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Challenger and Coronavirus

Last night I watched the Netflix mini-series on the Challenger accident. It had some nice personal moments from family members of the crew and even two of the decision makers who insisted on the launch despite the warnings. I enjoyed it and it’s worth watching but ultimately it didn’t break new ground. After all, we’ve known for decades why seven people unnecessarily died in 1986.

I’m not referring to the failure of the O-rings or Morton Thiokol’s flawed joint design on the SRBs. I’m referring to the human failures which culminated in the explosion.

I attended the presentation by an engineering firm into the findings of the causes of the Bonfire disaster at Texas A&M 20 years ago. The physical cause wasn’t nearly as pertinent as the organizational issues. Complex systems can have catastrophic failures. This necessitates multiple barriers to failure. Ideally, in a system with multiple barriers, having a small number of failures won’t lead to an undesired outcome as the other barriers will catch the error.

So why do we see disasters like Challenger or what happened at Texas A&M? Human elements overwhelmed the system. Groupthink and hubris combined with outside pressures focused on outcomes rather than safety bypass enough of those barriers to failure as to result in tragedy.

In NASA’s case, the public had been sold the idea that the shuttle system was safe, little different than flying on a plane. The public assumed this was a freak accident, impossible to foresee. That wasn’t the case. Engineers had been warning for years about the design problems with the boosters and the potential of the O-rings to fail in cold weather. In fact, there was a recommendation to overhaul the entire SRB design. NASA shot down this recommendation. Why? It would have grounded the fleet for two years. The day of Challenger’s launch, engineers who knew the SRB best said the shuttle should not be launched. Morton Thiokol initially took the stance of their engineers but pressure from NASA caused them to change their advice – they said it would be safe to launch.

Engineers and scientists, the foremost experts in the world in their areas of expertise, were overridden when they were flat out saying “If you ignore us, people will die.” The pressure from the government to have more launches was too strong. The pressure to act as if the shuttle fleet didn’t face catastrophic problems on a normal basis was too strong. The science and the data were ignored because groupthink decided the actions taken if the science were followed were undesirable and therefore it didn’t matter what the science said.

This entire process got repeated when Columbia was lost to a different design elemental but the same behavioral failures.

And we are in the middle of watching this same process unfold right now. Only now instead of 7 dead, it’s over 200,000 dead. Trump is a huge part of the process, but he isn’t the only contributor.

This chart is of the positivity rate in my state of Texas. (You can view the data yourself here. Read the yellow line.) I’ve added two lines. Towards the end of May, Texas relaxed restrictions and bars began to re-open. As you can see, the positivity rate skyrocketed. In July, Governor Greg Abbott finally acquiesced and advocated masks in public in most Texas counties. The positivity rate began a steady movement downward.

The scientists were correct. And those in charge chose to ignore the science for no other reason than they didn’t like the outcome if the science were followed. Our barriers have again failed.

Covid-19 is Challenger. It’s Texas A&M’s Bonfire collapse. It’s Columbia. We are repeating all the same mistakes over again. Except now the death toll is tens of thousands of times worse.

So is all hope lost? Of course not!

Firstly we’re likely looking at a change in national leadership in January. National messaging, coordination, supply chain management, etc… will all improve. But secondly, most people ARE behaving as they need to in order to slow the spread of the virus. Yes, we have individuals and systems contributing to the spread, but a larger number are isolating as much as possible and wearing masks.

Keep wearing your mask. Keep limiting your contact with others. And vote.

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Daily Summaries

Trump Daily 9/12/2020 – Woodward Again

When Bob Woodward published his first book on the incompetence of Donald Trump, the president was upset his staff kept him from being interviewed as he thought he would come across very well had Woodward spoken to him. For the soon-to-be-published second book, Woodward interviewed Trump 17 times and recorded the conversations. In early February, Trump told Woodward the coronavirus was more deadly than the flu and that he wanted to publicly downplay the risk posed by the pandemic. Trump lied to the public about the dangers of the virus and the White House is now spinning this as preventing panic, with Trump comparing himself to Winston Churchill during WW2. (Churchill notably never lied about the Nazi threat.) The book has several other more minor revelations – that DNI Coats warned Trump Devin Nunes was feeding him disinformation and that “his generals” were “pussies” for caring more about American alliances than trade deals.

