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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Monday, March 23, 2020

Not Live

CNN fact-checker Daniel Dale notes that President Donald

Trump made 50 false claims from March 2 through March 8, then 21 false claims from March 9 through March 15. Of those 71 false claims, 33 were related to the coronavirus. That is on top of some additional misleading claims from Trump about the coronavirus (we only count the false claims here), plus some false and misleading claims from members of his administration.

All but the last few days took place before Trump showed up to spread his misinformation, vividly distort reality, and spin his lies at daily news conferences. Even so, on March 10, a journalism professor, writer, and press critic recommended a news organization release astatement to include

Even this far into his term, it is still a bit of a shock to be reminded that the single most potent force for misinforming the American public is the current president of the United States. For three years this has been a massive — and unsolved — problem for the country and its political leadership.

But now it is life and death. On everything that involves the coronavirus Donald Trump’s public statements have been unreliable. And that is why today we announce that we are shifting our coverage of the President to an emergency setting.

This means we are exiting from the normal system for covering presidents— which Trump himself exited long ago by using the microphone we have handed him to spread thousands of false claims, even as he undermines trust in the presidency and the press. True: he is not obliged to answer our questions. But neither are we obligated to assist him in misinforming the American people about the spread of the virus, and what is actually being done by his government.

We take this action knowing we will be criticized for it by the President’s defenders, by some in journalism, and perhaps by some of you. And while it would be nice to have company as we change course, we anticipate that others in the news media will stick with the traditional approach to covering presidents.

This we cannot in good conscience do.

Switching to emergency mode means our coverage will look different and work in a different way, as we try to prevent the President from misinforming you through us. Here are the major changes:

* We will not cover live any speech, rally, or press conference involving the president. The risk of passing along bad information is too great. Instead, we will attend carefully to what he says. If we can independently verify any important news he announces we will bring that to you— after the verification step.

* We plan to suspend normal relations with the Trump White House. That means we won’t be attending briefings. (We can watch them on TV.) We won’t gather around him as he departs in his helicopter. We won’t join in any off-the-record “background” sessions with Administration officials. We won’t enter into agreements of any kind with the Trump team, which includes those nameless “senior advisers” who mysteriously show up in news stories.

* We have always tried to quote public officials accurately, including President Trump. In emergency mode we add a further check. In addition to, “does this fairly represent what he said?” we will ask: is what he said something we should be amplifying? If it is simply meant to demonize a group of people, rewrite a history that now embarrasses the President, or extend his hate campaign against journalists who are doing their job, we may decide not to amplify it, even though it happened. An old tenet of White House reporting states that what the president says makes news— automatically, as it were. Today we are disabling that autoplay system and replacing it with a manual one.

* In general, we will be shifting the focus of our coverage from what President Trump is saying to what his government is doing. We will be de-emphasizing the entire White House beat and adding people who can penetrate the bureaucracy from the rim, rather than the center of the distortion machine.

* Experience has taught us that there will occasionally be times when the President makes a demonstrably false claim, or floats a poisonous lie, and it is too consequential to ignore. We feel we have to tell you about it, even at the risk of amplifying his deceptions. In those special cases, we will adopt a news writing formula that has been called the “truth sandwich.” It is a more careful way of reporting newsworthy falsehoods. First you state what is true. Then you report the false statement. Then you repeat what is true....

Refusing to go with live coverage. Suspending normal relations with his White House. Always asking: is this something we should amplify? A focus on what he’s doing, not on what he’s saying. The truth sandwich when we feel we have to highlight his false claims. This is what you can expect now that our coverage has been switched to an emergency setting.

One more thing. Because we don’t know that we have done this right, and because your confidence in us describes the limits of what we can achieve as journalists, we will be hiring immediately a public editor who is empowered to field complaints, decide if something went wrong, find out how it happened, and report back.

