Saturday, May 09, 2020

Supreme Court Needs to Send Message: No One Is Above the Law

Time and time again Donald Trump has claimed to be above the law by virtue of the office he unfortunately holds.  Indeed, Trump seems to believe he is equivalent to an absolute monarch of centuries past who can ignore court rulings and provisions of the U.S. Constitution that make Congress a co-equal branch of the federal government with supervision powers over the executive branch - basic concepts once taught in high school government classes. Trump's claims have now reached the U.S. Supreme Court after the lower federal courts have allowed the State of New York to investigate the Trump Organization and its tax returns for possible tax fraud and other state law crimes.  Trump has consistently ignored the behavior of those who are innocent and instead has consistently acted as if he has something to hide - which he likely does given the reality that his business practices are more akin to that of a crime syndicate than an above board business enterprise.  In a column in the Washington Post George Conway - ever Trump's nemesis - lays out why the Supreme Court should reject Trump's claims of unlimited immunity and underscore that no one, not even the occupant of the White House - is above the law.  Here are column excerpts:

Twenty-six years ago, I published my first op-ed. Entitled “‘No Man in This Country … Is Above the Law,’” it addressed news reports that President Bill Clinton planned to claim an immunity from having to respond to Paula Jones’s sexual harassment suit. “In a case involving his private conduct,” I wrote, “a President should be treated like any private citizen. The rule of law requires no more — and no less.”
The piece led to my ghostwriting briefs for Jones, including a Supreme Court brief two years later. The Supreme Court agreed unanimously that Jones could proceed, and, like the op-ed, quoted from the Founders’ debates about the status of the president: “Far from being above the laws, he is amenable to them in his private character as a citizen, and in his public character by impeachment.” Which meant that while a president could be impeached for official misconduct, he “is otherwise subject to the laws” — and therefore could be sued — “for his purely private acts.”
I couldn’t have imagined then that another president would challenge that proposition. Then again, I couldn’t have imagined President Donald Trump.
But here we are. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court will hear telephonic arguments in three cases addressing whether Trump can keep his tax and financial information from being disclosed, whether from Congress or criminal prosecutors. In Trump v. Vance, which involves a New York state grand jury investigation, Trump’s lawyers argue that, even when it comes to purely private conduct, the presidency insulates him from the legal process.
The case arises from a criminal investigation into the Trump Organization, and it seems there’s plenty worth examining: whether, as suggested by extensive reporting in this newspaper and other outlets, Trump’s businesses may have dodged taxes. And whether Trump’s hush-money payments, made through his lawyer Michael Cohen to porn star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal, violated state law.
The state grand jury subpoenaed the Trump Organization and Trump’s accounting firm, Mazars, seeking tax returns and financial records. Trump sued to block the subpoena to Mazars — on the ground that he’s president. The lower federal courts rejected his pleas, and now he’s in the Supreme Court. Where he will lose — or should.
To say Trump’s argument is frivolous demeans frivolity. Clinton v. Jones dictates the result: The subpoenaed documents have nothing to do with Trump’s presidential duties — zip. That alone does it.
But Trump’s case is even weaker than Clinton’s. At least Clinton was being sued personally. He ultimately had to give evidence himself, which he did (infamously) at a deposition. But because the suit had nothing to do with presidential duties, the Supreme Court said it could proceed.
Here, Trump hasn’t been charged with or sued for anything. He’s not being required to do anything. The subpoenas have been directed at his company and his accountants. They don’t require his time or attention.
Trump’s position stupefies. In essence: Authorities can’t investigate anything touching his personal affairs — including, ahem, payments to pornographic actresses — because he’s president. Think of the logic: Not only does the president enjoy a personal constitutional immunity — his businesses do, too.
[P]residents have given evidence in criminal matters many times — including ones touching them personally. Chief Justice John Marshall ordered President Thomas Jefferson to produce documents in Aaron Burr’s treason case. A unanimous Supreme Court ordered President Richard Nixon to turn over the Watergate tapes, and rejected a claim of presidential privilege — in a case in which Nixon was named an unindicted co-conspirator. Clinton provided grand jury and criminal trial testimony in the Whitewater and Lewinsky investigations — matters in which he was potentially a target.
A short answer is one the court gave in Jones, where Clinton raised the specter of countless private plaintiffs bringing meritless suits: Courts can address vexatious litigation case by case, and if that doesn’t suffice, Congress can legislate a fix.
A more fundamental answer, though, may be found in an amicus curiae brief in the Vance case, a brief submitted by the Protect Democracy Project and joined by me and 36 other conservatives: “The Constitution is concerned with the supremacy of federal law, not the supremacy of federal officials.
Likewise, the Constitution is concerned with protecting the presidency, not the person who happens to be the president. That’s because no one in this country is above the law. The Supreme Court is now called upon to teach that lesson once again — even if Trump will likely never learn it.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Friday, May 08, 2020

