Thursday, April 30, 2020

Last Call For Trump Goes Viral, Con't

Donald Trump is now fully executing the plan to make China the villain in the COVID-19 pandemic so that he can rally the country around an external foe and possibly save his floundering reelection campaign.

Senior Trump administration officials have pushed American spy agencies to hunt for evidence to support an unsubstantiated theory that a government laboratory in Wuhan, China, was the origin of the coronavirus outbreak, according to current and former American officials. The effort comes as President Trump escalates a public campaign to blame China for the pandemic.

Some intelligence analysts are concerned that the pressure from administration officials will distort assessments about the virus and that they could be used as a political weapon in an intensifying battle with China over a disease that has infected more than three million people across the globe.

Most intelligence agencies remain skeptical that conclusive evidence of a link to a lab can be found, and scientists who have studied the genetics of the coronavirus say that the overwhelming probability is that it leapt from animal to human in a nonlaboratory setting, as was the case with H.I.V., Ebola and SARS.
Mr. Trump’s aides and Republicans in Congress have sought to blame China for the pandemic in part to deflect criticism of the administration’s mismanagement of the crisis in the United States, which now has more coronavirus cases than any country. More than one million Americans have been infected, and more than 60,000 have died.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a former C.I.A. director and the administration’s most vocal hard-liner on China, has taken the lead in pushing American intelligence agencies for more information, according to current and former officials.

Matthew Pottinger, the deputy national security adviser who reported on SARS outbreaks as a journalist in China, has pressed intelligence agencies off and on since January to gather information that might support any origin theory linked to a lab.

And Anthony Ruggiero, the head of the National Security Council’s bureau tracking weapons of mass destruction, expressed frustration during one videoconference in January that the C.I.A. was unable to get behind any theory of the outbreak’s origin. C.I.A. analysts responded that they simply did not have the evidence to support any one theory with high confidence at the time, according to people familiar with the conversation.

The C.I.A.’s judgment was based in part on the fact that no signs had emerged that the Chinese government believed the outbreak came from a lab. The Chinese government has vigorously denied that the virus leaked from a lab while pushing disinformation on its origins, including suggesting that the American military created it.

Any American intelligence report blaming a Chinese institution and officials for the outbreak could significantly harm relations with China for years to come. And Trump administration officials could use it to try to prod other nations to publicly hold China accountable for coronavirus deaths even when the pandemic’s exact origins cannot be determined.

The State Department declined to answer questions about Mr. Pompeo’s role. Spokesmen for the White House and the National Security Council declined to comment.

So Trump wants our intel agencies to "find" something on China.  Setting aside the horrific prospect of that, this is exactly what Trump wanted from Ukraine as far as "finding" something on Joe Biden, yes?

Besides, Trump plans to take action to punish China anyway.  He doesn't need justification, apparently.

Senior U.S. officials are beginning to explore proposals for punishing or demanding financial compensation from China for its handling of the coronavirus pandemic, according to four senior administration officials with knowledge of internal planning.

The move could splinter already strained relations between the two superpowers at a perilous moment for the global economy.

Senior officials across multiple government agencies are expected to meet Thursday to begin mapping out a strategy for seeking retaliatory measures against China, two people with knowledge of the meeting said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to disclose the planning. Officials in American intelligence agencies are also involved in the effort.

President Trump has fumed to aides and others in recent days about China, blaming the country for withholding information about the virus, and has discussed enacting dramatic measures that would probably lead to retaliation by Beijing, these people said.

In private, Trump and aides have discussed stripping China of its “sovereign immunity,” aiming to enable the U.S. government or victims to sue China for damages. George Sorial, who formerly served as a top executive at the Trump Organization and is involved in a class-action lawsuit against China, told The Washington Post he and senior White House officials have discussed limiting China’s sovereign immunity. Legal experts say an attempt to limit China’s sovereign immunity would be extremely difficult to accomplish and may require congressional legislation.

Some administration officials have also discussed having the United States cancel part of its debt obligations to China, two people with knowledge of internal conversations said. It was not known if the president has backed this idea. Two senior White House economic officials ruled out the possibility of doing so shortly after this story was published.

