Saturday, March 28, 2020

Last Call For Bringing Home The Fakin'

Remember folks, Mitch McConnell is up for reelection in November. Former fighter pilot Amy McGrath is the front-runner in the (now June) primary, and McConnell knows his fortunes are irrevocably tied to Donald Trump's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. McGrath knows damn well that McConnell is vulnerable on his treatment of Kentuckians in crisis.

Two weeks ago I received a letter from Angie, a working mom. She wrote to me about her 12-year-old daughter, Addison, who has had Type 1 diabetes since she was 3. Sometimes, Angie and her husband, Steve — who have insurance — pay as much as $1,000 out of pocket per month for the medication and supplies their daughter needs to stay alive. That’s in addition to the $1,250 she and her husband are paying every month for their health insurance premiums.

Angie has been fighting with insurance companies for nine years to get coverage for her daughter’s lifesaving health needs. And she’s not alone. As I talk to Kentuckians across the state, the No. 1 concern I hear about is access to affordable, quality health care.

Kentucky has some of the worst health statistics in the nation. We have the highest mortality rate for cancer and among the worst rates of lung disease, diabetes and heart disease.

Yet as Kentuckians struggle, Sen. Mitch McConnell has fought to make our health care system and its outcomes even worse.
As we are in the midst of a global coronavirus pandemic, let’s remember that McConnell has consistently voted to cut funding for medical research and immunization programs, and cut funding to the very agencies (CDC and NIH) that should be prepared for an infectious disease outbreak. Instead of acting immediately to include provisions in an emergency bill to control the costs of vaccines and treatments being developed in response to this outbreak, he held up coronavirus funding in order to make sure Big Pharma would still be able to gouge prices.

Businesses are shuttering, schools are closing, our front-line workers are at risk, and McConnell took off for a long weekend instead of working with his colleagues on the legislation we urgently need to curb this public health crisis. What good is a powerful senator if he treats Kentuckians like this?

But Mitch has drafted a new player in his battle to keep his seat: Gov. Andy Beshear.

As Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell negotiated his chamber's $2 trillion coronavirus response package, he was turning to a Democrat in his home state for advice: Gov. Andy Beshear. 
McConnell and Beshear have been in frequent contact in recent weeks, as McConnell shaped the Senate's $2 trillion stimulus deal and Beshear led Kentucky's effort to slow the spread of coronavirus there, sources close to both men said. The conversations started with the state's basic needs -- tests and protective medical equipment -- and eventually encompassed how the federal government could help states, municipalities and hospitals. Top staff members continue to speak daily. 
"It has been really helpful to get ground truth on this while developing a bill of this magnitude," said Phil Maxson, McConnell's chief of staff. 
The link between the nation's most powerful Republican lawmaker and his home state's first-year Democratic executive, who was sworn in just three and a half months ago, underscores the central role governors like Beshear have played in attempting to slow the spread of coronavirus. 
Beshear's daily briefings, alongside Kentucky Public Health Commissioner Steven Stack and American Sign Language interpreter Virginia Moore, are sober and straightforward -- lacking the gusto of New York's Andrew Cuomo, but similarly accomplishing the dual tasks of providing instructions to his state's residents and outlining its needs and challenges for the federal government. 
"I will do what it takes. I will spend what it takes," Beshear said Thursday.

Beshear is caught in the middle, like many of us here in Kentucky.  On the one hand, he has done an amazing job getting out ahead of the state's COVID-19 cases when they were smaller in number, with social distancing and closures, two weeks ago.  We're still seeing a major spike in cases, going from 250 to 300 today alone, and from 5 reported deaths to 8.  But we're nowhere near in as bad as shape as neighboring Tennessee, Ohio, Missouri, Virginia, Illinois or Indiana are.

On the other hand, he's absolutely refused to attack Mitch McConnell for his role in weakening the nation's public healthcare system, trying to destroy Obamacare, and trying to take affordable healthcare way from more than 10% of Kentuckians.  Beshear needs to keep McConnell happy, and McConnell needs to keep Beshear happy, and it just so happens that there's enough enlightened self-interest there to keep Kentucky alive, too.

I don't expect McGrath to win, frankly.  McConnell is too canny a politician and will have too many opportunities to point to Kentucky's success in limiting the spread of COVID-19 so far.  When the checks show up in people's mail next month, they'll remember Mitch...and Donald Trump.

Even though Mitch made things infinitely worse.

These Disunited States Of America, Con't

The country is already coming apart under Trump in the COVID-19 social distancing pandemic era, quite literally, as governors are are decreeing that people entering from pandemic hot spot states are now subject to immediate quarantine.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) signed an executive order on Thursday that would require travelers from some coronavirus hotspots to self-quarantine: It provides that “every person” who flies into Texas from “New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, or the City of New Orleans, or in any other state or city as may be proclaimed hereafter, shall be subject to mandatory self-quarantine for a period of 14 days from the time of entry into Texas or the duration of the person’s presence in Texas, whichever is shorter.”

