Thursday, March 19, 2020

Last Call For Primary Positions, Con't

Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s longshot presidential bid is over.

Gabbard’s decision to drop out, announced March 19, was long in the works. She had consistently averaged around 1 to 2 percent in national polls and performed poorly in primaries; her candidacy largely served as a single-issue protest run against American military adventurism rather than a serious bid for the presidency. Her most notable moment, a devastating attack on California Sen. Kamala Harris’s record as a prosecutor in the CNN’s July debate, didn’t move the dial much in her favor. So on Thursday, she dropped out an endorsed Joe Biden for president.

The irony is that Gabbard could have been a real contender. She’s a strong communicator with an interesting biography, an Iraq war veteran and the first Hindu member of Congress. Yet thanks to a series of choices she had made since getting elected to Congress in 2012 — most notably an inexplicable trip to Syria to meet the country’s murderous leader Bashar al-Assad — she managed to alienate herself from Democratic Party’s leadership and base. Her continued ties to a strange religious group called “Science of Identity” didn’t help matters either, nor did frequent clashes with the party elite during the 2020 campaign (including filing a lawsuit against Hillary Clinton).

The result is that Gabbard’s campaign never had much of a chance: She was unable to play a significant role in the Democratic primary, even on her single issue of opposing wars of regime change, due to her past missteps. She stayed in the race for a long time, but accomplished very little.

Gabbard is giving up her Hawaii US House seat too, not that she would have survived a primary anyway, for precisely the reasons above.  She's managed to alienate every key constituency in the Democratic party in record time and she has no future in it and knows it..and she endorsed Biden anyway.  You know, before Liz Warren did.

Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders is supposedly "clear-eyed" about Joe Biden's presumptive nominee status and is concentrating on COVID-19 legislation along with Liz Warren.

Sen. Bernie Sanders' campaign is signaling that he is clear-eyed about the road ahead, with his campaign manager saying he would use the lull in primary voting to have "conversations with supporters to assess his campaign."

But the statement goes on to say that Sanders will be focused on the national emergency around the novel coronavirus -- specifically "ensuring that we take care of working people and the most vulnerable."

It's largely an accident of the calendar that former Vice President Joe Biden is emerging as the all-but-certain Democratic nominee at the same time that American society has been upended.

That coincidence is a potential opportunity for the progressive moment, with once-in-a-lifetime-level federal responses being debated in Washington.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren -- still officially neutral in the presidential race -- has been taking a leadership role in crafting possible responses. She is proposing ideas like canceling student debt, boosting Social Security and forcing leadership changes at companies that accept bailout funds, as part of what she is calling "meaningful, grassroots relief directly to American families."

With the next giant bailout package being tailored largely by Senate Republicans, Sanders and Warren are likely to be go-to voices when Democrats have their say.

The Trump administration will need Democratic votes in the House as well as the Senate. Progressives could see disappointment turned into opportunity in the days ahead -- particularly if Sanders and Warren work together.

I still don't expect Sanders to suspend his campaign until the convention, and I still expect him to ruthlessly attack Joe Biden for another four months, because it's what he did to Hillary Clinton four years ago.  What I expect in fact is for Sanders to work on COVID-19 legislation that's very progressive along with Warren, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar, get it passed, and praise Donald Trump for signing it.

In fact, what I expect from Sanders is what he did four years ago: all but say that if he can't be the nominee, the best chance of getting individual policies of his platform enacted will be through Donald Trump, not Joe Biden, and that his voters should once again "vote their conscience" rather than endorse the Democratic nominee in the race, while pointing to a Trump-signed COVID-19 package as an argument.

I'm being cynical as hell.  I have the right to be, frankly, after what happened in 2016.

Trump Goes Viral, Con't

The idea is setting in this week: We’re not going to be done with this coronavirus thing in a month or two. If you lock down society to beat the epidemic, and succeed in drastically slowing new infections, but then go back to what you were doing before, the epidemic can just come raging back. In that scenario, society would remain full of people without antibodies who remain vulnerable to COVID-19, and they would be engaging in the social contacts that allowed the virus to spread so rapidly in the first place. That beating this epidemic will not be a one-and-done thing is an important realization; it’s good that the president leveled with people on Monday in saying he expected disruptions to persist into July or August. People should be prepared to deal with a lot of change to their lives for a long time, with significant economic and social costs.

But, for the first time in a while, I think part of the coronavirus conventional wisdom has become too pessimistic. Yes, the fight to stop the spread of the virus is going to have to be ongoing unless, and until, we develop a vaccine or highly effective medical treatments, which is to say for at least several months. But the nature of the disruption does not have to stay constant. It is necessary now to close schools and businesses, and tell people to drastically reduce social contacts in a way that is economically devastating to many businesses and workers. But there is a trade-off: The better we get at interventions to identify and isolate specific people with the virus, the less we should need to rely on interventions that isolate the entire population. That’s a reason the ramp-up of widely available testing remains such an important goal for the U.S.: More testing should, in time, allow for more normal living.