Administration officials strongly cautioned that the discussions are preliminary and that little formal work has begun on turning these initial ideas into reality. Other administration officials are warning Trump against the push to punish China, saying the country is sending supplies to help the American response.

Performative government for the rubes, I guess.  But he does need to keep his base focused on China rather than his own massive failures.

Oil's Well That Ends Badly

It seems that Mobster-In-Chief Trump continues to quid pro quo everything and make threats for days, even when it comes to the Saudis who basically own his real estate.

As the United States pressed Saudi Arabia to end its oil price war with Russia, President Donald Trump gave Saudi leaders an ultimatum.

In an April 2 phone call, Trump told Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman that unless the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) started cutting oil production, he would be powerless to stop lawmakers from passing legislation to withdraw U.S. troops from the kingdom, four sources familiar with the matter told Reuters. 
The threat to upend a 75-year strategic alliance, which has not been previously reported, was central to the U.S. pressure campaign that led to a landmark global deal to slash oil supply as demand collapsed in the coronavirus pandemic - scoring a diplomatic victory for the White House. 
Trump delivered the message to the crown prince 10 days before the announcement of production cuts. The kingdom’s de facto leader was so taken aback by the threat that he ordered his aides out of the room so he could continue the discussion in private, according to a U.S. source who was briefed on the discussion by senior administration officials. 
The effort illustrated Trump’s strong desire to protect the U.S. oil industry from a historic price meltdown as governments shut down economies worldwide to fight the virus. It also reflected a telling reversal of Trump’s longstanding criticism of the oil cartel, which he has blasted for raising energy costs for Americans with supply cuts that usually lead to higher gasoline prices. Now, Trump was asking OPEC to slash output. 
A senior U.S. official told Reuters that the administration notified Saudi leaders that, without production cuts, “there would be no way to stop the U.S. Congress from imposing restrictions that could lead to a withdrawal of U.S. forces.” The official summed up the argument, made through various diplomatic channels, as telling Saudi leaders: “We are defending your industry while you’re destroying ours.” 
Reuters asked Trump about the talks in an interview Wednesday evening at the White House, at which the president addressed a range of topics involving the pandemic. Asked if he told the crown prince that the U.S. might pull forces out of Saudi Arabia, Trump said, “I didn’t have to tell him.” 
“I thought he and President Putin, Vladimir Putin, were very reasonable,” Trump said. “They knew they had a problem, and then this happened.” 
Asked what he told the Crown Prince Mohammed, Trump said: “They were having a hard time making a deal. And I met telephonically with him, and we were able to reach a deal” for production cuts, Trump said.

Saudi Arabia’s government media office did not respond to a request for comment. A Saudi official who asked not to be named stressed that the agreement represented the will of all countries in the so-called OPEC+ group of oil-producing nations, which includes OPEC plus a coalition led by Russia.

To recap, Trump leans on world leaders to help his reelection bid all the time and has done so for years, especially when it directly helps Vladimir Putin.

This is considered "diplomacy".

Any questions?

Flattening The Curve

The good news is that so far, COVID-19 hospital cases haven't overwhelmed the country's hospital bed capacity yet.  That's good news, as it means resources for field hospitals and US Navy hospital ships can be shifted to where they are needed most.

Gleaming new tent hospitals sit empty on two suburban New York college campuses, never having treated a single coronavirus patient. Convention centers that were turned into temporary hospitals in other cities went mostly unused. And a Navy hospital ship that offered help in Manhattan is soon to depart.

When virus infections slowed down or fell short of worst-case predictions, the globe was left dotted with dozens of barely used or unused field hospitals. Some public officials say that’s a good problem to have — despite spending potentially billions of dollars to erect the care centers — because it’s a sign the deadly disease was not nearly as cataclysmic as it might have been.
Many of the facilities will now be kept on standby for a possible second wave of infections. Some could even be repurposed as testing sites or recovery centers.

“It will count as a huge success for the whole country if we never have to use them,” said Simon Stevens, the chief executive of the National Health Service in England, where sparsely used field hospitals have been criticized as costly, unnecessary “white elephants.”