Other states have imposed similar orders. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) imposed an order on Tuesday that requires anyone flying from New York, New Jersey, or Connecticut to self-isolate for 14 days. Alaska and Hawaii also imposed self-quarantine orders on people traveling from other states.

These orders implicate one of the fundamental premises of the union among the 50 states: the right of American citizens to travel among them freely.

As the Supreme Court recognized more than 170 years ago, “we are one people with one common country. We are all citizens of the United States, and as members of the same community must have the right to pass and repass through every part of it without interruption, as freely as in our own states.” The right of all U.S. citizens to travel freely among the states, the Court later explained in United States v. Guest (1966), “was conceived from the beginning to be a necessary concomitant of the stronger union the Constitution created.”

If states can decide that some US citizens are not welcome within their borders, it may cease to be a union at all. This right to travel is implicit in the notion that citizens are Americans, and not simply Texans or New Yorkers.

But should that principle hold during a pandemic? Does the Constitution forbid states from taking drastic actions to slow the spread of a potentially deadly disease within their own borders?

Gov. Abbott’s order, at the very least, is probably carefully drafted enough to survive constitutional scrutiny. That order applies to “every person” who flies into Texas from the designated areas, regardless of whether that person is a resident of Texas or some other state. Read in that light, it does not discriminate against non-Texans.

But orders like Gov. Abbott’s do raise troubling constitutional questions. And they cut against the concept of a union of states that has prevailed in this country, especially since the New Deal.

The modern notion that every US citizen has the same rights, no matter where they travel within the nation, is rooted in a notion of nationwide solidarity that depends on a strong and competent federal government. And the Trump administration is not holding up its end of that bargain.

Absolutely don't expect Trump to stop governors from quarantining those people, either.

I personally expect we're only weeks, maybe days away from Trump ordering airports in New York and California closed, and maybe a lot worse involving interstate highways.

Trump is taking the country apart. Right now every state governor in America is a contestant on Trump's daily reality game show hell, and they are playing for the lives of their states' people.

Trump Goes Viral, Con't

And immediately after singing the COVID-19 bill into law yesterday, Donald Trump and Attorney General Bill Barr made it clear that the regime considers that the oversight provisions Congress put into the law are pretty much null and void and that Trump would fight any attempts at oversight of that $500 billion corporate slush fund.

In a signing statement released hours after Mr. Trump signed the bill in a televised ceremony in the Oval Office, the president suggested he had the power to decide what information a newly created inspector general intended to monitor the fund could share with Congress.

Under the law, the inspector general, when auditing loans and investments made through the fund, has the power to demand information from the Treasury Department and other executive branch agencies. The law requires reporting to Congress “without delay” if any agency balks and its refusal is unreasonable “in the judgment of the special inspector general.”
Democrats blocked a final agreement on the package this week as they insisted on stronger oversight provisions to ensure that the president and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin could not abuse the bailout fund. They feared that Mr. Trump, who has previously stonewalled congressional oversight, would do the same when it came to the corporate aid program.

But in his statement, which the White House made public about two hours after the president signed the bill, Mr. Trump suggested that under his own understanding of his constitutional powers as president, he can gag the special inspector general for pandemic recovery, known by the acronym S.I.G.P.R., and keep information from Congress.

“I do not understand, and my administration will not treat, this provision as permitting the S.I.G.P.R. to issue reports to the Congress without the presidential supervision required” by a clause of the Constitution that instructs the president to take care that the laws are faithfully executed, the statement said.

Mr. Trump has a history of trying to keep damaging information acquired by an inspector general from reaching Congress.

The impeachment scandal began with the disclosure that a whistle-blower had filed a report about something that the intelligence community’s inspector general deemed to be an “urgent concern.” A federal law states that the director of national intelligence should send Congress such a complaint within seven days.

But the Trump administration decided it could lawfully withhold that report from lawmakers. It eventually reversed course under political pressure, bringing to light that an intelligence official had raised alarms about Mr. Trump withholding congressionally mandated military assistance to Ukraine to coerce that country’s government into announcing investigations that would give Mr. Trump personal political benefits.

The signing statement also challenged several other provisions in the bill, including one requiring consultation with Congress about who should be the staff leaders of a newly formed executive branch committee charged with conducting oversight of the government’s response to the pandemic.

Citing his understanding of his power to supervise executive branch staff positions, Mr. Trump said he would not interpret that as mandatory although he anticipated that they would be consulted anyway.

