Wednesday, August 05, 2020

Literary Corner: If You Look at Children



2020 is the "Desperate Housewives" of years, with writers so addicted to over-the-top melodrama for its own sake that they'll sacrifice any kind of meaning for a momentary effect, and you keep dissolving into giggles at the moment when you ought to be taking it the most seriously. Hurricanes in Manhattan isn't crazy enough, it's been done before, so they have to have a tornado watch in Manhattan instead. Give me a break.

In any case, it passed, having done little in my neighborhood other than to knock down a lot of tree branches, showing a particular hostility to the locust trees, seen above, in a post-hurricane dappling of late-afternoon sun (and a very pleasant post-hurricane breeze).

Meanwhile...


Like Things Go Away
by Donald J. Trump

My view is the schools 
should open. This thing’s 
going away. It will go away 
like things go away 
and my view is schools 
should be open. 

If you look at children, 
children are almost — 
and I would almost say 
definitely, but almost — 
immune from this disease.

I don’t know how you feel 
about it but they have much 
stronger immune systems
than we do somehow for this.

(Fox & Friends, 5 August 2020, via The Wrap.)

OK, so as you know, children are not immune from Covid-19. They are less likely to get infected than adults, and much less likely to suffer from severe symptoms (though 10% of infected babies become critically ill, and children who have been infected are in danger of ending up with a multisystem inflammatory syndrome resembling Kawasaki disease, which is pretty scary), but those who do get infected seem to carry a lot of virus ("children younger than age 5 may host up to 100 times as much of the virus in the upper respiratory tract as adults"), and they can infect others, like adults, including their teachers, and their kindly, beloved grandfathers like PRESIDENT TRUMP:
Children under 10 were roughly half as likely as adults to spread the virus to others, consistent with other studies. That may be because children generally exhale less air — and therefore less virus-laden air — or because they exhale that air closer to the ground, making it less likely that adults would breathe it in.... And those between the ages of 10 and 19 can spread the virus at least as well as adults do.
Also, I don't know how you feel about it but it DOESN'T MATTER HOW YOU FEEL ABOUT IT. Facts don't care about President Trump's feelings, as the guy says. And "like things go away" covers a pretty broad range of outcomes. The Rockies may crumble, Gibraltar may tumble—they're only made of clay—but viruses really hang around, though their virulence seems to decline at different rates and evolves back and forth. "Virulent" (from the Latin virulentus meaning "full of virus" or poison, which is what virus meant in pre-microscope days) is a terrific word, I'm glad it showed up. 




Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.

Tuesday, August 04, 2020

Everybody’s got it in for somebody. Trump says Twitter’s got it in for Trump. Facebook’s got it in for ethics. Consumers have it in for the economy. And I’m keeping my back against the wall.

It's getting brutal out there
This is one pissed-off nation. And as in all things, it’s the people at the top who set the mood.

So yes, Trump again. The Huffington Post recently made note, among other Trumpian horrors, of the President's complaint that Twitter’s trending topics are “ridiculous, illegal, and, of course, very unfair." He made note of the unfairness on Twitter, which of course, drove his trend numbers up even higher.

So disgusting to watch Twitter’s so-called “Trending”, where sooo many trends are about me, and never a good one. They look for anything they can find, make it as bad as possible, and blow it up, trying to make it trend. Really ridiculous, illegal, and, of course, very unfair!
Of course, this would have nothing to do with the fact that if you spend your presidency posting on Twitter (when you’re not playing golf or  acting like a shmuck and sending disguised thugs out to beat up peaceful protesters in the streets of Portland) you become a pretty hot topic. 

All the same, it’s hard to tell what’s “illegal” about Trump’s trending. The press could ask, but when Trump knows the answer will make him look bad, he simply walks out of the press conference. Which, of course, leads to more tweets. Which ups his trend still more.

On to another topic.

Values? We don’t need 
no stinking values!

Yes, yes, I know it feels like 100 years ago, but it was only last week that, in response to leadership from the NAACP and the Anti-Defamation League, major advertisers boycotted Facebook over hate speech, various divisive lies, and trollery that Marc Zuckerberg and his gang have been tolerating. How could anybody who loves money more than humanity blame Facebook? Hatred attracts eyeballs, and eyeballs attract advertisers, and advertisers shell out money to advertise.

The boycott kind of fizzled, because it turns out that big national advertisers are only a drop in Zuckerberg’s bucket. He said his strength was coming from small local advertisers, although I suspect big political organizations on both sides of the aisle are willing to overlook the hate speech in their search for an advertising audience.

The most ancient rule of beastly behavior is, if you’re in it up to your neck, have the intelligence to keep your mouth shut. But not Carolyn Everson, Zuckerberg's VP of global business solutions, whatever the hell that title means.

“The truth is we are not trying to be neutral in the sense that we have no values,” she told an interviewer for Advertising Age. “We have actually very clear values, we have values around voice, around safety, authenticity, privacy, dignity. We have values, but depending which side of the aisle you’re on, depending on a decision we make, you might think we’re one way or the other, but there is no advantage to us to be taking sides.”

