1. says

    Yikes. This is bad. This was not unexpected.

    A University of Maryland analysis of anonymized smartphone data shows that Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s lifting of state-ordered business closures has had the predictable, and warned-of, effect: More than 62,000 additional out-of-state visitors are arriving daily. That’s a 13% increase in state-to-state travel.

    […] almost all of that traffic came from adjacent Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Florida, four states where business restrictions kept restaurants, theaters and other nonessential service businesses closed when Georgia’s reopened. Georgia, then, created a near-perfect scenario for spreading the virus inside and outside the state. […]


  2. says

    Lynna @ #497, the whole logic of it never made any sense. They kept boasting of their “moderate” approach, like all these other polities, including the other Scandinavian countries, were just being “extreme” for the hell of it. It’s a goddamned virus. It’s not negotiating with us. Because it’s a goddamned virus. It’s not like these RNA segments were going to say “Well, these Swedes are taking such a reasonable, moderate approach. Very well then, we’ll respond in kind. Fair play and all that.” The virus doesn’t respond in proportion to our moderation or bullshit courage or bogus rants about tyranny. It takes advantage of the opportunity to invade. Because it’s a goddamned virus.

  3. says

    Just released by the House Intel Committee: “Russia Investigation Transcripts and Documents.”

    It’s a lot.

    …These transcripts should have been released long before now, but the White House held up their release to the public by refusing to allow the Intelligence Community to make redactions on the basis of classified information, rather than White House political interests. Only now, and during a deadly pandemic, has the President released his hold on this damning information and evidence.

    Like the Ukraine investigation that would follow it, the investigation into the Trump campaign’s effort to seek and utilize Russian help in 2016 and to obstruct justice, reveal a President who believes that he is above the law. But we are a country where the truth still matters and where right still matters. Our investigation into the Trump campaign, and the evidence we uncovered despite formidable obstruction, affirms that.

  4. johnson catman says

    re Lynna @496 in previous thread about Fox News contributor Pete Hegseth: These assholes are going to get a lot of people killed. I am uncomfortable going out as it is, but what the fucking fuck is wrong with these sociopaths?
    re Lynna @498 in previous thread about Georgia getting extra business from adjacent states by opening: The local news here (NC) had one of the “reopen NC” crackpots complaining that because our state wasn’t reopening, other states would reap the benefits of increased revenue and NC would lose out. I just wanted to reach through the screen and smack them. Georgia and the adjacent states will also reap increased virus outbreaks and deaths. I just don’t understand the willful ignorance and just plain dumbfuckery.

  5. says

    If anyone can get the NYT link, I would appreciate it. They have a new report that the WH has invited a group of World War II veterans to Washington for VE Day photo ops. (The group had evidently been planning to go to Russia, but naturally that was canceled.) They’re inviting a group of men in their 90s to travel from around the country and spend the day doing group activities during a pandemic. The report had quotes from one of the men’s daughters saying inviting them was irresponsible and could endanger not just them but their families when they returned. They’re apparently going ahead with it even though one of Trump’s personal valets just tested positive. A Trump spokesfool attacked the media for even questioning the wisdom of the plan and talked about how the men’s voices needed to be heard or some such nonsense.

  6. johnson catman says

    re SC @5:

    A Trump spokesfool attacked the media for even questioning the wisdom of the plan and talked about how the men’s voices needed to be heard or some such nonsense.

    They could be heard by Skype or some other web-method without risking their lives for a god-damned photo op for The Orange Toddler-Tyrant.

  7. says

    johnson catman @ #4, as the various pacts and coalitions amongst the states in different regions (the Western States Pact, the Coalition of Northeastern Governors, the Midwestern Alliance) have formed and expanded, I’ve had a grim laugh wondering who would want to be in the Southern States Suicide Pact with like Georgia and Texas.

  8. says

    johnson catman @ #6, yes! And it’s not like WWII veterans have been marginalized and silenced all these years. They’re probably the most revered group in the country!

  9. says


    The only person signing this motion to dismiss is the lawyer William Barr installed after he removed the U.S. attorney who oversaw the Flynn case after Robert Mueller handed it off.

    No other line attorneys.

  10. tomh says

    @ #5 Hi SC. This was on their Live Coronavirus Update page which I thought they were still providing for free. Anyway, this is the item:

    The White House invites a group of World War II veterans — all older than 95 — for a commemoration event.

    The White House has invited eight World War II veterans — each older than 95 and part of the age group most at risk if they contract Covid-19 — to take part in a photo-op Friday morning at the White House and an event at the war memorial to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Victory Day, Michael D. Shear reports.

    The event, which has not yet been publicized, includes an opportunity for the men to take pictures at the White House with the secretaries of defense and state, the first lady Melania Trump and the president, according to a schedule prepared by the Greatest Generations Foundation, which organized the event.

    The schedule says the men will be tested before they enter the White House grounds. The group is then expected to ride in the president’s motorcade to the memorial for a ceremony before departing Washington later on Friday.

    The event has raised questions about whether the celebration is putting the men in danger by asking them to potentially expose themselves to the virus when the capital and much of the country remain under orders to restrict nonessential travel.

    “I think its very irresponsible to have the last remaining World War II veterans travel across the country to take a photograph during a global pandemic,” said Alex Melikian, the granddaughter of Sgt. Gregory Melikian, 97, one of the men who will be meeting the president on Friday.

    “People over the age of 80 have the highest chance of passing away from this. If he gets it, this could be the end,” she said of her grandfather, who was a radio operator during the war. “I know it’s his choice to go, but it’s irresponsible to even have an event like this in the first place.”

    The visit will come a day after the White House confirmed that a military aide who worked at the White House recently tested positive, raising questions about whether the president and others who were potentially exposed should be self-quarantined to ensure that they do not further spread the virus. White House officials said that the “president and the vice president have since tested negative for the virus, and they remain in great health.”

    “I’ve had very little contact, personal contact, with this gentleman,” Mr. Trump said on Thursday, adding that the White House would increase the frequency of its internal testing from once a week to once a day. Mr. Trump said he tested negative on Wednesday.

  11. says

    Hi, tomh. Thanks! I thought I got a subscription screen over the NYT page and couldn’t find a report (yet) anywhere else, but it was a screen requiring a login. I actually have an OG account there from many years ago, but I’m too distracted right now to try to reactivate it or set up a new one. Maybe next week…

  12. says

    Matt Yglesias:

    Especially in light of the facts in this story [the article @ #12], it seems to me like a huge tell that Reade is ducking various mainstream television interview opportunities in favor of doing this weird Megyn Kelly one.

    She paints a picture where she was ignored by the press, but actually her allegations were thoroughly investigated and experienced journalists couldn’t satisfactorally corroborate them.

    Then she returned with new charges & new evidence in new outlets.

    She turned down or bailed on several regular media interviews and has now chosen to do an online interview with Megyn Kelly.

  13. says

    Susan Hennessey:

    The DOJ filing here is absurd and contradicts the Department’s long standing positions. There is no reasonable explanation here other than that Bill Barr is seeking to undo the Mueller investigation on behalf of Trump while the world is distracted by a deadly global pandemic.

    When Barr anticipated that Trump was planning to pardon Roger Stone, he stepped in to alter the sentencing recommendation. Now with Trump all but promising to pardon Flynn, Barr is stepping in again to spare Trump the trouble.

  14. says

    Steve Vladeck:

    Under Rule 48(a) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, a government motion to dismiss an indictment—even after a guilty plea—requires “leave of court.”

    That leave may well be forthcoming, but it’s up to Judge Sullivan, not DOJ—and is not automatic.

  15. says

    Elie Mystal in the Nation – “We Didn’t Need Video to Know Ahmaud Arbery Was Lynched”:

    Why do white people need video? Why does the white justice system refuse to even consider taking action against the destroyers of black lives unless there is video? Why do we have to wait until the entire black community can be traumatized by video evidence of a lynching before some white people are moved to act?

    By now, many have seen the lynching of Ahmaud Arbery. Arbery, a 25-year-old African American, was shot dead in Glynn County, Ga., by a father-and-son team of racists who suspected he had committed burglaries in the area. In reality Arbery was jogging through his own neighborhood, in broad freaking daylight. The video shows the two men chasing Arbery in their truck, stopping him, scuffling with him, and then shooting him dead as he tried to run away.

    The two men who murdered Arbery, Gregory McMichael, 64, and his 34-year-old son, Travis McMichael, have not been arrested.

    The video is sickening. Watch it yourself if you don’t believe me. And if you’re white, you may not, because I’m merely a black man trying to explain the acknowledged facts of the case.

    The thing to remember is that this video, which was leaked this week, contains no new information. Arbery was shot dead on February 23. Police have had everything they’ve needed to arrest these men since then. That’s because the McMichaels’ own “official” story is an admission of crime.

    Of course, they weren’t arrested or charged. And they still haven’t been, even now after the video’s release. Because in addition to the dripping white privilege that the McMichaels enjoyed to help them escape arrest at the scene of their crime, the McMichaels also have friends in the prosecutor’s office.

    The Arbery case is on its third district attorney since he was killed in February. It turns out that Gregory McMichael is (wait for it) a former police officer and used to work as an investigator in the district attorney’s office.

    The current DA on the case, Tom Durden, still hasn’t issued an arrest warrant for the McMichaels. But he announced this week that he would send the case up to a grand jury. He made that decision after the video was leaked. Video that Tom Durden had for at least a month before it was made available to the public.

    With the video comes the outrage. With the video comes the willingness of the white justice system to engage in some performative concern over the death of Ahmaud Arbery.

    But make no mistake, George and Travis McMichael described in their own words how they executed a lynching. The police didn’t care. The prosecutors didn’t care. The governor didn’t care. If there weren’t video of the event, no white person in a position of authority would care.

    I don’t know why it takes video. I don’t know how many black men are buried while their killers walk free because nobody happened to record their final, terrifying moments as they succumbed to unrelenting white supremacy. I don’t know why white people must be titillated by the snuff films of murdered blacks before some of them are willing to consider the notion of justice.

    I also know that video isn’t enough. Video only makes white people shake their heads and mutter platitudes about the need for investigations and trials. Video only makes white people marvel at the wanton destruction of black lives. Video is not enough to make white people put a stop to the killings. Video won’t make white people change their laws, change their votes, or change their implicit biases when they see a black man jogging past their homes.

    White people will forget about this video, soon. There was video of Stephon Clark being shot 20 times, and his killers were never charged. There was video of Alton Sterling being shot to death, and his killers were never charged. There was video of Terence Crutcher being shot to death; his killer was acquitted. I could go on and on with names of black people who were shot dead on video and whom most white people have forgotten about.

    Black people don’t need to see the video to know Ahmaud Arbery was lynched, and that we might be next.

  16. says

    SC, exactly. And that’s why it found it’s way into the White House to infect one of Trump’s valets. The virus does not care that Trump had instructed his staff to protect him from exposure to the virus.

    The virus doesn’t care if Trump thinks he would look bad wearing a face mask.

    The virus doesn’t care if the governor of Nebraska has decided NOT to report infections in prisons, nursing homes or meat-packing plants. The virus will continue, like a virus, no matter what propaganda unethical politicians spew.

    It will refuse to be hidden.

  17. says

    From text quoted by tom in comment 10:

    “I’ve had very little contact, personal contact, with this gentleman,” Mr. Trump said on Thursday, adding that the White House would increase the frequency of its internal testing from once a week to once a day. Mr. Trump said he tested negative on Wednesday.

    How can Trump have “had very little contact” with a person that brought him meals, that played out his clothes, and so forth?

  18. says

    From SC’s link in comment 3:

    Mr. Flynn previously pleaded guilty to making false statements. In the Government’s assessment, however, he did so without full awareness of the circumstances..

    Are they making the “I’m too stupid/uninformed to be aware of the circumstances” argument for Flynn? Seems like an odd argument to make to excuse the actions of a National Security Advisor.

  19. says

    From Adam Schiff:

    Flynn pled guilty to lying to the FBI about his illicit Russian contacts.

    His lies do not now become truths.

    This dismissal does not exonerate him.

    But it does incriminate Bill Barr.

    In the worst politicization of the Justice Department in its history.

    Bill Barr should be impeached.

  20. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    “When history looks back on this decision, how do you think it will be written?”

    Barr: “Well, history is written by the winners [smug laughter] so it largely depends on who’s writing the history.”

    These people are comic book villains. Cartoonishly evil.

  21. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    WaPo – Where Americans are still staying at home the most
    (Interactive county-by-county map at the link.)

    U.S. residents began to inch out of their homes, according to new cellphone data. But even as states begin to “open up,” more Americans appear to be staying put than sprinting out the door.
    as of April 30, people were still at home an average of 89 percent of the time.
    They’re going to parks and grocery stores […] Workplace visits […] dropped steeply in mid-March and has barely risen.
    In general, people in rural areas are away more than people in urban and suburban areas, in large part because stores, services and essential workplaces are much farther away and delivery services are rare or nonexistent. But the trend lines are very similar across all types of places.

    The data clearly shows that when Americans were told it was time to stay home, most people did. It also indicates that they are deciding for themselves when to go back out.

  22. blf says

    Locally, the S.France Mediterranean seaside village where I live recently published some Covid-19 statistics. As of c.3 days ago, there is only one hospitalised Covid-19 patient. Since lockdown began almost eight weeks ago, only 30 total have been hospitalised, two very elderly people have sadly died, but (as previously mentioned in this series of poopyhead threads) several of the local nursing homes have had no cases whatsoever. There’s also c.100 people in strict isolation at a community-run facility as “suspect cases”. The statistics are rather amateurishly presented and incomplete (e.g., nothing whatsoever is said about testing, ICU, &tc), and possibly inconsistent (some totals don’t seem to add up), but probably transparent (i.e., unlikely anything is being deliberately hidden).

    The chef who owns one of my favourite restaurants is “chomping at the bit” to reopen — unsurprising, it’s both their passion and family’s livelihood (the partner helps at busy times) — and is planning to reopen, take-away only, as soon as possible (next week, I think, when France will no longer be in lockdown). I’m not (yet) tried of my own cooking, but the idea of a professionally-prepared meal by a chef I’ve known for many years is tantalizing…

  23. Saad says

    You know you’re powerless and living under a dictatorship when the strongest penalty you can impose on your public servants is to try to scare them with a vague threat of history not remembering them nicely.

  24. blf says

    This is a problem which — somewhat embarrassingly, as I have some experience working with hard-of-hearing — had never occurred to me, Face masks for the deaf: Covid 19’s communication challenge for the hearing impaired (video). Rather cleverly, the interviews with hard-of-hearing people do not have an audio track, they are only subtitled (in English): “How to lip read when everyone’s face is hidden behind a mask? That is the challenge facing deaf people across the world as the Covid-19 pandemic makes face masks a part of daily life. The answer could be transparent face masks but such masks are in short supply, leading some to make their own.”

    Unrelated, and not at all political, Paris by Night: FRANCE 24 meets with night wanderers despite coronavirus lockdown measures (video): “France’s lockdown measures are amid the strictest in Europe, as the country tries to curb the coronavirus pandemic. Happy and moving Paris, usually known for its night wanderers, has changed and given place to calm and silence. But not all Parisians are respecting lockdown measures and FRANCE 24 met them during the night: some are simply wandering, but others don’t have other choice as the streets are sometimes their home.”

  25. blf says

    There’s an apparently famous(?) Ozland chef who is also a kook. Recently, Pete Evans fined [AUD]$25,000 by Therapeutic Goods Administration over coronavirus claims relating to BioCharger (24-April-2020). The BioCharger is a woo-woo device, probably complete with quantum, described as “hybrid subtle energy revitalisation platform came with a [AUD]$14,990 price tag and claimed to optimise and improve potential health, wellness and athletic performance [… t]he website claimed it replicates light, frequencies, harmonics, pulsed electromagnetic fields and voltage that are found in nature, for a variety of treatments. [… A] video that Evans posted on April 9, in which he said: It’s programmed with a thousand different recipes and there’s a couple in there for the Wuhan coronavirus.” Geesh!

    Anyways, kook chef is back, Australian celebrity chef Pete Evans under fire for sharing views of UK conspiracy theorist David Icke (as per several previous comments in this series of poopyhead threads, Icke has been kicked off both farcebork and twittering for spruiking† Covid-19 nonsense (extreme antisemitism apparently wasn’t sufficient)):

    On Tuesday, 11 days after the Therapeutic Goods Administration fined him $25,200 for spruiking[] a [AUD]$15,000 light machine to fight coronavirus, Evans urged his Instagram followers to watch a three-hour-long interview in which Icke simultaneously claims Covid-19 is a fake pandemic with no virus and links infections to 5G antenna installations.


    According to the Grauniad’s article on the BioCharger woo machine incident, Chef Pete Evans criticised for trying to sell $15,000 light device to fight coronavirus, the kook is also an anti-vaxxer, and called Covid-19 Wuhan coronavirus. With classic Grauniad snark: “There is no evidence that [Covid-19] can be treated or cured by coloured lights.” And the kook has form, “In 2017 doctors felt compelled to condemn Evans’s documentary The Magic Pill, which claimed that following his paleo diet guidelines for five weeks could drastically reduce symptoms of diabetes, cancer and autism.”

    Of course, not all chefs are eejits / kooks; e.g., French chef [Eric] Ripert feeds New York’s front-line medical workers, “The goal, said the renowned chef, is to assist ‘people who take enormous risks, see horrible things during the day — when they return to their hotel, they can relax and eat something tasty.'”

      † Spruik is apparently Ozland slang(?) for selling or promoting; the etymology is unknown but possibly came from Afrikaans with soldiers returning from the Boer War.

  26. KG says

    Some interesting UK reports from the Grauniad:

    Black and brown people must be at the centre of the Covid-19 story in the UK
    (so many have contributed, and in some case died. working in the NHS, care homes, etc.)

    Black people in the UK four times more likely to die of Covid-19 than whites. Differences persist when locality, age and wealth are taken into account. Possibly because so many are in “front-line” occupations.

    On a different topic:
    <A href=”>The planned contract tracing app in the UK could violate privacy laws. (This morning, it’s emerged that it may be dropped in favour of the Google/Apple app. I woludn’t necessarily trust that any more than one sponsored by Johnson’s crew.)

  27. johnson catman says

    re tomh @10:

    . . . adding that the White House would increase the frequency of its internal testing from once a week to once a day.

    Everyone can get a test if they want one. As long as they work in the White House. Anyone else, not so much. As a matter of fact, it is better if they don’t test everyone so that the number of confirmed cases keeps going down.
    I don’t think I can stand another eight months of The Orange Toddler-Tyrant and his band of sociopath grifters. If he wins in November, I may have to sell everything and move to another country just so I don’t have to see his mug or listen to his whining.

  28. KG says

    Sorry, missed a ” @29. here is is: <A href=””>again.

    Some more:
    UK ministers were warned about the dangers in care homes, particularly if patients discharged from hospital were sent back to them – as they have been.

    Why the UK testing figures have fallen over the past few days. The government focused on pretending they had met an arbitrary target set by Matt Hancock, the health minister, not on doing what would be most useful.

    The government is outsourcing the recruitment and training of contact tracers to a private company, ignoring the fact that local councils already employ thousands of them – people who know the job, and their local area.

  29. blf says

    Not entirely sure what I think of this stunt, Armed black citizens escort Michigan lawmaker to capitol after volatile rightwing protest:

    State representative Sarah Anthony says she wanted to highlight failure of policing after armed white protesters demonstrated

    A black lawmaker came to Michigan’s capitol with an escort of armed black citizens on Wednesday, days after white protesters with guns staged a volatile protest inside the state house, comparing the Democratic governor’s public health orders to tyranny.

    The state representative Sarah Anthony […] said she wanted to highlight what she saw as the failure of the Michigan capitol police to provide legislators with adequate security during the protest, which saw demonstrators with rifles standing in the legislative chamber above lawmakers.

    When traditional systems, whether it’s law enforcement or whatever, fail us, we also have the ability to take care of ourselves,[] she told the Guardian. Anthony became the first African American woman elected to represent her district in Lansing, Michigan’s capital, in 2018.


    Despite the armed escort, Anthony said she was “actively working to prohibit open carry” of firearms in the state capitol, which is currently legal.

    Anthony said her goal was not to encourage more armed citizens to volunteer to protect lawmakers, but to ensure that the law enforcement officers paid by taxpayers to keep legislators safe would do a better job in the future.

    [… Michael Lynn Jr (one of the armed escorts)] said the escort was the first time he had ever chosen to openly carry his AR-15 rifle [… and] was frustrated after last week’s protests when he saw black Americans sharing comments that they would never be allowed to carry guns in the capitol and scream into the faces of police officers.

    There was truth to those perspectives, he said; the response would have been different. […]

    A spokeswoman for Michigan’s state police said that they were constantly reviewing their practices and adjusting protocols as needed.

    The state police hosted a call with legislators on 4 May to brief them on available security services, including security escorts, after learning that some representatives were fearful for their safety during the protest, a spokeswoman, Shannon Banner, wrote in an e-mail. […]

    For feck’s sake, armed knuckleheads on a balcony overhead, screaming and shouting, obviously angry, and it didn’t occur to Them™ others would be frightened?

    The escort was certainly brave — being armed whilst black is a very good way of getting yourself shot — and the attempt to turn the tables (so to speak) or show the knuckleheads how absurd such antics are is understandable. However, I’m not at all thrilled with the copying of stoopidity. I am also doubtful the message will get through to the state “police” / knuckleheads. My immediate counter-suggestion would be to stage an FSM-style pirate escort “armed” with obviously fake plastic cutlasses and assorted banners, &tc, as, for example, as has been to teh westboro baptist church and other kooks, nazis, and bigots. That seems to have worked in the past, and “punching up” at the knuckleheads, making it obvious with humour just how idiotic they looked, can sometimes get through.

      † I decided to set this remark in eejit quotes for the same reason I’d set it in eejit quotes if it was uttered by a nazi or other kook. The quoted person being an elected representative sealed the decision; they seem to have exercised poor judgement but are not an (obvious) kook.

  30. KG says

    Hmm, I can’t seem to get the contact tracing app one right! Once again.

    Professor Neil Ferguson, whose epidemiological model is credited with persuading Johnson to abandon the “herd immunity” strategy, has resigned from SAGE (committee of experts advising the government) after the right-wing Telegraph revealed his lover had twice visited him in contravention of the lockdown rules. There is a lot of disquiet about this, suspicion that it’s a political hit-job motivated by the right wanting the lockdown lifted. That may be so, and certainly there was no justification for naming his lover, but:
    1) It just makes Ferguson’s arrogant stupidity worse – he’s given the right a weapon. I’ve had quite enough of people of power or influence in the crisis deciding the rules don’t apply to them.
    2) His model, according to Ferguson himself, is a modification of a 13-year-old model of an influenza pandemic, which consists of “thousands of lines of undocumented C”. Anyone who’s done any serious coding will know that unless Ferguson is superhuman, the code will contain quite a few errors. These may be inconsequential, or they may not. Certainly, key decisions should not be made on the basis of such a model.
    3) But in any case, it should not have needed any model to decide that in the face of a highly contagious and dangerous virus, about the effects of which very little was known, the correct course of action was to buy time by minimising the number of people who catch it.

    Another interesting article from a few days ago: a comparison of western and eastern European countries (not including Russia in the latter). The eastern countries locked down early and strictly, and would you believe it, have many fewer cases and deaths than most of the western ones (the partial exceptions in the west, such as Austria and Portugal, also took early action). The article suggests the governments and populations in the east knew their health systems would swiftly be overwhelmed, while those in the west were more confident and so hesitated to disrupt their economies just to save lives (this may not be fair to the governments of Italy and maybe Spain, who had less warning). In the cause of political honesty, I note that most of the eastern countries have right-wing to centre-right governments, and one, Hungary, is in effect a far right dictatorship – but Orbán, who has used the crisis to make himself dictator, does at least seem to have acted reasonably quickly. So there’s seemingly nothing intrinsic to right-wing government that makes a swift response to the pandemic impossible: the personal characteristics of Trump, Johnson and Bolsonaro must bear much of the blame.

  31. says

    Moscow Times – “Russia’s Coronavirus Cases Rise By More Than 10K Overnight, Hitting 187K”:

    Russia confirmed 10,699 new coronavirus infections Friday, bringing the country’s official number of cases to 187,859.

    Russia now has the world’s second-fastest rate of new infections behind the United States. It is the fifth most-affected country in terms of infections, surpassing Germany and France on Thursday.

    On Saturday, when the country usually marks Soviet victory in World War II with large-scale military parades, there will only be fly-pasts and fireworks.

    For the first time, President Vladimir Putin will give a speech by the Eternal Flame memorial beside the Kremlin walls instead of during a parade on Red Square….

    (It’s odd that the identified cases are rising by approximately the same number every day.)

    Democracy Now! – “How Russia Became the Next COVID-19 Hot Spot: Infection Rate Soars with 10,000 New Cases Each Day”:

    We go to Moscow for an update on the pandemic in Russia, where the coronavirus is spreading rapidly, with at least 10,000 new cases a day and the second-highest infection rate in the world, and more than 100 medical workers have died fighting the virus, and many have reported lack of personal protective equipment. Meanwhile, three Russian healthcare workers mysteriously fell from hospital windows over the past two weeks. Two died, and the one who is hospitalized had posted a video online to note the lack of medical equipment and said he had to keep working despite testing positive. We speak with Joshua Yaffa, Moscow correspondent for The New Yorker magazine….

    Video and transcript at the link. Yaffa is the author of Between Two Fires: Truth, Ambition, and Compromise in Putin’s Russia, which I mentioned in a previous iteration of this thread.

  32. says

    CNN – “Bolsonaro continues to dismiss Covid-19 threat as cases skyrocket in Brazil”:

    Brazil’s coronavirus cases have spiked to 135,106 including 9,146 deaths, according to numbers released Wednesday by the Brazilian Health Ministry. This surge comes as President Jair Bolsonaro’s spokesman, Gen. Otavio Santana do Rego Barros, confirmed he tested positive for Covid-19.
    Yet Bolsonaro said earlier this week he believed “the worst had passed” for the coronavirus pandemic, during a press conference outside the Alvorada presidential residence in Brasilia. But as the number of cases and deaths continue to climb, many health experts fear the worst is yet to come.

    Since Bolsonaro made the comment in Brasilia on Tuesday, there have been more than 20,000 new cases of coronavirus and the country registered 610 deaths on Thursday, nearly the highest toll yet in a 24-hour period, according to the Health Ministry.

    Health Minister Nelson Teich said Thursday that stricter lockdowns may be needed in some of the hardest-hit regions, during a video conference with members of the lower house of Congress.

    Former Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta said “the toughest months” are likely to be May and June, during an interview with TV Globo last month, four days before he was fired by Bolsonaro over disagreements on the country’s coronavirus strategy.

    Meanwhile, Bolsonaro continues to dismiss the threat coronavirus presents to the country’s 209 million citizens, repeatedly saying he believes the effects of preventive measures, such as quarantines and lockdowns, could have a worse impact on Brazil’s economy.

    During a speech at the Supreme Court on Thursday, Bolsonaro and Finance Minister Paulo Guedes said the economy could suffer a “total collapse” if the country doesn’t reopen.

    “The issue of unemployment, the issue of the economy no longer working. We can’t let the side-effect of the fight against the virus be more harmful than the disease itself,” Bolsonaro said.

    Bolsonaro recently reiterated his claims that efforts to flatten the curve of the virus’s spread — via quarantine measures and social distancing — were ineffective.

    A recent survey from pollster Datafolha, showed Bolsonaro’s approval at 33% and that the country is split nearly down the middle on whether the President should be impeached.

  33. says

    Guardian – “Naming of Pinochet’s great-niece as Chile women’s minister sparks outrage”:

    Chile’s rightwing president, Sebastián Piñera, has prompted a firestorm of criticism after naming an open supporter of Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship as the country’s new minister for women’s rights and gender equality.

    Controversy over the appointment of Macarena Santelices – who is also the dictators’s great-niece – has focused on a 2016 interview in which she praised the “good side” of the 1973-90 dictatorship in which more than 3,000 people were murdered or disappeared by security forces and many thousands more imprisoned and tortured.

    She also came under criticism for her outspoken comments against immigrants.

    Taking office on Wednesday, Santelices denied she had ever “endorsed or justified” human rights violations and appealed to Chileans to “judge me on what I do from today onwards, as a woman”.

    But activists said her comments about the period of military rule – during which at least 316 women were raped while under torture, 11 of whom were pregnant – were entirely incompatible with her new role.

    “This appointment is a flagrant provocation and demonstrates the government’s total disdain for what the Chilean feminist movement is demanding,” said Romina Parada, co-founder of the feminist collective Baila Capucha Baila.

    “As far as our collective are concerned, we still don’t have a minister for women’s rights and gender equality,” she said.

    Santelices studied journalism and worked for several national media outlets before becoming the mayor of Olmué, a small town in the lush valleys of central Chile, in 2012.

    She resigned in October 2019 to run for the governorship of Valparaíso under the banner of the rightwing Independent Democratic Union – a party founded in 1983 to preserve the political and economic legacy of the dictatorship.

    The post had been vacant for 54 days since Santelices’s predecessor, Isabel Plá, resigned after months of criticism that she had been ineffectual in the role.

    Santelices’s appointment comes amid a growing wave of women’s activism in Chile, two months after more than a million women marched in Santiago on International Women’s Day.

    The hashtag #WeHaveNoMinister has trended on social media since her appointment and several other feminist and transgender rights organisations…have joined calls for Santelices’s resignation.

  34. johnson catman says

    re blf @32: You are probably aware, but I will remind you that when The Black Panthers started openly carrying weapons in California, restrictions on guns were very quickly passed. The Mulford Act was introduced on April 5, 1967, passed by both the State Assembly and State Senate in late July, and was signed by then-Governor Ronald Reagan on July 29.

    Governor Ronald Reagan, who was coincidentally present on the capitol lawn when the [Black Panther] protesters arrived, later commented that he saw “no reason why on the street today a citizen should be carrying loaded weapons” and that guns were a “ridiculous way to solve problems that have to be solved among people of good will.” In a later press conference, Reagan added that the Mulford Act “would work no hardship on the honest citizen.
    Of course, “citizen” in this instance meant “black citizens”. I think that perhaps Sarah Anthony may have been trying to prompt the same reaction.

  35. says

    Heidi Przybyla at NBC – “Trump’s Cabinet remains largely sidelined in coronavirus fight”:

    Amid a federal coronavirus response that has been criticized for missteps such as ignoring warnings of a coming pandemic, a failure to procure adequate medical supplies and a severe lack of testing, there’s nearly an entire arm of President Donald Trump’s administration effectively sitting on the sidelines — his Cabinet.

    Missing from roles in the official White House Coronavirus Task Force, many of Trump’s Cabinet secretaries have remained less than fixated on rapid pandemic response.

    Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia, for example, has rebuffed pleas for new workplace safety mandates from meatpackers, other front-line workers and congressional Democrats. Critics also claim that Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has been slow to release billions in federal funding to struggling farmers. And Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, encamped at his estate in Palm Beach, Florida, has hardly been heard from amid the biggest economic crisis in a generation.

    The Labor Department has issued safety recommendations and enforcement guidelines for meatpacking plants to follow but isn’t mandating infectious disease protections for meat and poultry facility workers, even though Trump ordered the plants to reopen despite a spike in coronavirus cases.

    Many small businesses are still unable to obtain federal aid as the Small Business Administration comes under a crush of applications and funding debates in Congress. Many of the neediest college students are still awaiting aid promised from the Department of Education.

    And only in mid-April did the Department of Agriculture start addressing disruptions to the food supply chain even as farmers destroy crops and grocery stores cite food shortages.

    Trump last convened his Cabinet on Nov. 19, 2019, months before the administration acknowledged coronavirus as a public health threat.

    The hands-off approach is especially relevant given the president’s indications that he plans to eventually wind down the task force, or at least shift its focus more toward reopening the economy, putting the onus for response efforts on federal agencies.

    Scalia…has been working from Washington and has not personally visited any site where workers have complained about health safety measures, but he did accompany the president to Arizona on Tuesday to tour a mask-making factory.

    Perdue’s office did not respond to requests about where he has been working during the pandemic, and NBC did not find news mentions of him visiting with farmers or other stakeholders.

    Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, who’s had an empty public schedule for weeks and last appeared at the White House on March 27, is working from home in Michigan. Groups funded by the billionaire DeVos family, among Michigan’s richest, helped promote a mid-April protest against stay-at-home orders that drew thousands and sparked protests in a number of other states. Her office did not respond to requests about her schedule.

    As the first president with no previous government or military experience, Trump has defined his tenure in office by a steadfast commitment to shrinking the very agencies Americans are now dependent on during the pandemic, along with record-setting levels of staff turnover in the Cabinet.

    All told, Cabinet secretaries have made a handful of appearances at the daily White House task force briefings to inform Americans about what their departments are doing to help.

    But they continue to gut or enforce rules that critics argue are unrelated to the pandemic and are championed by conservatives….

  36. says

    The US April jobs report has been released: 20.5 million jobs lost, unemployment rate at 14.7%.

    CNN chyron calls it the “worst jobs report in U.S. history.”

  37. says

    Paula Reid, CBS:

    Wow. Moments before govt releases what is expected to be the worst jobs report in history @realDonaldTrump has called in to @foxandfriends to air grievances about federal investigations into his 2016 campaign. Ten mins in and no mention of #Covid_19 pandemic or unemployment.

    After 20 minutes of complaining about 2016 investigation into Russian interference in 2016 election, President gets *first* question about COVID-19.

  38. blf says

    johnson catman@38, Thanks for the Black Panthers reminder. Whilst I was living in California at the time, I have essentially no memories of the incident due to being fairly young then (just making the transition from stylus-on-clay to ink-on-papyrus). I (broadly) concur, Sarah Anthony may be trying to initiate a more sensible approach to carrying arms. However, the excerpted article is fairly clear her aim with the stunt was to focus on the state “police”‘s allowing armed nutcases into the debating chamber; e.g., (from @32), “Anthony said her goal was not to encourage more armed citizens to volunteer to protect lawmakers, but to ensure that the law enforcement officers paid by taxpayers to keep legislators safe would do a better job in the future” and “Anthony said she was ‘actively working to prohibit open carry’ of firearms in the state capitol, which is currently legal.” Nothing(?) per se about more sensible shooty mcshootface laws, except at the state capital, albeit the situation does seem very close — but not identical — to that famous Black Panther incident.

    The article concludes:

    Anthony said it had been meaningful to receive a personal offer from constituents to help ensure her safety. But, she said, “the thing that I hope does not happen with this photo is that this creates an environment that would feel like more guns are needed in order to protect ourselves.”

    “The thing that keeps me up at night is the fear that we are becoming more polarized, more angry,” Anthony said. “My fear is real that we are creating an environment that is a powder keg, and I don’t want to see citizens of all stripes getting hurt.”

    I concur with the two quotes in the above concluding excerpt. My problem is the stunt replicates stoopidity without unambiguously highlighting why it’s stupid.

    I do hope, of course, you’re correct it’s a Black Panthers-style stunt leading to a similar result.

    As an aside, Snopes points out the the Mulford Act was introduced a month before the Black Panthers arrived at the capital; that arrival then caused the act to be strengthened. The act was originally introduced “after armed members of the Black Panther Party started patrolling city streets to counter police brutality.”

  39. KG says

    The following comment is one I left on a Grauniad thread (slightly corrected). The ONS is the Office of National Statistics, an official and supposedly non-political UK outfit; but note how its director assumes that nothing can be done about increased numbers in poverty if there’s a long recession.

    ONS chief Ian Diamond tells @CommonsSTC if there is a long recession, more people in poverty will mean higher mortality / less healthy lives

    Even if there is a prolonged recession, whether there are more people in poverty will be a political decision. The last couple of months has shown that the government can find gigantic sums of money if it sees the need (or rather, it can wish them into existence – there really is a magic money tree for sovereign powers as large and rich as the UK with their own currency). The UK government prefers to borrow from the money markets, for ideological reasons and to reward its rich friends*, but it could simply borrow from the Bank of England. In either case, this is unlikely to cause either significant inflation** (because demand is so low, and not likely to fully recover any time soon) or severe depreciation of the currency (because everyone else is doing it, if their currencies are strong enough to allow it). The opportunity could be taken to institute a Universal Basic Income (UBI), set at a level sufficient to bring or keep those receiving it (i.e., everyone) out of poverty. Initially, it would be quite reasonable to fund this from borrowing, as a measure to restart the economy. Longer term, insofar as there is any real need to “balance the budget”, it could be paid for out of higher direct taxes and/or taxes on carbon-intensive activities such as flying, and driving a private motor vehicle.

    * Even at very low interest rates, the sums are so huge that there will be fat profits to the lenders.
    ** In fact, a certain amount of inflation would be beneficial, as it would effectively reduce the debt over time.

  40. KG says


    I recall deciding Michael Moore was an arsehole some time ago, but I don’t remember why!

  41. blf says

    KG@45, I also cannot recall precisely why I came to a similar conclusion, but one possibility was Planet of the Humans, albeit that’s a 2019 diatribe and my dislike goes back somewhat further. I’m reasonably confident (albeit not certain) my dubiousness is post-Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004); that, and preceding films — not all of which I’ve seen! — have generally struck me as Ok, and even (in the case of his initial film, Roger & Me (1989)) as inspired, despite (and Moore acknowledging) some sequences presented as-if in-chronological-order were not.

  42. says

    G liveblog:

    Here’s an update on the terrible news that a group of migrant workers has been killed by a train in India – from our South Asia correspondent Hannah Ellis-Petersen.

    India may have been under the world’s largest lockdown for almost two months but the exodus of its tens of millions of migrant workers, who, without any transport or any way to earn money have taken to walking sometimes thousands of miles in baking heat to get back home, has continued unabated.

    In one of the most tragic incidents so far, it has emerged that 16 exhausted migrant workers, who were attempting to walk the 150 miles home to Bhusaval in the state of Maharashtra, died after falling asleep on the train tracks. According to Virendra Singh, the 22-year-old who was the only one of the group who survived, they had presumed that because trains had been stopped during lockdown, it would be safe to briefly rest on the tracks. They were run over at 5:15am on Friday morning by a train travelling from Mumbai.

    “We wanted to go back to our village as for the past month and a half there was no work and no money,” said Singh. “We had started walking at 7pm on Thursday and at 4am everyone’s legs were in pain, and so we took a rest on the tracks. When I heard the train sound from the distance I screamed at them to move, but they were asleep and did not hear, and the train mowed them over.” The train tracks were left littered with the meagre possessions they were carrying, including battered shoes and the few roti they were surviving on.

    India’s lockdown of its 1.3bn people has been described as one of the largest and harshest in the world, depriving the 80% of India’s workforce who work in the informal sector of a way of earning a living. Migrant workers who did not attempt to walk home have been confined to camps and reliant on food donations from government and NGOs.

    Cases of coronavirus in India currently stand at 56,516, with 1,895 deaths. Experts say the country has not yet reached its peak.

  43. johnson catman says

    re blf @43: While it is true that the protest at the State Capitol took place after the introduction of the bill, the Black Panthers had organized in October 1966 and were “copwatching” by monitoring police activities and combating police brutality in black communities like Oakland with armed patrols of their own. It is likely that the Mulford Act was an attempt to suppress those actions and “control” the black citizens better. The armed protest at the Capitol brought the Black Panther Party a LOT of press and probably scared a lot of white people, further prioritizing the bill.

  44. johnson catman says

    re SC @48: Irony died a long time ago, but if it was still alive, this would qualify as an irony-meter shattering event.

  45. blf says

    SC@46, I know nothing about Éric Ripert, but I do not understand what “Ripert got a 2 from Room Rater” has to do with anything — it’s an image with no context, and no (obvious) woo, posted by a some random twitter source. Some (admittedly quick) searching has failed to locate any woo being spruiked by Mr Ripert, albeit he apparently is a buddhist with vegan leanings, and was, at one time, (apparently self-admittedly) rather high-strung. Plus he has a multi-starred restaurant, a well-known source of stress. Again, no serious woo-woo that I can find, certainly nothing like being an anti-vaxxer or claiming 5G causes Covid-19 or so on.

    “[T]he perfect 10 for Matthew Miller” is certainly a better — and more flattering — image, but again is without context. I’m (obviously) failing to see the point… Or is it a joke I’m missing? (The “LOL” suggests so — that is, I’m missing the joke — albeit a ridiculous image of some thug again has nothing (obvious) to do with woo-woo.)

    Apologies if I’m being obtuse… (And my extreme dislike of twittering perhaps has “blinded” me to the joke; admittedly exaggerating, as far as I am concerned, everything on twitshite is a very bad joke, &tc.)

  46. blf says

    johnson catman@50, YES.
    However, please, a hint (apologies for my obvious exasperation): Try reading what I wrote / quoted, or checking the references provided. For example, “The act was originally introduced ‘after armed members of the Black Panther Party started patrolling city streets to counter police brutality'”; and “Recognizing that they were its [the original bill’s] primary targets, the Black Panthers protested the Mulford bill by sending an armed contingent to the state capitol on 2 May 1967”; and so on, including confirmation that the bill was prioritised due to armed protest at the capital: “This act is an urgency statute necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health or safety within the meaning of Article IV of the Constitution and shall go into immediate effect. The facts constituting such necessity are:

    “An organized band of men armed with loaded firearms has recently entered the Capitol of the State of California […]”

    Note, however, that in contrast to the recent actions, the Black Panthers were not copying any previous (known-to-me) incident; they were illustrating the absurdity of the situation, albeit perhaps inadvertently — the preceding armed patrols were about police brutality / bigotry rather than carrying shooty mcshootfaces — with a novel action. The Black Panthers also, as far as I am aware, did not shout or scream, and apparently handed over their weapons after c.30mins and allowed them to be unloaded (the empty shooty mcshootfaces were then handed back). It’s difficult to see the screaming, shouting, knuckleheads doing that… or the current-day state “police” even trying to peacefully defuse such a situation. (I do not know if the present-day escort enter3d the building or not.) Yes, there are analogies with the Black Panthers stunt, but one might argue the same could be said (albeit in weaker form!) about the preceding knuckleheads (they certainly did enter not only the building, but also, like the Black Panthers, the debating chamber (visitor’s area / balcony)).

    I am uncomfortable with the present-day escort action because, as I keep saying, I don’t see how it illustrates the absurdity of the situation (carrying shooty mcshootfaces). Even Sarah Anthony could be construed as being uncertain, she is quoted as saying (see @43) “the thing that I hope does not happen with this photo is that this creates an environment that would feel like more guns are needed in order to protect ourselves.”

    Exactly! The current-day incident can, it seems to me, be easily — WAY too easily — misunderstood. It hasn’t necessarily failed, but it (probably) could have been much much better.

  47. says


    Apologies if I’m being obtuse…

    Uh, you’re being obtuse. It’s just a lighthearted Twitter account that rates the Skype rooms of politicians, commentators, etc., on news shows during the pandemic. It’s escapist and fun for those of us who are into politics and design. It’s amusing that so many of the replies to the Ripert tweet are people shocked that such harsh words could be said about the Great Chef. Miller clearly worked on his presentation because he wanted a top score (John Heilemann and Steve Schmidt are currently in an escalating rating war amassing animals, flowers, and fruit bowls). The “LOL” link is to the rating for Republican Colorado Senator Cory Gardner in his pitiful room which fully reflects his pitiful politics.

    Most important, Room Rater is raising money for PPE to US Indian communities.

  48. says

    Speaking of Matt Miller, here he is on the Barr interview (link atl):

    This interview is an absolute embarrassment for CBS. Includes such hard hitting q’s as “It sounds to me like one of your objectives is to never allow the Justice Department to be used as a political weapon.”

    From Steve Wick’s The Long Night:
    William L. Shirer and the Rise and Fall of the Third Reich
    , describing Shirer’s struggles reporting under heavy censorship from Nazi Germany during the war:

    …When Shirer had complained to [New York CBS executive Paul] White that he would not broadcast if it was nothing but German lies, White had cabled him to make his position clear: “Bill, we thoroughly understand, sympathize condition in Berlin, but feel we must carry on with broadcasts even if only reading official statements and newspaper texts.

    Writing a half-century later in his memoir, Shirer’s anger still boiled. “CBS would have to get someone else for that menial chore,” he wrote. “I replied to White I could hire a pro-Nazi American for $50 a week and no expenses to read that crap.”

  49. says

    (Re #54, come to think of it, I’m not sure I’d trust Claude Taylor enough with money to necessarily endorse donating through his organization. But the Twitter account is fun and it’s an important cause.)

  50. blf says

    SC@54, Thanks for clarifying! And w.r.t. @55, Whilst I still cannot find my copy of Shirer’s book, amazingly, I do (broadly) recall that excerpted bit. A similar incident — or maybe it was the same incident? — was when Shirer and other journalists were taken on an obviously-stage-managed tour of teh nazi “preparations” for invading England. It was so blatantly false — plus Shirer had been (pre?-)briefed by the States naval attaché what to look for, and didn’t see anything — he refused to broadcast despite the facilities put at his disposal by the nazis (highly unusual, and another clew it was all a set-up). One other journalist on the same tour also refused. Everyone else did send in reports, and CBS(?) complained to Shirer about being scooped(?) by other stations, etc. Shirer’s reply was along the same lines as quoted. From memory, Shirer speculated in his book it was an attempt to demoralise the beleaguered British.

