Saturday, February 29, 2020

Politically speaking, Trump chose to live by the stock market and now he may die by it

As stock markets tumble because of coronavirus, this time feels different. Traditional methods for arresting an investor panic might be no match for fallout from a global pandemic.

And these methods, such as trying to jack up the stock market with interest rate cuts, will not save Trump from himself.

And it will get worse.

The Coronavirus Stock Market Rollercoaster Isn’t Stopping Anytime Soon. Even if the virus faded tomorrow—and it won’t—the wheels are in motion.

The scary part is, even if U.S. cases of the virus stopped increasing—which seems extremely unlikely—the ripple effects are already in place for long-term shock to the world economy. … As more time passes and more people are placed under quarantine, the disruption to businesses and consumers around the world has started to become even more pronounced.

Jennifer Rubin, writing in the Washington Post, explains that It’s the incompetence that may bring Trump down.

President Trump’s political safety net has always been the economy and the stock market. He brags about the latter, one can imagine, partly to impress his rich pals and to remind Republicans they’ve never had it so good. And for many people, it works. At a Pete Buttigieg rally last Sunday, a volunteer from Pennsylvania told me her parents were pro-Trump. “So long as their 401(k) is good,” she said, they’ll ignore the rest.

The rich (who are the stock owners benefiting from the market) have seen their portfolios balloon and their tax bills plummet. (Forbes reports: “The richest 1 percent received 9.3 percent of the total tax cuts, the top 5 percent got 26.5 percent, the top quintile received 52.2 percent and the bottom quintile got 3.3 percent.”) For a president obsessed with winning and outshining his predecessor, the stock market is a handy scoreboard. Until it isn’t.

The Dow Jones closed on Thursday down more than 1,100 points (4.4 percent). This was after (perhaps, in part, because of?) Trump’s frightfully incoherent press conference Wednesday. The New York Times reports:

The speed of the market slump has been stunning, with the S&P 500 falling more than 10 percent from its Feb. 19 high, a drop that Wall Street labels a correction to suggest the decline is more significant than a few days of downbeat trading.

The last time stocks in the United States fell that much was late 2018, when investors worried that the trade war and rising interest rates might tip the U.S. economy into a recession. The Dow Jones industrial average also fell into a correction on Thursday, as did shares in London.

Trump’s forte has never been actually solving problem or providing quality; he excels at spin, exaggeration and shameless lying. Naturally, then, his response to a burgeoning health crisis and an economic earthquake is to muzzle those who might undercut his happy talk.

The Times reported: “The White House moved on Thursday to tighten control of coronavirus messaging by government health officials and scientists, directing them to coordinate all statements and public appearance with the office of Vice President Mike Pence, according to several officials familiar with the new approach.” The White House insists “the goal is not to control the content of what subject-matter experts and other officials are saying, but to make sure their efforts are being coordinated, after days of confusion with various administration officials showing up on television.” Nevertheless, you do get alarmed when “Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, one of the country’s leading experts on viruses and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told associates that the White House had instructed him not to say anything else without clearance.”

Trump has become so adept at bullying science-based government agencies and departments (e.g., the Environmental Protection Agency strips its website of climate change information, Trump’s Sharpie mark-up creates havoc at the National Weather Service) that the media and public do not know whom to believe. We used to be able to rely on the world-class Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the most accurate information. With Pence in charge of the effort, do we have that same sense of confidence?

On the Senate floor, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) practically pleaded with Trump: “The president must stop trying to minimize the nature of the coronavirus threat. His attempts at spinning the facts are just not credible, and they are harmful to the federal response.” He continued, “In order to prevent overreaction by the public, it is essential that the federal officials, especially the president and vice president, level with the American people. Telling the American people the truth — and then coming up with solutions to solve it — is the way to calm people down. … So let’s let the science and the facts guide us. The American people do not need or want uninformed opinions or spin from its leaders. They want the truth.”

When the administration demonstrates an effective approach to the health crisis and can be regarded as trustworthy, the markets should calm down. The bad news is that may be beyond the capacity of this president.

UPDATE - coronavirus spreads

Nigeria: The East African reports that Nigeria starts tracing contacts of first coronavirus patient.

Mexico: Kenya’s Daily Nation reports that Mexico declares first case of coronavirus: Health ministry. “Mexico’s Health Ministry confirmed the country’s first case of coronavirus on Friday, saying a young man had tested positive for it in the capital.”

*Kenya:*Kenya’s Daily Nation reports on the Coronavirus: Nairobi ranked sixth among Africa’s riskiest cities

Nairobi is now ranked sixth among African cities whose populations are at high risk of being infected with Covid–19.

This is emerging even as government bureaucrats continue to allow in travellers from 18 high-risk cities in mainland China.

This is according to a spatial analysis by experts in population mapping at the University of Southampton.

The University’s WorldPop team has found that Bangkok in Thailand is currently the city at the highest risk of infection, based on the number of air travellers predicted to arrive there from the worst affected cities in China.

With Nairobi still receiving visitors from the Asian nation, Kenya is now regarded as a high-risk country by researchers who have been tracking the spread of the virus based on the number of flights and connections with infected territories.

Americans returning from the affected provinces will be subjected to 14 days of mandatory quarantine. In contrast, here in Kenya, the Chinese passengers were asked to self-quarantine.

On Thursday, the BBC quoted Chinese health officials as saying about 14 per cent of patients in Guangdong province “who had the coronavirus but recovered and were discharged from hospital have tested positive for the virus again”.

“Health officials admit they’re still learning about the disease and how it operates. The same phenomenon has been reported in Japan, where a woman in her 40s who had recovered and tested negative for the virus tested positive more than three weeks later,” the BBC reported.

Kenya, however, continues to tempt fate.

The government has ruled out stopping airlines from China from landing in Nairobi, a decision that came just a day after the country’s biggest airport witnessed drama when officials refused to allow passengers who had arrived from China on a direct flight from disembarking. They were ordered to allow them in.

Trump's B. S. rolled by the coronavirus pandemic

Paul Krugman, in the NY Times, explains what happens When a Pandemic Meets a Personality Cult. The Trump team confirms all of our worst fears. (Thanks to our Roving Reporter Sherry for this tip.)

So, here’s the response of the Trump team and its allies to the coronavirus, at least so far: It’s actually good for America. Also, it’s a hoax perpetrated by the news media and the Democrats. Besides, it’s no big deal, and people should buy stocks. Anyway, we’ll get it all under control under the leadership of a man who doesn’t believe in science.

From the day Donald Trump was elected, some of us worried how his administration would deal with a crisis not of its own making. Remarkably, we’ve gone three years without finding out: Until now, every serious problem facing the Trump administration, from trade wars to confrontation with Iran, has been self-created. But the coronavirus is looking as if it might be the test we’ve been fearing.

And the results aren’t looking good.

The story of the Trump pandemic response actually began several years ago. Almost as soon as he took office, Trump began cutting funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, leading in turn to an 80 percent cut in the resources the agency devotes to global disease outbreaks. Trump also shut down the entire global-health-security unit of the National Security Council.

Experts warned that these moves were exposing America to severe risks. “We’ll leave the field open to microbes,” declared Tom Frieden, a much-admired former head of the C.D.C., more than two years ago. But the Trump administration has a preconceived notion about where national security threats come from — basically, scary brown people — and is hostile to science in general. So we entered the current crisis in an already weakened condition.

And the microbes came.

The first reaction of the Trumpers was to see the coronavirus as a Chinese problem — and to see whatever is bad for China as being good for us. Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary, cheered it on as a development that would “accelerate the return of jobs to North America.”

The story changed once it became clear that the virus was spreading well beyond China. At that point it became a hoax perpetrated by the news media. Rush Limbaugh weighed in: “It looks like the coronavirus is being weaponized as yet another element to bring down Donald Trump. Now, I want to tell you the truth about the coronavirus. … The coronavirus is the common cold, folks.”

Limbaugh was, you may not be surprised to hear, projecting. Back in 2014 right-wing politicians and media did indeed try to politically weaponize a disease outbreak, the Ebola virus, with Trump himself responsible for more than 100 tweets denouncing the Obama administration’s response (which was actually competent and effective).

And in case you’re wondering, no, the coronavirus isn’t like the common cold. In fact, early indications are that the virus may be as lethal as the 1918 Spanish Flu, which killed as many as 50 million people.

Financial markets evidently don’t agree that the virus is a hoax; by Thursday afternoon the Dow was off more than 3,000 points since last week. Falling markets appear to worry the administration more than the prospect of, you know, people dying. So Larry Kudlow, the administration’s top economist, made a point of declaring that the virus was “contained” — contradicting the C.D.C. — and suggested that Americans buy stocks. The market continued to drop.

At that point the administration appears to have finally realized that it might need to do something beyond insisting that things were great. But according to The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent and Paul Waldman, it initially proposed paying for a virus response by cutting aid to the poor — specifically, low-income heating subsidies. Cruelty in all things.