What those values specifically are is another question, perhaps for another day. And yes, when there’s money to be made there’s “no advantage” to taking sides on racism, fascism, misinformation, perhaps even lynching or a coup d’état. Not when a buck is a buck, right Zuck?

Consumers lose confidence.
The unconscionable nerve of them!

Late last month, Bloomberg news reported that “U.S. consumer confidence declined in July by more than forecast as Americans became rattled by the recent increase in Covid-19 cases and its impact on the economy and the job market.”

Since then, the Republicans and the Trump Administration have rolled up their sleeves and done whatever they could to drive consumer confidence even lower. As of this writing, they’ve let the $600 weekly supplement to unemployed Americans expire. They’ve taken off from Washington, ignoring a House bill, pushed through by Democrats, that would have restored some stability to the lives of unemployed Americans. 

Liveable income? Protection against eviction and homelessness? Control of the Corona Virus? They’re not only on the chopping block, they’re also getting scooped up and tossed into the paper shredder. But don’t worry, the Republicans fully intend to protect Fortune 500 companies against lawsuits from employees and their families if the employees are forced to work in unhealthy conditions and then contract or die from Covid-19.

Of course corporations will be protected. As Mitt Romney so ably described the concept four years ago, "Corporations are People." So there! Carry that comforting thought through the day with you.

Cross-posted at The New York Crank

Pre-operational postscript

And I would have gotten away with it too, if not for those meddling scientists. Via.


Or putting it another way (from Jonathan Swan's Axios interview of Trump, to which I'll be returning, as transcribed in news.com.au):
Trump: “Many of those tests are now obsolete, because you know, it’s called science, and all of a sudden something’s better. But because we tested so many people, 55-60 million people, very soon, we get cases. You test, some kid has even just a little runny nose, it’s a case. And then you report many cases. So we look like we have more cases than massive countries, like China – which by the way, doesn’t report, as you know.”
The test makes it a Covid-19 case, as Trump sees it. Sure the kid has the sniffles, but it's not "a case" unless some meddling functionary goes and tests for it, so it shouldn't count. It's not fair to count it, not fair to Trump.

That is, in the White House it's OK to test everybody that might come in the president's breathing range, because that's important stuff involving the president's health. But out there in the world, it's not about a virus that a kid with a runny nose might communicate to teachers or grandparents, possibly killing them the way Mrs. Miller or Robert O'Brien or one of those Secret Service guys could have killed the president (and Trump never shows any awareness that asymptomatic cases exist as well), it's about keeping score of the administration in his competition with the other Leaders. Not that he's trying to say it isn't really Covid, but how's he supposed to win if our own refs are so nitpicky all the time, calling a foul when the virus hardly even brushed against the guy?

It's not just that he has a different standard for events outside his own body, it's that he doesn't accord the same reality to things happening outside his body, and he sincerely expects his audience (all projections of the only mind whose full existence he can recognize, his own) to accept that.

And in that way it's perhaps not so much that he hasn't reached the concrete operational stage at all as that he can't make the required effort to extend it beyond his immediate purview into the bodies he doesn't occupy. And not so much, as I was trying to say, that testing magically creates Covid infections as that the infections couldn't happen without the malignant forces arrayed against him, which are somehow connected to testing, though he's not going to (can't) inquire too closely into how it works.

Sunday, August 02, 2020

Hi It's Stupid: Preoperational

Illustration by Andrew Couts via Daily Dot.





Hi, it's Stupid to say Donald Trump really believes Covid testing causes Covid disease. I was having an argument over this with a really smart friend, who took the view that with all the terrible things you can fairly accuse him of, it's a bad thing, both ethically and tactically, to accuse him of things he's not guilty of. With which I totally agree, as a general principle.

On the other hand, it developed during the conversation that he really didn't understand very clearly why it's wrong to say, "We have more Cases because we do more Testing," and as I say he's a really smart person, and it struck me that there are probably a whole lot of smart people who know Trump shouldn't say this but don't quite know what we should say instead, including the reporters and opinionists in the new media who have certainly done such a poor job of communicating it that they might as well not understand it. So I thought I'd walk everybody through the argument, ending up with an explanation as to why it's really not that unfair to accuse Trump of believing that testing makes people sick.

Donald Trump, Vlad the Impaler, and the Presidential Vampire Problem

Vlad the Impaler enjoys his lunch.(Woodcut 
lifted from Wikipedia.)

With Donald Trump in charge, what are we to make of America’s destiny? 

Our lives have become a nightmare of outrages and horrors, each playing a game of Can You Top This with the previous outrage or horror. 

Autocratic merchandise from the 
not-so-little shop of horrors

Our psychopath-in-chief threatens to postpone the next presidential election. 

He sends armed thugs in insignia-less military camo fatigues to beat up, gas, and shoot with “less lethal” munitions people who peacefully protest against police brutality. 

He alienates our longstanding friends abroad and sucks up to tyrants. 

He spills a can of intelligence beans to Vladmir Putin, rendering other nations’ impression of our espionage apparatus so untrustworthy that I suspect the rest of the democratic world will not only refuse to share intelligence with us, but won’t even give us the time of day. 

