Needed 1991
Biden 1169
Sanders 860
Warren 78
Buttigieg 26
Bloomberg 51
Klobuchar 7
Gabbard 2
Remaining 1786
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Fauci Predicts 100,000 to 200,000 COVID-19 Deaths in America

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and the government's top expert on infectious diseases, has predicted millions of Americans will be infected with the coronavirus and that the current death toll from COVID-19, which is about 2,000, will eventually grow to between 100,000 and 200,000.

Fauci's prediction is not going to make Donald Trump happy. It also isn't going to raise the good doctor's standing among right-wing groups that were already targeting him before he made his prediction to Jake Tapper on CNN yesterday. Their beef is that he is undermining the President, who wants the churches packed on Easter, and wants people going back to work immediately thereafter. Fauci says that is a formula for disaster. It would appear that Fauci backed Trump into a corner, or that someone impressed upon the President that he was playing with fire if he moved forward with the "all clear" too quickly, because on Sunday afternoon, the White House announced that social distancing guidelines would be extended to April 30. But that still allows the churches to be packed on Ascension Day (May 21)—unless Fauci gets in the way again.

That Fauci is correct, and is doing the job he was hired to do, is not especially relevant to Trump's supporters, however. A study by the New York Times found over 70 Twitter accounts using the hashtag #FauciFraud, some of them sending out almost 800 tweets a day. Conspiracy-theory videos on YouTube have been viewed hundreds of thousands of times. Many Facebook groups are attacking him. A typical comment is: "Sorry liberals but we don't trust Dr. Anthony Fauci."

Prof. Carl Bergstrom of the University of Washington who has studied the dissemination of misinformation, said that the general feel of the attacks is that experts are not trustworthy and that they have agendas not aligned with the "people." This is hardly surprising since populists and right-wingers of all stripes have always attacked experts. This is just the most recent case. Earlier targets have been evolution and climate change. Only this time, misinformation can kill, as in the case of an Arizona couple who drank (the wrong kind of) chloroquine after Donald Trump recommended it. The husband died and the wife was hospitalized.

Fauci is not the only one to take fire from the right about the pandemic. Also on the hit list is Ron Klain, who served as Joe Biden's chief of staff when he was vice president and who was also the country's coordinator for dealing with the Ebola virus. His COVID-19 video on Twitter has gotten 4.4 million views already. It's no wonder Klain has become a target. He points out that after the Ebola virus subsided, the Obama administration set up a special office to prepare for dealing with the next pandemic to come down the road before it got out of hand. Unfortunately, he also points out that Trump abolished the office in 2018, so when the coronavirus arrived, the government was caught flatfooted. That observation doesn't sit well with Trump supporters. Nor does his point that Trump downplayed the virus for much too long and wasted valuable time when test kits could have been ordered and testing begun. If you watch the video, you will see why Trump supporters believe that Klain has to be taken down, even though he is a lawyer, not a doctor. (V)

Is Trump Blackmailing Blue-State Governors?

There is evidence that blue-state governors who won't grovel at Donald Trump's feet won't get crucial medical supplies needed to save lives. On Friday, Trump attacked Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI) on Fox News for pointing out that the federal government has not coordinated well with the states that are trying to save the lives of people who have caught COVID-19. Trump said of her: "She is a new governor, and it's not been pleasant. We've had a big problem with the young—a woman governor. You know who I am talking about—from Michigan." Then he added: "We don't like to see complaints."

Whitmer then did an interview with Detroit's WWJ News Radio in which she said (on air) about the vendors of crucial medical supplies: "They're being told not to send stuff to Michigan." Whitmer called the White House, but her call wasn't returned.

This is not just the view of one unhappy governor who might be making stuff up, however. Trump has basically admitted this is what his administration is doing. Mike Pence is coordinating the efforts to deal with COVID-19 and Trump said of Pence: "He calls all the governors, I tell him, I mean, I'm a different type of person. I say Mike, don't call the governor of Washington, you're wasting your time with him. Don't call the woman in Michigan." Then he added: "If they don't treat you right, I don't call." Note also Trump's repeatedly making a point of noting Whitmer's gender. The people of Michigan are lucky she's not also Chinese or a Muslim.

This story has gotten some attention in the mainstream media, for example this story in the Washington Post, but not that much attention. If you put one and one together, the message seems to be if governors don't grovel in the dust before Trump, their states won't get critical medical supplies, so people will die unnecessarily in their states. Then Trump can blame them.