“But with further waves of coronavirus possible, it is important that we have these extra facilities in place and treating patients,” Stevens said.

In Italy and Spain, field hospitals were seen as crucial to relieving strain on emergency rooms as the disease exploded in March. Those countries rank behind only the United States for the largest number of infections and deaths, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally.

Spain built at least 16 field hospitals, ranging from a few beds under tents to one with more than 5,000 beds at Madrid’s big convention center. That facility has treated more than 4,000 patients, accounting for 10% of the total infected population in the disease-ravaged capital.

As the crisis eases and permanent hospitals are able to better manage the load, some of Spain’s field hospitals are scaling back or shutting down. The Madrid facility halved its capacity and could close in two weeks if infection rates hold.

Spanish Health Minister Salvador Illa said the field hospitals have been important and in some cases “essential.”

Surely Republicans will be infuriated at this, but they should be treating this as news that the COVID-19 resources we have on had are working for now, and additional resources are in place should things get truly bad, as I expect a second wave will in places like Georgia, Florida, and Texas.

We'll see if the curve flattens those states back, very soon I would imagine.


Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Last Call For Lowering The Barr, Con't

The Barr Justice Department is now working directly with conservative money groups on a concerted legal strategy to take action directly against governors to put an end to all COVID-19 health and safety restrictions.  

A network of conservative leaders, donors and organizations has launched a legal onslaught against state and local restrictions intended to slow the spread of the coronavirus, pushing to allow churches to hold services, businesses to reopen and people to be able to visit with family and friends.

They have been emboldened in recent days by increasing signs of support from a powerful ally: The Justice Department.

Justice Department officials have spoken on conference calls with leaders of conservative groups, who have flagged individual cases as worthy of the department’s review. Some cabinet officials have signaled that they back the effort by participating in private calls with conservative allies, according to multiple people involved with the calls.
This week the Justice Department delivered the clearest show of support yet when Attorney General William P. Barr issued a memorandum directing two of his department’s top lawyers to lead an effort with other federal agencies to monitor state and local policies “and, if necessary, take action to correct” those that “could be violating the constitutional rights and civil liberties of individual citizens.”

“We do not want to unduly interfere with the important efforts of state and local officials to protect the public,” Mr. Barr wrote. “But the Constitution is not suspended in times of crisis.”

Though the Justice Department has so far weighed in formally on only one case — a lawsuit by a Baptist church in Greenville, Miss. — the new directive reinforced the message that court challenges to state and local restrictions by President Trump’s allies could get a favorable viewing, and potential support, from the administration.

The guidance raises the prospect that the Trump administration could side with supportive groups in legal challenges against elected state and local leaders who enacted policies that were intended to stave off the spread of the virus, which has led to more than 53,000 deaths. Public health officials fear the virus’s spread could be accelerated by premature lifting of restrictions.

But Mr. Trump has encouraged his allies’ protests against the restrictions and has sometimes pressured state and local officials to roll them back, while expressing concern that the public health benefit of the orders might not offset the economic damage they cause, which is seen as threatening his re-election chances.

“It would not be the first time that the federal government has tried to undercut states’ rights by pushing its own agenda,” said Anthony Romero, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, which has supported some challenges to coronavirus restrictions but is concerned that the federal government could take its own action against state and local rules.

At this point I have to assume that the official position of the Trump regime is mass genocide in the name of economic expediency for the rich, and that the United Nations and other countries should act accordingly to deal with this regime.

Getting Their Marching Orders

The GOP is on the move getting out talking points to state-level Republicans to convince voters to go back to the charnel house and work themselves to death in the name of The American Economy. Louisiana is of particular note:

An internal memorandum from Mandeville-based GOP political operative Jay Connaughton, addressed to Republican state Sen. Sharon Hewitt of Slidell, and privately circulated among GOP state legislators outlines a series of talking points to use in a coordinated campaign aimed at politicizing and undermining the emergency orders issued by Gov. John Bel Edwards in curtailing the Covid-19 pandemic.
Edwards’ orders are in conformance with the guidelines issued by the White House and follow the recommendations of public health experts and medical professionals. The Bayou Brief obtained a copy of the document earlier this evening.

