A Frenzy At The Finish Line
November 3, 2020
The Daily Pnut strongly encourages all of our readers to practice their civic duty today by having a plan in place to vote. In recent “normal” times, the incumbent wins (2004 or 2012) or it’s minority rule (2000 and 2016), or something incredibly has changed like a massive recession (2008). Democracy isn’t a spectator sport, so please be proactive and ensure that your voice is heard. Regardless of your politics, we can all probably agree that this will go down as the most important election of our lifetime — so make sure you make your mark on history.
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“Democracy is being allowed to vote for the candidate you dislike least.” — Robert Byrne
“It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.” — Winston Churchill
“It’s not the hand that signs the laws that holds the destiny of America. It’s the hand that casts the ballot.” — Harry Truman
A Frenzy At The Finish Line
(Alex Wong via Getty Images)
Regardless of how you characterize Republican maneuvering to hijack the 2020 election, you have to give them an ‘A’ for effort. They’ve been working religiously for many months to disenfranchise as many people as possible that they deem to be in the Democrats’ camp. From outright lying to smear opponents and spread groundless fears of voter fraud and a rigged election, to crippling the US postal service to disrupt mail-in ballots, to filing baseless lawsuits and urging supporters to resort to violence, there is no trick too diabolical and no tactic too profane for Republicans to employ. Not that this is something new, or even a big secret — e.g. Allen Raymond’s 2008 playbook: How to Rig an Election, Confessions of a Republican Operative.
The Trump supporters’ blockade in Texas that derailed the Biden-Harris bus tour last Friday was repeated in New York and New Jersey over the weekend, when caravans of Trump supporters blocked roadways in those states. When the FBI opened an investigation into the bus-blocking incidents — which clearly look like domestic terrorism — Trump praised the participants and lambasted the FBI — literally promoting and encouraging political violence. At a rally in Florida on Sunday, the president continued his dismissal of the COVID-19 pandemic, telling his audience that after the election he would consider firing Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s leading public health professional.
Meanwhile in Texas, four state Republicans tried for the third time to have the same batch of 127,000 drive-thru votes rejected. The vast majority of the ballots came from precincts in Houston won by Hillary Clinton in 2016. The entirely-conservative Texas Supreme Court has already rejected this case once, as well as a similar one last month filed by some of the same plaintiffs. Monday’s emergency hearing, too, resulted in a dismissal of the case by a federal judge appointed by George W. Bush.
It bears repeating that the hallmarks of a democracy are free and fair elections, the rule of law, and the peaceful transfer of power. It’s what separates a democracy from an autocracy. Refusing to guarantee a peaceful transfer of power, continuing to cast doubt on the integrity of vote counting, encouraging political violence, vowing to deploy squads of lawyers when polls close — those are not democratic (small ‘d’) goals. They’re the preferences of a dictator.
Additional Election Reads
- The election result may be delayed. That’s OK. (AP). Prepare for “Election Day” to extend into next week,
- Buckle up… Ahead of Election, Police Prepare For Violence and Disruption (NYT) & American Exceptionalism Blinds Us To Election Risks (Time)
- I’m Here To Remind You That Trump Can Still Win & Trump Can Still Win, But The Polls Would Have To Be Off By Way More Than In 2016 (FiveThirtyEight)
- We’ve said it all along, the keys to the White House are in the Keystone: FiveThirtyEight founder Nate Silver: “Without Pennsylvania, Biden becomes an underdog” (Axios)
ISIS Is Back With A Vengeance
- For the second time in two weeks, an educational institution in Kabul, Afghanistan has been attacked. On Monday, Islamic State militants stormed Kabul University as it was hosting a book fair attended by the Iranian ambassador. A lengthy gun battle ensued, after which 22 people were dead and 22 wounded. Most of the casualties were students.