  51. says

    blf @ #57, I just came across that section while I was looking for the quote above. Your memory is completely accurate! Shirer was disgusted by the reporters from the AP and another wire service who wanted their “scoop” enough to promote Nazi war propaganda. Shirer described how obviously the Nazis went about trying to get him to do it, like “Have we mentioned there’s a telephone line reserved for you? Wouldn’t you like to use this nice line for your report? Did we remind you we’re letting up on the censorship for this story in particular?”

  52. says

    (Reuters) – The White House will not consider any further stimulus legislation this month as it eyes the economic impact from reopening U.S. states, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow told reporters on Friday, adding that formal talks with Congress have paused.”

  53. tomh says

    White House Rejects C.D.C.’s Coronavirus Reopening Plan
    By Abby Goodnough and Maggie Haberman
    May 7, 2020 Updated May 8, 2020

    A copy of the C.D.C. guidance obtained by The New York Times includes sections for child care programs, schools and day camps, churches and other “communities of faith,” employers with vulnerable workers, restaurants and bars, and mass transit administrators. The recommendations include using disposable dishes and utensils at restaurants, closing every other row of seats in buses and subways while restricting transit routes among areas experiencing different levels of coronavirus infection, and separating children at school and camps into groups that should not mix throughout the day.

    But White House and other administration officials rejected the recommendations over concerns that they were overly prescriptive, infringed on religious rights and risked further damaging an economy that Mr. Trump was banking on to recover quickly. One senior official at the Department of Health and Human Services with deep ties to religious conservatives objected to any controls on church services.

    “Governments have a duty to instruct the public on how to stay safe during this crisis and can absolutely do so without dictating to people how they should worship God,” said Roger Severino, the director of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights, who once oversaw the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society at the Heritage Foundation.

    Particularly contentious were the C.D.C.’s recommendations for churches and other houses of worship. Mr. Severino vocally opposed them.

    “Protections against religious discrimination aren’t suspended during an emergency,” he said in a statement on Thursday. “This means the federal government cannot single out religious conduct as somehow being more dangerous or worthy of scrutiny than comparable secular behavior.”

    The recommendations for churches include encouraging all congregants to wear cloth face coverings when inside the building, offering video streaming or drive-in options for services and considering “suspending use of a choir or musical ensemble” during services. It also urges churches to consider “temporarily limiting the sharing of frequently touched objects,” like hymnals, prayer books and passed collection baskets.

    The collection baskets were a bridge too far.

  54. blf says

    SC@59, Heh, speaking of memory, can you recall the name of the fairly promient über-conservative loon — very possibly a john bircher — who, in the 1960(?)s, argued the States should have sided with the nazis in WW ][ because teh nazis fought the commies? I cannot.

  55. says

    NEW: Chief Justice Roberts issues an administrative stay temporarily blocking disclosure of grand jury materials in the Mueller report to the House while the court considers briefs on whether to enter a longer stay.”

  56. says

    Gov. Cuomo:

    There have been 73 reported cases in NY of children getting severely ill with symptoms similar to Kawasaki disease and toxic shock-like syndrome.

    On Thursday, a 5-year-old boy passed away from these complications, believed to be caused by COVID-19.

    DOH is investigating.

  57. blf says

    SC@67, Yeah, Buchanan was my first pseudo-recollection as well, but I’ve not been able to find any confirmation. Another pseudo-recollection is William F Buckley, but again, lacking confirmation. Grrrrrr…

  58. says

    Josh Marshall:

    Remember the big picture. Flynn was part of a campaign that knowingly accepted election assistance from a foreign adversary power & was in the midst of rewarding its benefactor with concessions when they were ensnared in a counterintel probe in which Flynn repeatedly lied.

    (As an aside, I’m so tired of media people saying Russia “tried to interfere with” or “tried to attack” our election in 2016. They did interfere with/attack the election, and there’s no reason to add “try to” other than to minimize what they did or its effects.)

  59. tomh says

    Trump seems determined to rehabilitate Flynn.
    James Hohmann, May 8

    The president’s advisers are contemplating a possible visit to the White House by Flynn in the coming weeks and say he could become a campaign surrogate this fall. “I’m very happy for General Flynn,” he said on Thursday in the Oval Office. “He was a great warrior, and he still is a great warrior. Now, in my book, he’s an even greater warrior.”

    Nine senior Trump administration officials, campaign staff, outside advisers and longtime associates of the president told the Daily Beast on Thursday that they want Flynn to have a public-facing role in helping the president. One of Trump’s campaign pollsters even compared Flynn to Nelson Mandela: “Years ago when Nelson Mandela came to America after years of political persecution, he was treated like a rock star by Americans,” John McLaughlin said. “Now after over three years of political persecution, General Flynn is our rock star. A big difference is that he was persecuted in America.”

  60. blf says

    Oh for feck’s sake, Ohio urges employers to report workers fearful of returning to work:

    The state is reopening non-essential businesses and workers wary of employers’ safety measures could lose unemployment benefits

    Fear of catching Covid-19 will now cost you more than sleep in Ohio. The Ohio state government has asked employers to report anyone who refuses to return to work because they are concerned about the coronavirus pandemic. Reported workers may be ineligible for unemployment benefits.


    Ohio’s department of job and family services has now asked employers to report employees who quit or refuse work when it is available due to Covid-19. The information collected on the Covid-19 Employee Fraud form can then be used to evaluate potential unemployment benefits claims from people who are refusing suitable work, and are thus ineligible for benefits.

    Ohio started reopening non-essential businesses last week. Polling shows the majority of the state’s residents oppose reopening the economy, and the state, like the rest of the US, still lacks the tests to assess the true scale of infections.

    An email sent to employers last Friday notifying them of the form said: Ohio law prohibits individuals from receiving unemployment benefits if they refuse to accept offers of suitable work, or quit work, without good cause.

    Whilst it’s very probably true that is essentially what Ohio law says, surely “good cause” includes unsafe or unsanitary working conditions.

    Employers have voiced concerns that employees are incentivized not to return to work in the case they get more from unemployment payments. If a person’s unemployment claim is accepted, they receive 50% of their normal wage in unemployment insurance, up to $480 a week for an individual, along with an additional $600 from the federal government.


    We are concerned about unemployment serving as a disincentive for individuals who have been laid off to get back to work when the economy reopens, said a spokesperson for US senator Rob Portman, a Republican from Ohio.


    Worker advocacy groups have criticized the government’s crackdown on employees who refuse to return to work due to the virus, saying it will ultimately harm vulnerable workers, especially those who may not have the capacity to properly fight claims from their employer that they can safely return to work.

    “Leaving employees, who have little access to evidence needed to prove their employer failed to follow Covid protocols and who are largely without access to legal counsel and advice … will be too much for many with legitimate claims to navigate and will put working Ohioans at a disadvantage,” said a statement from advocacy groups Policy Matters Ohio and Ohio Poverty Law Center.

  61. says

    Relates to blf’s #72 above – Ian Dunt talks to Toby Buckle – “DAILY: Give me liberty AND give me death?”:

    Who’s up for some philosophy? COVID is shaping up as a crucible for the very idea of freedom – and an ultimate test for populism and libertarianism. Ian Dunt talks to TOBY BUCKLE of the Political Philosophy Podcast about what freedom means, who owns it, what the lockdown is doing to international notions of liberty, and whether Boris Johnson is, if possible, even worse than Trump….

    Link to 25-minute podcast atl.

  62. says

    Guardian liveblog:

    The Spanish government has refused the Madrid region permission to loosen its coronavirus lockdown, saying the area is not yet ready to move to the next phase of de-escalation.

    The area in and around the capital is the region of Spain that has been hit hardest by the virus. More than 13,500 people have died there from Covid-19, or with associated symptoms, while 64,333 cases have been confirmed.

    The health ministry said that while the region had sufficient care capacity, the detection capabilities of its primary medical facilities needed to be strengthened further.

    The widely anticipated refusal of permission came 24 hours after the Madrid region’s director of public health resigned in protest at the Madrid regional government’s decision to seek a loosening of the lockdown from Monday.

    In her resignation letter, Yoland Fuentes said that the bid to relax restrictions “was not based on health criteria”.

    Spain’s deputy prime minister, the Podemos leader, Pablo Iglesias, went further, accusing the Madrid region’s conservative president, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, of “playing with people’s lives” for political ends.

    Díaz Ayuso hit back, saying Iglesias had no idea of the situation in Madrid and had “never lent a hand” there.

    Spain, which has been under one of the strictest lockdowns in Europe following the declaration of a state of emergency on 14 March, is easing its way out via a four-phase lockdown aimed at reaching “a new normality” by the end of June.

    Spain reported 221 deaths on Friday, down from daily totals of more than 900 deaths a month ago. To date, the country has confirmed 222,857 cases and 26,229 deaths.

  63. blf says

    In teh NKofE, UK scientists condemn ‘Stalinist’ attempt to censor Covid-19 advice:

    Report criticising government lockdown proposals heavily redacted before release

    Government scientific advisers are furious at what they see as an attempt to censor their advice on government proposals during the Covid-19 lockdown by heavily redacting an official report before it was released to the public […].

    The report was one of a series of documents published by the Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (Sage) this week to mollify growing criticism about the lack of transparency over the advice given to ministers responding to the coronavirus.

    However, large blocks of text in the report, produced by SPI-B, the Sage subcommittee providing advice from behavioural scientists on how the public might respond to lockdown measures, were entirely blanked out.

    Several SPI–B members told the Guardian that the redacted portions of the document contained criticisms they had made of potential government policies they had been formally asked to consider in late March and early April.

    One SPI-B adviser said: “It is bloody silly, and completely counterproductive.” A second committee member said: “The impression I’m getting is this government doesn’t want any criticism.”


    Members of the committee have been discussing among themselves how best to respond to the redaction, which they believe was a heavy-handed move that jeopardises their independence.

    As a reminder, “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants” (associate Supreme Court justice Louis Brandeis, 1914), referring to the advantages of transparency against corruption. As one step, leak the full report to, say, the Grauniad.

    [… assorted assertations from teh NKofE’s “government”…]

    However, SPI–B advisers who spoke to the Guardian disputed that they had been consulted. “We weren’t given advance notice and we still haven’t been given a satisfactory explanation,” the second SPI–B member said, adding they felt the redaction had been intended to stifle criticism.

    “This government has failed to show any self-criticism whatsoever, when it is glaringly obvious to everybody that big mistakes have been made. If you want the trust of the population you hold up your hand and you say ‘we’ve made these mistakes, this is why they happened, we regret it, we’re learning from it’. Rather than just keep saying ‘we’ve done the most fantastic job’ and not being open to criticism in any way.”

    Indeed. Here in France the government has admitted to mistakes — e.g., President Macron himself has done so in at least one of his speeches — and some, abeit probably not all, of the various errors have been — or are being or promised that they will be — rectified (e.g., not counting nursing home cases / deaths, an inaccurate map, poor pay for health care workers in general and nursing home staff in particular, and so on).

  64. says

    From text quoted by blf in comment 31:

    There is no evidence that [Covid-19] can be treated or cured by coloured lights.”

    Ha! Love the understated humor. Actually, the whacko cures on offer sound like they would appeal to Trump. I can just see him turning to Dr. Birx and asking her if she is familiar with that treatment.

    Another aspect of blf’s comment stuck with me: scam artists never give up, they just change scams now and then.

  65. blf says

    Hair furor’s dalekocrazies exterminate exterminate some more, this time at the UN (from the Grauniad’s current main pandemic live blog):

    The US has stopped a vote on a UN Security Council resolution to support Secretary General Antonio Guterres’s call for a global ceasefire during the Covid-19 pandemic.

    After more than six weeks of wrangling, France thought it had achieved a breakthrough last night. But the French underestimated the determination of the Trump administration when it comes to demonising the World Health Organisation.

    The US mission wanted no references to the WHO in the resolution. So the French watered down the reference in the resolution to “specialised health agencies” of the UN (of which there is really only one — the WHO).

    The US mission seemed to be on board last night, but this morning they signalled that the wording was still not acceptable, leaving western diplomats at the UN to suspect that someone high up in Washington must have intervened.

  66. says

    KG @34:

    The government is outsourcing the recruitment and training of contact tracers to a private company, ignoring the fact that local councils already employ thousands of them – people who know the job, and their local area.

    Which private companies are making money off of that redundant activity? Friends of Boris Johnson?

  67. blf says

    From teh Grauniad’s current States pandemic live blog:

    Trump “Death Clock” goes live

    The Trump Death Clock, the real-time tracker that seeks to put a figure on the number of Americans who have died needlessly during the pandemic as a result of White House inaction, has just gone live in New York’s Times Square.

    A digital billboard has beamed up on 43rd Street and Broadway in Manhattan that broadcasts in large red numerals the daily estimated count of unnecessary deaths caused by Trump’s delay in issuing lockdown guidelines in March. Today’s tally: 44,809.

    The billboard is a physical version of a website,, that was started earlier this week and that the Guardian was first to disclose [Trump Death Clock seeks to bring ‘accountability for reckless leadership’].

    It is the brainchild of award-winning film-maker Eugene Jarecki and modeled on the National Debt Clock that also has a presence near Times Square. Jarecki told the Guardian he wanted to hold Trump accountable for “reckless leadership” by giving a real-time estimation of the number of Americans who have lost their lives through federal government incompetence.

    He bases the figure, which will update daily on the billboard, on 60% of the total real-time tally of deaths from Covid-19 in America. That proportion was first posited as a rough calculation of unnecessary deaths by epdemiologists.

    Trump has so far kept his silence about the death clock. If he finds out about the new billboard he is unlikely to be pleased, however — it is a mere 13 blocks away from his home in Trump Tower.

    Uh, Grauniad, hair furor moved out of hitler hostel some time ago (Donald Trump changes primary residence from New York to Mar-a-Lago (1-Nov-2019): “Donald and Melania Trump have filed for residency in Palm Beach, according to documents obtained by the New York Times”). Actually, he hasn’t “moved out of” as such (as far as I am aware), just changed his “primary residence”.

  68. says

    SC @49, we should all go live with Matthew Miller. I too have derived some pleasure from analyzing the Skype backgrounds shown on TV as various personalities are interviewed remotely. Steve Schmidt added bowls of colorful fruit to his kitchen counter! It’s all nonsense, and relatively unimportant, but it’s fun. Cory Gardner’s background exemplified the Republican poverty of spirit evident in his trumpian policies.

    SC @63, JFC. That is such bad news. Meanwhile some city and/or state governments are really having such financial difficulties that they are going to have to start laying off sanitation workers, teachers, police officers, and even healthcare workers, etc. It looks to me like Trump is looking for an excuse to restrict funds, without having to repeat his divisive “bailing out blue states” rhetoric. Maybe Trump’s staff came up with this no-action excuse as attempt to substitute statements that sound almost reasonable.

    Anyway, the bottom line is, there will be no federal funds for states that seriously need them. It’s as if a hurricane hit New York and New Jersey and the federal government said, “We don’t care. We’re not going to rescue those citizens. Let’s leave it all up to Cuomo. He can do it … with no money.”

  69. tomh says

    Are they ever right about anything?

    WaPo Live Updates

    President Trump and White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Friday attacked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for being in California rather than Washington — a sign, they both said, of her unwillingness to work on behalf of Americans.

    As it turns out, the California Democrat was in fact in Washington, where she was visible to reporters at the Capitol.

    “She’s highly overrated, a bad woman,” Trump said of Pelosi during a wide-ranging interview Friday morning on “Fox & Friends.” “She doesn’t even want to go to work. She’s in California sitting in her expensive house.”

    A few hours later, McEnany echoed her boss as she complained about the difficulty of working with Congress when Pelosi is not in Washington.

    “It would be helpful if Nancy Pelosi was here,” McEnany said at a White House briefing. “We need Nancy Pelosi to come back from California and get to Washington, D.C., and to work for the American people.”

    Her comments prompted a tweet from Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill that included a photo of his boss.

    “@SpeakerPelosi literally doing interviews from Capitol Hill as @PressSec stated this,” Hammill wrote. “Pelosi has done TV all week from DC.”

  70. says

    Quoted in tomh’s #83:

    “@SpeakerPelosi literally doing interviews from Capitol Hill as @PressSec stated this,” Hammill wrote. “Pelosi has done TV all week from DC.”

    She has! I’ve seen her interviewed several times in the building in the past few days!

  71. blf says

    tomh@63, Asking about hair furor and his dalekocrazy, “Are they ever right about anything?”

    They’re TREMENDOUSLY, HUGELY, extremely right-wingnut batshite loony kleptomaniacs, teh bestest everr!!1! Drink your bleach. Get that healthy inner UV glow.

  72. says

    More re Belarus – “In Belarus, World War II Victory Parade Will Go On Despite Rise In COVID-19 Cases”:

    With the coronavirus forcing much of Europe to tone down public celebrations this week marking the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, the small nation of Belarus is raising eyebrows — and concerns — by going ahead with a mass military parade in the capital Minsk on Saturday.

    The move reflects the business-as-usual approach of the country’s longtime president, Alexander Lukashenko — a former Soviet collective farm director leading what the U.S. once dubbed the last dictatorship in Europe.

    As the coronavirus has raced across the globe, Lukashenko has dismissed the pandemic as mass “psychosis” — a disease easily cured with a bit of vodka, a hot sauna or time spent playing hockey or doing farm work on one of country’s legendary Soviet-designed tractors.

    The country’s soccer league still competes. Belarus’ schools opened after a short delay. And annual Victory Day celebrations will go on.

    The government “simply cannot cancel the parade,” the Belarusian leader said in a Cabinet meeting this week. “It’s an emotional, deeply ideological event.”

    In a rare concession to at least some social distancing measures, Lukashenko has urged Belarusian men to spend time with their families, rather than their mistresses. But behind the theatrics sits a wily politician who plays to his base in the country’s towns and villages, analysts say.

    “Lukashenko prioritizes combating panic rather than combating the pandemic,” Artyom Shraibman, a Minsk-based political analyst with Sense Analytics, tells NPR. “He downplays the threat, and of course he’s very concerned about [the] state of [the] economy.”

    Shraibman notes similar echoes coming out of the Trump White House.

    Belarus has reported over 21,000 suspected coronavirus cases and more than 120 deaths — comparatively low in the global count, but one of the fastest-growing infection rates in Europe, the World Health Organization says.

    Amid the growing crisis, Belarusian civil society is rallying to fix what Lukashenko will not. With many Belarusians now self-isolating by choice, even the country’s health ministry has endorsed some public distancing measures over Lukashenko’s advice.

    Volunteers have raised money to buy personal protective gear for hospitals. Restaurants have donated food. Hotels provide rooms pro bono to medical workers. Private businesses have raised funds.

    “People who normally don’t talk to each other are working together to help,” says Andrej Stryzhak of #ByCovid19, a group of volunteer activists leading crowdfunded efforts to equip health workers across the country. “It’s been magical and I don’t use that word lightly.”

    Stryzhak says many are bracing for the aftershocks of Saturday’s Victory parade, where attendance isn’t required but there are reports of pay bonuses given to those who show up.

    “We believe in statistics. And the experts and doctors tell us that if there’s a crowd, then expect a new spike in cases a week or two later,” says Stryzhak. “Belarus isn’t Mars,” he adds, noting that the country is as susceptible to the virus as any other….

  73. says

    BREAKING: NYPD just released coronavirus enforcement data from March 16 to May 5.

    There were 374 summonses issued, which is not many.

    BUT: Of those, an astounding 304 or 81% were given to people who are black or Hispanic.”

  74. says

    Maggie Haberman: “Many news outlets the president calls fake had held off on reporting who the staffer was who got COVID, out of respect for concerns about privacy. The president then blurted out the name at an event this afternoon.”

    MSNBC is still not reporting it other than the first name because Trump said it. They said they wait until the person confirms.

  75. blf says

    SC@89, I like the pictorial response(?), “Republicans will accept 100,000 deaths from a white president, but not healthcare from a Black President” (my transcription, snarky lack of CAPS in the original).

    And a follow-up to SC@90, Social distancing: New York police arresting black people at far higher rate:

    African Americans in parts of New York City are being arrested for violating social distancing rules at a far higher rate than white people, according to data from the Brooklyn district attorney.


    The figures lend weight to anecdotal evidence which suggests that whiter and more affluent areas of the city are less likely to be targeted by police. More than a third of the arrests were made in the predominantly black neighbourhood of Brownsville, while no arrests were made in the predominantly white neighbourhood of Park Slope.

    People have been sharing images showing how police are apparently altering their approaches to enforcing social distancing, depending on the neighbourhood.

    One widely shared tweet juxtaposed officers handing masks out to a group of non-socially distancing white people in a park with the actions of an officer in the East Village in Manhattan. Video footage showed the officer approaching and punching a person of color, following a dispute over social distancing.


  76. says

    When a president finds it necessary to revise a projected death toll six times in 18 days, there’s a problem.

    As of this morning, according to NBC News’ latest tally, there are nearly 1.27 million cases of the coronavirus in the United States. The death toll, meanwhile, is nearly 77,000.

    It was against this backdrop that Donald Trump appeared on Fox News this morning and offered yet another death toll forecast.

    “They said, ‘Sir, you have to close the country.’ Nobody ever heard of a thing like this, but they were right because if I didn’t we would have lost 2 million, 2 and a half million, maybe more than that people, and we’ll be at 100,000, 110,000 — the lower level of what was projected if we did the shutdown.”

    Let’s take a moment to review the last few weeks.

    On Monday, April 20, the president said he believed the overall American death toll from the pandemic would be between 50,000 and 60,000 people. Later that week, the president’s forecast had already been exposed as tragically wrong.

    Exactly one week later, on Monday, April 27, Trump said the overall American death toll would “probably” be between 60,000 and 70,000 people. It took about four days for this projection to be discredited, too.

    On Wednesday, April 29, the president suggested the number of fatalities in the United States could be as low as 65,000. Predictably, we soon after passed that projected total.

    On Sunday, May 3, Trump acknowledged that he was moving the goalposts again. “I used to say 65,000,” the Republican said, pointing to a total he promoted just a few days earlier. “And now I’m saying 80,000 or 90,000.”

    At the same event, the president upped the projection once more: “Look, we’re going to lose anywhere from 75, 80 to 100,000 people.”

    All of which led to this morning’s revised total of between 100,000 and 110,000 fatalities.

    Circling back to our earlier coverage, when I say I don’t know why Trump keeps doing this, I’m not being coy or facetious. I honestly have no idea. There is no upside to a president, every few days, presenting a new projected death toll, seeing the actual number climb, and then starting the process anew.

    Obviously, we’re dealing with an unfolding crisis and our collective understanding of the details is changing frequently. But when a president finds it necessary to revise a projected death toll six times in 18 days, there’s a problem.

  77. blf says

    SC@91, Yeah, I was going to point roughly the same thing as MSNBC apparently has — it’s not confirmed, and because hair furor bellowed it, it must be confirmed. He lies, all the time, so much so that, as I’ve noted before (multiple times, sorry!), I won’t believe him if he says his own name (for any reason) without independent verifiable confirmation from a trustworthy source.

    Sadly, the Grauniad repeated the full name without any (obvious) confirmation.

  78. says

    Trump is still focused on making sure that no one blames him:

    Donald Trump sat down this week with ABC News’ David Muir, who noted rising unemployment and asked, “How bad is this going to get?” Trump didn’t hesitate.

    “Well, that is what it is,” the Republican replied. “And you know, it’s very interesting. Even the Democrats aren’t blaming me for that…. Even the Democrats, they’re not hitting me with, ‘Oh gee, it’s your fault’ from that standpoint. Nobody’s blaming me.”

    It was a peek into an amazing perspective: confronted with widespread public suffering, Trump’s first instinct was to emphasize the importance of not holding him responsible. [See quote above.]

    […] when the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the nation lost more than 20 million jobs in April. His first instinct was jarring, but consistent.

    […] Trump said Friday he’s not to blame after the Labor Department reported that more than 20 million jobs had been slashed last month, when the U.S. economy buckled under the strain of the coronavirus pandemic.

    “It’s fully expected, there’s no surprise,” Trump said. “Everybody knows that…. Even the Democrats aren’t blaming me for that.”

    […] plenty of Democrats are holding the president at least partially responsible for the effects of the crisis.

    […] Trump, even now, struggles with the very idea of empathy. It would’ve been easy for the president, in either of these interviews, to acknowledge the suffering so many American families are experiencing, and say his heart goes out to the many who’ve lost their jobs, their livelihoods, and their businesses.

    Except, Trump’s instincts seem to take him in a very different direction. His top priority seems to be avoiding blame, not acknowledging pain.

    I’ve long been fascinated by the limits of the Republican’s capacity for empathy, but this is a rather extreme example of Trump prioritizing Trump, even when it’d be in his interests to think of others.


  79. blf says

    From the Grauniad’s current States pandemic live blog:

    Coronavirus whistleblower case may be retaliation — federal watchdog

    A federal investigative office has found “reasonable grounds to believe” that the Trump administration was retaliating against a whistle-blower, Rick Bright, when he was ousted from a government research agency combating the coronavirus.

    The New York Times reports that the agency further said, according to Bright’s lawyers, that Bright “Should be reinstated for 45 days while it investigates. […]”

    However, the Times further notes that the recommendation is not binding. A year ago, the same office said counsel to the president [sic] Kellyanne Conway should be fired for repeatedly violating legal prohibitions on using her position for political purposes. The president [sic] ignored the recommendation.

  80. says

    Guardian – “UK health watchdog may investigate coronavirus deaths”:

    The deaths of more than 50 hospital and care home workers have been reported to Britain’s health and safety regulator, which is considering launching criminal investigations, the Guardian has learned.

    The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which investigates the breaking of safety at work laws, has received 54 formal reports of deaths in health and care settings “where the source of infection is recorded as Covid-19”. These are via the official reporting process, called Riddor: Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences.

    Separately, senior lawyers say any failures to provide proper personal protective equipment (PPE) may be so severe they amount to corporate manslaughter, with police forces drawing up plans to handle any criminal complaints.

    Despite weeks of pleading, frontline medical staff complain that PPE is still failing to reach them as hospitals battle the highly contagious virus. Senior barristers say criminal investigations should be launched, and that there are grounds to suspect high-level failures.

    Nazir Afzal, former chief crown prosecutor for north-west England, said: “Sending someone into a high-risk situation against one of the most infectious diseases we’ve come across in 100 years without proper protection needs a proper investigation and may meet the threshold for criminal sanction.

    “In due course there ought to be an investigation by either the HSE or police to identify whether the lack of PPE has caused somebody’s death.”

    Public authorities are not exempt from duties of care to their employees even when responding to emergencies. A key issue will be whether organisational and management failures contributed to those deaths.

    Alex Bailin QC, an expert in laws concerning corporate manslaughter, said NHS trusts and the Department of Health, as well as any other government departments involved in crucial decision-making, could be considered criminal suspects.

    “Medics and other carers are doing the job with inadequate equipment, and undoubtedly some of them will have contracted it from highly infectious patients, and died. Those deaths were avoidable with proper PPE,” he said. “Had there not been organisational and management failures, those deaths could have been avoided, and that could be corporate manslaughter.

    “Legally, there may well be enough for the police to open a criminal investigation, even if there is not the appetite do so in the current crisis. There is reason to suspect serious high-level failures.”

    He added that there was ample warning of the need for PPE….

    The responsibility to investigate deaths of workers is split between the HSE and police. The HSE would investigate health and safety alleged offences, while the more serious offence of corporate manslaughter would be investigated by police.

    The HSE says cases of Covid should be reported if “a worker has been diagnosed as having Covid-19 and there is reasonable evidence that it was caused by exposure at work” and where “a worker dies as a result of occupational exposure to coronavirus”.

    The HSE has said in guidance to employers: “If a worker dies as a result of exposure to coronavirus from their work and this is confirmed as the likely cause of death by a registered medical practitioner, then you must report this as a death due to exposure to a biological agent using the ‘case of disease’ report form. You must report workplace fatalities to HSE by the quickest practicable means without delay and send a report of that fatality within 10 days of the incident.”…

  81. says

    blf @ #94, I think they all knew who it was even prior to Trump blurting it out. MSNBC just apparently has a policy not to identify people until they confirm it themselves. (The media were probably told fairly early given that they would have had more contact with Miller.)

  82. says

    Pence posted misinformation about PPE deliveries. Then he deleted those posts.

    The Washington Post has a deep look out today at Project Airbridge, the Trump administration’s effort to quickly airlift huge amounts of PPE from foreign manufacturers into the United States.

    It’s an informative telling of what’s been a murky, complicated and, as the story convincingly suggests, failed effort to end chronic shortages in protective equipment supply around the country.

    The Federal Emergency Management Agency maintains a national stockpile for distribution of critical items like PPE, but it hasn’t been enough. Instead, Presidential adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner has set up Project Airbridge, an effort to have FEMA underwrite cargo flights bringing privately produced masks to the U.S.

    The Washington Post story includes a telling anecdote.

    Last month, Vice President Mike Pence added posts to his Instagram and Twitter accounts that attributed the delivery of hundreds of thousands of N95 masks — as well as other PPE components — to Project Airbridge. The posts said that the effort had focused on delivering the masks to three likely swing states in the 2020 election: Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Indiana. [You can view some of the deleted posts at the link.]

    That didn’t make sense. In total, the Instagram posts claimed 1.4 million masks had been delivered to the three states.

    But according to FEMA records reviewed by the Washington Post, Project Airbridge had brought fewer than 800,000 masks into the country.

    After the Washington Post asked about the Instagram posts, the ones for Minnesota and Indiana were deleted and replaced. The new images attributed the PPE deliveries to FEMA, but not to Project Airbridge […]

    the mix-up comes as people continue to demand answers over the unexplained series of federal confiscations of PPE being imported into the United States. In one case, FEMA confiscated a shipment that was headed to another federal agency: the Veteran’s Administration.

    When asked, FEMA told the agency that the supplies had been diverted into the national stockpile. Where the PPE goes from there, and how that decision is made, is unclear. But the Vice President’s public statements suggest that the administration wants certain states to know they’re benefitting.

    TPM Muckraker link

    From the readers comments:

    I should not longer be surprised, but I am that these wear-my-christianist-beliefs on my sleeve people regularly lie. This is the man [Pence] who wanted to deliver empty boxes to a care facility “for the camera.” Why do they claim that morality comes from their religion. It seems the opposite is true.
    Gee, for an alleged Christian, Pence seems to have forgotten “Thou Shalt Not Lie.”
    Everybody in this maladministration really, really need to get their eyes examined, they are so bad at optics. The walk backs, the misstatements, the tweeting and deleting of said tweets, this is what they are spending their time on, and we pay for it.
    We are a lawless failed state. I don’t see any other way to call it now. There are no consequences for malfeasance by a Republican and all of them know it.
    If at first you don’t mislead, lie, lie again.
    Vice President Mike Pence, in charge of the President’s Coronavirus Task Force, was caught on a hot mic asking if he could carry empty boxes of what had housed personal protective equipment (PPE) off a van and into the front door of a nursing home.

    Project Airball, project hairball.

  83. blf says

    SC@98, “The media were probably told fairly early given that they would have had more contact with Miller.” By hair furor’s Wacko House? That’d be unusually competent.

    Anyways, the Grauniad’s current States pandemic live blog is now reporting “Mike Pence’s press secretary Katie Miller has reportedly confirmed to the media that she tested positive for coronavirus this morning. […]” (No idea precisely when or to whom she confirmed.)

  84. blf says

    And more on Ms Millers outing as infected, from the Grauniad’s current States pandemic live blog, referring to hair furor blurting out her name: “It’s not clear whether or when Mike Pence’s press secretary Katie Miller would have chosen to reveal her own diagnosis for coronavirus if it hadn’t all happened so publicly this morning. […]”

  85. says

    Ah, that was a Jimmy Kimmel joke that did not work well. Kimmel apologizes for suggesting Pence carried ’empty boxes’ to nursing home.

    Still funny:

    Late night host Jimmy Kimmel on Friday apologized for sharing a video that made it look like Vice President Pence delivered empty boxes to a nursing home.

    “[I]t would appear that @vp was joking about carrying empty boxes for a staged publicity stunt,” Kimmel tweeted Friday afternoon. He then apologized while making it clear he still believed the event was “a staged publicity stunt.”

    “The full video reveals that he was carrying full boxes for a staged publicity stunt. My apologies. I know how dearly this administration values truth,” Kimmel said. […]

  86. says

    11 legal experts agree: There’s no good reason for DOJ to drop the Michael Flynn case

    “This is a pardon disguised as a technical legal matter.”

    […] Renato Mariotti, former federal prosecutor, 2007 to 2016
    It is highly unusual for the government to dismiss a defendant’s case after he has pleaded guilty, and the DOJ’s motion contains arguments that are inconsistent with long-standing DOJ policy and practice.

    There are good reasons to consider changing how DOJ handles interviews of subjects, as well as when and how it charges people for lying to the FBI. But Flynn’s case is not unlike many other cases in which the FBI interviewed someone without their attorney present with the expectation that the subject would lie.

    Any change to how the FBI handles cases like Flynn’s should be done across the board, for all defendants. What we’re left with is a criminal justice system that has different rules for Donald Trump’s friends than it has for everyone else. That’s corruption, plain and simple. […]

    Joshua Dressler, law professor, Ohio State University
    On the face of it, this appears to be nothing more than another attack on the rule of law perpetrated by those working in the Trump administration. I can only hope that Judge Sullivan will conduct a hearing to determine whether there is any justification for Attorney General Barr’s remarkable actions.

    In light of Barr’s politicized actions in the past, I suspect that this is more of the same. As for the effects, it will have no effect on Michael Flynn who would likely have been pardoned anyway. And those who believe in “deep state” conspiracies will simply nod their head and say, “I told you so.” But, this will be another blow to the morale of career lawyers working in the Justice Department and beyond.

    And, lest we forget, when the rule of law is attacked, we are all at risk. […]

    Jimmy Gurulé, law professor, Notre Dame
    The Department of Justice under attorney general William Barr will likely be remembered as the most politicized Department of Justice in history. In a matter of a few months, Barr has personally intervened in two cases to protect President Trump’s political cronies. In February 2020, Barr overruled the sentencing recommendation of career prosecutors in order to secure a lesser sentence for Roger Stone, […] Trump’s long-time political ally.

    Now, Barr has gone even further by dropping the criminal charges against Michael Flynn, Trump’s former National Security Director. As a former federal prosecutor and U.S. Assistant Attorney General, it deeply saddens me to witness the severe and incalculable damage being inflicted to the independence and integrity of the Department of Justice.

    The rule of law is in imminent peril. […]

    Lisa Kern Griffin, law professor, Duke University
    Bill Barr has taken extraordinary steps to “erase” the Mueller investigation on the president’s behalf, from misrepresenting Mueller’s findings to the public, to intervening in Roger Stone’s sentencing proceedings, to attacking the federal agents and prosecutors who investigated Russian interference in the 2016 election.

    Dismissing the charges against Michael Flynn — who has twice acknowledged under oath that he lied to FBI agents about his conversations with the Russian ambassador and voluntarily entered a guilty plea —is the most brazen move Barr has made yet. It is openly corrupt and legally indefensible. To say that Flynn’s lies about contacting the Russian ambassador were not material to a national security investigation is inconsistent with precedents about what 18 U.S.C. 1001 requires and is a position the government seems to be taking for one case only.

    The whole point of a special counsel is to insulate sensitive investigations from political considerations. But AG Bill Barr has sacrificed the integrity of the Justice Department and undercut the rule of law for political ends. […]

    More at the link.

  87. says

    From Wonkette:

    […] “The data shows that remdesivir has a clear-cut, significant, positive effect in diminishing the time to recovery,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said at the White House on April 28. Which is great news, both for individuals and hospitals who are desperately trying to avoid becoming overwhelmed. There are conflicting studies on the drug’s efficacy, but at least there’s some evidence that it’s more than a bunch of nonsense barfed out by Rudy Giuliani and the loons at Fox.

    So maybe this time they’ll get it right. Maybe this time they won’t hype it as a cure-all, or let the president accidentally advise people to drink aquarium cleaner, or hoover up thousands of doses from unlicensed manufacturers in Pakistan, or pump it into patients willy nilly.

    Or maybe they’ll find some entirely novel way to fuck it up. […]

    Take it away, Axios:

    A complete breakdown in communication and coordination within the Trump administration has undermined the distribution of a promising treatment, according to senior officials with direct knowledge of the discussions.

    Why it matters: The drug, remdesivir, hasn’t made it to some of the high-priority hospitals where it’s most needed, and administration officials have responded by shifting blame and avoiding responsibility, sources said. […]

    More than 32,000 doses of remdesivir were shipped and delivered on Tuesday to Indiana, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Virginia.

    But many of these doses went to “less impacted counties,” an administration official said.

    […] “Some went to the wrong places, some went to the right places,” one senior official told Axios. “We don’t know who gave the order. And no one is claiming responsibility.” […]

    Apparently, Dr. Deborah Birx is GRRR SO MAD. And Mike Pence is GRRR SO MAD. And HHS Secretary Alex Azar got reamed out and ordered to “take more ownership for getting remdesivir to the places where it’s needed.” Which means the HHS Secretary is also GRRR SO MAD at his deputy Robert Kadlec, who was involved in the botched distribution effort. And if that name sounds familiar, it’s because Kadlec features prominently in Dr. Rick Bright’s whistleblower complaint, for his efforts to disregard the science and sprinkle Hydroxybonercream 3000 on America’s Cheerios. More or less.

    Whodathunkit that Kadlec could mess it up again, huh? […]

    The official added that this failure of distribution highlights the need for better data. “But it more importantly highlights the reason why the administration continues to push a locally-executed response effort, because they [the local jurisdictions] know the data and the distribution better than the federal government.”

    Anyway, they have lots more drugs to distribute, and this time they’ll ONE HUNDRED PERCENT get it all right, so nothing to worry about, okay? […]

  88. says

    blf @ #103, I suspect Trump’s naming her might not have been just callous negligence. He could well have done it intentionally – all of the evidence is that his response to other people being sick around him is selfish anger.

  89. says

    “I worked for Jared Kushner. Of course he says his covid-19 failure is a success.”

    Washington Post link

    Trump’s son-in-law always casts himself as the genius cleaning up someone else’s problems.

    […] He has wasted taxpayer resources and endangered lives trying on policy roles usually reserved for the country’s top experts with the sophistication of a child playing dress-up, cavalierly discarding them when he can’t fit into them.

    There have been no consequences. In any normal administration, an adviser with Kushner’s string of failures would be fired, but Kushner, like his father-in-law, keeps crediting himself with imaginary successes. Most recently, he declared the administration’s coronavirus response “a great success story,” a mind-boggling assertion that raises the question of what, if anything, Kushner thinks failure looks like. He has also continued to bash the actual experts, disputing their assessments and implying that they, not he, are the amateurs, and he is here to clean up their mess.

    This is basically Kushner’s modus operandi, and it’s painfully familiar to me because he was my boss when I was the editor in chief of the New York Observer, which he had bought when he was 25. […] One of the more memorable instances of this I witnessed was at a memorial service for a beloved longtime Observer staffer, Tyler Rush, who’d joined the paper well before Kushner bought it. When it came time for Kushner to say a few words, he launched into a supercilious monologue crediting himself with finally getting the paper published on time after what he described as chaos when he arrived. He also told an anecdote about Rush approaching him when he bought the paper to note that his staff was underpaid, which was true at the time, and true when I took the editor job years later. Kushner congratulated himself during the memorial for giving Rush and his production team the only raise that year because “unlike everyone else,” Rush hadn’t been lying to Kushner.

    This line didn’t land the way Kushner hoped, because no one had been lying. Everyone was underpaid. But he didn’t like what he heard from the other staffers, so he proceeded to make his own assessment about what their experience and expertise were worth. […] The conclusion he drew was that people who chose less remunerative career paths had not figured out how the world worked. […]

    The more grotesque and repulsive aspect of this incident was that Kusher thought this self-aggrandizing nonsense was an appropriate eulogy, but that, too, is in keeping with how he operates. When I knew him, he seemed constitutionally incapable of considering the humanity of other people as a starting point.

    Relationships were primarily transactional, and this failure of empathy permeated everything he did. […]

    But he’s in good company in the Trump White House with that attitude. When Kushner says the coronavirus response is going well, he’s echoing the equally preposterous rhetoric of his father-in-law, who says the same thing in any medium or venue that will amplify him. This bubble of delusion extends to the rest of the family, too. Ivanka Trump’s equally fruitless government tenure is marked primarily by her ability to take credit for family-leave policy work other people have done and her father’s insistence that she’s created 15 million jobs, even though there’s little evidence that she’s created more than one, which doesn’t even pay: senior White House adviser. […]

    Worse, when they [Trump and Kushner] fail, the entire executive office apparatus is expected to adapt to their mistakes and bend reality in service of optics. When Kushner stated publicly — and incorrectly — that the national stockpile of medical supplies is “supposed to be our stockpile” and “not supposed to be states’ stockpiles that they then use,” the administration changed the language on federal websites to accommodate his ignorance.

    This goes beyond the sort of routine movement of goal posts many elected officials engage in when they need to explain their gaffes. This is teleporting the goal posts to an entirely different dimension or denying their existence in the first place. In this alternate universe where Jared Kushner is doing a good job, no identifiable outcomes constitute failure, and everything is, by definition, success. […]

  90. says

    NEWS: A White House official tells NBC News that Katie Miller was at the White House this morning before testing positive for coronavirus. This official says Miller was showing ‘symptoms’. (Miller tells NBC News she is asymptomatic.) – h/t @PeterAlexander”

  91. blf says

    From the Grauniad’s current main pandemic live blog, Brazilian president Jairo Bolsonaro’s Covid-19 denialism and obstruction is affecting(& causing the infection of) more than just Brazil and Brazilians:

    Escalating levels of COVID-19 infection in Brazil are causing concerns in the neighbouring country of Paraguay as large numbers of cases of the disease are being recorded among Paraguayan citizens returning across the border between the two countries.

    Of 101 new reported cases of COVID-19 in Paraguay on Friday, 99 were from Paraguayans being held in compulsory quarantine centres after returning from Brazil. This represented by far Paraguay’s largest daily jump in cases of the virus.


    More at the linked-to live blog entry.

  92. blf says

    Not much of a surprise, Major anti-lockdown group’s links to America’s far right (the Grauniad’s edits in {curly braces}):

    American Revolution 2.0, which presents itself as bipartisan, has been assisted by far-right individuals — some with extremist links

    Leaked audio recordings and online materials obtained by the Guardian reveal that one of the most prominent anti-lockdown protest groups, American Revolution 2.0 (AR2), has received extensive assistance from well-established far-right actors, some with extremist connections.

    AR2 presents itself as a grassroots network, but the recordings and other materials reveal its allies include a well-connected Tea Party co-founder and a family of serial online activists who have rolled out dozens of reopen websites and Facebook groups.

    Its website was built and is hosted by a web designer long active in far-right circles online, and who runs a bespoke social media network for the militia movement. One of that website’s previous users bombed a mosque, and another user, now memorialized on the site, was recently shot dead by police in Maryland during a firearms raid.

    Josh Ellis is the leader of AR2, which has driven anti-lockdown protests across the country, and presented itself as a spontaneous uprising. […]


    Ellis told the group [“an inner circle of AR2 members” …] that in recent days he had talked to the Dorr brothers.

    The Dorr brothers — Chris, Ben, Aaron and Matthew — are rightwing activists whose methods have been roundly criticized by conservative groups and legislators.

    Ellis continued: I was like, ‘Hey guys, I just need you to promote my thing on May 1st if that’s alright,’ and they were like, ‘Hey, awesome.’

    The Dorr brothers have orchestrated online campaigns which stake out positions to the right of established pro-gun groups such as the NRA, and state-based right-to-life groups. The campaigns then encourage rank-and-file conservatives to donate money and sign petitions on websites that harvest their data.

    An analysis in late April by internet security researchers found hundreds of reopen related domains had been registered during that month; that scores could be connected to the Dorr brothers; and that “Facebook groups spun up by the Dorr brothers use these groups to direct traffic to these domains”.

    Some of these sites acted as major hubs for disinformation about the pandemic, and many were suspended by Facebook. But the Guardian was able to establish that as of Monday, at least 20 reopen or American Revolution 2 pages for cities and states including Virginia, Florida and Los Angeles were running as private groups.

    The pages viewed by the Guardian featured content promoting “deep state” or anti-China conspiracy theories, anti-vaccination beliefs and denialism about the danger of Covid-19. […]

    [… many more details about (e.g.) the website…]

    In the recording, Ellis is heard to say he has spoken with Mark Meckler, he’s the one who owns the website, and he’s super connected with {Sean} Hannity, Tucker {Carlson}, {Mark} Levin, {Ben} Shapiro, Charlie Kirk — implying Meckler could help him to connect with prominent conservative media figures.