In a series of court losses, a court is blocking the Trump administration’s efforts to end census collection efforts earlier than scheduled while a different court is blocking Trump’s effort to exclude undocumented immigrants from the census.

The Department of Justice is seeking to take over Trump’s defense in E. Jean Carroll’s defamation suit against Trump. Carroll is suing the president for calling her a liar when she said he raped her. This echoes the civil suit brought by Summer Zervos against Trump. DoJ is arguing that Trump was acting in his official capacity as president when he said Carroll was “not my type.” (This is absurd.) The express purpose of DoJ taking over the case is to have it dismissed due to sovereign immunity. You may sue Donald Trump for defamation, but not the US government. In summation, the federal government is trying to protect the president in a case hinging on whether or not he raped a woman.

A DHS whistleblower has filed a complaint alleging they were ordered to suppress or change intelligence regarding Russian election interference in order to avoid making the president look bad. Additionally, they say then DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen repeatedly lied about terrorists apprehended at the border while Ken Cuccinelli had them alter data on Central American countries to make them appear safe so as to avoid awarding asylum status to immigrants from those countries. Both Cuccinelli and Chad Wolf had them alter data to downplay the threat of white supremacist groups while inflating the danger from left wing groups such as antifa. Along these lines, Miles Taylor, an ex-DHS official, says that after a top intelligence official testified that Russia had worked to help elect Trump, Trump tried to have that official fired.

Michael Caputo is a Twitter troll who previously worked for The Kremlin and then a Russian PR firm where he worked on improving Putin’s image. He makes a short appearance in the Mueller report, arranging a meeting between Roger Stone and a man promising dirt on Hillary Clinton. In short, Caputo is shady as hell. He’s now the Public Affairs Secretary for the Department of Health and Human Services. Not only has Caputo been trying to muffle Dr. Anthony Fauci, but he has been directing the alteration of CDC data on the virus in order to support the president. The Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports have had an impeccable reputation for accuracy until now. The Trump administration is now changing scientific reports in order to downplay the threat of the pandemic.

The US Treasury Department announced sanctions against Ukrainian Andriy Derkach for his interference in the election. Derkach is the primary source for Senator Ron Johnson’s sham investigation into the company Hunter Biden worked for and met with Rudy Giulani about the Bidens. Derkach is a key element in Putin’s disinformation campaign.

The third-party judge appointed in the Michael Flynn case to render an opinion on how to move forward has done so. Judge John Gleeson determined that the Department of Justice effort to have the Flynn cased dismissed is not only full of error, but nothing more than a pressure campaign from the government to help the president. He openly called AG Barr’s efforts to dismiss the case corrupt.

Colorado, just tonight, won a restraining order against the US Postal Service. The USPS is sending out postcards to every home and PO Box in the nation with instructions on voting by mail. But they’re sending the SAME instructions to every state despite a wide variance in the process. While the cards are accurate in some states, they are incredibly wrong in several states. The cards contain instructions on how to request a mail ballot – which isn’t even possible in every state. Several Secretaries of State asked Postmaster Dejoy to review the cards before mailing. He refused and now the Postal Service is sending incorrect voting information to millions of voters.

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Daily Summaries

Trump Daily 9/5/2020 – Weekend Catch-up

  • The president posted statistics from a Qanon supporter about Covid-19 not being nearly as much of a threat because most people who die from Covid-19 have other causes of death listed. Twitter took the Tweet down. This has become a common talking point of the right. It’s true that few death certificates list only Covid-19 as the cause of death. But that’s normal. Most death certificates list multiple causes. Aside from common comorbidities, often someone who dies from Covid-19 will have ailments CAUSED by the virus listed on their death certificate. It’s common for a death certificate to list both Covid-19 and ARDS. ARDS is the respiratory disorder caused by Covid-19.
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Trump’s Contempt for the Miltary

Multiple news outlets are confirming this story.

Trump canceled a visit to a WWI cemetery because he didn’t want his hair to get wet. He said the cemetery was “filled with losers.”

He said a group of 1,800 marines killed in action were “suckers” for… getting killed in action.

