Tuesday, June 30, 2020

"No American has ever failed this country worse than you" -Steve Schmidt

"It will come early: ‘Fox News is now projecting Joseph R. Biden is the President-Elect of the United States.’ The American people are going to throw you out of office. You will be repudiated and disgraced. You’ll leave nothing behind but the stench of epic failure.

“No American has ever failed this country worse than you. None. Your incompetence, ignorance, ineptitude, and old-fashioned stupidity have caused the economic collapse and made the U.S. the epicenter of coronavirus death and suffering.

“You have shattered American alliances and weakened our military. You are a disgrace. Your name will be a synonym for losing, failure, and weakness. Biden is crushing you, and you want to know why?

“It’s because he is a good man, and you are a bad one. He cares about the American people, and you do not. He is respected on the world stage, and you are laughed at like some type of grotesque and buffoonish clown. He is capable, and you are not.

“You attack because you are scared. Take a minute to look at the picture of Fred Trump on your desk. Do you think he would be surprised by your failures? He would not. He bailed you out over and over again. He bailed you out because you couldn’t cut it as anything other than a con man.

“There will be no monuments and no encomiums for you. The whole country has watched you fail. The whole country is watching your increasingly feeble state. The whole country is watching you lose. We will all watch you return to your golf clubs as the biggest loser the American presidency has ever produced” (Twitter, June 20, 2020 - Steve Schmidt: former Republican strategist). 

Monday, June 29, 2020

“Don’t let the promise of democracy cloud your assessment of what is actually happening right now to make democratic processes impossible”—Utz Mcknight

“The function of polls showing Biden leading Trump is to make people feel that what they are doing is working. It isn’t. We have yet to come up with a way to stop the suppression of the Black and Brown vote that will occur in November. Learn from 2016. All Trump needs is to eliminate a few hundred thousand votes spread across several states. All the talk of being ahead ignores the work being done by the Trump campaign to make sure that specific local areas in several states have the apparatus to suppress enough votes.

“Remember all that talk of a problem with voting machines, the long lines, etc... It is not just a convergence of interest behind the fact that there is nothing coming out about this as a problem in the conservative media. Pay attention to the polls at our peril. Right now, we lose the election. It’s not enough just to want to vote if you are a Democrat. We have to make sure in each of our local areas that this is still true. Look at those areas that Trump won by small margins in 2016.

“This isn’t a popularity contest, but an election where one side knows they cannot get their candidate across the line without manipulating how important some areas in the country are in determining the electoral college result. Hilary crushed Trump in the popular vote. That doesn’t matter now. Don’t let the promise of democracy cloud your assessment of what is actually happening right now to make democratic processes impossible.

“We must register people, but we also must erode the efficacy of the machine being fine-tuned by Trump operatives to make sure some votes won’t count, and some won’t be able to vote. This is the fight. Enough Republican voters will be counted, enough Republican voters will be able to vote. Just enough. Remember Cambridge Analytics? The data mining has proceeded apace.

“Targeted resistance and donations to local organizations fighting voter registration purges, voter suppression tactics, and making sure more people are made aware of the race we are in here, five months before the election. That is our mandate. Let’s figure out how to stop being denied our right to vote. It isn’t that a different a fight than in the 1960's. The tactics of voter suppression should be the focus of our protests.

“Think about how the selective reporting and provision of health services among Black and Brown communities in this time of the COVID might augment voter suppression mechanisms across the country. Tracing the spread of infections and the provision of testing, the absence of adequate health care services in specific communities would give us a very good idea of where some of the problems in voter suppression will exist in the fall. Why is it again that so many report no one in their immediate vicinity has the virus? How do people interact and where do they congregate? This is the work of data gathering being done right now.

“The attention to electoral politics would also address the problem of policing. The connection between the two forms of controlling democratic processes, collective interests and the rights and welfare of specific populations, was obvious to those police and sheriffs who crushed voter registration drives and used violence against protesters in the 1960's. The same is true today” -Utz Mcknight, Chair of Gender and Race Studies at University of Alabama  

Artwork from Rolling Stone

Trump Denies Being Briefed about Russian Bounties on U.S. Troops

Benedict Arnold or Andrew Johnson?

