Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Last Call For Bringin' Home The Fakin', Con't

Battleground states with Republican governors that Trump needs to win like Florida get every piece of equipment they ask for.  New York, California, and Washington state get to beg at Trump's feet or their people die.

As states across the country have pleaded for critical medical equipment from a key national stockpile, Florida has promptly received 100 percent of its first two requests — with President Trump and Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis both touting their close relationship.
States including Oklahoma and Kentucky have received more of some equipment than they requested, while others such as Illinois, Massachusetts and Maine have secured only a fraction of their requests.

It’s a disparity that has caused frustration and confusion in governors’ offices across the country, with some officials questioning whether politics is playing a role in the response.

Governors are making increasingly frantic requests to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for material. State and congressional leaders are flooding FEMA with letters and calls seeking clarity about how it is allocating suddenly in-demand resources such as masks, ventilators and medical gowns.

Frustration level is high,” Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) said of the struggle to find ventilators for patients infected by the novel coronavirus. “We’re hoping we’ll be able to get them. The federal government needs to help us with that. There’s no question.”

Governors and state officials have become increasingly frustrated by what they describe as a byzantine and unsteady process for distributing medical supplies from the Strategic National Stockpile. As they try to combat a worsening pandemic, several have complained about chaos and disarray within the system and a lack of guidance about how they can secure lifesaving supplies, according to interviews and documents from officials in more than a dozen states.

And yes, I know the outlier here is Kentucky, but that's Mitch McConnell's home state, and Mitch needs to win too in November.

There’s no direct evidence that Republican states are receiving more favorable treatment overall, and some GOP-led states such as Georgia have had trouble filling their requests. But Trump has contributed to the sense that politics could be a factor by publicly attacking Democratic governors who criticize his handling of the public health crisis.

Trump said last week that he is inclined not to speak with anyone who is insufficiently appreciative of his administration’s efforts. He has touted his personal relationships with several governors while also declaring that the federal government won’t be “a shipping clerk” for local officials who seek help in obtaining masks, ventilators and other critical supplies. States should buy the materials themselves, he said.

“All I want them to do — very simple — I want them to be appreciative,” Trump told reporters Friday. “I don’t want them to say things that aren’t true. I want them to be appreciative. We’ve done a great job. And I’m not talking about me. I’m talking about Mike Pence, the task force; I’m talking about FEMA, the Army Corps of Engineers.”

Georgia's Brian Kemp is in Trump's doghouse for appointing Kelly Loeffler to the Senate rather than Trump's pick, Rep. Doug Collins back in December.  Now Kemp is having "trouble filling their requests".

One White House official said Trump is attuned to the electoral importance of Florida in November, giving added weight to the arguments DeSantis has made to the administration that his state’s economy should reopen as soon as possible.

“The president knows Florida is so important for his reelection so when DeSantis says that, it means a lot,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to be frank. “He pays close attention to what Florida wants.”

The states getting things they want are Republicans governors in Trump's good graces and Mitch McConnell's home state of Kentucky.  Everyone else is getting screwed, and it will kill people.

A Streetcar Named Retired

In probably the least surprising column of his career, Jason Williams over at the Cincinnati Enquirer notes that the city has shut down the streetcar amid city worker furloughs announced Monday and doesn't even give it 24 hours before floting the idea that it should never, ever reopen.

Cincinnati's streetcar is shut down. It should stay closed. Forever. 
The magnitude of City Council's streetcar-before-people priorities has never been so glaring. 
The city on Monday furloughed 1,700 employees indefinitely amid the coronavirus-induced financial free fall. The news came as the city also announced it is shutting down the streetcar during the health crisis. 
How many of those temporary layoffs could've been avoided if the city had an extra $5 million? That's how much it costs to run a mostly empty streetcar each year. 
It's days like Monday when everyone should clearly realize that, yes, it's real money being used for these pet projects. So is $100 million, which is roughly what it'll cost to keep the streetcar running for another 20 years. How many future cuts are going to come at the expense of a useless trolley circling around Downtown and Over-the-Rhine? 
It's days like Monday when it's never been more obvious that the streetcar is both a luxury and a liability. The city faces a potential $80 million budget deficit in the coming months, and it can no longer afford ex-Mayor Mark Mallory and the progressives' streetcar. 
This is an opportunity for Mayor John Cranley and City Manager Patrick Duhaney to try and stop the streetcar budget bleeding for good. They must call the Trump administration and ask for it to let Cincinnati out of streetcar prison. My apologies to the four people who regularly ride the streetcar.

Williams is mad and gleeful at the same time, and frankly Cranley probably will have the city kill the streetcar.  But whatever the future holds for Cincinnati's downtown during and after the Trump Depression, the streetcar almost certainly won't be a part of it in any way.  The Queen City's made three big bets in the last few years, on keeping the Bengals in town, on getting FC Cincinnati into MLS with a new stadium, and on the streetcar.

The city's losses on the streetcar will be pocket change compared to the other two.

Trump Goes Viral, Con't

Social distancing is failing miserably across the country. We are only barely beginning to maybe flatten the curve a bit. Red state folks refuse to do it.

This dynamic is playing out in small ways across the country. Bret, a sales representative from Plano, Texas, who asked that I not use his last name, proudly told me how unfazed he and his conservative neighbors were by the threat of an outbreak. In his view, the recent wave of government-mandated lockdowns was a product of panic-mongering in the mainstream media, and he welcomed Trump’s call for businesses to reopen by Easter.

When I asked whether the virus had interfered with his lifestyle, Bret laughed. “Oh, I’m going to the shooting range tomorrow,” he replied.

Was he worried that his friends might disapprove if they found out?