Mr. Trump’s legal team is led by Attorney General William P. Barr, who is known for his embrace of a maximalist interpretation of presidential power, including the so-called unitary executive theory. Under that doctrine, laws that bestow independent decision-making authority on subordinate executive branch officials are unconstitutional because the president wields total control over deciding how to exercise executive power over the government.

And again, House Democrats have not shown any indication of wanting a big Supreme Court fight over Trump ignoring the Constitution that they know they would almost certainly lose 5-4.

So yeah, the failed impeachment attempt earlier this year means Nancy Pelosi got played on this.  Trump will have Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin pick the winners and loser businesses that this half-trillion dollars is supposed to save, but they will all be Trump donors.

Those who didn't play ball with Trump's grift and graft before government public health closures?

They will not be spared.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Last Call For De Blasio Goes Viral

Garbage leadership in the COVID-19 era is unfortunately not limited to Donald Trump, or to the Republican party.

“For the vast majority of New Yorkers, life is going on pretty normally right now,” Bill de Blasio said on Morning Joe March 10, as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. topped 1,000. “We want to encourage that.” He added that there was a “misperception” that the disease “hangs in the air waiting to catch you. No, it takes direct person-to-person contact.”

He pledged to keep schools open, even if someone at any given school was found to have contracted the disease, saying that they would take a day to isolate the sick and clean the school before getting it back up and running. “If you’re under 50 and you’re healthy, which is most New Yorkers, there’s very little threat here.”

Three days later, facing (to use a favorite de Blasio-ism) “a very different reality,” including a growing outcry from parents and from his own public-health officials, some of whom threatened to quit if he didn’t shutter schools and start taking the outbreak more seriously, New York City public schools were officially closed, probably for the rest of the school year.

Shortly thereafter, he declined to cancel St. Patrick’s Day parade and then did. He resisted calls to cancel regular street sweeping and then did. He had a photo op at a 311 call center, where he told a caller who had just returned from Italy that she did not need to self-quarantine, advice that forced 311 to actually call the woman back and tell her to stay inside for 14 days. The mayor touted the city’s new, wide-scale testing capacity, only to have his Health Department announce that only hospitalized patients should be tested. He tweeted at Elon Musk to supply the city with ventilators. When a New York Times reporter wrote of his own gut-wrenching story about contracting COVID-19 and being unable to get help, a top mayoral aide chastised him online for seeking help at all rather than just getting better at home. And the mayor himself told a radio host that people who don’t display symptoms can’t transmit the disease, an assertion that contradicts information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It has added up to perhaps the worst stretch of the mayor’s six-year tenure, just at the moment when the city has needed him most. Aides conceded that the mayor was more focused on managing the crisis, on having life in New York go on as normal for as long as possible, while keeping an eye on his national ambitions — something that made him slow to recognize the growing threat.

Lucky for NYC, Andrew Cuomo stepped in to take care of the Big Apple when Bill de Blasio dropped the ball, and frankly it's been best for everyone in the city.

Remember when de Blasio was, you know, not completely effing useless?

Massie In A Mess, Con't

Trump's pathological need for praise and his malignant desire to be the hero that saved America from COVID-19 is so massive that anyone else who steals the spotlight from him, even for a moment, faces getting run over by Trump's Twitter-based wrath. Justin Amash found this out the hard way, that glibertarian grandstanding at Trump's specific expense gets you crucified and strung up on a meathook to bleed out. 

Yesterday Thomas Massie decided he was going to make national news again with his contrarian tantrum hintong he was strongly considering delaying passage of the COVID-19 phase 3 relief bill by forcing a floor vote. Now Massie is finding out the price for his folly and that there's no room in the GOP at all for anyone whose "principles" interfere with Dear Leader's glory.

A $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package was supposed to get a voice vote Friday by the House of Representatives — until one Kentucky congressman disrupted those plans.

Republican Rep. Thomas Massie, of Kentucky’s 4th District, has other congressional members fearing he will force an in-person vote on the bill in Washington, D.C., causing the vote to be delayed and potentially forcing representatives to gather in person at the Capitol during the COVID-19 outbreak to vote.

President Donald Trump hammered Massie Friday morning on Twitter, calling him a “third rate Grandstander” and “a disaster for America, and for the Great State of Kentucky.”

“Workers & small businesses need money now in order to survive,” Trump said in one of his tweets about Massie. “Virus wasn’t their fault. It is ‘HELL’ dealing with the Dems, had to give up some stupid things in order to get the ‘big picture’ done. 90% GREAT! WIN BACK HOUSE, but throw Massie out of Republican Party!”

Trump had previously commented on a potential “grandstander” delaying the vote, but he didn’t mention Massey by name. He was still confident it would pass after it passed the Senate unanimously, according to the Washington Post.

