Night Owls, a themed open thread, appears at Daily Kos seven days a week

At the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Micheal Leachman and Elizabeth McNichol write—Pandemic’s Impact on State Revenues Less Than Earlier Expected But Still Severe:

The pandemic’s impact on state revenues this spring was smaller than the historical record predicted. Nevertheless, states, localities, tribal nations, and U.S. territories like Puerto Rico still face large shortfalls for this fiscal year and the next in funding schools, health care, and other basic public services. They desperately need more federal aid to avoid more layoffs and other cuts that would further weaken the economy, increase hardship, and worsen racial and class inequities.

State and local revenues have fallen as the pandemic has forced businesses to close or scale back, costing millions of jobs. Sales taxes, a major revenue source for states and, to a lesser extent, localities, have fallen especially sharply. Income taxes — states’ other primary revenue source — are also down, as are revenues from gasoline taxes and other lesser sources. […]

Fortunately for states, revenues for fiscal year 2020 (which ended in June in most states) came in significantly better than they expected. Our analysis of Census data and state tax collections finds that revenues were about 2 percent below states’ pre-pandemic projections, which translates into total shortfalls of about $22 billion. That’s much lower than seemed likely earlier this year when unemployment rates were rising very rapidly and leading economic forecasters were projecting rates to hit Depression-era levels. It’s also much less than the historical relationship between unemployment and state revenues, mainly because this recession has been concentrated among lower-income workers (who pay less in taxes) and because federal aid, like expanded unemployment benefits, boosted workers’ income and purchasing power in the pandemic’s early months.

Much of that federal aid, though, is now expired or spent, and states still face considerably lower revenues, with unemployment high and business activity still down. In the last couple of months, states have grown modestly more optimistic about the current fiscal year but remain pessimistic about next year. States’ adjusted estimates suggest that, in the absence of further federal support, shortfalls will total about 11 percent of their budgets in fiscal year 2021 and 10 percent in 2022, which begins next July in most states. Plus, states face increased costs due to higher enrollment in Medicaid and other programs. Including these higher costs, states’ own estimates suggest shortfalls through fiscal year 2022 that total about $305 billion.

Those estimates could easily prove too optimistic. […]


Prisoners of the Wrong Dilemma: Why Distributive Conflict, Not Collective Action, Characterizes the Politics of Climate Change, BY Michaël Aklin and Matto Mildenberger. “Climate change policy is generally modeled as a global collective action problem structured by free-riding concerns. Drawing on quantitative data, archival work, and elite interviews, we review empirical support for this model and find that the evidence for its claimsis weak relative to the theory’s pervasive influence. We find, first, that the strongest collective action claims appear empirically unsubstantiated in many important climate politics cases.”
Climate Literacy Is Essential for Effective Change, by Sarah Lazarovic. We need to make it easier to understand basic climate science and emissions reductions.
COVID-19 Is Killing My People—And No One Seems to Care, by Carlos Sanchez. It almost killed the author. A story of criminal neglect and mass death in South Texas.



“We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. But we can understand the universe. That makes us something very special.” ~~Stephen Hawking (1988)


For every family impacted by Covid, by wildfires, by hurricanes, by cancer, by floods, by voter suppression..and still found a way to vote..I bow down to your awesomeness.— akmk (@akmk) October 30, 2020


At Daily Kos on this date in 2009—On the difficulty of keeping ducks in a row:

Why has it historically been so tough to keep House progressives standing strong and using the leverage of their voting bloc to extract concessions on important legislation the way Blue Dogs have been able to?

Part of the reason is that progressive elected officials occupy a portion of the political spectrum that generally leaves them insulated from most accountability to progressive voters. In other words, they’re protected to some degree by the “where else are they gonna go?” factor.

That’s why progressive grassroots activists have come to expect their elected officials to eventually and in most every case, end up making the “best deal we could get” argument in support of their ultimate abandonment of principles clearly stated in the earlier stages of the process. 

Monday through Friday you can catch the Kagro in the Morning Show 9 AM ET by dropping in here, or you can download the Stitcher app (found in the app stores or at, and find a live stream there, by searching for “Netroots Radio.”

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This year will see us celebrating a very different Halloween. In many places around the country, children will not be able to go trick-or-treating, and adults will not be able to dress up and make fools of themselves at the club, given the current pandemic. But what is Halloween without a scary story? And what is the nature of those spooky tales? Most of the time they are rooted in very real issues and very real threats.

Sometimes the scariest thing in movies or books is not the killer, monster, or demon jumping out of the dark. Some of the best works scare people with what they can get the viewer or reader to imagine to be behind the creaking door, without ever spelling out what was really there, or even if there was really anything to be scared of in the first place. For a little kid, what lurks underneath their bed is anything the fear of their mind can imagine.

The best horror stories bring people back to that childhood innocence and then exploit it. But this is also true of those adult fears, which the most manipulative use for untoward ends.

Without even getting into arguments over aliens, ghosts, Bigfoot, chupacabras, green children, the Loch Ness monster, or even who killed Jimmy Hoffa, there are more down-to-earth real mysteries and monsters which are just as chilling and unnerving. The Trump administration has been likened to Pennywise the Dancing Clown of Stephen King’s It, an entity which feeds on human fears while making targets of the vulnerable and exacerbating the overall negative emotions of everyone in the community. In this respect, the great and terrible darkness we fight is not lurking to get at us from another dimension or to escape a hell below us. It’s right here with us, staring back in any mirror. The sad thing is these monsters are not just things which scurry about in the dark. The monsters of today stand in broad daylight wearing suits with flag lapel pins. These demons prey on children and the weak to gain their power. They have a cult of followers, some of which may be our own family members, united in fear and worship of their leaders’ every lie. The evil which lurks corrupts everything it touches and foments violence against anyone that disagrees.

Author C.S. Lewis, a Christian apologist who worked his faith into many of his works, believed the problem of evil was not the conflict between two separate and equal entities, but what humans classify as evil only exists as only a dark reflection of that which is good. To Lewis, the natural state of the universe is perfection, since it was created by a perfect God, who passed on that perfection—until humans screwed things up with original sin. Therefore, any evil which exists is only a corruption of a society’s norms and a person’s integrity, and not an innate aspect of either the community or individuals.

Sometimes it’s the individual or societal anxieties which express very real fear-causing aspects of life, albeit in grossly exaggerated ways. This notion becomes important when looking at the ideas and morality which have been part of scary stories and horror tales for centuries, and which still reverberate to this day.

People who have premarital sex and do drugs deserve to die

My mother’s next-door neighbor is someone I could call at three in the morning and he’d be there to help. When my mother was rushed to the hospital in the back of an ambulance and we had no way to get back home, he answered his phone in the middle of the night. However, this neighbor is also one of the most politically conservative people I’ve ever met. I vividly remember him talking about his opposition to birth control and abortion, which were based in his belief there must be “consequences” for sex. If social conservatism has been defined by a fear of one’s own body, then the end point for socially conservative policies is punishment as the wages of sin for anyone who chooses agency over their own person.

This sort of right-wing idea of punishing sin is a very common trope in many horror films. Who do Jason Voorhees and his mother kill in Friday the 13th? Their victims tend to be a lot of teenagers who decided it was a good idea to have sex in a tent next to a lake known for an undead killer in a hockey mask. Of course, being too dumb to live is also an acceptable excuse for characters in a horror movie to die.