On Wednesday Trump held a news conference on the virus, much of it devoted to incoherent jabs at Democrats and the media. He did, however, announce the leader of the government response to the threat. Instead of putting a health care professional in charge, however, he handed the job to Vice President Mike Pence, who has an interesting relationship with both health policy and science.

Early in his political career, Pence staked out a distinctive position on public health, declaring that smoking doesn’t kill people. He has also repeatedly insisted that evolution is just a theory. As governor of Indiana, he blocked a needle exchange program that could have prevented a significant H.I.V. outbreak, calling for prayer instead.

And now, according to The Times, government scientists will need to get Pence’s approval before making public statements about the coronavirus.

So the Trumpian response to crisis is completely self-centered, entirely focused on making Trump look good rather than protecting America. If the facts don’t make Trump look good, he and his allies attack the messengers, blaming the news media and the Democrats — while trying to prevent scientists from keeping us informed. And in choosing people to deal with a real crisis, Trump prizes loyalty rather than competence.

Maybe Trump — and America — will be lucky, and this won’t be as bad as it might be. But anyone feeling confident right now isn’t paying attention.

Speaking of competence, the AZ Blue Meanie has a lot to say in his post, Mike Pence in charge of coronavirus pandemic? God save us from these incompetent fools.

Prepare for a pandemic says the World Health Organization. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the covid–19 virus (coronavirus) already meets two of its three criteria for a pandemic: it spreads between people, and it kills. The third is that it has to spread worldwide.

The novel coronavirus is now affecting every continent but Antarctica and the WHO said Wednesday the number of new cases reported outside China has exceeded those inside the country for the first time.

And this time the crisis is manufactured by Trump.

The U.S. is woefully unprepared to deal with a major pandemic disease. Laurie Garret explains at Foreign Policy, Trump Has Sabotaged America’s Coronavirus Response:

For the United States, the answers are especially worrying because the government has intentionally rendered itself incapable. In 2018, the Trump administration fired the government’s entire pandemic response chain of command, including the White House management infrastructure. In numerous phone calls and emails with key agencies across the U.S. government, the only consistent response I encountered was distressed confusion. If the United States still has a clear chain of command for pandemic response, the White House urgently needs to clarify what it is—not just for the public but for the government itself, which largely finds itself in the dark.

One of he actions from Trump was his pick of Pence. But …

And Mike Pence? Seriously? Mike Pence was criticized for his handling of Indiana’s HIV outbreak. He will lead the U.S. coronavirus response.

This is where things stood as of Wednesday. With the stock market tanking on fears of a global recession brought about by a major pandemic (note that the concern here is not about the sick and dying, they are collateral damage), and “Dear Leader” concerned about his reelection prospects as a result, he called an impromptu news conference to try to allay fears about how the U.S. will respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

When he was asked why the stock market has plunged 2,000 points in recent days, Trump acknowledged part of the reason was coronavirus fears. But he also blamed the Federal Reserve, Boeing, General Motors, and he said he thought the markets were suddenly worried about one of his potential 2020 Democratic opponents beating him for reelection — despite that campaign having been going for more than a year.

And let’s not forget that Mike Pence is a true believer in the end times cult of the Rapture. These cultists may see this as a sign of the end of the world and want to force God’s hand.

God save us from these incompetent fools.

Friday, February 28, 2020

A view from The View - Pence predicted to screw up coronavirus response

Who among you believes that Trump’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak is perfect? Who among you believes that his point man, Mike Pence, will not screw up?

Not Meghan McCain.

The Daily Beast reports that Even Meghan McCain Thinks Mike Pence Will Screw Up Coronavirus Response. “In all seriousness, Mike Pence has a really bad record when it comes to health records,” she said. “In Indiana, he actually hurt HIV patients because he halted needle exchanges.”

The View co-host Meghan McCain on Thursday blasted President Donald Trump’s decision to name Vice President Mike Pence as the administration’s coronavirus response czar, specifically highlighting Pence’s terrible record of handling an HIV outbreak as Indiana governor.

During a Wednesday evening presser, amid growing threats of a worldwide pandemic, the president said that Pence has a “certain talent” for handling situations like health outbreaks, despite Pence’s anti-science history—including his infamous claim that smoking doesn’t cause lung cancer.

McCain, who constantly touts her conservative bonafides on The View, reacted to Trump’s announcement by taking issue with right-wing veep’s history in Indiana.

“In all seriousness, Mike Pence has a really bad record when it comes to health records,” McCain said. “In Indiana, he actually hurt HIV patients because he halted needle exchanges.”

“And it really impacted HIV outbreaks in Indiana, so I think for that reason alone, I think it’s really simple,” she continued. “Someone with a medical and, you know, virus background should be in charge of a potentially deadly and lethal virus and medical outbreak in the United States of America. Doesn’t seem like that much of a leap for me. I don’t think—I’m not comfortable with him in charge.”

This prompted the rest of the table to predictably pile on the veep and Trump administration for seemingly not taking the health crisis seriously, with liberal co-host Joy Behar referencing his past assertions on smoking, and co-host Sunny Hostin noting that the veep called global warming a “myth.”

Whoopi Goldberg, meanwhile, speculated that the president named Pence to lead the outbreak response because Trump is “setting him up” since he knows “there’s a cliff coming,” something Hostin and Behar agreed with.

McCain, however, said she didn’t like “politicizing” this and even went so far as to chastise someone in the audience apparently clapping that this could be bad news for the president. At the same time, she said, “people are scared and it’s OK to be scared because there’s a lot of misinformation out there.”

Later on in the segment, McCain also told the audience that it was OK to have a “healthy sense of fear,” noting that other first-world countries were initiating quarantines and closing down schools.

“So I think telling everyone—the problem with Trump is, he’s like, ‘It’s fine! It’s fine!’—it’s like, they’re quarantining their kids,” she concluded.

McCain’s criticism of the appointment of Pence to handle America’s response to the coronavirus outbreak saw her finding rare common ground with progressive Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), who she recently tangled with on The View.

“Mike Pence literally does not believe in science,” the New York congresswoman tweeted on Wednesday night. “It is utterly irresponsible to put him in charge of US coronavirus response as the world sits on the cusp of a pandemic. This decision could cost people their lives. Pence’s past decisions already have.”

Chinese plane lands in Kenya. Passengers 'advised to self-quarantine'

One of my concerns about the coronavirus outbreak was that it might take hold in Africa where countries’ health systems are fragile.

So, I don’t want to be unnecessarily alarmist, but this is alarming.

Africa, specifically Kenya, is now a potential site of the coronavirus. About a day ago (Thursday Kenya time), a Chinese flight carrying 239 people landed in Kenya.

Most immediately (FEBRUARY 28, 2020 / 4:28 AM), Reuters reports that Kenya’s high court orders suspension of flights from China over coronavirus.

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenya’s High Court on Friday ordered flights from China to be temporarily suspended over the coronavirus outbreak, following a petition by the Law Society of Kenya.

“I find that unless conservatory orders sought are granted Kenyans will continue to be exposed to the deadly disease coronavirus,” Judge James Makau said.

Kenya has had no confirmed cases of the disease.

Yet. That plane already landed causing an Uproar as Chinese plane lands in Kenya with 239 onboard. Kenyans took to social media to express their displeasure over Kenya resuming China flights.

The Turkish Andolu Agency reports from NAIROBI, Kenya.

A China Southern Airlines flight landed Thursday in Nairobi, Kenya with 239 people, triggering anger and shock across the East African country.

The incident comes after Kenya announced Wednesday that it had resumed flights to China.

Kenyans raised concern on social media, questioning the country’s preparedness to deal with the novel coronavirus, officially known as COVID–19, at a time when many African countries have ceased operating China flights.

Activist Boniface Mwangi posed a question to Kenyan leader Uhuru Kenyatta.

“Does Uhuru love this country? Because if he did, no Chinese flight would be allowed to land in Kenya as long as the coronavirus remains a threat. Our health system can’t handle a coronavirus outbreak.

Another netizen, Nick Nimrod, chimed in.

Just imagine China – with all the first-class resources, they haven’t managed to contain the virus from spreading for a whole two months…Now imagine how long it will take Kenya…How long Nairobi will be a ghost town…How bad the economy will hit us."

Kenya’s Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Raychelle Omamo assured the country at a press briefing that measures were put in place to ensure that the 239 Chinese passengers traveling to Kenya were free of the disease.

More than 100 Kenyan students are stranded in China due to the outbreak there. -

Algeria and Egypt meanwhile have confirmed cases of COVID–19.

The East African reports that Kenyans to expect more flights from China.

There will be more flights from China to Kenya’s capital Nairobi in the coming weeks, the Chinese embassy has confirmed, amid fears of a coronavirus outbreak in Kenya.

Planes carrying Chinese expatriates, workers and traders are expected to land at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) despite the government’s refusal to evacuate Kenyans stuck in the country, where the deadly virus originated.

On Wednesday, the embassy confirmed that China Southern Airlines had resumed flights from Guangzhou to Nairobi.

A statement to newsrooms said, however, that there will be just one flight a week until March 25.

