Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Last Call For Bringin' Home The Fakin', Con't

Battleground states with Republican governors that Trump needs to win like Florida get every piece of equipment they ask for.  New York, California, and Washington state get to beg at Trump's feet or their people die.

As states across the country have pleaded for critical medical equipment from a key national stockpile, Florida has promptly received 100 percent of its first two requests — with President Trump and Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis both touting their close relationship.
States including Oklahoma and Kentucky have received more of some equipment than they requested, while others such as Illinois, Massachusetts and Maine have secured only a fraction of their requests.

It’s a disparity that has caused frustration and confusion in governors’ offices across the country, with some officials questioning whether politics is playing a role in the response.

Governors are making increasingly frantic requests to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for material. State and congressional leaders are flooding FEMA with letters and calls seeking clarity about how it is allocating suddenly in-demand resources such as masks, ventilators and medical gowns.

Frustration level is high,” Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) said of the struggle to find ventilators for patients infected by the novel coronavirus. “We’re hoping we’ll be able to get them. The federal government needs to help us with that. There’s no question.”

Governors and state officials have become increasingly frustrated by what they describe as a byzantine and unsteady process for distributing medical supplies from the Strategic National Stockpile. As they try to combat a worsening pandemic, several have complained about chaos and disarray within the system and a lack of guidance about how they can secure lifesaving supplies, according to interviews and documents from officials in more than a dozen states.

And yes, I know the outlier here is Kentucky, but that's Mitch McConnell's home state, and Mitch needs to win too in November.

There’s no direct evidence that Republican states are receiving more favorable treatment overall, and some GOP-led states such as Georgia have had trouble filling their requests. But Trump has contributed to the sense that politics could be a factor by publicly attacking Democratic governors who criticize his handling of the public health crisis.

Trump said last week that he is inclined not to speak with anyone who is insufficiently appreciative of his administration’s efforts. He has touted his personal relationships with several governors while also declaring that the federal government won’t be “a shipping clerk” for local officials who seek help in obtaining masks, ventilators and other critical supplies. States should buy the materials themselves, he said.

“All I want them to do — very simple — I want them to be appreciative,” Trump told reporters Friday. “I don’t want them to say things that aren’t true. I want them to be appreciative. We’ve done a great job. And I’m not talking about me. I’m talking about Mike Pence, the task force; I’m talking about FEMA, the Army Corps of Engineers.”

Georgia's Brian Kemp is in Trump's doghouse for appointing Kelly Loeffler to the Senate rather than Trump's pick, Rep. Doug Collins back in December.  Now Kemp is having "trouble filling their requests".

One White House official said Trump is attuned to the electoral importance of Florida in November, giving added weight to the arguments DeSantis has made to the administration that his state’s economy should reopen as soon as possible.

“The president knows Florida is so important for his reelection so when DeSantis says that, it means a lot,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to be frank. “He pays close attention to what Florida wants.”

The states getting things they want are Republicans governors in Trump's good graces and Mitch McConnell's home state of Kentucky.  Everyone else is getting screwed, and it will kill people.

A Streetcar Named Retired

In probably the least surprising column of his career, Jason Williams over at the Cincinnati Enquirer notes that the city has shut down the streetcar amid city worker furloughs announced Monday and doesn't even give it 24 hours before floting the idea that it should never, ever reopen.

Cincinnati's streetcar is shut down. It should stay closed. Forever. 
The magnitude of City Council's streetcar-before-people priorities has never been so glaring. 
The city on Monday furloughed 1,700 employees indefinitely amid the coronavirus-induced financial free fall. The news came as the city also announced it is shutting down the streetcar during the health crisis. 
How many of those temporary layoffs could've been avoided if the city had an extra $5 million? That's how much it costs to run a mostly empty streetcar each year. 
It's days like Monday when everyone should clearly realize that, yes, it's real money being used for these pet projects. So is $100 million, which is roughly what it'll cost to keep the streetcar running for another 20 years. How many future cuts are going to come at the expense of a useless trolley circling around Downtown and Over-the-Rhine? 
It's days like Monday when it's never been more obvious that the streetcar is both a luxury and a liability. The city faces a potential $80 million budget deficit in the coming months, and it can no longer afford ex-Mayor Mark Mallory and the progressives' streetcar. 
This is an opportunity for Mayor John Cranley and City Manager Patrick Duhaney to try and stop the streetcar budget bleeding for good. They must call the Trump administration and ask for it to let Cincinnati out of streetcar prison. My apologies to the four people who regularly ride the streetcar.