    Meckler’s is a slick anti-lockdown protest website that links back to another website for Convention of States (COS), a “dark money” organization attached to the big-money rightwing non-profit Citizens for Self-Governance (CSG).

    Meckler’s non-profits have been widely reported as being in receipt of money from funds connected to the Koch brothers, the Coors foundation, and other rightwing megadonors.


    On 28 April, Ellis was a guest on The War Room, a news show on Alex Jones’s Infowars platform. On 29 April, Ellis appeared on Meckler’s podcast with two other anti-lockdown activists.


  93. blf says

    Liars caught lying again, from the Grauniad’s current States pandemic live blog:

    Although the White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany said guidance on reopening had not been approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Robert Redfield, the new emails obtained by the AP found that Redfield did clear the guidance.

    [… F]rom the AP: “On April 24, Redfield again emailed the guidance documents to Birx and Grogan, according to a copy viewed by The AP. Redfield asked Birx and Grogan for their review so that the CDC could post the guidance publicly. […]”

    Not entirely sure, but “Grogan” is presumably Joe Grogan, “the director of the United States Domestic Policy Council and assistant to President [sic] Donald Trump. [… Grogan] was appointed a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force in January 2020.”

  94. says

    blf @ #112, yes. Here’s the link to the original AP report: “AP Exclusive: Docs show top WH officials buried CDC report.”

    They refer to “Joseph Grogan, assistant to the president for domestic policy.”

    (Incidentally, I find some of George Conway’s tweets about Trump really weird, specifically the ones about Trump’s history of sexual assaults – I’m frankly concerned about McEnany – and those about the virus spreading in the WH. His wife works there!)

  95. says

    By the way, in the past I’ve often linked to segments from Chris Hayes, Rachel Maddow, and Lawrence O’Donnell on MSNBC. They’ve all been doing such a fantastic job of late that there are too many segments to recommend, so I recommend that people in the US watch the entire shows and people outside the US watch what they can online.

  96. says

    Yahoo – “Document reveals Secret Service has 11 current virus cases, as concerns about Trump’s staff grow”:

    Multiple members of the U.S. Secret Service have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, according to Department of Homeland Security documents reviewed by Yahoo News.

    In March, the Secret Service, which is responsible for the protection of President Trump and other leaders, acknowledged that a single employee tested positive in March. However the problem is currently far more widespread, with 11 active cases at the agency as of Thursday evening, according to a daily report compiled by the DHS.

    This report comes as a pair of cases among White House staffers close to Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have put the West Wing’s coronavirus security procedures in the spotlight.

    According to the DHS document, along with the 11 active cases there are 23 members of the Secret Service who have recovered from COVID-19 and an additional 60 employees who are self-quarantining. No details have been provided about which members of the Secret Service are infected or if any have recently been on detail with the president or vice president.

    On Monday, Yahoo News reported that there are regularly held large events with unmasked attendees in close quarters at the White House — including inside the Oval Office, which is the president’s inner sanctum. Many Secret Service employees on the White House grounds are among those who are not wearing masks. The agency did not respond to questions about why its employees are not wearing masks or whether personal protective equipment is being provided to members of the Secret Service who request it. Pence and Trump have also regularly opted not to wear masks.

    While temperature checks were being administered to everyone entering the White House complex, not everyone who entered the Oval Office with the president was given a test. On multiple occasions last week, reporters were brought into the Oval Office without being given tests or being required to wear masks.

    The White House declined to comment on whether Stephen Miller had tested negative or was being quarantined. Deere, the deputy press secretary, provided a new statement saying, “The President’s physician and White House Operations continue to work closely to ensure every precaution is taken to keep the President, First Family and the entire White House Complex safe and healthy at all times.”

    “In addition to social distancing, daily temperature checks and symptom histories, hand sanitizer, and regular deep cleaning of all work spaces, every staff member in close proximity to the president and vice president is being tested daily for COVID-19 as well as any guests,” Deere said.

    Yet even after the pair of coronavirus cases among the Trump administration staff, not everyone who gets in a room with the president is being tested. The press that covered the event where Trump discussed Miller’s diagnosis was brought into the State Dining Room without being given tests….

    This seems like malpractice on the part of the WH physician, tbh.

  97. says

    Asked why President Trump didn’t wear a mask while honoring WW II veterans in their 90s—just a day after one of his personal valets tested positive for COVID-19—press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said, ‘They made the choice to come here’.”

    I’m speechless. Also, Trump claimed that given the way the wind was blowing the veterans couldn’t have been in danger, but in both this picture and videos I’ve seen the wind is heading directly at them. (But listening to and carrying their voices, I’m sure.)

  98. says

    Mike Pompeo can’t keep his lies lined up. The lies are getting out of his control:

    Secretary of State Pompeo is leaning even harder into his attacks on the Chinese government over the novel coronavirus pandemic — even as he further walks back his claim that the U.S. has ‘enormous evidence’ a biomedical laboratory in Wuhan, China, is responsible for the outbreak. […]

    an intelligence official says there is no signals or human intelligence backing up the idea, while lawmakers press the administration to turn over any evidence. […]

    While Pompeo has said he doesn’t doubt the intelligence community assessment, he has boosted the unproven theory the first human infection came from an accidental or intentional release at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. He first told ABC News’ “This Week” Sunday that there was “enormous evidence” supporting that unproven theory, before shifting slightly Wednesday to say there’s “significant” evidence, but the U.S. doesn’t have “certainty” yet. [Bullshit alert]

    But in interviews Thursday, Pompeo shifted again, telling a conservative talk radio host, “There’s evidence that it came from somewhere in the vicinity of the lab, but that could be wrong.”

    “We’ve seen evidence that it came from the lab. That may not be the case,” he said in a second talk radio interview. […]

    Asked about what kind of evidence the U.S. government has, Pompeo told CNBC Thursday, “One man’s direct is another man’s circumstantial.” […]

    It also doesn’t appear any person or neighborhood connected to the lab became sick at the start of the outbreak, the intelligence official said. […]

    Reports from the closest U.S. allies have also cast doubt on Pompeo’s statement. Known as the “Five Eyes,” the U.S., United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and New Zealand cooperate and share signals intelligence, which intercepts signals like communications or radar.

    “There’s nothing that we have that would indicate that was the likely source,” Australia’s conservative Prime Minister Scott Morrison said of the Wuhan lab last Friday. Days later, the Australian newspaper The Sydney Morning Herald reported that the theory around the lab’s role is “mostly based on news reports and contained no material from intelligence gathering,” citing Australian intelligence officials. […]

    The top Senate Republican, Mitch McConnell, wouldn’t back Pompeo’s statement either, telling reporters Tuesday, “I don’t think we know, except we know it was in China.”

    Instead of providing details of the “enormous evidence,” Pompeo pivoted questions Thursday to demand transparency from China, saying the Chinese government’s lack of transparency has halted any efforts to find out how that first transmission took place. […]

    This isn’t the first time Pompeo has cast relations with China as a sort of clash of civilizations. He gave a major address last October when he said the Chinese Communist Party is “truly hostile to the United States and our values.”

    But he has escalated that argument and started to hammer it more often, especially in interviews with conservative media — 28 of which he’s done in the last three weeks — and near weekly press conferences since March.

    ABC News Link

    Pompeo’s lies seem to be partly concocted in service to his idea that Western (Christian) governments are in some sort of battle against the values systems of the Chinese government. Pompeo used the phase “China is just different than we are.” At least he realized that his claim “enormous evidence” existed for the unproven theory the first human infection came from an accidental or intentional release at the Wuhan Institute of Virology is a fucking lie that he cannot sustain. Now he is really twisted up in more lies as he tries to walk that big lie back.

  99. says

    “Trump made Florida his official residence. He may have also made a legal mess.”

    Washington Post link

    For nearly a quarter-century, […] Trump has envisioned boats docking at Mar-a-Lago, his swanky club set on 17 acres of prime real estate in Palm Beach, Fla. […]

    Trump’s quest has, predictably, irked his wealthy neighbors, sparking one of those pesky territorial squabbles that occupy town halls and zoning boards in tony neighborhoods across the country. But the attempt by Trump and his legal team to squeeze through approval of his dock while the nation’s attention is trained on the coronavirus pandemic is now surfacing a potentially nettlesome problem for the president.

    Digging into the catacombs of local records to build an argument against the dock, a small group of loosely aligned preservationists, disgruntled neighbors and attorneys have unearthed documents that they assert call into question the legality of Trump’s much-publicized decision late last year to change his official domicile from Manhattan to Mar-a-Lago and to register to vote in Florida using the club’s address. According to those documents, and additional materials obtained by The Washington Post, Trump agreed in writing years ago to change the use of the Mar-a-Lago property from a single-family residence to a private club owned by a corporation he controls.

    The distinction is significant. The property is taxed as a private club — not as a residence, according to Palm Beach County property appraiser records. Trump’s own attorney assured local officials in Palm Beach before they voted to approve the club in 1993 that he would not live there. […]

    “It’s one or the other — it’s a club or it’s your home,” Reginald Stambaugh, an attorney who represents a neighbor opposed to Trump’s dock plan, said in a recent interview. “You can’t have it both ways.”

    If Stambaugh and his client have their way and persuade Palm Beach to stand firm on its long-standing agreement, Trump will be forced to make a choice, he said: Stop operating Mar-a-Lago as a club and make it a single-family home again or change his official domicile to someplace else. […]

    Schadenfreude moment. Trump is being blocked from doing something he wants to do … and part of the legal reasoning harks back to mistakes he made in the past.

  100. says

    Yale epidemiologist: Trump’s response to COVID-19 ‘close to genocide by default’

    […] a day after the Trump administration indicated it would wind down its coronavirus task force — and before it suddenly reversed that shit-for-brains policy when millions of lucid human beings heard about it — Gregg Gonsalves, a Yale University epidemiologist, said what many of us have been thinking. What Trump is doing — or, more precisely, not doing — amounts to criminal negligence.

    How many people will die this summer, before Election Day? What proportion of the deaths will be among African-Americans, Latinos, other people of color? This is getting awfully close to genocide by default. What else do you call mass death by public policy?

    So, what does it mean to let thousands die by negligence, omission, failure to act, in a legal sense under international law?

    And I am being serious here: what is happening in the US is purposeful, considered negligence, omission, failure to act by our leaders. Can they be held responsible under international law?


    Reopening the economy with no real plan to do it safely — i.e., without testing and contact tracing — is essentially murder.

    But Trump knows that he needs a much stronger economy to give him any shot at reelection. America has to be “back” before Election Day or Trump will have nothing to run on but racism, xenophobia, and a bunch of shitty right-wing judges.

    So he’s gambling with our lives. If things miraculously work out, he’ll look like a strong leader who guided us through this crisis. If not, well, what’s a few hundred thousand dead Americans to him? This guy had no compunction about tearing innocent children away from their mothers and tossing them in cages. Why the fuck would you ever think he’d care about you?

    Trump likes to pretend he’s a wartime president fighting an “invisible enemy.” Well, maybe we can convict him of war crimes. Deliberate mass murder qualifies, right?

  101. KG says

    Which private companies are making money off of that redundant activity? Friends of Boris Johnson? – Lynna, OM@78

    Serco. I don’t know of any specific links to Johnson – which doesn’t of course mean there are none – but the company has a dismal record of incompetence, corruption and violence, particularly its involvement with prisons, detention centres, housing asylum seekers and health.

  102. says

    KG @123:

    the company has a dismal record of incompetence, corruption and violence, particularly its involvement with prisons, detention centres, housing asylum seekers and health.

    Sounds about right. All the Best People.

    So the lying, corrupt powers-that-be throw some money their way.

  103. says

    From The Rachel Maddow Show:

    […] looks at the worsening coronavirus situation in Iowa as infections grow at an alarming rate, making the Trump administration’s praise for Governor Reynolds’ handling of the crisis hard to understand.

    The video shows Mike Pence going on and on (in the presence of Trump and others) about how well “Iowa has stayed in front of this effort,” and about “the great success story that is Iowa.” That is 180° from the truth. It is, in light of the facts, batshit bonkers.

    The video is 2:49 minutes long.

    I know that Trump and Pence are often wrong, or often lying, but this is mystifying. It’s a whole new level of wrong. Looking at just one fact, among many, that Pence ignored: More than 1,000 workers at the Tyson Foods plant in Waterloo, Iowa have tested positive for the coronavirus. Pence had bragged about the plant reopening.

  104. says

    More COVID-19 cases in the White House. Ivanka Trump’s personal assistant has tested positive.

    […] According to CNN, the assistant had been tested out of caution and was found to have the virus, though she did not exhibit any symptoms.

    An unnamed source told CNN that she has not been near Trump in recent weeks. Trump and Jared Kushner, her husband and a fellow White House senior adviser, took tests for COVID-19 on Friday, which both came up negative.

    The White House did not immediately respond to TPM’s request for comment.

    The report marks the third time this week in which a White House aide has tested positive for the coronavirus.

    The President’s personal valet was found to have COVID-19, and so was Vice President Mike Pence’s press secretary, Katie Miller.

    Both Donald Trump and Pence have tested negative, according to White House spokesperson Hogan Gidley.

    White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters on Friday that “the White House is continuing to operate safely” and has begun following guidelines put forth by health officials.

    TPM link

    From the readers comments:

    Dear Lord.
    Please fill the White House with warriors.
    Remember the huge anti-stay-at-home protest in Wisconsin? 72 people have now tested positive here after indicating that they attended a “large event.
    We’ve learned in the past 48 hours of over 30 secret service members and 3 senior staff to the first and second families having contracted the virus. I do not think this is by coincidence. I suspect the situation is truly out of hand and people are leaking to try to protect themselves.

    I also suspect that Trump’s suppression of the CDC/JHU study and the guidelines for business to manage a re-opening in the midst of the virus are the last straws for folks on the WH CV task force and the CDC and they are leaking.

    The virus DGAF about political spin
    You can really see that Trump has completely eliminated all the people who would counter him and tell him that he’s running off a cliff.
    stupidity spreads faster than the virus
    The key thing to remember from this article is that Ivanka has more than one personal assistant.
    This fills me with relief, because I know her sterling character, and feel she will bear up somehow with her other personal assistants. I look forward to her instagram posts on how she is bravely managing the crisis.
    No masks required
    I saw a picture of Katie Miller standing outside with a crowd of journalists around her.

    She was the ONLY one not wearing a mask.
    F’ing morons!! COVID-19 has been in community spread since what? – March? Did the regime really think they were somehow immune to it??
    It is just like a meat packing plant, people are crowded together without PPE or social distancing. The difference is the White House does daily testing. I wonder if they do contact tracing?

    We don’t need to worry I am sure Ivanka has a great supply of the Trump elixir Hydroxychloroquine.
    If the Dotard actually did wear a mask, how long would it take before it also turned orange? You know that’s the main reason he doesn’t wear one, right? It would smear his orange makeup/tanning cream, and rub off on his mask
    DiJiT’s White House practices and protocols seem to adhere to the rules of a witless protection program.
    And it was only until recently that Rump’s daily coronovirus updates (e.g., outbursts of total insanity and cruelty) showed people in the regime standing shoulder to shoulder with each other with no mask as if to signal to the general public that they couldn’t not possibly become infected because – reasons.
    ‘Funny’ how Trump Inc. is able to get tests and PPEs so easily. Maybe this is where the ‘Fed’ supplies went that Jared told us they ‘could’ confiscate and the states had to just keep trying to get their OWN.

    Having the staff and Trump wear masks would have been an appropriate preventative measure.

  105. says

    The whistleblower and now ousted HHS official is speaking out publicly.

    Dr. Rick Bright, a top public health official at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) whom[…] Trump removed this week, spoke out against the Trump administration’s dismissiveness toward science amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

    In Bright’s first interview since he filed a whistleblower complaint alleging retaliation after he was ousted from his position as director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), the official rejected Trump’s accusation that he was merely a “disgruntled” employee.

    “I am not disgruntled,” Bright told CBS News reporter Norah O’Donnell. “I am frustrated at a lack of leadership. I am frustrated at a lack of urgency to get a head start on developing lifesaving tools for Americans. I’m frustrated at our inability to be heard as scientists. Those things frustrate me.”

    The official, who has been demoted to a smaller position at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), slammed the administration’s decision to “decapitate” BARDA, which is currently conducting crucial research into COVID-19.

    “Doesn’t make sense,” Bright said. […]

    TPM link

  106. says

    Al Jazeera – “Bolsonaro called biggest threat to Brazil’s coronavirus response”:

    A leading medical journal has described President Jair Bolsonaro as “perhaps the biggest threat” to Brazil’s ability to successfully fight the coronavirus pandemic, just as the country reported its highest daily death toll.

    In an editorial, The Lancet said Bolsonaro’s disregard for and flouting of lockdown measures is sowing confusion across Brazil, which is quickly emerging as a hotspot for COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus.

    On Friday, Brazil’s Ministry of Health registered 10,222 new confirmed coronavirus cases and 751 related deaths, a daily high. That brought the total of confirmed cases in the country to 145,328 and deaths to 9,897.

    The Lancet said Bolsonaro was becoming increasingly hamstrung by political crisis following his sacking last month of popular Minister of Health Luiz Henrique Mandetta after a disagreement over measures to tackle the pandemic and the resignation of Minister of Justice Sergio Moro.

    “The challenge is ultimately political, requiring continuous engagement by Brazilian society as a whole. Brazil as a country must come together to give a clear answer to the ‘So what?’ by its President. He needs to drastically change course or must be the next to go,” the editorial by the British medical journal said.

    On Friday, the president said he planned to have 30 friends over to the presidential palace for a barbecue. Later in the day, he joked that he may extend the invitation to thousands more, including political supporters and members of the press.

    The president, who has referred to the coronavirus as the “little flu” and interacted with supporters without a face mask, has argued that the economic fallout of lockdown measures would be deadlier than the virus itself.

    He has also actively encouraged people to defy physical distancing measures put in place by state governors, calling on people to return to work and take part in large gatherings despite the growing number of known infections and deaths.

    A report by Imperial College London published on Friday showed that “the epidemic is not yet controlled and will continue to grow” in Brazil, in stark contrast to parts of Europe and Asia, where enforced lockdowns have had success.

    “While the Brazilian epidemic is still relatively nascent on a national scale, our results suggest that further action is needed to limit spread and prevent health system overload,” the Imperial College report said.

    In its editorial, The Lancet outlined challenges faced by Brazil. About 13 million Brazilians live in shanty towns where hygiene recommendations and physical distancing are near impossible to follow.

    The country’s Indigenous population was also under “severe threat” even before the COVID-19 outbreak due to the government turning a blind eye to or even encouraging illegal mining and logging in the Amazon rainforest.

    “These loggers and miners now risk bringing COVID-19 to remote populations,” it said. Most of Brazil’s 27 state and district governments are taking the threat of the virus more seriously than Bolsonaro.

    On Friday, the government of Sao Paulo, Brazil’s most populous state, extended mandatory quarantine orders through to May 31. They had been scheduled to expire on May 11.

  107. says

    The U.S. Secret Service has 11 active COVID-19 cases and 60 more in self-quarantine.


    23 members of the Secret Service have recovered from the virus.

    […] USA Today says that they were unable to get a breakdown of how many of these Secret Service members are civilian workers and how many are agents. Also not known is what, if any, contact to the White House or government officials any of those infected have had. […]

    The Trump White House has made a habit of practicing terrible pandemic hygiene policy both publicly and privately in recent weeks. The reason for wearing these CDC-recommended face masks and washing our hands, while distancing from one another is to protect everybody.

    There are plenty of photos that show Secret Service people around Trump not wearing masks.

  108. says

    Say, what now? “WH press secretary says she called Trump a ‘racist’ and ‘hateful’ because CNN headlines tricked her.”

    On Thursday, CNN went through some of their recent archives to pull out statements that newly anointed White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany made about her new boss, Donald Trump. It turns out that a lot of those statements were no good. I mean, they were honest—they just aren’t good for the job she has now.

    An example of some of McEnany’s “critical” statements about Trump: In 2015 she called Trump’s racist statement about Mexican immigrants being “drug dealers” and “rapists” … “racist.” She went on to explain: “Some of the things we heard in his speech when he said, when Mexico sends people across the border, they’re sending criminals and rapists and maybe some good people. Look, the GOP doesn’t need to be turning away voters and isolating them. We need to be bringing them into the tent. Donald Trump is the last person who’s going to do that.” She also called Trump’s rhetoric “hateful” and derogatory.”

    McEnany also went out of her way to lament the idea that Trump was being called a Republican, and said his entire campaign as a Republican was “inauthentic.” While McEnany did not respond to CNN’s questions about her change of heart, she did address it in the most spectacular way at a press conference on Friday, saying: “For about the first four weeks of the election, I was watching CNN and I was naively believing some of the headlines that I saw on CNN. I very quickly came around and supported the president. In fact, CNN hired me.”

    CNN did hire her. That’s on them, for sure. But the idea that you call someone a racist, quoting their speeches where they are in fact being racist, as the result of a few headlines you read is … intergalactic sociopathy. It’s so far beyond lying that I really can’t call it that. It shows not simply a lack of compassion for the people hurt by Trump’s statements, subsequent policies, and lies, but also a complete disdain for people’s base intelligence. […]


  109. says

    In Leaked Audio, Barack Obama Warns That Donald Trump Is Corrupting the “Rule of Law”

    Former President Barack Obama said Friday that the Department of Justice’s decision to drop charges against former Trump National Security Advisor Michael Flynn means that the “basic understanding of rule of law is at risk.”

    The comments were made in a private web chat conversation with members of the Obama Alumni Association, a recording of which was obtained by Yahoo News’ Michael Isikoff, who wrote about the comments late Friday.

    Obama, who had once fired Flynn as his director of the Defense Intelligence Agency for being “chaotic [and] insubordinate,” Isikoff notes, said on the recording that the news about Flynn’s case had been “somewhat downplayed” but was incredibly worrying.

    “And the fact that there is no precedent that anybody can find for someone who has been charged with perjury just getting off scot-free,” Obama said. “That’s the kind of stuff where you begin to get worried that basic—not just institutional norms—but our basic understanding of rule of law is at risk. And when you start moving in those directions, it can accelerate pretty quickly as we’ve seen in other places.”

    Isikoff notes that Obama misstated Flynn’s charge: He had pled guilty to lying to FBI investigators, not perjury. Flynn’s guilty plea came in late 2017 after he lied to FBI agents about whether he’d talked with then-Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the presidential transition period in January 2017. As reported by Mother Jones‘ Dan Friedman, in November 2017 Flynn pled guilty to lying to FBI agents about the conversations with Kislyak, while also admitting that he had lied to the FBI about efforts to influence foreign diplomats during a December 2016 UN resolution on condemning Israeli settlement construction.

    Misrepresenting the truth was a regular habit of Flynn’s. He also admitted lying to the Justice Department in a Foreign Agents Registration Act filing by claiming he was not aware that he was lobbying for Turkey. And he’d lied to Vice President Mike Pence about the call with Kislyak, which Trump acknowledged. […]

  110. says

    Follow-up to comment 132.

    Former President Obama during a private call on Friday night with his former aides tore into the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus crisis, calling it an “absolute chaotic disaster.”

    The blistering assessment, confirmed to CNN by three former Obama administration officials, came on a call intended to encourage members of the Obama Alumni Association to engage with former Vice President Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign.

    “This election that’s coming up — on every level — is so important because what we’re going to be battling is not just a particular individual or a political party,” Obama said, according to CNN. “What we’re fighting against is these long-term trends in which being selfish, being tribal, being divided and seeing others as an enemy — that has become a stronger impulse in American life.”

    Obama continued to tear into the Trump administration’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, partly blaming the White House’s “what’s in it for me” mindset.

    “It’s part of the reason why the response to this global crisis has been so anemic and spotty,” Obama said. “It would have been bad even with the best of governments. It has been an absolute chaotic disaster when that mindset of ‘what’s in it for me’ and ‘to heck with everybody else’ … is operationalized in our government.

    “That’s why, I, by the way, am going to be spending as much time as necessary and campaigning as hard as I can for Joe Biden,” he added. […]


  111. says

    California has become the first state to send all voters mail-in ballots for the November election.

    In response to Covid-19, California will allow everyone to vote by mail.

  112. says

    Here’s a link to the May 9 Guardian coronavirus world liveblog.

    Summary from there:

    Thousands of people, including elderly second world war veterans, have turned out for Belarus’s Victory Day military parade despite the coronavirus epidemic.

    As Spain’s daily death toll fell to its second lowest level since mid-March on Saturday, half of the country prepared to move into the next phase of exit from one of Europe’s strictest lockdowns.

    Russia has been hit with more than 10,000 new Covid-19 cases in the last day, as the country approaches nearly 200,000 confirmed infections with lockdown measures continuing.

    China’s president, Xi Jinping, has offered the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, support in tackling the coronavirus, state media said on Saturday.

    As debates rage in other countries about the return of professional football, games will be played on the Faroe Islands on Saturday for the first time since the coronavirus outbreak.

    Indonesia has reported its biggest daily increase in infections, with 533 new confirmed cases, taking the total to 13,645.

    And a French MP has failed in her bid to to get “love” added to the list of “compelling reasons” that must be given for anyone to travel more than 100km (62 miles) in the country.

  113. says

    The District Attorney Who Saw “No Grounds for Arrest” in the Killing of Ahmaud Arbery Has a History

    On April 1, Georgia District Attorney George Barnhill finally received the autopsy report for a 25-year-old black jogger killed during a Feb. 23 confrontation with three white Glynn County men. A day later, Barnhill laid out the case for why he didn’t believe the men should be arrested for the fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery.

    “It appears Travis McMichael, Greg McMichael, and [William Bryan] were following, in ‘hot pursuit,’ a burglary suspect, with solid firsthand probable cause,” Barnhill wrote to a Glynn County police captain in a three-page letter. “Given the fact Arbery initiated the fight, at the point Arbery grabbed the shotgun [that Travis McMichael was holding], under Georgia law, McMichael was allowed to use deadly force to protect himself.”

    As we all now know, Arbery wasn’t the burglar, and there was no good reason to think he was, but Barnhill’s letter provided the foundation of the argument against charging the McMichaels until just a few days ago, when a grisly cellphone video of Arbery’s death went viral and brought national outrage and renewed attention to the case.

    The Georgia Bureau of Investigation took over the investigation Wednesday and charged the McMichaels with murder and aggravated assault Thursday. A day later, the agency couldn’t help but take a swipe at the local investigation.

    “Probable cause was clear to our agents pretty quickly,” Georgia Bureau of Investigation Director Vic Reynolds said during a press conference Friday, implying that it should have been just as clear to George Barnhill.

    Barnhill, 63, has worked in relative obscurity as a small-town prosecutor for 36 years. He was assigned the case only after another prosecutor recused herself because Greg McMichael used to work in her office. In the letter to the police captain, Barnhill noted Greg McMichael also worked in a district attorney’s office where his son is a prosecutor.

    “The victim’s mother has clearly expressed she wants myself and my office off the case,” Barnhill wrote. “She believes there are kinships between the parties (there are not) and has made other unfounded allegations of bias(es).”

    A few weeks later, Barnhill requested the state assign another prosecutor to the case, but only after making clear that he saw “no grounds for arrest.”

    Barnhill’s role in the Arbery shooting is his first real brush with national scrutiny. But I recalled Barnhill from an assignment in 2017, when he was doggedly pursuing Olivia Pearson on charges of felony voter fraud. Pearson, a 58-year-old black activist and city commissioner in the South Georgia town of Douglas, stood accused of improperly helping a woman vote—showing a young, first-time, black voter how to use a voting machine when she didn’t know how—in October 2012.

    Barnhill has a history of applying unequal justice, to the detriment of black people.

    Barnhill’s prosecution of Pearson was part of a larger campaign by then–Secretary of State (and now Gov.) Brian Kemp, Georgia’s top elections official, to make vigilance against voter fraud a priority. I was alerted to the case while reporting on voter suppression efforts heading into the 2016 presidential election. Voting rights groups flagged Barnhill’s prosecution as part of an obvious and well-orchestrated attempt to intimidate black voters. After all, Pearson was accused of simply showing a young woman how to use a voting machine, not of influencing her vote.

    It was an especially uncommon prosecution: At the time, only 10 of the 154 illegal voter assistance investigations in the previous three years in Georgia had been referred to a prosecutor. Most were closed without a ruling or dismissed. But Barnhill’s office was relentless in pursuing what they saw as an important case, and Pearson’s prosecution spanned two trials and two years.

    I covered Pearson’s first trial in April 2017. It ended in a mistrial due to a 29-year-old black female juror named Lenecia Armour, the only juror to stand between Pearson and a felony conviction and a possible 15-year prison sentence. “It was torture,” Armour said at the time of disagreeing with the rest of the jury. […]

    Barnhill’s office quickly refiled the case and the second trial was held in February 2018. This time, Pearson’s prosecution had earned more attention around the state, and a number of local voters’ rights groups helped with her defense. That case ended with much less drama; Pearson was acquitted of all charges after less than 30 minutes of jury deliberations.

    “Ms. Pearson did absolutely nothing wrong, and her life was in turmoil for years because DA Barnhill would not back down,” Sara Totonchi, executive director of the Southern Center for Human Rights, said earlier this week. “This old tactic of Southern oppression sent palpable waves of fear throughout her community.”

    […] She was reelected to the city commission last fall and has continued her work in the community, a place mired in poverty and inequality. But it wasn’t lost on her—and others who worked on her case—that Barnhill showed much more vigor in prosecuting her than in working to convict Ahmaud Arbery’s killers. […]

    But she also knows it’s not just Barnhill. “Justice in South Georgia is hard to achieve for African Americans,” she said when we talked. “South Georgia is so prejudiced and racist, it’s just sad.”

  114. says

    In the early days of the pandemic, the U.S. government turned down an offer to manufacture millions of N95 masks in America.

    Washington Post link

    It was Jan. 22, a day after the first case of covid-19 was detected in the United States, and orders were pouring into Michael Bowen’s company outside Fort Worth, some from as far away as Hong Kong.

    Bowen’s medical supply company, Prestige Ameritech, could ramp up production to make an additional 1.7 million N95 masks a week. He viewed the shrinking domestic production of medical masks as a national security issue, though, and he wanted to give the federal government first dibs.

    “We still have four like-new N95 manufacturing lines,” Bowen wrote that day in an email to top administrators in the Department of Health and Human Services. “Reactivating these machines would be very difficult and very expensive but could be achieved in a dire situation.”

    But communications over several days with senior agency officials — including Robert Kadlec, the assistant secretary for preparedness and emergency response — left Bowen with the clear impression that there was little immediate interest in his offer.

    “I don’t believe we as an government are anywhere near answering those questions for you yet,” Laura Wolf, director of the agency’s Division of Critical Infrastructure Protection, responded that same day.

    Bowen persisted.

    “We are the last major domestic mask company,” he wrote on Jan. 23. “My phones are ringing now, so I don’t ‘need’ government business. I’m just letting you know that I can help you preserve our infrastructure if things ever get really bad. I’m a patriot first, businessman second.” […]
    In the end, the government did not take Bowen up on his offer. Even today, production lines that could be making more than 7 million masks a month sit dormant.

    Bowen’s overture was described briefly in an 89-page whistleblower complaint filed this week by Rick Bright, former director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority. Bright alleges he was retaliated against by Kadlec and other officials — including being reassigned to a lesser post — because he tried to “prioritize science and safety over political expediency.” […]

    Within weeks, a shortage of masks was endangering health-care workers in hard-hit areas across the country, and the Trump administration was scrambling to buy more masks — sometimes placing bulk orders with third-party distributors for many times the standard price. […]

    In a statement, White House economic adviser and coronavirus task force member Peter Navarro said: “The company was just extremely difficult to work and communicate with. This was in sharp contrast to groups like the National Council of Textile Organizations and companies like Honeywell and Parkdale Mills, which have helped America very rapidly build up cost effective domestic mask capacity measuring in the hundreds of millions.”

    […] A senior U.S. government official with knowledge of the offer said Bowen, 62, has a “legitimate beef.”
    “He was prescient, really,” the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe internal deliberations. […]

    Much more at the link.

  115. says

    Follow-up to comment 134.

    Reaction from Trump:

    So in California, the Democrats, who fought like crazy to get all mail in only ballots, and succeeded, have just opened a voting booth in the most Democrat area in the State. They are trying to steal another election.

    It’s all rigged out there. These votes must not count. SCAM!

    Governor Newsom said in-person voting will still be available, and that California legislators are currently working on a plan to operate polling sites safely.

    From the readers comments:

    I’m focused on the entertainment value as Spanky continues the process of melting into a steaming pile
    It [mail-in voting] works great everywhere it is used.
    Trump votes by mail in Florida, why can’t everyone?
    ‘These Votes Must Not Count’

    That’s what it’s all about isn’t it? Votes should not count.
    California will once again lead this nation back when we finally have a Federal government that isn’t actively trying to kill us.
    He’s laying the groundwork for endless challenges to the election result.
    There’s a 57 to 43 % chance Trump, Barr and Moscow will not be in any position to do jack shit in 10 months.
    LOL TRUMP!!! Now I know for sure that Christy Smith is generating the Dem turnout she needs to win that special election.
    Trump’s next plan to fuck up the vote:

    Close the USPS.

  116. says

    From Kerry Eleveld:

    Donald Trump has now opened Phase II of his maximal carnage campaign in the ongoing battle with the coronavirus. I’m not talking about the hollow phases put forth by the White House—these are the substantive toothy phases of Trump’s work to exact the absolute most death and destruction possible on the American people.

    Phase I of Trump’s carnage campaign was the period in which he ignored every possible warning coming from his own intelligence operatives, Americans working at the World Health Organization, and even officials within his own administration […]

    Phase I included Trump regularly telling Americans it was all under control and U.S. cases would soon be “zero,” while simultaneously declining to take any precautions such as stockpiling test kits and protective gear in the event of an almost inevitable U.S. outbreak. When Trump finally realized he had what he considered to be a PR problem around mid-March, he hijacked the coronavirus task force briefings and began filling the airwaves with hollow talk of national guidelines and increased testing after early stumbles by his administration.

    But it was all a sham, a ruse—Trump wasn’t developing any national plan with discernible testing goals and milestones for safely resuming normal activity. Trump isn’t capable of thinking in months, weeks, or even days. Hour by hour, he was trying to win the news cycle. […]

    the briefings were a platform for Trump to project a 2-D image of himself as commander in chief. If Trump was a flop, may as well just scrap the briefings and dissolve the task force altogether, which is exactly what the White House was in process of doing this week when news leaked of the task force’s sudden demise. Of course, once the West Wing realized the horrendous optics of dismantling the group just after the U.S. death toll blew past the total number of U.S. soldiers killed in Vietnam, it quickly backtracked. […] the task force will never have the same level of prominence going forward. Trump won’t stand for it.

    […] Trump has moved on Phase II of his maximal carnage campaign, officially christened “TRANSITION TO GREATNESS!” After thoroughly hobbling the entire U.S. pandemic response in the first phase and then feigning concern, Trump’s second phase is all about leading a completely unprepared country into the buzz saw of an economic reopening.

    Naturally, Trump has laid no actual groundwork to avoid a public health calamity, he’s simply greased the skids to shirk responsibility for the mounting death toll. Governors will be on hook […]

    Phase II marks Trump’s transition from a so-called ‘wartime president’ supposedly battling a pandemic to one who is fighting for the economy he desperately needs to get reelected in his estimation. And within that struggle, Trump has now cast Americans as the potential collateral damage in his victory.

    […] “We can’t keep our country closed down for years and we have to do something. Hopefully [death] won’t be the case, but it could very well be the case.” […]

    In the final months leading up to the November election, Trump will roll out Phase III, a fantastical effort to gaslight America about the trauma it continues to endure, who’s really at fault (not Trump—China, the governors, Obama!), and whether it’s even real (the body count’s fake news!).

    […] Americans keeping dying with no end in sight.


  117. says

    New episode of Lovett or Leave It – “Murder Hornets, Inc.”

    Author Michael Lewis explains why America is like a good team with a bad coach. Whitney Cummings joins to judge the monologue. Brittany Packnett Cunningham discusses Ahmaud Arbery and why it took a gruesome video to spur action. Listeners face off in a topical spelling bee. And finally we’re joined by a surprise special guest before we share what made listeners hopeful in this week’s high note.

    The interview with Brittany Packnett Cunningham is excellent and the exchange with the surprise special guest is fun.

  118. says

    MSNBC is reporting that Fauci will now be on “modified” quarantine for two weeks.

    Seems like they’re trying to silence some of these people. The reports are that they’ll still testify before the Senate committee on Tuesday via video conference.

  119. KG says


    Is Trump planning a large-scale war to force the opening of the economy and benefit from “rallying round the flag”? The additional Covid-19 deaths could then be attributed to the enemy. China is the obvious target, but is even Trump that irrational? If so, would the Joint Chiefs go along?

  120. blf says

    In many places, people perceived to be of Chinese descent are being shunned or discriminated against due to the SARS-CoV-2 virus first appearing in Big China. (And has caused some eejits, like hair furor and his dalekocrazy, to blame Big China.) That completely irrational reaction has also extended, in some places, to testing clinics or to people who have died from Covid-19. However, to-date, except for a few isolated individual cases, I’d not heard of shunning or discrimination against medical workers dealing with Covid-19, who are widely regarded as heroes (and generally badly underpaid). However, there seems to be a widespread exception to this general anecdotal heroes observation, from the Grauniad’s current main pandemic live blog:

    Japan: ‘Onslaught of bullying and discrimination’ amid outbreak

    The Associated Press reports that the coronavirus in Japan has brought not just an epidemic of infections, but also an onslaught of bullying and discrimination against the sick, their families and health workers trying to save lives.

    A government campaign to raise awareness seems to be helping, at least for medical workers. But it’s made only limited headway in countering the harassment and shunning that may be discouraging people from seeking testing and care and hindering the battle against the pandemic.

    Apart from fear of infection, experts say the prejudice against those even indirectly associated with the illness also stems from deeply rooted ideas about purity and cleanliness in a culture that rejects anything deemed to be alien, unclean or troublesome.

    Medical workers risking their lives to care for patients are a main target, but people working at grocery stores, delivering parcels and carrying out other essential jobs also are facing harassment, as are their family members.

    “I can imagine people fear the virus, but we are working hard at the front lines under enormous pressure,” a nurse in her 30s told the AP, speaking on condition of anonymity out of fear she might be targeted if identified. “We also have our own families we care about. Discrimination against us just because we are medical workers is discouraging and demoralizing.”

    The backlash against coronavirus patients may lead some who fall sick to avoid seeking medical care, raising the risks of infection spreading further, clinical psychologist Reo Morimitsu at the Suwa Red Cross Hospital said in an interview with NHK public television. Reports said Japanese police last month found about a dozen people dead at home alone or collapsed on the streets who later tested positive for the virus.


  121. blf says

    I recommend reading the whole opinion column, not just the excerpt below, Under Trump, American exceptionalism means poverty, misery and death:

    No other advanced nation denies healthcare and work protections, or loosens lockdown while fatalities mount

    No other nation has endured as much death from Covid-19 nor nearly as a high a death rate as has the United States.

    With 4.25% of the world population, America has the tragic distinction of accounting for about 30% of pandemic deaths so far.

    And it is the only advanced nation where the death rate is still climbing. Three thousand deaths per day are anticipated by 1 June.

    No other nation has loosened lockdowns and other social-distancing measures while deaths are increasing, as the US is now doing.

    No other advanced nation was as unprepared for the pandemic as was the US.

    We now know Donald Trump and his administration were told by public health experts in mid-January that immediate action was required to stop the spread of Covid-19. But according to Dr Anthony Fauci, “there was a lot of pushback”. Trump didn’t act until 16 March.

    Epidemiologists estimate 90% of the deaths in the US from the first wave of Covid-19 might have been prevented had social distancing policies been put into effect two weeks earlier, on 2 March.

    No nation other than the US has left it to subordinate units of government — states and cities — to buy ventilators and personal protective equipment. In no other nation have such sub-governments been forced to bid against each another.

    In no other nation have experts in public health and emergency preparedness been pushed aside and replaced by political cronies like Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who in turn has been advised by Trump donors and Fox News celebrities.

    In no other advanced nation has Covid-19 forced so many average citizens into poverty so quickly. The Urban Institute reports that more than 30% of American adults have had to reduce their spending on food.

    Elsewhere around the world, governments are providing generous income support. Not in the US.

    [… and on and on. and on. and on. …]

    So who and what’s to blame for the worst avoidable loss of life in American history?

    Partly, Donald Trump’s malfeasance.

    But the calamity is also due to America’s longer-term failure to provide its people the basic support they need.

    The author, Professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley, Robert Reich, is a former Secretary of Labor.

    Hair furor, meanwhile, is continuing to spout lies and ignore real problems. For instance, from the Grauniad’s current States pandemic live blog:

    Here’s the president’s [sic] Sunday morning coronavirus tweet, or one of them: We are getting great marks for the handling of the CoronaVirus pandemic, especially the very early BAN of people from China, the infectious source, entering the USA. Compare that to the Obama/Sleepy Joe disaster known as H1N1 Swine Flu. Poor marks, bad polls — didn’t have a clue!

    Suffice to say, whether or not the president is getting great marks for how the coronavirus outbreak has been handled rather depends on who is doing the judging, and Trump’s heralding of his restrictions (not outright ban) on travel from China relatively early in the outbreak is subject to all sorts of caveats.

    (Sorry, the embedded link at the end is to the Washington Post, which means you may not be able to see due to anti-privacy bullshite or it being behind a paywall.)

  122. blf says

    A snippet from the Grauniad’s current States live pandemic blog:

    […] Unlike the aftermath of the Sept 11 attacks, when President George W Bush called on Congress to create a Department of Homeland Security, or during the Great Depression, when President Franklin D Roosevelt led the nation to the New Deal, Trump is not seeking a legacy-defining accomplishment in the heat of national crisis.

    Quibble of sorts: Bush ][‘s gestapo isn’t a positive legacy / (deliberate) accomplishment, but it is concrete and had a rationale (not necessarily a rational one, but it did have one).

  123. says

    blf @152, I wish facts like these could pierce the willful-ignorance forcefields of Team Trump:

    […] No other nation has endured as much death from Covid-19 nor nearly as a high a death rate as has the United States.

    With 4.25% of the world population, America has the tragic distinction of accounting for about 30% of pandemic deaths so far.

    […] 90% of the deaths in the US from the first wave of Covid-19 might have been prevented had social distancing policies been put into effect two weeks earlier, on 2 March.

    No nation other than the US has left it to subordinate units of government — states and cities — to buy ventilators and personal protective equipment. In no other nation have such sub-governments been forced to bid against each another. […]

    Furthermore, it would be great if Trump’s cult followers would hear these facts from Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, and Rush Limbaugh. They should hear those facts at least ten times a day. It will take awhile for them to sink in.

  124. tomh says

    In Tabernacle Baptist Church, Inc. of Nicholasville, Kentucky v. Beshear, (ED KY, May 8, 2020), a Kentucky federal district court issued a state-wide temporary restraining order enjoining the state of Kentucky from enforcing the governor’s COVID-19 ban on mass gatherings with respect to in-person religious services that comply with applicable social distancing and hygiene guidelines. The court said in part:

    Tabernacle Baptist Church wants to gather for corporate worship. They want to freely exercise their deeply held religious belief about what it means to be a faithful Christian. For them, it is “essential” that they do so. And they want to invoke the Constitution’s protection on this point.

    …evidence that the risk of contagion is heightened in a religious setting any more than a secular one is lacking. If social distancing is good enough for Home Depot and Kroger, it is good enough for in-person religious services…

  125. says

    From Matthew Gertz:

    YIKES! OAN ran a segment last night on “mounting evidence of a globalist conspiracy” by the Clintons, Soros, Gates, Fauci, & Chinese gov’t to use coronavirus “to establish sweeping population control” by backing remdesvir over hydroxychlorquine. It cites Plandemic’s Mikovits!

    The OANN segment concludes, “There is concern that the deep-state Democratic cabal and the Big Pharma are working to derail President Trump’s reelection, and force the American people into total submission and control.”

    Trump has repeatedly endorsed this network.

    “Plandemic Mikovits” is Judy Mikovits, the frequently-debunked virologist attacking Anthony Fauci in a viral conspiracy video.

    […] Judy Mikovits claims the new coronavirus is being wrongly blamed for many deaths. She makes head-scratching assertions about the virus—for instance, that it is “activated” by face masks.

    Mikovits also accuses Anthony Fauci, head of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and a prominent member of the White House’s Coronavirus Task Force, of being responsible for the deaths of millions during the early years of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. The video claims Mikovits was part of the team that discovered HIV, revolutionized HIV treatment, and was jailed without charges for her scientific positions.