The embassy said it notified Kenya’s health ministry in advance of the screening of all the travellers for the virus named Covid–19.

They were all cleared and advised to self-quarantine for 14 days, the statement said, without detailing the measure.

“advised to self-quarantine”? And every single one of those 239 people will take that advice? And “just one flight a week”?

In additional reporting from Standard Digital Unlike Kenya, countries are going ham on deadly coronavirus.

Kenya now joins Iran in the decimal list of countries that do not quarantine people arriving from China. Iran, an Asian country to the West of virus-hit China is already paying the price – it has recorded 19 deaths and 139 positive cases in the past week.

Many are now arguing Kenya is walking Iran’s path as it seems to go slow on the precautionary measures against the virus spread if yesterday’s occurrence is anything to go by.

Pardon my pessimism.

P. S.

One definition of “going ham” is putting forth extra effort.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

A FiveThirtyEight email Election Update

A FiveThirtyEight email Election Update (as of Wednesday, February 26, 2020)

Here is a summary and tables of predicted odds of winning and predicted number of delegates.

South Carolina has yet to vote, but there’s an even bigger prize lurking right around the corner. On March 3 — Super Tuesday — roughly one-third of Democrats nationwide will weigh in on the 2020 presidential race as 15 states and territories cast their ballots. We last checked in on who led polls of Super Tuesday states back in December; suffice it to say that things have changed. According to our primary forecast, Sen. Bernie Sanders is now favored to win a majority of Super Tuesday contests. But many of these races are still relatively wide open.

Sanders is forecasted to rack up wins on Super Tuesday
The percent chance each Democratic presidential candidate has of winning each contest on Super Tuesday, according to the FiveThirtyEight primary forecast as of 10:30 a.m. Eastern on Feb. 26, 2020

North Carolina361910432
American Samoa272042407

Super Tuesday could spread the delegate wealth
The average number of delegates each Democratic presidential candidate is forecasted to receive from each Super Tuesday contest, according to the FiveThirtyEight primary forecast as of 10:30 a.m. Eastern on Feb. 26, 2020


If all the other candidates were to stand behind one of them, they would have a combined total of 756 delegates. If Warren hung in there, the rest of the candidates would still have 624 delegates, still enough to take the majority away from Sanders. But that’s probably not going to happen.

Coronavirus conspiracy theories infect social media ...

… and thus infect the few remaining neurons in Trump’s brain.

In the Wednesday morning email Judd Legum ( alerts us to the spreading coronavirus conspiracy theories.

The effort by Trump and his allies to downplay the threat from the coronavirus has taken a dark and dangerous turn.

… now [Rush] Limbaugh is suggesting that his millions of listeners ignore the warnings of a top CDC official, Dr. Nancy Messonnier, because she is part of a deep state plot to take down Trump.

Limbaugh’s evidence? Messonnier is siblings with Trump’s former Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein. When Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation, Rosenstein was in charge and eventually appointed Bob Mueller, drawing the ire of Trump loyalists.

What does this have to do with Messonnier? Nothing. Messonnier has been working at the CDC for 25 years.

Coronavirus conspiracy theories spread on Facebook, Twitter

Limbaugh is just one part of the right-wing media ecosystem advancing conspiracy theories about Messonnier. Joe Hoft, a prolific pro-Trump propagandist, wrote a piece trashing Messonnier on Gateway Pundit, a conspiracy website.

Hoft claimed the fact that Messonnier held the press conference while Trump was traveling in India was proof that she was out to get Trump.

This was eerily similar to past Presidential trips when former and corrupt DAG Rod Rosenstein and the corrupt and criminal Mueller gang would drop shocking news as the President was overseas…Rosenstein’s Deep State friends, the Democrat Party, regularly schedule hateful events when the President is overseas…Now we know why the CDC was fear-mongering – Dr. Nancy’s brother is Rod Rosenstein. What a sick family and horrible people.

Last month, Facebook announced a policy to “remove content with false claims or conspiracy theories that have been flagged by leading global health organizations and local health authorities that could cause harm to people who believe them.” But that hasn’t stopped the rapid spread of the Gateway Pundit article on Facebook’s platform. Within hours, Hoft’s screed was shared over 750 times.

Trump’s anger

It’s unclear whether Trump is aware of the attacks on Messonnier by Limbaugh, Hoft, and others. But he is a voracious consumer of right-wing media. And, according to CNBC correspondent Eamon Javers, “the president’s anger about the CDC briefing yesterday is focused on Dr. Nancy Messonnier.”

Trump views the coronavirus as a political problem that could threaten his reelection chances by precipitating an economic downturn. Trump was upset that Messonnier’s press conference prompted a stock market sell-off which could rob Trump of a valuable talking point. “Trump has become furious about the stock market’s slide, according to two people familiar with the president’s thinking,” The Washington Post reported.

Ousting Messonnier, however, may not be an option. As Popular Information reported on Tuesday, two years ago, Trump fired the people in charge of coordinating responses to global health emergencies and potential pandemics from the National Security Council and the Department of Homeland Security. Now, the nation faces a potential pandemic with no one in charge.

Trump reaction to the coronavirus spread is not worth a tuppence …

In an attempt to regain control of the narrative, Trump held a rare press conference in the White House Briefing Room on Wednesday evening. He called the administration’s response to the coronavirus, which has been plagued with contradictions and confusion, a “tremendous success.”

… so Trump appointed one Pence.

Trump announced that Vice President Mike Pence would be in charge of the response moving forward. Pence has no apparent medical expertise and, as recently as 2000, questioned whether smoking was deadly. “Time for a quick reality check. Despite the hysteria from the political class and the media, smoking doesn’t kill,” Pence wrote.

In a debate during Pence’s campaign for Congress in 2000, Pence reportedly claimed, “there was no causal link medically identifying smoking as causing lung cancer.” That link was established in 1964. As governor of Indiana, Pence presided over “a massive HIV outbreak spurred by public health funding cuts and Pence’s moralistic stance against needle exchanges.”

Trump also said that the “vaccine is coming along quickly,” a false claim he’s made previously, and administration officials were forced to walk back. Later in the press conference, a doctor from the National Institute of Health said that it would be at least a year before a vaccine is available.

Here we go again. Remember the X/AntiX formula? If the objective is to destroy agency X, then appoint a leader who is ferociously AntiX. Trump is pissed at the CDC for warning the American people about the coronavirus and wants to get the stock market back up. Therefore, he appointed Pence who, as quoted above, is not a friend of medical science.

Preparing for the inevitable coronavirus disease 2019 outbreak

This is an excellent piece featured at titled “PREPARING FOR THE INEVITABLE CORONAVIRUS DISEASE 2019 OUTBREAK.” (February 26, 2020/101 Comments/in emptywheel /by Jim White.)

He starts with an “incredibly informative video from the World Health Organization. It gives very good information on the biology of the virus and what’s going on in the outbreak.” (If it does not play for you, go to the [emptywheel link]wheel].)

Later White reviews what he will (and you can) do to stay safe.

… there may well be significant disruptions to everyday life in parts of the US. We of course don’t know when this would occur, or where in the US it would be. But this is a good time to start thinking about how a disruption to moving around for a couple of weeks would affect you. Here in Florida, we regularly have to prepare for a week or more of loss of electricity during hurricane season. Preparing for community control measures would be a bit different. Right now, my thoughts for our household are that I will stockpile a few extra large cuts of meat in the freezer. These are things I’d eventually use anyway, so it won’t hurt to have them around. I’ll increase a few of the pantry items that I wouldn’t otherwise increase until the start of hurricane season. I’ll beef up my supplies for baking bread. If a disruption starts looking more likely locally, I’ll even add some frozen veggies to my stockpile, but for now I’m going to rely mostly on my ongoing CSA supply.

But I’m not going to rush out and buy an N95 respirator facemask. The current recommendations from CDC do not recommend facemasks for the general public. They are only recommended for people who are sick or for those who are caring for someone who is sick. This and the other CDC recommendations for treatment and prevention can be found on this helpful page.

The key thing to remember in trying to avoid catching COVID–19, as described in the video above and on the CDC page linked just above, is to avoid being very close to sick people. The guideline mentioned is six feet. If you see someone who looks symptomatic, it shouldn’t be too hard to stay six feet from them. Also, if the virus is known or suspected to be in the area where you are, be especially careful to keep your hands below your shoulders at all times and to wash your hands frequently if visiting public places. As CDC describes here, transmission is thought primarily to be through aerosol droplets such as sneezes and coughs, but it remains possible that the virus could be picked up by touching contaminated surfaces.

More from the CDC on prevention of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID–19).

Living (and laughing) with the Coronavirus

Olivia Messer, Daily Beast reporter, tells us to Get ready for a serious test of broken American health infrastructure.
She explores alternatives to mass quarantines.

But Trump is not helping either telling us factual information or trying to calm the jittery public.WHO Expert: Trump’s Coronavirus Briefing Was Totally Incoherent.