“You might have one grandstander, and for that we’ll have to come back and take a little more time and it’ll pass, it’ll just take a little longer. But let’s see whether or not we have a grandstander,” Trump said at the White House Thursday, according to the Washington Post.


I stand by my statement that Massie remains a national embarrassment and should be made to resign over this.  It's by far from the first time he's pulled crap like this, delaying votes on disaster relief bills to demand amendments and full floor votes to let everybody on Earth know he has no interest in being a federal government employee in a federal government he has no intent of believing in.

But now he's poked the big orange bear and possibly cost Trump his weekend victory lap.

I'll continue to go unheard as Massie's constituent and a dirty, unwashed plebeian blogger.

He won't survive Trump's wrath much longer though.  And yes, Massie has a serious primary challenge from Republican Todd McMurtry, one of the lawyers representing Nicholas Sandmann in the Covington Catholic defamation case, if you think this area is capable of producing a non-embarrassing, non-asshole Republican.

But you know what?

Massie has a serious Democratic challenger this time, nurse practitioner Alexandra Owensby who is running and needs our help.

The Worst-Case Scenario, Con't

The White House had been preparing to reveal on Wednesday a joint venture between General Motors and Ventec Life Systems that would allow for the production of as many as 80,000 desperately needed ventilators to respond to an escalating pandemic when word suddenly came down that the announcement was off.

The decision to cancel the announcement, government officials say, came after the Federal Emergency Management Agency said it needed more time to assess whether the estimated cost was prohibitive. That price tag was more than $1 billion, with several hundred million dollars to be paid upfront to General Motors to retool a car parts plant in Kokomo, Ind., where the ventilators would be made with Ventec’s technology.
Government officials said that the deal might still happen but that they are examining at least a dozen other proposals. And they contend that an initial promise that the joint venture could turn out 20,000 ventilators in short order had shrunk to 7,500, with even that number in doubt. Longtime emergency managers at FEMA are working with military officials to sort through the competing offers and federal procurement rules while under pressure to give President Trump something to announce.

By early Thursday evening, at the coronavirus task force’s regular news briefing, where the president often appears, there was still nothing to disclose, and the outcome of the deliberations remained unclear.

But a General Motors spokesman said that “Project V,” as the ventilator program is known, was moving very fast, and a company official said “there’s no issue with retooling.”

A Ventec representative agreed.

“Ventec and G.M. have been working at breakneck speed to leverage our collective expertise in ventilation and manufacturing to meet the needs of the country as quickly as possible and arm medical professionals with the number of ventilators needed to save lives,” said Chris O. Brooks, Ventec’s chief strategy officer.

The only thing missing was clarity from the government about how many ventilators they needed — and who would be paid to build them.

The shortage of ventilators has emerged as one of the major criticisms of the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus. The need to quickly equip hospitals across the country with tens of thousands more of the devices to treat those most seriously ill with the virus was not anticipated despite the Trump administration’s own projection in a simulation last year that millions of people could be hospitalized. And even now, the effort to produce them has been confused and disorganized.

At the center of the discussion about how to ramp up the production of ventilators is Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and a senior White House aide, who has told people that he was called in two weeks ago by Vice President Mike Pence to produce more coronavirus test kits and who has now turned his attention to ventilators.

He has been directing officials at FEMA in the effort. Two officials said the suggestion to wait on the General Motors offer came from Col. Patrick Work, who is working at FEMA. Some government officials expressed concern about the possibility of ordering too many ventilators, leaving them with an expensive surplus.

As the agency has sorted through offers, trying to weigh production ability and costs, hospitals in New York and elsewhere are reporting a desperate need for more ventilators, which are critical in treating respiratory problems in a fast-rising tide of severe coronavirus cases.

A spokeswoman for FEMA said Colonel Work presented information on each contract in such meetings but did not make any recommendations. A White House spokesman declined to comment.

New York? You don't get ventilators.

You were mean to Dear Leader and sued him.

Now there's a price to pay and America's governors have to worry that trying to save their citizens will in fact get them killed when Trump cuts them off and cuts the throat of thousands.

Republicans and Democrats alike are testing whether to fight or flatter, whether to back channel requests or go public, all in an attempt to get Trump’s attention and his assurances.

At stake may be access to masks, ventilators and other personal protective gear critically needed by health care workers, as well as field hospitals and federal cash. As Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, D-Mich., put it, “I can’t afford to have a fight with the White House.”
Underlying this political dance is Trump’s tendency to talk about the government as though it’s his own private business. The former real estate mogul often discusses government business like a transaction dependent on relationships or personal advantage, rather than a national obligation.