Early in President Trump’s term, Marty Baron, the editor of the Washington Post, spoke these memorable words about the President’s “enemy of the people” rhetoric: “We’re not at war, we’re at work,” said Baron. This was a smart warning not to get caught up in bringing down a president.

Today we are recognizing that our journalism must shift, not to a “war” but to an emergency footing. (Donald Trump, meanwhile, is calling himself a “wartime president.”) We feel we cannot keep telling wild and “newsy” stories about the unreliable narrator who somehow became president. Not with millions of lives at stake. We have to exit from that system to keep faith with you, and with the reason we became journalists in the first place.

Norman Ornstein offers another constructive suggestion:
Broadcast live, these task force briefings are more partisan political affair than informative news event. They should be televised only on delay, shown only after Daniel Dale and other fact-checkers have had an opportunity to vet remarks by such political actors as the President, the Vice-President, and the Surgeon General. As remarks are heard, a script at the bottom of the screen would indicate results of the fact check. 

Some claims of the President and his toadies actually are accurate. But given that dishonesty is a hallmark of Donald Trump, news organizations must decide no longer to be manipulated by the Liar-in-Chief.

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Sunday, March 22, 2020

Good News For Donald Trump

President Trump has scored a minor victory over the Trump pandemic. Bloomberg News reports

Nigeria reported two cases of chloroquine poisoning after U.S. President Donald Trump praised the anti-malaria drug as a treatment for the novel coronavirus.

Health officials are warning Nigerians against self-medicating after demand for the drug surged in Lagos, a city that’s home to 20 million people. Two people were hospitalized in Lagos for chloroquine overdoses, Oreoluwa Finnih, senior health assistant to the governor of Lagos, said in an interview.

“Please don’t panic,” she said via text message. “Chloroquine is still in a testing phase in combination with other medication and not yet verified as a preventive treatment or curative option.”

Nigeria’s Centre for Disease Control warned that the World Health Organization hasn’t approved use of the drug against the virus. Africa’s most populous country reported 22 infections as of Saturday.

Trump said Thursday that chloroquine and its less-toxic cousin hydroxychloroquine had shown “tremendous promise” to treat the new illness.

The president doubled down on Saturday, telling his Twitter followers that hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin “taken together” could be “one of the biggest game changers in the history of medicine.” He urged they “be put in use IMMEDIATELY.”

Trump also retweeted an online post about a small study of 26 patients that showed success in eradicating the new coronavirus when the two drugs were taken together. Some hospitals have already begun stockpiling hydroxychloroquine, and medical institutions are gearing up to conduct further studies. In the meantime, experts say using the drug and its cousin chloroquine to treat Covid-19 isn’t backed by enough scientific evidence.

The Food and Drug Administration hasn’t approved the antimalarials to treat Covid-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus.

As the government's reigning infectious disease expert, Dr.Anthony

Fauci clarified some of Trump's comments about the drug on Friday after the president said he had a "good feeling" about it. He said that hydroxychloroquine could not be used to prevent COVID-19.

"Many of the things out there are what I have called 'anecdotal reports,'" he told reporters at a press briefing. “The information that you’re referring to specifically is anecdotal. It was not done in a controlled clinical trial, so you really can’t make any definitive statement about it.”

He reiterated those remarks on Saturday, the same day that Trump tweeted that "HYDROXYCHLOROQUINE & AZITHROMYCIN, taken together, have a real chance to be one of the biggest game changers in the history of medicine."

“I’m not totally sure what the president was referring to,” Fauci said. “Many things you hear out there are what I call anecdotal reports. They may be true, but they’re anecdotal. .. If you really want to definitively know if something works, you have to do the kind of trial that you get the good information with.”

It is theoretically possible that the President doesn't understand this, and hence would not be pleased to learn that his praise for the drugs has led to a dangerous surge in their usage in Nigeria.

Theoretically. Instead, Dr. Fauci, explaining his disagreement with the President, noted Trump is a

smart guy.... He’s not a dummy. So he doesn’t take it — certainly up to now — he doesn’t take it in a way that I’m confronting him in any way. He takes it in a good way.