Among other things, the memo advises legislators to avoid “trap words” like “death/die,” “politics/political,” “models,” and “hoax.” The very first “trap word” on the list: “Republican.”

It cautions lawmakers to anticipate questions about whether or not “reopening too early (will) cause the virus to rebound” and whether a “virus respects parish borders.” Taken in its totality, the document reads like a guide to subverting public health policy and reframing the efforts to curb the pandemic, which has already claimed the lives of at least 1,800 Louisianians, as an “economic shutdown.”
Covid-19 has now killed more people in Louisiana than those who perished as a consequence of the Federal Flood after Hurricane Katrina. More than one out of every 1,000 residents of New Orleans have died from the virus, which had been disproportionately affected when the novel Coronavirus was first reported in the state. Since then, the pandemic has spread to all 64 parishes.

Gov. Edwards announced Monday the extension of the state’s emergency “stay at home orders” until May 15th. “While this is not the announcement I want to make, I am hopeful, and all of Louisiana should be hopeful, that we will enter into the next phase of reopening soon, in mid-May,” he said. ”I am anxious to get all areas of our economy reopened, but if we accelerate too quickly, we may have to slam on the brakes. That will be bad for public health and for businesses, bad for our people and bad for our state.”

The GOP memorandum contains a series of factual distortions about the state’s response and falsely claims that Gov. Edwards’s order was made against the advice of the Trump White House. The White House actually recommended Edwards take the exact approach that he’s now implementing, telling governors to ensure their states have satisfied a set of criteria before ordering a “phased reopening.”

Again, the whole point is massive gaslighting on the part of the Trump regime, to sell the utter failure of the federal response to the virus, with deaths now topping 60,000 and growing, as a "success".

White House senior adviser Jared Kushner on Wednesday expressed optimism that much of the country could be "back to normal" by June as several states prepare to lift restrictions meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

"I think what you’ll see in May as the states are reopening now is May will be a transition month, you’ll see a lot of states starting to phase in the different reopening based on the safety guidelines that President Trump outlined on April 19," Kushner said on "Fox & Friends."

"I think you’ll see by June that a lot of the country should be back to normal, and the hope is that by July the country’s really rocking again," the president's son-in-law continued.

The ambitious timeline could be politically risky given that cases in the U.S. are still climbing and health experts have cautioned that parts of the country will have to alternate between imposing strict social distancing measures and easing them back until there's a vaccine in order to avoid new outbreaks.

"Back to normal by June" is not only a sick fantasy, it's a dangerous one.

Trump Goes Viral, Con't

Republicans continue to announce hostage negotiation conditions for tens of millions of Americans and they fully expect Democratic governors and state legislatures to bend the knee or risk losing billions in federal aid.

President Donald Trump indicated he wouldn’t allow federal aid for states facing budget deficits from the coronavirus outbreak unless they take action against “sanctuary cities” -- municipalities that prevent their police from cooperating with immigration authorities.

“We would want certain things” as part of a deal with House Democrats to aid states, he said at a White House event on Tuesday, “including sanctuary city adjustments, because we have so many people in sanctuary cities.”

“What’s happening is people are being protected that shouldn’t be protected and a lot of bad things are happening with sanctuary cities,” he added.

Trump has long complained about the cities and has previously sought to cut off their federal funding unless they end the policies.

Democrats have said the next round of federal stimulus must include aid for states. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, has indicating he’d be in favor of aiding states, but not helping those burden by pension obligations to bail out old debts. He said those states should be allowed to declare bankruptcy, which they can’t currently do

Industry groups have their own demands, namely full immunity from any COVID-19 lawsuits.

Business lobbyists and executives are pushing the Trump administration and Congress to shield American companies from a wide range of potential lawsuits related to reopening the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic
, opening a new legal and political fight over how the nation deals with the fallout from Covid-19.

