Monday, August 31, 2020

Last Call For America Goes Super-Viral

The Trump regime has given up any pretense of trying to save the country from a deadly pandemic and is now openly toying with the idea of simply stopping the fight against COVID-19 and to let it run its course by lifting all safety precautions, with a couple hundred million people infected and millions dead as a result.

One of President Trump’s top medical advisers is urging the White House to embrace a controversial “herd immunity” strategy to combat the pandemic, which would entail allowing the coronavirus to spread through most of the population to quickly build resistance to the virus, while taking steps to protect those in nursing homes and other vulnerable populations, according to five people familiar with the discussions.
The administration has already begun to implement some policies along these lines, according to current and former officials as well as experts, particularly with regard to testing.

The approach’s chief proponent is Scott Atlas, a neuroradiologist from Stanford’s conservative Hoover Institution, who joined the White House earlier this month as a pandemic adviser. He has advocated that the United States adopt the model Sweden has used to respond to the virus outbreak, according to these officials, which relies on lifting restrictions so the healthy can build up immunity to the disease rather than limiting social and business interactions to prevent the virus from spreading.

Sweden’s handling of the pandemic has been heavily criticized by public health officials and infectious-disease experts as reckless — the country has among the highest infection and death rates in the world. It also hasn’t escaped the deep economic problems resulting from the pandemic.

But Sweden’s approach has gained support among some conservatives who argue that social distancing restrictions are crushing the economy and infringing on people’s liberties.

That this approach is even being discussed inside the White House is drawing concern from experts inside and outside the government who note that a herd immunity strategy could lead to the country suffering hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of lost lives.

“The administration faces some pretty serious hurdles in making this argument. One is a lot of people will die, even if you can protect people in nursing homes,” said Paul Romer, a professor at New York University who won the Nobel Prize in economics in 2018. “Once it’s out in the community, we’ve seen over and over again, it ends up spreading everywhere.”

Atlas, who does not have a background in infectious diseases or epidemiology, has expanded his influence inside the White House by advocating policies that appeal to Trump’s desire to move past the pandemic and get the economy going, distressing health officials on the White House coronavirus task force and throughout the administration who worry that their advice is being followed less and less.

Atlas declined an interview request. White House spokesman Judd Deere did not respond to specific questions for this story and instead said in a statement that Atlas is a “world renowned physician and scholar of advanced medical care and health care policy” and criticized the media for reporting on the topic.

White House officials said Trump has asked questions about herd immunity but has not formally embraced the strategy. The president, however, has made public comments that advocate a similar approach.

It's okay, the White House has been lying about the response to COVID-19 for months now.

Today, Rep. James E. Clyburn, Chairman of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, released eight weeks of White House Coronavirus Task Force reports obtained in response to the Select Subcommittee’s July 29, 2020, request to Vice President Mike Pence and White House Coronavirus Task Force Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx. These reports—which the White House sent privately to states but did not disclose to the public—directly contradict the Administration’s rosy public statements downplaying the threat of the virus.

The Task Force reports released today show the White House has known since June that coronavirus cases were surging across the country and many states were becoming dangerous ‘red zones’ where the virus was spreading fast,” said Chairman Clyburn. “Rather than being straight with the American people and creating a national plan to fix the problem, the President and his enablers kept these alarming reports private while publicly downplaying the threat to millions of Americans. As a result of the President’s failures, more than 58,000 additional Americans have died since the Task Force first started issuing private warnings, and many of the Task Force’s recommendations still have not been implemented. It is long past time that the Administration finally implement a national plan to contain this crisis, which is still killing hundreds of Americans each day.”

There's little doubt that if the American people refuse to make Republicans pay politically for the 185,000 dead, then millions more will be sacrificed in a second Trump term on the altar of "freedom". These assholes finally will have a national strategy, and that's "Let the states decide who survives, we no longer care."

Of course, that's been the actual strategy from March of this year, but now it'll have the CDC stamp of approval on it. You'll get sick and live, or not. Liberty and Justice for all!