He's not a dummy. He understands the implications of the misinformation, disinformation, and lies he traffics in. As the number of deaths rises, the falsity is not a bug; it's a benefit.

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Saturday, March 21, 2020

Only Fealty Need Apply

On february 5, 2020 Bernard Sanders supporter and author Keeaga-Tamahtta Taylor wrote

It is undeniable that the Republican Party blocked or curtailed most of Mr. Obama’s legislative efforts, but his commitment to bipartisanship also undermined and diluted his professed agenda. His efforts to “reach across the aisle” resulted in compromises that came at the expense of the Democratic base. In 2014, he cut nearly $9 billion from food stamps, for example, because Republicans had argued for cutting up to $40 billion. For those who relied on food stamps, this was a devil’s bargain.

And it was the inability or unwillingness of the Obama administration to seize the political mantle for change it had won in the election in 2008 that created the conditions for the emergence of Occupy Wall Street and the Black Lives Matter movement. Both of them focused on the systemic problems facing American society. The young people at the center of these movements demanded transformation, not just piecemeal reforms.

By the end of Mr. Obama’s first term, 95 percent of the financial gains of his economic recovery plan had gone to the richest 1 percent of the county. In the last decade, median income has stood virtually still. The inattention to Mr. Obama’s record, though, has meant that the conventional wisdom’s explanation for white voters’ defection from the Obama coalition is racist backlash, not economic hardship.

Many of Sanders' admirers, unlike most Democratic voters, are skeptical of Barack Obama. However, it appears that- in significant part- one of those was not the candidate himself.

In late January, progressive lawyer and Sanders ally Zephyr Teachout wrote a piece for The Guardian accusing Joe Biden of having "a big corruption problem."  Campaign manager Faiz Shakir disavowed the commentary. However, The New York Times today reports

A small group of advisers — including Mr. (Ben) Tulchin, Ms. (Nina) Turner and Mr. (David) Sirota — regularly pleaded with Mr. Sanders to attack the former vice president.

But Mr. Sanders resisted, giving speech after speech scorching unnamed establishment Democrats but declining to pursue Mr. Biden directly. He ruled out several lines of attack against the former vice president because they touched on Mr. Biden’s role in the Obama administration, which Democratic primary voters revere.

Mr. Shakir and a second senior aide, Ari Rabin-Havt, took Mr. Sanders’s side and repeatedly reminded other campaign officials that Mr. Sanders was the ultimate decision maker on the campaign. In conversations with associates, both men agreed that it might make sense to criticize Mr. Biden in a sharper way. But they said Mr. Sanders could not be persuaded to do so: He and Jane liked the Bidens personally, and their word was final.

And so the individual who now is almost the presumptive party nominee avoided criticism from his chief rival. In Sanders' defense, however, each of the candidates adopted this tactic. Amy Klobuchar slammed Elizabeth Warren;  Warren attacked Pete Buttigieg, then Mike Bloomberg; and Klobuchar and Buttigieg blasted each other. Joe Biden remained largely untouched.

But if the Vermont senator scrupulously avoided criticizing one of his chief competitors because of personal fondness toward Mr. and Mrs. Biden- a curious approach for someone actually wanting to win- his failure even to question the greatness of a former President carries greater significance.

Sanders gave "speech after speech scorching unnamed establishment Democrats."  He issued "anti-establishment distribes" including "persistent lashing of the 'political establishment.'"  Presumably included was

Yet, it was the same crusader against the "Democratic establishment" who "ruled out several lines of attack against the former vice president because they touched on Mr. Biden’s role in the Obama administration, which Democratic primary voters revere."

Exactly whom does Bernard Sanders believe represent the "Democratic establishment?" Is it Pete Buttigieg, who "endorsed (Biden)  after reportedly talking to Obama?" Is it National Committee chairperson Tom Perez, who was elected to his post partly on a push from Obama? Or is it Joe Biden, who faithfully served Obama for eight years?