“No,” he told me, “around here, I get much more of people saying, ‘Why don’t you go Saturday so I can go, too?’”

Terry Trahan, a manager at a cutlery store in Lubbock, Texas, acknowledged that a certain “toxic tribalism” was informing people’s attitudes toward the pandemic. “If someone’s a Democrat, they’re gonna say it’s worse,” he told me, “and if someone’s a Republican, they’re gonna say it’s bad, but it’s getting better.”

As an immunocompromised cancer survivor, Trahan said he’s familiar with commonsense social-distancing practices. But as a conservative, he’s become convinced that many Democrats are so invested in the idea that the virus will be disastrous that they’re pushing for prolonged, unnecessary shutdowns in pursuit of vindication.

Among experts, there is a firm consensus that social distancing is essential to containing the spread of the virus—and they warn that politicizing the practice could have dangerous ramifications. “This is a pandemic, and shouldn’t be played out as a skirmish on a neighborhood playground,” Dina Borzekowski, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Public Health, recently told Stat. (For the moment, at least, the scientists seem to have brought the president around: Yesterday, Trump announced he was extending social-distancing guidance until the end of April.)

Read: The four possible timelines for life returning to normal

Of course, not everyone who flouts social distancing is making a political statement. Many have to work because they can’t afford not to; others are acting out of ignorance or wishful thinking. Beyond personal behavior, there is a legitimate debate to be had about how to balance economic demands while combatting a global pandemic.

Still, the polarization around public health seems to be accelerating: In recent days, Republican governors in Alabama and Mississippi have resisted calls to enact more forceful mitigation policies. Polling data suggest that Republicans throughout the U.S. are much less concerned about the coronavirus than Democrats are. According to a recent analysis by The New York Times, Trump won 23 of the 25 states where people have reduced personal travel the least.

Some of this is likely shaped by the fact that the most serious outbreaks so far in the U.S. have been concentrated in urban centers on the coasts (a pattern that may not hold for long). But there are real ideological forces at work as well.

Katherine Vincent-Crowson, a 35-year-old self-defense instructor from Slidell, Louisiana, has watched in horror this month as businesses around her city were forced to close by state decree. A devotee of Ayn Rand, Vincent-Crowson told me Louisiana’s shelter-in-place order was a frightening example of government overreach.

“It feels very militaristic,” she said. “I’m just like, ‘What the hell, is this 1940s Germany?’”

But when we spoke, she seemed even more aggravated by the “self-righteous” people on social media who spend their time publicly shaming anyone who isn’t staying locked in their house. “It really reminds me of my kids who tattle on their siblings when they do something bad,” she said. “I’m a libertarian … I don’t really like being told what to do.”

But you know what?  Blue states are ignoring it too.

Again, there is nothing I am seeing that makes me want to revise my estimation of millions of dead Americans downward.  States are talking about extending shelter-in-place orders and closures into May right now, and a $1200 check isn't going to cover that.

The only way we get around the corner on this is through a massive testing program.  Tens of millions.  And Trump?  He literally doesn't care.

Several rural-state governors alerted President Trump on Monday that they are struggling to obtain urgently needed medical supplies and testing equipment, warning that despite the worsening coronavirus situation in New York and other urban areas, more sparsely populated parts of the country need help, too.

In response to requests for more testing kits, Mr. Trump said, "I haven't heard about testing in weeks," according to an audio recording of the call between the president and governors obtained by CBS News.

During the call, which lasted a little over an hour, Democratic and Republican governors detailed how they are struggling to obtain the protective equipment doctors and nurses will need to treat the sick and the test kits needed to determine whether sick residents are suffering from COVID-19.
"We understand the challenges in New York. I have family in New York," Wyoming Republican Governor Mark Gordon told the president. But, he told Mr. Trump, "I think a little bit of supply going our way could get us better prepared going forward."

"Good point," Mr. Trump replied. "Thank you very much, Mark. If you have a problem, call me. I'll get you what you need."

All of this fails without testing increasing by orders of magnitude.  We need to be testing a million Americans a day if not more, and right now we have governors begging Trump just to placate his ego in order to get table scraps.  Trump promised these tests a month ago.

There will be no help from Trump.  And there will be no more help from Congress. Not anytime soon.

After passing the largest economic relief bill in history, Congress is now considering staying away from Washington for a month or more as the coronavirus makes even the routine act of legislating a dangerous risk for new transmissions.

Officially, Congress is scheduled to come back on April 20 as lawmakers try to avoid traveling and congregating amid the raging crisis and as they plot a potential fourth phase of economic relief.

Unofficially, it could take even longer for Congress to physically come back into session. And longer still for things to return to anywhere near normal on Capitol Hill, where members of both chambers, staffers and Capitol Police officers have now tested positive for the deadly respiratory virus.

President Donald Trump on Sunday embraced extending his administration’s social distancing guidance until April 30, an edict that now clashes with the Senate and House schedules to return on April 20. Those schedules are tentative, according to aides in both parties, and are almost certain to be pushed back unless there’s must-pass legislation that forces Congress’s hand.

"That's sort of an aspirational goal, but I think it's obviously subject to radical change based on circumstances," said Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.). "April 20 is what, three weeks away? That seems a little early based on the pace of this crisis."

“This could go on for a little while longer until things settle down. But right now, it's pretty hard to predict,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), who is close to the Senate majority leader.

Ironically, Congress actually is practicing social distancing.  Meanwhile, the Trump regime is throwing cold water on any more COVID-19 relief as Trump called the current package "wasteful spending by Democrats".

Another 4-6 weeks of lockdown is not going to go well.  It's not going to go well at all.


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