Sunday, May 31, 2020

ELECTORALLY, IT'S NOT 1968

No liberal wants to acknowledge agreeing with Ross Douthat, but I'm hearing a lot of concern on our sides that this year's election will go the way Douthat seem to believe it will:
In the origin myth of post-1960s liberalism, all the defeats that the Democratic Party suffered in the years of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan were owed to the party’s heroic support for civil rights, which rectified a great injustice but opened the way for the Republicans to build majorities on racial backlash.

Like most myths, this story contains pieces of the truth. The battle over civil rights did accelerate the regional realignment of the parties; racial backlash did help the G.O.P. make gains in the once-Democratic South. But what ultimately doomed the old liberal majority wasn’t just support for civil rights; that was on the ballot in 1964, when Barry Goldwater won the heart of the old Confederacy but Lyndon Johnson won everywhere else. Rather, liberalism unraveled amid the subsequent nationwide wave of crime, unrest and disorder, which liberal mandarins and liberal machine politicians alike were unable to successfully manage or contain.

... there is a striking pattern of evidence, teased out in the research of the Princeton political scientist Omar Wasow, showing how peaceful civil rights protests helped Democrats win white votes, and then violence pushed white voters toward Republicans.

Looking at data from the civil rights era, Wasow argues that “proximity to black-led nonviolent protests increased white Democratic vote-share whereas proximity to black-led violent protests caused substantively important declines” — enough to tip the 1968 election from Hubert Humphrey to Nixon.
So we're doomed, right? The unrest we're seeing now will throw the election to Trump, won't it?

Joshua Holland doesn't think so.
There are three good reasons to think it won’t work.

First, Nixon was taciturn, serious and experienced. As Josh Zeitz wrote, he “walked a thin line between statesmanship and demagoguery,” which is something that Trump, who has no discipline whatsoever and is the antithesis of a statesman, is incapable of doing. Nixon was able to pitch himself as a stabilizing force–a rock in a sea of chaos; Trump is himself an agent of chaos. A majority of Americans think he’s racist and uniquely divisive. Those yearning for stability and a return to “normalcy,” have an alternative in Joe Biden, a veteran moderate Democrat who’s served in government for decades and tends to speak in soothing tones....

Second, it didn’t work in 2016. Not only did [Trump] lose the popular vote by almost 3 million ballots, but the data show that he almost certainly would have lost the Electoral College as well if not for former FBI Director James Comey announcing that he was reopening the probe into Hillary Clinton’s emails 11 days before the vote.

It also didn’t help his party in the 2018 midterms, when Trump spent months railing about an “invasion” by a caravan of refugees making their way north to the United States through Mexico.

Finally, it’s simply the case that nothing seems to move the needle on Trump’s popularity with the public, or lack thereof. Opinions are set. He ended 2019 with a 42.6 percent approval rating in FiveThirtyEight’s average, and today–after 100,000 mostly avoidable deaths, 40 million lost jobs and a couple of stock market sell-offs–that number stands at 42.6 percent.
I'll add a few more points. As I've been predicting, Trump has remained aloof (except on Twitter) and left the response to mayors and governors. Yesterday, many people expressed concern about a report that military troops were being mobilized in response to the unrest.
U.S. military police could be sent to George Floyd protests in Minneapolis under a law not used since the Rodney King riots, the Associated Press reported.

The Pentagon ordered the Army to ready personnel from North Carolina and New York for deployment in Minnesota amid unrest over the police killing of Floyd while he was in custody, according to the wire service.

Three unnamed sources told AP that the soldiers from Fort Bragg and Fort Drum were expected to be ready for deployment within four hours of receiving an order to deal with the ongoing protests in Minneapolis.
But the troops won't deployed unless the state of Minnesota asks for them. They weren't deployed last night. The president who wouldn't use the Defense Production Act in the worst days of the coronavirus crisis so far also doesn't seem to want to challenge the laws and norms that prevent the military from being deployed against civilians.

Also, many people read a tweet from Trump on Saturday speculating on "MAGA NIGHT AT THE WHITE HOUSE???" as a call for a violent confrontation on the White House grounds between protesters and Trump supporters. But no such thing happened last night -- there were protests at the White House, but "National Guard troops, the U.S. Park Police and the Secret Service" -- just whom you'd expect -- "kept the demonstrators back from the president’s residence."

Trump doesn't want to be involved in this. He'd have to plan a brutal response. He'd have to think and make choices. That's work. He'd much rather blame Democratic politicians in tweets. If someone came to him with an off-the-shelf plan for a brutal crackdown, he could sign off on it and then go play golf. But no one can offer him an easy, lazy man's way to be brutal.

And it's not clear that he wants to be brutal. His campaign has him convinced that he'll win a surprisingly large percentage of the black vote this year, even though, according to a new Washington Post/ABC poll, his approval rating among African-Americans is 8%. For the moment, he's trying to be liked by (as he puts it) "the black people." He may also believe that acknowledging the unrest undermines his "I made America great again" rhetoric.

Finally, he's incapable of focusing. He couldn't stay focused on the coronavirus, and now he can't stay focused on the anger and unrest in America. (Must go to war with Twitter! Must withdraw from the WHO! Must fly to Florida twice to see the SpaceX launch!)

Unrest in America doesn't inevitably lead to Republican electoral victories. The riots in response to the Rodney King verdict happened in the spring of 1992, and Bill Clinton was elected half a year later. Joe Biden isn't as talented a speaker or politician as Clinton was then, but Trump is at least as incapable of an effective response as Poppy Bush was.

Circumstances could change, but I don't see 2020 as 1968. Trump pretends to be a strongman, but at a moment of turmoil that seems ideally suited to that approach, he doesn't seem at all like a tough guy or a guarantor of safety and security.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

EFFETE EMPEROR TRUMP HAS MANLY MEN TO PROTECT HIM (DON'T YOU WISH YOU HAD SOME TOO?)

There are those who still hold out hope that the president of the United States will say or do something to help bring about peace, healing, and justice at this moment of unrest. And there are critics who believe he's about to become the president of our authoritarian nightmares, in the hope that brutality will win him reelection.

Earlier this morning, I made this prediction:



Then I looked at Trump's Twitter feed, in which he talked about confrontations between protesters and the Secret Service near the White House last night.




I have two thoughts.

First, this isn't the way a normal authoritarian acts tough. A normal authoritarian somberly orders a crackdown on dissent. Blood is spilled. People die. Mass arrests take place. What we have here is Trump saying, "You people are experiencing unrest, but I'm fine -- I'm protected by big bruisers!" And if my choice of words suggests that I'm seeing something homoerotic in this, well, look at Trump's own words: "Many Secret Service agents just waiting for action. 'We put the young ones on the front line, sir...'" It's as if Trump is an effete, effeminate emperor luxuriating in a 1950s biblical epic, surrounded by a musclebound Praetorian guard.

Also, Trump seems to expect this message to be received aspirationally. We have a public health crisis, an economic crisis, and a national crisis of law enforcement legitimacy, and yet Trump is still selling his lifestyle as something to be envied and pursued. Look how cool I am! I'm surrounded by tough guys who can protect me from any threat! Don't you wish you could be like me? Well, just buy these Trump-branded produ-- er, vote for me in November!