Critical to all three factors is one individual: Barack Obama.  If there is a Democratic establishment, it is headed by none other than Barack H. Obama. Nonetheless, Senator Sanders wouldn't touch him, even as the Vermonter railed against the "Democratic establishment" and saw his bid demolished by Joe Biden, whose main qualification is that he played second fiddle to Barack Obama.

The issue here isn't that Bernie Sanders flinched. He failed to win a nomination which 21 other candidates failed to obtain, and who has been a consistent voice for progressivism over a few decades.

The issue is why he flinched; why a fellow with the opportunity to grab the brass ring in large part because of anti-establishment credentials backed down in the face of the most influential member of the Democratic establishment.  Significantly, the other progressive, Warren, also looked away.

It's hard to understand the failure of Republicans in either the party's establishment or base to criticize one of their own- not for extreme policies, hateful tweets, obstruction of justice or anything else. Meanwhile, the Democratic Party's establishment (and its base) refuse to question its most recent ex-President, to the point even of condemning the thought of anyone doing so.

As Keeaga-Tamahtta Taylor described (and she didn't even mention timidity toward financial reform), President Obama's presidency was not faultless. Failure to understand that already helped cost the party one presidential election, in 2016, and has evidently led its voters to nominate yet another candidate of the status quo.

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Friday, March 20, 2020

John King, Virtually Alone

At Friday's coronavirus "briefing," NBC's Peter Alexander asked President Trump (beginning at 1:31 of video below)  ".... what do you say to Americans who are watching you now who are scared?" The President of the United States of America famously replied

I'd say that you're a terrible reporter. That'w what I say. I think it's a very nasty question and I think it's a very bad signal that you're putting out to the American people. The American people are looking for answers and they're looking for hope and you're doing sensationalism and the same thing with Comcast.

I don't call it Comcast. I call it Concast- for whom you work. Let me tell you something. That's really bad reporting. And you ought to get back to reporting instead of sensationalism.....

Following the daily dog and pony show, CNN's John King, husband to CNN's Dana Bash, responded

What the president did to Peter Alexander was reprehensible. The people are looking for answers. They do want hope, they do want support, Mr. President. That was a very fair question....

It was striking that this came -- forgive me -- this bullshit attack on fake news came just moments after the Secretary of State said the American people need to be careful about where they get their information, to go to sources they can trust.

It was more than a fair question. It was a hanging curve, seemingly designed to give the President an opportunity to express sympathy with the American people. Alas, Trump had something different in mind.

The attack on Comcast actually was shrewd politics and may portend an attack upon the eventual Democratic nominee, presumably Joe Biden, who has a close tie with Comcast executive David Cohen.  The ubiquitous and strikingly unpopular Comcast is the largest pay-TV company, largest home internet service provider, and the third-largest home telephone service provider in the USA. If Biden is successful in Milwaukee, expect to hear "Comcast Joe" a lot.

But don't expect to hear many individuals in the media mimic John  King's approach.  The President once again telegraphed his intentions to both the news media and voters at large, warning them of the actions he will take if re-elected.  Yet, neither of the two legitimate cable news networks, CNN or MSNBC, appears to comprehend fully the threat that a re-elected Donald Trump poses.

He does not hide his dishonesty.  He does not hide his bigotry. He does not hide his animus toward anyone in the news media who is not faithful and loyal to him because he views himself simultaneously as God's messenger and as the sole representative of the State.

Trump expects complete subservience to him, his policies, and his remarks. He does not recognize the "balanced" reporting he typically receives as an act of grace, of unmerited favor. Notwithstanding John King and a few others, the news media naively acts as if it believes it will escape the fury- and full power of the state- if President Trump is re-elected. This doesn't end well.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Give Credit Where Credit Is Due

It wasn't obvious at first. In the following decades, when a project to name at least something in every town in America became an obsession for another right-winger, it never was acknowledged. In recent years, it has become fashionable for even liberals to cling fondly to his legacy, some even arguing that he really, really wasn't a conservative.

