Monday, March 30, 2020

Odious Or Amateurish

The first known case in the USA of COVID-19 came on January 21, 2020 and on February 7 World Health Organization Director

General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said demand for personal protective equipment, or PPE as it is called, is 100 times higher than normal and prices have skyrocketed to 20 times usual rates.

Tedros said “widespread, inappropriate use of PPE outside of patient care” is the cause, and he urged the public as well as all parties in the supply chain to adjust their practices to ensure fair and rational use of supplies.

“There is limited stock of PPE, and we need to make sure we get it to the people who need it most, in the places that need it most,” the WHO leader said.

Tedros spoke Friday about the issue with what is known as the “pandemic supply chain network” — manufacturers, distributors and logistics providers. Some companies, he said, have taken the decision to only supply masks to medical professionals.

And so it was that on that same day we learned

This week the State Department has facilitated the transportation of nearly 17.8 tons of donated medical supplies to the Chinese people, including masks, gowns, gauze, respirators, and other vital materials.  These donations are a testament to the generosity of the American people.

Today, the United States government is announcing it is prepared to spend up to $100 million in existing funds to assist China and other impacted countries, both directly and through multilateral organizations, to contain and combat the novel coronavirus.  This commitment – along with the hundreds of millions generously donated by the American private sector – demonstrates strong U.S. leadership in response to the outbreak.

The PPE was sent to the nation which "prior to the coronavirus outbreak "made half the world’s face masks. When the outbreak took off there, China started to use its supply and hoard what remained." 

However, the Trump Administration wasn't alone in being played for suckers. An Australian news agency has reported

As the coronavirus took hold in Wuhan earlier this year, staff from the Chinese government-backed global property giant Greenland Group were instructed to put their normal work on hold and source bulk supplies of essential medical items to ship back to China.

A whistleblower from the company has told the Herald it was a worldwide Greenland effort - and the Sydney office was no different, sourcing bulk supplies of surgical masks, thermometers, antibacterial wipes, hand sanitisers, gloves and Panadol for shipping....

At this time China was battling the COVID-19 epidemic. As of February 14 Australia had only 15 known cases. It now has more than 2,300.

According to a company newsletter, the Greenland Group sourced 3 million protective masks, 700,000 hazmat suits and 500,000 pairs of protective gloves from "Australia, Canada, Turkey and other countries."

The "Make America Great" and "America First" Trump Administration specializes in being played for a sucker. But that didn't prevent the President from claiming on March 18 that the federal government "is not a shipping clerk." It has been a shipping clerk for Florida, which, as the largest swing state, is the most important state in the nation every fourth November. However, for the others

“Allowing the free market to determine availability and pricing is not the way we should be dealing with this national crisis at this time,” Virginia’s Gov. Ralph Northam said.

“It is a challenge,” Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said. “The federal government says ‘States, you need to go find your supply chain,’ and then the federal government ends up buying from that supply chain.”

Equipment is hard to find on the open market, health officials say, because individuals and communities across the globe are buying out what exists. And prices are rising in the private market for the same reason: a number of actors — individuals, hospitals, states, the federal government, and other countries — are competing for the same limited resources.

This paradigm favors wealthier states, those most willing to divert financial resources toward the pandemic (regardless of potential political fallout), or those able to leverage existing relationships with a president who often uses personal preference to determine national policy. As the crisis deepens, all states — regardless of whether they have these advantages — are finding needed equipment in dangerously short supply.

Some governments swing from efficient to inefficient, effective to ineffective.  But while the body count piles up because of this President, the Trump Administration goes from incompetent to nefarious, and the only question is which impulse will prevail at any one time.

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Sunday, March 29, 2020

Whatever You Say, Mr. Clyburn

It's not difficult to determine the profile of the individual political scientist Rachel Bitecofer believes should be the Democratic vice presidential nominee. She notes
It's a dirty little secret of modern politics: those susceptible to the allure (superficial, I've argued) of voting for a candidate because the victory would be "historic" are generally uninformed and care little about policy. Bitecofer tweets also

One common theme emerges: it is ALWAYS white, moderates that suggest to me the double white, moderate (B.A.F.) Democratic ticket.