    Science fact-checked the video. None of these claims are true. The video is an excerpt from a forthcoming movie Plandemic, which promises to “expose the scientific and political elite who run the scam that is our global health system.” YouTube, Facebook, and other platforms have taken down the video because of inaccuracies. It keeps resurfacing, including on the Plandemic website, which, in “an effort to bypass the gatekeepers of free speech,” invites people to download the video and repost it. […]


    See also:
    That links to the post showing the screenshot from OAN. Unbelievable. You have to see it to believe that they could be this nutty.

    From Trump:

    @OANN is Great News, not Fake News. Everybody should be carrying them!

  126. says

    From Josh Marshall:

    There’s a flurry of reporting about how South Korea’s early success breaking the COVID19 epidemic in the country has now ‘dimmed’, as the The Wall Street Journal puts it, with a new potential outbreak. This stems from a new case in which one 29 year old man hit five different bars last weekend in one part of Seoul and exposed as many as 2,000 people. More than fifty new cases have now been identified tied to this one man.

    But there’s a more optimistic way of looking at this new rash of cases.

    Note in the limited details I’ve just shared how much South Korean authorities know. They’ve identified the man at the center of the new flare up. They know how many and which places he visited on what appears to have been the key night. They’ve identified roughly 2,000 people he appears to have exposed or potentially exposed on that evening of bar hoping. They’ve already tested many of them; a subset has already been confirmed as infected and now quarantined.

    You need to have a pretty small outbreak to be able to do this kind of rapid detective work. You also need a system in place to trace, test and isolate. Remember that South Korea’s initial outbreak was similarly focused and tracked with comparable precision. The outbreak was overwhelmingly tied to a group that is identified either as a church or a cult (the Shincheonji Church) which holds services in which congregants are especially densely packed together. One older woman who was already being treated for what turned out to be COVID19 left the hospital and attended one of these services. The whole South Korean outbreak was overwhelmingly tied to this one exposure. The initial (largely successful) effort to halt the spread was heavily focused on testing every member of that group.

    You need to keep an outbreak fairly small for this kind of tracking to be at all feasible and you need the tools to be able to do it. This also reminds us that quantity of testing isn’t everything. (The US has now conducted more than twice the number of tests on a per capita basis as South Korea and has almost 50 times the number of deaths on the same per capita basis.) You need to be using them as part of an effective surveillance and containment strategy. You also need to keep the scale of the epidemic small enough that this is possible.

    This new flare up in South Korea reminds us that until there’s a vaccine every national success story is provisional and vulnerable to the next mix of bad luck or recklessness that restarts the process all over again.

  127. says

    Biden’s new ad campaign provides more contrast between Biden and Trump:

    I don’t know who the hell is on Biden’s media team, but damn they are good. I thought they couldn’t top the “Unprepared” ad, but the latest one showing factually the contrast between Biden and Trump is amazing. “Crisis reveals character”.

    You can view the ad here

    From Malcolm Nance:

    Brilliant #Biden2020 ad. Please RT & share with the #MAGA #KAGA2020 so the #MAGARealityProject shows them that they support a hateful fraud.

    I don’t know if the ad is all that brilliant, but it is very good.

  128. says

    Follow-up to comment 120.

    China is pushing back.

    […] Officials, for example, dispute the allegations that Beijing initially withheld information from international officials about the pandemic and that the virus was created in a laboratory in Wuhan, China.

    China defended its distribution of information during the pandemic, calling it “timely” and “open and transparent,” according to Reuters. The officials included in the [30-page] article a timeline showing when China informed the international community.

    Officials also deny a theory that’s been circulating that the virus was man-made and came from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, saying the lab is not capable of that technology. […]

    China also pointed to media reports that said Americans were contracting the virus before the first confirmed case in Wuhan, according to Reuters, which noted that there is no evidence to support that.

    The country also said the coronavirus should not be named the “Chinese virus” or “Wuhan virus” as had been suggested by President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The World Health Organization has issued guidance advising leaders against using those labels.

    The article mainly repeats and expands on what Chinese officials say at the daily press briefings in the country, Reuters noted.

    China has reported 82,901 confirmed coronavirus cases and 4,633, deaths, but experts and officials outside of China have questioned whether the country is reporting accurate and have speculated whether China downplayed the virus when it originally surfaced in December.


    Reuters link

  129. says

    Let’s Enjoy These Nice Times With Little Richard

    Wonkette link

    “Long tall Sally” video, in black and white, with a weird all-white audience. Followed by “Tutti Frutti.”

    Other Little Richard videos are also available at the link.

  130. says

    Trump is withholding relief from these U.S. children — just to spite their parents.

    Washington Post link

    […] Trump promised that the $2 trillion economic stimulus bill he signed in March, providing direct payments to tens of millions of Americans, would “deliver urgently needed relief to our nation’s families, workers and businesses.” But more out of spite than in the furtherance of any rational policy goal, several million Americans were specifically excluded from the relief plan: U.S. citizens who are children or spouses of undocumented immigrants.

    In the midst of a pandemic ravaging the nation, lawmakers and the administration saw fit to insert and enact that provision of the law, for no apparent reason beyond its punitive effect. The vast majority of the nation’s babies, toddlers, middle-schoolers and teenagers younger than 17 are eligible for $500 payments — generally rendered to their parents — but not if either their mother or father is an unauthorized immigrant.

    Nor can U.S. citizen parents receive the $1,200 payment to which they would otherwise be entitled if they file taxes jointly with an undocumented spouse. A household consisting of a married couple with two U.S. citizen children, which would otherwise qualify for $3,400 in benefits, would receive nothing if the undocumented mother filed a joint return with her citizen husband.

    Singling out children for punishment arising from their parents’ immigration status is a senseless act of vengeance. The Trump administration’s attitudes toward legal and illegal immigrants are morally odious and pragmatically misguided, yet this policy stands out as uniquely cruel given that the immigration status of parents does not exclude their U.S. citizen children from receiving a host of other federal benefits, including welfare, food stamps and housing assistance.

    What’s particularly senseless is that the administration’s policy of impoverishing households that include undocumented immigrants coincides with a moment in which the nation’s food supply — heavily dependent on those very immigrants — is in peril. By the government’s own estimate, half of all field hands in the country, more than 1 million workers, are illegal immigrants whose labor has been deemed “essential” to keeping grocery shelves stocked with meat and produce. […]

    A lawsuit has been filed in federal court in Maryland by advocates at Georgetown University Law Center on behalf of the citizen children of unauthorized immigrants. The plaintiffs include a 7-month-old girl, a 9-year-old girl and an 8-year-old boy. The punitive policy will make it more difficult for the children to be adequately fed, housed and clothed at a time of economic duress.

    The effect of the measure is to make second-class citizens of several million American children, nearly all born in this country, and to intensify their family’s suffering even as unemployment tightens its grip. The unconstitutionality of such a discriminatory policy, which flies in the face of the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of due process, is rivaled only by its mean-spiritedness.

  131. says

    Bloomberg – “In Zeal to Urge U.S. Reopening, Pence Sets Virus Worries Aside”:

    Vice President Mike Pence would not be deterred.

    His press secretary, Katie Miller, had tested positive for coronavirus early Friday. Air Force Two sat on the tarmac of Joint Base Andrews outside Washington later in the morning, engines running, as six aides who’d been in contact with Miller left to be tested for infection and sent home to quarantine.

    Reporters and some staff still aboard weren’t immediately told the reason for the delay. After an hour, the plane took off for a scheduled trip to Iowa, where Pence would nudge churches to carefully resume in-person services and hear concerns from farmers worried they’ll lose everything to the economic collapse from the outbreak.

    During the flight, one White House staffer expressed surprise that Pence was pressing ahead. The plane’s passengers included Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, who’s 86 — elderly and male, a cohort highly vulnerable to the virus.

    But the Trump administration is pressing Americans to resume their social and economic lives even in the face of the world’s largest publicly reported outbreak of the lethal virus.

    Pence’s trip was intended to signal that Americans should consider resuming work and worship, and feel confident in their food supply, even though the largely rural state, population 3.1 million, has had more cases of the disease than South Korea and its 51 million people.

    Pence received a warm reception from Iowa’s Republicans. The state’s governor, Kim Reynolds — who visited the White House two days earlier to discuss outbreaks in the meatpacking industry — has said that “we must learn to live with Covid virus activity without letting it govern our lives.”

    But the state’s Democrats were appalled that Pence didn’t call off his trip.

    “Iowa’s Covid-19 numbers are on the rise, and we have recently been one of the worst states in the nation for spreading this disease,” more than a dozen of Iowa’s Democratic elected officials said in a statement. “We need you to lead by example, and practice social distancing instead of traveling here and encouraging us to put our families and neighbors in danger.”

    Everywhere he went in Iowa, Pence projected relentless optimism….

    Pence’s first stop on Friday was Westkirk Presbyterian Church in Urbandale. “It is good to be in the House of the Lord,” the evangelical vice president remarked to nine faith leaders seated several feet from one another in the church’s pews.

    “The fact is that, for most healthy Americans, the risks that the coronavirus poses remains very low,” Pence said. He thanked the seven evangelical Christian leaders, one Catholic bishop and one rabbi gathered at the church “for your determination to thoughtfully and carefully step forward back into the exercise of your faith.”

    The rabbi, David Kaufman of Temple B’nai Jeshurun in Des Moines, told Pence that in-person worship was “inadvisable at the moment.” Much of Iowa’s Jewish community is 70 or older, and many already have medical issues, he said.

    But Terry Amann of Church of the Way in Des Moines said his services would resume on May 17.

    Pence’s staff had taken pains to conceal Miller’s identity as the infected aide. But at about 1:28 p.m., as Pence was meeting with the religious leaders, Trump told reporters at the White House that the vice president’s “press person,” or “Katie,” was the person in question.

    One White House official on the Iowa trip said Trump’s disclosure seemed almost vindictive. [See #s 107 and 141 above. – SC]

    Pence’s second stop was the headquarters of grocery chain Hy-Vee Inc. in Des Moines, where he was to discuss how the coronavirus outbreak has impacted the U.S. food supply chain.

    “You hear a lot of distress,” Grassley said. He said about 90% of calls he’s received regarding the coronavirus outbreak came from farmers or their advocates.

    “Things are not very good out there on the farm,” he said.

    Ernst called it “a very, very stressful and distressing time.”

    Pence sat silently as they spoke, barely moving. “I hope the people of Iowa have a sense of just how fortunate you are,” he said, citing Reynolds’ leadership and Trump’s support for a $764 billion small-business loan program. He offered no new assistance or proposals to help struggling farmers.

    Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation [told Pence farmers were in dire straits and not getting enough federal help]…

    Pence replied: “Zippy, thank you. Hearing you speak makes me proud to be an American.”

    The vice president ended the meeting by telling the food industry executives that “it may well turn out to be your finest hour, a time when an industry stepped up and met the moment.”

    The plane flew home through a thunderstorm that rocked it from side to side as lightning flashed….

    There was just reporting on MSNBC that Katie Miller had coughed on some people (she might have said reporters, but I didn’t quite catch it) and then said (joked?) that she didn’t have coronavirus. They’re just the worst people.

  132. says

    Ben Wikler: “Remember the huge anti-stay-at-home protest in Wisconsin? 72 people have now tested positive here after indicating that they attended a ‘large event’. Hard to think of many others.”

    Link atl.

  133. says

    Here’s a link to the May 10 Guardian coronavirus world liveblog.

    From there:

    Meanwhile in Algeria, analysts are saying the regime is exploiting the coronavirus to defeat a protest movement that has shaken it to its core over the past year.

    Despite protesters deciding to suspend their weekly gatherings since the start of the public health crisis, repression of regime opponents has persisted, according to AFP. Security forces have targeted young bloggers, independent journalists, online media and activists from the “Hirak” protest movement.

    Rapidly adopted laws ostensibly aimed at preventing the dissemination of false news and hate speech have further stoked fears of an orchestrated campaign to muzzle free expression. The new laws “aim to repress citizens’ freedom of expression”, said lawyer and activist Abdelouhab Chiter, a lecturer at the University of Bejaia.

    A law on “spreading false information”, he said, “was debated and passed by parliament in a single sitting, in the absence of almost half of its members”.

    Akram Belkaid, a journalist for the Oran daily, warned of “a return to the iron fist as in the 1970s”.

    “Hirak won the first leg of the game,” he said. “The regime is on course to win the second leg, and its true goal is to prevent any further rematches being held at all – or in other words, to prevent protests reoccurring once the pandemic has been overcome.”

    Karima Direche, a historian specialising in contemporary Maghreb region affairs, said the pandemic was “bread from heaven for the regime”.

    “The confinement period lends itself to police and judicial harassment. This explains the dozens of arrests of known and unknown people in all Algeria’s cities,” she said.

  134. says

    Scoop: Last week started with the reveal that Jared Kushner turned to inexperienced outsiders & private equity firms to secure hospital equipment. Now he’s received a 29 page plan to overhaul Social Security & Medicare created by… the US State Department…”

    WaPo link atl. WTF.

  135. says

    Aaron Rupar:

    Trump is having an unhinged one even by his standards…

    [examples at the link]

    Trump is now up to 103 tweets or retweets today, including numerous retweets of QAnon accounts and at least one of a Twitter egg.

  136. says

    SC at 171, Glen Greenwald is defending Russia. He is attacking the USA.

    In other news related to Russia: Russia’s scavenger diplomacy is succeeding in the Middle East.

    Washington Post link

    While most of the world has been on lockdown from the novel coronavirus, the wars and political machinations of the Middle East have continued. […] Russia has been making steady progress in […] its “malign engagement” in the region.

    The administration’s worries about Russia were voiced in an unusual on-the-record briefing Thursday by three senior State Department officials. Henry Wooster, a deputy assistant secretary of state for the Near East, summed up the concerns this way: “The Kremlin uses . . . military power, proxies and disinformation . . . to expand its influence across the [Mediterranean].”

    Russia has been opportunistic toward the conflicts in Syria and Libya, using a mercenary army known as the Wagner Group, run by a friend of President Vladimir Putin. The local combatants in these wars are exhausted, but efforts to negotiate peace deals have failed, as they have in Yemen. The result may be de facto partitions in all three countries — and frozen conflicts that leave the nations fragmented and vulnerable.

    Russia is likely to emerge with several important military bases in the Mediterranean, achieving a centuries-old dream.

    […] Russian impatience, especially with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, is obvious. Ambassador Aleksandr Aksenenok, in an essay published last month by the Russian International Affairs Council, trashed the corruption of Assad’s regime and “outrages” by its security services. […]

    But the Russians have less at stake. Their investment of blood and treasure is relatively small, and they’ve left much of the dirty work to others, like the Wagner Group. This is empire on the cheap.

    One modestly hopeful development for the United States comes in Iraq, where Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, an America-friendly former chief of intelligence, has formed a new government. U.S. commanders will hold a strategic dialogue with Kadhimi in June, and they expect some U.S. troops will remain in Iraq training its military. The number will be less than the current 5,000 but still in the thousands, U.S. officials believe.

    Saudi Arabia, historically the United States’ most important ally in the region, is struggling from the double whammy of covid-19 and the global crash in oil prices. Saudi officials are weighing major budget cuts, including possible delay of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 reform projects.

    The Saudis are also discussing with the United States and Russia additional oil-production cuts to bolster prices. One possibility is a small unilateral Saudi cut for July, which would be increased if other major producers agreed to similar reductions.

    With an embattled Iran posing less of a threat to Saudi Arabia, the Pentagon is withdrawing some Patriot missile batteries and fighter jets that were rushed to the kingdom last summer. Yemen remains a ruinous conflict that the Saudis want to exit, but peace efforts have failed; the Saudis may have no alternative but joining the United Arab Emirates in accepting a de facto partition of Yemen’s north and south.

    The United States’ dilemma this year will be how and when to extract U.S. forces from northeastern Syria. Russian and Syrian regime forces that have been fighting rebels in the western province of Idlib will move east. U.S. commanders would probably prefer a withdrawal deal with Russia to a shooting war over territory they plan to leave eventually anyway.

    Libya is the most cynical Russian power play. It has been backing the Benghazi-based forces of Gen. Khalifa Hifter in an unlikely coalition that includes the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and France, against the Turkish-backed government in Tripoli.

    Middle East analysts speculate that Russia may try to broker a Libya peace deal with Turkey. But Libya, like the region overall, looks too fragile and fragmented for any diplomatic breakthroughs now, and what’s more likely is continued stalemate and de facto partition.

    Russia is picking up the pieces in the post-pandemic Middle East, not so much to further a grand strategy as to poke its deflated rival, the United States. This is scavenger diplomacy, feeding off the carcasses of these broken states.

  137. says

    NEWS: Iowa’s Kim Reynolds may self isolate after her White House visit Wednesday. WH officials have been in contact with Iowa officials about situation. Iowa state medical director, Dr. Caitlin Pedati, who was also in coronavirus task force mtg Weds with VP staff, self isolating.”

    You couldn’t write this.

  138. says

    Donald Trump is “glum” and confused.

    In important weekend news, we learn that Trump is sad because it turns out killing 80,000 Americans (and counting) through rank incompetence is making him, personally, less popular.

    […] Republicans are worried that killing off their own electorate might cost them the Senate majority, come November. Not because of the deaths directly, mind you, just because it looks kind of bad. Don’t worry, though, they have a plan too: The plan is to argue that they’re doing a great job despite all the dying, and also it’s someone else’s fault.

    […] The administration has not been able to orchestrate the sort of widespread testing that other nations are relying on to determine when they should reopen their own economies, so the answer is to not try. There is zero contract tracing plan. There is no evidence that anyone has been able to drum into Trump’s empty head even the most basic facts about the virus—no, it will not “go away on its own”—or that Mike Pence or any of the other top Trump officials give a particular damn about trying.

    And so Trump is sad. The Post reports that some of Trump’s advisers “described the president as glum and shell-shocked by his declining popularity” and that “in private conversations, he has struggled to process how his fortunes suddenly changed from believing he was on a glide path to reelection to realizing that he is losing” in the polls to Biden. Truly, Dear Leader is having a moment here.

    Oh—and we also learn that Dr. Deborah Birx is upset with the Centers of Disease Control for counting too many deaths. […] and that everything remains chaotic, bungling, delusion-based and thoroughly incompetent.

    But there is a plan. The new White House plan is that people are going to keep dying, and likely in larger numbers than even now, and Trump is somehow going to argue that that’s fine. […]

    Is the public “willing to accept that?” frets an anonymous White House adviser to the Post. Yes, that is the real question here. Not whether it should be prevented, but whether the White House will be politically successful in selling it.

    That has become the new Senate Republican plan too. In a separate Post story, we learn that Republicans are “increasingly nervous” they will lose the Senate majority […]

    But what if the economy recovers? Then perhaps killing a six-figure number of American civilians might turn out to be politically tolerable. […]Also also, “efforts to target China will continue throughout the campaign.”

    It will be a stress test of just how far the Republican base has itself descended into xenophobic fascism, in other words. Is it all right that Dear Leader botched, absolutely, the most pivotal national disaster the nation has seen in a century? What if we claim it is the fault of foreigners? Is the giddy thrill of having an openly racist, boorish national shitposter as leader still so intoxicating that the base will stomach even people in their own neighborhoods dying in order to keep that intoxicating version of “winning” flowing through their veins?

    Probably, as the white-nationalism heavy protests against pandemic safety demonstrate. […] Can the party’s digital operations nullify all those unpleasant cretins mumbling that maybe they didn’t want the Spanish Flu combined with the Great Depression, no matter how much President Hairstyle insists on his victory? Will Republican donors continue to support the party’s anti-competence, pro-catastrophe stance, if the party can sweeten the pot by promising to cut their taxes a wee bit more? […]

    In the meantime, Republicans are Sad nationwide, it seems, from the White House downward. Not because even after 80,000 deaths the arch-conservative Republican administration continues to not have even one damn clue as to how to stop Americans from dying in whatever proportions the virus wishes them to, but because it is cutting into their poll numbers.

    It’s very tragic. How very terrible, to live under such a constant feeling of dread and slow-moving disaster. The rest of us would be hard pressed to even imagine what that might be like.

  139. says

    I hope the judge sees this: “Former DOJ official: Department twisted my words in motion to drop Flynn case.”

    A former top Justice Department official […] accused the department of twisting her words in order to make the case that former national security adviser Michael Flynn should not be prosecuted for lying to the FBI.

    In the column, former acting assistant attorney general for national security Mary McCord accuses top officials of a “disingenuous” use of her statements made to the Justice Department following her retirement from the agency in order to explain why the department would no longer pursue charges against Flynn. In a motion to dismiss the case against Flynn on Thursday, Barr and the acting attorney for the District of Columbia, Timothy Shea, cited an interview with McCord more than two dozen times to suggest that the FBI’s interview with Flynn was unwarranted.

    “The account of my interview in 2017 doesn’t help the department support this conclusion, and it is disingenuous for the department to twist my words to suggest that it does,” McCord wrote.

    “What the account of my interview describes is a difference of opinion about what to do with the information that Mr. Flynn apparently had lied to the incoming vice president, [Mike] Pence, and others in the incoming administration about whether he had discussed the Obama administration’s sanctions against Russia in his calls with [then-Russian ambassador to the U.S., Sergei] Kislyak,” McCord continued.

    McCord went on to describe that she believed the FBI mishandled the Flynn investigation by not coordinating his interview with the Justice Department, but that she did not believe the agencies had no reason to suspect Flynn of possible criminal activity.

    “[I]t has no bearing on whether Mr. Flynn’s lies to the F.B.I. were material to the clear counterintelligence threat posed by the susceptible position Mr. Flynn put himself in when he told Mr. Pence and others in the new administration that he had not discussed the sanctions with Mr. Kislyak. The materiality is obvious,” she concluded.

    Attorney General William Barr has defended his decision to end the Justice Department’s prosecution of Flynn, […]

    “I’m doing the law’s bidding. I’m doing my duty under the law, as I see it,” Barr told CBS News on Thursday.

    “I made clear during my confirmation hearing that I was gonna look into what happened in 2016 and ’17. I made that crystal clear,” he continued. “I was very concerned about what happened. I was gonna get to the bottom of it. And that included the treatment of General Flynn.”


    He got to the bottom of it his way, by willfully misrepresenting Mary McCord’s statements.

  140. says

    Yikes. Awful news.

    […] more than 120 virus-related deaths have been recorded at just two veterans’ care facilities in New Jersey: the New Jersey Veterans Home at Paramus, and the Menlo Park Veterans Memorial Home. The deaths at those two facilities are just a small fraction of the high number of deaths reported in nursing homes across the state, where more than 4,800 people have died in total, more than half of the state’s total death toll.

    The problem is statewide, according to data reported by the Times: More than a dozen nursing facilities in the state have reported over 30 coronavirus-related deaths.

    At the Paramus facility more than 60 percent of residents have contracted the disease, while about 20 percent of the staff is sick and one employee has died. […]

    “I asked them: ‘How did this get so out of control?’” the family member, Cynthia Petersen, added to the newspaper. […]

    “This is not only a tragedy,” he told the Times. “This is an urgent message to all of us. These veterans fought on the field for this country.”


  141. KG says

    So, Alexander Boris De Pfeffel Johnson is trying to kill me. Not only me, of course, and I’m not even among his primary targets, but I have to admit I do take it personally. His “Address to the Nation” last night was an absurd piece of nonsense. He laid out a number of conditions for lifting the lockdown, admitted they had not been met – deaths and hospitalizations have fallen, but not as fast or by nearly as much as in Italy or Spain, for example – and then told everyone to go back to work, thus, in effect, lifting the lockdown! The full text is at the link, but here’s the key passage:

    And though we have made progress in satisfying at least some of the conditions I have given.
    We have by no means fulfilled all of them.
    And so no, this is not the time simply to end the lockdown this week.
    Instead we are taking the first careful steps to modify our measures.
    And the first step is a change of emphasis that we hope that people will act on this week.
    We said that you should work from home if you can, and only go to work if you must.
    We now need to stress that anyone who can’t work from home, for instance those in construction or manufacturing, should be actively encouraged to go to work.
    And we want it to be safe for you to get to work. So you should avoid public transport if at all possible – because we must and will maintain social distancing, and capacity will therefore be limited.
    So work from home if you can, but you should go to work if you can’t work from home.
    And to ensure you are safe at work we have been working to establish new guidance for employers to make workplaces COVID-secure.
    And when you do go to work, if possible do so by car or even better by walking or bicycle. But just as with workplaces, public transport operators will also be following COVID-secure standards.

    So having made strenuous efforts to minimise mixing between people from different households, only allowing it in workplaces which have had to stay open to supply essential goods and services, the UK government is now following Trump’s lead and “encouraging” millions of people to return to workplaces in which “we have been working to establish new guidance for employers to make workplaces COVID-secure” (i.e.: in which we haven’t yet established any such guidance), and in many of which it will be plain impossible to keep physical distance from fellow-employees. As it will on public transport, on which millions are dependent for travel to work, particularly in London and other big cities. It’s clear enough that the “encouragement” will be swiftly followed by economic coercion if they think they can get away with it, with the “furlough” scheme by which the state pays 80% of wages for people laid off being tapered down, something which has already been floated. Those “encouraged” to go back to work will be the first casualties, but the whole point is that the more infections there are, the more everyone is at risk.

    The leaders of the opposition parties, and of the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, have all reacted with some mixture of scepticism, scorn and dismay. (Johnson’s speech contains the lie that he has consulted with them and that there is consensus across the UK – they learned of the abandonment of the “Stay Home” message in favour of “Stay Alert”* by reading about it in the Sunday papers.) The devolved administration leaders have all made clear they intend to stick with “Stay Home”. But if the UK government winds down the “furlough” scheme, it’s not clear how long they could maintain their opposition in practical terms.

    *”Stay Alert – your country needs Lerts!”. Presumably the idea is that if you see the virus – you know, that green soccer-ball thing with red pins sticking out of it – you should run away.

  142. KG says

    Here’s a revealing comment from a Grauniad opinion column, from a commenter with the nym robertowendavidson:

    A timeline to shock!
    December 31st China alerts WHO to new virus.
    January 23rd a third of China’s patients require intensive care.
    January 24th Johnson misses first Cobra meeting.
    January 29th Johnson misses second Cobra meeting.
    January 31st ‘Level 4 NHS critical incident’ Government declines to join European PPE procurement scheme.
    February 5th Johnson misses third Cobra meeting.
    February 12th Johnson misses fourth Cobra meeting. Exeter University published study warning Coronavirus could infect 45 million people in the UK if left unchallenged.
    February 13th Johnson misses conference call with European leaders.
    February 14th Johnson goes away on holiday. Aides are told keeps Johnson’s briefings short or he will not read them.
    February 18th Johnson misses fifth cobra meeting.
    February 26th Johnson announces ‘Herd Immunity’ strategy – some people will lose loved ones glibly declared. Government document is leaked, predicting half a million Brits could die in ‘worse case scenario’
    February 29th Johnson retreats to his country manor. PPE shortage nightmare’ evolves. Stockpiles have dwindled or expired after years of austerity cuts.
    March 2nd Johnson attends his first Cobra meeting, declining another opportunity to join European PPE scheme. Johnson tells country “We are very, very well prepared.”
    March 3rd Scientists urge Government to advise public not to shake hands. Johnson brags about shaking hands of Coronavirus patients.
    March 4th Government stops providing daily updates on virus following a 70% spike in UK cases. Later U-turned amidst widespread criticism.
    March 5th Johnson tells public to ‘wash their hands but it is business as usual’
    March 7th Johnson joins 82,000 people at 6 Nations match.
    March 9th Ireland cancels St Patrick’s day parades, the government says there’s “No Rationale” for cancelling sporting events.
    March 10th – 13th Cheltenham takes place, more than a quarter of a million people attend.
    March 11th 3,000 Atletico Madrid fans fly to Liverpool.
    March 12th Boris Johnson states banning events such as Cheltenham will have little effect.
    March 13th FA suspends the Premier League, citing an absence of Government guidance. Britain is invited to join European scheme for joint purchase of ventilators, and refuses. Johnson lifts restrictions of those arriving from Coronavirus hot spots.
    March 14th Stereophonics play to 5,000 people in Cardiff. No ban on mass gatherings.
    March 16th Johnson asks Britons not to go to pubs, but allows them to stay open.
    March 19th Hospital patients with Coronavirus are returned to care homes in a bid to free up hospital space. What follows is a boom of virus cases in care homes.
    March 20th Government states that PPE shortage crisis is “Completely resolved” Less than two weeks later, the British Medical Association reports an acute shortage in PPE.
    March 23rd UK goes into lockdown.
    March 26th Johnson is accused of putting ‘Brexit over Breathing’ by not joining EU ventilator scheme. The government then state they had not joined the scheme because they had ‘missed the email’
    April 1st The Evening Standard publishes that just 0.17% of NHS staff have been tested for the virus.
    April 3rd The UK death toll overtakes China.
    April 5th 17.5 million Antibody tests, ordered by the government and described by Johnson as a ‘game changer’ are found to be a failure.
    April 16th Flights bringing 15,000 people a day into the UK – without virus testing.
    April 17th Health Secretary Matt Hancock says “I would love to be able to wave a magic wand and have PPE fall from the sky.” The UK has now missed four opportunities to join the EU’s PPE scheme.
    April 21st The Government fails to reach its target of face masks for the NHS, as it is revealed manufactures offers of help were met with silence. Instead millions of pieces of PPE are being shipped from the UK to Europe.
    April 23rd – 24th Government announces testing kits for 10 million key workers. Orders run out within minutes as only 5,000 are made available.
    April 25th UK death toll from Coronavirus overtakes that of The Blitz.
    April 30th Johnson announces the UK has succeeded in avoiding a tragedy that had engulfed other parts of the world – At this point, The UK has the 3rd highest death toll in the world.
    May 1st Government announces it has reached its target of 100,000 tests – They haven’t conducted the tests, but merely posted the testing kits.
    May 5th The UK death toll becomes the highest in Europe.
    May 6th Boris Johnson announces the UK could start to lift lockdown restrictions by next week.
    May 10. Johnson makes a vague, wooly and heavily redacted pre-recorded statement to the nation which will surely bring about chaos and misunderstanding.

    Unbelievably, the Johnson government still has more Brits approving than disapproving of its overall performance on Covid-19, although on specific questions about PPE, testing, and the delay in starting lockdown, responses are predominantly negative.

  143. KG says

    Pence ‘has tested negative every single day’ – Devin O’Malley quotes by SC@177

    Wow! That’ll scare Trump! You recall how pleased he was to report that all his medical tests had come back positive :-p

  144. says

    Early Monday morning, Saudi Arabia announced a slew of austerity measures to cope with the fiscal impact of the coronavirus pandemic and oil price rout, tripling its value-added tax and cutting a cost-of-living allowance for government workers:…”

    Moscow Times – “Putin Eases Nationwide Virus Lockdown as Russia Becomes 3rd Most-Infected Country”:

    President Vladimir Putin has eased Russia’s “non-working” period imposed to slow the spread of coronavirus even as Russia emerges as Europe’s new coronavirus hotspot.

    During the nationwide “non-working” period, all non-essential businesses are required to close and employers ordered to continue paying staff. Apart from this, Putin has largely handed decision-making power on lockdown measures to regional authorities.

    “Starting tomorrow, May 12, the national non-working period will end for the entire country and for all sectors of the economy,” Putin said in his sixth televised address on the coronavirus.

    “But the fight with the epidemic isn’t ending, its threat remains even in territories where the situation is relatively safe,” he added.

    Putin extended the regional governors’ authorities to impose restrictions during the outbreak and said doctors will have the “final say” on when to lift restrictions.

    Putin said that Russia had used the self-isolation period to prepare its healthcare system, increasing the amount of hospital beds and saving “many thousands of lives.”

    This “allows us to begin a gradual lifting of restrictions,” he said.

    “It is in the interest of all of us for the economy to return to normal quickly.”

    Earlier Monday, Putin ordered the cabinet and the national coronavirus task force to draft recommendations by Tuesday to gradually lift restrictive measures in Russia’s regions. He ordered the cabinet to provide an “action plan for economic recovery and growth” by June 1.

    Russia has seen Europe’s highest number of new cases over the past week, reporting more than 10,000 infections daily. As of Monday, 221,344 people have been infected nationwide — the third-highest number worldwide — and 2,009 have died from Covid-19.

    And here’s a link to the May 11 Guardian coronavirus world liveblog.

  145. says

    From the Guardian liveblog, re Russia:

    Vladimir Putin announced an easing of Russia’s nationwide lockdown on Monday, even as Russia recorded a record number of new coronavirus infections.

    Putin said people in some sectors would now return to work, though restrictions on public gatherings would remain in place. “We have a long and difficult process ahead of us with no room for mistakes,” he said in a televised address to the nation.

    He noted the size of Russia and said the epidemiological situation in different regions varied greatly, thus local governments would retain the right to keep lockdown measures in place. In Moscow, the centre of Russia’s coronavirus epidemic, the lockdown is due to remain in force until the end of May at least.

    Russia on Monday announced 11,656 new cases over the past 24 hours, a record number. The country has had a total of 221,344 confirmed cases of the virus and 2,009 deaths. It has the second highest rate of new infections after the US.

    “This should be remembered. Putin has ended national self-isolation measures aimed at fighting the epidemic on the very day when we have registered a record for new infections. W for Wisdom,” wrote the opposition politician Alexei Navalny on Twitter.

    In a long address, Putin also surveyed the economic situation in the country, noting that the number of registered unemployed had doubled since early April, and he announced a new package of economic measures.

  146. says

    April Ryan tweeted last night:

    I’m hearing on good authority that #coronavirus is more rampant in the #WhiteHouse than the public is being told. A very high-ranking individual may have also been impacted! The administration is currently mum on the matter, seeking prayers instead.

    If this turns out to be accurate, my guess would be Pence or Stephen Miller.

  147. says

    Axios – “Top Navy chief self-quarantining after exposure to coronavirus”:

    Adm. Michael Gilday, chief of naval operations, is self-quarantining against the novel coronavirus following contact with a family member who tested positive for the virus, the Pentagon said in a statement to news outlets Sunday.

    The big picture: A Navy official told CNN that Gilday had tested negative for COVID-19 and was taking the action as a precautionary measure. Gen. Joseph Lengyel will have a third test Monday after an earlier one indicated he’d tested positive and another showed a negative reading, per Reuters. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Anthony Fauci, FDA commissioner Stephen Hahn and CDC director Robert Redfiel[d] have also self-quarantined after contact with people who tested positive.

  148. says

    HuffPo – “CEOs, Farm Bureau President Told To Remove Face Masks Before Meeting With Mike Pence”:

    Four CEOs of food companies and the president of the American Farm Bureau Federation were told to remove their face masks before a meeting in Iowa Friday with Vice President Mike Pence, a startling video posted by The Intercept reveals.

    Pence — also without a mask — appeared a short time later at the headquarters of the Hy-Vee grocery chain in West Des Moines for a roundtable discussion with the men in front of an audience.

    Just hours earlier Pence was informed that his press secretary Katie Miller had tested positive for COVID-19. She and six others in Pence’s entourage with suspected exposure to Miller were pulled from Pence’s flight to Iowa just before takeoff. Pence’s office denied news reports Sunday that he was self-isolating because of his exposure to Miller.

    Video before the Hy-Vee roundtable shows an unidentified woman walking up to two groups of the men, all wearing face masks. She can be seen speaking to them and mimicking a gesture as if she’s removing a face mask. All of the men remove their masks. It isn’t clear who she was representing, but going maskless is a hallmark of the Trump administration.

    The audience watching the Iowa roundtable practiced social distancing in the wide spacing of seating, but almost no one wore masks. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) all participated in the roundtable, but none wore a mask.

    Pence traveled to Iowa to hail the state’s “success story” in getting back to business amid the COVID-19 crisis. But the Sioux City metro area had the most cases per capita of any county in the nation, according to a data analysis Sunday by The New York Times.

    Iowa has also been struggling mightily with major outbreaks of the disease among workers in five meatpacking plants in the state.

    As of Sunday, there were close to 12,000 COVID-19 cases and 265 deaths in Iowa. The cases are still on the rise, according to the state health department.

    The men in the Pence roundtable who were instructed to remove their masks were American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall, and CEOs Rodney McMullen of Kroger, Ron Cameron of Mountaire Farms, Ken Sullivan of Smithfield Foods and Noel White of Tyson.

    Sullivan called workers at meatpacking plants “heroes” at the roundtable. A worker and a nonprofit workers’ rights group last month filed a federal lawsuit against a Missouri meat processing plant operated by Smithfield, accusing the company of maintaining dangerous conditions.

    The meatpackers union said in a statement that Pence, Perdue, the senators and governor should have worked a shift at a processing plant to experience the dangerous conditions.

    “They should work in the same conditions and under the same fear that our members and their fellow Iowans work under every day,” the United Food and Commercial Workers union said in a statement….

  149. says

    Yes, those CDC guidelines were buried by the White House.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently crafted detailed guidelines, created by the nation’s top disease investigators, on how best to responsibly reopen during the coronavirus pandemic. The recommendations were specifically tailored to different parts of American society, and they were poised to play a foundational role for the public and private sectors.

    But that did not happen. The Associated Press reported on Thursday that the step-by-step recommendations were “shelved” by the administration. The White House’s direct role in this mess is now coming into focus:

    The decision to shelve detailed advice from the nation’s top disease control experts for reopening communities during the coronavirus pandemic came from the highest levels of the White House, according to internal government emails obtained by The Associated Press…. The trove of emails show the nation’s top public health experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spending weeks working on guidance to help the country deal with a public health emergency, only to see their work quashed by political appointees with little explanation.

    Kayleigh McEnany, the president’s new press secretary who recently vowed to never lie, defended the White House’s handling of the matter on Friday, claiming that the detailed reopening guidelines hadn’t been approved by CDC Director Robert Redfield, which is why they weren’t released to the public.

    The emails obtained by the AP proves that her explanation wasn’t true: the article added that Redfield cleared the materials, but they were blocked anyway by White House officials who considered the detailed guidance politically inconvenient.

    Why does this matter? For one thing, it appears the White House failed to tell the truth about its handling of important CDC materials during a pandemic crisis.

    But even more important is the fact that we keep confronting instances in which leading scientific experts and authorities try to steer Team Trump in responsible directions, only to have the White House’s political interests get in the way.

    In this case, however, exposing relevant details to the public had an immediate effect: according to the materials obtained by the Associated Press, after the AP’s report on Thursday about the administration burying the CDC directives, “the Trump administration ordered key parts of it to be fast-tracked for approval.”


    They got caught letting political interests get in the way of implementing scientifically-sound guidelines. Team Trump partially walked back their stupidity only because they were caught, because the press outed them as the dunderheads they are.

    Lots of states already started their re-opening procedures without benefit of the CDC guidelines. Now Trump wants to fast-track some CDC guidelines for approval? The virus is running free in some states … and now Trump wants to fast-track talks about closing the barn door?

  150. says

    Trump seriously wants to censor or to silence his critics.

    […] Trump called on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to go after NBC and its “Meet the Press” anchor Chuck Todd, on Monday and Sunday in series of unhinged tweets in response to Todd’s criticism of Attorney General Bill Barr.

    Trump was incensed by Todd, whom the President calls “Sleepy Eyes,” saying Barr “didn’t make the case that he was upholding the rule of law” when the Trump official discussed the Justice Department’s decision to drop Michael Flynn’s case on Fox News. Right-wingers on Twitter attacked Todd for not including Barr’s comment that “fair history would say it was a good decision because it upheld the rule of law” in the clip NBC had played of the attorney general.


    He had posted a similar demand the night before in which he tagged both the FCC and FCC chair Ajit Pai.

    “Sleepy Eyes Chuck Todd should be FIRED by “Concast” (NBC) for this fraud. He knew exactly what he was doing. Public Airwaves = Fake News! @AjitPaiFCC @FCC”

    During a panel on “Meet the Press” on Sunday morning, Todd had played a clip of Barr telling CBS News reporter Catherine Herridge last week that “history’s written by the winners, so it largely depends on who’s writing the history” when she asked how history would view the DOJ’s decision on Flynn.

    Immediately after Barr made the comment, the program cut to Todd telling the panel he was “struck” by “the cynicism” of the attorney general’s response. […]

    “Meet the Press” apologized to Kerri Kupec, Barr’s spokesperson, via Twitter after she complained about Todd.

    “Earlier today, we inadvertently and inaccurately cut short a video clip of an interview with AG Barr before offering commentary and analysis,” the program’s Twitter account said. “The remaining clip included important remarks from the attorney general that we missed, and we regret the error.” […]


  151. says

    Follow-up to comment 197.

    From the readers comments:

    Orange meltdown in real time.
    Yet another reason to despise Trump: he has put me on the same side as Chuck Todd.
    Had the FCC done this to Fox News twenty years ago, it would have saved us all a whole lot of trouble.
    Chuck Todd…elevated Death threats incoming
    Even with the longer clip, Todd’s point still stands. Barr made the claim, but he certainly didn’t make the case. The “evidence” he presented there was, indeed, that he intended for his political side to be the winners writing history.
    Frankly, I haven’t been able to settle my stomach since I saw Bill Barf’s malicious little smirk as he said: “history’s written by the winners, so it largely depends on who’s writing the history”

  152. says

    Trump Goes Wild With ‘Obamagate’ Conspiracy Theory After Obama Slams Flynn Case Withdrawal

    […] Trump littered his Twitter feed with posts about an “Obamagate” conspiracy theory all throughout Sunday. [The conspiracy theory] baselessly accuses former President Barack Obama of sabotaging Trump’s presidency with the investigation of Michael Flynn.

    “The biggest political crime in American history, by far!” Trump tweeted in response to a post claiming Obama “used his last weeks in office to target incoming officials and sabotage the new administration.”

    “Wow, this is BIG!” he wrote with a retweet of hard right website Gateway Pundit’s post titled “Former President’s Fingerprints All Over Attempted Coup and More Documents Are Coming!”

    Then Trump tweeted “OBAMAGATE!” and “He got caught, OBAMAGATE!” hours later. He spent the rest of the night retweeting various memes and articles peddling the conspiracy theory.

    The president’s Twitter spree came several days after his predecessor criticized the Justice Department’s dismissal of its case against Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who had pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI in the agency’s investigation into the Trump 2016 campaign’s ties to Russia.

    Obama warned that the reversal was “the kind of stuff where you begin to get worried that basic–not just institutional norms–but our basic understanding of rule of law is at risk” during a private virtual event with the Obama Alumni Association last Friday.

    “And when you start moving in those directions, it can accelerate pretty quickly, as we’ve seen in other places,” the former president added.

    TPM link

  153. tomh says

    Nearly 2,000 DOJ alumni call on Barr to resign over Flynn case
    Fadel Allassan

    A group of almost 2,000 former Justice Department officials have signed onto a statement condemning the DOJ’s decision to drop charges against former national security adviser Michael Flynn and calling on Attorney General Bill Barr to resign for “repeated assaults on the rule of law.”

    It also asked the judge overseeing the Flynn case to reject the government’s motion to throw out the charges.

    The group said the DOJ’s reasoning “does not hold up to scrutiny given the ample evidence that the investigation was well-founded and — more importantly — the fact that Flynn admitted under oath and in open court that he told material lies to the FBI in violation of longstanding federal law.”

  154. Akira MacKenzie says

    @ 200

    Do those about-2000 signatories have the power to actually DO anything if Barr refuses to resign?


    Then it’s a useless publicity stunt.

  155. says

    More re Russia from the Guardian – “‘He is failing’: Putin’s approval rating slides as Covid-19 grips Russia”:

    A day of record high coronavirus infection numbers is an odd time to announce a route out of lockdown, but that’s what Vladimir Putin did on Monday as he announced the “non-working days” imposed by the Kremlin at the end of March would come to an end from Tuesday.

    Rather than an invitation to Russians to stream back into the streets, however, Monday’s announcement seemed to be the latest gambit in Putin’s plan to delegate responsibility for tackling the crisis to local leaders, who he said would make their own decisions on when to end lockdown.

    Certainly, Russia’s vast size means there is little point in lockdown restrictions in Vladivostok being tied to the epidemic growth seven time zones away in Moscow. But health minister Tatiana Golikova later clarified that so far only 11 of Russia’s 85 regions has an epidemiological situation that could allow for a loosening of restrictions, making Putin’s announcement look to some like passing the buck.

    “This is abdication of responsibility, the architect of Russia’s hyper-presidential system suddenly discovering local authorities when it is convenient,” said Mark Galeotti, a Russia analyst and author of a book on Putin. “Putin is giving them the responsibility to fight the pandemic without the funds or the powers.”

    Putin has rarely shone in crisis management, something noted as far back as the sinking of the Kursk submarine 20 years ago, during his first months in office, and this one appears no different.

    Since donning a yellow hazmat suit to visit coronavirus patients back in March, Putin has been largely confined to his residence, where he appears by video link to address the nation and cabinet. Russians who are used to seeing their president atop a horse or motorbike instead see a static-screen Putin who often seems visibly bored.

