Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Last Call For McGrath Meets McConnell

Amy McGrath survived her primary against Charles Booker...barely...but she ended up winning by 2.8% in a race where she was ahead by 20% at one point.

Former Marine Corps pilot Amy McGrath held off a surging Rep. Charles Booker Tuesday to win the Democratic Primary for U.S. Senate in Kentucky a week after ballots were cast, setting up a big money showdown with U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in November.

Booker, who won 42.6 percent of the vote, won Kentucky’s three largest cities — Louisville, Lexington and Bowling Green — but the more liberal voters in those cities weren’t enough. McGrath surrounded Booker, winning victories throughout rural Kentucky to win 45.4 percent of the vote.
“While each of our experiences are unique, as a woman in the military, I had to repeatedly fight the establishment during my 20-year career,” McGrath wrote Tuesday in a statement declaring victory. ”...A year after showing the country that Kentucky won’t hesitate to replace an incompetent and unpopular incumbent Republican like Matt Bevin, let’s do it one more time.”

Booker conceded the race in an emailed statement shortly after 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, noting that he had only narrowly lost after being a relative unknown when he entered the race. He said that meant Kentucky was ready for “big, bold solutions.”

“From this moment on, let’s take the frustration we feel and commit to fighting for change like never before,” Booker wrote. “Let’s dedicate to the work of beating Mitch, so that we can get him out of the way. Yes, I would love to be your nominee, but know I’m still by your side. Thank you for giving me this opportunity.”

It was an unusual primary. Delayed by a month over concerns about the spread of COVID-19, then conducted largely via absentee ballot, Kentuckians were left waiting a full week after Election Day for results.

McConnell’s campaign greeted the news by saying it was “great to have” McGrath in the general election.

“Extreme Amy McGrath is lucky to have gotten out of the primary with a victory, but her reputation sustained significant damage all across Kentucky,” said Kate Cooksey, McConnell’s spokeswoman. “McGrath is just another tool of the Washington Democratic establishment who has no idea what matters most to Kentuckians.”

I fully expect Mitch to run another lazy campaign tying McGrath to Pelosi, Biden, the Clintons and Obama, complete with "Will Washington liberal Joe Biden dare show his face in Kentucky?" and count on McGrath's unforced errors to win.

Sadly, he'll most likely win as a result.  What I fear is that McGrath is going to make the same mistakes Alison Lundergan Grimes did in 2014, as Joe Sonka's postmortem from six years ago details.

There isn’t a Kentucky political reporter whose opinion I respect more than CNHI’s Ronnie Ellis, who says one of the biggest errors of Grimes’ campaign was not putting ads on the air during McConnell’s primary fight with Matt Bevin so she could fully introduce herself to voters. The only problem with that theory is it assumes she ever fully introduced herself to voters at any point in the campaign. To a large extent, she never did.

Grimes’ reluctance to give in-depth interviews has been written about extensively, as well as her robotic talking-point answers that too often failed to provide detail on her positions. (I only received eight minutes to interview her in the entire campaign, and she didn’t directly answer a single question.) This was surprising to many who covered her 2011 race for secretary of state, where she came across as intelligent, candid and warm.

There were only about six things people knew about Alison Lundergan Grimes from this campaign, and she repeated them – and little else – over and over again. She is for increasing the minimum wage. She is for gender pay equity legislation and the Violence Against Women Act. She is for union rights. She is for creating jobs in Kentucky. She is not Mitch McConnell, who is against all of these things. She is for coal and gun rights, and she is not Barack Obama.

There were some other policies she mentioned and some details here or there, but they were never effectively presented. How many Kentuckians read her jobs plan, or knew how she was going to pay for any of its proposals?

Nor were voters given any real glimpse into who Grimes is as an individual. The fabulous writer Anne Marshall attempted to answer that last question in her profile of Grimes for Louisville Magazine, but was repeatedly stymied at the gates of the Grimes bubble. When Marshall asked Grimes campaign manager Jonathan Hurst to provide an interesting nugget about Grimes that few people know, he replied, “She loves Swedish Fish.” Eventually Marshall got her very quick interview with Grimes and talked about some personal details, but those were limited to subscribers to the magazine, and buried within a story that quite correctly portrayed her as a talking point machine that remains a mystery to many voters.

McGrath is in the same bubble now that Grimes was then.

She has to break out of it, and that means embracing Charles Booker and several of his policies.  If she runs a defensive campaign, she will lose and lose badly.

It's time to go after Mitch, and go after him hard.

The Donald, Deleted

Online forum Reddit is finally taking action, deleting some 2,000 forums that violate its new content rules. Reddit has finally gotten rid of The_Donald, the political hotbed of racism, bigotry, and general disgusting online meme fungal colony, but it also booted the Chapo Trap House forum for the same political reasons.

Reddit will ban r/The_Donald, r/ChapoTrapHouse, and about 2,000 other communities today after updating its content policy to more explicitly ban hate speech. The policy update comes three weeks after Black Lives Matter protests led several popular Reddit forums to go dark temporarily in protest of what they called the company’s lax policies around hosting and promoting racist content. It marks a major reversal for a company whose commitment to free expression has historically been so strong that it once allowed users to distribute stolen nude photos freely on the site.

“I have to admit that I’ve struggled with balancing my values as an American, and around free speech and free expression, with my values and the company’s values around common human decency,” Reddit CEO Steve Huffman said in a call with reporters.

In a blog post that cites the company’s new rules, Huffman said users of the r/The_Donald subreddit had violated the site’s policies for years. (The site has no official connection to President Donald Trump, although he did do an Ask Me Anything there as a candidate in 2016.) “The community has consistently hosted and upvoted more rule-breaking content than average (Rule 1), antagonized us and other communities (Rules 2 and 8), and its mods have refused to meet our most basic expectations,” Huffman said.

Similarly, r/ChapoTrapHouse had also hosted content that violates the site’s rules, Huffman said. The subreddit is a spinoff of the popular left-wing podcast.

Reddit’s new policy begins with a first rule that requires users to “consider the human.” It reads:

Remember the human. Reddit is a place for creating community and belonging, not for attacking marginalized or vulnerable groups of people. Everyone has a right to use Reddit free of harassment, bullying, and threats of violence. Communities and people that incite violence or that promote hate based on identity or vulnerability will be banned.

That formed the basis of a policy framework that bans hate speech.

“Reddit’s mission is to bring community and belonging to everybody in the world, and there is speech in the world and on Reddit that prevents other people from doing so,” Huffman told reporters. “Harassing speech or hateful speech prevents people from coming to Reddit and feeling safe and sharing their vulnerabilities ... So if we have speech on Reddit that’s preventing people from using Reddit the way that we intend it to be used, or that prevents us from achieving our mission, then it’s actually a very easy decision.”

The introduction of the new policies has resulted in the removal of about 2,000 subreddits so far, and the company says “the vast majority” were inactive. Only about 200 of them had more than 10 daily users, the company said.

Putting Chapo Trap House in the same box as the Trump regime is still pretty damn funny.

Black Lives Still Matter

ZVTS readers were right, as you usually are.

Now we know why last week's GOP Sen. Tim Scott "police reform" bill was such a screamingly obvious trap to try to turn white voters against Black Lives Matter and the Democrats, and Sens. Cory Booker and Kamala Harris in particular. Something that terrible needed a Trojan Horse introduction, and it got one through former Obama adviser turned CNN "race expert" Van Jones.