Government officials are beginning the slow process of lifting restrictions on economic activity in states and local areas across the country. But lobbyists say retailers, manufacturers, eateries and other businesses will struggle to start back up if lawmakers do not place temporary limits on legal liability in areas including worker privacy, employment discrimination and product manufacturing.

The biggest push, business groups say, is to give companies enhanced protection against lawsuits by customers or employees who contract the virus and accuse the business of being the source of the infection.

The effort highlights a core tension for as the economy begins to reopen: how to give businesses the confidence they need to restart operations amid swirling uncertainty over the virus and its effects, while also protecting workers and customers from unsafe practices that could raise the chances of infection.

Administration officials have said they are examining how they could create some of those shields via regulation or executive order. But lobbyists and lawmakers agree that the most consequential changes would need to come from Congress — where the effort has run into partisan divisions that could complicate lawmakers’ ability to pass another stimulus package.

 And finally, GOP governors are holding their own constituents hostage: return to work immediately with no protection from the virus, or lose your unemployment checks.

"If you're an employer and you offer to bring your employee back to work and they decide not to, that's a voluntary quit," Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) said Friday. "Therefore, they would not be eligible for the unemployment money."

Reynolds also said employers who have workers that refuse to return should file a report with Iowa Workforce Development.

On Monday, the governor announced that she was loosening social distancing restrictions in 77 of Iowa's 99 counties, effective May 1.

"In the 77 counties, the proclamation permits restaurants, fitness centers, malls, libraries, race tracks, and certain other retail establishments to reopen in a limited fashion with public health measures in place," the governor's office said in a statement.

Reynolds said the 77 counties have either seen a steady decline in new cases or no new cases at all for the past two weeks, one of the main benchmarks the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention set for states wanting to reopen their economies.

The only exception for workers getting unemployment after not returning to work is if they are ill with the virus or taking care of a family member who has the deadly disease.

The situation is similar for workers in Texas, where Gov. Greg Abbott (R) on Monday gave the go-ahead for retail stores, restaurants, movie theaters and malls to reopen on Friday.

According to the Texas Workforce Commission, to qualify for unemployment benefits in the state, a worker must be “willing and able to work all the days and hours required for the type of work you are seeking."

Cisco Gamez, a Texas Workforce Commission spokesman, told the Texas Tribune that employees who choose not to return to work will become ineligible for unemployment benefits.

Georgia and South Carolina are adopting similar positions.

Risk the virus or starve.  Your choice.  Tens of millions of hostages, all lined up for execution.


Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Last Call For It's Mueller Time, Con't

The legal question of if Congressional subpoenas of the Executive branch even matter anymore is one step closer to a conclusion, but don't expect White House Counsel Don McGahn to take any sort of stand before the 2020 election.

A federal appeals court convened a rare session of nine judges Tuesday to tackle an issue crucial to the future balance of power between the president and Congress: whether lawmakers can turn to the courts to enforce subpoenas aimed at exposing alleged wrongdoing in the executive branch. 
The high-stakes battle centers on the House’s demand for testimony from President Donald Trump’s former White House counsel Don McGahn. It could decide one of the most urgent political issues of Trump’s presidency, namely whether the White House can block Congress from using the legal system to force crucial witnesses to testify about alleged obstruction of justice by the president himself.

While the case judges mulled over Tuesday could ultimately resolve a centuries-old debate about the relationship between the political branches, it seems increasingly unlikely to be definitively decided on a timeline that would produce testimony from McGahn or other witnesses in advance of the November presidential election.

That reality, as some congressional Democrats feared, represents a win for Trump, whom they accused of tying up their case in unending litigation to prevent McGahn from publicly testifying about presidential wrongdoing. McGahn was a central witness in the two-year investigation led by former special counsel Robert Mueller into the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russians in 2016. 
He ultimately provided damning evidence that Trump repeatedly sought to obstruct the probe, though he declined to recommend criminal charges, citing a Justice Department prohibition on moving against a sitting president. 
House Democrats are hopeful for a victory from the full appeals court, which is heavy with appointees of President Barack Obama and generally seen as more favorable to their arguments than the three-judge panel the House drew earlier this year and ruled against them 2-1. 
But even if the D.C. Circuit ultimately orders McGahn to testify, Justice Department lawyers are expected to ask the Supreme Court to step in. The justices may well decide to freeze the status quo, putting potential high court arguments in the case off until the fall or winter and pushing off a final decision until well after Trump is sworn in for a second term as president or Joe Biden is sworn in for a first. 
The appeals court heard the case Tuesday by teleconference due to the coronavirus pandemic. In addition, it considered the McGahn dispute in tandem with another legal fight between the House and the Trump administration: a suit seeking to block officials from spending money on Trump’s border wall project.