Trump followed up:



I've seen this described as Trump "calling for a street fight in front of the White House." Is that what he's saying? I guess so. But again, it's the same message: I'm snug in my palace with big toughs ready to kick ass on my behalf. Don't you aspire to the lifestyles of the rich and MAGA?

I still don't believe he'll order an American Tiananmen -- he'd rather just let the states and cities deal with the unrest and then blame them, which is exactly how he's responding to the coronavirus. And I don't think he really wants mayhem on his front lawn. But we know how much he loves to talk about generals and cops and bikers who admire him, and now he's enjoying the fantasy of young toughs roughing up the rabble on his behalf -- and he assumes that that's what America wants to hear at this time. I can't believe that's what anyone wants, at any point on the political spectrum, but what do I know?

Friday, May 29, 2020

REPUBLICAN VOTERS DON'T EXPECT TRUMP TO MOURN BECAUSE THEY GAVE UP ON EMPATHY LONG AGO

Jamelle Bouie writes:
More than a hundred thousand lives have been lost to the Covid-19 pandemic in the United States, and while individuals and families have certainly grieved for their loved ones, there has been almost nothing in the way of a public remembrance of the lives lost. No national address; no moment of silence or official recognition beyond the occasional tweet and the flying of flags at half-staff over the Memorial Day weekend. No sense from the president or his subordinates that these were untimely deaths — needless losses that ought to occasion collective mourning. There will be no speech like President Barack Obama’s in the wake of the Mother Emanuel shooting in Charleston; no address like President Ronald Reagan’s after the Challenger disaster....

The president’s indifference to collective mourning is of a piece with a political movement that denies our collective ties as well as the obligations we have to each other. If Trump represents a radical political solipsism, in which his is the only interest that exists, then it makes all the sense in the world that neither he nor his allies would see or even understand the need for public and collective mourning — an activity that heightens our vulnerability, centers our interconnectedness and stands as a challenge to the politics of selfishness and domination.
Republicans preach rugged individualism. Trump is perhaps the most narcissistic individual who ever lived. So, yes, it's not surprising that our narcissist Republican president is failing to lead us in collective mourning.

But why is conservatism "a political movement that denies our collective ties"? It's because some of us are black, Hispanic, female, LGBT, handicapped, formerly incarcerated ... Some of us, in other words, are members of groups that Republican voters -- who are overwhelmingly white, and mostly either male or male-identified -- are sick of being asked to feel empathy for. After a while, lack of empathy for anyone other than fellow members of the Volk becomes a habit. Conservative voters are ready to feel no compassion for any new group that's suffering -- even if it's fellow citizens dying from exposure to a virus that could easily strike them.

The virus could sicken any one of us, but Republicans are so accustomed to dividing the country into their people and the undeserving that they're doing it even with virus victims. It's a habit they can't (or won't) break, even now.

AT THIS MOMENT, TRUMP IS NOT OUR MOST DANGEROUS AUTHORITARIAN

This happened a little while ago:
A CNN crew was arrested by Minnesota state police Friday morning while giving a live television report in Minneapolis, where the crew was covering ongoing protests over the death of George Floyd....

The crew, including correspondent Omar Jimenez, were handcuffed and detained as Jimenez gave a live report on a Minneapolis street shortly after 5 a.m. CT (6 a.m. ET).

Police told the crew they were being detained because they were told to move, and didn't, one member of the CNN crew relayed to the network....

Jimenez could be seen holding his CNN badge while reporting, identifying himself as a reporter, and telling the officers the crew would move wherever officers needed them to. An officer gripped his arm as Jimenez talked, then put him in handcuffs.

"We can move back to where you like. We are live on the air here. ... Put us back where you want us. We are getting out of your way -- wherever you want us (we'll) get out of your way," Jimenez said before he was led away.



Prior to that, this happened:
Twitter said Friday morning that a tweet from President Trump in which he threatened shooting in response to civil unrest in Minneapolis violated the company's rules. The company said it was leaving the tweet up in the public interest.



It's widely assumed that Trump is promising violent reprisal, in the most inflammatory way possible. The New York Times says that "Trump threatened violence against those protesting a death in police custody." Walter Shaub, the former director of the federal Office of Government Ethics, tweeted:



But will he?

He might -- I'm not ruling it out. But the menace of Trumpism is tempered somewhat by the fact that he still sees himself as a guy yelling at the TV because he's angry at the people running things. He doesn't see himself, even now, as the guy running things.

Oh, sure, when he feels personally mistreated -- by the Russia investigators, by Twitter -- he orders his minions to do harm to the offenders. But in Minneapolis, our narcissist president isn't personally threatened, so he might do nothing besides tweet and grumble. At this moment, the cops in Minneapolis are worse authoritarians than Trump.

After three and a half years in office, a smarter, more determined authoritarian could have had the institutions that stood in his way fully dismantled or at least cowering his fear -- critical news outlets, dissenting states, maybe even a house of Congress. He could have arranged to turn the Proud Boys or some similar band of youths into a paramilitary thug army useful for intimidating, brutalizing, and possibly murdering critics. It could have happened here. I see nothing to suggest that Republicans in Congress or Trump's fan base would have objected.

Trump stacks the courts because Mitch McConnell and Leonard Leo want him to. Trump supports cutting rich people's taxes and corporate regulations because his rich friends and donors want him to. Trump brutalizes immigrants because Stephen Miller knows how to get that done.

Otherwise, Trump uses his power to serve his ego, at least so far. And then he complains on Twitter.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

ACCORDING TO RUSH LIMBAUGH, GEORGE FLOYD WAS KILLED BY LIBERALISM

So even Rush Limbaugh thinks George Floyd shouldn't have been killed? Really?

Yes, that's the headline.



On his show today, Limbaugh did, surprisingly, express outrage at the death of George Floyd. But first he had to give us his audience some crowd-pleasing talking points. Let's go to the transcript:
The rioters... I’ve got a story by Victoria Taft at PJ Media: “PJ Media: Rioters Are So Angry About Police Killing That They... Stole Baby Clothes and Air Fryers from Nearby Target.” ...

“Protesters broke off into riotous mobs who smashed their way into Target where [they] stole every imaginable thing. The rioters’ righteous anger impelled them to grab … an air fryer… Nothing says [f—] the police like frying up some grub or, as one woman did, grabbing baby clothes. Another guy must have checked out a friend’s wedding registry before rioting because he walked out with several sets of bedding” ...

The media is viewing Minneapolis looters as protesters.

But Americans protesting to go back to work? Why, those are dangerous lunatics! Americans demanding to be let out, Americans demanding that their jobs be reopened, Americans demanding to go back to work are being treated as major problems — major lunatics, great threats to the health of America — whereas the people looting stores in Minneapolis are called “protesters.”

And if you take a look, look at who has been savagely condemned by the media. It’s people reopening their businesses. Not the people burning businesses. Not people looting them. Not the people tearing them down. In the media’s world, the people reopening their businesses are being savagely condemned — or people going to a swimming pool in the Ozarks, or people going to a beach somewhere.
You see where this is going -- except that it briefly detours to a moment of apparent decency.
Look, folks, the police who killed George Floyd in Minneapolis are gonna get their day in court, and I hope it’s good and hard.
But -- and you knew there was going to be a "but" ...
But what about all the people who’ve been killed in nursing homes? They were consigned to their deaths. They were consigned to their deaths by blue state political leaders, otherwise known as governors — and particularly in the state of New York.

