Sunday, March 1, 2020

Last Call For Social Engineering

Tired of still having Twitter run by fascism-curious glibertarian douchebag Jack Dorsey, the Trump regime's GOP lackies are considering buying the company out and replacing Dorsey with somebody more friendly to the Trump proaganda machine.

Activist investor Elliott Management Corp. has taken a sizable stake in Twitter Inc. and plans to push for changes at the social media company, including replacing Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey, according to people familiar with the matter.

The New York-based firm has nominated four directors to Twitter’s board, said the people, who asked to not be identified because the matter isn’t public.

There are only three seats becoming available at this year’s annual meeting but Elliott wanted to ensure that it nominated enough directors to fill all three seats or any other vacancies that may arise, the people said. The exact size of Elliott’s stake couldn’t be determined.

Elliott approached San Francisco-based Twitter about its concerns privately and has had constructive discussions with it since then, the people said.

Representatives for Elliott and Twitter declined to comment.

Sounds pretty anodyne there, but the reality is Elliott Management is owned by GOP billionaire donor Paul Singer, who was a Never Trumper until converted to the faithful last year.

Republican megadonor and hedge fund executive Paul Singer went into attack mode at a dinner honoring Education Secretary Betsy DeVos this week, targeting what he described as a rising threat of socialism within the Democratic Party.

The comments offered a glimpse into the mentality of a powerful GOP donor as he decides how he’s going to contribute to the 2020 election. Singer is a billionaire and the founder of Elliott Management.

Singer, speaking at the Manhattan Institute’s Alexander Hamilton Award Dinner on Wednesday, warned conservatives that policies pushed by Democratic presidential candidates pose a risk to U.S. economic growth under President Donald Trump.

“Yet despite all this, socialism is on the march again,” said Singer, who is chairman of the conservative think tank.

“They call it socialism, but it is more accurately described as left-wing statism lubricated by showers of free stuff promised by politicians who believe that money comes from a printing press rather than the productive efforts of businesspeople and workers,” he added.

An Elliott Management spokesman confirmed the remarks to CNBC and declined to comment further.

Singer also attacked the Green New Deal, a sweeping set of policies aimed at creating jobs and curtailing the threats of climate change.

“The so-called Green New Deal, the latest progressive attempt to engineer our way of life and vest power in the administrative state, is now the standard of nearly every Democratic candidate for president,” he said. “Setting out to sell this utopia to the American people isn’t merely irresponsible political rhetoric, it is outright deceit.”

Singer rarely discusses his political ideologies in public but appears to have been more comfortable in front of a group people largely associated with his organization. During the 2016 presidential election, Singer was a vocal opponent of then-candidate Trump and, a year earlier, was the financier of a conservative website that hired Fusion GPS to dig up dirt on the business executive-turned-Republican nominee for president.

People forget that the Steele Dossier was originally financed as Republican Never Trumper oppo research against The Donald.  Singer was the man who bankrolled it.  Now, Singer is making a move to oust Twitter's CEO and take over just before the 2020 election.

This is not by accident.

You can't trust anyone these days, it seems.

Meanwhile, Back In The House...

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats have gone silent as Trump has rampaged across the executive branch claiming heads, and it doesn't look like they're going to do much of anything heading into election season.

The change in posture is an acknowledgment, House Democrats say, that in a world where Senate Republicans are bear-hugging Trump, and the courts are declining to operate at the speed of the congressional calendar, there are very few options that a single chamber of Congress can pursue short of withholding funds for agencies like the Justice Department — particularly when impeachment is no longer in their election-year arsenal.
"There is nothing that Donald Trump can do that would cause [Senate Republicans] to convict him of high crimes and misdemeanors," said Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), who serves on the House Judiciary Committee. "So that has caused everybody in the House to take a deep breath and figure out what our next steps are."

"That leaves us legislative and political answers," Raskin added.

In other words, the end of the impeachment process has become the advent of a new, narrower focus on what Democrats say is a crucial theme revealed by their efforts: Trump's indifference to, or even encouragement of, foreign interference in the 2020 election.
It's a throughline, they say, of Trump's behavior toward Russia, his treatment of Ukraine and his public comments on whether he would reject foreign help in future elections.

Now, rather than revive the smashmouth impeachment approach that they adopted throughout the fall and winter, Democrats say they intend to use their investigative weapons to highlight these election security themes and keep pressure on Republicans who chided Trump for his behavior in Ukraine but ultimately acquitted him for it.

"I would argue that impeachment actually served its purpose. It highlighted for people what we're dealing with here and what the stakes are," said Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.). "I would say it set the table for people to take a good hard look at what I think impeachment helped to remind us of, what a threat that represents, and conveniently for us his behavior subsequently has only made our case for us."

Democrats are pondering whether to pass new election security measures, putting them in the Senate's court as the primary gets underway. And they're planning to drive a consistent election security message as the nation's focus shifts toward the November election.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has announced a March 10 intelligence community briefing for lawmakers, and she's slammed Trump for what she says is politicizing the intelligence community, in part by installing Richard Grenell, a loyalist ambassador, as the acting director of national intelligence. News reports that Russia is already interfering in the upcoming election have returned the issue to the fore.