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All of this leads to an argument that the horror genre is actually “innately conservative, even reactionary” in ideology. The essence of fear as a tool to elicit an emotional response aims to reestablish our feelings of essential normality in relation to the threat of change, whether that change be a fear of death or even radical social change. That’s why even though scary movies have more than enough violence and bare breasts to make most moral guardians clutch their pearls, most also have a fundamental morality which allows the audience to accept the enjoyment of watching horrible things happen to those people who break certain rules—since many of those rules align with the aims of Focus on the Family and other conservative assholes.

The fairy tale we know as Little Red Riding Hood is derived from two sources—Charles Perrault (also known as Mother Goose) and the Brothers Grimm. However, the story is much older than either of them, and like a lot of well-known fairy tales, the original iteration of the story is quite gruesome. The Big Bad Wolf actually feeds the grandmother to a naive Little Red Riding Hood, then gets her to disrobe and get in bed with him. In the Brothers Grimm version, the girl and her grandmother were rescued by a passing hunter, and then proceeded to fill the Wolf’s belly with stones.

But it is Perrault’s version that’s noted for removing darker elements like cannibalism and adding the “red hood,” which takes on some symbolic significance, since there is no happy ending for his Little Red Riding Hood. The Wolf eats Little Red Riding Hood … the end. Perrault intended the story to be a moral to young women about all wolves who deceive. The redness of the hood has been interpreted as a symbolic representation of sexual awakening and lust.

Variations of almost every element of Little Red Riding Hood appear in modern horror movies. The Big Bad Wolf is the archetypal “slasher” villain; a predator who shows almost, or true, supernatural abilities to deceive and manipulate his victims, most of whom are almost always women. Throw in Perrault’s sexual symbolism, and you have the virginal “final girl” of many horror movies.

The heroine is a white virginal girl

The term “final girl” was coined by Carol J. Clover in her book Men, Women, And Chain Saws: Gender In The Modern Horror Film. The book analyzed the slasher genre from a feminist perspective, and Clover argues that, instead of being driven by misogyny and sadism against women, these movies put the male viewer into the mindset of the female protagonist, or “the final girl” to survive. The final girl can scream, cry, and show fear in a way which audiences wouldn’t accept from a male character. The final girl usually has a unisex name (e.g., Ripley, Sam, or Jay, in the case of It Follows), and tends to be portrayed as an idealization of female innocence and purity. She’s probably not sexually experienced, doesn’t drink, doesn’t smoke, doesn’t do drugs and more likely than not is a bit of a ”Mary Sue.” The character may be based on conservative attitudes and ideas of what women “should be.” On the other hand, the final girl is usually separated emotionally from her parents, and the horror of the story tends to be connected to the sins of the parents, which is hidden behind a facade of family values.

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Many have argued this trope takes advantage of regressive sexual attitudes in pop culture, where an apprehension to sex is coupled with the audience being titillated by sadism against a female protagonist and female characters. Beyond just horror movies, depicting a woman with sexual agency is still problematic in both fiction and real-life. There’s a “virgin whore” dichotomy that Freud would have a field day with, where the culture sexualizes women, but if those women actually enjoy sex, it’s either ridiculed (i.e., slut-shaming) or seen as something wrong or weird.

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The other side of the argument is that many of the horror movies which came out of the 1970s “exploitation” film era are some of the first movies to have strong female characters that weren’t dependent on men to “save” them. This argument is also found in discussions of Blaxploitation films, where the trade off to having Black actors and actresses front and center meant seeing them typecast as gangsters, hookers, and pimps.

“Even in the mid-’70s, the kind of proto-feminist element was being written about,” said Kathleen McHugh, director of the UCLA Center for the Study of Women. “Feminist film scholars were writing about Roger Corman and Stephanie Rothman, locating a feminist impulse in the standard plot, where you have these powerful, self-assertive, one might even use the term ‘extremely aggressive’ women who are wreaking vengeance against forces, people, men who are trying to keep them down.”

The Black guy dies first

Apparently all evil monsters, aliens, and serial killers are racists, since people of color hardly ever survive a horror movie, and usually are among the first to die. On the one hand, this ties in to an argument about diversity both in front of and behind the camera in Hollywood. As it became more important for movies and television shows to increase representation and not pretend every community only has white people, more people of color appeared in front of the camera. However, the space behind the camera was, and to some extent still is, dominated by white writers and mostly white people in production. Writers tend to write what they know, and if given a character with a background they don’t know or haven’t really experienced, it may lead to either a cliche storm of stereotypes or killing the character off to get them out of the way once they’re onscreen for a few minutes, long enough to get bonafides for diverse casting. And so Black characters—just as Black people in real life, sadly—become accessories to be used and discarded in service of white characters’ needs.

Black people rarely make it to the end of a horror movie, but it’s not exactly true that they always die first.

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Over the past few decades, this notion has further been subverted, especially as more people of color are producing and directing their own material. More films in the horror genre have put issues of race and class front and center, with the horror of the movies shifted. Instead of the story being in service to the wants of white people, as it was in many past films with token characters, the struggle of these films switches the perspective where the horror is the wants of white people.

Jordan Peele’s Get Out is a “social thriller,” in which the horror scenario is a way for the story to expound into a damning satire about objectification and exploitation of Black people and Black culture, while assailing a type of white liberal guilt that talks a good game but does nothing to change anything. Peele’s second film, Us, bases its action around a family being terrorized by violent doppelgängers attempting to take their place. The film is just as full of subtext as Get Out, but this time it’s a contemplation about the nature of how we define ourselves as persons, and the ways it spirals out into the lies we want to believe about societies.

The Purge series was originally written off as nothing more than schlock, but each installment has made the themes of social inequality more explicit. Set in a future where a right-wing party called the New Founding Fathers of America has instituted an annual holiday where all crimes are legal for one night, under the claim of purging negative emotions, the propaganda of the regime claims instituting the event has resulted in 1% unemployment and an “America reborn.” In actuality, the purge is intended as a legalized form of mass murder, in which the poor and other undesirable elements of society are eliminated through death squads, and the purge itself is a metaphor for the destruction done by the social inequalities created by poverty. In The Purge films, the wealthy are able to protect themselves or take part in the holiday with a degree of safety, while the poor are preyed upon by racists and elements of government who have judged them to be burdens or non-human. The Purge thus becomes a story for how people will rationalize abandoning the unfortunate if given only a perception of fairness, even when the result is not—reminiscent of the elevation of the idea that the free market fairly picks the “winners” and “losers,” without allowing for the idea that hundreds of years of bias and discrimination plays a part.

Catholics are the only ones capable of fighting demons

Religious horror basically takes the Cliffs Notes version and various apocrypha of major religions and turns it into a scary story. In any horror movie, if it comes time to battle the forces of darkness and there is a possibility of defeating the evil by some vestiges of religion, the means by which it will be defeated will probably be quasi-Catholic. So thanks a lot for nothing, Martin Luther and the rest of you Protestants! The reason is because the Catholic Church is old and has a history of ornate ritual and majestic symbolism. Plus, cursing out a demon in Latin just sounds cooler.

