Friday, March 13, 2020

Last Call For Orange Meltdown, Con't

In an exquisitely-timed press conference at the White House Rose Garden, Donald Trump announced that he was invoking a national emergency due to the COVID-19 virus and then introduced a slew of CEOs of companies that would be assisting the regime by directly profiting from the outbreak.  This caused stocks to rocket upwards in the last half-hour of trading on the NYSE, and the Dow put back nearly all of its record losses yesterday with a record point gain of nearly 2,000 today.

President Donald Trump on Friday announced a new series of measures to combat the coronavirus and treat those who are affected while pushing back on criticism that his administration was unprepared to confront the pandemic.

Speaking in the White House Rose Garden, Trump declared a national emergency that could free up $50 billion to help fight the pandemic and said that he was empowering the secretary of Health and Human Services to waive certain laws and regulations to ensure the virus can be contained and patients treated.

"To unleash the full power of the federal government … I am officially declaring a national emergency," Trump said.

"Two very big words," he added.

Trump said the action would "open up access" to up to $50 billion "for states and territories and localities in our shared fight against this disease."

Flanked by Vice President Mike Pence, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and other top federal officials and corporate executives from companies such as Walmart, Trump said that the ability to waive certain laws and regulations would allow for easier admission to nursing homes and end limits on the length of hospital stays and the number of beds available.

He announced that 1.4 million new tests for coronavirus would be available next week and that 5 million would be available within the next month — although he added that "I doubt we'll need that" quantity. He also said there were plans to allow "drive-thru" virus tests.

In an unusual and lengthy news conference, a parade of business leaders took turns speaking after Trump — before the president and other federal officials made additional key announcements related to the administration’s coronavirus response.
Trump shook hands with several of those business leaders as he introduced them at the lectern — a breach of best practices recommended by public health experts across the U.S.

After corporate leaders spoke, Trump and other officials finally announced additional measures to confront the pandemic, which included the waiving of interest on federal student loans and the purchase of “large quantities” of oil for the U.S. strategic oil reserve. Officials also said they would be offering guidance to suspend all visitations to nursing homes, with exceptions being made only for end-of-life situations

I don't have much more to add here except that it was basically the best example of disaster capitalism I've ever witnessed in my life.  Trump literally brought out the CEOs of major pharma, medical, retail and tech companies and said these companies, not the government, would be heading the federal response to COVID-19.

Stocks gained over 9% on the news.  It's the most Trumpian thing I've seen, and it worked like a charm.

We're all "consumers" now.

Welcome to the corporatocracy.

Wal-Mart and CVS are now in charge of COVID-19 testing.

Good luck, America.

Retribution Execution, Con't

Meanwhile, the Trump regime is continuing the policy of targeting "deep state" career intelligence employees that just happen to be those that worked on the Mueller probe and/or the Operation Crossfire Hurricane investigation into then candidate Donald Trump's ties to Russia.

The acting director of national intelligence imposed a hiring freeze and ordered a review of the agency’s personnel and mission, officials announced Thursday, an effort that some intelligence officers viewed as politically motivated.

Though some Republicans have viewed the Office of the Director of National Intelligence skeptically and sought to scale it back, the timing of the review by the acting director, Richard Grenell — after President Trump’s downsizing of the National Security Council staff — caused concern inside the nation’s intelligence agencies. Some current and former officials said they saw the effort as an attempt to oust intelligence officers who disagreed politically with Mr. Trump.

Those officials questioned why Mr. Grenell, in the job temporarily, would undertake a large-scale reorganization, particularly one that previous directors had considered but put aside. Mr. Trump has nominated Representative John Ratcliffe, Republican of Texas, for the director post, though the Senate has not set a date for his confirmation hearing.

Aides to Mr. Grenell denied in a rare public statement any effort to force out intelligence officials.

“This review is not an effort to purge, as some have erroneously suggested,” said Amanda Schoch, an assistant director of national intelligence, adding that Mr. Grenell emphasized the point to top staff. “The goal is to make sure scarce intelligence community resources are used in the best way possible.”

Ms. Schoch said Mr. Grenell and his team were beginning a review of four studies conducted during the past two years that looked at “opportunities to refocus or transfer activities” to other agencies.