While a ruling here will most likely come before the election, either way it goes to the Supreme Court this fall and won't be decided until next spring.  If Trump is still in the White House, we're going to have much larger problems than McGahn's testimony, I'm sure.

Biden, His Time Con't

Rebecca Traister argues that especially for women, there are no good choices for the Biden veepstakes, because whoever Biden does pick will immediately be called out for being part of the effort to bury the sexual assault allegations against him.

Part of what’s sickeningly clear is that if Biden remains the Democratic nominee, whichever woman gets the nod to be his running mate will wind up drinking from a poisoned chalice. Because the promise to choose a woman ensures that whoever she is, she will be forced to answer — over and over again — for Biden’s treatment of other women, including the serious allegations of assault leveled by Tara Reade. 
This double bind was already apparent this weekend, in advance of McHugh’s reporting, when New York representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez confirmed once again that she would vote for Biden despite their sharp political differences. Ocasio-Cortez, who is progressive on many issues, has a long history of righteous fury at the ubiquity and impact of sexual harassment and assault. Back in 2018, she said that assault is “one of the most serious allegations anyone who cares to be a public servant can be accused of. Sexual assault is about the abuse of power. It is always women who are marginalized. It is the interns. It is the immigrants. It is the trans. They are always most at risk, because society listens to them the least.”