Jones went on CNN’s Inside Politics with John King and Anderson Cooper 360 to enthusiastically commend Trump’s executive order—even as it was being criticized as cynical and unproductive by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and “delusional” by the Color of Change, an influential racial justice organization that Jones himself co-founded in 2005.  
CNN viewers weren’t informed that he had actually attended secret White House meetings with his new friend Jared Kushner, discussing ways to frame the presidential project. 
According to a knowledgeable White House source, who expressed satisfaction that there were zero leaks, Jones and California human rights attorney Jessica Jackson, who runs #cut50, a prison-reform group that Jones also founded, actively participated with law enforcement officials and White House staffers to help fashion the order and guide the politics of the discussion to what they considered “the sweet spot” between law enforcement and “the reasonable middle” and “the reasonable left.” 
Skyping from his Los Angeles home, with a biography of Nelson Mandela and a Black Panther graphic novel visible on the bookshelf behind him, Jones told viewers of CNN’s noon show Inside Politics: “The executive order is a good thing, mainly because you saw the support of law enforcement there... There is movement in the direction of a database for bad cops. We have never had a federal database for bad cops, that’s why all these cops go all over the place doing bad stuff… The chokeholds, that’s common ground now between Nancy Pelosi and Trump. Good stuff there.” 
Hours later, Jones doubled down on Anderson Cooper 360—again without disclosing his role advising the Trump White House. “What do you make of this executive order?” Cooper asked him. 
“I think it’s pushing in the right direction,” Jones told the CNN anchor. “What you got today is, I think, a sign that we are winning,” he added. “Donald Trump has put himself on record saying we need to reform the police department… We are winning! Donald Trump had no plan a month ago to work on this issue at all. The fact that we are now in the direction of moving forward, I think, is good.” 
During a Rose Garden ceremony that was actually a Trump campaign event—at which the president defended the police, touted his commitment to “law and order,” boasted about the stock market and the pre-coronavirus economy, and attacked Joe Biden—Trump was flanked by uniformed officers and police union officials as he signed the executive order in response to the pandemic of unjustified killings of unarmed Black Americans by white cops. 
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was quick to call the event “a photo op” and the executive order “seriously short of what is required”; Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer panned it as “weak tea” and the Rev. Al Sharpton—a longtime ally of Jones going back to the 1990s, when Jones was a self-avowed “radical” and social justice activist in Oakland—derided it as “toothless and meaningless” because it gives lip service, but no legal mandate, to banning chokeholds (unless officers decide their lives are at risk), improving police training, making use of mental health professionals, and keeping a national registry of bad cops. 
“I did not think the executive order was worth the paper it was written on,” Sharpton told The Daily Beast. “Van’s experiment with Trump is a case of him having more faith than I have, but I’m not going to attack him for doing it…I think he’s well-intentioned, but I think he totally underestimates the kind of guy he’s dealing with. I just disagree that the people he’s dealing with have a sincere bone in their body. But I can’t fault him for trying.”

Man, the best part of the article is Al Sharpton coming in with "Well at least he tried" church senior pastor to the junior pastor who went out on his own and got his wings clipped by city council shade I've seen in some time.

I understand that the perfect cannot become the enemy of the good, believe me.  But Van Jones and Trump's toothless executive order weren't good at all.  It was designed to e a palatable trap, and Van Jones helped them do it.

That pisses me off something fierce.


Monday, June 29, 2020

Last Call For Orange Meltdown, Con't

Legendary journalist Carl Bernstein takes to CNN for long read piece on Donald Trump's phone calls to foreign leaders, and how they are so awful, how Trump is such a belligerent numbskull, that even his most basic interactions with our allies and our enemies are nearly all perfect examples of major national security breaches by and of themselves.

In hundreds of highly classified phone calls with foreign heads of state, President Donald Trump was so consistently unprepared for discussion of serious issues, so often outplayed in his conversations with powerful leaders like Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Erdogan, and so abusive to leaders of America's principal allies, that the calls helped convince some senior US officials -- including his former secretaries of state and defense, two national security advisers and his longest-serving chief of staff -- that the President himself posed a danger to the national security of the United States, according to White House and intelligence officials intimately familiar with the contents of the conversations. 
The calls caused former top Trump deputies -- including national security advisers H.R. McMaster and John Bolton, Defense Secretary James Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and White House chief of staff John Kelly, as well as intelligence officials -- to conclude that the President was often "delusional," as two sources put it, in his dealings with foreign leaders. The sources said there was little evidence that the President became more skillful or competent in his telephone conversations with most heads of state over time. Rather, he continued to believe that he could either charm, jawbone or bully almost any foreign leader into capitulating to his will, and often pursued goals more attuned to his own agenda than what many of his senior advisers considered the national interest. 
These officials' concerns about the calls, and particularly Trump's deference to Putin, take on new resonance with reports the President may have learned in March that Russia had offered the Taliban bounties to kill US troops in Afghanistan -- and yet took no action. CNN's sources said there were calls between Putin and Trump about Trump's desire to end the American military presence in Afghanistan but they mentioned no discussion of the supposed Taliban bounties. 
By far the greatest number of Trump's telephone discussions with an individual head of state were with Erdogan, who sometimes phoned the White House at least twice a week and was put through directly to the President on standing orders from Trump, according to the sources. Meanwhile, the President regularly bullied and demeaned the leaders of America's principal allies, especially two women: telling Prime Minister Theresa May of the United Kingdom she was weak and lacked courage; and telling German Chancellor Angela Merkel that she was "stupid."

Trump incessantly boasted to his fellow heads of state, including Saudi Arabia's autocratic royal heir Mohammed bin Salman and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, about his own wealth, genius, "great" accomplishments as President, and the "idiocy" of his Oval Office predecessors, according to the sources. 
In his conversations with both Putin and Erdogan, Trump took special delight in trashing former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama and suggested that dealing directly with him -- Trump -- would be far more fruitful than during previous administrations. "They didn't know BS," he said of Bush and Obama -- one of several derisive tropes the sources said he favored when discussing his predecessors with the Turkish and Russian leaders. 
The full, detailed picture drawn by CNN's sources of Trump's phone calls with foreign leaders is consistent with the basic tenor and some substantive elements of a limited number of calls described by former national security adviser John Bolton in his book, "The Room Where It Happened." But the calls described to CNN cover a far longer period than Bolton's tenure, are much more comprehensive — and seemingly more damning -- in their sweep. 
Like Bolton, CNN's sources said that the President seemed to continually conflate his own personal interests -- especially for purposes of re-election and revenge against perceived critics and political enemies -- with the national interest. 
To protect the anonymity of those describing the calls for this report, CNN will not reveal their job titles nor quote them at length directly. More than a dozen officials either listened to the President's phone calls in real time or were provided detailed summaries and rough-text recording printouts of the calls soon after their completion, CNN's sources said. The sources were interviewed by CNN repeatedly over a four-month period extending into June. 
The sources did cite some instances in which they said Trump acted responsibly and in the national interest during telephone discussions with some foreign leaders. CNN reached out to Kelly, McMaster and Tillerson for comment and received no response as of Monday afternoon. Mattis did not comment. 
The White House had not responded to a request for comment as of Monday afternoon. 
One person familiar with almost all the conversations with the leaders of Russia, Turkey, Canada, Australia and western Europe described the calls cumulatively as 'abominations' so grievous to US national security interests that if members of Congress heard from witnesses to the actual conversations or read the texts and contemporaneous notes, even many senior Republican members would no longer be able to retain confidence in the President.

The piece is long, with Bernstein's usual attention to detail, a story researched over several months with multiple named and anonymous sources within the Trump regime itself confirming the facts. It is also a crushing indictment of the Trump regime, and in particular, of Trump himself.

The people who come out looking the worst here are once again the people who enabled Trump time and time again, who knew of this behavior and not only did nothing to stop it, they encouraged it in order to keep him happy, placating a man so unstable and fragile that he remains incapable of anything that isn't of a transactional nature that directly benefits him and his ego.