I'm a white moderate. Its not a campaign for US: its a campaign for the tuned out. And we're already sending them Biden.

The "tuned out" helped nominate and elect Barack Obama over, respectively, the better qualified Hillary Clinton and John McCain. Biden has little appeal to the "tuned out."  He is more qualified than Trump or even Obama was and is more closely associated with a political party than either of the other two. Hence, the need for a running mate for the tuned out.

We don't know whom that will be. But we do know it will be a woman and, assuming it is not Amy Klobuchar (possible) or Elizabeth Warren (remote), we know it will be a black woman.  We know because Axios revealed on March 15 that House Majority Whip James Clyburn stated of Joe Biden "I'll never tell you who I'm going to advise him but I would advise him that we need to have a woman on the ticket, and I prefer an African American woman."

It is not mere advice.  Once upon a time, Joe Biden was going to win the South Carolina primary narrowly after getting slammed in Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada. Biden was down to his last card, South Carolina, in which a majority of primary voters would be black and in which he led by single digits.

On February 26, Clyburn (not surprisingly) endorsed Barack Obama's loyal lieutenant, and eleven days later Biden won approximately three-quarters of South Carolina's delegates as he crushed Bernard Sanders by a better than 2 to 1 margin.  Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg promptly dropped out of the race, endorsed Biden, and and the latter cruised to victory on Super Tuesday.

Although the ex-vice president was favored in South Carolina, Sanders was expected to run a close second, and was expected to win on Super Tuesday. However, when Biden's extraordinary performance and the endorsements which resulted therefrom catapulted him into a surprising victory two days later, Elizabeth Warren dropped out, and Sanders' days clearly were numbered.

This nomination belongs to United States Representative James Clyburn of South Carolina. Of course, the nomination ultimately will be won (assuming no meltdown) by the candidate himself. But it has been a very long time in national politics that an endorsement by anyone had as great an impact upon the primary process as that of the  House Assistant Democratic Leader. James Clyburn probably- probably- will not select Joseph R. Biden's running-mate, but it's a slam-dunk certainty that he has veto power.

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Saturday, March 28, 2020

In Character

It seems like months ago but was only five weeks ago that Senator Bernard Sanders was criticized when he was

Asked by interviewer Anderson Cooper on Sunday why the Cuban people didn't rise up and help the U.S. overthrow communist dictator Castro, the Vermont senator said "he educated their kids, gave them health care, totally transformed the society, you know?"

Sanders said that while he opposes the "authoritarian nature" of the communist country 90 miles south of Florida, Castro's armed revolution that vaulted him onto power in 1959 should not be viewed as completely negative.

"It's unfair to simply say everything is bad," he told Cooper. "When Fidel Castro came into office, you know what he did? He had a massive literacy program. Is that a bad thing? Even though Fidel Castro did it?"

This individual who underwent Castro's program as a child maintains it was "not a 'literacy program' but a tool of indoctrination, designed for the creation of the 'New Man' — one who is removed from what we would recognize as Western civilization’s values."

Still, it was little, powerless Cuba and the outrage it created, as well as the impact it probably had on the Democratic presidential race, was exaggerated. However, in an interview last August, when mainland China announced it would retaliate against the USA because of tariffs, Sanders stated

that the Chinese government has made great strides in combating extreme poverty despite moving in a more authoritarian direction.

“China is a country that is moving unfortunately in a more authoritarian way in a number of directions,” the Vermont senator said in his interview with The Hill. “But what we have to say about China in fairness to China and its leadership is, if I’m not mistaken, they have made more progress in addressing extreme poverty than any country in the history of civilization, so they’ve done a lot of things for their people"....

