Wednesday, September 30, 2020


What it wasn't was a debate. A debate is a more or less orderly exchange of positions, structured by simple rules like "two minute uninterrupted opening statements" that both parties agree to abide by. From the very outset Trump never let Biden get through his statements -- he spoke over him, cut him off, shouted disagreements and insults as Biden was speaking, constantly attributed to Biden positions that he does not actually hold, and threw back questions that HE wanted Biden to answer. Moderator Chris Wallace lost control of this travesty at the start and never got it back: Trump often talked over and interrupted him too.

Biden, openly frustrated, generally kept his cool, though in time he got caught up in the dynamic and interrupted Trump at times too -- which allowed Wallace to say, "Gentlemen, will you both stop." But it was clear who created this chaotic, angry atmosphere.

Trump generally repeated all of his favorite points and lies, ignoring the actual question he was asked to say what he wanted to say -- often on entirely different topics. Biden's best moments were when he spoke directly to the camera and tried to show that he was thinking about what people needed to hear: reassurances about COVID, about racial divisions, about economic fairness, and about the voting process itself.

Trump left a trail of broken rules and procedural norms, a steaming pile of bullshit answers, and an unmistakable sense that he has given up on democracy itself. He didn't want a real debate and didn't come prepared for anything that would actually clarify and defend his positions.

The reviews

The Worst Presidential Debate In Living Memory 

An Epic Moment of National Shame

CNN Absolutely Shreds ‘Shitshow’ Debate: ‘Hot Mess Inside a Dumpster Fire’

"Would you shut up, man": First Trump-Biden debate a disastrous, chaotic, nearly unwatchable mess

‘An Avalanche Of Lying’
A Bad Night for the President 

We Counted Every Single Time Trump Interrupted During the First Presidential Debate

Some of the worst moments

“If I may ask my question, sir,” Wallace, the Fox News journalist, pressed as Trump kept cutting him off as he tried to ask the question. “First of all, I guess I’m debating you, not him,” Trump shot back at Wallace. “I’m not surprised.” . . .
“He said he went to Delaware State, but you forgot the name of your college. You didn’t go to Delaware State,” Trump said. “He graduated the lowest or almost the lowest in your class. Don’t ever use the word ‘smart’ with me.”  . . .
Trump dodged calls from Wallace and Biden to publicly condemn white supremacists.  Trump avoided answering for a few moments, blaming recent violence on left-wing rioters instead. When he finally addressed their requests, his response was: “Proud boys, stand back and stand by." . . .
Trump interrupted Biden when the former vice president was talking about his late son’s military career, shifting the subject to the business ties of Biden’s other son. . . .
The president refused to commit to urging his supporters to stay calm and not engage in civil unrest if the election results are drawn out, instead doubling down on his claims of mass voter fraud.  “I am urging my supporters to go into the polls and watch very carefully,” he said. “If I see tens of thousands of ballots being manipulated, I cannot go along with that.” . . .

5 Racist Trump Moments From The First 2020 Presidential Debate

3 debate moments that showed how unsuited Trump is for the presidency

3 winners and 4 losers from the first 2020 presidential debate

Biden's best moments


In Fox World

Sean Hannity Calls Debate ‘Refreshing’: Let Them Go at It Like ‘Gladiators’

The post-debate polls 

The first post-debate polls say Biden won
GOP Pollster Asks For 1-Word Reviews Of Trump’s Debating. The Answers Are Wild. 
In Cleveland, the president yelled, threatened, interrupted—and changed nothing. He’s losing. . . . [read on] 

In fact, it may have the rare consequence of shrinking the actual pool of voters overall — Republican pollster Frank Luntz, conducting a virtual focus group during the debate, said some of the undecided voters on his panel said they had decided not to vote. “I’ve never seen a debate cause this reaction,” Luntz said on Twitter. . . [read on]

Rasmussen is the most Trump-friendly poll. Now Rasmussen says the tax fraud story is cutting into Trump's support

[T]here was quiet concern within the campaign, where aides took note of daily tracking numbers from Rasmussen Reports, a typically rosy assessment of how the president is faring, that showed support falling after the tax report. Among Mr. Trump’s circle, there was finger-pointing about how the issue was handled and a hesitancy to discuss with him an issue they know he is sensitive about. . . .
OF COURSE he does. And OF COURSE they won't believe it
Trump Secretly Mocks His Christian Supporters
[NB: And that's WHY he has such contempt for them.]
Trump attacks Biden's faith while using Barrett's faith to try to win Catholic voters
How Scott Atlas became Trump's favorite health advisor
[NB: Because he tells him what he wants to hear, naturally.]