Pathetic, the whole lot.

They need to go to jail.

Russian To Judgment, Con't

United States intelligence officers and Special Operations forces in Afghanistan alerted their superiors as early as January to a suspected Russian plot to pay bounties to the Taliban to kill American troops in Afghanistan, according to officials briefed on the matter. 
The crucial information that led the spies and commandos to focus on the bounties included the recovery of a large amount of American cash from a raid on a Taliban outpost that prompted suspicions. Interrogations of captured militants and criminals played a central role in making the intelligence community confident in its assessment that the Russians had offered and paid bounties in 2019, another official has said. 
Armed with this information, military and intelligence officials have been reviewing American and other coalition combat casualties since early last year to determine whether any were victims of the plot. Four Americans were killed in combat in early 2020, but the Taliban have not attacked American positions since a February agreement to end the long-running war in Afghanistan. 
The emerging details added to the picture of the classified intelligence assessment, which The New York Times reported on Friday was briefed to President Trump and discussed by the White House’s National Security Council at an interagency meeting in late March. The Trump administration had yet to act against the Russians, the officials said.

January.  The Pentagon knew since January.  The White House lies that "Trump was never briefed" fell apart instantly over the weekend, but now Republicans are starting to bail on Trump over this.

Republicans in Congress demanded more information from the Trump administration about what happened and how the White House planned to respond. 
Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the third-ranking House Republican, said in a Twitter message on Sunday: “If reporting about Russian bounties on U.S. forces is true, the White House must explain: 1. Why weren’t the president or vice president briefed? Was the info in the PDB? 2. Who did know and when? 3. What has been done in response to protect our forces & hold Putin accountable?” 
Multiple Republicans retweeted Ms. Cheney’s post. Representative Daniel Crenshaw, Republican of Texas and a former Navy SEAL, amplified her message, tweeting, “We need answers.” 
On CNN, Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee, said that the reported Russian actions “would be consistent with the Russian practice over the last few years of doing its best secretly to try to undermine Western government, including the United States.”

Trump called the story a hoax on Twitter on Sunday.  That won't fly this time. Even your FOX News loving relatives understand "The Russians paid bounties to the Taliban to kill our troops in Afghanistan and Trump did nothing."  And even if Trump really wasn't briefed, he's still doing nothing.

Ms. Pelosi said that if the president had not, in fact, been briefed, then the country should be concerned that his administration was afraid to share with him information regarding Russia. 
Ms. Pelosi said that the episode underscored Mr. Trump’s accommodating stance toward Russia and that with him, “all roads lead to Putin.” 
“This is as bad as it gets, and yet the president will not confront the Russians on this score, denies being briefed,” she said. “Whether he is or not, his administration knows, and some of our allies who work with us in Afghanistan have been briefed and accept this report.”

The Washington Post not only confirms the Times story, but finds that "several" US troops were killed as a direct result of these bounty payments.

Russian bounties offered to Taliban-linked militants to kill coalition forces in Afghanistan are believed to have resulted in the deaths of several U.S. service members, according to intelligence gleaned from U.S. military interrogations of captured militants in recent months.

Several people familiar with the matter said it was unclear exactly how many Americans or coalition troops from other countries may have been killed or targeted under the program. U.S. forces in Afghanistan suffered a total of 10 deaths from hostile gunfire or improvised bombs in 2018, and 16 in 2019. Two have been killed this year. In each of those years, several service members were also killed by what are known as “green on blue” hostile incidents by members of Afghan security forces, which are sometimes believed to have been infiltrated by the Taliban.

The intelligence was passed up from the U.S. Special Operations forces based in Afghanistan and led to a restricted high-level White House meeting in late March, the people said.

The meeting led to broader discussions about possible responses to the Russian action, ranging from diplomatic expressions of disapproval and warnings, to sanctions, according to two of the people. These people and others who discussed the matter spoke on the condition of anonymity because of its sensitivity.

The disturbing intelligence — which the CIA was tasked with reviewing, and later confirmed — generated disagreement about the appropriate path forward, a senior U.S. official said. The administration’s special envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, preferred confronting the Russians directly about the matter, while some National Security Council officials in charge of Russia were more dismissive of taking immediate action, the official said.

It remained unclear where those discussions have led to date. Verifying such intelligence is a process that can take weeks, typically involving the CIA and the National Security Agency, which captures foreign cellphone and radio communications. Final drafting of any policy options in response would be the responsibility of national security adviser Robert C. O’Brien.

And the Associated Press confirms the story as well: Trump was briefed, discussions and possible solutions were presented, American troops were killed in an incident in 2018 that could have been related to the Russian bounty payments to Taliban militants, and Trump did absolutely nothing as a result.

While Russian meddling in Afghanistan is not a new phenomenon for seasoned U.S. intelligence officials and military commandos, officials said Russian operatives became more aggressive in their desire to contract with the Taliban and members of the Haqqani Network, a militant group that is aligned with the Taliban in Afghanistan and that was designated as a foreign terrorist organization in 2012. Russian operatives are said to have met with Taliban leaders in Doha, Qatar and inside Afghanistan; however, it is not known if the meetings were to discuss bounties.

The officials the AP spoke to said the intelligence community has been investigating an April 2019 attack on an American convoy that killed three U.S. Marines after a car rigged with explosives detonated near their armored vehicles as they were traveling back to Bagram Airfield, the largest U.S. military installation in Afghanistan. Three other U.S. service members were wounded in the attack, along with an Afghan contractor. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack on Twitter. The officials the AP spoke to also said they were looking closely at insider attacks — sometimes called “green-on-blue” incidents — from 2019 to determine if they are also linked to Russian bounties.

In early 2020, members of the elite Naval Special Warfare Development Group, known to the public as SEAL Team Six, raided a Taliban outpost and recovered roughly $500,000. The recovered funds further solidified the suspicions of the American intelligence community that the Russians had offered money to Taliban militants and other linked associations.

One official said the administration discussed several potential responses, but the White House has yet to authorize any step.

As I've said before, the quality of the blackmail that the Russians must have not only on Trump, but the majority of the GOP in Congress right now must be staggering.  Absolutely everyone sat on this story for nearly six months, not a peep.

This one will have legs long into election season.

Breaking: A Supreme Victory...For Now

In a 5-4 decision, US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts pulled...a John Roberts, both saving the country's right to an abortion, while also providing a road map to conservatives on how to end it, as Vox's Ian Millhiser warns. 

The bottom line is that Louisiana's case for state-level TRAP laws restricting four of the state's six abortion service providers out of business was basically identical to that of Texas four years ago, and Roberts had no choice but to honor the previous decision.

Should a future litigant provide a better case by attacking the right to an abortion directly, Roberts all but says he will end abortion in America.

Roberts ultimately concludes that he cannot uphold a law that is nearly word-for-word identical to another law that the Court struck down four years ago. But his opinion is laden with hints that, in a future case, he is likely to vote to restrict — or even eliminate — the constitutional right to an abortion.

Roberts opens his opinion by declaring that he still believes that Whole Woman’s Health was “wrongly decided.” He notes that “neither party has asked us to reassess the constitutional validity of” of the Court’s seminal abortion rights decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992) — a hint that, if future litigants directly attack Casey, Roberts will welcome such a challenge. And he spends as much of his opinion attacking Breyer’s approach to this case as he does explaining why he reluctantly voted to honor stare decisis.

Whole Woman’s Health, Roberts notes, states that “the rule announced in Casey . . . requires that courts consider the burdens a law imposes on abortion access together with the benefits those laws confer.” But balancing these burdens against these benefits, Roberts suggests, is entirely beyond the capacity of the judiciary.