The GOP Agenda Fuels An Epidemic of Hardship and Hunger

Food Bank line in Michigan.
The Covid-19 pandemic and the massive unemployment figures - more will be released today after yesterday's numbers brought the number of unemployed to over 30 million - have brought into focus the failed Republican policies which seek to leave the majority of Americans living in grim Dickensian like conditions while the wealthy suck up more and more of the nation's wealth.  Now, in this time of crisis, Congressional Republicans oppose more aid to those suffering.  Meanwhile, the Trump regime is before the U.S. Supreme Court seeking to end the Affordable Health Care Act which would leave millions more Americans with no health insurance. Cruelty is the hallmark of today's GOP and when has to wonder when its idiot supporters will stop allowing themselves to be played through racial resentment - the majority of those on welfare and unemployment are white, not black - and, of course pandering to Christian fanaticism.  A column in the New York Times looks at the GOP agenda that ought to have all but the wealthy running screaming from the GOP and its candidates.  Here are excerpts: 
Covid-19 has had a devastating effect on workers. The economy has plunged so quickly that official statistics can’t keep up, but the available data suggest that tens of millions of Americans have lost their jobs through no fault of their own, with more job losses to come and full recovery probably years away.
But Republicans adamantly oppose extending enhanced unemployment benefits — such an extension, says Senator Lindsey Graham, will take place “over our dead bodies.” (Actually, over other people’s dead bodies.)
They apparently want to return to a situation in which most unemployed workers get no benefits at all, and even those collecting unemployment insurance get only a small fraction of their previous income.
Because most working-age Americans receive health insurance through their employers, job losses will cause a huge rise in the number of uninsured. The only mitigating factor is the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, which will allow many though by no means all of the newly uninsured to find alternative coverage.
But the Trump administration is still trying to have the Affordable Care Act ruled unconstitutional; “We want to terminate health care under Obamacare,” declared Donald Trump, even though the administration has never offered a serious alternative. Bear in mind that ending Obamacare would end protection for Americans with pre-existing conditions — and that insurers would probably refuse to cover anyone who had Covid-19.
Finally, the devastation caused by the coronavirus has left many in the world’s wealthiest major nation unable to put sufficient food on the table. Families with children under 12 are especially hard hit: According to one recent survey, 41 percent of these families are already unable to afford enough to eat. Food banks are overwhelmed, with lines sometimes a mile long.
But Republicans are still trying to make food stamps harder to get, and fiercely oppose proposals to temporarily make food aid more generous.
Attempts to restart the economy even though the pandemic is far from controlled will lead to many more deaths, and will probably backfire even in purely economic terms as states are forced to lock down again.
But we’re only now starting to get a sense of the Republican Party’s cruelty toward the economic victims of the coronavirus. In the face of what amounts to a vast natural disaster, you might have expected conservatives to break, at least temporarily, with their traditional opposition to helping fellow citizens in need. But no; they’re as determined as ever to punish the poor and unlucky.
What’s remarkable about this determination is that the usual arguments against helping the needy, which were weak even in normal times, have become completely unsustainable in the face of the pandemic. Yet those arguments, zombielike, just keep shambling on.
For example, you still hear complaints that spending on food stamps and unemployment benefits increases the deficit. Now, Republicans never really cared about budget deficits; they demonstrated their hypocrisy by cheerfully passing a huge tax cut in 2017, and saying nothing as deficits surged.
But what’s even worse, if you ask me, is hearing Republicans complain that food stamps and unemployment benefits reduce the incentive to seek work. There was never serious evidence for this claim, but right now — at a time when workers can’t work, because doing their normal jobs would kill lots of people — I find it hard to understand how anyone can make this argument without gagging.
So what explains the G.O.P.’s extraordinary indifference to the plight of Americans impoverished by this national disaster?
One answer may be that much of America’s right has effectively decided that we should simply go back to business as usual and accept the resulting death toll. Also, conservatives may worry that if we help those in distress, even temporarily, many Americans might decide that a stronger social safety net is a good thing in general. If your political strategy depends on convincing people that government is always the problem, never the solution, you don’t want voters to see the government actually doing good, even in times of dire need.
Whatever the reasons, it’s becoming increasingly clear that Americans suffering from the economic consequences of Covid-19 will get far less help than they should. Having already condemned tens of thousands to unnecessary death, Trump and his allies are in the process of condemning tens of millions to unnecessary hardship.