In the New Yorker, Megan K. Stack, a journalist describes what it is like to be Living with Coronavirus Anxiety in Singapore..
Is Singapore a model of what life will be like when the virus takes hold in the U. S.?

If you need a humor boost, check out this satire by Andy Borowitz at the New Yorker: Trump Plans to Destroy Coronavirus with an Incredibly Mean Tweet.
“Speaking to reporters at the White House, Trump said that he was already in the process of crafting insults about the virus that would obliterate it once and for all.”

A cabinet of competence will be the Dems' winning ticket

Close to the begining of the presidential campaign, when others were bemoaning the large number of Democratic candidates, I had a more optimistic vision of a cabinet of competence on that stage. I thought, for example, that Kamala Harris would make a fine Attorney General. Subsequent events have convinced me that I was right. How about Amy Klobuchar as the moderate VP to balance Sanders’ progressive POTUS? How about Elizabeth Warren as Secretary of HHS?

This morning Thomas L. Friedman, writes in the N Y Times a message to Dems, You Can Defeat Trump in a Landslide. He says to Democrats You can promise voters something our narrow-minded president won’t. He sees that stage in the same way I did/do - populated by individuals having lot of expertise and competence. And he expands on the messaging virtue of announcing a cabinet populated by a team of rivals.

If this election turns out to be just between a self-proclaimed socialist and an undiagnosed sociopath, we will be in a terrible, terrible place as a country. How do we prevent that?

That’s all I am thinking about right now. My short answer is that the Democrats have to do something extraordinary — forge a national unity ticket the likes of which they have never forged before. And that’s true even if Democrats nominate someone other than Bernie Sanders.

What would this super ticket look like? Well, I suggest Sanders — and Michael Bloomberg, who seems to be his most viable long-term challenger — lay it out this way:

“I want people to know that if I am the Democratic nominee these will be my cabinet choices — my team of rivals. I want Amy Klobuchar as my vice president. Her decency, experience and moderation will be greatly appreciated across America and particularly in the Midwest. I want Mike Bloomberg (or Bernie Sanders) as my secretary of the Treasury. Our plans for addressing income inequality are actually not that far apart, and if we can blend them together it will be great for the country and reassure markets. I want Joe Biden as my secretary of state. No one in our party knows the world better or has more credibility with our allies than Joe. I will ask Elizabeth Warren to serve as health and human services secretary. No one could bring more energy and intellect to the task of expanding health care for more Americans than Senator Warren.

“I want Kamala Harris for attorney general. She has the toughness and integrity needed to clean up the corrupt mess Donald Trump has created in our Justice Department. I would like Mayor Pete as homeland security secretary; his intelligence and military background would make him a quick study in that job. I would like Tom Steyer to head a new cabinet position: secretary of national infrastructure. We’re going to rebuild America, not just build a wall on the border with Mexico. And I am asking Cory Booker, the former mayor of Newark, to become secretary of housing and urban development. Who would bring more passion to the task of revitalizing our inner cities than Cory?

“I am asking Mitt Romney to be my commerce secretary. He is the best person to promote American business and technology abroad — and it is vital that the public understands that my government will be representing all Americans, including Republicans. I would like Andrew Yang to be energy secretary, overseeing our nuclear stockpile and renewable energy innovation. He’d be awesome.

“I am asking Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to serve as our U.N. ambassador. Can you imagine how our international standing would improve with youth worldwide with her representing next-gen America? And I want Senator Michael Bennet, the former superintendent of the Denver Public Schools, to be my secretary of education. No one understands education reform better than he does. Silicon Valley Congressman Ro Khanna would be an ideal secretary of labor, balancing robots and workers to create “new collar” jobs.

“Finally, I am asking William H. McRaven, the retired Navy admiral who commanded the U.S. Special Operations Command from 2011 to 2014 and oversaw the 2011 Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden, to be my defense secretary. Admiral McRaven, more than any other retired military officer, has had the courage and integrity to speak out against the way President Trump has politicized our intelligence agencies.

Only last week, McRaven wrote an essay in The Washington Post decrying Trump’s firing of Joe Maguire as acting director of national intelligence — the nation’s top intelligence officer — for doing his job when he had an aide brief a bipartisan committee of Congress on Russia’s renewed efforts to tilt our election toward Trump.

“Edmund Burke,” wrote McRaven, “the Irish statesman and philosopher, once said: ‘The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.’”

If Bernie or Bloomberg or whoever emerges to head the Democratic ticket brings together such a team of rivals, I am confident it will defeat Trump in a landslide. But if progressives think they can win without the moderates — or the moderates without the progressives — they are crazy. And they’d be taking a huge risk with the future of the country by trying.

And I mean a huge risk. Back in May 2018, the former House speaker John Boehner declared: “There is no Republican Party. There’s a Trump party. The Republican Party is kind of taking a nap somewhere.”

It’s actually not napping anymore. It’s dead.

And I will tell you the day it died. It was just last week, when Trump sacked Maguire for advancing the truth and replaced him with a loyalist, an incompetent political hack, Richard Grenell. Grenell is the widely disliked U.S. ambassador to Germany, a post for which he is also unfit. Grenell is now purging the intelligence service of Trump critics. How are we going to get unvarnished, nonpolitical intelligence analysis when the message goes out that if your expert conclusions disagree with Trump’s wishes, you’re gone?

I don’t accept, but can vaguely understand, Republicans’ rallying around Trump on impeachment. But when Republicans, the self-proclaimed national security party — folks like Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio and Tom Cotton — don’t lift a finger to stop Trump’s politicization of our first line of defense — the national intelligence directorate set up after 9/11 — then the Republican Party is not asleep. It’s dead and buried.

And that is why a respected, nonpartisan military intelligence professional like Bill McRaven felt compelled to warn what happens when good people are silent in the face of evil. Our retired generals don’t go public like that very often. But he was practically screaming, “This is a four-alarm fire, a category 5 hurricane.” And the G.O.P. response? Silence.

Veteran political analyst E.J. Dionne, in his valuable new book, “Code Red: How Progressives and Moderates Can Unite to Save Our Country,” got this exactly right: We have no responsible Republican Party anymore. It is a deformed Trump personality cult. If the country is going to be governed responsibly, that leadership can come only from Democrats and disaffected Republicans courageous enough to stand up to Trump. It is crucial, therefore, argues Dionne, that moderate and progressive Democrats find a way to build a governing coalition together.

Neither can defeat the other. Neither can win without the other. Neither can govern without the other.

If they don’t join together — if the Democrats opt for a circular firing squad — you can kiss the America you grew up in goodbye.

So, Dems, put away the knives, publish that unity cabinet, and bury the cult of Trump under a mountain of sensible, responsible government. And win big in November.

(Thanks to Roving Reporter Sherry for the tip.)

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Update on coronavirus in the U. S.

Olivia Messer at the Daily Beast reports on The Terrifying Reality of Trump’s Coronavirus Promise. “Now is the time for businesses, hospitals, communities, and schools to be preparing,” a top U.S. health official said.

As U.S. officials worked to shatter international records by sending a vaccine for the new, deadly coronavirus to phase one clinical trials, they also urged Americans to prepare for the worst.

Meanwhile, experts poked new holes in the federal response so far to an illness that appeared to be on the cusp of a major national outbreak.

There were 57 total confirmed cases of the 2019 novel coronavirus in the United States at last count on Tuesday morning, according to Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That tally included 14 patients picked up through the American health system and 43 more repatriated to the United States from the Diamond Princess cruise ship or State Department-chartered flights.

Messonnier said in a call with reporters that community spread—when cases are detected in an area but the source of the infection is not known—was inevitable in the United States, despite what she described as an ongoing “aggressive containment strategy.” The disease, which originated in Wuhan, China has sickened 80,000 people globally and killed at least 2,663 people in mainland China and a growing number of other countries.

The CDC’s approach, as Messonnier reiterated Tuesday, has been primarily to slow the introduction of the virus into the U.S. by identifying cases as early as possible and then isolating those patients and tracking all of their contacts. But that will only go so far, as experts on Tuesday pointed to the potential for a major surge in new cases of the deadly illness, as well as a larger domestic crisis that could upend millions of lives.

“This whole situation may seem overwhelming, and disruption to everyday life may be severe, but these are things we should be thinking about now,” Messonnier said. “You should be thinking about what you would do if schools or daycares close. Is telecommuting an option for you?”

“Now is the time for businesses, hospitals, communities, and schools to be preparing,” she added.

President Donald “Nero” Trump fiddles

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump on Tuesday played down concerns about the outbreak, suggesting once again that he believed “that’s a problem that’s going to go away” in the warmer months and promising the American public that “we are very close to a vaccine.” (White House officials later claimed he was referring to a vaccine for Ebola, rather than the novel coronavirus.)

In the morning email, Judd Legum weighs in at about the “Political Infection.”

The coronavirus has killed thousands of people worldwide and is threatening to sabotage the global economy. But Trump and his allies view the coronavirus primarily as a political problem. They are worried that concerns about the virus will cause an economic slowdown that will damage Trump’s prospects for reelection. So Trump is eager to downplay the threat to Americans.