They were consigned.

They were sent there.

It’s grotesque incompetence, negligence on the part of blue state governors, and it’s so widely known now to be the case that these blue state governors are doing all kinds of twisting and pretzeling to try to blame Trump for that, that Trump made ’em do it, that Trump had some policy that made them do that or they wouldn’t get federal money or some such thing.

Nothing of the sort is true! You know, right and wrong — the concepts of right and wrong — are so easy to see if you aren’t blinded by politics. But if your world is governed by politics, if your world has no reality because it’s governed by politics, well, that’s how you look away at people like Jeffrey Epstein, Harvey Weinstein, Bill Clinton, all of them.

Bill Clinton’s still Teflon in all this stuff, and it’s all because of politics mattering first. Politics is why the Barack Obama FBI looked away from Hillary Clinton’s lawbreaking. Politics drove Obama to spy on the Trump campaign. Politics drove Cuomo to consign a bunch of elderly people to nursing homes. You know, nothing that’s happened so far this year — nothing that’s happened in 2020 — is all that complicated. It’s very easy to understand.
Yeah, nothing says "I'm not blinded by politics" like linking Jeffrey Epstein and Russiagate to a police murder in Minneapolis.

Limbaugh had a few more moments of what appeared to be decency in the lead-in to a commercial break:
I don’t know... I still don’t know what precipitated it. I don’t know why they had George Floyd on the ground. I don’t know, but I don’t care what it was, unless he fired a shot at them, and even then, there is no... What policy? What policy is there anywhere that mandates that kind of treatment of a suspect or prisoner who is totally under control?

(interruption) Okay. All right. So he passed a counterfeit bill in a store.

Fine.

That doesn’t come close to justifying what happened to him, with people watching that cop for five minutes kill the guy! There’s no other way to describe what happened. I understand people are out there calling it murder. It makes me so mad, I can’t see straight. So, I ask, how does something like that happen? There has to be some police manual or handbook.

Look, you people in law enforcement know I’m at the top of the list of people who support you and understand how hard your jobs are and the rigors and the arduous circumstances you have to go through every day. I still, given all of that, do not… I cannot find a way to explain that. I can’t find a way to justify it. I don’t care what the guy did. If it’s all about a counterfeit bill, it’s even… Look, I gotta take a break because I’m up against it on time. Back in a moment.
But it was a setup.
I got an email during the break, “What made you so mad about the video of George Floyd?” What makes me so mad about the video? A... You know, these are blue states. This is a blue state where this happened. This is a state-run by Democrats. This is a state-run by leftists. This is a state-run by people who believe in utopias, and they openly promise them — and they particularly promise every minority group in the world that they’re gonna protect ’em.

And who are they gonna protect ’em from?

They gonna protect ’em from you and me, us meany conservatives and Republicans. We pose the biggest threat to them. That’s what these blue state leftists in the media and in politics all say as they defame us and impugn us. And yet look at what happens to minorities in these blue states.
The reality is that the cops are a law unto themselves even in very liberal cities. But Limbaugh, even with one foot in the grave, is still a smart, evil man who can twist the facts to make everything liberalism's fault.

So tomorrow, you'll probably see Limbaugh's name in a roundup of "even many conservatives" who've condemned the killing of George Floyd. When you see it, remember what else he said.

THE MOST POWERFUL MAN IN THE WORLD IS AFRAID TO QUIT TWITTER

Trump attacks free speech!
President Trump is preparing to sign an executive order Thursday that could roll back the immunity that tech giants have for the content on their sites, according to two people familiar with the matter.
... Or, more precisely: Trump, utterly flummoxed as to how to wield power against enemies that have the means to fight back, orders agencies to do ... um, something.
Trump’s directive chiefly seeks to embolden federal regulators to rethink a portion of law known as Section 230, according to the two people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe a document that could still evolve and has not been officially signed by the president. That law spares tech companies from being held liable for the comments, videos and other content posted by users on their platforms....

The order would also seek to channel complaints about political bias to the Federal Trade Commission, which would be encouraged to probe whether tech companies’ content-moderation policies are in keeping with their pledges of neutrality. It would also require federal agencies to review their spending on social media advertising, according to the people familiar with the White House’s thinking.
That's it. That's all he's got. It's how Trump has operated all his life: He's incapable (or unwilling) to grasp any subject in depth, so, in his business years, he would express his primal urges and then tell his lawyers and accountants to go make it happen, somehow. Sometimes it worked, sometimes he went bankrupt.

This is an effective approach for Trump as president when he wants underlings to hurt powerless enemies -- undocumented immigrants at the border, for instance. Smart, evil operatives like Stephen Miller can find ways to give Trump what he wants.

But the social media giants have smart lawyers, and they have the law on their side, starting with the First Amendment. Everyone who works for Trump knows this, so they now have to pretend that they're going to bring Twitter to its knees until Trump forgets his current rage and moves on to some other fit of pique that's equally irrelevant to his job.

Please note that Trump will never use the most obvious tool available to him, one that's constitutionally permissible and that isn't an abuse of his power: He won't quit Twitter.

He's afraid to quit Twitter. Charlie Warzel of The New York Times explains why:
... there’s something special about Twitter’s influence. Though the audience is larger on YouTube and Facebook, deplatformed pro-Trump figures seem most anguished about losing their 280-character missives. Twitter is the platform of choice not because of reach, but because it provides a unique on-ramp to the mainstream media conversation.

It’s where journalists hang out all day. Spats on Twitter are more visible to newsmakers and more likely to attract attention. The savviest pro-Trump figures learned long ago how to influence the conversation by baiting the press with outrageous commentary or by going up to the edge of violating the platform's rules. Without a Twitter account, they lose that power and influence.

... Yes, [Trump's] Facebook posts would likely be shared on Twitter all the same.... But losing access to Twitter would introduce at least some friction to the president’s current strategy of using late-night tweetstorms to provoke journalists.
Warzel is imagining the consequences if Twitter were to ban Trump. But why doesn't Trump cancel Twitter? If he decided to leave, many right-wingers would go with him. He could do serious harm to the site, and it would be perfectly legal.

He won't. He's scared. He's an attention addict and a conflict addict. He needs his fix, and he gets the best drugs from Twitter. Even if you explained Parler or Gab to him and he made one of them famous by moving his diatribes there, it just wouldn't be the same to him.

The powerful man in the world is too needy to quit a social media site. That's pathetic.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

NO, BASIC HUMAN NATURE DOESN'T EXPLAIN WHY TRUMP GETS AWAY WITH EVERYTHING

Like the rest of us, Brian Klaas of The Washington Post has noticed that Donald Trump never pays a price for words and deeds that would end other politicians' careers.
In functioning democracies, politicians live and die by public opinion. George W. Bush certainly learned that lesson. After 9/11, his approval rating soared to 90 percent. As the Iraq War worsened and the economy collapsed, he hit a low of 25 percent. Nearly 7 out of 10 Americans changed their minds about him at some point during his presidency.

Trump is fundamentally different. According to Gallup, his highest approval rating has been 49 percent; his lowest, 35 percent. For 103 out of the 130 polls Gallup has conducted since Trump took office, his approval rating has been stuck between 37 percent and 43 percent....

