Saturday, April 18, 2020
With the Covid-19 pandemic and the exemption of churches from bans on large gatherings in some states, we have seen something underscored that has been part of the Trump/GOP agenda all along and which played a key role in Trump's election: granting right wing Christians special rights and attacking Obama administration policies which protected the Christofascists' favorite targets: Gays, women seeking abortions, and non-Christians. Combined with this, Trump has pandered to the charlatans who comprise leading figures in the so-called It's the reason evangelicals continue to support Trump, the living embodiment of the seven deadly sins. What is equally disturbing is the effort to grant large amounts of taxpayer funds given to "Christian" organizations who them discriminate against the recipients of their allegedly charitable operations be they adoption/foster care services to or healthcare services. All of these things make a mockery of the First Amendment's ban on an established religion. Like it or not, America now has a de facto established religion: fundamentalist Christianity. A piece in The Advocate looks at this dangerous trend. Here are excerpts:
At the end of March,
PresidentTrump attempted to reassure Americans who are feeling the stress of the coronavirus pandemic by inviting Mike Lindell, the CEO of MyPillow, to speak at his daily press briefing.Calling America a “nation [that] had turned his back on God,” Mr. Lindell encouraged people to “use this time at home to get back in the Word, read our Bibles, and spend time with our families.”
Meanwhile, in New York City, a Christian organization called Samaritan's Purse, led by notoriously anti-LGBTQ Christian supremacist Franklin Graham, has set up a field hospital in Central Park to treat overflow patients in cooperation with Mt. Sinai Hospital from nearby hospitals. Even during this pandemic, this organization requires volunteers and health care workers to sign a statement of faith, proclaiming that marriage is defined as "exclusively the union of one genetic male and one genetic female" and that unbelievers are sentenced to "everlasting punishment in hell.” The group is well known for using its social services to proselytize. Last year, the organization received $39 million in government support.
“Christian privilege” is the term atheists and nonreligious people frequently use to describe how Christian viewpoints, particularly conservative evangelical ones like those expressed by Lindell and Graham, are favored over nonreligious viewpoints in our law and culture. If you ask most Americans, they believe that the separation of church and state enshrined in the U.S. Constitution should apply to everyone and prevent the government from giving taxpayer dollars or special favoritism to churches. Sadly, this is less and less true.
Using their nearly unlimited wealth, access to powerful politicians like Donald Trump and Mike Pence, and increasing control over the court system, a tiny minority of Christian supremacists have done everything they can to establish special rights for religious organizations. These extremist groups are indeed achieving their goal: guaranteed government funding, free of oversight and exempt from nondiscrimination rules, to allow them to advance their religious mission as they see fit.
And there is evidence that this failure to live up to our constitutional precepts is having a significantly negative impact on those groups most reviled by Christian supremacists: LGBTQ people, religious minorities, and yes, atheists and nonreligious people.
Here is a bit of a preview: when it comes to health care, the tens of thousands of nonreligious people surveyed painted a bleak picture. One in ten (10.7 percent) faced discrimination in health care because of their nonreligious beliefs within the past three years, and in areas of specialized health such as mental health (17.7 percent) and substance abuse services (15.2 percent), the numbers were even higher.
I don’t trust Graham’s organization to offer unbiased services, and I don’t know why any nonreligious or LGBTQ person would. Perhaps more importantly, like many people, I would never choose to receive services from such a discriminatory organization, and it violates my right to religious freedom for the government to force me to do so by providing essential social services through these organizations.
If our constitutional protections are to mean anything, they must apply equally to everyone, even during emergencies. It is incumbent on all of us to not allow Christian privilege to overcome the rule of law.
What the far right is trying to pass of as a grassroots, organic uprising against social distancing and stay home orders is actually an orchestrated efforts with some of the organizers comprised of far right white supremacist groups. Joining in their effort is Donald Trump who is tweeting against states with Democrat governors, including Virginia, and other Republicans who care more about "reopening" the economy than the possible death toll among their constituents. The ultimate goal behind the actions is politically motivated: to save Trump's reelection effort, especially now that his polling numbers are dropping and some polls show a 60% disapproval rate for his handling of the pandemic. In Michigan where some of the loudest protests - with armed protesters, of course, as The Guardian reports the organizers were anything but grassroots:
While protesters in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and other states claim to speak for ordinary citizens, many are also supported by street-fighting rightwing groups like the Proud Boys, conservative armed militia groups, religious fundamentalists, anti-vaccination groups and other elements of the radical right.On Wednesday in Lansing, Michigan, a protest put together by two Republican-connected not-for-profits was explicitly devised to cause gridlock in the city, and for a time blocked the entrance to a local hospital.