We are seeing this already in other countries: South Korea and Singapore have been successfully addressing their coronavirus epidemics with less extensive social-distancing measures than are currently seen in Italy, France, and parts of the U.S., in part because of their effective testing and surveillance regimes. The Financial Times reports today on the town of VĂ², Italy, which successfully stopped its local outbreak though a strategy that involved widespread testing of the population and isolation of those who tested positive, even as the rest of Northern Italy did not fare so well.

If an outbreak becomes widespread enough, it becomes impractical to conduct effective surveillance and isolation of an infected population that is simply too large to track. So my suggestion is not that if you dropped a massive testing capability into New York City today, it would be fine to reopen the Broadway theaters. But at some point, the massive shutdowns we are undertaking in much of the U.S. (and ought to be undertaking in more of it) should make it possible to sharply reduce the rate of new infections to a point where widespread testing and monitoring can become a cornerstone of a strategy to prevent uncontrolled outbreaks — if we actually have the capability to do such testing and monitoring. This would not mean a complete end to the need for social distancing measures, but it could allow for a reduction in their intensity.

Shutting down businesses, schools, restaurants and theaters is necessary, but it can't be a viable long-term solutionPart of the solution is what House Financial Services chair Maxine Waters wants to do: direct cash stimulus to Americans on a monthly basis and stopping debt collection, credit card payments, student loan payments, and small business loan payments so people can survive in a scenario where millions of jobs are going to be lost for good otherwise. Americans are going to be booted out into the streets by the millions, especially renters, unless something happens in the meantime.

But part of that has to be testing, and lots of it.  People have to be tested, identified, and treated. We're so far behind on the curve that months of closings may not alleviate the problems, and medical staff and hospitals and clinics will be inundated with infected Americans dying on gurneys and in homes because they have nowhere to go.

So if testing is absolutely key to recovery, why are we so far behind?  We're behind because the Trump regime doesn't give a damn and never did.

The outbreak of the respiratory virus began in China and was quickly spread around the world by air travelers, who ran high fevers. In the United States, it was first detected in Chicago, and 47 days later the World Health Organization declared a pandemic. By then it was too late: 110 million Americans were expected to become ill, leading to 7.7 million hospitalized and 586,000 dead.

That scenario, code-named “Crimson Contagion,’’ was simulated by the Trump administration’s Department of Health and Human Services in a series of exercises that ran from last January to August.

The simulation’s sobering results — contained in a draft report dated October 2019 that has not previously been reported — drove home just how underfunded, underprepared and uncoordinated the federal government would be for a life-or-death battle with a virus for which no treatment existed.
The draft report, marked “not to be disclosed,” laid out in stark detail repeated cases of “confusion” in the exercise. Federal agencies jockeyed over who was in charge. State officials and local hospitals struggled to figure out what kind of equipment was stockpiled or available. Cities and states went their own way on school closings.

Many of the potentially deadly consequences of a failure to address the shortcomings are now playing out in all-too-real fashion across the country. And it was hardly the first warning for the nation’s leaders. Three times over the past four years the U.S. government, across two administrations, had grappled in depth with what a pandemic would look like, identifying likely shortcomings and in some cases recommending specific action.

In 2016 the Obama administration produced a comprehensive report on the lessons learned by the government from battling Ebola. In January 2017 outgoing Obama administration officials ran an extensive exercise on responding to a pandemic for incoming senior officials of the Trump administration.

The full story of the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus is still playing out. Government officials, health professionals, journalists and historians will spend years looking back on the muddled messages and missed opportunities of the past three months, as President Trump moved from dismissing the coronavirus as a few cases that would soon be “under control” to his revisionist announcement Monday that he had known all along that a pandemic was on the way.

What the scenario makes clear, however, is that his own administration had already modeled a similar pandemic and understood its potential trajectory.

The White House defended its record, saying it responded to the 2019 exercise with an executive order to improve the availability and quality of flu vaccines, and that it moved early this year to increase funding for the Health and Human Service Department’s program that focuses on global pandemic threats.

But officials have declined to say why the administration was so slow to roll out broad testing, or move faster, as the simulations all indicated it should, to urge social distancing and school closings.

The work done over the past five years demonstrates that the government had considerable knowledge about the risks of a pandemic and accurately predicted the very types of problems Mr. Trump is now scrambling belatedly to address.

“Crimson Contagion,” the exercise conducted last year in Washington and 12 states including New York and Illinois, showed that federal agencies under Mr. Trump continued the Obama-era effort to think ahead about a pandemic.

But the planning and thinking happened many layers down in the bureaucracy. The knowledge and sense of urgency about the peril appear never to have gotten sufficient attention at the highest level of the executive branch or from Congress, leaving the nation with funding shortfalls, equipment shortages and disorganization within and among various branches and levels of government.