Heck, during the pandemic 100,000 Americans have died and nearly 40 million Americans have become unemployed. And still Trump’s approval rating has moved up and down a few percentage points at most. How is that possible?
Klaas ascribes this, in large part, to simple human nature.
First, Trump gets away with it because the previously unthinkable has become routine. As a species, we are drawn to fresh and surprising information — something we could call “novelty bias.” What would surprise you more: Trump amplifying a lunatic conspiracy theory in a tweet or him unequivocally praising the sacrifices of immigrant nurses and doctors during the pandemic? The former happens all the time; the latter would provoke breathless commentary. Is Trump finally making his mythical pivot to being presidential? Is this a new general election strategy? For every other mainstream politician, that dynamic would be inverted.

That’s why this week’s Sunday morning shows focused on Joe Biden’s recent bungled joke (for which he quickly apologized). Meanwhile, Trump’s praise of a well-known anti-Semite and his false accusation of murder weren’t mentioned.
But Biden has been in politics for much longer than Trump and has been bungling jokes for much of his career. If human beings have a "novelty bias," it's Biden's gaffe we should be ignoring.

Klaas might be correct about how we perceive Trump now, but why did America react to him the way it did in 2015 and 2016, when he was first running for office? Most of us had never watched him talk about politics. He attacked John McCain. He attacked a disabled reporter. He attacked a Gold Star family. He said that Mexicans who come to America are invariably rapists. He expressed contempt for a series of women, often because of their looks. And then he bragged about sexual assault.

We were surprised. "Novelty bias"? That was novelty. And yet his standing in the polls never wavered.

Klaas continues:
Second, it’s not easy for humans to admit when we are wrong. It produces a feeling called cognitive dissonance. That has always been true. But for Trump voters, who have, by now, stuck with him despite him boasting about sexual assault, countless scandals and a steady stream of racism, the psychological cost of breaking ranks has soared. His supporters would have to say to themselves: “All of Trump’s previous conduct was acceptable, but this is the final straw!” There is a ratcheting effect. The more you were willing to accept, the harder it is to let go.
But Klaas just got finished telling us that George W. Bush went from near-unanimous approval to rejection by approximately three quarters of the American public. If we could change our minds then, why not now?

And finally:
Third, U.S. politics is now defined by a phenomenon called “motivated reasoning,” the tendency to see reality through the lens of desired outcomes. For many Trump voters, reality stretches to fit a prior worldview. Every Trump scandal proves that the “deep state” exists. Every new revelation about Trump’s unfitness for office proves that he’s the victim of “fake news.” Everything in our politics is filtered through the prism of pro-Trump/anti-Trump divides. We’ve reached the dystopian moment in our politics in which taking common-sense actions to stop the spread of a virus by wearing a mask is a partisan act.
But then why did Trump get away with all this during the 2016 campaign, when most Americans had never heard the phrases "deep state" and "fake news," and certainly weren't sworn enemies of either?

There's a simpler explanation: Trump survives because more than 40% of Americans -- including, apparently, a majority of white people, and a significant majority of white men -- don't think Trump has done anything particularly objectionable, and believe, in fact, that much of what he does is wonderful, including, in many cases, the very things the rest of us find horrifying. The racism, the authoritarianism, the bullying -- it's good. It's "politically incorrect." They know the rest of us find it all objectionable. They wallow in the fact that his behavior upsets us.

Voters in America are still capable of changing their minds about politicians. Trump's fans could, too. They just haven't seen any reason to do so.

HOW IT MUST PAIN TRUMP'S FOLLOWERS TO OBSERVE HIS CRUELTY!

As U.S. deaths from COVID-19 reach 100,000, President Trump -- laser-focused as always on America's most serious problems -- is picking a fight with Joe Scarborough, insinuating, despite all evidence, that Scarborough murdered Lori Klausutis, a staffer who died in the then-congressman's office in 2000.

The pro-Trump New York Post assumes that most of Trump's supporters wish he would stop behaving this way.
We suppose there are some Trump followers who enjoy this. The libs say horrible things about you, go ahead and say terrible things about them! There is a difference, though, between mocking someone’s ratings and hurting an innocent family with the memories of their tragic daughter because of a petty feud.

A much larger portion of Trump’s support, we’d wager, are people who like his policies and brush off his personality — or try to.

The brashness comes in handy when you make a call like finally moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem — being told “you can’t do that” means little to Trump. So he says some outrageous things on Twitter, who cares?

But is that really the president you want to be, sir? The president for whom people disregard half or even most of what you say as irrelevant?
In The Atlantic, NeverTrump conservative Peter Wehner contends that Trump's supporters merely "tolerate" this behavior as a means to an end.
A lot of human casualties result from the cruelty of malignant narcissists like Donald Trump—casualties, it should be said, that his supporters in the Republican Party, on various pro-Trump websites and news outlets, and on talk radio are willing to tolerate or even defend. Their philosophy seems to be that you need to break a few eggs to make an omelet. If putting up with Trump’s indecency is the price of maintaining power, so be it.
Do people really still believe this, nearly five years after Trump declared his candidacy? Do they believe that Trump's backers merely put up with his rages? If so, those backers could have given us a signal. In the 1990s, after the Monica Lewinsky story broke, Bill Clinton got high marks for job performance and low marks on personal approval in most polls. Trump's base makes no such distinction, no matter how repellent his behavior.

Because repellent behavior is what they want. Wehner's Atlantic colleague Adam Serwer had it right in 2018: the cruelty is the point.
At a rally in Mississippi, a crowd of Trump supporters cheered as the president mocked Christine Blasey Ford, the psychology professor who has said that Brett Kavanaugh, whom Trump has nominated to a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court, attempted to rape her when she was a teenager. “Lock her up!” they shouted....

It is not just that the perpetrators of this cruelty enjoy it; it is that they enjoy it with one another. Their shared laughter at the suffering of others is an adhesive that binds them to one another, and to Trump....

Somewhere on the wide spectrum between adolescent teasing and the smiling white men in ... lynching photographs are the Trump supporters whose community is built by rejoicing in the anguish of those they see as unlike them, who have found in their shared cruelty an answer to the loneliness and atomization of modern life.

... It is that cruelty, and the delight it brings them, that binds his most ardent supporters to him, in shared scorn for those they hate and fear: immigrants, black voters, feminists, and treasonous white men who empathize with any of those who would steal their birthright. The president’s ability to execute that cruelty through word and deed makes them euphoric. It makes them feel good, it makes them feel proud, it makes them feel happy, it makes them feel united. And as long as he makes them feel that way, they will let him get away with anything, no matter what it costs them.
It's conceivable that Trump's backers have a pang of guilt about the harm being done to Lori Klausutis's husband and family -- the real target is Scarborough, who has committed the unpardonable sin of criticizing Trump, for which he must be destroyed. The harm done to Klausutis's family is necessary collateral damage.

Trump's supporters could have had his policies without his personality at any time over the previous three and a half years. Mike Pence is ready to be a policy Trump without being, you know, Trump. If Trump voters don't like Trump's worst traits, they could have signaled this to pollsters and to their members of Congress.

They didn't. They like this. No, let me put that more accurately: This is what they like. This is the point of Trumpism.