It was organized by the Michigan Conservative Coalition, which Michigan state corporate filings show has also operated under the name of Michigan Trump Republicans. It was also heavily promoted by the Michigan Freedom Fund, a group linked to the Trump cabinet member Betsy DeVos.
Near the state house, local radio interviewed a man who identified himself as “Phil Odinson”. In fact the man is Phil Robinson, the prime mover in a group called the Michigan Liberty Militia, whose Facebook page features pictures of firearms, warnings of civil war, celebrations of Norse paganism and memes ultimately sourced from white nationalist groups like Patriot Front.
These are NOT nice people and I have to ask my Republican "friends" if they'd invite these folks into their living rooms and private clubs. If not, they need to distance themselves from them and the politicians who are working with such ugly groups. As for those being duped to jump on the protest bandwagon, it sad that they still can't see beyond their racism and anger to see that those who are manipulating them are the ones who are most responsible for their economic plight. The willful ignorance of these people is stunning and sad.
As for the motivation of the organizers behind these efforts (which, no surprise include Fox News), a piece in the Washington Post lays it all out nicely. Here are highlights:
The social distancing backlash is here. Like many such eruptions of anger, it’s partly genuine and partly fed by political actors with their own preexisting agendas — in this case, mostly to rescue President Trump’s imperiled reelection campaign. And it will get ugly.On Wednesday in Lansing, Mich., thousands of protesters came to the state capitol to demonstrate against the stay-at-home order issued by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D). Though Michigan now has the fourth-highest total of covid-19 cases of any state, with nearly 2,000 deaths, the protesters argued that Whitmer’s order is unnecessary and overly strict.
“It wasn’t really about the stay-at-home order at all,” Whitmer said later on MSNBC. “It was essentially a political rally.” . . . . some were wearing MAGA hats and carrying Trump signs, and Confederate flags appeared in the crowd (though I’m sure that was just about Michigan’s … um … heritage?). Similar though smaller protests have occurred in North Carolina and Ohio. After the Lansing protest, Fox News swung into action, praising the protest on multiple programs. The unmistakable message being communicated is that stay-at-home orders are a leftist plot, and conservatives should be rejecting them. It’s all over right-wing media . . . . . The natural comparison to make with these efforts is the tea party eruption, and there are some points of similarity, including conservative media fanning the flames of anger and the overblown rhetoric about liberty . . . . But the more useful comparison is to Donald Trump’s election itself.
Specifically, the way Trump’s campaign was built on the anger of working-class white voters, especially men. . . . . grievances that were exploited by powerful forces on the right for their own political and economic ends. Those grievances were then channeled into an act — voting for Trump — that was primarily expressive in nature.
Liberals are quick to attribute the white working class’s support for Trump to racism and xenophobia, and there’s no doubt they played an absolutely critical role. But it’s impossible to ignore the fact that when Trump told voters in Rust Belt towns that the “the system” was rigged against them, they had reasons to think he was right.
Trump spoke directly to that dissatisfaction — then layered on top of it a heaping portion of hate directed at immigrants, minorities and liberals. Never mind that “draining the swamp” turned out to be more tax cuts for the wealthy and making it easier for corporations to exploit workers and befoul already-struggling communities.
The pain people are now feeling is even more acute. Twenty-two million Americans have filed for unemployment, wiping out a decade of job gains in weeks. In Michigan, roughly a quarter of the workforce is now unemployed, an absolutely stunning figure. None of us have seen anything like this in our lifetimes.
If you’re not sick and you don’t know anyone who has died, it’s natural to say, “Why are we doing this? Why can’t we go back to work?” Then along comes a bunch of Fox News hosts and conservative activists who tell you, “You’re absolutely right. You’re being forced to suffer needlessly. Those snooty liberals in their coastal cities who can comfortably work from home are just trying to screw you over.”
And once again, the solution being offered will only make things worse. Voting for Trump didn’t help people who live paycheck to paycheck, and defying stay-at-home orders will only give new life to the coronavirus, prolonging the pandemic and making it harder to recover economically.
But if Republicans can convince people that the only way to understand this crisis is through a partisan lens, they can tamp down difficult questions about Trump’s performance and minimize the political damage he’ll suffer, making it possible for him to win in the fall. That’s the goal, one they’re pursuing with all their usual cynicism — even as they fight against Democratic efforts to provide more support to those being hit hardest by the recession.
Could it work? Probably not, but it just might.
