thus to dominate the majority” that acts through the state’s authority to protect health and safety. The Court therefore held that a state had legal authority to require vaccinations. Seventeen years later, it also held that neither due process nor equal protection prohibited a San Antonio ordinance making vaccination a condition of children’s attendance in schools.
          • In Zucht v. King (1922) the Supreme Court ruled that the school district of San Antonio, Texas, could constitutionally exclude unvaccinated students from attending the schools in the district.
      • Since the nineteen-eighties, all fifty states have required vaccinations for school attendance, subject to some exemptions, including on medical and religious grounds. Vaccination requirements have long been challenged by religious objectors, but the challenges are routinely rejected, as long as reasonable accommodations are offered.
  • We Work at the A.C.L.U. Here’s What We Think About Vaccine Mandates. NYT
    • Vaccines are a justifiable intrusion on autonomy and bodily integrity. That may sound ominous, because we all have the fundamental right to bodily integrity and to make our own health care decisions. But these rights are not absolute. They do not include the right to inflict harm on others.
    • Schools, health care facilities, the U.S. military and many other institutions have long required vaccination for contagious diseases like mumps and measles that pose far less risk than the coronavirus does today. 
    • In this context, Covid-19 vaccine mandates — much like mask mandates — are public health measures necessary to protect people from severe illness and death. They are therefore permissible in many settings where the unvaccinated pose a risk to others, including schools and universities, hospitals, restaurants and bars, workplaces and businesses open to the public.
    • Where a vaccine is not medically contraindicated, however, avoiding a deadly threat to the public health typically outweighs personal autonomy and individual freedom.
    • What about those who object to vaccination on religious grounds? Like personal autonomy, religious freedom is an essential right, but not an unfettered license to inflict harm on others. As the Supreme Court explained more than 75 years ago in Prince v. Massachusetts: “The right to practice religion freely does not include liberty to expose the community or the child to communicable disease or the latter to ill health or death.”
    • The real threat to civil liberties comes from states banning vaccine and mask mandates. Even though most Covid-19 vaccine mandates do not infringe civil liberties, several states, including Florida, Iowa, South Carolina and Texas, have banned vaccine mandates or mask mandates — and sometimes both — in the name of freedom. But these bans directly endanger the public health and make more deaths from the disease inevitable. They trample the rights of the most vulnerable, who want to participate in society without putting their health at grave risk.
  • Senate Filibuster
    • To get bills through the Senate, Democrats must either get 60 votes, use budget reconciliation (requiring only a simple majority), or modify the filibuster.
    • Democrats used budget reconciliation for fiscal 2021 to pass the American Rescue Plan.
    • It had appeared that Democrats could pass only one more budget reconciliation bill this year, for fiscal 2022. But the Senate parliamentarian ruled that Democrats can do additional reconciliation bills this year, enabling them to pass legislation beyond the American Jobs Plan.
    • However, Schumer’s filibuster workaround spurs mass confusion Politico
    • H.R. 1, the voting rights bill, cannot be passed using budget reconciliation. Without 10 Republican votes, the Democrats will be forced to change the filibuster.
      • House Democrats’ massive voting rights bill, explained Vox
    • Joe Manchin, WaPo OpEd, April 7, 2021
      • “There is no circumstance in which I will vote to eliminate or weaken the filibuster.”
      • “I simply do not believe budget reconciliation should replace regular order in the Senate.”
  • Danger of Disinformation
    • Three Reasons people believe disinformation:
      • They believe what they want to be true
      • They jump to conclusions, knowing only part of the story.
      • They exist in epistemic bubbles.
    • Majority of Republicans still believe the 2020 election was stolen from Donald TrumpIpsos, April 2, 2021
      • 55% of Republicans believe Trump’s 2020 election loss resulted from illegal voting or election rigging.
    • In Virginia governor’s race, Trump’s false stolen-election claim looms largeReuters
      • Judging from the crowded field of seven Republican hopefuls vying for Governor, former President Donald Trump still looms large and could well determine the outcome.
      • Candidates:
        • After the election Amanda Chase encouraged Trump to impose martial law to remain in power.