The studies, she added, were never fully carried out. Ms. Schoch said that while the review was underway, a temporary and short-term hiring freeze for the office would be put in place as well.

The last hiring freeze occurred in 2018, during a review of the office conducted by Dan Coats, Mr. Trump’s first director of national intelligence. That led to a reorganization and some new hires but left in place intelligence officers who had been detailed to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence from other agencies.

An umbrella for the nation’s 17 intelligence agencies, the office was created after the 9/11 Commission found that the agencies had failed to share information before the attacks. It plays a key role in intelligence, assembling the president’s daily briefing, coordinating the work and spending of various agencies, and overseeing the National Counterterrorism Center. The director of national intelligence oversees the federal intelligence budget and serves as a top adviser to the president and other members of the National Security Council.

The new review, according to intelligence officials, is designed to reduce duplication among the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the C.I.A. and other agencies. It would also send intelligence officers assigned to the director back to their home agencies, with the view that those agencies could better allocate them.

Now, the reason these intelligence analysts were "duplicated" and "loaned out to other agencies" was to build the team to assist in the large-scale investigation of Donald Trump's criminality.  These were, for the most part, the experts in the fields of Russian and Eastern European politics, forensic accounting, racketeering, and international organized crime.

These are the people who are going to be axed, so they can't be used to investigate Donald Trump in the future.

That's it.  That's the plan.  Of course it's a not a purge, it's a targeted removal of the people who would notice Trump was breaking the law again, run by a temp whose job is to clean house (and I guess be the lightning rod) while the new boss is being groomed.

So yeah, pay attention to what Trump is doing in the background while COVID-19 is going on.

Trump Goes Viral, Con't

If you expected anything else, if you expected that on this, 1,146th day of his presidency, Trump would be different—that he would finally become presidential—you have been willfully fooling yourself. If, four years ago, you thought, ‘oh, what’s the difference between a Hillary Clinton and a Donald Trump;’ if you thought that they’re all the same, and that none of it matters anyway because American institutions would just get everyone through on autopilot, this is what you get.

You get a president who shuts down the global health security team in the National Security Council so that there’s no one but his son-in-law to advise him when a global pandemic reaches our country’s shores. You get a president who doesn’t care about whether people live or die, he just wants the numbers to look good for him, wants the number of cases down and the numbers on the stock indices up, and the best way to do that is to keep Covid-19 testing and public information at a minimum. You get a president who doesn’t believe in science when it doesn’t suit him and who, as recently as three days ago, declares a virus that had already claimed thousands of lives around the world a “hoax” and “fake news”—or a president that simply focuses, falsely, on how well his administration is responding to the crisis—because the pandemic might hurt the economy and jeopardize his reelection. You get a president who thinks he can do anything, who off-the-cuff announces a rally in Florida, where the governor has suspended all official travel as medical experts advise people practice “social distancing” by avoiding crowds. You get a president whose response to an invisible virus is to blame foreigners.

We are watching an experiment play out in real time. On one side, you have governments, like those of Singapore, Japan, South Korea, China, and Hong Kong that used the powerful tools at a state’s disposal—surveillance, financial and institutional resources, the bully pulpit—to keep citizens informed, to institute smart and targeted travel restrictions and quarantines, thereby keeping the virus from wreaking wider havoc. Then you have Italy, where a messy, squabbling government and piecemeal approach have led to the whole country being shut down, and Iran, where, after weeks of dissembling and lying by state officials, reality has given way to satellite images of burial trenches being dug for the mounting Covid dead. Thanks to Trump’s narcissistic penchant for lying about anything that doesn’t fit his heroic narrative of himself—and thanks to his eagerness to destroy institutions that aren’t slavish in their loyalty to him— America, the richest, most powerful country in the world, is now firmly in the camp of Italy and Iran.

