Tag Archives: COVID

ICYMI – Part 3

Such a cornucopia of Trumpian gems, it’s hard to choose.

Ignoring the ongoing slaughter of Americans at the hands of COVID-19, Trump has decided that the path to his re-election requires doubling-down on racially divisive themes of grievance. This will motivate his diminishing political base but seems destined to alienate many former supporters and entire classes of ethnic voting groups. https://wapo.st/3f6LG4f: “Never in our lifetimes has the Independence Day holiday been used for such divisive and personal ends.”

In a stunning move against the environment, the Democrat-led House Armed Services Committee voted to yield 800,000 acres (one-half) of southern Nevada’s Desert National Wildlife Refuge to the Air Force for training activities at the already enormous Nellis Air Force Base (more than 3.2 million acres of land next to the refuge). Less surprisingly, the move was led by U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop, a Utah Republican who thinks it a good idea to convert public lands to private use. https://bit.ly/2VUE1yp The move is consistent with the Trump administration policy of repurposing national parkland and other natural treasures for commercial exploitation. Until, to repurpose the great line from Kismet, “no one but me is left.”

Coronavirus infections set a new record on Independence Day, with the 7-day rolling average at a new high for the 27th day in a row, testimony to the gross mismanagement of the crisis by the Trump administration. https://wapo.st/2O6OBhb Indeed, Trump seems to have thrown in the towel to the virus and moved on to other issues, mainly centered on retaining racially motivated monuments. Republican-led states whose governors accepted/adopted Trump’s phantasmagorical thinking about the imminent disappearance of the virus are now backtracking on premature re-openings and “do your own thing” policies on masking and social distancing.

Trump is holding up funding for the military (that he claims to love) – a  $740 billion defense authorization bill — to stop the renaming of Army bases named after Confederate generals. https://wapo.st/2ZJLSQd The president has now firmly and openly aligned himself and the Republican Party with the white supremacy element of American society.

In perhaps the most ludicrous act of his bizarre presidency thus far, Trump signed an executive order calling for creation of a national monument park to contain new statues of the “greatest Americans to ever live.” If the list didn’t reflect the insane thinking of the Trump administration, it would make a great comedy skit. Defending against what he called an “assault on our collective national memory,” Trump named Billy Graham, Davey Crockett, Antonin Scalia, Daniel Boone and, wait for it, Audie Murphy. Excluded were Democratic presidents – so no Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy or Lyndon B. Johnson – Native Americans (no “heroes” there – we killed them all; Trump doesn’t like dead people, even though he’s responsible for killing some 130,000 so far). General George Patton was ‘in’ but Dwight Eisenhower was not. You can see the full list here: https://wapo.st/38Cnh43

After much struggle, the Trump Administration finally gave the SBA permission to disclose the recipients of at least the largest loans under the Paycheck Protection Program. https://wapo.st/2ZJqLO4 Not surprisingly, ethical considerations appear to have had no role in the decision-making. Thus, significant loan money was given to businesses owned by or closely connected with members of Congress, Trump’s personal lawyers, tenants of Trump’s real estate company, as well as,

private schools catering to elite clientele, firms owned by foreign companies and large chains backed by well-heeled Wall Street firms. Nearly 90,000 companies in the program took the aid without promising on their applications they would rehire workers or create jobs.

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao’s (wife of #MoscowMitch, Republican Senate Majority Leader) family’s shipping business was a beneficiary. And many others too numerous to mention separately. One must wonder, of course, how much of the Trump tenants’ relief money will end up in Trump’s pocket as rent. Grifting by Trump and his Republican enablers is nothing new, certainly. In keeping with established practice,  Yeezy, owned by Trump sycophant and supremely wealthy alleged musician Kanye West, was awarded between $2 million and $5 million. https://bit.ly/300UMcz

Of course, the program was intended to help workers stay off unemployment, but there are some real curiosities in that regard. Among recipients, for example,

48,922 reported zero as the number of jobs they would retain with the money, and 40,506 applicants appeared to leave that section blank. It appeared that 10 other companies received between $5 million and $10 million but reported retaining only one job with the money they received.

Also curiously, the SBA ordered affiliates of Planned Parenthood, a favorite target of Trumppublican “pro-lifers,” to return their loans.

And so it goes. More gems soon.

ICYMI – Part 2

In the most stunning revelations to date regarding Trump’s unfitness for office, see this must-read article by Carl Bernstein of Watergate reporting fame: From pandering to Putin to abusing allies and ignoring his own advisers, Trump’s phone calls alarm US officials https://cnn.it/2NQ1CeU I won’t do spoilers here. You really need to read this one.

