Comments

  1. tomh says

    WaPo Liive Updates:
    States form testing coalition in absence of federal strategy

    In the absence of a national testing strategy for the novel coronavirus pandemic, six governors have formed a first-of-its-kind purchasing compact they hope will pressure companies that make rapid-detection tests to quickly ramp up production.

    The governors, three Republicans and three Democrats, say other states and cities may join them and that talks have already begun with one of the two companies approved by the FDA to sell point-of-care antigen tests that can detect the virus in less than 30 minutes.

    Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) negotiated the deal during the final days of his tenure as chair of the National Governors Association, and his office said the Rockfeller Foundation is willing to act as the financing entity if needed.

    Each state — Virginia, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan and Ohio, in addition to Maryland — would request 500,000 tests, for a total of 3 million tests that could be deployed to address outbreaks.

    Having access to that many rapid tests would reduce the need for states to rely on traditional testing infrastructure, which primarily involves private labs that have been beset by long delays.

    “With severe shortages and delays in testing and the federal administration attempting to cut funding for testing, the states are banding together to acquire millions of faster tests to help save lives and slow the spread of COVID-19,” Hogan said in a statement. “We will be working to bring additional states, cities, and local governments on board as this initiative moves forward.”

    Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D), a physician by training, said in a statement that the states involved in the compact are leading America’s national response to COVID-19.”

    “We are bringing together this bipartisan, multistate coalition to combine our purchasing power and get rapid testing supplies to our communities as quickly as possible,” Northam said. “The people in our six states want to see action, and we’re delivering.”

    Hogan has sharply criticized the Trump administration for leaving states to secure their own testing.

    The greater Washington region on Tuesday reported 1,940 additional coronavirus cases and 34 deaths.

  2. says

    From today’s Guardian coronavirus world liveblog:

    A spike in Covid-19 across Europe has led to five countries being removed from Ireland’s ‘Green list’ of states deemed safe for non-essential travel.

    Malta, Cyprus, San Marino, Gibraltar and Monaco have been removed from the list following a meeting of Irish government ministers earlier.

    The Irish prime minister has also announced that further plans for easing of lockdown measures are to be put on hold. Moves on Monday to open pubs not serving food will no longer go ahead.

    Wise.

  3. says

    State Dept faces subpoenas on competing Pompeo controversies

    In two unrelated controversies, Pompeo’s State Department isn’t answering House Democrats’ questions. New subpoenas are intended to help resolve the matter.

    Late on a Friday night in May, Donald Trump fired the State Department’s inspector general, and when pressed, the president said he ousted the independent watchdog, Steve Linick, at the behest of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

    This was controversial for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was the fact that the inspector general was investigating possible Pompeo misconduct when the cabinet secretary helped arrange for Linick’s firing.

    House Democrats have asked plenty of questions about what transpired, but they haven’t received much from the State Department. As the Associated Press reported yesterday, the department’s obstinacy didn’t sit well with Democratic lawmakers.

    House Democrats have subpoenaed four top aides to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, saying that the Trump administration is stonewalling their investigation into the firing of the State Department’s top independent watchdog earlier this year….[…]

    The inspector general also reportedly said a top State Department official tried to “bully” him during his examinations into the secretary’s alleged misdeeds.

    […] House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) issued subpoenas for Brian Bulatao, the undersecretary of State for management, as well as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Mike Miller, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Marik String, and senior adviser Toni Porter.

    […] let’s also note that these House subpoenas come on the heels of an entirely different round of subpoenas for the State Department, which came late last week. The Associated Press also reported:

    The House Foreign Affairs Committee has subpoenaed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for documents he turned over to a Senate panel that is investigating Hunter Biden, a son of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. Committee Chair Eliot Engel said Friday he had issued the subpoena as part of an investigation into Pompeo’s “apparent use of Department of State resources to advance a political smear of former Vice President Joe Biden.”

    This is a weird one. Apparently, Senate Republicans, looking for dirt they could use against former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign, asked the State Department to provide them with a series of documents related to Hunter Biden, Burisma, and Ukraine. Pompeo complied, delivering more than 16,000 pages of records to GOP senators.

    The House Foreign Affairs Committee asked for the same materials, so its members would know what the State Department was sharing with lawmakers, but according to the panel’s Democratic leaders, Pompeo’s office balked: Senate Republicans could see the documents, but House Democrats couldn’t.

    So, Committee Chair Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) on Friday issued a subpoena for the materials. The deadline for compliance is this Friday.

    Link

  4. says

    FBI Raids Company Tied To Ukrainian Oligarch Who Pushed Biden Disinfo

    FBI and IRS agents in Cleveland and Miami raided the offices of a company tied to a Ukrainian oligarch suspected of pushing dirt on Vice President Joe Biden.

    Vicki Anderson, a spokesperson for the FBI’s Cleveland office, confirmed the raids of Optima Management to TPM, declining to comment any further because the matter “is still under seal.” Nobody was taken into custody, Anderson added.

    Optima Management is partly owned by Ukrainian oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky, per court documents filed in Delaware last year.

    Kolomoisky has faced a federal criminal investigation out of the Northern District of Ohio for at least a year. The oligarch told the New York Times in November 2019 that, were he the President of Ukraine, he would open the investigations into Biden that Trump and Giuliani have sought.

    The next month, associates and political allies of Kolomoisky’s met with Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani in Kyiv, offering the former NYC mayor a fabricated narrative about Biden.

    […] Kolomoisky was “trying to become friends with Trump and Giuliani” as the feds’ investigation of him progressed.

    The oligarch appears to have stayed involved in the campaign to damage Biden since then.

    […] Buzzfeed reported in May that a Cleveland federal grand jury was examining allegations of money laundering against Kolomoisky. […]

    Two other associates of Kolomoisky’s who co-own Optima have also lawyered up in Trumpworld, hiring Trump lawyer Marc Kasowitz to represent them in a civil suit.

    Readers comments:

    Barr’s gonna be pissed at the FBI again. They’re not supposed to be raiding allies of the administration.
    —————-
    Does this tie in to Nunes’ recent grilling about Ukraine-based disinfo?
    ——————
    So, for all who follow Ukrainian politics closely… Kolomoisky was the oligarch who funded Zelensky (also owns the TV station which made Zelensky famous). Kolomoisky has been living in exile in Israel since 2016, when he had a falling out with Poroshenko, and his PrivatBank was nationalized (and a whole lotta money went missing).

  5. says

    SC @5, good. This situation demands an investigation. Trump certainly pushed Kodak’s stock sky high.

    In other news, Tucker Carlson revealed, again, that he is racist:

    Fox News host Tucker Carlson […] zeroed in on potential Black women vice presidential candidates on Monday night, accusing Joe Biden of selecting them “exclusively” based on their race and gender and calling those candidates unqualified.

    Carlson […] began his Monday night show by hurling an attack against Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) and former Democratic Georgia House member Stacy Abrams.

    Carlson said that ordinarily “no mainstream candidate” would consider these three Black women and that “all of them would be disqualified without debate.”

    The far-right Fox host sought to paint Bass as a “lunatic” far-left radical, describing her as a “Fidel Castro acolyte” and an armed revolutionary. He called Abrams “delusional” and said that Harris was “repulsive,” adding that “pretty much no one who knows Kamala Harris likes her.”

    Carlson’s attack grew more pointed when he suggested that these women of color did not represent a “blue ribbon group.”

    The conservative host falsely accused Biden of making selections “exclusively” based on race and gender, suggesting the move was “probably illegal.”

    […]. By singling out the Black women up for consideration and focusing on their race, Carlson appears to deny and strip each woman of her qualifications as a leader — even griping that Biden was getting away with it because “no one’s pushing back against it.”

    Link

  6. says

    Joe Biden urges fight against white supremacy on anniversary of El Paso mass shooting

    This week marks the one-year anniversary that a white supremacist who in his racist scrawlings echoed the words of [Trump] and drove 10 hours to El Paso, Texas to kill Mexicans. The hate crime stole the lives of 23 people and injured nearly two dozen more, including a 2-month-old infant, whose parents were killed protecting him from bullets.

    […] the pain has not lessened for survivors and families. Neither has the scourge of white supremacy that inspired the hate crime, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said in a video released on Monday.

    “This anniversary is a moment to resume the purpose we felt a year ago, to recommit to the battle for the soul of this nation, a battle against the forces of white supremacy, which this president has encouraged and emboldened,” Biden said in the video Monday. “You know, last year, in the days that followed the El Paso shooting, I said that we as Americans must do what our current president can’t: Stand together. Stand against hate. Stand up for what, at its best, this nation believes.” […]

    A USA Today analysis in the weeks following the terror attack found that the impeached president [Trump] spewed violent, anti-immigrant rhetoric more than 500 times since 2017, including using the word “invasion” at least 19 times. In his scrawlings, the white supremacist shooter complained about a “Hispanic invasion” of Texas.

    […] In message after message after the shooting, Latinos across the U.S. told journalist Adrian Carrasquillo that they were in a heightened state of fear following the white supremacist terror attack.

    “A white man said his Latina wife from the Rio Grande Valley broke down after reading the shooter’s manifesto,” he wrote last year. “She told him she’s sorry if their future kids are targets because of her. […]. ‘We’re not fine,’ a resident of a border town wrote to me.” […]

  7. says

    Confused Trump can’t understand how many Americans are dying of coronavirus in shocking interview

    Several of the moments in Donald Trump’s interview with Jonathan Swan of Axios have gone viral for good reason, but the extended clip where the two men argue about how well the U.S. is doing when it comes to coronavirus cases is especially jaw-dropping—and informative. As Swan presses Trump on the terrible outcomes in the U.S., we get to to see how Trump’s mind works, beat by beat. It is, of course, terrifying.

    Throughout the segment, Trump is shuffling and reshuffling a stack of charts of U.S. COVID-19 statistics, pulling out pieces of paper to try to make various points. And it’s obvious that these are charts his staff have given him to support his existing worldview: everything is fine. […] But in Swan he’s up against a relentless interviewer who politely but firmly insists on reality as the alternative to Trump’s charts, leaving Trump insisting that “You can’t do that” when Swan realizes “Oh, you’re doing death as a proportion of cases. I’m talking about death as a proportion of population. That’s where the U.S. is really bad. Much worse than South Korea, Germany, etc.”

    That “You can’t do that” is so telling. Because it makes obvious both that Trump’s thinking is not agile and flexible enough to deal with information in a slightly different form than it has previously been presented to him and that no one in Trump’s orbit is giving him difficult facts, facts that in this case lay bare his failures. Specifically, the large death toll attached to his failures.

    […] he’s frantically shuffling papers, looking for the statistic that will make him look good, while Swan returns repeatedly to a simple fact: “A thousand Americans have died today.” “60,000 Americans are in hospital. A thousand dying every day.” “It’s a thousand a day.” And that’s the information that Trump is so desperately trying to explain away by talking about cases and tests and here, look at this paper.

    […] this is what we have to live under for at least another five and a half months, while people keep dying.

    Trump: Take a look at some of these charts.
    Swan: I’d love to.
    Trump: We’re going to look.
    Swan: Let’s look.
    Trump: And if you look at death [shuffling papers] this one …
    Swan: Starting to go up again.
    Trump: Right here, United States is lowest in numerous categories, uh, we’re lower than the world.
    Swan: Lower than the world?
    Trump: Lower than Europe. Look, take a look. Right here. Here’s case deaths.
    Swan: Oh, you’re doing death as a proportion of cases. I’m talking about death as a proportion of population. That’s where the U.S. is really bad. Much worse than South Korea, Germany, etc.
    Trump: You can’t do that.
    Swan: Why can’t I do that?
    Trump: You have to go by where … look, here is the United States. You have to go by the cases, the cases—
    Swan: Why not as a proportion of population?
    Trump: When you have somebody, what it says is when you have somebody that has it, where there’s a case, the people that live from those cases.
    Swan: But surely a relevant statistic to say if the U.S. has X population and X percentage of death of that population …
    Trump: NO! Because you have to go by the cases.
    Swan: Look at South Korea, for example. 51 million population, 300 deaths. It’s like, it’s crazy—
    Trump: You don’t know that.
    Swan: I do!
    Trump: You don’t know that.
    Swan: You think they’re faking their statistics? South Korea?
    Trump: I won’t get into that because I have a very good relationship with the country, but you don’t know that. And they have spikes. Look here’s one right here, United States, you take the number of cases, we’re last, meaning we’re first.
    Swan: Last? I don’t know what we’re first in. What?
    Trump: Take a look! It’s cases! And we have cases
    [Crosstalk]
    Swan: Okay, um …
    Trump: And we have cases …
    Swan: A thousand Americans have died today. I understand with cases it’s different.
    Trump: No but you’re not reporting it correctly, Jonathan.
    Swan: I think I am, but—
    Trump: If you take a look at this other chart. This is our testing, I believe …
    Swan: Yeah, we do more tests.
    Trump: Well, don’t we get credit for that? And because we do more tests, we have more cases. In other words, we test more, we have, now take a look, the top thing, that’s a good thing, Jonathan.
    Swan: If hospital rates were going down and deaths were going down, I’d say terrific. You deserve to be praised for testing, but they’re all going up.
    Trump: [Yelling]
    Swan: 60,000 Americans are in hospital. A thousand dying every day.
    Trump: —newspapers, they usually talk about new cases, new cases, new cases—
    Swan: I’m talking about death. It’s going up.
    Trump: Death is way down from where it was.
    Swan: It’s a thousand a day. It was two and a half thousand, it went down to 500, now it’s going up again.
    Trump: Death? Excuse me. Where it was is much higher than where it is right now.
    Swan: It went down and now it’s going up again.
    Trump: But now it’s going down again. It’s going down in Arizona, it’s going down in Florida, it’s going down—
    Swan: Nationally it’s going up.
    Trump: Take a look, these are the tests.
    Swan: It’s going down in Florida? […]

    From the comments posted by readers:

    Donald Trump and his people insist on statistics that support his view of the world. Every other new is fake.

    That is the strategy beneath almost everything the man says — pick and choose the statistic and hammer it as a [Trump] fact. Nothing else and no other way of looking at the world is the truth
    ———————
    Trump’s numbers aren’t statistics.

    They are lies.

    This interview sows the complicity of Trump’s administration, and they should all be prosecuted for the unnecessary deaths.
    ———————
    Swan is correct to use deaths as a proportion of the population, i.e. the mortality; it’s less biased than the case fatality (deaths out of number of cases, which is affected by how much testing is done). I wonder if, 5 months in, Trump is still not aware of the difference, or his handlers don’t even give him the mortality so he can blather on idiotically about how well the US is doing? Because any student taking an introductory epidemiology course will learn the difference one or two classes into the course..

  8. says

    […] Trump cannot stop himself from lying. (Last month, the Washington Post‘s database of Trump’s false statements hit the 20,000 mark.) Trump cannot stop himself from self-aggrandizing. (Trump at the Centers for Disease Control in March: “Every one of these doctors said, ‘How do you know so much about this?’ Maybe I have a natural ability.”) Trump cannot throttle back on his racism (“the China virus”), his ignorance (“supposing you brought the light inside the body”), or his egotism (“we had a lot of people watching, record numbers watching…in the history of cable television, there’s never been anything like it”). But the former reality TV celebrity, who became famous by exploiting the tabloid press, does know a thing or two about PR. So is it that difficult for him to comprehend that this continuing march of death threatens the only thing he cares about: his own standing? Grasping this simple notion should compel him to take immediate and extensive action to limit the number of lives lost to this killer virus—not for the good of others, but for his own sake.

    Yet Trump’s demons are in control. He is fueled by spite and by self-glory. Moreover, he appears incapable of peering into the future and considering the effects of his statements and actions. Last month, Trump publicly vowed that he would sign and enact a comprehensive health care plan within two weeks. The fortnight came and went; there was nothing. This was yet one more sign that Trump is 100-percent situational. He says whatever he thinks he needs to say at the moment to gain whatever advantage he seeks, without an iota of regard for later being held accountable. It sure sounds swell to promise everyone a signed, sealed, and delivered health care package within 14 days. Why not say that? So what if there is no new national health care program in two weeks? Trump will deal with that then. Or not. It doesn’t matter to him. Neither present truth nor future consequences hold much reality for him.

    Perhaps this explains Trump’s inability to fully fathom the threat he faces. The appalling body count of the present doesn’t move him toward empathy or effective policy, and the prospect of hideous headlines to come also doesn’t motivate him. Not even when his own political career is in jeopardy. Maybe he figures that he will BS his way through all this or rig the system somehow to retain power. Or that he will just get dumb-lucky via an external incident (a vaccine!) that changes the now-dark landscape. But Trump’s inability to make a simple calculation—I should heed the experts and implement the counter-pandemic fundamentals to save lives and (also!) win reelection—is stark and disturbing. It shows Trump cannot perceive or escape the vortex of his own self-destruction. The immense tragedy is that thousands of Americans have died and will continue to die because Trump cannot help even himself.

    Excerpts above are from a longer article by David Corn. Link

  9. says

    From the Guardian Lebanon liveblog:

    Mohamed Fehmi has just told the MTV Lebanon channel the explosion appeared to have been caused by “huge quantities of ammonium nitrate” being stored at the port.

    This backs up what the custom’s director-general was quoted as saying to another Lebanese news channel, Al Mayadeen.

    Marwan Abboud, the governor of Beirut, has arrived at the site of the explosion, where he broke down in tears while speaking to reporters.

    He tells a Lebanese journalist that he’s there to search for firefighters who were on the site fighting the fire that broke out before the explosion.

    “They came to fight the fire, and then they vanished,” he says. “We don’t know where they are. We’re here to look for them.

    “This reminds me of what happened in Japan, to Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” he says. “I’ve never seen damage of this size and width, and so catastrophic. This is a national catastrophe. This is a problem for Lebanon, and we don’t know how we’re going to get out of it.

    “This is a lot,” he says. “It’s a lot all at once for people…”

    A reminder that this blast could not have come at a worse time for Lebanon.

    The last story written by our Beirut-based correspondent, Martin Chulov, was about how the country is on the brink of financial collapse.

    Coronavirus has compounded longstanding failures of government corruption and financial mismanagement.

    Since March, Martin writes, prices of most goods have nearly tripled, while the value of the national currency has fallen by 80% and much of the country has ground to a halt. Those who still have work are surviving month to month.

  10. says

    From Wonkette:

    Politico’s got one of those pieces today where they talk to Republicans and try to figure out where it’s all going wrong, but none of them are able to see the obvious, which is that it’s going wrong because Donald Trump is broken and flawed and incompetent and stupid and beyond help.

    Naturally, one of their prime sources was Rudy Giuliani, and oh boy, he was TALKIN’.

    First though, here is a quote from a “senior GOP congressional aide,” who gets the closest to understanding that the problem is Trump.

    “It used to be that he would do five rallies a day and say whatever came off the top of his head and he thinks that won him the election. […] It’s like when a 25-year old gets drunk and shows up at a family engagement. That can be cute. But if you’re a 50-year-old and you show up at the gathering drunk and embarrassing, that just hits a little differently. It’s not cute anymore.”

    But Giuliani says WRONG, and that Trump should be the 50-year-old drunk he always knew he could be!

    Giuliani thinks if Trump just leaned into stoking white racist fears MORE and talking about Joe Biden having dementia MORE, then all of a sudden people would want to vote for Trump. First, the white racist fears:

    “If I were running the campaign I would do a commercial with the people in St. Louis who had to guard their homes with guns. That’s a suburb!”

    It is not a suburb, you dumb shit who couldn’t be bothered to look at a map and learn a damn thing before opening your mouth. The racist entitled white assholes in that video live off Kingshighway (sic, St. Louis!) on Portland Place in Central West End, down the road from St. Louis University, near the east side of Forest Park. If you know anything about St. Louis, you know that is about five minutes from downtown, in the city limits, and if you are in the St. Louis city limits, you are very much not in the suburbs, since the city itself is a 65-square-mile wedge.

    Mark and Patty McCloskey, the gun-wielding couple in question, live in one of the original Busch family houses, for god’s sake. Yes, those Busches, who are related to the Anheusers. The house broke ground in 1909.

    But we get what you are saying, Rudy, with the racist dogwhistling to the white racists, as you try to convince them Black people are invading their suburbs. Goes right along with Trump’s recent messaging about protecting suburbs from the Blacks.

    Now the dementia stuff, because who has dementia? Certainly not Donald Trump, and also not his rusty trusty crime pal Rudy Giuliani!

    Giuliani also recommended that Trump allies begin arguing that Biden is mentally ill. “I have a good friend who has early stage Alzheimer’s and they could be twins,” he said. […]

    “Nobody thinks Trump has a mental issue,” he said. “They attack him for his personality and his emotions.”

    Everyone thinks Trump has mental issues. Everyone.

    Speaking of, here is Trump today trying to talk about the “Yosemites,” but unfortunately they didn’t write it out Hooked On Phonics-like for him, so he said, “Yo, Semites.” Twice. [video available at the link.]

    “I’ve known Trump for 30 years. There’s no comparison between the two people in terms of being able to finish a sentence, being aware of where they are, and being able to go through five sentences that stick together.”

    Person. Woman. Man … Camera? TV! That’s not five sentences, Rudy. That’s five words. But glad you are proud of your friend for being aware of where he is.

    […] Newt Gingrich “sees things a little differently,” and that he thinks Trump’s big mistake is he is running like Nixon in 1968 instead of Nixon in 1972, eyerolls, who cares, fuck off, Newt. […]

    There are people in the article saying it’s Trump’s new chief of staff Mark Meadows’s fault or its dumb hairball Brad Parscale’s fault, but screw all that. The problem is Donald Trump, the problem has always been Donald Trump, the problem was Donald Trump in 2016 when he lost the people’s vote by three million and only “won” because Russia and James Comey and voter suppression made it so, and the problem will be Donald Trump in November […]

    Link

  11. says

    From Wonkette: “MSNBC Sends Chuck Todd Packing To Early Afternoon. He Won’t Be Missed.”

    MSNBC has bumped Chuck Todd from the 5 p.m. slot, and there was much rejoicing. Starting August 19, the first day of the virtual Democratic National Convention, Todd’s “MTP Daily” will air at 1 p.m. eastern.[…]

    Nicolle Wallace’s “Deadline: White House,” which airs at 4 p.m., will expand to two hours. The former Sarah Palin wrangler is smart, thoughtful, and fully prepared for the job. She treats politics as if real people’s lives are at stake. Todd has long rankled me (and everyone) with his “horse race” style journalism. He’s also a lousy interviewer, who admitted he was “naive” when he let Kellyanne Conway “alternative fact” her way through interviews. Or when he just sat there while Donald Trump insulted the nation’s intelligence. […]

    Todd wasn’t just caught flat-footed by the mendaciousness of the Trump crime syndicate. Chuck Todd was always bad at talking to humans and should probably not interact with them professionally.

    Check out this interview with Trump from last year, when he’d been president for more than two years and a known scumbag for decades. Todd still takes Trump at face value and doesn’t seriously challenge him. No wonder he thought Hillary Clinton was “overprepared” when debating Trump. [video available at the link]

    President Klan Robe isn’t a master of evasion. He just … lies, and when his narcissistic supply is cut off and his bullshit countered with facts, he crumbles. We’ve seen it happen during his interviews with Chris Wallace and Axios’s Jonathan Swan.

    […] Because no one demanded it, Todd will also anchor pre-and-post-event coverage around “big political news nights.” […] Todd treats politics as a big game, with winners and losers. Although actual sports pundits wouldn’t praise a baseball team that hits opposing players in the face with bats as strategic geniuses. They’d actually call out the obvious cheating and double-dealing, which Todd never does.

    Back in 2014, Todd wrote a tedious book about Barack Obama called The Stranger (Albert Camus libel!), where he “both sides” all over the place. He blames Obama for not working hard enough to overcome the GOP’s open obstruction.[…] Elbert Ventura at the Columbia Journalism Review neatly summed up Todd’s absurd criticism.

    So why advise Obama to keep ramming into the wall of obstruction again and again? Here another Beltway obsession rears its head: optics. Todd reasons that “you always want to be the one that ‘gets caught trying’ ” (never mind the result). The fixation with optics also comes through in Todd’s discussion of Obama’s policies. On a range of issues, from the stimulus to healthcare reform to Syria, Todd weighs in on how the process looked, while devoting barely a second’s thought to the policy’s merits.

    When Democrats tried to pass a reasonable COVID-19 relief bill, Todd also focused on the “strategy” and “politics” rather than the actual contents of the bill. If Democrats “held up” the bill because Republicans wanted free money for Trump’s buddies, all that mattered were the “optics.” This is maddening because a journalist’s job is to inform the public, not just enable bad faith political stunts.

    But how can anyone inform the public when these are the words they speak in public?

    TODD: Look, I think any side that is on the side that looks like they’re holding up money, I think, is bad politics … I think that the Democrats are genuine in their sticking up for the governors here. I think that’s what they believe they’re doing. I believe they think that you know, Cuomo and Hogan are basically lobbying on their side on this … They’re like we need our money too.

    So I think that’s what Democrats are calculating, that this is, this is, you know, if you look at it through one eye, it looks like they’re holding up small business money. If you look at it through the other one, hey, governors are asking for their money. So I think that’s what the Democrats are calculating. I don’t know if that’s coming to fruition, though.

    This sort of cynicism about government only benefits Republicans, who pee in the pool and then run for office on an anti-pool platform. We’ve had enough of Chuck Todd’s brand of political cynicism to last a lifetime. […]

    Link

  12. says

    Oh, FFS. James O’Keefe again.

    James O’Keefe, the undercover “journalist” who keeps running absolute garbage hidden-camera “sting operations,” is working on a great big project to help Donald Trump win reelection this year by delegitimizing absentee voting, The New Republic reports. His “Project Veritas” […] is running operations in several states this year aimed at supporting Donald Trump’s bullshit contention that mail-in voting is unspeakably fraudulent. That way, if Trump somehow loses this election in which he is overwhelmingly popular and everyone loves him, there’ll be an explanation, not to mention fuel for years of additional fundraising by the loony Right.

    […] James O’Keefe has no fucking credibility and Project Verminshit seldom turns up anything more incriminating than liberals saying liberal opinions out loud. […] Nonetheless, the dipshit and his crew of fellow dipshits keep attracting big donations from big GOP donors, and that puts O’Keefe

    at the vanguard of a larger underhanded approach that Republicans, starting at the very top, are taking to the 2020 cycle. If they want to win, they really have no other choice but to undermine the vote: Trump’s poll numbers are in the basement, and he appears constitutionally incapable of making appeals beyond his hardcore supporters on the right.

    Project Vomitus may be inept peddlers of dishonest bullshit, but it sure makes lots of noise. And in that, it’s no different from what has become the GOP mainstream[…]

    The piece starts with the sad news that O’Keefe was fixing to get married this year […] everybody was invited! Donald Trump Jr., Clarence Thomas, Sean Hannity, Michelle Malkin […] But then the pandemic happened and the wedding was put off […] Phelan and Hicks note that

    Although O’Keefe himself declined to comment on this and many other details for this story, a well-placed frenemy is “90 percent sure they broke up.”

    O’Keefe, you’ll recall, has managed exactly one significant undercover “sting,” in which he destroyed the community organizing outfit ACORN through the magic of a deceptively edited video that purported to show workers for the group giving advice on how to cover up prostitution and avoid taxes. (Formal investigations by state authorities in New York and California later cleared the organization of wrongdoing, but it had gone belly-up by then. )[…] O’Keefe had paid $100,000 to settle with an ACORN worker he had defamed.

    Since then, O’Keefe has managed to become a big player in rightwing media by hyping big “investigations” that never really expose much of anything but his own incompetence, like the time he blew his own George Soros sting by forgetting to hang up after leaving a fake message on an answering machine, […]

    For well over a year, Project Veritas has been secretly producing undercover stings designed to undermine the integrity of absentee and mail-in ballot counts—an endeavor codenamed “Diamond Dog,” according to documents we have obtained. Diamond Dog began as only one facet of Project Veritas’s 2020 rat-fucking strategy, but with the onset of the pandemic, which has made in-person voting a dicey proposition, it has since become one of the group’s top-line action items.

    That project fits smoothly with Trump’s lies about mail-in voting and Bill Barr’s lies about mail-in voting, along with Trump #JustAsking if we should maybe delay the election. Add in the fact that Trump put a man with seventy million conflicts of interest in as the head of the US Postal Service, which is already creating MASSIVE mail backlogs, and you have a recipe for Trump to whine from now until Inauguration Day that the election was #RIGGED.

    […] the entire point of Diamond Dog is “literally to get Trump reelected.” One pitch from the group, to a donor codenamed “Dr. Bob,” teased efforts to uncover nefarious practices such as “illegal aliens voting,” mail-in ballot tampering at “nursing homes,” and “the sale of absentee ballots and voter profiles on the ‘Dark Web.'” Not that any such things are actually going on, but those are definitely things O’Keefe and his ham-handed operatives would like to look for, and maybe even find a low-level campaign volunteer agreeing might be neat to do if they weren’t illegal. […]

    And of course, there’s the classic O’Keefian method of trying to make legal stuff look shady:

    In California and Texas, Project Veritas has tasked its operatives with unearthing supposed evidence of widespread mail-in ballot forgery. In both states, Project Veritas has worked to infiltrate the groups of volunteers and paid canvassers who collect absentee and mail-in voter applications from low-income, elderly, and minority groups—a perfectly legal practice in most states that conservatives have tried to label as nefarious “ballot harvesting.”

    […] the penny-ante irregularities they do find really whip up true believers’ certainty that voter fraud is everywhere, like the case of Rosa Maria Ortega, a Mexican citizen who Attorney General Ken Paxton sent to prison for eight years because she wrongly thought her Green Card enabled her to vote in Texas. She voted in several elections, supporting Mitt Romney in 2012 […]

    The New Republic notes multiple examples of O’Keefe’s bullshit being cited by Republicans who have pushed through voting restrictions, and even when there’s no real evidence of fraud, that’s all Trump needs to find support for his bullshit, like his effort to slow down the mail (see what a mess the Post Office is?), his threat to sue Nevada over sending absentee ballots to all active voters, and the administration’s active lawsuit to prevent Pennsylvania officials from using curbside drop boxes to collect absentee ballots, because somehow that’s illegal “ballot harvesting” (it isn’t).

    There’s a lot of money going into all this, from all sorts of big donors, and it’s doing active harm. […]

    there will be more Project Venality ratfucking stories to come.

    Link

  13. says

    Trump apparently isn’t sure how the Civil Rights Act ‘worked out’

    Eighteen years after Trent Lott, what’s the Republican reaction to a president who’s apparently not sure how the Civil Rights Act has “worked out”?

    In his “Axios on HBO” interview that aired last night, Donald Trump repeated a familiar boast, insisting that he’s done more for African Americans than any president since Abraham Lincoln. That’s obviously bonkers, but it’s clearly one of Trump’s favorite lies.

    When Jonathan Swan asked for evidence to bolster the claim, the president argued, “If you look at what I’ve done for colleges, for Black colleges and universities, I got them funding. Obama never did it.” That, too, is isn’t even close to being true.

    It was at roughly this point that the reporter reminded Trump that Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, which led the president to continue to insist that he did more for the Black community than LBJ. Pressed further, Trump ended up saying, when asked about the Civil Rights Act and Johnson’s record,

    “How has it worked out? If you take a look at what Lyndon Johnson did? How has it worked out?”

    Swan asked the right follow-up question –“You think the Civil Rights Act was a mistake?” — at which point Trump changed the subject.

    That said, by twice asking how the Civil Rights Act has “worked out,” it seemed as if the president doesn’t believe the law has worked out well.

    It was jarring, not only because of Trump’s ugly history on matters of race, but also because it’s so unusual to hear any mainstream American politician take issue with the Civil Rights Act. […]

    Few American leaders publicly question how the law “worked out.”

    Watching Trump’s comments, I was reminded of then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) speaking at a 2002 birthday party for then-Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.), who ran for president in 1948 on a segregationist platform.

    ”I want to say this about my state: When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him,” Lott said at the gathering, standing alongside Thurmond. “We’re proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn’t have had all these problems over all these years, either.”

    Lott soon after sort of tried to walk it back, saying he used “a poor choice of words,” but it was far too late: after suggesting the United States would’ve better off with electing a segregationist president in 1948, Lott was forced from his GOP leadership post.

    Eighteen years later, I’m curious: what’s the Republican reaction to a president who’s apparently not sure how the Civil Rights Act has “worked out”?

  14. says

    Update on the explosion in Beirut: At least 3,000 people have been injured and 50 killed. Hospitals in the area are filling up. The number of injured and number of people killed is expected to rise.

  15. says

    The Trump administration made big claims when it comes to nursing homes, but what they are actually providing is inadequate:

    The Trump administration’s plan to provide every nursing home with a fast COVID-19 testing machine comes with an asterisk: The government won’t supply enough test kits to check staff and residents beyond an initial couple of rounds. […]

    AP News link

    In addition to the testing problems, there are also PPE shortages … and Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans want to make the new coronavirus relief package dependent, in part, on creating a “not liable” clause for nursing homes and other businesses.

  16. says

    SC @24, When Katy Tur fills in for Chuck Todd, she is often reading a teleprompter with text written by Todd’s staff. As a result, her substitute host job is making her sound like Todd. Not good.

  17. says

    Through no fault of their own, 30 million jobless Americans just had their benefits slashed. Many may soon face eviction, hunger, bankruptcy.

    Unfortunately, the White House and Republican lawmakers are in no rush to help. Instead, GOP officials have essentially accused these desperate families of being lazy welfare queens, choosing to remain on cushy government benefits rather than savor the dignity of work.

    But five recent economic studies find no such thing is happening. […]

    analyses are by researchers at Yale; a group from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of Chicago and University of California at Berkeley; economists from the University of Pennsylvania, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and Glassdoor; an economist at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst; and an economist at Evercore ISI.

    Using a variety of government and private-industry data sets, they all concluded the same thing: The $600 federal supplement does not appear to have depressed job growth.

    As the Yale economists summarized: “We find no evidence that high [unemployment insurance] replacement rates drove job losses or slowed rehiring.” The Evercore ISI economist, Ernie Tedeschi, also observed that in June, around 70 percent of unemployment recipients who resumed working had been receiving more from benefits than their prior wage — yet nonetheless returned to work. […]

    the main force holding back job growth is firms’ lack of interest in hiring, not people’s unwillingness to work at prevailing wages. With U.S. unemployment in double digits, job vacancies depressed and jobless benefits temporary, most workers don’t want to lose any shot they might have at reemployment. […]

    If anything, research to date suggests the federal benefit supplement has boosted macroeconomic activity and, therefore, likely supported hiring. That’s because these benefits have supported consumer spending, which in turn helps retailers, landlords and other businesses keep workers on their own payrolls. […]

    Congress should immediately renew this supplement — ideally in a form that links benefit levels to public health and economic conditions, and that phases out as the dual crises abate — as some Democrats have already proposed. […]

    Washington Post link

  18. blf says

    John Crace in the Grauniad on that hair furor interview, Trump’s stream of subconsciousness becomes a torrent in car-crash interview:

    The president’s [sic] incoherence and unchecked narcissism were given full rein for 40 long minutes in a TV evisceration

    I take it all back. I regularly mock British politicians for their lies and hypocrisy, not least Boris Johnson, the UK’s Donald Trump-lite, who only last Friday had hit a new low for cronyism, corruption and nepotism with his appointments to the House of Lords.

    But all this was amateur hour compared with Donald Trump’s interview with Axios’s political correspondent, Jonathan Swan, that was broadcast on HBO on Monday evening.

    Here we had the US president [sic] in not just a stream but a full torrent of subconsciousness. Incoherent, deluded, out of his depth. An object lesson in unchecked, X-rated narcissism. The only wonder was that Swan managed to keep a reasonably straight face throughout the best part of 40 minutes.

    Swan began by asking whether the president’s [sic] positive thinking had necessarily been the right approach to the coronavirus when the US death toll was now past 150,000 — and rising.

    Cue a long rant from Trump about how there had been nothing like this since the 1917 flu pandemic — actually it was 1918 — how he wouldn’t forget that China had brought the virus to the US — in reality it also arrived from Europe — and how there had been 12,000 people at his rally in Tulsa and not the 6,000 that the Fake News media had reported. All the more people to hear his positive message that the virus was near enough under control and that face masks were for lefty wimps.

    We’ve tested more people than anyone had thought of, Trump continued. Sixty million. There are some people who are saying we have tested too much.

    “Who?” Swan asked reasonably.

    Read the manuals. Read the books.

    “What books?”

    Trump ignored that question and Swan didn’t press him for an answer. The lie spoke for itself. No scientist has yet advocated less testing as a solution; still less has anyone written a book about it.

    Things rapidly became even more surreal. First Trump insisted that children with runny noses were now testing positive and that the only reason the US was showing more cases was because of its level of testing. Brilliant. Obviously the way to beat the virus is to do no tests whatsoever. That way no one would ever die of it.

    When I took over, we didn’t have a test, Trump said. Swan’s logic that the reason there was no test a year or so ago was because the virus did not yet exist rather passed the president [sic] by. Trump then tried to claim the virus was under control.

    “How? A thousand Americans are dying a day,” Swan insisted, trying to keep the interview more or less on track.

    They are dying. That’s true. And it is what it is. You win some, you lose some.

    At this point, Swan tried to wrap up this part of the interview, more than happy he already had ratings gold, only for Trump to reach over to the table for a few sheets of paper. Let’s look at some charts, the president [sic] said. Be my guest, thought Swan, fairly certain it was odds on that The Donald would be holding them the wrong way up.

    Right here, we’re lower in various categories. The world. Trump had started, so he’d finish.

    “The world?” Swan thought it wise to check that the president [sic] knew that the USA was actually part of the world and not some parallel universe.

    Europe.

    Now Swan got it. The president [sic] was trying to measure deaths by number of cases diagnosed rather than per capita of population.

    You can’t do that, Trump insisted.

    “Why not?” Swan asked. Almost every other country had.

    Because you couldn’t. That’s why. Swan pointed out that South Korea had a death toll of just 300 out of a population of 52 million. Donald gave him one of his Fake News death stares. […]

    […] He couldn’t even do the maths to work out that there were as many US personnel in Afghanistan now as in 2016.

    Asked why he had said that he might not accept the results of this November’s presidential election, Trump said that Hillary Clinton had not accepted the 2016 result.

    “Er … she conceded on the night,” Swan interrupted.

    Yeah but no but yeah but she had grumbled. Besides, it was different this time round, as there was a newfangled phenomenon of postal voting that was wide open to corruption.

    “But postal votes have been used since the civil war,” Swan observed. Trump merely blanked him.

    […]

    Nor was he too concerned about the veteran civil rights activist John Lewis, who had recently died. Mainly because he had snubbed an invitation to his presidential [sic] inauguration. No slight, however small, ever gets forgotten by this president.

    Swan dabbed his brow and brought the interview to a close. Though in reality it had been less an interview and more an on-screen breakdown.

    A collector’s item. But not for those of a nervous disposition.

  19. says

    TRUMP: You know there are those that say, you can test too much. You do know that.

    SWAN: Who says that?

    TRUMP: Oh, just read the manuals read the books.

    SWAN: Manuals? What manuals?

    TRUMP: Read the books. Read the books.

    SWAN: What books?

    Commentary from Steve Benen:

    […] of course, there are no books or manuals that argue there’s such a thing as excessive viral testing during a pandemic. The very idea is bonkers: widespread testing is part of any comprehensive solution.

    (Let’s also pause to note one of Trump’s more annoying rhetorical tricks. He often says something like, “You know that” to journalists as an addendum to some foolish assertion. He apparently assumes that media professionals, reluctant to appear ignorant, will agree or concede the point, and therefore let the president get away with peddling nonsense. To his credit, Swan knew better.)

    What makes this notable is not Trump’s willingness to point to manuals and books that exist only in his imagination, but rather, his ongoing efforts to undermine public confidence in the importance of testing. Indeed, the president has made the transition from calling on officials to “slow down” the pace of testing to arguing that mysterious authors he can’t identify believe “you can test too much.”

    In the meantime, Politico reported yesterday, “As President Donald Trump continues to downplay the need for increased Covid-19 testing across the country, White House officials were told on Monday they will now be subjected to random testing for the virus.”

    There’s no word yet as to whether Trump has warned his own team about the hazards of excessive testing.

  20. blf says

    The Onion:

    ● Federal Troops Tear-Gas Yankees Off Field So Trump Can Throw Out First Pitch:

    [… M]inutes before their contest against the Boston Red Sox was scheduled to begin, dozens of federal troops rushed onto the field and set upon the Yankees starters, pushing them into foul territory with riot shields and beating several of them […] with batons. Yankees players and coaches were heard to shout that they had no idea what was happening until they noticed a golf cart emerge from the bullpen with the president, who proceeded to stand on the mound and thank everyone for coming. […] At press time, team sources had confirmed they had been unaware of the president’s planned attendance, while Trump posed for pictures holding a baseball before dropping it on the mound and walking away.

    ● Ron DeSantis Cuts Phone Line Outside Nursing Home So No One Can Report Coronavirus Data.

    ● Relieved Trump Administration Thankful To Finally Get Easy, Run-Of-The-Mill Hurricane Response To Fuck Up:

    […] “A Category 1 storm hitting the Carolinas? We can drop the ball on that, no problem,” said Peter Gaynor, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, adding that with everything the Trump administration had been dealing with lately, a routine failure along the lines of its bungled responses to Hurricanes Maria and Dorian should make for a nice change of pace. […] Following news that Isaias had forced the closure of numerous Covid-19 testing sites in Florida, a White House spokesperson confirmed things were already off to a pretty good fuck-up.

  21. blf says

    Another stoopid & stooopidier special stoooooopid show is coming, Ousted USAID Trump Appointee Teaming Up With Right-Wing Hoaxers Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman:

    Merritt Corrigan, former deputy White House liaison at the US Agency for International Development, plans to air her workplace grievances, claiming anti-Christian sentiment at USAID, at a press event with right-wing hoaxsters Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman ​Thursday.

    Politico reported Monday that Corrigan was fired from USAID after a short career with the agency punctuated with calls for her removal​ for her vehement anti-LGBTQ​ behavior. ​Prior to USAID, Corrigan was a political liaison at Hungary’s US embassy who had tweeted our homo-empire couldn’t tolerate even one commercial enterprise not in full submission to the tyrannical LGBT agenda, Politico’s Brussels Playbook reported. CNN’s KFILE reported that additional comments made by Corrigan contained “inflammatory rhetoric aimed at refugees, the LGBTQ community and women.”

    [… Hired in June and fired on Monday,] Corrigan posted on her Twitter account that she would be hosting a press conference with Wohl and Burkman’s 1599 Project to discuss what she says is the rampant anti-Christian sentiment at USAID. The 1599 Project is what Burkman and Wohl have dubbed their ongoing series of blundering press conferences — the title is a play on the New York Times’ “1619 Project” ​and the address number of Burkman’s Arlington, Virginia, residence where the duo often present their dubious claims to reporters gathered in Burkman’s driveway.

    […]

    A later tweet made clear that Corrigan knew exactly who she was dealing with, mentioning Burkman and Wohl by name. Additionally, Corrigan gave an exclusive interview to National File, a far-right conspiracy theory outlet closely affiliated with ​conspiracy monger Alex Jones’ Infowars.

    It is unclear what ant​i-Christian sentiment Corrigan plans to allege, especially since USAID often works with Christian organizations to carry out humanitarian and relief efforts around the world and has an dedicated office for fostering relationships with faith-based and community organizations.

    Corrigan was on the payroll of the Republican National Committee ​from 2016 ​to 2018. At the 2018 Conservative Political Action Conference, she was photographed by Reuters manning a Trump campaign merchandise booth.

    Virginia requires masks (indoors, on public transit, etc.); I anticipate some additional comedy from the mask-wearing reporters (if any bother to show up) and the extremely likely unmasked stoooopiduo & their guest raving nutcase.

  22. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    BLF @32, JFC, whoever stored the ammonium nitrite was stupid, corrupt, or both. The first step in handling that amount of explosive is too segregate it into small enough packages and distance them into small enough units that one unit going off does not spread. And since ammonium nitrate is a good fertilizer, it could be dissolved in water and small amount sold safely to the general public mixed with other fertilizer ingredients. Simply storing it dry in bulk is asking for a big KABOOM.

  23. raven says

    BLF @32, JFC, whoever stored the ammonium nitrite was stupid, corrupt, or both.

    Yeah, that was my reaction also.

    Ammonium nitrate is known to be explosive.
    Fertilizer, that is ammonium nitrate, was what the Oklahoma City bombers used to destroy the Federal building.
    It’s used in mining as an explosive and also used in various military munitions such as bombs and shells as the explosive ingredient.

    West Fertilizer Plant explosion
    April 17, 2013
    Description
    DescriptionOn April 17, 2013, an ammonium nitrate explosion occurred at the West Fertilizer Company storage and distribution facility in West, Texas, eighteen miles north of Waco, while emergency services personnel were responding to an arson fire at the facility. Wikipedia
    Date: April 17, 2013

    7 years ago, a fertilizer warehouse blew up in Texas, a place that was storing too much ammonium nitrate.

    As Nerd of Redhead notes, you aren’t even supposed to store ammonium nitrate in large quantities anywhere in case of fire, which causes it to…explode.
    This is not rocket science, although you can use ammonium nitrate as oxidizer, in…rocket fuel.

  24. raven says

    I still can’t figure out why they were storing 2500 tons of ammonium nitrate in Beirut, in one place.
    It’s been known for over a century that this is just not a good idea.
    It’s basically an ammo dump waiting to explode.
    In most of the world, it isn’t legal, and isn’t done.

    As I mentioned above, ammonium nitrate can be used in solid rocket fuel.

    Today, most amateurs use the same type of propellant used in the solid rocket industry, composite solid rocket propellant. … The binder is liquid when cast into the rocket chamber and sets up or cures to form a rubbery compound. The two most common oxidizers are ammonium perchlorate (AP) and ammonium nitrate (AN).
    Frequently Asked Questions About Amateur Motors/Rockets
    http://www.space-rockets.com › faq

    An explosion is just a chemical reaction that happens very fast.
    Ammonium nitrate is reactive enough to be used in solid rocket fuels.

  25. says

    Here’s a weird story, I came across on twitter. I’ll just leave the opening line:

    AURORA, Colo. — Police detained and handcuffed a Black mother and several children after mistaking their SUV for a stolen motorcycle from another state.

    Link

  26. KG says

    LykeX@37,

    Presumably the police thought the thieves had disguised themselves as children, and the motorcycle as an SUV.

  27. blf says

    As to the why the ammonium nitrate was there in Beirut — and a bit also on why it was so unsafely stored — Al Jazeera, Beirut blast: Tracing the explosives that tore the capital apart (“Letters show officials knew of danger posed by ammonium nitrate cargo at Beirut port six years before deadly blast.”) The following excerpt, however, is from the Grauniad’s current live Beirut disaster blog (Grauniad edits in {curly braces}):

    […]
    Little is known about the Russian owner of the Rhosus, the cargo ship impounded in Beirut in 2014, whose captain had referred to its freight of 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate fertiliser as a “floating bomb”.

    […]

    Former crew members said the ship was owned by Igor Grechushkin, a Russian national believed to be living in Cyprus, where he holds either citizenship or residency. Grechushkin, a native of the far-eastern city of Khabarovsk, is reported to have managed Teto Shipping, which owned the Rhosus.

    The ship arrived in Beirut in 2013 while sailing from Georgia to Mozambique. It was prevented from leaving the Beirut port in 2014 over an unspecified dispute, either because the ship was deemed not seaworthy or because the owner had failed to pay the necessary fees to the port.

    It was then that Grechushkin is said to have walked away from the ship, refusing to answer calls or negotiate with the port authorities for the release of his sailors.

    In complaints to the press in 2014, former crew members said they had been “abandoned” in Beirut and had not been paid their wages for nearly a year. “The owner {of the ship} has virtually abandoned the ship and its crew,” wrote the ship’s former captain. “Salaries are not paid, supplies are not purchased. The shipowner has refused the cargo.”

    A deleted LinkedIn profile lists Grechushkin as living in Cyprus and as working as a manager at Unimar Service Ltd. Calls to a company with a similar name and profile, Unimar Safety Services and Equipment, on Wednesday were not answered. Calls to a number for Grechushkin listed by the aggrieved crew members also went unanswered.