Trump is an unusual kind of businessman. Most businessmen try to get the best possible deal for their companies, but they don't normally want to humiliate their negotiating partners, especially if they may need to deal with them again in the future. For Trump, destroying the other side is a crucial aspect of any deal. And sometimes mere groveling isn't enough, as now-senator Mitt Romney discovered when he tried it to land the job of Secretary of State. He groveled but still didn't get the job. For Trump, only toadies who can convince him that they really mean it when they say he is the greatest get whatever it is they are trying to get.

Why is Trump singling out Whitmer? There are a couple of possible reasons. First, as noted, she is a woman. The next time that Trump is not dismissive of a powerful woman will be the first time. Second, she is co-chair of Joe Biden's campaign in Michigan. Third, she is a possible running mate for Biden, so if Trump can "show" how incompetent she is and run her disapproval rating up, he makes it less likely that Biden will pick her (and make Michigan a slam dunk for the Democrats).

However, playing this game is a big gamble for Trump. If many people die of COVID-19 in Michigan and Michiganders (and Michigeese) come to believe that their governor is telling the truth and Trump has decided that their lives aren't worth much, some of them might make their feelings known on Nov. 3. Trump won Michigan in 2016 by fewer than 11,000 votes out of 6 million, so he doesn't have a lot of margin for error there. (V)

Trump Wipes Out the Anti-Corruption Measures in the Corornavirus Relief Bill

The Democrats grudgingly accepted the existence of a $500-billion slush fund in the $2.2-trillion bill they voted for last week, but put in a provision creating the office of special inspector general to oversee disbursements and make sure large chunks didn't go to Donald Trump's cronies (or, via straw men, to himself). The law also authorizes the special inspector general to report any monkey business to Congress and also to report when the Executive Branch refuses to cooperate with his requests for information.

Well, surprise. Trump didn't like that provision and has announced that he has no intention of allowing the special inspector general to report freely to Congress without his approval. It is actually not clear why he even bothered, since he gets to appoint the special inspector general, who will surely be rubber stamped by the Senate. All Trump has to do is appoint someone who doesn't like talking to Congress much.

He also said that specific provisions in the bill that require executive departments to consult with Congress before reallocating funds don't count and he wasn't going to enforce them. For example, if a department decided to reallocate funds intended for some medical purpose to building a wall on the Mexican border, the department would not be required to ask Congress' permission or even tell it about the reallocation.

In essence, Trump has said that he will carry out only those parts of the law he likes and will ignore the rest. When his personal gain is at stake, you can be sure he will do everything possible to make sure no one stops him from feeding at the public trough, and there is probably nothing Congress can do to stop him.

This whole incident shows that the Constitution has a very serious bug in it. The president is free to break any law he wants to with impunity, and as long as his party controls either (1) a majority in the House or (2) at least 34 seats in the Senate, there is nothing anyone can do about it. Contrast this with most other democratic countries, in which a simple majority of the lower chamber of the parliament can send the prime minister packing.

The problem is that the U.S. Constitution is very old (it was ratified in 1788) and at that time most countries were run by an all-powerful king. The founding parents accepted the model that they had to have a "king," (because everybody else had one), but simply added two provisos: The "king" was elected and he could be impeached and convicted. The problem with that model is now becoming apparent, when the "king" simply announces in public that he doesn't intend to enforce a law duly passed by Congress. It would be bad enough if the law didn't affect him personally—say, an immigration or civil rights law—but when he has decided not to enforce a section of the law so he can personally benefit from it, we are potentially getting into a scale of corruption that would have embarrassed Richard Nixon or Warren Harding. (V)

Poll: Biden and Trump Are in a Statistical Tie

It has been widely reported that Donald Trump got a bump in his approval ratings as people rallied round the flag. Now that bump has also shown up in the general-election polling. A new Washington Post/ABC News poll has Joe Biden at 49% and Donald Trump at 47% among registered voters. However, among all adults, Biden leads by 50% to 44%. That indicates that many people who are not registered to vote prefer Biden. Some of these are no doubt eligible to register but haven't. Others may be legal residents with green cards, or else undocumented immigrants. A month ago in the same poll, Biden had a 7-point lead among registered voters, so the Trump bump is no doubt real. How long it lasts is another matter, and surely depends on how many people die of COVID-19, how many people lose their jobs and homes, and how the stock market performs.

Voters trust Trump more on the economy but Biden more on health care. They are equally trusted to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak.

