Saturday, February 29, 2020

Last Call For Primary Positions

Joe Biden rolled to a big win in South Carolina, and billionaire Tom Steyer is folding his cards and cashing out.  Even Jon Chait is apologizing to the universe for throwing dirt on Biden's grave a bit early.

After Joe Biden finished an astonishing fourth in Iowa and then in fifth place in New Hampshire, I wrote a postmortem for his campaign. It now looks like one of the most wrong things I have ever written. It was pointed out to me after I published that I described Biden’s campaign in the past tense, something I did not plan or realize beforehand. It simply seemed obvious nobody could come back from such a catastrophe — least of all Joe Biden.

After Biden’s South Carolina victory, the first primary he has ever won in his three presidential campaigns, things look quite different. The status of Biden’s campaign has not only been upgraded to “alive” — at this point he is the primary, and probably the sole, alternative to Bernie Sanders. At the risk of overreacting in the opposite direction, Biden appears to have taken control of the Democrat Party’s center-left voters so decisively none of his mainstream rivals will be able to sustain a rationale for their candidacy. Michael Bloomberg, Amy Klobuchar, Pete Buttigieg — all of whom have made Biden-esque pitches to the electorate — will face enormous pressure to leave the race after Super Tuesday, and possibly even before.

The mistake many of us made with regard to Biden was viewing his campaign through the prism of age. Biden looks and acts much older than Bloomberg, Sanders (who has looked exactly 85 years old since the 1980s), and even Trump, who also appears to be experiencing rapid cognitive decline. Biden campaigned unevenly and delivered uncomfortably meandering performances at the debates that often worsened as each debate dragged on. It seemed intuitive that the pattern of decline would also apply to Biden’s campaign. His best day would be his first, and he would slowly exhaust the supply of pent-up goodwill that was his primary asset.

But whatever his limitations, Biden has not gotten worse. His last debate performance was his best. It was almost good.

The heart of Biden’s claim to the mainstream Democratic mantle is his impressive performance with African-Americans, who had little representation in the previous three contests. They are not attracted to Biden out of mere nostalgia, gratitude, or familiarity. Black voters in the state — especially older ones, who have the closest personal experience with overt white supremacy — have thought carefully about the primacy of ousting Trump over every other goal, as well as their role in that process.

This conclusion is not me reading my views onto them. Pay attention to what voters there have told reporters like Astead Herndon, Eugene Robinson, and others. Robinson described the mood of voters he met as “urgent pragmatism” to end a presidency that is reversing decades of racial progress. “Black voters know white voters better than white voters know themselves,” one voter told Herndon. “So yeah, we’ll back Biden, because we know who white America will vote for in the general election in a way they may not tell a pollster or the media.”

It's that second-to-last paragraph that shows Chait knows damn well Biden wasn't done yet, and most of all, black voters, hadn't weighed in yet in Iowa and New Hampshire when we're the backbone of this party and have been for decades.

Sanders's win in Nevada is significant, and he still has a lot of delegates he can pick up in California and Texas.  But Biden has put the marker down as the Not-Sanders, and there's a lot of territory in that area Biden can cover.

It would be different if Sanders was racking up majority wins.  He's not.  Neither is Biden by any means, and Bloomberg is essentially replacing Steyer now as the billionaire in the race, but the fight is now truly on.  Super Tuesday results are 72 hours away, and after that we'll have a real idea of who will be left.

Out Of The Sandbox

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the US are about to sign a peace deal with the Taliban, in a move that could finally lead to the end of the nearly 20-year war in Afghanistan.

After a week-long deal to reduce violence across Afghanistan, the U.S. and the Taliban are set to sign a historic agreement Saturday that would see U.S. troops start to withdraw, according to a statement issued Friday afternoon by President Donald Trump
"Soon, at my direction, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will witness the signing of an agreement with representatives of the Taliban, while Secretary of Defense Mark Esper will issue a joint declaration with the government of Afghanistan. If the Taliban and the government of Afghanistan live up to these commitments, we will have a powerful path forward to end the war in Afghanistan and bring our troops home," Trump said. 
Pompeo is headed now to Doha, Qatar, where the U.S. and the militant group have engaged in talks for over a year and a half and the signing ceremony is expected to take place. At the same time, Esper is expected in that joint statement to reaffirm U.S. support for the Afghan government, long rejected by the Taliban and sidelined from their talks with U.S. negotiators. 
The agreement with the militant group that harbored the al Qaeda operatives responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks comes after over 18 years of war. The Trump administration hopes it is poised to reshape Afghanistan, leading to national peace negotiations and ending any Taliban safe haven for terrorists that threaten the U.S. homeland. But critics warn the Taliban has neither the ability nor perhaps the appetite to carry out their commitments. 
According to Pompeo, the agreement triggers a "conditions-based and phased" U.S. withdrawal and the "commencement" of Afghan negotiations where "all sides of the conflict will sit down together and begin the hard work of reconciliation." U.S. officials say the deal also includes Taliban commitments on counterterrorism, although those details are still unclear. 
"These commitments represent an important step to a lasting peace in a new Afghanistan, free from Al Qaeda, ISIS, and any other terrorist group that would seek to bring us harm," Trump said in his statement. "Ultimately it will be up to the people of Afghanistan to work out their future. We, therefore, urge the Afghan people to seize this opportunity for peace and a new future for their country."

