Five Things: June 11, 2020

Here’s today’s big news! In five convenient bits!

I got a haircut: Which I recognize is not big news for everyone else, but which feel significant for me, since it’s the first one I’ve gotten since the quarantine started. I went to my usual person, whose salon was recently re-opened. She was taking things seriously, since no walk-ins were allowed, the stylist stations were reconfigured to put distance between then, and she and I wore masks the entire time (at one point I held up my mask as she trimmed around my ears). So, not the way it was before, but something workable for the way things are now. I wouldn’t have protested to get a haircut, but I am glad to have had one now. I feel slightly more myself.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff admits to a flub: Namely, he shouldn’t have been at that now-infamous Trump photo op at the church, you know, the one they gassed all those peaceful protestors to get. And quite obviously he’s correct about that; he should not have been there, and he was basically used (or allowed himself to be used) by Trump for Trump’s own purposes. At this point the military seems to have pretty much served notice to Trump that they don’t want to play a part of his intimidation games any more, although what that means as a practical matter is up in the air, as far as I can tell; Trump is, for better or worse (hint: worse), still commander-in-chief. But maybe it’s gotten through even his thick skull that he’s messed up with the generals and their forces.

COVID cases up: in lots of states, not surprisingly tied to the “opening up” of those states from the quarantine, although it’s not uniform — Ohio seems to be doing all right, although officials here still warn that it’s early days yet. Some people will tell you this surge is due to more testing, but the actual experts themselves tell us it’s not just that. So keep on wearing your masks, folks, and all that other stuff you should be doing. And if you are going to protest, do it for racial justice, not for haircuts.

Today’s “Huh, not what I was expecting, but okay” news: The country band Lady Antebellum is changing its name to “Lady A,” because it turns out “antebellum” has racist connotations that have become too much to ignore these days. Admittedly this is not “NASCAR ditching Confederate flags”-level of change (I’m still amazed about that, I have to tell you), but it’s not chicken feed, either. If one wants to be cranky about it, one may note that “Lady A” is still inextricably linked to the band’s previous name, pretty much like “KFC” is still Kentucky Fried Chicken even though it’s formally known just by the letters now. But take progress as it happens, I suppose. Wikipedia’s updated, in any event.

Meanwhile, speaking of NASCAR, this dipshit. I don’t expect he’ll be much missed.

Twitter plans to ask you if you’ve actually read the article you’re about to retweet: Which is delightful, actually, even if it will send some people in a rage as an extra step is inserted between them and their performative tweeting. Personally I do try to read everything I retweet, although I can’t pretend that I haven’t from time to time retweeted something on the basis of the headline alone, especially if I’ve read a different news story about the same event elsewhere. But as a general rule, yes, I’ve read what I’m retweeting. Seems the least one can do, weird that some people won’t even do that.

41 Comments on “Five Things: June 11, 2020”

  1. An observation not original to me, but one I like, notes that Ray Ciccarelli’s win percentage in NASCAR is the same as the Confederacy’s “wars won” percentage. I suspect that this was an easy way for him to ditch the expensive profession that he wasn’t doing well at. The fact that he did it in such a way speaks volumes about his character.

  2. i ain’t spend the money we are to participate in any political BS!! So everything is for SALE!!”

    Screamed by white man literally covered in sponsor patches.

  3. I hope you’re right about the military. Trump has signaled from the beginning that he’s not leaving office at the end of this term, if he loses the election he’ll just declare it fraudulent and refuse to leave. If the military is on his side, we are completely hosed. If they aren’t, we have some hope.

  4. “Refuse to leave” isn’t a thing, because he was elected for a fixed term which ends on January 20, 2021. If he has not been re-elected, then on January 20, 2021 he ceases to be Commander-in-Chief and has zero authority to tell the armed forces to do anything.

    The “what if he won’t leave?!” scenario assumes the military brass has direct loyalty to Trump, rather than to the office itself, and/or that he will be able to ram some kind of repeal of the Twentieth Amendment through that will, in turn, be upheld by the entire court system and/or a suddenly loyal military. He doesn’t really have time to pull that off, even if everyone responsible might somehow have been persuaded to go along with him..