He asked who “the good guys” were in WWI and didn’t understand why America fought on the side of Great Britain and France, the latter being the oldest American ally on the planet.

He often refers to POWs and shot down pilots as “losers,” including George HW Bush.

While standing next to the grave of John Kelly’s son, who was killed in Afghanistan, he asked “I don’t get it. What was in it for them?”

While planning a military parade, Trump asked that amputees not be included because “nobody wants to see that.”

“Trump finds the notion of military service difficult to understand, and the idea of volunteering to serve especially incomprehensible.”
This is the monster some of you chose to lead us.

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2020/09/trump-americans-who-died-at-war-are-losers-and-suckers/615997/


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Trump Daily – The GOP Convention

This year’s convention was, unsurprisingly, a parade of lies, fear-mongering, and egregious violations of ethics and law. Bizarrely, a primary theme was pointing towards current civil unrest and saying this is what America will look like under a Biden presidency. Students for Trump today tweeted out Trump touring a destroyed area labeling it “what Biden will do to America” which is peculiar as it happened while Donald Trump was president.

There is too much content to cover everything, but I want to hit on a few particular areas. Let’s look at some of the speakers chosen to represent the Republican Party:

  • Mary Ann Mendoza lost her son in a car crash involving an undocumented immigrant. She was scheduled to speak on the first night. Hours before the convention began, Mendoza tweeted out a thread touting the conspiracy theory that rich Jews were secretly in charge of, well, everything, and were using this influence to exterminate gentiles. The tweet promoted an infamous document about Jews controlling everything which was fabricated over a century ago. It also promoted Qanon, the conspiracy theory that Democrats are leading a massive Satanic cannibal child sex trafficking ring which Donald Trump will be exposing any day now with the help of Robert Mueller and JFK Jr, who faked his own death. A sizable portion of Republicans believe in Q. This one was invited to the convention. They pulled her spot after this tweet, but Mendoza has been tweeting out similar content for years. They either did not bother checking up on her in any way or they didn’t care.
  • Natalie Harp had a rare bone cancer and spoke about her treatment only being available because of the Right to Try law signed by Trump which opens up experimental treatments for terminally ill patients. She’s been lying about this for years. Firstly, the treatment she received was an off-label use for an approved drug. That’s been legal for decades. But in case that’s questionable, Harp’s treatment took place BEFORE Trump signed the Right to Try law.

Multiple people who participated in the convention were either lied to about their appearances or misled.

In an egregious ethical breach, the convention included a naturalization ceremony at the White House (more on this later). The participants in the ceremony were not informed their naturalization would be part of the GOP convention. Donald Trump usurped their moment for his own political gain. Lynne Patton, who planned Eric Trump’s wedding before landing a job she wasn’t qualified for at HUD, interviewed several public housing residents about their homes. The piece was one of several with minorities expressing support for Donald Trump. They weren’t told their interviews would be used for the convention or to support Trump. Several of the interviewees are furious, with one openly calling Trump a racist.

There were too many lies to cover here. Daniel Dale is a fastidious fact checker and I’d point you to his articles about the convention: night one, night two, night three, and night four. We saw lies about nearly every topic: the pandemic, the economy, Biden’s views on policing, the Veterans Choice Act (Trump has lied about signing this over 150 times. Obama signed it), immigration, mail-in voting, etc…

The Hatch Act is a 1939 law with a simple goal – preventing executive branch employees from campaigning and preventing government resources form being used to campaign. (I’ll note here that this applies to employees using THEIR OFFICE to campaign. There is nothing wrong with the Secretary of Energy giving a speech supporting a candidate. It’s wrong for them to do so at an agency meeting.) The goal here is a simple one. The federal government belongs to us. The office of the president belongs to us. The White House belongs to us. These things represent the entire United States and should not be used to support one political party. The Trump administration has constantly violated the Hatch Act, but we haven’t seen anything on the level we saw last week in American history. Several convention videos were filmed from The White House. The acting head of DHS conducted a naturalization ceremony from The White House, without informing the participants they were going to be part of the convention. The Secretary of State, after instructing State Department employees to not participate in the conventions, appeared from Israel in the middle of an official trip, on our dime. The South Lawn of the White House was where Trump formally accepted the nomination, with his name on massive signs on either side of the White House. And then to end the night, fireworks appeared over the Washington Monument, spelling “Trump” and “2020.” These properties are not his. They were not his to use. They are OURS. But Donald Trump does not care about any of this. The concept of public ownership doesn’t register with him. He decided the optics of using the National Mall to help his re-election worked so there was no consideration of the ethical violation of all of this.