Williams is mad and gleeful at the same time, and frankly Cranley probably will have the city kill the streetcar.  But whatever the future holds for Cincinnati's downtown during and after the Trump Depression, the streetcar almost certainly won't be a part of it in any way.  The Queen City's made three big bets in the last few years, on keeping the Bengals in town, on getting FC Cincinnati into MLS with a new stadium, and on the streetcar.

The city's losses on the streetcar will be pocket change compared to the other two.

Trump Goes Viral, Con't

Social distancing is failing miserably across the country. We are only barely beginning to maybe flatten the curve a bit. Red state folks refuse to do it.

This dynamic is playing out in small ways across the country. Bret, a sales representative from Plano, Texas, who asked that I not use his last name, proudly told me how unfazed he and his conservative neighbors were by the threat of an outbreak. In his view, the recent wave of government-mandated lockdowns was a product of panic-mongering in the mainstream media, and he welcomed Trump’s call for businesses to reopen by Easter.

When I asked whether the virus had interfered with his lifestyle, Bret laughed. “Oh, I’m going to the shooting range tomorrow,” he replied.

Was he worried that his friends might disapprove if they found out?

“No,” he told me, “around here, I get much more of people saying, ‘Why don’t you go Saturday so I can go, too?’”

Terry Trahan, a manager at a cutlery store in Lubbock, Texas, acknowledged that a certain “toxic tribalism” was informing people’s attitudes toward the pandemic. “If someone’s a Democrat, they’re gonna say it’s worse,” he told me, “and if someone’s a Republican, they’re gonna say it’s bad, but it’s getting better.”

As an immunocompromised cancer survivor, Trahan said he’s familiar with commonsense social-distancing practices. But as a conservative, he’s become convinced that many Democrats are so invested in the idea that the virus will be disastrous that they’re pushing for prolonged, unnecessary shutdowns in pursuit of vindication.

Among experts, there is a firm consensus that social distancing is essential to containing the spread of the virus—and they warn that politicizing the practice could have dangerous ramifications. “This is a pandemic, and shouldn’t be played out as a skirmish on a neighborhood playground,” Dina Borzekowski, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Public Health, recently told Stat. (For the moment, at least, the scientists seem to have brought the president around: Yesterday, Trump announced he was extending social-distancing guidance until the end of April.)

Read: The four possible timelines for life returning to normal

Of course, not everyone who flouts social distancing is making a political statement. Many have to work because they can’t afford not to; others are acting out of ignorance or wishful thinking. Beyond personal behavior, there is a legitimate debate to be had about how to balance economic demands while combatting a global pandemic.

Still, the polarization around public health seems to be accelerating: In recent days, Republican governors in Alabama and Mississippi have resisted calls to enact more forceful mitigation policies. Polling data suggest that Republicans throughout the U.S. are much less concerned about the coronavirus than Democrats are. According to a recent analysis by The New York Times, Trump won 23 of the 25 states where people have reduced personal travel the least.

Some of this is likely shaped by the fact that the most serious outbreaks so far in the U.S. have been concentrated in urban centers on the coasts (a pattern that may not hold for long). But there are real ideological forces at work as well.

Katherine Vincent-Crowson, a 35-year-old self-defense instructor from Slidell, Louisiana, has watched in horror this month as businesses around her city were forced to close by state decree. A devotee of Ayn Rand, Vincent-Crowson told me Louisiana’s shelter-in-place order was a frightening example of government overreach.

“It feels very militaristic,” she said. “I’m just like, ‘What the hell, is this 1940s Germany?’”

But when we spoke, she seemed even more aggravated by the “self-righteous” people on social media who spend their time publicly shaming anyone who isn’t staying locked in their house. “It really reminds me of my kids who tattle on their siblings when they do something bad,” she said. “I’m a libertarian … I don’t really like being told what to do.”