In this context, courts applying a balancing test would be asked in essence to weigh the State’s interests in “protecting the potentiality of human life” and the health of the woman, on the one hand, against the woman’s liberty interest in defining her “own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life” on the other. There is no plausible sense in which anyone, let alone this Court, could objectively assign weight to such imponderable values and no meaningful way to compare them if there were. . . Pretending that we could pull that off would require us to act as legislators, not judges, and would result in nothing other than an “unanalyzed exercise of judicial will” in the guise of a “neutral utilitarian calculus.”

In this sense, Roberts’ opinion hearkens back to Justice Bryon White’s dissenting opinion in Roe v. Wade (1973) itself, which similarly argued that courts are not competent to weight the difficult moral questions presented by the abortion debate. “In a sensitive area such as this, involving as it does issues over which reasonable men may easily and heatedly differ,” White wrote in that dissent, courts should leave the question of abortion rights “with the people and to the political processes the people have devised to govern their affairs.”

So the right to an abortion survives another day, but Roberts’ opinion is less an endorsement of the right than it is a warning that litigants should not overreach. The Chief Justice is unwilling to overrule a very recent precedent simply because one of his colleagues retired. But that does not mean that he will preserve Roe or Casey when a litigant asks him to overrule those decisions outright.

For now, being able to get an abortion in all 50 states remains possible. But Roberts all but says he is ready to overturn Roe v Wade if that question is presented to the court.

Expect that in the next couple of years. And should Donald Trump still be picking justices, forget the entire Civil Rights Era.

It ends.

The Elderly Go Viral

The New York Times finds some 43% of US COVID-19 deaths are either nursing home residents or nursing home workers, three out of seven.

At least 54,000 residents and workers have died from the coronavirus at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities for older adults in the United States, according to a New York Times database. As of June 26, the virus has infected more than 282,000 people at some 12,000 facilities.

Nursing home populations are at a high risk of being infected by — and dying from — the coronavirus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, is known to be particularly lethal to adults in their 60s and older who have underlying health conditions. And it can spread more easily through congregate facilities, where many people live in a confined environment and workers move from room to room.

While 11 percent of the country’s cases have occurred in long-term care facilities, deaths related to Covid-19 in these facilities account for more than 43 percent of the country’s pandemic fatalities.

The share of deaths linked to long-term care facilities for older adults is even starker at the state level. In 24 states, the number of residents and workers who have died accounts for either half or more than half of all deaths from the virus.
Infected people linked to nursing homes also die at a higher rate than the general population. The median case fatality rate — the number of cases divided by the number of deaths — at facilities with reliable data is 17 percent, significantly higher than the 5 percent case fatality rate nationwide.

In the absence of comprehensive data from some states and the federal government, The Times has been assembling its own database of coronavirus cases and deaths at long-term care facilities for older adults. These include nursing homes, assisted-living facilities, memory care facilities, retirement and senior communities and rehabilitation facilities. This tracker will be updated periodically.

Some states, including Colorado, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey and South Carolina, regularly release cumulative data on cases and deaths at specific facilities. New York regularly releases facility-level information about deaths, but not about cases. Ohio, Wisconsin and Minnesota, among others, provide some details on the number of cases at specific facilities — but not on deaths. Others report aggregate totals for their states but provide no information on where the infections or deaths have occurred. Some report very little or nothing at all.

And yes, the states where the majority of COVID-19 deaths are related to nursing homes and other senior care facilities include Kentucky (61%) and Ohio (57%), with Indiana close by at 44%. The states with the largest number of deaths at individual facilities are of course New York and New Jersey, who did a lot of things correctly but utterly failed on protecting these facilities from COVID-19 until it was too late.

Keep in mind that these stats are most likely being wildly under-reported as well, like nearly all COVID-19 fatality stats are.

We have a long way to go on this too.  There will be more deaths.  Lots more.


Sunday, June 28, 2020

Last Call For Lowering The Barr, Con't

Just days after promising to go after Black Lives Matter protesters on federal terrorism charges, Attorney General Bill Barr is doing just that this weekend with arrests and impending prosecutions, starting with federal charges in Washington DC.

The Justice Department has charged four men with destruction of federal property in connection with the attempt on Monday to bring down a statue of former President Andrew Jackson in Lafayette Park near the White House, the US Attorney for Washington, DC and other law enforcement officials announced Saturday.
The attempt to bring down the statue was stopped. 
The DOJ alleged Lee Cantrell, Connor Judd, Ryan Lane and Graham Lloyd, along with other unidentified people, damaged and attempted to tear down the statue on Monday. In a criminal complaint, authorities further alleged Judd was seen on video attempting to pull down the statue, and Lane was seen on video tying a rope to the statue and pulling on another rope tied to to it, according to a DOJ press release. 
The department also alleged that Lloyd was seen destroying the wheels of cannons located at the statue's base as well as pulling on ropes trying to bring down the statue.
The statue of Jackson, the seventh president of the United States, has become controversial because of his harsh treatment of Native Americans. 
Judd is the only one of the four men charged who had been apprehended as of Saturday, according to the Justice Department. He was arrested Friday and appeared in DC Superior Court on Saturday, according to the release. His case will be transferred to US District Court where he will make his initial appearance on Monday, the DOJ said. 
CNN is attempting to reach the four men charged for comment. 
President Donald Trump re-tweeted the announcement of the charges and has re-tweeted several law enforcement posts of posters of men wanted for questioning regarding the incident. Since the Monday incident, he has repeatedly criticized the protesters who tried to topple the statue. 
"The United States Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia will not stand idly by and allow our national monuments to be vandalized and destroyed. This Office remains steadfast in its commitment to protect the sacred First Amendment right of individuals to peacefully protest, but these charges should serve as a warning to those who choose to desecrate the statues and monuments that adorn our nation's capital: your violent behavior and criminal conduct will not be tolerated," acting US Attorney Michael Sherwin said in a statement.

Again, the move is clear: by equating these acts to acts of deadly terrorism by armed white supremacist Boogaloo insurgents, Barr is hoping to destroy the protests and support for the protesters.

More terrorism charges were filed in Oklahoma City, this time by state officials, taking their cue for Barr.

Protesters blamed for the violence that broke out in Oklahoma City the last weekend in May were charged Friday with terrorism, rioting and assault.

If convicted of the felony offenses, they could be sentenced to years in prison.

Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater made the decisions himself on the charges in a get-tough approach meant to deter others from going too far during protests in the future.

"This is not Seattle," Prater said Friday. "We're not putting up with this lawlessness here."

Also charged Friday were five defendants identified as involved in the painting of murals in downtown Oklahoma City this week. They are accused in an incitement to riot charge of interfering with a police sergeant who was trying to take a homicide witness for an interview at police headquarters Tuesday.

In court affidavits filed with the charges, police claimed that several agitators during the May 30 protest stayed to the center to keep the crowd in an agitated state.

"Several people were carrying flags that were identified as belonging to the following groups: Antifa, Soviet Union (communism), American Indian Movement, Anarcho-Communism (solid red) and the original Oklahoma flag ... currently adopted by Oklahoma Socialists," police reported.

"Several known supporters of anti-establishment organizations were present in the crowd."

Expect a lot more of this in the days and weeks ahead.  The message is that protesters risk long prison sentences for opposing Trump. It's a prime fascist tactic in regimes, and we've reached that point now.