Finally to illustrate there are no depths as to the pettiness of the Republican Party, the convention asked Leonard Cohen’s estate to use Hallelujah during the closing of the convention. They were refused. They used the song anyway.

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Daily Summaries

Trump Daily 8/27/2020 – Catching Up Before the Final Convention Night

Doing one large write-up on the convention so here’s the other news you may have missed.

The Daily Beast detailed the relationship between Jared Kushner and Kirill Dmitriev who runs Russia’s sovereign wealth fund. Dmitriev will be familiar to you if you followed my coverage of the Mueller report. He set up covert meetings with Kushner and Erik Prince despite being under sanction by the United States. One of the earliest shipments of ventilators Kushner secured came from Dmitriev. They were never used as they were junk.

Trump has frequently warned of foreign governments somehow hacking mail-in voting. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence has seen no evidence of this. Such large scale vote manipulation is functionally impossible because of how the US election system is run.

The NY Attorney General’s Office has detailed their investigation into The Trump Organization and it’s as we thought – they’re investing the group for lying about the value of properties both to banks and for tax purposes. Michael Cohen testified this was happening before Congress and the financial documents provided by Mary Trump to the New York Times proved it. Eric Trump is not cooperating with the investigation and his lawyer has alluded to him pleading the 5th amendment.

The Trump campaign released a fairly generic video about what a great job he’s done. All of the images used in the video are from stock footage. They just released another ad about how violent protests are across the country. The footage used for this ad is from Spain.

Per the former Chief of Staff at DHS, Trump was seeking ways to maim and injure immigrants at the border. DHS and CBP later considered using a microwave weapon which induces the feeling of your skin burning off. (This is a real device built by Raytheon though it has never been used.)

The CDC changed their guidelines to say people who have been directly exposed to someone with the virus do not need to be tested. This is a blatant attempt to decrease the number of reported cases before the election. The Covid-19 task force waited until Dr. Fauci was having surgery to discuss the change. Dr. Redfield partially walked back this change, but his statement no longer appears on the CDC website. This change came because of pressure from The White House.

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And WHAT is the DEAL with the Post Office?

The Trump era has been a daily exercise in media literacy. One of the challenges has been sorting through negative information about the administration to determine what is true vs what is untrue as well as what things are disturbing, but also mundane. Several times now a negative story has circulated which has been troubling, but also something common to most recent presidencies. Going to go over some of what I’ve seen about the USPS and which parts are genuinely troubling and which parts are not.

An image of a large number of stacked post office boxes behind a fence went viral as evidence of the Post Office taking boxes off the street in Wisconsin. This image IS of post office boxes stacked at a company. And they were stacked there because that company refurbishes and refinishes Post Office boxes before returning them back into use. In other words, this was completely innocent and routine.

Now have there been collection boxes removed? Yes, absolutely. However, that too is routine. As population density shifts, the USPS removes boxes from low use locations and moves them to higher use areas, or removes them all-together when the need for a drop-off location lowers. DeJoy has said this process, though routine, has been halted until after the election. There MAY have been nefarious intent in some of these removals, but that would be nearly impossible to prove as having removals happening is routine.

Has USPS been removing sorting capacity to target swing states? Not at all. They HAVE been removing sorting machines. DeJoy’s defense is that these are simply not needed. He is, at least in part, correct. Lost in this discussion is the fact that mail volume has been steadily decreasing for decades, at least for flat mail. (Packages are a different beast but also do not run through these sorting machines). With email the norm for most people and billing for nearly everything going online, flat mail simply isn’t used as much. So there is justification for reducing sorting volume. HOWEVER postal employees across the country have said these cuts are too deep. Though DeJoy halted the removal of the machines, the USPS director of maintenance ordered facilities nationwide to not reconnect any of them. In Seattle and Dallas so far, postal workers are ignoring that directive and reconnecting decommissioned machines.