        • Glenn Youngkin, a former hedge fund executive, is calling for an “election integrity task force.”
        • Businessman Pete Snyder is running an ad promising to “stop liberals from rigging the system.”
        • Peter Doran, a former think tank CEO, touts a “Voter Integrity Plan” on his website.
        • Kirk Cox, the former Virginia House speaker, is the one Republican candidate who has declared Biden the winner.
      • Frank Luntz, Republican communications consultant and pollster:
        • Conspiracy theories about election fraud are likely to turn off many moderate voters needed to win the Nov. 2 general election, said Frank Luntz, a veteran Republican pollster.
        • “This is probably the most significant political conundrum I have ever seen,” said Luntz, who called Virginia a test case for the future of the Republican Party.
  • Capitol Insurrectionists
  • What an analysis of 377 Americans arrested or charged in the Capitol insurrection tells us, Robert Pape, WaPo
    • The Chicago Project on Security and Threats (CPOST), working with court records, has analyzed the demographics and home county characteristics of the 377 Americans, from 250 counties in 44 states, arrested or charged in the Capitol attack.
    • The most interesting characteristic common to the insurrectionists’ backgrounds has to do with changes in their local demographics:
      • Counties with the most significant declines in the non-Hispanic White population are the most likely to produce insurrectionists who now face charges.
    • For example, Texas is the home of 36 of the 377 charged or arrested nationwide. The majority of the state’s alleged insurrectionists — 20 of 36 — live in six quickly diversifying blue counties such as Dallas and Harris (Houston). In fact, all 36 of Texas’s rioters come from just 17 counties, each of which lost White population over the past five years. Three of those arrested or charged hail from Collin County north of Dallas, which has lost White population at the very brisk rate of 4.3 percent since 2015.
  • Quarterly Gap in Party Affiliation Largest Since 2012 Gallup
    • In Gallup polling throughout the first quarter of 2021, an average of 49% of U.S. adults identified with the Democratic Party or said they are independents who lean toward the Democratic Party. That compares with 40% who identified as Republicans or Republican leaners. The nine-percentage-point Democratic advantage is the largest Gallup has measured since the fourth quarter of 2012. In recent years, Democratic advantages have typically been between four and six percentage points.
  • American Jobs Plan
    • What’s in Biden’s Infrastructure Plan? NYT Upshot
      • Transportation
        • Among the proposals:
          • Modernize 20,000 miles of highways and roads;
          • Repair 10,000 bridges;
          • By 2030, build a network of 500,000 electric vehicle chargers.
      • Buildings and Utilities
        • Includes more than $200 billion in tax credits and grants to improve and build affordable housing.
      • Jobs and Innovation
        • Proposes more than $500 billion to invest in the manufacturing sector, worker training and research and development.
      • In-Home Care
        • Includes $400 billion to expand access to caregiving for those who are older and those with disabilities, and to improve pay and benefits for caregivers.
    • Tax and Spending
      • Spending of $2 trillion would take place over 8 years.
      • Biden’s tax plan, outlined in the Made-in-America Tax Plan, would raise about $2.5 trillion over 15 years by:
        • increasing the corporate tax rate to 28 percent from 21 percent
        • imposing, on large profitable companies that pay no income tax, a 15 percent tax on the profits they report to investors.
        • increasing taxes on companies that try to lower their tax burden by shifting assets and profits overseas.
    • Charts
      • Steve Rattner’s Morning Joe Charts: An “Infrastructure” Plan for the Ages Steven Rattner
      • What’s in Biden’s $2 trillion jobs and infrastructure plan? WaPo
      • What’s in Biden’s Infrastructure Plan? Parlapiano and Tankersley NYT Upshot
  • Economic Analysis
    • The Macroeconomic Consequences of the American Jobs Plan Moody’s Analytics
      • The plan’s proposed spending on infrastructure is large but spread over the next decade and paid for in significant part with higher taxes on corporations. Despite the higher corporate taxes and the larger government deficits, the plan provides a meaningful boost to the nation’s long-term economic growth.
  • What’s in a name?
    • Biden Plan Spurs Fight Over What ‘Infrastructure’ Really Means, NYT
    • The GOP claim that only 5 to 7 percent of Biden’s plan is for ‘real infrastructure’  WaPo FC
    • Republicans resort to quibbling over the definition of infrastructure Rubin WaPo
    • Republicans may regret their Luddite view of infrastructure Rubin WaPo
    • The GOP, America’s most selfless political party, Rampell WaPo