    The letter, which was sent to Russian journalists by the Rhosus’s former captain in 2014, also complained about being “held hostage” onboard the ship. The Beirut authorities “don’t want an abandoned ship at port, especially with a cargo of explosives, which is what ammonium nitrate is. That is, this is a floating bomb, and the crew is a hostage aboard this bomb.”

    The mostly Ukrainian crew were held onboard the ship for nearly a year before they were released. The ammonium nitrate was confiscated and held at the port in a warehouse.
    […]

    And (also from the Guardian’s live Beirut disaster blog):

    […]
    Reuters is quoting an unidentified official source familiar with the findings of an initial investigation as saying there were years of inaction around the removal of the ammonium nitrate.

    “It is negligence,” the official source told the news agency, adding that the issue of storing the material safely had come before several committees and judges and “nothing was done” to order the material be removed or disposed of.

    The source said a fire had started at port warehouse 9 on Tuesday and spread to warehouse 12, where the ammonium nitrate was stored.

    Another source close to a port employee told Reuters that a team that inspected the material six months ago warned it could “blow up all of Beirut” if not removed.

    The originally-cited Al Jazeera article has more information on the letters (plural) warning of the danger. One example (there were at least six letters from 2014 to 2017):

    [… The ship] was forced to dock in Beirut after facing technical problems at sea, according to (PDF [English]) lawyers representing the boat’s crew. But Lebanese officials prevented the vessel from sailing, and eventually, it was abandoned by its owners […]

    […]

    One letter sent [by Lebanese Customs to an “Urgent Matters judge”] in 2016 noted there had been “no reply” from judges to previous requests.

    It pleaded: “In view of the serious danger of keeping these goods in the hangar in unsuitable climatic conditions, we reaffirm our request to please request the marine agency to re-export these goods immediately to preserve the safety of the port and those working in it, or to look into agreeing to sell this amount” to the Lebanese Explosives Company.

    Again, there was no reply.

    [&helip; M]any Lebanese were quick to point out what they believe to be the root causes; immense mismanagement in a broken state run by a corrupt political class who they say treat the country’s inhabitants with contempt.

    It is also not lost on Beirut’s residents that this tragedy emanated from the city’s port, a public utility known locally as the “Cave of Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves” for the vast amount of state funds that have reportedly been stolen there over the decades.

    The allegations include claims that billions of dollars in tax revenue never reached the state treasury due to schemes to undervalue imports, as well as accusations of systematic and widespread bribery to avoid paying customs taxes.
    […]

    Nothing precise on why it was so badly stored after being removed from an abandoned & probably unseaworthy vessel, or why multiple warnings were ignored, but apparently the only reason it was in Beirut in the first place was due to the unseaworthiness of the vessel forcing an emergency port call and eventual unloading.

  28. blf says

    Cori Bush: progressive activist beats 20-year Democratic incumbent in Missouri primary:

    […]
    Cori Bush […] defeated longtime representative William Lacy Clay in the state’s Democratic primary election on Tuesday.

    The progressive candidate ended a half-century political dynasty in one of several notable results to emerge from primary elections in five states on Tuesday. Results were still coming in on Wednesday morning, but Donald Trump’s ally, Kris Kobach, had already suffered a defeat in Kansas.

    […]

  29. blf says

    And from the Grauniad’s current live Typos in the States blog:

    Michigan congresswoman Rashida Tlaib has one [sic (thanks, Grauniad!)] the Democratic primary for her state’s 13th congressional seat.

    […]

    Tlaib faced a formidable primary challenge from Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones.

    […]

    Tlaib is a member of the informal group of young liberal congresswoman known as “The Squad.” The other members of that group are New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Minnesota congresswoman Ilhan Omar, and Massachusetts congresswoman Ayanna Pressley.

    As per @40, a new Squad member is coming…

  30. blf says

    US parks in minority neighborhoods half the size of those in white areas:

    The smaller parks are also almost five times as crowded, study shows […]

    […]

    Public parks in majority black and brown neighborhoods are half the size and almost five times as crowded, according to new research by the Trust for Public Land.

    Spending time in green spaces reduces stress and improves physical and psychological wellbeing for adults and children, but shady spots can also protect people from deadly extreme heat.

    In addition, the study of 14,000 towns and cities around America found that parks serving majority low-income households are on average four times smaller and four times more crowded than parks that serve mostly high-income households.

    The findings support a mounting body of evidence linking environmental injustice to longstanding racial and income inequalities that are being further exacerbated by the climate crisis.

    […]

    The study found that neighborhoods within a 10-minute walk of a park are up to 6℉ cooler than those further away.

    “As cities struggle with extreme heat this summer, parks are one of the best ways for residents to find relief,” said Diane Regas, CEO and president of The Trust for Public Land, a national organization that has built thousands of parks and protected millions of acres of land.

    […]

    In 2018, a landmark citizen-science project found large parks in Washington and Baltimore — especially those with dense trees and dark green vegetation — were up to 17℉ cooler than neighborhoods dominated by densely packed buildings and concrete which trap heat to create urban heat islands.

  31. blf says

    US could become ‘safe haven’ for corporate abusers, activists warn (Grauniad edits in {curly braces}):

    […]
    US corporations could be able to commit human rights violations overseas with almost no legal sanction, effectively turning the US into a “safe haven” for corporate abusers, campaign groups fear.

    Human rights activists are concerned that the US supreme court is gearing up to reinterpret a centuries-old law that has been widely used by foreign victims of slavery, trafficking and other abuses to claim redress in US courts.

    The possible change arises from a legal challenge by multinational firms Nestlé and Cargill to a ruling that allowed a lawsuit lodged under the disputed Alien Tort Statute to be brought against them for “aiding and abetting” forced labour in Ivory Coast’s cocoa industry.

    The companies argue that the law in question, which dates back to 1789, only applies to individuals and cannot be used to indict corporate entities.

    “If they win this appeal, they will have succeeded in denuding the major human rights tool that activists have in court,” said Terrence Collingsworth, executive director of International Rights Advocates, a US non-profit representing the plaintiffs in the case.

    Should the US supreme court reinterpret the law in the companies’ favour, victims would need to prove the culpability of individual decision-makers within the accused corporations to bring a case under the Alien Tort Statute.

    “It is virtually impossible to imagine how we could get enough evidence to sue any individual at these corporations … so this would effectively allow {some companies} to continue using child slaves with impunity,” Collingsworth added.

    […]

    A Nestlé spokesperson maintained […] This lawsuit does not advance the shared goal of ending child labour in the cocoa industry because it does not address the root causes of the issue and will not improve the conditions in west Africa […]

    It addresses the demand side; see Adam Smith for the rest…

    Since 1977, Nestlé has been boycotted over its aggressive marketing of breast milk substitutes in underdeveloped countries. One huge problem is mixing up the substitute requires clean potable water, which is often in short supply or simply unavailable; furthermore, the too-often illiterate or poorly-educated parents cannot read the instructions. I myself consider them to be one of the most evil corporations on the planet, and have been boycotting their products and events (except for the occasional accidental purchase) since almost the start of the boycott.

  32. blf says

    More eejit errors on book covers, Sean Hannity removes ‘gobbledygook’ Latin motto from book cover :

    […]
    The Latin motto on Fox News anchor Sean Hannity’s new book has been changed after the original was described as “complete and utter gobbledygook” by a classics student.

    Hannity’s Live Free or Die: America (and the World) on the Brink, which argues now is an All Hands on Deck moment to save the Republic, was published on Tuesday. But as Business Insider pointed out, the Latin motto it uses as a subtitle has been quietly changed from the original jacket.

    At first, the cover featured the Latin tagline vivamus vel libero perit Americae — a phrase that Hannity told viewers on Fox means live free or America dies. But as Indiana University Bloomington classics student Spencer Alexander McDaniel laid out on his blog in May, the Latin phrase makes little sense.

    “It is clear that whoever came up with this motto does not even know the basic noun cases in Latin or how they work,” wrote McDaniel. “The words in Hannity’s motto are real Latin words, but, the way they are strung together, they don’t make even a lick of sense.”

    McDaniel, who was not the only classicist to question Hannity’s “perplexing” Latin, translated Hannity’s Latin text as Let’s live or he … passes away from America for the detriment of a free man. He then inferred that the incorrect Latin had been arrived at by putting live free or America dies into Google Translate.

    After the error was shared widely on social media, the text on Hannity’s book jacket was updated to Vivamus liberi ne America pereat — a phrase that McDaniel says on his blog “neatly translates into English to mean, Let us live free so that America will not die.”

    […] McDaniel [has addressed] the television presenter directly: “Sean Hannity, if you’re reading this, I want you to go on your show and publicly admit that you’ve done nothing on air for the past 11 years but peddle lies, nonsense, and conspiracy theories. Then, I want you to disavow white supremacy, misogyny and xenophobia, acknowledge the reality and seriousness of climate change, and tell all your viewers to take Covid-19 seriously and wear masks in public at all times.”

    […]

  33. blf says

    How renamed streets in Mumbai’s slums are encouraging children to study:

    […]
    No map of Mumbai mentions Rehmuddin Shaikh Road. But a local taxi driver would find the narrow lane between the huts in Ambedkar Nagar, Colaba, behind Mumbai’s elite Cuffe Parade. Despite not being officially named by the city authorities, the road boasts a new signpost.

    Rehmuddin Chittasahab Shaikh grew up and still lives here. Today, he is a rugby star, winning national gold and silver medals and and now coaching the Indian women’s team. He is one of the only four coaches in India to qualify for the World Rugby Level 3 coaching course.

    As a child, he was a student of Door Step School, a classroom on wheels for children who had no other access to education. Now the school’s co-founder is leading the project to name these narrow, winding alleys of the slum after her best and hardest-working pupils.

    “I felt honoured when my name was assigned to the very alley I lived in,” said Shaikh. “Normally, roads are named after famous people who are dead. This was the first time it was being named after a person who is alive.”

    A stranger would find it extremely difficult to locate any house in Mumbai’s slums without finding someone who lives close by to give directions. The slums are a labyrinth even for residents who face the frustrations and the challenges of living without an address, and children are particularly affected by the issue.

    Bina Sheth Lashkari, the social worker and co-founder of Door Step, came up with the idea to name the streets after the most promising students to encourage local children to study. To date, a dozen streets bear the silver and black signposts.

    “When I see Devi Chauhan Road, named after a girl from my Banjara community, I feel proud, encouraged and inspired to complete my education to become confident and independent,” said Roshani Chuvan, 11, a student.

    […]

    It was Lashkari who talked the family into sending Shaikh to school. “We had a very tough time convincing his parents. He too was reluctant to start school but once admitted he was very sincere,” said Lashkari, who believes the street names are a huge motivation for children, their family and community,

    Kanchan Chandrasen More was once a pupil and is now a teacher at the Door Step School. “I felt very happy and humbled when my name was assigned to an alley,” she said.

    Jayashree Chandrasen More, her mother, says she is delighted that her daughter is engaged in educating kids. “My daughter has made us proud and brought fame to our family.”

    Back in 1988, Lashkari saw how the children of construction workers, mainly migrants from Gulbarga, were not going to school but instead working as labourers.

    Lashkari began offering to teach after the working hours. “If children can’t go to the school, let the school come to them,” she said.

    This was the vision that led her and her colleague, Rajani Paranjpe to establish the first Door Step School in 1988.

    Initially, they found children at the railway stations and other public places and started holding outdoor classes, which became difficult in busy areas. To solve this problem, they moved to a makeshift mobile classroom — a bus for classes.

    School on Wheels has been educating slum children ever since and now there are seven schools across Mumbai and Pune with 800 teachers and volunteers reaching 100,000 children. […]

    Rekha Shamakant Wareshi, a Mumbai teacher, joined the NGO 17 years ago. The teaching approach is practical and kids are taught through everyday examples. Emphasis is laid on improving language skills.

    In April, when India’s government abruptly announced a nationwide lockdown amid the pandemic, Door Step had to close like other Indian schools. A WhatsApp group was formed for parents with wifi access and those with basic phones were called, all designed to encourage children to keep up their studies at home.

    The founders of Door Step hope they will be back on their buses soon, said Lashkari. “It was very important to remain connected with the kids who are experiencing a lot of trauma in these uncertain times to ignite hope that someday when things are normal the school will continue.”

  34. raven says

    More on the Beirut human caused disaster.

    Bloomberg opinion:

    There are no prizes for guessing who in Lebanon might be interested in keeping such vast quantities of explosive material close at hand. The U.S. Treasury and Israel both believe Hezbollah controls many of Beirut’s port facilities.

    Hezbollah has a large amount of power in the current Lebanese government, so this isn’t surprising.

    While the explosion was an accident, thought to have been started by “careless welding” starting a fire, the presence of 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate was likely deliberate.

    Cui bona, who benefits?
    Ammonium nitrate is an explosive material used in bombs and various military munition type weapons.
    If you are running a militia, it is useful to have a few thousand tons around.
    It was however, very incompetent to not store it properly.
    The article also mentions that the Lebanese government was well aware for years that it was stored there, was told repeatedly that is was a huge hazard, and did nothing.

  35. blf says

    Alarm at Trump’s unsubstantiated claim that Beirut blast was an attack:

    […]
    Donald Trump’s unsubstantiated claim that the massive explosion in Beirut was a bomb attack has revived fears of the president’s [sic] potential to foment international crises.

    […]

    I’ve met with some of our great generals and they just seem to feel that this was not some kind of a manufacturing explosion type of event, the president [sic] told reporters. It was a bomb of some kind.

    Soon after, CNN quoted Pentagon officials as saying there was no evidence of any attack, raising the question of where Trump got his information. Lebanese officials were reported to have sought urgent clarification from US diplomats.

    […]

    The White House gave no guidance on Wednesday as to whether Trump had received a top secret intelligence briefing, had seen something on Twitter — or just made up the claim and imagined a conversation with US generals.

    It has become the norm for US officials to quietly correct the thicket of mistakes and lies embedded in Trump’s daily discourse, but applied to a fragile and volatile corner of the world, the stakes are higher.

    “I would advise against listening to Donald Trump at the best of times, let alone the worst,” Tom Fletcher, a former British ambassador to Lebanon, said.

    “You can’t show up unprepared for the Middle East. Careless messaging from the White House has consequences, even when no one takes the tweeter seriously. I hope future American presidents will try to help put out fires in the region, not fan them.”

    […]

    The worst nightmare looming over the Trump administration is that the president [sic] might shoot from the hip at the White House podium during a nuclear standoff.

    In his documentary-style novel, The 2020 Commission Report on the North Korean Nuclear Attacks Against the United States, academic and nuclear expert Jeffrey Lewis imagines a scenario in which the US slides into a devastating conflict, propelled by the president’s [sic] impulsive tweets and remarks.

    “I would feel a lot better if the real world looked less like my book,” Lewis said on Wednesday.

  36. says

    Trump’s plan for fall: assume in-person voting will be ‘very safe’

    Trump insists in-person voting will be “very safe” in the fall. How does he know? He doesn’t.

    Donald Trump could embrace mail-in voting, but he refuses. [He] could help bolster the U.S. Postal Service ahead of elections in the fall, but he refuses. He could put together a plan to strengthen voting infrastructure and prevent an electoral disaster, but he refuses.

    So, what exactly does Trump want to see happen as Election Day approaches? This morning, [Trump] appeared on Fox News and was asked for his plan given that “mail-in voting makes you unsettled.” […]

    “[B]y the time we get [to Election Day] we’ll probably be in very good shape…. They’ll do whatever they have to do, but they want to vote. We have people that really want to get out and vote. It’s going to be very safe, but by November 3rd, that’s — you know, time wise that’s eternity, frankly, as far as I’m concerned. For Trump that’s eternity, and November 3rd is a long ways off.” [Why does Trump refer to himself as “Trump?”]

    [Trump] added, in reference to the coronavirus, “This thing’s going away. It will go away like things go away.”

    […] Trump has predicted COVID-19’s looming disappearance literally dozens of times […] The White House’s plan, to the extent that it can described as a “plan,” is to force American voters to show up at their local precincts in the fall.

    […] Trump routinely struggles to differentiate between what he wants to be true and what he thinks is true. […]

    He really ought to have a plan B. It was, after all, just last month CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said, “I do think the fall and the winter of 2020 and 2021 are going to be probably one of the most difficult times that we’ve experienced in American public health.” […]

    Dr. Anthony Fauci, a top infectious disease expert at the National Institutes of Health, added last week, “If there is COVID-19 and flu activity at the same time, this could place a tremendous burden on the health care system related to bed occupancy, laboratory testing needs, personal protective equipment and health care worker safety.” […]

    The Washington Post recently published an article that included a sentence that stood out for me: “Trump is … predisposed to magical thinking — an unerring belief, at an almost elemental level, that he can will his goals into existence, through sheer force of personality […].”

  37. says

    About Trump suggesting that he accept the Republican nomination for president at the White House:

    […] Pelosi said that “whether it’s legally wrong or ethically out of the question” the suggestion that political events such as an acceptance speech for the GOP presidential nomination on White House grounds should be rejected outright. “He can’t do that,” she added.

    “For the President of the United States to degrade, once again, the White House as he has done, over and over again, by saying he’s going to completely politicize it is something that should be rejected right out of hand,” Pelosi said.

    Pelosi’s comments follow a report from the Washington Post that the President was considering using the White House’s South Lawn to deliver his convention speech. Trump confirmed during an interview with Fox News on Wednesday that he “probably” would give his speech accepting the Republican nomination from White House property later this month.

    The issue became a topic of controversy early Wednesday amid questions about the Hatch Act, which provides notable exemptions to the President and Vice President in federal laws that bar the use of government property by federal employees for certain forms of political activity at work.

    Link

    It would be a bad look, definitely unethical, but my bet is that Trump will do it anyway.

  38. says

    From NPR:

    Former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates defended a sensitive Justice Department investigation into onetime Trump aide Michael Flynn on Wednesday, telling lawmakers Flynn was essentially “neutering” American sanctions and undercutting the Obama administration by “making nice” with a foreign adversary after Russia’s unprecedented attack on the 2016 election.

    Testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Yates said Flynn’s lies to the FBI were “absolutely material to a legitimate investigation” — contradicting the rationale the Justice Department has now offered in seeking to dismiss the case.

    Yates, who was a prosecutor for nearly 30 years, said the effort to drop a prosecution against a defendant who twice pleaded guilty was “highly irregular.”

    “If Gen. Flynn didn’t think he was doing anything problematic, then he wouldn’t have needed to do anything to cover it,” Yates said of Flynn’s false statements about his conversations with then-Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak in late 2016.

    Flynn told Vice President Pence and then FBI investigators he hadn’t asked Kislyak to press his government not to escalate its retaliation against punitive steps the outgoing administration of President Barack Obama was taking. Actually, documents later proved, Flynn had. […]

    she [Yates] insisted that no one in the Obama White House had sought to put their fingers on the scales against Flynn.

    “During the meeting, the president, the vice president and the national security adviser did not in any way attempt to direct or influence any kind of investigation,” Yates said. “Something like that would have set off alarms for me, and it would have stuck out, both at the time and in my memory. No such thing happened.”[…]

    Link

    The usual bullshit from Trump:

    Sally Yates has zero credibility. She was a part of the greatest political crime of the Century, and ObamaBiden knew EVERYTHING! Sally Yates leaked the General Flynn conversation? Ask her under oath. Republicans should start playing the Democrats game!

  39. says

    Trump’s reasons for a nomination speech at the White House are as false as you’d expect

    In his Fox & Friends phone call Wednesday morning, Donald Trump all but confirmed that he planned to shatter norms […] by giving his Republican National Convention speech on the South Lawn of the White House. Trump tried to make it out to be a decision about cost-effectiveness and logistical simplicity, saying: “It would be the easiest from the standpoint of security” and “by far the least expensive from the country’s standpoint.” Except that the Trump campaign is supposed to reimburse the federal government for expenses incurred while campaigning.

    Donald Trump had spent at least 248 days at golf courses as of Memorial Day weekend. Before the beginning of the pandemic, he had visited his own properties on nearly a third of the days of his time in office, not just incurring the usual expenses of presidential travel but billing the Secret Service up to $650 per night for stays in his own hotels. He went to Mount Rushmore for the Fourth of July. This is not a man concerned with the taxpayer expense of his travel and security.

    Later in the interview, Trump claimed: “I spend a lot of time here [at the White House], a lot of people didn’t spend as much time.” Again, it cannot be emphasized enough, he has been at a Trump property nearly one in three days since his inauguration. And that’s just his relaxation time. He’s also had plenty of days on the road stroking his own ego with big campaign rallies.

    So, no, Trump is not considering accepting the Republican nomination from the South Lawn of the White House because it would be easy and cheap. He wants to do it because it would make him seem very important, like Mount Rushmore did, and if he can’t have a screaming crowd, he at least wants an ego-inflating backdrop. […]

    As Kedric Payne, senior director of ethics at the Campaign Legal Center, pointed out to The Washington Post: “The RNC would have a difficult time arguing that they can reimburse for the expenses, because how do you calculate such things as the fair market value of the White House lawn?”

    Right. The symbolism of the White House lawn can’t be calculated in dollars, but it’s what Trump is seeking here.

    And, while Trump himself is not subject to the Hatch Act, “he is ordering other people to,” former George W. Bush White House ethics lawyer Richard Painter said. “At a certain point you are using White House resources, and that is a violation of the Hatch Act.” But White House violations of the Hatch Act are referred back to the White House, as has happened previously with the Trump administration, and the Trump White House does nothing about it, for the obvious reason that this is how Trump operates.

    The Post does report one tantalizing nugget, though: “[T]wo Democratic lawyers, who requested anonymity to discuss private deliberations, said that while Hatch Act violations do not result in criminal prosecutions, the misuse of congressionally appropriated funds for a political purpose could be criminally enforceable, and the statute of limitations would not have run out in 2021, when the winner of this year’s election takes office.” […].

  40. blf says

    The Onion, DC Journalists In Awe Of Australian Reporter Able To Speak To Trump Without Succumbing To His Raw Animal Magnetism:

    […] “It’s truly remarkable that Swan could actually ask the president meaningful follow-up questions instead of just tearing off his clothes — I don’t know how he managed it,” said New York Times chief White House correspondent Peter Baker […] “Normally, when you interview the president, you’re ready with your statistics and a list of his previous statements to contradict the lies you know he’s going to tell, but within seconds the sheer libidinal potency of the man turns you to putty in his hands. Speaking for all my colleagues, we absolutely want to challenge Trump in real time to expose the extensive falsehoods and shocking offensiveness of his statements, but when you’re actually there in the room with him, you’re lucky if you’re able to squeak out even a weak ‘hummina hummina hummina.’” The awestruck DC journalists added that they had no idea how Swan managed to take a piece of paper from Trump and critique it right then and there instead of sliding to the floor after catching a whiff of the president’s animal scent.

  41. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Yesterday, I received an application from the Lake County IL Clerks office for a vote by mail ballot. I didn’t ask for it, but upon checking it also went to us folks who voted early in 2018, which I did. Since I can check on-line to see if my application, and later ballot have been received, it looks like it’s time to fill out the form. A salute to the USPS, and a middle finger salute to the Hair Furor.

  42. says

    Public Servants Are Risking Everything to Expose Government Corruption. Donald Trump Is Making Their Lives Hell.

    The president’s war on whistleblowers is worse than you realize.

    Minu Aghevli watched January’s impeachment proceedings in horror. It wasn’t just because she was outraged that Donald Trump had abused the power of his office. […] What shook her was how the intelligence community whistleblower—whose complaint kickstarted the whole impeachment process—was being treated.

    […] “Most chillingly, the President issued a threat against the whistleblower and those who provided information to the whistleblower regarding the President’s misconduct, suggesting that they could face the death penalty for treason.”

    Aghevli, herself a federal whistleblower, felt sick watching all this play out on such a public scale. “It made me cry,” she tells me with a quiver in her voice. “Because I felt like, ‘Oh God, I know exactly what that feels like.’”

    […] the president has declared an all-out assault on whistleblowing. Beginning in April, the president dismissed inspectors general—the very people whistleblowers can confidentially turn to in order to report corruption, waste, and abuse of power—in five different departments in the span of just six weeks […]

    In the midst of this IG firing spree, Aghevli sent me a panicked email late one night: “It’s hard to express how depressing and scary it is to be required to do your annual Whistleblower Protection and Accountability training while the president is firing the IG for taking a report from a whistleblower and the Secretary of the Navy is essentially threatening the sailors of a ship and publicly disparaging their captain who was fired for reporting a health crisis.”

    “It’s literally the definition of gaslighting,” she added.

    Aghevli spent nearly two decades as a Department of Veterans Affairs clinical psychologist at an opioid treatment program in Baltimore before she blew the whistle in 2014 on a program manipulating wait lists to reduce the number of patients being treated. She thought filing a whistleblower complaint would solve the problem, but it only made her life worse over the years. She received intimidating emails from superiors urging her to keep quiet. Coworkers treated her like a traitor. Her superiors barred her from seeing patients, some of whom she’d treated for 15 years. Eventually, in early 2019, she was reassigned to menial administrative work at a front desk. Then, on June 24 last year, the day before she was set to testify before the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, the VA sent her a letter threatening to fire her.

    […] Retaliatory actions against whistleblowers are increasingly common and GOP lawmakers threaten to dox and punish these public servants for exposing corruption. And it’s all legal thanks to the weak federal whistleblowing laws that the Trump administration has skillfully exploited.

    […] a poll conducted by the Government Business Council, the research arm of Government Executive, revealed that one in three federal workers are now less likely to report wrongdoing in their workplace after attacks by the president and his allies on the Ukraine whistleblower.

    “On paper, the United States has some of the strongest whistleblower laws around,” says Mark Zaid, an attorney who represented the Ukraine whistleblower. “But they just don’t work, because the policies aren’t implemented properly.”

    Consider the fate of the Merit Systems Protection Board, a small agency where federal workers who believe they have been unjustly disciplined or fired can appeal—at least in theory. In practice, it has lost all its ability to address federal whistleblower and retaliation complaints. It has lacked a quorum for the entirety of Trump’s tenure, and since February 2019, it hasn’t had a single member sitting on its board; meanwhile, it has a backlog of nearly 3,000 cases waiting in limbo. It’s a “disastrous situation” for whistleblowers who face retaliation, says Liz Hempowicz, the director of public policy at the nonpartisan Project on Government Oversight.

    […] Rick Bright, the former head of the US office tasked with developing a coronavirus vaccine, is one early casualty of the system’s failure. In a whistleblower complaint in May, he alleged that he was booted from his position after his warnings about the seriousness of the virus were ignored, as well as his concerns about the potential harm of hydroxychloroquine […]

    “Right now I think it is completely unreasonable to expect any whistleblower to go to any inspector general office within the federal government,” Hempowicz says. “Because there’s no guarantee that the president won’t replace that inspector general with another political appointee whose loyalty is to the administration rather than to the administration of the law.” […]

    While [Trump’s] allies like Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and his current chief of staff, former Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), have long records of supporting whistleblower laws and federal whistleblowers, they have been some of the people most vociferously attacking the Ukraine whistleblower. […]

    “This administration has brought the worst out in people at so many different levels,” Zaid says. […]

    One of the biggest challenges to pandemic oversight, according to Stephen Kohn, a whistleblower lawyer who also works with the National Whistleblower Center, is finding ways to both encourage whistleblowers to come forward and protect them when they do—and not just ones working for the federal government. […]

    The medical field is far from the only industry flooding OSHA with whistleblower complaints; at a House hearing in May, it was revealed that OSHA has already received nearly 5,000 complaints related to COVID-19, and it’s taken enforcement action in only one of those cases.

    […] the plight of Rick Bright, the vaccine expert and HHS whistleblower. In late June, Bright filed an update to his original whistleblower complaint, alleging that since he was ousted from his role in overseeing the federal development of a COVID-19 vaccine in April, HHS Secretary Alex Azar has been “on the war path” to punish him. The complaint alleges that Bright was reassigned to the National Institutes of Health, where he was supposed to be working on coronavirus testing, but his role had been essentially confined to “making contracts with diagnostics companies.” Azar also allegedly told HHS employees to “refrain from doing anything that would help Dr. Bright be successful in his new role,” according to the complaint.

    It’s all because Bright dared to cross Trump in his attempt to push hydroxychloroquine as a potential treatment for the coronavirus. Since news of Bright’s whistleblower complaint broke, Trump has used the same playbook that he did for the Ukraine whistleblower: Disparage and discredit. In comments to reporters and on Twitter, both Trump and Azar painted Bright as a “disgruntled employee,” who was unfit for his job and just collecting a paycheck. “I don’t know the so-called Whistleblower Rick Bright, never met him or even heard of him,” Trump tweeted, “but to me he is a disgruntled employee, not liked or respected by people I spoke to and who, with his attitude, should no longer be working for our government!”

    “When you see that kind of conversion from the idea that whistleblowers are something that helps keep us on the rails to the rhetoric that they’re an enemy of the people, you’re saying that it’s all political,” Stanger says. “And that’s how democracies die.”

  43. blf says

    Former Atlanta officer who shot Rayshard Brooks sues over firing:

    Garrett Rolfe was fired on June 13, the day after he fatally shot Brooks outside a Wendy’s restaurant in Atlanta.

    The former Atlanta police officer who fatally shot Rayshard Brooks is suing the mayor and interim police chief, saying his firing violated his constitutional rights and the city code. Meanwhile, prosecutors have asked a judge to revoke his bond.

    […]

    Rolfe, 27, faces 11 charges, including felony murder. He was granted bond on June 30.

    Also on Tuesday, prosecutors filed a motion to revoke Rolfe’s bond, saying he had travelled to Florida without permission. The bond order “expressly states that the Defendant is only allowed to leave home for medical, legal, or work related obligations”, the motion says.

    […]

    Rolfe has suffered irreparable injury to his personal and professional reputation as a result of his unlawful dismissal, the lawsuit says, adding that he has become a public spectacle and object of ridicule.

    The lawsuit asks a judge to hold a hearing and to order that Rolfe be immediately reinstated with back pay and other benefits.

    […] A location report from the company that owns the ankle monitor Rolfe is wearing shows that he left home early on Sunday and was in Daytona Beach, the motion says.

    Prosecutors are not aware of him having been granted permission to travel and they argue that Rolfe “has clearly shown that he will not abide by the conditions of bond imposed by the Court”.

    […]

  44. says

    The NBA’s Restart

    The NBA’s summer restart has exposed some truths about the current American experience. Daily coronavirus testing, contact tracing, incentivized isolation, and all the other features of a competent pandemic response are indeed possible; it’s just that they must serve the financial interests of an absurdly wealthy and politically connected company in order to be implemented. […]

    Of the NBA’s 30 squads, only 22 were invited to participate in the restart. Those who weren’t—the Charlotte Hornets, Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks, Detroit Pistons, Atlanta Hawks, Cleveland Cavaliers, Minnesota Timberwolves, and Golden State Warriors—missed the cut because they were not within six games of a playoff spot when the NBA suspended operations on March 11. Every additional person inside that bubble increases the odds of a potential outbreak […]

  45. says

    Update on the death toll and other devastating effects from the Beirut explosion:

    The death toll from explosions that devastated central Beirut has passed 100, the Lebanese Red Cross said […]

    The blasts occurred at a warehouse in Beirut’s port area that apparently housed massive quantities of explosive materials. The initial explosion Tuesday evening ignited a fire; a second blast enveloped the skyline as a mushroom cloud of pastel-colored smoke billowed upward, and a shock wave coursed out across the Lebanese capital, devastating buildings and wounding thousands.

    The Lebanese government said it was putting an unspecified number of Beirut port officials under house arrest as it began an investigation into how 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate came to be stored at the port for years, seemingly turning it into a time bomb. […]

    The Lebanese Red Cross said any additional bodies found in the rubble must be taken to Beirut’s morgues directly, because hospitals could no longer cope. Marwan Abboud, the city’s governor, said that as many as a quarter of a million people have been left homeless and that the destruction could take up to $5 billion to repair. […]

    At least 4,000 people were wounded […]

    There are bodies in the rubble and in the waters of the port. Families put out frantic calls for missing loved ones across social media. […]

    “We have a financial crisis. We have a political crisis. We have a health-care crisis, and now this.” […]

    The European Union said it was activating its civil protection system to round up emergency workers and equipment from across the 27-nation bloc. A video shared on social media showed French firefighters already at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, preparing to assist. […]

    Crisis-stricken Lebanon, with its currency crashing and rising numbers of coronavirus infections, is poorly positioned to cope with another disaster, especially on this scale. At least two hospitals were badly damaged in the explosions, and TV footage showed staff evacuating patients to alternative hospitals that were themselves swamped — in the dark, because the city had no electricity. […]

    Health officials warned that the explosions left a toxic cloud of nitrous oxide hanging over the city and told residents to wear masks and stay indoors. The U.S. Embassy issued a similar warning in a message to U.S. citizens. “There are reports of toxic gases released in the explosion so all in the area should stay indoors and wear masks if available,” the message said.

    Washington Post link

  46. says

    Asked for second-term agenda, Trump flunks (for the fourth time)

    Over the last six weeks, interviewers have asked Trump to describe his second-term agenda four times. In each instance, he has failed.

    Appearing on Fox News this morning, Donald Trump was asked, “Mr. President, what is your second term agenda? What are your top priorities?” It was the fourth time is six weeks [Trump] was asked this question — the most obvious and basic of any president seeking re-election — and he still struggled to answer it.

    “I want to take where we left, we had the greatest economy in the history of the world, we were better than any other country, we were better than we were ever — we — we never had anything like it in this country…. What I want to do is take it from that point and then build it even better.”

    He soon after transitioned to whining about Germany being “very delinquent” toward NATO.

    At this point, we could note that Trump claims about the economy during his first three years are demonstrably ridiculous. We could also note that the president’s ongoing confusion about how NATO works is tiresome.

    But putting these relevant details aside, what’s far more amazing is Trump’s inability to think of anything he wants to do if he’s rewarded with a second term.

    […] It was in late June when Sean Hannity first asked about the president’s “top priority items for a second term.” Trump rambled for 161 words, insisted that the word “experience” is “a very important word,” called John Bolton “an idiot,” but never got around to identifying a single substantive goal.

    Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) soon after scolded Hannity, arguing that the Fox News host has a responsibility to help Trump win, and asking questions such as “What are your top priority items for a second term?” aren’t helpful.

    Soon after, [Trump] spoke with Sinclair Media’s Eric Bolling, a former Fox News host, who said he wanted to offer Trump “a retake” on the same question. The president replied, “[I]t’s very simple: we’re going to make America great again. We are doing things that nobody could have done.”

    […] Trump proceeded to ramble through a 380-word answer that made clear that he didn’t know how to answer the most obvious question of any campaign: what will you do if you win?

    Attempt #3 came during a different Sean Hannity interview in July — when the president must’ve known the question was coming — as the host once again encouraged Trump to tell the public what he’d do with a second term. […] Trump said he plans to work on the coronavirus, which is what he claims to already be doing. He intends to work on the economy, which is what he claims to already be doing. He wants to focus on unidentified trade deals, border-wall construction, and military spending, all of which is what he claims to already be doing.

    The president added that he wants to care for veterans, protect the Second Amendment, and stack the courts with more far-right ideologues — and if these priorities sound familiar, it’s because, according to Trump, he’s already doing each of these things, too.

    In other words, the incumbent president’s plan for a second term is to offer more of the same. That’s it. That’s the agenda. As of this morning, it’s still the agenda.

    […]. When Trump delivered a campaign re-launch speech in Tulsa in June, he neglected to say what he intended to do if rewarded with a second term.

    What’s more, the president’s campaign website does not feature an issues page listing any plans or blueprints for the future. Even the Republican Party’s 2020 platform is just the 2016 platform recycled.

    […] we’d ideally see a battle of ideas, with the major-party candidates critiquing each other’s agendas, highlighting their flaws, and promising a better way. Except in 2020, that’s effectively impossible: the Republican incumbent hasn’t presented any ideas to critique. […]

  47. says

    Top GOPer Pours Cold Water On Trump’s WH Acceptance Speech Idea

    Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-SD) doesn’t seem to be on board with President Donald Trump’s potential plan to give his nomination speech at the White House during the Republican National Convention (RNC).

    “Is that even legal?” the GOP leader asked while speaking to reporters on Wednesday, according to Politico. “I assume that’s not something that you could do. I assume there’s some Hatch Act issues or something.”

    Thune said he hadn’t heard Trump’s comments about the issue, but “I think anything you do on federal property would seem to be problematic.” […]

  48. says

    Humor/satire from Andy Borowitz:

    Americans are insanely jealous of Spain after its disgraced former head of state Juan Carlos announced on Monday that he was fleeing the country.

    In interviews across the U.S., Americans expressed dismay and frustration that multiple criminal investigations were “all it took” for the former Spanish ruler to voluntarily leave Spain forever.

    “So wait, in Spain, if a leader is being investigated for financial crimes and tax evasion, he just writes a letter saying goodbye and then he leaves?” Carol Foyler, who lives in Topeka, Kansas, said. “Whoa.”

    Tracy Klugian, who hails from Butte, Montana, harbored similar feelings of jealousy when he learned of Juan Carlos’s self-exile. “So, basically, the people of Spain will never have to see or hear from this corrupt narcissist again?” he said. “Man.”

    Harland Dorrinson, who lives in St. Louis, said that he was seething with envy when he learned that Juan Carlos might have already fled to the Dominican Republic, some four thousand miles away from Spain.

    “Four thousand miles away from Washington is basically the North Pole,” he said. “Why does Spain get all the good things?”

    New Yorker link

  49. blf says

    Rudy Giuliani is trying to reschedule the presidential candidate debates because By the time of the first presidential debate on September 29, 2020, at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, as many as eight million Americans in 16 states will have already started voting. (He’s also trying to tinker with the moderators.) Biden is having none of that (from the Grauniad’s current blithering eejits live blog):

    [… H]ere’s the Biden campaign’s response to the Rudy Giuliani letter on debates, via Biden campaign rapid response director Andrew Bates:

    We have said all along, including in a letter to the commission in June, that Joe Biden will appear on the dates that the commission selected and in the locations they chose. Donald Trump has not, continually trying to insert his choice of friendly moderators, now including one who just published an op-ed offering ‘the case’ for Trump’s reelection. Joe Biden will be there. We await Donald Trump’s decision — and perhaps the president [sic] should put as much time into managing COVID as does into this.

    Biden advisers have not taken the arguments by Giuliani seriously. Part of that is simply because the campaign’s arguments are coming through Giuliani.

    And it’s also that Trump has switched positions on mail-in ballots and early voting. At moments he has argued that it is an opportunity for massive fraud and then at other moments he’s said that some parts of the country, like Florida with its Republican governor, can execute a vote-by-mail influx safely.

  50. says

    One death every 80 seconds: The grim new toll of COVID-19 in America

    “It will go away like things go away,” Trump claimed. Joe Biden says Trump is living in a world of delusion.

    Over the last seven days, a grim new COVID-19 calculus has emerged: one person died every 80 seconds from the coronavirus in America.

    And the pace at which those 7,486 people died appears to be accelerating, a new NBC News tally revealed Wednesday.

    In July, a total of 26,198 deaths were reported, meaning one every 102 seconds. As of Wednesday morning, more than 158,000 people in the U.S. had died of the virus since the start of the pandemic.

    The numbing new national snapshot of how COVID-19 is claiming more and more lives came as Johns Hopkins University reported another milestone: The world death toll from this plague had eclipsed 700,000.

    The U.S. has logged over 4.8 million confirmed cases. And around 1.8 million of those have come since July 7, when the 3 millionth case was reported, NBC News figures show.

    While most of the new cases and deaths have been in the South and Sun Belt, states in the northeast like New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts that were hit hardest at the start of the pandemic — and were able to flatten the curve — have also reported worrying upticks.

    Under fire for being slow to respond to the COVID-19 crisis and presiding over the biggest economic disaster since the Great Depression, […] Trump once again downplayed the extent of the pandemic in a call-in interview Wednesday with “Fox & Friends.”

    “This thing is going away,” he said. “It will go away like things go away.”

    Joe Biden, the Democrat hoping to oust Trump from the White House come November, fired back.

    “Donald Trump continues to live in a world of delusion,” Biden said in a statement.

    In other developments:
    Citing the dangers of the coronavirus pandemic, Biden announced he would not be traveling to Milwaukee later this month for the Democratic National Convention. Instead, Biden said he would virtually accept his party’s nomination to run for president. […]

    The Chicago Public School system became the latest to ditch plans to reopen classrooms to in-person education come September. Instead, the nation’s third-largest school system will do what many other school districts are doing and reopen remotely on Sept. 8 and revisit that strategy on Nov. 9. […]

    Starting Thursday, people who live in — or who have visited — the 35 states and territories currently grappling with high coronavirus rates will have to pass through checkpoints when they arrive in New York City. They will be required to fill out a traveler health form and reminded to quarantine for 14 days. New York City sheriff’s deputies and other law enforcement will be deployed to key entry points like Penn Station as well as the airports, bridges, tunnels, and major roadways that feed into the city.

    “New York City is holding the line against COVID-19, and New Yorkers have shown tremendous discipline,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “We’re not going to let our hard work slip away and will continue to do everything we can to keep New Yorkers safe and healthy.”

    Florida, a state that has seen an explosion of new COVID-19 deaths since it began reopening in May at Trump’s urging, has now recorded more than 500,000 confirmed cases of the virus, the state’s health department reported. There were 225 additional coronavirus deaths reported Wednesday, bringing the total number of COVID-19 fatalities in the state to 7,751. […]

  51. says

    Trump spares only Texas and Florida in cutting funds for National Guard

    This new move from Trump is really weird. (Unless you like politicians who use money and the powerful levers of government to punish innocent citizens.)

    When […] Trump directed late Monday that states now pick up some of the tab for the nationwide deployment of the National Guard to respond to the coronavirus, he carved out two big exceptions: Texas and Florida.

    While all other states and territories will have to shell out millions to cover 25 percent of their National Guard costs starting later this month, Texas and Florida will be fully covered. The two key states, which voted for Trump in 2016 and are hotly contested this year, are struggling to contain the coronavirus surges. But other states are worse off by several metrics — including total Covid-19 cases and the percentage of people testing positive.

    An estimated 25,000 Guard troops are on duty across the country running testing sites, contact tracing positive virus cases, building hospitals and carrying out a host of other logistical tasks, including delivering supplies to nursing homes and food banks. […]

    “With American lives at risk, the president is continuing to manipulate our nation’s pandemic response to benefit his own political fortunes,” said Noam Lee, the executive director of the Democratic Governors Association. “While the coronavirus doesn’t discriminate between ‘red’ states or ‘blue’ states, it is disturbingly clear that our president does.”

    The National Guard Association, which represents tens of thousands of Guard personnel, told POLITICO it received “no explanation” for why Texas and Florida are getting special treatment when they are far from the only states relying heavily on the citizen-soldiers to battle spikes of sickness and death and are similarly under enormous financial strain. […]

    “In order to help states respond to the pandemic, the Federal Government took the unprecedented step to fully fund National Guard deployments,” the official said in a statement. “Now, as conditions warrant, it should be common sense that States will resume normal cost sharing.”

    But the National Guard Association said that cost sharing for a federal deployment like the coronavirus relief effort is anything but “normal,” and they know of no other time states were asked to pick up part of the tab for a mission like this.

    Much of the Guard’s coronavirus relief work has been carried out under what’s known as Title 32, meaning troops are deployed for an emergency — and the the federal government bears the full cost while personnel are eligible for a series of health and retirement benefits. But governors remain in command of the Guard troops in their state.

    […] The National Guard Bureau, which is managing the nationwide deployment, similarly provided no explanation and declined to provide a state-by-state breakdown of how many of the more than 20,000 troops currently on federal status are deployed in which states.[…]

    “The president has reauthorized and extended federal funding for the National Guard to continue in service for the remainder of this calendar year at a 100 percent reimbursement rate,” Abbott said. “That is a tremendous financial as well as personnel assistance for the response by the state of Texas to Covid-19.”

    Others say they are puzzled by the special treatment given that dozens of states are in the same boat.

    Maj. Gen. Matt Quinn, head of the Montana National Guard, said he’s received no explanation from the administration.

    “Florida and Texas are the worst in some regards, that’s not true across the board,” said Quinn, who is also president of the Adjutants General Association of the United States. “You have other hot spots and other states that could certainly use the 100 percent support. Now, the rest of the states who are trying to figure out how to cover the 25 percent will be left scrambling.” […]

    California has more total cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control. As for cases per 100,000 people, Louisiana and Arizona have more than Florida, while Texas ranks 17th. Mississippi and Alabama have a higher percentage of people testing positive than in Florida, while Texas is the 9th highest.

    Meanwhile, other states are also in worse financial shape. […] Tax revenues are down nearly 45 percent in California and more than 50 percent in Oregon, for example. […]

    The National Conference of State Legislatures estimates that the cost of the deployment is as much as $9 million per month for every 1,000 troops.

    […] state leaders and lawmakers say they’re thankful for the extension [to December 31] but critical of the decision to fully fund just two states.

    “This isn’t just a Texas or a Florida problem, it’s an American problem,” Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), told POLITICO in a statement Tuesday. “That’s why I’ve continued to push for extensions on Title 32 authorization—despite the administration’s previous efforts to shortchange our servicemembers—and urge Trump to provide full coverage for all of our National Guard servicemembers who are responding to this crisis.”

    “Our states still need as much help as the federal government can give,” she added.

  52. says

    U.S. federal prosecutors have produced no evidence linking dozens of people arrested in anti-racism protests in Portland, Oregon, to the antifa or anarchist movements, despite President Donald Trump’s assertions they are fueling the unrest. […]

    Reuters link

  53. says

    Whistleblower: LA sheriff deputies threw party, got ‘executioner’ tattoos after shooting suspects

    The Compton division of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department are under investigation after one deputy blew the whistle on fellow officers who reportedly threw secret parties and got “executioner” tattoos after shooting suspects.

    […] the complaint filed by Deputy Art Gonzalez, which alleges absolutely repulsive behavior by members of the department. […] “Deputy Gonzalez says that the ‘Executioner’ deputies celebrate shootings of citizens with tattoo parties, set illegal arrest quotas and retaliated against him when he reported one alleged ‘Executioner’ deputy for beating up a fellow deputy outside the patrol station earlier this year.”

    Residents of Compton, including Mayor Aja Brown, say they have been victims of abusive behavior and illegal stops by the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department Compton division for years. Just last year Brown says deputies pulled her over at gunpoint with her husband and infant in the car, saying that she’d run a red light, something she vehemently denied. Then they pulled her out of the car, searching her, her husband, and the car for drugs, all while her baby was crying. […]

    In the end, Brown and her husband were released without even a ticket. She said the experience left them shaken. “They terrorize the community and then they cover their tracks,” she said, and added: “It is unacceptable, we will not take this.”

    Compton is in the county of Los Angeles, but is not part of the city of Los Angeles. They have a contract with the department to police the community. Mayor Brown is calling for the city to reconsider the $22 million the LA Sheriff’s Department receives annually, saying: “We demand justice from the Compton sheriffs and we will no longer continue to pay you $22 million to terrorize this community.” The contract with the county is the result of a transformation in 2000 when the city’s police department was disbanded after violence in the city continued to rise. […]

  54. tomh says

    Facebook, Twitter take down Trump post saying kids are immune to coronavirus
    Ashley Gold, Sara Fischer

    Facebook removed a video post from President Trump Wednesday in which he claimed in an interview with Fox News that children are “almost immune” to COVID-19.

    It’s the first time that Facebook has removed content from Trump’s account for violating policies on coronavirus-related misinformation.

    Twitter took down the same Trump video post later on Wednesday evening.

    Trump’s tweet that included the video was resharing a post from @TeamTrump, the official account for the president’s re-election campaign.

    A Twitter spokesperson told Axios the original tweet from the campaign was “in violation of the Twitter Rules on COVID-19 misinformation. The account owner will be required to remove the Tweet before they can Tweet again.”

    That policy temporarily locked out the @TeamTrump account from tweeting and briefly stirred confusion in the press and on social media Wednesday night that Twitter had frozen the account of Trump himself.
    […]

    “This video includes false claims that a group of people is immune from COVID-19 which is a violation of our policies around harmful COVID misinformation,” Facebook spokesperson Andy Stone told Axios.