Orange Meltdown, Con't

The Trump regime is so awful that they literally removed social distancing stickers at Trump's Tulsa rally last weekend to pack everyone in tightly, exposing the audience to COVID-19 on purpose just to keep from hurting Trump's ego. And then the arena was only one-third full anyway, and the social distancing would have been fine, but the ego on our malignant narcissist trash fire of a "leader" was too fragile to handle that.

In the hours before President Trump’s rally in Tulsa, his campaign directed the removal of thousands of “Do Not Sit Here, Please!” stickers from seats in the arena that were intended to establish social distance between rallygoers, according to video and photos obtained by The Washington Post and a person familiar with the event.

The removal contradicted instructions from the management of the BOK Center, the 19,000-seat arena in downtown Tulsa where Trump held his rally on June 20. At the time, coronavirus cases were rising sharply in Tulsa County, and Trump faced intense criticism for convening a large crowd for an indoor political rally, his first such event since the start of the pandemic.

As part of its safety plan, arena management had purchased 12,000 do-not-sit stickers for Trump’s rally, intended to keep people apart by leaving open seats between attendees. On the day of the rally, event staff had already affixed them on nearly every other seat in the arena when Trump’s campaign told event management to stop and then began removing the stickers, hours before the president’s arrival, according to a person familiar with the event who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters.

In a video clip obtained by The Washington Post, two men — one in a suit and one wearing a badge and a face mask — can be seen pulling stickers off seats in a section of the arena. It is unclear who those two men are. When Trump took the stage on Saturday evening, the crowd was clustered together and attendees were not leaving empty seats between themselves.

The actions by Trump’s campaign were first reported Friday by Billboard Magazine. As rally preparations were underway, Trump’s campaign staff intervened with the venue manager, ASM Global, and told them to stop labeling seats in this way, Doug Thornton, executive vice president of ASM Global, told the magazine.

“They also told us that they didn’t want any signs posted saying we should social distance in the venue,” Thornton said. “The campaign went through and removed the stickers.”

A spokesman for ASM Global declined to comment.

Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh did not directly respond to questions about the sticker removal.

“The rally was in full compliance with local requirements. In addition, every rally attendee received a temperature check prior to admission, was given a face mask, and provided ample access to hand sanitizer,” Murtaugh said in an emailed statement.

In a separate statement, the campaign said: “There were signs posted and we are not aware of any campaign staff asking that they be removed.”

Trump held his Tulsa rally despite opposition by Oklahoma health authorities and residents who feared that convening a large crowd indoors could accelerate the spread of the coronavirus. The number of coronavirus cases in Tulsa County was spiking in the days leading up to the rally and has continued to increase since.

The regime had them removed and lied about it, because they lie about everything.  They purposely exposed the people at the event to COVID-19, and lo and behold, people are testing positive after being at rally, including several Trump staff and at least one reporter on the scene.

Trump knows he is losing. And that makes him infinitely more dangerous.

Behind the scenes, Trump and his team are taking steps to correct course. In the week since his Tulsa rally, the president has grudgingly conceded that he’s behind, according to three people who are familiar with his thinking. Trump, who vented for days about the event, is starting to take a more hands-on role in the campaign and has expressed openness to adding more people to the team. He has also held meetings recently focusing on his efforts in individual battleground states.

Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, who effectively oversees the campaign from the White House, is expected to play an even more active role.

Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale was blamed internally for the Tulsa rally failure. Some people complained about him trumpeting that 1 million people had requested tickets, a boast that fell flat when thousands of seats sat empty during Trump's speech.

Parscale has been a target of some Trump allies who argue the campaign is lacking a coherent strategy and direction. But people close to the president insist that Parscale's job is safe for now. Trump, who visited the campaign’s Arlington, Virginia headquarters a few months ago, has told people he came away impressed with the sophistication of the organization.

Parscale, whose background is as a digital strategist, has received some reinforcements in recent weeks. Longtime Trump adviser Bill Stepien was given added responsibilities in the campaign, including working with political director Chris Carr and the Republican National Committee on voter turnout. And Jason Miller, a veteran of the 2016 campaign, was brought back to serve as a chief political strategist, a position that had been unfilled.

But those internal moves have done little to calm Republican jitters about the president's personal performance. Fox News host and Trump favorite Tucker Carlson issued a blunt warning on his show this week that the president “could well lose this election.” South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, another close Trump ally, told reporters that the president needs to make the race “more about policy and less about your personality.”

Trump's team insists the president’s numbers are bound to improve as he steps up his public events and intensifies his attacks on Biden. People involved in the campaign say they have settled on two main avenues to go after the former vice president: That he’s beholden to liberals who want to do away with law and order, and that he’s a consummate Washington insider.

The campaign has begun a massive TV ad campaign going after the 77-year-old former vice president, including over his mental capacity and his nearly five-decade political career. Hoping to make inroads with African-American voters, Trump's campaign is running ads slamming Biden over his central role in the 1994 crime bill.

The commercials are airing in an array of states including Georgia, a traditionally red state where Trump suddenly finds himself in a fight. The cash-flush campaign is expected to remain on the TV airwaves in a host of key states through the election.

And on it goes.  Trump is now on the defensive, and more than ever he's in danger of making a precipitous move that will drastically change America forever.

Sunday Long Read: The World Goes Viral

American medical and public health officials weren't the only ones to miss COVID-19's asymptomatic spread in the first two months of the year, but the response from different countries varied almost as much as the countries themselves did. But in nearly every country, the medical experts were initially ignored, and the world is paying for it today.

Dr. Camilla Rothe was about to leave for dinner when the government laboratory called with the surprising test result. Positive. It was Jan. 27. She had just discovered Germany’s first case of the new coronavirus.

But the diagnosis made no sense. Her patient, a businessman from a nearby auto parts company, could have been infected by only one person: a colleague visiting from China. And that colleague should not have been contagious.

The visitor had seemed perfectly healthy during her stay in Germany. No coughing or sneezing, no signs of fatigue or fever during two days of long meetings. She told colleagues that she had started feeling ill after the flight back to China. Days later, she tested positive for the coronavirus.

Scientists at the time believed that only people with symptoms could spread the coronavirus. They assumed it acted like its genetic cousin, SARS.

“People who know much more about coronaviruses than I do were absolutely sure,” recalled Dr. Rothe, an infectious disease specialist at Munich University Hospital.

But if the experts were wrong, if the virus could spread from seemingly healthy carriers or people who had not yet developed symptoms, the ramifications were potentially catastrophic. Public-awareness campaigns, airport screening and stay-home-if-you’re sick policies might not stop it. More aggressive measures might be required — ordering healthy people to wear masks, for instance, or restricting international travel.

Dr. Rothe and her colleagues were among the first to warn the world. But even as evidence accumulated from other scientists, leading health officials expressed unwavering confidence that symptomless spreading was not important.

In the days and weeks to come, politicians, public health officials and rival academics disparaged or ignored the Munich team
. Some actively worked to undermine the warnings at a crucial moment, as the disease was spreading unnoticed in French churches, Italian soccer stadiums and Austrian ski bars. A cruise ship, the Diamond Princess, would become a deadly harbinger of symptomless spreading.

Interviews with doctors and public health officials in more than a dozen countries show that for two crucial months — and in the face of mounting genetic evidence — Western health officials and political leaders played down or denied the risk of symptomless spreading. Leading health agencies including the World Health Organization and the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control provided contradictory and sometimes misleading advice. A crucial public health discussion devolved into a semantic debate over what to call infected people without clear symptoms.

The two-month delay was a product of faulty scientific assumptions, academic rivalries and, perhaps most important, a reluctance to accept that containing the virus would take drastic measures. The resistance to emerging evidence was one part of the world’s sluggish response to the virus.