More than 171,000 migrants were taken into custody along the U.S. southern border in March, the highest monthly total since 2006

Family Members19,00053,000
Single Adult 72,00099,000
  • How a Political Party can Subvert Democracy
    • Three Ways
      • Gerrymandering
      • Voter Suppression
      • Politicizing Election Administration
    • Possible Fourth Way
      • Congressional Rejection of Electoral Votes for the Opposition
    • View Georgia’s Voting Law
      • “The new Georgia election law risks making election subversion easier.” — Nate Cohn

October 22, 2020

  • James Randi
  • Originalism
    • Originalism and Stare Decisis, by Amy Coney Barret (Notre Dame Law Review (2017)
      • “Originalism maintains both that constitutional text means what it did at the time it was ratified and that this original public meaning is authoritative.”
    • Amy Coney Barrett’s Originalism Threatens Our Freedoms, by Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the law school at the University of California, Berkeley. (NYT, October 21, 2020),
      • “Under the original public meaning of the Constitution, it would be unconstitutional to elect a woman as president or vice president until the Constitution is amended. Article II refers to them with the pronoun “he,” and there is no doubt that original understanding was that only men could hold these offices.”
  • Academic Tweeting

October 15, 2020

  • Coronavirus Cases
    • U.S. Virus Cases Climb Toward a Third Peak (NYT)
      • There are reasons for optimism, Dr. Rivers said, like increased testing capacity and better knowledge about effective treatments and containment measures. But, she said, several factors keep her concerned about the current rise. Dr. Rivers pointed to the start of flu season, the continued politicization of control measures like mask mandates and cold temperatures that would force people indoors, where the virus thrives.
      • Caitlin Rivers is an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University.
  • Covid-19, the Disease
  • Definition of Politics
  • Election Forecast
  • Election 2020: What’s the problem?
  • Trump’s Numbers
    • We present statistics for the president’s time in office, which may seem good or bad or just neutral, depending on the reader’s point of view.
    • We make no judgment as to how much credit or blame any president deserves for things that happen during his time in office.
    • Lamb:
      • Compare a statistic:
        • The trade deficit increased 21.2% during Trump’s time in office.
      • with a causal statement based on the statistic:
        • Actions of the Trump administration are responsible for the trade deficit increasing 21.2%.
  • Jetpack Sighted Again Above Los Angeles, This Time at 6,000 Feet