    “Another day, another display of Silicon Valley’s flagrant bias against this President, where the rules are only enforced in one direction. Social media companies are not the arbiters of truth,” said Courtney Parella, deputy national press secretary for the Trump campaign.

    Children are almost — and I would almost say definitely — but almost immune from this disease… They have stronger immune systems than we do, somehow, for this, and they don’t have a problem. They just don’t have a problem.
    — President Trump, in the video

    Reality check: A growing body of evidence suggests children can easily contract and spread the virus…

  55. Akira MacKenzie says

    @ 69

    “…Social media companies are not the arbiters of truth,” said Courtney Parella, deputy national press secretary for the Trump campaign.

    OK Courtney, then how about you morons start listening to the actual “arbiters of truth,” like Fauci, the CDC, and the rest of the modern medical establishment?

  56. tomh says

    WaPo:
    New York attorney general seeks to dissolve NRA in suit accusing gun rights group of wide-ranging fraud and self-dealing
    By Carol D. Leonnig
    August 6, 2020

    The chief executive of the National Rifle Association and several top lieutenants engaged in a decades-long pattern of fraud to raid the coffers of the powerful gun rights group for personal gain, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday by the New York attorney general, draining $64 million from the nonprofit in just three years.

    In her lawsuit, Attorney General Letitia James called for the dissolution of the NRA and the removal of CEO Wayne LaPierre from the leadership post he has held for the past 39 years, saying he and others used the group’s funds to finance a luxury lifestyle.

    She also asked a New York court to force LaPierre and three key deputies to repay NRA members for the ill-gotten funds and inflated salaries that her investigation found they took.

    James accused the NRA leaders of flouting state and federal laws and signing off on reports and statements they knew were fraudulent, while diverting millions of dollars away from the NRA’s charitable mission to benefit themselves and their allies.

    The attorney general requested that the court bar the four men — LaPierre, general counsel John Frazer, former treasurer Woody Phillips and former chief of staff Joshua Powell — from ever serving in a leadership position for a New York charity in the future.
    […]

    “The corruption was so broad and because they have basically destroyed all the assets of the NRA,” she said. “Enough was enough … No one is above the law, not even the NRA.”

    Her office cited as a precedent its previous action against the Trump Foundation, which led President Trump to shut down the charity in 2018 amid allegations that he used it for his personal benefit.
    […]

    The lawsuit also claims LaPierre failed to report large sums of personal income to the IRS. James’s office said it found that the NRA chief funneled personal expenses through an outside public relations firm, allowing him to avoid reporting hundreds of thousands of dollars of personal income.

    James said Thursday that she was referring those findings to the IRS. She also said that if her office uncovers criminal activity, it will be referred to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.

  57. says

    Follow-up to comment 71.

    […] Trump on Thursday called a lawsuit that seeks to dissolve the National Rifle Association filed earlier in the day “a very terrible thing.” […]

    “It’s very sad,” Trump said. […]

    “I think the NRA should move to Texas and lead a very good and beautiful life,” Trump told reporters before departing for Ohio. “I’ve told them that for a long time. “

    Link

  58. tomh says

    Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine tests positive for coronavirus ahead of Trump visit
    Zachary Basu, Ursula Perano

    Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) has tested positive for COVID-19 and plans to quarantine at his home for the next 14 days, his office announced Thursday. He currently has no symptoms.

    The 73-year-old DeWine was set to meet President Trump Thursday on the tarmac at an airport in Cleveland and was tested as part of standard protocol. He is the second governor known to have contracted the coronavirus, after Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R).

  59. says

    Follow-up to comments 71 and 72.

    Readers of the TPM article posted these comments:

    Trump should know what a “very terrible thing“ it is to be caught self dealing…

    He and his criminal family had to dissolve their charity because they kept on stealing/self dealing for decades!
    ——————–
    I kind of laughed when a reporter asked if there was precedent for actions like this by the state. Short answer: Trump’s charity.
    ——————–
    Fraud, Money Laundering, self-dealing, of course Donald thinks its terrible that they got caught, these are few of his favorite things.

  60. says

    Nancy speaks out:

    House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) had harsh words for her fellow White House negotiators Thursday morning in response to a question about why they can’t at least come together on a new deal for the most vulnerable people in the face of the pandemic.

    “Perhaps you mistook them for somebody who gives a damn for what you just described,” she quipped, earning a soft “jeez” from CNBC’s Jim Cramer.

    Pelosi also took the opportunity during the interview to drop a well-timed troll, saying that she “hopes” President Donald Trump carries out his threat to act unilaterally on extending the eviction moratorium. But, she added, it won’t do much good without accompanying financial aid to help people avoid falling down the same hole months later.

    “If they extend the moratorium, people won’t have to pay their rent just yet, it will be pushed further down the road unless we get some money for them to compensate for what they have to get,” she said. “And that’s not just for the renters — that’s for the landlords. What good is it to the landlords if you have a moratorium until the end of the year for people to pay their rent unless there’s some money to help pay the rent?” […]

    Link

  61. says

    Teacher’s viral essay shows how Trump’s COVID-19 failures are turning Republicans away from party

    […] While health experts urge individuals to wear masks and abide by social distancing measures, Trump promises to reopen schools under the argument that children are too young to carry risk. […] others have come to their senses and dismissed the president’s claims. Nancy Shively, an Oklahoma teacher who voted for Trump in 2016, not only said she regrets voting for Trump but shared that she fears for her life.

    The special education teacher and self-described “lifelong Republican” wrote an op-ed for USA Today in which she said she changed her voter registration and ended her “Republican identity” following Trump’s response to the pandemic. “When the pandemic hit, the incompetence of the man for whom I had voted and the complicity of everyone around him forced me to admit that I could no longer maintain any kind of self-respect as a Republican,” Shively wrote.

    […]. Many teachers have no other source of income and are thus left no choice but to teach and risk their lives amid the pandemic. “I am still haunted because, deep down, I fear that with the 2016 vote I may have signed my own death warrant.”

    In an interview with CNN on Monday, Shively reiterated her thoughts, further criticizing Trump’s lack of leadership. “Well, just watching the failure of leadership in our country, beginning with the president, over the course of this pandemic, it’s not just my death warrant I might have signed, but there’s 150,000 Americans who are dead because of this,” Shively said. “I have to take responsibility for my personal vote that enabled that.”

    Shively continued that education is historically underfunded, especially in Oklahoma. Opening schools amid a pandemic, she argued, puts pressure on both teachers and schools who “are already under underpaid in a system that’s underfunded.” Trump, on the other hand, doesn’t care how underfunded teachers and schools may be and stands by the misconception that children and young people are less susceptible to the virus. “The lower they are in age, the lower the risk,” Trump said at a news briefing at the White House on July 30. “We have to remember that there’s another side to this. Keeping them out of school and keeping work closed is causing death also. Economic harm, but it’s causing death for different reasons, but death. Probably more death.”

    […] Reopening schools is not only a risk for teachers and children to contract the novel coronavirus, but for those who care for and come into contact with them. While in-person learning is ideal for education, in the current circumstances reopening schools would not only create potential hotspots for the novel coronavirus but reverse any progress made, especially with mask mandates not being present in each state. “My school district has no mask mandate and two nurses for more than 2,400 students in five school buildings. How is that going to work?” Shively wrote.

    According to Shively, cases drastically increased countywide and in her small Oklahoma town following Trump’s rally in Tulsa. […] “Officials from the president down to the local school board are kicking this can down the road, pretending it will all be OK. Teachers know it won’t,” she said.

    As of Aug. 4, at least 1,358 new coronavirus deaths and 53,440 new cases of COVID-19 were reported in the U.S. Since last week the U.S. has maintained an average of 58,820 cases per day, according to The New York Times database.

    Video is available at the link.

  62. says

    Unshocking new pattern: School opens, COVID-19 cases emerge, students forced to quarantine

    It took just days after schools opened in Corinth, Mississippi, for the first student to test positive for COVID-19, and about a week for 116 students to be told to quarantine. A week.

    The quarantine instruction to 116 came after a total of six students and one staff member tested positive. But the school remains open, and will remain open, Superintendent Lee Childress insists, saying “Just because you begin to have positive cases, that is not a reason for closing school.” Well, actually …

    How far is Childress going to take that position? How many positive cases? What would be the trigger point for closing if seven infections in a week is not? His position at this point is basically that he always expected positive cases, so, shrug. […]

    Through much of the course of the pandemic, White House coronavirus coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx has had notably rosy predictions (by the standards of people who are supposed to know something about the virus and public health), but on Sunday she said “we are asking people to distance-learn at this moment so we can get this epidemic under control.” But no, the superintendent of schools in Corinth, Mississippi, does not see any reason for any such nonsense […]

    Donald Trump says “My view is the schools should open. […] Childress is right about the importance of school in kids’ lives—but somehow he thinks that illness and possible death is a fair trade.

    Corinth isn’t the only district running an uncontrolled experiment on students, school staff, or both. Gwinnett County, Georgia, didn’t make it through the in-person planning period before 260 school employees were quarantined. [snipped other examples]

    Expect the number of such examples to keep rising until school district leaders everywhere come to their senses and do the right thing by moving to remote learning until community spread of the coronavirus is under control and schools have been made safe.

  63. says

    If you think things are bad now ….

    Negotiations continue—unsuccessfully—on the next coronavirus stimulus bill, and the sticking points seem to keep multiplying. Democrats […] continue to push for $1 trillion in aid to state and local governments, a figure needed to avert 5.3 million job losses over the next 16 months, while Republicans continue to say state and local governments are on their own in a pandemic.

    Now, the U.S. Postal Service has emerged as another contested point in the negotiations, because Democrats want to ensure that Donald Trump’s cutbacks to the mail don’t endanger the November elections. And Republicans, including the big Republican donor Trump appointed as postmaster general, do not want to commit to on-time delivery of all the mail, especially with an election coming […]

    That postmaster general/donor, Louis DeJoy, has cut overtime for postal workers, ensuring backlogs, and has told workers to leave mail behind to wait until the next day under expanded circumstances. He’s also looking at instituting a much broader one-day delay on mail sorting and delivery. There can be no doubt that DeJoy is intentionally slowing down mail delivery, though of course he bills it as being about cost-cutting. Related, an ACLU voting rights expert told The Washington Post, “People haven’t even gotten their absentee ballots in time to return them, or, once they do receive them, they have very little time to get the ballot back.”

    […] It’s not just the election at stake, of course. Prescription medications are being caught up in DeJoy’s slowdown, […] DeJoy’s slowdown accompanies Trump’s constant attacks on mail-in voting […]

    while the House passed its stimulus bill nearly three months ago, the Senate didn’t even get started on a competing proposal until the $600 unemployment benefit was expiring, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell now has a caucus in disarray and no direct role in the negotiations. Basically any bill will have to get through the Senate on the strength of Democratic votes, given the number of Senate Republicans who are opposed to passing anything, yet Republicans continue to get to stand in the way of progress. […]

    Link

  64. says

    Nobody Accurately Tracks Health Care Workers Lost to COVID-19. So She Stays Up at Night Cataloging the Dead.

    The lack of good official data on these deaths is “scandalous.”

    When police discovered the woman, she’d been dead at home for at least 12 hours, alone except for her 4-year-old daughter. The early reports said only that she was 42, a mammogram technician at a hospital southwest of Atlanta and almost certainly a victim of COVID-19. […] Anesthesiologist Claire Rezba, scrolling through the news on her phone, was dismayed. “I felt like her sacrifice was really great and her child’s sacrifice was really great, and she was just this anonymous woman, you know? It seemed very trivializing.” For days, Rezba would click through Google, searching for a name, until in late March, the news stories finally supplied one: Diedre Wilkes. And almost without realizing it, Rezba began to keep count.

    The next name on her list was world-famous, at least in medical circles: James Goodrich, a pediatric neurosurgeon in New York City and a pioneer in the separation of twins conjoined at the head. One of his best-known successes happened in 2016, when he led a team of 40 people in a 27-hour procedure to divide the skulls and detach the brains of 13-month-old brothers. Rezba, who’d participated in two conjoined-twins cases during her residency, had been riveted by that saga. Goodrich’s death on March 30 was a gut-punch; “it just felt personal.” Clearly, the coronavirus was coming for health care professionals […]

    At first, seeking out their obituaries was a way to rein in her own fear. At Rezba’s hospital in Richmond, Virginia,[…] elective surgeries had been canceled and schedules rearranged, which meant she had long stretches of time to fret. Her husband was also a physician, an orthopedic surgeon at a different hospital. Her sister was a nurse practitioner. Bearing witness to the lives and deaths of people she didn’t know helped distract her from the dangers faced by those she loved. […]

    On April 14, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published its first count of health care workers lost to COVID-19: 27 deaths. By then, Rezba’s list included many times that number — nurses, drug treatment counselors, medical assistants, orderlies, ER staff, physical therapists, EMTs. “That was upsetting,” Rezba said. “I mean, I’m, like, just one person using Google and I had already counted more than 200 people and they’re saying 27? That’s a big discrepancy.”

    […] The more she searched, the more convinced she became that this invisibility was not an accident: “I felt like a lot of these hospitals and nursing homes were trying to hide what was happening.”

    […] men and women who worked two or three jobs but had no insurance; clusters of contagion in families; so many young parents, she wanted to scream. The majority were Black or brown. Many were immigrants. None of them had to die.

    The least she could do was force the government, and the public, to see them. “I feel like if they had to look at the faces, and read the stories, if they realized how many there are; if they had to keep scrolling and reading, maybe they would understand.”

    It’s been clear since the beginning of the pandemic that health care workers faced unique, sometimes extreme risks from COVID-19. Five months later, the reality is worse than most Americans know. Through the end of July, nearly 120,000 doctors, nurses and other medical personnel had contracted the virus in the U.S., the CDC reported; at least 587 had died.

    Even those numbers are almost certainly “a gross underestimate,” said Kent Sepkowitz, an infectious disease specialist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City who has studied medical worker deaths from HIV, tuberculosis, hepatitis and flu. Based on state data and past epidemics, Sepkowitz said he’d expect health care workers to make up 5% to 15% of all coronavirus infections in the U.S. That would put the number of workers who’ve contracted the virus at over 200,000, and maybe much higher.” […]

    Meanwhile, the Centers for Medicareand Medicaid Services reports at least 767 deaths among nursing home staff, making the work “the most dangerous job in America,” a Washington Post op-ed declared. National Nurses United, a union with more than 150,000 members nationwide, has counted at least 1,289 deaths among all categories of health care professionals, including 169 nurses.

    The loss of so many dedicated, deeply experienced professionals in such an urgent crisis is “unfathomable,” said Christopher Friese, a professor at the University of Michigan School of Nursing whose areas of study include health care worker injuries and illnesses. “[…] we’ve depleted our workforce unnecessarily when we had tools at our disposal” to prevent wide-scale sickness and death. […]

    Learning from the sick and dead ought to be a national priority, both to protect the workforce and to improve care in the pandemic and beyond, said Patricia Davidson, dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing. “It’s critically important,” she said. “It should be done in real time.” […]

    “Governments’ failure to collect this information in a consistent way” has been “scandalous,” said the council’s CEO, Howard Catton, and “means we do not have the data that would add to the science that could improve infection control and prevention measures and save the lives of other healthcare workers. … If they continue to turn a blind eye, it sends a message that [those] lives didn’t count.”

  65. tomh says

    County Sues Church For Violation of COVID Orders
    Kathleen Wilson, Ventura County Star

    Ventura County [California] officials on Wednesday sued Newbury Park Pastor Rob McCoy and the chapel he heads to force compliance with public health orders intended to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

    The filing came a day after the Ventura County Board of Supervisors authorized legal counsel to seek restraining orders and other enforcement actions against individuals and entities who refuse to comply with the orders…

    In the lawsuit filed in Ventura County Superior Court, the county and Public Health Officer Dr. Robert Levin said McCoy and the Godspeak Calvary Chapel had violated the orders, causing “great and irreparable injury” to the public by creating a significant risk of further community spread. The suit also claims that the defendants have created a public nuisance.

    McCoy said Wednesday that he did not understand why the church was being singled out for punishment.

    “We haven’t hurt anybody,” he said…

    McCoy also said that he would continue holding indoor services at the chapel despite restrictions on large gatherings.

    McCoy did so as recently as Sunday when several hundred people gathered at the church for a morning service, a Star reporter said on Twitter. A few days earlier McCoy said that he was willing to go to jail or have the church building seized rather than obey the rules.

    Jail sounds like a good place for him.

  66. says

    Follow-up to comment 79.

    […] A preprint study out of Italy last week hinted at the kind of lessons researchers and policy makers might glean if they had more complete data about health care workers in the U.S. The study pooled data from occupational medical centers in six Italian cities, where more than 10,000 doctors, nurses and other providers were tested for coronavirus from March to early May. Along with basic demographic information, the data included job title, the facility and department where the employee worked, the type of PPE used and self-reported COVID-19 symptoms.

    The most important findings: Working in a designated COVID-19 ward didn’t put workers at greater risk of infection, while wearing a mask “appeared to be the single most effective approach” to keeping them safe. […]

    The lack of public data about health care workers and deaths may have contributed to a dangerous complacency as infections have surged in the South and West, Friese said—for example, the idea that COVID-19 is no more dangerous than other common respiratory viruses. “I’ve been at this for 23 years. I’ve never seen so many health care workers stricken in my career. This whole idea that it’s just like the flu probably set us back quite a way.”

    He sees similar misconceptions about PPE: “If we had a better understanding of the number of health care workers infected, it might help our policymakers recognize the PPE remains inadequate and they need to redouble their efforts…People are still MacGyvering and wrapping themselves in trash bags. If we’re reusing N95 respirators, we haven’t solved the problem. And until we solve that, we’re going to continue to see the really tragic results that we’re seeing.”

    The misconceptions appeared to stretch to the highest reaches of the federal government, even as infections and deaths started surging again. At a White House event in July focused on reopening schools in the fall, HHS secretary Alex Azar told the people gathered, “health care workers…don’t get infected because they take appropriate precautions.” […]

    More at the link in comment 79.

    This problem is global. Amnesty International, in a July report, pointed to widespread data gaps as part of a broader suppression of information and rights that has left workers in many countries “exposed, silenced [and] attacked.” In Britain, where more than 540 medical workers have died in the pandemic, the advocacy group Doctors’ Association UK has begun legal action to force a government inquiry into shortages of personal protection equipment in the National Health Service and “social care” facilities such as nursing homes.

  67. says

    More bad faith activity from Trump when it comes to trade deals with Canada:

    […] Trump said Thursday that he had reimposed aluminum tariffs on Canada, reigniting a point of contention that had been cleared up prior to the finalization of the U.S.-Canada-Mexico trade agreement (USMCA), which went into effect in July.

    In a speech at a Whirlpool plant in Ohio, Trump said he signed a proclamation earlier in the day to reimpose the tariff, presumably at its previous rate of 10 percent.

    “Canada was taking advantage of us, as usual, and I signed it, and it imposes – because the aluminum business was being decimated by Canada. Very unfair,” Trump said. […]

    The Trump administration agreed to lift the tariffs in May 2019 to pave the way for agreement on the North American trade deal.

    The tariff recalls Trump’s earlier trade policies, which set off a series of trade wars that economists said were harmful to the U.S. economy. Trump attempted to use the tariffs as leverage in trade negotiations, to varying degrees of success.

    […] Reports surfaced ahead of its implementation last month that Trump was reconsidering imposing the tariffs, but was dissuaded from doing so […]

    Link

  68. says

    Here is an actual quote [tweet] from pseudo-Christian Donald Trump, in reference to Joe Biden:

    NO RELIGION, NO ANYTHING! HURT THE BIBLE, HURT GOD! HE’S AGAINST GOD, HE’S AGAINST GUNS! HE’S AGAINST ENERGY!

    Here is some commentary from Wonkette:

    […] So what’s Joe Biden gonna do to the Bible and also to God? Is he gonna take the Bible behind the gym after 5th period? Is he gonna give God a great big KNUCKLE SANDWICH?? Is he going to give the Bible a wedgie and take its lunch money? Is he gonna stare Heaven right in the face and say “NO MORE MALARKEY”? […]

    This comes on the heels of the Trump campaign getting caught editing a photo of Biden in an ad, to make it look like Biden is dejected and defeated, when in reality, the picture was of Joe Biden praying in a church. Good job, Trump idiots! Should we consider that ad an in-kind donation to the Biden campaign?

    To be clear, nothing Trump said [in the tweet] sounds normal to religious believers of any stripe. Yes, we know, he is attempting — poorly — to speak in code to rightwing Christian bigots, and they will forgive him. Guys like Jerry Falwell Jr., with his unzipped grundle hanging out, who look at Trump not as a devout Christian but as somebody who will help them establish their dreamed-of theocracy, where the LGBTQs are banned and the abortions are criminalized — they’ll forgive him.

    But that’s not the votes Trump needs to win. He needs normal people. Deranged ranting about how Joe Biden is going to hurt the Bible and hurt God and also hurt guns is not going to get him normal people. Normal people know Joe Biden has been extremely outspoken about his Catholic faith his entire public career, and they are not going to buy that he is going to “hurt God” or “hurt the Bible.”

    Speaking of Catholics, Trump said this to the Catholics on the EWTN network yesterday, when asked what message he wants Catholic viewers to take away:

    Q: And if there was one message you wanted to say to our viewers, what would it be right now?

    TRUMP: Well, I think anybody having to do with, frankly, religion, but certainly the Catholic Church, you have to be with President Trump. When it comes to pro-life, when it comes to all of the things — these people are going to take all of your rights away, including Second Amendment, because, you know, Catholics like their Second Amendment. So I saved the Second Amendment. I have — if I wasn’t here, you wouldn’t have a Second Amendment. And pro-life is your big thing and you won’t be on that side of the issue, I guarantee, if the radical Left, because they’re going to take over, they’re going to push him around like he was nothing.

    For the record, Biden campaign spox Andrew Bates responded to Trump’s comments […]:

    Joe Biden’s faith is at the core of who he is; he’s lived it with dignity his entire life, and it’s been a source of strength and comfort in times of extreme hardship. Donald Trump is the only president in our history to have tear-gassed peaceful Americans and thrown a priest out of his church just so he could profane it — and a Bible — for his own cynical optics as he sought to tear our nation apart at a moment of crisis and pain. And this comes just one day after Trump’s campaign abused a photo of Joe Biden praying in church to demean him, in one of the starkest expressions of weakness throughout this whole campaign.

    OK then.

    We don’t think this whole Bible Wars thing is going to work out very well for Trump.

    Link

  69. says

    “Trump doesn’t seem to understand that opening schools would make a bad situation worse.”

    Washington Post link

    Is it possible that […] Trump could do a worse job handling the covid-19 pandemic, causing even more needless illness and death? I fear we’re about to find out.

    “OPEN THE SCHOOLS!!!” he tweeted again this week, for the umpteenth time. That’s the equivalent of chugging blindly down the Niagara River, approaching the lip of the falls — and giving the order to proceed full speed ahead.

    Aided and abetted by Republican governors, Trump is pushing hard for in-person classroom instruction this fall in all of the nation’s schools, some of which have already started the new year. He has threatened to withhold federal funding from public school districts that don’t fully open; and while the official White House position acknowledges that “flexibility” is needed, Trump continues to bully local officials to “open 100 percent.”

    It would be wonderful for the economy, and for parents’ mental health, if this were possible — and it could be possible, if Trump had taken the novel coronavirus seriously and orchestrated a proper nationwide shutdown, like governments in other developed countries did, and driven the infection rate down to a manageable level. In that event, Americans would be preparing to safely and cautiously open schools from coast to coast.

    But Trump’s position all along has been that covid-19, which has claimed at least 155,000 American lives, is no big deal. “This thing’s going away. It will go away like things go away,” he said Wednesday on “Fox & Friends.” Pressed by reporters later at a White House briefing, he repeated the claim: “It’s going away. It’ll go away. Things go away.”

    [Muffled scream. Sound of palm thwacking forehead. Anguished sigh.]

    In reality as we know it, some things go away and some don’t. Rainbows go away. Highly infectious novel viruses do not […]

    Trump told his bewildered-looking “Fox & Friends” cheerleading squad that schools can safely open because children are “almost immune” to the virus — a claim so false and toxic that Twitter, Trump’s trusty megaphone, forced his campaign to delete the video clip. […]

    The implications for older adults who live in those children’s households, such as grandparents, are obvious and dire. Kids will contract the virus at school, bring it home and sicken the elderly relatives. Some will have to be hospitalized. Some will die.

    And even relatively young, healthy parents who become infected — and who, perhaps, have only mild illness or are asymptomatic — will spread the virus to others in their communities. The experience of other countries is instructive. Israel, for example, locked down and reduced the number of new covid-19 cases per day to double digits. Then the government opened schools as if everything were back to normal — and infection rates skyrocketed.

    Also, there is the equally obvious fact that you can’t very well have schools without adults. That means teachers, administrators, bus drivers, cafeteria workers and others will inevitably be exposed. Even if one takes a callous attitude toward their well-being, what happens when they get sick and have to stay home? Are the children supposed to teach themselves?

    And what to do when a student or teacher gets infected? Does everyone in the classroom have to go home and quarantine? What about the other students on that bus route? Does somebody — the school nurse, maybe — have to perform contact-tracing to figure out who was playing with whom at recess?

    Look, I understand that it’s untenable to keep schools closed and children home indefinitely. Distance learning and home schooling are poor substitutes, and parents can’t work and do all-day child care at the same time. But there is a reason, according to a Pew Research Center poll released this week, only 19 percent of U.S. adults believe there should be full-time, in-person instruction in the schools this fall. Americans seem to understand, in a way that Trump fails to grasp, that opening schools now would make a bad situation much worse.

    Nations around the world are struggling with the pandemic. But those that have managed to reopen schools have done so with caution — and after first driving infection rates to very low levels. Here, the virus is still “extraordinarily widespread,” according to the head of Trump’s coronavirus task force, Deborah Birx. We’re not ready.

    I’m afraid the virus won’t “go away” until Trump does.

  70. says

    Trump is using D.C.-based Republican convention plans to suck more profit out of the presidency

    […] Trump’s main reason for wanting to give his Republican National Convention speech on the South Lawn of the White House is most likely the venerable backdrop and the aura of importance it will lend him. If he can’t have the screaming, adoring crowd he was expecting first in Charlotte, North Carolina, and then in Jacksonville, Florida, at least he can look presidential. But as always with Trump, the grift is never far behind the ego.

    Trump’s Washington, D.C., hotel has jacked up its prices for the week of the planned kinda-sorta convention. Never cheap, the hotel’s rates for those dates are 60% higher than for the surrounding weeks. Because why only shatter norms and bend ethics laws to the breaking point when you can also make some money off it?

    “If it’s in D.C., and all these people are coming in to be around a big event for him, they will almost certainly be going to the Trump Hotel,” Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington’s Jordan Libowitz told the Daily Beast. “Every major Trumpworld figure will be there.” And they’ll be ready to to pay for the privilege of telling Trump, if they see him, that they’re staying in his hotel.

    Other luxury hotels in the District are not raising their rates to the same extent. In fact, they’re cutting them. So it’s specific to the Trump hotel and to the dates around when Trump will be speaking. Consider that as virtual confirmation of the South Lawn ethics disaster. We didn’t need confirmation of Trump’s corruption. […]

  71. says

    Facebook takes down troll farm posing as Black support for Trump

    Facebook said on Thursday that it has taken down a number of fake accounts and pages associated with a Romanian-based troll farm that pretended to represent Black Americans who support President Trump.

    Facebook’s July Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior Report said the company took down 35 accounts, three pages and 88 Instagram accounts that were part of the operation for violating its policy “against foreign interference, which is coordinated inauthentic behavior on behalf of a foreign entity.”

    “About 1,600 accounts followed one or more of these Pages and around 7,200 people followed one or more of these Instagram accounts,” Facebook said.

    […] people behind the operation were using the fake accounts “to pose as Americans, amplify and comment on their own content, and manage Pages including some posing as President Trump fan Pages.”

    Some of the topics the pages would post about included African American support for the president’s campaign, Christian beliefs and the QAnon conspiracy theory, Facebook said in its report.

    The report also featured screenshots of some of the posts promoted by the network’s accounts, including one that came from a “BlackPeopleVoteForTrump” Instagram page that featured a Black man wearing a “Make America Great Again” cap. […]

  72. says

    Bits and pieces of news:

    The death toll from the explosion in Beirut has risen to 137, with an additional 5,000+ people injured.

    In related news the USA is sending some assistance to Lebanon:

    The United States on Thursday began delivering aid to Lebanon in the aftermath of a massive deadly explosion, amid longstanding concerns about how officials can ensure that supplies get to those in need, and not to the Iranian-backed Hezbollah.

    The first C-17 transport aircraft with 11 pallets of food, water and medical supplies from the U.S. military’s Central Command arrived from Qatar and two more were expected in the next 24 hours. […]

    AP News link

    All of the best grifters: “Several former lobbying clients of Chad Wolf, now the acting secretary of Homeland Security, have received millions of dollars’ worth of government contracts while he has held senior positions within the department.” CNBC link

  73. says

    Bits and pieces of campaign news, as summarized by Steve Benen:

    […] The Trump campaign formally requested that the Commission on Presidential Debates add a fourth general-election debate this year. Yesterday, the CPD said no, and it’s not altogether clear what the Republican operation intends to do about it. […]

    Facebook yesterday said it would ban ads from The Committee to Defend the President, a pro-Trump super PAC that Facebook concluded has repeatedly shared content “determined by third-party fact-checkers to be false.

    […] as Republican operatives scramble to get Kanye West onto the 2020 ballot, the entertainer seemed to confirm to Forbes magazine yesterday that he’s not seriously pursuing the presidency. Reminded that he won’t be on enough state ballots to reach 270 electoral votes, and was therefore running as a spoiler candidate to help Trump, West responded, “I’m not going to argue with you. Jesus is King.”

    Link

  74. says

    Despite reality, Trump claims the US is ‘respected again’ abroad

    “For all of Trump’s obsessive focus on improving the United States’ global reputation, it’s staggering to see the extent to which he’s done the opposite.”

    At an event in Ohio yesterday, Donald Trump turned his attention to one his very favorite falsehoods:

    “You know, we’re respected again. You may not feel it, although I think you do. You may not see it. You don’t read about it from the fake news, but this country is respected again.”

    I especially liked the way the president found it necessary to acknowledge the fact that most sensible people would immediately be skeptical of his absurd boast. Trump knows that Americans may not “see” or “feel” international esteem, but he wants voters to believe it exists anyway — and we’re just supposed to take his word for it.

    [Trump] has convinced himself that we were an international laughingstock before he took office, but thanks to his awesomeness, the world once again reveres and celebrates our country. […]

    global support for the American president collapsed after Barack Obama left office, and opposition to Trump has soured our reputation overall.

    […] The New York Times reported in April that many are looking at “the richest and most powerful nation in the world with disbelief” as the United States struggled with the coronavirus crisis. The report added that the pandemic is “perhaps the first global crisis in more than a century where no one is even looking for Washington to lead.”

    When Trump broached the subject of disinfectant injections, he became an immediate global punch-line to a disheartening joke.

    When social unrest unfolded in many American communities in the late spring and early summer, the nation’s Trump-era international standing appears to have gone from bad to worse. The New York Times reported in June:

    With American cities burning and the coronavirus still raging, killing more people than in any other country, […] Trump also has growing problems overseas. He has never before been so isolated and ignored, even mocked. In Europe, after years of snubs and American unilateralism, America’s traditional allies have stopped looking to him for leadership, no longer trust that this president will offer them much, and are turning their backs on him.

    […] a rather brutal column from the Irish Times’ Fintan O’Toole on Trump’s presidency and its impact on global perceptions of the United States. “Over more than two centuries, the United States has stirred a very wide range of feelings in the rest of the world: love and hatred, fear and hope, envy and contempt, awe and anger,” O’Toole wrote. “But there is one emotion that has never been directed towards the US until now: pity.”

    The award-winning columnist added, “The country Trump promised to make great again has never in its history seemed so pitiful.”

    For all of Trump’s obsessive focus on improving the United States’ global reputation, it’s staggering to see the extent to which he’s done the opposite. Undoing the damage will take time, effort, and a dramatic change in leadership.

  75. says

    As Trump’s Iran failures mount, a key State Dept official resigns

    Trump’s policy toward Iran has already been exposed as one of his most spectacular failures. A resignation at the State Department may make matters worse.

    […] Starting in early 2018, U.S. allies thought if they could just prove to the White House that the JCPOA policy was working, the American president would leave it alone.

    To that end, European officials invested months of effort, negotiating with a State Department lawyer named Brian Hook, who was chiefly responsible for trying to steer U.S. policy toward Iran in a more Trump-like direction. European leaders thought they were making real progress, right up until [Trump] decided to turn his back on the deal anyway.

    When Trump told Emmanuel Macron about his final decision, the French president asked about the intensive work he and his colleagues had already done with Brian Hook, who led the negotiations on behalf of the U.S. government.

    Trump, ignorant and confused, replied, “Who is Brian Hook?” [OMFG]

    Two years later, Hook is the guy who’s quitting.

    The Trump administration’s special envoy for Iran, political appointee Brian Hook, is stepping down from his post, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirmed Wednesday. Hook has been the point person for the State Department’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran, a key foreign policy initiative that saw the U.S. withdraw from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal […]

    Hook […] leaves at a time when the failure of the president’s policy is obvious.

    The White House’s “maximum pressure” campaign was designed to force Iran to the negotiating table and force Tehran to curtail its nuclear ambitions. What’s actually happened, of course, is that Iran has accelerated its nuclear program — the program was on indefinite hold before Trump got to work — and abandoned any interest in negotiating with the United States.

    The dangers to the region and U.S. national security interests are vastly more serious than before the White House rejected an international agreement that was working exactly as intended.

    […] while Hook’s departure is a stark reminder of Trump’s avoidable fiasco, making this story just a little worse is the fact that Hook will be succeeded by Elliott Abrams, who’s currently serving as the administration’s special representative for Venezuela.

    If Abrams’ name sounds at all familiar, there’s a good reason for that: he’s perhaps best known for lying to Congress during the Iran-Contra scandal. Abrams was also a prominent figure in the Project for a New American Century, a neocon initiative that was left thoroughly discredited by the failed Bush/Cheney war in Iraq.

    Trump’s policy toward Iran has already been exposed as one of his most spectacular failures, but if it can get worse, Abrams is just the man to make that happen.

  76. says

    The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit confirmed today that Congress may turn to the courts to get its subpoena of Trump’s former White House Counsel Don McGahn enforced.

    […] The circuit court roundly rejected McGahn’s arguments — previously adopted by a panel of three judges from the appeals court — that the judiciary should not get involved in these kinds of disputes between the legislative and executive branches. [Good!]

    Friday’s decision — while an important victory for the House of Representatives — does not end the litigation over its McGahn subpoena. The full D.C. Circuit did not address the other claims McGahn brought to challenge the subpoena, and said it would leave it to the appellate panel to take another bite at those issues, now that the question of the courts’ authority in this arena had been resolved.

    The case reflects what so far has been a successful strategy by […] Trump and his administration to lob extreme arguments for why congressional subpoenas are not legitimate. Even when those arguments get rejected in court, as they largely have, the slow pace of the judicial process has allowed Trump to run down the clock before the 2020 election.

    […] “By refusing to testify in response to the Committee’s concededly valid subpoena, McGahn has denied the Committee something to which it alleges it is entitled by law. And because the Committee has alleged the deprivation of testimony to which it is legally entitled, its asserted injury is concrete,” the court said.

    […] “Indeed, the threat of a subpoena enforcement lawsuit may be an essential tool in keeping the Executive Branch at the negotiating table,” the court said.

    “Without that possibility, Presidents could direct widescale non-compliance with lawful inquiries by a House of Congress, secure in the knowledge that little can be done to enforce its subpoena — as […] Trump did here,” the court added. [Yup. That’s what Trump did.]

    The D.C. Circuit referenced the Supreme Court’s recent decision in the Mazars case, where Trump, in his personal capacity, was trying to block a House subpoena issued to his financial firms for certain Trump records.

    The appeals court noted that case dealt with different legal issues but, it said, the Supreme Court’s opinion had backed an idea of “constitutional power” that “entitles each House to the testimony of a witness and production of requested documents in response to a lawful subpoena.”

    Link

  77. says

    Follow-up to comment 92.

    Comments from readers:

    Having just read the conclusion of the majority, this case is a long way from over. The en banc court is actually remanding to the original panel for consideration of all of McGahn’s objections other than standing. In other words, Henderson and Griffith will once again have the opportunity to make a bad faith ruling protecting Trump from scrutiny, which the full court may or may not ever get to correct because the subpoena is moot on January 3.
    ——————-
    “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice”…

    Please speed it up because our democracy is being attacked!
    —————-
    [From older news regarding McGahn] As the Senate vote on Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court nears, the verdict will be a referendum on a strategy devised by White House counsel Don McGahn, who urged the candidate to push back hard on sexual-assault allegations.
    ———————–
    Yippee! And four years later, McGahn may (MAY!) finally go before Congress…

    This is the 21st century. Why do the “wheels of justice” have to grind so slowly??

  78. says

    Kanye West Signals His 2020 Bid Is Really About Peeling Votes From Biden

    […] In July, West told Forbes that he was “not denying” that he approves of his campaign potentially taking away votes from Biden.

    Several days after that interview, Trump tweeted that it “shouldn’t be hard” for West to do so.

    From comments posted by readers:

    Let’s not forget that this is NOT the first time Kanye was “used” by Trump…
    Remember that Trump & Kanye Trump Tower photo…
    That was to distract the press from Kushner meeting with Russian bankers!
    ———————–
    Because we don’t have enough mentally ill celebrities in politics yet.
    ——————–
    Annoyingly…Chance the Rapper came out in support of West a few weeks back.
    ——————–
    Kanye has the right to play in heavy traffic and so do his supporters.

    However, if he’s doing it for Trump’s reelection, then anyone thinking about joining Ye (Chance, Charlemagne, etc.) should think about whether that’s really a smart move.
    ——————–
    This is play to shave off Black votes in Milwaukee. It won’t work. Milwaukee Dems, and Wisconsin Dems generally, are as battle-hardened and organized as they’ve been in years. The grassroots will see us through this, just as they saw us through 2018. These are the people who stood in line to win a state Supreme Court seat in a friggin pandemic.
    ————————-
    Kanye is the type of candidate who will only attract support from people who hate all politicians and otherwise couldn’t be bothered to vote. I don’t think we should assume he could persuade Biden voters to switch.
    ———————
    Pushing for Kanye on the ballot says more about what the GOP thinks about identity politics than anything else. It’s the only card in their deck now.

  79. says

    Turning reality on its head, Cruz claims right-wing ‘Boogaloo’ killer was ‘antifa’

    Republicans have long embraced Trumpian lies they call “alternative facts,” but Texas Sen. Ted Cruz this week reached new depths by outright falsifying the record about a domestic terrorist who killed a federal police officer (as well as a sheriff’s deputy, eight days later) […]

    At a Tuesday hearing titled “The Right of the People Peaceably to Assemble: Protecting Speech by Stopping Anarchist Violence,” Cruz twice described the terrorist who shot two federal officers, one fatally, with a rifle during a May 29 Black Lives Matter protest in Oakland (along with a deputy who attempted to arrest him the next week) as “antifa” and a pro-BLM terrorist. In fact, the man was a fanatical “Boogaloo” extremist with a right-wing libertarian background, and was an active staff sergeant in the U.S. Air Force.

    The hearing—as its title suggested—was primarily a farce that completely obliterated the factual reality that right-wing extremists have committed about 10 times as many acts of domestic terrorism in the United States in the past three years (49 incidents to 5) with a concomitant difference in lethality (144 people killed to 4). Its main utility appears to have been to bolster the false narrative promoted by the Trump administration, right-wing media, and the white nationalist movement that the “violent left” poses an existential threat to the nation—and that Democrats are to blame for it.

    Cruz opened by claiming that “radical leftists” whose motives were “evil” had “hijacked” the protests over George Floyd’s murder […]

    Then he attacked “local officials—mayors and governors” for failing to stand up to these leftists, and whacked his Democratic colleagues for failing to adequately denounce the violence. After Democratic Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono’s opening remarks […] Cruz attacked her statement:

    Not a word was said about the murder of federal law-enforcement officer Patrick Underwood. Not a word was said about the murder of retired St. Louis police officer David Dorn—both of whom are African-American! And both of whom were murdered. Oh, we won’t condone this, but we won’t say a negative word about this terrorism.

    In reality, David Dorn—who was retired and not on any kind of official duty—was not killed in the protests but by looters when he tried to protect a friend’s shop during the protests; his murder was not at the hands of “leftists” or anyone with a political agenda. That dubious characterization, however, looks sterling compared to how Cruz described the murder of Patrick Underwood on May 29 in Oakland.

    Underwood’s killer—a 32-year-old Air Force sergeant named Steven Carrillo with elite training stationed at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield—was described by people who knew him as a libertarian extremist who had become enamored of the far-right “Boogaloo” movement, which advocates for a second civil war. Carrillo explained his strategy to a cohort in choosing the anti-police-brutality protest: “Use their anger to fuel our fire and we have mobs of angry people to use to our advantage.”

    There have been multiple examples of these extremists using the police-brutality protests (as well as COVID-19-related protests) to attempt to amplify the violence so that it can be blamed on “the violent left.”

    Cruz was corrected on the false characterization by Democratic Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin:

    Patrick Underwood, I regret his passing and his death. The chairman [Cruz] started this meeting by saying we are talking about the leftists. Patrick Underwood was not killed by a leftist. He was killed by a member of an organization known as “Boogaloo”—a right-wing extremist organization. […] a person named Carrillo has been charged with that crime at this time.

    Cruz seemed not to notice. Later in the hearing—despite having just heard expert witness Michael German of the Brennan Center for Justice similarly describe Carrillo as “a member of a far-right ‘Boogaloo’ group, or members, engaged in deadly violence against police”—he repeated the falsehood:

    It’s fairly striking that elected Democrats want to ignore the violence of antifa. They want to ignore the violence on the left, and they just scream ‘white supremacist, white supremacist.’ Rather than condemn violence from wherever it is coming—the 277 injuries of federal law enforcement officers in Portland are coming from the left! And not a single Democrat on this committee acknowledges that.

    David Dorn—African-American police officer was murdered. A retired police officer in St. Louis, who is Black, was murdered. Not a single one of the seven Democratic senators who spoke at this hearing mentioned David Dorn’s name. Patrick Underwood—another officer! Senator Durbin was the one Democrat who mentioned Patrick Underwood’s name. Another black officer murdered.

    Heightening the farcical nature of the hearing was an appearance by Portland-based anti-antifa provocateur Andy Ngo, who was there to help spin the “violent left” narrative. Ngo—who gained national notoriety by claiming martyrdom at the hand of “concrete milkshakes”—was described as a journalist, despite his frequent abandonment of the profession’s ethical standards, including his role in promulgating a Quillette smear piece that attempted to portray numerous journalists as secret agents of “antifa.”

    Ngo’s remarks Tuesday were perfectly aligned with Cruz’s agenda: “[…] Antifa’s goal is not only to abolish the criminal justice system, it is to bring down the republic itself.” He called Portland “the canary in the coal mine for America.”

    There were several voices of sanity at the hearing, including Hirono—who gamely attempted to point out that white nationalists pose a significant threat, compared to the largely imaginary dangers claimed by Cruz and his witnesses […]

    German noted that “attributing violent acts to a particular group or movement without evidence is dangerous, because it misleads law enforcement about actual threats,” adding that “misinformation about antifa [is] spread by white supremacists” and infected law enforcement accordingly.

    […] “Unfortunately, as a matter of policy, far-right violence is deprioritized by the FBI and the Justice Department,” German said.

    [snipped details of official reports and statistics] to hear Trump, Attorney General William Barr, and Ted Cruz along with his witnesses, “antifa” is a major existential threat to free speech […]

    The reality is that “antifa” is comprised largely of nonviolent ordinary people who are focused on opposing the rise of white-nationalist fascism in the USA […] There are always violent outliers within any movement but the movement’s leaders primarily remain devotedly nonviolent.

    The threat of domestic terrorism—particularly at the hands of far-right “Boogaloo Bois”—is currently growing intense, and experts are warning that this will worsen around the time of the November election. False narratives inflame the likelihood of this violence […]

    It would be a kindness to say that Cruz merely lied: In fact, he turned reality entirely on its head. At a time when the nation is awash in the white-nationalist terrorism his lie sought to erase, this kind of disinformation is not just profoundly irresponsible but dangerous.

  80. says

    Michelle Obama’s Show of Vulnerability Is a Balm for Millions. Naturally, the Right Is Throwing a Fit.

    “I would encourage Michelle Obama to go to church and find joy and meaning in the Lord Jesus Christ”

    […] The outbreak of the coronavirus in the United States, a public health disaster now responsible for more than 160,000 deaths, has left quite a few of us feeling unmoored. A third of Americans […] are showing signs of clinical anxiety or depression, with even more experiencing a plummeting […] sense of control.

    […] in this hellish cycle of doom former first lady Michelle Obama shared some news this week.

    “I know that I am dealing with some form of low-grade depression,” Obama told her friend and former host of NPR’s All Things Considered Michele Norris in the second episode of The Michelle Obama Podcast. “Not just because of the quarantine, but because of the racial strife, and just seeing this administration, watching the hypocrisy of it, day in and day out, is dispiriting.” […]

    The remarks were at once familiar and striking. After all, it’s no small thing for one of the most admired people in the world, a woman commonly associated with strength and grace, to come out and say that she too isn’t feeling so great these days. And this is coming from a public figure who, during the pandemic, has seen the release of Becoming, a critically acclaimed Netflix documentary of her life, as well as a major deal with Spotify to launch the aforementioned podcast. For many of us who feel like boring disasters on good days, […] the former first lady managed to puncture a sense of profound grief and alienation simply by sharing some of our collective human vulnerability.

    […] Since the start of the pandemic, countless news stories have emphasized the importance of being open about one’s mental health struggles in order to reduce the sense of isolation that is so much a part of anxiety and depression. Not to mention remove the stigma that is so often attached to mental health issues.

    But of course, it didn’t take long for some on the right to weaponize Obama’s candor since it included a slight dig at […] Trump. “Michelle Obama revealed today that she is suffering from depression. Maybe it was the $80 million Netflix deal and the $25 million dollar book deal that pushed her over the edge.” […]

    Jenna Ellis, a Trump legal adviser who appeared on Fox News Thursday [said] “Conservatives tend to be more joyful and more happy overall with their lives because we still believe in the pillars of society, which is the church and the family,” she said. “So I would encourage Michelle Obama to go to church and find joy and meaning in the Lord Jesus Christ as her own personal savior.”

    The breathtaking sanctimony at play here conveniently omits the fact that the former first lady has often credited her faith with helping sustain her in the White House. But that’s beside the point. It was typical of the conservative reception to Obama’s personal revelations: She was insulting, attention-seeking, a spoiled Democrat—a Black woman no less—who should shut up and pray. […]

    Their scorn for Obama is a reminder that they don’t care about your mental health […]

  81. says

    The White House (Trump) refused a compromise offered by Democrats. Republicans are still stalling when it comes to the much-needed coronavirus relief bill.

    Democratic leaders said Friday that the White House rejected an offer for a roughly $2 trillion coronavirus relief package.

    Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said that as part of a closed-door Thursday meeting, Democrats offered to reduce their $3.4 trillion price tag by $1 trillion if Republicans would agree to raise their roughly $1 trillion package by the same amount.

    That strategy, effectively trying to split the difference between the two sides, would result in legislation costing between $2 trillion and $2.4 trillion. […]

    The cost reductions, according to Pelosi, would largely be achieved by shortening the duration of some programs in the package, such as food assistance.

    Meadows, when asked if the tradeoff Pelosi was floating was “in the cards,” said: “I don’t think so.” […]

    Schumer said the White House strongly rejected the idea of $2 trillion package.

    “You should have seen their faces — ‘Absolutely not!'” Schumer told reporters Friday. “Basically what’s happening is Mr. Meadows is from the Tea Party … and they don’t want to spend the necessary money. … They rejected it totally.”