It is impossible to calculate the human toll of that delay, but models suggest that earlier, aggressive action might have saved tens of thousands of lives. Countries like Singapore and Australia, which used testing and contact-tracing and moved swiftly to quarantine seemingly healthy travelers, fared far better than those that did not.

And as the US now faces close to 50,000 new cases a day, the daily death toll will likewise follow into several thousands as we head into the heart of summer.

Imaging what the flu season this winter will be like.

Black Lives Still Matter, Con't

As Black Lives Matter protests continue around the nation, the country has been focused on Louisville, where Breonna Taylor was killed inside her home by police in a no-knock raid in March. Late last week, a group of counter-protesters promised to show up armed on Saturday at Jefferson Square Park, where peaceful protests have been continuing for weeks.

Counterprotesters that include "armed patriot groups" may come to downtown Louisville Saturday, according to social media posts and a Facebook event acknowledged by police. 
The posts suggest a counterprotest to the ongoing racial justice demonstrations in Jefferson Square Park over the Breonna Taylor shooting.

Screenshots of Facebook posts that were shared with The Courier Journal show users discussing the protesters who have set up tents and camped out in the park over the past few weeks to raise awareness about the deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. 
"They have til the 27th to have their fun," one poster said. "On the 27th we will have ours." 
"The tents need to be destroyed," another said.

Saturday rolled around, and Black Lives Matter protesters remained peaceful, but ready.

Hundreds of anti-racist protesters lined a downtown Louisville block on Saturday morning, prepared for a confrontation that didn't come. 
Assembled at Jefferson Square Park, the crowd — comprised of young and old, Black and white, and some people with guns — expected to face off against an armed "patriot militia," which earlier in the week said it would descend on Louisville in the morning to confront those protesting in the wake of Breonna Taylor's death. 
But by mid-afternoon, no members of the "American Freedom Fighters," who organize themselves using a private Facebook group, had turned up near the downtown park.

Later in the day, a LMPD spokesperson confirmed that there was a smaller gathering of about 30 people in Thurman Hutchins Park for a few hours midday, but that group dispersed and never came downtown.

Unfortunately, that wasn't the end of the matter.  At least one armed individual did show up later Saturday evening, and at least one person is dead as a result as the gunman fired several shots.

Two people were shot, one fatally, in downtown Louisville Saturday evening, according to police. 
According to police, around 9 p.m., shots were fired in Jefferson Square Park. Personnel from the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department performed live-saving measures on a male victim who eventually died. 
Shortly thereafter, police received reports of another person shot at the Hall of Justice. That person was taken to University Hospital with non-life threatening injuries. 
"Officers cleared the park completely and have secured the entire area so homicide detectives can conduct their investigation," LMPD spokesman Lamont Washington wrote Saturday evening at 11:27 p.m. "Detectives are trying to gather as much information as possible in order to identify all who were involved in the incident." 
Washington added that the park will remain closed for the next several hours, and that police will provide additional information in the morning as it becomes available.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said in a statement Saturday evening that he is "deeply saddened by the violence that erupted in Jefferson Square Park tonight, where those who have been voicing their concerns have been gathered." 
"It is a tragedy that this area of peaceful protest is now a crime scene," Fischer said. "My thanks to the first responders who assisted at the scene. I will have more to say tomorrow, as additional information becomes available."

We'll see what LMPD and Mayor Fischer have to say this morning, but right now I am furious. Yes, this could have had nothing to do with the protests, it could have been an altercation or any number of things.

But in my mind, this is clearly somebody who saw the news reports about the right-wing counter-protesters who didn't show at Jefferson Park during the day on Saturday and then went to the park to hurt or kill people on purpose, and at least one person is now dead as a result.

This was a terrorist attack. And you can bet there are a hell of a lot of people in this state and around the country who are cheering this on, and are even hoping that the LMPD never catch the person who did this.

And no, I don't really expect the LMPD to make arrests.  After all, they've had a murder suspect known for three months now and haven't lifted a finger against Breonna Taylor's killers other than to fire the guy, and even then he'll just get hired somewhere else.

I've learned years ago not to expect justice when it comes to Black America being targeted by racists, by police, and by racist police.  Not since the Rodney King verdict happened when I was in high school, and that was more than 25 years ago.

Black Lives Still Matter.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Last Call For Lowering The Barr, Con't

Attorney General Bill Barr figures that he can destroy Black Lives Matter by equating them to "anti-government extremists" like the white supremacist Boogaloo movement, justifying overwhelming force to stop protests and arrest dozens, maybe hundreds as "terrorists".

Attorney General William P. Barr on Friday directed the formation of a task force that will be dedicated to countering “anti-government extremists,” escalating federal law enforcement’s response to the violence that has sometimes marked nationwide protests against police brutality and racism, according to a memo obtained by The Washington Post.

In the memo, Barr wrote that amid peaceful demonstrations, anti-government extremists had “engaged in indefensible acts of violence designed to undermine public order.”

“Among other lawless conduct, these extremists have violently attacked police officers and other government officials, destroyed public and private property, and threatened innocent people,” Barr wrote in a directive to all the Justice Department’s law enforcement components and U.S. attorneys. “Although these extremists profess a variety of ideologies, they are united in their opposition to the core constitutional values of a democratic society governed by law. . . . Some pretend to profess a message of freedom and progress, but they are in fact forces of anarchy, destruction, and coercion.”

Barr’s memo said that, in the past month, the Justice Department had disrupted extremists “of all persuasions,” and he singled out two: “those who support the ‘Boogaloo,’ ” a radical right-wing group whose adherents openly anticipate civil war, and “those who self identify as Antifa,” a far-left-leaning ideology that encompasses communists, socialists and anarchists.
“Some of these violent extremists, moreover, may be fortified by foreign entities seeking to sow chaos and disorder in our country,” Barr wrote, though he offered no specifics.

Barr has previously warned of a “witch’s brew” of extremist groups taking advantage of the protests to incite mayhem, and he has singled out in particular antifa, which President Trump also has sought to blame for violence at demonstrations. That has drawn some criticism, because of more than 120 people the department has charged federally with protest related crimes, none has been alleged to have ties to an organized antifa group, according to public summaries of the cases.
The vast majority of those charged seem to be individual actors intent on sowing chaos. And they represent a minuscule fraction of the thousands who have peacefully protested police violence and racism throughout the country.

According to Barr’s memo, the task force will be led by Craig Carpenito, the U.S. attorney for New Jersey, and Erin Nealy Cox, the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Texas, and it will include representatives from the FBI and federal prosecutor shops across the country. Barr wrote that it would develop information about “extremist individuals, networks, and movements” and share that data with local law enforcement. The group will also provide training and resources to local authorities to help prosecute anti-government extremists, Barr wrote.

“The ultimate goal of the task force will be not only to enable prosecutions of extremists who engage in violence, but to understand these groups well enough that we can stop such violence before it occurs and ultimately eliminate it as a threat to public safety and the rule of law,” Barr wrote.

It's that last paragraph that gives away the game.  If Barr truly meant this in regard to the Boogaloo movement, then I'd actually be impressed. But by creating the false equivalency to Black Lives Matter and Antifa protesters being just as "extremist" he is opening the door for treating protesters as terrorists at the federal level.

What the Trump regime wants to do is to turn America against the protests.  It's worked every time before, but so far this time it hasn't. Barr is hoping that mass arrests covering the news will make America forget about mass deaths from COVID-19.

It won't work, but he can cause a lot of grief in the meantime.

Black Lives Still Matter, Con't

The Black Lives Matter movement has convinced several major corporations to pull advertising from social media networks in response to Facebook and Twitter both refusing to deal with white supremacist hate speech and foreign disinformation and voter suppression propaganda online, and it's costing these media platforms tens of billions of dollars as a result.