October 8, 2020

Breonna Taylor
  • Grand jury recordings capture dispute over Breonna Taylor’s final moments, but not prosecutors’ recommendations (WaPo)
    • Police and civilian witnesses sharply disagreed about whether Louisville officers announced themselves before breaking down Breonna Taylor’s door in March and shooting her, newly revealed grand jury recordings show, laying bare a core disagreement about what happened in the moments before she was killed.
    • Police said they announced themselves and, according to different officers, waited 30-45 seconds, 90 seconds, or two minutes before smashing the door.
    • Six of Taylor’s neighbors said the first noise they heard was gunshots, rather than police announcing themselves.
Child Separation
  •  ‘We Need to Take Away Children,’ No Matter How Young, Justice Dept. Officials Said (NYT)
    • The Justice Department’s top officials were “a driving force” behind the policy that spurred the separation of thousands of families, many of them fleeing violence in Central America and seeking asylum in the United States, before Mr. Trump abandoned it amid global outrage, according to a draft report of the results of the investigation by Michael E. Horowitz, the department’s inspector general.
    • The five U.S. attorneys along the border with Mexico, including three appointed by President Trump, recoiled in May 2018 against an order to prosecute all undocumented immigrants even if it meant separating children from their parents. They told top Justice Department officials they were “deeply concerned” about the children’s welfare.
    • But the attorney general at the time, Jeff Sessions, made it clear what Mr. Trump wanted on a conference call later that afternoon, according to a two-year inquiry by the Justice Department’s inspector general into Mr. Trump’s “zero tolerance” family separation policy.
    • “We need to take away children,” Mr. Sessions told the prosecutors, according to participants’ notes.
  • Next Presidential Debate
    • Trump Objects to Commission’s Virtual Debate Plan (NYT)
      • The Commission on Presidential Debates, citing the “health and safety of all involved,” abandoned plans for the in-person debate in Miami scheduled for Oct. 15, saying that Mr. Trump and Joseph R. Biden Jr. would instead debate from separate locations.
      • Trump rejected the plan.
        • “I’m not going to waste my time on a virtual debate, that’s not what debating is all about. “You sit behind a computer and do a debate — it’s ridiculous.”
      • In 1960, the third debate between John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon was held remotely. Kennedy debated from a television studio in New York; Nixon appeared from Los Angeles.
  • VP Debate
    • FactChecking the Vice Presidential Debate (20 fact-checks) (Factcheck)
    • Fact-checking the vice-presidential debate between Pence and Harris (15 fact-checks) (WaPo)
      • In the vice-presidential debate, Vice President Pence took a number of flimsy claims out of the Trump playbook, although he often delivered them more deftly. Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) also stretched the truth at times.
Definition of Politics
From a Poly Sci Textbook
  • Politics is making decisions for a group through the use of power.
  • Power is the ability to get other people to do what you want, by whatever means, e.g. coercion, persuasion, incentives. 
  • Political Science is the science of politics, in particular the politics of the state.
  • Powell warns of severe, ongoing risks to the economy as second-round of stimulus remains elusive (WaPo, October 6, 2020)
    • Federal Reserve Chair Jerome H. Powell compared the pandemic’s initial shock to “a case of a natural disaster hitting a healthy economy.”
    • “Too little support would lead to a weak recovery, creating unnecessary hardship for households and businesses. Over time, household insolvencies and business bankruptcies would rise, harming the productive capacity of the economy, and holding back wage growth. By contrast, the risks of overdoing it seem, for now, to be smaller. Even if policy actions ultimately prove to be greater than needed, they will not go to waste.”
    • “The recovery will be stronger and move faster if monetary policy and fiscal policy continue to work side by side to provide support to the economy until it is clearly out of the woods.”
Election Forecast
Election Security
  • FBI Video: Safeguarding Your Vote: A Joint Message on Election Security
    • FBI Director Chris Wray
    • Chris Krebs, the director of the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency
    • Gen. Paul Nakasone, the head of the National Security Agency and commander of U.S. Cyber Command
    • William Evanina, director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center.
Election Violence
  • Justice Dept, FBI planning for the possibility of Election Day violence, voting disruption (WaPo)
    • Bracing for possible civil unrest on Election Day, the Justice Department is planning to station officials in a command center at FBI headquarters to coordinate the federal response to any disturbances or other problems with voting that may arise across the country, officials familiar with the matter said.
  • F.B.I. Director Warns of Russian Interference and White Supremacist Violence (NYT)
    • “Racially motivated violent extremism,” mostly from white supremacists, has made up a majority of domestic terrorism threats, Christopher Wray told the House Homeland Security Committee. He also echoed an intelligence community assessment last month that Russia is conducting a “very active” campaign to spread disinformation and interfere in the presidential election, with Mr. Biden as the primary target.
If POTUS and VP are both incapacitated
  • The plan for governing if multiple leaders are incapacitated: There isn’t one. Norman Ornstein (WaPo)
    • The 25th Amendment provides for replacing the vice president and dealing with a presidential disability, but it does not have an answer if both the president and the vice president are incapacitated. The Presidential Succession Act of 1947 is triggered by the deaths of the president and vice president. There is no path in law or the Constitution to determine who has presidential authority if both are, say, on ventilators. We could have Mike Pompeo proclaim “I’m in charge!” and Mark Meadows responding: “No, I’m the White House chief of staff, I’ll make the decisions.”
It’s Even Worse than it Looks