Donald Trump has said intelligence about a Russian plot to offer bounties to Taliban militants in exchange for fatal attacks on coalition troops in Afghanistan was not ‘credible’ and was therefore not reported to him. Trump gave the explanation in a tweet on Sunday night, and dismissed the widely reported allegations as ‘possibly another fabricated Russia hoax.’

“Trump has come under pressure to explain why he had not heard about the Russia offer even though US security officials have been weighing a response to the plot since at least March. Top administration officials, including members of Trump’s national security council, have been discussing the Russian bounty offer for months, the New York Times first reported.

“Earlier on Sunday, Trump claimed never to have heard about the Russian offer – and he questioned whether such an offer had been made. ‘Nobody briefed or told me, [vice president Mike] Pence, or chief of staff Mark Meadows about the so-called attacks on our troops in Afghanistan by Russians,’ Trump tweeted in part. ‘Everybody is denying it & there have not been many attacks on us …’” (The Guardian).

Sunday, June 28, 2020

“Trump’s path to victory… depends on voter suppression, mass disinformation, foreign interference, and unabashed use of executive branch power to shape events and perceptions"

“The president has had a difficult period and is trailing his rival by double digits. But he has time to fight back – and fight dirty It was the death of a salesman. With tie undone and crumpled ‘Make America great again’ cap in hand, Donald Trump cut a forlorn figure shambling across the White House south lawn on his return from his failed comeback rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Some observers likened him to Willy Loman, the tragic protagonist of Arthur Miller’s benchmark drama.
“The US president, critics say, has spent years selling a bill of goods to the American people. Now they are no longer buying. The thinly attended rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, last weekend was the physical manifestation of what poll after poll is showing: Trump is trailing his Democratic rival Joe Biden by double digits and seemingly on course for a historic defeat in November’s presidential election.
“But seasoned commentators warn against complacency. Trump still has time to fight back – and fight dirty. ‘You look at the polls and think ‘he can’t win’,’ tweeted Bill Kristol, who served in two Republican administrations. ‘But Trump’s path to victory doesn’t depend on persuading Americans. It depends on voter suppression, mass disinformation, foreign interference, and unabashed use of executive branch power to shape events and perceptions this fall.’
“It was a reminder that the polls only tell part of any election story. In 2016, Trump nearly always appeared to be heading to defeat by Hillary Clinton. This time polls appear to point to a Biden landslide. The former vice-president leads Trump by 14 percentage points in a national survey of registered voters by the New York Times and Siena College.
“As expected, the poll showed Biden well ahead among women, young people and African American and Hispanic voters. Alarmingly for the president, Biden had also drawn level among white voters, men, and middle-aged and older voters – typically the pillars of Trump’s support. This and numerous other polls also show Trump trailing badly in six swing states likely to decide the all-important electoral college.
“At the start of the year Trump was confident of victory, but the research suggests voters are punishing him for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, exacerbation of the economic crisis and violent response to Black Lives Matter protests. This week he continued to downplay the virus,and staged campaign events with few face masks and little physical distancing, even as the daily infection rate soared to an all-time high of more than 40,000.
“But Trump’s foes have learned to write him off at their peril. He once famously boasted that he could shoot someone on New York’s Fifth Avenue and not lose any voters. He still has the significant advantages of incumbency and, opponents say, of being entirely untroubled by a moral conscience: Trump will stop at nothing to cling to power.
“Kristol, editor at large of the Bulwark website and director of the advocacy organisation Defending Democracy Together, said in an interview: ‘The special circumstances with Trump are his total abandonment of any constraints and even more important, perhaps, his having people around him who’ve abandoned any constraints on the way in which they’ll use the federal government, the executive branch, to say things, do things, pretend to do things.
“‘Richard Nixon did a little of that in 1972, and of course presidents always tout good news in the months before the election. But this time, it’s the degree to which you could have a real sustained effort to suppress minority voting and not make it easy for young people to vote.
“‘It’s the degree to which you could have foreign intervention and also Trump colluding, not in the sense of coordinating but just welcoming it and making it easier. It’s the degree to which you could have Putin deciding if he wants Trump re-elected, to give Trump a ‘foreign policy victory’ weeks before the election, which will turn out to be not a real victory months later.’