But the worst statement ever from an American politician in he post-war era probably was made on August 19, 1986. This should be clear now because

In May 2018, President Donald Trump’s biodefense preparedness adviser warned that a flu pandemic was the country’s No. 1 health security threat, and the U.S. was not prepared.

“We know that it cannot be stopped at the border,” Luciana Borio, director of medical and biodefense preparedness at the National Security Council, said at a symposium that day.

Borio left the Trump administration in 2019. Other high-level global health experts headed for the exits even earlier, after the White House dismantled the National Security Council’s global health security office.

The demise of that elite team is now under scrutiny as the Trump administration struggles to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.  

Government is not the solution- government is the problem, President Reagan wittily assured us.Thirty-four years later health experts say Bolton's decision left the Trump administration flat-footed in confronting the virus that has caused nearly 6,400 cases of COVID-19 and killed 108 in the U.S. as of Tuesday evening.

"Bolton’s chosen approach to NSC 'streamlining' involved decapitating and diluting the White House’s focus on pandemic threats," Jeremy Konyndyk, a senior policy fellow at the Center for Global Development, wrote in a rebuttal. "He eliminated the senior director position entirely, closed the biodefense directorate, and spread the remaining staff across other parts of the NSC."

Closing the pandemic office "clearly reflected the White House’s misplaced priorities and has proven to be a gross misjudgment," Konyndyk wrote.

Whether the office was disbanded or streamlined, there's no question a number of top-notch global health experts left the administration in the wake of Bolton's decision. At the top of that list: Rear Adm. Timothy Ziemer, who had been Trump's senior director for global health security and biodefense at the National Security Council. Before that, Ziemer led a global anti-malaria initiative in the George W. Bush administration.

J. Stephen Morrison, director of the Global Health Policy Center at the Center for Strategic and International Affairs, a Washington think tank said  "You can attribute some of the sluggishness and confusion that we have seen bedevil this effort since the very beginning ... to the absence of effective structures within the White House." 

Beth Cameron, who led the office under Obama, said the Trump administration's decision to nix the directorate cost the United States "valuable time" in responding to COVID-19, although the full impact is still unclear.

In a Washington Post op-ed, Cameron wrote that the office was created out of a "recognition that epidemics know no borders and that a serious, fast response is crucial. Our job was to be the smoke alarm — keeping watch to get ahead of emergencies, sounding a warning at the earliest sign of fire — all with the goal of avoiding a six-alarm blaze."

Grover Norquist, that guy (natch) who created the Ronald Reagan Legacy Project, famously stated "I don't want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub."

The diminished patient- the United States of America- has been dragged into the bathroom and is about to be dropped into the bathtub:

As an ideological heir to the Reagan-Norquist ethos

Trump has acknowledged that he cut global health experts from his staff and tried to slash funding for the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other agencies charged with spotting and responding to such epidemics.

"Some of the people we cut, they haven’t been used for many, many years," Trump said during a Feb. 26 briefing on the coronavirus response.

"I’m a business person — I don’t like having thousands of people around when you don’t need them," he said. "When we need them, we can get them back very quickly."

Ronald(6) Wilson(6) Reagan(6) is not the worst President in the cold-war era; Donald J. Trump has seized that honor and probably retired it for all-time.  Trump has been the ultimate culmination of a disastrous mentality that has led us here.