View It’s Even Worse than it Looks

Ken Paxton
  • Gov. Abbott: New criminal allegations against Texas AG Ken Paxton ‘raise serious concerns’ (DMN)
  • Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton accused of bribery and abusing his office by 7 top aides (WaPo)
Election 2020: What’s the problem?

View Election 2020: What’s the Problem?

Operation Crossfire Hurricane
  • On July 31, 2016 the FBI opened a counterintelligence investigation, code-named Crossfire Hurricane, into “whether individuals associated with Donald Trump’s presidential campaign were coordinating, wittingly or unwittingly, with the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.” (Office of Inspector General)
  • Mueller Report, Volume I
    • “In late July 2016, soon after WikiLeaks’s first release of stolen documents, a foreign government contacted the FBI about a May 2016 encounter with Trump Campaign foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos. Papadopoulos had suggested to a representative of that foreign government that the Trump Campaign had received indications from the Russian government that it could assist the Campaign through the anonymous release of information damaging to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. That information prompted the FBI on July 31, 2016, to open an investigation into whether individuals associated with the Trump Campaign were coordinating with the Russian government in its interference activities.”
QAnon, Antifa, Black Lives Matter
  • View QAnon
  • View Antifa
  • Black Lives Matter
    • Is Black Lives Matter a Marxist movement? Politifact
    • No, a Black Lives Matter Co-Founder Didn’t Partner With a Pro-Communist Chinese Group (NYT)
      • Conservative attempts to tie Black Lives Matter to communist groups are years old, and have included digging up a statement from one of the movement’s early leaders claiming that several of them were “trained Marxists.” 
      • But there is no indication that today’s Black Lives Matter movement has any formal link to Marxism, or to the Chinese Communist Party. As PolitiFact put it this year: “Black Lives Matter has grown into a national anti-racism movement broadly supported by Americans, few of whom would identify themselves as Marxist.”
Texas Drop Off Locations
  • Abbott limits Texas counties to one mail-in ballot dropoff location in move Democrats decry as ‘voter suppression’ (DMN)
  • Texas governor’s limit on drop-off sites for mail-in ballots criticized as voter suppression (WaPo)
  • Voting rights advocates sue to block Texas governor’s order limiting counties to one ballot drop-off location (WaPo)
Trump’s Covid
  • View Covid-19, the Disease
    • Risk Factors for Covid death
      • Old age, male, racial or ethnic minority, underlying health conditions
    • Covid Pneumonia
      • Covid Pneumonia tends to take hold in both lungs. Air sacs in the lungs fill with fluid, limiting their ability to take in oxygen and causing shortness of breath, cough and other symptoms.
    • Unpredictability of Covid
  • View Covid Treatments and Drugs
    • Dexamethasone
    • Remdesivir
    • Regeneron
      • Vaccine
        • A substance that causes the immune system to make antibodies.
      • Convalescent Plaza
        • Antibodies from people who have recovered from COVID-19
      • Monoclonal Antibodies
        • Laboratory-made antibodies
US Response to Covid

View Covid Response

Voting by Mail
  • Vicki and I mailed our ballots Friday, October 2.
  • On Wednesday, October 7 I emailed the Denton County Election Office about their status.
  • Later in the day I received a reply:
    • We received both of your ballots yesterday.  The Early Voting Ballot Board starts meeting next week to start processing the ballots.