    Also, there’s the Senate, you know?

  5. Mythago:

    Yeah, I suspect, should Trump not win, everyone not in his increasingly tiny inner circle will be looking at him, and then at their watches, and then back at him.

  6. Someone elsewhere pointed out that refusing to leave would require something like courage, something he has never shown.

  7. Read before retweet is good, but you should also read down the comments a way before retweeting. Sometimes they’ll let you know that you’re about to pass on a hoax. I’ve made this mistake myself.

  8. The way I see it, whether Trump wins or loses, events leading up to and after the election will be bad. If he wins, he’ll see it as a mandate from the people and commit even worse offenses than he has already. If he loses, he’ll first deny the results and possibly do unconstitutional stuff, which I can’t even imagine. Refusing to leave office is the least of my concerns.

  9. @Philip: I’ve always pictured his refusing to leave as an explosive temper tantrum. Fear or courage wouldn’t be an issue, at least while the tantrum lasts.

    @mythago: Thank you! I hadn’t analyzed the issue fully, and was forgetting this important factor.

  10. @mythago He won’t leave because he will claim to have won a second term (and therefore still be president on January 20). He’ll claim any certifications to the contrary are fraudulent. With the pandemic still raging, there’s likely to be a lot more people voting by mail in November than in past years. This means exit polls of in-person voters may be less accurate than usual, and since absentee ballots take days to clear, a change in apparent winner from what was calculated the night of the election is not unlikely. Trump’s been beating the “absentee ballots are used for voter fraud” drum for quite some time now. If Trump declares the results are rigged, at least 30% of the country will believe him. It really might take US marshals marching him out to get him to leave–if enough of the police and military are on Trump’s side at that point, they’ll hedge and procrastinate and possibly blatantly refuse to remove him citing “voter fraud” and “we just don’t know”.

    See https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2020/6/3/21257133/trump-2020-election-meltdown-lawrence-douglas for an actual expert’s explanation of a not improbable scenario where this happens. Also read up on the Hayes-Tilden election and how that clownshow went down. :(

  11. I’m so old I remember when the Supreme Court handed a presidential election to the son of the man who appointed some of them, did it on a strictly party-line one-vote margin, and said the decision could never be used as precedent for anything because that makes it all better now doesn’t it.

  12. @Ealasaid
    I’ve been more worried that on the day before he was evicted, if he does get voted out in Nov., and that is no sure thing of course in this day and age, that he might decide to really screw things up for his successor and everybody else on the planet by trying to get a last minute legacy or just out of plain spite, by ordering the nuking of Iran or North Korea on the way out the door. Or at least some lesser military malice too. Hopefully this means that maybe some of the top brass are thinking ahead to that possibility too and signalling that they are not going to be part of any of that shenanigans.

    Or maybe even just that on the day before Trump is due to hand over power, that Airforce One won’t be doing any midnight flights to Russia. Because tell me you cannot imagine that Trump, to avoid any potential lawsuits and/or criminal charges, wouldn’t have the brazen faced audacity to make himself the firstly-est President ever to claim asylum in a foreign nation.

  13. Too bad the Commander in Chief doesn’t have to take the oath that we all swore on joining one of the eight uniformed branches to, “…uphold and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic…..” . Probably also the bone spurs.

  14. What, no comments on the haircut? It looks good to me, but by no stretch of the imagination would I have done that.

    So far, we had an excursion for prescription drugs and an excursion to the vet, to be followed soon by another – not a very serious condition, but one that meets our bar for essential.

    I’d recommend a cheap oxygen saturation meter, checking it occasionally, just in case you develop the variant with silent hypoxemia – few symptoms other than dying, but it would show up on the meter. If you have a smoke detector (and maybe a carbon monoxide detector) you should probably have one of these too.