Friday, April 17, 2020
|Armed protesters in Michigan - Photo/Paul Sancya.|
With each passing day of the Covid-19 pandemic, several things become clear to mentally functioning Americans: (i) the extent of Donald Trump's malignant narcissism, (ii) Trump's ignorance of and contempt for America's constitutional government as he claims all power to himself, and (ii) the ignorance and idiocy of his base which he and provocateurs at Fox News and right wing "news" outlets are protesting against state lock-down orders that are successfully slowing the virus. Tellingly, at many of such protesters, the Trump faithful are showing up waiving their guns thus demonstrating a need to compensate for their infinitesimally small male endowments and equally small brains. Through it all, Trump rails at state governors who he cannot control and who, under the constitutional system have the power to protect their states even if the result is an economy that will not be helpful to Der Trumpenführer's re-election prospects. A piece in New York Magazine looks at Trump's unhinged war on the states which hopefully will blow up in his face. Here are highlights:
After weeks of disappointment with the White House’s pandemic response, a group of governors in the Northeast and one on the West Coast have announced plans to coordinate the reopening of businesses and schools regionally. Could this bring an escape from Trump’s policy shortcomings, or will it simply escalate his attempts to grab power?Nothing will stop Trump’s attempts to grab power. His novel theory of presidential governance, as he himself has defined it, is to seize “total” authority while bearing no responsibility. He will throw any power move against the wall to see if it sticks. When the coastal coalitions of governors chose to flatly ignore or, in Andrew Cuomo’s case, mock his bid to set himself up as a king, he pivoted in a blink to his dead-on-arrival push to adjourn Congress so he could staff governmental vacancies with a new round of C-list hacks who wouldn’t be subject to Senate approval.
Every day a new tantrum, a new search for scapegoats for his catastrophic mismanagement of America’s public-health catastrophe, and a new attempted end run around the rule of law. The daily Trump show is the most predictable daytime television series since Romper Room.
Yesterday Trump again threatened to use his power to wreak vengeance against states who don’t do his bidding: “If we’re not happy, we’ll take very strong action against a state or a governor … But many governors — and not exclusively those in the coastal coalitions — will refuse to obey Trump’s much-hyped decision to “open” America by May 1. (For the first time, May Day may prove synonymous with Mayday.)
Already, some of the Wall Street tycoons he strong-armed into White House conference calls yesterday told him that most Americans won’t return to work without a wholesale testing regimen to assure them their lives are not at risk. Since Trump continues to claim that America now has “the most expansive testing system anywhere,” a desperately needed federal testing initiative will continue not to happen and much of the country will continue not to reopen.
But while Trump doesn’t have the power to “close down” states that defy him or to force private businesses to open with a “big bang,” he does have one kind of power — political power. And he will wield it. Not with the goal of defeating the coronavirus — he’s convinced himself that war is won — but with the goal of arousing his base to a red-hot pitch of rage that will guarantee its massive turnout in November.
You see it in the internet fever swamps, where Anthony Fauci is a deep state traitor and #FireFauci is a battle cry that Trump retweeted for a reason, despite his subsequent claim that he won’t fire Fauci. You see it in the pronouncements of Republican politicians like the Texas lieutenant governor Dan Patrick, the Indiana congressman Trey Hollingsworth, and the Louisiana senator John Kennedy, who have prioritized a reopened economy over the lives of their constituents. . . . . And of course you see it on Fox News, where the prime-time lineup is trying to foment this street theater into a national phenomenon, social distancing be damned. “
Where will this lead? There’s no way to predict what will happen on Election Day. But unless you choose to ignore what’s already happening in other nations that lifted restrictions too early, there will be new waves of the virus, including in rural America, among religious congregations that abandon social distancing, and at MAGA venues where Trump hopes to rekindle his rallies. Even now, we are seeing a rise in hot spots in states like Florida, governed by mini-Trumps who were tardy in shutting down as the virus hit — and are, in Trump’s language, “chomping at the bit” to reopen.
It’s been clear this week that Trump has hit a new level of berserk since last weekend’s epic Times report documenting in meticulous detail that he squandered at least six weeks to inaction, as the virus cut its lethal swath across America. He even used a coronavirus press briefing to unveil a Goebbels-esque propaganda video (produced at taxpayers’ expense) to try to rewrite that history.
Trump has ordered that his own name appear on the Treasury’s stimulus checks, an addition that will likely delay payment for many recipients who need it most. . . . The benefits of this stunt will be short-lived in any case. The Washington Post reports today that the IRS’s first distribution of these payments, by direct deposit, is another major screwup that has affected millions of Americans. Whenever the cash arrives, with or without Trump’s signature, it won’t last long for the struggling recipients. Trump’s refusal to endorse any emergency aid for an already challenged postal system — as of last weekend 19 employees had died, and roughly 1,000 had tested positive or were presumed positive for the virus — could further slow the checks’ arrival . . .
As an added insult, the federal relief program to shore up small businesses that retain their employees has now run out of money altogether.