“We are doing very well with, I think, almost all of the governors, for the most part,” he said during a town hall on Fox News on Tuesday. “But you know, it’s a two-way street. They have to treat us well.”
On a private conference call Thursday with Trump, governors from both parties pressed the president for help — some more forcefully than others.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, urged Trump to use his full authority to ramp up production of necessary medical equipment, according to an audio recording of the call obtained by AP. But Trump said the federal government is merely the “backup.”

“I don’t want you to be the backup quarterback, we need you to be Tom Brady here,” Inslee replied, invoking the football star and Trump friend.

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, a Republican, meanwhile, was lavish in his praise.

“We’re just so appreciative, but we really need you,” Justice told Trump.

In an interview Thursday night on Fox News Channel’s “Hannity,” Trump groused, “Some of these governors take, take, take and then they complain.”

Of Whitmer, he said, “All she does is sit there and blame the federal government.” And he said Inslee “should be doing more,” adding, “He’s always complaining.”

And at the bottom of Trump's list?  Cuomo and New York.

In a call to the White House, Cuomo delivered the same grateful message privately, according to two officials with knowledge of the conversation who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly talk about the private discussions.

Trump later expressed happiness to aides and advisers that Cuomo had said such nice things about him, according to two White House officials and Republicans close to the West Wing.

A week later, when Cuomo delivered an urgent, frustrated plea for ventilators Tuesday, he didn’t mention Trump by name. Shortly after, a White House official said 4,000 more ventilators would be shipped to New York.

But later that day, Trump vented to aides, complaining that Cuomo made it seem like Washington had abandoned him, according to those White House officials and Republicans.

His anger broke through during the town hall. When Dr. Deborah Birx, the coordinator for the coronavirus response, was describing testing problems and mentioned New York’s high transmission rate, Trump interjected, trying to push Birx to criticize Cuomo: “Do you blame the governor for that?”

Bow down before the one you serve, you're going to get what you deserve


Thursday, March 26, 2020

Last Call For Our Little Domestic Terrorism Problem, Con't

White supremacist terror groups are using COVID-19 to try to accelerate the damage to the country in order to spread chaos and foment unrest, anything to give Trump the cover to impose martial law and abandon elections.  These guys are truly terrible, and yes they are absolutely terrorists.

The suspected white supremacist who plotted to bomb a hospital facing the coronavirus crisis was in touch with a then-active U.S. Army soldier who wanted to launch his own attack on a major American news network and discussed targeting a Democratic presidential candidate, according to an FBI alert summarizing the case.

On Tuesday, as 36-year-old Timothy Wilson was on the verge of trying to detonate a car bomb at a Kansas City-area medical center, agents from the FBI’s field office in Missouri attempted to arrest him. But shots were fired, fatally wounding Wilson, according to the FBI.

Ahead of Tuesday’s incident, Wilson “espoused white supremacist ideology” and “made a threat that if any agent attempted to [search his property] they should ‘bring a lot of body bags,” said the FBI alert, distributed to state and local law enforcement agencies in the region on Wednesday.

The FBI alert also said Wilson had “shared instructions on how to make an [improvised explosive device] with another ... Domestic Terrorism (DT) subject” from near Kansas City.

ABC News has identified that other domestic terrorism “subject” as Jarrett Smith, who was arrested in September 2019 while still stationed at Ft. Riley, Kansas, as an active member of the U.S. Army.

According to charging documents filed at the time in Topeka, Kansas, Smith allegedly planned to travel to Ukraine to fight with the violent far-right group Azov Battalion; suggested targeting then-Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke; proposed bombing the headquarters of a still-unidentified news network; and distributed bomb-making tips online.

Smith has since pleaded guilty to federal charges of distributing information that relates to weapons of mass destruction, and he is awaiting sentencing.

On Wednesday, sources familiar with the matter told ABC News that Wilson had been on the FBI’s radar for more than a year, indicating that the FBI’s probe of Smith led authorities to Wilson months before he sought to take advantage of the unfolding coronavirus crisis.

COVID-19 is the opportunity these Nazi bastards have been waiting for for years now.  They are going to have the means to cause a lot of damage, frankly.  I'm glad National Guard have been called out to protect hospitals here, but the virus means a lot of basic police work is being put on hold to deal with communities in chaos.

It won't take much for one of these piles of excrement to get lucky and to maximize the suffering, especially for communities already in bad shape from neglect during the Trump era.

And remember, this guy was targeting a "Democratic presidential candidate".  There's going to be more of that.

Massie In A Mess, Con't

Now my awful congressman is threatening to delay House passage of the entire COVID-19 relief package with his grandstanding and politicking, and it will kill people when he does it.