Both Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist use the concept of the Devil and demons to inspire fear. But at their core, they’re really movies about the female condition, within a religious framework. In both films, women are in situations where their pleas for help are either subverted or not taken seriously. And in both movies, the male figures either betray them, are absent, or are emotionally detached from offering any comfort.

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Rosemary’s Baby connects to real fears that women have during pregnancy: the possibility that something is wrong with their baby, that they’re losing control of their body, and the situation is one they have little control over. The movie just adds in Satanic rape and devil worshipers.

The true horror of The Exorcist exists whether one believes in demonic possession, since the crux of the story is really about helplessness and a mother’s fear of having something wrong with a child that no one seems able to fix. In this respect, whether it’s mental illness, cancer, or a demon, the story connects on that emotional level.

The key to surviving any horror scenario is friendship and a family’s love

1982’s Poltergeist is now considered a classic of this particular genre. And that’s interesting for a number of reasons, given some of the controversy and trivia which surrounds the movie. Poltergeist is a great example of a theme usually associated with Steven Spielberg’s movies from the late ‘70s to the mid-’80s (i.e., suburban, middle-class families dealing with extraordinary circumstances). One of the knocks usually levied against Spielberg is he idealizes American suburbia and visualizes it in a nostalgic tone. That’s not exactly true. In E.T. and Poltergeist, both families have flaws. Spielberg’s suburban life is one in which unsupervised children stay up all hours watching TV, eating junk food, surrounded by products and things which provide no meaning, while living in cookie cutter neighborhoods. But if Spielberg sentimentalized anything, he idealizes the ability of a family’s love to overcome all obstacles.

Teamwork makes the dream work and, like a dysfunctional family, this is especially true for any disparate group of people thrown together in a crisis. The George Romero Living Dead films touch on race, gender, and the inability of people to work together at the end of the world, which is just as true when expanded out to societies which can’t work together to combat climate change, systemic racism, health care, or pandemics.

The zombie apocalypse is a situation that brings out the worst tendencies in humans, and turns our best qualities against us. In order to survive, a balance has to be found between the two. With almost any zombie film, they can be seen in such an entirely different light when you realize the zombies aren’t meant to be evil—or even the villains. The zombies are no different than a thunderstorm, or a hurricane, or an earthquake. It’s just a part of nature that we deal with, and how we deal with it can sometimes depend on what kind of person we are. Therefore, the true evil in most zombie apocalypses is humanity. With the world crumbling around them, the human characters still can’t put aside their differences (whether race, class or ego) to save each other. The survivors would rather fight over the last scraps of civilization, or hold on to prejudices that serve to help no one survive.

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Don’t turn off the main road for a shortcut

Among one of the most disturbing documentaries PBS ever broadcast is The Donner Party, which focuses on the infamous incident in which a disastrous expedition of settlers to California resulted in starvation, murder, and cannibalism.

Director Ric Burns, whose brother is Ken Burns (The Civil War), uses historical stills, nature photography, and celebrity voice overs to create a truly unsettling tale. Just as in The Civil War, David McCullough narrates, with readings from the actual diary entries of the Donner settlers providing the details of what happened as the situation went from bad to worse. McCullough’s narration is particularly effective. The way McCullough nonchalantly mentions a wife having to watch her dead husband’s heart being roasted on a stick catches the viewer off-guard. And with the use of still photography, what one doesn’t see becomes more troubling, since the mind fills in the gaps in ways that are more horrific.

Many very common horror movie tropes occurred over the course of the Donner Party’s journey. Hell, it might be the source of some of the cliches: people deciding to turn off the main road to take a shortcut that turns out to be the worst choice of their lives, an arrogant member of the group’s behavior making a bad situation worse, disintegration of relationships through greed and ego, and ending most gruesomely with blood and gore through cannibalism.

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What could possibly go wrong?

A hunger to know things is a common theme in literature and mythology, but it’s been balanced over thousands of years with messages that the pursuit of knowledge may destroy paradise. Curiosity is frequently treated as something of a sin; the pursuit of knowledge and the discovery of truth usually signify the loss of innocence. The Holy Bible uses this trope with the temptation of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. And Greek mythology has both Pandora and her box and Prometheus and his gift of fire. Reams could and probably have been written on the effect on Western civilization due to two big cultural myths which blamed women for bringing evil and suffering into the world, and how that corresponds to ideas about sexual innocence and moral purity.

In a good portion of scary movies that touch on science fiction, there is more than a fair share of Luddite tendencies. Even though science fiction deals with possibilities and all the wonder that may be, it also has a habit of tempering that with a lot of paranoia and suspicion of advanced technology, scientific discovery, and its application. To this end, most stories posit corporations and government as the “Big Bads,” since their depictions tend to be neither benevolent nor trustworthy enough to deal with knowledge that might be gained, due to ulterior motives of greed and power.

As a child, I learned some important lessons. If I should ever come across a crashed meteor, and ooze should slither out of it, I should run the hell away instead of poking it with a stick. If I am ever part of an experiment, any positive physical changes will be temporary; I will ultimately descend into becoming a monstrous mass of flesh. And if someday a flying saucer is discovered under the ice of Antarctica, don’t thaw it, as it will end with teeth growing out of the chest and one’s head growing tentacles.

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Killers struggle with sexual identity

Until the mid-1970s, both the American psychiatric and psychological associations classified homosexuality as a mental health disorder and listed it in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). This particular bias is prevalent in many, many stories where gay and transgender characters are shown enduring a life of self-hating sadness, suffering from an addiction to supposedly aberrant behavior, or drawn to an underworld of sin. And since people with these “unnatural” compulsions are broken, LGBTQ characters have been used, sometimes as the twist, in a lot of murder-mysteries, psychological dramas, and horror movies.

Tennessee Williams’ Suddenly, Last Summer plays the monster angle literally, where a gay character is chased through the streets like Frankenstein’s monster and killed. Along the same lines, the implied or explicit homosexuality of the killer is often a twist of the “thriller” genre. The adaptation of Roderick Thorp’s The Detective, starring Frank Sinatra, has the killer at one point saying he “felt more guilty about being a homosexual than being a murderer” and skulking around the streets looking to pick up men, like an addict searching for a fix. William Friedkin’s Cruising, which follows an undercover cop investigating a serial killer targeting gay men within New York’s leather/BDSM scene, was protested during its production and upon release by gay rights activists who believed the film characterized homosexuals as promiscuous and violent. Similar to the most problematic issues surrounding Cruising, 1992’s Basic Instinct was protested by LGBTQ activists for presenting gay people and bisexuals in a negative light; some protesters stood outside theaters holding signs that revealed the identity of the movie’s killer. One of the most controversial aspects of both the novel and Jonathan Demme’s adaption of Thomas Harris’ The Silence of the Lambs was the characterization of serial killer Buffalo Bill.

It’s fascinating how this characterization has changed over the years. The change in these views of the LGBTQ community has led many to feel that positive depictions of gay men and lesbian women in film and television have been important in pushing the public to a more tolerant position.

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We live in The Twilight Zone

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize a lot of my love for science fiction and horror material can be seen through the prism of cathartic wish fulfillment and a release of all the things we’re afraid of within an engaging story.