Separately, Democrats on Friday dusted off their Trump oversight tools and took the first steps to confront the president's campaign of post-acquittal retribution. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) requested testimony from a slew of high-profile Justice Department officials about political interference in criminal cases — including four career prosecutors who quit the case of longtime Trump confidant Roger Stone earlier this month after the president intervened in his sentencing

Here's what's going to happen:  The House will pass another round of election security measures and the Senate will ignore them.  Jerry Nadler will subpoena Justice Department prosecutors involved in Trump crony cases and the White House will block testimony claiming executive privilege of people who have never worked in the actual White House.  Trump has basically fired everyone who testified in the impeachment hearings.  Nobody else will voluntarily come forward.  The courts will offer no relief.

Democrats will fret and do nothing.

They especially won't turn to inherent contempt of executive officers.

Maybe things will heat up after July and the Democratic nominee is official, but I doubt it.

And remember, the COVID-19 virus means all future bets are off.

Sunday Long Read: Viral Information

James Hamblin at the Atlantic gives us this week's Sunday Long Read on COVID-19, the Wuhan coronavirus, and what an epidemic scenario in the US would really mean.

The Harvard epidemiology professor Marc Lipsitch is exacting in his diction, even for an epidemiologist. Twice in our conversation he started to say something, then paused and said, “Actually, let me start again.” So it’s striking when one of the points he wanted to get exactly right was this: “I think the likely outcome is that it will ultimately not be containable.”

Containment is the first step in responding to any outbreak. In the case of COVID-19, the possibility (however implausible) of preventing a pandemic seemed to play out in a matter of days. Starting in January, China began cordoning off progressively larger areas, radiating outward from the city of Wuhan and eventually encapsulating some 100 million people. People were barred from leaving home, and lectured by drones if they were caught outside. Nonetheless, the virus has now been found in 24 countries.

Despite the apparent ineffectiveness of such measures—relative to their inordinate social and economic cost, at least—the crackdown continues to escalate. Under political pressure to “stop” the virus, last Thursday the Chinese government announced that officials in Hubei province would be going door-to-door, testing people for fevers and looking for signs of illness, then sending all potential cases to quarantine camps. But even with the ideal containment, the virus’s spread may have been inevitable. Testing people who are already extremely sick is an imperfect strategy if people can spread the virus without even feeling bad enough to stay home from work.

Lipsitch predicts that within the coming year, some 40 to 70 percent of people around the world will be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19. But, he clarifies emphatically, this does not mean that all will have severe illnesses. “It’s likely that many will have mild disease, or may be asymptomatic,” he said. As with influenza, which is often life-threatening to people with chronic health conditions and of older age, most cases pass without medical care. (Overall, about 14 percent of people with influenza have no symptoms.)

Lipsitch is far from alone in his belief that this virus will continue to spread widely. The emerging consensus among epidemiologists is that the most likely outcome of this outbreak is a new seasonal disease—a fifth “endemic” coronavirus. With the other four, people are not known to develop long-lasting immunity. If this one follows suit, and if the disease continues to be as severe as it is now, “cold and flu season” could become “cold and flu and COVID-19 season.”

At this point, it is not even known how many people are infected. As of Sunday, there have been 35 confirmed cases in the U.S., according to the World Health Organization. But Lipsitch’s “very, very rough” estimate when we spoke a week ago (banking on “multiple assumptions piled on top of each other,” he said) was that 100 or 200 people in the U.S. were infected. That’s all it would take to seed the disease widely. The rate of spread would depend on how contagious the disease is in milder cases. On Friday, Chinese scientists reported in the medical journal JAMA an apparent case of asymptomatic spread of the virus, from a patient with a normal chest CT scan. The researchers concluded with stolid understatement that if this finding is not a bizarre abnormality, “the prevention of COVID-19 infection would prove challenging.”

Even if Lipsitch’s estimates were off by orders of magnitude, they wouldn’t likely change the overall prognosis. “Two hundred cases of a flu-like illness during flu season—when you’re not testing for it—is very hard to detect,” Lipsitch said. “But it would be really good to know sooner rather than later whether that’s correct, or whether we’ve miscalculated something. The only way to do that is by testing.”

Originally, doctors in the U.S. were advised not to test people unless they had been to China or had contact with someone who had been diagnosed with the disease. Within the past two weeks, the CDC said it would start screening people in five U.S. cities, in an effort to give some idea of how many cases are actually out there. But tests are still not widely available. As of Friday, the Association of Public Health Laboratories said that only California, Nebraska, and Illinois had the capacity to test people for the virus.

With so little data, prognosis is difficult. But the concern that this virus is beyond containment—that it will be with us indefinitely—is nowhere more apparent than in the global race to find a vaccine, one of the clearest strategies for saving lives in the years to come.

The new normal is that COVID-19 hits the global population like a truck, and then becomes one of the many flu-like strains that are with us year after year, mutating, then reappearing. If Lipsitch's numbers are right, US fatalities could well be into the hundreds of thousands, and that's not counting the follow-on fatalities from complications from the illness, a hospital system overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients, and a just-in-time delivery system of supplies and basic staples when people suddenly find themselves unable to get things they need.

I'm not trying to panic people.  I want people to get good information, because lord knows there's a lot of bad information already out there.  But people need to take this seriously.
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