Trump was elected with Russian help and wants more of it. It’s therefore no surprise that the Republican-controlled Senate strips provision from intelligence bill requiring campaigns to report foreign election help https://cnn.it/3dRpZn2 Republicans forced the removal in order to include the intelligence bill in the “must pass” defense policy legislation, another clear indication that Republicans will sacrifice anything to re-elect Trump, including the nation’s defense.

In a move as rare as discovering life on another planet, it appears that a Trump nominee to head the imperiled Consumer Product Safety Commission is too in-the-pocket of the chemical industry even for a few, very few, Republicans. The nominee is reportedly a “former chemical industry lobbyist named to a high-level post at the Environmental Protection Agency under Trump” who “has been rewriting chemical safety rules to make them less protective of consumers and more friendly to businesses.” Seems like she’s right up the Republicans’ alley of indifference (at best) to the environment but the nomination may not make it out of committee. https://bit.ly/2D0IEAl  Go figure. Maybe they have a “better” nominee lined up in the shadows.

In the “no surprise to anyone paying attention” category, we are reminded yet again that the president of the United States does not read the President’s Daily Briefing Book, a departure from practice going back at least seven administrations. https://wapo.st/2C1yleD The same story reports that oral briefings are often limited because the president doesn’t want to hear certain information that conflicts with his personal agenda, particularly matters involving Russia. Do we have a traitor sitting at the head of our government? Or just a fragile, incompetent, egomaniacal man-child who thinks he’s a king?

Trump’s mishandling of the COVID-19 crisis has left the U.S. in a condition of economic peril, notwithstanding Trump’s endless excitement (on the up-days) about the stock market. The stock market marches to a different drummer, often going up when the health news is the worst, as it is now. You need look no further than the European Union’s decision to bar Americans when it reopened today. https://bit.ly/2NKL4VE The United States’ banishment is shared by the likes of Russia and Brazil. Another “well done” for the Trump administration whose leader only today repeated his earlier claim that the virus would just “disappear” one of these fine days. https://wapo.st/2NLZDbB

If you want a good shorthand picture of why the U.S. is in such COVID trouble, look at Bloomberg.com, specifically at this article: https://bloom.bg/31yBr4y  which shows the problem graphically in five charts.

ICYMI-Part 1

You are likely familiar with the abbreviation in the title of this post. My own good intentions of keeping up with, and writing cogent interesting posts about, the major news stories of the day have come to naught. The insanity is coming so fast and furious that I can’t keep up. I start dozens of posts that never get finished because a flood of new material arrives almost continuously. I spend obscene amounts of time reading the news from multiple sources, most of which is unpleasant or worse.

I have therefore decided to start “ICYMI,” which will contain abbreviated commentaries on some of the news that catches my attention. The posts won’t be in any particular order, but roughly will appear in reverse chronology, starting with the most recent and working backwards in time as best I can manage. The reason for this is that November is coming and as we move further away from, say, March, we simply lose memory of many of the insane things that, for example, Donald Trump has said or done. Since his corrupt and incompetent administration of the nation’s affairs dominates most news cycles, it will dominate ICYMI as well. But, first, a few preliminary thoughts:

November presents the last chance to save the United States and our quasi-democracy from final political, cultural and social destruction by Trump and his Republican enablers. Therefore, as we get closer to the election, I will be reminding everyone of events they have likely forgotten. It is also true, of course, that the onslaught of insane news will continue and perhaps worsen, so most posts in this series will include both contemporary and gems-from-the-past. I will continue to write longer “single topic” posts as time permits.

It is vital that we never forget who Donald Trump really is. He started with a large financial gift and made money in real estate. Not too difficult and certainly no innovation (a la, Steve Jobs). The evidence over the years is that he hung with people like Jeffrey Epstein, cheated vendors to enhance corruptly his own wealth and managed to bankrupt a range of businesses. That did not stop Trump from having his own TV show on which his schtick was to fire people. Show ‘em who’s boss. Always.

Factcheck.org reports,

President Donald Trump’s namesake charitable foundation agreed to cease operations in late 2018 as part of an agreement with New York’s attorney general, who alleged that the nonprofit organization was improperly leveraged to further Trump’s business and political interests. A November court order resolved the lawsuit, and Trump ultimately paid a total of $2 million in damages to eight charities, which also received equal portions of the foundation’s remaining $1.8 million.

[https://www.factcheck.org/2019/12/social-posts-distort-facts-on-trump-charities/]

The settlement also required Trump’s children to undergo “training” relating to charitable organizations. Very trustworthy, that bunch.

THAT is who Trump and his family are.

The Blue Wave must be overwhelming on November 3. I see that many polls indicate Biden is leading Trump by substantial margins, but polls are fickle things. Many polls had Hillary Clinton winning handily, and we know how that turned out. All that matters in the end is that every possible Democratic vote is in fact cast – for Biden and for the down-ticket Democrats who can restore a Democratic majority to both Houses of Congress. Only then can the process of healing, reconciliation and progress resume. If we fail at this, Trump will be unconstrained for his final four years. American democracy will then succumb to a stacked Supreme Court, stacked federal judiciary and corrupt Congress that will stop at nothing to establish the Republican Party’s long-sought theocracy/autocracy.