But like that proverbial rooster who would take credit for the sunrise, Trump can always be counted on to take credit for any good news, even if he had little or nothing to do with it. And to blame everything that goes wrong on someone else. If Americans don’t get their $1,200 promptly, that will be Nancy Pelosi’s fault. The immediate crisis for Trump is that the failures are rapidly outpacing the list of handy scapegoats as this pandemic marches on.
Thursday, April 16, 2020
|Joe Biden in Philadelphia on March 10. (Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post)|
With Donald Trump having failed the test of protecting America from a pandemic through both his disbanding of the national security pandemic team and slashing positions and funding for the CDC on top of his gutting of many other agencies now needed to stem the Covid-19 economic downturn, Joe Biden's mission is to make the case that he would (i) put together a first class administration with competent individuals rather than grifters and sycophants, and (ii) would better manage future threats. A column in the Washington Post by a former Republican and Never Trumper lays out this situation while taking shots at both Trump but also those in the right and GOP who seemingly have had lobotomies or suffered from a brain deadening illness as they pander and suck up to Trump while downplaying the seriousness of the Covid-19 pandemic. Here are column excerpts:
As yet, it is a disease without a name. But the symptoms are obvious. The patient begins by playing down a gathering national disaster — say a pandemic. . . . . The patient then takes this as an opportunity to complain that the threat was exaggerated all along. . . . Success in opposing a challenge is thus interpreted as evidence the challenge never existed.
Perhaps this should be known as the Ingraham illness — as in Laura Ingraham, who recently demanded “we want answers” because the casualty count from covid-19 is lower than initially predicted. I’m more inclined to diagnose bubonic Bennettism — for William Bennett, who has likened covid-19 to the flu, grumbled about national overreaction and claimed the global outbreak “is not a pandemic.” . . . .As education secretary and as head of the National Endowment for the Humanities, Bennett often reminded us that liberals of great learning could be guilty of destructive silliness. Now he is demonstrating that the same is true of cerebral conservatives.
In reality, there is a series of asymmetrical threats that the United States needs to prepare against. They include terrorism and pandemic disease. They also include cyberaggression against U.S. democracy, criminal gangs of international reach, climate disruption and refugee flows that foster despair and radicalism. And there is the threat of nuclear proliferation. And the threat from an increasingly belligerent China.
We need U.S. leaders who can prevent mass casualties from deadly pathogens and chew gum at the same time. In the last presidential election, Americans chose a leader who has problems even with the second half of that challenge.
PresidentTrump only inhabits the performative present. He neither learns from the past nor anticipates the future. He values blind loyalty above foresight or expertise. He was unprepared for the coronavirus and will leave the country less prepared for every gathering threat that does not arrive on his watch.
We need U.S. leaders who won’t minimize dangers that don’t neatly fit their preconceptions. Leaders who take the world as it is, and plan for a world that could go wrong in a hundred horrible but predictable ways.
More than any other value or talent, Joe Biden must show preemptive competence on American security. I understand his current need to solidify support from his party’s left. I appreciate the appeal of his empathy and decency. But in light of the coronavirus, this is his one thing needful: to assure Americans that he and his White House team would protect the country from the full range of global dangers.
Now or soon, Biden should further reveal the depth and range of his defense and foreign policy advisers, chosen from both the Obama and George W. Bush administrations. (Of all the elements of the Bush administration, defense and foreign policy staffers are most likely to join a national unity team.) Biden should put them to work on a series of brilliantly boring policy addresses and white papers on emerging threats. And Biden should be actively persuading, through intermediaries, respected military and intelligence figures who served in the Trump administration to publicly support him. These endorsements could be announced to great effect around convention time, when the task turns to persuading independents and suburban Republicans.
When the accretions of the presidency are removed, national security, broadly defined, is the job. Trump has made a mess of it. Biden would do better. His task is to demonstrate it.
In reality, almost anyone who bothered to listen to experts, pick appointees based on competence, not ideology of the size of campaign contributions, and educate themselves on issues and policy could do a better job than Trump. With Biden's experience he has the ability to do far better than Trump. He needs to package this message and begin its dissemination now.
Faced with a lawsuit alleging consumer fraud, Fox News is defending the lies and falsities it disseminated as protected free speech, exhibiting no concern for the lives it may have jeopardized both among its viewers and members of the larger public that they may infect with Covid-19. In its court filing, Fox News basically conceded that it had disseminated falsehoods but said that the false nature of its "news" and lies of its anchors did not matter under the First Amendment's protection of free speech whether that speech is false or not. Indeed, the lack of any social conscience is stunning. A piece in Salon looks at Fox News' defense of its false propaganda. Here are highlights:
Fox News has moved to dismiss a lawsuit filed by a Washington state group accusing the network of "deceptive" coronavirus coverage by arguing that the First Amendment protects "false" and "outrageous" speech.The network's lawyers said in a motion seeking to dismiss the lawsuit that the "First Amendment does not permit censoring this type of speech based on the theory that it is 'false' or 'outrageous.' Nor does the law of the State of Washington."