But you know what?  Blue states are ignoring it too.

Again, there is nothing I am seeing that makes me want to revise my estimation of millions of dead Americans downward.  States are talking about extending shelter-in-place orders and closures into May right now, and a $1200 check isn't going to cover that.

The only way we get around the corner on this is through a massive testing program.  Tens of millions.  And Trump?  He literally doesn't care.

Several rural-state governors alerted President Trump on Monday that they are struggling to obtain urgently needed medical supplies and testing equipment, warning that despite the worsening coronavirus situation in New York and other urban areas, more sparsely populated parts of the country need help, too.

In response to requests for more testing kits, Mr. Trump said, "I haven't heard about testing in weeks," according to an audio recording of the call between the president and governors obtained by CBS News.

During the call, which lasted a little over an hour, Democratic and Republican governors detailed how they are struggling to obtain the protective equipment doctors and nurses will need to treat the sick and the test kits needed to determine whether sick residents are suffering from COVID-19.
"We understand the challenges in New York. I have family in New York," Wyoming Republican Governor Mark Gordon told the president. But, he told Mr. Trump, "I think a little bit of supply going our way could get us better prepared going forward."

"Good point," Mr. Trump replied. "Thank you very much, Mark. If you have a problem, call me. I'll get you what you need."

All of this fails without testing increasing by orders of magnitude.  We need to be testing a million Americans a day if not more, and right now we have governors begging Trump just to placate his ego in order to get table scraps.  Trump promised these tests a month ago.

There will be no help from Trump.  And there will be no more help from Congress. Not anytime soon.

After passing the largest economic relief bill in history, Congress is now considering staying away from Washington for a month or more as the coronavirus makes even the routine act of legislating a dangerous risk for new transmissions.

Officially, Congress is scheduled to come back on April 20 as lawmakers try to avoid traveling and congregating amid the raging crisis and as they plot a potential fourth phase of economic relief.

Unofficially, it could take even longer for Congress to physically come back into session. And longer still for things to return to anywhere near normal on Capitol Hill, where members of both chambers, staffers and Capitol Police officers have now tested positive for the deadly respiratory virus.

President Donald Trump on Sunday embraced extending his administration’s social distancing guidance until April 30, an edict that now clashes with the Senate and House schedules to return on April 20. Those schedules are tentative, according to aides in both parties, and are almost certain to be pushed back unless there’s must-pass legislation that forces Congress’s hand.

"That's sort of an aspirational goal, but I think it's obviously subject to radical change based on circumstances," said Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.). "April 20 is what, three weeks away? That seems a little early based on the pace of this crisis."

“This could go on for a little while longer until things settle down. But right now, it's pretty hard to predict,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), who is close to the Senate majority leader.

Ironically, Congress actually is practicing social distancing.  Meanwhile, the Trump regime is throwing cold water on any more COVID-19 relief as Trump called the current package "wasteful spending by Democrats".

Another 4-6 weeks of lockdown is not going to go well.  It's not going to go well at all.


Monday, March 30, 2020

Last Call For Hungarian For Power

It shouldn't surprise anyone that the first real COVID-19 fascist dictatorship is not a south-of-the-border banana republic or a Mideast kingdom, but a now-former European democracy as of this week.

Hungary’s parliament handed Prime Minister Viktor Orban the right to rule by decree indefinitely, effectively putting the European Union democracy under his sole command for as long as he sees fit.

While governments around the world assume emergency powers to fight the coronavirus, locking down all aspects of every-day life and shutting borders, few democracies have given their governments such latitude without an end date.

Hungary’s ruling party lawmakers overrode the objections of the opposition in a vote on Monday, handing Orban the right to bypass the assembly on any law. The Constitutional Court, which Orban has stacked with loyalists, will be the main body capable of reviewing government actions.

“I don’t know of another democracy where the government has effectively asked for a free hand to do anything for however long,” said Renata Uitz, director of the comparative constitutional-law program at Central European University in Budapest.

Orban is dictator for life.  He will never give those powers up willingly. He may be the first dictatorship to rise in the COVID-19 era, but I guarantee you he won't be the last fascist to take over this year.  As I discussed before,  the "soft fascism" of his regime is now a hard fact of life.