Because “in a better world,” we can do anything. In some far-off future society, things make sense. Unlike in the here and now, problems can be solved with reason and science, no one looks down their nose at others for being different, and the worst mistakes can be made right again. Brave heroes boldly charge through the darkness in great machines to save the day. While there will be struggles and suffering, and dark threats must be confronted, even death itself can be opposed. And through it all, maybe there’s even a fatherly figure who dispenses wisdom and lessons of morality in between drags on his cigarette.

One of the greatest powers of story can be its ability to divorce a controversial topic from all of the usual bullshit that surrounds it, forcing the reader/viewer to examine a topic in a new way. It allows the public conscious for confronting humanity’s hopes and despairs, fears and failings, prejudices and atrocities in allegory and metaphor. So it should be no surprise that scary stories reflect who we are as a people, both good and bad.

The horror films of the last two decades have seen an increased diversity in topics and formats, which are themselves reactions to cultural shifts. Found footage films arose at the same time that selfies and social media became commonplace. A glut of horror movie remakes, and remakes in general, have occurred during the same era where a significant part of the populace has clung to old ideas and want to make flawed, past memories great again instead of creating better and newer ones. What does the future hold? How will the influence of the Trump era be expressed in future scary movies?

Only time will tell.

If Trump loses refuses to concede, we need to take to the streets. The Protect the Results coalition has been preparing for this by organizing hundreds of post-election events across the country. Click here to find, and RSVP for, the Count Every Vote rally near you.

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The election is almost over. And there’s only one state that’s literally keeping me up at night: Pennsylvania, a must-win battleground state for Joe Biden.

Here’s the problem: While states like Texas and Florida have had record early voting, the one swing state that noticeably did not turn in as many early ballots is Pennsylvania. Biden should win it, but if Pennsylvania slips through our fingers there’s a very real danger Trump could get reelected. That’s why it’s the smartest place to invest your time. 

For the final days of the election, wherever you live, volunteer a few hours to get out the Democratic vote in Pennsylvania. Daily Kos has set up a feed where you can easily find phonebank and texting opportunities with different groups like Back to Blue, Swing Left the Biden-Harris campaign, or NextGen America. Click to sign up.

Chip in $10 to grassroots organizations in 10 swing states (including Pennsylvania) that are providing key voter assistance against GOP voter suppression. 

At our feed on Mobilize America, Daily Kos has curated these get-out-the-vote activities to help Biden win Pennsylvania. After you sign up, you will be contacted by the campaign organizers via email for further instructions on what next steps you need to take.

Here are some of the get-out-the-vote opportunities where we need volunteers:

Back-to-Blue, the Pennsylvania Democratic Party, is hosting a virtual phonebank explicitly for out-of-state volunteers to make calls into Pennsylvania during the last four days.

NextGen Pennsylvania, which targets young voters, is hosting a get-out-the-vote textbank for the final five days. Textbanking is a popular activity, so volunteer shifts fill up quickly. If you want to textbank, I highly recommend you grab a slot while you can.

Swing Left is hosting a virtual phonebank from Philadelphia starting this weekend, where you can log in from anywhere in the country to get out the vote in Pennsylvania.

That’s just a fraction of the hundreds of volunteer activities on our feed, so please check it out.

The polls may suggest Biden will win Pennsylvania, although it’s too close for comfort. But it requires getting out the Democratic vote, and Republicans are pulling out every voter suppression stop they can. And we have not built the kind of initial lead in early voting in Pennsylvania like we have in other swing states.

And reports of absentee ballots getting lost in the mail are terrifying. In Butler County (in western Pennsylvania, just north of Pittsburgh), unknown thousands of voters did not receive their mail-in ballots due to a mix-up by the U.S. Postal Service. Thankfully, the Pennsylvania Democratic Party is running a virtual phonebank that you can participate in here.

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Is a new ad posted to Twitter by Kamala Harris an epic 51 seconds of shade in response to the recent nasty diss of Harris by Republican columnist Peggy Noonan?

The Harris-supporting Twitterati seemed to think so, because as soon as the tweet dropped, it was being forwarded to Peggy Noonan, who, in a Wall Street Journal column, described Harris as “giddy,” “insubstantial,” and “frivolous.” I reported on those slurs from Noonan earlier this week. The ad, which has no voice-over, has a Black drum line soundtrack. In her “critique” of Harris, Noonan also seemed to have a problem with drum lines, which are part of a long Historically Black College and University (HBCU) tradition. You be the judge.

If Trump attempts to stop the vote counting, we need to take to the streets. The Protect the Results coalition has been preparing for this by organizing hundreds of post-election events across the country. Click here to find, and RSVP for, the Count Every Vote rally near you.

Here’s the tweet.

13 cities, 6 days, and a whole lot of people who can’t wait to vote early.— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) October 29, 2020

I dare you to try to sit still listening to that beat.

Responses to the ad included comments specifically aimed at Noonan.

“Has anyone done a wellness check on Peggy Noonan?”

“Love it I see @Peggynoonannyc has gone silent—maybe the sight of diverse people joyously voting still pisses her off”

“Hey!  Drums!  Dancing!  Fun!  Excitement!  Voting!  Kamala!  Better close your eyes, @Peggynoonannyc!”

“Hey @Peggynoonannyc what racist comments are you going to make today?”

”@Peggynoonannyc You wrote a hateful column full of misogyny & racism about a woman you could never hope 2 [email protected] is brilliant, kind, thoughtful & joyous in the face of people like you. She’s qualified to be PRESIDENT one day. #SheDances #BlackJoy”

Oh shit, someone better tell Peggy Noonan to avert her eyes, Kamala’s being human again.🙄— Val (@Valgb1961) October 29, 2020

Ms Noonan could not be reached for comment.— Lolly Voted (@dlian3) October 30, 2020

I threw in my two cents, as did Black Kos Editor Chitown Kev.

HA!  That was my first thought David.  Drums!!! Dancing!!!— Denise Oliver-Velez 💛 (@Deoliver47) October 29, 2020

The shade is real!— Chitown Kev (@ChitownKev) October 29, 2020

The fallout from Noonan’s pontificatin’ rolled in immediately after it was published last week.

“Kamala Harris is anything but embarrassing. She is uplifting, she is inspirational, she is strong and substantial and she’s going to be one hell of a vice president,” @clairecmc says, discussing criticism from WSJ columnist Peggy Noonan of Sen. Harris’ dancing at campaign events— MSNBC (@MSNBC) October 26, 2020

“For me, seeing Kamala Harris out on the campaign trail is important, on a personal level. Seeing her on-stage in a political context, dancing to Mary J. Blige, gives me life. It makes me feel seen.”@ZerlinaMaxwell on why Kamala dancing is anything *but* frivolous.— Zerlina on Peacock (@ZerlinaShow) October 26, 2020

WaPo’s Jonathan Capehart weighed in Thursday.

Upon hearing what Noonan said about Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), the Democratic vice-presidential nominee, a friend texted me, saying of Noonan, “She slipped the surly bonds of human decency.” Noonan’s offense was a column complaining about Harris not acting in a manner the conservative columnist deemed acceptable. “She’s dancing with drum lines and beginning rallies with ‘Wassup, Florida!’ She’s throwing her head back and laughing a loud laugh, especially when nobody said anything funny,” opined Noonan. “She’s the younger candidate going for the younger vote, and she’s going for a Happy Warrior vibe, but she’s coming across as insubstantial, frivolous. When she started to dance in the rain onstage, in Jacksonville, Fla., to Mary J. Blige’s ‘Work That,’ it was embarrassing.”