White House Overruled CDC on Cruise Ship Ban . . . “Public health officials have privately complained that the thwarting of Redfield on the cruise ship ban is politically motivated because the industry is a major economic presence in Florida — a key battleground state . . .” 

Amy Barrett says she won't recuse from election-related cases on the Supreme Court

In investigation news . . .  
Trump's incredible record of financial mismanagement, lies, and failure
“In the mid-1970s, the Trump family set out to sell the world on a character of its own creation: Donald J. Trump, dashing and brilliant business genius. The story’s protagonist was the child of multimillionaire developer Fred Trump, a son who had accomplished almost nothing in business, and whose taxable income was under $25,000. The trick was quite simple: young Donald would squire reporters around his father’s business empire and claim he had built it himself.” “In reality, Donald Trump was in the money-inheriting business…”
“The strategy was to convert Fred Trump’s fortune into publicity, which Donald could then monetize. The lies used to construct Trump’s image were massive. In 1984, Donald concocted a series of lies to persuade Forbes he was worth $900 million. Its reporter, Jonathan Greenberg, diligently unraveled every exaggeration and reduced the published sum to $100 million, only to discover decades later that the actual amount was a mere $5 million . . . .” 
Buried in Trump's taxes, what's going on at his golf resorts makes no sense ... unless it's a lie

Trump could be in a lot of legal hot water if he loses the election . . . tax fraud, campaign finance violations, obstruction, and more. 
Trump calls the tax story totally "fake news." But now his minions are calling for a criminal investigation of the NYT for revealing his tax information. Uh, guys. . . .

Don't get confused. Trump defenders say Trump paid "millions" in taxes -- by which they mean payroll taxes, property taxes, and real estate taxes. But of course, that is not the same as paying federal INCOME taxes on money earned, which comes out of YOUR OWN pocket

Trump's massive debt is a counterintelligence risk

Trump, for some reason, wants to bring up the "Russia, if you're listening" comment again, insisting that it was obviously said as a joke and people laughed. Just roll the tape . . .

How AG Bill Barr has turned the DOJ into a branch of Trump's campaign committee
“The defense lawyer for Michael Flynn told a judge on Tuesday that she talked about his criminal case in a meeting with President Trump, who has been highly critical of the prosecution of his former national security advisor for lying to FBI agents”

And ANOTHER branch of Trump's campaign committee
Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe released Russian disinformation hours before the presidential debate Tuesday, declassifying the information without vetting or disavowing it. . . . [T]he information had previously been rejected by both Democratic and Republican members of the Senate Intelligence Committee because it lacked any factual basis. 

"There are allegations from the CIA that the Clinton campaign was involved in Russia. I don't know if that is true,” Graham said. “It's not about whether it is true. . ."
In other news . . .    
Trump says it is "totally ridiculous" to think that he wanted Ivanka as his VP. I agree that it's totally ridiculous, but it's still true. Remember that HE described her as his "heir apparent"

More on former Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale, recently hospitalized and on suicide watch
“Donald Trump’s demoted campaign boss Brad Parscale is under investigation for ‘stealing’ between $25-$40 million from Trump’s 2020 presidential campaign,” the Daily Mail reports. “The 44-year-old is also being investigated for ‘pocketing’ nearly another $10 million from the Republican National Committee.”

