Bits ‘n’ Pieces: Oct. 15, 2020

By Lorraine H. Marie
Reader Columnist

East, west or beyond, sooner or later events elsewhere may have a local impact. A recent sampling:

The presidential debate scheduled for this week was canceled, according to the Commission on Presidential Debates. A proposal to have a virtual debate, due to President Donald Trump’s positive case of COVID-19 and Republican attendees’ non-compliance with mask wearing, was rejected by Trump.

Confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice nominee Amy Coney Barrett began this week in the Senate on an accelerated timetable. “Why the rush forward?” asked Rhode Island Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse. “Well, the answer isn’t pretty. There’s a promise to big donors that must be kept. When David Koch ran for vice president, he campaigned on getting rid of Medicare and Medicaid. Imagine his fury when Obamacare passed. His groups are spending millions right now on this nomination.”

Barrett has drawn criticism about her neutrality due to her written response to the NFIB vs. Sebelius ruling, where she said the Affordable Care Act should have been struck down as unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court will hear a case Nov. 10 questioning constitutionality of the ACA.

In his recently released book, former Trump attorney Michael Cohen, speculates that the president will resign if he loses the election and will then pressure Mike Pence to pardon him for crimes he faces in New York State, Business Insider reported. Cohen told MSNBC last week that would be the reason that U.S. Attorney General William Barr attempted to replace the Manhattan U.S. attorney with the chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission, who is a Trump golfing friend. 

Cohen was found guilty in 2018 of campaign finance violations, tax and bank fraud, and lying to Congress — acts he claimed were done to shield Trump. The White House says Cohen is a “disgraced felon” and a liar.

More speculation about a post-Trump election loss: Paul Krugman, one of the world’s most influential economists, expressed concern in The New York Times that Trump will refuse to accept the results of the election if he loses, not only inciting violent rebellion from supporters but also sabotaging the U.S. economy during his remaining time in office. 

Economic concerns include Trump refusing aid to state governments, which have so far been forced to cut 900,000 jobs due to declining tax revenues; refusing aid to families facing hardships due to loss of jobs; and refusing aid to struggling businesses. The warnings about triggering a major recession are also coming from Wall Street analysts and the chairman of the Federal Reserve. Republicans say they’re resisting aid because it would bail out “high-crime, poorly run Democrat states,” but Krugman claims those states “have lower crime rates, on average, than Republican states.”

There have been 215,418 deaths in the U.S. from COVID-19 as of Oct. 12. A week ago the figure was 210,426 deaths, according to stats from The New York Times.

The FBI issued an internal report saying there is an imminent “violent extremist threat” posed by far-right domestic terrorists, suggesting that the 2021 inauguration could be the “potential flashpoint,” The Nation revealed. Those under surveillance, the FBI memo says, “indicate a propensity toward violence … that cause mass casualties, used by a small number of attackers.” 

Blast from the past: Since 1969 Democrats have appointed four U.S. Supreme Court justices and Republicans have appointed 15 — four installed by presidents who lost the popular vote. While the U.S. Constitution does not name a size for the court, the current number of nine has been with the nation since 1869, and it is not illegal to add more. In 2016, Republicans said that if Hillary Clinton were elected they would not allow her to fill any Supreme Court vacancies, leaving the number smaller than nine. Under President Barack Obama, they also refused to fill a March vacancy with his proposal, saying it was too close to the November election. The Republican focus on obtaining seats on the court sympathetic to their beliefs has resulted in five of the current eight members being members of the Federalist Society. That would be six if the current nominee is approved before the election. Formed in 1982, Federalist Society members of the court have voted to permit businesses to make unlimited contributions to political campaigns and to gut the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity, which campaigned for the last two Federalist Society appointees, is now campaigning for Trump’s Federalist Society nominee. (History from Boston University’s professor of history, Dr. Heather Cox Richardson, Ph.D. from Harvard.)

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