  15. Speaking of Trump’s relation to the army, I think of another fearsome man with a base. According to my dim memory, the downfall of Senator Joe McCarthy and his witch hunts, hitherto invincible, began when he called an army general a communist.

  16. I’m not sure what the NASCAR dude is doing – he’s protesting the removal of a flag that was used by the losing side’s army in a civil war (fought for the right to keep others as slaves) and then reused by bigots to justify ignoring the Constitution and trying to make sure a whole bunch of people were made or remained second(nth?)-class citizens, His previous career involved wearing a uniform and riding a car on which was sold as much real estate as is visible to the highest bidder. His position does not sound like the moral high ground he thinks it is.

    Maybe, as noted above, he’s just trying to find another career in a way that doesn’t involve collecting unemployment for an extended period. Perhaps he’s hoping to get on Fox as a political or cultural commentator (it may not be too far off their editorial line). Considering how well his work has gone, and his logic, however, he might have to lower his sights – is the Federalist hiring?

  17. @G.H. van Swearingen III, the Snowflake in Chief _did_ take an oath “to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States”. If what we’ve seen since 2016 is the best of his ability, who knows what he’d come up with during a post-election night temper tantrum.

  18. I did the same yesterday except that I took my beard trimmer to my dome after a lot of thought. My wife had to help me finish the parts I couldn’t see. Now I look like a cantaloupe with stubble, but I’m comfortable.

    Regarding Trump at the end of his term: if he refuses to leave, the Capitol Hill police, Secret Service, and the Federal Marshall Service all have legal authority on White House grounds, and none of them work directly for him. Only one even works for a Cabinet department. In the time between the certification of the Electoral College’s results and January 20, it will be made clear to him that he is to leave if he loses. If he’s wise, at noon on Inauguration Day, he’ll be on his private plane on his way out of the country, never to return. If he and his family are wise, they’ll have transferred all movable assets out of the country and be preparing to live in a non-extradition treaty nation. When his presidential immunity is gone, he’s going to be prosecuted big time.

  19. As an alternative, Trump can always be re-impeached if he says that he will not leave office, and I doubt in that case that the Senate GOP would unilaterally refuse to remove him. It would be too much for enough of them that he’d finally get what he so richly deserves.

  20. I goofed. The Capitol Hill Police do not have authority in the White House, and the White House Police are part of the Secret Service.

  21. As for the higher covid cases due to additional testing. For some reason, I don’t think higher numbers of people in hospitals is because of more testing. Its nice that my employer, who has us working from home until at least the end of July, sent out an update indicating we should continue to be vigilant and use the face masks they sent us due to the rise in cases here in AZ.

  22. Dear Folks,

    As G.H. (and Major previously) have pointed out the military chain of command, all the officers, swear an oath to the Constitution. They do not swear an oath to “uphold and defend” the sitting President or even the Office of the President (or any branch of government).

    Last time I am familiar with this principle being tested was during the Nixon administration. More than once. Each time, the military’s position was firm and clear. I expected — but wasn’t certain — that this hadn’t changed, but half a century is a long time.

    Well, when highest level military personnel publicly speak out against the President’s unconstitutional overtures, I feel pretty comfortable that we have an answer. Speaking out like that, publicly, against the Commander in Chief is a huge breach of normal protocol. Normally this would be done through channels that would never be seen by the outside world. That multiple military leaders felt the need to take that step can only be read as a “shot across the bow.”

    Trump can say any damn thing he wants when (fingers crossed!) he loses the election in November. He’ll have 77 days to tell the world how it was rigged and untrue and how he is entitled to be the next President of the United States. And come noon on January 20, 2021, his right to sit in the Oval Office ends. If he does not leave willingly he will be removed.

    Which will be an ugly, traumatic, apocalyptic event that will scar the country for years. But it will happen. Even if he manages to rally his citizens militia and local police around him (unlikely), they aren’t remotely a match for the US military. He will be gone.