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Thursday, May 07, 2020

Unemployment Set to Rise: The Trump Economy Faces Long-Term Disaster

More horrific unemployment numbers are expected today and tomorrow even as some states begin - perhaps prematurely - to reopen their economies.  Indeed, some expect the unemployment numbers to be the worse since the Great Depression of the 1930's.   Donald Trump, who claimed credit for the robust economy he inherited from Barrack Obama is now faced with owning an economic disaster that may continue for some time as numerous businesses fail to reopen and large corporations refrain from re-hiring all of their employees.  Meanwhile, some major retailers are facing bankruptcy and possible closure.  A piece in CNN looks at the likely chilling unemployment numbers and the impact on Trump's chances on retaining the White House.  Here are excerpts:

The staggering economic pain -- perhaps the worst since the 1930s -- of the American economy in the time of coronavirus will be graphically underscored in two new rounds of unemployment data that are due on Thursday and Friday.
The figures will show Americans who have and will lose their livelihoods as common victims of the most cruel public health crisis in 100 years, along with the sick and the more than 73,000 people who have so far died.
The prospect of a prolonged economic slump will have important implications in politics. It is already threatening to dampen memories of the roaring economy that President Donald Trump was banking on to carry him to a second term. It may also provide an opening to presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden who helped bring the country back from the last economic crisis in the Obama administration.
Every day brings signs that what first looked like temporary job cuts could turn into permanent layoffs. GE, Airbnb and United Airlines this week for instance announced cuts in thousands of positions as business dries up. Discouraging news on the wider penetration of the virus raises the possibility of new spikes in infection that could further complicate the path to a full recovery.
 The emerging reality that the "rocket" like rebound the President predicted is unlikely may be behind Trump's increasingly frantic statements on a emergency he has also claimed will soon be over. . . . For weeks early this year, Trump was in denial and painted the threat from the virus as tiny. The worsening economic news will introduce a new dimension into the November presidential election clash between the President and his Democratic challenger, former Vice President Biden.
Trump is already under heavy pressure over his erratic management of the coronavirus pandemic and his initial assurances that a disease that has now infected more than a million people in this country didn't pose a threat. [P]ersuadable voters will now have two new questions to answer in the election: Is Trump the best candidate to lead the country out of both a prolonged duel with Covid-19 and to put the economy that has been shattered by the pandemic back together? The economic damage is almost inconceivable already and it will be laid bare in two sets of what are likely to be awful jobs numbers on Thursday and Friday.
First up is weekly jobs data on initial unemployment claims -- the measure that has recorded the terrible toll of weekly layoffs that have now topped 30 million people as the economy has gone into suspended animation.
To end the week, the Trump administration is braced for what could be the most disastrous unemployment numbers since the Great Depression. Economists polled by Refinitiv are expecting an unemployment rate at 16%. It's possible that 10 years of jobs gains will have been wiped out in just a couple months.
One of [Trump's] the President's top economic advisers, Kevin Hassett, has been preparing the country for an unemployment rate of up to 20%. That's more than 15 percentage points higher than the 50-year lows in the jobless rate that Trump was celebrating just weeks ago. Trump is now openly campaigning for the country to open up, despite studies that show tens of thousands of people could die in new outbreaks of the disease. . . . But despite widespread demonstrations by conservative groups against governors who are keeping their states shut down, polls suggest that many Americans are wary of resuming normal life.
Nearly two-thirds of those asked in the Monmouth poll were concerned that states will begin lifting restrictions too quickly. And only 33% share Trump's implied view that stopping the economy from going into a deep, lengthy downturn is more important than stopping people getting sick.
The initial economic trauma of the shutdowns is likely to be exacerbated by sobering facts on the state of the pandemic. While cases are dipping in worst-hit regions such as New York and New Jersey, they are actually rising in many states yet to peak.
If new infections do emerge on a wider footprint than the previously worst affected areas on the coasts and in the city, the consequences for the economy could be even more serious.
Service jobs in restaurant, leisure, and travel sectors are unlikely to recover when the public is wary about going out.
And rising infections could take another swipe at the health sector which helped drive recent jobs gains but has been hammered in recent months, with elective surgeries and routine appointments canceled.

Will Trump Help Democrats Win the Senate?