I know the Supreme Court doesn't follow polls. But they should pay attention to this

Support for Obamacare Hits New High
Biden is holding his national lead. When you look at it state by state, more states are moving from Trump's category into "competitive" -- and none are moving the other way
Trump's playing defense almost everywhere
Rudy -- too crazy even for Fox World
‘Fox & Friends’ Hosts Look On in Horror as Rudy Giuliani Blurts Out Biden Dementia Conspiracy Theory
[NB: Of course, all you need to do is Google to find serious people saying Rudy has dementia himself.]
David French is a conservative thinker who, long ago, took the time to write something critical of me for something I had said here at the University of Illinois. Who knew? Here he has some pretty interesting things to say about the rise of hate in our political discourse

“Something bothers me about the most common explanations for why conspiracy theories are spreading on the American right. When trying to account for the rise of the Q-Anon movement, for example, pundits and social scientists tend to use terms like ‘distrust.’ But to understand how so many Americans can believe that ‘they’ have dark and evil designs, we need to resort to a more primal emotion: hate.” [read on]
Guess which network uses the word "hate" most often?

[NB: Five times more often.]
Bonus item: Drug tests!

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Tuesday, September 29, 2020


There's only one way Trump knows how to run. It worked for him once, but it's working against him this time
Trump Has Nothing Else Up His Sleeve
First Fauci, then Birx, now Redfield, the head of the CDC: no more tolerance for BS and lies about the coronavirus

“Everything he says is false.” 

White House Pressured CDC on School Openings

Coronavirus cases are surging again -- and we could be at a quarter million deaths by the time of the election

It is terrible that Ruth Bader Ginsburg died, and it is infuriating that Trump is going to get another far-right Supreme Court appointment. But the net effect politically may be good, sealing his fate and that of the Senate Republicans


Steady as we go. . .
With just five weeks until Election Day, the FiveThirtyEight forecast gets slightly better for Joe Biden, now giving him a 78% chance to win the presidency. The Economist forecast gives Biden an 85% chance.
Let's all keep an eye on Pennsylvania shall we?
5 Points On Why Pennsylvania Could Become An Election Flashpoint
GOP asks Supreme Court to halt mail voting extension in Pennsylvania
New poll shows Biden up nine points in Pennsylvania

In investigation news . . .   
We will learn even more about Trump's massive tax fraud in the days to come. He can call it "fake news," but the NYT has the documents. What happens when they start releasing them?

The investigation also raised questions about Trump's self-proclaimed business genius. The tax returns obtained by the Times show that he declared more than $315 million in losses from his 15 golf courses in the U.S. and overseas. . . .

Trump Mocked ‘F**king Stupid’ IRS After Reaping Huge Refund: Michael Cohen

Trump Just Lost Control of the Game . . .  First, it melts Trump’s support a little more. Trump’s hopes for 2020 depended on fantastic overperformance with white voters without college degrees. He’s lost so much support elsewhere that he must hold every last member of his core group. He doesn’t need to decline much among these voters to convert any faint hope of success into certainty of disaster. Second, and perhaps more important, the ink-on-paper confirmation of Trump’s indebtedness, tax dodging, and all-around crookedness will get into Trump’s head. . . . [read on]

How a smart money guy reads the tax story: Trump owes over $1 billion . . . and it's coming due very soon

Michael Cohen: Trump's 'biggest fear' is 'a massive tax bill,' possible fraud charges 

Five Points On The Many Questions Raised By Trump’s Tax Returns
Trump's massive debt: Who does he owe the money to? And is this a national security problem?

[NB: There are more stories to come, and I am waiting to hear that much of his debt is to Russian sources, directly or indirectly via Deutsche Bank.] 
Michael Cohen told MSNBC that President Trump could be “very realistically facing a potential bankruptcy” but “the more likely scenario that I see is that he’ll find some corrupt foreign entity to help him out of the situation.” 

The Trump tax story, in one glorious tweet

To summarize the NYT story: Trump got a bunch of $ from his daddy. He lost it all, but then he got paid hundreds of millions to play a billionaire on TV. He tried to use that $ to become a real billionaire, but he lost it all again. . . . [read on] 

The Trump campaign is accused of money laundering

Now we know why Trump is fighting so hard to stay in office

In other news . . .    
How nice
Trump Suggested Ivanka as His Running Mate . . . “In Gates’s telling, Trump’s suggestion of naming to the ticket his then-34-year-old daughter — a fashion and real estate executive who had never held elected office — was no passing fancy.” “Instead, he brought up the idea repeatedly over the following weeks, trying to sell his campaign staff on the idea, insisting she would be embraced by the Republican base . . .” 