    Schumer added that a bill with a price tag below $2 trillion could not pass Congress. […]

    In addition to the dollar amount, the four negotiators haven’t agreed to several other key issues, including funding for state and local governments, unemployment benefits and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s red line of liability protections from coronavirus-related lawsuits. […]

    Mnuchin said Trump, who had called the GOP negotiators three times during Thursday’s meeting, is simply not willing to sign a bill “that has a massive amount of money to bail out state and local [governments].” […]

    “In the past two weeks of negotiations, we have strived mightily to find common ground,” Pelosi said. “However, many critical difference remain.”

    Link

  82. says

    US intelligence says Russia seeking to ‘denigrate’ Biden

    The top U.S. counterintelligence official announced Friday a series of foreign threats facing the upcoming 2020 presidential election, warning in particular that Russia is using a range of measures to “primarily denigrate” former Vice President Joe Biden while China prefers that President Trump not win reelection.

    William Evanina, the director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, pointed to China, Russia and Iran as the three primary foreign threats to the upcoming presidential race, cautioning that they are seeking to “sway voters’ preferences and perspectives,” sow discord and “undermine the American people’s confidence in our democratic process.”

    “Many foreign actors have a preference for who wins the election, which they express through a range of overt and private statements; covert influence efforts are rarer. We are primarily concerned about the ongoing and potential activity by China, Russia, and Iran,” Evanina said in a statement. […]

    The top intelligence official said Russia is trying to hurt Biden and others who it views as an anti-Russia “establishment.”

    The official said this is in line with how Russia felt toward Biden during his time in the Obama administration, in particular his role in advancing “policies on Ukraine and its support for the anti-Putin opposition inside Russia.”

    “Some Kremlin-linked actors are also seeking to boost President Trump’s candidacy on social media and Russian television,” Evanina warned.

    “For example, pro-Russia Ukrainian parliamentarian Andriy Derkach is spreading claims about corruption – including through publicizing leaked phone calls – to undermine former Vice President Biden’s candidacy and the Democratic Party,” he said. […]

    “We are all in this together as Americans. Our election should be our own. Foreign efforts to influence or interfere with our elections are a direct threat to the fabric of our democracy.”

  83. says

    If Pompeo talked to Russia about bounties, why didn’t Trump?

    A month ago, Trump described the Russia/bounty controversy as “made-up” and a “hoax.” His own team disagreed.

    […] the New York Times first reported on U.S. intelligence pointing to Russia allegedly offering “bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing coalition forces in Afghanistan — including targeting American troops.”

    […] many of the nation’s leading news agencies confirmed key elements of the story: U.S. intelligence agencies had reason to believe Vladimir Putin’s government offered financial rewards to those who killed American servicemen and women.

    According to new reporting today from the New York Times, the matter was serious enough that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Russia’s foreign minister.

    Mr. Pompeo’s warning is the first known rebuke from a senior American official to Russia over the bounties program…. The action indicates that Mr. Pompeo, who previously served as Mr. Trump’s C.I.A. director, believes the intelligence warranted a stern message. Mr. Pompeo delivered the warning in a call on July 13 with the minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, choosing to do so during a conversation that, officially, was about an unrelated topic….

    […] the nation’s chief diplomat found his own country’s intelligence credible enough to issue a warning to his counterpart in Moscow.

    That is what we’d expect the secretary of State to do.

    […] early last month […] Trump declared via Twitter, “The Russia Bounty story is just another made up by Fake News tale that is told only to damage me and the Republican Party. The secret source probably does not even exist, just like the story itself…. Just another HOAX!”

    […] Last week, Trump went on to concede he “never” broached the subject with Russian President Vladimir Putin, in part because the intelligence about the bounties — intel he suggested last month didn’t exist — “never reached my desk.”

    Right off the bat, his explanation was difficult to take seriously, especially since the intelligence was reportedly included in the President’s Daily Brief earlier this year.

    […] with each passing revelation, Trump’s version of events looks a little worse. The idea that the entire controversy was “made up” by conspiring journalists was ridiculous before, and it’s now discredited by members of his own team — from Pompeo to White House National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien — taking the intelligence seriously.

    And the idea that Trump didn’t need to broach the subject with his Russian benefactor is tougher to excuse given that his chief diplomat — a loyal Trump ally — felt the need to warn his counterpart in Moscow over the controversy the president pretended wasn’t real.

    The questions for Trump are simple: “What’s the real reason you didn’t bring this up with Putin?” and “Why does your own team disagree with your assessment about the controversy being “made up” and a “hoax”?

  84. says

    Good and necessary trouble:

    As schools are beginning to reopen with no realistic plan to contain the spread of COVID-19, two Georgia teens went viral for sharing images of the crowded hallways of North Paulding High School in Dallas, Georgia. Many, if not most, of the students in the hallway were not wearing masks. Both teens were suspended for five days for allegedly breaking school policies around using phones during school hours and posting images of other students.

    Hannah Watters is one of the suspended teens. In an interview with CNN legal correspondent Laura Coates, Watters said she had no regrets about posting the photo. In a tribute to the legendary congressman and civil rights hero John Lewis, she said it was “good and necessary trouble.”

    In an interview with The New York Times, Watters said her mom gave her great advice: “My mom has always told me that she won’t get mad at us if we get in trouble as long as it’s ‘good trouble,’ before adding, ‘You’re bettering society and bettering the world, so those consequences don’t outweigh the end result.’” […]

    superintendent of Paulding County School District Brian Otott said in a statement: “Wearing a mask is a personal choice, and there is no practical way to enforce a mandate to wear them.” Which is really something when you consider the very restrictive guidelines the school district has when it comes to clothing—particularly girls’ clothing. The student handbook warns that there are strict dress code checks every morning. Somehow PCSD has perfected the policing of spaghetti straps, girls’ shorts, and tank tops, but they just can’t find a way to enforce a mask rule during a deadly pandemic. […]

    Link

  85. says

    Ambition, likability, and looks: The media has a lot to atone for in covering Biden VP pick

    Joe Biden is about to make his own vice presidential pick, and since it’s going to be a woman and quite likely a Black woman, we have to expect the worst from the media coverage. A group of women leaders is trying to head that off with a letter calling on news organizations to do better […]

    “[…] the most powerful people in media, stop and think about your role in perpetuating inequality and the opportunity to promote equality and simple justice with your reporting of the news.” […]

    The letter is entitled “We have her back” and is signed by Fatima Goss Graves of the National Women’s Law Center, NARAL’s Ilyse Hogue, Alexis McGill Johnson and Melanie Newman of Planned Parenthood, Debra Ness of the National Partnership for Women and Families, Supermajority’s Cecile Richards, Stephanie Shriock and Christina Reynolds of Emily’s List, Tina Tchen of Time’s Up, Jess Morales Rocketto, Valerie Jarrett, and Hilary Rosen.

    They get specific, and the problematic kinds of coverage they point to will be familiar to anyone who regularly follows political news:

    Reporting on a woman’s ambition as though the very nature of seeking political office, or any higher job for that matter is not a mission of ambition

    Relationships with partners, staff, colleagues and donors are characterized differently if the woman is not seen as subservient or supportive

    […] Reporting, even as asides in a story, on a woman’s looks, weight, tone of voice, attractiveness and hair is sexist news coverage unless the same analysis is applied to every candidate

    Reporting on questions of electability of women is, in itself, a perpetuation of a stereotype about the ability of women to lead

    Reporting on doubts women may not be qualified leaders even when they have experience equal to or exceeding male leaders

    […] Reporting on and using pictures of a woman’s, particularly black women, show of anger at injustice or any other kind of passion in communication perpetuates racist tropes that suggest unfairly that women are too emotional or irrational in their leadership or worse “hate America”

    “We are here to help you with this challenge,” they write. But also: “we will be watching you.” And if you look at that top bullet point and think about recent media coverage of the vice presidential possibilities, it’s immediately apparent how the media has already failed on this one with the “Is Kamala Harris too ambitious?” reporting.

    […] Voters will start to really pay attention when a name is announced, and it’s not too late to do better […]

  86. says

    Update on negotiations concerning the coronavirus relief bill:

    Congressional Democrats and the White House were stuck Friday over the scale of federal government spending in another round of coronavirus aid, with both sides indicating a stalemate had arrived. Democrats said the lowest figure they were willing to accept would be $2 trillion, down from their initial request of $3.4 trillion.

    Quoted text is from NBC News.

    Update on the totally abysmal handling of the coronavirus pandemic in Florida:

    As Gov. Ron DeSantis pushed this summer for schools to reopen, state leaders told school boards they would need Health Department approval if they wanted to keep classrooms closed.

    Then they instructed health directors not to give it. […]

    Palm Beach Post link

  87. says

    Follow-up to comment 82.

    Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responded:

    In response to the American tariffs announced today, Canada will impose countermeasures that will include dollar-for-dollar retaliatory tariffs. ‘We will always stand up for our aluminum workers. We did so in 2018 and we will stand up for them again now.

    More details:

    The deputy prime minister, Chrystia Freeland, issued a pointed statement, as well. “In the time of a global pandemic and an economic crisis,” Ms. Freeland said, “the last thing Canadian and American workers need is new tariffs that will raise costs for manufacturers and consumers, impede the free flow of trade, and hurt provincial and state economies.”

    She also rejected Mr. Trump’s national security justification for the measure. “Canadian aluminum strengthens U.S. national security and has done so for decades through unparalleled cooperation between our two countries,” she said in the statement. […]

    Imports of Canadian aluminum have risen since the tariffs were lifted last year, but they remain below levels seen within the last few years.

    […] only a handful of American aluminum smelters, which make raw aluminum out of bauxite, still operate.

    […] In April, the aluminum giant Alcoa idled a smelter in Ferndale, Wash., saying that production there was “uncompetitive.” [snipped details of aluminum industry lobbyists pushing Trump to this action]

    […] the rest of the aluminum industry, which has operations spread around the globe, including in Canada, has fought against the measure. The multitude of industries that use aluminum to make products including cars, beer cans and washing machines, have also argued against the levies, saying they increase their costs and make their products less competitive globally. Even Whirlpool, the appliance maker where Mr. Trump made his announcement on Thursday, has seen its costs for raw materials rise as a result of the metal levies.

    In June, executives from more than 15 of the world’s largest aluminum companies, including Alcoa, Constellium and Novelis, sent a letter to the Trump administration arguing against the tariffs.

    “Fully 97 percent of U.S. aluminum industry jobs are in mid-and-downstream production and processing,” the letter read. “These jobs depend on a mix of domestic and imported primary aluminum, including from countries like Canada.”

    Jim McGreevy, the chief executive of the Beer Institute, a trade association of beer producers and importers, said his group strongly opposed the decision.

    “Since the implementation of aluminum tariffs in 2018, the American beverage industries have paid more than $582 million in tariffs,” he said. “Increased aluminum premiums due to tariffs increase the cost of beer production and force brewers to make difficult business decisions — especially amidst a global pandemic that has reduced overall sales while simultaneously increasing demand for aluminum cans.”

    In a statement, Myron Brilliant, the executive vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, called the move “a step in the wrong direction” and urged the administration to reconsider.

    “These tariffs will raise costs for American manufacturers, are opposed by most U.S. aluminum producers and will draw retaliation against U.S. exports — just as they did before,” he said. […]

    […] exports of basic aluminum ingots from Canada declined 16 percent in June and fell 40 percent last month.

    The tariff will most likely cause American industries that use aluminum to turn to China and Russia for their supplies [Hmmm. Putin will love that.]

    […] the Canadian government will apply tariffs on American-made products made from aluminum, including beer cans and bicycles […].

    NY Times link

    My analysis is that Trump has shot himself in the foot again. And, of course, Canada rejected Trump’s national security justification. Trump’s justification was bogus.

  88. johnson catman says

    re Lynna @103:

    Trump’s justification was bogus.

    Well, OF FUCKING COURSE it was bogus. ANYTHING The Orange Toddler-Tyrant does is idiotic, anti-logic, and the most wrong thing that can be done.

  89. says

    Follow-up to comment 98.

    Malcolm Nance says that China is no where near as aggressive in terms of mounting disinformation campaigns and/or election-interference campaigns as Russia. Putin/Russia is still the big player. Most media reports are not making this distinction, and that’s not good.

    Not making the distinction leaves rightwing media is free to pretend that there is some equivalence between Russian denigration of Biden (plus support for Trump) and the more scattered, desultory campaign coming from China (China is sliding towards anti-Trump).

    Malcolm Nance is a self-described former US Intelligence officer (+36 yrs.), Expert in anti-Terrorist Strategy, Tactics, Ideology. Torture, Russian Cyber attacks, x4 NYT Bestselling Author, Navy Senior Chief, etc. He knows what he is talking about.

  90. says

    Trump is setting up now to do a “press conference” from one of his golf courses. Members of his golf club are in the audience, drinks in hand, no masks. Apparently, they are there to cheer Trump on.

  91. says

    tomh @107, speaking of masks, a worker at Trump’s golf club brought out a tray of paper masks and handed them out to all of the club members waiting to cheer for Trump. (See comment 106.)

    Well that helps a lot with the optics … NO it did not help.

    At his golf club in New Jersey, Trump walked out to “Hail to the Chief” music while his buddies who had paid $200,000 membership fees cheered. This was theater to make Trump feel good. It was not an actual press conference. It was bizarre.

    Meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi is still in Washington D.C. trying to work out a deal for a relief bill that will save people from being evicted; that will provide funds for people who rely on food stamps to eat; that will save the United States Post Office and get it ready to handle the heavy volume of mail-in votes coming soon; and that will provide financial relief to state and county governments nearly bankrupted by coronavirus expenses.

    Trump is at his golf club in New Jersey, surrounded by white guys in golfing clothes.

  92. says

    Photos of the trumpian theatrical fiasco described in comment 108 can be viewed here.

    Dozens of guests at President Trump’s private club in Bedminster, N.J., huddled together in a ballroom to watch his Friday evening news conference, apparently flouting the state’s coronavirus restrictions.

    The onlookers made for an unusual scene, as some adults held wine glasses and others were accompanied by their children in anticipation of Trump’s remarks addressing stalled coronavirus talks on Capitol Hill.

    Some attendees wore their golf attire […]

    .

  93. says

    Follow-up to comment 109.

    More details:

    […] New Jersey’s coronavirus restrictions require that golf courses limit the number of patrons in an indoor part of the property to 25 percent capacity or no more than 25 people, while also requiring that all workers and customers wear face coverings.

    Few of the patrons at Bedminster were seen wearing face coverings ahead of Trump’s remarks, but reporters in attendance said staff began handing out masks and asking guests to spread out just before the president took to the lectern. […]

    Trump teased the topics for the news conference on Twitter. The event had been called abruptly after the White House said early in the day that the press would not see the president.

    “I will be doing a news conference on the ChinaVirus, the just announced very good economic numbers, and the improving economy, at 7pm from Bedminster, New Jersey,” Trump tweeted. “Also, the subject of the Beirut, Lebanon catastrophe will be discussed.”

    Trump is spending the weekend at his New Jersey property and is scheduled to attend a fundraiser in the Hamptons on Saturday before returning to Washington, D.C., on Sunday.

  94. says

    Follow-up to comment 110.

    Readers of the article posted these comments:

    A lot of diversity there. There’s white guys, older white guys, bald white guys, and even a white guy with a beard.
    —————-
    The Billionaire Boys Club!
    ——————
    Couple of young white women with boob jobs

  95. says

    ICE rejected COVID-19 testing for all detainees at facility because it would be too much trouble

    There’s really no bottom when Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and private prison profiteers join forces—just consider the latest example. Internal emails obtained through an ongoing lawsuit show the mass detention agency and private prison operator GEO Group rejected a plan to test all detained people at one California facility for COVID-19 “because they would be unable to adequately isolate those who tested positive,” a coalition of groups said in a statement.

    So rather than ensure the well-being of people in their custody, they threw up their hands because it would be challenging, or, gasp, they might actually have to acknowledge that people are safer not in detention. “These emails show a staggering disregard for human life on the part of ICE and GEO,” Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area senior staff attorney Bree Bernwanger said. “ICE chose to risk the outbreak that is now gripping Mesa Verde.” Along with the emails’ public release, a federal judge also rebuked the agency.

    On Thursday, “a federal judge granted extraordinary relief—weekly rapid testing, no new intakes, and a dorm for COVID-positive detainees—for all immigrants detained at Mesa Verde Detention Facility in the wake of a COVID-19 outbreak that hospitalized two detainees and infected at least 7 others,” San Francisco Public Defenders, American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, Lakin & Wille LLP, and Cooley LLP also said.

    The judge’s fury was evident: Judge Vince Chhabria wrote in his order that “[t]he documentary evidence shows that the defendants have avoided widespread testing of staff and detainees at the facility, not for lack of tests, but for fear that positive test results would require them to implement safety measures that they apparently felt were not worth the trouble,” groups said in the statement.

    “Another e-mail revealed that ICE refused to test contract staff due to fear that positive tests could force them to change the manner in which they detain immigrants,” the groups continued. “GEO’s Mesa Verde Warden Nathan Allen wrote that ICE’s Assistant Field Office Director ‘mentioned he would rather not have staff testing as they may also impact ERO functions, i.e., an asymptomatic person testing positive would require possible dorm cohorts and detainee testing protocols.’”

    In other words, ICE said not even this danged pandemic is going to disrupt our detention and deportation agenda, even if it gets the detainees, or us sick, which it has. […]

  96. says

    Good news: Joe Arpaio Loses Sheriff Bid In Arizona GOP Primary: ‘Last Time I Run For Office’

    Former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, a close ally of President Donald Trump who became the face of aggressive crackdowns on illegal immigration, lost in a Republican primary race to win back his sheriff’s seat in Maricopa County — a race that he said was his last.

    Arpaio lost Tuesday’s Republican primary to his former chief deputy Jerry Sheridan by roughly 6,300 votes, according to the latest count from the Maricopa County Elections Department on Saturday morning.

    Sheridan will take on current Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone, a Democrat and former Phoenix police officer, who ousted Arpaio in the 2016 race.

    Sheridan has promised to revive many of Arpaio’s policies, but according to The New York Times many political analysts have said Penzone is a favorite leading up to November.

    Tuesday’s loss was Arpaio’s third electoral defeat in four years. After losing his 2016 re-election bid, he was subsequently defeated in a three-way Republican primary for Senate in 2018.

    Arpaio told the Arizona Republic in an interview on Friday that this year’s race was “the last time I run for office.”

    Arpaio made headlines nationally when he went against a court order to end immigration raids that racially profiled Latinos. In 2017, he was pardoned by Trump following a conviction of criminal contempt of court for continuing raids that targeted Latino people, The New York Times reported.

  97. says

    Friday night massacre at USPS: Trump ally completely restructures, gets rid of 23 execs [I’m going to add these exclamation points to this headline: !!!!]

    Louis DeJoy, a Donald Trump flunky, was appointed to be Postmaster General despite him having ZERO experience at the Post Office—which is unheard of. He was, however, a major donor to the Republican Party and to Trump’s campaign. DeJoy and his wife also have serious conflicts of interest, since they both have assets between $30.1 million and $75.3 million in USPS competitors or contractors.

    But really, how much damage could he do? Well, in case you haven’t noticed, quite a damn bit.

    This is bad, folks. REAL BAD! […]

    The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) now has a serious backlog of letters and packages, which are piling up at distribution centers. Despite the increase in packages during the pandemic, Trump’s new Postmaster General has cut hours and banned all overtime, and is also placing fewer trucks on the road. He even changed priorities in mailing. […]

    Postal leaders are already complaining about sabotage. The American Postal Workers Union has been sounding the alarm, with the president saying she is “terrified” of how the sabotage is going to affect the upcoming election.

    Then, on Friday, Dejoy took out the machete and started cutting. Twenty-three executives with decades of experience were reassigned, and power is now consolidated around DeJoy.

    Coincidentally, this year will be a record year for voting by mail, which Trump is doing everything he can to undermine. In fact, Trump admitted that mail delays will help him in his election. Of course, it’s also a census year, which Trump is also doing everything he can to undermine. We need more mail carriers, not fewer, although DeJoy has instituted both a hiring freeze and requested future buyouts—two things Democrats in Congress specifically asked him NOT to do. The results are obvious. […]

    This may be Trump’s doing, but Republicans are completely on board. Not one Republican has spoken out against this. It’s up to Democrats to save the post office. We also have to save our democracy and our republic, so might as well just add it to the list. […]

    Thirty-four states require that they receive ballots by Election Day—a policy which, under Trump and DeJoy, will cause millions to be thrown out. Democratic leaders need to be pushing for a law that allows votes to be counted afterwards, and force Republicans to fight them on this. In the meantime, encourage everyone you know who isn’t voting in-person NOT TO WAIT! Vote as soon as you are able.

    I know it gets old that we have to fight for our very democracy on what is a seemingly day-to-day basis, but this is who Trump is, and what Trump wants. Let’s go all in, every single day, until we can finally rest—the day after November 3. […]

    This just happened, too: The Postal Service has informed states that they’ll need to pay first-class 55-cent postage to mail ballots to voters, rather than the normal 20-cent bulk rate. That nearly triples the per-ballot cost at a time when tens of millions more will be delivered.

    !!!!!

  98. says

    Here is the link for text quoted in comment 114.

    In other news: Democratic leaders are desperately trying to save America, but Trump is ‘going another way’

    On Friday evening, Donald Trump surrendered any pretense that he was actually interested in providing Americans with relief from the health threats and economic collapse triggered by his mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, he declared that he was “going another way.” That other way seems to be using this moment to undermine Social Security, and making sure that cities in desperate trouble because of the expense of dealing with the crisis while facing a collapsing economy are left with nowhere to turn.

    Nowhere, that is, other than begging Trump. Because after two weeks of going through the motions of holding talks with Congress, the owner of Bedminster country club has made it clear that his “other way” is to treat executive orders as dictatorial power. Rather than go through all that effort at legislation, and compromise … Trump will simply determine who gets help, and who doesn’t, with a scrawl of his sharpie. Trump is going another way from democracy.

    […] Trump, surrounded by a gathering of pasty, wealthy golf buddies, declared that he wouldn’t agree to even a third of what’s actually necessary. It was the absolutely appropriate ending to a process that was never more than a smokescreen from the outset. That Trump did this at a gathering of millionaires who refused to don masks, while declaring what was supposed to be a White House announcement “a political event” was only icing on the authoritarian cake.

    Three months ago, Nancy Pelosi and Democrats the House passed the Heroes Act, […] The bill is a complete package that addresses real needs of both people and communities, from giving everyone a second $1,200 check to helping schools plan for delivering online classes.

    Since May, Republicans have done literally nothing. […]

    That’s not to say that the Republican response didn’t address their own concerns about COVID-19. Included in that Republican response were guarantees that unemployment boosts would not be extended at current levels, along with protections for businesses who fail to protect worker safety. Those two planks: Forcing workers back on the job; and making sure that corporations can’t be sued, even if workers and their family members die, is the sum total of the Republican agenda. Trump has added another item of his own: Suspending the payroll tax, an action whose entire purpose is to blow a hole in Social Security […]

    Unlike the federal government, states and cities can’t print their own money. The economic collapse triggered by Donald Trump’s failed handling of the COVID-19 crisis leaves many of those governments teetering at the point where they are unable to provide even basic services. In the middle of a healthcare crisis, governments are laying off healthcare workers and experts, because they simply lack the funds.

    Democrats are negotiating to try and get Americans what they need. Trump knows that a failure to achieve agreement means he can keep people crawling over broken glass to beg for his favor. That’s not a formula likely to lead to a happy conclusion.

    Link

  99. says

    From Wonkette: Trump’s Pre-Existing-Conditions Shuffle Is Gonna Fool A Whole Lot Of People

    On Friday, Donald Trump announced that he would be signing an executive order requiring insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions, which would be totally groundbreaking were that not already a thing someone (Obama) had already done and if he could actually do that through an executive order if it wasn’t. […]

    This is far from the first time he has promised this — heck, he’s even claimed to have already done it. In January of this year, he claimed:

    “Mini Mike Bloomberg is spending a lot of money on False Advertising. I was the person who saved preexisting Conditions in your Healthcare, you have it now, while at the same time winning the fight to rid you of the expensive, unfair and very unpopular Individual Mandate and, if Republicans win in court and take back the House of Representatives, your healthcare, that I have now brought to the best place in many years, will become the best ever, by far. I will always protect your Pre-Existing Conditions, the Dems will not!”

    […] He knows that coverage for pre-existing conditions is immensely popular, and his tactic in general is to find stuff that people like and then act like he invented it, all the while claiming that there will never be a downside, like there is when other people do things. This works because people in general do not pay enough attention to things like health care […]

    You may be saying to yourself “But we already have coverage for pre-existing conditions! This makes no sense at all!” and and yeah, we do. Kind of. It’s just not a thing that can really be guaranteed going forward, the way things are now, without the individual mandate. The only reason the pre-existing conditions rule has been able to continue is because the amount of people with insurance from an employer or from signing up on the marketplace has stayed relatively the same since the mandate was eliminated, and the “penalty” was never really enough to actually make up the difference anyway. So nothing has actually materially changed that much, and the fact that people can only sign up once a year (with exceptions if they’ve been laid off) keeps things a little more honest than they might be otherwise. […]

    People truly thought and still think that the only reason there was a mandate and a penalty for not having health insurance was to punish them for being bad people who didn’t want to join Obama’s health care club, not because covering pre-existing conditions would be impossible without it. The “penalty” people had to pay was meant to prevent free rides — to prevent people from not paying health insurance their whole lives and then signing up for it after a cancer diagnosis. I don’t know if Dems did not do a very good job of explaining this to people or if they were simply drowned out by the cacophony of Fox News, but this is what people actually believe.

    Last week, Trump signed an equally ridiculous executive order allowing certain drugs to be imported from Canada — which, frankly, is pretty shitty. It’s basically asking Canadians — who pay for their single payer health care through their taxes — to subsidize our shitty health care system. It would be a massive burden on their system and completely unfair. If Americans want good health care that doesn’t cost a lot, we can do what other countries do. If not, we need to smile and cheer for our beautiful freedoms while we pay $3,000 for a coronavirus treatment that we funded with our taxes, that costs $10 to make and that people in the UK will be getting for free.

    That same executive order required Medicaid to pay the same amount other countries pay for pharmaceuticals, which will be very difficult as it is still currently illegal for Medicaid to negotiate prices.

    Americans […] want to believe that they can have coverage for pre-existing conditions without a mandate, they want to believe they can have price-controls for pharmaceuticals without socialized medicine, they want to believe they can have all of the benefits and discounts of socialized medicine in a system with privatized, American-style health insurance. These things are very obviously not true, but as long as those in power can convince people that they hypothetically could be true, the conversation on health care can stall forever.

  100. says

    John Roberts’ stealth attack on abortion rights just paid off.

    A federal appeals court will allow Arkansas to create degrading new hurdles for people seeking abortions.

    The Supreme Court’s recent decision in June Medical v. Russo was hailed by many liberal court watchers as a win for reproductive rights, as the court declined to overturn Roe v. Wade and formally eliminate the right to an abortion. On Friday, however, a federal appeals court ruled that June Medical significantly narrowed the constitutional right to abortion access. The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel swept away an injunction that had blocked Arkansas from enforcing a slew of abortion restrictions, including a requirement that patients pregnant as a result of rape notify their rapists before terminating their pregnancy. The appellate court’s decision confirms that Chief Justice John Roberts’ controlling opinion in June Medical will serve as a tool to eviscerate abortion rights. […]

    Friday’s ruling in Hopkins v. Jegley greenlights four Arkansas regulations passed in 2017. The first of these laws requires clinics to report the names of abortion patients under 18 to local law enforcement. These clinics must then preserve the fetal tissue and treat it like criminal evidence. The second law forces abortion providers to spend “reasonable time and effort” acquiring a patient’s medical records for her “entire pregnancy history” before performing the abortion. The third law grants equal rights over fetal remains to both partners, with no exception in cases of rape. A patient must notify her partner before the abortion and ask which method of disposal he prefers. If both partners are minors, the patient’s parents get to decide how fetal remains are disposed of. If the patient is a minor but her partner is an adult, then he—not the patient—makes the choice. These rules effectively prohibit medication abortion […] The fourth and final law bans the safest and most common procedure for second-trimester abortions. […]

    It might be surprising to hear that June Medical curbed the right to abortion. After all, in that case, five justices struck down a Louisiana abortion law identical to the measure invalidated in Whole Woman’s Health. But the court actually split 4–1–4, with Roberts in the middle. The chief justice penned a separate opinion that rejected the balancing of burdens and benefits in favor of the stingier “substantial obstacle” standard. In his view, an abortion restriction can be constitutional even if it provides zero health benefits to women. […] Because Roberts provided the fifth vote, the 8th Circuit panel declared that his opinion is controlling on lower courts. […]

    The chief justice, who is very, very good at doing consequential things in invisible ways, used his opinion in June Medical as an engraved invitation to states seeking to enact TRAP laws, as long as they didn’t pass something identical to the law struck down in Texas three years earlier. It is an engraved invitation to reviewing courts to ignore the fact that a law that purported to advance women’s health in fact did nothing of the sort. […] the chief justice made quite plain in June Medical that “state and federal legislatures [have] wide discretion to pass legislation in areas where there is medical and scientific uncertainty.” […]

    […] The real surprise here is that it took just over a month for an appeals court to do what they’d been advised to do. Roberts has facilitated severe restrictions on reproductive rights in a stealth move that avoids headlines accusing his court of overturning Roe v. Wade and tiptoes past the trip-wire alarm that might alert voters to the takeover of the federal courts by anti-choice radicals. […]

    Link

  101. says

    “I was a Republican, and I drew my red line too late. I’ll answer for my choices for years to come.”

    Washington Post link

    (Beth Fukumoto served three terms in the Hawaii House of Representatives and is a fellow at Harvard Kennedy School’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation.)

    […] “We are committed to electing candidates who reflect the full diversity of our nation.”

    It was June 2013. I had come from my home state to D.C., to do one job — announce a $6 million investment from the Republican Party to support candidates of color and women running at the state level. […]

    Without a more inclusive message, better representation, less ideological rigidity, and compassionate immigration and economic policies […] Republicans would continue to lose national elections. […]

    Over the next year, I recruited people to a party that promised diversity, dialogue and the chance to reimagine its foundation. I wanted a government that would be responsible with its power and judicious in its interventions, a leveler when our systems became unbalanced.

    Instead, that party nominated a president who sends federal forces to tame American cities yet refuses to use the power of his office to coordinate an effective response to the novel coronavirus.

    There are only so many ways to say, “I was wrong.” I’ve exhausted them all.

    As the Republican leader in the Hawaii House, I made compromises that I regret. I spoke out when our presidential candidate said he might have supported Japanese American internment, but I couldn’t find the courage to question the implementation of voter identification laws that I should have understood weren’t designed to protect voters.

    I made decisions out of political expediency, or hubris, or naivete. Republicans offered an inclusive vision of “Growth and Opportunity” for all; then we elected a man that didn’t even bother to fake it. I couldn’t make it right. I declined to endorse him and criticized his policies. Then, when he won, I continued to disagree with him in public, and my Republican colleagues said they would strip me of my leadership position unless I promised to stop speaking against him. So, I resigned from the party. A few months later, I joined the Democratic Party.

    I drew my red line too late. I’ll answer for my choices publicly and privately for years to come. But admitting your mistakes is one of the best ways to keep from repeating them. […]

  102. says

    250,000 motorcyclists flock to South Dakota because superspreader events are so much fun

    South Dakota’s coronavirus rate is currently low, but trending up somewhat. That upward trend is likely to get a jump-start as the 10-day Sturgis Motorcycle Rally begins Friday. The annual event is expected to draw about 250,000 people to a community of 7,000, and while riding a motorcycle around outside is a very low-risk activity, that’s not all people do. Local bars generally do a good business, for instance—the 7,000 residents of Sturgis are not the reason the self-proclaimed world’s largest biker bar is located there.

    A survey found 60% of Sturgis residents want the rally canceled, but all 60% of them are out of luck, because that’s not how the governments of Sturgis or of South Dakota roll. Gov. Kristi Noem, who has been especially contemptuous of safety precautions like masks during the pandemic, said “We hope people come,” and Mayor Mark Carstensen said “We cannot stop people from coming.” […]

    ”My grandma is absolutely terrified because she has diabetes and is in her 80s and has lupus,” another local told CNN. “If she gets it, it’s a death sentence.”

    But the fears of residents apparently cannot stop potentially hundreds of thousands of people, many of them from hot spots, from rolling into town for some fun. And their governor thinks it’s all just great, because those potential virus vectors will be spending money.

  103. says

    Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Saturday jabbed at New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd over her opinion piece that incorrectly stated a woman hadn’t been on the Democratic presidential ticket in 36 years.

    “Either @TimKaine and I had a very vivid shared hallucination four years ago or Maureen had too much pot brownie before writing her column again,” Clinton tweeted, referring to Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), her running mate on the Democratic presidential ticket in 2016. […]

    Link

  104. says

    America’s Coronavirus Endurance Test

    New Yorker link

    To defeat the virus, we will have to start thinking in years, not months.

    […] I [Howard Markel] worked to help develop the concept now known as “flattening the curve”: using social distancing to decrease the peak burden on health-care systems and to buy time for scientists and doctors to respond. […] With the assistance of medical historians, epidemiologists, infectious-disease experts, and statisticians, we gathered more than twenty thousand documents from hundreds of archives across the country, focussing on how forty-three American cities responded to the 1918 flu pandemic. We looked, in particular, at how those cities employed isolation and quarantine, the banning of public gatherings, the closing of schools, and, in some cases, the shutting down of roads and railways. We found that those cities which used more than one intervention simultaneously, and which acted early and persisted for sustained periods, experienced significantly lower rates of death than those which didn’t. The fates of twenty-three “double-humped” cities were equally telling: having released the brakes too soon, they suffered a second spike in cases and in deaths, sometimes worse than the first. Many had to institute another round of social distancing—a thorny political task.

    We presented our data for the first time on a bleak December day in 2006, at a hotel near the Atlanta airport, where the C.D.C. was holding a meeting on national pandemic preparedness. Several hundred people—state and local health officials, scholars, virologists, epidemiologists, and reporters—had flown in to attend; the George W. Bush Administration, concerned about a possible flu pandemic the next year, had asked us to come up with a plan. […]

    Because social distancing is a quiet form of civic action, and because its success results in fewer infections, it’s easy to underestimate its effects—and yet they have been formidable. Last month, a study published in Nature estimated that the social-distancing measures employed in the United States, China, South Korea, Italy, Iran, and France have prevented around five hundred and thirty million coronavirus infections—sixty million of them in the United States. (Currently, with distancing, the U.S. has reported around four and a half million confirmed cases; the real number is probably higher.) Another study, conducted at Columbia University, found that, if parts of this country had started distancing on March 1st—roughly two weeks before most Americans began to stay home—fifty-four thousand fewer people would have died. It’s difficult to say with certainty how many deaths flattening the curve has prevented, but it is likely in the millions. The global social-distancing effort has been “one of humanity’s greatest collective achievements,” Solomon Hsiang, the leader of the Nature study, said, in announcing the findings. “I don’t think any human endeavor has ever saved so many lives in such a short period of time.”

    In March, when social-distancing policies were first enacted in the United States, they seemed like a bargain. The W.H.O. had calculated a case-fatality rate of 3.8 per cent for the novel coronavirus; by comparison, the rate of death during the 1918 flu pandemic was about 2.5 per cent. If those numbers weren’t enough to terrify you, there were images of intubated patients in I.C.U.s and of bodies in refrigerated trucks; in New York and elsewhere, hospitals were overloaded, ventilators were in short supply, and sirens echoed through the night. Fear is an excellent motivator. When our health officials asked us to stay home, we did so, despite the disruptions.

    And yet the terrified unanimity of those early days didn’t last. It quickly became apparent that there would be great inequality in how the social-distancing measures played out. For some people, the Internet softened the blow: they could work and shop from home while staying connected and entertained. Others lost their jobs or, if they were essential workers, kept them while shouldering high shares of viral risk. Some businesses succeeded in accessing government loans while others were left to fail. Meanwhile, covid-19 exposed preëxisting disparities in American health care. Poor and minority communities experienced disproportionate death. Other people, living in places where the viral surge had yet to arrive, found themselves making sacrifices without quite understanding why.

    As the curve flattened, misconceptions took hold. Perhaps the biggest was that social distancing was a policy that would need to be enacted only once, for a brief period, after which the virus would be defeated and life would return to normal. With this fantasy in mind, politicians began to argue that the time had come to reopen. A number of factors—mounting economic distress, inevitable claustrophobia and fatigue, the President’s deranged tweets about “liberating” certain states, an explosion of justified protest against police brutality and racial injustice—combined to weaken the consensus around social distancing. Across the country, and despite a lack of testing-based data about how widely the virus had spread, bans on gatherings were lifted. […] We told ourselves, erroneously, that our social-distancing efforts had defeated the virus.

    The reality, of course, is that social distancing cannot cure or defeat covid-19. It only allows us to hide from the virus while scientists do their work. […] The harsh truth about our situation is clear: it isn’t over.

    The Trump Administration exacerbated the problem by disbanding the National Security Council’s pandemic team and defunding various public-health programs. But inattentiveness to the risks of a pandemic preceded Trump […]

    The fact that the novel coronavirus is RNA-based, like H.I.V., intensifies the difficulty. It’s possible that a vaccine will arrive this year—but many experts think that it could be two years or even longer before a safe and effective shot has been developed, tested, manufactured, and made widely available.

    The challenge, therefore, isn’t just flattening the curve but keeping it flat—holding the line not for months but for years. […] there’s a good chance that the pandemic may not be over until 2024.

    Some countries have adjusted their plans to match these timelines. The German government has established a standard that allows communities to reopen, close up again, and then re-reopen. […]

    here in the United States, keeping our curve flat will require more than the establishment of a conservative target for new cases. The challenges facing us are vast and, in some respects, unique. […] our President is obstructionist, and a wide swath of Americans doubt what scientists say and resist public-health mandates as a matter of principle. […]

    To meet these geographic, political, and cultural challenges, the United States needs not just an adequate pandemic response but an extraordinary one. We need a plan directed by experts who are trained in controlling epidemics; those experts, in turn, require a centralized data-collection center managed by skilled epidemiologists at the C.D.C., capable of insuring accurate reporting from state and municipal health departments. Across the country, we need to start tracking and tracing new cases on a vast scale and analyzing information about which communities are most vulnerable, who is most likely to get sick and die, and the efficacy of medical treatments. In sum, we need a government that collects information, makes decisions based on it, and then collects more. […]

    Businesses need to give up on the idea of a near-term return to normal and commit to letting people work from home or in staggered shifts until a vaccine or other treatment becomes available. Restaurants and bars should recognize the risks that hasty reopenings pose to both patrons and staff, and keep their indoor spaces closed to customers. Colleges need to accept that their students are as capable of transmitting the virus as other adults are; instead of promising, unrealistically, to trace and test students who drink and party in dorms and off campus, they should shift to distance learning until the crisis is over. […]

    Holding the line against the virus will require still other changes. Masks should be mandatory in shared social spaces. Air travel should be restricted and reconfigured. States should be testing and quarantining international and domestic travellers. […] the tragic reality is that, at least for now, government recalcitrance is part of the American coronavirus endurance test. This means that, to a great extent, it’s up to American citizens, as individuals, to hold the virus in check until scientific reinforcements arrive. […]

    I have seen how rapidly and viciously the coronavirus attacks and kills. In late February, my eighty-three-year-old mother, who suffered from a neurodegenerative illness and resided in an assisted-living facility, caught the virus, sickened, and died within a day. The crisis is real, and so is the responsibility we have to ourselves, our families, and our communities. Having flattened the curve once, we must keep it flat until the virus can be defeated.

  105. says

    So Trump signed a bunch of COVID relief executive orders. He signed them at his golf course, of course.

    The decrees are pretty much a joke. Here is Josh Marshall’s take on this latest reality-show flourish by Hair Furor:

    […] Trump’s COVID relief decrees are poor policy (setting aside legality) on their own, inasmuch as they only go to people who have jobs. The COVID era is rough for everyone but obviously it’s much less rough for people who haven’t lost their jobs. But what I find remarkable is a part of this plan that Trump managed to avoid getting in the headlines. If you get COVID “relief” in the form of a payroll tax holiday, you still have to pay it back! After the election!

    In other words, Trump’s plan is a sort of ersatz payday loan that you’ll need to pay back after the election.

    This is terrible policy. But it’s political gold for Democrats. I mean, this is a classic Trumpian gambit. I’m giving you money to help out. But actually you have to pay me back after you reelect me. And if Trump isn’t reelected, what does he care? It becomes a landmine for Joe Biden who has to oversee collecting the money that workers effectively borrowed without knowing it. This is actually the kind of bait and switch Trump has been known for his whole life.

    https://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/gold-pure-gold

  106. says

    Trump Abruptly Ends Briefing When Challenged For Falsely Taking Credit For Veterans Choice

    […] Trump abruptly ended a news conference Saturday when he was pressed by a reporter regarding his false claim that he was the first to sign the Veterans Choice bill into law, a feat that he said “no president has ever been able to do.”

    “I’ve just signed two bills that are great for our vets, our vets are very special,” Trump announced during a news conference in Bedminster, New Jersey — his second in just two days. “We passed Veterans Choice, as you know, and Veterans Accountability. They’ve been trying to get that passed for decades and decades and no president has ever been able to do it.”

    [Trump] has repeatedly taken full credit for Veterans Choice – a bill that includes health care improvements that were first passed by his predecessor, Barack Obama.

    Trump said in a news conference announcing he had signed a series of executive orders, that former American leaders had tried and failed to pass Veterans Choice. But in reality, the Choice program, which enables veterans to be treated by doctors outside the government-run VA system at taxpayer expense, was first passed in 2014 under President Obama.

    After calling on CBS reporter Paula Reid, who asked, “Why do you keep saying you passed Veterans Choice?” Trump tried to avoid the question, moving onto another reporter but Reid persisted, calling out the President for the claim.

    “It was a false statement, sir,” she said.

    Refusing to address the question, Trump quickly ended the briefing and stepped away from the podium – “thank you very much,” he said.

    Link

    From the readers comments:

    It was a false statement, sir,” she said.

    if every reporter would say that every time he lies, which is all the time, his pressers would average 30 seconds after the hour of wordy confusion and we would not have to be shaking our heads or swearing up a storm every photo op bull shit session he requires to tickle his ego. He walks off under very little pressure every time.
    ———————
    Every reporter has a magic weapon that can defeat the President of the United States. Just call him out on a lie and POOF he disappears. They should now start a sporting contest to see who can shut down a press conference fastest.

  107. says

    Follow-up to comments 89 and 94.

    Kanye West’s name will not appear on the Illinois ballot. Election officials said that 1,900 of the 3,128 signatures submitted were invalid.

    Invalid signatures. It is Republican operatives who are running the campaign to get Kanye West on the presidential ballot, hoping that he will steal a few votes from Biden. But this whole operation looks like one fiasco after another.

    Phony signatures were also submitted in Wisconsin, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

  108. tomh says

    Trump may have given up on his claim he was going to sign an executive order requiring insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions when he learned that this is already a requirement in the ACA, the law he’s going to the Supreme Court this fall to try and overturn — including its pre-existing condition protections.

    On Friday he said, “”That’s a big thing. I’ve always been very strongly in favor. We have to cover pre-existing conditions so we will be pursuing a major executive order requiring health insurance companies to cover all pre-existing conditions for all of its customers. This has never been done before.”

    Not only has it been done before, it’s spelled out in the law he wants to overturn.

  109. says

    Follow-up to comment 123.

    […] Many of the executive orders are likely to prompt lawsuits.

    “If we get sued, it’s somebody who doesn’t want people to get money,” Trump said.

    Ah, so that’s his strategy.

    As he wandered into various campaign issues for the first minutes of his speech, he promised that the coming orders would “take care of pretty much this entire situation.”

    Trump said that he’d extend unemployment insurance benefits at a level of $400 per week, 75 percent of which will be covered by the federal government and 25 percent of which will be covered by the states. Before its expiration, the benefit ran at $600 a week.

    The executive order would take money from states’ funds allocated by the CARES Act and the Department of Homeland Security’s Disaster Relief Fund. The White House has previously indicated its belief that it can use a not-yet-spent $81 billion from the CARES Act, as well as direct the Labor Department to loan states money to help bolster the benefit. The CARES Act doesn’t explicitly ban Trump from using the aid for unemployment benefits, but will prompt anger — if not a lawsuit — from Congress over executive overreach into its power of the purse. […]

    On the payroll tax deferment, Trump said that it would last the rest of 2020 for people making less than $100,000 a year, and that the tax would be permanently eliminated if he wins in November. [Now that sounds like a threat!] […] l

    On the rent eviction moratorium, he said that he will direct the Department of Housing and Urban Development to, along with the moratorium, provide financial assistance to renters and landlords, though he did not provide specifics. The order does not actually prevent evictions and provides little more than suggestions to HUD on how to help renters avoid evictions under current law […]

    Democrats actually addressed almost everything Trump targeted in his orders in a relief package called the HEROES Act the House passed in May, but Senate Republicans rejected the plan’s expansive nature and over $3 trillion price tag. Only coming to the negotiating table days before the unemployment insurance benefit expired, Republicans failed to muster the votes to coalesce behind counter-legislation, leaving the four lead negotiators in a series of meetings to try to find a mutually acceptable solution. […]

    Pelosi […] said earlier in the week that she doesn’t think the President’s team “knows what they’re doing” and dismissed the orders as wholly insufficient to address the current crisis.

    She actually goaded him to sign the executive order granting the eviction moratorium, but said that it’ll do little good without accompanying rental assistance. […]

    Link

    From the readers comments:

    trump completely misrepresented and flat out lied about the democrats’ position.

    It was brazen beyond what I even thought possible from him
    ——————–
    Negotiations by the WH and Meadows were always done in bad faith paving the way for this moment; Fat Donnie charging in to say he saved the day even though passage is highly unlikely.

  110. says

    Yikes. More bugnuts whackadoodleness from Trump’s lickspittles: “Navarro Defends Trump Sidelining Relief Talks: ‘The Lord And Founding Fathers Created EOs’”

    White House trade adviser Peter Navarro on Sunday combatively defended […] Trump over his move to sign a flurry of coronavirus relief executive orders at his golf club in Bedminister, New Jersey.

    […] After saying that he’s “confident” that Trump’s executive actions “will stand up” in court during an interview on MSNBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday morning, Navarro was pressed on why Trump stayed at his golf club all weekend as relief negotiations fell apart and generally sat on the sidelines during talks.

    Navarro pushed back by touting that Trump is “the hardest-working President in history” and that “he works 24/7” before launching into a tirade against Capitol Hill.

    “The problem here is Capitol Hill, ‘the swamp,’” Navarro said. “The two houses that are too far apart.”

    Navarro then threw in a baffling defense of Trump’s executive orders.

    “The Lord and the Founding Fathers created executive orders because of partisan bickering and divided government,” Navarro said. “That’s what we have here, but the President has taken action.”

    Navarro added that [Trump’s] constituency is mainstream Republicans, blue collar Democrats and independents “who are sick and tired of the swamp” before arguing that Trump “could have just let this keep going, and he did not.”

    Link

    Commentary:

    Was this before or after the Lord created tax cuts and AR-15s?
    ——————–
    The Lord?
    Quote the biblical passage, please.
    ———————-
    What an idiot. The founding fathers didn’t create executive orders. They came up with separation of powers and checks and balances.
    ———————–
    “Yea, verily, I say unto thee, create executive orders with which a ruddy-hued bloviator of that distant day might express his will over the objections of a bicameral legislature.” –Hezekiah 4:20
    ———————–
    the Senate Republicans are AWOL, on vacation. And Moscow Mitch McConnell has said he won’t do a thing unless Trump agrees with Pelosi.
    —————–
    Partisans 3:22-30:

    As He walked along he came upon two neighbors in argument. “The law is clear,” said one, “a portion of the harvest is to be given to the poorest!”
    “Did I not pay for the seed?” replied the other. “What claim do the poor have over the crops growing from my investment?”
    Jesus approached the men and said, “I am not come to destroy the law, but to bend it to my will with certain ancillary documents! Therefore I order that all grain will go to the owner.” Saying this, Jesus wrote his words on a piece of parchment in thick black ink.
    The first man cried, “But Jesus, how will the destitute survive?”
    Jesus made a hissing noise with his tongue, “Pssss. Fine, you shall temporarily give back 6.2% of the grain to the poor, which they must repay by the spring thaw. Unless I return this way, when perhaps I will allow them to keep it.”