If America is to end its national nightmare two things need to happen in November: (i) Trump is defeated, and (ii) the U.S. Senate must flip to Democrat control, removing the toxic influence of Mitch McConnell, a man who along with Trump has done much to destroy the nation's reputation and who has waged a relentless war against working and middle class Americans (I view Trump as mentally ill, whereas McConnell is just plain evil).  As of now, polls are encouraging in terms of Trump's weakness and the improved chances of a Democrat controlled Senate come January, 2021. Better yet, Trump's unpopularity appears to be harming GOP Senators who have prostituted themselves to his cult of personality and the ugliest elements of the GOP base.  A piece in Vanity Fair looks at the current situation.  Here are highlights:

Last month, the National Republican Senatorial Committee issued a 57-page memo that appeared to suggest candidates distance themselves, at least a little, from Donald Trump. “Don’t defend Trump,” the memo read. “Attack China.” Faced with outrage from the president’s team, the NRSC claimed it was all a big misunderstanding—the coronavirus talking point was poorly worded, they said, and there was actually “no daylight between the NRSC and President Trump.” Still, the memo seemed to reflect Republican fears that the president’s catastrophic mishandling of the COVID crisis could not only cost them the White House, but the Senate, as well.
Recent polling suggests those fears are warranted. Democrats need to nab five of eight Republican-held seats in competitive races to gain control of the upper chamber; they hold leads in five of the contests and trail by just a point in another. High-profile Republicans are among those who find themselves in jeopardy; Thom Tillis, a Trump ally, is trailing Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham by nine points in North Carolina, according to a poll released Tuesday, and Maine’s Susan Collins is behind Sara Gideon 2.5 points in an average of polls.
[T]he spate of positive numbers for Democrats in swing races has put the Senate, under Republican control since 2015, in play. “I think it’s become very competitive,” Kyle Kondick, managing editor at Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, told the Hill last month.
As Axios reported Wednesday, Democrats have shown momentum in key Senate races as the president’s path to reelection grows increasingly perilous. On Tuesday, polls showed Montana Governor Steve Bullock, who launched his Senate campaign after exiting the 2020 Democratic primary, leading incumbent Steve Daines by seven points in the state Trump carried by more than 20 in 2016, and Cunningham leading Tillis by nine.
In Arizona, Mark Kelly leads Republican Martha McSally by an average of eight points; in Kansas, Barbara Bollier leads possible Republican nominee Kris Kobach, a staunch ally of the president, by two; and in Maine, Gideon narrowly leads Collins.
Even before the coronavirus crisis hit, Trump was a historically unpopular president who made not only himself, but his party vulnerable to defeat—thanks to his corruption, incompetence, and despicable behavior. But his mishandling of the pandemic has accentuated all those shortcomings, perhaps even eroding some support within his previously rock-solid base. “We are starting to see more evidence that suburban voters disapprove of the way Trump is handling the coronavirus pandemic,”
[W]hatever political protection Trump’s cult of personality affords him, personally, may not extend to his allies in down-ballot races.

I hope the anti-GOP trend continues and, better yet, intensifies.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Wednesday, May 06, 2020

Trump Is About to Go Full Coronavirus Death Denier

Photo: Doug Mills/POOL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock.
With unemployment soaring, the economy crumbling and consumer confidence in the toilet, Donald Trump is desperate to convince Americans - or at a minimum, his knuckle dragging, Fox News viewing base - that reopening the economy is the correct thing to do since his entire re-election campaign plain had been to boast about the strong economy and stock market.  The Covid-19 pandemic has shredded that plan and Trump seemingly knows he is toast if the economy remains depressed.  To get the economy reopened Trump needs to down play the reliability of the Covid-19 death numbers for two reasons: (i) to downplay  the danger Americans face if they venture out and spend money, and (ii) to be in a position to claim that any resurgence of the virus due to premature reopening is fake news. Yes, it's a mindset and agenda that is totally callous toward those who may become infected and die and which shows that Trump only cares about himself.  The truth and lives of Americans simply do not matter to Trump. . A piece in New York Magazine looks at the growing efforts yo deny the number of Covid-19 deaths.  Here are highlights:
During the initial stages of the coronavirus outbreak, the Trump administration believed the media was exaggerating the virus in order to scare people and hurt Trump’s polling. “The reason they are paying so much attention to it today is that they think this is going to bring down the president,” said then–chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. Later, they insisted the media was exaggerating the economic contraction. Trump has repeatedly floated predictions for the number of deaths from the pandemic that were quickly exceeded by reality.
The next step, reports Axios, will be to begin publicly questioning the listed totals of coronavirus deaths. “Trump has vented that the numbers seem inflated,” it reports, as have several people around him who believe the same.
This is not just a matter of public spin, like Trump’s campaign to pressure the news media into reporting that his tiny inauguration crowd was larger than it was. The news source he trusts, Fox News, has been running hours of programming questioning the death totals.
All of these theories are pure crankery. Indeed, the official recorded death count is lower, not higher, than the actual coronavirus death toll. People who die at home from the virus without receiving medical attention have not been included in the official totals. But the fact that Trump and his allies have developed so many different pseudo-statistical objections shows how desperate they are to cast doubt on the official numbers.
The propaganda campaign has worked. The percentage of frequent Fox News watchers who believe that the official coronavirus death counts are exaggerated has risen from 45 percent last month to 61 percent this month. What’s more, he believes everybody is as dishonest as he is. The deep state would like to defeat Trump, and embarrassing Trump by publishing death tolls higher than Trump predicted would occur will make Trump look bad, so of course they’re cooking the books. Inventing fake statistics to support his goal is exactly what Trump would do, so naturally he believes it is being done against him.