This is where we are now: even satirical comedy is hard to distinguish from the Trump true believers
We still have courts
DeJoy and Trump lose a third time in federal court as Postal Service works to undo sabotage 

Remember when a judge told the US census that they couldn't quit early, and stop counting?

The Census Bureau said Monday that Secretary Wilbur Ross had set Oct. 5 as a “target date” for finishing the data collection for 2020’s count — an announcement that seems to fly in the face of a federal judge’s order that those operations continue through the end of October. . . .

In 2016, there was a specific plan to block black voting

The upcoming debate: lessons for Biden
Biden’s imperative: Don’t play Trump’s game . . . [read on]
Why the First Debate Could Be Important
[NB: Biden has the simpler task -- he doesn't need to "win," he doesn't need the zinger of the night, he only needs to avoid a gaffe or other senior moment that could trigger concerns about his state of mind. Trump will attack because that's what he does, and because he is losing and desperate. If Biden can be the one who is unflappable and more likable, he can just about wrap this up.]
Secret footage from Trump's debate prep

Cindy McCain joins Biden's transition team

Twenty-four QAnon candidates -- and the insanity of our national politics gets worse

Bonus item: Trump angry. Do not make Trump angry!
***If you enjoy Progressive Blog Digest and support what we are doing, you can help by forwarding a copy of this issue to your friends (using the envelope link below) or by sharing its URL ( with others via email or social media. Thanks for helping to spread the word!
I don’t get anything personally out of this project, except the satisfaction of doing it (I don’t run ads, etc.). The credit really all goes to the people whose material I copy and redistribute. But if I do have a “mission,” it is to get this information into the hands of as many people as I can.***

Monday, September 28, 2020


The legal fight to come
How the Supreme Court could decide the election
A year before President Donald Trump alarmed Americans with talk of disputing elections last week, his team started building a massive legal network to do just that. . . .
Republicans are also recruiting and training thousands of poll watchers, who don’t need law degrees. The RNC is able to take a role in coordinating Election Day poll monitoring this year following the lifting of a 1982 court settlement that had forbidden them from doing so after the party faced accusations it was discouraging African Americans from voting. . . .
[NB: Nope, no danger they would ever do THAT again.] 
Trump keeps making it clear that all he wants to do is fire up his base, even at the cost of energizing the Dems
Trump suggests Supreme Court nominee would tip panel to overturn Roe v. Wade
[NB: 60% of voters want to protect abortion rights.]
Trump says Supreme Court ending Obamacare would be "a big WIN"
[NB: This is his brand, and this is his big problem. His ego and persona need "wins," and he seems to believe that winning cultivates winning -- it's a self-fulfilling prophesy, he thinks, that if people see you as a winner they will accede to the inevitable, and then you do in fact win. He seems convinced that getting his way on this Supreme Court seat, despite all the reasons why he shouldn't, will demoralize his opposition. The Dems will gnash their teeth but can't stop it. 
From our standpoint, these "wins" have to come with a real cost. Most people do not want to give up the right to have an abortion, they do not want to give up the ACA and coverage for pre-existing conditions. Most people do not want Trump. We can't "accept the inevitable," we can't just lie back and take it -- his triumphalism is not a strength, but a political weakness if we can channel it into outrage and a redoubled effort to get rid of him.]

Trump's former campaign manager
Deposed Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale has been hospitalized on a psychiatric hold after barricading himself in his Ft. Lauderdale home and threatening to harm himself with a firearm. According to a local press report, “Fort Lauderdale Police responded to a home in reference to an armed male attempting suicide Sunday afternoon. When officers arrived on the scene, they made contact with the wife of the man who told them her husband was armed, had access to multiple firearms inside the house and was threatening to harm himself.” . . .
Why Trump doesn't want to talk about tax policy, and Biden does
In investigation news . . .   
Finally, FINALLY, some of Trump's tax information leaks out -- and it's appalling