Tuesday, May 26, 2020

NOW THE DISINFORMERS ARE CLAIMING THAT BIDEN IS IN POOR PHYSICAL HEALTH

In the last presidential election, the right tried to persuade us that Hillary Clinton was at death's door. You'll recall this, from October 2015:



With Joe Biden, they've mostly tried to persuade us that he's in the advanced stages of dementia -- but I see from Gateway Pundit that they also want us to believe he's too physically debilitated to serve.
Video of Biden Looking Very Frail at Veterans Memorial Sparks Concerns Over His Health

This is why Biden has been hiding in his basement for months.

Creepy Joe left his Delaware basement for the first time in over two months on Monday....

A video of 77-year-old Biden looking very frail sparked concerns over his health.

Biden shuffled his feet and gripped his wife’s hand as he walked over to his car as he was leaving the veterans memorial in Delaware.

One observer said, “People suffering from dementia often have a certain distinct walk. This is what it looks like.”

Is it true that there's a distinct dementia walk? If so, I'm looking at AP footage from the same event, and Biden doesn't seems to have that walk. His gait seems perfectly normal.



The moments captured in the tweet also appear in the YouTube video, at 1:09. It's a tighter shot, so we don't get to see Biden's walk. But nothing looks particularly abnormal. Is it possible that the video in the tweet is doctored to make Biden look frail and hesitant when he isn't?

Imagine what these people would say if Biden walked down three steps as tentatively as Trump did in Korea last year:



Imagine if Biden demanded a golf cart to travel 700 yards for a photo op, the way Trump did at the G7 in Sicily in 2017.

Well, now we know that they're going to work this angle, too. They're going to throw everything they have at him.

HUME AND MORAN TRY TO TURN BIDEN'S MASK INTO DUKAKIS'S HELMET

Yesterday, Brit Hume gave President Trump an in-kind campaign contribution:
Hours after President Trump was spotted Monday partaking in public Memorial Day remembrances without a face mask, he hopped on Twitter to retweet a Fox News commentator criticizing former vice president Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, for wearing one.
This was the tweet:



After Hume was (underastandably) attacked for this, he followed up with an even snottier response:



We don't know the health status of every Secret Service agent who protects the Bidens at their home. We don't know the health status of every delivery person who might have come to the door. And even if Biden is 100% likely to be virus-free, he's modeling good behavior in a pandemic.

But no, he looked wrong, according to Hume's original tweet. And Terry Moran of ABC News seems to agree -- though he wants you to believe he's just asking.



I told you a few weeks ago that if Joe Biden loses, it probably won't be because of Hunter Biden or Tara Reade. I'd say now that it won't be because of "you ain't black." It'll be because the media decides to spend every day portraying Biden as a hapless dork, which is what happened to quite a few Democrats before him.

Hume and Moran want to turn Biden's mask into Mike Dukakis's helmet.



We all agree in this country that this was an unspeakably awful politcal blunder, and that Dukakis should have known he would be judged harshly for this photo op. A 2013 Politico story begins:
Matt Bennett can still hear the reporters laughing, all 90 of them. He can still picture Sam Donaldson doubled over, guffawing, on a riser that looked out over a dusty field in suburban Detroit. Bennett was a 23-year-old political rookie in 1988 when he was sent to a General Dynamics facility in Sterling Heights, Mich., to organize a campaign stop for Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis: a ride in a 68-ton M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tank. The visit, meant to bolster the candidate’s credibility as a future commander-in-chief, would go down as one of the worst campaign backfires in history.

Following the event, after the reporters’ laughter subsided and Dukakis’s entourage was preparing to leave, one of the candidate’s traveling aides approached Bennett. “Nice event, Matt” he deadpanned. “It may have cost us the election. But beside that, it was great.”
I get it -- voters can't be expected to refrain from making superficial judgments. But it would be nice if reporters wouldn't encourage voters to make those judgments -- especially when the shaming doesn't go both ways. Why are some of these not regarded as dorky, embarrassing, Dukakis-like moments?



This is how they get every Democrat who's at all deficient in swagger. They couldn't beat Bill Clinton or Barack Obama this way. But this is a large part of how they've beaten every other Democratic presidential candidate since 1980. And they clearly relish the prospect of doing it to Biden.

Monday, May 25, 2020

RIGHT-WING DISINFORMATION NEVER TAKES A DAY OFF

I spotted this in my Twitter feed a little while ago:



In New York City, large religious gatherings are still banned, and dispersals of large groups of Jewish worshipers have featured prominently in the news.
On April 28, Mr. de Blasio personally oversaw the dispersal of a crowd of 2,500 mourners who had gathered in Williamsburg for the funeral of a rabbi who died of the virus. Two days later, the police issued five fire code violations and six summonses after officers found large groups of worshipers hiding in two Hasidic synagogues in Williamsburg.

Mr. de Blasio’s strong denunciation of the April 28 event prompted some Jewish leaders to say he was singling out a particular community unfairly.
But de Blasio was right to be concerned:



So of course conservatives would want to catch de Blasio extending a privilege to Muslims that he won't extend to Jews.

But, um, what's wrong with the picture in the tweet above?

Notice what the Muslim worshipers are wearing: quilted jackets. Nobody wears those in New York City in late May. It's too warm and humid.

I'm sure you'll be shocked to learn that the photo is from before the pandemic. Well before, in fact. I found it in a post from a right-wing site dated February 3, 2017.



The retweeter -- GrrrGraphics Cartoons -- isn't just some Twitter rando. He's Ben Garrison, one of the most popular pro-Trump cartoonists. (I hate-follow him.) Last year he was invited to a social media summit at the White House, but it was later announced that he wouldn't attend. This was after the media took a closer look at some of his work.



Yet Garrison is still a right-wing star. He has more than 213,000 followers on Twitter.

The right-wing disinformation machine never takes a day off.


IN NORTH CAROLINA, THE DEMOCRATIC GOVERNOR IS POPULAR. TRUMP ISN'T.

We all know that President Trump has to pick a fight with someone every day or he goes into withdrawal. Today it's the governor of North Carolina.
President Donald Trump on Monday morning threatened to move August’s Republican National Convention out of North Carolina unless there are guarantees the state will let everyone attend.




If you ignore the life-and-death consequences, this seems like a shrewd political move -- Governor Roy Cooper is a Democrat who's up for reelection in a state that leans slightly Republican. Trump won the state by a little less than 4 points in 2016.

But according to a poll released at the beginning of this month, Trump isn't popular in the state, and the governor is -- particularly now.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper has an approval rating of 60 percent in a new High Point University poll....

When asked, "Do you approve or disapprove of the way Roy Cooper is handling his job as governor of North Carolina?" 60 percent of adults said they approved, 20 percent said they disapproved and 20 percent said they did not know or refused to answer....

In April of 2019, Cooper had an approval rating of 41 percent among North Carolinians, according to the HPU poll.

The same adults who were asked about Cooper in the survey were also asked if they approved of how President Donald Trump is handling his job as president. Trump's approval rating was 44 percent, 46 percent disapproved and 10 percent did not know or refused to answer.
And in a separate poll released earlier in the month:
Despite three straight weeks of protests against Gov. Roy Cooper’s stay-at-home order, a huge majority of North Carolinians polled by Meredith College approve of the order....

