Friday, December 18, 2020

Last Call For The Country Goes Viral, Con't

Trump didn't get the election win he wanted, and Trump didn't get the vaccine credit headlines he wanted, so now states, even red ones, aren't getting the vaccine doses they wanted.

Officials in multiple states said they were alerted late Wednesday that their second shipments of Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine next week had been reduced, sparking widespread confusion and spurring the company’s CEO to put out a statement saying it had millions more doses than were being distributed.

The changes prompted concern in health departments across the country about whether Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administration’s vaccine accelerator, was capable of distributing doses quickly enough to meet the target of delivering first shots to 20 million people by year’s end. A senior administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal plans, said the revised estimates for next week were the result of states requesting an expedited timeline for locking in future shipments — from Friday to Tuesday — leaving less time for federal authorities to inspect and clear available supply.

But Pfizer released a statement on Thursday that seemed at odds with that explanation, saying the company faced no production issues and had more doses available than were being distributed.

“We have millions more doses sitting in our warehouse but, as of now, we have not received any shipment instructions for additional doses,” the statement read.

A total of 2.9 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was cleared for shipment this week, and 5.9 million doses of Moderna’s regimen are poised to go out next week if the vaccine is authorized, as expected. That will be on top of additional supply from Pfizer, which Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Wednesday would amount to 2 million doses next week.

That represents a sharp drop-off from what states were expecting, according to health officials in several states. At least three states received notice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday informing them of the shortfall, forcing last-minute changes to vaccine distribution plans for next week. Some places were intending to use the second shipment from Pfizer to begin vaccinating residents of long-term care facilities, officials said, creating dilemmas about whether to go ahead with those plans or to finish inoculating health-care providers on the front lines of the intensifying pandemic.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) said anticipated shipments to the state in the next two weeks had been cut roughly in half. The uncertainty was even more pronounced in Florida, where Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said new shipments from Pfizer were “on hold,” as officials in his administration reported their expected allocation disappearing entirely in Tiberius, the online tracking system the Trump administration is using to coordinate with the states. Fred Piccolo Jr., a spokesman for DeSantis, said the numbers had come back online by Thursday but had been reduced significantly.

“It’s 40 percent less than we were originally thinking,” Washington State Health Secretary John Wiesman said in an interview on Thursday. “We thought we were getting 74,100 and now we are planning for 44,850 doses.”

Pfizer’s statement seemed to point responsibility at the federal government.

“We have continuously shared with Operation Warp Speed and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services through weekly meetings every aspect of our production and distribution capabilities,” it continued. “They have visited our facilities, walked the production lines and been updated on our production planning as information has become available.”
If this game sounds familiar, it's the same nonsense we found out was happening with respirators and again with medical PPE equipment as the Trump regime made states compete against either other in order to get the highest price for Trump's friends in the logistics and supply business.
But the only supplier right now is Pfizer, and the vaccine is vastly different. In fact, Trump has made several statements saying he wants it distributed to as many Americans as possible, the "Trump miracle vaccine."

Of course, that's when he was running for re-election.  And as the walls close in, it looks like he's screwing over states one last time just to be spiteful, so that governors take the blame.

Or maybe the Trump regime is just amazingly incompetent.

Or both. There's always both.

I Can't Seem To Recall Gavin

California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom is almost certainly headed for a recall fight under the state's relatively generous recall vote rules, and while Newsom remains broadly popular, as Politico's Carla Marinucci points out, the recall could be very plausible in a post-Trump "How come he hasn't fixed everything yet?" flood of impatience.

A recall by Republicans, who still have the albatross of Donald Trump, an unpopular president in solidly blue California, around their necks, remains a long shot. And Democrat Newsom still enjoys the strong approval of the majority of Caifornians, the latest Public Policy Institute of California poll showed.

But here are five key takeaways on why the Newsom recall attempt shouldn’t be dismissed:

1. THE GOP ESTABLISHMENT IS BACKING IT: The California Republican Party and its chair, Jessica Milan Patterson have endorsed it. So has the entire CA GOP House caucus, according to Rep. Devin Nunes, who said as much last week — and said the party is helping to fire up the recall push. “We're encouraging people to sign the petitions,’’ Nunes told KMJ host Ray Appleton. “The California delegation as we sit today is … in favor of it.’’

Newly reelected Rep. David Valadao confirmed the move. “We all support it,” he said. “Our campaign offices all had the petitions there. A lot of our events had folks there gathering signatures.’’ And conservative darlings like Newt Gingrich and Mike Huckabee are also on board, with Gingrich agreeing to do Zoom calls and fundraising. Which leads us to...

2. THEY’VE GOT FUNDRAISING MUSCLE: Anne Dunsmore, a veteran GOP fundraiser based in Irvine whose fundraising work helped elect Rep. Mike Garcia in CA-25, told POLITICO she’s now a recall campaign manager and lead fundraiser, and is working her proverbial Rolodex hard. So far, Gingrich’s efforts and online fundraising have only produced small donations. But what concerns Democrats is the notion that all the GOP needs is a couple of wealthy political types, party insiders or business moguls — even from another state — to sign on; after all, dropping $1 million into this effort could be a bargain price for an avalanche of national publicity on Fox, OAN and Newsmax, which are already covering Newsom heavily...