- All three Islamic State attackers involved in the assault were killed. The Taliban issued a statement denying they had taken part in the attack, which occurred as the Taliban and representatives of Kabul’s US-backed government continue peace talks aimed at helping the US finally withdraw from the war-torn country. (AP News)
Saudi Crown Prince In Peril
- Saudi Arabia, America’s oldest ally in the Middle East, is bracing for possible political changes as a result of Tuesday’s elections. The country has had a very warm relationship with the Trump administration for the past four years. Should President Trump not win reelection, “they’re going to be facing a much more hostile Washington than has been the case for the last four years, and maybe a more hostile Washington than they’ve ever faced before,” said a former CIA official.
- The Saudi government is also digging in to protect the kingdom from two lawsuits filed in August against Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) for allegedly ordering the death and dismemberment of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018, and of plotting to order a similar assassination of a former official and US intelligence ally, Saad Aljabri.
- The cases, which allege flagrant human rights violations, torture, and murder, come at a sensitive time for US-Saudi relations, threatening ongoing scrutiny of Mohammed’s authoritarian rule as many Democrats and some Republican lawmakers have condemned the humanitarian catastrophe created by a Saudi-backed civil war in Yemen.
- A star-studded cast of defense attorneys represents the prince and more than a dozen Saudi co-defendants, including counsel who has represented Saudi interests over years of litigation tied to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York’s World Trade Center and the Pentagon. (WaPo)
Additional World News
- As the US Election Nears, the World Holds Its Breath (NYT, $). The world is on watch.
- Political dysfunction in the United States is a warning for Canada: don’t take democracy for granted (CBC)
- Mexico’s ‘Day of the Dead’ hits too close to home during Covid-19 pandemic (CNN)
- W.H.O. done it? In Hunt for Virus Source, W.H.O. Let China Take Charge (NYT, $)
- China’s latest five-year plan girds for battle (Reuters)
- Thai King and Queen Meet Supporters as He Calls Thailand ‘Land of Compromise’ (Time)
- Can we learn from Lebanon? Lessons From Beirut, Where the Center Ground Is Gone (Atlantic, $)
- In Italy, Like Everywhere the Virus Goes, It’s the Discontent That’s Contagious (NYT, $)
- ‘Zombie’ Oil Wells in Canada Are a Climate Threat (NYT, $)
- Fossil fuels get the nuclear treatment in new climate effort (The Verge). Let’s start taking carbon bombs literally.
- Analysis: A once restrained Fauci unleashes on White House coronavirus approach days before election (CNN)
- El Paso, Texas, Gets 4th Mobile Morgue As COVID-19 Deaths Rise (NPR)
- Winning Trust for a Vaccine Means Confronting Medical Racism (Wired)
- Latest coronavirus lockdowns spark protests across Europe (Guardian)
Dissing The Disease Expert
(Sarah Silbiger via Getty Images)
- Talk about burning the midnight oil. President Trump spoke well past midnight at a late-night rally at the Miami-Opa Locka Executive Airport in Florida. At one point he began reciting a familiar complaint about continuing news media coverage of COVID-19, saying that the media wouldn’t be talking about it once the election was over.
- When his supporters began chanting that Trump should fire respected epidemiologist Dr. Anthony Fauci, Trump said “Don’t tell anybody, but let me wait until a little bit after the election. I appreciate the advice.” The rally in South Florida was the fifth in a whirlwind day of campaigning across five states: Michigan, Iowa, North Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. Trump talked past the local curfew, which took effect at midnight and was aimed at controlling the spread of the virus.
- Despite evidence to the contrary, Trump repeated his claim that the US has “turned the corner” in fighting COVID-19. By contrast, Fauci had maintained in an interview published Saturday that the US “could not possibly be positioned more poorly” as it heads into winter. A White House spokesman later called Fauci’s comments “unacceptable.” (NYT)
America Is Voting Early And Often
- Almost 100 million Americans will have voted prior to Tuesday’s official Election Day. That’s a number that breaks all kinds of records, including almost doubling the 50 million early votes cast in 2016. It also represents about 71 percent of the total vote cast in 2016. So far those who did not or could not vote in 2016 are skewing Democratic both nationally and in a majority of the key swing states.
