November 6, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 5:43 PM


Biden Had One Job and He Did It (Ed Kilgore, 11/07/20, New York)

[T]he president's job-approval rating was the lowest this year in January, before the pandemic began, and reached its highest point in March, when the first big wave of COVID-19 infections and deaths had already hit. Trump's reelection bid made the voting inevitably a referendum on his presidency, and the negative judgment Americans rendered on his performance never varied enough to matter for the ultimate outcome. His strategy of polarizing the electorate, energizing his base, and demonizing the opposition never varied, either; those waiting for a Trump "pivot" to a positive case for his record or a clear-cut presentation of his agenda waited in vain.

If Trump relied excessively on painting a caricature of the "Democrat" party and its "socialist" plans and love for looters and terrorists and open borders, then by nominating Joe Biden, the Democrats made that caricature even more incredible than it might have otherwise been. In the end, it was all but impossible for persuadable voters to imagine Uncle Joe in a Che Guevara T-shirt, lustily closing churches and partying with antifa "thugs." And Trump's alternative efforts to suggest Biden is the senile stooge of "the Squad" or the "communist" and "monster" Kamala Harris didn't fare much better, since she regularly outclassed him in coherence and self-discipline. We'll never know how Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren or Pete Buttigieg or Harris herself might have fared as a presidential nominee against Trump. But the two abiding things about the 45th president have been his unpopularity and his inability to disguise or even distract from the aspects of his personality that made nearly half the electorate rule out even the possibility of voting for him. The fact that he outperformed his poll numbers doesn't change any of that, as will become clearer as the final votes are counted and Biden's popular-vote and electoral-vote margins swell.

Posted by orrinj at 5:40 PM


The Batteries of the Future Are Weightless and Invisible  (DANIEL OBERHAUS, 11.06.2020, Wired)

Today, batteries account for a substantial portion of the size and weight of most electronics. A smartphone is mostly a lithium-ion cell with some processors stuffed around it. Drones are limited in size by the batteries they can carry. And about a third of the weight of an electric vehicle is its battery pack. One way to address this issue is by building conventional batteries into the structure of the car itself, as Tesla plans to do. Rather than using the floor of the car to support the battery pack, the battery pack becomes the floor.

But for Greenhalgh and his collaborators, the more promising approach is to scrap the battery pack and use the vehicle's body for energy storage instead. Unlike a conventional battery pack embedded in the chassis, these structural batteries are invisible. The electrical storage happens in the thin layers of composite materials that make up the car's frame. In a sense, they're weightless because the car is the battery. "It's making the material do two things simultaneously," says Greenhalgh. This new way of thinking about EV design can provide huge performance gains and improve safety because there won't be thousands of energy-dense, flammable cells packed into the car.

Posted by orrinj at 5:05 PM


Racial Tolerance Was on the Ballot--and Won (Matt Ford, 11/06/20, New Republic)

In Alabama, roughly two-thirds of voters supported Amendment 4, which will rewrite the state's constitution to excise racist and obsolete language. As a product of the Jim Crow era, Alabama's 1901 constitution includes a number of provisions that no longer carry legal force but remain on the books. Section 256, for example, says that "no child of either race shall be permitted to attend a school of the other race." Section 102 forbids the state legislature from passing laws that "authorize or legalize any marriage between any white person and a negro, or descendant of a negro." Alabama won't rewrite the constitution from whole cloth, but the state will now "recompile" it without the bigoted provisions.

Next door in Mississippi, voters overwhelmingly voted in favor of a new state flag to replace the one discarded by state lawmakers earlier this year. Mississippi's previous state flag was the last in the Union to feature the Confederate battle emblem, a highly visible reminder of the state's segregationist past. The new flag, which was designed by a commission chosen by state leaders that include tribal leaders, features a magnolia blossom (the state flower) as well as a five-point star that symbolizes the state's indigenous communities. It sailed to victory with more than 70 percent of the vote. (Had it lost, the state would've simply chosen a new design instead of returning to the old one.) [...]

Utahns approved two constitutional amendments that also carried symbolic weight. Amendment A will revise the state's constitution to replace terms like "husband" or "wife" or gendered pronouns with gender-neutral language. Amendment C tightens Utah's state constitutional ban on slavery by forbidding it as a punishment for a crime. While the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery and involuntary servitude at the federal level in 1865, it included an exception "as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted." The proposed amendment from Utah lawmakers removes the exception from its similarly worded state-level ban. Voters in Nebraska also approved a similar anti-slavery amendment this week.