Some 63 million Americans voted for a man who wanted to smash the system to smithereens, either because they felt it wasn’t doing enough for them or because breaking glass just feels so primitively satisfying. Or maybe it's because the Republican Party has been peddling a dystopian anarchistic anti-government pipe dream to them for the last four decades. Now, it turns out, a functioning government is a good thing to have when a global pandemic arrives on your shores. It turns out that maybe reforming an imperfect system is wiser than just taking a sledgehammer to it, better to trust people who have dedicated their lives to being public servants than trashing them in favor of a one-man, megalomaniacal savior, better to have a functioning system than dancing on its rubble while crowing about the death of the “deep state”—or “the political establishment.”

To those 63 million Americans, I say this: you wanted to smash the system and you got what you wanted—in spades. Now we will all have to pay the price.

Schools are closed all over the country or will be closing next week, including here where I live.
Professional and college sporting events, theme parks, mass transit, concerts, festivals, even religious services are rapidly becoming a thing of the past. 

Our economy is heading for an absolute recession at this point, it's only a matter of how many thousands of businesses, millions of jobs, and trillions of dollars will go poof.  COVID-19 will be with us for quite a long time. The assumption that everything will be okay in April or even May is dangerously wishful thinking at this point.  Various states are fending for themselves with a Trump regime that has so far been useless and even counter-productive with Trump's rampant lies.

The GOP sees COVID-19 as a Trojan horse for "liberal wish lists" of legislation and regulation, and they are doing everything they can to make the situation worse.

Despite mounting pleas from California and other states, the Trump administration isn’t allowing states to use Medicaid more freely to respond to the coronavirus crisis by expanding medical services.

In previous emergencies, including the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Hurricane Katrina and the H1N1 flu outbreak, both Republican and Democratic administrations loosened Medicaid rules to empower states to meet surging needs.

But months into the current global disease outbreak, the White House and senior federal health officials haven’t taken the necessary steps to give states simple pathways to fully leverage the mammoth safety net program to prevent a wider epidemic.

That’s making it harder for states to quickly sign up poor patients for coverage so they can get necessary testing or treatment if they are exposed to coronavirus.

And it threatens to slow efforts by states to bring on new medical providers, set up emergency clinics or begin quarantining and caring for homeless Americans at high risk from the virus.

“If they wanted to do it, they could do it,” said Cindy Mann, who oversaw the Medicaid program in the Obama administration and worked with states to help respond to the H1N1 flu crisis in 2009.

One reason federal health officials have not acted appears to be President Trump’s reluctance to declare a national emergency. That’s a key step that would clear the way for states to get Medicaid waivers to more nimbly tackle coronavirus, but it would conflict with Trump’s repeated efforts to downplay the seriousness of the epidemic.

Trump will go as long as he can before declaring an emergency, because the second he does, he admits to his cultists that COVID-19 is real and a threat.

But the GOP response is now coming into focus.  They know who to blame for the COVID-19 outbreak, and it's Beijing.

Hawkish Sen. Tom Cotton issued a menacing statement on Thursday vowing that the United States “will hold accountable those who inflicted” the coronavirus on the world, seeming to suggest that the Chinese government is behind the pandemic.

“The Wuhan coronavirus is a grave challenge to our great nation,” said Cotton, who announced he is temporarily closing his Washington, D.C. office as a precautionary measure. “We are a great people. We rise to every challenge, we vanquish every foe, and we come through adversity even better than before.”

In a tweet, the Arkansas Republican left no doubt that his statement was directed at China.

Critics slammed Cotton for exploiting the deadly pandemic to beat the drums of war as the U.S. struggles to contain the COVID-19 outbreak.

Cotton went on Sean Hannity's FOX News State TV Trump White Power Adviser Hour™ last night to not only accuse China of deliberately unleashing COVID-19 (There's a reason I no longer refer to the virus as 'Wuhan Coronavirus' and I never should have)  but to accuse Joe Biden of benefiting from the virus on purpose.

As utterly ridiculous as that sounds, know two things:  One, Donald Trump will absolutely start attacking China and Biden any second now and blaming them as the death toll mounts, and two, all 63 million Trump voters will believe every damn word of it.  He will blame everything, the illness, the economic recession, the job losses, on "Beijing Biden".  If China is "the enemy" here, and Trump uses a national emergency to assume extraordinary powers in a crisis, what will Trump do stop "collaborators" like Joe Biden and the Democrats, and the media?  It's insane.

And you know what?  There's a very damn good chance it works.


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