“Kristol added: ‘It’s the use of loyalists at the office of the Director of National Intelligence and to some degree the state department and justice department. It’s the degree to which we’ll get ‘new’ news about Biden and [his son] Hunter Biden, sort of based on something but wildly exaggerated and trumpeted and on Fox News.
“‘If you put all that together and you have a circumstance where someone is really shameless and a lot of the normal constraints have weakened, it’s conceivable that the reluctant Trump voter from 2016 who’s become a reluctant Biden voter in 2020 goes back to being a reluctant Trump voter. That’s what worries me the most.’
“Voter suppression has haunted US elections for decades but the pandemic presents Trump with new opportunities. States are seeking a massive expansion of mail-in ballots so people do not have risk their health by queuing and voting in person. The president has intensified claims that this will lead to widespread cheating, even though several studies have shown that voter fraud is extremely rare.
“His wild words are often backed by organizational muscle and action. The Republican National Committee has devoted $20m to opposing Democratic lawsuits across the country seeking to expand voting. Republicans are also reportedly aiming to recruit up to 50,000 people in 15 key states to serve as poll watchers and challenge the registration of voters they believe are ineligible.
Monika McDermott, a political science professor at Fordham University in New York, said: ‘What we’re seeing in some primary states is the closures of polling places in African American dominated areas and mistaken purging of Democrats from the voter rolls. Some of this is anecdotal, but it is worrying all the same. And it will, no doubt, continue through the general election.’
“Only three incumbent presidents have been defeated for reelection since the second world war: Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and George HW Bush. Trump has the advantages of the bully pulpit, support from Fox News and other conservative media, a huge data harvesting operation and more cash than Biden. He is traveling the country, throwing virus caution to the winds, as the Democrat remains mostly confined to his basement.
“But critics fear that the president could also bend state apparatus to his advantage, noting the loyalty of officials such as attorney general Bill Barr, who ordered security forces to use tear gas against peaceful protesters outside the White House so his boss could stage a photo op.
“Trump has repeatedly asserted a baseless conspiracy theory called ‘Obamagate,’ claiming that former president Barack Obama and Biden concocted fake allegations about Trump’s links to Russia in a ‘coup’ to deny him the White House. He could pressure Barr and Republicans in Congress to focus on this, as well as on Biden’s son Hunter’s business activities in Ukraine, as election day nears.
Lawrence Tribe, a constitutional law professor at Harvard University, said: ‘He could announce, perhaps without any basis at all, in mid-October that a new vaccine has been found, and he could pressure the FDA [Food and Drug Administration]to approve it and that could mess with the vote. He could get help of the sort he has already asked for from China and Russia to interfere with the vote.’
“‘He could engage in conspiratorial vote suppression in which a number of people are prevented from voting by a sudden announcement that there is a spike in the coronavirus in certain jurisdictions. The power that he has as president to both manipulate the votes actually cast, and in addition to that, to launch challenges where his manipulation has not been sufficiently successful is enormously broad.’
“Tribe added: ‘If we know nothing else about this man, we know that his priorities are entirely personal and narcissistic. We know that he is not worried about the stability or the safety of the country and, given that set of psychological realities, it would take a much more ironclad process than we have to warrant any degree of confidence that we will have a smooth and peaceful transition to a new president next January.
Another of Kristol’s warnings is about foreign interference. Special counsel Robert Mueller identified 272 contacts between Trump’s 2016 campaign team and Russia-linked operatives, including at least 38 meetings. Last year, asked by ABC News if he would take dirt on an opponent from a foreign source, the president said candidly: ‘I think I’d take it.’
“Trump was impeached for asking the president of Ukraine to investigate Biden on baseless charges in return for $400m in military aid. And in his new memoir, former national security adviser John Bolton alleges that Trump pleaded with China’s president Xi Jinping to help him get re-elected by buying more US agricultural products.
Neil Sroka, a spokesperson for the progressive group Democracy for America, said: ‘We already know he’s actively solicited the help of a foreign government in this election from the Bolton book.’ And concerns persist that social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter are still doing too little to weed out foreign-based accounts that spread disinformation aimed at dividing Americans and potentially helping Trump. With four months to go, anything could happen…” (“Trump bruised as polls favour Biden – but experts warn of riskof dirty tricks” by David Smith, The Guardian).