Ocasio-Cortez was also among the first politicians to suggest that Reade’s claims were “legitimate to talk about” and deserved further investigation, for which Reade thanked her on Twitter. But since Ocasio-Cortez has indicated that she intends to vote for Biden, Reade has told the conservative website the Daily Caller how disappointed she is that AOC has chosen to “toe the line,” and on Sunday she tweeted, “Those who remain silent are complicit to rape” and tagged Stacey Abrams, Kamala Harris, Tulsi Gabbard, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, Michelle Obama, Barack Obama, and Ocasio-Cortez; it was retweeted 6,000 times. 
One of the grim ironies here is that it’s some of these people who have worked most fiercely to keep Biden from becoming the nominee. But now that he is the presumptive choice, he may in fact be the only presidential bulwark against Donald Trump, who is both murderous and incompetent and whose reelection would lead to further cataclysmic collapse of our environment, health-care system, courts, and democracy, with fatal results that will redound more negatively to women than to men and most negatively of all to women with the fewest resources. In the fight to prevent this, Biden and his campaign will be calling on women — especially the women who have challenged him in the past, including on feminist grounds — to help him build support by rallying other women around him. That rallying will now have to entail somehow papering over the disgust and dismay provoked by multiple allegations of inappropriate touching and alleged assault made against yet another would-be president.
What a grievous mess. Biden’s critics on the left should be hoping for the selection of a powerful progressive to run alongside him, and perhaps succeed him, whenever that might be. But any politician who might fulfill those requirements — whether your fantasies run toward Warren or Abrams or Barbara Lee or Ayanna Pressley (AOC is too young) — will also, tautologically, be a politician who has taken an aggressive stand against sexual harassment and assault. So on the one hand, these are women who left-leaning feminists should hope Biden picks. They are women who themselves might for extremely good ideological reasons want to lead the country and see Biden’s vice-presidency as an opportunity to make his administration, and thus the country, better. Some, especially Abrams, have been very vocal about their desire for this job, which is itself a radical approach to voicing ambition. 
Yet in putting themselves forward as subsidiaries to Biden, in accepting an invitation that he might extend, or even in voicing their support for his campaign, these women wind up imperiling themselves by getting tied to him and the mess of his historical shortcomings, often on exactly the issues that have driven them into politics. In fact, they are quite likely to have their own history of righteous advocacy held up against them, used to make them look like hypocrites for agreeing to be on a ticket with a man who has been credibly accused of behavior they have aggressively condemned, and as sops to a system that they are in fact working hard to change. (These kinds of turnarounds have been made by former male rivals all the time, and, in fact, Bernie Sanders has come in for some criticism for having endorsed Biden after Reade’s allegations were made public; but we have a higher tolerance for inconvenient hypocrisy when it comes from male politicians, likely because we have centuries of experience with it and, in this case, because the contested ground — the unequal distribution of power along gendered lines — isn’t at the very heart of the matter.) 
But is the only alternative to hope that Biden picks a milquetoast woman who has never distinguished herself as a feminist or progressive advocate and who, therefore, dispiritingly, cannot be called out for hypocrisy? This is indeed one of my fears, as Reade’s story gets firmer corroboration and the Biden campaign and its supporters in the Democratic Party begin to grapple with its seriousness: Will it alter the calculus around his vice-presidential pick, leading him to pick A Woman whom he can count on to diminish Reade’s claims? Is the cost of a nominee who is a disappointment to many feminists on the left a running mate (and thus likely presidential successor) who is just as disappointing? Even those women will still be asked about Reade — Amy Klobuchar and Gretchen Whitmer, both reportedly on his shortlist, have already been asked about it — and any willingness to defend him or shield him from this story will leave them vulnerable to being held responsible for the misdeeds of the mediocre man to whom they will now be publicly bound. 
This kind of chilling calculus, even before the Reade allegations, led many Biden critics (including me) to hope that he did not become the nominee from the start. The damage often inflicted by sexual power abuses extend far beyond those who have been abused to others who are reliant on those accused of abuse — whether as employees, dependent economically; family members, dependent emotionally and economically; or voters, dependent politically. One of the hallmarks of systemic gender inequity is that women wind up paying for the misdeeds of the more powerful men to whom they are subsidiary, a setup that reinforces men’s ability to perpetuate and profit from abuse. 
Democratic women got a taste of this when Al Franken was accused of harassment. While he denied the allegations and asked for an investigation, his female colleagues were asked repeatedly by those on both sides of the aisle to condemn him or be understood as hypocrites — willing only to come out against those accused of harassment if they belong to the opposition party. Democratic women — including possible Biden VP picks Harris and, eventually, Franken’s close friend Warren — wound up asking that the Minnesota senator resign. New York senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a longtime advocate against sexual harassment and assault in the military and on college campuses, has not stopped paying the price for having been the first to call for Franken’s resignation. She was the first of the six women running to drop out of the Democratic presidential-primary contest this summer and is still widely cast as an opportunist, despite the fact that challenging widely beloved and powerful men has never been a golden goose for women in politics or public life in any era. Recently, when Gillibrand endorsed Biden and called him a “champion for women,” she was criticized for it. That criticism may have been fair, but it is also an illustration of the grim tax women are expected to pay, always in reaction to the more powerful men whose authority they don’t get to challenge without being pilloried for it, but that they always must carefully reflect and correctly comment on.

And make no mistake, if Biden loses, regardless of his running mate, even as feminists are being criticized for hypocrisy in not condemning him more swiftly, it will also be feminists and women who are blamed for his loss, for encouraging an environment in which claims of sexual harm are taken seriously enough to damage a politician.

Traister makes it clear early on that the choice between Biden and Trump is still a no-brainer in favor of Biden, but she also makes the solid point that the political cost to Biden's running mate will be catastrophic.

Luckily, there's one person in the Democratic party whose voice in this situation carries a lot of weight, and she's come down firmly on the side of believing Joe Biden.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden for president in a video released early Monday, becoming the latest Democratic heavyweight to formally back the presumptive Democratic nominee. Pelosi, who remained neutral during the primary, touted Biden as an experienced and tested leader well-positioned to handle America's current and future problems. "As we face coronavirus, Joe has been a voice of reason and resilience, with a clear path to lead us out of this crisis," Pelosi said, adding that he led the economic response to the Great Recession of 2008-09, helped save the Affordable Care Act, and was in charge of a high-profile "moonshot" to cure cancer. 
"I am proud to endorse Joe Biden for president: a leader who is the personification of hope and courage, values, authenticity, and integrity," Pelosi said. "With so much at stake, we need the enthusiasm, invigoration, and participation of all Americans — up and down the ballot, and across the country."