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Tuesday, March 17, 2020

No Bern To Feel

The venue for the Democratic presidential debate of March 15, 2020 was switched from Arizona to Washington, D.C. because of the Caronavirus epidemic/pandemic. The campaign of former senator and vice-president Joe Biden was notified and he appeared. Sadly, that of Senator Bernard Sanders never was notified and he was evidently stuck in Arizona

That is an exaggeration but only barely so.  In an apparently unrelated tweet

Appearances are deceiving.  Before knocking (mainland) China, the NAFTA, and the TPP, the website notes

Bernie Sanders believes that the top priority of any trade deal should be to help American workers. Unfortunately, as Bernie has warned year after year, American trade policy over the last 30 years has done just the opposite.  Multinational corporations – who have helped to write most of these trade deals – have benefited greatly while millions of American jobs have been shipped overseas.

Keeping Jobs in the U.S.: American trade policy should place the needs of American workers and small businesses first.

Nonetheless, in the midst of a crisis made worse because most face masks, ventilators, and other medical equipment (and prescription drugs) are made abroad, Senator Sanders - among all major current and future candidates most critical of free trade-  failed to mention the word "manufacturing" (or "manufacturers") even once. He did tell his opponent

I voted against the war in Iraq, which was also a tough vote. You voted for. I voted against disastrous trade agreements like NAFTA and PNT all with China, which costs this country over four million good paying jobs. You voted for it.

However, he instantly went to the Hyde Amendment.  Later, Sanders argued

But the issue is not just the war in Iraq. That was a long time ago. The issue is the trade agreement. What is it so easy for me to lead the effort against disastrous trade agreements?

Nonetheless, he immediately pivoted away, mentioning the bankruptcy bill, the Hyde Amendment, and the Defense of Marriage Act.

Sanders is right about Iraq and the bankruptcy bill Biden championed (and which Professor Elizabeth Warren unsuccessfully fought).  Further, he's right about reproductive freedom.

But the one candidate, Elizabeth Warren, who fully understands business law has dropped out- and evidently is attempting to convince Biden that he was wrong about the issue. Neither is Sanders the best vehicle to push abortion rights, nor was any candidate likely to peel away female voters from Biden in a campaign in which the name "Anita Hill" was never uttered.

The current uber-crisis reveals the folly of a trade policy which has driven manufacturers out of business or out of the country. This is understood by Sanders, a fair trade champion (video below from late November, 2016) in a party in which most politicians- including Joe Biden- have preached the glories of "fair trade" and globalism.  Yet on Monday, the Vermonter- who had been on message throughout the campaign- employed a scattershot approach, refusing to emphasize the issues he had focused on throughout.

For one of the few times this year or last, Bernie Sanders did not play to his strength. It did not go well.

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Monday, March 16, 2020

Biden Got It Wrong

If the importance of the Biden-Sanders feud on Social Security highlighted by Sunday night's debate in Washington, D.C. would rate as an "8" on a scale of 0 to 10, this would be no more than a "2." Still, it's worth considering this exchange:

Ilia Calderón: (01:27)
To be clear, Senator Sanders, Cuba has been a dictatorship for decades. Shouldn’t we judge dictators by the violation of human rights and not by any of their alleged achievements?

Bernie Sanders: (01:39)
Well, I think you can make the same point about China. China is undoubtedly an authoritarian society. Okay? But would anybody deny, any economists deny that extreme poverty in China today is much less than what it was 40 or 50 years ago? That’s a fact. So I think we condemn authoritarianism, whether it’s in China, Russia, Cuba, any place else. But to simply say that nothing ever done by any of those administrations had a positive impact on their people, would I think be incorrect.

Ilia Calderón: (02:14)
Vice president Biden, you have criticized Senator Sanders for bracing Castro’s education system, but in 2016 president Obama said Cuba made “A great progress in educating young people and that its healthcare system is a huge achievement that they should be congratulated for” How is that different from what Senator Sanders has said?

Joe Biden: (02:36)
He was trying to change Cuban policies so the Cuban people would get out from under the thumb of the Castro and his brother. That is to change the policy so that we can impact on Cuba’s policy by getting them opened up. That was about, but the praising of the Sandinistas, the praising of Cuba, the praising just now of China. China is an authoritarian dictatorship. That’s what it is. We have to deal with them because they’re there.