Your Take Out, Taken Out

The restaurant business isn't going to survive COVID-19, not in the form that it is in now, and if even one of the biggest fast-food juggernauts in the business, Yum Brands, is closing 7,000 locations worldwide already, it's going to be a bloodbath over the next couple of months.

Louisville-based Yum! Brands is closing around 7,000 stores around the world because of the coronavirus, according to financial records.

Among the closures are 1,000 Pizza Hut Express locations the the U.S. and at least 900 KFCs in the U.K., according to a March filing with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission.

Yum!, which has at least 50,000 restaurants in more than 150 countries, owns KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and The Habit Burger Grill.

"The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the operations of our restaurants in numerous markets across the world," according to the filing. "As we have taken steps in response to the pandemic, our primary focus continues to be the safety of everyone who engages with our Brands, including our employees, franchisees and their team members, and customers."

Sales are expected to drop through the quarter ending March 31, the company wrote in the filing, but it expects the quarter ending Jun 30 to be "more significantly" impacted.

"Because this situation is ongoing and because the duration and severity are unclear it is difficult to forecast any impacts on the company’s future results," the filing says.

One thing that's going to be really clear in a few months is that sit-down restaurants, movie theaters, bars and nightclubs, and brick-and-mortar stores are not going to survive, not as mass-market concepts.  We were already facing a retail apocalypse in this country.  Places are going to close their doors this week and never reopen

The survivors are going to be leaner, meaner, and delivery-friendly, because that's the future.  Oh sure, some will exist, but they will be boutiques, people are still going to need to eat.  But there won't be four Starbucks within a mile radius.  There may not be four in a 100-mile radius.

Just an utter obliteration of commercial real estate.  Show a picture of an Outback steakhouse or a TGI Friday's to a kid in ten years and they will look at you like you just handed them a mythical relic of last century, like a flip phone or a compact disc or a moderate Republican.  Automation will become king. And everyone else will be working from home.  No offices full of people. 

Everything is going to be different, and I don't think people fully grasp yet how fundamentally this country is going to be changed by the next month ahead of us. We'll come out of this, but it's going to be ugly.  The pressures that were coming gradually over the next decade are coming in the space of one month thanks to COVID-19.

There are going to be huge breaks in the chain. Nightmare doesn't begin to describe it. The changes are being forced into a small time frame and it's going to be catastrophic for most of us.

I've been saying "Buckle up" for years now.

It's too late to buckle your seat belt when you're in the crash.


Trump Goes Viral, Con't

Over the weekend, the Trump regime was too busy moving the goalposts of "victory" to actually do anything to slow the spread of COVID-19.  Now Trump is literally demanding praise if he manages to hold the death toll to under 100,000.

President Donald Trump announced Sunday that he's extending his administration's guidelines on social distancing during the COVID-19 outbreak until April 30.

Trump said last week that he wanted to see much of the country return to normal by Easter, April 12, despite warnings from top health experts that easing the guidelines too soon could cause widespread deaths and economic damage.

Trump said Friday that he would consult with his administration's top medical experts on whether to extend or change the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines on slowing the spread of the coronavirus.

But on Sunday, Trump said that the Easter target date was "just an aspiration" and that he expects "great things to be happening" by June 1. Instead, Trump said he believes Easter will mark "the peak number, and it should start coming down, hopefully very substantially at that point."

Trump said his administration felt Easter "was too soon" and "we can't take a chance."

Instead, Trump said he felt June 1 would mark "the bottom of the hill."

Dr. Deborah Birx, the coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, said the choice to extend the guidelines had not been made lightly.

"We know it's a huge sacrifice for everyone," she said, adding that more detailed guidance will be released Tuesday.

The good news is that people finally got through to this orange buffoon to make it clear that tens, quite possibly hundreds of thousands of Americans are going to die from this virus.

But another month of shutdowns and closures, while necessary, will come at a cost, and Trump doesn't seem to think that he should bear any of it.  It's only going to get worse for areas where the pandemic is just starting to take hold, like in rural Alaska.