Trump tweeted that the coronavirus is “very much under control,” citing the Center for Disease Control (CDC), as the authority.

But just hours later, the CDC made it clear that the coronavirus is not under control, and urged Americans to prepare for a major outbreak.

In these circumstances, chaos and confusion are dangerous. Americans are receiving conflicting messages from their government at a time when they need accurate information, based on the best available science.

Trump, however, does not listen to experts. He listens to the right-wing media.

Biomedicine at breakneck speed

True, but likely it’s not fast enough. Back to the Daily Beast …

It is true that a possible vaccine for the virus is set to enter a phase one clinical trial in April after authorities learned the virus’s genetic sequence in January. That would break global records even with the likelihood for a real-world use remaining 12 to 18 months away. Biotech company Moderna said on Monday that it had shipped the first batch of potential vaccine samples to government researchers at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) to start human trials on 20 to 25 healthy volunteers. But even if the first study of Moderna’s possible vaccine is positive—which is not a given—one still may not be widely available until next year after more studies and regulatory clearances, according to the Institute’s director, Anthony Fauci.

“I am frustrated—as I know many of you are—that we have had issues with the tests,” said the CDC’s Messonnier. “As important as speed is, it is more important that we make sure the results are correct.”

Economic and Political Effects

John Cassidy writes in The New Yorker As Coronavirus Spreads, Stocks Fall Again and the White House Frets about a Black Swan. He highlights some consequences of the possible spread of the coronavirus in the U. S.

Behind the scenes, [Trump] has “voiced his own anxieties, rebuking public health leaders over last week’s decision to fly home 14 Americans who tested positive for the virus while aboard a cruise ship in Japan,” as Politico reported on Friday. According to the Washington Post, Trump “again became irate after learning over the weekend that federal officials planned to house some coronavirus patients in an Alabama facility despite protests from local officials.”

From a political perspective, the virus presents two threats to the President. If covid–19 spreads inside the United States, the White House could be held responsible for botching its response to the virus’s outbreak. Democrats are already sharpening their knives. “The Trump Administration has been asleep at the wheel,” Chuck Schumer, the Senate Minority Leader, said on Monday, on the Senate floor. “President Trump, good morning! There’s a pandemic of coronavirus. Where are you?”

The other threat to Trump is an economic one. If the stumble in the stock market is a one-off event, it won’t have much impact politically. But, if Wall Street goes into an extended slide, or if the broader economy gets hit badly as the virus spreads, it could change the political environment going into the election.

BTW - the “black swan” is “a term for low-probability events that have hard-to-predict effects.”

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

The Making of the Trump Regime, Part 1 - Purging to Preserve the Authoritarianization of America

The AZ Blue Meanie reports on Trump’s ‘Deep State’ purge list compiled by the wife of Justice Clarence Thomas.

The spouses of U.S. Supreme Court Justices traditionally try to remain as apolitical as their Justice spouses (active political involvement by the federal judiciary is discouraged in order to maintain the political impartiality of the court). Ginny Thomas has never been concerned with this “impartiality of justice” ethical norm. She has been an activist in numerous right-wing organizations throughout her marriage to Justice Thomas.

It is beyond unseemly that the wife of a Supreme Court justice is leading a cadre of right-wing extremists who want to engage in Stalinist purges of government employees and replace them with loyalists in the personality cult of Donald Trump.

Ginny Thomas removes any doubt that Justice Clarence Thomas does not believe in impartial justice rendered fairly based upon the facts and the law. He will side with the Trump administration on whatever it most desires.

As horrific as that sounds, it is just the means to a more insidious end. I followed the Blue Meanie’s advice and read The First Days of the Trump Regime by Adam Serwer writing in The Atlantic. The scary theme is that The president has interpreted the Republican-controlled Senate’s vote to acquit as a writ of absolute power. Here are my choice excerpts.

… The underlying principle here, from Stone to Iran-Contra, is authoritarian but consistent: Members of the ruling clique are entitled to criticize law enforcement without sanction, and entitled to leniency when they commit crimes on the boss’s behalf. Everyone else is entitled to kneel.

… keeping Trump in office is not the ultimate goal, despite party members’ obsequious public performances toward Trump. Rather, the purpose is to preserve the authoritarian structure Trump and Barr are building, so that it can be inherited by the next Republican president. To be more specific, the Trump administration is not fighting a “deep state”; it is seeking to build one that will outlast him.

Let us pause for a moment to take stock of this vision of government. It is a state in which the legislature can neither oversee the executive branch nor pass laws that constrain it. A state in which legal requests for government records on those associated with the political opposition are satisfied immediately, and such requests related to the sitting executive are denied wholesale. It is a system in which the executive can be neither investigated for criminal activity nor removed by the legislature for breaking the law. It is a government in which only the regime party may make enforceable demands, and where the opposition party may compete in elections, but only against the efforts of federal law enforcement to marginalize them for their opposition to the president. It is a vision of government in which members of the civil service may break the law on the leader’s behalf, but commit an unforgivable crime should they reveal such malfeasance to the public.

On Thursday, February 6, millions of Americans went about their lives as they would have any other day. They came home from overnight shifts, took the bus to work, made lunch for their children, cursed the traffic on their commute, or went out for a drink with friends. Yet the nation they live in may have been fundamentally changed the day before.

Since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the American imagination of catastrophe has been limited to sudden, shocking events, the kind that shatter a sunny day in a storm of blood. That has left Americans unprepared for a different kind of catastrophe, the kind that spreads slowly and does not abruptly announce itself. For that reason, for most Americans, that Thursday morning felt like any other. But it was not—the Senate acquittal marked the beginning of a fundamental transition of the United States from a democracy, however flawed, toward authoritarianization. It was, in short, the end of the Trump administration, and the first day of the would-be Trump Regime.

The Making of the Trump Regime, Part 2 - Transfer of Power to the Party in Power

Andrew Sullivan, writing in New York Magazine’s Intelligencer, explains why Trump’s Presidency Isn’t a Dark Comedy — It’s an Absurd Tragedy.

Ouch. I plead guilty to blogging, by text and illustration, about the buffoon now in the WH. I’ve engaged in a little sub rosa snickering about the peccadillos of the Mad King Donald. Here is what’s wrong with that lackadaisical approach. Day after day the true nature of the man has become less like Elmer Fudd in Looney Tunes and more like some vampire in the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

The idea that Donald J. Trump is a president best defined by his weakness has always carried a kind of knowing, world-weary authority. It’s basically the Washington Republican response when you’re freaking out about Trump’s incessant power grabs. Calm down, they tell us; he’s not really effective; he’s a shiny object to keep non-college-educated whites in the GOP’s grip; we’re still having elections; he’s only behaving like presidents before Watergate; the economy is fine; he’s more in touch with America than the rest of you. And so on.

I Sullivan … admire the sangfroid of some non-hysterics. In an age of high emotionality, the calm-down chorus has managed to summon up an air of coolness, detachment, moderation. To take one of the more persuasive advocates of this basic position: New York Times columnist Ross Douthat. He argued a while back that the best way to see the Trump administration was more as LBJ than Mussolini. This week, he described the Trump era as a “black comedy” — something unmistakably dark but ultimately unserious. On February 1, Ross made the broader case that Trump is “a reckless and distracted figure, a serial squanderer of opportunities, who barely won the presidency and whose coalition is united only in partisan solidarity and fear of liberalism. He may not be removable by the impeachment process, but is not a king; he is a widely hated, legislatively constrained president facing a difficult re-election … A failed impeachment doesn’t give him new powers or new popularity.”

And that’s where I Sullivan get off the calm-down bus. The way Trump has been operating since he was acquitted by the Senate suggests to me that he is quite obviously seeking and practicing new powers, as he has been since he was sworn in; and that he has been rewarded, chillingly, with new popularity despite or because of it. He has brazenly pardoned a whole slew of his political allies and personal friends, initiated a purge of anyone in government who exposed malfeasance, fired an acting director of National Intelligence because an underling warned of Russian interference in the 2020 election, and kept suggesting to a judge that if she returned a harsh sentence for one of his goons, Roger Stone, he would almost certainly commute it or pardon Stone entirely. (Since Judge Amy Berman Jackson’s moderate sentence on Thursday, Trump has refused to take a pardon off the table.)

And to make sure we fully understand and witness what he’s doing, he has also declared himself as “I guess, the chief law enforcement officer” of the United States, and made a series of very public assertions that he can do anything he wants in the criminal-justice sphere. For all this, he is at 49 percent high in the Gallup poll, at a yearslong peak of 44.2 percent in the FiveThirtyEight poll of polls and 46 percent in RealClearPolitics’ average.

… What Trump is doing is openly mocking constitutional constraints on the presidency even as he abuses his office — and has prompted only indifference among Republicans and exhaustion among Democrats.