The transcript of the speech of President Barack Obama on Monday, March 21, 2016 included

The United States recognizes the progress that Cuba has made as a nation, its enormous achievements in education and in health care. And perhaps most importantly, I affirm that Cuba’s destiny will not be decided by the United States or any other nation. Cuba is sovereign and rightly has great pride and the future of Cuba will be decided by Cubans, not by anybody else.

At the same time, as we do wherever we go around the world, I made it clear that the United States will continue to speak up on behalf of democracy, including the right of the Cuban people to decide their own future. We’ll speak out on behalf of universal human rights, including freedom of speech and assembly and religion. Indeed, I look forward to meeting with and hearing from Cuban civil society leaders tomorrow.

These two paragraphs suggest that President Obama focused on the importance of a more liberal society in Cuba or, as Biden would put it, "opening up."  However, the President continued (and note the "but")

But as you heard, President Castro also addressed what he views as shortcomings in the United States around basic needs for people and poverty and inequality and race relations, and we welcome that constructive dialogue as well because we believe that when we share our deepest beliefs and ideas with an attitude of mutual respect that we can both learn and make the lives of our people better.

A part of normalizing relationships means that we discuss these differences directly, so I’m very pleased that we’ve agreed to hold our next U.S.-Cuba human rights dialogue here in Havana this year. And both of our countries will welcome our visits by independent United Nations experts as we combat human trafficking, which we agree is a profound violation of human rights.

Well, o.k., the American system was not perfect, even before President Trump. However, the tone- and words- of equivalence are startling.  Clearly, Obama is suggesting that "mak(ing) the lives of our people better" is as much an imperative in the USA as it is in Cuba.

That is not accurate, and is in stark contrast to "trying to change Cuban policies so the Cuban people would get out from under the thumb of the Castro and his brother." Nonetheless, it gets worse with an acceptance of agree to disagree:

Even as we discuss these differences, we share a belief we can continue to make progress in those areas that we have in common. President Castro, you said in Panama that we might disagree on something today on which we would agree tomorrow. And that has certainly been the case over the past 15 months and the days leading up to this visit.

And today, I can report that we continue to move forward on many fronts when it comes to normalizing relations. We’re moving ahead with more opportunities for Americans to travel to Cuba and interact with the Cuban people.

Toward the end of his statement, President Obama pressed on with his emphasis on detente, friendliness, and the quaint notion that Havana and Washington aren't much different from each other. He stated

And although we didn’t have an extensive discussion of Venezuela, we did touch on the subject. And I believe the whole region has an interest in a country that is addressing their economic challenges, is responsive to the aspirations of its people and is a source of stability in the region.

That is, I believe, an interest we should all share. So, again, President Castro, I want to thank you for welcoming me. I think it’s fair to say the United States and Cuba are now engaged in many areas and with each passing day more Americans are coming to Cuba, more U.S. business and school and faith groups are working to forge new partnerships with the Cuban people.

That was not "the whole region should have an interest" in its people and regional stability. It was "the whole region has an interest...."

Maybe the President was setting the right tone. The Cold War was over- but you'd never know it from Biden's demonization of Senator Sanders for finding something a little praiseworthy in the Cuban regime. "Cuba is sovereign and rightly has great pride" did not come from democratic socialist Bernie Sanders but from the 44th President.

Early in his speech, Barack Obama had stated "the sight of a U.S. president here in Havana would have been unimaginable, but this is a new day."  Joe Biden's "new day" is this: Barack Obama was always right and when Bernie Sanders agrees with him, Sanders is wrong. If that seems to make no sense, feel free to take it up with Democratic voters and politicos who believe the former vice-president should be their standard-bearer.

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One of Our Own, Or So He Says

So do your thing ,Charles! Stephen A. Smith on Fox News on Wednesday night commented I got to tell you something. As much as people may ha...