Because of the polls and their Trump-supported and promoted collection of grievances, Trump’s troops (now officially called the Trump Army—think about that) have an increased sense of threat and will almost certainly turn out in huge numbers to try to save him. Little is to be gained by trying to understand why they continue to support him. Theories are plentiful. The only important take-away is that the Democratic vote, possibly assisted by rational Republicans who have finally seen enough of Trump, is maximized. Hopefully, reading ICYMI will stimulate readers to promote, and actively assist, voting among trusted family, friends, colleagues and strangers in November. We’re going to need every one of them.

So, ICYMI ….

Trump uses Twitter to promote racist messages: he retweeted a video of supporters rallying in golf carts in Florida (of course) one of whom yelled “white power.” Trump called his supporters “great people.” https://wapo.st/3dMCfVY Remember the neo-Nazis in Charlottesville: “fine people on both sides.” Sometimes I wonder if Trump has a KuKluxKlan robe in his closet.

Climate change is worsening despite the pandemic’s favorable impact on some pressure points. https://wapo.st/3icwZyh Trump’s presidency has reinforced the decline by “rejecting international pacts, gutting national environmental protections and regulations, and sidelining and censoring its own climate researchers and scientists.” The Republican Party’s nominal “pro life” stance actually just refers to birth; after that, they could care less if you die a horrible death as the planet suffocates.

In a non-shocking revelation, studies show that watching Fox News had a negative effect on viewers’ beliefs about the lethality of COVID-19. https://wapo.st/31toSHK

A Trump campaign spokesman equated protests over the murder of George Floyd and other non-white people by police with attendance at a Trump rally: “We don’t recall the media shaming demonstrators about social distancing — in fact the media were cheering them on.”  https://wapo.st/2VrBgUL Campaign staff removed stickers from seats that were placed by building management to induce social distancing. Trump will stop at nothing to promote himself and his message that COVID-19 is not a serious problem.

States that opened too quickly and, following Trump’s lead, with little regard to the scientific and medical advice of experts are experiencing large increases in COVID cases and in states have been forced to reverse their reopening plans.

In his continuing effort to lower standards of performance in the federal government, Trump signed an executive order directing the government to develop non-degree-based evaluation procedures, citing alleged “credential inflation.” https://bit.ly/3ig7HiQ The new system provides for something called “skills- and competency-based hiring,” though it is characteristically vague on how this will work and how safeguards will prevent gaming such a regime to exclude minority and other workers who may not be “favored” by the regime. The EO effectively equates a college education/master’s degree as just a “piece of paper,” an apparent reflection on the quality of the education received by Trump himself.

An online set of intriguing suggestions for constructive social changes can be seen at https://bit.ly/2BptvrR I cite it not to endorse all those ideas, but to help jump start thinking about these issues. This time around needs to be better, much better, than the last time. Removing Trump in November will not solve the core problems affecting this country. Creative actions are required, and we can learn a lot from the way some other countries approach similar issues. America’s favored moral codes based on right/wrong and guilt/punishment are not the only ways to manage behavior.

From the Covid Act Now Daily Download:

The Houston Chronicle reported that this past weekend Texas Medical Center hospitals stopped updating key metrics, and, when the charts came back online, eight of the 17 original slides had been deleted — including any reference to hospital capacity or projections of future capacity. The institutions — which together constitute the world’s largest medical complex — reported Thursday that their base intensive care capacity had hit 100 percent for the first time during the pandemic and was on pace to exceed an “unsustainable surge capacity” of intensive care beds by July 6

Well done, Texas, well done.

A selection of headlines from yesterday’s Washington Post:

With Trump leading the way, America’s coronavirus failures exposed by record surge in new infections

Texas, Arizona face record coronavirus hospitalizations as U.S. cases near 2.5 million

Russian operation targeted coalition troops in Afghanistan, intelligence finds

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A Hero for the Times

People who know me well are aware that I have no heroes. All of them were murdered in the troubled 1960s. Since then, no one person emerged as a true hero, although Barack Obama came close. When he was elected, I fooled myself into believing that America had changed, that the bigotry and willful ignorance I had seen growing up in Memphis had receded and that great times lay ahead. I was wrong. As the Obama presidency proceeded, the Republican Party morphed into essentially what it is today and managed to block many of Obama’s greatest potential achievements.