Look at the precedents that have already been set: A president can now ignore Congress’ power of the purse, by redirecting funds from Congress’ priorities to his own (as in the wall); he can invent a “national emergency” out of nothing … he can broadly refuse to cooperate with any legitimate congressional inquiries … obstruct justice, and intimidate witnesses with impunity; he can slander judges … He can wage war unilaterally and instantly, without any congressional approval, while lying about the reason … and denying the consequences …

Are we supposed to believe these precedents will not be cited and deployed by every wannabe strongman president in the future? Are we supposed to regard these massive holes below the waterline of the ship of state as no big deal? And with these precedents in his first term, are we supposed to regard what could Trump get away with in a second term as a form of black comedy? I’m sorry but I don’t get the joke.

… our current president is also threatening the integrity of our elections by his indifference toward foreign influence, his refusal to commit to obeying an election result in advance, his grotesque past claims of voter fraud, and his toying with a third or fourth term. Last year, Trump tweeted a GIF that showed him winning elections in 2024, 2028, and on and on. And it was one thing to swallow all this gamesmanship and trolling from a rogue candidate in 2016 — but from a sitting president heading into an election year? And then we have a genuine potential nightmare: If the election is close, can we be sure that the president will accept the result, and act in the interests of the country, rather than himself?

With Trump, for the first time in the history of the presidency, the answer is no. If you have followed this man’s business career, or witnessed the last three and a half years, you will notice that Trump never concedes anything. So why do we assume he would concede an election? And who would make him? And when you examine the nature of the party he has now remade in his image, and observe its evolution in recent decades, you see that the GOP’s core belief seems to have become that the other party is inherently illegitimate, and must be crushed by any means to hand. Which means to say that the GOP is a party now dedicated to the maintenance of its own power before any other principle. That was the core meaning of Trump’s nomination. It means that we have no idea if we’ll see a normal transfer of power this fall if the president loses.

… confronted with this reality, it is staggering to me that anyone can say we should chill. The nature of Trump’s instinctual tyranny is that it never stops by itself. And, like any psychological disorder, it never rests. It has an energy all its own. Each new beachhead of power is simply a means to acquire more of it in an ever-more ambitious and dynamic form. This is not a comedy; it’s a tragedy we want to believe is a comedy. Because the alternative is too nightmarish.

Look, people. All of the above is a strong case for impeachment and removal from office. That already has been taken away leaving removal via the 2020 election. But what if Trump decrees that the election is invalid? And refuses to leave office? Do we have any protection short of a 2024 election? And what then?

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Dems might have to learn to 'love the one you're with'

John Cassidy (New Yorker) reports that Bernie Sanders scores an impressive victory in Nevada.

Sanders’s win in Nevada on Saturday was so large and comprehensive that it raised the question of when, rather than whether, some of his rivals will drop out.

Shortly after 7 p.m. E.S.T., news outlets projected Sanders as the winner in Nevada. The early returns from the caucus precincts showed him getting more than a third of the first preferences, and, after the reallocation of second preferences, more than forty per cent of the vote—while most of his rivals struggled to reach the fifteen-per-cent threshold that they had to pass to get any delegates at all. If this pattern held through the final returns, Sanders would be allocated the vast majority of the state’s thirty-six pledged delegates.

As the race moves on to South Carolina and the Super Tuesday states, there are big questions about the viability of all of the moderate candidates. Biden’s camp claimed a second-place finish in Nevada, but the results were not yet final, and Biden performed woefully among voters under forty-five. Tom Steyer, who spent heavily on advertising in the state, ran well behind in virtually every category. Buttigieg, Klobuchar, and Elizabeth Warren all did very badly with minority voters, according to the entrance poll. Among Latino voters, Klobuchar got just four per cent, Warren seven per cent, and Buttigieg nine per cent. Among African-American voters, who made up roughly ten per cent of the voters, Klobuchar got the support of just three per cent and Buttigieg got two per cent.

With numbers like these, you would think there has to be a reckoning among the candidates who are now chasing Sanders. On Saturday night, there was no indication of any candidates dropping out—yet.

Obviously, as an Elizabeth Warren supporter I am not pleased. But I am reminded of the 60’s song by Stephen Sills.

Sills sings
if you can’t be with the one you love
then love the one you’re with

There is nothing - no credibility, no integrity - left in the Trump administration but the triumph of evil

William H. McRaven, a retired Navy admiral, was commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command from 2011 to 2014. He oversaw the 2011 Navy SEAL raid in Pakistan that killed Osama bin Laden.

He writes in the Washington Post If good men like Joe Maguire can’t speak the truth, we should be deeply afraid. (Here is is in full with additional commentary from the Post.

Edmund Burke, the Irish statesman and philosopher, once said: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Over the course of the past three years, I have watched good men and women, friends of mine, come and go in the Trump administration — all trying to do something — all trying to do their best. Jim Mattis, John Kelly, H.R. McMaster, Sue Gordon, Dan Coats and, now, Joe Maguire, who until this week was the acting director of national intelligence.

I have known Joe for more than 40 years. There is no better officer, no better man and no greater patriot. He served for 36 years as a Navy SEAL. In 2004, he was promoted to the rank of rear admiral and was chosen to command all of Naval Special Warfare, including the SEALs. Those were dark days for the SEALs. Our combat losses from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were the highest in our history, and Joe and his wife, Kathy, attended every SEAL funeral, providing comfort and solace to the families of the fallen.

But it didn’t stop there. Not a day went by that the Maguires didn’t reach out to some Gold Star family, some wounded SEAL, some struggling warrior. Every loss was personal, every family precious. When Joe retired in 2010, he tried the corporate world. But his passion for the Special Operations soldiers was so deep that he left a lucrative job and took the position as the president of the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, a charity that pays for educating the children of fallen warriors.

In 2018, Joe was asked to be the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, a job he knew well from his last assignment as a vice admiral. He accepted, but within months of his arrival came the announcement of Coats’s departure as director of national intelligence. Maguire didn’t seek to fill the job; he was asked to do it by the president. At first he declined, suggesting that Sue Gordon, Coats’s deputy, would be better suited for the job.

But the president chose Maguire. And, like most of these good men and women, he came in with the intent to do his very best, to follow the rules, to follow the law and to follow what was morally right. Within a few weeks of taking the assignment, he found himself embroiled in the Ukraine whistleblower case. Joe told the White House that, if asked, he would testify, and he would tell the truth. He did. In short order, he earned the respect of the entire intelligence community. They knew a good man was at the helm. A man they could count on, a man who would back them, a man whose integrity was more important than his future employment.

But, of course, in this administration, good men and women don’t last long. Joe was dismissed for doing his job: overseeing the dissemination of intelligence to elected officials who needed that information to do their jobs.

As Americans, we should be frightened — deeply afraid for the future of the nation. When good men and women can’t speak the truth, when facts are inconvenient, when integrity and character no longer matter, when presidential ego and self-preservation are more important than national security — then there is nothing left to stop the triumph of evil.

So who did Trump put in McGuire’s place?

In The Post’s View: Trump puts an unqualified loyalist in charge of national intelligence.

PRESIDENT TRUMP’S campaign to purge the government of anyone not blindly loyal to him continued Wednesday with the appointment of Richard Grenell as acting director of national intelligence. Mr. Grenell, who currently serves as ambassador to Germany, is manifestly unqualified for the job, even in an acting capacity. He has no experience in intelligence or in managing large organizations — like the 17 agencies that will now report to him.

Mr. Grenell has nevertheless won the president’s favor in a familiar way: by loudly praising him and his agenda on Fox News programs and social media. Probably, he has convinced Mr. Trump he can be counted on to put the president’s personal and political interests above those of national security — something the two previous DNIs would not reliably do.

He will reportedly retain his post as ambassador even while serving as acting DNI, something that will probably disappoint the Germans. U.S. intelligence professionals already struggling to preserve the vital work of providing accurate information to government decision-makers will be further demoralized. Mr. Grenell tweeted Thursday that he would not be formally nominated for the DNI position; that is not surprising, since he barely obtained Senate confirmation for the Berlin post and would likely face still greater opposition to becoming the nation’s intelligence chief.

Mr. Grenell’s tweet said a permanent DNI would be nominated “sometime soon.” Mr. Trump nevertheless may well leave his minion in place for months. The president has developed a penchant for placing acting officials in high positions; by doing so, he dodges the need for Senate approval and reduces the clout and independence of department heads. Mr. Grenell could remain in command of the intelligence community through most of this year’s presidential campaign. Will he stand up against interference by Russia or other hostile powers? Not, we suspect, unless Mr. Trump tells him to do so.

Post columnist Jennifer Rubin reminds us of what happens When competence is not the goal.

… Democratic presidential contenders advocating for a policy revolution or big, structural change are increasingly out of touch. We have no capacity, even if it were desirable, to launch major initiatives or fundamentally change entire sectors of our economy with a government that is discredited, hollowed out, incompetent and corrupt. The next president, as unsexy as it sounds, must be a competent and ethically pristine figure in order to repair our government. Candidates who have no conception of the task ahead and no interest in the hard work of running government are unsuited to the challenge we now face. Candidates whose purpose is confrontation and revolution lack the good sense and skill set to restore functional democracy.