Early this week, Kodiak Island, part of an archipelago in southwest Alaska, issued a “hunker down” proclamation, asking residents to stay at home as much as possible. In the Covid-19 pandemic, the remote island, known for its brown bear population, might seem well-positioned — travel on or off the island is limited to the water or air. But Elise Pletnikoff, a family physician and the medical director of the Kodiak Area Native Association, says the same physical remoteness which may help protect rural communities from infection will become a liability if — and, more likely, when — the novel coronavirus arrives.

“Our capacity will be the limiting factor,” she says, “meaning not just equipment, but also staff.” Her organization provides care for 5,000 patients on Kodiak; while there is a hospital on the island, it has limited resources for critical care and usually flies patients needing that kind of medical attention to Anchorage. But Pletnikoff says when Covid-19 cases surge, “we’re worried about how busy everyone will be.”

Many small communities around the United States don’t have a full-time doctor — and in Alaska, many aren’t connected by road. Instead, they rely on community health aides, a physician who visits a few days out of the month, and either commercial or medevac flights to larger urban centers during emergencies. Already because of the outbreak, health workers are forced to disrupt this limited care even further, transitioning to telemedicine when possible. “We’ve stopped traveling to remote villages to reduce exposure,” Pletnikoff says, and staff currently in each village are staying, “until … we don’t know when.”

Even though small towns like these may be thousands of miles from Covid-19 hotspots like New York City and New Orleans, there’s good reason for the 60 million Americans in rural areas to worry.

A new map of confirmed cases and deaths nationwide from the University of Chicago’s Center for Spatial Data Science shows a disturbing trend:

While New York state still has the highest per capita rate — 1,995 cases per million people as of March 26 — there are also significant clusters of Covid-19 in rural areas in the Midwest and South, including Arkansas, Mississippi, Georgia, and South Carolina. Every US Health and Human Services region also has shown a sharp uptick in non-flu-related influenza-type illness.

On Friday, Alaska reported 85 cases and its first Covid-19-related death. Shana Theobald, another doctor on Kodiak Island, explains the grim calculus for her state: Given that experts from the CDC estimate 40 to 70 percent of the state’s 737,500 people may eventually contract Covid-19, at least 295,000 Alaskans could get sick. Based on initial reports, 20 percent, or 59,000 people, will need hospital care.

Keep those numbers in mind: 40 to 70% will get sick, of those that get sick 20% are going to need to be hospitalized.  We're still headed for tens of millions needing emergency treatment, and millions dead.  Nothing I've seen or read makes me change my mind.  The worst is yet to come.


Sunday, March 29, 2020

Last Call For Deliver Us From Evil

The billion-dollar corporations exploiting the gig economy are running headlong into the COVID-19 era and the realization that if they don't have workers to exploit, the corporations crumble to dust.

As some Instacart workers prepare to strike Monday, the company is making more updates in a bid to appease them. 
Instacart said Sunday that it will soon begin making hand sanitizer available to its "full service shoppers," who shop and deliver groceries for the company. It is also making it easier for customers to set their own default tipping percentage in the app. 
Instacart is one of several companies delivering essentials to households and now expanding rapidly at a time when much of the American economy is at risk of contracting. Last week, the company announced plans to bring on another 300,000 "full service shoppers" in North America over the next three months to service demand. 
But while the company has seen a surge in customer orders in recent weeks and introduced an option for customers to have orders left at their doorsteps, workers have criticized the company for not doing enough for them. 
The strike, which is being called for by Instacart shoppers and a newly formed non-profit called Gig Workers Collective, has a list of demands including providing workers with safety items including hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, and sprays, hazard pay, and an expansion of its coronavirus pay to include those with underlying health conditions. The workers specified in a Medium post that they wanted an extra $5 per order and a default tip of at least 10% of the order total.

Reagan busted air traffic controllers 40 years when they tried to strike.  I fully expect Trump to try to do the same here, and it won't just be delivery guys who go on strike soon.  It'll be the people keeping the lights on in the hospitals.

Trump Goes Viral, Con't

The word is that Trump will urge states to send people back to work and reopen schools as early as next week, with Americans being advised to wear masks and proceed as normal.

On Saturday, Weill Cornell’s Dr. Matt McCarthy reported that the Centers for Disease Control will revise their recommendations on protective masks.