We Are Witnessing Trump Unraveling

Those who have followed Donald Trump even occasionally over the years could have predicted that his presidency would be a dumpster fire - shit show is another term that springs to mind.  What's equally scary is that a comparison of videos of Trump 10-15 years ago versus now show a severe degradation of his verbal and cognitive skills.  A piece in The Atlantic by a former Republican who served in the George W. Bush White House lays out the "steady, uninterrupted intellectual and psychological decomposition of Donald Trump."  Of course, none of this recorded intellectual and psychological deterioration will sway his most loyal supporters who remain blinded by the bigotry and hatred of others and refuse to admit that they made a huge mistake in voting for Trump in 2016.  Rest assured that Trump will heap on more racism and misogyny to maintain their loyalty.  Here are highlights from The Atlantic:

In case there was any doubt, the past dozen days have proved we’re at the point in his presidency where Donald Trump has become his own caricature, a figure impossible to parody, a man whose words and actions are indistinguishable from an Alec Baldwin skit on Saturday Night Live.
President Trump’s pièce de résistance came during a late April coronavirus task-force briefing, when he floated using “just very powerful light” inside the body as a potential treatment for COVID-19 and then, for good measure, contemplated injecting disinfectant as a way to combat the effects of the virus “because you see it gets in the lungs and does a tremendous number on them, so it’d be interesting to check that.”
But the burlesque show just keeps rolling on.
Take this past weekend, when former President George W. Bush delivered a three-minute video as part of The Call to Unite, a 24-hour live-stream benefiting COVID-19 relief.
Bush joined other past presidents, spiritual and community leaders, frontline workers, artists, musicians, psychologists, and Academy Award winning actors. They offered advice, stories, and meditations, poetry, prayers, and performances. The purpose of The Call to Unite . . . was to offer practical ways to support others, to provide hope, encouragement, empathy, and unity.
In his video, which went viral, Bush—in whose White House I worked—never mentioned Trump. . . . He emphasized that “empathy and simple kindness are essential, powerful tools of national recovery.” And America’s 43rd president asked us to “remember how small our differences are in the face of this shared threat.” . . . . Bush concluded, “We rise or fall together, and we are determined to rise.”
That was too much for Trump, who attacked his Republican predecessor on (where else?) Twitter: “[Bush] was nowhere to be found in speaking up against the greatest Hoax in American history!”
But there’s more. On the same weekend that he attacked Bush for making an appeal to national unity, Trump said this about Kim Jong Un, one of the most brutal leaders in the world: “I, for one, am glad to see he is back, and well!”
Then, Sunday night, sitting at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial for a town-hall interview with Fox News, Trump complained that he is “treated worse” than President Abraham Lincoln.
By Monday morning, the president was peddling a cruel and bizarre conspiracy theory aimed at MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, a Trump critic, with Trump suggesting in his tweet that a “cold case” be opened to look into the death of an intern in 2001.
I could have picked a dozen other examples over the past 10 days, but these five will suffice. They illustrate some of the essential traits of Donald Trump: the shocking ignorance, ineptitude, and misinformation; his constant need to divide Americans and attack those who are trying to promote social solidarity; his narcissism, deep insecurity, utter lack of empathy, and desperate need to be loved; his feelings of victimization and grievance; his affinity for ruthless leaders; and his fondness for conspiracy theories.
None of these traits are new in Trump; they are part of the reason why some of us were warning about him long before he won the presidency, even going back to 2011. . . . . We are witnessing the steady, uninterrupted intellectual and psychological decomposition of an American president. It’s something the Trump White House cannot hide—indeed, it doesn’t even try to hide it anymore. There is not even the slightest hint of normalcy.
More than ever, Trump will try to convince Americans that “what you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening,” to quote his own words in 2018.
That won’t be easy in a pandemic, as the death toll mounts and the economy collapses and the failures of the president multiply. But that doesn’t mean Trump won’t try. It’s all he has left, so Americans have to prepare for it.
Trump and his apparatchiks will not only step up their propaganda; they will increase their efforts to exhaust our critical thinking and to annihilate truth, in the words of the Russian dissident Garry Kasparov. We will see even more “alternative facts.” We will see even more brazen attempts to rewrite history. We will hear even more crazy conspiracy theories. We will witness even more lashing out at reporters, more rage, and more lies.
We will see more extreme appeals to the fringe base of Trump’s party, including right-wing militias.
Watching formerly serious individuals on the right, including the Christian right, become Trump courtiers has been a painful and dispiriting thing for many of us to witness. In the process, they have reconfigured their own character, intellect, and moral sensibilities to align with the disordered mind and deformed ethical world of Donald Trump.
And we will see, as we have for the entire Trump presidency, the national Republican Party fall in line. Many are speaking out in defense of Trump while other timid souls who know better have gone sotto voce out of fear and cowardice that they have justified to themselves, and tried less successfully to justify to others.
What this means is that Americans are facing not just a conventional presidential election in 2020 but also, and most important, a referendum on reality and epistemology. Donald Trump is asking us to enter even further into his house of mirrors. He is asking us to live within a lie, to live within his lie, for four more years. The duty of citizenship in America today is to refuse to live within that lie.
There are also the daily acts of integrity of common men and women who will not believe the lies or spread the lies, who will not allow the foundation of truth—factual truth, moral truth—to be destroyed, and who, in standing for truth, will help heal this broken land.

