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Justice Kavanaugh's 'sloppy' opinion is an embarrassing mess riddled with errors

October 27, 2020 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick

Late Monday night, the Supreme Court issued a ruling blocking a lower court’s decision to force Wisconsin election officials to extend the deadline for accepting mail-in ballots, as long as they were post-marked by Election Day. This decision to limit ballot access was unsurprising given the conservative majority on the court, but as I noted, Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s concurring opinion disturbed many readers because of the views it seemed to express about voting and elections.

But there’s a related aspect of Kavanaugh’s opinion that has attracted significant attention in addition to its ideological bent. It was, many commentators noted, extraordinarily sloppy for a Supreme Court ruling. The opinion was riddled with errors, embarrassingly so, and some of which even relate to the substance of his argument.

For instance, Kavanaugh wrote:

To be sure, in light of the pandemic, some state legislatures have exercised their Article I, §4, authority over elections and have changed their election rules for the November 2020 election. Of particular relevance here, a few States such as Mississippi no longer require that absentee ballots be received before election day. See, e.g., Miss. Code Ann. §23–15–637 (2020). Other States such as Vermont, by contrast, have decided not to make changes to their ordinary election rules, including to the election-day deadline for receipt of absentee ballots. [emphasis added]

But as Vermont’s own secretary of state confirmed, the state had changed its election rules this year. It sent every voter a ballot by the first of October:

That doesn’t really change the substance of Kavanaugh’s ruling, but it does throw doubt on his understanding of the current environment and shed light on his lackluster fact-checking.

Another mistake from Kavanaugh, though, really is important to his argument. He wrote of the reasons that states have for limiting the deadline for absentee ballot returns to Election Day itself:

States want to avoid the chaos and suspicions of impropriety that can ensue if thousands of absentee ballots flow in after election day and potentially flip the results of an election. And those States also want to be able to definitively announce the results of the election on election night, or as …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Inside John Wilkes Booth's Famous Family

October 27, 2020 in History

By Christopher Klein

Before Booth killed Lincoln, his brother saved the life of Lincoln’s son. And his sister wrote a secret memoir about her infamous sibling.

As part of an illustrious family of stage actors, John Wilkes Booth was already a familiar figure to many Americans before he entered the presidential box of Ford’s Theatre on April 14, 1865. The Booth name had been emblazoned on playbills of American theaters for decades before John Wilkes fatally shot President Abraham Lincoln. Only months earlier, the assassin and his two brothers had appeared together on a Broadway stage in a benefit performance of Julius Caesar to raise money to erect a statue of William Shakespeare in Manhattan’s Central Park.

Thwarted by poor reviews in his desire to live up to his family’s theatrical reputation, the volatile John Wilkes, an ardent Confederate supporter, instead took center stage in an American tragedy. His slaying of Lincoln changed American history and the lives and reputations of many of Booth’s relatives—one of whom unknowingly saved the life of a Lincoln, and another of whom wrote a secret memoir of her infamous brother.

READ MORE: 10 Things You May Not Know About the Lincoln Assassination

Junius Brutus Booth: His Illustrious Actor Father

Junius Brutus Booth, photographed in theatrical costume.

Not until after the Booth family patriarch’s death did the irony emerge that he shared a name with the most famous of Julius Caesar’s assassins, Marcus Junius Brutus. Born in London in 1796, Junius was among the greatest Shakespearean actors of his age. Blessed with a magnificent memory and fluency in seven languages, the 17-year-old theatrical prodigy joined a Shakespearean troupe that toured the capitals of Europe in 1814 and gained renown three years later playing the title role of Richard III.

In 1821, Booth abandoned his wife and toddler son to flee to the United States with his 19-year-old pregnant mistress, Mary Ann Holmes. Although his popularity transcended the Atlantic Ocean, Junius was also plagued by dark thoughts. In the wake of the death of his 10-year-old son, Henry Byron, he attempted suicide by jumping off a ship at sea. Deepening alcoholism interfered with his performances and forced some theater managers to lock him in their dressing rooms to ensure he’d be present and sober when their curtains were raised.