In the next ten days, the CDC guidelines will reportedly change to advising Americans to wear masks “in everyday life.” This contrasts with the current guidelines, which only recommend masks for high-risk groups like health care workers.

The country is currently suffering from a shortage of masks and other personal protective equipment as health care workers struggle to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. Many have been forced to reuse spent masks, or fashion their own out of materials lying around. The revised guidelines would threaten to worsen the mask shortage unless increased production begins right away.

Following the publication of this story, the CDC denied the report.

Trump is calling up retired troops and reservists back to duty to prepare for the inevitable.

President Trump issued an order Friday night that permits the Pentagon to bring back to active duty some veterans and reserve members of the military to augment forces already involved in the response to the coronavirus pandemic, senior U.S. officials said.

The president said Friday night that the decision will “allow us to mobilize medical, disaster and emergency response personnel to help wage our battle against the virus by activating thousands of experienced service members, including retirees.”

The president did not clarify whether anyone will be involuntarily recalled to duty but said some retirees have “offered to support the nation in this extraordinary time of need.”

“It’s really an incredible thing to see,” Trump said, speaking at the White House. “It’s beautiful.”

An Army spokesman, Lt. Col. Emmanuel Ortiz-Cruz, said some 15,000 veterans have expressed interest in rejoining the service to help the military’s response to the pandemic.

But a U.S. military official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, would not rule out that involuntary recalls also are possible.

“That’s to be determined based on requirements,” the official said.

I guarantee you that the orders will not be voluntary in a matter of weeks.  In a matter of weeks, it will be utter and complete chaos, with thousands of Americans dying daily.

We're up to hundreds of Americans dying daily now as the total number dead are doubling every 3 days.   If there's anything good that has come from the last week, it's the fact that far fewer Americans now believe Trump this week when it comes to COVID-19.

A clear majority of the American public, including self-identified Republicans, do not believe the disinformation that President Donald Trump keeps pushing around the spread of coronavirus. And even members of the president’s own party are skeptical of his argument that getting the country back to work needs to be as prioritized as public safety measures.

A new survey conducted by Ipsos exclusively for The Daily Beast provides some of the clearest evidence to date that the president’s attempts to paint a rosy picture about the coronavirus’ spread throughout the country are not resonating beyond a small segment of the populace with a small exception for those who say they’re getting their information from Fox News. 
  • A full 73 percent of respondents, including 75 percent of Republicans, said that it was not true that “anyone who wants to get tested [for the virus] can get tested.” Just 17 percent said it was true. 
  • Only 20 percent of the public, and just 25 percent of Republicans, said that they believed a vaccine will be available soon. Forty-two percent said that was false and 38 percent said they did not know. 
  • Fifty-one percent of respondents, including a plurality or Republicans (46 percent), said it was false that the virus would go away on its own in warm weather, while just 13 percent said that was true. 
  • And 61 percent of respondents said that they believed COVID-19 was more deadly than the flu; with 22 percent saying it was about the same and 11 percent saying they believed it was less deadly. 
The question that seemed to generate the most confusion was on whether the Federal Drug Administration had “approved anti-malaria drugs to treat the virus." 
But even then, 45 percent of respondents correctly identified that statement as false, 22 percent said it was true and 33 percent said they did not know. 
Collectively, the results present a portrait of a public that is sober minded about the coronavirus and unpersuaded by talk that life could return to normalcy soon. Over the past few weeks, Trump has suggested that the spread of coronavirus would abate as the temperature warmed. He’s repeatedly insisted that those who want a test can get one, against overwhelming evidence to the contrary. He’s downplayed the lethality of it by comparing it to the flu. He’s talked about a vaccine hitting the markets in weeks, if not months, and pushed hydroxychloroquine as a therapy for coronavirus, despite his own medical experts warning that there is nothing more than anecdotal data suggesting it could work.

We're still in the first 20-30 minutes of this pandemic movie, where the national leader is telling everyone that things will be fine.

They will not be fine.  The next month will be hell.

It will be significantly worse in the days ahead.

Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying to you.