If there were anything to the accusations against Biden, Nancy Pelosi is the one person who could call for his head and get it.

She's endorsing him outright.

That's good enough for me.

Trump Goes Viral, Con't

Like a junkie unable to avoid a quick fix, Donald Trump canceled his narcissist speedball press conference for all of three hours yesterday before rescheduling it later Monday afternoon for a full-on Rose Garden presentation of the White House's big plan for "reopening the economy". It should be no surprise that the big plan is "states need to do more work".

President Donald Trump suggested Monday that the federal government should not be responsible for bailing out states and cities that are struggling financially because of the coronavirus pandemic
"Why should the people and taxpayers of America be bailing out poorly run states (like Illinois, as example) and cities, in all cases Democrat run and managed, when most of the other states are not looking for bailout help?" Trump tweeted Monday morning.

"I am open to discussing anything, but just asking?" he added. 
State and local governments have pressed for federal aid in recent weeks as the coronavirus pandemic dries up many of their revenue sources, threatening a fiscal catastrophe. State and local governments have said they may need as much as three-quarters of a trillion dollars. 

Mitch McConnell's "let them go bankrupt" comment last week on the states was such a disaster that he's now admitting money's going to come...but at a steep, steep price.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Monday there would likely be more money approved for state and local government relief in the next legislative package Congress passes to address the coronavirus outbreak, a shift in the messaging for the Kentucky Republican. 
McConnell last week said he wasn't sure if more money -- which is a key priority for Democrats and many Republicans -- was needed and indicated he was reluctant to provide billions to some state governments he believes have mismanaged their debt. 
"There probably will be another state and local funding bill," McConnell said in an interview with Fox News Radio on Monday. "But we need to make sure that we achieve something that will go beyond simply sending out money." 
The GOP leader also defended his remarks last week -- that caused an uproar with prominent Democrats including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and least a few high-profile Republicans -- that laws should be changed so states can declare bankruptcy to help them shed some of their debt. 
"I wasn't saying they had to take bankruptcy. I think it's just an option to be looked at that unfortunately states don't have that option now, cities do. I wasn't necessarily recommending it. But I was pointing out they have their own fiscal problems that predate the coronavirus and I was not interested in borrowing money from future generations to fix age old problems that states have that they created themselves wholly unrelated to this," he said. 
McConnell also said his "red line" in negotiations for the next legislative package is ensuring "litigation protections" for employers, businesses and healthcare professionals, shielding them from lawsuits, as states reopen. "The whole country will be afraid to go back to work... if businesses are afraid they're going to be sued constantly," he said.

So legal immunity for businesses who force their employees to go to work during a pandemic. This is McConnell's top priority.  Awesome.

Meanwhile, Trump wants America's kids to head back to school, despite the fact that basically the first thing all 50 states did was to close schools.

As states continue to roll out plans to reopen their economies, President Donald Trump told governors during a Monday phone call that they should also "seriously consider" reopening their schools. 
"Some of you might start thinking about school openings. Because a lot of people are wanting to have the school openings. It's not a big subject, young children have done very well in this disaster that we’ve all gone through," Trump told governors, according to a recording of the call obtained by ABC News. "So a lot of people are thinking about the school openings."

The president added the governors should "seriously consider" it and "maybe get going on it."

The "or else your state doesn't get a dime" is merely implied.  You see, Trump knows that if governors send kids back to school, all the governors go down with him should things turn horrific with new cases and kids getting sick and dying.

That's where we are right now, with Trump trying to be as sociopathic as possible while touting an 8-point plan for reopening the economy that according to the White House already has 7 points done.

This is like checking off my plan to write a college research paper with step 1 being "wake up" and step 8 being "Write research paper".

Utterly sad.
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