Sanders also said that while he agrees that China looks out for its own interests first, he disagrees with calling the country an “existential threat” to the American worker, as some have warned.

“Their economy now is struggling but I think it is absolutely possible for us to have a positive working relationship with China,” Sanders said.

Positivism aside, fashioning a constructive relationship with mainland China would require two honest actors.  And even if President Trump were well-intentioned, honest, and effective, there would still be only one nation fitting that criterion.  A news source from Nationalist China recently reported

Taiwan and the United States simultaneously issued the first joint statement on epidemic prevention partnership on the 18th, strengthening cooperation mechanisms on six major anti-epidemic measures including vaccine and drug research and development, while the United States retains 300,000 protective clothing materials for Taiwan. Taiwan In the future, 100,000 masks will be provided to the United States every week. The State Affairs Office of China said tonight, "It is the kidnapping of the health and well-being of the people of Taiwan onto the wrong path of confrontation between the foreign nation and the motherland."

On the 19th, Chinese state-run Xinhua News Agency blasted Foreign Minister Wu Zhaoxuan, saying that the DPP authorities were "beautiful to the United States" and "more poisonous than viruses." An interview at the Legislative Yuan at the time said that Zhao was a foreign minister and his job was to promote friendship between Taiwan and other countries. "My job is not to flatter China."

China's Taiwan Affairs Office was 6 days late and responded tonight (24th). Zhu Fenglian, a spokesperson for the Taiwan Affairs Office, said in a press release that "Taiwan-US issued a joint statement on epidemic prevention, which once again exposed the DPP authorities to borrow new crown pneumonia ( Wuhan Pneumonia) The outrageous behavior and political scheme of "seeking independence with the epidemic" is to kidnap the health and well-being of the people of Taiwan onto the wrong path of confrontation between the mainland and the motherland. "

Zhu Fenglian said: "Support the international community's joint efforts and strengthen cooperation to overcome the epidemic, but we are firmly opposed to taking the opportunity to engage in" Taiwan independence "or" Taiwan card. " China's principle. We firmly oppose any form of official exchanges between Taiwan and the United States. "

Nationalist China is being attacked by mainland China because Taiwan has expanded cooperation with the USA, even to the point of agreeing to send hundreds of thousands of protective masks to the USA. Nonetheless, one must not question the "motherland."

As you may guess, the problem does not lie with Bernie Sanders but exists across the political spectrum. The President, for his part, has gone from maintaining that Chinese President Jinping was doing "a very good job with a very, very tough situation" to arguing the "world is paying a very big price for what they did." Within weeks he'll probably be praising Jinping as "very, very strong." It's how he rolls.

It's something we as a nation must acknowledge. In good times and bad, mainland China is not a friend or a neutral, nor a role model, but a very powerful and determined enemy. 

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Friday, March 27, 2020

We don't know whether Abraham Lincoln actually remarked "You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time.... However, we do know that Donald J. Trump can fool some of the people all the time.

On Tuesday, the child President whined Democratic governors "have to get that gear themselves" and moreover "they have to treat us well, also. They can’t say, ‘Oh, gee, we should get this, we should get that.’”

It's evidently working because in Texas, Mayor Sylvester Turner of

Houston is facing a shortage of N95 masks and turning to the private market, Turner said.

The city has placed multiple bids with private companies for healthcare supplies. After one deal fell to a higher bidder, Turner said the city placed a $2 million bid for N95 masks. Each mask is priced at $5, while it usually costs 50 cents.

In the Midwest, too (video below from 3/16/20):

states and hospitals are describing extraordinary efforts to secure equipment. In a briefing this week, (Illinois governor JB) Pritzker said he had a team of people working the phones seven days a week trying to buy medical supplies all over the globe. He asked nail salons, tattoo parlors and elective surgery centers to donate their stockpiles of masks and gloves while they are closed for business.

Pritzker said his team has made progress, including a big purchase of 2.5 million N95 masks, the government-certified masks that can screen out small particles and that are favored by health-care workers dealing with the virus. But he said his team is “running up against obstacles that shouldn’t exist,” including orders by other states and the federal government....