    Last week, he was spotted distractedly playing with a pen as his health minister discussed the regional response with him. On Monday, Putin again looked less than enthusiastic as he simultaneously addressed both the nation and his government by video link. On several occasions he let out audible sighs in mid-sentence.

    The virus is asking hard questions of the Kremlin and the political system constructed by Putin over the past two decades.

    “This is arguably the most serious challenge to Putin as national leader in the twenty years he has been in power, and he is failing it,” said Galeotti.

  156. says

    Follow-up to comment 199.

    From the readers comments:

    It really takes some mental gymnastics to actually believe Pres Obama made Flynn plead guilty.
    a young German said to us, “I always wondered how Hitler was able to lead the German people into such a dark place and then I saw Trump.” Once again Trump is delusional but drags 40+% of the country right along with him.
    Barr will undoubtedly announce a sham investigation.
    More than 100 tweets yesterday. And that’s not even his record.
    I was just over to a few right-wing sites (Fox, et al.) and they are going crazy about Obamagate. I can’t remember when I saw such mindless vitriolic lies…
    For him not even to mention that Obama started World War I by assassinating Archduke Ferdinand shows remarkable restraint in this time of crisis.

  157. says

    A 60 Minutes exposé provided details about Trump de-funding NIH Pandemic Research because the head of that research wouldn’t go along with his China conspiracy theory.

    Naturally Trump puts his ignorant notions, and his need to find a scapegoat above where the facts and the science point. That is that the COVID-19 viurus came from the natural world, and not some laboratory.

    From Brit McCandless Farmer:

    Several U.S. officials, including Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz, had raised suspicions about the Wuhan Institute of Virology, one of Daszak’s key collaborators in China. When a reporter mischaracterized key details of the NIH grant during a White House press conference last month, President Trump said he would check if any U.S. funds had been granted to the Wuhan Institute, and if so, he said, they would immediately be terminated.

    But the $3.7 million grant was not given to the Wuhan Institute. It had been awarded to Daszak’s New York-based organization, EcoHealth Alliance. A week after President Trump said the funds would be terminated in China, the NIH took action against EcoHealth Alliance, giving the organization no reason for the grant’s termination. Ending an NIH grant usually requires a full investigation and proof of an egregious action like scientific or financial fraud—neither of which applied to EcoHealth Alliance.

    Fellow scientists have spoken out about the unsettling precedent the NIH set. “This is cutting off your face to spite your nose,” Gerald Keusch, a former director of NIH’s Fogarty International Center, told Science. “This is the worst kind of thing that political interference can cause in a democracy.”

    Recognizing the ramifications of NIH’s decision involves understanding of the scope of Daszak’s work—and its impact on future coronavirus pandemics

    CBS News link

    Video available at the link is really must-see reporting.

    Excerpt from CBS’ coverage in text:

    When 60 Minutes correspondent Scott Pelley recently sought to report on the origin of the novel coronavirus sweeping the globe, producer Ashley Velie pointed him to Dr. Peter Daszak, a disease ecologist whose work in sampling and researching coronaviruses in wildlife has helped identify potentially dangerous emerging diseases in humans. It turns out Pelley had previously reported on Daszak and was familiar with his research into how coronaviruses—such as the one causing COVID-19—move from bats to humans.

    But this time, Daszak’s story took an unexpected turn. Shortly after Pelley finished interviewing him last month about COVID-19’s origin, the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) abruptly canceled a five-year, $3.7 million grant supporting his research. Pelley and Velie had a new story to report and returned to Daszak for a second interview.

    Several U.S. officials, including Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz, had raised suspicions about the Wuhan Institute of Virology, one of Daszak’s key collaborators in China. When a reporter mischaracterized key details of the NIH grant during a White House press conference last month, President Trump said he would check if any U.S. funds had been granted to the Wuhan Institute, and if so, he said, they would immediately be terminated. […]

    As Daszak explained to 60 Minutes, no one knows for sure why bats are such adept hosts for disease, but one theory is that bats are the only mammal naturally capable of sustained flight. Flying, Daszak explains, burns a lot of oxygen and puts a lot of stress on bats’ cells. As a result, their immune system kicks in.

    “Bats can’t live with that sort of immune response all the time, so they dampen down their immune response. That’s been shown,” Daszak said. “And in dampening down their own immunity, they allow viruses to proliferate. So bats carry a higher amount of virus and a higher diversity of viruses than other mammals.”

    […] partnerships with scientists around the world are key. Daszak’s EcoHealth Alliance has worked for years with the Wuhan Institute, and together they’ve catalogued hundreds of bat viruses, including dozens of previously unknown coronaviruses. The antiviral medication Remdesivir, the only drug so far proven to help patients with COVID-19, was initially tested against the viruses Daszak and his team had discovered under previous funding from the NIH.

    Daszak said EcoHealth Alliance had been spending about $100,000 a year collaborating with the Wuhan Institute.

    “I can’t just show up in China and say, ‘Hi, I want to work on your viruses,'” he said. “I have to do this through the correct channels. So, what we do is we talk to NIH, and they approve the people we can work with in China. And that happened. And our collaboration with Wuhan was preapproved by NIH.”

    Last year, the NIH reauthorized EcoHealth’s five-year grant after independent scientists reviewed the application. According to Daszak, EcoHealth’s grant received a high-priority score and was in the top three percent of grants the NIH reviewed last year.

    The NIH would not tell 60 Minutes why EcoHealth Alliance’s grant was canceled or whether anything like it had happened before.

    Daszak says the consequence of NIH pulling the $3.7 million grant will be felt for years to come.

    “It matters because number one, our work is used in developing vaccines and drugs to save American lives and the lives of people around the world. So that matters a lot,” Daszak said. “Number two, if we really want to know where viruses are going to emerge and cause the next pandemic, we need to have scientific collaborations like this. They’re our only eyes and ears on the ground in countries that are very difficult, for political reasons, to work in.”

    “We are the frontline of preventing the next pandemic,” he said. “And we need to get on with our job.”

    The reporting enraged Trump:

    .@CBS and their show, @60Minutes, are doing everything within their power, which is far less today than it was in the past, to defend China and the horrible Virus pandemic that was inflicted on the USA and the rest of the World. I guess they want to do business in China!

  158. says

    Empty Wheel – “Bill Barr Did Not Provide the Most Important Exhibit to His Mike Flynn Dismissal Motion: The Call Transcripts”:

    …Emmet Sullivan would be totally within his authority to require the government to provide the actual evidence on which they make at this point unsubstantiated claims in this filing.

    Mike Flynn has been demanding these transcripts for quite some time. Given the declassification spree that Barr and Ric Grenell have been on, I would imagine they would have been made public if they helped Flynn at all. So I’m guessing Yates and McCord provided a more accurate description of these transcripts than Timothy Shea.

    A quote in this post was I think the first I’ve read of the Shea filing. Wow, is it bad.

  159. tomh says

    @ #201
    Publicity stunt? To what end? No one has the power to make Barr resign. Does that mean no one should object to what he is doing? To my mind, the more noise made about it, the better.

  160. says

    TPM – “WH Adviser Belittles Media Coverage Of Staggering Unemployment As ‘Pity Party’”:

    White House trade adviser Peter Navarro on Monday disparaged the media’s coverage of the staggering 14.7 percent unemployment rate in April caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

    “That was a pity party yesterday on the Sunday shows,” Navarro complained on “Fox and Friends,” singling out CBS News “Face the Nation” host Margaret Brennan, ABC News “This Week” host George Stephanopoulos and “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace.

    “This is not the Great Depression,” the White House official continued. “Anybody who thinks this is the Great Depression doesn’t understand either history or economics.”

    Navarro claimed that President Donald Trump had built “the strongest and most beautiful economy” before the virus took hold.

    “Now it’s going to be a long process because of the structural adjustments that are going to take place as we adapt to the virus socially and culturally and economically,” he said. “But this Great Depression pity party stuff I saw yesterday, this ain’t that.”

    But two of Navarro’s own colleagues, White House senior economic adviser Kevin Hassett and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, had participated in said “pity party” on the Sunday morning shows and agreed that the onslaught of job losses is in fact headed toward Great Depression territory….

  161. blf says

    Midwesterners were already doubting Trump. Covid could seal his political fate:

    The genius may think we are suckers, but in Iowa we don’t ruin good corn liquor with Clorox

    [… Unionized employee Drake Custer explained] “The vibe is: a lot of people figured out that the boss isn’t worried about them. My veteran friends, they don’t like what’s going on. They’re looking for leadership in government and the workplace. Really, everybody is.”

    Folks from Milwaukee to Muskegon were having their misgivings before the pandemic shut us down in March. Trade wars with China, Mexico, Canada and Europe knocked the wind out of steel wheels and soybean prices. Workers at John Deere, the huge tractor builder, were getting pink slips in Davenport. Ethanol plants were idled. Farmers in north-west Iowa’s Sioux county, where Trump took 90% of the vote, said last fall they would not vote for him again. The 23 proclaimed they were “fed up” after Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency allowed 31 petroleum refineries to shun ethanol blending requirements. Ethanol comes from corn. Corn is a religious totem in these parts.

    Trump’s approval ratings sank underwater in key midwestern swing states he won: Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa. Any number of polls showed Trump and Joe Biden in a dead heat in about a dozen purple states, or with Biden in a comfortable lead. Bluster and blunder were coming home to roost.

    Then the pandemic that Trump ignored hit and the bottom dropped out.

    Corn prices dived 19% since January. Meatpacking plants are exploding with the coronavirus — 60% of the pork plant workers in Perry, Iowa, are infected. The sheriff for Waterloo, Iowa, said he wanted to stomp a boot on Tyson’s plant. The mayor of Sioux Falls argued with the South Dakota governor to shut down a Smithfield pork facility overrun with the virus. About 65% of people polled think folks should stay home and not dine in at the restaurant buffet. Although the Iowa governor allowed churches to reopen, they aren’t taking her up on the offer with Sunday services. They would just as soon wait until we can get some tests done around here. Republican leaders are not in tune with voters.

    The Michigan governor, Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat on Biden’s VP shortlist, held forth ably against armed men in the capital lobby and remains far more popular than Trump. In Wisconsin, Democrats were outraged when Republicans forced a primary election involving a key state supreme court race. Voters stood up for democracy, in line for hours braving Covid-19 infection to cast their vote. The Democratic-backed court candidate won. Wisconsin unseated the Republican governor, Scott Walker, in 2018 and elected a gay woman to the US Senate, Democrat Tammy Baldwin, before that. It is the land of La Follette, after all.


    A reckoning is due for incompetence and neglect. Farmers are disconsolate. Every dairy worker suicide resonates. […] It makes everyone nauseous. Everyday people can’t understand why NBA players can get tested but packinghouse workers ordered to keep the pork loins rolling can’t. […] We’re waking up, all right. When 30 million people can’t get through to the unemployment system, and half of them lose their health insurance by fall, incumbents should cover their flanks.


    Even while sitting in his basement unheard, Biden is winning the midwest for all Trump’s blather. […]

    One item not mentioned in this editorial is the continuing drumroll of condemnations (e.g., tomh@200) also inflicts damage and doubt, even if (as per Akira MacKenzie@201), the statements / condemners are unable to directly “do” anything. One problem, of course, is nothing “gets done” until 2021; and then, in any case, there’s a tremendous amount of damage to undo — with perhaps the must difficult to undo — and also an obstacle to other problems being fixed — being the huge number of thug-approved lunatic federal “judges” being appointed & confirmed.

  162. says

    tomh @ #207, also, as your quote includes and you highlight, “It also asked the judge overseeing the Flynn case to reject the government’s motion to throw out the charges.”

    It’s directed at the public and the judge who does have the power to make decisions here.

  163. blf says

    Most† of France left lockdown today. I myself have no idea what the situation is like, due to a mixture of bad weather‡ and sleeping-in all day, but found this report “interesting” (as an individual who notoriously neither shaves nor gets haircuts), From lockdown, to ‘locks off’: Hair salons fully booked as France reopens for business (video): “French hairdressers reopened on Monday after eight weeks under lockdown, ready to welcome an onslaught of clients. Around 60 percent of French people say they will book an appointment for a haircut within the first week, with some salons already fully booked for the next three weeks. They are required to put health and safety measures in place including protective masks, regular cleaning and prohibiting comforts such as magazines and hot drinks.”

      † The exception is Mayotte, a French overseas department )in-between Madagascar and Africa), where the Covid-19 infections are still increasing.

      ‡ Locally, there seems to usually be a big dump of rain late(-ish) in the Spring before Summer. All this week the forecast to be rain (except tomorrow, Tuesday) — there was a yellow flood alert in effect yesterday — which I presume is this characteristic last-of-the-Spring rains.

  164. Trickster Goddess says

    @183 KG:

    *”Stay Alert – your country needs Lerts!”. Presumably the idea is that if you see the virus – you know, that green soccer-ball thing with red pins sticking out of it – you should run away.

    “If you See Something, Say Something”?

  165. says

    G liveblog:

    In Washington, Trump has ended his briefing on a very sour note.

    Asked by CBS White House Correspondent Weijia Jiang why he is so fixated on comparing the US’ testing capability to other countries as opposed to focusing on the lag that still exists her, Trump snapped: “Maybe that’s a question you should ask China. Don’t ask me, ask China that question, ok?”

    He then called on CNN’s Kaitlan Collins who ceded the mic to Jiang so that she could ask her follow-up. Jiang, who is Asian-American, replied to Trump: “Sir, why are you saying that to me, specifically, that I should ask China.”

    “I’m telling you, I’m not saying it specifically to anybody. I’m saying it to anybody that would ask a nasty question like that,” he said.

    Collins then tries to ask her question and Trump skips her. He then refuses to take anymore questions and leaves the podium.

    In addition to the racism and everything else, it doesn’t make any sense.

  166. says

    Josh Marshall: “It was overshadowed by Trumps gross response to @weijia. But her question raised a critical point. Trump treats each metric as a competition with other countries. We are doing more tests than many other countries. But it’s not a competition. We want fewer people to die in the US.”

  167. says

    Yamiche Alcindor:

    Why did Trump end WH briefing? @weijia asked Trump why he sees this as “a global competition” when 80K have died. He said: “Ask China.”

    He tried to move on but wouldn’t let @kaitlancollins ask her Q.

    He called on me but I motioned for Kaitlin to ask her Q so Trump walked off.


  168. says

    Sarah Cooper:

    Trump keeps saying our testing and our equipment is better than any other country in the world, like he’s trying to sell us on the fucking country we’re already fucking living in

    Like you’re going to be in the hospital and be like “ugh this ventilator sucks, I’m going to CHINA!” and then Trump is gonna like “but this ventilator is the best in the world, the best one you’re ever gonna get – anywhere!”

    Saying we have the best testing is so stupid because if testing sucks in other countries, that’s actually BAD for us too!

  169. says


    People have been projecting that he would do a ‘mission accomplished’ style event for a while, even as several thousand Americans die of the virus every week, and he finally went and did it.

  170. says

    SC @217, Ha! Even Trump doesn’t really understand what he is accusing Obama of this time.

    SC @219, and Trump thinks they are all fine people. He said so.

    SC @220, at least the reporters held their ground long enough to make Trump realize that he should exit the stage instead of digging the hole he was in even deeper. He never did answer the question about testing.

    From NBC News:

    The White House began requiring all staffers entering the West Wing to wear a facial covering Monday, and asked aides to avoid going there “unless you absolutely need to conduct in-person business in the West Wing.”

    That’s what they should have done a month ago.

  171. says

    From Politico:

    Meeting the overwhelming demand for a successful coronavirus vaccine will require a historic amount of coordination by scientists, drugmakers and the government. The nation’s supply chain isn’t anywhere close to ready for such an effort.

  172. says

    Carol Leonnig:

    NEWWS…Trump has wanted to get out in public to show he’s on the front lines fighting the virus. But fears are rising that such photo op visits from @realdonaldtrump and @VP are literally making the public less safe. One factory said No.

    My latest…

    WaPo link atl. He wanted to go to a Pennsylvania PPE factory.

  173. blf says

    Not obviously Covid-19 pandemic related, Nashville NAACP head finds target on his lawn: ‘It’s an act of intimidation’:

    The Nashville head of the NAACP said a police officer who responded to his home after a bullseye-like target appeared in his front yard dismissed his concerns.


    After [Keith] Caldwell told the officer that he was concerned the target was a threat to him and his family, Caldwell said the officer responded by saying that he thought the target was pretty cool.

    “It felt like to me that he really, he didn’t care,” Caldwell told WKRN-TV. After speaking with the officer, Caldwell said he then called the officer’s supervisor.


    Caldwell said the police department has been taking the issue seriously after the responding officer declined to file a police report about the matter.

    “I don’t want to paint the entire police department as a reflection of this one officer,” Caldwell told WKRN-TV.

    The interaction between Caldwell and the responding officer is “under review”[], police said in their statement.


    There’s an image of the target at the link. Fortunately, it’s not a silhouette-style target, but a classic archery-style concentric circles.

      † Taking a lead from Mr Caldwell, I’ve declined to set this “police” statement in eejit quotes; they might actually be doing something…

  174. blf says

    From the Grauniad’s current States pandemic live blog:

    In private Facebook groups, calls to assassinate Michigan’s governor

    Either President [sic] Trump sends in the troops or there is going to be a midnight lynching in Lansing soon.

    We need a good old fashioned lynch mob to storm the Capitol.

    Drag that tyrant governor out to the front lawn. Fit her for a noose.

    Within private Facebook groups in Michigan, a Detroit Metro Times reporter found violent threats against Democratic governor Gretchen Whitmer. “Dozens of people have called for her to be hanged,” the paper reported.

    As she has led Michigan’s response to coronavirus, Whitmer has faced volatile partisan protests, opposition from Republican legislators, and personal attacks and criticism from President [sic] Donald Trump.

    The Facebook discussions about lynching and assassinating Whitmer are particularly concerning ahead of a new armed rally in Michigan’s capital planned for this Thursday.


    The Detroit Metro Times report is quite good, Gov Whitmer becomes target of dozens of threats on private Facebook groups ahead of armed rally in Lansing (Metro Times edits are in {curly braces}):

    Dozens of angry Michiganders, fueled by conspiracy theories and disinformation about the coronavirus, are promoting violence and mobilizing armed rallies against Gov Gretchen Whitmer on Facebook, in violation of the social media company’s policies.

    Metro Times gained access to four private Facebook groups that can only be seen by approved members. The pages, which have a combined 400,000 members, are filled with paranoid, sexist, and grammar-challenged rants, with members encouraging violence and flouting the governor’s social-distancing orders.

    On Sunday, after being contacted by Metro Times, Facebook removed one of the groups, Michigan United for Liberty, and deleted posts on others for violating the company’s policy against inciting violence. […]

    [… the Metro Times is less shy than the Grauniad and gives the names associated with the quoted example posts…]

    Others suggested she be shot, beaten, or beheaded.

    Plain and simple she needs to eat lead and send a statement to the rest of the democrats that they are next, James Greena, of Fennville, wrote.


    The comments are especially disturbing because some of those calling for violence are planning to attend an armed rally at the Capitol building in Lansing on Thursday. On April 30, hundreds of protesters, some of them heavily armed, descended on the state Capitol during the American Patriot Rally, and there were armed protesters as part of Operation Lansing on April 15. A two-day rally is also planned for the weekend.

    We could’ve taken over the capital last time if we wanted, Chris Coffey said. This was just a display. Next time won’t be!

    If she thinks the last protest was bad she hasn’t seen anything yet, DonnaCookie Grady warned.

    We haven’t had any bloodshed yet, but the populous is counting to three, and the other day was two, Dave Meisenheimer wrote in Michiganders Against Excessive Quarantine, which has more than 385,000 members. Next comes watering the tree of liberty with the blood of tyrants.

    Gordon Chapman says he’s going to the Thursday rally and hopes demonstrators are armed to the teeth.

    Voting is too late we need to act now, Chapman said.

    The potential for violence prompted some public officials, including Whitmer and Attorney General Dana Nessel, to promote banning firearms from the Capitol building.


    Nessel’s support of the ban drew anger on another private Facebook page, Whitmer Recall Movement, which has more than 3,500 members.

    We are sharpening a stick for you Dana, Pete Scudamore wrote.

    DO you want me to bring the rope, shouldn’t be too hard to find a good tree, Russell Kynn asked.

    Nessel’s spokeswoman Kelly Rossman-McKinney says the attorney general’s office will not tolerate threats.


    The private Facebook groups are a hub for far-fetched conspiracy theories and disinformation, reinforcing people’s fears and anger. For some, the state’s stay-at-home order is an unconstitutional plot by liberals to strip residents of their freedoms and steal the election from President [sic] Trump. Some insist the coronavirus is a hoax, and others believe it’s a manmade disease designed to enrich billionaires and force vaccines on the masses.

    One of the most popular and influential conspiracies is featured in Plandemic, a 26-minute documentary-style video with ominous music that racked up millions of views in the past week. The video features a widely refuted researcher named Judy Mikovits, who spins a baseless tale about wealthy people intentionally spreading the coronavirus to boost vaccination rates. She also warns against wearing masks, saying they can exacerbate viral symptoms. […]

    Not surprisingly, many members of the groups say they will never wear a mask because they believe they are unsafe or represent tyranny.

    Birbot Arvo suggested he would resort to violence if police approached him about wearing a mask. Cop or not. You come at me strong about a mask and I will break your face, […]

    Nathan Silver declared he will not submit to their cultural Marxism.

    I refuse to wear one, wrote Rich T Tyra II. They cause more problems than they prevent and its a sign of being silenced and submission and its training for the forced vaccinations.

    To Melody DeCaire, wearing a mask is useless because the coronavirus isn’t real. theres no such thing as Covid, she insisted. Its radation {sic} poisoning coming from the 5g, referring to the conspiracy theory that 5G towers cause the illness.


    When reached for comment, Facebook users who posted comments about violence said they were merely exercising their right to free speech.

    Thomas Allan Morse, who wrote, Army 11 bravo vet here ready to rumble. Two to the chest one to the head, responded that he earned the right to exercise free speech because he served in the military.

    Did you serve this country in the armed forces? Let alone ground combat? Morse asked Metro Times via Facebook Messenger. I earned my 1st ammendment {sic}.


    Sexism also is rampant among members of the private groups.


    James Davis added, Men advanced civilization from the days of banging two rocks together. I don’t doubt there are smart women out there. However, the smart women are busy doing things like having families, not corrupting themselves with power and ruining people’s lives.

    Facebook users called Whitmer a Nazi, spawn of the devil, wicked witch, arrogant facist {sic} pig, Gestapo Gretchen, tyrant, Soros puppet, and baby killer tyrant.

    For Patricia Folk, threats are the logical next step to regaining her freedoms.

    I honestly believe that the only way that Congress and the Senate are going to start listening to ‘We the People’ are threats, Folk wrote on one of the private pages. They no longer respect the voter, or the people they represent. Maybe a tarred and feathered election official, may wake them up.

    There are images — with names — of many of the quoted threats, etc., at the Metro Times report.

    (I may have seriously depleted the world’s supply of eejit quoting glyphs typesetting the above excerpts!)

  175. blf says

    Big China has prevented Island China from joining WHO — Island China has been relying on the States (at least) for communications with WHO — and now Big China is not helping itself, Island China, or anyone else (except hair furor’s baseless blame-mongering against Big China) with the latest antics (from the Grauniad’s current main pandemic live blog):

    New Zealand’s foreign minister on Tuesday said the country has to stand up for itself after China warned its backing of Taiwan’s participation at the World Health Organization (WHO) could damage bilateral ties, Reuters reports.

    Taiwan, with the strong support of the United States, has stepped up its lobbying to be allowed to take part as an observer at next week’s World Health Assembly (WHA), the WHO’s decision-making body — a move which has angered China.

    Taiwan is excluded from the WHO due to the objections of China, which views the island as one of its provinces.

    Senior ministers in New Zealand last week said Taiwan should be allowed to join the WHO as an observer given its success in limiting the spread of the novel coronavirus, drawing China’s ire which asked the Pacific country to stop making wrong statements.


    I have no idea if the States will be attending the WHA — hair furor and his dalekocrazy are also baselessly blaming WHO, and (e.g.), recently,
    US blocks vote on UN’s bid for global ceasefire over reference to WHO
    (8-May-2020): “Security council had spent weeks seeking resolution but Trump administration opposed mention of organization”. That is not the States only antics over WHO due to hair furor’s baseless blame-mongering against WHO. (I’m uncertain, but it appears the WHA this year (it’s an annual(?) meeting) will be virtual.)

  176. blf says

    As an aside — I just happened to notice this — John Hopkins is reporting 84,011 confirmed Covid-19 cases in Big China, which is about the same as the number of deaths in the States (80,682; total confirmed cases 1,347,881). There are 4,367 deaths in Big China.

  177. Trickster Goddess says

    Lunatics on parade in Canada:

    Anti-Lockdown Protesters Block Ambulance Bay at Vancouver Hospital, Lead Chants Against Healthcare Workers

    An anti-lockdown march in downtown Vancouver nearly spiralled out of control when dozens of protesters surrounded a hospital entrance and began berating frontline healthcare workers.

    Vancouver’s anti-lockdown protests are mainly organized by anti-vaccine activists, along with a flat earth conspiracy group and individuals linked to far-right politics who promote the events through a web of private Facebook groups.

    Multiple videos live streamed by participants show the crowd marching down the middle of Burrard Street on Sunday afternoon, before coming to a stop in front of the ambulance bay at St. Paul’s Hospital.

    One protester shouted into a megaphone that they wanted to “talk to the doctors.”

    Protesters can be heard directing chants of “no vaccines” and “let us in” at several healthcare workers who wandered outside the emergency room in their protective masks and medical scrubs.

    “The hospitals are empty,” yelled one protester, along with others who are heard shouting “tell the truth” and demanding to know: “What are you hiding?”

    “You’re all corrupt,” shouted another.

    Protesters displayed signs referencing several conspiracies related to vaccines and 5G technology, including various messages blaming the government, Bill Gates and Satan for the lockdown.

    Anti-lockdown protesters heckle healthcare workers (Laura-Lynn Tyler Thompson, YouTube; Press for Truth, Dlive.TV)

    Previous marches by the same group through downtown Vancouver have seen some protesters heckle self-isolating residents on their condo balconies. There have been several skirmishes with bystanders that nearly turned violent and protesters have complained they’ve been pelted with eggs.

    Sunday’s march came close to escalating once again.

    As the crowd heckled healthcare workers, one protester aggressively approached one of the police officers escorting protesters through downtown Vancouver.

    The officer can be seen dismounting his motorcycle to follow the man before being swarmed by several protesters — one woman can be seen repeatedly grabbing at the officer’s back and arms.

    “You’re dismissed,” one protester is seen shouting at the officer. “Go do your job.”

    “Don’t you do that to me or you’ll go to jail,” the officer can be heard telling someone else in the crowd.

    Video clips at link.

  178. tomh says

    On Tuesday, 5/12, at 10:00AM (EDT) the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments by telephone on the Trump financial records cases– the subpoenas from two House committees and the subpoena from the Manhattan District Attorney. You can hear the arguments live on CNN, CNBC, and probably others.

  179. Trickster Goddess says

    More background on the kinds of anti-lockdown protestors in Canada

    Yes, Canada’s anti-lockdown protests are even weirder than you think

  180. Trickster Goddess says

    Workers at Cargill’s Alberta Meat Plant Were Offered Special ‘Bonus’ Pay For Perfect Attendance During Pandemic

    [Cargill] has faced intense criticism over crowded “elbow to elbow” conditions in its slaughterhouse. To date, the outbreak at the plant [in High River, Alberta] has seen nearly 1,000 workers test positive for COVID-19, believed to be the single largest outbreak in North America — one worker has already died.

    UFCW Local 401, which represents workers at Cargill’s plant, sent the company a letter dated March 20 requesting information on its response to COVID-19.

    The company replied on March 23. The company outlined a number of measures it was taking to promote “social distancing” and “sanitation,” and also stated it would offer workers bonuses — except the bonuses came with a catch.

    According to Cargill, “employees who work every hour of their scheduled shift each week will receive an additional $2.00 per hour” while “employees who complete their scheduled weekly shift for the next eight (8) consecutive weeks … will rreceive a one-time net $500 bonus.”

    While time off for cases where workers tested positive for COVID-19 were excluded, union officials argue Cargill’s perfect attendance bonuses actually gave sick workers an incentive to show up to work when they should have stayed home and isolated.

    “Part of the culture of these plants is you go to work when you’re sick,” he added. “The culture is ‘be tough’ and power through it. We can’t have that anymore.”

  181. KG says

    The UK government has now issued guidance on safety at work, but (a) this does not seem to have been discussed with unions or other representatives of employees in the relevant sectors, and (b) it clearly needed to be available some time before employers re-open their workplaces, to give them time to implement the guidelines. Meanwhile the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, evaded the question when asked whether worers were legally entitled to refuse to go into work if they felt it was unsafe, and a number of sources have warned that the return to work is likely to lead to a new upsurge in Covid-19 cases.

  182. says

    From Maddow last night:

    “Something Appears To Be Wrong With Donald Trump”:

    Rachel Maddow shares video of Donald Trump melting down and walking out on his own press conference, and wonders about the circumstances that have left him unable to function as the nation reels in a state of crisis.

    “Significant Financial Secrets At Stake For Trump In SCOTUS Case”:

    David Enrich, business investigations editor for the New York Times, talks with Rachel Maddow about the Deutsche Bank subpoena for Donald Trump’s records that is at the center of Tuesday’s Supreme Court arguments and what kind of information would be exposed if Trump’s legal losing streak continues.

    Videos at the links.

  183. says

    So today:

    The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the Trump financial records cases (see tomh @ #235 and also #239 for more) at 10 AM ET.

    Fauci, Hahn, Redfield, and Giroir will testify remotely before a Senate committee – CNN – “Fauci to warn Senate of ‘needless suffering and death’ if country reopens too quickly”:

    Dr. Anthony Fauci, a key member of the White House’s coronavirus task force, plans to tell a Senate committee on Tuesday that the country risks “needless suffering and death” if states open up too quickly, he told The New York Times late Monday evening.

    “If we skip over the checkpoints in the guidelines to: ‘Open America Again,’ then we risk the danger of multiple outbreaks throughout the country,” Fauci said in an email to the Times, referring to the federal government’s plan for states to re-open. “This will not only result in needless suffering and death, but would actually set us back on our quest to return to normal.”

    Fauci’s planned testimony will fuel a hearing where senators will finally get a chance Tuesday to face off over the effectiveness of the Trump administration’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, in what could be one of the only public hearings featuring members of the White House’s coronavirus task force.

    The hearing will be Democrats’ first opportunity since March to question leading medical experts — including Fauci and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield — about the Trump administration’s response.

    “The fact of the matter is, President (Donald) Trump has been more focused on fighting against the truth, than fighting this virus — and Americans have sadly paid the price,” Washington Sen. Patty Murray, the top Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, plans to say Tuesday, according to excerpts of her opening statement.

    “Since this Committee last heard from these witnesses on March 3rd, we have seen over 900 deaths in my home state of Washington, over 80,000 deaths nationally, and the numbers continue to climb,” Murray plans to say. “Still, President Trump is trying to ignore the facts, and ignore the experts who have been clear we are nowhere close to where we need to be to reopen safely.”

    The hearing — in which committee leaders and all four government witnesses will be appearing remotely via video conference — comes as states across the country have started taking actions to roll back the business closures and stay-at-home orders that were put in place two months ago to try to slow the coronavirus infection rate, though the outbreak is far from over.

    Three of the witnesses and the committee’s chairman — for a hearing titled “Covid-19: Safely getting back to work and school” — are appearing remotely because they’re self-isolating or self-quarantining after contact with individuals who tested positive for coronavirus.

    The hearing is likely to further illustrate the divide within the country between Republicans and Democrats over their views on the pandemic, how the administration has handled the crisis and the best path forward amid warnings from public health experts that positive cases could surge if stay-at-home orders are rolled back too quickly….

    The hearing is also at 10 AM ET!

    There’s a special election in CA25 to replace Katie Hill, who resigned, for the rest of her term. NPR – “Democrats Fear Losing U.S. House Special Election In Southern California.”

  184. blf says

    Here in France, the lockdown ended yesterday (Monday May 11th), except in Mayotte (see @214). So teh eejits in Paris eejited, Paris bans drinking by the Seine after crowds celebrate lockdown-easing:

    Parisians have been banned from drinking alcohol on the banks of the Saint-Martin canal and the Seine river after police were forced to disperse crowds just hours after an eight-week coronavirus lockdown was eased.

    Many city dwellers stuck in flats without balconies, terraces or gardens for almost two months turned out on Monday evening to celebrate. Photos quickly circulated of unmasked revellers gathering by the water in the French capital.

    On the orders of the interior ministry, Paris’s police prefect issued a ban, saying it “deplored” having to do so in an indignant press release reminding everyone that the success of the déconfinement rested on “the principle of each citizen’s individual responsibility”.

    “Barely a few hours after the lifting of the lockdown, dozens of people gathered … without respecting social distances and the health recommendations that have even so been hammered home for the past few weeks,” the press release said.


    What makes this idiotic behaviour especially stooopid is Paris is one of “Red” areas, where there are more restrictions — most set by the local authorities — then the “Green” areas, due to the SARS-CoV-2 virus actively circulating or the hospitals are still under some pressure.

    Images at the Grauniad’s link, and at France24, Paris police bans alcohol along Seine river as crowds revel in new-found freedom. As an aside, it was teh eejits in Paris (mostly) who forced the government to move from a somewhat permissive lockdown to the much more restrictive lockdown. (Paris is a large expensive city with tiny apartments, and — in the central area — good public transport, so it’s perhaps not too surprising teh eejits seem overrepresented there.)

    Locally, in the S.France Mediterranean seaside village where I live, I still don’t know what the situation is like outside, as I haven’t left the lair… yet (not-leaving was easy to do yesterday because it was raining all day, but today is sunshine (perhaps the only day this week, according to some forecasts)). This is a “Green” zone, and the village council seems to be moving fast — perhaps a bit too fast? — announcing the outdoor markets will reopen in about a week, and are coordinating with the regional authorities on opening up the beaches. They might be able to enforce social distancing on the beaches, but only one of the markets does that seem to maybe be possible. The other markets are hemmed-in with not much room to “avoid” people. I wouldn’t be surprised if masks are made mandatory in the markets, but that simply isn’t going to be sufficient unless they somehow separate the traders / stalls (maybe by increasing the surface area of the markets, reducing the number of traders / stalls, and/or vectoring away the traffic (keeping the traffic further away would be a good idea anyways)). We’ll see…

  185. says

    Here’s a link to the May 12 Guardian coronavirus world liveblog.

    From there:

    …Vladimir Putin’s press secretary has been diagnosed with coronavirus and is currently receiving treatment, Russian news agencies reported on Tuesday afternoon.

    “Yes, I am sick, and receiving treatment,” Dmitry Peskov told news agency Interfax, which added that he was being treated “in a clinic”. During a trip to a coronavirus ward back in March, Peskov was the only person in Putin’s entourage to wear a mask.

    Putin has been working from his residence outside Moscow in recent weeks, and it is not clear whether he has been in contact with Peskov. The Russian prime minister, Mikhail Mishustin, also has Covid-19 and is being treated in hospital, though was well enough to take part in a government video call in recent days….

  186. says

    NBC – “Unreleased White House report shows coronavirus rates spiking in heartland communities”:

    Coronavirus infection rates are spiking to new highs in several metropolitan areas and smaller communities across the country, according to undisclosed data the White House’s pandemic task force is using to track rates of infection, which was obtained by NBC News.

    The data in a May 7 coronavirus task force report are at odds with President Donald Trump’s declaration Monday that “all throughout the country, the numbers are coming down rapidly.”…

    Much more atl.

  187. says

    Fauci just gave his opening statement. I don’t think it included the part about “needless suffering and death,” but I guess he’ll talk about that in response to questions. He discussed the various treatment/vaccine trials they’re focusing on.

  188. says

    In the past 24 hours, the president of a country told his government agency a broadcaster should fire a prominent journalist and suggested the journalist should be prosecuted.

    He then baselessly accused another prominent journalist of murder.

    That country is the United States.”

  189. says

    RFE/RL – “Media Identify Russian In Alleged Plot To Poison Czech Officials With Ricin”:

    Czech media have identified the man they say is the undercover Russian diplomat who entered the country nearly two months ago with a suitcase containing ricin as part of an alleged plot to poison as many as three Prague officials who had taken actions that angered the Kremlin.

    In a report aired on May 10, the Czech public TV program 168 Hours quoted unnamed security sources as saying Andrei Konchakov flew to Prague’s Vaclav Havel Airport two months ago with the toxin and was driven to the Russian Embassy compound in the Czech capital, long considered a nerve center of Russian espionage activities.

    Konchakov, 34, rejected the allegations in comments to the Czech news site Seznam Zpravy, saying the suitcase contained “disinfectant, and candies.”

    “It must be some mistake,” Konchakov told the news site, declining to answer further questions, saying he would need clearance from Moscow first.

    Moscow, which has been accused of targeting its critics abroad, including the novichok poisoning of double agent Sergei Skripal in Britain in 2018, has also denied the allegations. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said it “looked like a canard,” while other Russian officials have called the story part of an anti-Russian campaign.

    According to local media, Konchakov is suspected by Czech intelligence of working as a Russian spy. Several attempts to contact the Czech counterintelligence agency BIS to confirm those allegations were unsuccessful.

    The allegations of the ricin plot were first broken by the Czech investigative weekly Respekt on April 26 and came amid reports of suspected Russia-backed hacker attacks on key Czech infrastructure. It said the targets of the alleged ricin attack were Prague Mayor Zdenek Hrib as well as two of the city’s district mayors, Ondrej Kolar and Pavel Novotny.

    Hrib backed a move to rename the square in front of the Russian Embassy in Prague after slain Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov.

    Kolar supported the removal of a statue in his Prague 6 district of a World War II Soviet general, a move Russia condemned and said it was investigating as a violation of a 1993 friendship treaty between Russia and the Czech Republic.

    The statue had been a source of irritation for Moscow since 2018, when a new explanatory text on the monument was unveiled. It described Soviet Marshal Ivan Konev’s leading role in crushing the 1956 anti-Soviet uprising in Hungary, his contribution to the construction of the Berlin Wall ,and the preparation of the 1968 Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia that crushed liberal reforms known as the Prague Spring.

    Afterward, Czechoslovakia was taken over by a hard-line communist regime loyal to Moscow that lasted until 1989, when it was ousted in the anti-communist Velvet Revolution.

    Novotny irritated Moscow when late last year he approved the construction of a monument in his Prague district to the Vlasov Army, Soviet Army defectors who fought with the Nazis but in the final days of World War II are credited with helping liberate Prague. [?]

    All three officials are now reported to be under round-the-clock police protection and Prime Minister Andrej Babis has said the Czech Republic would not tolerate “any world power” trying to interfere in its internal affairs, although few officials have publicly addressed the charges.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin has highlighted the Soviet role in the Allied effort to defeat Nazi Germany in World War II, ignoring or criticizing any facts that downplay or contradict that narrative….

  190. says

    Fauci just shot down an attacking Rand Paul (who looks terrible, by the way – I point this out not to insult him but because he’s not exactly a walking advertisement for taking the virus lightly).

  191. Oggie: Mathom says

    I find this somehow reassuring.

    Yesterday, Wife and I went shopping (a local store has whole beef tenderloin at $4.99 a pound and I can’t say no to that). We stopped to get fuel ($1.69.9 a gallon and I can’t say no to that). A guy walked in without a mask. The cashier asked him to put a mask on. He said, “No. I will not wear a mask. No one can make me.” He paid for his gas, walked out, and began pumping the prepaid fuel into his massive pickup truck. I asked the clerk why he still served him even though he was breaking the rules. The clerk said, “I don’t want to get shot.”


    Bullies always win. Every fucking time.

  192. says

    It’s interesting that even Sen. Roberts from Kansas is emphasizing what a hard time the state is having right now. Rand Paul won’t acknowledge similar problems in Kentucky, which he’s supposed to be representing.

  193. says

    More re #212: “On Fox & Friends, TX salon owner Shelley Luther acknowledges that she did receive PPP funds two days before her court date, but she was too confused about what it was, where it came from, or how to spend it’.”

    Video atl. She had to apply for this money, including commitments to her workers. But she says the stylists are independent contractors who rent chairs and not employees. Luther getting picked up for fraud would be the perfect outcome of this nonsense.

  194. says

    More re Peskov:

    …Peskov’s wife, Tatiana Navka, an Olympic ice dancing champion, has reportedly also tested positive for the coronavirus and been hospitalized.

    It was only yesterday that Putin announced the easing of a nationwide lockdown and said that Russians should get back to work.

    More from Navka, Peskov’s wife. She said her “whole family was in strict isolation. My husband was working. In this regard, there is only one explanation: most likely, this came from him, since he was the first to get sick. He brought it home from work.”

  195. says

    G liveblog:

    Italian police on Tuesday arrested 91 suspected members of the Sicilian Mafia that were trying to exploit economic woes triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic, reports Lorenzo Tondo in Palermo.

    Charges range from mafia association to extortion, fraudulent assets possession, receiving stolen goods, money laundering, drug trafficking, sporting fraud and fraud and arrests were made in Palermo and Milan.

    According to Sicilian investigators, who launched the operation, mobsters were laundering extortion and drug trafficking revenue. The magistrates said bosses were preparing to use ill-gained cash to buy struggling businesses that shut down during the lockdown.

    Police uncovered evidence that Cosa Nostra bosses were also rigging horse races across the country.

    Authorities have also seized 15 million euros ($16.5 million) in suspected ill-gained assets, including 13 racehorses.

  196. says

    “Rand Paul: ‘In rural states we never really reached any sort of pandemic levels in Kentucky and other states … outside of New England, we’ve had a relatively benign course for this virus nationwide’. (More than 81,000 Americans are dead.)”

    Rep. Don Beyer: “Warren County, Kentucky – where Rand Paul lives – has more COVID-19 cases per capita than 51 of the 67 counties in New England states.

    Senator Paul is wrong and the ignorant message he is peddling is dangerous. There is no special immunity to this virus based on where you live.”

  197. blf says

    Apropos of nothing much, the sunshine proved too tempting and I went out for a stroll about the village, telling myself that I would “just” get some bread, albeit by taking the long route, and that would be that. Yeah, yeah, “plans” don’t survive contact with the nice weather… I did get some bread. And fresh pasta. And vin. And, perhaps most significantly, some hand sanitiser gel to carry with me (albeit some shops now have hand sanitising stations, which hasn’t been the case until last-ish week). And a few more fresh vegs… And… and…

    Unsurprisingly, a reasonable number of people were out and about. Social distancing was good, with four exceptions: Teenagers, parents with small children, queues at ice cream stands, and one particular low-cost shop where — for reasons which baffle me (there’s adequate room to form a properly-distanced queue) — the queue waiting to get in always seems to be a mob with not only almost no internal distancing, they also seem to insist on blocking the (pedestrianised) street.

    Mask-wearing seems to fall into four-ish types: No mask (includes me), mask below chin (useless!), mask covering mouth-only (not the nose / nostrils), and mask covering both mouth and nose (albeit not always firmly fixed). All the masks I did see seemed to be serious affairs, not (e.g.) the transparent cotton(?) gauze “masks” I’ve seen advertised on the ‘Net (for feck’s sake, if you can see though the mask’s material, there’s no barrier at all to a virus!).

    At most 50% of the restaurants are offering take-away (and, in some cases, delivery), most(?) only lunch. A bar specialising in artisanal beers is offering take-away / delivery. In all(?) cases, orders are placed in advance via the web, assorted social apps, or by phone.

    Traffic was light, but much heavier than during the lockdown, when cars seemed to be a rarity. Didn’t see any police about at all.

  198. says

    G liveblog:

    Athens is the latest city to announce that it will undergo a radical facelift – taking advantage of lessons learned during lockdown, writes Helena Smith, the Guardian’s Athens correspondent.

    Echoing similar plans in Milan where public space is to be reclaimed for cyclists and pedestrians, the Greek capital will also see urban space opened up in response to the coronavirus crisis.

    The scheme, which foresees the creation of a 6.8km-long pedestrian walkway connecting Athens’ archaeological sites, will also see cars being banned from the historic city centre around the Acropolis. The creation of extended pavements along major boulevards will facilitate social distancing.

    It will be the biggest intervention in the life of the city in more than a decade. Although it will begin to be enforced in pilot form at the end of the month, the ambitious project is not expected to be completed until the end of 2022.

    Athens’ mayor Kostas Bakoyannis says the corona-induced lockdown has enabled municipal authorities to accelerate works that might previously have taken years to achieve. He told the Guardian:

    We have this once in a lifetime opportunity and are fast forwarding all our public works.

    Milan, Paris, Berlin Bergota [Bogotá?], New York Mexico city are all giving priority to walking and cycling and creating public spaces by regulating traffic and that’s what we want to do here as well.