- Registered Democrats are leading registered Republicans in the early vote in critical states like Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Minnesota, Nevada, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania, while Republicans hold the edge in Georgia, Michigan, Ohio, Texas, and Wisconsin. Much of the swing state-level polling shows independents breaking toward Biden. (NBC News)
Additional USA News
- Boarded up and bracing for impact: A Sign Of The Times: Across U.S., City Storefronts Boarded Up Ahead Of Election (NPR)
- Misinformation Overwhelms Local Election Officials (NYT, $)
- Twitter names 7 outlets to call election results (Axios). Is the bird really the word?
- It’s the End of an Era for the Media, No Matter Who Wins the Election (NYT, $)
- If We Are Going to Recover from Trumpism, We Must Deny Charity to Trump’s Henchmen (New Yorker, $)
- The a-hole that will forever dwell in the annals of America: The Story of Our Mad King Will Live on Well Past the Election (Atlantic, $)
- How the battle for the Senate could go into January (Politico)
- As Congress adjourns with no stimulus deal, millions suffer (CNBC)
- An economic stimulus bill is unlikely during a lame duck session until 2021 (Vox)
- The grim reality of the rallies: Trump Rallies Linked to More Than 30,000 COVID Cases and 700 Deaths (Vice)
Nazi-Looted, Now Disputed
- In May 1940, the Nazis invaded the Netherlands. During the occupation, Nazis confiscated anything of value owned by Jewish families, especially works of art. Robert Lewenstein and his wife were a Jewish couple who had managed to escape to France, leaving behind all their possessions including a 1909 painting by Russian artist Wassily Kandinsky entitled “Painting with Houses.”
- On October 9, 1940, at the Frederik Muller auction house, the Kandinsky painting was sold at a cut-rate price to the Amsterdam city council, which runs the Stedelijk Museum. In 2002, the Netherlands’ Restitutions Committee was established to make judgments on the return of art lost by Jewish families during the second world war. Robert Lewenstein’s heirs made a claim for the return of the Kandinsky, worth today $23 million.
- But in 2018, the committee ruled that the painting should stay with the Stedelijk Museum, on the basis that Lewenstein’s finances had already been deteriorating before the war, and that the council had purchased the painting in good faith. Lawyers representing the heirs are accusing the committee of bias, telling an Amsterdam court that there was an “appearance of partiality and a conflict of interest” within the committee. Four of the seven members of the Restitutions Committee have a relationship with the Stedelijk Museum.
- One of the claimants’ lawyers said the idea that the sale was voluntary was “bizarre.” Two years ago researchers found 170 artworks stolen from Jewish families by the Nazi regime in Dutch museums, including a painting in the Royal collection. In 2019 a Jewish family lost their 15-year battle to recover their stolen 1897 impressionist work by Camille Pissarro; it hangs in a museum in Madrid, Spain. (Guardian, NPR)
- Two decades drifting above the earth: Humans have been living on the space station for 20 years (CNN)
- Countries With Shorter Residency Requirements for Citizenship (Lifehacker)
- Is It Better to Plant Trees or Let Forests Regrow Naturally? (Wired). Do we reap what we sow?
- This Addiction Treatment Works. Why Is It So Underused? (NYT, $)
- Sexism in science: The sole function of the clitoris is female orgasm. Is that why it’s ignored by medical science? (Guardian)
- The Corporate Feminism of NXIVM (The Paris Review)
- Why It Matters Which Charger You Use for Your Phone (Wired)
- Leaving New York: High earners in finance and tech explain why they left the ‘world’s greatest city’ (CNBC)
- Vladimir Marugov murder: Russian ‘Sausage King’ killed in sauna with a crossbow (BBC). A lot to unpack in this headline.
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