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Florida's Anti-Maskers Are Taking a Stand | NowThis

What doctors know about lingering symptoms of coronavirus by William Petri, Professor of Medicine, University of Virginia

“Confusion or the post-intensive care syndrome: In the most seriously ill patients who receive care in the ICU, there is a substantial risk of delirium. Delirium is characterized by confusion, difficulty in paying attention, reduced awareness of person, place and time, and even the inability to interact with others.
“Delirium is not a specific complication of COVID-19 but unfortunately is a common complication of ICU care. Risk factors in addition to being in the ICU include advanced age and pre-existing illness. Some studies say as many as 75% of patients treated in the ICU experience delirium. The problem is not only with confusion during the hospitalization, but for months after. For example, at three and nine months after discharge many of those who recovered still had difficulty with short-term memory, the ability to comprehend written and spoken words and to learn new things. Some even had difficulty knowing where they were and what today’s date was. And, executive function scores were significantly worse in those who had suffered from delirium.
“Physicians are dedicating considerable effort to reduce delirium in patients in the ICU. Approaches that may help include reducing the use of sedatives, repeated reorientation of the patient to date, time and location, early mobilization, noise reduction and cognitive stimulation.
“Lungs – chronic shortness of breath: The most severely ill patients with COVID-19 often suffer from pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome, or ARDS, while ill. Doctors have not followed patients who have recovered from the new coronavirus long enough to know if there will be long-term problems with breathing.
“However, a study of health care workers in China who contracted SARS, caused by the SARS-CoV coronavirus which circulated during the 2003 outbreak, are reassuring. Lung damage (measured by interstitial changes seen on CT scans of the lung and pulmonary function test results) mostly healed within two years after the illness.
“Smell and taste: Most patients with COVID-19 experience a loss of taste and or smell. Only a quarter of patients had noted some improvement in a week’s time, but by 10 days most patients had recovered.
“Post-infection fatigue syndrome: While again it may be too early to tell, in the case of the original SARS outbreak almost half of survivors interviewed more than three years after recovery complained of fatigue.
“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention criteria for diagnosis of the chronic fatigue syndrome were met in a quarter of COVID-19 patients. It will likely be important to target mental health interventions to COVID-19 survivors to help them deal with a prolonged convalescence characterized by fatigue.
“Blood clots: Blood clots may arise in up to a fourth of critically ill COVID-19 patients. Blood clots can cause serious long-term complications if the clots break loose from blood vessels and migrate to the lung and cause a pulmonary embolism or go to the brain and cause a stroke.
To prevent blot clots, physicians are now instituting blood thinners prophylactically when there is a rise in the concentration of the D-dimer, which is a fragment of fibrin – a protein that makes blood clot.
“Heart: In one study, inflammation of the heart muscle, called myocarditis or cardiomyopathy, was observed in a third of severely ill COVID-19 patients. Arrhythmias – an irregular heartbeat – are also seen. It is not known if this is due to direct infection of the heart or secondary to the stress caused by the inflammatory response to this infection. Most importantly, the long-term consequences in survivors are not understood.
“Diabetes: Diabetics are at increased risk of severe COVID-19, which may in part be attributable to an overreaction from immune response to the infection. But the COVID-19 and diabetes interaction may go in the other direction as well. Elevations in glucose are seen in severe cases of COVID-19 in some patients who do not have a prior history of diabetes. Because the virus interacts with the angiotensin-converting enzyme 2, or ACE2, on human cells, it is plausible that changes in ACE2 activity could be one cause of diabetes in patients with the new coronavirus. In any case, it will be important long-term to follow up.
“The bottom line is that the new coronavirus infection has profound effects on many different organ systems in the body. The good news is that we expect that the damage caused by COVID-19 will heal in the vast majority of patients. However, it is important to appreciate that some long-term conditions can be anticipated, and prevented or managed to benefit patients” (The Conversation).

Friday, June 26, 2020

“Is it possible Trump and the racists in his Party think this is a good way to reduce the Black and Hispanic population?"

“Two weeks after America diagnosed its first case of COVID-19, Republicans in the United States Senate (with the single exception of Mitt Romney) refuse to vote to impeach Donald Trump. They decided he couldn’t do much more damage than he already has, and, as Senator Susan Collins suggested, he would back down from his most outrageous behavior because his hands had been slapped by the House of Representatives.

“Now, newly empowered and feeling invincible, he seems hellbent on a crusade to kill hundreds of thousands of Americans. Nobody knows why Trump is so enthusiastic about encouraging people to get sick and die from COVID-19, although there are a couple possibly viable theories.