Wednesday Male Beauty

Tuesday, May 05, 2020

More Tuesday Male Beauty

Trump's Damage Is Done and He May Not Be Able to Save Himself

A mass grave on New York’s Hart Island.
Earlier this evening I shared a great Lincoln Project anti-Trump ad - aptly entitled "Mourning in America" - on Facebook and now I am ready an op-ed in the Washington Post by a former Republican and former GOP apologist columnist.  Both the ad and the column take aim at Donald Trump, a/k/a Der Trumpenführer, but by extension the Republican Party as represented by nasty trolls like Mitch McConnell and self-prostituting  individuals like Lindsey Graham who have demonstrated that there ids no limit to the self-degradation they will engage in rather than draw the ire of Trump's knuckle dragging, white supremacist/Christian extremist base. One can only hope that the column's premise that Trump's goose is already cooked proves true. Here are column highlights:
In the latest Monmouth poll on Trump’s handling of the pandemic, “42% say he has done a good job and 51% say he has done a bad job. His prior ratings on handling the outbreak were 46% good job to 49% bad job in April and a positive 50% good job to 45% bad job rating in March.” The pollsters found that “the overall trendline suggests that the public is growing less satisfied with Trump’s response to the pandemic.” Not unexpectedly, as the deaths increase and Trump’s lies and crackpot conspiracy theories contradict Americans’ nightmarish experience, they are less and less enamored of him.
The voters are at odds with Trump on the most fundamental question, namely whether to prioritize health or the economy. Among voters, 63 percent are concerned about opening up business too soon (consistent with other recent polls) and 54 percent think the federal government is not doing enough.
To the extent the election becomes a referendum on Trump’s handling of the pandemic, he will find it hard slogging, even in red states. Some stunning polls suggest the race is competitive in places where Trump should be winning easily. . . . . In Texas, the last two polls show Trump and Biden in a statistical dead heat. (Trump won by nine points in 2016.) And in North Carolina, which Trump won by almost four points, one poll shows Biden leading by seven points, and others show a dead heat.
Several points deserve emphasis.
First, if the draft government memo obtained by The Post forecasting 200,000 new coronavirus cases per day by June 1 is accurate, Trump’s numbers certainly will not improve.
Second, as the coronavirus invades rural America and red states, the definition of a “safe” seat may change. The New York Times reports: “Rural towns that one month ago were unscathed are suddenly hot spots for the virus. It is rampaging through nursing homes, meatpacking plants and prisons, killing the medically vulnerable and the poor, and new outbreaks keep emerging in grocery stores, Walmarts or factories, an ominous harbinger of what a full reopening of the economy will bring.” And it’s not just big cities in red states.
Third, Trump’s increasingly negative tone toward “blue-state bailouts” means not only plenty of negative ads for Biden in places such as Michigan and Pennsylvania, but also a federal government failure of epic proportions. New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) took this head-on during a news conference Tuesday. “First of all, this is not a blue-state issue. Every state has coronavirus cases.” He warned, “You need a bipartisan bill to pass. You go down this path of partisanship and politics, you will never pass a bill. If you never pass legislation, you’ll never get this economy back on its feet. So you go down this path of division, you will defeat all of us, because we’re all in the same boat.”
He might have added: If Trump keeps going down this path, he will face a brutal defeat in November. Then again, the damage is already done, and whatever Trump does may not save him or the Republicans who have lashed themselves to his mast.