Corruption, cruelty and incompetence define authoritarian states precisely because everything revolves around elevation of the leader and destruction of critics. Democrats must recognize and be able to explain that. The task is not revolution, but fumigation and toxic cleanup.

It is certain that our 2020 election is being hacked as I write this. But because Trump will not countenance independence and competence by the DNI, the nation and those responsible for oversight will be denied information needed to to their jobs of protecting us and our democratic institutions.

McRaven has given us reasons to fear. “As Americans, we should be frightened — deeply afraid for the future of the nation.”

Coronavirus update - CDC prepares for 'likely' spread in US

USA TODAY reports that CDC is preparing for the ‘likely’ spread of coronavirus in the US, officials say.

The CDC reported that at least 35 people in the United States are infected with the virus. Of those, 14 were travelers who fell ill after returning from a trip abroad, while 21 were were people “repatriated” by the State Department.

Health experts sounded the alarm Friday over the worldwide threat of the coronavirus, with officials warning of its “likely” community spread in the United States and the World Health Organization cautioning that “the window of opportunity is narrowing” for containing the outbreak worldwide.

The COVID–19 coronavirus, which erupted in China in December, has killed at least 2,360 people and sickened at least 77,900 worldwide, the majority of cases in mainland China.

Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told reporters Friday that U.S. health officials are preparing for the coronavirus to become a pandemic.

“We’re not seeing community spread here in the United States, yet, but it’s very possible, even likely, that it may eventually happen,” she said. “Our goal continues to be slowing the introduction of the virus into the U.S. This buys us more time to prepare communities for more cases and possibly sustained spread.”

She said the CDC is working with state and local health departments “to ready our public health workforce to respond to local cases.” These measures include collaboration with supply chain partners, hospitals, pharmacies and manufacturers to determine what medical supplies are needed.

She said the “day may come” here where we have to shut down schools and businesses like China has done.

ABJ sentences RS saying 'the truth still exists, the truth still matters'

Look Out, America, ABJ Is the New RBG writes Molly Jong-Fast (Daily Beast Editor-At-Large). “The truth still matters.” With those words, a brave judge sent away a man who’s deserved it for years—and reminded us of what this country can be again.

"The truth still exists; the truth still matters,” Judge Amy Berman Jackson said Thursday at the sentencing of the president’s favorite dirty trickster, Roger Stone. It may have seemed like an obvious statement, but as Trumpworld continues its assault on the rule of law, things like the truth mattering seem slightly obscured by the current political climate of relentless lying. Judge ABJ continued, “Roger Stone’s insistence that it doesn’t, his belligerence, his pride in his own lies are a threat to our most fundamental institutions, to the foundations of our democracy.”

The foundation of our democracy has been feeling a little shaky after all the Republican senators (with the exception of Mitt Romney) were derelict in their duty of holding the president accountable, after John Bolton was more committed to book sales than the truth, and as the president runs his own separate media ecosystem that takes his lies as gospel. It’s hard to have any faith in anything that’s going on in Washington, D.C., these days. But then along comes Judge Amy Berman Jackson, emerging like a phoenix from the ashes of the Mueller investigation.

Despite personal attacks in the social media by Stone and Trump …

… the 65-year-old, Harvard-educated judge has not been deterred, and at the sentencing hearing she got down to the heart of the matter, which is simply that the cult of personality that surrounds Trump shouldn’t matter more than the truth. “The defendant lied about a matter of great national and international significance,” she said. “This is not campaign hijinks. This is not just Roger being Roger.”

The truth has had a very hard time of it lately. The president is not a fan. As of January, The Washington Post had him at 16,241 misleading statements. Bill Barr seems more and more like Rudy Giuliani, just another one of Trump’s “free lawyers.” Often, it feels like his administration is at war with the truth, the president’s army of propagandists seems relentless. And just when it looks darkest, we have the young RBG, ABJ, to remind us that “the truth still matters.”

It’s a beautiful and weirdly tragic moment, watching ABJ beat back against the current of Trumpism. ABJ reminds us that some day the truth will matter once again, that we as a people are better than the childish rhetoric and grotesque name-calling that is Trumpism.

Some day America will once again be a shining city on the hill, or at least a normal place, and not a partisan nightmare ruled by a moron. And when it returns to its once former normalcy, it will be because of judges like ABJ and not criminals like Roger Stone.

Science shorts - Elephants mourn and dogs love

How elephants respond to death

The Washington Post reports research on mourning by elephants: An elephant’s story does not end when it dies. That’s a bit of an inferential leap on my part, but read the story and judge for yourself.

In Kenya, there’s a spot on the banks of the Ewaso Ng’iro River where elephants like to congregate. Tall acacia trees provide shade for naps, and doum palms supply date-like fruits that the animals scarf up by the trunk-full. It was in this place that Victoria, a 55-year-old matriarch well-known to scientists, drew her last breaths in June 2013.

But that was not the end of Victoria’s story.

Several elephants huddled around the body, recalled ecologist Shifra Goldenberg, who was observing the animals with colleagues that day. She noticed that Malasso, a 14-year-old bull, was one of the last to leave. Victoria was his mother.

The scientists do not conclude from these accounts that elephants mourn, an activity that is often attributed to the species. But their response has a common thread, the authors say. When an elephant falls, the loss is acknowledged and investigated by other elephants, even those unrelated to the deceased. Death means something to elephants, in other words — possibly something emotional.

Your dog loves you

The science newsletter reports on What makes dogs so special? Science says love.

The idea that animals can experience love was once anathema to the psychologists who studied them, seen as a case of putting sentimentality before scientific rigor.

But a new book argues that, when it comes to dogs, the word is necessary to understanding what has made the relationship between humans and our best friends one of the most significant interspecies partnerships in history.

Clive Wynne, founder the Canine Science Collaboratory at Arizona State University, makes the case in “Dog is Love: Why and How Your Dog Loves You.”

Friday, February 21, 2020

The math says that Bernie is the likely Dem candidate. But there are some things that could reverse that - if they get done yesterday.

The delegate math now favors Bernie Sanders reports John Cassidy at The New Yorker. Here is some of it.

The most significant development in the Democratic primary over the past few days wasn’t Wednesday night’s slugfest of a debate in Las Vegas, entertaining as that was for anybody not in Michael Bloomberg’s camp. It was the publication of three separate opinion polls that showed Bernie Sanders with a substantial lead over the other candidates in California, which votes on Super Tuesday, March 3rd, now less than two weeks away.

"Since the contests in Iowa and New Hampshire primaries … Sanders has opened up a large lead over the rest of the field across Super Tuesday states,” Mitch Stewart and Dan Kanninen, two staffers on the Bloomberg campaign, wrote in a controversial campaign memo that was leaked just before Wednesday’s debate. “As the race stands today, Sanders is poised to leave Super Tuesday with an over–400 delegate lead versus his next closest competitor a likely insurmountable advantage,” the memo warned.

The other campaigns rightly slammed the leaking of this document as a brazen effort to put pressure on Biden, Buttigieg, and Amy Klobuchar—Bloomberg’s rivals in the moderate lane—to leave the race. After Bloomberg’s pitiful performance in the debate, it is perhaps he who should be considering an early exit. But the delegate math can’t be swept aside. The independent Web site FiveThirtyEight—whose forecasting model for the primary takes into account the latest polls and the method of allocating delegates, as well as other factors—also shows Sanders taking a lead of more than three hundred delegates over his nearest rival by the end of Super Tuesday.

To be sure, this analysis is based on recent trends continuing, which may not happen. A strong showing for Biden in Nevada, followed by a big victory in South Carolina, could alter the dynamic, as could a sizable bounce for Warren, after her strong performance in Wednesday’s debate. Even absent some major new development, Sanders is far from assured of getting a majority of the pledged delegates at the end of the process. Unless his vote share increases substantially from where it currently is in the polls, Sanders achieving such a decisive result seems like a stretch. Right now, though, the senator appears to have a very good chance of having a plurality of delegates going into the Milwaukee convention.

I, your Scriber, don’t regard myself as one of the ABOTS (Any Body Other Than Sanders) but (#1) I favor Warren, and (#2) I really do worry that Sanders will lose to Trump. (Socialism, socialism, solcialism ad nauseam.)

If you share my misgivings (or even not), try tuning into this from Charlie Sykes’ the morning Bulwark email.

It’s later than you think, writes Tim Miller in this morning’s Bulwark. “Barring a drastic change in the race,,” he writes, “Bernie Sanders is going to be the presumptive Democratic nominee 11 days from now.”

“Eleven days.”

Some of us have seen this happen before. Miller lived it from inside…. So, helpfully, he offers “The 5 Lessons from 2016 Democrats Need to Understand If They Want to Stop Bernie.” Miller provides “an emergency guide to what I learned during the invasion of 2016.”

History is repeating itself. Democrats can learn how to save their party from seeing how the Republicans lost theirs ” writes Miller.