As for targeting states specifically for removal, absolutely no, that isn’t happening. There is a strong correlation between the number of machines removed and Democrats living in the area they were removed from. But there’s a reason for that – urban population centers are where Democrats live. Quite simply, more machines have been removed from large cities because there were more machines in those large cities to begin with.

Has the mail slowed down because of DeJoy’s changes? YES. Absolutely yes. DeJoy testified this week and the metric he continually cited was the number of USPS trucks leaving on time. This is a great metric for measuring costs if you’re a first year business student. It’s a terrible metric for measuring efficiency. Why? Because they’ve achieved the goal of having more trucks leave on time but sending them out without some of their mail. That mail then gets to sit and wait for another truck instead of a slight delay and sending the truck out at capacity. The delays are real and they’re causing problems, like animals dying and medication facing long delays. There are Republicans in Congress arguing there are no delays and this is a conspiracy theory. Per the USPS’s own internal documents, they’re wrong.

How much of what’s happened has been done intentionally to alter the election? Here’s the answer no one will like – it isn’t possible to tell. Does Trump want to limit mail-in voting? Of course he does. He’s been running a one man marketing campaign against it all year, yelling about non-existent fraud and insisting absentee voting and mail-in voting are different things. They are not. But it isn’t clear how many of the USPS changes are being done intentionally with that goal vs being done because of incompetent management. And ultimately, we aren’t likely to know.

So Trump and the GOP aren’t taking direct action to limit mail-in voting? Oh, they are! While we can’t be sure if the USPS changes happening are due to this, the Trump campaign and the Republicans have filed lawsuits in multiple states to limit mail-in voting. This follows a long history of Republicans attempting to limit the number of people voting. What’s peculiar though is there isn’t actually any evidence that increased mail-in voting helps Democrats. In several key states, the party realizes this and has to push back against Trump’s attacks on the process. Florida comes to mind where the senior citizen vote, a huge mail-in voting bloc, is key to any Republican victory.

How is this going to affect the election? If you have a definitive answer for this, could I get some lotto numbers from you? The USPS sent a letter to nearly every state warning that the current slowdowns could potentially mean votes not being counted before local deadlines. However, several states are reacting to that by altering their deadlines and procedures. The House just today passed a bill to shore up the postal service’s funding and roll back several of the delay causing changes DeJoy implemented.

Has USPS been hiding the extent of the problem? Yep. Multiple stories now about sorting centers hiding how bad things are from Congressman. This may not matter at this point as the House investigation has hard data on how bad the delays have been.

In summation are there changes happening at USPS which can affect the election? Yes. Does the president want mail-in voting limited? Yes. Are the changes being done intentionally to harm the election? That’s difficult to say either way. Are actions being taken to remedy these issues? Yes.

What should you do? This one’s easy. Check your registration. If you message Resistbot on Facebook “check registration,” the bot will look you up and walk you through registering if you aren’t. If you’re voting by mail, request your ballot (if required) AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE and return it as early as possible.

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Trump Daily 8/21/2020 – They Knew

The Senate Intelligence Committee released its final report on Russian election interference this week. This post will be solely about that. As you read, keep a few things in mind. This report comes from a Republican run committee. The Democrats attached their own points at the end, but I’m not covering those. Everything you’ll read here came from Republicans. And every single one of those Republicans voted not just to acquit the president earlier this year, but voted against hearing ANY witnesses regarding his actions. They knew everything you’re about to read. They knew how incredibly corrupt he is. They knew his campaign was working with a hostile foreign intelligence agency. They knew and they did absolutely nothing about it.