No, what is embarrassing is a veteran political columnist who turns into a dance critic by ignoring what Harris actually said on the stump. And so what if she danced? As for Harris’s laughter, pity Noonan didn’t bother to zero in on what was said that led Harris to laugh in the first place. Sometimes a laugh is nervous energy. Sometimes it is in response to an asinine question. Sometimes it is the reaction to an inane assertion too ridiculous to be taken seriously.

Harris must be a vexing conundrum for Noonan. After spending generations at the center of America’s political and cultural life, White Americans like Noonan can’t seem to deal with someone like Harris, who is an avatar of the emerging majority-minority America more resolutely stepping into the spotlight and into leadership.

The drum lines that Noonan disparaged are nothing new for Harris, who graduated from HBCU Howard University—clearly a part of campaign territory.

After her speech at Shaw University in Raleigh, Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris was greeted by the Shaw drumline, marching band and cheerleaders.— ABC11 EyewitnessNews (@ABC11_WTVD) September 28, 2020

Award winning, local drumline students performing for the first time since the pandemic 🥁🥁🥁🎶 #BidenHarris2020 #KamalaHarris #Phoenix #drivein #rally #arizona @MissionForAZ— Kathleen Harris Murray (@SoCalKat8) October 28, 2020

If you haven’t voted yet, dance your way down to the polls, all to the sound of joy.

We got this!

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Voters in a number of key battleground states including Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin not only overwhelmingly support humane approaches to immigration, they’re repudiating impeached president Donald Trump’s treatment of immigrants, Immigration Hub and Civiqs find in polling released just days away from the end of voting in the 2020 election.

“The polling … reveals that battleground voters are increasingly moving away from Trump on immigration,” they said, “with a majority indicating they prefer pro-immigration policies over the status quo, particularly for America’s recovery from the pandemic—like prioritizing citizenship over deportation, protecting asylum seekers over jailing families, and limiting ICE’s jurisdiction over expanding it.”

If we win Pennsylvania, Trump loses—which is why Republicans are doing all they can to suppress the vote. Pennsylvania is the crucial battleground state where we need the most volunteers. Click to sign up for virtual phonebanking, textbanking and other activities at Mobilize America here.

The Immigration Hub and Civiqs polling, which interviewed nearly 7,200 registered voters in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin this month, continues to confirm that the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant attacks are yet again appearing to backfire, as they did following the 2018 midterm elections.

“Majorities in every battleground state agree that ‘immigration enforcement has become too cruel and extreme; we should have a system that is more fair and humane,’” the polling said. “Over 60% of voters oppose jailing families who have committed no crimes and are seeking asylum; and over 57% of voters oppose the practice of detention and family separation at the U.S.-Mexico border.”

What these voters say they want is compassionate immigration policy—particularly amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, which they also say Trump has failed to properly address.

 “Over 55% of voters surveyed, including a majority of Independents and 60% of Pennsylvania voters, agree that an economic recovery bill should include a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrant workers who have been essential to the pandemic response,” the polling continues. Recall that undocumented farmworkers were deemed “essential” by the Trump administration, yet were despicably shut out of financial relief.

Furthermore, being deemed “essential” hasn’t meant gaining vital protections, like guaranteed paid sick leave, unemployment insurance, financial assistance from the coronavirus packages—or even any protection from deportation. “Nearly two-thirds of voters (63%) prefer citizenship over deportation (29%),” the polling continued.

The Immigration Hub/Civiqs polling comes “amid recent revelations that over 500 children separated from their families at the border have still yet to be reunited. With more than 57% of voters opposing the practice of detention and family separation, Vice President Biden announced today a federal task force to reunite these children on his first day as president.”

Biden announced the federal task force in an ad that featured the powerful debate moment when he called the Trump administration’s treatment of children and their families “criminal.” And it is.

“Civiqs polling shows that the Trump administration’s immigration policies are widely out of step with voters in battleground states,” Civiqs director Drew Linzer said. “In every issue area—family separation, DACA, ICE, asylum-seekers—the American people oppose his views and embrace compassionate, sensible reforms,” Immigration Hub executive director Tyler Moran said. “By continuing to peddle racist messaging, Trump has only hurt himself in the states that he needs to win the most.”

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Daily Kos is not just a news site—it’s news you can do something about. We give you a way to fight back on the stories you care about the most.

With the stakes so high in this election, our activism team set a goal at the beginning of this campaign cycle to recruit 100,000 volunteers for get-out-the-vote activities.

Daily Kos does not run phone banking, text banking, or canvassing operations ourselves. But if a Democratic campaign or allied progressive organization is doing meaningful work where they need volunteers, we promote what they do and encourage our audience to sign up.

With five days left before the election, we are now at 92,470 volunteers signed up.

What have we done so far?

Roughly 50,000 Daily Kos community members wrote 2.5 million “please vote” letters to Democratic-leaning folks in swing states, through a highly successful program called Vote Forward. This helped Vote Forward send 17+ million letters through its coalition partners.

Another 14,000 Daily Kos volunteers sent 3.2 million postcards to voters in swing states through another program run by Indivisible activists called Postcards to Swing States, which sent 15+ million total. The program was so popular that we had to stop promoting it in early September, because organizers could not keep up with the demand from our community members.

Over 11,000 Daily Kos activists volunteered to be poll workers, and another 9,000 signed up to do Election Protection work fighting voter suppression. Over 23,000 folks signed up for at least one GOTV activity through our promoted feeds on Mobilize America (our national feed is here, and our Pennsylvania-specific feed is here). That total includes over 7,000 people who have already RSVP’ed to attend a Protect the Results rally near them if Trump tries to stop votes from being counted or refuses to leave office after he loses to Joe Biden.

Now, with the election on Tuesday, we need all hands on deck to do the most crucial work to get the very last Democratic voters out to the polls. And to make it easier for you to know about what needs to get done, Daily Kos has set up a comprehensive GOTV page to get involved.

Want to help Biden win Texas? Our friends at Turnout2020 have been working for months to call Democratic voters in the Lone Star state, which has helped boost Texas’ stratospheric early voting rates. Sign up for a shift here.

Pennsylvania is the tipping-point state. Pennsylvania is likely to be the decisive state in this election, and Republicans are trying every dirty voter suppression tactic in the book to keep it in Trump’s hands. That’s why Daily Kos has set up a specific feed at Mobilize America to help volunteers get out the vote in Pennsylvania no matter where they live.

The Biden-Harris campaign, through 2020 Victory, needs volunteers to make phone calls to voters in battleground states. You can participate no matter where you live. They offer training and the ability to chat with campaign staff in their Slack channel while you are making the calls to help you troubleshoot any issues that might arise. 

Reach young voters with NextGen America through both phone banking and text banking in 11 battleground states. Young voters historically wait until closer to Election Day to cast their ballots, and we need them to come out and vote.

Don’t forget state legislatures! Our friends at Sister District have adopted specific Democratic candidates in key state legislative chambers, where we can flip control and end Republican gerrymandering. Sign up for a phone banking shift where a few hours of your time will go a very long way.