“Trump’s and Republicans’ rhetoric all shifted a day or two after April 7, the day that the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN and other national media reported that Black and Hispanic people were dying of COVID at about twice the rate of white people.

Is it possible Trump and the racists in his Party think this is a good way to reduce the Black and Hispanic population, or at least that it’s not an issue for white people?

“Another possibility has to do with Freedomworks, the group that was largely raised to prominence by rightwing billionaires and helped fund the so-called Tea Party movement. Billionaires want their people back at work, be they in refineries or meat processing plants or retail stores, and they know that if some of those workers get sick and die there’s a never-ending supply of poor, unemployed people willing to replace them.

“A third possibility is that Trump simply loves the idea of people dying. This is the most bizarre of all these possibilities, but it appears to be a characteristic shared by strongman governments around the world, from Duterte in the Philippines who encourages police to murder drug users to Bolsonaro in Brazil who is enthusiastically taking actions that are killing indigenous people in the Amazon. As we hit what CNN is calling ‘apocalyptic levels’ of coronavirus infections, it would be really useful to know why Donald Trump is so enthusiastic about so many Americans dying.

“Why did he refuse to allow America to use the World Health Organization coronavirus test kit back in January, February, March—and to this day? Why did he spend two months denying the obvious fact that this virus was coming to the United States and was deadly, leaving us utterly unprepared? Why does he refuse to set a good example for Americans by wearing a face mask? Is he more concerned about smearing his makeup than the death of 200,000 Americans?

“Why did he order his goons to intercept shipments of personal protective equipment and ventilators going to blue states? Where is all that equipment that he hijacked, and does he plan to offer it exclusively to red state governors? Is all this death just about politics? Why is he shutting down testing sites in multiple states next week after bragging in his Tulsa rally that he told his people to ‘slow down’ the testing?

“Is it possible he’s trying to let things get so bad that a vaccine in the fall will be seen as an effective October Surprise? Is that why the vaccine companies have gotten billions of federal dollars in what Trump calls ‘Operation Warp Speed’ while rural hospitals across the country continue to close?

“Since the work of Louis Pasteur and Joseph Lister just after the American Civil War, the world has known how to deal with infectious diseases.

Why has Trump worked so hard to convince his followers to ignore almost 200 years of medical science? And what is it about right-wing leaders embracing death by pandemic?

“If Trump was the only leader in the world doing this, it might make it easier to figure out. But wealthy oligarchs who have taken over countries around the world are doing the same thing.

Why do these leaders want their people to die? Why does Trump want more Americans to die?

“Americans—and the world—deserve answers” (Why Is Trump So Enthusiastic about Americans Dying? by Thom Hartmann, Common Dreams).

"What do we not yet know about Donald Trump?"

“We have known since nearly the beginning of Donald Trump’s presidency that he believes his first attorney general was a dangerous idiot. We have known for nearly as long that his first secretaries of state and defense think the same thing about Trump.

“We know, because Bob Woodward told us in a book two years ago, that some advisers are so anxious that the president could do something impulsive or boneheaded that they skulk into the Oval Office to take papers off his desk. We know, because former national security adviser John Bolton told us this month in a book of his own, that Trump allegedly shreds ethical lines between the nation’s foreign policy and his personal considerations, proposing crude bargains with the dictator of China to help his reelection or trying to help the dictator of Turkey to shut down a bothersome criminal case.

“We know that the president lives in a state of agitated grievance, spending countless dark hours when most people are sleeping fulminating against his enemies and bemoaning that he is being insufficiently praised. We know this, of course, because Trump compulsively narrates his own thought stream in real time on Twitter.

Three and a half years into his presidency we know so much that it raises the question: What do we not yet know about Donald Trump?... It's as though Trump has turned history itself into an amphetamine addict—disoriented and sleep-deprived, craving more stimulation, no longer able to get high off standard dosages…

“Here are a half-dozen Trump bombshells that have yet to go off—but almost certainly will someday…

“The business of the presidency/the presidency of the business: Historians reconstructing the Trump years will need to work long and deep to understand ‘the unprecedented nature of a business presidency,’ said Jonathan Karp, chief executive officer of Simon & Schuster, who edited the memoirs of Senate legends Edward M. Kennedy and John McCain.