  • The Republicans concluded that Donald Trump’s campaign manager, Paul Manafort, was “a grave counterintelligence threat” explicitly because he opened the campaign to Russian influence by handing over campaign data to Konstantin Kilimnik. No one from the Trump campaign has ever offered an explanation as to why they were sending internal data to a Russian intelligence agent.
  • The Republicans concluded Kilimnik was involved in Russia’s hack of the DNC email system. Kilimnik was a key figure in the Mueller investigation as he previously worked with Paul Manfort in supporting Ukrainian dictator Viktor Yanukovych. (Yes, the president’s campaign manager did PR for a foreign dictator)
  • The Republicans concluded that Michael Flynn lied to investigators about his conversations with Russian ambassador Kislyak. The Department of Justice is currently trying to get Flynn’s case dismissed after he pleaded guilty.
  • The Republicans concluded that Donald Trump lied to investigators regarding conversations with Roger Stone regarding Wikileaks. The president said in writing he had never discussed Wikileaks with Stone. He did on multiple occasions and directed Stone to start working with Wikileaks to learn when information would be released.
  • When the Trump campaign learned the Access Hollywood tape of the president bragging about grabbing women “by the pussy” was going to be released, Roger Stone immediately contacted an intermediary to ask Wikileaks to released the emails Russia had stolen from the DNC. Wikileaks complied and the emails were released half an hour after the Access Hollywood tape aired. The Trump campaign directed the timing of the release of data stolen by the Russian government.
  • The Republicans concluded that the Trump administration hid information from both the investigators and from Congress via dubious claims of executive privilege.

We learned this week that last summer the Senate Intelligence Committee issued criminal referrals for Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Steven Bannon, Erik Prince, and Sam Clovis. These were criminal referrals for lying to Congress issued by Republicans. It is unknown if the Department of Justice did anything with these referrals, but it’s not likely under Barr’s leadership.

Marco Rubio, Richard Burr, Jim Risch, Susan Collins, Roy Blunt, Tom Cotton, John Cornyn, and Ben Sasse all knew that Donald Trump’s campaign was sending information to a Russian intelligence agent. They knew that Trump lied to investigators. They knew the Trump campaign arranged for data stolen by Russian intelligence to be released at a time to help the Trump campaign. They knew multiple members of the Trump administration and campaign lied to Congress. They knew the Trump campaign was a dire intelligence risk. They knew all of these things and they chose to do nothing at all about them.

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Daily Summaries

Trump Daily 8/10/2020

I’m covering three press conferences tonight, but I first want to mention that the first two of those took place from the president’s private golf club. He once again spent the weekend golfing during the pandemic which has now killed 163,000 Americans. In 2014, Trump frequently attacked President Obama over golfing during the West African Ebola outbreak which killed two Americans. Two. Not only is the president continuing to funnel government money into his private businesses, but this weekend he had an audience made up of his own customers there to provide an audience for the press conference. Those customers booed reporters and shouted down questions so the president would not have to answer them. During the first press conference, the president was asked by CBS’s Paula Reid about his extremely frequent lie that he passed Veterans Choice, a law signed by President Obama. (He’s now told this lie over 150 times). Rather than answer, Trump abruptly ended the presser.

In today’s press conference, Trump lied about mail-in voting, Russian interference, Democrats interfering in the election, how great America is handling Covid-19, being the first to institute tariffs on China, having no ventilators at the beginning of the pandemic, Obama’s “campaign” spying on his campaign and the flu pandemic of 1917 ending WW2 which notably ended in 1945. Trump explained his previous lie that no one had ever acted to protect pre-existing conditions, a legal requirement for the past decade, thanks to the ACA by saying he was the first to protect them via executive order and issuing an executive order to protect pre-existing conditions despite already being protected by law showed how much the Republicans want to protect them. The Republican Party for a decade has been trying to remove all protections for pre-existing conditions and the Trump administration has literally argued before the Supreme Court that mandating such protections is illegal. Today he proposed a capital gains tax to affect those suffering from the pandemic. 75% of capital gains taxes are paid by ONE PERCENT of the population.

He’s announced 4 executive actions. He’s called these both laws and executive orders as he still uses the terms interchangeably despite referring to completely distinct things. Regardless, only one of the released documents is an executive order. The other three are merely memos.

In Saturday’s press conference, the president lied about support for a payroll tax cut, lied about mail-in voting, lied about saying there would be lawsuits over his executive actions (he said he expected them on Friday and on Saturday denied saying that), lied about Democrats not wanting to protect people facing eviction, and lied about passing the Obama-era Veterans Choice law.