    In a rare piece of good news, the pandemic had enabled local authorities to “liberate public space from cars and give it to people who want to walk and enjoy the city.”

    Greece has handled the coronavirus pandemic unexpectedly well, recording 2,744 confirmed cases to date and a death toll of 152 following enforcement of strict lockdown measures early on.

  199. blf says

    Trump is making America an obstacle in the global fight against Covid-19:

    The president’s [sic] deadly mishandling of the pandemic threatens to make the world’s most powerful country a pariah

    President [sic] Donald Trump’s incompetent handling of the Covid-19 pandemic is not only exacerbating the death and destruction caused by the virus in the US. It is also crippling the global response to the crisis, and the costs could be even deadlier.

    When global crises hit, American leadership is essential. Whether it was launching the President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (Pepfar) or marshaling efforts to respond to the 2014 Ebola outbreak, the US has played a central role in tackling many of the world’s deadliest health crises. American leadership is far from perfect, but it is necessary to tackle threats of a global magnitude.

    This pandemic is one of the greatest challenges the world has faced since the second world war. America has lost more people to Covid-19 than it has lost in all of its military conflicts since the beginning of the Vietnam war. The outbreak has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives around the world, and the crisis has just begun. As the death toll rises and the path out of the pandemic remains uncertain, the economic catastrophe will be enormous.

    A successful global effort to defeat the pandemic will require a robust American response. Instead, Trump is making it harder for the world to address the crisis.

    Trump does not seem to recognize that the only effective solution to the pandemic is to counter it everywhere. Without a universally administered vaccine, the virus could continue to cycle through country after country. […]


    While the US would normally be leading calls for assistance to developing countries to help them deal with the pandemic, the Trump administration is barely noticing the desperate need around the world. In past crises, the US would gather allies and partners to develop common solutions; this time, the Trump administration blocked the G20 from taking action.

    Trump has attacked the primary international governmental organization dedicated to responding to pandemics. […]


    One of the threads running through all this is a deadly US–China blame game. Since the Chinese Communist party (CCP) initially responded to the outbreak by trying to censor those speaking out about it, many in the US blame China for allowing the pandemic to spread. Whatever culpability China deserves, no one gains right now from a US–China feud over the pandemic at the expense of collective efforts to beat the disease. Yet that’s exactly what the Trump administration and the CCP are doing.

    Trump’s deadly mishandling of the pandemic at home also threatens to make the world’s most powerful country an international pariah. With more cases and deaths than any other country, and with a president [sic] who seems uninterested in doing what it takes to safely reopen the economy, the rest of the world is unlikely to take American policies for addressing the pandemic seriously. Even worse, as other countries begin to safely reopen their economies, the US may become the target of travel bans, as China was early in the pandemic.

    In moments of global crisis, America is still the indispensable nation. But in today’s moment of need, Trump is making America an obstacle to success.

  200. blf says

    Follow-up of sorts to me@259, Covid-19: French food guide launches list of best takeaways:

    While France’s restaurants remain closed, the Fooding guide owned by the iconic Michelin group has opened a guide to the best places offering takeaway services, as a way of “resisting” Covid-19.

    Called “Plats de résistance” — a play on words[] translated as “Resistance Dishes” — the site offers a list of restaurants included in the guide that now offer takeaway services.


    As well as restaurants providing takeaways, the new site will also list “artisan food shops, bakeries and caterers” that offer food to go, Fooding’s founder Alexandre Cammas told AFP.


    It is still “worthwhile” to discover the “best” gastronomic experiences, even though “we’re living in complicated times”, Cammas said.

      † There’s a lot of locations in France named Place de la Résistance (or similar). And yes, “fooding” is an actual term (a neologism), not only the name of a gastronomic magazine(?).

  201. blf says

    Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, writing in the Grauniad, If I were Donald Trump’s speechwriter, this is the team talk I would suggest:

    The president [sic] seems incapable of uniting the country. So, as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to take a toll on America, I wrote him a speech

    […] If I were Trump’s speechwriter, using the lessons I learned from great talks I heard in my basketball career, this is what I would give him to deliver:

    “America has faced many enemies before, both foreign and domestic. The goal of those enemies has always been to destroy not just America itself, but the ideal America stands for, which is equal treatment and opportunity for all who live here, regardless of wealth, ethnic background, religion, sexual orientation, or gender. Covid-19 is an enemy that doesn’t care about politics or social justice — it’s an opportunistic organism that just wants to feed and spread. It doesn’t want to destroy America. But if we’re not careful, it might achieve that anyway.

    “People are defined by how they act, not during the good times when kindness and compassion are easy, but during the tough times, when helping a neighbor could cost us. A crisis reveals whether we are heroes are villains. Ernest Hemingway said, ‘Courage is grace under pressure,’ and I believe that Americans are ready to demonstrate their courage through grace.

    “That has to start with those of us in government who are entrusted with the task of fighting this enemy. The only way we can justify the people’s trust is by being completely transparent in our mistakes, successes, and plans for the future.

    “We have made mistakes. My administration did not act quickly enough in recognizing the serious threat that Covid-19 posed. We should have, but we didn’t. No excuse is offered because no excuse is acceptable. That delay led to a domino effect of playing catch-up in developing enough testing and in getting necessary medical supplies to health care facilities. But we have learned from our mistakes and those of other countries as well.

    “The virus has worsened already unacceptable racial and economic disparity in this country. The death rate among the black and Latinx communities is significantly higher than among white communities. I will do everything in my power to change that. The virus is also attacking our democratic process, threatening to keep people of color and those economically challenged from being able to cast their votes in November. I will do everything in my power to ensure every eligible voter’s voice will be counted.

    “As for those out there who use our national crisis as an excuse to marginalize others or do harm to others because of their race, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity, not only do I not support you, I will do everything in my power to see you are prosecuted. Because the whole point of the president’s power is to use it to protect those who need it most. And if that offends you, then don’t vote for me.

    “As of right now, my administration is fully committed to one mission: keeping our people physically healthy while also protecting the country’s economic health. Balancing those two crucial, yet sometimes competing goals is the greatest challenge this country has faced in decades. No one has definitive answers because this situation is unique. However, it is our pledge to never put lives at risk just for the sake of unnecessary economic policies. Any decision regarding opening businesses or reducing shelter-in-place will be data-driven, based only on the information gathered by the country’s leading scientific and medical experts, not partisan appointments.

    “No one knows definitively how the virus originated. But investigating the source is crucial to further understanding how it works and spreads and may help us to battle other viruses in the future. Countries need to work together to gather this information, not to place blame or levy accusations or seek reparations, but rather to help humanity survive. Toward that end, I pledge no actions will be sought against any country involved.

    “To ensure that my focus remains on this task, I will not participate in any campaigning for the 2020 presidency. I will continue to run for the office, but I will let my actions alone be my campaign. How I conduct myself as your leader over these next few months is my campaign.

    “I will make no campaign speeches, I will not talk disparagingly of my opponent or his surrogates. There will be no activity regarding the border wall or other divisive issues. We all need to work together to overcome this threat in the here and now, without one eye perpetually on November. President Lincoln said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” That is even more appropriate now, 162 years later, as we face an increasing death toll and a declining economy. America is fighting for its survival — not just as a country, but as an ideal. And nothing is more important than proving to ourselves and the rest of the world that our shared ideals are powerful enough to overcome any enemy, seen or unseen.”


  202. blf says

    It’s all rigged: Trump foreshadows how he could undermine presidential election:

    Trump accusations shed light on how he could use the Covid-19 pandemic to undermine the results of the November election

    Donald Trump falsely accused Democrats of trying to steal Tuesday’s special election in California amid the Covid-19 pandemic by adding a polling place in one of the most diverse sections of a district.

    But the county actually added the polling location at the request of the area’s Republican mayor.

    In a move that could foreshadow his approach to November’s presidential election, Trump said Democrats were deliberately adding one of the few polling locations over the weekend in Lancaster, a city North of Los Angeles, where it was likely to benefit Democratic voters. They are trying to steal another election. It’s all rigged out there. These votes must not count. SCAM!, he tweeted.

    […] Democrats complained that the lack of a polling location in Lancaster would harm minority voters, officials added the additional location after R Rex Parris, the city’s Republican mayor, requested it.

    Though he thinks it’s dangerous to vote in person during the Covid-19 pandemic, Parris told the Guardian he made the request after realizing a nearby city had two polling locations, while his city had none. While he believes elections can be rigged and understood why it might have appeared that way to Trump, he said adding the polling location was not a Democratic power grab.

    “I gotta take the rap. I called them up and said I want a vote center, so they gave it to me,” he said.

    The California accusations underscore how the president [sic] could take advantage of the way voting procedures are rapidly changing in response to Covid-19 and question the legitimacy of election results in November.


    “Given that the president [sic] has been making unsubstantiated voter fraud comments for years, I expect that these comments will continue,” said Richard Hasen, a professor of election law at the University of California, Irvine. “The comments are very worrisome because they increase the chances that the president’s [sic] supporters would not accept the election results as legitimate should he lose in November.”


  203. blf says

    White House tries to halt gov’t fund investment in Chinese stocks:

    White House tries to block government pension fund investment that includes Chinese firms under scrutiny in Washington.

    The administration of US President [sic] Donald Trump is pressing a board charged with overseeing billions in federal retirement dollars to halt plans to invest in Chinese companies that Washington suspects of abusing human rights or threatening United States security.

    At issue is whether administrators of the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP), a retirement savings fund for federal employees and members of the military, should allow its international fund to track an index that includes some China-based stocks of companies under scrutiny in Washington.

    […] China hardliners in Washington […] argue that US federal employee pension dollars should not fund companies like aircraft and avionics company Aviation Industry Corp of China, which supplies China’s military, as well as surveillance firm Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Co Ltd, which was sanctioned by Washington for human right abuses.

    They also point to heightened risk for investors, since Chinese companies do not have to comply with strict [ha! –blf] US financial disclosure rules.


    Some investors see the move as a logical way of punishing China amid rising tensions over the coronavirus.

    “If this administration wants to make China the boogeyman … instead of another increase in tariffs that would end up hurting consumers already under pressure, you use other tools like limiting the number of investments US-based institutions can have in the Chinese system,” said Patrick Esteruelas, head of research at New York-based Emso Asset Management.

    Trillions of dollars worldwide passively track benchmarks that are compiled by third-party index providers based on a range of criteria, including companies’ market capitalisation, as opposed to fund managers picking the individual stocks.

    I’m actually a bit surprised TSP is even allowed to invest in non-USAian markets / funds. Being allowed to do so is potentially a good thing; an example is CalPERS (California Public Employees’ Retirement System) which has a reputation for shareholder activism.

  204. says

    Whenever the Supreme Court is hearing arguments and making decisions I remember Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings and sit in stunned silence at the thought that this person is one of the justices.

  205. says

    G liveblog:

    The US vice-president Mike Pence is keeping his distance from President Donald Trump after the former’s press secretary tested positive, the White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany has confirmed.

    Pence was not at Trump’s Rose Garden news conference on Monday, nor was he at a White House meeting with US military and national security officials on Saturday after press aide Katie Miller received her positive test last week. McEnany said:

    The vice president has made the choice to keep his distance for a few days.

    Have they said Pence continues to test negative, like they usually do? If not,…

  206. blf says

    A follow-up to me@243, The village council has announced how the local outdoor markets will operate when they reopen in about a week’s time. The one market where social distancing could work will operate essentially as normally. The other markets, where that simply isn’t possible, will reduce the number of traders / stalls by half, by dividing them into two groups, A and B. Group A will be present one day, group B the next time, alternating back-and-forth. This will allow the traders / stalls to spread out, which is one of the possibilities I speculated might happen in @243. No word on mandatory masks or hand sanitising stations, however, or other details, so I suspect the plans will be refined some.

    And apparently the plan to open the beaches fell apart; there’s not much agreement with other locales or the regional authorities on how to do it. So the local village’s new plan is to propose a “motion beach” were people will be allowed to walk, jog, &tc, but not be “static” (i.e., no sundrying). No mention of swimming or otherwise feeding the kracken.

    There’s also apparently some sort of a glitch with boating. Previously, the council had said the 100km rule applied to boats / yachts as well. However, it seems the regional(?) authorities have prohibited a boat from coming within 300m of land, which means a boat can neither leave nor enter the harbour! They™ are now trying to get this straightened out… (I may be slightly misunderstanding the problem.)

  207. says

    Greg Sargent:

    This is amazing. Fox’s offices will be largely closed for another month *at the very least,* @brianstelter reports in his newsletter.

    “It’s strange to see Fox stars hosting from home…telling viewers that it’s time to get back out,” Stelter says.

  208. johnson catman says

    re blf @263: If The Orange Toddler-Tyrant tried to speak those words, his tongue would catch on fire. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has mistaken the idiot in the White House for a reasonable human being. That speech also sounds like something that would come from the likes of Obama if he were in a similar situation.
    re blf @264: The contrast between the hope of KA-J from above and the reality of The Orange Toddler-Tyrant in this comment is starkly revealing. I have real fear about what will happen if he does lose in November and before he leaves office (or more likely is forced to leave) in January.

  209. says

    From NBC News:

    The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday seemed prepared to rule that Congress went too far in seeking broad access to President Donald Trump’s personal financial documents but that a New York prosecutor may be able to get his tax records.

  210. says

    Trump lied, and he used numbers to lie:

    Yesterday morning, Donald Trump turned to Twitter to promote an optimistic message: “Coronavirus numbers are looking MUCH better, going down almost everywhere.” The president echoed the line a few hours later during a White House press conference.

    “You know, the numbers are coming down very rapidly all throughout the country, by the way,” he declared. “There may be one exception. But all throughout the country, the numbers are coming down rapidly.”

    It’d be great if that were true. It’s not.

    Cases of COVID-19 are rising in nine states, according to an analysis of state and local data by The New York Times. In 27 other states, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., the Times analysis says, the growth of the virus might be slowing, but a lack of widespread testing suggests that infections are also being undercounted. Cases are decreasing in 14 states and Guam, the analysis says.

    Dr. Irwin Redlener, director of the Columbia University National Center for Disaster Preparedness, told NBC News, “Anybody that claims we’re on a downward trajectory nationally is out of touch with reality.”

    He added, “It’s not appropriate to say the U.S. is consistently on a downward trend at all. In some places, it might be the direct opposite of that.”

    Making matters slightly worse, NBC News also reported yesterday that coronavirus infection rates “are spiking to new highs in several metropolitan areas and smaller communities across the country, according to undisclosed data the White House’s pandemic task force is using to track rates of infection.” […]


  211. says

    Trump lied some more. And he used numbers (again) to lie.

    […] Trump boasted, “I think one of the things we’re most proud of is — this just came out — deaths per 100,000 people, death — so deaths per 100,000 people: Germany and the United States are at the lowest rung of that ladder…. Germany and the United States are the two best in deaths per 100,000 people, which, frankly, to me, that’s perhaps the most important number there is.”

    […] Trump made the identical claim twice yesterday, suggesting it’s become a key White House talking point.

    It is, however, spectacularly wrong. A Washington Post analysis said this might be the single “wrongest thing Trump has said about coronavirus.”

    It’s true that, while the United States has the most confirmed coronavirus cases and the most confirmed coronavirus deaths, it lags behind some Western European countries when it comes to per capita deaths. I wrote about this a week ago, noting that the raw number can be deceiving when it comes to the total impact on countries. But the United States is nowhere close to having one of the lowest per capita death rates. In fact, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, we rank ninth-highest out of more than 140 countries for which information is available.

    As the Post’s report added, putting the United States next to Germany “is ridiculous; Germany has about nine deaths per 100,000 people, as compared with about 24 per 100,000 people in the United States.”

    All things considered, this represents either the latest instance in which the president had no idea what he was talking about, or the latest instance in which Trump peddled demonstrable nonsense with the hopes that the public wouldn’t know the difference.


  212. tomh says

    Wed, 5/13, the Supreme Court will hear arguments that will presumably settle the “faithless electors” question, whether electors for the President and Vice President have the right to vote as they wish, or must follow the popular vote. Oral argument starts at 10:00 (EDT) and will be streamed live on CNN among others.

    For an anlaysis of the issues, Amy Howe, at Howe on the Court, Justices to weigh constitutionality of “faithless elector” laws is good.

    Interestingly, if 10 electors had switched their votes, it would have changed the result in 5 of the 58 presidential elections.

  213. says

    Zoe Tillman:

    NOW: The judge in Michael Flynn’s case issued an order indicating the case isn’t over just yet — he writes that “given the current posture of this case,” he expects people will want to file amicus (friend-of-court) briefs, and he’ll be setting a schedule for that.

    As a reminder, the “current posture of this case” is that DOJ moved to dismiss the prosecution, citing new evidence that officials contend undermined the case notwithstanding Flynn’s guilty plea.

  214. says

    Josh Marshall re the declassification of the names of the people involved in “unmasking” Flynn: “as far as i know, this was all revealed three years ago and i do know it’s a complete nothingburger but will be played a big scandal by lying to people. the whole us intel community is now overseen by a pro-trump troll.”

    Not only was it revealed then – they spun it up into some bullshit scandal then, and it went on for days until it ran out of steam because everyone acknowledged that there hadn’t been anything improper about the “unmasking.” Was this stupidity what was in the mystery briefcase Grenell took into the WH several days ago (potentially exposing himself to the virus) in a Fox stunt several days ago? Gah.

  215. says

    Donald G. McNeil Jr: The CDC ‘is a great agency but it’s incompetently led, and I think Dr Redfield should resign’.”

    Video atl. Watching Cuomo’s press briefings vs. these WH appearances, the differences are incredibly stark. Obviously, Trump is unfit, ignorant, and incompetent and can’t answer basic questions about the response. And a Senate committee hearing shouldn’t be the only time people are answering questions like this in weeks or months. The CDC should be doing daily briefings with health reporters. But in any event, they (with the exception of Fauci) simply rattle off numbers and talk about how they’re “developing” this or “energetically working on” that (they have like twenty such terms and phrases), making more promises on top of those already unfulfilled and unable to articulate any larger strategy or how precisely all of this is getting done.

    In contrast, Cuomo’s team can respond to reporters (who ask good questions) in granular detail about various aspects of their plan and how they fit together. “We’re getting that online by 7 tonight.” “We will have these four testing sites up and running this week and these four next week.” “We can have the data for you tomorrow.” “We can’t do that for this reason.” “Here’s why this policy is important.” “Here’s how we’re working with other states.” There’s nothing remotely close to that at the national level, even though they have vastly more resources and institutional knowledge. Same in the UK. It’s criminal.

  216. says

    Update to #s 194 and 195 above: the Department of Health has closed the restaurant and the owners’ license to operate a restaurant has been suspended indefinitely.

  217. says

    Yahoo – “EXCLUSIVE: In court filing, FBI accidentally reveals name of Saudi official suspected of directing support for 9/11 hijackers”:

    The FBI inadvertently revealed one of the U.S. government’s most sensitive secrets about the Sept. 11 terror attacks: the identity of a mysterious Saudi Embassy official in Washington who agents suspected had directed crucial support to two of the al-Qaida hijackers.

    The disclosure came in a new declaration filed in federal court by a senior FBI official in response to a lawsuit brought by families of 9/11 victims that accuses the Saudi government of complicity in the terrorist attacks.

    The declaration was filed last month but unsealed late last week. According to a spokesman for the 9/11 victims’ families, it represents a major breakthrough in the long-running case, providing for the first time an apparent confirmation that FBI agents investigating the attacks believed they had uncovered a link between the hijackers and the Saudi Embassy in Washington.

    It’s unclear just how strong the evidence is against the former Saudi Embassy official — it’s been a subject of sharp dispute within the FBI for years. But the disclosure, which a senior U.S. government official confirmed was made in error, seems likely to revive questions about potential Saudi links to the 9/11 plot.

    It also shines a light on the extraordinary efforts by top Trump administration officials in recent months to prevent internal documents about the issue from ever becoming public.

    The Saudi government has consistently denied any connection to the 9/11 hijackers, telling the New York Times and ProPublica in January: “Saudi Arabia is and has always been a close and critical ally of the U.S. in the fight against terrorism.”

    Ironically, the declaration identifying the Saudi official in question was intended to support recent filings by Attorney General William Barr and acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell barring the public release of the Saudi official’s name and all related documents, concluding they are “state secrets” that, if disclosed, could cause “significant harm to the national security.”

    The declaration was filed by Jill Sanborn, the assistant director of the FBI’s counterterrorism division. Her declaration fleshes out some of the assertions Barr and Grenell have used in their filings, arguing that publicly disclosing internal FBI files — including “interview reports, telephone and bank records, source reporting documents and foreign government information” — would reveal intelligence sources and methods of collection and would hamper the willingness of foreign governments to assist the FBI on sensitive cases.

    Describing the request by lawyers for the 9/11 families to depose that individual under oath, Sanborn’s declaration says in one instance that it involves “any and all records referring to or relating to Jarrah.”

    The reference is to Mussaed Ahmed al-Jarrah, a mid-level Saudi Foreign Ministry official who was assigned to the Saudi Embassy in Washington, D.C., in 1999 and 2000. His duties apparently included overseeing the activities of Ministry of Islamic Affairs employees at Saudi-funded mosques and Islamic centers within the United States.

    Relatively little is known about Jarrah, but according to former embassy employees, he reported to the Saudi ambassador in the United States (at the time Prince Bandar), and that he was later reassigned to the Saudi mission in Morocco. His current whereabouts are unknown but he is believed to be in Saudi Arabia.

    Jarrah has been on the radar screen of the lawyers for the 9/11 families for some time and is among nine current or former Saudi officials who they suspect have important information about the case and have sought to either question them or get access to FBI documents that mention them.

    The Sanborn declaration represents the first public confirmation that the so-called “third man” referred to in the 2012 report was in fact an accredited Saudi diplomat. But all of the FBI evidence the agents had gathered about Jarrah and his communications about the hijackers remain under seal.

    Suspicions about a possible Saudi role in 9/11 are as old as the attacks themselves. In the immediate aftermath of the attacks, investigators quickly concluded that 15 of the 19 hijackers were of Saudi origin.

    The 9/11 commission, which extensively investigated the question, ultimately concluded that, while Saudi Arabia had long been viewed as the primary source of al-Qaida funding, “we have found no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded the organization.”

    But the 9/11 commission also acknowledged there were significant gaps in the record,…

    Much more atl.

  218. tomh says

    U.S. judge puts Justice Department’s move to drop charges against Michael Flynn on hold
    By Spencer S. Hsu and Carol D. Leonnig
    May 12, 2020 at 8:50 p.m. PDT

    A U.S. judge put on hold the Justice Department’s move to drop charges against Michael Flynn, saying he expects independent groups and legal experts to argue against the bid to exonerate President Trump’s former national security adviser of lying to the FBI.

    U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan said in an order Tuesday that he expects individuals and organizations will seek to intervene in the politically charged case. Having others weigh in could preface more aggressive steps that the federal judge in Washington could take, including — as many outside observers have called for — holding a hearing to consider what to do.

    Sullivan’s order came after the government took the highly irregular step Thursday of reversing its stance on upholding Flynn’s guilty plea.

    The action by Sullivan, a veteran 72-year-old jurist with a national reputation for advocating defendants’ rights to full government disclosure of evidence, appears to rule out immediate action on the Justice Department’s decision to reverse course and throw out Flynn’s December 2017 guilty plea.

    Sullivan said he will “at the appropriate time” set a schedule for outside parties to argue against the Justice Department’s claims as the government seeks to drop the charges…The judge said he would be a rigorous gatekeeper, adding, “A criminal proceeding is not a free for all.”

    The judge’s ruling appeared to be prompted by a unique request filed one day earlier by the team of Watergate prosecutors who pursued an investigation of President Richard Nixon. They sought to file a friend-of-the-court brief to give their legal arguments against Barr’s unusual reversal of Flynn’s prosecution and said they had a “unique perspective on the need for independent scrutiny and oversight to ensure that crucial decisions about prosecutions of high-ranking government officials are made in the public interest.”

    “The integrity of prosecutorial decision making is a cornerstone of the rule of law,” they wrote. “Amici have a special interest in restoring the public trust in prosecutorial decision making and in public confidence in the viability of future independent investigations and prosecutions if the results of such work are likely to be subjected to reversal by transparent political influence.”

    Legal experts said the order allows others to file objections to the Justice Department’s move and could open the door for adversarial proceedings in which one or more attorneys argue against the Justice Department. It would also permit, if the judge chooses, requiring both sides to produce evidence and revisit the case for and against Flynn.

  219. says

    Al Jazeera – “Brazil’s Bolsonaro ‘caught on video’ pushing to swap police chief”:

    Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said in an April cabinet meeting that he needed to change Rio de Janeiro’s chief of the federal police to protect family members under investigation, a person with knowledge of a video of the meeting told Reuters news agency.

    The video was shown on Tuesday to investigators looking into accusations by former Justice Minister Sergio Moro, who resigned two days after the meeting, alleging Bolsonaro was trying to interfere in law enforcement for personal reasons.

    The fresh evidence in the federal investigation of the president has fanned a political crisis as Bolsonaro comes under pressure over his response to the coronavirus pandemic, which has eaten away at his popularity.

    In the video, the president said his family was being persecuted and he wanted to change the federal police chief in his hometown, or else he would replace the police force’s national director and the justice minister, the source said.

    Moro, who watched the video with investigators of the case and his lawyer at a federal police facility in Brasilia, said in a statement that the video confirmed his allegations against the president, calling for the entire tape to be made public.

    The former minister, one of Brazil’s most popular figures for his record fighting corruption as a judge, said events following his resignation backed up his account: The national federal police director was replaced and so was the Rio chief.

    Bolsonaro told reporters he is not worried about the investigation authorised by the Supreme Court into Moro’s accusations, adding that the federal police had never investigated his family.

    He said the words “federal police” did not come up on the recording in question, which he said should have been destroyed. [LOL]

    After transcribing the video and interviewing ministers involved, Brazil’s prosecutor general will decide whether to charge the president with obstruction of justice and abuse of power.

    If the Supreme Court and two-thirds of the lower house of Congress see merit to any charges, Bolsonaro would be suspended from office and would stand trial before the top court.

    Bolsonaro has begun to court political power brokers he once decried as corrupt in a bid to survive his worst political crisis since taking office last year on a promise to clean up Brazilian politics….

    Reuters – “Brazil’s coronavirus cases pass Germany’s as Bolsonaro fights to open gyms”:

    Brazil’s confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus passed Germany on Tuesday, as Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro fought states over his wish to reopen gyms and beauty parlors even as his country becomes a new global hotspot for the pandemic.

    Brazil has confirmed 177,589 cases since its outbreak began in late February, passing Germany’s 170,508 confirmed cases and drawing nearly even with France’s tally of 178,225 confirmed and probable cases.

    Europe is beginning to lift lockdowns as the death toll in the region eases, but the outbreak is still accelerating in Brazil, where Bolsonaro has played down the risks of the disease and criticized state governments’ isolation orders.

    Brazil recorded its deadliest day yet, with 881 confirmed deaths in 24 hours from the COVID-19 respiratory disease caused by the virus.

    Bolsonaro has ratcheted up his dispute with state governors this week, with a decree classifying businesses such as gyms and hair salons as “essential” services, exempt from lockdowns. The right-wing president has argued that the economic damage from closing businesses is worse than the disease.

    “Governors who do not agree with the decree can file lawsuits in court,” Bolsonaro wrote on social media. He later threatened to take his own legal actions against them if they do not comply.

    At least 10 governors said they would not follow the decree.

    “Bolsonaro is walking toward the precipice and wants to take all of us with him,” Rio de Janeiro Governor Wilson Witzel said on Twitter.

    Brazil has passed France and Germany in confirmed cases even as its testing lags far behind both.

    As of Monday, Brazil had processed nearly 338,000 novel coronavirus tests in three months at official labs, said the Health Ministry. Another 145,000 tests are in analysis or the backlog.

    By contrast, Germany’s certified labs tested more than 330,000 samples last week alone and have the capacity to test around 838,000 samples per week. France has also invested in testing to boost capacity to around 700,000 tests per week.

    Brazil’s health ministry had confirmed 12,400 deaths from the virus as of Tuesday….

  220. says

    Here’s a link to the May 13 Guardian coronavirus world liveblog.

    From there:

    A Russian healthcare watchdog has suspended the use of a domestically manufactured ventilator suspected to have caused two deadly fires in Russian hospitals in the last week.

    Six people died and hundreds were forced to evacuate hospitals in Moscow and St Petersburg after the Russian-made ventilators were said to have ignited, apparently while patients were attached.

    On Wednesday, Russia’s federal service for surveillance in healthcare said it would suspend the use of new Aventa-M ventilators produced after 1 April pending a safety review, a decision that will affect hundreds of machines.

    Aventa-M ventilators were also sold to the United States last month during a controversial aid mission negotiated by Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump. US hospitals reportedly had not used the ventilators because they were manufactured for the wrong voltage. It is not clear when those ventilators were produced.

    The US federal emergency management agency (FEMA) said on Tuesday that the ventilators were not in use in US hospitals and that local authorities would return the machines to FEMA.

    Russia’s Investigative Committee has said it is investigating the fires in Russian hospitals. The decision by the Russian watchdog could affect hundreds of ventilators that have been produced since April as Russian hospitals sought new supplies to prepare for a flood of coronavirus cases.

    Five coronavirus patients, some reportedly attached to ventilators, died in the early hours of Tuesday after a fire broke out at the St George hospital in St Petersburg. A fire last week at a Moscow hospital treating coronavirus patients also killed one person. That fire may also have been tied to a faulty ventilator. Both hospitals were reportedly using Aventa-M ventilators produced by a state-run factory in Russia’s Urals region.

    An April tender showed that last month the St George hospital had ordered 237 ventilators from the factory, which is the only manufacturer of that ventilator in the country.

  221. says

    “Sen Chris Murphy: Trump Admin. Coronavirus Guidance Is ‘Criminally Vague’”:

    Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) reacts to the White House Coronavirus Task Force witness testimony to a Senate committee and tells Lawrence O’Donnell that the lack of adequate guidance from the Trump administration puts lives at risk.

    3-minute video atl. Unfortunately, the clip ends before the part where Murphy talked about how no states that are opening up can do so in compliance with the federal guidelines because the federal government hasn’t made it possible for them to have sufficient testing, contact tracing, etc.

  222. says

    News: AOC will be serving on Biden’s climate policy committee. ‘She believes the movement will only be successful if we continue to apply pressure both inside and outside the system. This is just one element of the broader fight for just policies’, a spokeswoman said.

    More from AOC’s spokeswoman: ‘She made the decision with members of the Climate Justice community – and she will be fully accountable to them and the larger advocacy community during this process’.”

  223. johnson catman says

    re SC @291: WOW! Tucker Carlson saying that someone is offering “buffoon level advice” screams the level of his lack of self-awareness.

  224. says

    More re #290: AOC will co-chair the Biden climate task force with John Kerry. The list of who’s on the task forces is at the link. Pramila Jayapal is co-chairing the health task force with Vivek Murthy.

    “@fshakir told me Sanders spent hours deciding who would go on the task forces and didn’t pick any ‘shrinking violets’ but also chose people who will actually compromise. He said the Biden campaign seems to be taking progressive input seriously with these panels.”

  225. KG says

    as other countries begin to safely reopen their economies, the US may become the target of travel bans, as China was early in the pandemic. – blf quoting the Graunaid@261

    Yes, I forsee the possibility that without a fully-effective vaccine (about which I’m pessimistic at least over the next few years) the world will divide up into “coronazones”, with membership determined by the prevalence of the virus, and (eventually) of susceptible individuals, and determining who can travel where. There will be a “coronafree” zone (China, Taiwan, South Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, Australia, New Zealand…), a “lockdown” zone where the battle to contain the virus is still ongoing, a “coronaraging” zone (probably including the USA, Russia, Brazil, maybe UK…) where it has been abandoned, health services are swamped, and bodies are piling up in the streets, and eventually, assuming infection does confer a reasonably high degree of immunity for a significant time, a “coronaendemic” zone, derived from the “coronaraging” zone, where the virus is present at a low level, but enough people have already been infected to produce herd immunity. Anyone (outside the international elite) wanting to visit the “coronafree” zone from outside it would probably have to spend at least a month in an official quarantine hotel at their own expense, and be repeatedly tested – as would those from that zone who ventured out of it then returned – I think that governments in coronafree countries will become increasingly wary of allowing even small outbreaks, due to their economic and political costs. The “lockdown” zone would allow in those from the “coronafree” zone, but apply similar constraints on those from “coronaraging” and “coronaendemic” zones. People from “coronafree” and “lockdown” countries could visit “coronaendemic” countries in reasonable safety, but would be at high risk if they visited “coronaraging” countries.

  226. johnson catman says

    RBG Immediately Went There, Asked Trump Lawyer How Whitewater and Watergate Were Different from Tax Return Case
    Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg quickly sought to distinguish the long-simmering battle between the President and his businesses and congressional Democrats over the 45th president’s tax returns from prior instances in which the U.S. Congress has mounted similarly invasive and high-profile investigations of a sitting president.

    Initially, [Trump] said because of an audit was ongoing. Now it seems to be broader than that. But the aura of this case is really: “Sauce for the goose that serves the gander as well.” So, how do you distinguish, say, Whitewater when President Clinton’s personal records were subpoenaed from his accountant or even Hillary Clinton‘s law firm billing records were subpoenaed. It seems that in prior cases–you say this one is one-of-a-kind–but it seems that in prior cases there was a much greater collision of interests. [Indistinguishable] the Nixon tapes. How do you distinguish all of those cases, Watergate, Whitewater, the Nixon tapes case, the Paula Jones case?

    Well, your honor, we distinguish them in a number of ways,” Trump’s attorney Patrick Strawbridge responded. “With respect to Watergate and Whitewater, obviously, those are cases of relatively recent vintage. And in separation of powers disputes, this court has generally–such as in Noel Canning–looked back for a much longer precedent for the type of issue that needs to be decided with examples of the encroachment on the separation of powers. And the recent examples–there are just a handful of them that the House identifies–are too recent under that stricture, as the court recognized in Southwest General.

    Watergate was over 35 years ago, and Whitewater was over 25 years ago. His lawyers want to say that these cases are “too recent” to set a precedent? For the more legally informed here, are his lawyers just shoveling the bovine excrement or is this a legitimate argument?

  227. says

    Follow-up to comments 291 and 292.

    And why does Tucker Carlson think that these facts condemn Dr. Fauci: “Tony Fauci has never been elected to anything! He’s had the same job for forty years!”

  228. says

    Evidence is mounting against the use of hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 patients.

    A decades-old malaria medicine touted by [Trump] as a coronavirus treatment showed no benefit for patients hospitalized in New York. There was also no noticeable advantage for patients that took the drug paired with the antibiotic azithromycin, according to hotly anticipated research published Monday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

    Politico link

    Additional details, (from Steve Benen):

    […] This reporting comes on the heels of a study reported in the New England Journal of Medicine that found no evidence of hydroxychloroquine working as an effective treatment for coronavirus infection.

    In recent weeks, we’ve seen similar assessments from the NIH and the FDA, the latter of which pointed to risks of serious side effects, “including heart rhythm problems, severely low blood pressure and muscle or nerve damage.”

    [Trump] didn’t just express tacit support for hydroxychloroquine; he effectively became an infomercial pitch-man in support of an unproven medicinal treatment. Based on “a feeling” he said he had, Trump publicly encouraged Americans to start taking the medication — “Take it,” he said, adding, “I really think they should take it” — adding that he personally was prepared to start himself on the drug.

    What’s more, Trump suggested it was harmless. “The nice part is, we know that if things don’t go as planned, it’s not going to kill anybody,” the president told the public a month ago. He added in early April, “It may work, and it may not work. But if it doesn’t work, it’s nothing lost by doing it. Nothing.” [Wrong!]

    What’s more, Team Trump didn’t just cross their fingers and hope for the best. The president urged Americans to start taking the medication, creating a run on pills that some people actually needed. […]

    Soon after, Politico published a related report, noting that career health officials had raised behind-the-scenes warnings about hydroxychloroquine, but they’d been “warned not to publicly speak out and potentially contradict Trump.”

    There were also literal investments, as the administration put millions of doses of the drug into an emergency stockpile.

    We’ve also heard from Dr. Rick Bright, who worked as a top vaccine researcher at the Department of Health and Human Services, who has said he was removed from his job for resisting the president’s preferred course.

    And yet, there was Donald Trump at the Lincoln Memorial last week, telling Fox News there was only “one study” that proved to be discouraging. The president added, “I’ll tell you what: I’ve had three calls in the last three days, four days, of people that took it, and they’re giving it credit for saving their lives. You know, other countries are using it, and they’re bragging about it. You look at their numbers.”

    Trump went on to say that “the Democrats” and the “radical left” would “rather see people not get well because they think I’m going to get credit if, you know, hydroxychloroquine works.” […]


    Trump learned nothing.

  229. says

    White House Pressures CDC To Monkey With COVID Numbers

    TPM link

    […] Trump is reportedly trying to do with the official COVID-19 death toll what he did to his inauguration crowd size: tinker with the numbers.

    According to a report in the Daily Beast, the President and some officials on the Coronavirus Task Force are pushing the Centers for Disease Control to change how it counts the number of people who have died from the virus to retroactively reduce the death toll.

    The proposed revisions would reduce the numbers to below the current toll of more than 80,000, in part by excluding deaths of people who presumably died of COVID-19 without having tested positive.

    The impetus behind that effort is Dr. Deborah Birx, according to the Daily Beast and a report in the Washington Post. Birx reportedly said at a task force meeting last week that “there is nothing from the CDC that I can trust.”

    And … we are once again in “what the heck has gone wrong with Dr. Birx” mode.

    This goes beyond being a simple statistical dispute, and instead comes as […] Trump clings to the idea that keeping the numbers down — both of COVID-19 cases and deaths — could be a boon to his political fortunes in an election year, and could help make the case that it’s time for states to reopen.

    […] Trump said on Monday, despite clear evidence to the contrary, “all throughout the country, the numbers are going down.”

    Birx and Trump reportedly feel that the CDC’s decision to include deaths of people who expired after showing COVID-19 symptoms but who never tested positive unjustly inflates the death toll from the pandemic.

    That conveniently ignores arguments from others, like Dr. Tony Fauci, and the vast majority of the country’s epidemiological community, who have pointed out that if, this method were to be used, the severely constrained supply of tests in the U.S. would determine the death toll. Fauci told Congress on Tuesday that the current death count is likely below the virus’s true toll.

    Meanwhile, reports from around the country also continue to suggest that the CDC’s tally dramatically undercounts the true toll of COVID-19.

    In states and areas heavily hit by the pandemic, death rates in 2020 have been far above the norm compared to previous years.

    That’s most dramatically true in New York City. According to a CDC study released on Monday, the five boroughs have seen 24,000 more deaths this year than its usual baseline average.

    Of those 24,000 dead, only 13,000 had tested positive for COVID-19.

  230. says

    Follow-up to comment 300.

    Comments from readers:

    Tinker with”?

    “Tinker with”?

    The man just makes things up out of whole cloth. He flat-out lies, industrial-strength.

    That ain’t tinkering.
    Speaking about the untested dead Americans and elaborating on a prior statement from Monday’s Rose Garden press briefing, Trump said, “They shouldn’t want to get tested.”
    […], early responders [to Chernoby] were told that they would be exposed to as much as 3.6 rem per hour, high but manageable. They were really exposed to a lethal 15,000 rem per hour because the gauges used at the plant only read up to 3.6 rem. The tools you use to measure outcome are important. If testing is the rate limiting step, then our data is only as good as the test (or the availability of the test). COVID-19 is turning into Trump’s Chernobyl.
    Yes, “tinker with”.

    Much like the Russians “meddled with” our elections in 2016.
    I’m sure Jared can return any unused body bags for a full refund.
    If there was anyone out there that still needed convincing that Dr Birx has gone to the dark side. A pity, I have a relative that worked in her previous team, and had a lot of respect for her. She seems to have been bit by the ambition bug. Trump main talent is detecting other people’s desires and use those to make them do his corrupt biding.
    I mean, seriously, we’ve already blown past 80,000 deaths, and “monkeying” with the actual death toll is somehow going to make everything hunky dory as we sail past 100,000?
    Are they just going to pretend that the excess mortality doesn’t exist? Is it going to look better to say “We only had 150 deaths from Covid 19, but we had 150,000+ from undetermined causes?

    They need to just keep playing the “we handled it and it’s over” horn. One of their problems is that they don’t realize that being a prolific liar doesn’t mean that you’re a skillful liar.

    I wonder if Dr. Birx really wants to be seen as having done a good job when she worked on the Coronavirus Task Force. The number of people in the USA who have died from coronavirus does not look good for her. Neither does the months-long lag in providing adequate testing. (Birx has been trying to explain that away for some time.) Unfortunately, if management of the coronavirus pandemic makes Trump look bad, she thinks it also makes her look bad. She has, in other words, lost her integrity.

    Perhaps she only had a tenuous hold on her personal integrity before all this. She worked well in other situations, but in a Trump-dominated situation she is lost.

  231. says

    About Jared Kushner’s latest stupid remark, and his attempt to walk it back, (sorry, SC, more dystopian news):

    White House senior adviser and son-in-law to the President Jared Kushner is walking back his outrageous suggestion about pushing back the presidential election. […]

    In a statement, Kushner acknowledged that he is not “involved in, nor am I aware of any discussions about trying to change the date of the Presidential election.” Kushner was forced to back-track after he alluded in an interview with Time that he couldn’t “commit one way or the other” to the possibility of delaying the election in November due to COVID-19.

    “Hopefully by the time we get to September, October, November, we’ve done enough work with testing and with all the different things we’re trying to do to prevent a future outbreak of the magnitude that would make us shut down again,” Kushner told Time yesterday.

    You can’t blame the President’s son-in-law for thinking he has any say in when the election will be held. Since he joined the White House, he’s had the freedom to handle a plethora of tasks that he’s highly unqualified for, including an attempt to solve decades-old tensions in the Middle East.

    But alas, as the Washington Post points out, a federal statute mandates the timing of presidential elections, which has been the same since 1845: “on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November.” And, according to the National Constitution Center, only a combination of state and congressional actions could “delay elections but not postpone the selection of a president and vice president.”

    TPM link

    It is not up to Jared. He has no say. He has no fucking clue.

  232. says

    All of Trump’s best people are getting out of prison.

    Manafort gets early release from prison after Cohen’s release rescinded

    Former Donald Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort’s prison sentence has been cut short because of the novel coronavirus. Manafort was convicted on eight charges of tax fraud, bank fraud, and hiding foreign accounts related to his Ukraine work. He received a seven-year sentence. Now he’s being released to home confinement.

    He was released from FCI Loretto prison in Pennsylvania early Wednesday. Manafort’s attorneys requested his early release last month, citing his age and health as putting him at higher risk of death from the novel coronavirus. As of mid-April when the request was made, there were no reported cases of the disease at FCI Loretto but Manafort had been placed in quarantine as of March 30. That made him eligible to be transferred to home confinement based on a directive from the Department of Justice on April 3. That directive, however, seems to be pretty selective.

    Attorney General William Barr issued that order in early April only to take it back a few weeks later, causing confusion in the Bureau of Prisons system. Interestingly enough, one of the prisoners whose early release was rescinded is none other than Michael Cohen.

    You remember him: the former Trump lawyer and fixer, or the “rat” who was convicted and sentenced to three years for numerous tax fraud and perjury charges. He is supposedly writing a book about his time working with Trump. In a totally not coincidental occurrence, the same week Cohen’s planned early release was rescinded, he “received a letter from lawyers representing the Trump Organization demanding Cohen halt writing a ‘tell-all book’ about his time working for the president, according to sources familiar with the matter.”

    There have been confirmed cases of COVID-19 at the prison camp in Otisville, New York, where he is confined. Cohen and the other prisoners at Otisville were told in mid-April they would be released to home confinement, but two weeks later all of them were told they were losing the privilege of early release to home confinement. That sure does seem unfair, and the decision sure does seem very political. It could also just be the typical Trump administration incompetence. But it’s probably politics.

  233. blf says

    Teh mostest importanter question about Covid-19 has now been resolved by decree, ‘La Covid’: coronavirus acronym is feminine, Académie Française says:

    Many in France have been referring to “le Covid” but guardians of French language rule otherwise

    The Académie Française, guardian of the French language, has said a big non to le covid. Not to the actual disease, but to the use of the masculine definitive article “le”.

    [… lots of other sillinesses, such as…] when you take your car to pick up your takeaway because the restaurants are closed, do not say “drive”, which is le verbe anglais but “point de retrait automobile” or more concisely “point de retrait”.

  234. says

    Jennifer Jacobs, Bloomberg:

    The analysis by NYU, which has yet to be confirmed, found that the Abbott test, used by the White House, missed at least 1/3 of positive cases of coronavirus infection.

    “The analysis, which has yet to be confirmed, found that Abbott’s ID NOW missed at least one-third of positive cases detected with a rival test and much as 48% when using the currently recommended dry nasal swabs, according to the report posted on BioRxiv,….”