    As for the nuclear scenario, the President can’t launch a single missile. The power is solely vested in him to authorize a launch. That is not the same thing. The military spends a lot of effort vetting and training the people who can actually launch missiles, running them through all kinds of stress scenarios to see how they respond. They’ve had three quarters of a century to think on these problems and they are well aware that the President represents a single-point failure node. They train for “What if a crazy person orders us to launch?”

    During the 1973 Mideast War, things went very pear-shaped for 48 hours and there was a real chance it was going to go nuclear. Nixon put the US on level III alert. The words of the Secretary of Defense to the staff and commanders directly under him are noteworthy. I can’t quote verbatim but it ran something like this: “We are now at Level III. If the President orders us to level I, I remind you all that under the Constitution of the United States, the President is the Commander-in-Chief. I also remind you that the chain of command… Goes. Through. Me.”

    Trump has seven more months to wreak immense harm on the country in so many different ways, but militarily is not one I’m worried about.

    – pax \ Ctein
    [ Please excuse any word-salad. Dragon Dictate in training! ]
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  23. Should Trump try to refuse to leave, it will be hilarious. The staff will pack all his stuff and send it away. Someone will disconnect the cable television. No one will feed him. He will be alone and bored and impotent.

  24. But what if DJT demands something extreme of the military on the way out of office? Well, leaving aside that only Congress can declare war, consider what might happen to military officers who do not obey the order to preemptively nuke {insert name of country here, not ncessarilly excluding the People’s Republic of Berkeley}. Article 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice tells us:

    92. Any person subject to this chapter who—
    (1) violates or fails to obey any lawful general order or regulation;
    (2) having knowledge of any other lawful order issued by a member of the armed forces, which it is his duty to obey, fails to obey the order; or
    (3) is derelict in the performance of his duties;
    shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.

    Notice the “L” word in there? Nothing.

    That’s why Calley and Medina were convicted at courts martial (My Lai): The orders they claimed to have received (which the incomplete records available indicate they may have at a probability sufficient to provide reasonable doubt) were not lawful. Every military officer knows this limitation on “ve vas only folloving orters,” even the chaplains; it’s a mandatory part of commissioning training, and it gets reexamined (in increasing depth) at every postgraduate school.

    Frankly, I’m more worried about cops than the military; cops can often get qualified immunity for violating civil rights, but the military can’t. That’s an irony I do not find amusing at all.

  25. Related to points #1 and #3, I’m contemplating not getting a haircut until my home state has less than 100 new cases in a week. Right now, we are getting about 1200 new cases each week. This may take a while.

  26. Reminder that if we take back the Senate – which is a thing that is actually possible – it’s going to be a lot harder for the current occupant of the White House, should he stick around, to do quite as much damage. Or to stay in office, for that matter.

    @Karen Tolva: he claims all kinds of things. I think it was one of his old mob associates quoted as saying “the guy lies about the time of day just to keep in practice.” He can certainly claim the election is rigged and there are millions of bad votes, and we can expect that he will do so regardless of the outcome, because he already said it about an election he won. But (genuinely!) with all respect to the law professor who is selling a book on the topic, there’s an awful lot of what-if and speculation in his scenarios. No, it’s not impossible and we shouldn’t put blind faith in Good Guys to save us, but at least in the linked article, this comes across as more of a Socratic thought experiment in an election law class than what is more likely to happen. Especially if the alternative to having to sit around and be a boring old POTUS is, say, getting to be the new TV star of a network like OAN.

    And of course the scenario falls apart if we take back the Senate.

  27. Dear Mythago,

    I agree with you. Further, I’m uncomfortable arguing with a college law professor about electoral law, but this just seems off, to my understanding:

    “It really wasn’t the Supreme Court in the decision Bush v. Gore that ended things — it was Al Gore. Al Gore, for the good of the country, decided to accept the Supreme Court’s ruling.”

    Huh? What was Gore going to do? There was no higher court to appeal to.

    Furthermore, by implication, it repeats the falsehood that if it hadn’t been for the Supreme Court, Gore would’ve won. Much as I would’ve loved that, I don’t see any constitutional path to that result. Election law spells out time limits wherein things have to happen.