The New York Times obtained President Trump’s tax information “extending over more than two decades, revealing struggling properties, vast write-offs, an audit battle and hundreds of millions in debt coming due.” “He had paid no income taxes at all in 10 of the previous 15 years — largely because he reported losing much more money than he made.” . . . “[H]is finances are under stress, beset by losses and hundreds of millions of dollars in debt coming due that he has personally guaranteed. Also hanging over him is a decade-long audit battle with the Internal Revenue Service over the legitimacy of a $72.9 million tax refund that he claimed, and received, after declaring huge losses. An adverse ruling could cost him more than $100 million.”
“The tax returns that Mr. Trump has long fought to keep private tell a story fundamentally different from the one he has sold to the American public. His reports to the I.R.S. portray a businessman who takes in hundreds of millions of dollars a year yet racks up chronic losses that he aggressively employs to avoid paying taxes. . . .” 
The other big reason Trump was probably reluctant to release the returns is that there’s clearly some legally questionable stuff in there.  For instance, the records obtained by Buettner, Craig, and McIntire show that Trump wrote off $26 million in supposed consulting fees as a business expense between 2011 and 2018. But the reporters took the added step of uncovering where some of that money was going — and they figured out that some of those write-offs matched payments to Trump’s daughter Ivanka, as revealed on her own financial disclosure forms. Now, Ivanka was an executive vice president of the Trump Organization — not some outside consultant. And sources told the Times that there were no outside consultants involved in certain of the projects for which Trump’s businesses wrote-off consulting fees. The Times story also mentions other questionable practices — Trump dubbed a Westchester, New York mansion an “investment property” so he could write-off property taxes on it, but Eric Trump called it “our compound.” The Trump Organization also wrote off Donald Trump Jr.’s legal fees for the lawyer who represented Don Jr. in the Russia investigation. This is probably just scratching the surface — the Times reporters say they have more stories coming. . . . 

Donald Trump paid only $750 in federal income taxes in 2016 and again in 2017, and none in 10 of the 15 years before that, according to two decades of tax returns obtained by The New York Times . . . [read on]
Trump Holds $421 Million In Debt, Could Owe IRS $100 Million In Penalties . . . [read on]
Even as he was struggling financially, Trump was able to maintain a lavish lifestyle and classify it as a business expense. Things that most classify as personal expenses have been classified as necessary for his business. Haircuts are a business expense to Trump, for example. Properties are often classified as businesses even if they are used as personal residences. . . . Family members are often consultants [read on]
"... the cost of haircuts, including the more than $70,000 paid to style his hair during “The Apprentice.” Together, nine Trump entities have written off at least $95,464 paid to a favorite hair and makeup artist of Ivanka Trump" [read on]

‘Freeloader-In-Chief’: Twitter Afire Over Explosive Trump Tax Return Report
Trump’s Old Tweet About Obama’s Taxes Is Looking Super Awkward Now 
Biden campaign sells 'I paid more income taxes than Trump' stickers 
According to Fox News, there will be no Durham report or indictments before the election
In other news . . .    
I don't know why this should make us feel any better, but Trump treats his own family the way he treats the rest of us
Trump 101

Trump Says He Will Demand Biden Take A Drug Test Ahead Of Debate 

“People say he was on performance-enhancing drugs. A lot of people say that,” Trump said, without naming specific people. He directed reporters to look on the internet. 

Another major Republican endorses Biden
Former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge (R)  . . .
[NB: This is huge in PA. Ridge is also a former head of Homeland Security.] 
H.R. McMaster speaks
Former White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster said the military will not be involved in a potential transfer of power in 2021, calling it “irresponsible” to discuss. “The military will have no role in a transition. In fact, to even talk about it, I think is irresponsible” . . . “If you detect some reticence on the part of senior military leaders or people in the Pentagon to talk about it, it’s because it shouldn’t even be a topic for discussion.” “Our Founders were very concerned about this,” he added 
More to come?
Ex-Aides Weigh Speaking Out Against Trump
Debate advice for Biden: don't bother trying to call out and correct every Trump lie
Why are the worst examples of voter suppression in potential swing states? I think you know why
Bonus item: John Oliver is depressed
***If you enjoy Progressive Blog Digest and support what we are doing, you can help by forwarding a copy of this issue to your friends (using the envelope link below) or by sharing its URL ( with others via email or social media. Thanks for helping to spread the word!  
I don’t get anything personally out of this project, except the satisfaction of doing it (I don’t run ads, etc.). The credit really all goes to the people whose material I copy and redistribute. But if I do have a “mission,” it is to get this information into the hands of as many people as I can.***