    Dr. Fauci has repeatedly talked about the rate of false negatives and positives in task force briefings despite Trump’s interruptions and contradictions.

    IIRC, they seem more concerned about false negatives, but I’m not sure. This is another tool favored by the WH, in addition to wishful thinking, lying, covering up, hydroxychloroquine, Russian fire-hazard ventilators, and ingesting disinfectant.

  235. says

    Ezra Klein at Vox – “We don’t have a president, or a plan”:

    …This, then, is the state of things: The White House does not have a plan, it does not have a framework, it does not have a philosophy, and it does not have a goal. That is not because these things are impossible. At this point, there are dozens of plans floating around and dozens of governments offering models it could choose from. Germany’s response has been a success, and I’m sure officials would share the lessons they’ve learned. In South Korea, professional baseball is restarting, and in Taiwan, there have been about a dozen new Covid-19 cases in the month of May so far.

    It is not that the president is doing the wrong thing — he is doing basically nothing. But he has combined a substantive passivity with a showman’s desire to dominate the narrative and a political street fighter’s obsession with settling scores, so he is making the job of governors and mayors harder, neither giving them what they need to beat the virus nor leaving them to make their own decisions free from his interference and criticism.

    The result, as David Wallace-Wells writes at New York magazine, is that “the country has accomplished essentially none of the necessary preparatory work required to safely begin to reopen and return to some semblance of normal life.”

    Americans have made tremendous sacrifices to buy their government time, and that time has been wasted. That is why we are left with an increasingly polarized, and polarizing, debate between endless lockdowns and reckless reopening: The government has failed to do what functional governments in other countries have done and create a better option.

    “It’s like the Lewis Carroll line, ‘If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there,’” Osterholm says. “Well, I don’t know where we’re going.”

    Much more atl.

  236. says

    #308 might be confusing. I meant that on MSNBC’s list of the countries with the most recorded total cases, Russia and the UK have moved into the second and third spots. Brazil will likely be there soon.

  237. blf says

    SC@308/309, A good site for fairly up-to-date Covid-19 statistics is John Hopkins’ Covid-19 Dashboard. It’s recently added county-by-county States data / map, etc. What it does not have, to the best of my (current) knowledge, are statistics / comparisons with testing; e.g., confirmed or false-positive or -negative, or percentage of population or suspected tested, etc, etc.

  238. says

    SC @308: “The three countries with the most cases today are the US, Russia, and the UK.”

    Yep. Look at the guys who are at the top of the administrative pyramid. Blame them. Shame them.

  239. says

    SC @311, OMFG.

    In other news: Anti-Vaxxers Have a Dangerous Theory Called “Natural Immunity.” Now It’s Going Mainstream

    […] An article from the Minnesota-based conservative think tank the Charlemagne Institute titled “COVID-19 Lockdowns May Destroy Our Immune Systems” is currently making the rounds […]

    It’s not hard to see why this content took off. The idea—or the basic contours of it, at least—has some elements of truth. Immunologists have shown that, in general, we strengthen our immune systems by exposing them to pathogens. In the last few decades, researchers have amassed evidence to suggest that some chronic conditions that are common in the developed world but rare in poorer countries—including asthma, allergies, and autoimmune illnesses like Crohn’s disease—could be the result of an environment that doesn’t have enough germs, causing the immune system to go haywire.

    But the coronavirus is not a chronic immune condition; it’s a novel virus that attacks the body’s systems in ways not yet completely understood. Experts roundly reject the idea that social distancing will dangerously weaken the immune system. “A broad-based immunity weakening because of social distancing? Definitely not,” said Saad Omer, a Yale University epidemiologist and infectious disease specialist. Jennifer Reich, a sociologist who studies the spread of misinformation about health, agreed. “In order for our immune systems to be harmed by social distancing, we would have to live in sterile settings for a long time in which no bacteria or germs could affect us,” she wrote to me in an email.

    But the experts I talked to weren’t at all surprised to see these discredited ideas making the rounds; they’ve seen them before in the anti-vaccination and extreme holistic medicine communities. This is the coronavirus edition of their pervasive belief in “natural immunity.” […]

    anti-vaccination groups on Facebook have referenced the idea constantly in recent posts. One widely shared meme lists, “Things that suppress our immune systems: Masks, gloves, no sun, fear, vaccines, washing hands with synthetic soaps.” […]

    Meanwhile, alternative medicine groups promote the idea that eating the right foods or taking certain vitamins and supplements will strengthen the immune system so that it can successfully fight off coronavirus. […] Coconut oil, bone broth, and raw milk are among the foods she recommends to bolster the immune system against coronavirus. Just to be clear: This idea is patently false; humanity has never seen the virus before, therefore our immune systems have no natural defenses against it.

    Given the holistic community and anti-vaccination groups’ fixations on “natural immunity,” it’s not surprising that the belief that we can end the pandemic through “herd immunity”—deliberately exposing everyone to the virus until we develop enough immunity that it dies out on its own—has gained traction. […]

    Infectious disease experts all agree that the “herd immunity” approach would be catastrophic—millions of Americans would die in the process. […] signs that this dangerous and flawed line of thinking is making its way into the mainstream. […] the musings from armchair epidemiologists have gone viral on social media. […]. In a sprawling March 20 New York Times op-ed, David Katz, a Yale preventive medicine specialist who focuses on diet, wrote that this approach could allow us to “return to life as usual and perhaps prevent vast segments of the economy from collapsing. Healthy children could return to school and healthy adults go back to their jobs.” When Omer read the piece, he was appalled. “These people are putting forth these theories without checking with people whose job this is, who specialize in it,” he told me. “This is not a debate society—there are actual consequences here. People are dying in hospitals alone.”

    […] Devin Burghart, vice president of the anti-white-nationalism think tank the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights, has been studying the nascent co-mingling between the anti-vaccination community and groups that stage coronavirus shutdown protests. He has noticed that the protest groups have begun to repeat the “natural immunity” talking points, and that both groups have embraced the herd immunity approach. […]

    Omer cautions that if these ideas take hold, they could persist even after the coronavirus pandemic dies down, noting, “Those of us in this field will be cleaning up these messes for years to come.”

  240. blf says

    French court scraps farmer’s conviction for helping migrants cross border:

    A French court has scrapped all charges against an olive farmer who helped migrants enter the country illegally, the final chapter in a groundbreaking case that defined so-called “crimes of solidarity”.

    Cédric Herrou, who helped about 200 people cross the border from Italy into southern France, was given a four-month suspended sentence in August 2017.

    He had brought the destitute migrants home and set up a camp for them. He was also convicted of sheltering about 50 Eritreans in a disused railway building.

    France’s constitutional council later said Herrou’s actions were not a crime under the “principle of fraternity” as enshrined in France’s motto: Liberté, égalité, fraternité. The council, which evaluates the validity of French laws, ruled that people cannot be prosecuted for “crimes of solidarity”.


    Amnesty International said the ruling would have implications throughout Europe for the criminalisation of “acts of solidarity”.

    “Cédric Herrou did nothing wrong, he simply showed compassion towards people abandoned in dire conditions by European states,” said Amnesty’s Rym Khadhraoui. “Whilst it is a relief that Cédric Herrou’s ordeal is now over, he should never have been charged in the first place.”

    French law should now be amended to ensure only people smuggling, which entails a material benefit, is an offence, and not humanitarian assistance, Khadhraoui said.

  241. says

    From Wonkette:

    The COVID-19 pandemic has hit nursing homes especially hard. The AP says nursing homes account for “about a third” of deaths; the New York Times says it’s “over a third”; and ABC News suggests the number is more like 31 percent nationwide, but also pointing out that 15 states don’t report deaths in nursing homes as part of their coronavirus stats at all. So for the 35 states and DC that do report nursing home deaths, that works out to 40 percent.

    Hey, why aren’t we giving you statistics from the federal government? That’s because the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which oversees federal regulation of nursing homes, didn’t start requiring nursing homes to report coronavirus infections and deaths directly to the CDC until late April, and won’t get around to releasing any data until the end of May. Oh, yes, and on April 30, two months into the outbreak, and long after everyone knew the disease was spreading out of control in nursing homes, the White House finally created a national task force on coronavirus in long-term care facilities. […]

    So with all the horror going on, it only stands to reason that CMS, part of the Department of Health and Human Services, is circulating a draft of a plan to “reopen” nursing homes so people can go visit Nana as soon as possible. Yes really, although the Wall Street Journal dutifully notes that the “final version of the guidelines might be significantly different from the early draft” that its reporters obtained. Like if people all stand up and scream “ARE YOU FUCKING INSANE?”

    For a good, horrifying look at how bad the situation in nursing homes has been, check out this heartbreaking New York Times story on the situation at the New Jersey Veterans Home at Paramus, where as of Tuesday, 74 deaths had resulted from COVID-19. That’s out of a late-March population of 314 residents.

    The list of the dead is almost certain to grow: Of the remaining 209 veterans and their spouses, 133 had either tested positive for the virus or were awaiting results. About one in five staff members has contracted the virus, and one employee has died.

    “The whole place is sick now,” said Mitchell Haber, whose 91-year-old father, Arnold, an Army veteran, died last month at the home, which is about 12 miles northwest of New York City.

    “What they should really do is raze it and put a park there,” he said. “It’s like a mass shooting.”

    […] New Jersey nursing facilities have seen 4,953 fatalities, which make up over half of COVID-19 deaths in the state. […]

    before the pandemic got under way, the Trump administration was working to loosen infection control standards in nursing homes. In response to the deaths of hundreds of nursing home residents in Hurricane Katrina, and thousands of people stranded in nursing homes following Hurricane Sandy, both George W. Bush and Barack Obama enacted stronger safety standards for long-term care facilities. Obama’s administration tightened up infection control standards in 2016, putting in place more protections for residents and higher fines for violations. Those rules were targeted by the nursing home industry once Trump took office, and by golly, CMS was happy to help make nursing homes more profitable by cutting burdensome regulations. […]

    While the effort to undo those Obama-era safety rules hasn’t actually gone forward during the pandemic, there’s no reason to think the administration won’t still try to jam it through. […] And just to be on the safe side, the for-profit nursing home industry is lobbying for states to provide immunity from lawsuits for nursing homes, their owners, and employees, too.

    […] Residents or their families could still sue for extreme neglect, and isn’t that good enough? […]

    Now, to be sure, the Trump administration has — very grudgingly and half-assedly — finally noticed there’s a problem in nursing homes. There’s the new task force, which is claiming it will get two weeks’ worth of protective equipment to all nursing homes (possibly if Jared can make some fall off a truck).

    And on Monday, Mike Pence announced during a conference call with governors that the government was “recommending” that all nursing home residents in the US be tested, although it wasn’t an actual order, and it also didn’t come with any plan to provide tests, funding, or staff to make that possible. And Deborah Birx backed Pence up, too, saying “We really believe that all 1 million nursing home residents need to be tested within next two weeks as well as the staff” — though she didn’t offer any equipment or funding either.

    At least Donald Trump took a firm stand on testing nursing home residents: He blamed the states. […] “Frankly, some of the governors were very lax with respect to nursing homes. It was obvious right from the beginning,” Trump said, referring to the Washington state outbreak. […]
    We probably wouldn’t have given you very good odds if you had predicted at the beginning of 2020 that this would be the year many on the American Right would decide euthanasia was OK with them, as long as they can still ban abortion. […] in the case of America’s nursing homes, the Trump administration seems to be doing all it can to reduce the number of retirees living the high life on Social Security and Medicare. But will anyone thank him for such bold action to save money? […]


  242. blf says

    The mildly deranged penguin is eager to help, ‘Just eat cheese’: French dairy producers’ plea after sales slump:

    Speciality cheeses have been cast aside in favour of more basic foodstuffs during lockdown

    [… T]he French have been urged to step up to the plate and eat more fromage to help save some of the nation’s food heritage and stop thousands of gallons of milk and 2,000 tonnes of cheese being destroyed.

    With restaurants, school canteens, certain markets and many supermarket cheese counters closed during the eight-week lockdown, and many struggling families having to save money, speciality cheeses have been pushed aside in favour of more basic foodstuffs.


    Producers of cheeses such as reblochon, saint-nectaire, munster, brie de meaux, roquefort and bleu d’auvergne have been hit by a 60% drop in sales, amounting to a loss of €157m of business […]


  243. says

    The fastest rising areas in the US for COVID cases are very white and very Trumpy, according to this slide somebody leaked to NBC News

    Full list (as far as I can make it out):

    Trousdale Co, TN
    Leavenworth Co, KS
    Buchanan Co, MS
    Muhlenberg Co, KY
    Colfax Co, NE
    Stearns Co, MN
    Kenosha Co, WI
    Polk Co, IA
    Hall Co, GA,
    Racine Co, WI

    All counties that voted Trump in 2016, except Polk Co in Iowa

  244. says

    From Wonkette:

    […] “When you attribute a death to the coronavirus today, what that means is that the guy had the coronavirus and died. It doesn’t matter if he got hit by a car and died, and he would still be categorized as a coronavirus death,” the White House’s crank economist Art Laffer told the [Daily] Beast, adding, “You need the whole transcribed medical records on a disk so people can sit there, maybe without names, and look for causes and correlations.”

    Which is, of course, complete bullshit. Here on Planet Earth, we have a major testing shortage — despite Trump’s constant braying about his tremendous tests, available to anyone who wants one, the envy of the world and in high demand among all your better first world nations — and are almost certainly undercounting the number of deaths — just like that tyrant Anthony Fauci testified to the Senate yesterday. Fatalities from car accidents and school shootings are way down, and yet we still have many thousands of “excess deaths” over normal mortality figures, probably attributable to undiagnosed coronavirus.

    Worse still, it appears that Dr. Deborah Birx is wiling to go along with this craven hackery. The Beast notes that Birx “has urged CDC officials to exclude from coronavirus death-count reporting some of those individuals who either do not have confirmed lab results and are presumed positive or who have the virus and may not have died as a direct result of it, according to three senior administration officials.”

    Which is … not a good look.

    “I don’t worry about this overreporting issue,” Bob Anderson, the chief of the Mortality Statistics Branch in CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, told the Beast. “We’re almost certainly underestimating the number of deaths [in the country].” […]


  245. militantagnostic says

    SC @284 regarding the combusting Russian ventilators

    US hospitals reportedly had not used the ventilators because they were manufactured for the wrong voltage. It is not clear when those ventilators were produced.

    Eh what?? How could they be this stupid to not know that the US (and Canda) uses 110 volt AC while most ot ter rest of the world uses 220 volt AC? This is more a case of high doltage than one of voltage. At least this incompatibility miight have prevented a fire.

  246. says

    “The Darkest Winter,” a statement from Rick Bright:

    “Our window of opportunity is closing,” Bright says in prepared testimony submitted to a subcommittee of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. “If we fail to develop a national coordinated response, based in science, I fear the pandemic will get far worse and be prolonged, causing unprecedented illness and fatalities. While it is terrifying to acknowledge the extent of the challenge that we currently confront, the undeniable fact is there will be a resurgence of the COVID19 this fall, greatly compounding the challenges of seasonal influenza and putting an unprecedented strain on our health care system. Without clear planning and implementation of the steps that I and other experts have outlined, 2020 will be darkest winter in modern history.”

    The first priority, he says, is being “truthful with the American people.”

    “They want the truth. They can handle the truth,” Bright says.

  247. says

    Follow-up to comment 324.

    […] Bright, former director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, was removed April 20 after having served in the position for nearly four years […]

    In his prepared testimony, Bright also touches on a whistleblower complaint in which he asserted he was pressured by Department of Health and Human Services leadership to make “potentially harmful drugs widely available,” including chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, which President Trump has repeatedly heralded.

    “I believe this transfer was in response to my insistence that the government invest funding allocated to BARDA by Congress to address the COVID-19 pandemic into safe and scientifically vetted solutions, and not in drugs, vaccines and other technologies that lack scientific merit,” Bright says.

    Bright is scheduled to appear at a hearing Thursday morning at the invitation of Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (D-Calif.), who chairs the health subcommittee. Debra Katz, an attorney for Bright, confirmed last week that Bright plans to appear despite being under “massive stress” in the wake of his transfer. […]

    In his prepared testimony, Bright argues that “it is painfully clear that we were not as prepared as we should have been” to combat the coronavirus outbreak.

    “We missed early warning signals, and we forgot important pages from our pandemic playbook,” he says. “There will be plenty of time to identify gaps for improvement. For now, we need to focus on getting things right going forward.”

    He says the Trump administration still lacks a national testing strategy and needs to ramp up production of essential equipment and supplies. […]

    Washington Post link

  248. says

    Oh, FFS.

    From R.R. Reno, the editor of the conservative religious magazine First Things:

    By the way, the WWII vets did not wear masks. They’re men, not cowards. Masks=enforced cowardice.

    Just to reinforce. Talked to my son in Seattle. The mask culture if fear driven. Masks+cowardice. It’s a regime dominate by fear of infection and fear of causing of infection. Both are species of cowardice.

    Look, let’s face it. There are those who are terrified, and those who are not. Where do you stand? Terror or a more reasonable position? Will you visit our mother? If so, the mask is a PC gesture. If not, you are a moral monster.


    […] The first thing that leaps out is that the anti-mask crusade reflects a particular vision of masculinity. Reno’s reframing of an obvious public health measure as a kind of cowardice, something tough World War II veterans would never do, is a thinly veiled way of calling protective masks unmanly. As my colleague Anna North argues, this strain of anxious masculinity is a consistent theme in anti-mask arguments on the right.

    The second is the argument that mask-wearing is a form of “political correctness.” Reno’s reasoning is incoherent — if you’re willing to visit your mother, presumably you should take mask-wearing even more seriously — but it illustrates the category of thinking he’s relying on here. The question in his mind is not “does wearing a mask contribute to public health,” but rather “what does wearing a mask say about where I stand in the culture war.” He sees the issue not through the lens of substance, but of symbolism.

    When you look at the broader Republican response to masks through the lens of Reno’s thinking, it starts to make a lot more sense. This is a political movement that has been built to wage a culture war; it has no greater objective than owning the libs. And the best way to own them is to defeat them in combat over identity: gender, race, sexuality, and the like.

    The war on masks is a way of taking a public health crisis — a situation that demands political unity and best practices in governance — and reshaping it into a culture war competition. The question is not “are we doing a good job handling this” so much as “whose team do you want to be on, the namby-pamby liberals or the strong fearless conservatives?”

    It is difficult for members of the modern organized conservative movement to see political issues outside the lenses of partisanship and the culture wars. At a time when unity on public health matters is paramount, on issues ranging from masks to testing to the timing of reopening, this is dangerous.


  249. says

    How can Trump look past the slaughter of mothers and babies in Afghanistan?

    At a time when tens of thousands of Americans are dying from the novel coronavirus, it is hard for a terrorist attack abroad to penetrate our consciousness. But what happened in Kabul on Tuesday was so heinous that it cannot be ignored.

    Three gunmen stormed a hospital maternity ward and engaged in a lengthy gunfight with security forces. Twenty-four people were reported killed, including many new mothers. The New York Times reported: “A security official coming out of the hospital showed reporters pictures of the devastation inside the ward: mothers shot as they had tried to hide under a bed, a female nurse prostrate in blood, one woman still clinging to her newborn. ‘She was dead, but the baby was alive,’ the official said.”

    What kind of monsters attack mothers and their newborn babies? The same kind of monsters who attack a funeral. That also happened on Tuesday about 100 miles east of Kabul: A funeral procession for a district police chief who had died of natural causes in Nangarhar province was attacked by a suicide bomber who killed at least 24 people. This is cradle-to-grave terrorism. The funeral attack was claimed by Islamic State, but the maternity-ward attack was so barbaric that no one assumed public responsibility.

    Whoever carried out these attacks, their larger meaning is clear: The vaunted “peace deal” with the Taliban announced by the Trump administration on Feb. 29 is breaking down. The White House had claimed that it had secured “important commitments that are necessary to finally end the conflict in Afghanistan.” But six weeks later there is no sign of the conflict ending. The Taliban has avoided attacks on U.S. personnel, but it has continued to wage savage war on the people and government of Afghanistan. The Taliban’s oral assurances to the U.S. negotiating team, led by special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, that it would reduce violence by as much as 80 percent have proved to be worthless.

    […] Yet the Trump administration clings to the fiction that the Taliban is a good-faith negotiating partner. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s statement on Tuesday said: “We note the Taliban have denied any responsibility and condemned both attacks as heinous. The Taliban and the Afghan government should cooperate to bring the perpetrators to justice.” […]

    The Taliban still doesn’t recognize the democratically elected government in Kabul and won’t enter into negotiations with it. The March 10 deadline for launching intra-Afghan negotiations on a political settlement has come and gone.

    The Taliban’s excuse for not negotiating is that the government has failed to release 5,000 Taliban prisoners as called for in the agreement. (The government says it has released 1,000 prisoners while the Taliban has released only 171.) But Ghani never made any such pledge — that was a promise from the Trump administration — and he quite understandably does not want to make the Taliban even more dangerous by releasing so many of its fighters while the war rages on. […]

    Washington Post link

  250. Pierce R. Butler says

    SC… @ # 282: Russia is now the second most-affected country in terms of infections …

    Does anybody have any idea what the hell is going on with Putin? The man is neither dumb nor lazy, he’s surely well-informed on how half-assed c-virus measures have blown up in (e.g.) Trump’s & Johnson’s faces, he has no personal qualms or opposition to hold him back on grounds of “personal liberty” – but by all reports he’s letting Russia swirl down the public-health drain by emulating Trump’s do-nothing/blame-the-local-governments non-strategy.

    Putin should be just as capable of cracking the whip and making the bureaucracy dance from his dacha as was Stalin. Why isn’t he?

  251. tomh says

    WaPo Live Updates (Free)
    Wisconsin Supreme Court strikes down governor’s coronavirus stay-at-home order

    The Wisconsin state Supreme Court has struck down Gov. Tony Evers’ stay-at-home order, ruling that the Democratic governor does not have authority to act without input from the legislature, even during a public health crisis. The 4-to-3 decision was written by four conservative judges on the court.

    Republican state lawmakers had sued Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, and Andrea Palm, the state Department of Health secretary, over the administration’s order that nonessential businesses remain closed until at least May 26, saying they exceeded their authority.

  252. says

    Raging Against ‘Mere Life,’ The Federalist Has Declared War On Public Health Orders

    String together coverage of COVID-19 “stay-at-home” orders in The Federalist, the conservative website, and it begins to resemble an ode to death itself.

    “Imagine for a moment that the nation were ruled by dictatorship of doctors…”

    “Is it right for the nation to require our children’s futures be destroyed to keep alive less than 1 percent of our population until the next flu season?”

    “It seems harsh to ask whether the nation might be better off letting a few hundred thousand people die.”

    “So the barbaric, panicky elevation of mere life as the only good worth conserving is becoming increasingly shameful.”

    “Is death the worst thing that could happen to you?”

    So sings the chorus of conservative PhDs, right-wing think tankers, business owners and scientific contrarians narrating the impact of COVID-19. The Federalist is their echo chamber, publishing dozens of articles in recent weeks largely focused on the need to “reopen” society.

    As public health experts warn that the pandemic will require long-term sacrifices in order to keep infection rates down, a TPM review of three months of coverage found that The Federalist has pursued a different route. For weeks, the site has been at the vanguard of the backlash against COVID-19 public health orders.

    […] as executive editor Joy Pullmann put it in a critique Wednesday of House Democrats’ latest stimulus proposal, “Americans shouldn’t hide in our homes fumbling in our childrens’ pockets for money like drunkards.”

    “Like the greatest generation, we owe it to our nation to face danger bravely,” Pullmann wrote. “Our ancestors risked much worse to give us the best country in the world: cholera outbreaks, amputations without anesthesia, hand-to-paw combat with bears and panthers, natives who ruled territory through slavery and torture, establishing homes in a forbidding wilderness amid outbreaks of starvation and disease, volunteering to fight from poisoned foxholes, perilous trips in rickety ships across a dark ocean.”

    This isn’t a fringe blog. The Federalist is […] read by those in power. A spokesperson for Republicans on the House Oversight committee, for example, lauded an article last month on “How Cowardice and Class Privilege Shift Support For Lockdowns.” […] popular conservative voices like talk show host Mark Levin regularly spread The Federalist around.

    At first, The Federalist’s coronavirus coverage was pretty straight-laced. […]

    But as President Donald Trump began speaking more frequently in public about the virus, The Federalist changed its tone.

    “The Coronavirus Has Mutated—Into A Political Talking Point,” political editor John Daniel Davidson observed on Feb. 27, the day after Trump held his first press conference on the virus.

    And boy did it: In the days and weeks that followed, The Federalist plugged the disease into its existing battles: For a border wall, against environmentalism and gender studies. Even “Big Porn” got put on notice. […]

    Given its conservative audience, the site’s authors mostly preach to a relatively defined choir: Readers interested in “politics, religion, and culture from a conservatarian angle,” with a healthy dose of the culture wars on the side. But as the COVID-19 takes grew more daring — notably with the late-March call for “chickenpox parties” to voluntarily spread the disease and establish herd immunity — the criticism grew sharper. […] fatalities alone reached 50,000 three weeks after that. […]

    More at the link.

  253. John Morales says

    Pierce @330, probably, Putin’s priority is to stay in power, rather than to be benevolent.

    Most plausible inference (given your own claim that he is “neither dumb nor lazy”) is that, regardless of what he decrees, bad consequences will nonetheless ensue; thus, divorcing himself from responsibility from such bad consequences is the way to go. Especially as that stance contradicts the narrative that he’s autocratic.

    Another aspect is that, if things do go down the drain, it is then that he can step in as a saviour.

  254. Pierce R. Butler says

    John Morales @ # half-a-beast – Mebbeso, except your hypothesis still contradicts my premise that Putin is not stupid…

  255. tomh says

    U.S. judge asks if ex-Trump aide Flynn should be held in contempt
    Jan Wolfe, Sarah N. Lynch
    MAY 13, 2020

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. judge on Wednesday signaled reluctance to allow the Justice Department to drop its criminal prosecution of Michael Flynn, tasking a retired judge with advising on whether the former Trump administration official should face an additional criminal contempt charge for perjury.

    In a short written order, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan in Washington asked John Gleeson, a former federal judge in New York, to present arguments in the case as an amicus curiae, or friend of the court.

    Sullivan said he was seeking Gleeson’s recommendation on whether Flynn should face a criminal contempt charge for perjury because he testified under oath that he was guilty of lying to the FBI but then reversed course and said he had never lied.

    Sullivan also said he wanted Gleeson to make the case for why a motion to dismiss the Flynn case filed by the Justice Department last week should be rejected.

  256. KG says

    The three countries with the most cases today are the US, Russia, and the UK. – SC@308

    Evidence that the virus was manufatured by vengence-seeking Nazis hiding under the Himalayas or on the far side of the moon???

  257. raven says

    Wisconsin Supreme Court strikes down state’s stay-at-home order

    (CNN)The Wisconsin Supreme Court has overturned the state’s stay-at-home order, ruling it “unlawful” and “unenforceable” in a high-profile win for the state’s Republican-led Legislature.

    In a 4-3 decision Wednesday, the court ruled that Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ administration overstepped its authority when the state Department of Health Services extended the order to May 26.
    The ruling comes after the Legislature’s Republican leaders filed a lawsuit last month arguing the order

    I’m sure everyone has seen this or will see it soon.

    This is one of the most dismaying things I’ve seen so far about this pandemic.
    It’s very likely to kill a lot of people.

    It’s also not going to do a whole lot for the Wisconsin economy.
    Even in the few states with no lockdown orders, they are de facto lockdown because businesses are closed and people aren’t moving around much.
    People are good at calculating their risks and adjusting their behavior accordingly.
    They don’t want to die or be permanently disabled, after infecting their families so they can take them with them.

    It’s also likely to make this pandemic last longer.
    Wisconsin could become a plague focus for the rest of the USA and Canada.

  258. raven says

    Republican Mike Garcia wins special election for Katie Hill’s vacated House seat

    What was supposed to be a tossup election ended up with Garcia holding a comfortable 12-point edge in an incomplete tally Wednesday.

    After all the failures of the GOP, which is morphing into the party of corruption, incompetence, and death, this GOP far right person in California still won an election in a House district held by Democrat Katie Hill.

    Trump still has a huge amount of support and no matter what happens it will always vote for him.
    It’s entirely possible that Trump and the GOP will be reelected in November, 2020.

    I don’t have an explanation for this.
    At some point, you stop trying to explain it and start making plans to survive in a dystopian, seriously failing former superpower.
    When the USSR collapsed, average lifespans in the USSR dropped sharply as a lot of people ended up dead.

  259. raven says

    People are starting to call Covid-19, the polio of the 21st century.
    The vast majority of infected don’t die so there is a tendency to not worry too much about the virus.
    It’s not that simple.
    A lot of the survivors are showing varying levels of permanent organ damage, mostly lung but also heart and kidneys. Since so much is happening, we are just now getting around to looking at this.

    Some patients who survive COVID-19 may suffer lasting lung damage
    The similar respiratory disease SARS left lasting lung injury in some patients
    By David Cox APRIL 27, 2020 AT 2:19 PM ScienceNews:

    Among patients who have recovered from COVID-19 in China comes the first evidence that some may suffer long-term lung damage from the disease.

    In 70 patients who survived COVID-19 pneumonia, 66 had some level of lung damage visible in CT scans taken before hospital discharge, researchers report March 19 in Radiology. The damage ranged from dense clumps of hardened tissue blocking blood vessels within the tiny air sacs called alveoli, which absorb oxygen, to tissue lesions around the alveoli, Yuhui Wang, a radiologist at Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan, China, and colleagues found.

    The permanent organ damage is not yet too well measured.

    Based on simple math, 20% of patients are hospitalized.
    Let’s say 80% of those patients have organ damage.
    So 16% of Covid-19 patients have organ damage.
    US cases as of today are ca. 1,400,000 so as of now, 224,000 people with some acquired disability.

    This is going to be a huge issue going forward, after we all get over trying not to die.

  260. raven says

    Kidney injury seen in more than a third of hospitalized COVID-19 patients: U.S. study
    Julie Steenhuysen ,Reuters•May 14, 2020

    CHICAGO (Reuters) – Over a third of patients treated for COVID-19 in a large New York medical system developed acute kidney injury, and nearly 15% required dialysis, U.S. researchers reported on Thursday.

    Add this is for organ damage.
    Add in the known heart damage.
    I’m sure other organ systems will also show varying levels of damage.

    Even if you don’t die for Covid-19 virus, you still have a much higher chance for permanent health problems.
    We in the USA aren’t worrying about this now, but we will eventually have to deal with it.
    These patients need followup care and cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation.
    Right now CP-Rehab is all shut down because it requires physical closeness. It’s usually done in mass groups in health care facilities and that is out right now.

    This virus is a dangerous one and it is permanently altering the way we live in the USA.

  261. says

    Moscow Times:

    “Coronavirus in Russia: The Latest News” (May 14 liveblog):

    …Russia confirmed 9,974 new coronavirus infections Thursday, bringing the country’s official number of cases to 252,245. Russia now has the world’s second-highest number of coronavirus infections.

    Education and Science Minister Valery Falkov was diagnosed with coronavirus, President Vladimir Putin said at a meeting, making him the fourth minister to catch the virus. During the meeting, Falkov said he has already recovered and returned to work….

    “As the Coronavirus Contagion Grows in Russia, Putin’s Strongman Image Weakens.”

    Pierce R. Butler @ #330, I’m fascinated by this question. I do think there are psychological characteristics common to a particular type of authoritarian and to the movements backing them that could help to explain it. I’m hoping to post something about it later today.

  262. says

    CNN – “Bolsonaro’s March visit with Trump was a ‘corona trip,’ says Brazil’s former health secretary”:

    Brazil’s former health minister described Jair Bolsonaro’s March visit to meet with US President Donald Trump as a “corona trip” Wednesday, noting that several members of the Brazilian president’s team tested positive for Covid-19 after the trip.

    Bolsonaro and his aides met with Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and other American officials during their last US trip. Days later, Bolsonaro’s press secretary, Fabio Wajngarten, tested positive for Covid-19.
    Several more members of Bolsonaro’s close circle contracted the virus soon after, raising concerns that the two presidents had been exposed as well.

    “What I know is that it was soon after (Bolsonaro) made a visit to the United States that they went to Florida and they were all having dinner with Mr. Trump, and his communication guy … came back in the plane with the disease and from the people that went with him, 17 tested positive in about 15 days after they arrived,” Brazil’s former Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. “So this trip was really a corona trip.”

    Bolsonaro tested negative for coronavirus in three separate exams that were released to the public on Wednesday afternoon by Supreme Court Justice Ricardo Lewandowski.

    The release of the tests, which were administered between March 12 and March 17 after his return from the US, brought an end to a prolonged standoff in which Bolsonaro had refused to make results public, despite repeated legal rulings.

    Despite several of his team contracting the virus, Bolsonaro has repeatedly played down the threat of Covid-19.

    Brazil has suffered one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in the world, with more than 180,000 confirmed cases and over 12,600 deaths so far, according to John Hopkins University.

    White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said after Wajngarten’s diagnosis that “both the President and Vice President had almost no interactions with the individual who tested positive and do not require being tested at this time.”

    However, a picture posted by Wajngarten on his Instagram account showed him standing with both Trump and Pence.

  263. says

    Owen Jones in the Guardian – “The real message behind ‘stay alert’: it’ll be your fault if coronavirus spreads”:

    Officially, the new strategy is “personal responsibility” and “good, solid British common sense”, as our prime minister colourfully describes it; unofficially, operation blame the public is well under way. As media outlets query why London’s trains and buses are rammed despite government advice, our transport secretary, Grant Shapps, pleads with silly old commuters not to “flood” back on to public transport.

    The small flaw is that the government has ordered millions of workers to return to their jobs, and given the continued failure to invent teleporters, they need a means to bridge the distance between their homes and their work. If you’re a Londoner earning more than £70,000 a year, this is no big deal: about 80% have access to a car, and most can work from home. Unfortunately, nearly half of the capital’s citizens – and over 70% of those earning less than £10,000 – do not have access to a car: if you want to understand those images of packed trains and buses, start here.

    It is unsurprising that a government that has presided over Europe’s worst death toll is so invested in shifting the blame. Was it “good, solid British common sense” to pursue herd immunity and impose a lockdown later than other European nations, even despite having advance notice of the horrors of Lombardy? Perhaps, indeed, it was “good, solid British common sense” to send vulnerable patients back to care homes without testing them for coronavirus first, seeding the illness in a sector in which up to 22,000 people may have died? Or, who knows, perhaps “good, solid British common sense” could explain how frontline staff have been left exposed for a lack of personal protective equipment?

    But the strategy in the government’s new approach is clear. “Stay alert” is meaningless, of course, except to devolve responsibility for what happens next to individuals. Grownups don’t need a nanny state to hold their hands, scoff the government’s outriders: rather than relying on detailed instructions and central diktat, we should rely on our judgment. The implication, of course, is that if there is another spike in infections and death, that will be the public’s fault for not exercising adequate levels of personal responsibility.

    Here is a revival of the ideals of High Thatcherism, except applied to a pandemic. Back in the 1980s, what were once known as social problems requiring collective solutions – such as unemployment and poverty – became redefined as individual failings. “Nowadays there really is no primary poverty left in this country,” declared Margaret Thatcher herself. “In western countries we are left with the problems which aren’t poverty. All right, there may be poverty because people don’t know how to budget, don’t know how to spend their earnings, but now you are left with the really hard fundamental character – personality defect.”

    If you were poor, it became an increasingly popularised attitude that it was because you were feckless, workshy, stupid and lazy. …It was more convenient, of course, for the government to pretend that mass unemployment was caused by a lack of effort, graft and can-do determination, rather than monetarist economics that ravaged entire industries.

    What the dogma of “personal responsibility” does is erase the inequalities that scar, disfigure and ultimately define society. It pretends that we are all equally free, that our autonomy over our lives and circumstances are the same; that a middle-class professional working from home with access to a car can make the same choices as a cleaner expected to work halfway across a city.

    The estimated 60,000 people who have so far died in this national calamity were not wrested from their families because the public failed to be responsible, and neither will the deaths to come in the weeks ahead….

    The explanation will instead be straightforward: the government relaxed a lockdown to force disproportionately working-class people into potentially unsafe environments at the behest of employers who have prioritised economic interests over human life. Another aggravating factor will be the abandonment of clear instructions in favour of confusion. It may well be this is a deliberate strategy, to claim that the government was perfectly clear, but the public let the team down by not showing enough “good, solid British common sense”. Whatever happens, the attempt to shift blame for the most disastrous government failure since appeasement on to the public must not succeed. This is on them: they did this, and we must not let them forget it.

  264. says

    CNBC – “Sen. Richard Burr steps down as Senate intel chair during coronavirus stock sale probe”:

    Sen. Richard Burr on Thursday stepped down as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, a day after FBI agents seized his cellphone as part of a criminal investigation into his stock sales during the early weeks of the coronavirus pandemic.

    New questions about Burr’s stock sales arose last week, when ProPublica reported that on the very day that Burr sold his stocks, Feb. 13, Burr’s brother-in-law, Trump appointee Gerald Fauth, also sold tens of thousands of dollars worth of stock.

    Fauth is a former transportation consultant, who was appointed by President Donald Trump in 2017 to a seat on the three-member National Mediation Board, a federal agency that helps facilitate labor relations for the transportation industry.

    Burr’s attorney, Alice Fisher, told ProPublica that Burr “participated in the stock market based on public information,” and that “he did not coordinate his decision to trade on Feb. 13 with Mr. Fauth.”

    According to the LA Times, federal agents served an earlier warrant on Apple for information about Burr’s iCloud account. They then used that information as evidence to obtain a search warrant from a judge for Burr’s phone.

    It was unclear whether Fauth had also been served with a warrant. CNBC called the number for Fauth’s consulting firm, but there was no answer.

    Members of Congress are prohibited by law from using nonpublic information they obtain through their official positions in order to personally profit off the stock market. The STOCK Act that codified this ban was signed by President Barack Obama in 2012, after passing the Senate in a 96-3 vote.

    Burr was one of only three senators who voted against the STOCK Act.

  265. says

    Emoluments update:

    The 4th Circuit says that discovery against Trump/The Trump Hotel can proceed. The Court rejects Trump’s requests to dismiss the emoluments claim by DC and MD and rejects the request to certify an interlocutory appeal.

    addressing discovery directly they state that obtaining Trump’s business records “implicates no Executive power” & records of spending at a private restaurant & hotel doesn’t threaten Executive Branch prerogative. Time to get those business records @AGKarlRacine and @BrianFrosh

  266. says

    Unable to help himself, Trump denies Russia backed him in 2016

    Trump still denies the findings from his own country, rejects his own administration’s intelligence, and ignores the conclusions drawn by his own party.

    Last summer, Donald Trump launched an illegal extortion scheme, hoping to leverage military support for a vulnerable ally in exchange for political assistance. The American president, of course, got caught and was impeached for his misconduct.

    […] one of the core motivations behind Trump’s scheme was the idea that Ukraine, and not Russia, was responsible for the attack on the U.S. elections in 2016. In fact, looking at the official call summary of Trump’s infamous July 25 phone meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, it’s clear that the Republican pressed his counterpart in Kyiv to pursue a crackpot conspiracy theory intended to exonerate Russia.

    […] this was the line [Trump] peddled to Fox Business’ Maria Bartiromo in an interview that aired this morning: “Now it’s all come out that actually [Russia] wanted Hillary Clinton — you saw that, it came out yesterday — they wanted Hillary Clinton to win. Nobody’s been tougher — you can speak to Putin or anybody else — nobody has been tougher on Russian than I have. They wanted Hillary Clinton to win.”


    […] For now, let’s put aside the painfully obvious fact that Russia wouldn’t have stolen Democratic emails, and then strategically weaponized them for maximum political effect, if the Kremlin was eager to boost the Democratic ticket.

    Let’s instead consider the president’s broader resistance to reality. For more than three years, Trump has denied the findings from his own country, rejected his own administration’s intelligence, and ignored the conclusions drawn by his own party.
    In fact, it was just a few weeks ago when the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee released a report that backed the January 2017 assessment of the U.S. intelligence community: Russia targeted the 2016 presidential election in order to help Trump. The intelligence assessment, according to GOP and Democratic senators, was accurate, thorough, and untainted by political bias.

    As for what “came out yesterday,” Jon Chait explained, “Last night, Fox News reporter Ed Henry excitedly reported to Tucker Carlson that [acting Director of National Intelligence Ric Grenell] has produced documents questioning the conclusion Russia opposed Clinton at all.”

    Of course, the last time Trump turned to a loyalist to produce intelligence that told the White House what it wanted to hear about this scandal, it led to the so-called “Nunes memo,” which backfired spectacularly. With this in mind, the idea that Grenell could cherry-pick some intelligence that overturns everything we know about the controversy is silly.

    Trump was watching Fox News again.

  267. says

    NYT – “Ex-F.B.I. Official Is Said to Undercut Justice Dept. Effort to Drop Flynn Case”:

    A key former F.B.I. official cast doubt on the Justice Department’s case for dropping a criminal charge against President Trump’s former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn during an interview with investigators last week, according to people familiar with the investigation.

    Department officials reviewing the Flynn case interviewed Bill Priestap, the former head of F.B.I. counterintelligence, two days before making their extraordinary request to drop the case to Judge Emmet G. Sullivan. They did not tell Judge Sullivan about Mr. Priestap’s interview. A Justice Department official said that they were in the process of writing up a report on the interview and that it would soon be filed with the court.

    The department’s motion referred to notes that Mr. Priestap wrote around the bureau’s 2017 questioning of Mr. Flynn, who later pleaded guilty to lying to investigators during that interview. His lawyers said Mr. Priestap’s notes — recently uncovered during a review of the case — suggested that the F.B.I. was trying to entrap Mr. Flynn, and Attorney General William P. Barr said investigators were trying to “lay a perjury trap.”

    That interpretation was wrong, Mr. Priestap told the prosecutors reviewing the case. He said that F.B.I. officials were trying to do the right thing in questioning Mr. Flynn and that he knew of no effort to set him up. Media reports about his notes misconstrued them, he said, according to the people familiar with the investigation.

    The department’s decision to exclude mention of Mr. Priestap’s interview in the motion could trouble Judge Sullivan, who signaled late on Tuesday that he was skeptical of the department’s arguments.

    Mr. Priestap and the Justice Department declined to comment. Mr. Priestap told investigators that he did not remember the circumstances surrounding the notes that he took, and that he was giving them his interpretation of the notes as he read them now, according to a person familiar with his interview.

    Former prosecutors and defense lawyers called the department’s position hypocritical and troubling.
    “If it is accurate that the F.B.I. official provided context around those notes, which is materially different from what they suggest, this could be a game changer in terms of how the court views the motivations behind the request to dismiss the case,” said Edward Y. Kim, a former federal prosecutor in Manhattan.

    The department’s decision to drop the Flynn case was a stunning reversal, widely regarded as part of an effort by Mr. Barr to undermine the Russia investigation. The prosecutor who led the case, Brandon L. Van Grack, withdrew from it, and only the interim U.S. attorney in Washington, Timothy Shea, a longtime adviser to Mr. Barr, signed the motion.

    Both Mr. Van Grack and Jocelyn Ballantine, another prosecutor on the case, were upset with Mr. Barr’s decision to drop the charge and his overall handling of the Flynn review, according to people familiar with their thinking….

  268. says

    Are Trump and William Barr going after Senator Burr as retaliation for the “Russia interfered” report that came from the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee?

    […] As of yet, Burr’s colleague—who also sold off millions in stocks—Sen. Kelly Loeffler of Georgia hasn’t had her phone seized, raising some political questions about this focus on Burr from Trump’s Department of Justice.

    It definitely appears that there was insider trading going on here. What’s questionable about this is the very public and forceful move by the Justice Department. As former DOJ official Matthew Miller tweeted: “Holy moly. Showing up at the home of a U.S. Senator and executing a warrant is not business as usual and not a step the FBI would take lightly.” The fact that thus far Loeffler, a loud and proud Trump toady, appears not to be getting the same level of scrutiny raises questions.

    […] Burr’s brother-in-law had sold off a significant number of shares at the same time Burr did. All in all, Burr and his wife sold 33 stocks valued at between $628,033 and $1.72 million. Some of those shares were in the hotel, restaurant, and shipping industries—among the sectors hit the hardest in this pandemic.

    The timing of this escalation against Burr raises questions what with the current all-out attack on the Russia investigation, attempting to discredit it, restore Michael Flynn, and implicate Joe Biden in … something. Burr and his SSCI have spent that last three years investigating Russia’s election interference in 2016, with four reports released thus far and another in the works.