Over three-quarters of respondents (76.3 percent) support Cooper’s extension of the stay-at-home order until at least May 8 and his decision to close the state’s public schools has an even greater approval rating at 77.8 percent, the poll shows.

Nearly three-quarters of those polled (72.2 percent) said they don’t want public schools reopened this academic year.

A press release from the Meredith Poll says that “a large majority of citizens do not want to quickly return to activities, such as eating at restaurants, going to bars or movie theaters, or even getting a haircut.”
(Phased reopening is taking place in the state now.)

North Carolina is a swing state, but in four polls conducted since the beginning of April, Cooper has led Republican Roy Forest by margins ranging from 14 to 27 points. Trump vs. Biden? It's a tossup -- the Real Clear Politics average has Trump up by just 1.

Keep in mind that North Carolina is one of the 24 U.S. states that still have unchecked virus spread, according to researchers at Imperial College London. A graph of the numbers makes clear that the state hasn't bent the curve.



The number of cases in Mecklenburg County, where Charlotte is located peaked early, although positive tests are rising again as testing ramps up.

Do politcal conventions even have an effect on the November vote? The 2016 Democratic convention was in Philadelphia -- after which Democrats lost Pennsylvania. Four years early, the Democrats had their convention in Charlotte -- then lost North Carolina, a state they'd won in 2008. The Republican conventions in 2004 and 2008 were in New York City and Minneapolis; Republicans lost both states.

Trump ay think this is a smart fight to pick, but this is really just a standard-issue Trump tantrum. To state the obvious, he wants the adulation of crowds, even if it kills people.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

OH, LOOK, IT'S TRUMP'S ASTROTURF DOCTORS

Grace-Marie Turner is contributor to Forbes -- or at least to a part of the Forbes website that publishes self-selected pieces by "contributors" who aren't on staff. Turner has just published this at Forbes, and your right-wing relatives have probably posted it to Facebook already:
600 Physicians Say Lockdowns Are A ‘Mass Casualty Incident’

More than 600 of the nation’s physicians sent a letter to President Trump this week calling the coronavirus shutdowns a “mass casualty incident” with “exponentially growing negative health consequences” to millions of non COVID patients.

“The downstream health effects...are being massively under-estimated and under-reported. This is an order of magnitude error," according to the letter initiated by Simone Gold, M.D., an emergency medicine specialist in Los Angeles.
Okay, let's back up.

Who is Grace-Marie Turner? She's the founder and president of the Galen Institute, which describes itself as a "public policy research organization" favoring "individual freedom, consumer choice, competition, and innovation in the health sector." If the buzzwords don't give the game away, maybe Turner's long-standing ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council -- ALEC -- will make the group's leanings clear. Turner is also affiliated with the Heartland Institute, a Koch-funded organization that promotes climate change denialism.

We knew this letter was coming, and that Dr. Simone Gold would be involved, because AP told us a few days ago that the Republican Party was rounding up doctors to promote Republican talking points.
Republican political operatives are recruiting “extremely pro-Trump” doctors to go on television to prescribe reviving the U.S. economy as quickly as possible, without waiting to meet safety benchmarks proposed by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.

The plan was discussed in a May 11 conference call with a senior staffer for the Trump reelection campaign organized by CNP Action, an affiliate of the GOP-aligned Council for National Policy. A leaked recording of the hourlong call was provided to The Associated Press by the Center for Media and Democracy, a progressive watchdog group.

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....

The first signature on the letter was Dr. Simone Gold, an emergency medicine specialist in Los Angeles who is listed as a member of the Save Our Country Coalition on the group’s website. She has recently appeared on conservative talk radio and podcast programs to advocate for the use of hydroxychloroquine....
Yes, Gold has promoted hydroxychloroquine on Dennis Prager's podcast.

Who else is quoted in Turner's piece?
“Ending the lockdowns are not about Wall Street or disregard for people’s lives; it about saving lives,” said Dr. Marilyn Singleton, a California anesthesiologist and one of the signers of the letter. “We cannot let this disease change the U.S. from a free, energetic society to a society of broken souls dependent on government handouts.” She blogs about the huge damage the virus reaction is doing to the fabric of society.

Dr. Jane Orient, executive director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, also warns that restrictions are having a huge negative impact on non-COVID patients.

“Even patients who do get admitted to hospital, say for a heart problem, are prisoners. No one can be with them. Visitation at a rare single-story hospital was through closed outside window, talking via telephone,” she wrote us. “To get permission to go to the window you have to make an appointment (only one group of two per day!), put on a mask, get your temperature taken, and get a visitor's badge of the proper color of the day.”

How many cases of COVID-19 are prevented by these practices? “Zero,” Dr. Orient says.
It may surprise you to learn that a doctor would blithely proclaim these precautions useless, but it won't surprise you if you know anything about the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, of which Orient is the executive director. (Singleton is affiliated.) The Washington Post recently described AAPS as
a right-wing group that has lobbied in favor of broader exemptions from inoculation requirements for religious and other beliefs. Its periodical has published reports falsely tying child vaccination to autism and advancing a discredited link between abortion and breast cancer.
Here's more information:
The AAPS ... has its house journal, the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons (JPANDS). The journal is not considered a valid, peer-reviewed journal for inclusion in major scientific databases, for obvious reasons, and has been listed by Quackwatch as “Fundamentally Flawed” ... JPANDS has for instance published (this is a short list) a rather famous and extensively debunked article on the supposed link between breast cancer and abortion, and between oral contraceptives and cancer ..., articles defending HIV denialism (a mainstay with the AAPS), ... articles defending hyperbaric oxygen therapy to treat multiple sclerosis, articles (infomercials, really) pushing nutritional treatments for ADHD and herpes; [and] an article (from late 2008) claiming that Barack Obama uses neuro-linguistic programming to exercise mind control over people at his rallies....

Orient is also a creationist and signatory to the sadly silly Discovery Institute initiated petition A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism.
So this is a collection of politcal operatives and right-wing crackpots doing the GOP's bidding at the GOP's request, even though Turner angrily insists that the letter is a totally spontaneous outpouring of concern from kindly physicians.
Dr. Simone Gold initiated the letter signed by 600 physicians because of her passionate concern for millions of patients who are not receiving care. Some critics on Twitter have cited an irrelevant Associated Press article to discredit her work, claiming it was a Republican “fronted” effort. Not true. “This was 100% physician grassroots. There was 0% GOP,” Dr. Gold told us.
LOL.

And yet, alas, your right-wing relatives will fall for this, and some news organizations have fallen for it too.

HOW (I ASSUME) A NUMBER OF RIGHT-WINGERS ARE SPENDING MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND (updated)

The front page of today's New York Times is a list of those who've died from the coronavirus.



This is a stark reminder of the pain and suffering of the last couple of months. It's very moving -- but I bet there aren't many tears being shed in certain precincts of the right.

I assume that several conservative media outlets have given young staffers an assignment: discredit this list. Those staffers will be asked to go over the list of names with a fine-toothed comb, looking for anyone whose death might be attributable to something other than the virus. Maybe the "debunkings" won't appear in "respectable" right-wing publications, but they'll show up on the sleazier sites, and they'll worm their way into social media. Right-wingers will go on telling themselves, and the rest of us, that the pandemic is fale news and the virus is no worse than the flu.