  111. tomh says

    Trump says he signed four “executive orders,” (although at one point he called them “bills”) but in reality, only the one on housing is an actual executive order. The other three actions are marked as “memorandum,” which carries less weight. And, as noted above, the one order on housing does little but call for Alex Azar and Robert Redfield to “consider” whether an eviction ban is needed.

  112. says

    From WaPo’s write-up of Trump’s Friday whatever the fuck that was:

    …Before the 40-minute news conference, Trump briefly stepped out to privately address some of the members of his club, which reportedly has a six-figure initiation fee. He promised a one-of-a-kind show to the group, which included men in golf shorts and gem-tone polo shirts, women in sundresses and a smattering of children in miniaturized versions of these outfits.

    As for the president, he has expressed no qualms about the optics of meeting with large groups of wealthy supporters at a time when so many are struggling. He is scheduled to hold fundraisers in the Hamptons and near the Jersey Shore this weekend before returning to Washington on Sunday….

    Feel the populism.

  113. says

    Update to #443 on the previous thread – Slate – “Why That Falwell Jr. Yacht Photo Was the Final Straw”:

    Jerry Falwell Jr. is taking a leave of absence from Liberty University, the school announced on Friday evening. The executive committee of the evangelical university’s board of trustees met on Friday and requested that Falwell Jr. temporarily step down from his roles as president and chancellor, according to a brief statement issued by the school. Falwell Jr. agreed, effective immediately.

    The college’s statement did not mention a reason for the board’s request. But the announcement comes at the end of a week in which Falwell has faced unprecedented public pressure to resign from prominent associates of the college. Last weekend, Falwell Jr. posted a photograph to his Instagram account in which he posed with his arm around a pregnant woman with a bare midriff at a private party on a yacht. The college president’s shirt is pulled up and his pants are unbuttoned, revealing a triangle of underwear. He’s holding a glass of what appears to be an alcoholic beverage, though he referred to it in the caption as “black water.”

    Falwell Jr. quickly deleted the photo from his account, but screenshots spread quickly. In a bizarre, brief interview with a Virginia radio station on Wednesday, he said he had “apologized to everybody” and that he had promised his children, “I’m gonna try to be a good boy from here on out.” Falwell identified the woman as his wife’s assistant, and other photos from the weekend show his wife and several of his children and their spouses on the excursion. (Other family photographs from the weekend show the engagement of Falwell Jr.’s daughter Caroline, a Liberty student.)

    Students on Liberty’s campus are forbidden from drinking alcohol, and are instructed to dress modestly. A poster on Reddit compiled Falwell Jr.’s potential violations in the yacht photograph and an accompanying video, and calculated that a student captured in the same scene could have accrued more than $9,000 in school fines and 900 hours of required service, and possible expulsion.

    Faculty and alumni who have been critical of the school’s direction under Falwell Jr. were both shocked and gratified by the news of his leave of absence. “For at least a decade, Liberty’s faculty have labored under Falwell’s increasingly autocratic leadership and been shamed by his public behavior besides,” said Marybeth Davis Baggett, who taught English at Liberty for 17 years and resigned this spring after publishing an op-ed calling for Falwell Jr.’s removal based on his handling of the coronavirus crisis. “One man cannot act this way without many enablers, and any meaningful reform of the school will require a thorough and brutally honest inquiry into the LU culture.”

    …Liberty has also been under almost constant national scrutiny since Falwell Jr. endorsed Donald Trump in early 2016, months earlier than other white evangelical leaders embraced the crude casino magnate’s candidacy. Falwell Jr. began 2020 by calling for parts of Virginia to secede from the state and join West Virginia. As the coronavirus crisis encroached, Falwell Jr. initially dismissed it as “hype,” and called a Liberty parent who questioned him on Twitter a “dummy.” He was then criticized for welcoming back any students who wanted to return to campus after spring break. (Fewer than 2,000 of 15,000 residential students ultimately returned, and Liberty has avoided any outbreaks.) In May, Falwell Jr. tweeted a racist image in an attempt to needle Virginia governor Ralph Northam. He eventually deleted the tweet and apologized, but multiple Black employees publicly quit their jobs soon afterward; several high-profile Black athletes also departed. None of these media dust-ups seemed to dent Falwell Jr.’s favorability in the eyes of his hand-picked board of trustees.

    The yacht photo was different. It was the first time a significant number of prominent white conservative evangelicals have publicly criticized Falwell Jr….

    “It’s a very encouraging moment for the Liberty community,” said Dustin Wahl, a 2018 Liberty graduate who recently helped assembled a 501(c)(4) advocacy group to pressure the board to remove Falwell Jr. But he questioned why a racy photo was deemed more damaging than any previous controversies. “Why did the board decide this was the last straw? Because of a photo that made them uncomfortable, and the following public humiliation. They allowed everything up until that point. Liberty’s board has shown us that their only public convictions relate to alcohol and sex.” Calum Best, who graduated this spring and collaborated with Wahl on the new advocacy group, said that while Falwell Jr.’s leave “certainly feels like a victory,” he was troubled that the board didn’t respond to a recent alumni-led petition with almost 40,000 signatures, but rather to Republican congressmen and pastors behind the scenes.

    Still, the board’s resistance to countless previous calls for Falwell Jr.’s departure is exactly what makes Friday’s announcement so significant. “This is an incredible shock,” Jordan said. “Many of us who have been close to Liberty for years never thought this board of trustees would take this action, or any type of discipline, against Mr. Falwell.”

    It’s not clear how long Falwell’s leave will last, or whether he will return to the school at all….

  114. says

    Today is the election, so called, in Belarus.

    Guardian – “Belarus election: Lukashenko set to announce landslide victory amid fixing claims”:

    Belarus was braced for protests on Sunday evening as the incumbent president, Alexander Lukashenko, appeared poised to claim victory in an election marred by accusations of vote-rigging.

    As polls closed at 8pm, a state exit poll gave Lukashenko 79.7% of the vote and just 6.8% to challenger Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, whose maverick campaign attracted some of the largest political rallies in Belarus since the fall of the Soviet Union. An estimated 9.2% voted “against all”, according to the poll, a tradition dating from Soviet days.

    The claim of a landslide vote appeared to increase the danger for Tikhanovskaya, who went into hiding Saturday evening after nine of her campaign staff were arrested by the government. She emerged on Sunday to vote but remained in a protective bubble of campaign staffers and journalists, which press secretary Anna Krasulina called “the most trustworthy defence we have”.

    Tikhanovskaya, who entered the campaign after her husband was jailed, has sent her children abroad after she said their lives were threatened.

    Andrei Yeliseyeu, director of the Warsaw-based EAST centre, said the apparent blowout result combined with claims of vote tampering could push thousands of people on to the streets, including in the regions beyond Minsk.

    “Surely this will enrage the public, because people are well aware that Lukashenko does not have this impressive majority presented by the exit poll results,” he said. “This will provoke public anger in one form or another.”

    Thousands of voters were left outside polling stations in Belarus and embassies after the government refused to extend voting hours beyond the 8pm cutoff. Tikhanovskaya’s opposition campaign has refused to endorse street protests after Sunday’s vote, calling on supporters to protest legally and avoid provoking the government.

    Lukashenko, who has revelled in being labelled “Europe’s last dictator”, has consolidated immense power over 26 years of rule in Belarus and is seeking a sixth term in office.

    …There were already signs of a crackdown in the runup to the vote, as armoured cars, water cannon and riot police were reported in the centre of Minsk near the presidential administration. Armed men had also been seen at highway entrances to the city.

    “There are armoured cars on the highway, there are people not even in uniform, in jeans and T-shirts with rifles in their hands,” said Vladimir, a local businessman who came to the polling station with his wife and young son. “It’s scary when you don’t know if someone is a bandit or a member of law enforcement. I’m voting against being afraid.”

    Local journalists reported problems with Telegram, Twitter, Viber, WhatsApp, and websites associated with opposition parties and platforms for monitoring the vote. Netblocks, a civil society group, said internet connectivity had been “significantly disrupted in Belarus amid presidential elections”.

    Nigel Gould-Davies, a former UK ambassador to Minsk, called the election a “dangerous farce” and said the west should impose further sanctions on Lukashenko. Referring to Tikhanovskaya’s campaign, he wrote: “What is happening in #Belarus is the last phase of a great reordering of European politics that began in 1989.”

    Supporters of Tikhanovskaya have said that her campaign has transformed the country and would have a profound impact on the future of the country’s politics.

    “People in this campaign have become more educated. They understand better what is happening,” said Olga Kovalkova, one of Tikhanovskaya’s aides. “It’s important. They’re ready to fight using legal means. This process won’t end on election day – it’s just begun.”

    This Guardian piece (and my previous posts) have more background.

    Minsk is reportedly now closed off. You can follow this Twitter account for live updates.

  115. says

    Guardian – “Bolivia protesters bring country to standstill over election delays”:

    Demonstrators in Bolivia have dynamited Andean passes, scattered boulders across highways and dug trenches along rural roads to protest against repeated delays to a rerun of last October’s deeply contentious election, which led to the downfall of the long-serving leftwing president Evo Morales.

    As the country’s death toll from the coronavirus pandemic mounts, more than 100 roadblocks and marches nationwide – convened on Monday by Bolivia’s main workers’ union and indigenous and campesino movements allied to Morales’s Movement Towards Socialism (Mas) – have brought the country to a standstill for six days.

    The largest demonstrations since last year’s crisis come soon after the electoral authorities postponed elections originally scheduled for May for the third time – from 6 September to 18 October – citing the need to avoid a projected peak in coronavirus infections.

    The ruling late last month and the resulting backlash have increased a sense of crisis in a country already struggling to cope with Covid-19, an economic slump and fierce political divisions.

    “We’re not doing this out of choice,” said Jaime Quiñones Veliz, 35, part of a group of mask-wearing protesters at a roadblock made of tyres, stones and wire strung across a street in El Alto, a sprawling conurbation overlooking Bolivia’s political capital, La Paz.

    “The people are desperate to know who their president will be, no matter who wins at the polls. We need a stable government,” he said. “We’re demanding that they respect the election date of 6 September. If not, things are going to get even uglier.”

    The caretaker [LOL] government of Jeanine Áñez – a rightwing senator who came to [seized] power after Morales’s fall promising fresh elections within 90 days, and later declared her own candidacy for president – has threatened to use force to dismantle the roadblocks. It claims that by preventing oxygen and ambulances from reaching hard-pressed hospitals, the blockades have killed at least 31 people.

    “We’re going through a critical moment,” he said. “Things have been made a lot worse by the blockades, there’s an attack on the health sector by different groups that don’t believe that the illness exists.”

    Critics accused the authorities of trying to blame already severe shortages on the opposition for political purposes, and pointed to videos online showing demonstrators temporarily dismantling roadblocks to let trucks and ambulances through.

    Unions have threatened to seal off La Paz entirely if any roadblocks are attacked, and Morales has warned on Twitter that Áñez is plotting a “massacre”. Sporadic clashes have broken out between police, protesters and rightwing counter-demonstrators.

    Luis Arce, formerly Morales’s economy minister and the current frontrunner in the polls, said the demonstrations reflected widespread anger, not just with “illegal manoeuvring” on the election date but with incompetence, corruption and repression under Áñez.

    “The interim government wants to continue in power for eternity. They’ve demonstrated it various times,” he said. “Every time they fix a date, the health minister says that will be the [coronavirus] peak. We’ve had so many supposed peaks, it’s a plateau.”

    “We want someone to genuinely guarantee us that there’ll be elections this year.”

    An abrupt decision this month to cancel the school year, a deep economic recession, intimidation of the press and apparent moves toward privatisation in key industries, including the state oil and gas firm, had contributed to popular unrest, he suggested….

  116. says

    Politico – “Democrats see payoff from pressure campaign on intelligence community”:

    Congressional Democrats — stung by the Obama administration’s soft-pedaled approach to Russian election interference in 2016 — have a plan to prevent a repeat under President Donald Trump: make as much noise as possible, early and often.

    For weeks, top Democratic lawmakers in the House and Senate have been blaring warnings and demanding briefings and public disclosures from the intelligence community, shrugging off Republican charges that they’re politicizing intelligence.

    And Democrats can now point to evidence that their pressure campaign might be working. On Friday, the Trump administration’s counterintelligence chief publicly confirmed that Russia is attempting to harm Joe Biden’s candidacy in 2020. The official, William Evanina, even singled out a pro-Russia Ukrainian, Andrii Derkach, as a key participant in the Kremlin’s new effort.

    The statement, which also indicated that Iran and China prefer a Trump loss in November, was hailed by Democrats as vindication of their strategy to lean on the administration for additional disclosures to help educate the public.

    “Normally the customer of the intelligence community is the president, the national security apparatus, the secretary of Defense and members of Congress. But every four years, the customer should be the American people,” Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in an interview.

    “They’re the decision-makers on Nov. 3. And they paid for this intelligence and they ought to be able to see it,” added King, who caucuses with the Democrats in the Senate.

    Whether Democrats succeed in their effort to wrest more information into the public domain could be critical to blunting Moscow’s latest interference effort, they say, [“they say”?] as well as shielding Biden from the attacks that dogged Hillary Clinton in the final weeks of the 2016 campaign.

    And Democrats aren’t likely to end their push just yet. While some lawmakers acknowledged that the statement was indeed significantly more detailed, they said it still conflated Chinese and Iranian interference with Russia’s more sophisticated efforts. The claims about China and Iran notably lack the degree of specificity Evanina offered about Russia.

    “Unfortunately, today’s statement still treats three actors of differing intent and capability as equal threats to our democratic elections,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said in a joint statement on Friday.

    Despite the criticisms from Pelosi and Schiff, the new disclosure seemed to satisfy Senate Intelligence Vice Chair Mark Warner, who issued a joint statement with Committee Chair Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) that generally praised Evanina for the disclosures. King, too, hailed the new releases.

    “Calling out Mr. Derkach, who’s a Ukrainian associated with Russia — I think that’s important to know, because now when we see materials with his name on it, we’ll know from whence it came,” King said.

    Evanina emphasized on Friday that more public details are forthcoming, “for the purpose of better informing Americans so they can play a critical role in safeguarding our election.”

    Despite these assurances, rank-and-file senators who have been briefed on recent intelligence have dialed up their warnings in recent days.

    “Shocked & appalled—I just left a 90 minute classified briefing on foreign malign threats to our elections,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) wrote in a recent tweet. “From spying to sabotage, Americans need to see & hear these reports.”…

  117. says

    #Belarus. Police are brutally attacking peaceful protesters in #Minsk. They are using light grenades right now.

    #Belarus Clashes with the police are happening all across the country. In #Minsk,protesters tried to defend themselves. A police van rammed into people. The police used tear gas. There are injured people. @Belsat_TV journalist Stas Ivashkevich was detained. Cars are honking

    There is information from various cities (Baranavichy, Lida and other) that riot police refused to attack people. In #Minsk, light grenades are being used all the time. Ambulance cars are driving around. There are less motorists on the streets though”

  118. says

    SC @135, this is too true:

    “Unfortunately, today’s statement still treats three actors of differing intent and capability as equal threats to our democratic elections,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said in a joint statement on Friday.

    In other news: “The Incompetent Fascist: Trump’s ‘executive orders’ do the wrong things, illegally”
    Follow-up to tomh @129.

    On Saturday Donald Trump announced, in a bizarre golf clubhouse speech to an audience of millionaires, a series of “executive orders” that he will (attempt to) undertake as substitute for negotiating new pandemic aid packages with Congress. […]

    Because Trump has surrounded himself with conservatism’s least competent blowhards—namely, whichever self-promoting grifters impress him during Fox News appearances—the executive orders produced manage to both do extremely bad things, and to do them illegally. […]

    The Washington Post’s Heather Long gives an overview of both the content and implications of Trump’s orders. For one thing, only one of what Trump called his four “executive orders” is actually an executive order; the rest are memorandums, which are … not the same thing. […] Trump does not have even a passing familiarity with his own actual job.

    The biggest “thing” Trump announced—in a memo, not an order—is a Trump instruction to the U.S. Treasury to simply stop collecting payroll taxes for the duration of the year. This “payroll tax holiday” has been a hobbyhorse for conservatism for some time, a brute-force means of depriving Social Security of funds so that, when the resulting deficits appear, it can later be pointed to as a program in crisis and sharply curtailed.

    […] The federal payroll tax only affects people who are on a payroll. The crisis of the moment is massive, depression-level unemployment, which a “tax cut” will not solve in any way whatsoever. […]

    There’s a catch here, and it’s a big one. Trump doesn’t eliminate the payroll tax, he simply orders the tax deferred until next year. That means that every American worker struggling to make ends meet during an actual, once-per-century worldwide pandemic will have to come up with a lump-sum payment of all of those deferred taxes when the year is out. That’s obviously untenable; what Trump’s team intends is to force Congress into a position where they have to save taxpayers from this new manufactured double-crisis by forgiving those tax debts.

    If it works out as Trump’s team plans, either Social Security gets massively defunded or a very large chunk of working America faces a new balloon payment come next April or so. Meanwhile, the actual pandemic itself rolls on unimpeded by the White House. […]

    this memorandum came with a explosive Trump ad-lib that either gave away his advisers’ larger game or is just the babbling of an idiot. Trump said that if is reelected he would “terminate” these taxes permanently. To every ear, that sounded like a Trump promise to … end Social Security outright. Just wipe it from the books. It was up to the failingest economic crackpot in America, Trump adviser Larry Kudlow, to Trumpsplain to the nation that Trump did not mean what he said, he’s just incredibly dumb and couldn’t explain his own supposed policies. […]

    The other “big” memorandum announced on Saturday is an attempt to extend pandemic unemployment aid without involving Congress. […]

    The Trump memo attempting to get around Congress on this one is a doozy. It raids the Department of Homeland Security’s Disaster Relief Fund, the fund that enables Federal Emergency Management Association assistance after large-scale natural disasters such as fires or hurricanes, to the tune of $44 billion dollars. This money will be used to pay for $400 per week in aid until the money runs out, which it would in about a month. […]

    […] appears to be brazenly illegal. Trump’s team simply takes the money, in clear violation of the laws that govern how the Disaster Relief Fund money can be spent. […] It empties out the fund during what’s predicted to be one of the most active Atlantic hurricane seasons on record. And Trump’s memorandum specifies that the funding can only be used in states that chip in $100 of that $400 per week themselves.

    This means that it’s not even a true extension of federal unemployment aid, but some sort of hybrid new program—one that could take “months” to even get off the ground.

    […] the White House doesn’t know how many states would even be able to come up with the necessary funds themselves, during the effing worldwide pandemic. […]

    That brings us to the last of the Things Trump called “executive orders,” and the only one that is an actual executive order. Trump issued an executive order to ask his officials to “consider” whether a ban on residential evictions might be “reasonably necessary.” […]

    LARRY KUDLOW: The president felt he had to take action on an eviction moratorium.

    STEPHANOPOULOS: But his executive order doesn’t actually include an eviction moratorium.

    KUDLOW: … look, that’s not entirely true.

    STEPHANOPOULOS: It is true. I just read it.

    […] What Trump actually signed bears very little resemblance to what Trump said he signed, during his golf-club announcement speech. It is in equal parts unworkable, ineffective, and illegal […]

    It is an attempt at an authoritarian override of Congress […]

    Much of the rest of the world is well on the way to controlling the pandemic until a vaccine can be produced by taking the core actions prescribed by each nation’s experts from the beginning: Vigorous testing, social isolation, and enough financial aid to absorb the effects of needed local or national closures. While they’re doing that, our fascist-minded but catastrophically stupid executive heads are using the pandemic to sabotage mail delivery, take a large bite from Social Security, and revive the business lunch. […]

    Link

  119. says

    From Wonkette: “Crowded Georgia School Now A Veritable Coronafest”

    Last week, North Paulding High School in Georgia made the news after several pictures of its crowded hallways went viral. The first thing the school district did in response was to immediately suspend Hannah Watters, the concerned student who posted them. […] suspending Watters garnered them even more negative attention and they ended up having to un-suspend her to save face.

    […] Since the picture was posted, nine people at the school have tested positive for COVID-19. Whoops!

    Via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

    “At this time, we know there were six students and three staff members who were in school for at least some time last week who have since reported to us that they have tested positive,” […]

    The letter to parents does not include information on whether any other students or staff who were exposed have to quarantine or whether any classrooms will be closed. […]

    Angie Franks said both her nephews who attend the school have tested positive for COVID-19. One came home from school Monday unable to smell, she said in an interview with the AJC. His mother took him for testing and the results the next day showed him positive, Franks said. By then, his brother was exhibiting symptoms and was also tested. His positive results were returned Wednesday.

    The students are quarantining at home, but both went to school Monday. Franks said the boys’ father notified the school on Tuesday and Wednesday after getting their test results.

    Wow, it almost seems like this is not working out very well.

    “They sat in class all day long with no masks and not social distancing,” Franks said. “And I have no idea how many kids they came into contact with.” […]

    So it’s probably not gonna be just nine people testing positive. Good to know!

    […] it seems like a whole lot of people are just determined to return to “normal” even if it kills them. Thus the 250,000 people going to Sturgis, South Dakota for a motorcycle convention. Thankfully, you should all be relieved to know that both Willie Nelson and ZZ Top canceled their planned performances there. ZZ Top was replaced by a ZZ Top cover band, and Willie Nelson was replaced by no one because no one can replace Willie Nelson.

    Via TMZ:

    A ZZ Top tribute band, called ZZ3, took the stage at the Full Throttle Saloon and filled the room with Texas blues-rock. The rally, which will draw an estimated 250,000 people, always draws big-named performers, so it’s no surprise hundreds of folks showed up.

    Willie Nelson and Lynyrd Skynard were also scheduled to perform at the 9-day event but canceled because of the pandemic. Other artists who performed Saturday include Molly Hatchet and the Guess Who … Night Ranger, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, .38 Special, Quiet Riot, Smash Mouth and others are expected to perform in the coming days.

    The bar was packed and there was almost no social distancing, and lots of medical folks are worried this will become a super-spreading event. That clearly was not on the minds of the saloon audience.

    […]

    Link

  120. says

    AP – “Kahele wins Hawaii Democratic primary for Gabbard’s seat”:

    Kai Kahele was prepared to do the unthinkable: take on an incumbent from his own party for a U.S. House seat.

    He felt so strongly that Hawaii residents were being hurt by the presidential ambitions of Rep. Tulsi Gabbard that he announced early on he would challenge his fellow Democrat.

    Then, just months after Kahele got in the race, Gabbard announced she wouldn’t seek re-election to the House seat she had held since 2013 and would instead focus on her campaign for the White House.

    Kahele’s bold move paved the way for him to claim an easy victory Saturday in the Democratic primary for Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District.

    The 46-year-old said it’s been a long journey since he launched his campaign in January 2019 and it’s exciting to get to this point.

    “I’m looking forward to hitting the campaign trail again and marching to the general,” Kahele said in an interview.

    Kahele had such an advantage over his competitors that he spent the past four months on active duty in the Hawaii National Guard helping the state respond to the coronavirus pandemic. He was not able to conduct any campaign activities during that time.

    “At times it’s been challenging because I wanted to be involved. We put so much time and effort into the campaign before I left. But at the same time, I was confident in the team that I had built and we had built together,” Kahele said.

    Kahele has served in the state Senate since 2016, starting from when he was appointed to fill the remainder of his father’s term after he died. He was elected for the first time later that year.

    He works as a pilot for Hawaiian Airlines and flies C-17 jets as a lieutenant colonel in the National Guard. He’s married to a Hawaiian Airlines flight attendant and has three daughters.

    Kahele is an advocate of “Medicare for All” and supports the idea of a “Green New Deal” to address climate change and help Hawaii meet its clean energy goals.

    Joe Akana won the Republican primary for the 2nd Congressional District, which covers suburban Honolulu and Hawaii’s more rural islands, over eight other GOP challengers. Kahele is the overwhelming favorite to win the seat in November in heavily Democratic Hawaii.

    A win by either Akana or Kahele would give Hawaii its second Native Hawaiian in Congress since statehood. The first was the late Sen. Daniel Akaka, who left office in 2013.

    With Saturday’s election, Hawaii becomes the fifth state to conduct an election entirely by mail after the state enacted a vote-by-mail law last year. Hawaii joins Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Utah in holding all-mail elections. In Hawaii, voters have also had the option to cast ballots in-person at a handful voter service centers over the past two weeks. But the overwhelming majority have used mail….

  121. says

    2:30 [AM] in Belarus. There are mixed reports about what’s going on, esp. in the regions but it seems that both sides decided to call it a day. It is clear for everyone that Lukashenko lost the election but he’s not going to give in the power without a fight. This week will be crucial”

  122. says

    Guardian (support the Guardian if you can) – “Belarus opposition candidate rejects election result after night of protests”:

    The main opposition candidate in Belarus’s election has rejected the official results that gave President Alexander Lukashenko a landslide victory and her team has vowed to stay in the country to campaign for a change of power.

    “I will believe my own eyes – the majority was for us,” Svetlana Tikhanovskaya told reporters in the capital, Minsk, on Monday, after widespread reports of vote-tampering in Sunday’s election.

    Tikhanovskaya said she considered herself the election winner not Lukashenko, and described the election as massively rigged. Her aides said the opposition wanted a vote recount at polling stations where there were problems. They also said the opposition wanted to hold talks with authorities about how to bring about a peaceful change of power.

    The country’s election commission reported on Monday that Lukashenko won 80.23% of the vote while Tikhanovskaya took 9.9%, despite a popular wave of support for the opposition candidate, whose political rallies have drawn some of the country’s largest crowds since the days of the Soviet Union.

    Similar, preliminary results released on Sunday prompted unprecedented protests in cities across the country, posing the greatest threat to Lukashenko – often referred to as Europe’s last dictator – since he came to power 26 years ago.

    There were bloody clashes as riot police used rubber bullets, flash grenades, teargas and water cannon to suppress demonstrators. Police detained about 3,000 people, Russia’s RIA news agency cited the Belarusian interior ministry as saying. Further protests are expected on Monday night.

    Lukashenko’s victory was quickly endorsed by Vladimir Putin of Russia and Xi Jinping of China. The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, stopped short of congratulating Lukashenko and in a statement called for restraint.

    Activists said they had reports dozens of people were injured in the fighting and one person may have been killed after being hit by a police van driving at speed. Belarus’s interior ministry on Monday denied anyone had been killed. The Guardian could not immediately verify the death.

    Photographs showed protesters with bloodied faces being tended by field medics. In one photograph, a man who had reportedly been hit in the lung with a rubber bullet lies inert, covered in blood. In another, a riot police officer in a balaclava gestures with an expression of fear and frustration at a protester lying unconscious.

    A reporter for the Guardian saw police use water cannon and rubber bullets against protesters. Video and photographs of the clashes also showed police using Czech-manufactured stun grenades. They were reported to have caused several serious injuries: one man was photographed with part of his foot blown off, and another had reportedly lost a finger due to the devices.

    Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European commission, called for Belarus to publish accurate results and condemned the violence against opposition supporters. “Harassment and violent repression of peaceful protesters has no place in Europe,” she said.

    Lukashenko called the protesters “sheep” under foreign control who were “wanting to spoil the holiday”.

    “I warned that there wouldn’t be a Maidan, however much some people want that,” Lukashenko said on Monday, referring to a 2014 popular uprising in Ukraine that toppled a pro-Kremlin leader. “People need to settle down, calm down,” he said.

    Analysts said it was the deepest crisis Lukashenko had faced in his career. He was already facing unprecedented anger over his handling of the economy and a bungled coronavirus response. Before the elections he jailed opposition candidates and targeted foreign allies, accusing Moscow of sending mercenaries to destabilise the country. Internet connectivity has been significantly disrupted since Sunday.

    “It’s certainly the biggest protest I’ve ever seen in Belarus since Lukashenko came to power,” said David Marples, a professor at the University of Alberta and an expert on Belarus. “In terms of the elections that Lukashenko’s held, there’s been nothing like it. It seems to me that the whole country really is in favour of change.”…

  123. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    SC@153,
    What we have to look forward to in November/December. We cannot let them steal this one.

  124. says

    Slate – “The Trump Pandemic: A blow-by-blow account of how the president killed thousands of Americans”:

    …All the evidence is in the public record. But the truth, unlike Trump’s false narrative, is scattered in different places. It’s in emails, leaks, interviews, hearings, scientific reports, and the president’s stray remarks. This article puts those fragments together. It documents Trump’s interference or negligence in every stage of the government’s failure: preparation, mobilization, public communication, testing, mitigation, and reopening.

    Trump has always been malignant and incompetent. As president, he has coasted on economic growth, narrowly averted crises of his own making, and corrupted the government in ways that many Americans could ignore. But in the pandemic, his vices—venality, dishonesty, self-absorption, dereliction, heedlessness—turned deadly. They produced lies, misjudgments, and destructive interventions that multiplied the carnage. The coronavirus debacle isn’t, as Trump protests, an “artificial problem” that spoiled his presidency. It’s the fulfillment of everything he is….

    Highly recommended.

  125. says

    Paul Krugman:

    I don’t know if anyone else has said this, but payroll tax cuts are the hydroxychloroquine of economic policy. They won’t do anything to solve the employment crisis, but will have dangerous side effects. Yet Trump remains obsessed with them as a cure

    We’ve lost millions of jobs, not because employers lack incentives to hire, but because many activities, like bars, indoor dining, inessential travel, elective medical care have been put on hold because of the risk of contagion

    Letting employers keep money they were supposed to be paying into Social Security and Medicare — no good reason to believe they’ll pass the savings on to workers — does nothing to remedy this problem

    It will, however, undermine the finances of programs that are absolutely crucial to the lives of older Americans. If you measure the quality of policy ideas on a scale of 1 to 10, this is a minus 5 or worse

    Even Senate Rs consider this a terrible idea. So where’s Trump getting it from? The immediate answer seems to be Stephen Moore, whose previous greatest hits include predicting that tax cuts would create a Kansas economic miracle

    Just a word about the other Trump “policy”, on unemployment benefits. He is NOT proposing to extend supplemental benefits. He’s calling for a new program, without Congressional authorization, that states are supposed to set up and provide with matching funds

    Two realities here: 1. The administrative capacity of state unemployment offices is stretched to the limit — it took months to provide expanded benefits, and some people never got them. They’re in no position to add a new program

    States are also broke because of coronavirus revenue losses and expenses. Even if they could reprogram their COBOL-driven computers fast enough, they wouldn’t have the money

    So this is policy by reality TV: an attempt to pretend that Trump is doing something, while providing no real relief for months at best. The fact is that Trump and those around him don’t know how to do policy

    I believe I mentioned recently that I was reading Robert Hare’s 1993 Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us. I have a number of problems with it (reading it provided an interesting flashback to how people talked about kids and crime in the 1990s, which would probably be useful to younger people trying to understand the culture in which the crime bill came about…), but the descriptions of how psychopaths operate are remarkably applicable to Trump.

    At the end, Hare discusses how people (just individuals, unfortunately, not polities, but the ideas can be extended) can protect themselves from psychopaths and mitigate the damage they do. From p. 208:

    Try not to be influenced by “props.” It is not easy to get beyond the winning smile, the captivating body language, and the fast talk of the typical psychopath, all of which blind us to his or her real intentions. But there are a few things worth trying. For example, don’t pay too much attention to any unusually captivating characteristic of people you meet – dazzling looks, a powerful presence, mesmerizing mannerisms, a soothing voice, a rapidfire verbal pitch, and so forth. Any one of these characteristics can have enormous sleight-of-hand value, serving to distract you from the individual’s real message.

    The next time you find yourself dealing with an individual whose nonverbal mannerisms or gimmicks – riveting eye contact, dramatic hand movements, “stage scenery,” and so on – tend to overwhelm you, close your eyes or look away and carefully listen to what the person is saying.

    I think this is the reason for Sarah Cooper’s effectiveness: she separates Trump from all of his props, body language, and staging, and subtly highlights the stupidity, ignorance, and psychopathy of his utterances. Media should have a policy of avoiding presenting his stage show as much as possible, and at the very least, as I’ve been arguing for a long time, avoid acting as theater critics.

  126. says

    Steven Dennis:

    1 out of every 2,000 Americans alive at the start of the pandemic has now died with COVID.

    Best U.S. state:

    ~1 in 45,000 in Hawaii have died with COVID

    Deadliest:

    ~1 in 560 in New Jersey

    New Zealand:

    ~1 in 250,000

    Worldometers data.

    About 1 in 65 Americans have tested positive for COVID.

  127. says

    ACLU:

    BREAKING: We’re calling for the dismantling of the Department of Homeland Security.

    Nearly 20 years of abuse, waste, and corruption demonstrate the failure of the DHS experiment.

    Many knew DHS to be an ineffective superagency, but President Trump has converted DHS into our government’s most notable badge of shame.

    Dismantling DHS, breaking it apart into various federal agencies, and shrinking its federal budget will allow for more effective oversight, accountability and public transparency.

  128. says

    White House staffers create ‘Potemkin village’ to satisfy Trump

    Trump’s pandemic failures were not accidental. They were the result of post-policy governance.

    There was a memorable moment in Donald Trump’s interview with Axios’ Jonathan Swan in which [Trump] referred to a series of printouts that he said offered proof that the United States is “lower in the world” with regard to COVID-19 fatalities. The whole thing proved to be embarrassing, as the reporter tried to explain reality to the confused president.

    But I found myself dwelling on those charts Trump was fumbling through during the interview. It’s unlikely he printed them out himself, which meant aides prepared the materials for him.

    And as we discussed, therein lies a problem: Trump is obviously flailing, and instead of having a White House staff that helps steer him in responsible directions, aides appear to be feeding his worst instincts, providing him with bogus “proof” that makes him feel better about his catastrophic failures.

    It was not an isolated incident. The Washington Post had a brutal report over the weekend […]:

    [W]ith polls showing Trump’s popularity on the decline and widespread disapproval of his management of the viral outbreak, staffers have concocted a positive feedback loop for the boss. They present him with fawning media commentary and craft charts with statistics that back up the president’s claim that the administration has done a great — even historically excellent — job fighting the virus.

    Yeah, but why is Hair Furor so easily fooled? Why is he so easily manipulated? You wouldn’t see President Obama, or someone like Elizabeth Warren, falling for that.

    A senior administration official involved in the pandemic response told the Post, “Everyone is busy trying to create a Potemkin village for him every day. You’re not supposed to see this behavior in liberal democracies that are founded on principles of rule of law. Everyone bends over backwards to create this Potemkin village for him and for his inner circle.”

    […] Trump is responsible for the mess: aides “bend over backwards to create this Potemkin village” for him because the alternative is presidential tantrums. White House staffers who provide Trump with inconvenient truths are not White House staffers for very long.

    That said, the president can share blame with his chief of staff, Mark Meadows, who clearly wasn’t a wise choice for the post, and who appears ill-suited for the task at hand. From the article:

    As the White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows is responsible for coordinating the vast executive branch, including its coronavirus response. But in closed-door meetings, he has revealed his skepticism of the two physicians guiding the anti-pandemic effort, Deborah Birx and Anthony S. Fauci, routinely questioning their expertise, according to senior administration officials and other people briefed on the internal discussions. Meadows no longer holds a daily 8 a.m. meeting that includes health professionals to discuss the raging pandemic. Instead, aides said, he huddles in the mornings with a half-dozen politically oriented aides — and when the virus comes up, their focus is more on how to convince the public that President Trump has the crisis under control, rather than on methodically planning ways to contain it.

    The dysfunction has been so severe that the Post’s report added that the White House “had what was described as a stand-down order on engaging publicly on the virus through the month of June.” […]

    The president’s pandemic failures were not accidental. They were not unfortunate outcomes in the face of valiant efforts. They were the result of post-policy governance, featuring wholesale indifference toward data, evidence, expertise, and even reality.

  129. says

    Oh, ho. Another Republican gambit to get third party candidates on the ballot in order to dilute the Democratic Party vote has failed:

    The Montana Republican Party launched an organized effort to ensure Green Party candidates appear on the state’s November ballot, but a state judge Friday ruled otherwise on Friday. As a local report explained, “District Judge James Reynolds of Helena said several hundred people who signed the petition were improperly denied their request to withdraw their signatures, after discovering that the Montana Republican Party was behind the petition drive. He said the withdrawal requests must be accepted, and that with those withdrawals, the petition falls short of the minimum needed to qualify the Green Party for the 2020 ballot.”

    Missoula Current link

  130. says

    Abandoning subtlety, Barr positions himself as a partisan operative

    The office of the attorney general is supposed to be filled by someone who wants to be “the people’s lawyer,” not a partisan operative.

    It was last fall when Attorney General Bill Barr delivered surprising remarks at Notre Dame, where the nation’s chief law-enforcement official condemned societal ills on conspiring American secularists, whom he accused of launching “an unremitting assault on religion and traditional values.”

    A month later, in November 2019, Barr delivered equally unsettling remarks defending a dramatic vision of expansive presidential power […]

    In 2020, Barr has gone even further, becoming increasingly brazen about the politicization of American law enforcement. Just a few months ago, his actions were so outrageous that 2,300 former Justice Department and FBI officials — from both Republican and Democratic administrations — publicly called for the attorney general’s resignation.

    Some may have hoped the pushback might temper Barr’s political antics, if only to keep up appearances in an election year, but the attorney general actually seems even more eager of late to position himself as a partisan operative. The Washington Post reported this morning:

    Nearly two weeks after Democrats grilled Attorney General William P. Barr over the Justice Department’s crackdowns on racial justice protests, Barr on Sunday evening lashed out at the opposition party and the Black Lives Matter movement. Speaking to Fox News host Mark Levin, Barr said liberals are intent on “tearing down the system” and called protesters’ tactics “fascistic.”

    Okay. Let’s stop pretending that there is any way to temper Barr’s anti-democratic, pro-authoritarian, bible-thumping tendencies. He can’t be tempered. He has to be removed from office.

    […] there was Barr on Fox News last night, unironically chatting with a far-right host about his concerns regarding overt partisanship.

    “I think what’s happened is that the left-wing has really withdrawn and pulled away from the umbrella of classical liberal values that have undergirded our society since our founding,” Barr argued, in apparent reference to Democrats. He added that he believes the left “really represents Rousseauian Revolutionary Party that believes in tearing down the system” in order to achieve “complete political victory.”

    It was Trump’s buddy, Steve Bannon, that wanted to tear the system down. It is Trump and Barr who are tearing the system down.

    In a striking example of projection, the attorney general went on to complain, also in apparent reference to Democrats, “They’re not interested in compromise. They’re not interested in dialectic exchange of views. They’re interested in total victory. It’s a secular religion. It’s a substitute for a religion. They view their political opponents as evil that because we stand in the way of their progressive utopia that they’re trying to reach.”

    He added, “The left wants power because that is essentially their state of grace in their secular religion. They want to run peoples’ lives so they can design utopia for all of us and that’s what turns them on. And it’s the lust for power and they weren’t expecting Trump’s victory and it outrages them.”

    Just so we’re all clear, these were Barr’s comments, not Levin’s. One might expect a partisan broadside like this from prominent far-right media personalities, but these quotes come from the man responsible for overseeing federal law enforcement in the United States.

    Barr proceeded to condemn the nation’s free press (“The American people are being told a lie by the media”), dismiss the scandal surrounding Russia attacking U.S. elections to boost the Republican ticket (“The whole Russiagate thing was an instance” of “using criminal justice system as a political tool”), and offer gushing praise for the president who chose him for the post.

    Donald Trump, according to his A.G., is an “excellent executive” who makes decisions that are “well-vetted” by the White House and the “very high-caliber individuals” who serve in the cabinet.

    As for the president’s work habits, Barr added, “I’ve never seen such energy. He’s always working.”

    In the coming weeks and months, the attorney general may very well try to give Trump some pre-election boosts — John Durham’s efforts continue to hang overhead — at which point Barr will probably regret having thrown away his credibility and the stature that ostensibly comes with his office.

    I don’t think Bill Barr is capable of having regrets.

  131. says

    Follow-up to comment 173.

    […] “Biden can ride a bike and make a joke, all while wearing a mask,” noted Matthew Hall, editorial and opinion director at the San Diego Union-Tribune.

    There were plenty more where that came from—a legit viral moment courtesy of Fox News, where primetime hosts have been laboring for months to paint a picture of Biden as a demented recluse locked away in his basement.

    But while everyone was remarking on Biden’s athleticism and jocularity, let’s remember the simple things too: He was actually able to speak. That alone sets him apart from the current occupant of the Oval Office, who just this past week gave a shout to “Yo-Semite” national park and renamed the country popularly known as Thailand, “Thighland.”

    Imagine having a president who can speak the English language.

    Link

  132. says

    No, really: Team Trump ‘reached out’ to South Dakota governor about adding a head to Mount Rushmore.

    Donald Trump has repeatedly and far-too-publicly mused over wanting his own face carved into Mount Rushmore. […] Over the weekend, however, we learned that it has gone a bit farther than mere public desire: On Saturday, The New York Times reported that an unnamed Trump White House aide “reached out” to the office of South Dakota’s Republican governor to inquire as to what the process of adding new heads to Mount Rushmore might actually be.

    Oh dear. Oh, oh dear.

    […] South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem’s political ambitions and over-eager polishing of Trump’s shoes, is itself a bit alarming. […] Noem presented Trump with a “four-foot replica” of Mount Rushmore that indeed had Trump’s face added to it […]

    But let’s focus on the phone call. That phone call, which evidently actually happened. About what the process would be for, you know, taking some jackhammers to the mountainside and putting Donald J. Trump’s omnipresent mug up there so that Donald Trump’s admirers can worship him as Trump imagines they will want to, at some future date. […]

    […] who made the call?

    Was it Jared Kushner?

    It was Jared, wasn’t it.

    Wait—was it John Barron, a man who sounds exactly like Donald and who has nothing but praise for him? […]

    The Trump White House called the South Dakota governor because somebody in the building needed to know what the process of adding heads would be […]

    Anyhoo, the actual answer from the experts was probably very disappointing to The Person Who Demanded An Answer On This One. There are a number of reasons why Donald Trump’s vast and empty head will almost assuredly not be added to Mount Rushmore.

    1. There’s no room. There’s simply not enough rock on either side, unless you want to add a President Tinyhead up there.

    2. The surrounding rock that does exist isn’t stable enough.

    3. Attempting to carve a new face has a nontrivial probability of bringing down the Founding Fathers nearest to the proposed Trump head (as in literally, not just in the obvious metaphorical sense).

    4. The rock isn’t orange enough.

    5. The rock pays more taxes than Trump does. […]

    Seriously, though, we need to know about this phone call. It’s probably not one that was recorded to the Trump “legal department” secret server so we’ll never really get to hear it in all its begrudgingly sycophantic glory, but c’mon .[…] The world demands to know how that one particular conversation went.

    Link

  133. says

    Trump Plans GOP Convention At White House Because F*ck It, If You’re Gonna Steal, STEAL BIG!

    Wonkette link

    When that tacky, orange menace finally gets sent packing in January, Joe Biden better send someone to count the White House spoons. That grifting sum[B-word] is about to steal everything that isn’t nailed down. […]

    Just look at this.

    We have narrowed the Presidential Nomination Acceptance Speech, to be delivered on the final night of the Convention (Thursday), to two locations – The Great Battlefield of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and the White House, Washington, D.C. We will announce the decision soon!

    See, Trump failed to do jackshit to stop COVID from shutting down America, and then he stomped out of North Carolina because the governor wouldn’t let him jam 15,000 MAGAs into an arena to belch ‘rona germs into each other’s faces. But then Florida turned into a COVID hotspot, so he couldn’t have his convention there, either. So now you, the American taxpayer, get to host this party for him. Hooray!

    This morning, RNC Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel previewed this argument for the Kurvy Kouch Krew, saying, “Here is my personal opinion: If Joe Biden can live in his basement, the president has every right to talk in front of his house, which is the White House.”

    The White House is not Trump’s house! It is the people’s house.

    […] You just have to disregard the fact that Joe Biden owns his home and can use it as he pleases; Donald Trump doesn’t own the White House, it belongs to all Americans; and, while the president and vice president are not covered by the Hatch Act, all other federal employees are prohibited from using government resources for campaign activities. But other than that, it’s totally fine!

    Incidentally, the exact same arguments apply to Gettysburg National Military Park, which is “owned” by the American people and cannot be used as a backdrop for an explicitly political event. Yes, of course Trump has been using every official venue as a political event, but this is different.

    There’s also the questionable symbolism of holding a rally for an explicitly white nationalist, pro-Confederate campaign at the site of the Confederacy’s last stand. Although, we’re hearing Trump has done more for African-Americans than any president, including Lincoln. […]So perhaps it’s fitting that Trump give his own Greedysburg Address on that spot.

    Hey, remember that time when Trump’s pal Stephen Moore joked about Donald Trump kicking a Black family out of public housing when the Obamas left the White House? Because HAW HAW, imagine Black people owning a piece of America, what a joke, right? But now that a white — okay, orange — family has taken up residence, they think they own the place in perpetuity.

    Kick these grifty fuckers to the curb, please.

  134. says

    Yikes. More blatant racism from a Republican:

    Last week, Republican Tom Eckerle, an elected road commissioner for Leelanau County in Michigan, dropped the “n-word” before the start of a meeting, which was not about The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn or the work of Quentin Tarantino. Eckerle was asked why he wasn’t wearing a mask, and while the answer to the question is usually “this person’s an idiot,” Eckerle made it clear that he’s also a racist idiot.

    “Well, this whole thing is because of them n—— down in Detroit,” Eckerle said in a meeting that was open to the public and that anyone could listen to over the phone. Although COVID-19 has disproportionately affected Black people in Michigan, the disease itself is not our fault. Donald Trump hasn’t started calling it the “China N-Word Virus” … yet.

    Bob Joyce, the chairman of the Leelanau Road Commission, advised Eckerle that he couldn’t use a racial epithet in public.

    JOYCE: You can’t say that.

    ECKERLE: I can say anything I want. Black Lives Matter has everything to do with taking the country away from us.

    Eckerle’s figured us out. Black folks have a five-point plan for world domination: First, we convince white people to stop killing us. Then … well, we actually haven’t gotten to the other four points because we’ve spent 400 years on the first one. […]

    Eckerle is also very upset about the removal of Confederate statues. Michigan fought on the American side of the Civil War, but it’s kind of obvious Eckerle is a gross white supremacist. He said during his interview that he felt no regret over using the “n-word” and kept repeating it […]

    “No, I don’t regret calling it an n—-r,” Eckerle said. “A n—-r is a n—-r is a n—-r. That’s not a person whatsoever.”

    He also claimed during the interview that the “n-word” is no different from calling someone a “German” or a “Polack,” although the latter is itself an ethnic slur. This guy would embarrass David Duke.

    “If I could get a few people that, when they see a Black Lives Matter sign up, to think the N-word, I have accomplished what I’m after.”

    If that’s his life’s ambition, Eckerle will die disappointed and stupid. […]

    Wonkette link

  135. says

    Good news: Iowa’s lifetime ban on felon voting gets tossed on history’s ash heap, finally.

    ONE OF the more pernicious legacies of the Jim Crow era, the lifetime ban on voting by felons, is finally being tossed on history’s ash heap — a good place for it.

    On Wednesday, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican who bucked the retrograde opposition of many lawmakers in her own party, issued an executive order that scrapped the nation’s last such blanket prohibition, whose effect fell disproportionately on African Americans. For two years, the governor had sought a constitutional amendment to achieve the same end, only to be blocked by GOP state senators, who evidently feared that many of the new voters might cast ballots for Democrats. So she acted with the principle lawmakers could not muster: She restored voting rights to an estimated 40,000 citizens — excluding those convicted of murder or manslaughter, as well as rape and some other sex crimes — in a year when polls suggest Iowa may be a swing state in the presidential election.

    That took guts. Yet, as Ms. Reynolds acknowledged, her move is a temporary solution. In the absence of an amendment to the state constitution, a future governor could reverse her order. In fact, that’s precisely what her Republican predecessor did, in 2011, by reimposing a ban on felon enfranchisement that had been lifted by a Democratic governor in 2005.