And finally, what happens on Nov. 4 if Donald Trump refuses to concede? We know that Republicans can only win this election if they suppress the vote, and if the results are anywhere near close we can expect a big fight on our hands. That’s why we have already started recruiting volunteers to be ready on Wednesday to protect the results. Click here to find a “protect the results” event near you, and the organizers will keep you posted about whether—and when—mobilization is needed.

More than 92,000 Daily Kos community members have signed up to volunteer this election cycle. Can we exceed 100,000 by Tuesday? Sign up today and join us.

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Sen. Susan Collins, the embattled Maine Republican, is not closing out the final week of her campaign with glory. Pretty much the opposite, in fact. In the final debate with Democrat Sara Gideon Wednesday night, Collins totally blew off the existence of systemic racism in Maine. Granted, Maine is pretty darned white, but it’s not that white. There’s a sizable population of refugees and immigrants in the state. So when Susan Collins, their senator, says “I do not believe systemic racism is a problem in the state of Maine,” and “it’s clear that in some parts of our country there is systemic racism or problems in police departments” but “we are very fortunate in the state of Maine because we have terrific members of law enforcement,” she might seem just a little bit out of touch to those residents.

Especially compared to Gideon. “It doesn’t matter how white our state is—it still exists. When we look at the incidences, for example, of the number of people of color who here in the state of Maine had a positive COVID infection rate and how outsized that was compared to the rest of the population. We see it in terms of access to education for people of color, access to health care, rates of poverty, rates of incarceration, and we do have to do something about it,” Gideon said. That’s the answer of someone living in the 21st century and not in a Republican bubble. And not someone who is being bankrolled by private equity firms. That’s the other bad bit of press Collins has gained for herself this week.

Defeating Republicans will require all of us to get plugged in to GOTV efforts. On Mobilize, hundreds of Democratic campaigns are recruiting volunteers for all sorts of get-out-the-vote activities. Just click here, and search via zip code to find an event nearest you, and sign up to volunteer

ProPublica reports that she is the “No. 1 Senate recipient of private equity donations.” Which isn’t a good look. It’s even worse when her work on the 2017 GOP Tax Scam is reviewed. Collins, trying to justify what was going to be her total capitulation in voting for the bill, offered an amendment the day before the vote to expand a child care tax credit, paid for by ending a tax break for the private equity industry. Within hours, though, she backed down and withdrew the amendment. “Her retreat was a significant victory for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell,” ProPublica reports. “Collins put aside her opposition and voted for the bill, which passed 51-49.” Her decision to yank the amendment, and how the private equity industry prevailed, has remained a mystery.

But now we have a clue: the more than half a million dollars she’s received from the private equity industry in this cycle for her reelection. There’s also the $2 million Steve Schwarzman, the billionaire chairman and chief executive of the private equity giant Blackstone, has given to one of the Collins Super PACs as well as the $20 million he’s giving to another Super PAC supporting Collins and other Republican Senate candidates. Tax experts told ProPublica that Collins amendment probably would have cost Schwarzman tens of millions in taxes. So lucky him that Collins changed her mind about that. Another donor to the Collins 1820 PAC is Ken Griffin, who’s given $1.5 million. Griffin heads up the hedge fund giant Citadel. So his potential tax liability would have been significantly rosier without Collins’ amendment to close the carried interest loophole.

Remember way back in 2017 when Collins was insisting that she was holding out her vote on the tax scam and getting ironclad promises from Mitch McConnell that he’d allow votes on protecting people’s health care? And then he broke that promise when he got her vote? And how she insisted that it was still going to happen, that the Senate would have those healthcare votes in 2018? Somehow in retrospect, the millions she got from these hedge fund guys seem to be the promise that really secured her vote.

It’s awfully rich for the person who said this in 2018 about a grassroots funding effort against her: “I consider this quid pro quo fundraising to be the equivalent of an attempt to bribe me to vote against Judge Kavanaugh.” Please, Senator Collins, tell us all about bribes and quid pro quo. We’d really like to hear it.

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The House Judiciary Committee said following an exhaustive, 21-month-long investigation that the Trump administration started planning to separate families just weeks after impeached President Donald Trump took office, and that when it did begin “piloting” the policy, it failed to inform the Office of Refugee Resettlement, the federal agency tasked with caring for children who typically arrive to the U.S. alone, that it would be carrying out this crime at the southern border.

“Accustomed to caring for migrant children who arrive unaccompanied at the border, ORR leadership did not initially question the reason for the growing number of children entering into their custody during the summer of 2017,” the report said. But even after leaders raised alarms after seeing a massive surge of separated children being sent to the agency, “ORR was not informed of the ongoing pilot program for at least three months after its initiation.”

Humiliate Trump: Sign up with 2020 Victory to make phone calls to voters in battleground states to elect Joe Biden, Kamala Harris and the whole Democratic ticket. All you need is a home computer, a quiet place at home to make calls and a burning desire to kick Donald Trump out of office.

“By September 2017, ORR leadership began expressing concern with the increasing number of children—including infants—that were being referred to ORR after separation from a parent,” the report said. “We had a shortage last night of beds for babies,” Commander Jonathan White, a former ORR career official, emailed former ORR director Scott Lloyd in November. “Overall, infant placements seem to be climbing over recent weeks, and we think that’s due to more separations from mothers by CBP.”

But White’s urgent inquiries to top administration officials went largely ignored, the report continued.

“Six days later, Commander White raised the alarm again, this time emailing Acting CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan, ICE Director Tom Homan, and ORR Director Lloyd to once again notify them of the increase in referrals of separated children and to express similar concerns regarding ORR’s capacity to accommodate these children,” the report said. “After three weeks, Acting CBP Commissioner McAleenan finally responded, noting that Commander White and ORR should have ‘seen a change in the past 10 days or so’ and stating that they would coordinate on future plans.”

“Commissioner McAleenan did not disclose to HHS that CBP had just completed the El Paso Pilot Program,” the report continued. The full report, available here, also continues to confirm that the administration carried out this state-sanctioned kidnapping with no intention of reuniting these children with their parents. 

“At the end of the pilot, CBP headquarters became aware of a ‘deficiency’ in its records systems that prevented government officials from tracking separated children and parents,” the report continued. “Although CBP agents in El Paso asked CBP headquarters to address this issue, CBP failed to make any changes to its records systems to fix the tracking problem.”

Rather than not continuing on with this effort, the administration went full-steam ahead with the 2018 family separation policy, continuing one of the worst humanitarian disasters in modern U.S. history. Three years after that initial piloting, hundreds of children remain separated from their parents because we can’t find them.

“Despite full knowledge that hundreds of children would likely be lost to their families forever, the administration chose to expand the pilot program into a permanent nationwide policy,” the report said. “As administration officials had predicted, the government lacked the capacity to track separated family members. Efforts to reunify separated children continue to this day.”

Advocates continued demanding justice for families following the report’s release, saying that “[w]hile the harms wrought by family separation can never fully heal, a criminal investigation is a critical and necessary step to ensure that such wrongs are never repeated.”

“Any government officials who participated in, ordered, authorized, condoned, or acquiesced in torture or other crimes should be investigated,” Amnesty International USA said. “There must be an effective criminal investigation of all government officials, personnel, and contractors who are responsible for this shameful period of our history—no matter their current or former level of office.”