3. THE BAR IS INCREDIBLY LOW: “California’s governor faces one of the easiest recall requirements in the country,’’ said Joshua Spivak, a senior fellow at Wagner College’s Hugh L. Carey Institute for Government Reform. “Voters only need to gather the signatures of 12 percent of voter turnout in the 2018 election – in this case, 1,495,709 signatures. California also grants 160 days to gather them. In other states, the signature percentage requirement is more than double and the time to gather is less than half.” And, he said, “thanks to the use of initiatives, California has a well-developed signature-gathering industry that can get a recall on the ballot.”

Plus, the California GOP has one more advantage, as compared to backers of the failed recall of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. “Wisconsin law requires the elected official to face off in a new election — where he was facing a clear opponent. In California, Newsom would not face an opponent. The vote is simply a yes or no as to whether he should stay in office, with the replacement race further down the ballot.” Which means...

4. THE EAGER HORDES AWAIT ON SOCIAL MEDIA: There will be publicity-seekers, true, but some legitimate office-holders who see a gubernatorial recall as an easy opportunity to get on the ballot will do their best to push for it. And don’t think Democrats won’t consider undermining Newsom if it comes to that. “We’ve gotten calls from Democrats who are already kicking the tires,’’ said one Sacramento insider aligned with a major special interest group.

Secretary of State Alex Padila’s office confirmed this week the requirements to get on the ballot for the recall would be 65 to 100 nomination signatures and a filing fee of $4,194.94, or 7,000 signatures in lieu of the filing fee. Those minimal requirements have essentially not changed since the recall of Gov. Gray Davis in 2003; back then, 135 candidates made the ballot — and that was before the age of Facebook and Twitter. Social media could multiply that number by 100 or more. Our heads hurt.

5. THE PANDEMIC ISN’T GOING AWAY: At least not before March 2021, when the proponents need to turn in 1.5 million valid signatures. That deadline will come after months of business shutdowns, bad news and economic turmoil, over which Newsom may not have control. But he’ll be in charge — and anger at him could get people signing, including the nearly 30 percent of California voters who don’t belong to a major political party.
In other words, this is a mess that California Republicans hope will paralyze and consume Newsom in 2021, so they can keep yelling "Well if the largest blue state in the nation can't handle things under a failed Biden administration, why are you still voting Democrat?" 

It only works of course if Newsom blows things so badly that this becomes an issue, but if he sails through this, and California continues on a post-vaccine path to economic recovery, then things will be looking good for Team Blue in 2022.

Russian To Judgment, Con't

Just how bad was the FireEye/SolarWinds Russian mega cyber attack on the Trump regime this month? Bad enough for a former Dubya/Trump Homeland Security Adviser to take to the New York Times to tell us how bad it is bad.

At the worst possible time, when the United States is at its most vulnerable — during a presidential transition and a devastating public health crisis — the networks of the federal government and much of corporate America are compromised by a foreign nation. We need to understand the scale and significance of what is happening.

Last week, the cybersecurity firm FireEye said it had been hacked and that its clients, which include the United States government, had been placed at risk. This week, we learned that SolarWinds, a publicly traded company that provides software to tens of thousands of government and corporate customers, was also hacked.

The attackers gained access to SolarWinds software before updates of that software were made available to its customers. Unsuspecting customers then downloaded a corrupted version of the software, which included a hidden back door that gave hackers access to the victim’s network.

This is what is called a supply-chain attack, meaning the pathway into the target networks relies on access to a supplier. Supply-chain attacks require significant resources and sometimes years to execute. They are almost always the product of a nation-state. Evidence in the SolarWinds attack points to the Russian intelligence agency known as the S.V.R., whose tradecraft is among the most advanced in the world.

According to SolarWinds S.E.C. filings, the malware was on the software from March to June. The number of organizations that downloaded the corrupted update could be as many as 18,000, which includes most federal government unclassified networks and more than 425 Fortune 500 companies.

The magnitude of this ongoing attack is hard to overstate.

The Russians have had access to a considerable number of important and sensitive networks for six to nine months. The Russian S.V.R. will surely have used its access to further exploit and gain administrative control over the networks it considered priority targets. For those targets, the hackers will have long ago moved past their entry point, covered their tracks and gained what experts call “persistent access,” meaning the ability to infiltrate and control networks in a way that is hard to detect or remove.

While the Russians did not have the time to gain complete control over every network they hacked, they most certainly did gain it over hundreds of them. It will take years to know for certain which networks the Russians control and which ones they just occupy.

The logical conclusion is that we must act as if the Russian government has control of all the networks it has penetrated. But it is unclear what the Russians intend to do next. The access the Russians now enjoy could be used for far more than simply spying.

The actual and perceived control of so many important networks could easily be used to undermine public and consumer trust in data, written communications and services. In the networks that the Russians control, they have the power to destroy or alter data, and impersonate legitimate people. Domestic and geopolitical tensions could escalate quite easily if they use their access for malign influence and misinformation — both hallmarks of Russian behavior.
Russia compromised companies like FireEye and SolarWinds to get to government and corporate networks. They put in back doors to regular server updates this spring, and your corporate IT department installed those tainted upgrades and never questioned them, because they were official from the company.

Now the Russians have everything.  Absolutely everything.

And they got it because of Trump, and the GOP enablers who specifically killed internet and election security legislation.

That's the story, one we're going to have to deal with for years.  And remember, we can trace every major Russian hack over the last several years to the NSA tools Ed Snowden provided to Moscow, and there are still Americans who consider him a hero to this day.


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