We know that 100,000 is an undercount -- public health authorities haven't caught up with everyone who's died of the virus. We know that the elderly and frail can spend years with relatively stable health, which means that when they contract the virus and lose their lives, the virus was the reason. We know that even if an error or two made their way onto the Times list, it was an important effort to make the crisis real and to put it in human terms.

But I predict that right-wingers will try to turn it into fake news.

*****

UPDATE: I've learned from the comments that someone has already found a name on the Times list that appeared in error.



Crimmins appears to be a grad student in history at the University of Chicago.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

HOW MUCH OF TRUMPISM IS JUST TOXIC MASCULINITY?

You've probably heard that Joe Biden is doing better among seniors than Donald Trump. Axios examines that more closely:
Among the 65+ crowd, it's women driving the exodus....

A Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday shows Biden leading Trump by 22 points among female voters 65+, while Trump leads Biden by 11 points among older men. That's what gets Biden to a 10-point overall lead over the president among seniors.

"There is a big gender gap among seniors in the matchup, just as there is among all registered voters," says poll director Doug Schwartz. "Older women really like Joe Biden, and they really don’t like Donald Trump."
The gender gap in that poll among white men of all ages is massive:



But the gender gap in Trump's appeal isn't entirely a white thing. In 2018, Pew looked at the 2016 electorate and found, among other things, that while the overwhelming majority of black male voters surveyed (81%) voted for Hillary Clinton, 14% of black men voted for Trump -- while support for Trump among black women was essentially zero (98% voted for Clinton).

The first explanation for Trump's victory was (say it with me, boys and girls) economic anxiety. Eventually, smart people moved on to a different explanation, found in, among other studies, a survey from the Public Religion Research Institute:
White working-class voters who say they often feel like a stranger in their own land and who believe the U.S. needs protecting against foreign influence were 3.5 times more likely to favor Trump than those who did not share these concerns.

... being in fair or poor financial shape actually predicted support for Hillary Clinton among white working-class Americans, rather than support for Donald Trump. Those who reported being in fair or poor financial shape were 1.7 times more likely to support Clinton, compared to those who were in better financial shape.
So the anxiety among Trump voters was cultural -- racial, to be specific -- rather than economic.

But I suspect that Trump appeals to his base not merely because he hates the same people the base hates. I think he appeals to his base -- particularly men -- simply because he hates. He's a bundle of rage. He wakes up every morning and expresses anger, on Twitter and in press conferences, and he gets away with it. He's succeeded in structuring a life in which he doesn't even have to pretend that he cares about most people's feelings -- he just says what he want to say and offends whomever he chooses to offend. In other words, he's completely selfish and unsocialized.

To a very large portion of the male population, that's incredibly appealing.

I'm sure social science can give the desire to want to live like this a more high-toned name than "Male Asshole Syndrome," but that's what I'll call it for now. Quite a few women have it, but it's generally a guy thing. I hope someday we'll read a study assessing this as a possible explanation for Trump's persistent appeal, particularly among men.

I'm not denying that racism and xenophobia are important to Trump's appeal. But he's also selling the fantasy of being able to live a life completely without empathy. And it seems a lot of men are buying.

Friday, May 22, 2020

THE NEW YORK TIMES TAKES REPUBLICAN BAD FAITH AND MAGICAL THINKING SERIOUSLY (AGAIN)

Headline in The New York Times:
Trump Suggests Virus Death Count Is Inflated. Most Experts Doubt It
So there are experts who think Trump may be right? The story doesn't find any. Nevertheless, Republican bad-faith arguments and Trumpian magical are given the benefit of the doubt.

The Times subhead is:
Senior White House and health officials have sought new ways to find the extent of infections and deaths, questioning whether official counts are inflating the toll of the virus.
This makes the pursuit of alternative facts seem like a legitimate exercise in truth-seeking. It isn't. It's clearly an exercise in persuading the public that the epidemic is not as bad as it's made out to be, as well as an exercise in mollifying our infantile president, who throws txemper tantrums when there's bad news for which he can be blamed.

The story tells us:
President Trump, eager to reopen the economy, has begun questioning the official coronavirus death toll, suggesting the numbers, which have hobbled his approval ratings and harmed his re-election prospects, are inflated.

In coronavirus task force and other White House meetings, conversations with health officials have returned to similar suspicions: that the data compiled by state health departments and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention include people who have died with the coronavirus but of other conditions. The numbers, some say, include too many “presumed” cases of Covid-19 and too many Americans who were never tested for the disease.
So are there knowledgeable people who agree with the White House, or even suspect that the White House may be right? The authors of the story (Noah Weiland, Maggie Haberman, and Abby Goodnough) didn't find any.
Most statisticians and public health experts say [Trump] is wrong; the death toll is probably far higher than what is publicly known. People are dying at their houses and nursing homes without ever being tested, and deaths early this year were likely misidentified as influenza or described only as pneumonia.

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, told lawmakers this month that the overall toll was likely an undercount. “I don’t know exactly what percent higher but almost certainly it is higher,” he said at a Senate health committee hearing.

Jennifer Nuzzo, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, which is closely tracking the coronavirus pandemic, said that “the officially reported numbers don’t reflect the true level of illness and death that have occurred.”

“We very much feel the reported numbers reflect an undercount,” she said....

Robert Anderson, who runs the mortality statistics branch of the C.D.C.’s National Center for Health Statistics, said the federal government deployed two parallel, related systems to tally deaths, one based on case reports and one on death certificates. He said it was unlikely that there was any kind of overcount.

“The case reporting system asks: Did the patient die from this illness?” he said. “It’s not asking if the patient with Covid-19 died. It’s asking if they died from Covid-19.” ...

At least one senior White House official has mentioned that hospitals could be inflating their coronavirus patient counts, responding to financial incentives — Medicare offers higher payments to providers for treating coronavirus patients. Several senior officials said they were unaware of such talk.

An official with the American Hospital Association disputed that idea.

“There’s guidance around what you have to do, and the clinician has to say, ‘This is the diagnosis,’” said Nancy Foster, the association’s vice president for quality and patient safety policy. “They’re putting their professional reputation on the line to say that.” ...

Epidemiologists are also rethinking their tabulations, but not in ways the White House would like. They have increasingly compared recent totals of deaths from all causes, which provide a more complete picture of the pandemic’s impact than tracking only deaths of people with confirmed diagnoses. Fatalities in the gap between the observed and normal numbers of deaths are called “excess deaths.” A study of mortality statistics in New York City showed more than 24,000 excess deaths from March 11 to May 2....

Trying to separate the cause of death in coronavirus-infected patients is “ludicrous,” said Dr. Alicia Skarimbas, a physician in Bergen County, N.J., who has treated around 75 Covid-19 patients.

“I have yet to have anyone infected with Covid die from anything else,” she said.
It sure sounds as if everyone with specialized knowledge relevant to this subject agrees that the counting has been done in good faith and has, if anything, missed many COVID-19 deaths. But we're assured by Weiland et al. that the White House pusuit of lower numbers is both sincere and worthwhile.
Inside the White House, doubts about the official numbers are pervasive, though they come in different forms. Mr. Trump is in search of good news to promote his administration’s response to the pandemic and to press states to reopen. Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, is a numbers obsessive and wants her own data to supplement information coming in from the states and the C.D.C. One official has even accused hospitals of potentially exaggerating their coronavirus patient counts to milk money from Medicare.