Junius required so much caretaking that his son Edwin was forced to leave …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Mitch McConnell gets torn to shreds as 'evil' and 'cruel' in local paper column

October 27, 2020 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson

Even if November 3 brings a major blue wave, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, according to recent polls, is likely to be reelected. McConnell is seeking a seventh term, but veteran progressive activist Ralph Nader, in an op-ed for the Louisville Courier, argues that the last thing the Kentucky senator deserves is to be reelected.

“I have studied and interacted with many members of Congress,” Nader writes. “McConnell is the most brazen evil, cruel and powerful legislator in the last 50 years. His lack of empathy for the vulnerable and disadvantaged is stunning.”

McConnell’s record, Nader stresses, has been characterized by a total lack of compassion for those less fortunate than him. And he hasn’t grown any more compassionate under Donald Trump’s presidency.

“McConnell, comfortably embraced by the Congress’ socialized medicine, loses no sleep saying yes to a corporate-profit-glutted, wasteful corporatized health care industry whose denials, co-payments and exemptions are costing thousands of uninsured and insured American lives a year. He fought but failed to end Obamacare, pleased to consign another 22 million people to the dreaded, uninsured hell,” Nader writes, adding that he has vigorously fought against relief for Americans who are hurting financially because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Nader, “McConnell’s back-of-the-hand to coal mine workers’ safety, survivors’ pensions and continuing black lung payments, mainly harms Kentucky, but his other aggressions against people in favor of big business affect the entire country. He bragged at an event in Owensboro that he and he alone decides what issues this Senate votes on.”

McConnell was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1984. This year, his latest Democratic challenger, Amy McGrath, was hoping to unseat him. But McConnell appears heading for reelection.

“McConnell has the gall to campaign on ‘Kentucky Values,’” Nader writes. “Voters in Kentucky, with a little homework, or a factual memory of this senatorial oligarch, shouldn’t have difficulty in rejecting those claims. McConnell has gotten away with ferociously shredding Kentucky values for 36 years. He smugly expects six more years.”

…read more

Source: ALTERNET

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An elections expert explains why a polling error might actually be devastating for Trump

October 27, 2020 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson

Many supporters of President Donald Trump have argued that his reelection campaign is in much better shape than polls have been indicating, noting that he outperformed expectations when he defeated Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in 2016. But reporter David Wasserman, in an article published on NBC News’ website this week, examines another possibility — that former Vice President Joe Biden is the one being underrepresented in polls.

“As Election Day approaches and President Donald Trump continues to trail Joe Biden by high single digits both nationally and in key states, their respective bases are buzzing with either hope or dread that ‘the polls could be wrong again,’” Wasserman notes. “In truth, public opinion polls are imperfect instruments, and there’s always bound to be some degree of error.”

Pollsters have received a great deal of criticism following Trump’s victory in 2016. But truth be told, the polls weren’t as misleading as those critics say. The polls showed Clinton with a national lead; she won the popular vote. And some polls, in late October 2016, showed that swing states like Pennsylvania and Florida were close; Trump narrowly won those states.

“It’s important to remember that in 2016, the final pre-election average showed Hillary Clinton leading Trump 46.8% to 43.6 % nationally, according to leading polling aggregator RealClearPolitics,” Wasserman explains. “That wasn’t too far off the mark: she went on to win the popular vote 48.2% to 46.1%, not exactly strong evidence that hordes of ‘shy Trump voters’ refused to tell pollsters their true intentions.”

Stressing that polls have a margin of error, Wasserman notes that “in the Southwest, polls undershot Democrats’ final margin in 17 of 19 cases, including by an average of 1.4 points in 2016 and 4.2 points in 2018. The Southeast was a mixed bag. In Florida, polls underestimated the GOP margin by an average of 2.4 points in 2016 and 3.3 points in 2018 — a polling error similar to that in the Midwest.”