He ignores a pandemic, turning it into an American plague (over 150,000 dead so far and counting) while the rest of the world tamps down the viral spread in their own nations. 

And I’m only skimming the surface. Under Trump, America has become bereft of sympathetic allies and hence militarily weaker. We have become a cesspool of viral disease. We now teeter on the edge of becoming an economic basket case as well. 

If some enemy agent had sneaked into America and done all this to us, we’d undoubtedly arrest, charge, try, and then execute him. We executed Osama Bin Laden even without benefit of a trial. But because Trump is President of the United States, our only hope is to vote him out of office — and even that prospect is pockmarked with horrifying possibilities that range from ballot tampering by agents of the White House to an armed coup d’état.

Does Trump remind you of
anyone else you’ve heard about?

I’ve been trying to think who else in history — past the usual suspects like Hitler, Stalin and Mussolini —Trump reminds me of.  Vlad Dracul, the 15th Century Transylvanian Prince, A.K.A Vlad the Impaler, sprang to mind. 

Like Trump, Vlad Dracul was a psychopath who liked to portray himself as a tough guy. His favorite form of execution — of foreign intruders and also of his own subjects that he didn’t like — was to impale them, threading them alive onto sharpened poles as if they were shish kebab, and leaving them mounted by the public roadsides for the horrific edification of Vlad’s other subjects. 

Did he feel any pity for his victims, writhing in pain on poles until they died? Hardly. Vlad, like Donald Trump, had all the human empathy of a pit viper. He was said to have enjoyed his lunch while watching the impalement of his own living subjects. (See the woodcut at the top of this post.)

Needless to say, Vlad not only failed to charm the people he ruled, but also made himself one of the most despised men in history. It is said that the folk legend of Dracula the vampire evolved out of his memory. That memory nourished folktales of a bloodsucking bat who drains his victims dry, a veritable incarnation of Satanic evil, from which Bram Stoker fashioned his retelling of the vampire legend.

The undead presidency
of Donald Trump

Since Donald Trump is not likely to step down willingly, his presidency threatens to have the semi-immortal characteristics of Dracula. Even when his presidency is dead, it will be undead. It will abhor the sunlight, but stay up until the wee hours tweeting bat screeches that tell us he’s coming for our throats.

I am speaking in wildly hyperbolic metaphor, of course, but in the end, it may be necessary to drive a silver stake through his heart and bury him at a crossroads. Ditto, his entire cavern full of bloodsucking eutherians, from William Barr, to Mike Pompeo, to Jared Kushner, to enablers like Mitch McConnell.

The good news is, this would have the potential to create one of the first great infrastructure programs to revive our failing economy. Call it the Crossroads Repair and Highway Reinforcement act of 2021. 

Or is this idea simply bats? Don’t answer that!

Saturday, August 01, 2020

Fuq the Blues, They Don't Vote For Us

Illumination ca, 1413-15 by the Boucicault Master, Paris, depicting the Roman emperor Galerius "on his deathbed, suffering from a horrendous malady that reportedly caused his entrails to decay inside his body and worms to come out of his mouth, ears, and nose... as two servants cover their mouths from the stench of his rotting flesh." J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.


In March 1992, Ed Koch, the former New York City mayor, wrote that Baker had dismissed concern about Jewish anger [over G.H.W. Bush administration demands that Israel join Madrid peace process], saying “F*** the Jews, they don’t vote for us.” Baker adamantly denied it.

Fred Zeidman, a Houston-area businessman and Republican fundraiser who is friendly with the Bush family and with Baker, said the remark has long been misunderstood. Baker was aiming his ire at another Cabinet member, Zeidman said, and intended it as a joke. (JTA, December 2018)

Meaning, of course, Baker really did say it, and providing evidence that calling your racism a "joke" is an old Republican habit, but let that pass. Nowadays Republican politicians demand lockstep fealty to the Israeli government, but most American Jews don't agree, and so they still don't vote for them. So it goes.

Meanwhile, the latest outrage is the revelation, in a terrific piece by Katherine Eban for Vanity Fair ("How Jared Kushner's Secret Testing Plan 'Went Poof Into Thin Air'"), that the coronavirus response team of business bros convened at the White House by Jared Kushner had managed by early April to put together a plausible proposal for a national Covid testing plan to coordinate distribution of test kits and contact tracing, beef up antibody testing, and report all test data directly to a national repository as well as state and local authorities, but ditched it under the impression that only Democrats were really suffering from the disease so it wasn't worth the trouble, because it really looked like a lot of work, and besides the virus might just disappear (according to models pushed by Dr. Birx), and

Most troubling of all, perhaps, was a sentiment [a public health expert who worked with the team] said a member of Kushner’s team expressed: that because the virus had hit blue states hardest, a national plan was unnecessary and would not make sense politically. “The political folks believed that because it was going to be relegated to Democratic states, that they could blame those governors, and that would be an effective political strategy,” said the expert.

That logic may have swayed Kushner. “It was very clear that Jared was ultimately the decision maker as to what [plan] was going to come out,” the expert said.