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Late Night Snark: 4 Days and Counting Edition

“The senate confirmed President Trump’s nominee Amy Coney-Barrett to the Supreme Court. And just think: some day you’ll tell your children about this, whether you wanted children or not.”
—Seth Meyers

“After his [Omaha] speech, Trump quickly left Nebraska on Air Force One, but hundreds of his supporters were left stranded in the frigid cold for hours because their buses didn’t show up. Some people were actually treated for hypothermia. That’s how bad it’s getting for Trump—even his supporters are turning blue.”
—Jimmy Fallon


“I swear, every day there’s another way you can die from going to a Trump rally. First you can get corona. Now you can get hypothermia. By the end of the weekend Trump is just gonna be tossing snakes into the crowd. Free cobras, everybody! Free cobras and anacondas! You won’t get that from Sleepy Joe!”
—Trevor Noah

“There is a coordinated effort to stop people from voting all over the country. The Washington Post released a series of videos of closed-door conservative machinations in which one speaker told the group, ‘This is a spiritual battle we are in. This is good versus evil. We have to do everything we can to win.’ And another said, ‘Be not afraid of the accusations that you’re a voter suppressor, you’re a racist and so forth.’ Yes, be not afraid. Clearly a biblical quote from the Book of Doucheronomy.”
—Stephen Colbert

—The Late Show

“Trump has cried foul every time he’s lost anything. The popular vote, the Iowa Caucus, the Emmys, his erection on his wedding night. If Trump loses, he will call it fraud and try to steal the election amid the chaos. We can stop him with a decisive Biden victory.”
—Samantha Bee

“Rudy Giuliani is denying he did anything wrong after a controversial scene in the new Borat movie in which he’s alone in a hotel room with a female reporter, puts his hands down his pants, and appears to start touching himself. Unfortunately we can’t show you the video. Not because it violates standards, but because anyone who watches it dies in seven days.”
—Colin Jost, SNL

“I tried to do a séance with my dead grandparents and it immediately devolved into a political argument.”
—Conan O’Brien

And now, our feature presentation…

Cheers and Jeers for Friday, October 30, 2020

Note: On this National Candy Corn Day, you must resist the efforts by the Democrat Party—aided and abetted by Big Skittle, Big Reese, and Big M&M—to win their War on Halloween by eating fistfuls of candy corn now before you get murdered by Hillary Clinton, assisted by illegals from a caravan, in a covid-infested socialist concentration camp run by Soros, AOC, and Hunter Biden from their command center in a pizza parlor basement. Also buy lots of gold and My Pillow pillows and whatever Pat Boone is selling on my show today. Or, again, and I can’t stress this enough, you’ll be murdered.

—National GOP Candy Corn Council Elder Lou Dobbs

By the Numbers:

Voting ends in 4 days!!!Days ’til voting ends: 4!!!

Percent of likely voters polled by CNN who said they would vote for the Democrat and Republican, respectively, in their congressional district: 54%, 42%

Democrat Jon Ossoff’s lead over Republican David Perdue in the U.S. Senate race in Georgia, per Monmouth University polling: +3

Biden’s lead over Trump in the same poll: +5

Amount that South Korea’s culture ministry estimates BTS’s single “Dynamite” will contribute to the nation’s economy: $1.4 billion

Expected spending on Halloween stuff this year despite the pandemic, according to ABC News: $8 billion

Increase in candy sales since the pandemic revved into high gear in mid-March, according to the National Confectioners Association: 4.3%

Puppy Pic of the Day: “Trick or treat…”

CHEERS to a fine finale. The tight, disciplined, well-funded Biden-Harris campaign and the hapless, untethered, and broke Trump-Sominex superspreader campaign will be barnstorming hither and yon this weekend in a final push to get voters to do their civic duty. (Which it would seem most of us have done already.) The highlight: tomorrow’s reunion of 2008’s biggest rock stars…

Former President Barack Obama is set to join Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden on the campaign trail in their first joint appearance during the final weekend of the election season.

The two will be in the key battleground state of Michigan on Saturday to “discuss bringing Americans together to address the crises facing the country,” the Biden campaign announced Wednesday. […]

Some serious wattage in them choppers.

The former president, who remains a popular figure in the Democratic Party, made his debut last week with a stump speech in Pennsylvania and delivered his most direct attack against Trump to date. He continued his campaigning over the weekend in Miami and on Tuesday in Orlando, as he zeroes in on a handful of critical battlegrounds where voting is underway.

During tomorrow’s rally, Biden and Obama will harness their love of country to spread hope and democracy. Meanwhile, during today’s rally in Michigan, Trump harnessed his love of himself to spread bullshit and covid-19. Golly, wolverines, what a tough decision you have.

CHEERS to Obamacare: Year 8.  Despite all the Republican “repeal and replace” nonsense, not to mention Lord Dampnut’s sabotage of a law he took an oath to “faithfully execute,” HHS and my non-profit health insurance provider wasted no time in letting me know this week that the 2021 ACA enrollment period for health insurance begins Sunday.  As always you can get info and shop around at for the most bang for your buck. Here’s Kaiser Health News with a few notes on the situation this year: 

Facing a pandemic, record unemployment and unknown future costs for COVID-19 treatments, health insurers selling Affordable Care Act plans to individuals reacted by lowering rates in some areas and, overall, issuing only modest premium increases for 2021.

PolitiFact still rates this claim: TRUE.“What’s been fascinating is that carriers in general are not projecting much impact from the pandemic for their 2021 premium rates,” said Sabrina Corlette, a research professor at the Center on Health Insurance Reforms at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

Although final rates have yetto be analyzed in all states, those who study the market say the premium increases they have seen to date will be in the low single digits — and decreases are not uncommon. That’s good news for the more than 10million Americans who purchase their own ACA health insurance through federal and state marketplaces.

 If you prefer not to sign up for an Obamacare plan (it’s no longer mandatory), don’t forget that there are a few inexpensive options available under Trumpcare: do-it-yourself rusty scalpel surgery set (rag soaked in ether sold separately), bag of mystery pills found on pharmacy floor after closing time, and “die like a dog.” Payment in advance, please. Sorry, no checks.

CHEERS and JEERS to monumental achievements.  On this date in 1941, Mount Rushmore was deemed “complete” after 14 years of blasting and chiseling, but only because they’d run out of money.  It’s an eyesore and an insult to Native Americans, and it’s more a testament to its creator’s ego than anything else.

In 82 days they can finally remove their hands from their faces.

Having said that, it’s still quite an accomplishment and it sure sums up the #1 thing you need to be President of the United States: a really big head.


The joy 😀— CCTV_IDIOTS (@cctv_idiots) October 28, 2020


JEERS to famous no-shows. Harry Houdini died 94 years ago tomorrow, but not from one of his death-defying magic tricks. It was a ruptured appendix…but spooky nonetheless:

Houdini was 52 years old when he died, the exact number of playing cards in a deck. Further, he was born 26 years before the start of the new century, and died 26 years into the next one—as if his “life’s deck” had been deftly cut in half by Fate, the ultimate magician.

After I die: if you smell Twinkies, you’ll know I’m in the vicinity.For a full ten years after Houdini’s death, his wife Bess conducted a séance on October 31.These séances were always attended by the top names in magic, as well as personal friends of the great magician. Houdini had told Bess that if it were possible, he would send a message to her “from beyond” in secret code. Though Bess herself stopped participating in the séances after 1937, members of the magic fraternity have kept the tradition.