Facebook watched as $56 billion was wiped off its market value on Friday after a slew of major advertisers said they would be boycotting the social network.

The platform's stock price plunged by more than 8 percent, with shares expected to cost $212.50 a piece when markets open on Monday, down from $235 when markets closed on Thursday.

Bloomberg reported that Facebook's value had fallen by $56 billion, adding that the downturn had also taken $7.2 billion off of Mark Zuckerberg's net worth.

The share fall was the largest the company had witnessed in several months, and appeared to be triggered in part by Unilever and Coca-Cola's moves to join an advertising boycott of the social media platform.

In a statement published yesterday, Unilever said: "We have decided that starting now through at least the end of the year, we will not run brand advertising in social media newsfeed platforms Facebook, Instagram and Twitter in the U.S.

"Continuing to advertise on these platforms at this time would not add value to people and society."

Coca-Cola's CEO James Quincey said the soda giant would be pausing all of its social media advertising for at least 30 days, adding that his firm "expected greater accountability and transparency from our social media partners."

Unilever and Coca-Cola were the latest to join an advertising boycott of Facebook led by several civil rights groups—including the Anti-Defamation League, the NAACP and Sleeping Giants. The campaign dubbed "Stop Hate for Profit" urges businesses to cease advertising on Facebook services in July, and is critical of Facebook's record on policing its platform.

When you cost a company $56 billion, you get their attention, and they finally listen to you.

Reacting to the raft of advertisers boycotting Facebook, Zuckerberg unveiled new measures for countering voter suppression, misinformation and other content deemed harmful.

"We already restrict certain types of content in ads that we allow in regular posts, but we want to do more to prohibit the kind of divisive and inflammatory language that has been used to sow discord," Zuckberg said in a post yesterday. "So today we're prohibiting a wider category of hateful content in ads."

He added that the company was specifically prohibiting claims that people of specific races, nationalities and minority groups pose a threat to others under its advertising policy.

The Facebook founder also said newsworthy content that would otherwise violate the platform's rules, including statements from politicians, would now be labeled and kept up, unless it incited voter suppression or violence.

"There is no newsworthiness exemption to content that incites violence or suppresses voting," Zuckerberg said. "Even if a politician or government official says it, if we determine that content may lead to violence or deprive people of their right to vote, we will take that content down."

We'll see if Zuckerberg follows through, but it's important to note that years of asking Facebook nicely, waiting for the Trump regime to "do something" about it, waiting for Congress to actually do something about it, those executive and legislative actions turning into threats, boycotting Facebook, exposing that they didn't do anything, all of it, accomplished precisely nothing.

One week of getting sponsors to pull ads on Facebook, made possible only through nationwide protests against systemic racism and police brutality, a move that dented Facebook's market cap by tens of billions and enough to cost Zuckerberg's net worth billions personally?

That worked.  Or at least, it got a further response than any so far, because white America is seeing how Trump is the perfect example of systemic racism in the country and they are finally opening their eyes.

Black Lives Still Matter.

Your Local Restaurant Goes Viral

An analysis of 30 million Chase bank credit transactions cross-referenced with John Hopkins University's COVID-19 case tracker finds in-person restaurant spending is the single biggest financial indicator of future COVID-19 infections, period.

Higher restaurant spending appears to be linked to a faster spread of the coronavirus, according to a JPMorgan study.

Analyst Jesse Edgerton analyzed data from 30 million Chase credit and debit cardholders and from Johns Hopkins University’s case tracker. He found that increased restaurant spending in a state predicted a rise in new infections there three weeks later.

He also said restaurant spending was the strongest predictor across all categories of card spending.
The United States set a record for the single highest day of new infections on Wednesday. States in the South and West, including California, Texas and Florida, are seeing a surge of new cases and hospitalizations related to the virus.

According to the research note, Louisiana, West Virginia and Arizona showed the smallest relative declines in restaurant spending by Chase cardholders compared with the year-earlier period, while the District of Columbia and Massachusetts saw the sharpest drops.

Edgerton said in-person restaurant spending was “particularly predictive.”

The NPD Group found that transactions for the week ended June 14 were still improving at full-service chain restaurants in Arizona, California and Florida, even as those states reported spikes in new cases. The full-service segment was hardest hit by dining room closures and has taken the longest to recover.

In other words, the more people go out to eat or to party at bars as states reopen their economies, the more people are getting sick.

Restaurants and bars should have never reopened for in-person seating, period. Not as early as they did in nearly all states.  Now we're in the middle of record numbers of new COVID-19 infections and they are skyrocketing, with more than 40,000 new cases on Friday, the first time we've crossed that number.

It will only get worse over the next couple of weeks.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Last Call For Russian To Judgment, Con't

Vladimir Putin offered bounties to Taliban militia groups in Afghanistan to target and kill US and NATO troops and wreck any peace deal between the Taliban and the US.

Trump knew back in March. He has done nothing about it.

American intelligence officials have concluded that a Russian military intelligence unit secretly offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing coalition forces in Afghanistan — including targeting American troops — amid the peace talks to end the long-running war there, according to officials briefed on the matter.

The United States concluded months ago that the Russian unit, which has been linked to assassination attempts and other covert operations in Europe intended to destabilize the West or take revenge on turncoats, had covertly offered rewards for successful attacks last year.

Islamist militants, or armed criminal elements closely associated with them, are believed to have collected some bounty money, the officials said. Twenty Americans were killed in combat in Afghanistan in 2019, but it was not clear which killings were under suspicion.

The intelligence finding was briefed to President Trump, and the White House’s National Security Council discussed the problem at an interagency meeting in late March, the officials said. Officials developed a menu of potential options — starting with making a diplomatic complaint to Moscow and a demand that it stop, along with an escalating series of sanctions and other possible responses, but the White House has yet to authorize any step, the officials said.

An operation to incentivize the killing of American and other NATO troops would be a significant and provocative escalation of what American and Afghan officials have said is Russian support for the Taliban, and it would be the first time the Russian spy unit was known to have orchestrated attacks on Western troops.

Any involvement with the Taliban that resulted in the deaths of American troops would also be a huge escalation of Russia’s so-called hybrid war against the United States, a strategy of destabilizing adversaries through a combination of such tactics as cyberattacks, the spread of fake news and covert and deniable military operations.

The Kremlin had not been made aware of the accusations, said Dmitry Peskov, the press secretary for President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. “If someone makes them, we’ll respond,” Mr. Peskov said. A Taliban spokesman did not respond to messages seeking comment.

Spokespeople at the National Security Council, the Pentagon, the State Department and the C.I.A. declined to comment.

So yeah. Russians paid Taliban militias to kill US and NATO troops, and the militias collected some cash.   Putin paid terrorists to kill US/NATO troops, and Trump has done absolutely nothing about it.

It also means Republicans in Congress knew about it, at the minimum Mitch McConnell and Senate Foreign Affairs chair Jim Risch, and they did nothing.

So who leaked the story?

My guess is now outgoing House Democratic Foreign Affairs Chair Eliot Engel, who lost his primary this week, he was absolutely crushed by newcomer Jamaal Bowman after a 32-year career, suffering a 35-point loss.

Engel ditched his NY-16 district during the height of the NYC COVID-19 epidemic and hid out in Maryland, and then was caught on hot mic saying he wouldn't even be at a news conference of community leaders on police reform in his district if he didn't have a primary challenger.

The voters absolutely destroyed him for it. So, Engel figured he had nothing left to lose and figured he'd hurt Trump on the way out. It's not a coincidence this story blows up just days after Engel loses his primary.