Fuck the Blues, in essence. Kushner decided he could probably get away with killing me, so why not? (Press Secretary McEnany has not denied that there was a plan that went poof, but denied that politics played a role in the decision.)  And announced that all the problems had been solved already:


Of course they didn't get away with it, in a certain sense: Birx's happy talk was wrong and Fauci's warnings were right, the virus didn't disappear, and the prematurely unlocked Red states all became epicenters as the situation in the Northeast began to ease off, and the political situation for Trump became really dire, with previously unshakable Republican states like Florida and Arizona and Georgia, even Texas, starting to look attainable for Democrats. But it's not clear that there will be any direct retribution for the tens of thousands of human lives that have been lost because of this crazy callousness, if that's what it was.

AWAY FOR A BIT

I'm taking some time off -- I'll be back in a week (possibly sooner). But some favorite guest bloggers will be here, so stop by.

Friday, July 31, 2020

BUT GIVING PEOPLE THE OPPOSITE OF WHAT THEY WANT HAS WORKED SO WELL FOR REPUBLICANS UNTIL NOW!

Shockingly, it appears that trying to kill constituents is bad for your poll numbers if you're an elected official.
A look at recent polling of nine governors ... shows that the governors who instituted face-mask requirements, urged social distancing and reopened more slowly than other states have seen a jump in their approval ratings.

By contrast, the governors who eschewed public health experts’ advice and reopened quickly — as President Trump urged — have seen their approval ratings drop, by double digits in some cases.

The five governors listed at the top of the chart have taken the pandemic seriously, and have seen their poll numbers rise. The Trumpian governors of Arizona, Florida, and Texas, who downplayed or blocked serious public health measures, have seen massive COVID-19 spikes in their states -- and massive declines in their popularity. People actually don't like being placed at mortal risk by their elected officials! Who knew?

But I understand why these Republican governors -- and the Republican president -- thought they could harm their constituents and pay no political price: because Republicans have been harming constituents for forty years and getting away with it.

Since the Reagan era, corporatist Republicanism has weakened the middle class, increased inequality, gutted regulations on corporations, and, in this century, crashed the economy twice. But because Republicans distract their base with culture-war talk and other forms of lib-owning, none of the harm GOP politicians do to their voters has ever seemed to cause them trouble at the polls.

I'm reminded of something I read a few years ago in a review of Arlie Russell Hochschild's book Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right.
The paradox that most baffles Hochschild is the question of environmental pollution. Even the most ideologically driven zealots don’t want to drink poisoned water, inhale toxic gas, or become susceptible to record flooding. Yet southwestern Louisiana combines some of the nation’s most fervently antiregulatory voters with its most toxic environmental conditions....

Hochschild discovers a walking personification of these ironies in a Cajun oil rig engineer named Mike Schaff. In August 2012, Schaff was entering his home in Bayou Corne, about seventy miles west of New Orleans, when he was jolted by a tremor....

More than a mile beneath the bayou, a Houston-based drilling company named Texas Brine had drilled into a vast salt dome, ignoring warnings from its own engineer.... Texas Brine drilled too closely to an oil deposit and the structure ruptured, sucking down forest and causing seismic damage to the homes of 350 nearby residents. Officials began referring to Schaff’s neighborhood as the “sacrifice zone.”

Texas Brine refused to take responsibility for the accident.... Four years later the sinkhole is 750 feet deep at its center and has grown to thirty-five acres. Methane and other gases bubble up periodically. Residents who defied evacuation orders avoided lighting matches.

... [Schaff] marched on the statehouse, wrote fifty letters to state and federal officials, granted dozens of interviews to local, national, and foreign press. When state officials claimed they had detected no oil in the bayou, he demanded that the EPA check their work.

But Schaff continued to vote Tea Party down the line. He voted for the very politicians who had abetted Texas Brine at every turn, who opposed environmental regulation of any kind. He voted to “abolish” the EPA, believing that it “was grabbing authority and tax money to take on a fictive mission ... lessening the impact of global warming.” The violent destruction of everything he held dear was not enough to change his mind.
So you can understand why Republicans thought they could refuse to build public-health infrastructure, ridicule and block mask mandates, and demand the premature reopening of businesses and schools -- sure, some folks would die, but GOP politcians won't be blamed, will they? They never are.

Well, voters don't blame Republicans when they can't quite grasp the direct connection between policies they dislike and Republican politicians they support. And maybe they don't assess blame when the stakes aren't obvious. But in this case, it's simple: Get the virus and you might die -- and the Republican governor doesn't think it's a terrible thing if that happens.

GOP politicians have gotten away with so much. Is it surprising that they thought they'd get away with this, too?

THE BEAM IN HER OWN EYE

Peggy Noonan, even though she's no fan of Donald Trump, rejects the call by some Never Trumpers to "burn down" the Republican Party.
Now various of [Trump's] foes, in or formerly of his party, want to burn the whole thing down—level the party, salt the earth where it stood, remove Republican senators, replace them with Democrats.

This strikes me as another form of nihilism. It’s bloody-minded and not fully responsible....

Many if not most of those calling for burning the whole thing down are labeled “Never Trump,” and a lot of them are characterologically quick to point the finger of blame. They’re aiming at Trump supporters in Congress....