Also noteworthy is that 55% of Trump's supporters are very enthusiastic about backing him whereas only 28% of Biden's supporters are very enthusiastic about him. No doubt that is due to the ongoing primary on the Democratic side, with about a third of the Democrats still hoping that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) pulls off a miracle and sweeps Super Tuesday, Part II, on June 2. The ultimate question for the Democrats is what happens if Biden more-or-less clinches the nomination on June 2. Will Sanders' supporters hold their noses and grudgingly pull the lever for Biden in November, or will they stay home or vote for the Green Party candidate (see below)? (V)

Trump Brags about His Ratings

Donald Trump loves his ratings. The higher the better. He has been doing daily updates on the coronavirus and will no doubt continue as long as his ratings stay up there. According to Nielsen, his updates have had an average of 8.5 million viewers. He crowed about this on Twitter, and noted that this is comparable to the season finale of "The Bachelor."

It appears that Trump is more concerned with his ratings than the effects of the coronavirus on the population or the 2,000 Americans who have died from it already. This is consistent with his view that the virus is more of a PR problem than a public health problem.

During the briefings, Trump has made many statements that were not true. For example, on March 14, he said that a pandemic was something that could never happen. Actually, Barack Obama foresaw the possibility and created an office to prepare for it, which Trump abolished (see above). But as long as his ratings hold up, Trump is not likely to be tethered tightly to the truth. (V)

Coronavirus May Help the Democrats Indirectly

As a general rule, viruses don't take sides in political battles, but the current one could affect the election in an odd way. It is well known that many of Bernie Sanders' supporters are not big fans of Joe Biden, which is probably why the former veep's support is so tepid (see above). These people may decide to pull the lever for the Green Party candidate, to teach the Democrats a lesson. After all, that worked so well in 2016.

The Green Party will choose its presidential candidate at its national convention in Detroit, which runs from July 9 to July 11. The timing is probably not ideal, since that is the week before the Democrats meet in Milwaukee, and most of the news then is likely to be about the Democrats, possibly full of speculation about who the veep will be and what will be in the platform to attract progressives. Eight people have filed for the Green Party presidential nomination. The candidates are as follows, with their core messages (very briefly summarized, of course):

Candidate Key Platform elements Donations
Howie Hawkins* I want an economic bill of rights $72,761
Dario Hunter* We need justice, employment, environment, and education $8,856
Dennis Lambert We must rebuild our infrastructure for a healthier environment and good jobs $748
Susan Lochocki Mothers should be paid for their work $30
Kent Mesplay We need the Green New Deal, to promote social justice, and to mitigate historic wrongs $0
Sedinam Moyowasifza-Curry We need new leadership and new ideas to strengthen the Green Party $600
David Rolde* We need a revolution as the USA is an illegitimate white nationalist colony on stolen land $3,231
Chad Wilson We need to break the two-party system $0

The ones with an asterisk are officially recognized candidates. The others have filed letters of intent. Not many of these are household names, the way Jill Stein was in 2016. If you want to learn more about them, check out their candidates' statements. Some of them also have candidate video statements.

Now here's the rub for the Green Party: It has yet to get on the ballot in about 30 states. The way it gets on the ballot is to go out and talk to people all over those states and collect thousands of signatures. Under normal conditions, many people might be willing to hang around with a Green Party volunteer for 10 minutes, talk politics, and ultimately sign the petition to get the party on the ballot. That may be a tad more difficult this year if the volunteer and potential signer have to stand 6 feet apart. Green Party lawyers are asking state officials to grant them relief. If the officials are not in a relieving mood, the Party may not appear on the ballot. In some states, write-ins are allowed, but the name has to be spelled correctly. If Sedinam Moyowasifza-Curry gets the nod, she might have more trouble with her rebus than Lisa Murkowski did. (V)

Where's the Libertarian Party?

The other big small party is the Libertarian Party. It is actually much bigger than the Green Party. In 2016, its nominee, Gary Johnson, got 3.28% of the total vote to Jill Stein's 1.07%. That's more than three times as much. Its candidates' webpage lists 87 Libertarians running for public office. For example, Andre Klass is running for Seminole County, FL, Commission District 5, Brian Defferding is running for the Winnebago County, WI, Board District 6, and Eric Wimer is running for NRD Lower Platte South Subdistrict 10 in Nebraska. There is also a sprinkling of candidates for the House and even six running for the Senate. They also have more would-be presidents than the Green Party, from the somewhat mainstream (Lincoln Chafee) to the way-out-there (Vermin Supreme). At the moment, there are a total of 15 declared candidates.