“Unfortunately, those writers will get less of a head start from daily journalism than ideally would be the case. Trump was elected president on the strength of his self-proclaimed business mastery. But he reneged on his 2016 pledge to release his taxes, as every presidential nominee in the modern era has done. The New York Times has done landmark projects on the Trump family’s tax history, and the president’s long and complex relationship with Deutsche Bank.

“But questions swirl about the exact size of Trump’s fortune and whether the reality matches Trump’s claims; the nature of the family’s past and current business dealings overseas; the extent to which foreign interests seek to influence Trump through favorable dealings with his holdings or those of family members; the degree to which his hotels and other business operations have reaped enhanced revenue because of Trump’s presidency. For historical context, consider that Bill Clinton was investigated by an independent prosecutor for most of his presidency over comparatively small business dealings that took place a decade or more before he came to Washington…

The Russia mystery: Prosecutor Robert Mueller could not prove a criminal conspiracy in which Trump colluded with Russia to affect the election. But that conclusion does not mean that questions about Russia’s role in Trump’s election or presidency are ‘a hoax,’ as Trump often says.

“It is ‘not a hoax,’ but a critical line of inquiry to understand the president’s relationship with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, said Peter Baker, a New York Times White House reporter who has written books dealing extensively with the Clinton, Obama, and both Bush presidencies.

“Someday, just as happened with Moscow’s view of the Cuban Missile Crisis, there will be Russian documents and Russian officials to help explain why Russia promoted email break-ins and social media propaganda to help Trump over Hillary Clinton in 2016. Or, once elected, why Trump kicked out U.S. official note takers in a meeting with Putin. ‘We don’t have the explanation why’ on multiple questions, Baker said, in an interview. ‘Why is Trump so seemingly enamored of Putin? He so desperately wants his approval.’

“The real inner circle: On different occasions, people close to Trump in an official sense have been described in books or journalistic accounts referring to their boss as an ‘idiot’ (former chief of staff John Kelly and former national security adviser H.R. McMaster), a ‘moron,’ (former secretary of state Rex Tillerson), ‘like an 11-year-old child’ (former aide Steve Bannon) with an understanding of world affairs akin to ‘a fifth- or sixth-grader’ (former defense secretary James Mattis).

“But here’s who you have not heard spilling secrets about Trump: Ex-spouses, or children, or other people who love Trump or once loved him, or even people like household staff who had occasion to observe him in intimate settings.

“Washington Post writer Mary Jordan this month published ‘The Art of Her Deal,’ on Melania Trump. The book came with a noteworthy scoop: That the first lady had renegotiated her prenuptial agreement with the president after his election.

“But the book also underscored how little is understood about Trump’s most personal relationships and their dynamics, and what Trump is genuinely like when he’s not on television or Twitter. We know that Ivanka Trump and Jared Kusher are influential, of course, but have insight into barely a fraction of their interactions with the president.

“Jordan told me she was struck by how much time Trump spends alone, up late or early, without ‘real friends.’ The relationships he does have are often shielded by a wave of nondisclosure agreements or other financial or legal incentives. Jordan recalled once approaching someone who had been around Trump in family settings and the person ‘was shaking like a leaf’ for fear that he would be punished for being a source.

“Silence rarely lasts forever, especially once a president is out of office or is deceased, and these recollections promise to be a rich vein for understanding a president who is startlingly transparent about some aspects of his psychology and unnervingly opaque about others.

“When the documents speak: The modern presidency keeps a lot of records, which is why modern presidents have often worked hard to keep those records secret as long as possible. When they do open up, they tell stories. The journalist Richard Reeves used them from the Kennedy years to write a book reconstructing in sometimes minute-by-minute detail key days of JFK’s presidency.

When supplemented with oral histories, or contemporaneous journals (some people still keep them) there are lots of stories the documents might tell even if Trump wishes they never get told. Who does Trump meet with and talk to on the phone? This might illuminate one of the major stories of the Trump years, which is the real relationships between an anti-establishment president with many establishment Republicans and corporate leaders who either publicly or privately profess to loathe him.

“What is the role of Vice President Mike Pence, who never conveys anything but unqualified support for Trump, and what can we learn about his real views and how he put them into practice? Did senior officials who have made clear they regard Trump as erratic ever take steps that we don’t currently know about to implement the 25th Amendment challenging his fitness for office?