He told the treasury to stop collecting payroll tax for those making under $104,000. There are multiple problems with this. Firstly, taxation is a power expressly given to Congress in the Constitution. The executive branch cannot arbitrarily decide to raise or lower a tax. This is only a deferral so in theory that amount will be owed at the end of the year. He wants to make these cuts permanent however going forward which he claims he’ll do after re-election. These taxes directly fund Social Security and Medicare. The president’s plan here is to run on massive cuts to the incoming revenue to social security. (Employer payroll taxes were already deferred by Congress). This is also problematic as it only helps people who still have their incomes who by and large are not suffering financially because of the pandemic.

The second memo calls for $400 a week in extra unemployment payments. The president doesn’t have the authority to simply conjure unemployment payments so he’s using a bit of sleight of hand. The money will be taken from FEMA’s disaster relief fund. If that sounds familiar, this exact idea was a plotline on House of Cards. This sounds though like a great idea until you examine the mechanics. As this is not actually an unemployment payment, the money cannot be distributed through the states’ existing unemployment systems. They will have to design a completely new system to process and handle the payments. Because this is legally disaster aid, the states are required by statute to fund 25% of the payments themselves. Several states have completely run out of cash to handle unemployment payments and are constrained from deficit spending by their constitutions. In short, they literally cannot make the required 25% payments. This entire system is likely dead in the water.

The third action, actually an executive order, regards evictions. I’ll note here that the eviction protection that was already in place from Congress covered just a small portion of people. The vast majority of renters received no federal protection from eviction. But the few that did will not actually be covered by this memo as it doesn’t do anything. All the memo does is direct HHS and, oddly, the CDC to CONSIDER if they should implement some sort of eviction ban. Meanwhile people have lost their supplemental unemployment payments and currently have no means to pay rent.

Which leaves us to the fourth action, deferring student loan payments and interest through the rest of the year. Breaking from my normal form, he both has the authority to do this and it’s absolutely the right thing to do. The last deferral was put in place by Congress, but the president can take the action himself. This is a needed action with little to no downside.

The Director of National Intelligence has tied pro-Putin Ukrainian Andriy Derkach to Russia’s attempt to interfere in the 2020 election. Specifically Derkach is providing disinformation about Hunter Biden to Republican politicians – regarding the same conspiracy theory the president keeps citing about the Bidens and Ukraine. Multiple members of congress, especially Devin Nunes and Ron Johnson, have been promoting the Russian disinformation for nearly the entire year. Johnson is currently heading the Senate investigation into it, despite being made aware that the basis for his investigation is literally a Russian attempt to swing the election to Trump. Derkach has appeared on Trump-favorite OANN and met with Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. The New York Times did a deep dive into election intelligence that you should read https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/08/magazine/us-russia-intelligence.html?smid=tw-share but one important take away is that after the intelligence community determined Russia was working to see Trump re-elected, the Director of National Intelligence was told to alter this assessment. He was fired and replaced by Robert Maguire, who complied.

As we near an election which will see more mail-in ballots than any in history, the newly appointed Postmaster General, a major Trump donor, has reassigned or fired THIRTY-THREE USPS staffers. He’s also been implemented changes/cuts with have resulted in nationwide mail delays.

The White House reached out to the governor of South Dakota to find out what the process is for adding Trump to Mount Rushmore.

The White House is exploring multiple options to curb legal voting by mail.

Trump has narrowed the location of his acceptance speech to Gettysburg, located in a national park, and The White House, owned by the public. Using public resources for his campaign is blatantly illegal, but nothing will happen because the Republican Party does not care what laws he breaks.

Trump said that lifelong devout Catholic Joe Biden is “against God” and Biden’s election would “hurt the Bible, hurt God.” Biden has frequently talked about his faith for decades. Trump does not attend church and cannot name a single Bible verse. When asked if he’s ever asked God for forgiveness, one of the central tenants of Christianity, Trump said he hadn’t ever done anything requiring forgiveness. Asked to explain this today, Trump said Biden was against God because of the policy agreement he signed with Bernie Sanders. Unable to offer specifics because he doesn’t read, Trump gave higher taxes as one of the reasons Biden is going to hurt God. Eighty percent of white evangelical Christians voted for Donald Trump, the thrice married serial adulterer who bragged about how he sexually assaults women and who paid off a porn star he had an affair with weeks after his son was born. #familyvalues

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