    In 2016, an estimated 6.1 million Americans were barred from voting because of felon disenfranchisement laws, a number that had quintupled over four decades. More than 7 percent of voting-age Black Americans were banned; the same applied to fewer than 2 percent of other adult Americans. […]

    Even constitutional amendments may be insufficient to thwart Republican state lawmakers desperate to retain an electoral edge. In Florida, nearly two-thirds of voters backed a constitutional amendment in 2018 to restore voting rights to most felons who had served their sentences, only to see the full impact of that change gutted by a GOP-backed bill requiring that felons pay court fines and fees before they can cast a ballot. In fact, the state maintains no comprehensive database listing those fines and fees; no official can say for sure which felons are eligible to vote and which are not. Still, Republican legislators imposed stiff penalties for unauthorized voting by felons, and the effect may well be as they hope: Tens of thousands of Floridians, disproportionately Black, are likely to be frozen out of this year’s election.

    As in Florida, roughly two-thirds of Iowans supported Ms. Reynolds’s decision to cast off a prohibition on basic rights born of bigotry. For Ms. Reynolds, the move was also personal: Having been convicted of drunken driving and treated for alcoholism more than two decades ago, she believes in second chances. Regaining voting rights is “a big step for so many on the road to redemption, and proving to themselves and maybe to others that their crimes or convictions do not define them,” she said. Hear, hear.

    Washington Post link

  136. says

    Trump administration tells states to go to ‘normal’ operations, start restricting food assistance.

    While most of the supply chain issues for food that arose at the beginning of the coronavirus crisis have been resolved, food costs for consumers are still higher than they were back in January, in some places significantly so. High food costs and high unemployment means that from April through June, one in three families with children reported food insecurity, not enough food for every family member to have adequate nutrition every day.

    Back in May, Feeding America reported “record levels” of food insecurity, projecting 54 million Americans, including 1 in 4 children, would not have enough to eat throughout the duration of the crisis. That was May, but it’s going to get worse because the Trump administration is ending the flexibility states were given back in March to provide Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or food stamps to more people. The Department of Agriculture is now telling states they have to return to “normal operations,” and put limits on food assistance. Normal. Operations. In a still-raging pandemic. In which tens of millions of people just lost the lifeline of extra unemployment benefits.

    The Families First Act, passed back on March 18, gave states the flexibility to change SNAP eligibility and procedures to maximize assistance. […]

    Now the USDA is telling states they have to return to “normal” by next month. That’s despite the fact that the SNAP caseloads have mushroomed since March and returning to “normal” means much more work. The demand that states start rigorously proving that people getting the benefits are eligible means that states could be cutting needy households just because the overloaded states can’t fulfill the paperwork and interview requirements in the mandated timeline. […]

    Some states haven’t even been able to get virtual application and eligibility processing established by now. Requiring new applicants to apply in-person for assistance is a burden on both staff and the applicants, one that could be dangerous in a COVID-19 hotspot. It’s a burden that will stretch states. It’s an arbitrary decision that will make more people go hungry.

    Link

    If Trump can’t kill enough people by mismanaging the COVID-19 crisis, he will just starve them.

  137. says

    A different kind of disinformation: A “flight log” of Jeffrey Epstein’s “Lolita Express” private jet containing dozens of Hollywood A-listers has gone viral among the QAnon crowd. It’s laughably fake.

    In the last day of July, Billboard tweeted an article titled: “5 Crowning Achievements in Beyoncé’s ‘Black is King’ Film.” The piece was a basic reaction roundup and the promotional tweet was equally innocuous. But for a Twitter user in the comments—a YA author named Kate Morris, who claims her apocalyptic romance novels were inspired after “Reagan came to [her] in a dream”—the post belied something more sinister. Morris replied with a fuzzy screenshot of a list, adding: “Let’s talk about why she’s on the #EpsteinFlightLogs.”

    The tweet has since been deleted, but the screenshot remains all over the internet, often under posts by or about celebrities. A month earlier, when Ben Affleck urged residents of New York, Kentucky, and Virginia to vote in their primaries, a user left it in the comments. Here it is again beneath a Forbes piece on the #OscarsSoWhite scandal. And again, under an Entertainment Tonight Canada article from March titled “Eminem Gushes Over Daughter Hailie.” An image search for the graphic turned up similar lists under a HuffPost video of Beyonce’s commencement address, an interview with then-presidential candidate Andrew Yang, and archival footage of a Tom Brokaw speech from 1973. […]

    Daily Beast link

    There are 124 names on the fake flight log. Looks like they are trying to throw mud on people who backed President Obama, and on left-leaning celebrities in general.

  138. johnson catman says

    re Lynna @175: The Orange Toddler-Tyrant isn’t qualified to be immortalized on the wall of a nasty bathroom stall in some seedy, podunk gas station in the middle of nowhere, much less on Mount Rushmore.

  139. says

    From John Cassidy, writing for The New Yorker:

    […] The executive orders “will take care of, pretty much, this entire situation,” Trump said. [Bullshit]

    Even by Trump’s standards, that was a ludicrous claim. Setting aside the legal issue of whether he has the authority to enact the measures he announced, it is clear that they won’t provide a lasting solution to any of the problems that they were supposedly meant to address. […] the orders were designed to garner some headlines and give him a short-term political boost. So far, their main substantive impact has been to create confusion among those likely to be affected. […]

    Trump’s executive orders don’t address the P.P.P. [Paycheck Protection Program] at all, and they only provide for a partial and temporary extension of the supplements to jobless benefits. […] even if the plan could be put into practice, it would still subject about thirty million jobless people to a substantial cut to their incomes. And, according to some estimates, the fema money would last only about a month. Then Congress would have to step in again.

    The payroll-tax order also demands inspection. Starting on September 1st, it directs the Treasury Department to allow employers to defer payment of the employee portion of the Social Security tax for workers who earn less than four thousand dollars every two weeks. But the deferred taxes will still eventually come due, and they will have to be paid: no White House can unilaterally abrogate tax liabilities that Congress has enacted. So for the order “to have a meaningful effect, employees would need to be confident that Congress would eventually pass a tax cut to forgive the deferred tax liabilities,” an analysis from the economics team at Goldman Sachs noted. “If not, workers—or possibly their employers—would face a substantial tax bill in 2021 and might either voluntarily withhold extra taxes or save the extra pay in order to cover the expected tax bill.”

    [I snipped the text on Trump’s bogus moratorium on evictions, which was really just a suggestion that the Department of Housing and Urban Development look around to see if solutions were needed, and if any should be offered.]

    Taken as a whole, it’s clear that these executive orders wouldn’t provide adequate support for the people they were supposedly designed to help […]

    Trump’s economic advisers know all of this, of course, although that didn’t prevent two of them—Larry Kudlow and Peter Navarro—from going on the Sunday-morning talk shows and defending his actions. Far from being a serious effort to prop up the economy, and to help the tens of millions of Americans whose livelihoods the virus has upended, the executive orders are essentially a political ploy. And the Trump campaign is already trying to exploit it. On Sunday, it sent a fund-raising text message to his supporters: “I signed 4 Exec Orders to help the American People. What did the Swamp do? NOTHING. Show them where YOU stand. Act Now for 5X-MATCH.”

    New Yorker link

  140. says

    johnson @182, the Orange Toddler has already been nicely memorialized as a diapered baby with a phone, (in the form of a massive inflatable, flyable whatchamacallit).

    YouTube link to the blimp being inflated in Parliament Square, London.

    I think that’s appropriate.

  141. says

    Bits and pieces of news.

    Shares of Eastman Kodak plunged more than 40 percent during premarket trading on Monday after a federal agency said it was reviewing a previously announced $765 million loan for the onetime photography pioneer to produce drug ingredients. [from NBC News]

    New Zealand has now gone 100 days with no detected community spread of COVID-19, the Ministry of Health confirmed in an emailed statement Sunday. [from Axios]

  142. says

    Republicans settle on preferred campaign message: Everything’s fine, now here’s some racism.

    […] They could pretend to take an ongoing nationwide pandemic that has killed 160,000 people seriously. They could rally around an actual plan for testing, tracing, and isolating the virus. They could pass legislation giving robust enough aid to the unemployed and the about-to-be-homeless to keep the American economy away from all-out collapse. They could put a hold on their efforts to kill off American health insurance reforms during a crisis reliant on our healthcare systems. They could come up with a plan to reopen schools and universities that does not rely on “what if we just let the kids get it, what’s the worst that could happen?”

    All of those things would be ragingly popular. But those are hard, so instead Donald Trump, his corruption-enmeshed toadies, and Republican lawmakers are going to just go with racism, again. It’s Black Americans, say Republicans. The real problem here is that Black Americans are demanding police reform and if we do that then communism will run rampant, police won’t be able to kill anyone, and America Is Doomed.

    Politico reports that two “lines of attack” are emerging. Trump and likeminded Republicans are going the full Fox News Tucker Carlson Frothing Doomspeech route, declaring that Black Lives Matter is a “Marxist” movement, radical plan to “destroy” the police, “destroy” the American family, a conspiracy, an anti-fascist plot, et cetera and so on. Republicans in more swing districts are … well, saying the same things, but just leaving the phrase “Black Lives Matter” out of it.

    […] Americans are in general agreement with the premise that militarized police departments should not be killing unarmed Black men and boys during routine traffic stops or over an alleged counterfeit bill. […]

    Because Republicanism is devoid of any backing policy other than racism—and you can flip through the last two decades of spinning, contrary positions on anything from deficits to “big government” to “local control” to executive orders for evidence of that—it was a given that the closing argument in these elections would be racism. Even during a once-per-century pandemic that is continuing to kill Americans, it would be racism. During multiple trade wars, multiple constitutional crises, a collapsed economy, it would still be racism. There is one hammer and one nail; the party and its base cannot tolerate more nuance than that.

    There is always, just before each Republican runs for reelection, a new existential crisis caused by non-whites that threatens to destroy America if said Republican is not returned to power. Last time it was “caravans” of non-whites seeking asylum in this nation that was Marxism, or “globalist”-inspired, and poised to destroy American suburbia by spreading “disease” and bilingualism.

    It was ISIS. It was ISIS plus ebola. […]

    Every election just happens to coincide with a new existential crisis of predominately not-white human beings doing something that would destroy America […]

    It doesn’t seem like it’s going to work this time around. Not because the racism is any less motivational to the Republican base, mind you, but because the world is literally in absolute batshit crisis right now and in order to even find time to be racist, even the Republican base has to weave through and over multiple more urgent priorities. It’s harder to sell a notion of “the world will go to hell if my opponent wins” when the world is objectively hell-plus-three right now.

    […] Trump simply lacks the capacity to do anything else; he is a racist conspiracy freak by nature, and nobody among his rotating cast of aides and advisers has been able to bend his behavior in the slightest. […]

    There’s a pandemic still raging out of control, of course. It’s expected to get worse when the weather turns colder. But the party and its anti-science, Foxified babbling has proven utterly incompetent at dealing with that, so racism it is.

    Link

  143. says

    What looked like a security officer (Secret Service agent) just interrupted Trump, who was speaking at his press conference, and ushered him out of the room.

    People are trying now to figure out WTF is going on.

  144. says

    CNN is reporting that Trump abruptly left a “briefing” just now when the Secret Service came in and pulled him out. The reporters outside heard shouting and sounds of a scuffle or something, also sirens, and now the WH is on lockdown.

  145. says

    Trump returned to the briefing room. He said that there had been shooting. Everything seems to be back in control. Trump is speaking from the podium.

  146. says

    Lynna @ #189, I turned it off after that. CNN wasn’t covering it, and then when he returned they were. I don’t know for how long, but I was purposely watching CNN to avoid having to see it.

  147. says

    Adam Schiff:

    Belarus has been referred to as Europe’s longest lasting dictatorship under the brutal, corrupt rule of Lukashenko.

    After another fraudulent election, Belarusians are peacefully calling for freedom and democracy.

    America and democracies around the world must stand with them.

    The State Department issued a shamefully weak statement, and not until this afternoon (probably had to clear it with Putin).

  148. says

    SC @190, Trump resumed the presentation of his many repetitive lies almost immediately. Lies about the “China virus” (and how well the USA is doing and how poorly other countries are doing); lies about the economy; lies about the executive orders he just signed; lies about how soon we will have a vaccine or more therapeutics for COVID-19, etc. He blathered on and on about Gettysburg in a way that revealed he cannot really remember anything about Gettysburg.

    He did seem a bit subdued after the interruption following the shooting outside of the White House grounds. Who knows why.

  149. says

    More details regarding the “press conference” we all tried to ignore.

    https://twitter.com/atrupar/status/1292947784228909057

    Video snippets are available at the link. You have to scroll through the thread to see them.

    [Trump] says the “1917 pandemic” ended the Second World War.

    Trump wraps up the briefing with a question from Chanel Rion of ultra-bootlicking OAN and uses it as an opportunity to rub his favorite old sores about the Russia investigation [Arrghh, that was awful, https://twitter.com/atrupar/status/1292958875134709761 ]

    REPORTER: 97,000 children tested positive for coronavirus in the last week of July. Does that give you any pause about schools reopening for in-person learning?

    TRUMP: No

    REPORTER: So do you still think kids are essentially immune?

    TRUMP: Yeah [this is false — kids can die]

    Trump defends saying Joe Biden is “against God,” says he does not think he’s a man of “deep religion”

    Trump claims that when he falsely claimed preexisting conditions aren’t already required to be covered by law, he simply meant that there has never been an executive order reaffirming that. [eyeroll]

    “I certainly would invite him to the meeting” — Trump says he would invite Vladimir Putin to to a G7 meeting in the US

    President Infowars claims without evidence that China “released” the coronavirus into the US

    We’ve reached the “attacking our former allies” portion of Trump’s ranting

    “I’ll tell you who’s meddling in our elections. The Democrats are meddling” — Trump downplays the US intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia is once again interfering on his behalf

    REPORTER: If 160,000 people had died on Obama’s watch, would you have called for his resignation?

    TRUMP: No

    [Trump called for Obama to resign over ebola, which didn’t kill anyone in the US!]

    Trump gets a question about ethanol tariffs in Brazil and reveals as always that he’s totally incapable of discussing policy in any depth whatsoever

    The fake middle income tax cuts are back, baby!

    Trump says “in recent days, cases have rapidly increased in Japan and Australia.” Those two countries together had under 2,000 new cases on Monday. The US had 48,769 on Sunday.

    “People should vote like they did in World War 1 & World War 2,” Trump says to open his August 10 news conference, ignoring that there was no deadly pandemic during those times.

    Then he adds, without evidence: “In 90 days or less, your [Covid] numbers will be very good.”

    Deep thoughts with Trump [what he said when he returned to the podium after the shooting]: “The world has always been a dangerous place. Not something that is unique. You look back over the centuries, the world has been a dangerous place, very dangerous place, and it will continue, I guess, for a period of time.”

    In an effort to hype the economy, Trump claims “a lot of car companies” are “moving in” to Michigan, which I don’t think is true

    Response from readers:

    Many people are saying that the pandemic of 1918 wouldn’t have ended the Second World War if they had shut down the Revolutionary War Airports earlier.

    even if he meant WWI he’s still completely wrong!
    ——————–
    Even if he said WWI I’ve never heard any historian propose that the pandemic ended the war at any time.

    Now you know why SC doesn’t watch Trump’s propaganda sessions.

  150. says

    More detail regarding Trump’s comments about children and the coronavirus, (from today’s press conference):

    […] Trump downplayed a new report showing nearly 100,000 children tested positive for COVID-19 at the end of July, and said he does not think it means schools should stay closed.

    “There may be a case, a tiny, a tiny fraction of death, tiny fraction, and they get better very quickly,” Trump said at a press briefing at the White House.

    “I think schools have to open. We want to get our economy going,” Trump added.

    Trump and other administration officials are aggressively pushing for a resumption of in-person classes, and argue children are at an extremely low-risk of being infected.

    “I think for the most part, [kids] don’t get very sick, they don’t catch it very easily, and … they don’t transfer it to other people, or certainly not very easily,” Trump said. [bullshit]

    However, health experts say the evidence is far from clear, and recent studies have found infections in children of all ages.

    Data from the American Academy of Pediatrics published Monday found more than 97,000 children tested positive for COVID-19 during the last two weeks of July, more than a quarter of the total number of children diagnosed nationwide since March.

    The increase in the number of infected children comes as the overall number of infections has climbed steeply in the months since states began reopening businesses. […]

    Link

  151. says

    Lynna, thanks for the summary. I’m very glad I didn’t watch that.

    “I think schools have to open. We want to get our economy going,” Trump added.

    …just to drive home that they don’t give a flying fuck about the impact on kids of missing in-person school, for the next time they try to claim that’s the reason they’re demanding the schools reopen. (Boris Johnson and gang are similarly pushing for schools to open up, and for the same reason, people’s health and lives be damned.)

  152. tomh says

    The Flynn case returns Tuesday, August 11, in front of the full D.C.Circuit Court, at 9:30 EDT. Normally 11 judges, there will be 10, since Gregory Katsas, a 2017 Trump appointee, recused himself. He was in the WH Counsel’s office and worked on the president’s response to the Mueller investigation. That leaves the count at 7 Dem appointees and 3 GOPers. Audio will be streamed live here.

  153. says

    Joe Biden at Medium – “My Statement on Elections in Belarus”:

    Democracies are built on the simple concept that citizens have a right to elect their leaders and have a say in their country’s future. After suffering systematic repression for the past 26 years under the authoritarian regime of President Alexander Lukashenka, the people of Belarus are demanding their voices be heard.

    After a presidential election marred by electoral fraud, citizens peacefully protesting to demand an accurate vote count are now being met with riot police using stun grenades, tear gas, and rubber bullets. The Lukashenka regime has cut internet access, arrested protesters and independent journalists, and tried to muzzle foreign observers. These are not the actions of a political leader confident that he has won a fairly conducted election. But thanks to brave citizens — journalists, activists, and ordinary people documenting these extraordinary events — we know the truth about the assaults on democracy being committed by the regime.

    I stand with those who are calling for a transparent and accurate vote count and the release of all political prisoners. I also call on President Lukashenka to respect the rights of peaceful protestors and to refrain from further violence. My administration will never shy away from standing up for democratic principles and human rights, and we will work with our democratic allies and partners to speak with one voice in demanding these rights be respected.

    Rachel Maddow talked about Lukashenko last night, but I can’t find the video.

  154. says

    #BREAKING. Opposition presidential candidate Tsikhanouskaya, who was probably the winner of #Belarus election on 9 Aug, crossed into #Lithuania this morning.

    Most probably, she is attempting to avoid detention by Lukashenka’s repressive state apparatus.”

    Summary of events of 10 August in #Belarus:

    2nd night of #protests, in #Minsk & a dozen other cities.
    Heavy riot police presence, use of tear gas, water cannons, rubber bullets, stun grenades.
    1 confirmed fatality and dozens of injured.
    Protesters erected barricades.”

    (Watching the videos, I’m marveling at their persistence given how inhospitable these streets are to barricades. They’re streets for tanks – Haussmann on steroids.)

    2,000 more people have also been arrested, for a total of 5,000 over the two nights.

  155. says

    UPDATE: Tikhanovskaya speaks: Clearly distressed, she says she left Belarus for her children’s sake. ‘God forbid you have to face the choice I had to face’.

    Tikhanovskaya says she supposed she’s still the ‘weak woman’ she was at the start of this. She says she knows that many people will condemn her and many others will understand her decision. She adds that ‘children are the most important things in life’.”

    Workers are striking across Belarus. “Nationwide strike begins in Belarus today even though the majority of population still doesn’t know what has happened in the country in the past three days since the internet was turned off on Sunday….”

  156. says

    Guardian – “Belarus opposition candidate in Lithuania after second night of protests”:

    Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, the main opposition candidate in Sunday’s disputed elections in Belarus, has left the country as clashes between heavily armed police and demonstrators escalated during a second night of protests.

    Lithuania’s foreign minister, Linas Linkevičius, told the Guardian that she had been detained by Belarusian authorities for seven hours after filing a complaint against vote-rigging. She crossed the border towards morning, he said.

    “Now she’s in Lithuania, taking some rest, and we will see what are her further plans and intentions,” he said, adding he couldn’t reveal some details.

    A member of her campaign team said that Tikhanovskaya had been pressured to leave the country by the government in exchange for the release of her campaign manager, Maria Moroz, who had been held by police since Saturday.

    Linkevičius confirmed to the Guardian that Tikhanovskaya and Moroz came to Lithuania together. Asked whether Tikhanovskaya had fled the country or been expelled, he said: “It was not her intention I believe to leave Belarus but it was the only option she could take, I believe.”

    In a video published on Tuesday morning, a visibly distressed Tikhanovskaya indicated she had faced an ultimatum. “God forbid you face the kind of face that I faced,” she said. “Children are the most important thing in our lives.”

    Veronika Tsepkalo, a senior ally of Tikhanovskaya, told the Guardian that she had also fled the country late on Monday evening after being told there was “an order out for my arrest”. She had returned to Belarus one day earlier from Russia, where her husband, a former presidential candidate, had also fled last month.

    Some said they had decided to join the protests after scenes of harrowing violence on Sunday evening, when police attacked demonstrators with rubber bullets, water cannon, stun grenades and batons.

    “I never went to protests before and until yesterday I told everyone I know not to go either,” said a young protester in a hoodie wearing a medical mask. “But when I saw how they beat people across the street from my house, I realised I couldn’t sit at home any longer.”

    “Look at what’s happening in Belarus,” Tsepkalo said. “People are fighting for their right to choose their president. It’s unacceptable that Lukashenko is shedding the blood of Belarusian people and ordering mass arrests for that.

    “All of our staffers are afraid. Everyone who was public during the campaign, they’re all in danger of arrest.”

    Lukashenko, who is facing the deepest crisis of his 26 years in power, has threatened to crush any illegal rallies. He claimed that the protests were being directed from abroad, singling out Poland, Britain and the Czech Republic.

    The protests have largely been decentralised, with no clear leader, although popular bloggers on social media have played an important role in their coordination. Protesters organising over Telegram channels discussed bringing protective gear such as goggles and first-aid kits as they expected fresh clashes with riot police armed with batons, rubber bullets, water cannon and stun grenades.

    Following the clashes on Monday night, the EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell tweeted: “Violent repression and arrests of peaceful protesters in Belarus have to stop.”

    The EU has said it is reassessing relations with Lukashenko’s government, but has so far stopped short of proposing sanctions. “This is such a serious situation, it really needs a profound discussion among the member states,” said a spokesman for Borrell. “Anything is on the table, anything is possible as long as the member states agree.”

    There are fears that Hungary could block EU sanctions, which require unanimity, after prime minister Viktor Orbán called in June for the bloc to drop existing measures against Belarus.

    Tikhanovskaya was initially a stand-in candidate for her husband, a popular YouTuber jailed earlier in the year. But she grew into an effective campaigner, attracting more than 63,000 people to a rally last month in Minsk, and thousands more in small cities and towns usually dominated by Lukashenko.

    Lukashenko, often referred to as Europe’s last dictator, came to power in 1994. Foreign observers have not declared a Belarusian election free and fair since 1995. He was already facing unprecedented anger over his handling of the economy and a bungled coronavirus response.

  157. says

    Bernie Sanders in the Guardian – “The pandemic is helping the rich get even richer. It’s time to tax their obscene wealth”:

    We are in the middle of an extraordinary moment in American history: a public health crisis, the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, the existential threat of climate change and a president who is moving our country in an authoritarian direction.

    In the midst of all these crises, there is another issue of major concern that is receiving very little attention. And that is the obscene level of income and wealth inequality which exists in our country and the fact that, during the pandemic, that inequality is becoming much worse.

    While tens of millions of Americans are now facing economic desperation – unemployment, loss of health care, evictions, hunger – the very rich are becoming much richer. Here are three figures that should come as a shock to everyone in America:

    $13,000,000,000. That’s how much Jeff Bezos, the wealthiest man alive, made in one day while the companies he owns denies paid sick leave, hazard pay and a safe workplace to hundreds of thousands of his workers.

    $21,000,000,000. That’s how much the Walton family, the richest family in America, made over the past twenty weeks while US taxpayers continue to subsidize the starvation wages at Walmart, the largest private employer in America.

    $731,000,000,000. That’s how much the wealth of 467 billionaires increased since the Federal Reserve started taking emergency actions to prop up the stock market in March.

    Incredibly, thanks to President Trump’s tax giveaway to the rich signed into law a few years ago, billionaires now pay a lower effective tax rate than teachers, nurses, firefighters or truck drivers.

    The extraordinary wealth gains that billionaires have made during he pandemic come at a time when 92 million Americans are uninsured or under-insured and tens of millions of Americans are facing evictions or foreclosures.

    At a time when so many of our people are struggling economically, it is morally obscene that a tiny handful of billionaires – the top 0.0001% – are using a global pandemic as an opportunity to make outrageous profits after receiving a de facto bailout by the Federal Reserve.

    It is time to change our national priorities. Instead of allowing multi-billionaires to become much richer, Congress needs to stand up for working families. A good place to start would be to tax the enormous gains billionaires have made during the pandemic and use that money to guarantee healthcare as a right for the duration of the public health emergency.

    According to Americans for Tax Fairness, imposing a 60% tax on the wealth gains made by just 467 billionaires in America would raise over $420bn. That’s enough money to empower Medicare to pay all of the out-of-pocket healthcare expenses of every American in this country, including prescription drugs, for an entire year.

    …That’s exactly what the Make Billionaires Pay Act I recently introduced with Senators Ed Markey and Kirsten Gillibrand would accomplish.

    Now, I understand that there are some people out there who may believe that a 60% tax sounds like a pretty steep tax increase. Well, let me ease those concerns. Even after paying this tax, these 467 billionaires will still come out ahead by $310bn. Trust me. Their families will survive.

    As a nation, the time is long overdue for us to finally address the grotesque level of income and wealth inequality that exists. In my view, we can no longer tolerate the three wealthiest people in America owning more wealth than the bottom 50%, the top 1% owning more wealth than the bottom 92% and 45% of all new income going to the 1%.

  158. says

    Here’s a link to the August 11 Guardian coronavirus world liveblog.

    From there:

    Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s prime minister, says “many questions remain” about the four new cases of Covid-19 diagnosed in the community – after 102 days of no such cases in the country.

    She has announced that as of 12pm on Wednesday, Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, will be placed in a restrictive phase of lockdown for three days.

    Ardern said the most important thing was “tracing this case back to its original origin”.

    “We have not been able to determine the source of these cases,” she told reporters in a late-night news conference, of the four new cases.

    Those diagnosed had no known link to the managed isolation facilities for returning travellers, nor to the country’s borders, where all recorded cases of the virus have been registered.

    All schools and childcare facilities will be closed in Auckland from tomorrow, except for classes for the children of essential workers.

    Also in the Guardian – “Rise in UK Covid cases above 1,000 a day breached government target”:

    The rise above 1,000 daily confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the UK breaches the ceiling that the government’s own Joint Biosecurity Centre said was acceptable in May, it has emerged.

    After the number of tested and confirmed cases rose to 1,062 in 24 hours at the weekend – the first time the daily total has exceeded 1,000 since late June – a senior public health expert said the escalation was “unacceptable, ineffective and dangerous”.

    Prof Gabriel Scally, president of epidemiology and public health at the Royal Society of Medicine and a member of Independent Sage, said the government was failing to suppress the virus by its own standards.

    “Something’s got to change, otherwise we are really in for an extraordinarily difficult time,” he said.

    “It’s bad, and at the back of it all is that the government does not have a strategy. The last time they published a strategy for Covid-19 was 3 March. What they have published is a strategy for removing social restriction, but that’s not about dealing with the virus. They have no strategy for dealing with the virus that they have ever made public.”

    Other sources, including the Office for National Statistics, suggest far more infections are not being picked up by testing, many of them symptomless. Last week they estimated that there were 3,700 new cases per day. The NHS test-and-trace programme has appealed for more people to come forward for testing.

    Independent Sage, the group of scientists who came together amid concerns over government policy and lack of transparency, said the current test-and-trace system in the community does not work. The centralised, privatised call centre system should be scrapped when it comes up for renewal on 23 August, they said in a report published on Monday.

    Contracts with the private providers Serco and Sitel should be cancelled, it added. Their contact tracers reached only 56% of the 91,785 contacts of newly infected people transferred from the test system over nine weeks, the report said.

    The group called for help and support, including financial assistance, for people asked to self-isolate, and warned that many would be living in crowded conditions or in multi-generational families and that those on zero hours contracts would feel obliged to carry on working.

    “If we don’t take isolation seriously, our economy will spiral downwards. We should have had an effective isolation policy in February, with better pandemic planning. Not to have one six months later is nothing short of public health malpractice,” said the report….

  159. says

    Here’s the first tweet in the multi-person livetweeting of the Flynn hearing @ #215 above.

    From there:

    “So far this is not going well for Michael Flynn”

    “Flynn’s lawyer now says that even in a case of clear bribery to make criminal charges go away, a district judge would have no choice but to dismiss the charges if asked by the prosecutor. Wow.”

    “Major concession by Flynn’s lawyer: she tells the Chief Judge that, if a district judge made clear he will dismiss charges but just wants a hearing first, mandamus relief isn’t warranted.

    So…holding a hearing really DOESN’T justify mandamus relief. That should end this.”

    “And now Flynn lawyer concedes same to Judge Millett (under deep questioning): district judge can inquire into whether it was lied to. I don’t know what leg Flynn’s lawyer has left to stand on.”

  160. says

    Guardian world liveblog:

    UK prime minister Boris Johnson has insisted it will be safe for children to return to school in England in September despite reports a study has found secondary school pupils transmit coronavirus like adults do.

    Johnson said he had “no doubt” that schools would be able to reopen, but stressed the need for discipline to prevent the spread of the virus.

    UK education secretary Gavin Williamson has insisted that research showed “little evidence that the virus is transmitted at school”, and health minister Edward Argar has warned against reading too much into the unpublished work by Public Health England (PHE).

  161. says

    Flynn hearing:

    Wall now admits to Judge Garland that DOJ doesn’t object to the holding of a hearing itself.

    It’s the “probing” of the government at such a hearing that DOJ thinks is unlawful.

    But Wall can’t identify what, exactly, has been ordered before or at the hearing that’s unlawful.

    Judge Griffith asks “what if court concerned about favoritism, the court can’t ask about that?” Answer from DOJ: no. Pretty convenient. Pretty antithetical to what criminal rule says and is about.

    What on earth?

  162. says

    Here’s another livetweeted thread of the Flynn hearing, with a link to the live audio.

    From there:

    Jeff Wall presses the government’s (amazing) argument that Rule 48(a) is unconstitutional insofar as it allows judges to deny leave to dismiss.

    Which would mean that every single Justice on the Supreme Court overlooked the constitutional limitation when the Court (i) insisted upon the judicial check in Rule 48 and (ii) decided Rinaldi.

    I believe this is the first time the USG has acknowledged that Barr has *undisclosed* reasons for having decided to move to dismiss the case. [This was mentioned in the other thread as well.]

    Garland: When I was a US Attorney, *every day* our motives were questioned by judges.

    This is a *very* easy case, and the government’s arguments are meritless.

    Just to be clear: DOJ is now arguing that the Supreme Court got it wrong in Rinaldi when it said that a court can consider whether a Rule 48(a) motion was made in bad faith. Apparently all nine Justices (and the government in that case) overlooked the limitation.

  163. says

    Guardian world liveblog:

    Britain will be officially declared in recession for the first time since the financial crisis on Wednesday when figures are set to show the pandemic sent the economy plunging by a record 21% between April and June.

    The Office for National Statistics (ONS) is expected to confirm the mammoth second quarter contraction, the worst in Western Europe, and the UK’s nosedive into recession after a 2.2% fall in the first three months of 2020, PA media reports….

    More than 100,000 cases are being reported every day in the Americas, half of them in the United States, and there are worrisome spikes in countries that had controlled their epidemics, like Argentina and Colombia, the World Health Organization regional director Carissa Etienne said on Tuesday.

    “Our region remains under COVID’s grip,” she said in a virtual briefing from Washington with other Pan American Health Organization directors. Etienne said the disruption of healthcare services threatened an increase in illnesses that were under control such as TB, HIV and hepatitis.

  164. says

    From the Flynn-hearing livetweeting (@ #216):

    J Millett again showing her firepower, saying Wall’s rule would mean Judge can’t inquire even if he is being lied to?Wall says judge can have disciplinary proceedings, but under Qs, admits he’s not sure judge can do that. So, Millett says, judge has to dismiss even if lied to

    Judge Pillard begins q powerfully: We agree DOJ gets massive deference, but massive cloud here. Trial judge agreed w/sentence for Flynn due to what DOJ asked for, and now you are flipping it, saying “never mind.” Rule 48 requires leave of court, the judge has to participate

    Wall now discussing alleged “harms to the executive branch” from the district judge holding a hearing.

    But this isn’t DOJ’s mandamus petition; indeed, DOJ chose not to file one.

    This is Flynn’s mandamus petition. It’s about any (alleged) harms to him, not to DOJ.

    Judge Wilkins says basically you are saying judge can’t inquire into anything except if the defendant is counseled. Even if the US Atty on videotape taking a suitcase of cash to dismiss a case? Wall tried first to distort hypo, but ultimately admits, judge can’t do anything

    That is a really extreme position. This is what Trump has done to our DOJ, backing them into such absurdities. There is no way the DC Circuit would ever accept this legal view.

    I’m so sick of this ludicrous bullshit.

  165. says

    Flynn hearing:

    “What is your very best argument that is clear and indisputable that” a judge has no role under rule 48(a) motion

    “You can’t undo the scrutiny,” Wall says.

    That’s DOJ’s argument for why emergency relief is needed to stop a hearing.

    It takes us back to what @neal_katyal keeps emphasizing: DOJ’s trying to hide from all of us what it’s done in the Flynn case.

    That’s the real bottom line.

    It’s amazing to hear DOJ try to stake out a position in the Flynn case that’s impossible to square with its positions in tons of other cases, incl. bribery, Batson, contempt, etc.

    Of course, the unique treatment here is precisely why the district judge wants a hearing!

    Truly amazing. Did Wall actually say that even if the judge in open court saw the defendant’s counsel had the prosecutor piles of cash, the judge could not use their authority under 48(a) to look into the motivation for the motion to dismiss.

    Judge Sullivan’s attorney is up now, but the audio of the hearing was apparently cut off.

  166. says

    Guardian world liveblog:

    Amid increasing public clashes with his top public health advisers on the pandemic, the US president Donald Trump appears to have turned to an academic whose views on swift reopening mirror his own.

    On Monday, the president said Scott Atlas, a healthcare policy expert at the conservative Hoover Institution at Stanford University, “will be working with us on the coronavirus”, adding that Atlas “has many great ideas”.

    Atlas appears to be more in tune with Trump’s thinking on the virus after the president publicly criticised both of his top pandemic officials, Deborah Birx and Anthony Fauci, over concerns they raised about the disastrous spread of Covid-19 in the US and the danger of allowing students to return to school.

  167. says

    Flynn hearing:

    W/ argument paused for a phone disconnection, I’ll go ahead & make a prediction: 2 votes for Flynn (same 2 as at 3-judge panel), 7 votes against him, & Judge Griffith unclear.

    I’ll also predict a ruling by 9/1 when Judge Griffith retires (not senior status–full retirement).

  168. blf says

    SC@209 & @211 has already posted links and some excerpts to two Grauniad articles about Svetlana Tikhanovskaya and Belarus. I’d link to point out a possible connection between the two articles. In @211, about her time in Ireland, her Irish host family and friends are quoted as saying, “Her first child was profoundly deaf, and she gave up work to help him. She moved the family to Minsk so that he could have the implant operation he needed. She poured her life into looking after her son and daughter. She is a devoted mother. She just wanted to be voted in so she could release political prisoners, which is noble of her, and please God it works.”

    Then, in @209, she herself is quoted as saying, “God forbid you face the kind of face that I faced […] Children are the most important thing in our lives.

    What struck me when I read those two articles earlier this afternoon were the emboldened quotes. There seems to be a suggestion there Balarus has threatened her family — perhaps especially her children — a speculation which does seem plausible.

  169. says

    Marty Lederman (from the thread @ #220):

    And it’s finished, after only three hours and forty-five minutes. The court will by a lopsided vote deny the petition for writ of mandamus. The only uncertainty is whether it’ll decree any constraints on how Judge Sullivan considers the motion to dismiss.

  170. says

    Here is the Rachel Maddow segment in which the patterns common to dictators and autocrats (especially when it comes to elections) are discussed.

    Maddow mentions, among other things, that:
    – authoritarians use the levers of the governments they control to make sure that elections go their way, that elections keep them in power
    – the Trump White House is using the Post Office to make sure Trump continues to hold power: using the Post Office to sabotage the vote
    – Trump uses the Justice Department to protect Trump, and to bolster Trump’s hold on power
    – Trump battled with U.S. Intelligence agencies and those agencies bent to Trump’s will.

    Here is the Rachel Maddow segment in which the details surrounding the Trump administration’s weakening of the Post Office are explored. Trump is trying to undermine the ability of Americans to vote by mail during the coronavirus pandemic. Marc Elias is interviewed.

  171. says

    Ignoring intel report, Trump eyes diplomatic favor for Russia

    Late last week, the Trump administration confirmed a striking revelation: four years after Russia targeted U.S. elections to help put Donald Trump in power, Kremlin-linked operatives are once again taking active and deliberate steps to boost the Republican ticket, in part by trying to sabotage Joe Biden’s candidacy.

    Within hours of the release of the report from William Evanina, the director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, the incumbent American president inexplicably declared, “I think that the last person Russia wants to see in office is Donald Trump because nobody has been tougher on Russia than I have, ever.”

    When a reporter reminded the president that his own country’s intelligence proves otherwise, Trump replied, “Well, I don’t care what anybody says.”

    To be sure, it’s tough to argue with a posture like that one.

    But as it turns out, Trump wasn’t done, going even further during a White House press briefing yesterday. “You know who else is not happy with us winning?” the president asked reporters rhetorically. “Russia.”

    This is, of course, the exact opposite of what his own administration just put in writing for the world to see.

    It was at the same briefing, however, that [Trump] decided to step all over his own argument.

    […] Trump said Monday that he wants to host the Group of Seven leading industrialized nations after the November presidential election and still wants to invite Russia, which was kicked out of the G-7 after it annexed Crimea.

    How oddly perfect.

    On the one hand, Trump wants voters to believe that “nobody has been tougher on Russia” than him, overwhelming evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, and that Russia is eager to see him lose, despite his own administration’s intelligence. But on the other hand, there’s the Republican president, looking to deliver an unearned diplomatic reward for Vladimir Putin, for reasons unknown.

    If Trump doesn’t want his talking points to be laughable, he’ll need to do better.

  172. says

    It appears […] Trump is attempting to take his war against immigrants to a new level, and he’s using COVID-19 as an excuse to do it.

    According to a New York Times report, Trump is considering enacting a new immigration rule that would allow officials at the border to discriminate against American citizens and those with permanent legal status. According to a draft of the regulation obtained by the Times, border officials would have the authority to temporarily bar citizens or legal residents from entering the U.S. if they have “reason to believe” the person has been infected with COVID-19.

    You don’t need me to tell you that this could get really dark — another way in which the xenophobia and racism that has become a hallmark of this administration becomes policy. That “reason to believe” line is the stickiest part, as it could be broadly interpreted based on the border officials’ personal biases and the part of the globe the person is returning from. It’s unclear if or when the regulation would be approved or announced, but this policy goes beyond what has been enacted by this administration in recent months, using the pandemic to further Trump’s efforts to keep foreigners out of the United States. […]

    Link

  173. says

    Trump Absurdly Claims Americans Will Have To Learn Chinese If Biden Wins

    […] During an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt on Tuesday morning, Trump repeatedly referred to the coronavirus as the “China virus” and “China plague” before claiming that the country will “own” the U.S. if he doesn’t win the November election.

    “Look, China will own the United States if this election is lost by Donald Trump,” Trump said. “If I don’t win the election, China will own the United States.”

    The President then audaciously claimed, without evidence, that Americans will “have to learn to speak Chinese” in the aftermath of Biden’s win. […]

  174. says

    Trump Suggests Some Men Would Be ‘Insulted’ Over Biden Choosing Woman For VP Slot

    […] When asked during an interview on Fox Sports Radio about his thoughts on who Biden should pick as his running mate, Trump replied that he “would be inclined to go a different route than what he’s done.”

    [Trump] argued that Biden “roped himself into, you know, a certain group of people,” without going into specifics, before Fox Sports Radio host Clay Travis jumped in to mention Biden’s commitment to choosing a woman as his running mate.

    Trump suggested that men may be “insulted” if Biden followed through on his commitment […]

    “He said that and, you know, some people would say that men are insulted by that,” Trump said. “And some people would say it’s fine. I don’t know.” […]

    In reference to comment 233 and to text quoted in this comment: I thought Trump’s batshit bonkers scare tactics, racism and misogyny brought forth for the 2020 election had reached their zenith. I was wrong. He is looking for even wilder, unfounded scare tactics to wield.

    From the readers comments:

    “He said that and, you know, some people would say that men are insulted by that,” Trump said. “And some people would say it’s fine. I don’t know.”

    You know perfectly well, because you are the “some people” who are insulted.
    ———————-
    Remember E. Jean Carroll who accused you of rape?
    You have a new deadline from Carroll vs Trump defamation lawsuit!

    Q: What kind of DNA will the Predator-In-Chief submmit…Alien DNA or Demon Semen?

    Discovery = August 14, 2020 (original date Jan 30, 2020)
    DNA Sample = Sept 15, 2020 (original date Mar 2, 2020)

  175. says

    Trump explained his real reasons for not holding campaign rallies:

    […] “You can’t have empty seats,” Trump told Fox Sports Radio’s Clay Travis […]

    Trump seized the opportunity to suggest that guidelines for social distancing was “the reason” why he “won’t do” the campaign rallies that have been a hallmark of his political strategy. […]

    “You have one person and everything’s empty around them. You can’t do that,” Trump said, explaining why he probably won’t be holding more rallies like the one in Tulsa in June that was embarrassingly poorly attended. […]

    Link

  176. says

    Trump inadvertently admits he’s just playing politics with your health care

    [Good, cringe-worthy photo at the link, even though it is not directly related to the topic.]

    Don’t worry, guys, about the fact that there are now at least 5 million more people with a preexisting health condition than there were before coronavirus, nearly 100,000 of them children who will carry that with them for the rest of their lives. The meathead currently occupying the Oval Office is insisting, again, that he has a plan for that.

    He might do an executive order, see, that will promise people with preexisting conditions will be covered. Yes, the Affordable Care Act already does that, except in the case of crappy Trumpcare plans, the ones he carved out a place for in regulations that can freely deny you coverage for just about anything they feel like. It’s not clear if the executive order he’s teasing would cover those plans because it’s not clear the order exists anywhere other than in his head.

    Someone has managed to drill into that thick skull, however, to remind him that the law he’s trying to get overturned in the Supreme Court already covers what he says he’ll do. Because he’s finally acknowledging that fact, and insisting that he’s not really doing everything in his power—regulations, lawsuits—to take people’s of coverage away. No, he’s making a “statement” with this supposedly imminent executive order.

    “It’s a signal to people … it’s a second platform,” Trump said at a White House briefing Monday, according to Politico. “Pre-existing conditions will be taken care of 100 percent by Republicans and the Republican party. I actually think it’s a very important statement.” So apparently we’re to believe that the executive order is a precursor to … something. And it means that this time, for real, when Trump says he has a plan he has a plan.

    Is it the same plan he promised nearly a month ago that we would see by last week? We might as well call it the same plan, because neither exists outside of his malfunctioning cerebellum. Does the plan involve withdrawing his lawsuit against Obamacare in the Supreme Court? Probably not. That would be something real that would actually preserve the protections.

    So what this amounts to, really, is empty words. Just another to throw on the pile of 10 years’ worth of Republicans’ empty promises to create a plan to replace Obamacare.

  177. says

    “Belarus: Declaration by the High Representative on behalf of the European Union on the presidential elections”:

    On 9 August, Presidential elections took place in the Republic of Belarus.

    The EU has been following the developments leading to the presidential elections closely. During the electoral campaign, the people of Belarus have demonstrated the desire for democratic change.

    However, the elections were neither free nor fair.

    State authorities deployed disproportionate and unacceptable violence causing at least one death and many injuries. Thousands of people were detained and the crackdown on freedoms of assembly, media and expression intensified. We call on the Belarusian authorities to release immediately and unconditionally all detained. Furthermore, credible reports of domestic observers show that the electoral process did not meet the international standards expected of an OSCE participating State.

    The people of Belarus deserve better.

    Since the 2015 release of political prisoners, the relationship between the EU and Belarus had improved. But without progress on human rights and the rule of law, the EU-Belarus relationship can only get worse.

    It is against this background that we will be assessing the Belarusian authorities’ actions to address the current situation and conducting an in-depth review of the EU’s relations with Belarus. This may include, inter alia, taking measures against those responsible for the observed violence, unjustified arrests, and falsification of election results.

    We call on Belarusian political leadership to initiate a genuine and inclusive dialogue with broader society to avoid further violence. The EU will continue to support a democratic, independent, sovereign, prosperous and stable Belarus.

  178. says

    Portland protesters targeted by pipe bombs at city park, and activists identify a suspect

    We’ve seen mounting evidence that right-wing extremists have been working hard to undermine nationwide anti-police-brutality protests, mainly finding ways to amplify the violence at them in ways that they can blame on “the violent left.” This past weekend, it appears they have added another stratagem: directly attacking the protesters themselves with anonymous explosives.

    Several pipe bombs were thrown at protesters in Portland’s Laurelhurst Park on Saturday, both detonating harmlessly; a bomb that failed to ignite was found nearby. Afterward, protesters attempted to follow the men who appeared to have tossed the homemade explosives and took video of a man—later tentatively identified as a former Navy SEAL who provides training materials to police—who threatened them before driving away.

    [video available at the link]

    […] A video shared on Instagram (and then on Twitter) showed protesters chasing the dark-clad men out of the park following the blast. Another video, also shared on Twitter, showed one of the independent journalists at the park pursuing one of those men, carrying what appear to be night-vision goggles, apparently to his car, where he behaved threateningly.

    The man recording the incident—Portland videographer Scott Keeler, who said he had observed the man in the park earlier, walking away from the explosions—was using a flashlight, and first asked the man to stop as he walked up to him at a car the man appeared to be using. “Why are you throwing pipe bombs at people?” Keeler asked.

    “Look man, I’m not the guy you wanna fuck with,” the man responded. Keeler again queried him about the bombs, to which the man replied: “I don’t know what you’re talking about. But I’m not that guy you wanna fuck with. I’m fucking telling you.”

    The man appeared to be reaching behind his back for a weapon, Keeler told Smith, so he backed off. […]

    Protesters who examined the devices left behind told Willamette Week the bombs were of a fairly simple design: “This is a Ziploc bag full of gunpowder, taped as tight as it can go, fit into [a PVC pipe], and the idea is that it would explode. But only one went off. […]

    “Five minutes later, one or two other gentlemen came from the dark parts of the area and threw one or two more and they exploded,” she added.

    Not only are white supremacists involved in the violence and property damage at the protests, but it’s clear that they are working multiple strategies to leverage the chaos into what they hope will be a democracy-destroying race and civil war. The tactics so far include:

    Dressing up in clothing typically worn by antifascist demonstrators, mainly the all-black clothing and masks worn by so-called “black bloc” activists. This has been observed both in Portland and in Seattle, where well-known far-right “Proud Boy” street brawlers have been spotted and reported on social media. In both Minneapolis and in Richmond, Virginia, these faux protesters were observed inflicting property damage that was initially blamed on Black Lives Matter.

    Turning up at protest demonstrations fully armed with body armor, often wearing the Hawaiian shirts that signify participation in the “Boogaloo” civil-war movement, and claiming to be sympathetic to the anti-police protesters (many “Boogaloo” enthusiasts are indeed violently disposed toward law-enforcement officers). This has occurred in a variety of places, including in North Minneapolis, in Salisbury, North Carolina, in Bentonville, Arkansas, as well as in Seattle and Los Angeles. […]

    Pretending to be antifascists or anarchists on the internet, primarily with the purpose of duping the public into believing that antifascists were on the verge of attacking communities. One fake flier, spread around Olympia, Washington, offered people $200 to act as “paid protesters,” all of it ostensibly paid for by George Soros and the Open Society Foundation. The most glaring hoax was when a Twitter account calling itself “ANTIFA US” began posting wildly incendiary exhortations: “Tonight’s the night, Comrades. Tonight we say ‘F— The City’ and we move into the residential areas… the white hoods…. and we take what’s ours …” The account was taken down after Twitter ascertained it was associated with activists involved in the white-nationalist Identity Evropa organization. Despite being a fairly obvious hoax, it nonetheless duped Donald Trump Jr. into repeating the post on Instagram with a message supporting his father’s attempts to blame antifascists for the violence. […]

  179. says

    The scale of protest in Belarus is smaller today than in the past two days. A de facto curfew is introduced in the centres of all the major cities. In Minsk there are 3 opposition areas on the outskirts atm. Almost no reports from the regions due to lack of internet.