A Congressman from Kentucky plans to vote "no" on the $2 trillion coronavirus relief package, which the Senate passed 96-0 Wednesday evening.

U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie, a Republican who represents Kentucky's 4th District, also hinted that he might object to a voice vote in the House of Representatives, which would force all members to return to Washington, D.C. and slowdown movement on the bill.

Massie told 55 KRC radio Thursday morning he plans to reject the measure — which includes one-time $1,200 checks to certain individuals and $367 billion in loans and grants to small businesses — due to concerns over spiking the national debt.

"If it were just about helping people to get more unemployment (benefits) to get through this calamity that, frankly, the governors have wrought on the people, then I could be for it," Massie said.

"But this is $2 trillion," he continued. "Divide $2 trillion by 350 million people — it's almost $6,000 for every man, woman and child. I'm talking about spending. This won't go to the men, women and children. So if you have a family of five, this spending bill represents $30,000 of additional U.S. national debt because there is no plan to pay for it."

Massie did vote for a coronavirus relief measure in early March, but missed the vote for a second measure on March 14. However, he recently told The Cincinnati Enquirer that he would have voted no on the bill even if he had been in D.C. because he was concerned the bill would put small companies "out of business."

Later in the interview, Massie discussed his opposition to a voice vote, or a method of voting that does not require more than a majority vote for its adoption. The House is scheduled to have one on Friday morning.

I have a lot of problems with the COVID-19 bill, it's not a stimulus bill in any sense of the word.  It's a relief bill and more will be needed.

Perhaps the most important thing about the $2.2 trillion stimulus bill the Senate passed late Wednesday night is that it is not a stimulus bill at all. 
It is not intended to stimulate growth and spending to offset a potential downturn; it is designed to prevent mass homelessness, starvation and a wave of business closures not seen since the height of the Great Depression.
Why it matters: The bill's price tag is around 10% of U.S. GDP, and Congress is already bickering internally — as well as with various lobbyists and policy advocates — about whether it goes far enough in a plethora of directions.

Even if the bill passes, the story won't be over: 
We are likely to be in this same situation again, economists say — and soon.
Another stimulus bill will likely be necessary to get the economy running after the COVID-19 outbreak has been contained. 
More immediately, it's possible that a second massive spending bill will be needed just to stop further bleeding.

What it means: "This should not be thought of as a stimulus bill — this should be thought of as social insurance in a disaster state of the world for the most hard hit," Jonathan Parker, professor of finance at MIT, told Axios during a virtual briefing with reporters Wednesday.

So when my asshole of a congressman decides he's going to delay it and force all the House to come back into session when the bill is going to pass anyway, but delay Americans getting that relief by several days, it's just a heartless move that accomplishes nothing but hurting his own constituents.

Which I assume is the point.

This man wants us to suffer.

Maybe we shouldn't re-elect him?

The System Was Blinking Red

Foreign Policy's Micah Zenko argues that the Trump regime's utter failure on COVID-19 was the worst intelligence failure in US history, and that the body count will ultimately prove that.

Suffice it to say, the Trump administration has cumulatively failed, both in taking seriously the specific, repeated intelligence community warnings about a coronavirus outbreak and in vigorously pursuing the nationwide response initiatives commensurate with the predicted threat. The federal government alone has the resources and authorities to lead the relevant public and private stakeholders to confront the foreseeable harms posed by the virus. Unfortunately, Trump officials made a series of judgments (minimizing the hazards of COVID-19) and decisions (refusing to act with the urgency required) that have needlessly made Americans far less safe.

In short, the Trump administration forced a catastrophic strategic surprise onto the American people. But unlike past strategic surprises—Pearl Harbor, the Iranian revolution of 1979, or especially 9/11—the current one was brought about by unprecedented indifference, even willful negligence. Whereas, for example, the 9/11 Commission Report assigned blame for the al Qaeda attacks on the administrations of presidents Ronald Reagan through George W. Bush, the unfolding coronavirus crisis is overwhelmingly the sole responsibility of the current White House.

Chapter 8 of the 9/11 Commission Report was titled, “The System Was Blinking Red.” The quote came from former CIA Director George Tenet, who was characterizing the summer of 2001, when the intelligence community’s multiple reporting streams indicated an imminent aviation terrorist attack inside the United States. Despite the warnings and frenzied efforts of some counterterrorism officials, the 9/11 Commission determined “We see little evidence that the progress of the plot was disturbed by any government action. … Time ran out.”

Last week, the Washington Post reported on the steady drumbeat of coronavirus warnings that the intelligence community presented to the White House in January and February. These alerts made little impact upon senior administration officials, who were undoubtedly influenced by President Donald Trump’s constant derision of the virus, which he began on Jan. 22: “We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It’s going to be just fine.”