I bet there's a lot more Engel is sitting on.

Orange Meltdown, Con't

President Donald Trump canceled a planned trip to New Jersey on Friday, a decision the White House said was unrelated to a new order requiring visitors to the Garden State to quarantine after being in states with increasing numbers of coronavirus cases.

Trump had been scheduled to fly Friday afternoon on Air Force One to Morristown, New Jersey, and then planned to stay the weekend at his golf course in Bedminster.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy had told CNBC earlier in the day that his quarantine order would not have applied to Trump, because “by any definition the president of the United States is an essential worker.”

White House spokesman Judd Deere said the trip’s cancellation “had nothing to do with that” quarantine order.

Two days ago, Deere said that Trump still planned to go to New Jersey despite the order mandating that visitors who have been in states with high numbers of coronavirus cases quarantine for 14 days.

Murphy’s order mirrored identical directives issued this week by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont.

Phil Murphy clearly folded anyway, and Trump still canceled his trip to his golf resort in Jersey because of pique.

My guess is somebody close to Trump tested positive for COVID-19 and that he wants to make sure he's not sick. I'm sure he'll enjoy parking his orange ass in front of the TV to tweet all weekend anyway, so what else is new?

The Country Goes Viral, Con't

As I've been warning for months now, "re-opening the economy" in states and the effective end of social distancing, especially in red states, has led directly to a massive spike in COVID-19 cases, which will translate very soon into a massive spike in COVID-19 deaths.

The coronavirus pandemic is getting dramatically worse in almost every corner of the U.S.

The big picture: The U.S. today is getting closer to the worst-case scenario envisioned in the spring — a nationwide crisis, made worse by a vacuum of political leadership, threatening to overwhelm hospitals and spread out of control. 
Nationwide, cases are up 30% compared to the beginning of this month, and dramatically worsening outbreaks in several states are beginning to strain hospital capacity — the same concern that prompted the nationwide lockdown in the first place. 
This is the grimmest map in the eight weeks since Axios began tracking the change in new cases in every state.

By the numbers: Over half the country — 26 states — have seen their coronavirus caseloads increase over the past week. 
New cases are up 77% in Arizona, 75% in Michigan, 70% in Texas and 66% in Florida. 
California, which has seen steady increases for weeks, recorded a 47% jump in new infections over the past week. 
These steep increases come after weeks of steadily climbing cases or back-and-forth results across the South, Midwest and West Coast. Only the New York region and parts of New England — the earliest hotspots — have consistently managed to get their caseloads down throughout May and June.

Increased testing does not explain away these numbers. Other data points make clear that we’re seeing a worsening outbreak, not simply getting better data. 
Seven states, including Arizona, have set records for the number of people hospitalized with coronavirus, and the percentage of all tests that come back positive is also increasing. 
The whole point of the national lockdown was to buy time to improve testing and give infection levels a chance to level off without overwhelming hospitals. That worked in New York, but as other parts of the country begin to see their outbreaks intensify later, the same risks are back at the forefront.

Again, we're now approaching the worst-case scenario, where hospitals in multiple states, in multiple areas of the country, are inundated with COVID-19 ICU patients, and the death rate skyrockets because there are no additional resources to treat people.

We're literally coming up on instances where treatable patients will instead die on gurneys in hospital hallways, and it will happen all across the country.

States are scrambling to try to stave off a preventable apocalypse.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott paused any further phases to reopen the state on Thursday and issued an order to ensure hospital beds be available for Covid-19 patients. 
Abbott's moves came as his state, California and Florida -- the three-most populous -- set records for new coronavirus cases daily amid fears of "apocalyptic" surges in major Texas cities if the trend continues.  
California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a budget emergency to free up $16 billion to fight the pandemic, according to a release from his office. 
And the head of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the US has only counted about 10% of coronavirus infections. That might mean as many as 20 million Americans have been infected. 
Officially, coronavirus has killed at least 122,238 people and infected almost 2.4 million nationwide, according to Johns Hopkins.

 July is going to be horrific.  August and September may be even worse.


Thursday, June 25, 2020

Last Call For Black Lives Still Matter, Con't

Our law enforcement agencies and military are full of hateful racists who literally cannot wait for the day when they can start butchering black and brown bodies in the streets. It's why they signed up, to serve and protect not the country, but white supremacy.

Three members of a North Carolina police department have been fired after a department audit of a video recording captured one of the officers saying a civil war was necessary to wipe Black people off the map and that he was ready. 
The Wilmington Police Department took the action on Tuesday against Cpl. Jessie Moore, and officers Kevin Piner and Brian Gilmore. Each was accused of violating standards of conduct, criticism and use of inappropriate jokes and slurs. After conferring with the city council, Wilmington City Manager Sterling Cheatham cleared Police Chief Donny Williams to release the details. 
“When I first learned of these conversations, I was shocked, saddened and disgusted,” Williams said at a news conference on Wednesday. “There is no place for this behavior in our agency or our city and it will not be tolerated.” 
According to documents released by the police department, a sergeant was conducting a video audit as part of a monthly inspection and was reviewing footage from Piner’s car that had been classified as “accidental activation.” After the sergeant listened to the conversation and determined comments made by Piner and Moore were “extremely racist,” she contacted the department administrator for the camera system. 
At the 46-minute mark of the video, Piner and Gilmore began talking from their respective cars, at which time Piner criticized the department, saying its only concern was “kneeling down with the black folks.” About 30 minutes later, Piner received a phone call from Moore, according to the investigation, a segment in which Moore referred to a Black female as a “negro.” He also referred to the woman by using a racial slur. He repeated the use of the slur in describing a Black magistrate, and Moore used a gay slur to describe the magistrate as well. 
Later, according to the investigation, Piner told Moore that he feels a civil war is coming and that he is ready. Piner said he was going to buy a new assault rifle, and soon “we are just going to go out and start slaughtering them (expletive)” Blacks. “I can’t wait. God, I can’t wait.” Moore responded that he wouldn’t do that. 
Piner then told Moore that he felt a civil war was needed to “wipe them off the (expletive) map. That’ll put them back about four or five generations.” Moore told Piner he was “crazy,” and the recording stopped a short time later. 
According to police, the officers admitted it was their voices on the video and didn’t deny any of the content. While the officers denied that they were racists, they blamed their comments on the stress on law enforcement in light of the protests over the death of George Floyd. Floyd, a Black man, died last month after a Minneapolis police officer put his knee on Floyd’s neck for several minutes. 
In addition to being fired, cases involving the Wilmington officers will be reviewed by the district attorney’s office to determine if they committed any crimes or showed bias toward criminal defendants. Williams said he will recommend the three officers not be rehired by notifying the N.C. Criminal Justice Training and Standards Commission about their behavior.

Understand that this exactly what these assholes and thousands, if not millions like them want: open season to kill us, to unleash their fever dreams of slaughter on targets they see as less that human and deserving of only of death.

We are vermin to them. I am vermin to them.  To be exterminated.  Being black in America means every possible interaction with a cop means you could come in contact with someone like any of these three assholes, but especially with someone like Kevin Piner, who obviously became a cop in order to live out his power fantasies of white supremacy and to make them a reality.

Is every cop like Piner?  No.  But is every cop protecting another cop who believes what Piner does, or enabling other cops to protect a cop like Piner from facing the consequences for their hatred of black people? Nearly all of them are.

My life matters. I matter. I use my voice to write and document the atrocities daily, and I'd do so even if nobody read this blog, just for my own sanity. Somebody has to say "this is wrong" because it is wrong.

We need more people to say that.

Particularly in law enforcement and the military. Stop covering for these assholes.

This is wrong.

Black Lives Matter.
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