For starters, consider that the other candidates have been busy sticking it to each other. Miller provides a piece of history from the 2016 race.

Everyone else [other than Jeb Bush] went to pains not to target Trump and instead aim their fire at the guys in second, third, fourth, and fifth places. Remember the Christie/Rubio murder-suicide? You would think the non-Bernie Democratic campaigns would’ve learned that shivving one another only helps the frontrunner, not the guy or gal holding the shank.

And yet for two straight debates the non-Bernies repeated the same exact Christie/Rubio nightmare scenario. First in New Hampshire, the field focused on Mayor Pete rather than Bernie. (Bernie’s campaign admitted to NBC’s Shaq Brewster that it was that debate which stunted Buttigieg’s momentum and probably cost him the win.) On Wednesday night in Nevada, they did the same damn thing, with Warren disemboweling Mayor Mike and Pete and Amy continuing their tiff.

Remember this? NBC reported that Bloomberg to fund sizable campaign effort through November even if he loses Democratic nomination. Exclusive: The former New York City mayor plans to continue paying hundreds of staffers and funding his digital operation to defeat Trump even if he’s not the nominee.

So, on the money matter, Mayor Mike, shut up and put up. Back to Miller …

Bloomberg has spent $230 million and counting on TV and digital ads in the Super Tuesday states—all to bootstrap his own campaign. (I went in depth on the problem with his game theory and how it might be helping Sanders here.)

If Mike’s goal is to actually beat Bernie—and not just finish Super Tuesday with a gentleman’s 18 percent and embark on a long, losing slog in the hopes something crazy happens—then his paid media needs to shift to targeting Bernie immediately.

Let me emphasize this: Immediately, today, five minutes ago, right the fork NOW.

If Bloomberg embarks on a high-volume ad campaign aimed at Bernie it might have the effect of capping or peeling off enough of Bernie’s support before Super Tuesday to push the decisive window further out than just 11 days from now.

Which could, in turn, give the Democratic elites time to use their leverage and the other candidates to redirect their attacks.

Miller also points to another lesson from 2016: That “wait and see” approach became “it’s too late to do anything” really forking fast! So Establishment Figures Who Can Make A Difference Can’t Afford To Wait.

So let’s take a look at 2020 and which Democratic figures are on the sidelines: the Obamas, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Beto O’Rourke, Jimmy Carter, and Al Gore.

Basically every major Democrat who a normal primary voter would know and whose endorsement could command a news cycle is sitting around to see how things shake out.

And I promise you that every one of them who is right now weighing when to put their thumb on the scale will quickly decide after Super Tuesday that they don’t want to be fighting a lonely battle against an inevitable Bernie.

Some of these individuals could shake up the race. Imagine the consolidation pressure if an Obama or Clinton came out for Pete or Joe or Amy in the way Ted Kennedy did for Obama in 2008. That would be the type of event that could legitimately change the balance of the race. If it happened soon.

Check out Miller’s essay for other lessons from 2016. And see the Friday Blog for Arizona post from the AZ Blue Meanie for Some thoughts about ‘fight night’ in Las Vegas.

Tick tock.

20 hours of reflection on the Wednesday Dem debate

Elizabeth Warren is still my fav.

Greg Sargent (Washington Post Plum Line) has some observations and a question about last night when Elizabeth Warren just tore apart a billionaire. Why not Trump?

Is the problem festering at the core of our current crisis largely reducible to President Trump alone? Or is he mainly a symptom of much deeper pathologies afflicting our politics and economy?

For months, this question has lurked just below the surface of the debates driving the Democratic primaries, with each candidate for the most part leaning in one direction or the other.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s breakout debate performance in Las Vegas on Wednesday night is drawing wide acclaim for her brutal dismantling of Mike Bloomberg, who appeared shaky and unprepared. By repeatedly savaging one “arrogant billionaire,” as Warren put it, she induced many to envision her woman-handling the other “arrogant billionaire,” the one tweeting maniacally from the White House.

But there’s a hidden reason Warren’s performance deserves attention. In her treatment of both arrogant billionaires, you could discern how she’d strike her own version of the balancing act outlined above, by attacking Trump as both symptom and exacerbation, as both the result of deeply ingrained problems in our political economy and a figure of unique depravity and venality in his own right.

“I’d like to talk about who we’re running against: a billionaire who calls women fat broads and horse-faced lesbians,” Warren said, right at the outset. “No, I’m not talking about Donald Trump. I’m talking about Mayor Bloomberg.”

“Democrats are not going to win if we have a nominee who has a history of hiding his tax returns, of harassing women and of supporting racist policies like redlining and stop-and-frisk,” Warren continued, adding: “Democrats take a huge risk if we just substitute one arrogant billionaire for another.”

That, of course, is an indictment not just of Bloomberg (who has his own history of demeaning women) but also of Trump: The president is a disgusting misogynist and a racist in his own right, and he’s engaged in nonstop corrupt self-dealing, facilitated by concealed tax returns — and a corrupted system.

Similarly, in another big exchange, Warren cornered Bloomberg by pressing him to release female employees from nondisclosure agreements. But Warren linked this back to the other arrogant billionaire, insisting Democrats can’t beat Trump with a nominee “who has who knows how many nondisclosure agreements” hidden away somewhere.

The argument isn’t just that a misogynist billionaire can’t beat Trump. It’s that a misogynist billionaire who conceals misconduct through clever gaming of the system can’t beat Trump.

The through line here is an indictment of elite corruption — that is, of elites acting with impunity.

Trump and elite corruption

In other words, Warren’s attack on Trump (via Bloomberg) isn’t merely directed at his bottomless void of personal decency and respect for other human beings (which might appeal to suburban women alienated from Trump) or merely at the degree to which he’s representative of a deeply corrupted system (which could appeal to young voters and working-class whites).

It’s both. In Warren’s telling, these are two sides of the same coin: The same man who boasts of grabbing women’s private parts simply because he can is also representative of financial elites who hide personal and financial misconduct alike behind high-priced lawyers while enriching themselves at the expense of the rest of us. It’s the corrupted and rigged system that allows them to do so, with a sense of impunity that at bottom is very similar to that exhibited by Trump’s boasts about sexual assault.

You could also see this in Warren’s discussion of her economic proposals. After Bloomberg absurdly denounced progressive economic proposals as “communism,” Warren pivoted to her proposed tax on extreme wealth, noting it could fund universal child care, pay teachers fair wages and relieve student debt.

“Do we want to invest in Mr. Bloomberg?” Warren asked. “Or do we want to invest in an entire generation of young students?”

One can easily see Warren on a debate stage next to Trump, asking this question while substituting Trump’s name for Bloomberg’s. She could link this to Trump’s massive corporate tax cut (which has produced huge shortfalls in revenue that could otherwise fund popular progressive proposals), and to Trump’s own history of ballooning his inherited wealth with tax fraud, profiteering off the presidency, and lack of transparency on his finances.

Here again Trump would be both symptom and peculiarly abhorrent aberration. Trump is uniquely corrupt, but his profiteering (and that of financial elites like him) is enabled by a tax system made more deeply regressive by Trump and Republicans, and a political system crying out for reforms (like those proposed by Warren) to constrain self-dealing by imposing transparency requirements on presidential candidates.

A Warren comeback? Maybe.

It’s not clear whether this can rescue Warren’s candidacy. Bloomberg’s massive self-funding could mitigate the damage he sustains. Or, by deflating Bloomberg, Warren may allow another moderate (a revived Joe Biden?) to emerge instead.

Separately, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) also posted a strong performance and emerged largely unscathed, possibly putting him on track to an insurmountable delegate lead after Super Tuesday.

On the other hand, as Dave Karpf points out, Warren doesn’t necessarily need to cut into Sanders’s base (which is unshakably loyal) to come back. Warren is at her strongest when she attacks corruption and inequality, while staking out a posture that’s both progressive and pro-reformed-capitalism, both populist and technocratic, which could allow her to play unifier to constituencies outside Sanders’s base.

Whether this will happen remains to be seen. But Warren also showed a way to bridge the intra-Dem argument over how to attack both Trump and our deeper maladies alike, and whatever happens to her candidacy, the eventual nominee should study her performance closely.

Major Pete goes after Bloomberg and Sanders

Here’s a sample of Jennifer Rubin’s commentary in which she asks Who benefits from Bloomberg’s troubles?

Buttigieg also made hay out of Bloomberg’s (and to some extent Sanders’s) troubles. He began and ended with the same argument. In his first answer he told the audience: “We could wake up two weeks from today, the day after Super Tuesday, and the only candidates left standing will be Bernie Sanders and Mike Bloomberg, the two most polarizing figures on this stage.” He ended as he began: “If you look at the choice between a revolution or the status quo and you don’t see where you fit in that picture, then join us. … We shouldn’t have to choose between one candidate who wants to burn this party down and another candidate who wants to buy this party out.” Tweaking both Bloomberg and Sanders, he declared that he was the only one who had been a Democratic mayor.

True. Sanders is a registered independent. Bloomberg was (is???) a Republican.