Bearing these things in mind, Wasserman writes, it is possible that polls are underestimating Trump — but it is also possible that Biden is the one being underestimated.

“In the end, the only certainty in the polling world is some degree of error,” Wasserman emphasizes. “There’s no guarantee 2020′s errors will boost Trump again or adhere to the Southwest/Midwest patterns we observed in 2016 and 2018. But in light of recent evidence, it wouldn’t be …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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All eyes are focused on Pennslyvania — but does Biden really need it to win?

October 27, 2020 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson

If former Vice President Joe Biden wins every state that 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton won four years ago and flips Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin — all of which Trump won four years ago — that would get him over the 270 electoral votes he needs in order to win the election. But what if Trump wins Pennsylvania a second time? Polling expert Nate Silver examines that possibility on his FiveThirtyEight website.

Silver notes that although polls are showing Biden with an advantage in Michigan and Wisconsin, “The polls have been tighter in Pennsylvania.” Citing FiveThirtyEight’s polling analysis, Silver explains, “Biden’s current lead is just 5.1 points, and in 2016, polls were off by 4.4 points in the Keystone State — Trump won it by 0.7 points after trailing in our final polling average by 3.7 points there. So, with a 2016-style polling error in Pennsylvania, Biden would be cutting it awfully close — perhaps even so close that court rulings on factors like ‘naked ballots’ could swing the outcome.”

Silver poses the question: “Is Pennsylvania a must-win for Biden?,” and his answer is, “No, not quite.”

“(Pennsylvania) is close to being a must-win for Trump, who has only a 2% chance of winning the Electoral College if he loses Pennsylvania,” Silver argues. “Biden, however, has a bit more margin for error. He’d have a 30% chance if he lost Pennsylvania, which isn’t great but is also higher than, say, Trump’s overall chances on Election Day 2016.”

If Biden loses Pennsylvania, according to Silver, he still has some paths to victory, but minus Pennsylvania, the Sun Belt becomes even more important for him. Sun Belt states in which Biden is competitive include Florida, Arizona and Georgia, among others.

Outside of the Sun Belt, Biden is competitive in Ohio. But Ohio, Silver notes, is a Rust Belt state that is even closer than Pennsylvania. Democrats struggle more in Ohio than they do in Pennsylvania.

“Here’s the thing: yes, Biden and Democrats should be nervous that he has only about a 5-point lead in Pennsylvania, the most likely tipping point state,” Silver writes. “Five points is more than a normal-sized polling error, but not that much more. And Biden does have some backup plans. A regional polling error in the Midwest or the Northeast wouldn’t necessarily doom his chances in states like Arizona, for instance. It wouldn’t be the blowout that Democrats hope …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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New report reveals Trump taking the U.S. government's money for extravagant purposes

October 27, 2020 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson

When Donald Trump ran for president in 2016, he railed against crony capitalism in Washington, D.C. and promised to “drain the swamp” if elected. But a Washington Post article published this week takes a close look at the profits that his businesses have been enjoying at the expense of taxpayers because of his presidency.

The Post notes that when Trump met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, they did so at the president’s Mar-a-Lago resort in South Florida — which Trump described as the “southern White House.”

“For Trump, there was another hidden benefit: money,” the Post reports. “At Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s company would get paid to host his summit. In the next two days, as Trump and Abe talked about trade and North Korea, Trump’s Palm Beach, Fla., club billed the U.S. government $13,700 for guest rooms, $16,500 for food and wine and $6000 for the roses and other floral arrangements.”

But according to Post reporters David A. Fahrenthold, Josh Dawsey, Jonathan O’Connell and Anu Narayanswamy, that meeting with Abe was hardly the only time Trump properties have profited from government business.