But Never Trumpers never seem to judge themselves. Many of them, when they were profiting through past identities as Republicans or conservatives, supported or gave strategic cover to the wars that were such a calamity, and attacked those who dissented.... Never Trumpers eloquently decry the vulgarization of politics and say the presidency is lowered by a man like Mr. Trump, and it is. But they invented Sarah Palin and unrelentingly attacked her critics. They often did it in the name of party loyalty.
The wars she's referring to are the quagmires in Iraq and Afghanistan -- "two unwon wars, which constituted a historic foreign-policy catastrophe," as she puts it.

But she has some nerve chastising others for pounding the war drums. Here was Noonan in 2003:
Last Thursday night Tom Brokaw carried a war report that featured an American GI who’d been shot in the leg outside Baghdad. They showed him being treated in the field on a gurney. His pants had been cut away, and you could see his shorts. They were red, white and blue. They had stars and stripes like a flag. And one of the soldiers treating him looked up and smiled. “Nice shorts,” he said....

Our young troops love their country. That is why they are where they are. It has had me thinking a happy thought, about the success with which our country, for all its troubles the past few decades, has continued to communicate to new generations the simple idea of the goodness of loving America. They have picked up the sheer exuberant joy of understanding a thing and, because one understands it and because it is good, loving it, and then acting on that love to the extent that you would fight for it, you would even die for it. This is a beautiful thing, more precious than gold....

Is this corny? Too bad. It’s beautiful to see Americans stand up and embrace their patrimony and go forth into the world with faith. And none of this is unconnected to our president. George W. Bush has given our soldiers something to be proud of, something they can understand and respect. He is, now, after all he’s been through the past two years, Mr. Backbone. He has demonstrated to a seething and skeptical world that America can and will stand and fight for a cause, see it through, help the tormented and emerge victorious....

America appears to have a president worthy of its people.
The wars are good and our troops are good and George W. Bush, who sent them to fight in those wars, is very, very good. That was the message of Peggy Noonan when it counted.

Oh, and also this, written shortly after Bush was reelected in 2004 as a war president:
About a year ago I was visiting West Point, and I was talking to a big officer, a general or colonel. But he had the medals and ribbons and the stature, and he asked me what I thought of President Bush. I tried to explain what most impressed me about Mr. Bush, and I kept falling back on words like “courage” and “guts.” I wasn’t capturing the special quality Mr. Bush has of making a tough decision and then staying with it if he thinks it’s right and paying the price even when the price is high and—

I stopped speaking for a moment. There was silence. And then the general said, “You mean he’s got two of ’em.” And I laughed and said yes, that’s exactly what I mean.
And while Noonan soured on Sarah Palin fairly early, she was dazzled by Palin's 2008 Republican convention speech.
She has the power of the normal. Hillary Clinton is grim, stentorian, was born to politics and its connivances. Nancy Pelosi, another mother of five, often seems dazed and ad hoc. But this state governor and mother of a big family is a woman in a good mood. There is something so normal about her, so “You’ve met this person before and you like her,” that she broke through in a new way, as a character vividly herself, and vividly genuine....

What she did in terms of the campaign itself was important. No one has ever really laid a glove on Obama before, not in this campaign and maybe not in his life. But Palin really damaged him. She took him square on, fearlessly....

By the end, Democrats knew they had been dinged, and badly....

The speech was, in its way, a call so tender it made grown-ups weep on the floor. The things she spoke of were the beating heart of the old America. But as I watched I thought, I know where the people in that room are, I know their heart, for it is my heart.
And after Palin's debate with Joe Biden:
She killed. She had him at “Nice to meet you. Hey, can I call you Joe?” She was the star. He was the second male lead, the good-natured best friend of the leading man....

As far as Mrs. Palin was concerned, Gwen Ifill was not there, and Joe Biden was not there. Sarah and the camera were there. This was classic “talk over the heads of the media straight to the people,” and it is a long time since I’ve seen it done so well....

Sarah Palin saved John McCain again Thursday night. She is the political equivalent of cardiac paddles: Clear! Zap! We’ve got a beat! She will re-electrify the base. More than that, an hour and a half of talking to America will take her to a new level of stardom.
Noonan blames Trump on things others did: got us into wars we couldn't win, let too many immigrants into the country (Noonan is practically Ann Coulter on this issue), gave us Palin.

But somehow, none of the blame for Trump can be laid at Peggy Noonan's feet, even though Noonan helped invent Ronald Reagan, the original ignorant but telegenic dilettante who became president after turning right-wing politics into a late-life hobby.

Noonan says we got Trump because neither party seemed to care much about "on-the-ground Americans." But Noonan, in what's considered one of her finer moments, had George H.W. Bush tell those Americans that they didn't need government to help solve domestic problems, because prvate citizens -- "a thousand points of light" -- would make everything all better. Bush wasn't the first to sell that nonsense, but Noonan's prose poetry made the idea seem lofty. Thirty-two years later, Donald Trump abandoned responsibility to the American people in a once-in-a-century pandemic, and here we are, with 150,000 dead, no end in sight, and not nearly enough points of light visible.