Russian To Judgment, Con't

In a story based on NY Times reporter Michael Schmidt's book on the Mueller probe, "Donald Trump v The United States" out this week, we find that the more we find out about the Mueller probe, the more it appears that Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein tied Robert Mueller's hands to sabotage the investigation from Day 1.

The Justice Department secretly took steps in 2017 to narrow the investigation into Russian election interference and any links to the Trump campaign, according to former law enforcement officials, keeping investigators from completing an examination of President Trump’s decades-long personal and business ties to Russia.

The special counsel who finished the investigation, Robert S. Mueller III, secured three dozen indictments and convictions of some top Trump advisers, and he produced a report that outlined Russia’s wide-ranging operations to help get Mr. Trump elected and the president’s efforts to impede the inquiry.

But law enforcement officials never fully investigated Mr. Trump’s own relationship with Russia, even though some career F.B.I. counterintelligence investigators thought his ties posed such a national security threat that they took the extraordinary step of opening an inquiry into them. Within days, the former deputy attorney general Rod J. Rosenstein curtailed the investigation without telling the bureau, all but ensuring it would go nowhere.
A bipartisan report by the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee released this month came the closest to an examination of the president’s links to Russia. Senators depicted extensive ties between Trump associates and Russia, identified a close associate of a former Trump campaign chairman as a Russian intelligence officer and outlined how allegations about Mr. Trump’s encounters with women during trips to Moscow could be used to compromise him. But the senators acknowledged they lacked access to the full picture, particularly any insight into Mr. Trump’s finances.

Now, as Mr. Trump seeks re-election, major questions about his approach to Russia remain unanswered. He has repeatedly shown an openness to Russia, an adversary that attacked American democracy in 2016, and refused to criticize or challenge the Kremlin’s increasing aggressions toward the West. The president has also rejected the intelligence community’s finding that Russia interfered in 2016 to bolster his candidacy and the spy agencies’ assessment that Russia is trying to sabotage this year’s election again on his behalf.

Mr. Rosenstein concluded the F.B.I. lacked sufficient reason to conduct an investigation into the president’s links to a foreign adversary. Mr. Rosenstein determined that the investigators were acting too hastily in response to the firing days earlier of James B. Comey as F.B.I. director, and he suspected that the acting bureau director who approved the opening of the inquiry, Andrew G. McCabe, had conflicts of interest.

Mr. Rosenstein never told Mr. McCabe about his decision, leaving the F.B.I. with the impression that the special counsel would take on the investigation into the president as part of his broader duties. Mr. McCabe said in an interview that had he known Mr. Mueller would not continue the inquiry, he would have had the F.B.I. perform it.

“We opened this case in May 2017 because we had information that indicated a national security threat might exist, specifically a counterintelligence threat involving the president and Russia,” Mr. McCabe said. “I expected that issue and issues related to it would be fully examined by the special counsel team. If a decision was made not to investigate those issues, I am surprised and disappointed. I was not aware of that.”

Rod Rosenstein killed the FBI's investigation into Trump's Russia financial ties more than three years ago, and since then all kinds of evidence have emerged showing that Trump and his son-in-law Jared Kushner were deep in the pockets of Russian oligarchs with a huge money laundering scheme, posing an unprecedented national security risk due to financial blackmail.

And speaking of Kushner, he's just as much of a national security threat as Trump is, if not more.

On Feb. 23, 2018, White House counsel Don McGahn sent a two-page memo to Chief of Staff John Kelly arguing that Jared Kushner's security clearance needed to be downgraded, the New York Times' Michael Schmidt reports in his forthcoming book, "Donald Trump v. The United States."