    In particular, states have to report the votes of their electors by the first week of January so that they may be tallied by a joint session of Congress. The candidate receiving the majority of the votes becomes the new president. This is a nonnegotiable deadline. Congress counts the votes received. If some states haven’t reported by then, they don’t get counted.

    The situation in Florida was that it was going to be impossible to get the manual recounts done in time to meet the electoral deadlines. There would be no state-certified result by the time Florida had to report its tally to Congress. There are two paths that could follow. The first is that Florida reports no votes, in which case the majority of the votes go to Bush.

    The second is that the Florida legislature, which is empowered to act, delegates the electors. It was a Republican legislature. In the absence of a definitive recount that they might feel ethically and morally obligated to follow, what do you think they would do? I know what I would do.

    The majority of votes go to Bush.

    In extreme theory, Gore might try a jump-the-shark play, wherein he appeals to Congress to change the deadline, pushing it as close to January 20 as possible. Appealing to a REPUBLICAN Congress, mind you, to change the rules because it might favor him. Yeah, that’s gonna work.

    No one knows why the Supreme Court stepped in to end the election fight, which was inevitably going to go to Bush. But it doesn’t change the fact that it was going to go to Bush… dammit.

    Gore could have stamped his feet and pouted all the way to January 20 — as I expect Trump will — but it wouldn’t have made a bit of difference. It won’t this time, either.

    – pax \ Ctein
    [ Please excuse any word-salad. Dragon Dictate in training! ]
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    — Ctein’s Online Gallery. http://ctein.com 
    — Digital Restorations. http://photo-repair.com 
    ======================================

  28. No one knows why the Supreme Court stepped in to end the election fight, which was inevitably going to go to Bush.

    Funny, that. Could be they had a different view of the situation. Though the fact that the court stopped the recount on the grounds of possible irreparable injury to Bush, before deciding the case, might suggest something.

  29. Dear glc,
    ‘Cept the nature of such injury never becomes clear, nor is even legally imaginable to me. Is it to you?
    The question remains: Why did they step in to a matter whose conclusion was predetermined instead of letting it play out.
    I’ve heard many plausible explanations; e.g., that the Supremes felt the country would be more accepting of a determination of the US Supreme Court than the Florida Legislature. If so, they were badly mistaken, but it wouldn’t be the first time they’ve misjudged the attitudes of the populace.
    But none of us really know nor are ever likely to.
    I blame it on chemtrails.
    pax / Ctein

  30. The “Check you’ve read the article” idea reminds me of the “Suggested pop-up windows for replying to mailing lists” section of the classic 1999 post: “Why Should I Care What Color The Bikeshed Is?” http://www.bikeshed.com/

  31. Guys, come on, Trump talks big but bluster is all he has. To use his style, HE’S A COWARD!! Yes, he will say he wuz robbed – after all, that was the plan if he had lost, as he expected, the first time. But he will slink away in the night. The other possibility (my wife still holds out hope for this one), is the “I Don’t Need This Sh!t! I’m out of here” ending. Jared and Ivanka and a few trusted others come to him and “convince” him that he has done all he can do in this corrupt (sic) system, the people don’t deserve him (that much is true), plus, if you agree to leave now (before the election) we can cut a very attractive deal to avoid most future prosecutions. Let Pence clean up the mess.

    Milley “made a mistake” really isn’t good enough. He needs to resign.

  32. As for retweets: In this, our media age, many people do not even want to know what traditional journalism ethics are, just as they do not want to be a lady or gentleman. It’s too much responsibility for them. How then will they “give a care” to learn what is proper social media behaviour?