Many people are responsible for the state of the Republican Party, the party that has dragged down America. Give the Never Trumpers credit for at least trying to undo some of the damage, even if they've never apologized for most of the harm they've done. I don't see any effort at undoing or apologizing on Peggy Noonan's part.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

THAT JOKE ISN'T FUNNY ANYMORE

This morning, President Trump tweeted this:



We know this was, among other things, an attempt to distract from the dismal GDP report that was announced this morning. But was Trump serious about a possible election postponement?

We're now at the stage where we're being told it was a brilliant joke and the stupid libs were just fished in.



And from the Gateway Pundit comments:



So was it a joke? Reporters, please ask the president directly the first chance you get. If he's not available, ask his press secretary to confirm or deny that it was a joke.

Remember the last time we were told that the president was just kidding:
President Donald Trump on Tuesday insisted he was serious when he revealed that he had directed his administration to slow coronavirus testing in the United States, shattering the defenses of senior White House aides who argued Trump’s remarks were made in jest.

“I don’t kid. Let me just tell you. Let me make it clear,” Trump told reporters, when pressed on whether his comments at a campaign event Saturday in Tulsa, Okla., were intended as a joke.
We're being assured that Trump can't postpone the election.
Mr. Trump has no authority to unilaterally change the date of the election, which is set by federal law....

Article II of the Constitution empowers Congress to determing the timing of the election. An 1845 federal law fixed the date as the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.
Yes, but that law says,
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the electors of President and Vice-President shall be appointed in each State on the Tuesday next after the first Monday in the month of November of the year in which they are to be appointed: ... provided also, When any State shall have held an election for the purpose of choosing electors, and shall fail to make a choice on the day aforesaid, then the electors may be appointed on a subsequent day in such manner as the State shall by law provide.
Which suggests that states can alter their procedures for choosing presidential electors. And this, from the National Constitution Center, is ominous:
Three opinions from the Congressional Research Service explain scenarios about the possible delays in the presidential election process. One report, released [in March], indicates a state under its own laws could postpone the general election date that results in the selection of electors; in the election this year that date is Tuesday, November 3, 2020. At least 45 states have statutes that deal with election day emergencies, the CRS says.
There are several states in which Republicans fully control the government but voters might prefer Joe Biden to Donald Trump -- Florida, Arizona, and possibly Georgia and Texas. There are other possible Biden states in which Republicans control the legislature -- Pennsylvia, Michigan, North Carolina, Wisconsin. What might happen in those states?

And are we sure the Republicans won't just violate the law with impunity?



I've never believed that Donald Trump would refrain from tampering with the 2020 election because he respects the law or cares about democracy. I assumed he wouldn't do it because he's persuaded himself that he's winning.

I think he still tells himself that he's winning. But it's clear from today's tweet that on some level he doesn't believe it. Now I think he's telling himself that he would win if it weren't for those millions of fraudulent Demoratic mail-in votes (and he's trailing in the polls because every pollster is conspiring against him).

Maybe the election will go on as planned. Maybe Trump and Senate Republicans will merely cripple the Postal Service's ability to handle mail-in ballots. But I don't consider this a joke.

DOES IT COUNT AS AN OCTOBER SURPRISE IF MOST OF AMERICA YAWNS?

I'm still worried about the November elections. I'm worried that Trump's poll numbers have stopped declining. I'm worried that Joe Biden's running mate won't be embraced by voters (or even by his own advisers).

Know what I'm not worried about? This:
Barr says he won’t wait until after election to reveal Durham’s findings. Democrats fear a campaign-altering surprise.

Attorney General William P. Barr reiterated this week that he will not wait until after November’s election to release whatever U.S. Attorney John Durham finds in his examination of the FBI’s 2016 investigation into President Trump’s campaign, raising fears among Democrats that Barr and Durham could upend the presidential race with a late revelation.

Republicans have been eagerly awaiting Durham’s findings — hopeful that the prosecutor Barr handpicked last year to investigate the investigation of possible coordination between Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia will validate their fierce criticisms of the bureau. Democrats, meanwhile, have worried that the Connecticut U.S. attorney is aiding a political stunt designed to undercut an investigation that dogged Trump’s presidency.
Obviously Barr intends this to be an October surprise.
Barr recently told Fox News he expected developments in Durham’s investigation “hopefully before the end of the summer.” ...

Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-Fla.) asked Barr: Would he “commit to not releasing any report by Mr. Durham before the November election?”

“No,” Barr responded.
But while angry liberals and Trump loyalists still want to talk about Russian election interference and the investigation of the Trump team's ties to Moscow, the rest of America seems bored with the subject -- and seemed that way even before the country became consumed with pandemic fears, a severe economic downturn, and the problem of systemic racism. Americans seem unable to wrap their minds around the Russia story, or, for that matter, the subsequent Ukraine story -- the complex timelines and huge casts of characters appear to be more than most voters can absorb.

The Durham report, whenever it arrives, seems designed to appeal exclusively to people who watch Fox News fourteen hours a day (and to infuriate those who watch hours of MSNBC). It won't be about Donald Trump or any top official directly. It will be about all those people your Fox-watching relatives despise and your apolitical relatives have never heard of.
Exactly what Durham is focused on is not clear....