    I think the wisest thing now would be to temporarily postpone the protests and wait for the authorities’ reaction. At some point they’d have to bring back the internet. That’d mean that people will actually see what Lukashenko did. Atm only tech-savvy people know.

    It is clear now that Lukashenko no longer has popular support. He only remains in power with the help of the security forces. This situation can’t last long. He would either have to put tens of thousands of people in jail or to make curfew permanent – both options unrealistic”

  180. says

    From Wonkette:

    Today, the Wonkette Counterintelligence Expert Center Of Dick Jokes And Recipe Blogging (WCECDJRB) released its assessment that Russia, not Iran or ‘GIIIIIIIINA, is actively attacking the 2020 election to benefit Donald Trump, just like Russia did last time.

    Wonkette based this assessment, like we do, on reading the damn news and interpreting it real good-like. Also by reading the statement from William Evanina, director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center (NCSC), who said the same thing, if you cut through the crap about how China and Iran would like Joe Biden to be president but are actually not currently attacking the election to help him.

    Now we want to focus on a particular section of Evanina’s statement about Russia’s ongoing attack, because it stars a character who should be familiar to us by now.

    [P]ro-Russia Ukrainian parliamentarian Andriy Derkach is spreading claims about corruption – including through publicizing leaked phone calls – to undermine former Vice President Biden’s candidacy and the Democratic Party. Some Kremlin-linked actors are also seeking to boost President Trump’s candidacy on social media and Russian television.

    Andriy Derkach! Allow us to refresh you on the last 700 times Andriy Derkach came up on Wonkette:

    The time Derkach, who literally went to KGB finishing school, was whispering to Rudy Giuliani that Joe Biden and former ambassador Marie Yovanovitch had stolen $5.3 billion in American aid for Ukraine, to give it to (((George Soros))), naturally. Derkach and Roodles the Clown are BFFs now.

    The time Derkach’s Kremlin propaganda bullshit about the Bidens stealing money also, according to Rudy Giuliani, implicated Adam Schiff, because one time Adam Schiff owned a piece of a mutual fund. Or something. It’s a total acid trip, it’s not supposed to make sense.

    The time Derkach, who used to be part of Ukraine’s pro-Russia Party of Regions that Paul Manafort worked for, was also sending care packages full of Biden bullshit to Trump Republicans like Devin Nunes.

    And of course, Derkach is a prime source for Senate’s Dumbest Republican Ron Johnson and his Carmen Sandiego quest to find THE REAL TRUTH about the Bidens in Ukraine, a Senate investigation that is literally advancing Kremlin propaganda for Trump’s benefit in this election.

    This is a big part of their game this time, use Republican fucking idiots in Congress to launder their Russian propaganda.

    The intelligence community knows Derkach’s shit is Russian propaganda. The CIA, as we explained last week, has been telling Ron Johnson and his Homeland Security Committee investigation to get fucked, treating Johnson like the Kremlin puppet dumpstupid he is, because they know his sources are laundering Russian propaganda into his super top secret investigation. Evanina’s statement specifically listed the Derkach campaign as a “for example” of how Russia is attacking the election. […]

    So what is Johnson doing in response? Is he saying he is very sorry and going back to Wisconsin to roll around in a vat of bubbling cheese curds naked and crying about how stupid he is, wondering how he became a Kremlin stooge in record time and destroyed his entire reputation?

    No, he is subpoenaing the FBI for Trump-Russia documents, to get the REAL TRUTH about the unmasking and the Obamagate or whatever. And he is doubling down on his Kremlin-inspired Biden/Ukraine investigation in the Senate […]

    He said he was concerned that the media was preparing to taint his committee’s findings as an extension of Russian propaganda.

    Because of how it is Russian propaganda, according to no less than Trump’s counterintelligence chief William Evanina and sources in the CIA and literally everybody else.

    Johnson, for the record, says he didn’t even get any of his top secret intel from Andriy Derkach, so make of that what you will. (We make of it that it is almost certainly lies.) He’s definitely been getting it from another pro-Russian Ukrainian named Andrii Telizhenko. Maybe Johnson just didn’t get anything directly from Derkach, and is lying creatively. Regardless, Derkach says he’s totally sent info to Johnson’s committee, and also to Chuck Grassley’s Senate Finance Committee.

    (By the way, […] Derkach has made an insane flowchart of “DemoCorruption,” which shows all the Democrats doing the corruption in Ukraine. It is … well, it sure is something!)

    Johnson has said his super-Kremlin-y report on why Joe Biden is bad should come out sometime in mid-September. You know, just in time for people to start early voting in the election.

    Not that he’s doing an influence operation for Russia to re-elect Trump or anything. […]

    Link

  181. says

    A month ago almost 17,000 Florida children had COVID-19. Now almost 40,000 do

    The state of Florida continues to act as a test case for the Republican notion of ignoring a worldwide pandemic into submission. Under the control of Donald Trump devotee and […] Gov. Ron DeSantis, the state has seen steadily rising COVID-19 cases after a period of largely ignoring social distancing recommendations urged by infectious disease experts. It took some time for the new cases to translate into a rise in deaths; that, too, has been recently changing.

    Another recent change: the state’s numbers of COVID-19 cases in children are now soaring, as they have throughout the nation. Nearly 100,000 new COVID-19 cases were confirmed in children nationwide in the last two weeks of July—the period just before most of America begins a new school year. In Florida, the number of cases in children during the last month soared a staggering 137%.

    There are now nearly 40,000 children in Florida who have tested positive for the virus, reports CNN, a more than doubling from the less than 17,000 positive cases in early July. Hospitalizations of Florida children almost exactly doubled, as well. […]

    None of this, in Florida or elsewhere, seems as of yet to have forced Trump-loyal governors to rethink their plans of ignoring COVID-19 into submission in their states’ school systems just as they did in prior rounds of thoughts-and-prayers pandemic management.

    We know exactly how that will turn out, because science: crowded indoor environments where social distancing is impossible will result in rapid virus spread, resulting in individual school re-closures only after students have gotten sick and exposed many others, resulting in increased hospitalizations and deaths.

  182. says

    The Big Ten has announced that they’re postponing all fall sports. Brianna Keilar on CNN interviewed an expert this afternoon about myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) and the risks for athletes. He mentioned that even before COVID, myocarditis was responsible for 9% of sudden cardiac deaths in athletes. The evidence seems pretty clear that even people with very mild cases of COVID can develop it.

  183. tomh says

    RNC, Rhode Island Republicans ask justices to intervene in absentee-ballot dispute
    Amy Howe

    The Republican National Committee and Rhode Island Republicans asked the Supreme Court on Monday to block an order by a federal district court that relaxed the state’s witness requirement for absentee ballots…

    Under Rhode Island law, voters who opt to submit absentee ballots must sign their ballots in the presence of either two witnesses or one notary…

    Civic groups, including the League of Women Voters, went to court in late July, arguing that the witness requirement was unconstitutional because of COVID-19. Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea did not defend the witness requirement. Instead, the challengers and Gorbea worked together to negotiate a consent decree that suspended the witness requirement for all Rhode Island voters for the upcoming elections.

    At a hearing on the consent agreement, the district court rejected a request by the RNC and the Rhode Island GOP to intervene in the case, concluding that they had waited too long and that their interests were, in any event, already represented by the state officials who were named as defendants. The district court approved the agreement, finding that the witness requirement “places an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote” during the pandemic. The RNC and the Rhode Island GOP appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit, which declined to put the district court’s order on hold until the appeal is resolved.

    The RNC and the Rhode Island GOP went to the Supreme Court on Monday, asking the justices to step in.

  184. says

    Andrew Weissmann:

    Flynn: predictions from DC Circuit full court review:
    -Mandamus petition by Flynn denied
    -denial of reassignment to new judge
    -timeline given to Sullivan to hold hearing on motion to dismiss
    -Sullivan dismisses case but without prejudice so new prosecutors can reinstitute charges

  185. says

    Joe Biden:

    I have the great honor to announce that I’ve picked @KamalaHarris — a fearless fighter for the little guy, and one of the country’s finest public servants — as my running mate.

    Back when Kamala was Attorney General, she worked closely with Beau. I watched as they took on the big banks, lifted up working people, and protected women and kids from abuse. I was proud then, and I’m proud now to have her as my partner in this campaign.

  186. says

    More from Biden:

    “You make a lot of important decisions as president. But the first one is who you select to be your Vice President. I’ve decided that Kamala Harris is the best person to help me take this fight to Donald Trump and Mike Pence and then to lead this nation starting in January 2021,” Biden wrote in an email from his campaign to supporters.

    More about Kamala Harris:

    The announcement is a breakthrough on multiple fronts: Harris is the first Black woman to ever join a major-party presidential ticket, the first Asian-American woman to ever join a major-party presidential ticket, and only the fourth woman to serve on a major-party ticket, following Geraldine Ferraro in 1984, Sarah Palin in 2008, and Hillary Clinton in 2016.

    The first-term senator is also, oddly enough, the first Californian to serve as a Democratic vice presidential pick. This is relevant to the extent that, if the Democratic ticket wins in November, Harris will leave a vacancy in the U.S. Senate — and as one of the nation’s bluest states, party leaders would be optimistic about holding onto her seat.

  187. says

    From Kamala Harris:

    Joe Biden can unify the American people because he’s spent his life fighting for us. And as president, he’ll build an America that lives up to our ideals.

    I’m honored to join him as our party’s nominee for Vice President, and do what it takes to make him our Commander-in-Chief.

    From President Barack Obama:

    “Michelle and I couldn’t be more thrilled for Kamala, Doug, Cole and Ella,” he said, referring to the senator’s husband and kids. “This is a good day for our country. Now let’s go win this thing.”

  188. says

    Trump campaign quickly rolls out its anti-Kamala message, but it’s a desperation play

    The Trump campaign had its attacks on Sen. Kamala Harris ready to go as soon as former Vice President Joe Biden picked her to be his vice presidential nominee. Only, despite labeling her a “phony” and branding her as a radical leftist, the Trump campaign isn’t so much attacking Harris as it is desperately trying to reframe the race.

    Neither Donald Trump nor his campaign has really been able to land a blow on Biden—from Ukraine to “Sleepy Joe” to claims that Biden is experiencing major cognitive decline—so now the strategy is to pivot and try to make this choice into proof that Biden is a radical leftist (ha ha ha ha ha), turning this into a race between Trump and Harris. Harris is, according to a Trump campaign statement, “proof that Joe Biden is an empty shell being filled with the extreme agenda of the radicals on the left.”

    “Joe Biden is no moderate,” the statement continues, “and with Harris as his ‘political living will,’ he is surrendering control of our nation” blah blah blah radical mobs, blah blah kill energy jobs, blah blah blah. The policy attacks are basically the same as they’ve always been—the move here is to try to shift attention from Trump vs. Biden, who is winning and has resisted being negatively defined by the Trump campaign, to Trump vs. Harris, who they have a new shot at defining negatively to a general election audience and might be able to drag down using those old favorites, sexism and racism.

    They’re so eager to run this play that Donald Trump already tweeted an attack video with the same idea. “Biden calls himself a ‘transition’ candidate, the narrator says, “handing over the reins to Kamala while they jointly embrace the radical left.”

    Expect to hear a lot about “Phony Kamala,” both because Trump himself isn’t going to be able to resist the insult to a woman of color and because that’s part of the official message. But the underlying campaign strategy is to try to move on from the white guy by painting him as a puppet of the inherently untrustworthy Black woman by his side. If they can’t make Joe Biden scary to voters, they’ll try to make Kamala Harris even scarier.

    My conclusion is that both Trump and his lickspittles are afraid of Kamala Harris.

  189. says

    More from Barack Obama:

    Joe Biden nailed this decision. By choosing Senator Kamala Harris as America’s next vice president, he’s underscored his own judgment and character. Reality shows us that these attributes are not optional in a president. They’re requirements of the job. And now Joe has an ideal partner to help him tackle the very real challenges America faces right now and in the years ahead.

  190. says

    From Jennifer Rubin:

    […]
    The irony is that the woman considered “too risky” for the presidency is actually the safe choice for VP. She comes with no surprises. She is versed in foreign policy. She is not running for office for the first time. Perhaps now, Democrats and Republicans alike will understand that raw political talent, brains and, yes, ambition are what you look for in national leaders.

    […] if Biden wishes, he can delegate the daily barrage of rebukes against his opponent to her. Biden now can rise above the fray, leaving Harris — who seems to tie up President Trump in knots like no one else (he once called her “nasty”) — to taunt, fact-check and condemn their opponent effortlessly. The difference between a charismatic, whip-smart and media-winning woman and the slow, dull and laughably sycophantic Vice President Pence will highlight the chasm between these parties.

    […] Even at a climactic moment for the political inclusion of African American women, we will likely find it difficult to quash the tired double standards and just plain dumb commentary that women have put up with for years.

    […] Seeing a woman in the White House may indeed change the way voters perceive women in politics. She may not be in the chair behind the Oval Office desk, but she will act alongside the president as a decision-maker, executive partner and political mobilizer. Perhaps we have seen the end of overwhelmingly White and male presidential tickets.

    Washington Post link

  191. tomh says

    WaPo:
    Trump donated to Harris’s campaign for California attorney general

    President Trump donated to Kamala D. Harris’s campaign for California attorney general as recently as 2013, sending $6,000 her way in 2011 and 2013. His daughter Ivanka Trump also contributed $2,000 to Harris in 2014.

    That could make it significantly more difficult to attack Harris — the idea that this was someone Trump saw fit to support financially, as recently as two years before he launched his 2016 campaign.

    That doesn’t mean he won’t find something — or a lot of things — to attack. Trump criticized her during a 5:30 p.m. news briefing Tuesday for how she treated Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearing. The Trump campaign issued a statement on Harris shortly after her selection Tuesday, alleging that she had called Biden a racist (she had not) and that she would be a conduit for extremist liberal policies in a Biden administration.

  192. says

    Taniel:

    Portland’s brand-new DA just announced he was dismissing hundreds of cases of protesters arrested by the Portland police.

    I had talked to him in the spring about what criminal justice reform and fighting mass incarceration means to him:…

    Link atl.

  193. says

    Shortly after Biden announced Harris as his V.P. pick, Trump just had to hold one of his press conferences lying and whining sessions.

    Trump kicks off the presser by predictably referring to the coronavirus as the “China virus.”

    The self-proclaimed President of “law and order” gripes about the unrest in Chicago, saying that law enforcement is “incredible” but that they’re prevented from doing their jobs because of “radical left Democrats.”

    Trump pivots to bragging about the stock market much like his tweet earlier in the day and expresses optimism that the economy will “rebound with strength like nobody thought possible” despite coronavirus cases continuing to rage.

    Trump throws European countries under the bus over coronavirus spikes — which are significantly smaller than the surge in coronavirus cases throughout the U.S. — but claims that “in our country, they’re going down.” [Blatant lies! Blatant bullshit.]

    Trump is still clinging onto his hope that the coronavirus will someday “disappear” as he urges the return of college football. The President insists that “young, strong” people “won’t have a big problem with the China virus.” [Bullshit]

    Finally, Trump’s first reaction to Biden officially choosing Harris as his running mate! [Trump] predictably echoed the irate statement issued by his re-election campaign by accusing Harris of saying “untrue” things, being “very big” into raising taxes, wanting to slash military funds, opposing fracking, being “in favor of socialized medicine,” being “nasty” to Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, and doing poorly in the Democratic primaries.

    Trump ends the presser after being asked whether Harris will help or hurt Biden’s chances. The President essentially reaffirms his (very predictable) endorsement of Pence, who he likes “much better” than Harris.

    Before leaving the podium, Trump added that Harris was “the meanest, the most horrible, most disrespectful of anybody in the U.S. Senate” during the Kavanaugh hearings.

    Link

    From Mike Pence:

    Joe Biden and the Democratic Party have been overtaken by the radical left so given their promises of higher taxes, open borders, socialized medicine and abortion on demand, it’s no surprise that he chose Senator Harris to be is running mate.

  194. says

    Nonsense spoken by Trump during his late afternoon whining and lying session:

    “On the vaccine front front, [yes, he said it twice] I heard from Operation Warp Speed and we will have a vaccine and we’re reducing prices by 40, 50%, like has never been seen.”

    “Portland and Oregon have 10,000 and they’re great and Seattle, and Seattle and Washington, Washington has 10,000 and they’re very fine people.” [We assume he’s speaking about police officers, but nobody knows for sure.]

    “It would have taken any other administration years to be where we are”

  195. says

    The Democratic party is once again the party of history in the making.

    The Biden campaign has released a photo of Joe Biden asking Sen. Kamala Harris to be his vice presidential running mate on the Democratic ticket from his home in Delaware.

    I thought some of you here might appreciate a photo of the moment that history was made.

    Biden/Harris2020!

    Link

    Nice photo at the link.

  196. lumipuna says

    https://twitter.com/ddale8/status/1293307919212183561

    “I thought she was the meanest, the most horrible, most disrespectful of anybody in the US Senate,” Trump says of Harris during the Kavanaugh hearings.

    Trump will be spewing a lot of negative epithets at Harris, but I personally love the “most horrible”, because in Finnish “kamala” means horrible. I already saw a Finnish media outlet translate-quote the above snippet.

    Who knows, maybe Trump will start routinely going with “Horrible Harris”.

  197. Saad says

    He’s such a fragile little shit. You’d think a misogynist like him would try to act tough around a woman and not complain about hurt feelings but I suppose his cowardice might be even greater than his sexism.

  198. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    Saad@272, The only thing they value more than their “manliness” is their entitlement.

  199. says

    In #Belarus, the economic cost of internet outages is estimated at $56.4 million per day, according to @netblocks. Belarusian IT sector firms, may of which work in IT services outsourcing, are experiencing mounting losses:…”

    In #Paris, #France, Belarusian activists attached the national flag of #Belarus to the monument of Joan of Arc – an act of solidarity with the protesters back home in Belarus:

    #FreeBelarus”

    Photo atl.

    Summary of #Belarus #protests, 9-11 August:

    Protests in some 25 cities & towns.
    In #Minsk, protests in multiple residential districts.
    Police detained ~7,000 people.
    ~250 injured & 1 confirmed fatality
    1st incident of live ammo used against protesters – in #Brest.”

    They’re packing thousands of people into jails during a pandemic.

  200. says

    U.S. News – “EU to Discuss Sanctions Against Belarus After Disputed Election, Sweden Says”:

    EU foreign ministers will meet on Friday to discuss targeted sanctions against Belarus following Sunday’s contested election and subsequent violent crackdown down on protesters, Sweden’s top diplomat said on Wednesday.

    “I absolutely think we need to consider broadening targeted sanctions against those responsible for the violence against the protesters (and) for the election fraud – those involved in the electoral process not having turned out free and fair,” Linde told Swedish radio on Wednesday.

    “This morning there has been a summons to an extraordinary EU foreign ministers’ meeting on Friday where we will discuss precisely this (sanctions),” she told the public broadcaster.

    Lithuania had also said it would consider such steps.

    Any decision on sanctions requires agreement by all 27 EU member states, meaning no imminent move is expected.

    As seen in the cases of Russia or Ukraine, such decisions can take weeks or months. Foreign ministers are due to next meet at the end of August in Berlin.

    The EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, on Tuesday condemned what he called “disproportionate” violence by Belarus authorities against protesters and said the EU could take unspecified measures….

  201. says

    Guardian – “Buzzkill: Mississippi rejects state flag featuring giant mosquito”:

    Mississippi will not put a huge mosquito on its new state flag.

    The state department of archives and history (MDAH) said on Tuesday that a design featuring the blood-sucking insect had slipped through the screening process and should not have been among the selections posted online on Monday.

    Mississippi recently retired the last state banner with the Confederate battle emblem that is widely condemned as racist. A nine-member commission will recommend a replacement flag that, by legislative mandate, cannot include the Confederate symbol and must have the phrase “In God We Trust”.
    Governor signs historic bill to remove Confederate symbol from Mississippi flag
    Read more

    In the first round of a selection process, the public submitted nearly 3,000 designs. The commission narrowed that to 147 proposals making the second round, and the department put those on its website. One had a giant mosquito surrounded by a circle of stars, a design that has since been zapped.

    “The mosquito flag advanced to Round Two due to a typo in a list of flag numbers submitted by one commissioner,” the agency said in a statement Tuesday. “That commissioner has requested that the flag be removed from the Round Two gallery, and MDAH staff has complied.”

    Many of the remaining designs have magnolias and stars. Some have wavy lines that could represent the waters of the Mississippi River or the Gulf of Mexico.

    On Friday, the nine commissioners will choose the final five. By early September, they will agree on a single design to put on the 3 November statewide ballot.

    The commissioners could accept one of the public submissions, combine elements from different designs or start from scratch and draw their own.

    If voters accept the commission’s proposal, that design will become the new Mississippi flag. If they reject it, commissioners will draw a new design that will be put on the ballot later.

  202. says

    Here’s a link to the August 12 Guardian coronavirus world liveblog.

    From there:

    The grandmother of Brazil’s first lady, Michelle Bolsonaro, has reportedly died of Covid-19.

    Maria Aparecida Firmo Ferreira, 81, died in a hospital in the capital Brasília in the early hours of Wednesday, according to Brazilian media.

    “We’re all very shaken,” the first lady’s aunt told the news website Metrópoles.

    Ferreira was admitted to hospital at the start of July after collapsing in the street on the outskirts of the capital.

    Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, has drawn international condemnation for his chaotic handling of the epidemic, which has now killed more than 103,000 Brazilians, as well as his wife’s grandmother.

    Despite the huge number of deaths – the second highest toll after the US – Bolsonaro has been criticised for failing to offer words of comfort to the families of victims.

    “We’re sorry about all the deaths but that’s everyone’s destiny,” Brazil’s far-right leader told reporters in June.

  203. tomh says

    Ah, Florida.

    Florida Sheriff Bans Masks As State’s Covid-19 Death Toll Breaks New Daily Record

    Billy Woods, the sheriff of central Florida’s Marion County, banned masks for all deputies and visitors to the sheriff’s office starting Tuesday…

    Suit Claims Mask Requirement At Church Services Violates Free Exercise Protections

    A suit filed last week in a Florida state trial court contends that a Florida county’s COVID-19 face covering requirement violates, among other things, the free exercise rights of plaintiff, a pastor…because it:

    requires both clergy members like Plaintiff and churchgoers to wear masks during service or face government civil fines and punishment…. [T]he requirement to wear a mask … infringes upon the free exercise of Plaintiff’s religion by making it more difficult for him to preach and for members of the choir at his church to sing.

  204. says

    Reuters (with the infuriating “[known liar] says…” framing) – “Brazil’s Bolsonaro calls surging Amazon fires a ‘lie'”:

    Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro on Tuesday angrily denied the existence of fires in the Amazon rainforest, calling it a “lie,” despite data produced by his own government showing that thousands of fires are surging across the region.

    Bolsonaro last year similarly denied a spike in fires that provoked a global outcry, with the right-wing populist trading barbs with French President Emmanuel Macron and other world leaders.

    The president’s comments on Tuesday come even as Reuters witnesses in the remote Amazon town of Apui observed smoke blanketing the horizon in all directions during the day and large fires setting the sky aglow at night.

    Fires in Brazil’s Amazon for the month of August hit a nine-year high in 2019 and this month so far looks even worse. More than 10,000 fires have been recorded in the first 10 days of August, up 17% from the same period a year ago, according to data from the country’s national space research agency Inpe.

    But in a speech to other South American leaders on Tuesday, Bolsonaro challenged foreign representatives to fly over the Amazon saying that traveling by air from the far flung cities of Boa Vista to Manaus, you would not see a single flame.

    “They won’t find any spot of fire, nor a quarter of a hectare deforested,” the former army captain told a meeting of members of the Leticia Pact, an agreement between Amazon countries to protect the rainforest.

    “This story that the Amazon is going up in flames is a lie and we must combat it with true numbers,” he said.

    Bolsonaro interfered in Inpe after it released unfavorable data on Amazon deforestation last year, firing the agency’s head Ricardo Galvao who defended his agency’s numbers that showed rising destruction.

    In his speech, Bolsonaro argued that Brazil has shown itself capable of protecting the Amazon alone because the majority of the forest is still standing.

    He said the Amazon is a wet forest that preserves itself and does not catch fire. The media and foreign governments are presenting a false narrative about the Amazon, he said.

    Experts say that fires are not a natural phenomenon in the rainforest, but are usually man-made in order to clear deforested land for pasture….

  205. says

    Guardian world liveblog:

    Russia has said the first batch of the world’s first Covid-19 vaccine would be rolled out within two weeks and rejected as “groundless” safety concerns aired by some experts over Moscow’s rapid approval of the drug.

    The vaccine, called Sputnik V in homage to the world’s first satellite launched by the Soviet Union in 1957, has yet to complete its final trials and some scientists said they feared Moscow may be putting national prestige before safety.

    “It seems our foreign colleagues are sensing the specific competitive advantages of the Russian drug and are trying to express opinions that in our opinion are completely groundless,” health minister Mikhail Murashko said the day after president Vladimir Putin announced it had won regulatory approval.

    On the streets of Moscow, some Russians said they would be too scared to try the vaccine, while others agreed with their government that scepticism expressed by foreign experts was driven by jealousy.

    “I don’t trust Russian vaccines in general, I definitely won’t get vaccinated,” said Ekaterina Sabadash, 36, speaking outside Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre.

    Alexander, a photographer, was also wary. “Until it goes through (final) clinical trials and we get some confirmed results, I would be scared to get it done,” he said.

    Others said they understood why Russia was in a hurry to get a new vaccine and trusted it, but doubted they would really have a say in whether to have it.

    “I’m a teacher and they’ll recommend we get it,” said Irina Fashchevskaya, a Moscow resident. “We’ll be forced to do it.”

    Officials have said that the vaccine, developed by Moscow’s Gamaleya Institute, would be administered to people, including doctors, on a voluntary basis in the final trial. Mass roll-out in Russia is expected to start in October.

    Scientists from Germany, the United States and Britain have queried the wisdom of approving the vaccine before testing is complete, saying it was risky from a safety point of view.

    Kirill Dmitriev, head of Russia’s RDIF sovereign wealth fund, has spoken of an information war against his country, an assertion that finds sympathy with Russians weary of what they regard as years of Western condescension.

    Mikhail Mechyov, a 42-year-old Moscow resident, said he saw jealousy behind Western warnings.

    “It’s natural to be cautious, but they are aimed at belittling the achievement of our country,” he said. “I think a lot has been done and it’s great there is a vaccine.”

    The vaccine candidate hasn’t competed clinical trials to assess safety and effectiveness. This is the established standard for any vaccine produced by anyone, anywhere.

    The haste is plainly driven by political considerations.

    Putin and his regime are chronic liars and propagandists, both domestically and internationally.

    The country has an especially sordid scientific history: politically/ideologically-driven pseudoscience, lying to people about important scientific realities, and sacrificing humans and other animals on the altar of alleged technological progress.

    In related book recommendations, I offer Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Fatal Eggs.

  206. says

    Josh Marshall:

    Florida reports 8,109 new cases, 21.2% positivity. 212 fatalities. Florida has reported 1,931 COVID fatalities since August 1st.

    If you look around twitter you’ll find a range of positivity measures, most different flavors released by the state, all lower than mine. I divide newly reported cases by newly reported negative and positive results (i.e., total completed tests) and report that as a percentage.

    That is literally the positivity rate. The state has [its] own non-public formula. They say it sets aside people being tested multiple times.

  207. says

    TPM – “900+ Students And Staff Already Quarantined As GA School District Fumbles Reopening”:

    One of the earliest districts to begin the school year in Georgia has already reported the quarantine of more than 900 students and staff and the closure of one of its schools as administrators try to contain an outbreak of coronavirus on school grounds.

    Cherokee County Superintendent Brian Hightower announced Tuesday that Etowah High School would close until Aug. 31.

    With 14 confirmed coronavirus cases at the school and results pending on 15 more tests as of Tuesday morning, the Cherokee Tribune & Ledger News reported that the decision was made to close the school and have students transition to the school system’s Distance Learning online program until it could safely reopen.

    Etowah High School made headlines last week after a viral photo emerged showing mask-less students standing shoulder-to-shoulder for a group photo on the first day of the fall semester.

    In a statement Tuesday, Hightower said that there were already 59 positive COVID-19 tests confirmed among Cherokee County’s students and staff and that the district would begin a mandated a two-week quarantine for 925 students and staff members.

    “As your Superintendent, I wear a mask whenever I cannot social distance. We know all parents do not believe the scientific research that indicates masks are beneficial, but I believe it and see masks as an important measure to help us keep schools open,” he added.

    In spite of these measures, Cherokee County schools recommend but don’t require students or staff to wear masks.

    Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, who sued to block Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance-Bottoms’ mask mandate, said in a news conference with U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams Monday that he was pleased to see schools reopening, adding that aside from the viral photos the week “went real well.”

    Hilary Porterfield, a parent of a Cherokee school student, told NBC News last week she was “frustrated” by the handling of the pandemic in schools. She said the positive cases should serve as a “red flag” for the district.

    “It’s just a matter of time before it’s out of control,” Porterfield said.

  208. says

    Good fundraising news for Democrats:

    The hour after Kamala Harris joined Joe Biden’s ticket late yesterday was the best hour for the campaign’s fundraising to date. What’s more, the New York Times reported that ActBlue, the main donation-processing platform for Democrats, “reported more than $10.8 million in donations between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon.”

  209. says

    Appointed Senator Martha McSally (a Republican from Arizona) said something revealing:

    […] Sen. Martha McSally said Tuesday that if Democrats managed to gain control of the White House, the Senate and the House in November, the party would legislate statehood to both Puerto Rico and D.C. — a move that she said would be disastrous for Republicans. “They’re going to make D.C. and Puerto Rico a state and get four new Democrat [sic] Senators,” McSally told NBC News in an interview Tuesday. “We’d never get the Senate back again.”

    Quoted text above is from Talking Points Memo.

    Commentary:

    […] At the heart of McSally’s message is an attempt to nationalize her race, trying to convince voters in her traditionally “red” state to see the contest from a vastly larger perspective. To hear the senator tell it, this isn’t just a contest about two candidates, or even a campaign about Arizona’s specific needs. Rather, voters should elect her in order to maintain a Republican majority in the Senate.

    And why should that be a principal public priority? Because as McSally sees it, a Democratic majority would lead more Americans to have representation in Congress — an outcome the Arizonan apparently believes would be a disaster for her political party.

    […] senators generally don’t base their appeal on denying Americans a voice on Capitol Hill.

    What’s more, her assumptions are at odds with available evidence: Puerto Ricans have elected a Republican governor, and the island’s current delegate to Congress is Jenniffer Gonzalez — a Republican.

    For that matter, even if we assumed Democrats would grant statehood to D.C. and Puerto Rico, and even if we assumed they collectively sent four Democratic senators to the Hill, that still wouldn’t necessarily mean that Republicans would “never” be able to achieve a majority. The GOP has had five-seat majorities several times in the recent past, and the party had a four-seat majority as recently as four years ago.

    But let’s also not miss the forest for the trees. As The Atlantic’s Edward-Isaac Dovere noted yesterday, McSally is reasoning “that some Americans don’t deserve a vote in the Senate because she does not think her party can appeal to them.”

    Link

  210. tomh says

    Justice Department Completes Review of Errors in FISA Applications
    Jeremy Gordon, Tuesday, August 11, 2020

    The Justice Department reported that most of the errors identified by the Office of the Inspector General were minor and none invalidated surveillance authorizations.

    The Department of Justice has completed its review of deficiencies in Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) applications concerning U.S. persons identified by the department’s Office of the Inspector General. The Department of Justice review follows the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General report on the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane investigation into members of the Trump campaign.

    Detailed explanations and analysis at the link.

  211. says

    Trump Revives Racist Appeal To Suburbs After Biden Chooses Woman Of Color For VP

    […] Trump on Wednesday morning rehashed his racist appeal to suburbanites a day after Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden made the historic announcement of choosing Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) as his running mate.

    Late last month, [Trump] nonchalantly tweeted that “people living their Suburban Lifestyle Dream” would no longer have to worry about low income housing in their neighborhood. The tweet — which was widely criticized as a racist campaign tactic for Trump as he attempts to bolster his diminishing support among white suburban voters amid surging coronavirus cases nationwide — came on the heels of the White House announcing its plan to repeal and replace an Obama-era rule intended to combat historic racial discrimination in housing.

    In a Wednesday morning tweet, Trump found yet another opportunity to use his and other conservatives’ incredibly racist explanation for tossing the Obama-era rule […]

    [Trump] didn’t stop there, however — his tweet also referenced the policies that Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), who is Black, raised as a presidential candidate last year, which includes advocating for affordable housing and eradicating housing discrimination. On Monday, Booker and Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) announced over $18 million in CARES Act Funding to ensure that costs are covered for public housing residents in New Jersey.

    The “suburban housewife” will be voting for me. They want safety & are thrilled that I ended the long running program where low income housing would invade their neighborhood. Biden would reinstall it, in a bigger form, with Corey Booker in charge! @foxandfriends @MariaBartiromo

    […]

    Link

  212. says

    tomh, @289, that’s good news. However, I’m sure that William Barr and other trumpian lickspittles will find a way to spin the news into a propaganda coup for Trump.

    Follow-up to comment 290. Comments from readers of the TPM article:

    I’m pretty sure that Kamala Harris is every suburban housewife’s ideal neighbor.
    ———————-
    Why would some suburban “ambitious”, “nasty” women” vote again for a misogynistic criminal and sexual predator like Trump?
    ——————
    There’s nothing like a black woman who has succeeded in a white male world to send Trump screaming in fear. After all, Kamala Harris doesn’t look like Press Secretary Barbie McEnany.
    —————–
    Are the Corey Booker construction crews arriving in the neighborhood before or after the Mexican rapists? It’s hard to keep track of all these invaders.
    ——————-
    All Trump is doing now is doubling and tripling down on hateful bigoted bile and fear.
    ———————-
    Trump must think every “suburban housewife” is a member of The Stepford Wives living in a guard gated community.

    Most women who live in the suburbs work outside the home. Many suburban communities have a diverse population.

  213. says

    Yuck. And Yikes. “Trump Congratulates ‘Future Republican Star’ QAnon-Supporting Marjorie Greene”

    […] Trump wasted little time congratulating Marjorie Greene, the Republican candidate in Georgia’s 14th district who is bound to be Congress’ first open QAnon supporter.

    Congratulations to future Republican Star Marjorie Taylor Greene on a big Congressional primary win in Georgia against a very tough and smart opponent. Marjorie is strong on everything and never gives up – a real WINNER!

    […] “She’s a hypocrite. She’s anti-American,” Greene told her raucous supporters of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). “And we’re going to kick that [B-word] out of Congress.”

    Greene’s victory is likely to be the start of a years-long headache for national Republicans. Unlike other QAnon-curious candidates, Greene does more than cheekily wink at the conspiracy theory with hashtags or retweets. Based on her social media presence, she fully embraces many of the more extreme beliefs it ecnompasses.

    “I’m very excited about that now there’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take this global cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophiles out, and I think we have the president to do it,” she said in a 2017 YouTube video.

    In the Facebook videos, she called Black people “slaves to the Democratic party” and “lazy,” labeled the diverse freshman class of congress members voted in during the 2018 midterms “an Islamic invasion of our government” and compared Black Lives Matter protesters to the neo-Nazis who marched at Charlottesville.

    She also accused George Soros, a Holocaust survivor, of being a Nazi. […]

    “Tell your ‘reporter’ buddies not to waste time calling me, since I won’t be taking their calls,” she crowed. “Truly the enemy of the people.”

    Link

  214. says

    From Wonkette: “WTF Is Happening In Belarus? Well, It’s VERY TRUMPY.”

    Belarus had a big election Sunday. Or should we say “election,” because Belarus, which some call Europe’s last dictatorship — at least until Trump/Putin buddy Viktor Orban finishes destroying Hungary — does not have real elections. The same guy, a rightwing authoritarian populist named Alexander Lukashenko, has been president since 1994, and he doesn’t plan to stop being that now. So, like authoritarian dictators do, he rigged the election.

    A Loathed Authoritarian President Who Fucked Up His Country’s Coronavirus Response And Is Very Thin-Skinned? TELL US MORE!

    At this point, it’s pretty clear that your average man-on-the-street in Belarus hates Lukashenko […]The gabillions of Belarusians protesting in the streets lately are visual evidence of that. […]

    Solid support of a whole third of the country? Total fuckup on coronavirus and the economy? Letting Russia run roughshod? These authoritarians do seem to have certain things in common. […]

    Interesting sidenote on the Russia thing. The Times reported in June that Lukashenko and Russia are having a fight right now, which was partially Lukashenko’s response to everybody hating his ass at home. What’s interesting about that is that in the past, his response would have been to lean more in to Russia and blame Western powers, but these days people don’t like Russia as much as they used to in that part of the world for some reason. So Lukashenko’s response has been to blame the Russians. […]

    Belarus diplomats, [Artyom Shraibman, founder of a Minsk consulting firm] said, have started telling their European counterparts not to view the arrest of Mr. Lukashenko’s political opponents as an attack on the democratic process, but as a necessary response to Russian interference.

    The argument has had few takers.

    […] (To be clear there seem to be other reasons the Russia-Belarus lovefest is not going very well these days. Vladimir Putin is a really shitty neighbor.)

    More on Lukashenko’s handling of the coronavirus, which sounds eerily familiar:

    He ridiculed the coronavirus pandemic as “psychosis” and eschewed a lockdown, even as doctors struggled to fight the virus without adequate protective equipment. Lukashenko said that drinking vodka, taking a sauna or working in the fields driving tractors would protect against covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus — although he later tried to disavow the comments.

    Some say vodka and saunas cure coronavirus. Others say you can just bleach it away. Who can even say! “No one in the country will die from coronavirus,” said Lukashenko this spring.

    […] With his popularity tanking and the fake election looming, Lukashenko put his opponents in jail (LOCK THEM UP!), banned them from running, or forced them to get the hell out of the country; rounded up “hundreds” of journalists and activists; sent in the troops against protesters in the run-up to the fake election; and treated the woman who became his main rival, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, a 37-year-old stay-at-home mom, as a curiosity, like awwww, a lady is running, awwww.

    As the Washington Post explains, Tikhanovskaya became the main candidate because Lukashenko had her husband Sergey Tikhanovsky arrested on fake charges after he declared his intention to be a candidate. […]

    “I don’t need power, but my husband is behind bars,” Tikhanovskaya told a large Minsk crowd in July. “I’m tired of putting up with it. I’m tired of being silent. I’m tired of being afraid.”

    […] Unfortunately Lukashenko was in charge of counting the ballots. Lukashenko “won” his rigged election with 80 percent of the vote, just like Vladimir Putin “wins” elections with 80 percent of the vote. Vox notes that, according to some exit polling, actually it was Svetlana Tikhanovskaya who got about 80 percent of the vote.

    […] “They aren’t even worth repressing,” he said of his opponents. “To be honest, we have been soft so far. I can tell you honestly, we have always restrained the law enforcement.”

    God, he sounds familiar. So weird how they all say, “I can tell you honestly” or things along those lines.

    The New York Times reports that after the fake election, the government cut off the internet in Minsk and the troops moved in again .[…] Bill Barr was probably taking notes.

    […] The protests are still raging, and Belarusian authorities say they’ve arrested over 6,000 people.

    […] this is the first time Lukashenko’s power has really been threatened like this, the first time people have been this pissed. The Times explains that in past fake elections, the stormtroopers don’t come in until after the election, to stomp down people unhappy about yet another fake election. Starting the crackdown before the fake election? Sounds like he was scared. […]

    Rachel Maddow began her show Monday night with a report on the happenings in Belarus, noting that authoritarians don’t tend to “lose” elections once they have power, but rather “use the power of the government to hold onto control.” She described how Trump has used Attorney General Bill Barr to bend the election to his will, as Barr has destroyed the rule of law to protect Trump’s crime-cronies; attacked innocent Americans in the streets; and promised to release the results of his clownfuck investigation into imaginary Obama administration “crimes” against Trump before the election. (You know, the election where we decide whether Obama’s vice president Joe Biden should replace Trump.)

    Trump is even trying to use the damn post office to rig the election, for God’s sake. […]

    Trump doesn’t quite have entrenched power in America like Lukashenko does in Belarus. We still have a chance to fix this in 83 days. […]

    Link

  215. says

    More fuckery aimed at the Post Office, from the Trump administration.

    […] In the latest bit of fuckery to emerge, we learned on NPR’s Morning Edition that the USPS has been removing mail-sorting machines in certain places. That fun fact was dropped in an interview with Kimberly Karol, a postal clerk in Waterloo, Iowa, and president of the Iowa Postal Workers Union. She brought co-host Noel King up short while discussing how the changes have affected her workers:

    Karol: Mail is beginning to pile up in our offices, and we’re seeing equipment being removed, so we are beginning to see the impact of those changes.

    King: Curious, I hadn’t heard about this one. Equipment being removed. What equipment?

    Karol: The sorting equipment that we use to process mail for delivery. In Iowa, we are losing machines, and in Waterloo we’re losing one of those machines. That also hinders our ability to process mail in the way that we had in the past.

    […] It’s every bit as bad as closing post offices or restricting their hours, but is being put in place in such a way as to escape the public comment required under federal laws for rule-making.

    So public, please comment!

    Despite the changes, Karol said, she thinks the USPS will be ready to handle mail-in ballots this year, because the agency knows what it’s doing. But the moves aren’t saving any money, she said; they’re just undercutting people’s confidence in the Postal Service.

    Exactly like Republicans have wanted for forever, so it can be privatized […]

    the Spokane Spokesman-Review had its own story Monday on how the USPS fuckery might affect voting in Washington, which has run virtually all its elections by mail since 2005. Secretary of State Kim Wyman warned that the state is preparing for a “very concerning” impact of the announcement about postal rates, noting that up to now, the Postal Service has handled ballots like First Class mail (delivery in two to five days) while counties only paid the bulk-mail rate. If elections mail starts getting processed like coupons from Carl’s Jr., that could mean delivery times of three to 10 days. […] Crom only knows whether USPS will even bother processing all ballots dropped off on Election Day.

    Then there’s this, which suggests sorting machines are being pulled out all over the place. The Spokesman-Review obtained a July letter from USPS Seattle district manager Kenn Messenger letting postal union leaders know that because of “low mail volumes,” mail originating in three Washington cities, Yakima, Wenatchee and Tacoma, won’t be processed in the local post offices anymore. Instead, a letter sent from one address within Tacoma to another local address would be sent to Seattle for sorting, then back to Tacoma for delivery. Mail from the other two cities, in central Washington, would go to Spokane to be sorted. Also too:

    A separate document indicates that sorting machines will be removed from Wenatchee on Aug. 15 and from Yakima on Aug. 22.

    […] that’s certain to slow down the mail.

    “We’ve far surpassed the point of doing more with less,” Wald said. “We’re doing less with less.” […]

    [Trump] says voting by mail is bad and doesn’t work, so he’ll make that true with every monkey wrench he and DeJoy can find.

    Link

  216. says

    From the Washington Post, excerpts from an article by Paul Waldman:

    […] “Biden’s big mistake of course was narrowing his choice on the basis of skin color,” said Laura Ingraham on Fox News. “On Planet Earth that used to be called bias or even racism.” Mark Levin, for some reason, tried to convince his BlazeTV viewers that “Kamala Harris is not an African-American … her ancestry does not go back to American slavery.” It was almost as though they had to talk about Harris’s race but couldn’t quite figure out how to turn it into an attack on her without sounding, you know, racist.

    That very fact appeared to put Tucker Carlson, Fox News’s biggest star, on edge. Carlson got visibly angry at a Democratic guest who suggested that he might pronounce Harris’s first name properly. “So it begins, you’re not allowed to criticize KaMAla Harris, or KAmala Harris, or whatever,” Carlson said. “I love the idea that she’s immune from criticism!”

    Of course, no one suggested anything of the sort, but the reaction is incredibly revealing. Conservatives constantly complain about how “political correctness” leaves them constrained and silenced, forbidden to say what they really think and speak their truth — and in particular, that if they do so they’ll be called racist. Carlson was enraged about something that hadn’t actually happened, but that he seemed sure was imminent. So the mere suggestion that he pronounce Harris’s first name correctly made him shout that he was being censored by the thought police.

    We’re going to hear a lot of that in the days to come. The Republican Party — whose best idea to deal with its deficit among minority voters is promoting the sad candidacy of Kanye West to divert a few Black votes from Biden — is only becoming more insular and resentful. They feel any celebration of Harris’s historic candidacy as an attack on their own identity — yet more evidence that societal change and increasing American diversity is in truth a story of their victimization.

    […] for now, we have one party trying to reflect the reality of contemporary America and another party angrily wishing the country were something it is not today and will never be again.

    Link

  217. says

    This sounds like a good idea.

    For Martha Wright-Reed, the cost of a simple phone call from her grandson sometimes meant going without her medicine. Her grandson, Ulandis Forte, said that while he was incarcerated, the exorbitant phone fees forced Reed to choose between paying for medications and calling him to offer much-needed support. “More people deserve the love and support that I received from my grandma,” said Forte. Reed’s experience moved her to start organizing for prison phone justice, and now her activism has inspired current advocates who are seeking legislative reforms. As a result, a new bill in Congress bears her name: The COVID-19 Compassion and Martha Wright Prison Phone Justice Act.

    On Tuesday morning […] a digital petition delivery of almost 80,000 signatures calling upon Congress to pass the bill.

    The COVID-19 Compassion and Martha Wright Prison Phone Justice Act would eliminate the kickbacks that correctional facilities receive from the prison telecom companies that they contract with. Prison telecom corporations are a $1.2 billion dollar industry, charging prices as high as $24 for a 15-minute call. As a result, the companies have earned tremendously from the consistent flow of people into carceral facilities.

    […] we have to reverse the perverse incentives that make it profitable to lock people up,” said Scott Roberts, senior director of criminal justice campaigns at Color of Change.

    If passed, the bill will also grant the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) full authority to regulate all fees for prison phone calls. […]

    Finally, the act will immediately lower the phone rate cap during the COVID-19 pandemic, driving down rates to four to five cents per minute. […] While momentum around prison phone justice has been building in recent years, the pandemic makes it uniquely urgent. Due to the virus and social distancing protocols, in-person visits to correctional facilities have been banned, rendering phone calls necessary for maintaining contact and staying up to date about the health and well-being of loved ones both inside and outside.

    […] even prior to the pandemic, a third of families have gone into debt trying to maintain contact with their incarcerated loved ones. In the midst of job loss, this moment is only exacerbating that hardship […]

    just this week, San Francisco permanently made prison phone calls free.

    Should Congress heed the demands of these advocates, activists, and the almost 80,000 petition signers, the passage of the COVID-19 Compassion and Martha Wright Prison Phone Justice Act could be the next step toward ending prison profiteering. […]

    Link

  218. says

    Follow-up to 291.

    Cory Booker responded to Trump’s tweet, and ridiculed Trump for a misspelling:

    Donaled, your racism is showing.
    -Cory

    https://twitter.com/CoryBooker/status/1293587655079473164

    This was Trump’s tweet:

    The “suburban housewife” will be voting for me. They want safety & are thrilled that I ended the long running program where low income housing would invade their neighborhood. Biden would reinstall it, in a bigger form, with Corey Booker in charge! @foxandfriends @MariaBartiromo

  219. says

    Hope this works:

    House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) on Wednesday introduced legislation that would block the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) from implementing a series of changes amid the coronavirus pandemic.

    The Delivering for America Act would prevent USPS from instituting [changes] to its operations or to the level of service that was in place at the beginning of 2020.

    The bill comes as Maloney and other Democrats increasingly speak out against the decisions made at USPS during a year in which the presidential election will rely more heavily on mail-in voting.