In conversations with ventilator makers, one company “told me I was competing with FEMA to get ventilators,” Pritzker said. “I called another manufacturer of ventilators, and he pointed out to me that I would be competing with countries other than the United States. … I better put in as big an order as possible in order to put myself higher on the list of priority.”

Pritzker also called on the White House to use the Defense Production Act to centralize the buying process....

Soaring demand and competitive bidding is driving prices up. Premier, a health-care company that purchases equipment and supplies for 4,000 acute-care hospitals, used to pay about 30 cents for an N95 mask but is now seeing prices between $3 and $15 per mask, Group Vice President Chaun Powell said in an interview.

And yet

A majority of Americans approve of President Donald Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new survey, although an even larger number say he acted too slowly to halt the public health crisis in its early days.

An ABC News/Washington Post poll released on Friday reports that 51 percent of respondents view Trump's management of the outbreak in the United States favorably, with 36 percent approving strongly and 15 percent approving somewhat.

Here is a safe bet: if Donald Trump were only a little more obvious, appearing on Fox News and proclaiming "I want many, many people to die," more than one-third of poll respondents would approve of the President's management of the outbreak.

New York governor Cuomo already has implied that President Trump is practicing a sort of social Darwinism. He's the governor of the state with the largest number of confirmed victims of the Trump Virus and thus dependent on assistance from the federal government. Thus, he fears he can do no more than subtly suggest that a powerful figure may want the less fit of Americans to die.

Political scientist Rachel Bitecofer, however, is under no such constraint. Of the Defense Production Act, whose implementation the President is avoiding because it would save lives:

It may not be "crazy." But it is deadly, and at least 51% of the American people are unaware of what is being played out in full view. Or, like Donald Trump, pleased that it is.

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Thursday, March 26, 2020


The newest stimulus bill was approved by the USA Senate, 98-0, on Wednesday night and someone is not pleased:

Say this about Matt Stoller: although a leftist, he had until now promoted Josh Hawley for what he saw as populist tendencies in the Missouri Republican senator. Sanders' acolyte Jordan Chariton believes populist senators had no choice.

However, Chariton is wrong. By contrast

Republicans had no choice- and that didn't change in seven days. Although Sanders and Warren were not profiles in courage, something happened in the last few days which converted them from what was probably a "yes" to a "no." Recognizing that the default position of GOP lawmakers is "no" and of Democratic lawmakers "yes"
It is the responsibility of Democratic negotiators, which they shirked, to get a bill other Democrats want. Progressive Democratic legislators were sucked into voting yes on a bad bill which was made a little better. Their negotiators, however, could have- and should have- heeded Plouffe's advice.

Voters, as well as Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump, know the government is controlled by Republicans. The Senate is even more clearly controlled by the GOP. Had the bill gone down to defeat there, the Republican Party would have been blamed. Top Democrats held the cards but were afraid to play them.

Democratic leadership typically believes a bad bill is better than no bill at all because it demonstrates that Democrats and Republicans can hold hands and agree. Thus they signed on . 

Sanders, Warren, et al. also had  a choice.  They could be remembered a few years as the hero Barbara Lee currently is. Or they could go along to get along. Warren, whose brand is to keep fighting until fighting appears futile, went along. So, too, did Bernard Sanders, whose support was premised on fighting the Democratic establishment and has now, in an ironic twist, demonstrated by his vote just what being part of that establishment is all about.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Will Be Business As Usual

If only:
No doubt Cupp had noticed

The lieutenant governor of Texas argued in an interview on Fox News Monday night that the United States should go back to work, saying grandparents like him don’t want to sacrifice the country’s economy during the coronavirus crisis.

Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, 69, made the comments on Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight” after President Donald Trump said he wanted to reopen the country for business in weeks, not months.