By now, there are three painfully obvious observations about Trump’s leadership style that explain the worsening coronavirus pandemic that Americans now face. First, there is the fact that once he believes absolutely anything—no matter how poorly thought-out, ill-informed, or inaccurate—he remains completely anchored to that initial impression or judgment. Leaders are unusually hubristic and overconfident; for many, the fact that they have risen to elevated levels of power is evidence of their inherent wisdom. But truly wise leaders authentically solicit feedback and criticism, are actively open thinkers, and are capable of changing their minds. By all accounts, Trump lacks these enabling competencies.

Second, Trump’s judgments are highly transmissible, infecting the thinking and behavior of nearly every official or advisor who comes in contact with the initial carrier. Unsurprisingly, the president surrounds himself with people who look, think, and act like he does. Yet, his inaccurate or disreputable comments also have the remarkable ability to become recycled by formerly honorable military, intelligence, and business leaders. And if somebody does not consistently parrot the president’s proclamations with adequate intensity, they are fired, or it is leaked that their firing could be imminent at any time—most notably the recent report of the president’s impatience with the indispensable Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

And, third, the poor judgments soon contaminate all the policymaking arms of the federal government with almost no resistance or even reasonable questioning. Usually, federal agencies are led by those officials whom the White House believes are best able to implement policy. These officials have usually enjoyed some degree of autonomy; not under Trump. Even historically nonpartisan national security or intelligence leadership positions have been filled by people who are ideologically aligned with the White House, rather than endowed with the experience or expertise needed to push back or account for the concerns raised by career nonpolitical employees.

Thus, an initial incorrect assumption or statement by Trump cascades into day-to-day policy implementation.

The same Post report featured the following stunning passage from an anonymous U.S. official: “Donald Trump may not have been expecting this, but a lot of other people in the government were—they just couldn’t get him to do anything about it. The system was blinking red.” That latter passage is an obvious reference to that aforementioned central finding of the 9/11 Commission Report.

The death from this virus must be laid at the feet of Donald Trump, and he must be held accountable for his willful negligence.  Whatever the next president does, that president must start with that reckoning, or we are all lost.


Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Last Call For The Curve Flattened Us

Welcome to hell.  It is here, now in NYC.  Soon it will be all over.

In several hours on Tuesday, Dr. Ashley Bray performed chest compressions at Elmhurst Hospital Center on a woman in her 80s, a man in his 60s and a 38-year-old who reminded the doctor of her fiancé. All had tested positive for the coronavirus and had gone into cardiac arrest. All eventually died.

Elmhurst, a 545-bed public hospital in Queens, has begun transferring patients not suffering from coronavirus to other hospitals as it moves toward becoming dedicated entirely to the outbreak. Doctors and nurses have struggled to make do with a few dozen ventilators. Calls over a loudspeaker of “Team 700,” the code for when a patient is on the verge of death, come several times a shift. Some have died inside the emergency room while waiting for a bed.

A refrigerated truck has been stationed outside to hold the bodies of the dead. Over the past 24 hours, New York City’s public hospital system said in a statement, 13 people at Elmhurst had died.

“It’s apocalyptic,” said Dr. Bray, 27, a general medicine resident at the hospital.

Across the city, which has become the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States, hospitals are beginning to confront the kind of harrowing surge in cases that has overwhelmed health care systems in China, Italy and other countries. On Wednesday evening, New York City reported 20,011 confirmed cases and 280 deaths.

More than 3,922 coronavirus patients have been hospitalized in the city. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Wednesday offered a glimmer of hope that social-distancing measures were starting to slow the growth in hospitalizations statewide. This week, the state’s hospitalization estimations were down markedly, from a doubling of cases every two days to every four days.

It is “almost too good to be true,” Mr. Cuomo said.

Still, hospitals are under siege. New York City’s hospitals run the gamut from prestigious teaching institutions catering to the elite to public hospitals providing care for some of the poorest communities in the nation. Regardless of whom they serve, few have been spared the impact of the pandemic: A flood of sick and fearful New Yorkers has besieged emergency rooms across the city.

Working with state and federal officials, hospitals have repeatedly expanded the portions of their buildings equipped to handle patients who had stayed home until worsening fevers and difficulty breathing forced them into emergency rooms. Elmhurst, among the hardest-hit hospitals in the city, is a prime example of the hardships medical centers and their staffs are facing across the country.

“Elmhurst is at the center of this crisis, and it’s the number one priority of our public hospital system right now,” the city’s public hospital system’s statement said. “The front line staff are going above and beyond in this crisis, and we continue surging supplies and personnel to this critical facility to keep pace with the crisis.”