The Party hasn't had its convention yet; it's scheduled for late May (and who knows if it actually happens). What the Libertarians do have, in great detail, is a platform. It has three major parts: personal liberty, economic liberty and security liberty. Given the party's name, it is not surprising that it supports liberty. The personal liberty section covers nine subtopics. Among others are a strong right to privacy, a statement that sexual orientation should have no role in how the government treats people, the position that abortion is none of the government's business, and that the death penalty should be eliminated.

The economic liberty section has 14 points, including respect for property rights, opposition to eminent domain, a statement that the government should not favor one energy source over another, an anti-union declaration, repeal of the income tax, repeal of federal and state licensing laws, support for legalization of sex work, and ending Social Security.

The final section covers support for a strong national defense, free trade, and unrestricted right to migrate across national borders. They also oppose governments denying anyone their rights based on sex, wealth, ethnicity, creed, age, national origin, personal habits, political preference, or sexual orientation. However, they oppose requiring private organizations to adhere to these principles. (V)

Governors Are Blocking Off Their States

In principle, the United States is one country and people are free to travel to any part of it that they wish to. Maybe not anymore.

Texas went first, when Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX) ordered anyone who flies into Texas from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, or the city of New Orleans to self-quarantine for 14 days, unless they decide to leave earlier. This applies to both Texans and non-Texans.

While Abbott was fighting the air war, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) started on the ground war. He ordered checkpoints set up on roads coming into Florida from out of state, including the I-10 and I-95. He is especially interested in blocking people from New York and Louisiana who may have contracted the coronavirus. In practice, the roadblocks will simply bar cars with out-of-state license plates, except for commercial traffic, which is allowed. All new vacation rentals will also be blocked, even those to people flying to the state.

Also fighting the ground war is Gov. Gina Raimondo (D-RI), who initially had the state police pull over all cars with New York license plates and force the drivers to self-quarantine for 14 days. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) told her that wasn't very neighborly, and by the way, also illegal. She conceded that he had a point, so she broadened the rule, now having the police stop all out of state cars and force the drivers to self-quarantine.

The legality of these orders is unclear. The Supreme Court examined the right of U.S. citizens to travel anywhere in the country in Saenz v. Roe in 1999. In this decision, the court ruled:

  • Any citizen can leave any state and enter another one
  • A citizen entering a state must be treated like a welcome visitor, not an unfriendly alien
  • Travelers who decide to remain and become residents must be treated like all other residents

One thing going for Abbott is that his rule applies to Texans as well as non-Texans. If a Houston resident flies home after a visit to New York, he or she has to self-quarantine, just as a visitor from New York does. By not discriminating against people from other states, his order might just pass muster. DeSantis' order is on much shakier legal grounds since it appears to discriminate against residents of some states but not against Floridians. The last word on this kind of interstate blockade has not yet been said or written. (V)

Highlights and Lowlights of the $2 Trillion Relief Law

Last week Congress passed and Donald Trump signed a 900-page bill that is intended to help the economy survive COVID-19. The highlights are well known already, including:

  • Checks for $1,200 to Americans making less than $75,000 per year
  • A fund of $350 billion to aid small businesses
  • An expansion of unemployment insurance to the tune of $250 billion
  • A relief fund for state and local governments funded with $150 billion
  • $25 billion for the nation's transit systems
  • A $500-billion slush fund to be administered by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin

However, there are also what might be termed "lowlights" tucked away in the 900-page bill. A few of them include:

  • A tax break for wealthy real estate investors that could top $170 billion over 10 years
  • A loophole that allows banks to lend up to $4 trillion with subsidized financing
  • Speedier approval for sunscreen products, bypassing the normal FDA approval process
  • A provision that helps for-profit colleges, including those with high dropout rates and misleading claims
  • Extra federal funding for abstinence-only sex education preferred by conservatives
  • A $500-billion slush fund to be administered by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin

There are no doubt other goodies for special interest groups that were quietly inserted in the huge bill at the last minute when no one was looking. Some of these may eventually come to light, but others may ultimately only be known by the groups they directly benefit. (V)

Liberty University Has Become a Flashpoint

Colleges and universities all over the country (and the world) have shut down their campuses, sent the students home, and gone to online instruction. With many videoconferencing tools available these days, that seems to be working pretty well in many places. One university that is marching to its own drummer is Liberty University, a Christian college in Lynchburg, VA, which is run by Jerry Falwell Jr. He ordered all the students to come back to the campus and stay in their dorms, even though instruction itself is online.