Initially, the U.S. will draw down its troops from 13,000 to 8,600 -- a level that Gen. Scott Miller, the commander of U.S. and NATO forces, has said is still sufficient to carry out their mission. While that draw down is expected to take months, conditions and timelines for further reductions after that are unclear.
If this works out, maybe we'll finally get out of the war that has lasted for three-quarters of my adult life.  The thing is though given the history of both Donald Trump and the Taliban that it's not going to work out at all.   Even a best case scenario at this point is troops in Afghanistan for years.

On top of that, the deal forces the Afghan government to release some 5,000 Taliban prisoners.  Sure is going to go well for Kabul, huh?

That's not worth celebrating just yet, but Trump of course is doing it anyway.

Once again this is Donald Trump telling us what he plans to do, but acting like it's already been accomplished and that he, Donald Trump, is the smartest man on Earth. 

He's been wrong every other time before.

Trump Goes Viral, Con't

The official position of the Chief Executive of the United States of America is that the Wuhan coronavirus has already been contained and that it's a hoax generated by Democrats in order to damage Republicans' chances in the 2020 elections.

President Donald Trump said Friday that Democrats are using the virulent coronavirus as a “hoax” to damage him and his administration.

“The Democrats are politicizing the coronavirus,” he said from a campaign rally in North Charleston, South Carolina.

One of my people came up to me and said ‘Mr. President they tried to beat you on Russia, Russia, Russia. That didn’t work out too well.’ They couldn’t do it. They tried the impeachment hoax that was on a perfect conversation,” he continued.

“This is their new hoax,” he said, referring to the coronavirus.

The coronavirus, which began in Wuhan, China, has now killed more than 2,800 people worldwide and infected more than 80,000. The latest reports from the World Health Organization show the pace of new cases in China slowing, but jumping in South Korea, Japan, Italy, and Iran.

The rest of the regime is now telling Americans that the virus is a hoax as well.

Speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference, an annual gathering of conservative activists, Mr. Mulvaney played down concerns about the virus that is spreading around the globe and panicking investors.

Mr. Mulvaney said the administration took “extraordinary steps four or five weeks ago,” to prevent the spread of the virus when it declared a rare public health emergency and barred entry by most foreign citizens who had recently visited China.

“Why didn’t you hear about it?” Mr. Mulvaney said of travel restrictions that were widely covered in the news media. “What was still going on four or five weeks ago? Impeachment, that’s all the press wanted to talk about.”

The news media has been covering the global spread of coronavirus for months.

But Mr. Mulvaney claimed that the news media was too preoccupied covering impeachment, he said, “because they thought it would bring down the president.”

The media’s focus switched to the coronavirus for the same reason, he continued.

“The reason you’re seeing so much attention to it today is that they think this is going to be the thing that brings down the president,” he added. “That’s what this is all about it.”

Following the president’s lead, Mr. Mulvaney also brushed off concerns over the virus; there have been 60 cases identified in the United States.

“The flu kills people,” he said. “This is not Ebola. It’s not SARS, it’s not MERS. It’s not a death sentence, it’s not the same as the Ebola crisis.”

Vice-President Pence and his task force are now laser-focused on the real problem: reinflating the stock market bubble that resulted in the worst week for stocks since the Great Recession.

Trump administration officials are holding preliminary conversations about economic responses to the coronavirus, as the stock market fell sharply again on Friday amid international fears about the outbreak, according to five people with knowledge of the planning.

Among the options being considered are pursuing a targeted tax cut package, these people said. They have also discussed whether the White House should lean even harder on the Federal Reserve to cut interest rates, though the central bank on Friday afternoon said it would step in if necessary.

No decisions at the White House have been reached on these options, and officials stressed conversations remained preliminary and extremely fluid.

Vice President Pence’s office is involved in the discussion of possible responses, two people said.
These ideas would not be designed to stop the spread of the coronavirus, but they would seek to arrest the economic fears spreading through the economy. And some of the ideas would need cooperation from Congress or the Fed, as the White House has limited powers to unilaterally rewrite tax policy or direct the central bank to act. 