The time to get rolling on that was six weeks ago and they knew it.

They knew it last month and they still did nothing.

Well, they told their high-level donors.

The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee warned a small group of well-connected constituents three weeks ago to prepare for dire economic and societal effects of the coronavirus, according to a secret recording obtained by NPR.
The remarks from U.S. Sen. Richard Burr were more stark than any he had delivered in more public forums.

On Feb. 27, when the United States had 15 confirmed cases of COVID-19, President Trump was tamping down fears and suggesting the virus could be seasonal.

"It's going to disappear. One day, It's like a miracle. It will disappear," the president said then, before adding, "it could get worse before it gets better. It could maybe go away. We'll see what happens."

On that same day, Burr attended a luncheon held at a social club called the Capitol Hill Club. And he delivered a much more alarming message.

"There's one thing that I can tell you about this: It is much more aggressive in its transmission than anything that we have seen in recent history," he said, according to a secret recording of the remarks obtained by NPR. "It is probably more akin to the 1918 pandemic."

The luncheon had been organized by the Tar Heel Circle, a nonpartisan group whose membership consists of businesses and organizations in North Carolina, the state Burr represents. Membership to join the Tar Heel Circle costs between $500 and $10,000, and promises that members "enjoy interaction with top leaders and staff from Congress, the administration, and the private sector," according to the group's website.

In attendance, according to a copy of the RSVP list obtained by NPR, were dozens of invited guests representing companies and organizations from North Carolina. And according to federal records, those companies or their political committees donated more than $100,000 to Burr's election campaign in 2015 and 2016. (Burr announced previously he was not planning to run for reelection in 2022).

The message Burr delivered to the group was dire.

Thirteen days before the State Department began to warn against travel to Europe, and fifteen days before the Trump administration banned European travelers, Burr warned those in the room to reconsider.

"Every company should be cognizant of the fact that you may have to alter your travel. You may have to look at your employees and judge whether the trip they're making to Europe is essential or whether it can be done on video conference. Why risk it?" Burr said.
Sixteen days before North Carolina closed its schools due to the threat of Coronavirus, Burr warned it could happen.

"There will be, I'm sure, times that communities, probably some in North Carolina, have a transmission rate where they say, let's close schools for two weeks, everybody stay home," he said.

These incompetent, greedy buffoons knew.  They knew all along.  They did nothing because they figured if they knew before others, they could profit from it both politically and financially.

So now the rest of us? We now have to get through tomorrow and next week, but we have to get through 2, 4, 6 weeks from now, and keeping everything closed isn't going to work.  We need a Marshall Plan-sized package for the US.  Today.

Trump has utterly failed the country.  We wouldn't be in this hell if it wasn't for him.

We will all pay a deleterious price as a result.

Retribution Execution, Con't

The Trump regime's purge of the non-loyal continues even unabated by COVID-19 as the White House proceeds with its plans to put as much of the country's intelligence apparatus under control of people loyal to Trump personally. Washington Post's David Ignatius:

The Trump administration is continuing its shake-up of the intelligence community with a potentially disruptive change of leadership at the National Counterterrorism Center, the agency that coordinates government efforts to guard the homeland.

The White House announced its plan to nominate as NCTC director Christopher Miller, a former Army Special Forces officer who had overseen counterterrorism efforts in the Trump White House before moving to a similar position at the Pentagon.

Miller gets solid marks from former colleagues, but the move has increased fears within the intelligence community that the administration has embarked on a politically motivated campaign against career professionals.

The move came hours after I reported that Richard Grenell, the acting director of national intelligence, had begun a “review” of the NCTC and was weighing staff cuts there and in other parts of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Congress created both in 2003 as part of its effort to coordinate intelligence activities after the failure to “connect the dots” that allowed the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

Miller, if confirmed, would take over from Russell Travers, who has been acting director since the departure of Joseph Maguire last August to become acting DNI. Travers, a widely respected career intelligence officer, was told that he could remain as Miller’s deputy, according to a Senate source who had been briefed by the ODNI leadership.

The timing of the proposed change was surprising, since it came as President Trump and most of the country were focused on the coronavirus threat that has preoccupied the world. But Grenell and the new team overseeing intelligence apparently couldn’t wait. An intelligence source told me that Miller received a call about 10 p.m. Tuesday from the White House, asking if he would take the job.

Travers didn’t learn about the move until Wednesday morning, when he was briefed by an aide, the intelligence source said. Despite Travers’s long record of service, Grenell apparently didn’t notify him personally in advance that the White House had selected someone else for the top job. This treatment of a career officer will grate among his colleagues.

Again, these are people being put into top positions purely out of their loyalty to Trump. COVID-19 has definitely moved Bill Barr and the intelligence agency fiasco off the front pages, and he's going to make maximum use of them to cover his tracks.


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