One focus, people familiar with the matter said, seems to be on why the bureau kept pressing forward after it came to have doubts about the credibility of Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer on whose work the FBI relied in part to get a secret court order to surveil former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. Investigators were particularly interested in doubts raised about Steele by one of his sources of information, the people said....

Another line of inquiry Durham has pursued is whether the CIA was inappropriately withholding material from the National Security Agency and the FBI to enable a finding about Russia’s covert activities sought by then-CIA Director John Brennan, according to people familiar with the matter....

Kerri Kupec, a Justice Department spokeswoman, said earlier this year that Durham also had been examining the issue of “unmasking” — or intelligence officials asking to reveal a name that has been shielded in a sensitive government document....
"Unmasking"! People are dying in overcrowded ICUs and we're supposed to worry that the election will turn on "unmasking"?

We're reminded that in May, "Barr said publicly that he did not expect Durham would investigate former president Barack Obama or Biden — seeming to disappoint some conservatives who hoped otherwise." If that's accurate, then this report will generate hours of Fox News content that the president will gleefully consume, as will voters who are solidly committed to voting for Trump already. But it won't matter to the rest of America. I'm not concerned.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

LOUIE GOHMERT TESTED POSITIVE. YOUR RIGHT-WING RELATIVES WILL BE UNIMPRESSED. (updated)

You'd think this would inspire right-wingers to take the coronavirus seriously:
Rep. Louie Gohmert, a Texas Republican who has frequently walked around the Capitol without wearing a face mask or maintaining social distance from others, has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, according to a person familiar with the results.

Gohmert had been scheduled to travel with President Trump aboard Air Force One to Texas on Wednesday but tested positive at the White House and did not join the trip....
It won't matter to them. Right-wingers continue to treat this virus as if it's no big deal. It's rarely serious! It's 100% treatable! It's a hoax! The stats are fake news!

From the comments at Gateway Pundit:
COVID-19 is so horrible that most people have to be tested to even realize that they have it... smh

****

There are many false positives too.

RETEST.

****

Hydroxychloroquine

****

I betcha Barr is taking HCQ , also seems a bit of a coincidence that Nadler blew up about them not wearing masks. Then the pictures and the news make a big story . Wouldn't be surprised if Louis takes HCQ also could be a set up .Your right retest

****

COVID-19 is so horrible, it takes control over trucks and sharks and attacks people. That explains why half the people dead of COVID19 are car crash or shark attack victims

****

These leftists have a severe psychological obsession with masks. It’s truly disturbing.

****

Masks have essentially become the perfect metaphor for control, virtue signaling, and submission.. So therefore what’s not to like if you’re a Leftist?...

****

They see it as controlling a person -- having a control/controlling influence over somebody. Leftists are all about that.

****

Not to worry. They will both have access to hydroxychloroquine, Z-Pac and Zinc.

****

Pardon me if I question the test.. I think a test from another source is in order.. Interesting the coincidence between Gomer's speech about dems being attached to slavery and should be removed from Government like the names of the military bases and now this....

****

So who gave it to Mr. Gohmert ?

BTW... a mask will not save you.... just make you sicker !
Also... I have heard a lot of people have tested positive for this cold on the Hill..... but, ......never have I heard of anyone being Hospitalized or even actually showing any symptoms....... I wonder why ?
And at Breitbart:
The timing is suspicious. Was he "given" the virus, or maybe a deliberate "false positive". This test could easily be used as a weapon to sideline people.

****

He might get the sniffles for a day or two.

****

hydroxychloroquine, azithromycin & zinc

****

According to the doctor's using this protocol, it works nearly at 100% when administered early.

****

Many people are asymptomatic.

****

Asymptomatic is a good lie to make everyone wear masks. Many are false positive. What about regular coronavirus, the common cold?

****

Many people never had it and will never get it. Where did SARS go? ALL flu viruses get weaker, ALL of them, it's the natural course. It does NOT EVER "get worse before it gets better".

****

You know what else works nearly 100 percent of the time, doing nothing because survival is 99.9%

****

..and how many died from the flu knuck-knuck? That’s right, you don’t know because no one care about those 70K deaths, even with the effing vaccine used. Only COVID lives matter...to elect Biden.
The playbook the fossil fuel industry has used in response to climate change -- muddy the waters, create doubt -- is the one being used by right-wing plutocrats in order to get the economy open in spite of the pandemic. With conservative Americans, it's working perfectly: They don't believe the virus is terribly harmful (though masks are), they think the death tolls are exaggerated (everyone who dies with the virus, they'll all tell you, is recorded as having died of the virus), and they believe the disease is completely curable by means of hydroxychloroquine (or a hydroxychloroquine cocktail) -- but "they" (meaning the evil liberals) don't want to allow it.

If you've been asking yourself who's profiting from all this hydroxychloroquine hype, the answer is: all the people who want the economy reopened no matter how many people die.

I don't think every plutocrat is part of this doubt-creating propaganda campaign, but many are. Remember, plutocrats routinely shrug off widespread health damage from corporate pollution, whether in the Third World or in Louisiana's Cancer Alley. They don't care if we die. They want us thinking that precautions are evil and business as usual is better. And they have your right-wing relatives convinced.