The Washington League for Increased Transparency and Ethics (WASHLITE) filed a lawsuit in King County earlier this month seeking a court order barring the network from "interfering with reasonable and necessary measures to contain the virus by publishing further false and deceptive content."
The suit accused the network of violating the state's Consumer Protection Act by "falsely and deceptively disseminating 'news' via cable news contracts that the coronavirus was a 'hoax' and that it was otherwise not a danger to public health and safety."
The suit specifically cited Fox News host Sean Hannity and former Fox Business host Trish Regan for having "acted in bad faith to willfully and maliciously disseminate false information denying and minimizing the danger posed by the spread of the novel coronavirus."
Hannity downplayed the threat of the coronavirus and argued it was less dangerous than the flu. Regan was fired shortly after accusing Democrats of pushing a "coronavirus impeachment scam."
"It's Constitutional Law 101: the First Amendment protects our right to speak openly and freely on matters of public concern," Fox News Media general counsel Lily Fu Claffee said in a statement. "If WASHLITE doesn't like what we said, it can criticize us, but it can't silence us with a lawsuit."
The network's lawyers argued that Hannity and Regan simply took part in an "intense public debate" over "how serious of a threat" the virus posed, . . . .
Legal experts largely agreed with the network's position that the lawsuit was unlikely to succeed.
Catherine Clark, an attorney for WASHLITE, vowed to respond to the motion and told Variety that the suit "was not about prohibiting free speech, but making sure that news organizations convey accurate information."
Legal culpability aside, media analysts have widely criticized Fox News for putting their viewers at risk by downplaying the threat posed by the virus, which has now killed 26,000 people in the United States.
"Fox failed its viewers and the broader public in ways both revealing and potentially lethal," wrote New York Times columnist Ben Smith.
A letter signed by more than 70 journalism professors around the country criticized Fox News for spreading "misinformation" about the virus.
Wednesday, April 15, 2020
It what comprises bad news for the Trump/Pence regime and its war against LGBT Americans and the Christofascists (many of whom are also white supremacists) make up the GOP base, a new Public Religion Research Institute ("PRRI") survey shows 72% of Americans support LGBT equality under the civil laws and support laws that would protect LGBT people against discrimination in jobs, public accommodations, and housing. In short, everything the Christofasists and their political whores in the GOP oppose. Indeed, even in deep red states, more than 60% of voters support LGBT protections and raise the question of how much longer the GOP can ignore the popular will as that party prostitutes itself to Christofascists who embrace ignorance and have made hate and bigotry the face of Christianity to many in America (40% of the under 30 generation has left religion and cite anti-LGBT extremism as a leading cause for their exodus). A piece in The Advocate looks at the survey findings. Here are highlights:
There is broad support for LGBTQ equality across the U.S., despite how polarized the nation is on many other issues, according to survey results released today by the Public Religion Research Institute.
The survey, conducted from March through December of last year, found an overwhelming majority of respondents favoring inclusive nondiscrimination laws, while support for equal marriage rights is at an all-time high. There is majority opposition to allowing small businesses to refuse service to gay and lesbian customers, but that opposition has waned somewhat.
“Seventy-two percent of Americans — including majorities of both political parties, religious groups, and nearly every major demographic group — favor laws that would protect LGBT people against discrimination in jobs, public accommodations, and housing,” notes a PRRI press release. The level of support has remained largely stable since PRRI began asking the question in 2011.
“Support for LGBT rights continues to be strong and expansive in all 50 states. Issues that in the recent past demarcated major political and religious fault lines now find broad agreement,” PRRI founder and CEO Robert P. Jones said in the release.
In most states and the District of Columbia, at least two-thirds of survey respondents of respondents favor for nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people (the PRRI survey uses the term LGBT rather than LGBTQ). At its lowest levels, support dips below two-thirds in of Alaska (59 percent), Montana (62 percent), Louisiana (63 percent), Oklahoma (63 percent), Kentucky (64 percent), Alabama (64 percent), Wyoming (64 percent), West Virginia (64 percent), Tennessee (65 percent), and Arkansas (66 percent).
This support comes when only 21 states have laws banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity; Virginia will join this group in July. The Equality Act, which would ban such discrimination nationwide, is stalled in Congress; the House has passed it, but the Senate has not voted on it and appears unlikely to, and Donald Trump has said he would not sign it. The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden, has endorsed it and said he would make it a priority, a stance shared by all those who sought the Democratic nomination.
PRRI also noted that the intensity of support for marriage equality has risen, while the intensity of opposition has waned. Support is greater among women than men, among Democrats and independents than Republicans, and among younger people, although the 2019 survey marked the first time a majority of people age 65 and older — 51 percent — supported equal marriage rights.