Patrick also said the elderly population, who the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said are more at risk for COVID-19, can take care of themselves and suggested that grandparents wouldn’t want to sacrifice their grandchildren’s economic future. 

“No one reached out to me and said, ‘as a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that all America loves for your children and grandchildren?’” Patrick said. “And if that’s the exchange, I’m all in.”

This is the nation's pro-life party.  It's bad enough that it has accelerated its four-decade effort to destroy the social safety net for any individual once she has emerged from the womb. Patrick wants the elderly to sacrifice themselves. Jerry Falwell Jr. has reopened Liberty University. And President Trump has encouraged states to compete against themselves and the federal government for ventilators, hence driving up their cost.

The claim to be anti-abortion should have been recognized upon the realization that virtually every state which seeks to punish doctors for performing abortions nonetheless exempts the individual who seeks, requests, and pays for the abortion.  In an unscripted moment, presidential candidate Donald Trump once told Chris Matthews' town hall audience that there must be "some form of punishment" for the woman who has an abortion. Later advised that he had violated the code, Trump abruptly walked back his statement.

Murder is wrong, evidently, except when it is not.  Most Republican forced birth advocates are not in favor of life, though it is strategically wise to pose as "pro-life." They are simply insincere but aside from the extremely rare Matthews, their contradiction(s) remains unchallenged.   So whatever their comments or actions pertaining to the coronavirus, anti-abortion Trump Republicans will continue to make their  forced-birth case and be treated in the media and elsewhere as honest brokers.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Seeking Death(s)

We owe President Donald Trump; an apology- sort of. On October 1, 2017 Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Will Bunch spoke for many of us sentient Americans when he wrote

In the days before (Hurricane) Maria's landfall on Sept. 20, the anxiety was palpable — not just from the storm but over the question of whether Trump would marshal the massive response the hurricane would require, when the island's residents are primarily black and brown, and when they can't cast a single ballot in the 2020 election. It didn't seem possible, but the White House response — both logistically and morally — to the growing humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands has been even worse than many of us dared to imagine. And it's been fueled by something else that America saw coming from miles and miles away, from that day in June 2015 when the short-fingered vulgarian descended an escalator in Trump Tower to announce his divisive candidacy — and that is the racism of Donald Trump.

The attack on science, reason, and the American people continues as

President Donald Trump said Tuesday he wants to have the country getting back to business by the Easter holiday, April 12, even as the coronavirus pandemic continues to worsen.

“I would love to have the country opened up and raring to go by Easter,” Trump said during a Fox News interview.

Public health experts and local and state leaders have cautioned against easing restrictions too early, saying it could put an enormous strain on hospitals and lead to even more deaths and economic damage. But Trump said Tuesday that he believed the human toll would be greater should Americans continue to stay at home.

"This cure is worse than the problem," Trump said, adding that "in my opinion, more people are going to die if we allow this to continue."

That of course is absurd, as he is well aware.

In a tweet on Tuesday in which he pushed back on GOP suggestions that the death of a few elderly people is an acceptable price to pay for economic rejuvenation, New York governor Cuomo charged "no one should be talking about social darwinism for the sake of the stock market." At his briefing a little earlier, he asked "What is this, some modern Darwinian theory of natural selection? “If you can’t keep up, then you just fall be the wayside of life?

Yes. And it's refreshing that at least one politician has picked up on this. President Trump clearly knows that it isn't only "black and brown" people who have died or, if his hopes are fulfilled, will die. The casualties will be disproportionately elderly, those whose health already is compromised, and probably poor. 

We don't owe Trump an actual apology, for the ethnic animus is still there, lurking. But neither racism nor ethnic prejudice generally fully accounts for the President's approach to the coronavirus.  The deceased will be people, white and minority, whom he believes are unworthy and expendable. There are many things Donald Trump doesn't understand, but social Darwinism is not among them.

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Odious Or Amateurish

The first known case in the USA of COVID-19 came on January 21, 2020 and on February 7 World Health Organization Director General...