Top White House officials have even discussed appointing a “forensic” team to audit how some hospital systems and state health departments have been tallying infections and deaths, according to one senior administration official....

Dr. Birx ... has said publicly that the American health care system incorporates a generous definition of a death caused by Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

“In this country we’ve taken a very liberal approach to mortality,” Dr. Birx said at a White House news conference last month. “There are other countries that if you had a pre-existing condition, and let’s say the virus caused you to go to the I.C.U., and then have a heart or kidney problem — some countries are recording that as a heart issue or a kidney issue and not a Covid-19 death.” ...

Dr. Birx was caught off guard in April when states began incorporating both confirmed and “probable” cases and deaths, senior administration officials said, a change that encouraged a deeper suspicion among those who have doubted the overall mortality figures.
But if these arguments are all refuted by knowledgeable people -- see above -- then why present this as a White House exercise in truth-seeking? Why not identify it as what it is -- an effort to cook the books, and to distract from the strong evidence of an undercount by insisting there's an overcount?

But mainstream media reporters have been letting Republicans get away with bad-faith exercises like this for years now.



I guess they're not going to stop now.

IF THERE'S A BAD SECOND WAVE, TRUMP WON'T EVEN MAKE A HALF-HEARTED ATTEMPT TO SAVE US

There were a couple of weeks when President Trump appeared to be taking the coronavirus seriously. They coincided with some of the best approval ratings the ratings-obsessed president has ever had. You'd think that would have been enough to persuade him to stay the course and urge caution until effective testing and tracing could be put in place nationwide, assuming he could figure out a way to make that happen (or empower governors to do it and then take the credit). But then he was persuaded that he couldn't win reelection without forcing the economy open prematurely, even though it was obvious that customers would be reluctant to return (as has proved to be the case). Or maybe his rich donors threatened to abandon him if he didn't support a forced reopening. Or maybe it was all Jared Kushner's idea.

Whatever the motivation, Trump is now telling us that he won't support a second shutdown no matter how bad a second wave of infections gets.
President Donald Trump on Thursday said “we are not closing our country” if the U.S. is hit by a second wave of coronavirus infections.

“People say that’s a very distinct possibility, it’s standard,” Trump said when asked about a second wave during a tour of a Ford factory in Michigan.

“We are going to put out the fires. We’re not going to close the country,” Trump said. “We can put out the fires. Whether it is an ember or a flame, we are going to put it out. But we are not closing our country.”
Some of us have shown that we can put out the fires. Infection and death rates here in New York State are down significantly. But the numbers are up in states such as Texas, Florida, and even California. Nationwide, we're doing a bit better, but we still have roughly 20,000 new cases a day. That's a million new cases every seven weeks. And scientists think it might get worse in the fall?

Trump talks about putting out fires, but if the fires are bad enough, closures will be necessary to put them out.

So he's telling us he'll let the country burn.

I warned you about this last week. When Jared Kushner gave that interview to Time, most people focused on his non-committal response when he was asked whether Trump might try to postpone the presidential election. But I was concerned about this sentence from the interview:
“I really believe that once America opens up, it’ll be very hard for America to ever lock down again.”
I wrote:
Kushner doesn't say, "I really believe that once America opens up, we won't need to ever lock down again." He says "it'll be very hard."

... I worry that the plan is to pressure -- or compel -- the states not to shut down again, even if they have a bad wave of cases. The White House, congressional Republicans, and the right-wing plutocrats they listen to appear to be hellbent on keeping the economy open no matter how many people are getting sick or dying....

When Kushner says that "once America opens up, it’ll be very hard for America to ever lock down again," I hear that as "we intend to make it very hard for America to ever lock down again" -- by withholding federal aid from locked-down states, by refusing to extend another federal call for social distancing, and by propagandizing against additional shutdowns. I think the Trumpers, the congressional GOP, and the plutocrat wingnuts want us just to work and die (and shop) through the rest of this pandemic, and they're going to do everything they can to avoid a repeat of the measures that got us under 30,000 new cases and 2,000 deaths a day.
That's clearly the plan. As they see it, they gave in to the libs and the science eggheads once, and they're not going to do that again. They won't care how many ICUs are overrun. (The ICUs are overrun right now in Montgomery, Alabama.) Americans just assume that nothing will ever been done in this country to alleviate inequality, drug addiction, gun violence, or crumbling infrastructure -- and yet Republicans just keep getting elected, despite their refusal to address any of those issues seriously. The Trumpers clearly assume that they can treat the coronavirus the same way, with the same electoral results, even if hundreds of thousands die.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

PEOPLE ARE DYING BECAUSE TRUMP CAN'T UNDERSTAND THE POLLS

Fox News has another bad poll for the president:
The latest Fox News Poll finds voters trust Biden to do a better job than Trump on health care by 17 points, coronavirus by 9, and relations with China by 6. Trump is trusted more on the economy by a slim 3-point margin....

In the 2020 ballot test, Biden leads Trump by 48-40 percent. Biden’s 8-point advantage is outside the poll’s margin of error....

Among voters who are extremely motivated about voting this fall, Biden has a 12-point advantage (53-41 percent). More Biden supporters (69 percent) than Trump supporters (63 percent) feel extremely motivated to vote....

Trump’s personal favorable rating is net negative by 12 points: 43 percent view him positively, while 55 percent have an unfavorable opinion (including 45 percent “strongly” unfavorable). Biden has a net positive rating by 2 points: 48 percent favorable, 46 percent unfavorable (31 percent “strongly” unfavorable).
Notice that there's one good number for Trump in that sea of bad numbers. It's on the economy. Polls in the period leading up to the coronavirus crisis consistently showed (for better or worse) that voters regarded Trump as a good steward of the economy, however much they disliked him in other areas. They still feel that way.

Which means that Trump's decision to give up on trying to save lives because he fears he'll lose the election if he doesn't force the economy back into high gear is based on a misreading of the polls. Voters don't blame him for the economic downturn. However little he deserves it, much of the public trusts him on the econoy.

Trump doesn't understand that. Because he doesn't, he's literally killing people.

IF TRUMP LOSES IN NOVEMBER, COULD HE TAKE FOX NEWS DOWN WITH HIM?

The president of the United States -- laser-focused on America's most pressing problems as usual -- just tweeted this a little while ago:




I think a Trump loss in November is far from certain -- but it seems clear that he's worried. He's lining up scapegoats in case he's defeated. (Obviously he won't bear any of the blame, in his opinion.) Fox is definitely on the scapegoat list -- and it seems possible that Trump is planning to turn One America News Network, a portion of which might be on the verge of being purchased by investors linked to Donald Trump Jr., into a rival for Fox after a defeat.

So if we beat Trump, will Fox lose a portion of its audience, at Trump's urging?

Some Trumpers seem prepared to abandon Fox, if they haven't already.





Or perhaps it's more likely that Trump is trying to browbeat Fox into providing him even more fawning coverage than usual prior to the election. If he loses, he might be too busy crying about "voter fraud!!!" to blame Fox.

But assuming he actually does leave office, he's likely to give Fox some of the blame , and his fan base will probably do the same. If it means that lunatic OANN becomes more powerful, maybe it's not much of a trade-off, but if Trump's scapegoating does real damage to Fox, that will be very satisfying.