The survey was conducted via telephone, with more than 40,000 interviews on specific issues. PRRI is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that conducts independent research at the intersection of religion, culture, and public policy.
The Christofascist are fighting a losing battle and the GOP is stupidly casting its lot with a dwindling portion of the population base.
One thing that can be depended upon when dealing with a malignant narcissist such as Donald Trump is that they will NEVER admit that anything is their fault. Any misfortune or calamity MUST be the fault of someone else because their narcissistic personality disorder prevents them from ever admitting a mistake or miscalculation - no matter what the objective evidence indicates otherwise. Today, in a further morally bankrupt attempt to shift blame from his own and his administrations failures and incompetence in handling the coronavirus threat, Trump has targeted the World Health Organization and cut US funding to the international organization - a move criticized even by a number of otherwise self-prostituting Republicans. A column in the New York Times looks at this dangerous move by a tyrant who seemingly increasingly sees himself as a monarch rather than a elected official who serves at the bidding of the public. Here are column highlights:
Thousands of Americans would be alive today if President Trump had spent more time listening to the World Health Organization instead of trying to destroy it.Trump’s announcement that he is halting American funding for the W.H.O. just as the world is facing a raging pandemic is a dangerous attempt to find a scapegoat for his own failings.
Yes, some of the complaints about the W.H.O.are valid, . . . . But it has still managed the coronavirus crisis far better than the Trump administration has.
The W.H.O. tweeted its first warning about the coronavirus on Jan. 4 and then rang alarm bells, culminating at the end of that month when it declared a “public health emergency of international concern.” It developed an effective diagnostic test that is used in dozens of countries, while the United States still cannot manage adequate testing.
In late January and in February, the W.H.O. issued increasingly urgent warnings about the coronavirus. Trump ignored them, instead insisting that it was “totally under control,” predicted the number of infections would drop, declared that “it’s going to disappear” and consistently downplayed the virus while talking up the stock market.
Trump’s passivity — even as the W.H.O. and his own advisers warned him of the risks — squandered the chance to acquire more personal protective equipment for doctors and nurses. His likening of Covid-19 to the flu led people to join public gatherings like Mardi Gras and Florida spring break, and that is one reason the United States has had 80 deaths per million inhabitants from Covid-19, compared with four per million in South Korea and fewer than one per million in Taiwan.
The W.H.O. is bureaucratic, frustrating, timid — and indispensable. No other organization can fill its international role overseeing the fight against disease. It has battled an outbreak of Ebola since last year in Congo, and that’s one reason we haven’t had Ebola cases in the United States.
Every day, the W.H.O. saves lives. It has promoted safe childbirth, and the number of women dying in childbirth has been cut almost in half over 25 years. It fights female genital mutilation and helps women with obstetric fistula. It is struggling to eliminate cervical cancer. It is part of the campaign against polio.
Normally, an American president is a leader in global health, and Democrats and Republicans have often cooperated on a humanitarian agenda. President George W. Bush started a program against H.I.V./AIDS called Pepfar that has saved 17 million lives. President Barack Obama helped lead the global effort to end the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014-16.
In contrast, Trump has provided zero global leadership against the coronavirus, and he is now trying to crush the one organization providing such leadership.
Trump’s main complaint about the W.H.O. is that it is too close to China, and there’s some truth to that — but Trump himself fawned over China’s response to the pandemic. “China has been working very hard to contain the Coronavirus,” Trump tweeted on Jan. 24. “I want to thank President Xi.”
Gutting the W.H.O. would mean more kids dying of malnutrition, more moms dying of cervical cancer, and the coronavirus infecting more people in more countries — impairing the pandemic response, which may well cost even more American lives. And all because an American president is seeking a scapegoat for his own ineptitude.
Yes, Americans have died unnecessarily from Covid-19, and I’ve been seared by my own reporting in “hot zones” of New York hospitals. But if Trump insists on holding people accountable, he needn’t denounce the W.H.O. He can gaze in the mirror.
Lies are being churned out nightly during Der Trumpenführer's "press conferences" which are actually propaganda campaigns aimed in no small part at rewriting the history of what Trump failed to do and how he worsened America's situation and, indeed, likely cost citizens' their lives. Thus, it is important to not allow this gaslighting to occur and to be mindful of what Trump actually did versus what he now claims he did. The two are very different things. A piece in Politico looks at the truth versus the fiction (lies, really) Trump and his apologists are dissemination. Here are article excerpts:
PresidentDonald Trump, stung by accusations that he was slow to act on the coronavirus pandemic, has released a long list of key actions the administration took to save lives. But the list, released by his campaign, overstates some of his actions – and leaves out the inactions.The Centers for Disease Control did distribute tests, as the White House notes. But it omitted that the tests didn’t work – and even when they did get improved, testing capacity lagged way behind the need. It was during these crucial weeks, many public health experts say, that an initial scattering of infections snowballed into deadly hot spots. [Trump] The presidenthighlighted how he sought to get American CDC experts into China, while omitting that he had earlier cut back the U.S. engagement there. He did take action on vaccine development, which arguably helped.