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty

Beware of Those Who Never Admit Having Been Wrong

As America continues to reel socially and economically from the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, we continue to see wrong response after wrong response to the virus and the threat it poses by both Donald Trump - a man who never ever admits error - and his circle off sycophants who represent a who's who of a Republican Party/conservative movement that eschews expertise and basic competence, not to men any ability to admit error. These individuals tell Trump what he wants to hear and frighteningly are listened to over the advice of true experts who find themselves silenced - none of the doctors on Trump's Covid-19 response team are being allowed to testify before Congress for the likely reason that what they have to say will upset Der Trumpenführer.  A column in the New York Times looks at the consequence of never admitting error especially when faced with a pandemic that does not lend itself to spin on Fox News.  Here are column highlights:
“You have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down close to zero.”
We have contained this, and the economy is “holding up nicely.” It’s not nearly as serious as the common flu. We’re going to have 50,000 or 60,000 deaths, and that’s great. OK, we may have more than 100,000 deaths, but we’re doing a great job and should reopen the economy.
You sometimes hear people say that Donald Trump and his minions minimized the dangers of Covid-19, and that this misjudgment helps explain why their policy response has been so disastrously inadequate. But this statement, while true, misses crucial aspects of what’s going on.
For Trump and company didn’t make a one-time mistake. They grossly minimized the pandemic and its dangers every step of the way, week after week over a period of months. And they’re still doing it.
Now, everyone makes bad predictions; God knows I have. But when you keep getting things wrong, and especially when you keep getting them wrong in the same direction, you’re supposed to engage in some self-reflection — and learn from your mistakes.
To engage in such self-reflection, however, you have to be willing to admit that you were wrong in the first place.
We all know that Trump himself is incapable of making such an admission. At a time of crisis, America is led by a whiny, childlike man whose ego is too fragile to let him concede ever having made any kind of error. And he has surrounded himself with people who share his lack of character.
But where do these people come from? What has struck me, as details of Trump’s coronavirus debacle continue to emerge, is that he wasn’t getting bad advice from obscure, fringe figures whose only claim to fame was their successful sycophancy. On the contrary, the people telling him what he wanted to hear were, by and large, pillars of the conservative establishment with long pre-Trump careers.
On Saturday The Washington Post reported that in late March Trump was unhappy with epidemiological models suggesting a death toll over 100,000 — which, by the way, now seems highly likely. So the White House created its own team led by Kevin Hassett, whom The Post describes as “a former chairman of Trump’s Council of Economic Advisers with no background in infectious diseases.” . . . . What The Post didn’t say was that aside from not having any background in epidemiology, Hassett has an, um, interesting record as an economist.
In the mid-2000s Hassett denied that there was a housing bubble, suggesting that only liberals believed that there was.
Finally, Hassett promised that the 2017 Trump tax cut would lead to a big boost in business investment; it didn’t, but he insisted that it did.
You might think that an economist would pay some professional penalty for this kind of track record — not simply one of making bad predictions, which everyone does, but of both being wrong at every important juncture and refusing to admit or learn from mistakes.
The moral of this story, I’d argue, is that observers trying to understand America’s lethally bad response to the coronavirus focus too much on Trump’s personal flaws, and not enough on the character of the party he leads.
Yes, Trump’s insecurity leads him to reject expertise, listen only to people who tell him what makes him feel good and refuse to acknowledge error. But disdain for experts, preference for incompetent loyalists and failure to learn from experience are standard operating procedure for the whole modern G.O.P.
Trump’s narcissism and solipsism are especially blatant, even flamboyant. But he isn’t an outlier; he’s more a culmination of the American right’s long-term trend toward intellectual degradation. And that degradation, more than Trump’s character, is what is leading to vast numbers of unnecessary deaths.