It's statistically unlikely that Louie Gohmert will die -- and if he doesn't, that's even more proof to right-wingers that the disease is trivial and the pandemic is a hoax.

Maybe they'll change their minds if more of their ideological heroes die or experience severe illness. (Herman Cain has been in the hospital for a month with Covid, but do they even remember him?) More likely, they'll believe the Deep State was responsible. They'll never come around on this.

*****

UPDATE: It gets worse.
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) on Wednesday blamed his positive COVID-19 test on wearing a mask.

Gohmert claimed that "moving the mask around" was "bound to have put some virus on the mask that I soaked in."

... From a July 29 interview on KETK:
... REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R-TX): There are an awful lot of people that think it's the great thing to do all the time, but I can't help but think that if I hadn't been wearing a mask so much in the last 10 days or so, I really wonder if I would have gotten it.

But I know, you know, moving the mask around, getting it just right, I'm bound to put some virus on the mask that I soaked in. That's most likely what happened.
But there's at least one person in his office who's not part of the idiocracy:



What a debased country this is.


BILLIONAIRE WINGNUTS ARE KILLING US

David Leonhardt of The New York Times is right, obviously:
Why is the U.S. enduring a far more severe virus outbreak than any other rich country?

There are multiple causes, but one of them is the size and strength of right-wing media organizations that frequently broadcast falsehoods. The result is confusion among many Americans about scientific facts that are widely accepted, across the political spectrum, in other countries.

Canada, Japan and much of Europe have no equivalent to Sinclair — whose local newscasts reach about 40 percent of Americans — or Fox News. Germany and France have widely read blogs that promote conspiracy theories. “But none of them have the reach and the funding of Fox or Sinclair,” Monika Pronczuk, a Times reporter based in Europe, told me.
As Leonhardt notes,
Sinclair Broadcast Group recently published an online interview with a conspiracy theorist who claimed that Dr. Anthony Fauci created the coronavirus using monkey cells. Sinclair — which operates almost 200 television stations — has also run segments downplaying the severity of the virus.

Fox News has repeatedly run segments promoting ideas that scientists consider false or that question the seriousness of the virus.
Yes, and remember when many Very Serious People were praising Tucker Carlson for taking the pandemic seriously and persuading the president that it wasn't a hoax? Well, now Carlson is using the Fox airwaves to defend a group of right-wing doctors that included President Trump's "demon sperm" doctor.
Fox News host Tucker Carlson ... defend[ed] a viral video of fringe doctors peddling COVID-19 falsehoods and claiming the group was only attacked because they criticized the “sainted” Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Hours after President Donald Trump doubled down on his support for the doctors—including eccentric pediatrician Dr. Stella Immanuel, who has previously said “demon sperm” causes gynecological ailments—Carlson kicked off his primetime program by railing against social media platforms for cracking down on the video’s disinformation.

... Besides claiming controversial anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine could prevent and even “cure” coronavirus, “America’s Frontline Doctors” also said masks and social distancing were unnecessary to prevent the spread of the virus.

... the Fox News star tied the removal of the video to the 2020 presidential election, claiming it was only taken down because Trump retweeted it and that “enraged Democrats.”

“Any scientific advancement that reduces the suffering of Americans in the election year is a threat to Joe Biden’s campaign so they decided to pull the video off the internet,” Carlson huffed.
So there's Trust Fund Tucker and the billionaire Murdoch family promoting a coronavirus disinformation video. And who's behind the video?
The event was hosted and funded by the Tea Party Patriots, a right-wing political nonprofit group led by Jenny Beth Martin, the group's co-founder, who spoke at the news conference.

The group, which collects funds through two nonprofit groups and a political action committee, has raised over $24 million since 2014 to support Republican causes and candidates.

... America's Frontline Doctors is led by a group of 10 doctors of varying specialties, according to its website, which was registered two weeks ago. The group's leader, Dr. Simone Gold, is a "concierge immediate-needs physician," who offers private medical consultations, according to an archive of her recently deleted professional website.

... In recent months, Gold has been a fixture on conservative media and at protests and rallies calling on reopening, and was on the panel that recommended that the Orange County Board of Education reopen schools without masks or distancing.
Remember that disturbing news from Orange County? This wingnut welfare recipient was partly responsible for that terrible decision.

More:
The Associated Press reported in May that CNP Action discussed recruiting doctors who were willing to push narratives about reopening the economy before safety benchmarks were met in a May 11 phone call.

CNP Action is part of an alliance of conservative think tanks called the Save Our Country Coalition, which previously hosted viral "Liberate" Facebook events in April, urging protesters to rally in states that had adopted social distancing restrictions.
As that May AP story noted,
CNP Action is part of the Save Our Country Coalition, an alliance of conservative think tanks and political committees formed in late April to end state lockdowns implemented in response to the pandemic. Other members of the coalition include the FreedomWorks Foundation, the American Legislative Exchange Council and Tea Party Patriots.
A pandemic disaster, brought to you by deeply politicized right-wing billionaires.