“Since his first month in office, Trump has used his power to direct millions from U.S. taxpayers — and from his political supporters — into his own businesses,” the reporters explain. “The Washington Post has sought to compile examples of this spending through open records requests and a lawsuit. In all, he has received at least $8.1 million from these two sources since he took office, those documents and publicly available records show.”

The Trump Organization, according to the Post, has been billing U.S. taxpayers for a wide range of items.

“Since 2017,” the Post reports, “Trump’s company has charged taxpayers for hotel rooms, ballrooms, cottages, rental houses, golf carts, votive candles, floating candles, candelabras, furniture moving, resort fees, decorative palm trees, strip steak, chocolate cake, breakfast buffets, $88 bottles of wine and $1000 worth of liquor for White House aides. And water.”

The Post’s reporting is receiving a great deal of attention on social media. Fahrenthold tweeted the article on Tuesday, noting, “Previously un-released documents show the government has paid $2.5 million to @realdonaldtrump ‘s businesses. Far more than we knew. Trump Org charged $7700 for a dinner, $6000 for floral arrangements…. and $3 for POTUS’s own glass of water.” And responses have been numerous.

Twitter user Peter Charbonneau, @pcharbonneau21, sarcastically posted, “B-b-b-but he doesn’t take a …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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This 1841 Rebellion at Sea Freed More Than 100 Enslaved People

October 27, 2020 in History

By Clifton E. Sorrell & Daina Ramey Berry

Just two years after the famed Amistad revolt, a mutiny rerouted the slaving brig Creole into British territory, where human bondage was illegal.

Throughout the annals of American slavery, enslaved people resisted captivity and strived to liberate themselves from bondage, usually against steep odds. The Creole rebellion of 1841 represented one of the most successful uprisings in U.S. history, where more than 100 captives gained their freedom.

Like the famed Amistad rebellion two years earlier, which had culminated in a dramatic Supreme Court case allowing the enslaved people to return to Africa, the Creole revolt was also a mutiny aboard a slaving brig. But whereas the Amistad had carried its 53 captives illegally across the Middle Passage, in violation of America’s 1808 transatlantic slave trade ban, the Creole was transporting human “cargo” from Virginia to the slave markets of New Orleans, as part of the still-thriving U.S domestic trade in enslaved people. Most of the Creole’s 134 captives were property of the ship’s owners; others belonged to a Virginia trader who was aboard the brig with his 15-year-old nephew, schooling him in the business of human trafficking.

READ MORE: How the Amistad Rebellion, and Its Extraordinary Trial, Unfolded

The rebellion, which occurred November 7, 1841, in waters 130 miles northeast of the coast of Abacos, Bahamas, succeeded because its organizers knew they had a chance at freedom if they could seize and reroute the ship into British territory, where the British Slave Abolition Act of 1833 had deemed human bondage illegal. Indeed, once the brig reached Nassau, local Bahamian officials, operating under British law—and pressured by its own population of formerly enslaved people—informed the Creole’s captives that they were free to go.

But that didn’t end it. The Creole incident highlighted the growing international disparity over how countries viewed the practice of human bondage. Specifically, it renewed debate over whether the British, using their own anti-slavery laws, had the right to seize American property. (In the years before the Creole revolt, British officials had freed the enslaved captives of four other American slaving brigs that had been shipwrecked in their territory.) And it aggravated ongoing tensions between Britain and the United States over jurisdiction disputes and how international law defined the boundaries of legalized slavery.

READ MORE: The Last Slave Ship Survivor Gave an Interview in the 1930s. It Just Surfaced

Iron shackles, dated pre-1860.

How the …read more

Source: HISTORY

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How the Early Catholic Church Christianized Halloween

October 27, 2020 in History

By Patrick J. Kiger

After the Romans conquered ancient Celtic realms, pagan traditions were adopted into a holiday honoring Catholic saints.

Halloween may be a secular affair today, dominated by …read more

Source: HISTORY