The final blow to my aspirations for the country came when a relic of our ugly past, the Electoral College, worked to put Donald Trump in the White House. Every day of his administration is a tragic reminder that we could have had an intelligent, articulate, committed woman as president. A lot went wrong, of course, not just the flawed Constitutional structures put in place to placate rural and southern interests and that handed the national leadership to Trump with a minority of votes. It doesn’t much matter now. Trump is president and, as fate can do, his incompetence and corruption have been laid bare for the world to see, a bleeding open sore on what was one of the greatest countries on the planet, flawed but pure of aspiration, in need of much work but full of hope and promise.

The COVID-19 pandemic is a catastrophe for humanity. It was also an opportunity for the putative “leader of the free world” to show that, for all his obvious flaws, he could rise to the occasion and steer the country through one of its greatest challenges in a century. It was an opportunity to put to rest the oft-stated concern that, faced with a genuine crisis (threat of nuclear attack, for example), Trump’s staggering incompetence would destroy us. COVID-19 is not a nuclear attack but Trump still failed in almost every way imaginable. In the future I will devote much of my time in this blog illustrating those failures in the hope that the people of this country will rise to the occasion as Trump did not and remove him from office once and for all.

Meanwhile, I want to recognize another leader who emerged from the gloom and despair of the pandemic to do what needed to be done, to say what needed to be said, who did the right thing. He was already an experienced leader of government, the political head of the state with the largest Gross Domestic Product per capita, a major driver of the national economy: New York.

New York City, the centerpiece of the state and the gateway to the nation for travelers from around the world, became the epicenter of the COVID-19 crisis. As of today, the World Health Organization reports 8,385,440 total cases and 450,686 deaths worldwide. The United States leads the entire world in both cases and deaths: 118,365 souls lost. New York City, the most densely populated metropolis in the country, quickly developed the most infections and ultimately, so far, more than 17, 546 deaths, as it was flooded by millions of travelers from Europe who brought the virus with them while the federal government hyper-focused on China. In my neighborhood alone, there were 616 cases and 43 deaths. Yesterday, there were fewer deaths than that in the entire city.

Mt. Sinai West Hospital sits immediately adjacent to our apartment building. You can walk to the Emergency Room 50 steps or so down the street. As the city emptied out under the lockdown that started in mid-March, way too late, we were witness to the relentless parade of ambulances bringing critically ill patients to the hospital.

There are two points to be made here. One, the president held a series of daily “press conferences” involving a task force headed by the Vice President and the leading medical authorities at the Center for Disease Control, among others. It quickly became apparent that these events were really for the president to promote himself as the successful defender of the country against the virus, even as the cases and death toll continued to rise. He simply denied any facts that made him look bad. He paraded a random group of corporate leaders in to praise him. He descended into a clown show in which he proposed that the government health authorities investigate injecting bleach into the body or using light of some kind. He promoted the use of drugs for which there was no medical support and which multiple studies indicated could be dangerous to large swaths of the public. He stopped the conferences when his staff finally convinced him that they were counterproductive to his goal of self-promotion and re-election.

Second point: in New York, people who were paying attention saw a completely different approach, one based on scientific facts and evidence. These were the daily briefings by New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo. In the last of these briefings, the Governor reported that a total of 59 million viewers had watched these presentations, each of which involved an opening statement and questions from reporters. The Governor always had staff and sometimes important guests, with him to help address questions, most notably Melissa DeRosa (Secretary to the Governor). In the wake of the George Floyd murder, Cuomo devoted substantial parts of each briefing to addressing the issues around policing practices. He proposed specific legislation that was passed immediately and signed at one of the briefings.

Cuomo proved to be a lifeline for many of us who were quarantined in our apartments.
My wife and I found great comfort in his rational, fact-based approach, his appeal to the better selves of New Yorkers and his repeated admissions that this was personal for him, too. In March he proposed Matilda’s Law, an executive order with the force of law, named for his elderly mother and aimed at protecting the elderly and the vulnerable by putting New York “on pause” with special guidelines for the elderly. We tuned in almost every day, as did millions of people around the world seeking some truth and objectivity in the maelstrom of falsity and self-serving lies from Trump and his enablers.

I won’t go on about this. Cuomo, like all prominent political leaders, has his critics. But whatever mistakes may have been made in his management of the COVID-19 crisis, they appear to be very few and given all the circumstances, understandable and not consequential. I do not believe anyone can legitimately say he did not do his best for the people of New York. The results are clear and undeniable. The cases and deaths attributable to the virus are now the lowest in the country. As the Governor put it, “from the worst to first.”

I urge you to watch this video of Cuomo’s final statement and the video that follows it. It’s less than 13 minutes long. Compare this to Donald Trump’s performance on any issue on any day. This is what actual leadership looks like. What a refreshing experience, even in the midst of the most terrifying situation. Cuomo’s handling of these events will be written about in textbooks and studied in leadership programs for years to come. The 13 minutes you spend watching this will be well spent.

https://www.facebook.com/watch/live/?v=274891703966298&ref=watch_permalink