October 1, 2020

Amy Coney Barrett
  • Like Scalia, whose judicial philosophy she shares, Barrett subscribes to Originalism and Textualism
  • Originalism is the view that the meaning of the Constitution is fixed at the time of ratification. For the competing approach, the Living Constitution, the Constitution’s “meaning evolves in a manner analogous to the common law—slowly and incrementally, using precedent to guide the application of constitutional values to new situations.” (David J Bodenhamer)
  • Textualism is interpreting a statute using the meanings of its terms as commonly understand, without considering its statutory purpose or legislative history.
Inferences from Trump’s Tax Returns
  • Huge losses undermine Trump’s image as a successful businessman.
  • Huge debts make Trump a national security risk.
    • Trump is personally responsible for loans and other debts totaling $421 million, with more than $300 million coming due within four years.
    • Trump’s debts and foreign deals pose security risks, former intelligence officials say. (WaPo, September 28, 2020)
      • The disclosures show that Trump’s position is more precarious than he has led the public to believe, and he faces the need for a substantial infusion of cash in the coming years to avert potential financial crisis.
      • As a result, officials and experts said that Trump has made himself vulnerable to manipulation by foreign governments aware of his predicament, and put himself in a position in which his financial interests and the nation’s priorities could be in conflict.
  • Apparent Political Objectives
    • Trump: prevent Biden from presenting his message and make him appear doddering and confused, by continually hectoring and interrupting him.
    • Biden: stay on message, maintain composure, speak directly to the American people.
  • Fact-checking
  • Commission on Presidential Debates (NYT)
    • The commission said it would make changes to the format of the remaining debates.
    • There have been widespread calls for moderators to have the ability to cut off a candidate’s microphone. Mr. Wallace did not have that ability.
  • Quotes
    • “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by.”
    • “It is what it is because you are who you are.”
    • “It’s a rigged election.”
Election Forecast
Republicans on Preexisting Conditions
  • How Trump Voters View His Position on Pre-existing Conditions (NYT Upshot, October 1, 2020)
    • “I think people should be able to have insurance even if they have pre-existing conditions,” said Ms. Locke, 59, who works in Jacksonville, Fla., as a children’s museum director. She recalls jumping from one plan to another before Obamacare, when her husband’s heart condition threatened to cut them off from coverage.
    • She plans to cast her vote for President Trump in November, and expects he’ll do a good job on the issue.
    • “I’ve heard from him that he would continue with pre-existing conditions so that people would not lose their health insurance,” she said. “It’s made a big difference with me and my husband.”