“Have we come closer than is currently known to an impulsive military action? How much knowledge and active engagement does Trump have with daily functions of the executive branch that don’t get played up on cable news? Many key policy and regulatory jobs are held by conservatives who have strong views and wide latitude to act on them, whether or not the president is interested in the details.

“What is the real state of Trump’s health?: If Trump’s health is more troubled than usually terse official statements are letting on, he would not be the first president for whom this is the case. The physical and cognitive condition of presidents has been a key avenue of inquiry for historians of Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan.

“What was that unscheduled trip to Walter Reed Army Medical Center last November all about? What explains Trump’s unsteady appearance drinking water or walking down a ramp at West Point earlier this month?

“Reading the thought bubbles: ‘We will find out eventually all the things that they do, even their taxes,’ Jordan said of the Trumps. ‘The questions we don’t know the answer to are about what’s in their minds.’

“‘Does he have unexpressed thoughts?’ asked presidential historian Jon Meacham. The tendency to assume that Trump has no introspection or strategic sense beyond what he shares on Twitter may itself be too superficial, he added.

“In the world abroad, Meacham asked, what explains the tension between Trump’s blustery talk but seemingly dovish instincts on use of military force? Here at home, since his early New York days, Trump has been skilled at manipulating his image and penetrating establishment circles while remaining independent of them. Does he operate from a theory of power or on improvisational instinct alone?

“‘He’s so good at making us focus on the part of the iceberg we can see,’ Meacham said. ‘I’m not suggesting there are great hidden depths to him, but there is stuff we don’t know.’ And there are things about America during the Trump years, we don’t know. ‘I’m more interested in what he says about the country than what happened moment-to-moment in the Oval Office. His grip on 40 percent of us is fascinating.’

“Until the deeper dimensions of the Trump years are illuminated, his closer-to-the-surface ruminations are keeping the daily historians busy. ‘Imagine if the Nixon tapes were played every night on Walter Cronkite,’ Baker observed. ‘We are seeing all the stuff that is usually hidden play out in real time’” (The Six Trump Bombshells Still Waiting to Explode by John F. Harris, Politico).

Thursday, June 25, 2020

America Is Exceptional in All the Wrong Ways by Robert Reich

“As our incompetent president flounders in the face of crises – leading the worst coronavirus response in the industrialized world, and seeking to crush nationwide protests for black lives – the hard truth about this country comes into focus: America is not exceptional, but it is the exception.

“No other industrialized nation was as woefully unprepared for the pandemic as was the United States. With 4.25% of the world population, America has the tragic distinction of accounting for about 30% of pandemic deaths so far. Why are we so different from other nations facing the same coronavirus threat? Why has everything gone so tragically wrong in America? Part of it is Donald Trump. 

“He and his corrupt administration repeatedly ignored warnings from public health experts and national security officials throughout January and February, only acting on March 16th after the stock market tanked. Researchers estimate that nearly 36,000 deaths could have been prevented if the United States had implemented social distancing policies just one week earlier.

“No other industrialized nation has so drastically skirted responsibility by leaving it to subordinate units of government – states and cities – to buy ventilators and personal protective equipment.

“In no other industrialized nation have experts in public health and emergency preparedness been muzzled and replaced by political cronies like Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who in turn has been advised by campaign donors and Fox News.

“In no other industrialized nation has Covid-19 so swiftly eviscerated the incomes of the working class. Around the world, governments are providing generous income support to keep their unemployment rates low. Not in the U.S. Nearly 40 million Americans have lost their jobs so far, and more than 30% of American adults have been forced to cut back on buying food and risk going hungry. At best, Americans have received one-time checks for $1,200, about a week’s worth of rent, groceries and utilities. After a massive backlog, people finally started collecting their expanded unemployment benefits – just in time for the expansion to expire with little to no chance of being renewed.

“In no other nation is there such chaos about reopening. While Europe is opening slowly and carefully, the U.S. is opening chaotically, each state on its own. Some are lifting restrictions overnight.