    In fact, Burr’s committee released a report just last month, which concluded that the intelligence community’s original January 2017 assessment of Russian interference was “sound” and was reached both without political bias and using “proper analytic standards.” Overall, “the Committee found no reason to dispute the Intelligence Community’s conclusions,” Burr said in a statement about their report. That’s not the Trump party line […]

    The other thing that Burr was intent upon reinforcing with that report was that Russia is still at it, and that the 2020 election is also in jeopardy. “With the 2020 presidential election approaching, it’s more important than ever that we remain vigilant against the threat of interference from hostile foreign actors,” Burr said in a statement released with the report.

    That makes Burr really inconvenient right now to Trump and Attorney General William Barr, the guy who oversees the FBI. Barr made headlines last week when his DOJ dropped the government’s case against Michael Flynn, who had pleaded guilty to lying about his Russia ties. Barr’s weaponization of the DOJ knows no bounds, certainly not the rule of law, and it sure seems that he has no qualms including a prominent Republican committee chairman.

    Seriously, is this attorney general in this administration really going to after someone for insider trading? Really?


  269. says

    Some details from Dr. Rick Bright’s testimony:

    […] “I’ll never forget the emails I received from Mike Bowen,” who runs Prestige Ameritech, the top surgical mask supplier in the country, Bright said, “indicating that our mask supply, our N-95 respirator supply was completely decimated. And he said, ‘We’re in deep shit. The world is.’”

    Bright’s whistleblower complaint includes more details about his email conversations with Bowen. According to the complaint, Bowen sounded the alarm about impending mask shortages on January 21 and offered to produce additional N-95 respirators “with government help.”

    Two days later, on January 23, Bright suggested at a meeting with HHS officials that the coronavirus might already be in the United States and requested additional funds for his agency to combat the threat posed by the emerging disease, the report alleges. That same day, an HHS spokesperson said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had determined that the coronavirus posed a low threat to the US public.

    HHS official Bryan Shuy “later told Dr. Bright that his request for urgent funding at the meeting on January 23[rd] set off ‘quite a shit storm’ after the meeting,” according to the complaint. “Mr. Shuy further relayed to Dr. Bright he had offended HHS leadership by pushing for urgent funding…According to Mr. Shuy, HHS leadership believed that BARDA already had a sizable budget, albeit nothing specifically for COVID-19, and that he should not have asked for additional resources to address the virus.”

    In additional emails on January 23, 24, and 25, Bowen continued to warn Bright and Dr. Laura Wolf, another HHS official, of the impending mask shortages. Bright’s efforts to amplify Bowen’s warnings continued to fall on deaf ears, according to Bright’s complaint. […]


  270. says

    From Matthew Yglesias: “Get ready for a second wave of economic pain.”

    If Congress doesn’t act, state budget crises and unemployment insurance cuts will hammer the economy.

    Just as epidemiologists are concerned that a post-reopening “second wave” of Covid-19 cases could further batter America’s health care system, many economists warn that the current wave of nutritional insecurity and overwhelmed food banks could be just the beginning of the economic crisis and will get worse starting in August if Congress doesn’t act now.

    For all of Congress’s flaws, the existing economic recovery programs they’ve passed recently — especially the bonus unemployment insurance provisions of the CARES Act — have done a pretty good job of sheltering many of the most vulnerable people from the most severe forms of economic pain. But those provisions expire at the end of July, and unless the labor market is completely fixed by then, which seems unlikely, a huge hit to America’s spending power seems probable in later summer. At the same time, a separate program, the Paycheck Protection Program seems unlikely to prevent a serious number of small-business failures.

    […] The federal government has ample fiscal resources to keep spending levels from collapsing; it’s just a question of whether they’ll use them. […]

    It’s common for recessions to fall harder on less educated workers […]

    One way to characterize this, as BuzzFeed’s Venessa Wong did in her story on the uneven impact of the recession, is as a case of the worst-off workers being hardest hit by the downturn.

    Democrats in Congress actually passed a decent unemployment insurance plan for these workers under the CARES Act. The law expanded the set of workers who are eligible for unemployment insurance benefits and increased benefit levels by $600 per week. […]

    workers in the bottom half of the income distribution are generally better-off collecting UI benefits than they are working.

    Many conservatives and business owners are angry about this, but President Trump signed it into law, and it means that through the end of July, working-class Americans are in practice in okay shape if they get laid off. The biggest problem for unemployed working-class people has been that state UI systems were unprepared to cope with such a large surge in claims and many people were unable to sign up for benefits in a timely manner. But those problems are abating over time.

    […] When people’s incomes are stabilized, they pay their bills on time (note that despite a lot of hype about rent strikes, landlords did not report a major spike in non-payment in May) and keep buying things. Since most workers who’ve been laid off are at the low end of the income spectrum and thus eligible for generous unemployment insurance benefits, the country has mostly avoided secondary shocks that would further exacerbate economic problems.

    So far.

    The problem is twofold. Even if the great reopening goes very well, at least some sectors of the economy — business travel, conferences, conventions, and leisure actives like movie theaters and concerts — are going to remain significantly depressed for a while. Workers who don’t get rehired by August 1 are set to see their bonus UI vanish and will need to start significantly curtailing their spending.

    Meanwhile, lost revenue to state and local governments is already baked into the cake by the economic downturn the US has experienced.

    Michael Leachman, the vice president for state fiscal policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, says “state budget shortfalls from COVID-19’s economic fallout could total $650 billion over three years.” […]

    the federal government’s borrowing costs are currently very low and there’s little reason we have to accept the inevitability of a late-summer spending crash.

    State and local governments could easily be given an influx of cash — structured as unrestricted financial assistance, as Medicaid matching funds, as an “infrastructure package” that puts money into grant programs, or whatever else — to prevent a big wave of austerity. The bonus unemployment insurance could be extended beyond July or, at a minimum, structured to taper off rather than forming a huge cliff.

    And small businesses could be given much more generous treatment in the form of big ultra-low-interest loans capped by some function of 2019 revenue rather than the complicated structure of the existing Paycheck Protection Program.

    Measures along these lines wouldn’t guarantee a robust recovery — to get that, the US needs to get the virus under control — but they would at least ensure that the economy is limited by the virus rather than by mere lack of money.

    More at the link.

  271. says

    From the Guardian world liveblog:

    A vaccine for coronavirus must be available to all countries, the EU has insisted, after the British chief executive of French drugs company Sanofi said it was reserving the first shipments of its vaccine for the US. “The vaccine against Covid-19 should be a global public good and its access needs to be equitable and universal,” said the European commission spokesman, Stefan de Keersmaecker.

  272. says

    Trump demands Obama be made to testify in the Senate

    Trump seems to be ordering Sen. Lindsey Graham to put Obama through a kind of show trial.

    For the past few days, […] Trump has been talking nonstop about something he has termed “OBAMAGATE” — a largely incoherent conspiracy theory that positions former President Obama as the mastermind behind a conspiracy to use federal law enforcement to undermine Trump’s campaign and presidency.

    Wait. Using federal law enforcement to go after one’s enemies is what Trump does. Projection much?

    It is, in effect, the new birtherism: an unfounded campaign against the legitimacy of America’s first black president that Trump is trying to exploit to rally the political faithful.

    This morning, Trump seriously escalated his campaign against Obama, tweeting at one of his most reliable supporters in the Senate, Lindsey Graham, to force Obama to testify before Congress about this allegedly dastardly plot.

    The specific wording of the tweet — “Do it… just do it” — is striking; the request sounds like a childish dare, as if Trump were daring Graham to shave his head during a late-night Zoom call. But the absurdity of the language shouldn’t distract from the nefariousness of the request.

    If I were a Senator or Congressman, the first person I would call to testify about the biggest political crime and scandal in the history of the USA, by FAR, is former President Obama. He knew EVERYTHING. Do it @LindseyGrahamSC, just do it. No more Mr. Nice Guy. No more talk!

    The president of the United States is labeling a fringe right-wing conspiracy theory “the biggest political crime and scandal in the history of the USA, by FAR.” He’s also more or less ordering a particularly compliant senator — who happens to chair the Judiciary Committee — to use the powers of the Senate to treat one of his predecessors as a potential criminal suspect or witness on the basis of this conspiracy theory. […]

  273. says

    From Wonkette: “GOP Demands To Know Who Listened In As All Our Foreign Adversaries Secretly Chatted Up Michael Flynn”

    UNMASKING? Really, they’re going to go with this one? Because the fact that disgraced former national security advisor Flynn got picked up on multiple Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court wiretaps is hardly a great defense of the guy the Justice Department insists is innocent as a newborn lamb.

    Oh, fucking fine. If we have to … here’s the deal on this stupid unmasking thing.

    Yesterday, Ric Grenell, the unqualified hack stuck in as Director of National Intelligence to force the Senate to confirm the marginally less unqualified Rep. John Ratcliffe, declassified a list of people who supposedly “unmasked” Michael Flynn. Then he sent it on to Chuck Grassley and Ron Johnson at the Senate Finance and Homeland Security committees, who gleefully rubbed their hands together at the prospect of being able to throw more dust in the air to obscure the entirely legitimate origins of the Russia investigation.

    […] “This campaign to sabotage this administration — it is outrageous what these officials from the Obama administration did to the incoming administration,” Johnson told Politico. “There are so many questions that need to be answered.”

    What they actually “did” Johnson is less clear on. Because the answer is absolutely NOTHING.

    Someone got picked up on a wiretap talking to a foreign actor who was under surveillance by the NSA, and White House officials, who had every right to ask, followed appropriate channels to find out who that someone was. If Michael Flynn didn’t want to find himself in the middle of an NSA surveillance operation, he didn’t have to have those conversations. But more to the point, the White House couldn’t have been targeting Flynn, because when they made the identification requests, THEY DIDN’T KNOW WHO THE “SOMEONE” WAS.

    That’s a distinction the Wall Street Journal’s batshit editorial page writers are working overtime to obscure.

    GOP Senators Chuck Grassley and Ron Johnson on Wednesday released a declassified list of Obama Administration officials who in their waning days in power “unmasked” the conversations of Mr. Flynn, who was set to become President Trump’s National Security Adviser. It seems everyone but the night janitor wanted to know who Mr. Flynn was talking to.

    Here on Planet Earth, no one was trying to figure out “who Mr. Flynn was talking to.” They were trying to figure out who the foreign actors under NSA surveillance were talking to, and lo and behold, it turned out to be Michael Flynn!

    […] As Marcy Wheeler points out, the vast majority of the unmasking requests precede Flynn’s December 29 and 31 calls to Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak, so they have nothing to do with whatever nonsense the GOP is spinning up about the entire Russia investigation being an OBAMAGATE plot to get Donald Trump by …. forcing Michael Flynn to lie to the FBI? […]

    Wheeler also points out that the masked communications likely contain information on Emirati Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed (aka MBZ), who snuck into the country without officially notifying the Obama administration in December 2016 to meet with Flynn, Steve Bannon, and Jared Kushner. Once again, this wasn’t an effort to stalk Flynn — it was an entirely legal and appropriate attempt by our intelligence agencies to work out what a foreign official was doing in the United States and who he was meeting with.

    As for the phone calls with the Russian ambassador where Flynn promised to undo the sanctions just imposed by Obama in retaliation for electoral interference, only eight of the unmasking requests came after that call. And while Johnson has promised to haul Joe Biden before the committee to explain what nefarious reason he had for trying to figure out who the hell was making secret promises to our Russian adversaries, Biden’s unmasking request came on January 12. At that point, David Ignatius had already printed the details of the call in the Washington Post, so clearly Biden wasn’t the “leaker.”

    […] Rand Paul can shout inanities about an eavesdropping operation “led by Vice President Biden, if not the president,” but the reality is that the very people who had a right to know used normal methods to determine the identity of the American promising to give Putin exactly what he wanted. Then Obama pulled Donald Trump aside and told him he should really, really not keep Flynn around because that guy was bad news. Which isn’t entirely consistent with some kind of plot to frame Donald Trump through Mike Flynn, but the GOP spin machine will make it work somehow.

    And in case you were wondering if unmasking is some kind of weird, extra-legal maneuver, only employed by Democratic outlaws … NOPE.

    According to the DNI, NSA received these amounts of SIGINT “unmasking” requests per year:

    2016: 9200
    2017: 9500
    2018: 17000
    2019: 10000

    Something very odd was happening in 2018. Remind me who was in the White House then…

    This is a bog standard procedure used thousands of times a year by every single administration. But if the Trumplanders want to pull on this thread and show us exactly which foreign adversary was spending so much time talking to Michael Flynn during the transition period when he was receiving classified intelligence briefings, they can have at it!

  274. says

    Highlights from Dr. Rick Bright’s testimony:

    […] 1. ‘Lives were lost’ because of ‘inaction,’ unheeded warnings […]

    “Lives were endangered, and I believe lives were lost,” Bright said. “And not only that: We were forced to procure these supplies from other countries without the right quality standards. So even our doctors and nurses in the hospitals today are wearing N95-marked masks from other countries that are not providing the sufficient protection that a U.S.-standard N95 mask would provide them. Some of those masks are only 30 percent effective. Therefore, nurses are rushing in the hospitals thinking they’re protected, and they’re not.”

    2. Administration pushed vastly expanded use of unproven drugs […]

    3. Pessimism about 12- to 18-month timeline for vaccine […]

    Trump even said, “I think we’re going to have a vaccine by the end of the year.”

    hat’s even more optimistic than the 12- to 18-month timeline that medical experts such as Anthony S. Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, have said is realistic for the vaccine. But Bright said that even a year to year-and-a-half timeline might also be overly optimistic.

    “I still think 12 to 18 months is an aggressive schedule, and I think it’s going to take longer than that to do so,” Bright said.

    [As SC already noted up-thread] 4. We don’t have ‘a single point of leadership’ or ‘master plan

    5. Azar, Republicans cast Bright as a malcontent skipping work […]

    “While we’re launching Operation Warp Speed,” Azar said, “he’s not showing up for work to be part of that.”
    Bright said that he has been on leave while dealing with “very high blood pressure” — owing in part to the stress from recent events.

    “I had a conversation with my physician about my hypertension and how we’ve been managing it over the last three weeks because this has been very stressful to be removed suddenly without explanation from my role and position as a life change for me,” Bright said.

    Bright said he would make records related to his medical condition available.

    Washington Post link

  275. says

    CNN is reporting that Jennifer Santos, in charge of implementing the Defense Production Act, has been removed from her position at the demand of the WH and with no explanation given. She’s being transferred to another position in the Navy. Her boss wasn’t aware this was planned.

  276. says

    NEW: LANCET study reveals 30-fold increase of Kawasaki-like disease in Italian province over past month. Strongest evidence yet linking pediatric inflammatory syndrome to #coronavirus. Authors predict outbreak of Kawasaki-like disease in other countries:…”

  277. KG says

    A few UK items.

    It turns out that even before Johnson’s “Get back to work, slackers!” speech, thousands of low-paid call centre workers in far-from-essential sectors were being obliged to continue work, without any serious attempt to protect them. In England (unlike in Scotland, I don’t know about the other 2 parts of the UK) there was no legislation mandating employers to provide PPE, make physical distancing possible, etc.

    More on the scandal of the outsourced PPE stockpile. It was stored for some time in a smoke-damaged warehouse where asbestos dust had been found. Of course, we are assured blah blah blah… And the army had to be called in to actually distribute the stuff when it was needed, despite the firm’s contract making clear it could be required to send anything it held anywhere in the UK at any time.

    Finally, a light on the government’s “post-pandemic” plans (assuming we ever get there). This is from the last section of “Our Plan To Rebuild: The UK Government’s Covid-19 Strategy”:

    As the Government navigates towards recovery, it must ensure it learns the right lessons from this crisis and acts now to ensure that governmental structures are fit to cope with a future epidemic, including the prospect of an outbreak of a second epidemic -for example, a pandemic flu –while the Government is still responding to COVID-19.
    This will require a rapid re-engineering of government’s structures and institutions to deal with this historic emergency and also build new long-term foundations for the UK, and to help the rest of the world.
    The crisis has shown many parts of Government at its best; for example the NHS has demonstrated great creativity and energy in rapidly transforming its data, analytics and procurement processes. There is now an opportunity to spread these innovations across government.
    Before the virus struck, the Government’s Budget set out plans to invest in infrastructure, including significant investments in science, technology and skills. Previous generations built infrastructure on which the public now depend. Now it is the Government’s responsibility to build the public health and governmental infrastructure -across the entirety of the United Kingdom -that will protect the country for decades to come.

    Never let a good crisis go to waste! The impudence of claiming the credit for the performance of the NHS (and the courage and dedication of its frontline staff) for the government (it is not, in any sense, part of the government) is the most immediately outrageous part of this. But the text indicates that Dominic Cummings intends to use the crisis to advance his vendetta with and politicisation of the civil service, and the words “across the entirety of the United Kingdom”, which look oddly unnecessary, suggest an assault on the powers of the devolved administrations, which currently have much of the responsibility for public health.

  278. says

    Follow-up to comment 358.

    Lindsey Graham responds to Trump’s tweet/order:

    “I don’t think now’s the time for me to do that,” Graham told Politico. “I don’t know if that’s even possible. I have grave concerns about the role of executive privilege and all kinds of issues.”

    “I understand President Trump’s frustration, but be careful what you wish for. Just be careful what you wish for,” the senator warned.

    Graham noted that forcing the former president to testify would be unprecedented and emphasized again that “presidentially, I’d be careful what I wish for.”

    After all, Democrats have been pursuing multiple threads of Trump’s alleged wrongdoing for years, such as using his office to boost profits at his real estate properties and his refusal to hand over his tax returns. Thus setting a precedent of having former presidents testify would clearly backfire on Trump.

    Graham had already distanced himself from Trump’s bogus “Obamagate” conspiracy theory on Monday.

    “I’m not anticipating calling President Obama,” he said during a separate interview with Politico.

    TPM link

    From the comments by readers:

    I have no doubt Obama would handle it with erudite aplomb.

    Then let’s call Trump and see how he holds up under questioning from Kamala Harris.
    “So, Mr. Obama, for the record would you recount your experience with and knowledge of Mr. Flynn, including your advice to Mr. Trump about him.”
    Trump simply is stupider than anybody can possibly imagine and believes his own fantasy and all the spin-off conspiracy theories on the internet about Obama.
    Trump is too stupid to realize Lindsay is still trying to help him. Graham knows Obama would destroy Trump and do it with class and style.
    Yep. Trumpie haz a sad because Obama criticized the Flynn decision.

    Trump seems to be ignoring the fact that Obama is just one of the people who’s criticizing it. Doesn’t look good for Trump or Barr right now.

  279. says

    From The Atlantic: “Trump Has Lost the Plot”

    A couple of years ago, BuzzFeed asked a former White House official to explain the logic behind some bizarre Trump action. The official responded with one of the master quotes of the Trump era.

    President Trump, the official said, is not playing “the sort of three-dimensional chess people ascribe to decisions like this. More often than not he’s just eating the pieces.”

    Over Mother’s Day and then through Monday […] Trump has fired off hundreds of rounds of weapons-grade lunacy on Twitter. When Trump does this kind of thing, many are ready with an explanation: He’s rallying his base; he’s distracting his critics; he’s challenging the existence of reality itself.

    But these explanations miss the point. Trump horribly and uniquely bungled the coronavirus crisis. The human result is mass death and Great Depression–scale unemployment. […] The governors who have clashed with Trump have seen their poll numbers rise; […] Governors who support Trump, like Florida’s Ron DeSantis and Georgia’s Brian Kemp, have seen their numbers tumble. [snipped poll results]

    Trump’s psychology is defined by his terror of rejection. The most stinging insult in his vast vocabulary of disdain is loser. And yet every poll, every powerful Biden TV ad, forces Trump to contemplate that he is headed toward a historic humiliation. He’ll stand with Jimmy Carter and Herbert Hoover, the incumbents rejected because they failed to manage economic crises.

    Trump failed to prevent the crisis. Out of envy and spite, he dismantled the pandemic-warning apparatus his predecessors had bequeathed him.

    Trump failed to manage the crisis. At every turn, he gave priority to the short-term management of the stock market instead.

    Trump failed to message the crisis. He not only lacks empathy; he despises empathy.

    Angry, scared, and aggrieved by the lack of praise for his efforts, Trump turns for safety to television, where his two-dimensional friends explain how everything is everybody else’s fault. They tell him that he is right and all his critics are wrong. They promise that miracle drugs will—poof!—make all his troubles vanish without effort. […]

    But those stories have drawn Trump into a twisting ghetto of craziness that is impenetrable to outsiders.

    The “Obamagate” that Trump tweets about—like the comic-book universes on which it seems to be modeled—is a tangle of backstories. The main characters do things for reasons that make no objective sense […]

    Biden’s proliferating internet ads hit two themes over and over: the pandemic and jobs, jobs and the pandemic. Those themes are easy to understand. They carry the power of truth. Above all, they are about the viewer: You are sick or scared, you have lost your job or your business—all because Trump failed to do his job.

    Trump’s messages, by contrast, are all about him. You are sick or scared, you have lost your job or your business—but let’s remember who the real victim is. Me. Me and Michael Flynn. But mostly me.

    The more Trump talks about his crackpot theories, the more he reveals why he plunged the country into such a catastrophe. […] He ignored unwelcome realities, because only fantasy flattered his ego as it required to be flattered. […]

    the most important thing to notice about the Trump-Fox blizzard of mania is how remote it is from anything that real-world voters care about. In 2015, Trump apprehended that most Republicans were talking about things that Republican voters did not then care about: deficits, taxes, productivity, and trade. In 2015, Trump apprehended that nobody was talking about things that Republican voters did care about: immigration, drugs, the declining status of less educated white men. […]

    That Trump is gone. Today’s Trump has lost the plot. He’s talking about things most voters could not even understand, let alone care about. Yes, Flynn lied to the FBI. But you have to see, the FBI’s interview was not properly predicated …

    Meanwhile, the country is on track to lose more people to the coronavirus than the Union lost in battle in the Civil War. Meanwhile, 33 million Americans have filed unemployment claims. […]

    Trump is all about Trump. That’s always been true. For three years, though, Trump was protected from himself by the prosperity he inherited from others. Trump has squandered that prosperity, as he previously squandered the fortune bequeathed by his father. The consequences are here. The fairy tales Trump tells on Twitter will not conceal those consequences from the voters Trump needs.

    They weren’t listening before. Now they are. And what they hear is not: Obama was mean to me. What they hear is: I cannot do this job.


  280. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    FYI. tonight Lawrence O’Donnell of MSNBC’s Last Word, is having Joe Biden on as his guest, and they will be later joined by Stacey Abrams. Inquiring minds want to know…

  281. says

    From Susan B. Glasser, writing for The New Yorker:

    […] When I went to college, we used to joke during exam period that you were really in trouble when you started to lie to yourself and believe it. [Trump] and at least some of his most fervent supporters appear now to be in the lying-to-yourself-and-believing-it stage of the pandemic. Truth has become so inconvenient that it’s better left aside for some alternate, less inconvenient reality. […] there is a widening and very likely unsustainable gulf between Trumpian truth and what is actually happening.

    That’s because the numbers are the numbers and, for Trump and for America, they look terrible. On Wednesday, there were some twenty-six hundred deaths in the United States from covid-19, and, on Thursday, there were even more: around twenty-seven hundred. Leaked predictions from government scientists show an increase, by June 1st, to three thousand deaths, on average, every twenty-four hours. […] that amounts to essentially a 9/11’s worth of victims per day. […] charts demonstrate clearly that the national curve has not flattened, with sharp declines registered only in New York and New Jersey—which have already gone through the country’s worst ordeal—and a handful of other states. More than half the states have at least partially lifted strict stay-at-home orders, although none of the states that announced reopenings—not one—met the criteria established by the Trump Administration for doing so. […] Testing capability is nowhere near the millions of additional tests needed to resume regular daily life, according to experts, nor is there widespread capacity to conduct contact tracing, another prerequisite.

    Yet many states are reopening anyway, and Trump is not, at least for now, even bothering to hide the fact that more Americans may die as a result of these decisions. […]

    In the past, when Trump has got too far away from what is actually happening and into his personal hall of mirrors, the press of events has forced him to abandon his position. He is adept enough at self-survival to make wild course corrections where necessary. This is a man, after all, who said in late February that coronavirus cases would soon be down to zero and, just two weeks later, declared a national emergency and vowed to wage war on the deadly “invisible enemy.” I’ve seen many possible explanations for Trump’s bizarre, reality-defying behavior in recent days. He’s bored. He’s clueless. He’s panicking about his reëlection. He doesn’t care about anything other than the stock market. He’d rather talk about his border wall or vanquishing the “deep state.” All of them might be correct. It’s also possible that Trump really is the greatest of all time at something: believing his own hype. […] Either Trump is the most brazen politician in the long line of brazen American politicians or he somehow had been brainwashed by his own B.S.

    Still, Trump appears to me to be increasingly terrified at the very real prospect of losing in November […] Overnight Monday and again on Tuesday, he let loose about an ad being run against him by a group of Never Trump Republicans called the Lincoln Project. […] This did not exactly seem like a confident performance by the most powerful man on the planet. It seemed like the scared rant of someone who knows that, eventually, he might finally be called on his most bullshit of performances.

    Even Corey Lewandowski—Trump’s 2016 campaign manager and as blustery a loyalist to the President as exists—is now publicly acknowledging that Trump has set an extraordinarily risky political course in declaring victory over a still-raging pandemic. “It’s a huge gamble,” Lewandowski said in an interview, […] “If there is a resurgence . . . not just in the next four weeks or six weeks, but as the weather turns again, if, come the fall in September, in October, we see an uptick again in the covid-19 pandemic coming back because we didn’t handle it right the first time—we still don’t have testing and we don’t have a solution—that is devastating as an incumbent President of the United States.”

    More than three decades ago, in his as-told-to memoir, “The Art of the Deal,” Trump bragged about the sheer, addictive effectiveness of lying—he called it “hyperbole”—in service of his goals. Yet he also acknowledged, “[…] But if you don’t deliver the goods, people will eventually catch on.” On November 3rd, we’ll find out if they did. For now, the scary prospect is sure to keep Trump up for many more nights to come, hate-tweeting in the dark.

    More at the link.

  282. says

    Trump: ‘When you test, you have a case. When you test, you find something is wrong with people. If we didn’t do any testing we would have very few cases’.”

    I think it was Rachel Maddow who was saying a few days ago that she feared this was something he actually believed. He suggested that testing might be “overrated.”

  283. Dave, ex-Kwisatz Haderach says

    I’m behind in the thread here, working too hard to follow the news much, but… Obamagate??!?
    Is Trump’s actual position that he, as president, has absolute authority to do what he wants, and absolute immunity from prosecution and even investigation, but also that Obama should be in jail for the things he did as president?
    How can any brain hold two such completely contradictory positions at once. I get a headache just thinking about it.
    Former presidents going to jail for stuff they did in office is such a bad stupid idea for a criminal president to champion.

  284. says

    Edward Luce in FT – “Inside Trump’s coronavirus meltdown”:

    …American leadership in any disaster, whether a tsunami or an Ebola outbreak, has been a truism for decades. The US is renowned for helping others in an emergency.

    …History will mark Covid-19 as the first time that ceased to be true. US airlifts have been missing in action. America cannot even supply itself.

    South Korea, which has a population density nearly 15 times greater and is next door to China, has lost a total of 259 lives to the disease. There have been days when America has lost 10 times that number. The US death toll is now approaching 90,000.

    What has gone wrong? I interviewed dozens of people, including outsiders who Trump consults regularly, former senior advisers, World Health Organization officials, leading scientists and diplomats, and figures inside the White House. Some spoke off the record.

    Again and again, the story that emerged is of a president who ignored increasingly urgent intelligence warnings from January, dismisses anyone who claims to know more than him and trusts no one outside a tiny coterie, led by his daughter Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner – the property developer who Trump has empowered to sideline the best-funded disaster response bureaucracy in the world.

    The psychology behind Trump’s inaction on Covid-19 was on display that afternoon at the CDC. The unemployment number had come out that morning. The US had added 273,000 jobs in February, bringing the jobless rate down to a near record low of 3.5 per cent. Trump’s re-election chances were looking 50:50 or better. The previous Saturday, Joe Biden had won the South Carolina primary. But the Democratic contest still seemed to have miles to go. Nothing could be allowed to frighten the Dow Jones.

    Any signal that the US was bracing for a pandemic – including taking actual steps to prepare for it – was discouraged.

    “Jared [Kushner] had been arguing that testing too many people, or ordering too many ventilators, would spook the markets and so we just shouldn’t do it,” says a Trump confidant who speaks to the president frequently. “That advice worked far more powerfully on him than what the scientists were saying. He thinks they always exaggerate.”

    At some point, Congress is likely to establish a body like the 9/11 Commission to investigate Trump’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. The inquiry would find that Trump was warned countless times of the epidemic threat in his presidential daily briefings, by federal scientists, the health secretary Alex Azar, Peter Navarro, his trade adviser, Matt Pottinger, his Asia adviser, by business friends and the world at large. Any report would probably conclude that tens of thousands of deaths could have been prevented – even now as Trump pushes to “liberate” states from lockdown.

    The CDC has been plagued by mishap and error throughout the crisis….

    Here again, though, Trump’s stamp is clear. It was Trump who chose Robert Redfield to head the CDC in spite of widespread warnings about the former military officer’s controversial record. Redfield led the Pentagon’s response to HIV-Aids in the 1980s. It involved isolating suspected soldiers in so-called HIV Hotels. Many who tested positive were dishonourably discharged. Some committed suicide.

    A devout catholic, Redfield saw Aids as the product of an immoral society. For many years, he championed a much-hyped remedy that was discredited in tests. That debacle led to his removal from the job in 1994.

    “Redfield is about the worst person you could think of to be heading the CDC at this time,” says Laurie Garrett, a Pulitzer Prize-winning science journalist who has reported on epidemics. “He lets his prejudices interfere with the science, which you cannot afford during a pandemic.”

    By March 11, just five days after Trump’s CDC visit, the reality was beginning to seep through. In an Oval Office broadcast, Trump banned travel from most of Europe, which expanded the partial ban he put on China in February. Two days later, he declared a national emergency. Even then, however, he insisted America was leading the world. “We’ve done a great job because we acted quickly,” he said. “We acted early.

    Over the next 48 hours, however, something snapped in Trump’s mind. Citing a call with one of his sons, Trump said on March 16: “It’s bad. It’s bad… They think August [before the disease peaks]. Could be July. Could be longer than that.”

    …The next week, he was saying that America should reopen by Easter on April 12….

    Trump’s mindset became increasingly surreal. He began to tout hydroxychloroquine as a cure for Covid-19. On March 19, at a regular televised briefing, which he conducted daily for five weeks, often rambling for more than two hours, he depicted the antimalarial drug as a potential magic bullet. It could be “one of the biggest game-changers in the history of medicine”, he later tweeted.

    The president’s leap of faith, which was inspired by Fox News anchors, notably Laura Ingraham, and his lawyer Rudy Giuliani, none of whom have a medical background, turned Washington’s bureaucracy upside down. Scientists who demurred were punished. In April, Rick Bright, the federal scientist in charge of developing a vaccine – arguably the most urgent role in government – was removed after blocking efforts to promote hydroxychloroquine.

    Other scientists have taken note of Bright’s fate. During the Ebola outbreak in 2014, when Obama’s administration sent 3,000 US military personnel to Africa to fight the epidemic, the CDC held a daily briefing about the state of progress. It has not held one since early March. Scientists across Washington are terrified of saying anything that contradicts Trump.

    An administration official says advising Trump is like “bringing fruits to the volcano” – Trump being the lava source. “You’re trying to appease a great force that’s impervious to reason,” says the official.

    “I can’t even get my calls returned,” says Garrett. “The CDC has led the response to every disease for decades. Now it has vanished from view.” A former senior Trump official says: “People turn into wusses around Trump. If you stand up to him, you’ll never get back in. What you see in public is what you get in private. He is exactly the same.”

    America’s foreign partners have had an equally sharp reminder of Trump’s way of doing business. Few western leaders are as ideologically aligned with Trump as Scott Morrison, Australia’s prime minister. Early into the epidemic, Morrison created a national cabinet that meets at least once a week. It includes every state premier of the two main parties. Morrison’s unity cabinet projects an air of bipartisan resolve in a country that has lost just under 100 people to coronavirus in three months. Some days, America has lost more people to it every hour.

    Trump, by contrast, plays US state governors against each other, much as he does with his staff. Republican states have received considerably more ventilators and personal protective equipment per capita than Democratic states, in spite of having far lower rates of hospitalisation. Trump says America is fighting a war against Covid-19. In practice, he is stoking national disunity. “It’s like saying to the governors that each state has to produce its own tanks and bullets,” says Bernard. “You’re on your own. It’s not my responsibility.”

    Trump’s dog-eat-dog instinct has been just as strong abroad as at home. A meeting of G7 foreign ministers in March failed to agree on a statement after Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, insisted they brand it the “Wuhan virus”. America declined to participate in a recent summit hosted by Emmanuel Macron, France’s president, to collaborate on a vaccine.

    Most dramatically, Trump has suspended US funding of the WHO, which he says covered up for China’s lying….

    “You don’t turn off the hose in the middle of the fire, even if you dislike the fireman,” says Bernhard Schwartländer, chief of staff at the WHO. “This virus threatens every country in the world and will exploit any crack in our resolve.”…

    …“We used to think of America as the world’s leading power, not as the epicentre of disease,” says Fullilove, who is an ardent pro-American. “We increasingly feel caught between a reckless China and a feckless America that no longer seems to care about its allies.”

    So where does the American chapter of the plague go from here? Early into his partial about-turn, Trump said scientists told him that up to 2.5 million Americans could die of the disease. The most recent estimates suggest 135,000 Americans will die by late July. That means two things.

    First, Trump will tell voters that he has saved millions of lives. Second, he will continue to push aggressively for US states to lift their lockdowns. His overriding goal is to revive the economy before the general election. Both Trump and Kushner have all but declared mission accomplished on the pandemic. “This is a great success story,” said Kushner in late April. “We have prevailed,” said Trump on Monday.

    In the meantime, Trump will probably continue to dangle the prospect of miracle cures. Every week since the start of the outbreak, he has said a vaccine is just around the corner. His latest estimate is that it will be ready by July. Scientists say it will take a year at best to produce an inoculation. Most say 18 months would be lucky. Even that would break all records. The previous fastest development was four years for mumps in the 1960s.

    Friends of the president are trying to figure out how to return life to normal without provoking a new death toll….

    “Trump is caught in a box which keeps getting smaller,” says George Conway, a Republican lawyer who is married to Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s senior counsellor. “In my view he is a sociopath and a malignant narcissist. When a person suffering from these disorders feels the world closing in on them, their tendencies get worse. They lash out and fantasise and lose any ability to think rationally.” Conway is known for taunting Trump on Twitter (to great effect, it should be added: Trump often retaliates).

    Yet without exception, everyone I interviewed, including the most ardent Trump loyalists, made a similar point to Conway. Trump is deaf to advice, said one. He is his own worst enemy, said another. He only listens to family, said a third. He is mentally imbalanced, said a fourth. America, in other words, should brace itself for a turbulent six months ahead – with no assurance of a safe landing.

  285. says

    NBC – “Brazil’s coronavirus crisis, Bolsonaro’s response and the failure of authoritarian populism”:

    …The first thing to recognize is that Bolsonaro was and is completely unequipped to respond effectively to a crisis of this magnitude. Having been elected as an anti-establishment candidate, after spending nearly 30 years as a fringe member of the Brazilian Congress, he never prepared himself to run the complex behemoth that is the federal government, in a sprawling nation of 200 million inhabitants with a territory roughly the size of the continental United States. This same anti-establishment rhetoric means he cannot effectively delegate. As such, the best he can hope for is to deflect responsibility as the COVID-19 crisis predictably worsens.

    This helps explain his open antagonizing of state governors and local officials — and of his own health minister — who have been pushing for social distancing measures. Even as these measures have weakened — as some recent research shows, also due to Bolsonaro’s own words and actions — his clear goal is to pin the ensuing spike in deaths, as well as the accompanying economic collapse, on the governors themselves.

    But just as importantly, the rhetorical move against social distancing also underpins a second strategic dimension: polarization. Bolsonaro, similar to other populist leaders, sits as a figure fundamentally outside of the usual mainstream. This means he cannot thrive politically under “normal” circumstances. Plenty of his support comes first and foremost from a strong rejection of the other side — what has been called “negative partisanship.” So it suits him to feed the flames of division, and to turn everything into a culture war centered around himself.

    The appeal to polarization, facilitated by a social media-fueled and partisan news environment, is a key part of the strategy in normal times. In fact, it helps explain why the “pivot to the center” often expected from populists has a habit of not coming to fruition.

    The incentive to polarize becomes even stronger, however, during an extreme period such as the one brought about by the pandemic. This may seem paradoxical: after all, it is intuitive to think that a crisis increases voter demand for a safe pair of hands, and there is evidence that this is indeed the case.

    But a politician like Bolsonaro cannot possibly offer a calm, uniting response. It is simply not credible for someone who has neither the capabilities nor the personality to suddenly convince voters that he can provide purposeful, effective leadership. This, combined with the rejection of science and expertise that is a standard part of the populist playbook, cuts off what could have been alternative paths available to politicians of a different kind.

    It follows that the only option is to double down on the original bet. The populist leader may not convince a majority that he’s the right guy to have in charge, but the strategy has never been about convincing a majority of that. Instead, the playbook is to keep enough people on board, using partisan media and Twitter (and in Brazil’s case, WhatsApp) to project an image of effective leadership — which, given the reality of public health and economic catastrophe, again requires assigning blame to adversaries or foreign entities. Add to this core support enough people who are sufficiently fearful of an alternative, and this can sustain the leader’s viability.

    At the same time, there is reason to think that Bolsonaro’s chances of success in such an endeavor have, if anything, receded. Bluster and aggressive rhetoric can only take you so far, as the trajectories of many populist leaders of the current crop illustrate, but chances are that you cannot fake your way out of a mishandled pandemic and an economic disaster. Bolsonaro may be tempted to up the antidemocratic ante, but we cannot help but think that many of the key players whose support he would need in order to succeed are now less likely to follow his march of folly.

  286. says

    The Guardian on Sarah Cooper (see #s 79, 141, 241, and 382 above) – “The comedian going viral for lip-syncing Trump: ‘People really hate him'”:

    Sarah Cooper never expected to become internet famous during a pandemic, but now she is a viral TikTok celebrity who makes people laugh without saying anything. How? She lets Trump say it all for her: Cooper lip-syncs Trump’s worst comments from press conferences.

    She has had many “you couldn’t write this stuff” moments – in fact, she says some of Trump’s comments are so unbelievable that trying to mock him would be worse than using a direct quote. “I saw people saying they shared [my videos] with Trump supporters and for once there is nothing they can say. The clip is literally, completely unedited – I haven’t edited [the audio] at all – so what can they say to argue with it?” she says.

    Still, Cooper says a lot without words. Much of the comedy in her videos lies in the way she punctuates Trump’s remarks – a subtle facial expression that gives away just how clueless he is, or a gesture that reminds you of the broader context around what he is saying.

    Why do the videos resonate so much? “Coming out of my mouth, you realize how much more stupid it is – I’m not sure whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing!” she says. But Cooper thinks there is something else going on here: her videos reassure people that what comes out of the president’s mouth really is as crazy as it sounds.

    “I feel like we’ve been gaslighted for years, being told it is totally normal for a president to say things like this. It is a very validating thing to see something remind you that, no, this is actually ridiculous and we can all agree on that,” she says.

    Plus, it helps to hear the message without having to hear it from the man himself: “People really hate Trump – a lot. They hate his voice. They hate looking at him. They hate everything about him,” says Cooper. In Cooper’s view, people are watching her videos and collectively commiserating, while also having a laugh at the president’s expense….

  287. says

    G liveblog:

    Brazil’s health minister has resigned less than a month after being appointed and the morning after the country announced it had passed 200,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and recorded nearly 14,000 deaths. The sudden resignation of Nelson Teich, an oncologist and partner in a medical service consulting outfit, was announced in a curt WhatsApp message from the Health Ministry on Friday morning.

    Teich took over after Bolsonaro sacked his popular predecessor, Luiz Mandetta, on April 16 following disagreements over social isolation measures, which Mandetta supported and Bolsonaro opposes. Initially he appeared to follow Bolsonaro’s line, arguing that Brazil’s economy was as important as the lives the pandemic is increasingly claiming here.

    But in recent weeks Teich had increasingly disagreed with Bolsonaro on social isolation and the use of chloroquine, which he had described as an “uncertainty”. Bolsonaro said on Thursday he wanted to change protocol regulating its use that Mandetta had introduced.

    Teich was publicly embarrassed on Monday when he discovered during a press conference that the president had issued a decree that classified gyms, beauty salons and barbers as essential services. “This was not our attribution, it was the president’s decision,” he said, looking flummoxed.

    Brazil reported 844 new deaths in 24 hours on Thursday night, taking the total to 13,993 and it now has 202,918 cases, making it the world’s sixth most impacted country, according to John Hopkins University figures.

  288. blf says

    Apropos of basically nothing — and not really political, either — today was the first day in eight or so weeks I was not mostly in the lair. The morning was spent stocking up on supplies (I can now probably outlast anything except a nuclear holocaust or the mildly deranged penguin eating all the cheese), and then, due to the great weather and a poor sense of navigation (apparently, I’m out of practice from being in the lair essentially all of the preceding two months), spent a surprising amount of the afternoon wondering around wondering where teh feck a certain shop was. (Finally found it after consulting my mobile and discovered I’d been going in circles amongst all the twisty little streets in the village… duh!) Oh well, sore feet and lots of exercise out in the sun.

    And, also for the first time in two months, just had a professionally-prepared dinner, take-away from one of my favourite restaurants. Still working on the nice local vin rouge (hey! this is France!), but the canard went down without any problem. For me, that is, it was quacking quite a lot, albeit I’m not sure about what (the mildly deranged penguin is refusing to translate).

    Plus confirmation I’m a Really Cool Individual. I finally got a thermometer today, and it said my temperature is slightly below normal. Within a safe range — nothing to worry about — but a bit cooler than “average”. Of course, the mildly deranged one was nearby, and, well, penguins are not noted for being particularly warm…

    Locally, a bit more on the boating problem previously mentioned: Apparently, the regional authorities have said something like a boat cannot leave port, but the maritime authorities have said boating is Ok (albeit the 100km rule applies, i.e., you cannot go more than 100km from port without special authorisation). The local village council is clearly exasperated, and trying to get some agreement / consistency. They’ve also started grooming the beaches — the local Mediterranean beaches are basically artificial and need to be rebuilt after the winter storms — though there is not yet any agreement / rules for opening them.

  289. says

    Trump wants criminal prosecutions of his former presidential rival, his presidential predecessor, and his current presidential rival – among others.

    It was the greatest political crime in the history of our country. If I were a Democrat instead of a Republican, I think everybody would have been in jail a long time ago. And I’m talking with 50-year sentences. It is a disgrace what’s happened…. And people should be going to jail for this stuff. And hopefully a lot of people are going to have to pay.


    […] What “stuff”? What “crime”? Why would anyone get “50-year sentences”? Trump has no idea, but he’s certain he sees criminals lurking in every corner.

    In the same interview, as part of the same exchange, [Trump] added, “This was all Obama. This was all Biden. These people were corrupt. The whole thing was corrupt. And we caught them. We caught them.”

    Trump has never said what it is he thinks he’s “caught” Barack Obama and Joe Biden doing, but we’re nevertheless left with an awkward dynamic that helps define the president’s approach to politics: Trump doesn’t want to defeat his opponents; he wants to prosecute them.

    In 2016, [Trump] spent months demanding that Hillary Clinton be incarcerated over her email protocols. Many of his followers still routinely chant, “Lock her up!” for no particular reason.

    Once in the White House, Trump became even more aggressive on this front, with the Washington Post reporting this week, “Since taking office, Trump has casually accused multiple people of treason, ranging from former FBI director James B. Comey to the American media. He has regularly accused people of perjury or mishandling classified information, usually without evidence.”

    […] it’s extraordinary that we have a sitting American president who’s publicly called for criminal prosecutions of his former presidential rival, his presidential predecessor, and his current presidential rival. There’s nothing comparable to such a posture at any point in the American tradition.

    But Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and Joe Biden can take some comfort in the fact that they’re hardly alone. Trump has called for criminal investigations into former Secretary of State John Kerry. And House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.). And Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). And Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.). And former FBI Director James Comey.

    When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) tore a copy of the president’s recent State of the Union address, Trump didn’t just whine incessantly about her having hurt his feelings, he also falsely insisted Pelosi “broke the law.”

    This week, [Trump] even suggested an MSNBC host [Joe Scarborough] might be guilty of murder — which ordinarily might have caused a stir, since American presidents don’t usually throw around homicide allegations casually, but which was largely ignored because many of us have come to understand that this is what life is like during Trump’s time in office.

    Given the fact that Trump has faced a criminal investigation, may yet face legal jeopardy if he loses re-election in the fall, and has surrounded himself with a variety of allies who’ve faced felony charges, the irony of his strange accusations appears lost on him.