If you’re conducting a séance tomorrow night and you smell burnt cannoli, you’ll know you’ve erroneously reached Antonin Scalia. Dog shit? Jerry Falwell.

CHEERS to home vegetation. If a poltergeist doesn’t suck us into the TV first (“Come into the light, Billeh! We haz teh candy corns!”), we might fit some cathode-ray-tubage in this weekend. Tonight after Chris Hayes and Rachel Maddow scare us to death with the day’s news on MSNBC, Bill Maher hosts HBO’s Real Time at 10 with guests Al Franken, John Heilemann, Pete Buttigieg’s campaign adviser Lis Smith, and NYT national security reporter David E. Sanger…or at the same time you could catch Exhumed: A History of Zombies on PBS instead. Then at 11, The Graham Norton Show welcomes Oscar winners Bruce Springsteen, Matthew McConaughey and Sam Smith.

Season 2 of Baby Yoda’s Celebrity Roasts is now streaming.The big home video release this weekend is the Season 2 premiere of Disney+’s The Mandalorian, and you can check out reviews of that and the rest here at Rotten Tomatoes. The NFL schedule is here. Comedian John Mulaney hosts SNL tomorrow night. On 60 Minutes, Scott Pelley talks with voters in Ohio, Arizona explains how it’s handling early votes, and how a federal investigation interfered with covid care for patients in a nursing home. Meanwhile on Fox The Simpsons airs its annual Treehouse of Terror episode (number XXXI), and Peter while Lois enter a new dimension on Family Guy. And Sunday night at 11 on HBO, John Oliver airs an expanded pre-election edition of Last Week Tonight.

Now here’s your Sunday morning lineup:

Meet the Press: PA Sec. of State Kathy Boockvar; election law expert Nate Persily.

Face the Nation: Rep. Val Demings (D-FL); RNC chair Mitt Romney’s niece; former DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson.

Also: Mr. Hyde joins the networks Sunday morning to share pandemic hair care tips that’ll get you noticed.This Week: Biden senior campaign adviser Anita Dunn.

CNN’s State of the Union: Wow—two hours of running out of time so we’ll have to leave it there, with Govs. Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI), Tom Wolf (D-PA), Tony Evers (D-WI), and Mike DeWine (R-OH), plus Pete Buttigieg, Biden senior campaign adviser Anita Dunn. 

Fox GOP Talking Points Sunday: Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN); Trump campaign senior disorganizer Corey Lewandowski.


Happy viewing!

Ten years ago in C&J: October 30, 2010

CHEERS to today’s #1 story in the entire universe (not counting the sudden outbreak of borp pulsators on Frgnorrrk-9).  It happened, it happened!  The only event that could possibly bring liberals, independents and right-wing buttheads together finally happened!  Today!!!!  The doors are open and Portland, Maine’s got a Trader Joe’s!  I say Portland’s…got…a…Trader Joe’s!!!  [Dances on tippy toes with rest of Maine’s population]  Ahem.  I’ll try to care about the rest of today’s news.  If I must.

P.S. Just one question. What’s a Trader Joe’s?

And just one more…

CHEERS to getting an extra hour of sleep. Daylight Saving Time ends at 2am Sunday. (Yes, you must stay up ’til 2am to change your clocks or else DST won’t end properly and you’ll have to destroy all your clocks and start over, according to the Association of American Clock Sellers.)  It’s the usual routine: If you’re a Democrat, turn your clocks back one hour.  If you’re a Republican, turn your clocks back, of course, 400 years.

Have a great weekend. Floor’s open…What are you cheering and jeering about today?

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In early September, news broke of a newly planned Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) advertising campaign intended to “defeat despair” and instill “confidence to return to work and restart the economy” amidst the ongoing and still-uncontrolled COVID-19 pandemic. The still-in-the-works advertising splurge was allocated a quarter of a billion dollars, and was (is?) to feature whatever celebrities Team Trump could muster in what looked suspiciously like a White House attempt to spend a massive amount of HHS money not to combat the pandemic with testing, tracking, or social distancing measures, but to promote Trump’s own demands that the economy of hard-hit states “reopen,” regardless of how many Americans would die in the aftermath.

The planned campaign was being overseen by Trump loyalist Michael Caputo, who was implicated within a week for also manipulating the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports, upon which Caputo went completely off the rails with claims of CDC “sedition,” secret “resistance units,” and other paranoid claims—like publicly urging Trump supporters to “buy ammunition” in case Democratic candidate Joe Biden attempted to stage a coup against Trump. He took a near-immediate medical leave from his government post.

The House Oversight Committee has now received some of the subsequently requested HHS documents explaining how the “defeat despair” campaign came about, and, yeah. It looks like the original take of “Team Trump (possibly illegally) shifted $250 million of HHS funds into advertising meant to boost Donald Trump in the upcoming campaign” was exactly on the money. Both Politico and The Washington Post have obtained those documents, and they show that Caputo was extremely not subtle in his desires to tailor the quarter-billion-dollar campaign to boost Trump.

Caputo even proposed a theme for the ad campaign: “Helping the President will Help the Country,” which would target Trump supporters with messages about masks and other “reopening”-friendly pandemic safety measures by suggesting to them that doing those things would be, yes, “helping” Dear Leader. (How this was supposed to work while Trump himself continued to voice public contempt for the same safety measures is, alas, somewhat unclear. The whole concept of staging a pro-safety HHS campaign centered around an anti-safety leader sounds so precarious that it’s no wonder it near-immediately turned into a fiasco.)

Further, both Politico and the Post report, documents show that the “celebrities” who were sought out to promote these public service announcements were being vigorously screened as to their political leanings, and specifically whether they had made past statements opposing Trump. Of the 270+ celebrities being considered, only 10 were eventually approved. If you’re a fan of Dennis Quaid, Dr. Oz, or Billy Ray Cyrus, you’re in luck, but it seems nearly everyone else on the list of America’s most famous people, from Lady Gaga to Judd Apatow, were taken out of consideration due to Naughty Thoughts.

Notably, George Lopez did apparently agree to participate, only to be nixed due to, as quoted in notes by subcontractor Atlas Research as obtained by Politico, “previous concerns regarding his comments regarding the President.” That serves as solid evidence that the tallying of each celebrity’s past support of or opposition to Trump was not just bookkeeping, but indeed used to winnow out those who had expressed anti-Trump sentiments. (From the outside, it looks like Atlas Research or someone else started with a bare list of America’s most famous faces, then painstakingly consulted Dr. Google to see which ones would not face immediate rejection by Caputo and other political minders. Not exactly the most efficient operation.)

The entire ad campaign is now under “strategic review” inside HHS, according to Trump HHS head Alex Azar, which is Washington code for has become such a political liability that it likely can no longer be pulled off. It certainly won’t be arriving in time to boost Trump’s election chances, which may eventually scuttle the whole thing.

What has the House Oversight Committee’s attention, however, is that even with this small fragment of demanded documents, there seems solid evidence that the pandemic-premised ad campaign to fight “despair” was, from the outset, designed as a gargantuan government-funded Trump campaign boost.

That would seem to be rather conspicuously illegal. At some point, we might even have a Department of Justice again willing to look into those things.

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