Sunday Long Read: Prepper's Paradise

Needless to say, America's doomsday prepper community believes COVID-19 is The Big One, and those who have spend years preparing for the end of American civilization as we know it are gearing up to ride out the storm in places like old nuclear bunkers in South Dakota, as our Sunday Long Read comes to us from The Guardian's Mark O'Connell.

I had made arrangements to meet with one Robert Vicino, a real-estate impresario from San Diego who had acquired a vast tract of South Dakota ranch land. The property had once been an army munitions and maintenance facility, built during the second world war for the storage and testing of bombs, and it contained 575 decommissioned weapons storage facilities, gigantic concrete and steel structures designed to withstand explosions of up to half a megaton. Vicino intended to sell them for $35,000 a pop to those Americans who cared to protect themselves and their families from a variety of possible end-time events.

Vicino was among the most prominent and successful figures in the doomsday preparedness space, a real-estate magnate for the end of days. His company specialised in the construction of massive underground shelters where high-net-worth individuals could weather the end of the world in the style and comfort to which they had become accustomed. The company was named Vivos, which is the Spanish word for living. (As in los vivos – as distinct, crucially, from los muertos.) Vivos claimed to operate several facilities across the US, all in remote and undisclosed locations, far from likely nuclear targets, seismic fault lines and large urban areas where outbreaks of contagion would be at their most catastrophically intense. They were advertising an “elite shelter” in Germany, too, a vast Soviet-era munitions bunker built into the bedrock beneath a mountain in Thuringia.

Vivos’s new South Dakota location went by the name xPoint. Each of the bunkers, evenly spaced across 18 sq miles of prairie land, had an area of 204 sq metres – significantly larger than my own (admittedly not very large) house. The place would, it was claimed, be home to somewhere between 6,000 and 10,000 people and would become “the largest survival community on Earth”. It was pitched at a demographic somewhere between the super-wealthy clients for Vivos’s luxury underground shelters and the doomsday preppers who planned to survive the apocalypse through manly grit and YouTube knowhow. It was the future domain, in other words, of the post-apocalyptic petit bourgeoisie.

The place was, I read on the company’s website, “strategically and centrally located in one of the safest areas of North America”, at an altitude of about 1,200 metres and 100 miles from the nearest known military nuclear targets. “Vivos security team can spot anyone approaching the property from three miles away. Massive. Safe. Secure. Isolated. Private. Defensible. Off-Grid. Centrally located.” It was not intuitively clear to me how a place could be both isolated and centrally located, but, to be fair, if pretty much the entire rest of the world had perished, any settlement of living humans would have legitimate grounds to proclaim itself centrally located.

Vivos was offering more than just the provision of ready-made bunkers and turnkey apocalypse solutions. It was offering a vision of a post-state future. When you bought into such a scheme, you tapped into a fever dream from the depths of the libertarian lizard-brain: a group of well-off and ideologically like-minded individuals sharing an autonomous space, heavily fortified against outsiders – the poor, the hungry, the desperate, the unprepared – and awaiting its moment to rebuild civilisation from the ground up. What was being offered, as such, was a state stripped down to its bare rightwing essentials: a militarised security apparatus, engaged through contractual arrangement, for the protection of private wealth.

End-time real estate was an increasingly competitive racket. On the website of one major purveyor of luxury apocalypse solutions, Trident Lakes, I read that in the event of a nuclear, chemical or biological emergency, the properties would be sealed by automatic airlocks and blast doors, and that each would be connected via a network of tunnels to an underground community centre featuring dry food storage, DNA vaults, fully equipped exercise rooms and meeting areas. The promotional blurb also promised such features as a retail district, an equestrian centre and polo field, an 18-hole golf course and a driving range.

This was a new entry into the canon of apocalyptic scenarios: bankers and hedge-fund managers, tanned and relaxed, taking the collapse of civilisation as an opportunity to spend some time on the links, while a heavily armed private police force roamed the perimeter in search of intruders. All of this was a logical extension of the gated community. It was a logical extension of capitalism itself.

The super-elites will be fine in a COVID-19 world.  They'll have the supplies, the resources, and the clout to pull through for the most part, and if the wealthy head of a family is felled by the virus, they'll have heirs to follow through.

One thing's not going to change after COVID-19: the super rich will still be rich.  What might finally change is how we choose to view and deal with them.

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.

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