Monday, May 04, 2020

More Monday Male Beauty

Andre Brunelli

Models Shift to Predict Dramatically More U.S. Covid-19 Deaths

Virginia's governor Ralph Northam - the only US governor who is a physician - just extended Virginia's business shutdown for another week as reported by the Virginian Pilot. Whether the May 15, 2020, opening date gets further delayed will depend on whether Virginia sees 14 days of improvement.  Meanwhile, a number of GOP lead states are opening up businesses and playing a game of Russian roulette with their citizens' lives.  New reports on models predicting the Covid- 19 death rate suggest that  Northam may be taking the wiser choice given the new predictions that 134,000 Americans will die of Covid-19 between now and August (243,000 if one includes the upper end of the margin of error).  A Johns Hpkins report predicted 3,000 deaths per day by June (that would be a daily death rate not too much less than the 9-11 fatality number).   It goes without saying that Trump is cheering on governors reopening their states focusing as always only on himself and what a weak economy could mean for his re-election hopes. The Washington Post looks at the disturbing model predictions.  Here are excerpts:
A key model of the coronavirus pandemic favored by the White House nearly doubled its prediction Monday for how many people will die from the virus in the U.S. by August – primarily because states are reopening too soon.
The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine is now projecting 134,000 coronavirus-related fatalities, up from a previous prediction of 72,000. Factoring in the scientists’ margin of error, the new prediction ranges from 95,000 to 243,000.
Dr. Christopher Murray, the director of IHME, told reporters on a call Monday the primary reason for the increase is many states’ “premature relaxation of social distancing.”
For the first time, Murray explained, the model is factoring in data from four different cell phone providers showing a major uptick in Americans’ going out in public. This rise of mobility in the last week or 10 days is likely leading to an increase in transmission, he said.
Even with its latest forecast, the University of Washington model is still far more optimistic than a model developed by Johns Hopkins for CDC predicting as many as 3,000 deaths per day by June.
In a statement on Monday evening, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health called the leaked models “preliminary analyses,“ saying that they had been provided to the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help in scenario planning, were not a final version and were not meant to be used or presented as forecasts.
Still, the statement added, “the information illustrates that there are some scenarios, including the premature relaxation of social distancing, that are likely to cause significant increases in the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in the United States.“
In a statement to reporters, White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere said that the internal report obtained by The New York Times was “not a White House document” and hadn’t been presented to the coronavirus task force.
The CDC document projects north of 175,000 new cases of Covid-19, the respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus, each day. That’s up from about 25,000 new cases per day last week and more than four times the peak of about 37,000 new cases per day.
The alarming modeling comes as some states are already beginning to put parts of the White House’s phased reopening plan into motion despite concerns that the administration’s guidelines for doing so have not yet been met. It also underscores fears that moving too fast to relax strict social-distancing restrictions could fuel a dangerous second wave of infections.
The CDC document found some reason for optimism, noting that nationwide, the trajectory of new illnesses in "multiple counties, including hard hit areas in Louisiana and in the New York City region" has continued to decrease, and that incidence rates have recently plateaued around Chicago.
Still, it found that there "remains a large number of counties whose burden [of illness] continues to grow or are in an elevated incidence plateau, including in the Great Lakes region, parts of the Southeast, Northeast, and around southern California." The document includes a color-coded map of the country with darker spots peppered throughout, and it states that the goal "is to have all communities be represented in the lighter colors, demonstrating little to no disease burden and no increase in trajectory."
Murray also noted that the updated University of Washington model also now takes into account the ramping up of testing in most states, as well as warming temperatures heading into late spring and early summer. But he cautioned that the impact of temperature on coronavirus transmission is not yet fully understood, and likely will not be for several more months.
For now, IHME is assuming that every degree Celsius the temperature goes up will lead to a 2 percent decline in transmission. “Are we sure about that? No,” he said.

Trump Attacks George W. Bush's Call for National Unity

If there has been one beneficiary of the Trump presidency it is George W. Bush who no longer needs to fear the label "worse president ever."  Indeed, Trump has made Bush look like a better president despite his many terribly wrong decisions, the Iraq War being perhaps the most tragic.  Similarly, Bush was never always focused on himself, something Trump is utterly incapable of doing.  With Trump, it is all about him 24/7 and he truly has no empathy for anyone else.  Absolutely none - something his idiot supporters still have not figured out as he plays them for fools by appealing to their bigotry and misplaced grievances. The Hill looks at Trump's tantrum over Bush's call for national unity in this time of crisis.  Here are excerpts:
President Trump on Sunday took aim at George W. Bush after the former Republican president issued a call to push partisanship aside amid the outbreak of the novel coronavirus. 
In a three-minute video shared on Twitter on Saturday, Bush urged Americans to remember "how small our differences are in the face of this shared threat."
"In the final analysis, we are not partisan combatants. We are human beings, equally vulnerable and equally wonderful in the sight of God," Bush said. "We rise or fall together, and we are determined to rise."
In an early morning tweet on Sunday, Trump called out Bush for his failure to support him as he faced an impeachment trial earlier this year over his alleged dealings with Ukraine.
While Bush never commented publicly on the allegations and the trial, he and other members of his family have voiced criticism of the president and his policies. 
The former president released the video as confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, continued to rise in parts of the U.S. The country has confirmed more than 1.1 million COVID-19 cases and more than 66,000 deaths from it.
Bush invoked the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in his message, noting that the U.S. has faced "times of testing before." 
"Let's remember that the suffering we experience as a nation does not fall evenly. In the days to come, it will be especially important to care in practical ways for the elderly, the ill and the unemployed," he [Bush] said. 
Trump has faced continued scrutiny for his early response to the outbreak. The president in February suggested the virus would suddenly "disappear" and later predicted that everyone who needed a test would have access to one. He's repeatedly pushed back against concerns from governors about testing and medical equipment shortages.