    Our Postal Service should not become an instrument of partisan politics, but instead must be protected as a neutral, independent entity that focuses on one thing and one thing only — delivering the mail,” Maloney said in a statement. “At this juncture in our nation’s history, when the number of Americans voting by mail for this presidential election is expected to more than double from the last, Congress must protect the right of all eligible citizens to have their vote counted.”

    “A once-in-a-century pandemic is no time to enact changes that threaten service reliability and transparency,” she added. “The [bill] would reverse these changes so this fundamental American service can continue unimpeded.” […]

    Maloney also cited the millions in campaign contributions to […] Trump from Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, who assumed the post in June. […]

    Link

  220. says

    Guardian world liveblog:

    The self-styled “archbishop” of a purported church in Florida that sells industrial bleach as a “miracle cure” for Covid-19 has been arrested with his son in Colombia and faces extradition to the US.

    Video footage posted to the Twitter feed of Colombia’s top prosecutor showed Mark Grenon and his son Joseph Grenon, dressed in blue jump suits and masks, being led away by armed police.

    The prosecutor’s office said the pair had been taken into custody on suspicion of selling a “miracle solution” that had caused the deaths of seven American citizens.

    The Grenons’ apprehension comes a month after the “archbishop” of the Genesis II “church”, as well as three of his sons, were charged by federal authorities in Florida with dealing in a substance that has not been approved for medical use and could be life-threatening.

    The substance, chlorine dioxide, is a powerful bleach used in textile manufacturing.

    The Grenons market it as “miracle mineral solution” or MMS which they say when drunk as a dilution can cure almost all illnesses including Covid, cancer, HIV/Aids as well as the condition autism.

  221. says

    More than 300 CEOs of IT companies and investors signed a letter asking for new elections, violence to be stopped, to release political prisoners, ensure access to info. Otherwise, specialists will leave. It must be painful. Lukashenka usually takes credit for Belarus IT-sector.”

    Perhaps it doesn’t have such a symbolic meaning for the foreigners but Evgeny Perlin, one of the most infamous Belarusian state TV propagandists, has resigned in protest against what’s happening in the country”

    Photos from the Belarus solidarity rally in Riga, Latvia.

    Photos from the first Belarus solidarity event in London (see #276 above).

  222. says

    HuffPo – “Trump Has Nearly Eliminated Intelligence Briefings From His Schedule Entirely”:

    President Donald Trump’s interest in taking intelligence briefings has been declining steadily since his first months in office and has dropped to near zero in recent weeks, according to a HuffPost review of all of his daily schedules.

    Trump went from a high of 4.1 briefings per week on average in March 2017 to 0.7 per week since July 1, shortly after it became public that he had ignored intelligence reports about Russia offering bounties to the Taliban for each American soldier killed in Afghanistan.

    Monday’s briefing, in fact, was the first in August and the first since July 22. That month had only three briefings scheduled.

    “It’s remarkable that, even at their peak, they never exceeded 20 per month,” said Ned Price, a former CIA analyst and a spokesman for the National Security Council during the Obama administration.

    “And now that they are arguably more important than ever, as foreign actors are again interfering in our democracy, tensions with Beijing are swirling, and America’s adversaries and competitors are becoming more emboldened, the president can’t seem to find the time to be briefed,” he added.

    Both of Trump’s immediate predecessors took daily briefings in the White House. Republican George W. Bush typically had his shortly after his arrival in the Oval Office at 6:45 a.m. each day. Democrat Barack Obama had the written material, known as the “President’s Daily Brief,” loaded onto his iPad by 6 a.m. each day, when he would read it prior to the in-person session later in the morning.

    Trump, by contrast, rarely gets to the West Wing before noon after spending much of each morning watching television and posting tweets based on his viewing….

    One former top White House aide, asked on condition of anonymity whether Trump actually took more intelligence briefings than were reflected on his public schedules, began laughing aloud. The aide’s reaction was the same when asked whether Trump reads the intelligence briefing books prepared for him.

    Trump’s last national security adviser, John Bolton, has stated publicly that Trump does not read his intelligence briefing book and that making him absorb information was a difficult challenge.

    “He’s just not receptive to new facts,” Bolton told CBS News last month. “The intelligence briefings don’t communicate as much information as they should. We tried to think of ways to change that. I think it was probably a doomed effort.”

    “Whether it’s ignoring the impending pandemic or looking the other way in response to Moscow’s bounties on our service members, Trump has demonstrated time and again that he’s not one to put America’s national security first,” Price said. “Especially when doing so comes into conflict with what’s best for him politically.”

    Resign.

  223. says

    Andrew Kaczynski:

    Current status of the Trump admin.

    The nominee for the Pentagon #3 said Obama was a Muslim terrorist.

    The nominee to head OPM said John Podesta took part in Satanic rituals.

    The nominee for head of BLM said there wasn’t a hole in the Ozone layer.

    The current pick to be Germany ambassador called Muslims in Germany “invaders” trying to to turn the country into an Islamic state.

    Appointed “principal officer” at the US Consulate in Bermuda, whose nomination would’ve failed to be ambassador there shared fringe conspiracies.

  224. says

    #Breaking Bashar al-Assad has a low-blood episode during a speech he gave to the new members of the Syrian parliament. I was told about the incident by an insider, but it’s now officially mentioned here. The speech will air in one hour, and they’ll probably keep that part.

    Possible causes, from medical experts, include (most likely) just low blood pressure, heart issues (infarction or angina), or early coronavirus.

    The moment when #Assad started to have problems and almost fainted as he delivered a speech at the new Parliament: footage from before and after the incident….”

    Video atl.

  225. says

    Coverage of the joint appearance and speeches from Biden and Harris today:

    Former Vice President Joe Biden appeared for the first time with his newly-announced running mate Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) on Wednesday.

    From a high school gymnasium in Delaware, the pair delivered fiery speeches condemning the Trump administration’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and promising a new way forward in 2021.

    “She’s going to stand with me in this campaign, and all of us are going to stand up for her,” Biden said of the California senator, who broke barriers Tuesday as the first Black woman and first Asian American on a major political party’s presidential ticket. (Harris’ mother immigrated to the United States from India, and her father from Jamaica.) […]

    “I told him I wanted to be the last person in the room before he made important decisions,” Biden recalled. “That’s what I asked Kamala.”

    Biden noted that his campaign’s supporters seemed excited about the pick: The campaign set a new single-day record for online political fundraising on Tuesday, he said.

    Harris, taking the stage after Biden, said she was honored by the responsibility and “ready to get to work.”

    “This is a moment of real consequence for America. Everything we care about — our economy, our health, our children, the kind of country we live in — is all on the line,” she said.

    Trump’s mismanagement of the pandemic, Harris said, had plunged the country into an economic crisis.

    “And we’re experiencing a moral reckoning with racism and systemic injustice that has brought a new coalition of conscience to the streets of our country demanding change,” she continued.

    “America is crying out for leadership,” she said. “Yet we have a president who cares more about himself than the people who elected him.” […]

    On Wednesday, the senator repeated the phrase she used to kick off her own presidential campaign last year, one she used as a prosecutor: “Kamala Harris for the people.”

    “Let me tell you, as somebody who has presented my fair share of arguments in court, the case against Donald Trump and Mike Pence is open and shut,” she said.

    TPM link

    Video is available at the link.

  226. says

    Hannity hands Trump a softball question about Kamala Harris and Trump loses his mind

    Anything that can be perceived as an attack on Trump […] throws the aspiring fascist into a tizzy. On Tuesday, Trump called in to talk to his bestie, Sean Hannity of Fox News. While the show ran, Trump rambled about this and that and this and that … and this and that.

    Hannity and the rest of the misinformation propaganda wing of the Republican Party’s job when interviewing any official is to tee up softball questions that allow said official to go right into a (usually) pre-rehearsed set of talking points. This job is considerably tougher when the official being interviewed is Donald Trump. Trump is a man with a mediocre mind and an aversion to reading I’ve only seen from a 6-year-old who wants to watch Ninjago. This means that craven mouthpieces like Hannity must tee up the softball questions, usually with the actual talking point included, in the hopes that Trump will remember the words and repeat them.

    On Tuesday night, Trump didn’t take the miles of runway Sean Hannity laid out for him and instead treated the world to a ramble so incoherent, a saner Republican Party would have him impeached on its transcript alone.

    The conversation was obviously supposed to be about Kamala Harris being chosen for the Biden ticket. Hannity’s job on Fox News was clearly supposed to be to attack Harris and Joe Biden, talk about Harris and Biden’s arguments about race, and let Trump win the day. Instead, Trump said this: [Important note: All punctuation here consists of guesses by the author as Trump doesn’t exactly … well, you know.]

    “Well, first of all, what you said about Russia: The New York Times is fake reporting, it’s a fake newspaper as far as I’m concerned, and Washington Post likewise. I always try to figure out which is worse. And then you have CNN and frankly ABC, CBS, NBC, and, but you have some good ones in between. Locals are great. Locals we do great in, but couldn’t possibly be here and on social media. I don’t, does anybody do better, in terms of importance of social media? So we get the word out.”

    Let’s just take a breather. That’s literally 1/6th of Trump’s breathy, uninterrupted ramble. From here Trump says that there are good journalists who know that Russia was a “hoax,” and then he begins to attack the Pulitzer Prize.

    “And a lot of our Congress and Senate, they got it right and they got it wrong, and they got Pulitzer Prizes. The Pulitzer Prize is worthless as far as I’m concerned because when you have the Maggie Habermans getting a Pulitzer Prize and she got it all wrong, she doesn’t. I haven’t spoken to her in forever, she’s like my biographer, like she knows everything about me. She knows nothing about me.”

    Let’s take another breather. Trump then goes back into Russia being a hoax and then mentions he didn’t think Susan Rice would have been the vice presidential pick, being she was a part of the hoax. It must be pointed out that technically, the Rice mention is tangentially connected to the Hannity question in that Harris is the vice presidential pick, and Rice was someone people speculated was being considered. Then Trump repeats that this was all a scandal and a hoax and finishes with his newfound fixation on the Pulitzer Prize.

    “But these writers, the writers got Pulitzer Prizes, and that shows you a Pulitzer Prize is worthless. And frankly, you ought to start a petition to return the Pulitzer Prize because they were all wrong. They were wrong on this one. The whole subject of Russia Russia Russia was made up, fabricated. It was a crime that was committed, and you look at Hillary Clinton where she paid for the fake dossier, and now the dossier is proven to be totally fake. It’s a disgrace what happened and no other president should have to go through it, Sean.”

    Sean, like the bag of dead souls he is, takes Trump’s Russia hoax finish and just regurgitates it back in what is arguably one of the most pathetically groveling performances I’ve ever listened to in my life. Trump is terrified and the only thing he knows is that his base likes hearing him attacking Comey and giving lip service to some faint QAnon conspiracy theory about the world being controlled by Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

  227. says

    A quote from Joe Biden’s speech:

    This morning, all across the nation, little black and brown girls who so often feel overlooked, may just see themselves for the first time in a new way as the stuff of presidents and vice presidents.

    A quote from Kamala Harris’ speech:

    [Trump] inherited the longest economic expansion in history from Barack Obama and Joe Biden. And then, like everything else he inherited, he ran it straight into the ground.

  228. stroppy says

    Lynna, OM @312

    I don’t know whether to laugh or cry, he’s so clearly off the beam, and people keep treating him like he still has half a mind left. I mean you can’t make a situation like this up. Well, maybe you can; we have a cartoon for a president — poor substitute for Abe Simpson, though.

    “We can’t bust heads like we used to, but we have our ways. One trick is to tell them stories that don’t go anywhere. Like the time I took the ferry to Shelbyville. I needed a new heel for my shoe so I decided to go to Morganville, which is what they called Shelbyville in those days. So I tied an onion to my belt, which was the style at the time. Now to take the ferry cost a nickel, and in those days, nickels had pictures of bumblebees on them. Give me five bees for a quarter you’d say. Now where were we, oh yeah. The important thing was that I had an onion on my belt, which was the style at the time. They didn’t have white onions because of the war. The only thing you could get was those big yellow ones.”

  229. johnson catman says

    re stroppy @315: Abe Simpson sounds MUCH more coherent than The Orange Toddler-Tyrant.

  230. says

    The strikes appear to be continuing in Belarus.

    Incredible video. After a factory manager claims Lukashenko won the election, one man yells: ‘Stand up if you voted for Tsikhanouvskaya!’ Everyone stands up. Times are changing in Belarus.”

    It’s only 9am in Minsk but women and doctors have already begun lining the streets and cars are beeping. Yesterday’s protests were some of the most effective so far. Internet opening led to masses of brutal images/videos but also lots of videos of solidarity and fighting back”

    Thousands of people stand holding flowers on Mink’s main avenue right now in the middle of a working day. No police on display here. People lose fear in Belarus.”

    #BREAKING. US Secretary of State @SecPompeo urged #Belarus authorities to conduct a fresh presidential #election with international observers present to provide for full transparency:…”

  231. johnson catman says

    re SC @317:

    US Secretary of State @SecPompeo urged #Belarus authorities to conduct a fresh presidential #election with international observers present to provide for full transparency:…”

    We might need some international observers in the US to prevent the present administration from suppressing the free exercise of our votes.

  232. says

    Here’s a link to the August 13 Guardian coronavirus world liveblog.

    From there:

    Sénéquier, a famous restaurant based in the French Riviera town of St Tropez, is shutting for two weeks after the discovery of two Covid-19 cases on its premises.

    The closure of Sénéquier highlights the challenges faced by the French tourism industry following a recent resurgence in Covid-19 cases in France.

    Prosecutors have investigated Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte and six members of his government over how they handled the coronavirus crisis, but have recommended the case be dropped, Conte’s office has said.

    Judicial sources confirmed the prosecutors had investigated the ministers following lawsuits filed in recent months in various cities on accusations including manslaughter, creating a pandemic and curbing Italians’ political rights.

    The Rome-based prosecutors concluded the accusations were groundless and the case should be dropped, the premier’s office said in a statement.

    Under a standard procedure, the prosecutors sent the files to the Ministers Tribunal, a special court which is called to rule on cases involving the prime minister and other ministers, and which could still order Conte and his ministers to face trial. However this is considered unlikely following the prosecutors’ recommendation.

    The ministers involved along with Conte are health minister Roberto Speranza, economy minister Roberto Gualtieri, interior minister Luciana Lamorgese, foreign minister Luigi Di Maio, defence minister Lorenzo Guerini and justice minister Alfonso Bonafede.

    Italy was the first European country to be hit hard by the coronavirus and has recorded more than 35,000 deaths.

    Conte said on Facebook on Thursday, “We always took responsibility for (our) decisions. Very demanding ones, at times painful, taken without having a manual, guidelines, or protocols”.

    “We always acted (supported by) science and with conscience, without claiming to be infallible, and aware that we must make as few mistakes as possible,” he said, adding that the government’s actions were always “cautious and transparent”.

    In June Conte, Lamorgese and Speranza were questioned by prosecutors about the country’s response to the epidemic.

    At the time Conte said he would tell prosecutors everything he knew and was not worried by the possibility he could be personally investigated.

    Conte’s office said on Thursday that he and the ministers would fully cooperate with magistrates.

  233. says

    #Belarus
    First defection from the presidential administration.

    Artyom Proskalovich, Deputy Head of the Department of Legislation in Law Enforcement and Military Spheres of the Main State Legal Department has resigned.

    And yes, that’s his real job title.”

  234. KG says

    SC@317 and earlier,

    I think (and hope) Lukashenko blundered in claiming 80% of the vote, with Tsikhanouvskaya on 10%. If he’d claimed a narrow win, with votes for him in rural areas counteracting the evident support for Tsikhanouvskaya in the cities, more people could at least have pretended to believe the figures with some conviction. As it is, anyone who does so is declaring themselves a liar.

  235. says

    Roger Stone: ‘I was unfairly persecuted by a politically motivated prosecutor during that period. I prayed to God to deliver me from persecutors during that period. I was reborn as a Christian’.”

    Never has a photo conveyed less honesty. Also, is he morphing into Mike Pence?

  236. johnson catman says

    re SC @326: So, is there a “voluntary contribution” that is required in order to attend the event? I mean, grifters gonna grift, right?

  237. says

    White House announces normalization of two non enemies UAE and Israel as a historic peace breakthrough, notes the deep appreciation mbz and netanyahu expressed for Trump

    Feels partly like Trump calling in pre election favors from countries he thinks owe him

    Friend calls this the ‘campaignification’ of US foreign policy…”

    Israel remains committed to annexing parts of the West Bank, a senior Israeli official says. ‘The Trump administration ask to temporarily suspend the announcement [of applying sovereignty] in order to first implement the historic peace agreement with the UAE’.”

  238. says

    johnson catman @ #328, you can be sure they’ll be asking for money. Your question led me to read the article:

    …It’s the first church Stone is scheduled will speak at since his re-commitment , though he’s done Christian radio interviews.

    Global Vision has fielded multiple phone calls who have spoken “(only) cuss words about having him,” Locke said.

    But there has also been a “barrage of online support,” Locke said.

    Locke has a large social media following himself and has produced multiple videos that have gone viral on subjects like Islam in public schools, transgender bathrooms at Target and abortion that have involved both Planned Parenthood and a local facility opened in Mt. Juliet named carafem.

    Locke will speak with Stone at the upcoming service and expects politics to be raised with Stone’s faith.

    “We’re one election away from losing everything,” Locke said. “We really don’t have anything to lose and I expect we’ll speak out about what we consider to be the issues.”

    Global Vision Bible Church at 2060 Old Lebanon Dirt Road, started meeting in an outdoor tent to continue Sunday services during the COVID-19 pandemic and attendance has grown to around 500, Locke said. The service time is 10:30 a.m.

    Stone claimed he couldn’t risk going to prison in a facility with no documented cases at the time. He lives in Florida. He’s now traveling to Tennessee (rolling 7-day average of 1,756 new cases/day) to speak indoors in a church where it’s highly unlikely masks will be worn.

  239. says

    Michael McFaul:

    Pompeo’s speech in Prague was on “Securing Freedom in the Heart of Europe.” By my quick count, # of mentions of Belarus-0; Ukraine-0; Hungary-0; Russia, one sentence; Chinese Communist Party – 12 +. & said China is bigger threat than Russia there. Wow.

    Useful phrases to mention in the next USG speech about Securing Freedom in Europe: “annexation violates the most basic norm of the international system” , “Belarusian dictator”, “brave Belarusian democratic protestors,” “Russian autocracy”, or “Hungarian democratic backsliding”

  240. says

    SC @330, I watched part of the announcement of the supposed breakthroughs in creating peace in the Middle East. About 80% of the speechifying was various lickspittles praising the Orange Dear Leader. It was painful to watch. The praise-the-Emperor shit was so obvious.

    In other news, Trump favorited a tweet referring to Kamala Harris as a “whorendous pick.” Trump himself called Harris a “sort of madwoman” on Fox business this morning. Harris gave an excellent speech yesterday. So coherent. So strong. So effective. I think her strengths as a candidate are pushing Trump into maximum misogyny mode.

    In other, other news, Republican operatives in Montana who are collecting ballot signatures for Kanye West’s presidential candidacy are asking local voters, “You want to help Trump?” […] “We’re trying to take votes away from” Biden. Again, obvious. Kanye West is reportedly speaking with Jared Kushner “almost daily.” Polls show Kanye getting 2% of the vote.

    stroppy @315,

    […] we have a cartoon for a president — poor substitute for Abe Simpson, though.

    Ha! Thanks for that.

  241. says

    Soldiers are with the people!

    This is one of thousands of solidarity actions taking place in Belarus today. Vishnyovka village with the population of 43.”

    The workers of the striking Grodno Azot decided to march to the city centre after the end of their shift. Locals greet them like rockstars!”

    ‘I gave my vow to the people’ – says the soldier who brought flowers to the protesters in Smorgon, Grodno region.”

    Videos at the links. Please wear masks!

  242. says

    Guardian world liveblog:

    France reports new post-lockdown peak in daily Covid-19 cases

    The French health ministry reported 2,669 new coronavirus infections over the past 24 hours on Thursday, setting a new post-lockdown daily high for the second day in a row and taking the country’s cumulative total of cases to 209,365.

    The seven-day moving average of new infections, which averages out weekly data reporting irregularities, increased to 1,962, a total that has doubled over the last two weeks and is at levels not seen since the end of April.

  243. tomh says

    US Supreme Court leaves RI mail-ballot agreement in place

    WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday left in place an agreement that allows Rhode Island residents to vote by mail in two upcoming elections without signing their ballots in the presence of two witnesses or a notary.

    State officials had agreed to suspend the requirement because of the coronavirus pandemic. They have said that fulfilling the requirement results in close contact between voters and others, which could expose people to the virus.

    The high court rejected an effort by the Republican National Committee and the Republican Party of Rhode Island to put the agreement on hold, noting that “no state official has expressed opposition.”

    Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch dissented and would have put the agreement on hold.

  244. says

    Oh, FFS.

    […] Trump added that modern showerheads are inadequate when washing what he described as his “beautiful head of hair.”

    Much of the Republican’s rhetoric about appliances was demonstrably wrong, but as time progressed, his focus didn’t change, even as the coronavirus pandemic intensified. “So showerheads — you take a shower, the water doesn’t come out,” Trump said at a White House event last month. “You want to wash your hands, the water doesn’t come out. So what do you do? You just stand there longer or you take a shower longer? Because my hair — I don’t know about you, but it has to be perfect. Perfect.” He peddled similar rhetoric last week at a Whirlpool manufacturing plant in Ohio.

    As Bloomberg News reported yesterday that for the Trump administration, this wasn’t just idle chatter.

    The Energy Department proposed easing water efficiency requirements for shower heads Wednesday following multiple complaints from President Donald Trump about how low water flow is impeding his ability to properly wash his hair. The plan would allow manufacturers to bypass a 2.5 gallon-per-minute maximum flow rate set by Congress in the 1990s.

    The Associated Press had a related report, noting that consumer and conservation groups believe changing the existing standards is “silly, unnecessary and wasteful, especially as the West bakes through a historic two-decade-long megadrought.”

    Since 1992, federal law has dictated that new showerheads shouldn’t pour more than 2.5 gallons of water per minute (9.5 liters). As newer shower fixtures came out with multiple nozzles, the Obama administration defined the showerhead restrictions to apply to what comes out in total. So if there are four nozzles, no more than 2.5 gallons total should come out between all four. The new proposal Wednesday would allow each nozzle to spray as much as 2.5 gallons, not just the overall showerhead. With four or five or more nozzles, “you could have 10, 15 gallons per minute powering out of the showerhead, literally probably washing you out of the bathroom,” said Andrew deLaski, executive director of the energy conservation group Appliance Standards Awareness Project.

    There is no reason to do this. Indeed, there’s no evidence of public demand for such a change, and it would serve no policy purpose to abandon the existing standards. […]

    Link

  245. says

    Follow-up to SC’s comment 321.

    White House’s Kudlow: Voting rights are part of ‘liberal wish list’

    Larry Kudlow characterized voting rights — a cornerstone of any healthy democracy — as something found on “really liberal, left wish lists.”

    […] Trump will not support a coronavirus relief deal that includes “voting rights” provisions backed by Democrats, White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow said Thursday. “So much of the Democratic asks are really liberal, left wish lists — voting rights and aid to aliens and so forth,” he told CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street” when asked about the administration’s stalled aid talks with Democratic leaders.

    Quoted text above is from CNBC.

    Commentary:

    […] Just to help provide some additional context to this, [Trump] this morning effectively confessed that he’s trying to undermine his own country’s Postal System in order to derail mail-in voting — a process he and his team rely on to cast their own ballots, but which Trump believes will cause him to lose if widely embraced by the public.

    “Now, they need that money in order to have the post office work, so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots,” Trump said this morning, referring to the U.S. Postal Service. “But if they don’t get those two items, that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting, because they’re not equipped to have it.”

    It was soon after that the top economics voice in the White House characterized voting rights — a cornerstone of any healthy democracy — as something found on “really liberal, left wish lists.”

    […] there are a variety of questions Kudlow and the rest of Team Trump should try to answer at this point:

    * Why is the idea of protecting voting rights during the coronavirus pandemic, in a bill related to responding to the coronavirus pandemic, so offensive to the White House?

    * Why does Team Trump consider voting rights a priority limited to “liberals” and the “left”?

    * If the White House sees voting rights as irrelevant in a coronavirus bill, can Team Trump explain why it’s fighting to include funding for a new FBI building and multiple fighter jets in the same legislation?

    It’s worth emphasizing that congressional Democrats are, in fact, pushing for voting protections as part of the “Phase IV” economic plan. In fact, as Axios noted this morning, Democrats want $3.6 billion for universal mail-in voting and $25 billion for the USPS in the bill.

    I expected Trump and other Republicans to come up with some kind of pretextual explanation for opposing such investments. Instead, White House officials, including the president, are being quite candid in their position: they want to make it harder for Americans to vote.

  246. says

    Trump’s order on eviction protections unravels into ‘nothing’

    “I want to make it unmistakably clear that I’m protecting people from evictions,” Trump insisted. It’d be great if that were true. It’s really not.

    Unable to negotiate a deal with Congress, Donald Trump signed a series of executive actions over the weekend, most of which unraveled in the days that followed. The president said, for example, that he was reviving a “generous” unemployment-aid program, which is badly flawed and at odds with his own description.

    Similarly, Trump said he was cutting the payroll tax through an executive action, but that’s not going according to plan, either.

    And then, of course, there’s the measure on evictions. Trump said over the weekend, “I’m protecting people from eviction.” Trump added on Tuesday, “We’re stopping evictions. We are stopping evictions. We’re not going to let that happen.”

    […] “I want to make it unmistakably clear that I’m protecting people from evictions. They didn’t want to do that. The Democrats didn’t want to do a protection from evictions.”

    There are two basic problems with this. The first is that the Democratic plan, which was approved in mid-May, included unambiguous eviction protections. Either Trump didn’t read the Democratic plan and he’s condemning something he knows nothing about, or he’s brazenly lying. Both seem equally plausible: the president routinely lacks a basic understanding of policy disputes and he’s uncontrollably dishonest.

    […] he hasn’t actually protected anyone from evictions. Trump’s new executive order doesn’t include an eviction moratorium, doesn’t include funds to help Americans pay mortgages or rent, and simply asks relevant agencies to “consider whether any measures temporarily halting residential evictions of any tenants for failure to pay rent are reasonably necessary.”

    […] Trump issued an order asking administration officials to see if there’s something they can do.

    A Politico report added this week, “[N]ot only would his action fail to halt evictions, it wouldn’t do much of anything to immediately help the 20 million or so Americans who face the loss of their homes in the next few months amid the coronavirus crisis.” […]

    And yet, there Trump stood, repeatedly declaring with pride that he’s “protecting people” from evictions and “stopping evictions.”

    We’ll probably never know for sure, but I’d love to know whether the president believes his own nonsense, or whether Trump is peddling a claim he knows to be false.

  247. says

    CNN – “California church defies public health orders, holds indoor services for thousands with no social distancing”:

    To hear Pastor John MacArthur tell it, all Grace Community Church did was open its doors and the people came, like the animals to Noah’s Ark.

    The megachurch in suburban Los Angeles had closed its doors in mid-March because of the coronavirus pandemic. It announced plans to re-open in May, but a federal court upheld the state’s ban on indoor services. The church reopened in late July.

    “People started slowly coming back,” MacArthur told CNN on Tuesday, “and they just kept coming until there were six or seven thousand.”

    That’s several thousand more people than California allows at indoor worship services. According to an order issued July 29, houses of worship in Los Angeles County must limit indoor gatherings to 100 people or 25% of the building’s capacity, whichever is lower.

    “I’m so happy to welcome you to the Grace Community Church peaceful protest,” MacArthur said from the pulpit last Sunday, as his congregation, few of whom appeared to be wearing masks or social distancing, erupted into applause.

    The pastor has said his church offers an outdoor tent for worshipers, but photos and videos posted on social media by church officials show indoor services and tightly packed rows of congregants, most if not all of whom are maskless.

    On Thursday, the church’s lawyers announced they had filed suit on behalf of the church challenging California’s restrictions on indoor services.

    In holding church, MacArthur is betting on divine protection in a pandemic hotspot. Los Angeles County is reporting 1,500-2,000 new Covid-19 infections a day.

    The pastor told CNN on Tuesday that no members of his megachurch have contracted the virus. MacArthur also said he doubted the accuracy of California’s coronavirus numbers.

    “We open the doors because that’s what we are,” he said. “We’re a church, and we’re going to trust those people to make adult decisions about the reality of their physical and spiritual health.”

    Just 6% of Americans who regularly attend services say their congregation is operating as usual, according to a recent survey. Most of the pastors who have bucked the rules are fringe figures in American Christianity.

    MacArthur is not. While he seldom backs down from a theological argument, the longtime preacher is considered a respected if fiery-tongued figure among many evangelicals, particularly conservative Calvinists.

    From his megachurch in Sun Valley, MacArthur’s biblical commentaries, books and online sermons have influenced countless evangelicals. He was president of Master’s College in Los Angeles and founded a related seminary. MacArthur’s media ministry, including the long-running radio show “Grace to You,” rakes in more than $20 million per year in cash donations.

    MacArthur’s status has led to some prominent voices supporting his cause.

    “I’m praying for and thankful for Dr. John MacArthur,” tweeted Ronnie Floyd, who leads the Southern Baptist Convention’s executive committee, “(and) other pastors across the country who are facing government encroachment on the fundamental rights to free exercise of religion and freedom of assembly.”

    MacArthur also has friends in powerful secular places. The Thomas More Society, a conservative legal firm that specializes in religious rights, said Jenna Ellis, a senior legal adviser to President Trump’s 2020 campaign, will be among the attorneys representing the pastor and his congregation….

    I saw the CNN interview the other day. He takes no responsibility for anything.

  248. says

    Twitter Roasts DeSantis For Comparing School Reopenings To Osama bin Laden Raid

    Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ (R) audacious comparison of reopening schools to the raid that killed Osama bin Laden on Wednesday swiftly prompted Twitter users to pan his remark, which comes amid skyrocketing COVID-19 fatalities in the state.

    During a press conference on Wednesday, DeSantis continued pushing for schools to resume in-person instruction and brought up a remark from a conversation that he supposedly had with Martin County Superintendent Laurie Gaylord recently.

    “She viewed reopening her schools as a mission akin to a Navy SEAL operation,” DeSantis said. “Just as the SEALs surmounted obstacles to bring Osama bin Laden to justice, so too would the Martin County School system find a way to provide parents with a meaningful choice of in-person instruction or continued distance learning.”

    DeSantis’ latest remarks demanding schools to reopen — which echoes President Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ calls for in-person instruction resume at schools despite surging COVID-19 cases nationwide — prompted both criticism and mockery on Twitter soon after. […]

    “Who’s bin laden in this metaphor?” […]

    “I didn’t believe this, until I watched it. What in the fresh hell…” […]

    “Kept waiting for the guy providing the sign language to just give up and start making obscene gestures.”

    Video is available at the link.

  249. says

    Trump has finally found a doctor who is willing to assist in spreading pandemic propaganda

    From the day Donald Trump introduced the Coronavirus Response Team, theoretically under the leadership of Mike Pence, it was clear that Dr. Anthony Fauci was going to be a problem. Having been the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health since 1984, Fauci is widely respected, experienced, and knowledgeable. But while he carefully tiptoed around simply calling Trump a know-nothing liar from the press room of the White House, and even stood by as Trump pushed dangerous drugs and speculated on injectable bleach, Fauci did have a tendency to appear on American televisions and tell the truth. That could never be tolerated.

    So Fauci was ordered off the airwaves and instructed not to appear in front of Congress. But that still left Trump with CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield. The Trump appointee had reliably praised Trump and silently served as a convenient scapegoat when necessary, but somewhere around authoring reasonable school guidelines, Redfield was discarded.

    That meant the only acceptable doctor left on Trump’s coronavirus team was Deborah Birx, who had been prowling the White House for months backing up Trump’s claims that COVID-19 was going to just “go away.” But, by the beginning of August, Birx admitted to the sad lack of magic and warned that the virus was exploding across the country.

    With that fresh disappointment in mind, Trump went doctor shopping. And he found his answer to that issue where he finds the answer for everything else: Fox News.

    When Trump appeared this week for his latest coronavirus update, Dr. Fauci, Dr. Redfield, and Dr. Birx were nowhere to be seen. But there was a new face on the stage—Dr. Scott Atlas.

    Atlas is an epidemiologist … wait, no he’s not. Atlas is an infectious disease specialist … only no, not that either. Atlas is a vaccine specialist? Knowledgeable on hospital utilization? At least capable of recognizing the threat posed by COVID-19? No, no, and no.

    As CNN reports, Atlas is a Hoover Institute Republican and Fox News commentator, whose sole qualifications to join Trump at the White House is that he agrees with Trump on everything. Everything. That includes how schools should reopen fully, no matter how much of a threat that poses, and that what America needs most right now is college sports. Atlas has appeared on Fox to criticize stay-at-home orders, and to explain how children aren’t really at risk from COVID-19

    (To be clear, children are really at risk from COVID-19. So are all the adults in their lives.)

    […] The White House “declined to say” whether or not Atlas was getting paid a taxpayer-funded salary which means … yes, yes he is.

    Who is Atlas really? His only medical certification is in “diagnostic radiology.” That means his job is—or was, before Trump declared him “a world renowned physician and scholar of advanced medical care”—to read X-rays ordered up by other physicians. It’s a top notch job for doctors who never want to see an actual patient. It also gives Atlas qualifications as an adviser on COVID-19 only slightly worse than the guy who delivers Trump’s Big Macs, because at least the Big Mac guy can speak about the threats to essential workers.

    It’s entirely appropriate that as Trump has restarted his coronavirus briefings he’s been clear that he “did not want the experts” in the room with him. Instead, he’s bringing along Atlas. Because for Trump, the only good advice … is his own advice.

  250. says

    Newsweek claims birtherism article about Kamala Harris isn’t about race—it’s absolutely about race

    On Wednesday, Newsweek choose to go long on the New Birtherism by publishing an article from law professor John Eastman questioning Kamala Harris’ eligibility as a vice presidential candidate. And when that article generated an entirely justifiable amount of anger, Newsweek decided to double down with an “editor’s note” claiming that this article had “no connection whatsoever to so-called ‘birther-ism,’ the racist 2008 conspiracy theory aimed at delegitimizing then-candidate Barack Obama.” Instead, says the editors of Newsweek who provided this platform to Eastman, it’s just an “arcane legal debate” that they happen to be fronting.

    The problem with this is … of course it’s racism. Eastman isn’t some random law professor arguing the definition of a particular clause in the 14th amendment, he’s a Federalist Society chairman and former clerk to Clarence Thomas. Eastman is also a fellow of the hard-right “think tank” the Claremont Institute, which last year provided a fellowship to Pizzagate promoter Jack Posobiec. It’s an honor Eastman shares with John Hinderaker. Hinderaker, who just happened to come up with the same argument against Barack Obama. Because it’s absolutely about race—and Eastman makes that blazingly clear from the start.

    […] the New Birtherism isn’t about where Kamala Harris was born, just about who she happened to be born to. Here’s Eastman’s own words about this “dispute.”

    Her father was (and is) a Jamaican national, her mother was from India, and neither was a naturalized U.S. citizen at the time of Harris’ birth in 1964.

    Eastman’s entire claim then is that, despite being born in Oakland, Harris was unfortunate in having the wrong parents. So she isn’t really an American. Not an American like Eastman. This argument isn’t somehow less racist than claims that Barack Obama wasn’t actually born in the United States, it’s more directly, more openly so.

    Eastman then spends the remainder of his article making the long-demolished case that the 14th Amendment was never intended to let just anyone born in the United States be an American, despite the clear language of the article. None of this matters. It doesn’t matter in part because it’s 1) an argument invented decades after the fact that subverts the phrase “subject to the jurisdiction thereof” to turn the intent of the amendment on its head, 2) an argument that has been rightfully dismissed by courts at all levels, and 3) outright nonsense which is only invoked if the candidate in question happens to be other than white.

    […] his piece isn’t purely aimed at disenfranchising Kamala Harris. That’s because the argument he makes is also intended to turn every child of immigrant parents into a non-citizen. His birtherism is of the end birthright citizenship variety.

    Eastman’s argument against Harris falls back on the whole claim that being born in the United States isn’t enough—to be a citizen, someone has to be born to parents who are also citizens […]

    In defending their running of Eastman’s attack on Harris—and every other child of immigrant parents—Newsweek claims that the 14th Amendment is “heavily studied” and that questions were raised concerning John McCain and Ted Cruz during their president runs because both were born outside the United States. That argument is, to put it mildly, bullshit. No Democratic candidate stood on stage and called either McCain or Cruz ineligible for office. No national paper put forth a serious article making that case. […] The fact that both were born outside the U.S. was acknowledged, and dismissed. […]

    Newsweek’s idea of defending Eastman is to simply repeat his entire case, but with claims that are even more vague (“leading law schools have long entertained debates” and “scholars robustly disagree”) and lacking even Eastman’s pissant attempt at finding a citation. Then they end with a claim about Eastman that delivers him a spit-and-polish shine […], calling him “a preeminent constitutional scholar.” Eastman is nothing of the sort.

    Eastman is another hack who exists within the cotton-soft swaddling of the right-wing think tank industry and his position exists only to provide a mallet to swing against not just Kamala Harris but millions of Americans whose parents aren’t American enough—aren’t specifically white enough—for the likes of John Eastman and his benefactors. It isn’t just racism, it’s racism from a racism factory.

    It’s racism. It’s xenophobia. It’s an attempt to disenfranchise Kamala Harris and steal American citizenship from generations. It’s an argument that would turn on its head every “born on Ellis Island” story of children of immigrants who are just as American as any other American. Newsweek should be embarrassed to have published it, and ashamed to defend it.

  251. says

    https://twitter.com/AOC/status/1293914113266126848

    Excellent point from AOC:

    Let’s make a deal, Mr. President:

    You release your college transcript, I’ll release mine, and we’ll see who was the better student.

    Loser has to fund the Post Office.

    That was in response to Trump’s statement:

    AOC was a poor student … this is not even a smart person, other than she’s got a good line of stuff. I mean, she goes out and she yaps.

    Donald Trump’s niece, Mary Trump, says he paid someone else to take the SATs for him.

  252. says

    About that new Middle East deal:

    Israel and the United Arab Emirates just agreed to a historic deal to normalize their long-strained relations […]

    In a surprise announcement Thursday, the US, Israel, and the United Arab Emirates put out a joint statement outlining how the two Middle Eastern nations will develop ties in numerous areas including investment, security, tourism, technology, and energy, and will establish formal embassies in each others’ countries.

    But at the heart of the agreement is a trade: As the statement lays out, Israel will “suspend declaring sovereignty over” parts of the West Bank that it had previously expressed intentions to annex. In exchange, the UAE will treat Israel as it would any other country it has friendly relations with — making it only the third Arab country to have such open relations with Jerusalem. […]

    Israel won’t — at least for now — annex parts of the West Bank, a move that would’ve all but shut the door on a two-state solution between the Israelis and Palestinians. […]

    As my colleague Jen Kirby explained:

    Under the two-state framework historically supported by the United States and the international community, the vast bulk of the West Bank would be returned to the Palestinians. As part of a final peace deal, Israelis and Palestinians would negotiate what to do about the settlements, with some heavily populated blocs near Israel’s recognized borders likely to be ceded to Israel. But peace talks have stalled for years, and there is no deal anywhere on the horizon.

    Instead, the Israeli right has been pushing for Netanyahu’s government to just go ahead and unilaterally annex significant portions of the West Bank that it wants to keep, making them officially part of Israel proper, regardless of what the Palestinians think about it.

    In January, the Trump administration unveiled its “peace plan,” developed by US and Israeli officials without the input of Palestinian leaders, who refused to participate. The plan helped create the conditions for Netanyahu to move forward with unilateral annexation, and for months, it looked as though Netanyahu was going to do it. In fact, it was supposed to officially happen as soon as July 1.

    But it didn’t.

    Now we know the likely reason for the stalled annexation: Trump and his team aimed to strike a deal to convince Netanyahu otherwise.

    However, some claim the Israeli leader needed a way to back out of such a controversial promise. “Bibi climbs down from a tree it never seemed like he really wanted to be in,” Yair Rosenberg, a writer at the Jewish news-focused Tablet Magazine, tweeted after the deal’s revelation. Even if that is right, getting the UAE to normalize ties with the country is a pretty good way to get out of a corner.

    […] this makes life a bit easier for Israel. The last peace deal it struck with an Arab country was with Jordan in 1994 (it signed one with Egypt in 1979). […]

    Thursday’s joint statement said both countries would now accelerate their cooperation in search of a treatment and a vaccine. That’s a marked shift from just two months ago when Netanyahu announced a coronavirus partnership with the UAE, only to have the Arab country a few hours later say the only ties were between companies from both nations, not their governments.

    This agreement may help the UAE do business with Israel, which in turn should help the Arab nation’s economy. Put together, this deal is mostly a win-win for the UAE […]

    Many caveats still apply, though. Among other possibilities, Israel and the UAE could hit many snags as they work on how, exactly, to normalize relations.

    Netanyahu will likely face anger from the Israeli far-right, particularly the thousands of Israeli settlers in the West Bank who hoped Netanyahu would follow through on his annexation promise. “We were tricked,” Shai Alon, head of the pro-settler Beit El Regional Council, said in a statement Thursday. “We’ve been betrayed.”

    Palestinian leaders, too, have expressed outrage over the agreement. “Israel got rewarded for not declaring openly what it’s been doing to Palestine illegally & persistently since the beginning of the occupation,” tweeted Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, the official national representative of the Palestinian people. “The UAE has come out in the open on its secret dealings/normalization with Israel. Please don’t do us a favor. We are nobody’s fig leaf!” […]

    Two long-time estranged nations have agreed to be openly friendly with each other, and the US helped — giving Trump one of his biggest foreign policy victories as the election draws near.

    Link

  253. says

    From Wonkette: “Jared Kushner Is Going To Hell”

    On Wednesday, we learned that Kanye West — a totally real independent presidential candidate who just happens to be entirely propped up by Trump-loving Republican operatives trying to ratfuck the election, because they think that Black people are incredibly stupid — met with Jared Kushner last week in Telluride, Colorado. As we have noted, and will continue to note, Kanye West appears to be suffering a mental breakdown at the moment […]

    […] psychologically abusing a person who seems to be suffering a breakdown.

    […] Forbes came out with a report on Kanye’s relationship with Jared — WHO BASICALLY RUNS THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN — and oh my God, it is so much worse and grosser than we knew. They didn’t just meet in Telluride last week. They talk every day, apparently. Or at least “almost daily,” as Kanye has been telling his friends. […]

    Forbes reports that Kanye’s friends who care about him and care that he is clearly experiencing a BIGGIEMCLARGEHUGE mental breakdown are particularly disgusted that the sniveling princeling who shares a bed with the authoritarian president’s daughter is so obviously using Kanye, catering to Kanye’s delusions of grandeur much like he probably caters to his father-in-law’s delusions of grandeur.

    In other words, Jared is telling Kanye that Kanye can win, and Kanye, who for years has exhibited some of the same apparent brain-worms about his own greatness that Donald Trump exhibits, believes him. Because of how he is not well.

    One thing that particularly upsets those close to the Yeezy sneaker mogul, who is openly bipolar, is his apparent delusion about his chances of winning: […] “THE GOAL IS TO WIN,” he blared in a tweet that was liked more than 260,000 times.

    And that seems to be the message that Kushner has been feeding him: “Jared’s scared and doesn’t want me to run because he knows that I can win,” West has told numerous associates after his conversations with the president’s son-in-law, who also serves as de facto chief of Trump’s reelection campaign. That message, the sources close to West acknowledge, is the exact one that will embolden West to stay in the race. “If you know him for more than 20 minutes, you know that will work,” says one West confidant. Adds another: “He’s just like a kid. The more you tell him he can’t do a thing, the more he’ll do it. . . . he has a tremendous drive to prove people wrong.” […]

    Kanye says of Jared, “that’s my boy,” because maybe he has no idea he’s being used, and because his personality is so Trumpy, we highly doubt he’ll listen to anybody around him telling him otherwise.

    Forbes reports that a friend of Kanye’s says what Jared is doing is just making Kanye’s mental illness worse:

    “He’s mentally ill,” says a West friend. “When you have people around him who have the best intentions and don’t need anything from him, you can steer him when he’s in that space into a positive place. When you have people around him who see him as an opportunity, they create a very, very bad scenario.”

    We don’t even believe in hell, but if there’s a God, she might create it just for Jared.

    https://www.wonkette.com/jared-kushner-is-going-to-hell

  254. says

    Trump’s attack on the Postal Service is now a national emergency.

    You’ve heard the joke about the boy who kills his parents, then pleads for mercy from the court on the grounds that he’s an orphan. That’s essentially what President Trump is doing — except the victim is the U.S. Postal Service. The Post reports:

    President Trump says the U.S. Postal Service is incapable of facilitating mail-in voting because it cannot access the emergency funding he is blocking, and made clear that requests for additional aid were nonstarters in coronavirus relief negotiations.

    Trump, who has been railing against mail-in balloting for months, said the cash-strapped agency’s enlarged role in the November election would perpetuate “one of the greatest frauds in history.” Speaking Wednesday at his daily pandemic news briefing, Trump said he would not approve $25 billion in emergency funding for the Postal Service, or $3.5 billion in supplemental funding for election resources, citing prohibitively high costs.

    “They don’t have the money to do the universal mail-in voting. So therefore, they can’t do it, I guess,” Trump said. “Are they going to do it even if they don’t have the money?”

    In an interview on Fox Business on Thursday morning, Trump also said of the money Democrats have requested to help states and the Postal Service ensure that mail ballots are delivered and processed in a timely fashion: “Now they need that money in order to make the post office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots … But if they don’t get those two items that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting.”

    So to summarize: Trump says an election in which too many Americans vote by mail would be illegitimate, so he’s doing everything he can to make sure that the Postal Service can’t handle the huge numbers of ballots it will have to deliver.

    The White House made sure that grants for the Postal Service would not be included in previous coronavirus pandemic rescue packages (“We told them very clearly that the president was not going to sign the bill if [money for the Postal Service] was in it,” an administration official told The Post in April), and as the problems at the Postal Service worsen seemingly by the day, Trump is sending the same message about any new rescue bill Congress might pass.

    And of course, the reason so many people want to vote by mail this year is the continued strength of the pandemic, which is as bad as it is because of Trump’s denial and mismanagement.

    Denying the Postal Service the funds it needs is only part of the plan. Trump’s partner in the project to destroy the Postal Service is Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, the GOP megadonor who has given millions of dollars to the Trump campaign and the Republican Party, and has been on the job for just two months. [snipped details of DeJoy’s sabotage of the Post Office.]

    The following scenario is not only possible, but highly likely: It’s a week from the election and millions of people finally get around to requesting an absentee ballot. They fill out the ballot and mail it back, but by the time it finally makes its way to their local officials, Election Day has passed and their votes don’t count.

    That’s because — and this is vital to understand — in 34 states, including the swing states of Arizona, Georgia, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, ballots can’t just be postmarked by Election Day to count. It has to be received by Election Day. If you mail it three days before, thinking you did everything right, but it doesn’t arrive at the board of elections until the day after the election, it’s tossed in the trash.

    This has all the makings of an election nightmare purposefully engineered by Trump and DeJoy. […]

    This is election theft in progress. And as awful as that is, it’s made even more despicable by the fact that to rig the election, Trump is trying to murder a national treasure.

    The Postal Service is older than the country itself — the Continental Congress made Ben Franklin the first postmaster general in 1775 — and it remains the most popular agency in the federal government, beloved by Americans for the daily service it provides them, no matter where they live or who they are. I think often about how Title 39 of the U.S. Code defines its mission:

    The Postal Service shall have as its basic function the obligation to provide postal services to bind the Nation together through the personal, educational, literary, and business correspondence of the people. It shall provide prompt, reliable, and efficient services to patrons in all areas and shall render postal services to all communities.

    “To bind the Nation together.” Think how important that is right now, at a time when we have a president working so hard to tear us apart. It’s no wonder he looks at the Postal Service and sees it as one more thing he wants to destroy.

    Washington Post link