Dr. Mitchell Katz, the head of the Health and Hospitals Corporation, which operates New York City’s public hospitals, said plans were underway to transform many areas of the Elmhurst hospital into intensive care units for extremely sick patients.

But New York’s hospitals may be about to lose their leeway for creativity in finding spaces.

All of the more than 1,800 intensive care beds in the city are expected to be full by Friday, according to a Federal Emergency Management Agency briefing obtained by The New York Times. Patients could stay for weeks, limiting space for newly sickened people.

Expect this to be duplicated in hundreds of hospitals around the country in the next few months.  Unless the curve is flattened on the spread of COVID-19, the casualties will be catastrophic, and every single indication I have seen is that Trump's failure is so utterly complete that there is no possible way to avoid massive casualties from this virus.

It will be the worst event of your lifetime, bar none.

Let's Make A Deal

The Senate is voting on the big $2 trillion COVID-19 aid package, and it's still very much a Big Casino moment for the banks in particular.  The bottom line is while small businesses are going to get loans and most Americans will get that $1,200 check, the banks and hedge funds will benefit the most, and they'll have the first crack at gobbling up what resources remain when all of this is over.

Businesses controlled by President Trump and his children would be prohibited from receiving loans or investments from Treasury Department programs included in a $2 trillion stimulus plan agreed to early Wednesday by White House and Senate leaders in response to the coronavirus crisis.

The provision, which was touted by Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) in an early-morning letter to colleagues, would also apply to Vice President Pence, members of Congress and heads of federal departments, as well as their children, spouses and in-laws.

During a television interview Wednesday morning, Schumer stressed that the provision applies not only to Trump but to “any major figure in government.”

“That makes sense. Those of us who write the law shouldn’t benefit from the law,” Schumer said on CNN.

The Senate plans to vote later Wednesday on the massive package, which aims to flood the economy with capital by sending $1,200 checks to many Americans, creating a $367 billion loan program for small businesses and setting up a $500 billion fund for industries, cities and states. The House is expected to act in coming days.

Trump’s dual roles as both chief executive of the nation and owner of a sprawling business empire has been frequently criticized by Democrats, who accuse him of trying to profit from the presidency.

Shutting Trump, the cabinet, and Congress from profiting off this is a good thing, and checks will be cut on April 6 under this legislation, it does increase unemployment insurance and laid off workers will get paid for up to four months.  That part is fine.  But the GOP gets their slush fund anyway.

Wall Street is going to make trillions off this, and everyone knows it.

It's a bad bill.  It's precisely what I expected the Senate GOP to create.

Nancy Pelosi and the House now get their crack at this, and it's time to bring the GOP to their knees.

The Worst-Case Scenario, Con't

Understand something, guys.

If we don't practice social distancing, if we don't flatten the curve, if we don't prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed, then people are going to start dying by the thousands.

Your state already has instructions on who lives and who dies in a COVID-19 overload situation with limited respirators.  Alabama certainly does, and it will be replicated nationally.

In the coming weeks, difficult decisions about who will live and who will die in Alabama may hinge on a little-discussed document outlining the state’s suggested “criteria for mechanical ventilator triage” during pandemics like the current COVID-19 outbreak.

According to the state document, any of a wide range of underlying health conditions – such as metastasized cancer, AIDS, “severe mental retardation,” advanced dementia and “severe burns” – could disqualify patients from being put on potentially lifesaving ventilators if a pandemic grows dire enough. And some people already on ventilators could be removed from them to make space for people impacted by the pandemic, according to the guidance.

Over the past two weeks, doctors in Italy have called on the world to take the disease more seriously, sharing horror stories about having to choose which people to put on ventilators. They have had to make those dire decisions based on patients’ age, underlying health problems and other considerations.

Under the triage criteria, which the Alabama Department of Public Health initially drafted in 2009, many patients could be denied access to ventilators and instead relegated to in-patient or home palliative care.

In April 2010, the State Committee of Public Health approved a revised version of the protocol detailing the exact processes hospitals and health care facilities should follow when making such decisions during a deadly flu outbreak or other major pandemic.

“ADPH suggests that hospitals utilize this criteria as a template for local and regional disaster management plans,” according to a 2009 ADPH study on the ethics of disaster response that analyzed the draft version of the protocol.

Let me reiterate.

The triage code blue people get palliative care.  That means end-of-life.  That means they die.  The red people get moved to blue if there aren't enough respirators.  The yellow are saveable to an extent but if they get worse and slip into red, they risk a doctor saying "We need this respirator to save someone who has a better chance of surviving."

And then they die.

When I say "hospitals are going to be overloaded" I mean they will be forced to make decisions like this.  Decisions where people no longer get treatment and are made comfortable in their final moments.

And then they die.

Do we understand now about why social distancing is important?

Stay home.
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