“And not even a global pandemic can overshadow the racism embedded in this country’s DNA. Even as black Americans are disproportionately dying from coronavirus, they have nonetheless been forced into the streets in an outpouring of grief and anger over decades of harsh policing and unjust killings. As protests erupted across the country in response to more police killings of unarmed black Americans, the protesters have been met with even more police violence. Firing tear gas into crowds of predominantly black protesters, in the middle of a pandemic caused by a respiratory virus that is already disproportionately hurting black communities, is unconscionably cruel. Indeed, a lot of the responsibility rests with Trump and his hapless and corrupt collection of grifters, buffoons, sycophants, lobbyists and relatives. But the problems at the core of our broken system, laid bare by this pandemic, have been plaguing this country long before Trump came along.

“America is the only industrialized nation without guaranteed, universal healthcare.

“No other industrialized nation insists on tying health care to employment, resulting in tens of millions of U.S. citizens losing their health insurance at the very moment they need it most.

“We’re the only one out of 22 advanced nations that doesn’t give all workers some form of paid sick leave.

“Average wage growth in the United States has long lagged behind average wage growth in most other industrialized countries, even before the pandemic robbed Americans of their jobs and incomes. Since 1980, American workers’ share of total national income has dropped more than in any other rich nation.

“And America also has the largest CEO-to-worker pay gap on the planet. In 1965, American CEOs were paid 20 times the typical worker. Today, American CEOs are paid 278 times the typical worker.

“Not surprisingly, American workers are far less unionized than workers in other industrialized economies. Only 10.2 percent of all workers in America belong to a union, compared with more than 26% in Canada, 65% in Sweden, and 23% in Britain. With less unionization, American workers are easily overpowered by corporations, and can’t bargain for higher wages or better benefits.

“So who and what’s to blame for the largest preventable loss of life in American history? It’s not just Trump’s malicious incompetence. It’s decades of America’s failure to provide its people the basic support they need, decades of putting corporations’ bottom lines ahead of workers’ paychecks, decades of letting the rich and powerful pull the strings as the rest of us barely get by. This pandemic has exposed what has long been true: On the global stage, America is the exception, but not in the way we would like to believe” (Common Dreams).

Robert Reich, is the Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley, and a senior fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. He served as secretary of labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time magazine named him one of the 10 most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. The author of many books, including the best sellers AftershockThe Work of NationsBeyond Outrage and, Saving Capitalism. He is also a founding editor of The American Prospect magazine, chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and co-creator of the award-winning documentary, "Inequality For All." Reich's newest book is "The Common Good." He's co-creator of the Netflix original documentary "Saving Capitalism," which is streaming now.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

"Donald Trump has been the worst president this country has ever had” -Steve Schmidt

“And I don't say that hyperbolically. He is. But he is a consequential president. And he has brought this country in three short years to a place of weakness that is simply unimaginable if you were pondering where we are today from the day when Barack Obama left office. And there were a lot of us on that day who were deeply skeptical and very worried about what a Trump presidency would be. But this is a moment of unparalleled national humiliation, of weakness. 

"When you listen to the President, these are the musings of an imbecile. An idiot. And I don't use those words to name call. I use them because they are the precise words in the English language to describe his behavior. His comportment. His actions. We've never seen a level of incompetence, a level of ineptitude so staggering on a daily basis by anybody in the history of the country whose ever been charged with substantial responsibilities. 

"It's just astonishing that this man is president of the United States. The man, the con man, from New York City. Many bankruptcies, failed businesses, a reality show, that branded him as something that he never was. A successful businessman. Well, he's the President of the United States now, and the man who said he would make the country great again. And he's brought death, suffering, and economic collapse on truly an epic scale.

“And let's be clear. This isn't happening in every country around the world. This place. Our place. Our home. Our country. The United States. We are the epicenter. We are the place where you're the most likely to die from this disease. We're the ones with the most shattered economy. And we are because of the fool that sits in the Oval Office behind the Resolute Desk" -Steve Schmidt on Twitter.  Transcription by Allison Gordon, CNN

“Steve Schmidt is without question a leading voice in the ‘Never Trump’ movement. He is a founder of The Lincoln Project, an effort aimed at beating Trump in November. But Schmidt is also a lifelong Republican. He worked for Lamar Alexander's 2000 presidential campaign. He worked on Capitol Hill for Republicans. He served as the communications director of the House GOP's campaign arm. He helped shepherd Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, to the California governorship. He managed McCain's campaign. This is not someone who has had an on-again, off-again relationship with the Republican Party. Schmidt has been partisan fighter for the bulk of his professional life. He has been a Republican for a lot longer than Donald Trump has been one…” (CNN).