In short, shut up about the virus, it's a hoax, it's not Ebola, go about your business as normal, like climate change it's overblown by the evil Democrat party and the liberal Trump-hating media, buy the dip and you'll make a mint when this rocket goes back up again, don't miss out, chump!

Seems like a totally great federal government response.

Please address any questions or issues to Trump's White Supremacy Czar Stphen Miller and his new wife Katie, who is now the woman in charge of all coronavirus communications from the regime.

Do your part, citizen!  Buy stocks today!

Sarcasm aside, the Cult of Trump that see him as some sort of messianic figure, the true believers?  They're going to assume Trump will protect them from the virus.  When this starts killing people, significant numbers of people if epidemiologists' worst fears come true in a pandemic scenario, all bets are off as to what happens next.

The disease reappears in discharged patients because they are catching it again

A growing number of discharged coronavirus patients in China and elsewhere are testing positive after recovering, sometimes weeks after being allowed to leave the hospital, which could make the epidemic harder to eradicate.

On Wednesday, the Osaka prefectural government in Japan said a woman working as a tour-bus guide had tested positive for the coronavirus for a second time. This followed reports in China that discharged patients throughout the country were testing positive after their release from the hospital.

An official at China’s National Health Commission said on Friday that such patients have not been found to be infectious.

Experts say there are several ways discharged patients could fall ill with the virus again. Convalescing patients might not build up enough antibodies to develop immunity to SARS-CoV-2, and are being infected again. The virus also could be “biphasic”, meaning it lies dormant before creating new symptoms.

But some of the first cases of “reinfection” in China have been attributed to testing discrepancies.

On Feb. 21, a discharged patient in the southwestern Chinese city of Chengdu was readmitted 10 days after being discharged when a follow-up test came back positive.

Lei Xuezhong, the deputy director of the infectious diseases center at the West China Hospital, told People’s Daily that hospitals were testing nose and throat samples when deciding whether patients should be discharged, but new tests were finding the virus in the lower respiratory tract.

Paul Hunter, a professor of medicine at Britain’s University of East Anglia who has been closely following the outbreak, told Reuters that although the patient in Osaka could have relapsed, it is also possible that the virus was still being released into her system from the initial infection, and she wasn’t tested properly before she was discharged.

The woman first tested positive in late January and was discharged from the hospital on Feb. 1, leading some experts to speculate that it was biphasic, like anthrax

The world's not ready for this virus.  America is definitely not ready.  It's going to be a nightmare, and we're just in the opening few minutes of this horror movie.

Buckle in.  This one will test America like it hasn't been tested in your lifetime.

Retribution Execution, Con't

If House Democrats want to hear testimony from Trump White House employees, they'll have to go to the Supreme Court or use inherent contempt in order to force it.

A federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., on Friday dismissed a lawsuit from House Democrats who were seeking testimony from former White House counsel Don McGahn as part of a broader investigation into President Donald Trump.

In a 2-1 decision by a three-judge panel, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said it lacked jurisdiction to hear the case, agreeing with the Trump administration’s position that the U.S. Constitution forbids federal courts from resolving interbranch information disputes.

“The Committee’s suit asks us to settle a dispute that we have no authority to resolve,” the opinion states.

The House Judiciary Committee subpoenaed McGahn in 2019 as part of its investigation into Trump’s potential obstruction of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe. McGahn previously told Mueller’s grand jury that Trump ordered him to direct the Department of Justice to fire Mueller in 2017 in order to end the probe. He did not carry out the order. This incident appeared as one of 10 potentially obstructive acts committed by Trump in Mueller’s final report.

Democrats sought to bring McGahn before the committee to get his testimony on this alleged obstruction. But the White House declared that the president and his direct aides had an “absolute immunity” from congressional investigation and ordered McGahn not to honor the subpoena. The administration never made a formal declaration of executive privilege over McGahn’s testimony.

The court said Democrats will just have to find some other way to force the administration to comply with their demands.

“Congress (or one of its chambers) may hold officers in contempt, withhold appropriations, refuse to confirm the President’s nominees, harness public opinion, delay or derail the President’s legislative agenda, or impeach recalcitrant officers,” the court wrote. “And Congress can wield these political weapons without dragging judges into the fray.”
Democrats haven’t embraced the use of hardball legislative tactics to gain leverage. For a time last year, they entertained the idea of using their own power to arrest or fine recalcitrant administration officials, but ultimately rejected using the so-called “inherent contempt” power.

Democrats point out that they expected to lose this case on the merits cited, but then again, they could have always gone to inherent contempt and put McGahn in jail. The DC Circuit Court is straight up telling House Democrats that the nuclear option of inherent contempt is an option, but they will never use it.

Meanwhile, Trump knows now he can block any and every House subpoena, because at this point they are both meaningless and unenforceable.
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