Here’s all the ways [Trump] the president said he took action – coupled with a reality check for what really happened.
TESTING: Trump's TimelineFebruary 6: The CDC began shipping CDC-developed test kits for the 2019 Novel Coronavirus to U.S. and international labs.
February 12: The U.S. shipped test kits for the 2019 novel coronavirus to approximately 30 countries who lacked the necessary reagents and other materials.
February 14: The CDC began working with five labs to conduct “community-based influenza surveillance” to study and detect the spread of coronavirus.
February 29 : The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allowed certified labs to develop and begin testing coronavirus testing kits while reviewing pending applications.
Reality CheckThe CDC admits that the test kits deployed early on in the crisis were deeply flawed, preventing widespread use and hobbling U.S. testing capacity. Two weeks after the initial announcement, just three of the more than 100 public health labs in the U.S. had verified the CDC test for use, according to the Association of Public Health Laboratories.
For more than three weeks, the federal government insisted that only CDC-developed tests could be legally used to identify coronavirus outbreaks. The kits’ failures left states dependent on mailed samples to the CDC’s central lab --which proved to be a major bottleneck, delaying results.
Moreover, the testing flaws delayed deployment of the touted “community-based influenza surveillance,” a potential early warning system for hot spots.
Britta Jewell, an epidemiologist at Imperial College, London, told POLITICO that the lack of early and widespread testing in the U.S. played an important role in the timing of social distancing policies. Her work suggests that implementing the policies two weeks earlier could have reduced coronavirus deaths tenfold. . . . “But it’s very difficult to get the timing right if you don’t know with reasonable confidence where the hot spots are or how many people are infected.”
CHINA MONITORING: Trump's TimelineFebruary 3: The CDC had a team ready to travel to China to obtain critical information on the novel coronavirus, but were in the U.S. awaiting permission to enter by the Chinese government.
February 7: President Trump told reporters that the CDC is working with China on the coronavirus.
February 12: The CDC was prepared to travel to China but had yet to receive permission from the Chinese government.
February 22: A WHO team of international experts arrives in Wuhan, China.
Reality CheckThe document accurately notes that China prevented CDC and WHO experts from assessing the outbreak in early February. But it omits context – cuts to international public health efforts by the Trump administration prior to the pandemic had left a smaller footprint in China.
According to reports by Reuters, the administration eliminated a public health position in Beijing last July that had embedded an American epidemiologist in China’s disease control agency. More broadly, the CDC has cut dozens of China-based positions since Trump took office.
PYBLIC COMMUNICATIONS: Trump's TimelineFebruary 4: President Trump vowed in his State of the Union Address to “take all necessary steps” to protect Americans from the coronavirus.
February 9: The White House Coronavirus Task Force briefed governors from across the nation at the National Governors’ Association Meeting in Washington.
February 24: The Trump Administration sent a letter to Congress requesting at least $2.5 billion to help combat the spread of the coronavirus.
February 26: President Trump discussed coronavirus containment efforts with Indian PM Modi and updated the press on his Administration’s containment efforts in the U.S. during his state visit to India.
Reality CheckWhile technically accurate, the campaign’s descriptions omit the fact that Trump’s public statements throughout February repeatedly downplayed the pandemic.
While the White House Coronavirus Task Force did provide a briefing at the National Governors’ Association meeting, the panel stated that "the risk to the American public remains low at this time,” according to a summary released by HHS. Likewise, during the touted press briefing in India, Trump incorrectly stated that the virus was "very well under control in our country" and claimed the “whole situation will start working out.”
VACCINE PRODUCTION: Trump's TimelineFebruary 11: The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) expanded a partnership with Janssen Research & Development to “expedite the development” of a coronavirus vaccine.
February 18: HHS announced it would engage with Sanofi Pasteur in an effort to quickly develop a coronavirus vaccine and to develop treatment for coronavirus infections.
Reality CheckThe vaccine partnerships are moving forward, and public health experts say the federal government’s financial backing could help expedite a vaccine.
But Trump has repeatedly overestimated and overpromised how quickly a vaccine could be deployed. Optimistically, researchers say a vaccine could be ready after a year to 18 months of development and testing. But it would take more time to ramp up production.
Experts say a more immediate need was more production of personal protective equipment for health workers on the front lines. The list makes no mention of actions to accelerate that production until late March.
TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS: Trump's TimelineFebruary 29: The Trump Administration:
- Announced a level 4 travel advisory to areas of Italy and South Korea
- Barred all travel to Iran
- Barred the entry of foreign citizens who visited Iran in the last 14 days
- Announced a level 4 travel advisory to areas of Italy and South Korea - Barred all travel to Iran - Barred the entry of foreign citizens who visited Iran in the last 14 days - Announced a level 4 travel advisory to areas of Italy and South Korea - Barred all travel to Iran - Barred the entry of foreign citizens who visited Iran in the last 14 days
Reality CheckTrump frequently defends his record by pointing to China travel restrictions announced on January 31, a move broadly defended by public health experts despite significant gaps.
Further efforts to contain travel from other countries, once the virus had escaped China and gained footholds throughout Europe and Asia, didn’t come until the end of February. By then, strains of the virus originating in Europe were likely already circulating throughout New York City. Trump issued a comprehensive set of European travel restrictions on March 11. Experts say Iran was likely an early hot spot, although data on the virus’ spread in that country is limited.
While travel restrictions are a widely accepted tool for containing international disease outbreaks, some experts have criticized the focus on foreign travelers – noting that American citizens are no less likely to contract the disease and spread it upon their return.
The bottom line: much more could have been done earlier and on a far greater scale had Trump listened to experts and reports dating back to November and December, 2019. Trump being Trump, failed to do so.In contrast, Hong Kong – touted by some public health experts as a model international response – has run random saliva tests and subjected nearly all travelers to mandatory 14-day quarantines with criminal penalties for disobeying.
Somewhat lost among the daily coronavirus coverage is the story of the stunning defeat Republicans suffered in their effort to suppress voter turnout during the pandemic by limiting the number of polling locations and forcing voters to wait sometimes hours in line to cast their ballots. Democrats came out in force and defeating a right wing justice on the state supreme court in a landslide win for the liberal Democrat running for the seat. If continued, this motivation on the part of Democrats and the shift it appears to show among suburban voters could make it difficult for Trump to carry that state in November. Some Republicans cast cold water on that notion and claim that having Der Trumpenführer on the ballot will turn out more Republicans, while others admit that nothing turns out Democrat voters more than their loathing of Trump. A piece in the Washington Post looks at what happened in Wisconsin. Here are highlights:
John Carter, 71, stood in line for three hours last week to cast his ballot for Jill Karofsky, the liberal candidate for the Wisconsin Supreme Court.Carter, a retired bus driver from Milwaukee and African American Democrat, said he wanted badly to oust conservative Justice Dan Kelly. And he wanted to send a message to President Trump and state Republicans, who pushed for in-person voting despite the threat of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
On Monday, Karofsky claimed a surprisingly decisive victory, defeating the Republican incumbent by 11 points. She was propelled by thousands of motivated Democrats, who were angered by GOP insistence on going forward with the election amid the pandemic— seen by many as a way to suppress turnout and boost the conservative candidate in an obscure state court race.
The mobilization of these voters could signal a warning to Republicans in a state that will be key for Trump in the fall.
“There’s no question in my mind that Democrats are more motivated to vote than Republicans,” said Mark Mellman, a D.C.-based pollster who has done work for Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D).
number of Republicans said too many factors were at work last Tuesday to draw conclusions about November, . . . . But some Republicans said the results show a worrisome enthusiasm gap.
“I was surprised at the turnout in the Democratic primary. It was more than what I thought it would be,” said Brandon Scholz, the former chairman of the Wisconsin GOP. The results reminded him how much Democrats hate the president, he said, and what a motivating force that could be.
Democrats are also delighted — and Republicans worried — about the geographic sweep of Karofsky’s victory. She dominated not only in the states’ two liberal strongholds, Milwaukee and Madison, but also in its suburbs and even some of its rural areas.
Charles Franklin, who conducts the Marquette University Law School poll, said the results underscored how changing voting patterns have increasingly cut into Republican margins in suburban counties around Milwaukee.
Karofsky won small majorities in three counties in the Fox Valley that have long favored Republicans. Franklin attributed the changes there to ever-stronger support for Democrats in the cities of Green Bay, Appleton and Oshkosh, which are surrounded by strong Republican rural areas.
Franklin, the pollster with Marquette University, offered an additional caveat that makes direct comparisons with November’s presidential election more difficult: Trump himself was not on the ballot, and his ability to draw his voters out is considered one of his strongest assets.
But the patterns that helped decide the Supreme Court race worry Republicans nonetheless. The shifts were evident in the presidential races of 2012 and 2016 as well as in the gubernatorial elections of 2014 and 2018. In all cases, the Republican suburban strongholds were beginning to erode.
Said Gilkes, the GOP strategist: “I don’t think this is going to be an easy win in any way shape or form.”