Driving the news: Schmidt reports directly from the confidential McGahn memo for the first time, describing how Kelly had serious concerns about granting Kushner a top-secret clearance in response to a briefing he had received related to the routine FBI investigation into Kushner’s background. 
"The information you were briefed on one week ago and subsequently relayed to me, raises serious additional concerns about whether this individual ought to retain a top security clearance until such issues can be investigated and resolved," McGahn wrote in the memo to Kelly. 
The details of the highly sensitive intelligence that raised alarms with Kelly are not revealed in the McGahn memo or in Schmidt's book. 
McGahn wrote that he had been unable to receive the briefing or "access this highly compartmented information directly" about Kushner, Schmidt reports. 
"Interim secret is the highest clearance that I can concur until further information is received," McGahn concluded, referring to the level of classified information Kushner would be able to access.

Between the lines: "By reducing Kushner's clearance from top secret to secret, McGahn and Kelly had restricted Kushner's access to the PDB, the closely held rundown provided by the intelligence community six days a week for the president and his top aides, and other highly sensitive intelligence that exposed sources and methods."

Trump directly gave Kushner the highest security clearance so he could be briefed on top intelligence Trump didn't have to deal with it.

And on top of all that, Schmidt's book reveals that after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, he offered to give the job to then DHS head John Kelly on the condition that his loyalties remained solely with Trump.

The day after President Trump fired FBI boss James Comey, the president phoned John Kelly, who was then secretary for the Department of Homeland Security, and offered him Comey's job, the New York Times' Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Michael Schmidt reports in his forthcoming book, "Donald Trump v. The United States."

Driving the news: "But the president added something else — if he became FBI director, Trump told him, Kelly needed to be loyal to him, and only him." 
"Kelly immediately realized the problem with Trump's request for loyalty, and he pushed back on the president's demand," Schmidt writes. 
"Kelly said that he would be loyal to the Constitution and the rule of law, but he refused to pledge his loyalty to Trump."

Why it matters: This previously unreported conversation sheds additional light on the president's mindset when he fired Comey. Special counsel Robert Mueller never learned of this information because the president's lawyers limited the scope of his team's two-hour interview with Kelly. 
"In addition to illustrating how Trump viewed the role and independence of senior officials who work for him, the president's demand for loyalty tracked with Comey's experience with Trump," Schmidt writes.

We knew Muller was sabotaged, now we know why.

Donald Trump has moved mountains and suborned an entire political party, not to mention the American judiciary to protect his financial records from any scrutiny. The DoJ failed to look into his fiances. The Senate failed to look into Trump's finances. The House was blocked by years of lawsuits.

We're about to find out the truth.

Biden, His Time

Democrats keep having to play by the rules while nobody cares what the GOP does, especially Trump. Bill Clinton had to denounce rapper Sister Souljah in a 1992 moment that became shorthand for white Democrats telling Black America to stop being so violent all the time, something Republicans constantly bring up whenever we get too rowdy, Barack Obama had to denounce Pastor Jeremiah Wright's "God Damn America" speech, and now apparently Joe Biden has to denounce the Black Lives Matter movement or he loses persnickety white voters for good, despite the fact that it was young white Trump supporter who was arrested for killing two people in Kenosha, Wisconsin last week.

Mr. Biden, who has been a firm supporter of peaceful protests, is expected to travel on Monday to condemn violence, and to note that chaos has unfolded on Mr. Trump’s watch, according to someone familiar with his plans. He is also expected to charge more broadly that the president is seeking to change the subject from the coronavirus and economic challenges the country faces. Details of his Monday plans weren’t immediately clear.

On Saturday, he also got some cover on the left from Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who at once praised Mr. Biden’s candidacy and policy positions and stressed the ways he and Mr. Biden “disagree on a number of issues.” The comments reflect the Democrats’ delicate balancing act as they try to keep their moderate and progressive wings united at the same time that Republicans are trying to portray Mr. Biden and his party as too progressive.

In Mr. Sanders’s speech, which was broadcast over livestream, he denounced Mr. Trump’s handling of the economy during the pandemic. Mr. Sanders, the standard-bearer for the party’s left wing, then commended several of Mr. Biden’s proposals that he said would “go a long, long way in improving life for working families.”