Old stuff from Masks in Schools

  • Should it be up to parents or school administrators whether students wear masks at school?
    • Argument for school administrators:
      • School administrators have a duty to protect the health of their students.
      • Therefore it’s up to school administrators whether to protect students against Covid by requiring masks.
    • Argument for parents:
      • Parental rights override the duty of school administrators to protect the health of students.
      • Therefore parents have the right to send their children to school without masks (no matter the risk to other students).
    • Analogous questions:
      • Should it be up to parents or school administrators whether a highly contagious child attends school?
      • Should school administrators have the power to impose a dress code or should it be totally up to parents to decide what their children wear to school.
  • Masks in schools: Explaining the debate over face coverings in classroomsWaPo
    • In early August, the CDC updated its recommendations for masks in light of the surging delta variant.
      • Guidance for COVID-19 Prevention in K-12 SchoolsCDC
        • CDC recommends universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status. Children should return to full-time in-person learning in the fall with layered prevention strategies in place. 
    • Some states have rules that echo the CDC, requiring masks in schools statewide and prompting local protests across the country.
    • Other states have barred their school districts from imposing mask mandates. The result has been an escalating war that generally pits Republican state officials — who argue that parents should have the right to decide about masks for their children — against school districts — who cite the rising virus caseloads, contagious delta variant and proven efficacy of masks in requiring them.
  • Reopening Plans for the 100 Biggest School Districts Are Changing FastNYT Upshot
    • All of the 100 largest districts in the country, including the biggest urban districts in every state, are fully reopening schools this fall, according to new data.
    • Fifty-three percent of districts are requiring that all students wear masks, according to data as of Thursday, a sharp increase in the last two weeks. 
    • The share of schools providing an all-virtual option for some students has doubled in that time, to eight in 10. The districts not providing one, including New York City, are now the minority.
    • Seven districts — including Baltimore, Los Angeles and St. Louis — are requiring regular Covid-19 testing of staff and students. Three are requiring it for staff. 
    • Four districts — Cincinnati, Denver, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco — are requiring that school staff be vaccinated.
    • California is the first state to require school staff to be vaccinated or undergo regular testing (New York City is also requiring this).  The nation’s largest teachers’ union has said it supported such a policy. 
    • One district, in Hawaii, is requiring eligible students to be vaccinated, and only the athletes.
  • Biden orders Education Department to take action against governors who ban school mask mandatesWaPo
    • President Biden ordered Education Secretary Miguel Cardona on Wednesday to take action against governors who have banned universal masking in public schools, taking a tough stand against those who he said are trying to “block and intimidate” local schools officials.
    • He did not name any specific governor, but Republican governors Ron DeSantis of Florida, Greg Abbott of Texas and Doug Ducey of Arizona, are among those state leaders who have threatened to withhold funding from districts or take other action against those districts that defy them. In Florida, Miami-Dade County Public Schools, the fourth largest district in the country, on Wednesday passed a universal masking mandate — with only a medical opt-out — as did Hillsborough County Public Schools.
    • In letters to the governors of ArizonaFloridaIowaOklahomaSouth CarolinaTennesseeTexas, and Utah, Cardona said bans on school masking mandates are putting students at risk and “may infringe upon a school district’s authority to adopt policies to protect students and educators as they develop their safe return to in-person instruction plans required by federal law.”
    • In Arizona, Ducey said the state would not direct federal coronavirus relief funds to any public school district that institutes a mask mandate — a move that could come under investigation from the Education Department.
    • In Florida, DeSantis has threatened to cut state funding to districts, as well as the salaries of superintendents and other education officials who defy his executive order stating that parents should be allowed to decide if their children wear masks in schools. Cardona has said school systems could use stimulus money to make up any lost funds.
  • More than 5,000 Florida students isolate or quarantine because of a school district’s covid-19 spike WaPo
    • A Florida school board is set to hold an emergency meeting this week to consider a mask mandate as more than 5,000 students and hundreds of employees in its district are in isolation or quarantine because of a surge in coronavirus cases and possible exposure.
    • A mask mandate in the district would violate an order from Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) prohibiting schools from requiring face coverings. After initially threatening to withhold school officials’ salaries if they resisted his anti-mask rule, DeSantis recently backed down, saying school officials pushing for masks should be responsible for the “consequences of their decisions.”
  • Texas Supreme Court sides with Gov. Abbott, temporarily blocking mask mandatesWaPo
    • Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s ban on mask mandates will be allowed to stand, at least temporarily, the Texas Supreme Court announced Sunday.
  • Argument for requiring masks in schools.
    • A school administration has the duty to protect the health of its students.
    • There’s been a dramatic increase in Covid cases and hospitalizations in Texas.
    • The Delta variant is highly transmissible.
    • Masks are effective in reducing the spread of Covid.
    • The CDC recommends that students wear masks.
      • Guidance for COVID-19 Prevention in K-12 SchoolsCDC
        • CDC recommends universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status. Children should return to full-time in-person learning in the fall with layered prevention strategies in place. 
    • Therefore school administrators should mandate masks.