Posted by orrinj at 3:53 PM


Republicans' silver lining in Pennsylvania (Brandon McGinley, November 6, 2020, The week)

That is, however, one of the only successes for Pennsylvania Democrats in this election. In the state House, state Senate, and even the row offices the party has held cycle after cycle, Democratic candidates fared poorly. While everyone rightly focuses on the White House, the down-ballot success of Republicans may prove an even more important development for our politics in the long term. [...]

Pennsylvania voters trust Democrats with their row offices, especially treasurer and auditor general (the law-and-order nature of the attorney general's office seems to attract more votes to Republican candidates). Since 1961, two Republicans have held either office: Barbara Hafer held both but switched parties in 2003, and R. Budd Dwyer famously ended his second term as treasurer in January, 1987, by shooting himself on live television. This year, pending the final mail-in tally, Republicans are poised to win at least auditor general and possibly treasurer. Importantly, both candidates are outperforming Donald Trump.

The row office elections tell us a lot about the true party affiliation of the electorate. Unless a candidate is otherwise famous or infamous, few voters are knowledgeable about the races: They vote on vague impressions from anodyne advertisements, the names of the candidates, and, most of all, which party they trust with boring government work. In 2020, despite the president's (apparent) narrow loss, the Pennsylvania electorate delivered a vote of confidence in the Republican Party that it has not received here in generations.

Posted by orrinj at 12:51 PM


Trump, the Pathetic Loser: On the edge of defeat, the president clings to his lies. (AMANDA CARPENTER  NOVEMBER 5, 2020, The Bulwark)

On Thursday night, staring down the abyss of defeat, President Trump marched into the White House briefing room and did what he has always done when backed into a corner. He unfurled lies. He claimed everything is "rigged" against him. He inflated his accomplishments to vertiginous heights.

All while the votes against him in decisive battleground states ticked higher and higher, a silent metronome in the background relentlessly counting toward his political demise.

While Trump's bluster might have been enthralling in the past--or at least hard to look away from, like a car accident--this time, the television lights made his typical bronze glow look like mortuary makeup. He was a political dead man walking. Everyone knew it. Even him. His tone was grave, which only made his lies all the more loathsome.

The amount of ticket-splitting required to achieve these results makes this election simply a repudiation of Donald and of Trumpism.

Posted by orrinj at 12:47 PM


Posted by orrinj at 12:34 PM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


It might not feel like it, but the election is workingNothing about 2020 is normal, but the elections are proceeding as expected--despite claims otherwise. (Patrick Howell O'Neill, November 5, 2020, MIT Technology Review)

The fact that the vote count is slower than usual is unavoidably stressful--but it's also exactly what officials and experts have said for months would happen as every vote is counted. 

"I think how the election process has played out has been remarkable," says David Levine, the elections integrity fellow at the Alliance for Securing Democracy. "I think the entire country owes a tremendous gratitude to state and local election officials and those that have worked closely with them against the backdrop of foreign interference, coronavirus pandemic, civil unrest, and frankly inadequate support from the federal government. We have an election that has gone reasonably well." 

By any measure, the 2020 election scores better than any in recent history on security, integrity, and turnout. Election infrastructure is more secure: the Department of Homeland Security installed Albert sensors in election systems, which warn officials of intrusion by hackers, and the National Security Agency has been aggressively hunting hacking groups and handing intelligence to officials around the country. Election officials have invested in paper backup systems so they can more easily recover from technical problems.

There are still weak points, especially with the electronic poll books used to sign voters in and with verifying results when a candidate demands a recount. But more states now have paper records as a backup to electronic voting, and more audits will take place this year than in any previous American election.

The pandemic itself is one reason for these improvements. The increase in mail-in and early voting meant that ballots were cast over a month-long period. That helps security because activity isn't all focused on a single day, said a CISA official in a press briefing. It gives election officials more time to deal with both normal mistakes and malicious attacks, and any problems that do arise affect fewer voters. And more Americans will want to vote this way in the future, said Benjamin Hovland, the top federal elections official and a Trump appointee.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump aides reportedly had to explain to the president that his demand to 'STOP THE COUNT' would actually guarantee his loss (Bill Bostock, 11/06/20, Business Insider)

After that tweet, Trump aides scrambled to reel in the president, telling him that calling for all counts to be stopped was extremely unwise as it would hand Biden victory, multiple reports said.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Russia Denies Putin 'Stepping Down as Leader Due to Parkinson's Disease' (ZOE DREWETT, 11/6/20, Newsweek)

The Kremlin has denied reports that Russian President Vladimir Putin is planning to step down due to health problems, the Russian state-owned TASS news agency reports.