Among the policies that he called attention to were Mr. Biden’s support for a $15 federal minimum wage, equal pay for women, investment in infrastructure and universal prekindergarten. And while Mr. Sanders prefers a single-payer “Medicare for all” health care system — which Mr. Biden does not support — he also offered some praise for Mr. Biden’s health care proposal.

Trump will apparently counter with a rally in Kenosha itself on Tuesday, because of course we need more violent rhetoric from the Terrorist-in-Chief.

A spokesman for the president said that on Tuesday, Mr. Trump will visit Kenosha, Wis., where a police shooting of a Black man, Jacob Blake, led to an outpouring of anger and protests that in some cases turned destructive. The president would meet with local law enforcement, the spokesman, Judd Deere, said in a tweet. National Guard troops were deployed to Kenosha last week. 

Democrat keep falling into this, what I call the "Sun Tzu trap":  If you engage the enemy using rules that the enemy does not follow themselves, you will find yourself at a disadvantage.

Trump, for instance, never has to denounce anything. People will go out of their way to gaslight and say "He never meant that" or "He never said that" and the perfect example of this is his "very fine people on both sides" comments on the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia a few years ago. The first time he did it was a stretch to say "and he also condemned the white supremacists" but then he equated both sides again just days later.

Combative and insistent, President Donald Trump declared anew Tuesday “there is blame on both sides” for the deadly violence last weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia, appearing to once again equate the actions of white supremacist groups and those protesting them. He showed sympathy for the fringe groups’ efforts to preserve Confederate monuments.

The president’s comments effectively wiped away the more conventional statement he delivered at the White House a day earlier when he branded members of the KKK, neo-Nazis and white supremacists who take part in violence as “criminals and thugs.”

Trump’s advisers had hoped those remarks might quell a crush of criticism from Republicans, Democrats and business leaders. But the president’s retorts Tuesday suggested he had been a reluctant participant in that cleanup effort and renewed questions about why he seems to struggle to unequivocally condemn white nationalists.

The blowback was swift, including from fellow Republicans. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida said Trump should not allow white supremacists “to share only part of the blame.” House Speaker Paul Ryan declared in a tweet that “white supremacy is repulsive” and there should be “no moral ambiguity,” though he did not specifically address the president.

Even Republicans called on Trump to denounce his own rhetoric. But that became "The media lied about the very fine people quote" as vomited out by Ann Althouse earlier this month. (no link, because ugh.)

But I'm reading the text this morning because I saw in a tweet that he was forefronting the Charlottesville "fine people" hoax. On his first day of campaigning with his running mate, he led with that. I say "he," but I don't really believe it's him. I think it's more likely that he's a foggy-minded figurehead, and other people have decided to frame the message like that. I consider these people — whoever they are — despicable. They have chosen quite deliberately to commit to a lie that is intended to make black people feel hated and they are doing it for political gain.

As my earlier post about the tweet says, I blogged in April 2019, "If Biden does not come forward and retract [a video relying on the Charlottesville hoax] and apologize and commit himself to making amends, I consider him disqualified. He does not have the character or brain power to be President." Now, more than a year later, Biden has done the opposite. He's doubled down on the lie and he's making it the centerpiece of his campaign!

Except as you can see above, Joe Biden was right. Donald Trump absolutely used the phrase "there is blame on both sides" regarding Charlottesville, which explains why Ann Althouse is a shitty law professor, completely disregarding the fact Trump said it just days after the incident.

But, Biden is the one who has to denounce the violence. Remember how that works. You'll be seeing a lot more of it.

Imagine roving patrols of Trump faithful attacking every Black and brown person they can find. Imagine that happening all over America in the wake of a Biden win...or a Trump win.

In another country, this would be described as "Militias loyal to the regime".

We're at an extremely dangerous point right now in history. The country is ready to explode in a series of mass shooting events and Donald Trump couldn't be happier.

But only Biden has to denounce the violence. 

John Oliver explains what's going on. Set aside 20 minutes to get it together here, so we can go forward.


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