  33. Ctein:

    The best explanation — not a compelling one — that I’ve heard for the timing and rationale of Bush v. Gore is that at least two Justices were scared to throw the election out of the College of Electors and into Congress. Had the recount gone on, there was a very real possibility that it would not have been completed and certified in time to send Florida’s Electors to the vote (mid-December), especially if there were any further challenges to either the recount itself or in other counties. If the College of Electors cannot reach 270 votes, a plurality of the remainder is not sufficient. That would have thrown the election into Congress… and the arcane rules there would have been too much, especially after Tweedledum and Tilden-dee (which, one might add, turned on what-we-would-now-call “illegal intercepts of electronic communications,” <sarcasm> but there’s no danger of that ever happening again </sarcasm>).

  34. Plus Al Gore let it go. Regardless of whether he had any chance of prevailing, the whole thing would have gotten much worse if he had decided to fight, which we can bet is exactly what Dumbo is going to do.

    Trump refusing to leave in January is the least of it. More talking heads have lately been giving various election-fuckery scenarios: postponing the election, the Republican-controlled state legislatures allocating Electoral College votes, etc. David Frum recently pointed out that even if the election goes as planned in November, the president is actually chosen when the Electoral College meets in December. So there’s a lot of room for crazy undemocratic shit to happen.

  35. One funny scenario is if the issue of the Presidency is tied up in courts until January 21, Trump and Pence are out of office and Pelosi is probably Speaker of the House. She then becomes president.

    I recall Sandra Day O’Connor a few years later saying that she was a Republican and her commitment to her party meant she had to vote for Bush. I don’t recall whether she also said she regretted that decision. That surprised me. She may have been Republican but she was a moderate voter on the Court.

  36. Dear jaws,

    OK, I do like that explanation, in large part because it’s so Byzantine. Reviewing the history just now, I’d forgotten the key thing — the Senate, bizarrely enough, was under Democratic control from January 3, 2001 until January 20. When it switched to Republican. The Senate and the House were controlled by opposing parties for those 17 days. Worse, the Senate was split 50-50 with the deciding vote being… Vice President Al Gore! Had it gone to Congress, it would have gotten very ugly.

    I think the Florida situation wasn’t quite as you remember it. Under their election laws, their (Republican) legislature did have the authority to assign the Electors. Unless my recollection is (again) faulty, they were not required to wait for a certified vote. But it’s real clear the clock was running out.

    I do believe you’re wrong, though, about it devolving to Congress. The 12th Amendment reads, “The person having the greatest number of votes for President, shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed…” In the unlikely event Florida failed to appoint their Electors, the whole number of Electors would have been 513, with 257 votes required. Gore would’ve had the required majority.

    Now, whether a divided Congress would have honored that… hoooo boy.

    Despite being exceedingly unhappy with the results, I’m not convinced the Supreme Court did the wrong thing. It’s one thing to intervene to say, “stop jerking around an election,” a whole ‘nother to have to step in later to sort out a major Constitutional clusterf*ck.

    Have we gotten deep enough into the weeds? Gawd, I love Constitutional law!

    – pax \ Ctein
    [ Please excuse any word-salad. Dragon Dictate in training! ]
    ======================================
    — Ctein’s Online Gallery. http://ctein.com 
    — Digital Restorations. http://photo-repair.com 
    ======================================

  37. Ctein, there’s some precedent for “number of electors appointed” being “538 no matter how many actually show up to vote,” and that’s before the spectre of competing slates. Which has happened, but not in a way that affected the outcome. It’s actually the least-conflict-laden reading of the text… but the text is badly written and “not unambiguous.”

    My recollection is that in 2000 the Florida legislature didn’t have the authority to appoint electors, but that was quickly added in 2001 by the Republican-controlled legislature and Republican governor Just in Case.

    The key point is that it’s the Electoral College that actually selects the President and the Vice-President. It’s going to be fascinating watching networks scramble to “call it first” with the higher proportion of mail-in ballots… but then, I’m in an all-mail-in state and I voted absentee from the Carter through early Clinton administrations, so mail-in ballots don’t bother me at all. (I also lived near Chicago for a while, so I’m pretty sure I’ve voted there a couple of hundred times.)

  38. @Ctein/Jaws et al. Took me a while to get back here – nice to see the topic developed.

    In particular I think I understand Ctein’s point of view better now.