The students were scattered to the winds during spring break and no doubt some have been infected by the coronavirus. Now the campus has 16,000 petri dishes in close proximity, so the virus is sure to spread. To make it worse, professors have been ordered to hold face-to-face office hours, as though everyone was back to business as usual. If a professor wants to work from home (which is now the norm at practically every other university in the country), he or she has to submit a request, with an explanation, to the department chair, who then runs it up the chain of command, probably to Falwell himself in many cases.

Lynchburg is a small city (Pop. 76,000) and students are not confined to campus. They can come and go as they please and interact with people who live in town, go shopping in stores that are open, and generally spread the virus wherever they go. The people who live in Lynchburg are none too pleased with this development and fear that the whole city could become a COVID-19 hotspot and people could die.

The university's website claims that when Falwell told the Lynchburg mayor and city manager about his decision to have students return to campus, "they thanked us for making that decision." An intrepid reporter for Politico figured that statement should not be too hard to check, so he emailed the city manager, Bonnie Svrcek. She replied: "The city unequivocally does not agree with Falwell's decision." The reporter also checked with Mayor Treney Tweedy. She replied: "I want the residents in this community to know that at no time did I or the City Manager endorse having the students return to Liberty University's campus." It is possible that Falwell hasn't violated any of the other Ten Commandments, so he might still get a score of 9 out of 10 or 90%, which is a grade of "A." (V)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Mar29 Sunday Mailbag
Mar28 COVID Relief Bill v3.0 Is a Go
Mar28 Saturday Q&A
Mar27 No Relief Bill Yet
Mar27 About Trump's Approval Rating...
Mar27 White House Continues to Resist Invocation of the DPA
Mar27 The 2020 Presidential Election Is a Whole New Ballgame
Mar27 Trump Declares That GOP Convention Will Proceed as Scheduled
Mar27 Trump Administration Indicts Maduro
Mar27 The Times That Try Men's (and Women's) Souls, Part III: The Chesapeake Affair (1807)
Mar26 Relief Bill Passes the Senate
Mar26 The $2.2 Trillion Relief Bill Is a Christmas Tree--As Usual
Mar26 Far Right Is Now Targeting Anthony Fauci
Mar26 Biden Says That Trump's Timeline Could Be Catastrophic
Mar26 Twenty States Have Stay-at-Home Orders
Mar26 California Has Had 1 Million Unemployment Claims in Two Weeks
Mar26 COVID-19 Could Devolve into Class Warfare
Mar26 Biden: "I Think We've Had Enough Debates"
Mar26 German Cathedral Will Showcase St. Corona
Mar25 We Have a Deal
Mar25 The 2020 Congressional Elections Are a Whole New Ballgame
Mar25 Trump Wants This Thing Done By Easter
Mar25 New Jersey Blazes an E-Trail
Mar25 Pennsylvania Will Postpone Its Primary
Mar25 Sanders Will Keep Going
Mar25 The Times That Try Men's (and Women's) Souls, Part II: The Alien and Sedition Acts (1798)
Mar24 Congress Flails Around...
Mar24 ...And So Does Trump
Mar24 Is It Time to Take Away Trump's Platform?
Mar24 DNC Says They Are Moving Forward with Their Convention
Mar24 List of Primary Postponements Keeps Growing
Mar24 Sanders Wins Another Primary
Mar24 The Times That Try Men's (and Women's) Souls, Part I: The Intolerable Acts (1774)
Mar23 Democrats and Republicans Are Far Apart on the Relief Bill
Mar23 States Are Fighting with One Another over Scarce Medical Supplies
Mar23 Trump's Normal Modus Operandi Won't Work This Time
Mar23 Poll: Majority Approve of Trump's Handling the Crisis
Mar23 Burrgate Could Have Consequences for the Senate
Mar23 What Can Sanders Get from Biden?
Mar23 Bloomberg Dumps Staff
Mar23 Rand Paul Has COVID-19
Mar23 Buttigieg Had No Choice
Mar22 Sunday Mailbag
Mar21 Saturday Q&A
Mar20 Senate Unveils Relief Package v3.0
Mar20 Republicans in Denial
Mar20 Trump Has His Scapegoat
Mar20 California Takes the Plunge
Mar20 Three More NBA Players Test Positive for COVID-19
Mar20 An Asymmetric Presidential Campaign